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Published: April 8th 2013
Bangkok - Sydney - New Zealand South Island
We had the most higgeldy piggeldy journey to Bangkok on the bus which took too many extra swealteringly hot and frustrating hours (no surprise there). Our bus tickets were taken off us at the border as a man shouted at us to walk the border gauntlet alone with only a gold sticker to guarantee us safe passage on the other side. We managed to avoid the huge casinos trying to lure people into their dingy depths and appeased ourselves with ice cream and fresh pineapple from the side of the road. Safely back on a random minibus a couple of hours later we thanked our lucky stars that we were heading to Charlie's old work colleague's parents for the evening.
We arrived to such welcoming hospitality at the Collards that we immediately started to relax. We cleaned and scrubbed our dirt and grime off in the wonderful shower, put our clothes in the washing machine (for the first time since being away) and reminded ourselves of our table manners before sitting down to a delicious home cooked meal. It was a real treat staying in for the evening and we had
such interesting conversation with the Collards we felt truly revitalised.
The next day we took the sky train to our hostel for the night. It was surprising to see how developed and commercial Bangkok looks with modern high rises and shopping malls as far as the eye could see. Lugging our bags around and walking to find our hostel we were more than aware of the intense heat and humidity. Sweaty knees, ears and backs were the least of our problems, but at least we felt like it was clean sweat after our thorough grooming!
After avoiding one of the notorious con artists on the street, 'innocently' trying to get us to part with a non existent £50 for a private boat, we managed to get a public ferry down the river and walked past the glistening and bejewelled royal palace. Too late to go in we wondered through the park with hundreds of kites being flown before venturing into the tourist hotspot of Khao San Road. We dodged the giant black scorpions on sticks and opted for a tame Phad Thai street stall whilst soaking in the neon lights, hustlers and gap yaaaar kids. Happy to retreat
from the lure of Patpong and the ladyboys we left the more colourful side of Bangkok for our next trip.
Our next stop was the surreal western world of Sydney. We arrived dazed and confused and too early to check into our hostel so roamed the streets and napped in the park chowing down on a bag of carrots and dip. We nearly had a cardiac arrest seeing the prices of everything, even in the supermarkets. A tin of Baked Beans was £3 and a beer was going for £8 a pop! Whilst Sydney's income has risen by 6% in the last three years the UK's has dropped by 4%, so we've really been feeling the pinch.
Sydney is clean, quiet (we didn't hear a car horn once), laid back and easy to navigate. I have to say this made a welcome change compared to the other places we've been so far. The balmy 30 degree weather didn't hurt either, we felt so refreshed and chilled, even when we were caught in the occasional monsoon downpour. We took a long walk through the botanical gardens along the coastal line and took in the major sights. Dinner with a
friend Luke, overlooking the Sydney Harbour bridge and the Opera House with the bright lights of the city, left us on a high before heading back to our hostel.
Our check in was interrupted by a guy looking for his clothes that had been spewed all over by the girl in his top bunk, narrowly missing his head. Hmmmm this started to make us question whether we were really hard core enough to handle an 8 bed dorm. The answer is a resounding 'NO'. Luckily we escaped people getting into bed with us (as we were both on top bunks) but not the hourly drunken wake ups and the walruses beneath us shaking the foundations of the flimsy scaffolding that was our bed. We only lasted 2 nights before Luke kindly took us in for our last 2 evenings in his lovely flat in Manly by the transparent sea and bronzed bodies lining the beach.
We traipsed out to the Blue Mountains and smelt the eucalyptus but missed out on seeing any koalas or kangaroos, although I tried my darnedest to coax them out. We snorkelled, rode the ferry and generally felt very at home in Sydney. We
met up with Charlie's old colleagues Olivia and Laura who showed us the best place for fish and chips at the local brewery and provided us with a great reminiscing session about life back in the UK.
Back on a plane again we were off to New Zealand before we could think. We've eased into life on the road with our beloved camper van DKJ710 (Daisy Kitten Jnr for short). She is a real delight and we feel settled having somewhere to unpack and call our own, but we remain as independent as ever. Of course we have put together a ridiculous schedule to pack in as much as possible and are on the move everyday searching for new adventures and marvelling at the absolutely outstanding and sublime landscape here.
From Christchurch we headed straight off down the West coast stopping only to cook our dinner at the beach at sunset, or to climb Fox Glacier, or to do a bungy in Queenstown... We have mainly been staying at DOC (department of conservation) campsites where all they have is a tap and a long drop. We wash in the freezing lakes in the morning which certainly gets us
up for the day and listen to the rain and roaring wind at night. The rugged mountains have been stretching up all around us as a result of 2 major plates colliding and the enormous glaciers that eroded their way through the landscape 18,000 years ago. Massive emerald blue lakes lie at the bottom of many of the mountains and the glacial water that runs through the rivers looks bright turquoise as the silvery minerals and 'rock flour' floats at the top. I permanently feel like we are on the set of a movie with ridiculously impressive backdrops.
So back to our activities...the main one so far that stands it in my mind is the 'World's Largest Swing' that I found myself doing in tandem with Charlie. I'm not quite sure how this happened. After a day of activities involving getting a gondola to the top of a mountain in Queenstown, racing each other down a 'luge' (downhill go karting) a record 5 times, and watching Charlie run and jump off the 'Ledge' bungy, we were obviously in need of some more stimulation. Getting wrapped up in the moment I agreed to go on this 'swing' having no real
idea what to expect. 40 minutes later as the coach continued to wind up an impossibly steep mountain I began to feel the nerves. I sidled along the 70metre platform to the jump station trying not to look at the jagged valleys below. It turns out that I am more afraid of heights than I thought. We were also chosen to go first, so with no idea what we were doing or what to expect I went into a mild hysterical panic. Charlie lost feeling in his hand as I refused to let go and began to tremble. We were strapped in backwards (I had been expecting to go forwards) and then suddenly released tilting right back into a 70metre free fall until our harness carried us in a 350metre arc up the other side of the valley and continued to swing us. A broken nail later (from the terror) we were winched up and my wobbly legs took me to a rail and I finally smiled. Oh what fun! It was advertised as an activity that has saved marriages, I can only see it as a sure bet way to coronary problems and and a strained relationship! Bring on
the sky dive any day rather than an unexpected adrenaline fuelled activity. It turns out I am getting old and can't take the unexpected like I used to!
A slightly less heart stopping moment was our climb up Fox Glacier. This surreal experience started in town with us in T-shirts and saw us hiking up onto the glowing blue ice, crampons and all, in a single afternoon. This was more of a thrill for me as we heard the thick ice cracking and learnt about how the moving beast was receding. Unable to get enough of the fiordland scenery we also trekked to Milford Sound in search of epic views and and a sea cruise. The wettest place in the world greeted us with lashings of rain but managed to clear up enough by the time we left that we managed to get a snap or two. A glimpse of some seals snoozing in a rock fuelled my determination to get up close and personal with them. As we made our way back up the East coast, and disappointed after hearing there were no whales around to see in Kaikura, we spied what looked like dogs grooming on the
side of the road. We had stumbled upon a huge colony of seals casually soaking up the sun right next to us! Feeling like David Attenborough I crept on hands and knees as close as I could dare and cooed at their puppy like faces and Shrek ears. Seals are my without doubt my new pet of choice in the future.
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