When I was in elementary school, I went through an Australia phase where I loved reading about far-away country and dreamed of moving there one day. As time passed, I moved on to different dreams and Oz faded into the background replaced by closer and less expensive destinations.
As I considered my “round the world” itinerary, I wanted to have a “year of summer” and knew that this would likely be the only time in my life when I could travel great distances in the months of December through March…so it was time for the long-faded Australian dream to come true. I was going to see the Sydney Opera House, explore the harbor, and walk around saying things like “G’Day Mate!”
After spending a few days enjoying Melbourne with my friends Tom and David, I was back on my own on a bus to Sydney where I was scheduled to stay at an AirBNB apartment in the Redfern area just a short walk from the city center. AirBNB is a great resource for finding accommodations in big cities because you are able to rent rooms in centrally located spots for much cheaper rates than hotels.
Speaking of rooms…my blog makes it sound like it is really easy to find accommodations. That’s because-for me-it is…because I am not doing it. My aunt at Bones’ Travel Agency (which only has one non-paying customer-me) has taken on this huge task for my entire journey. While she uses a bunch of different resources to find me rooms at my next destination, I get to spend every waking moment enjoying new people and places. Because I like to have total flexibility in my schedule, she stays only a few days ahead of my plans, and I know I can drive her crazy with my desire to go with the flow and make changes as I go. I get to be very focused on fun while she does all this behind the scenes work. My Gram would always say that I was a “lucky, lucky, lucky” girl and she was right. The cool thing about not choosing rooms on my own is that every time I get somewhere new, it is like opening a gift…an unexpected surprise. Like sometimes a room has a bath tub, or free breakfast, or a nice view…and since I don’t know in advance, I get all excited when I find those things like it is Christmas morning.
I visit Sydney twice on this trip, at the beginning and end of my stay in Australia. For the first part, I just wandered around for a few days exploring the downtown area. I have bigger plans when I return…going to see La Boheme at the famous opera house (thanks for the idea, Mr. Fiala), climbing the Sydney bridge, and spending a day at Bondi Beach.
I left Australia and traveled to Christchurch, New Zealand. When I walked out of the airport, I felt an immediate desire to take a deep breath because the air seemed so crisp and clean. My first impression of NZ was that everyone I met was not only friendly, but very outgoing and polite. I wondered if this is what clean living does for you. The bus to my hotel was spotless and the driver chatted nicely with every rider.
Christchurch is facing unfortunate times because the city is still recovering from a devastating 2011 earthquake. I wandered around a relatively deserted downtown area with construction around every turn. Entire streets were cordoned off with buildings still waiting to be demolished. It was a bit eery to imagine what it must have looked like months ago. There were also signs of trauma with ads for free family stress counseling and many houses with broken down areas. Visiting places like this make life seem so fragile…one day the town is enjoying care free days and the next facing years of stress, financial crisis and rebuilding.
I spent a week on the South Island of New Zealand visiting Christchurch, Dunedin, and Queenstown. Dunedin was a pleasant town with an octagon shaped city center that was perfect for browsing. Things in Australia and NZ close very early…great for families but kind of quiet for visitors. In both places, shops close each evening at 6:00 and many stay closed on Sundays. On some nights, my best option was to go to a movie or hang out reading. The highlight of my time on the South Island was a day trip to Milford Sound.
I took an early morning bus…and was worried because it was so cold and MS is known for having almost 300 days of rain a year. I don’t have a collection of warm clothes in my suitcase so no matter what the temps are, I have to wear my flip flops and just later up. When the bus made a rest stop, I browsed at post cards and met a sweet older man who insisted I meet his wife. They were immediately worried about my cold feet as I rushed to get back to my bus on time. It must have been on their mind because the next time my bus stopped at a rest area, theirs was not far behind and the man came to find me to deliver a fresh pair of socks for me to keep…people are so nice!
Milford Sound is amazing and worth the four hour trip from Queenstown. Along the way, we passed mountains, rainbows, lakes so clear that they reflected the sky like mirrors, rivers fresh enough to drink from, and so many different kinds of plants and trees. We took a boat ride through MS and were surrounded by mountains, surprise blue skies, and waterfalls.
The “elephant in the room” about both places is that they are sooo expensive. I continue to be shocked by the cost of basics here in NZ. While it is really beautiful and I’m glad I came, I don’t imagine visiting again, so I am taking great pleasure in every day.
I am flying to the North Island today. I would have liked more time to explore the glacier areas on the West coast, but time is moving so quickly. I will have to settle for a Google search on Fox Glacier as my chance to check it out.
No worries, Luvs! I haven’t really told anyone “G’Day, Mate” yet, but I am picking up the whole calling everyone “Luv” thing! So, don’t be surprised when I get home and say “Good on you, Luv!”