Bondi Beach and Sydney
The morning after our Great Ocean Road Tour, we flew from Melbourne to Sydney. There, we headed to David Moses’ (one of the friends we were traveling with) family friend’s house on Bondi Beach. Bondi is a beautiful beach with some world-class surfing. It was a bit too cold to lay out on the beach unfortunately, but we still walked along it, climbed on some rocks, and went to some of the shops/restraunts right along the beach.
That night, Mr. Albert (our wonderful host) gave us a ride into downtown Sydney, where we got our first views of the harbor and the Opera house! So cool to see it in person. The Vivid Lights Festival was going on that week, so the opera house and other buildings were all lit up with cool designs. We walked up George Street and ate dinner at a kebab stop that made Kangaroo burgers! We had to check that off our Australia to-do list. They were actually quite tasty.
The next morning I went for a run along the coastline. It was really spectacular. In several spots, there were natural pools that formed in the rock close to shore. Some of them were turned into community/club pools with lanes and everything for swimming laps. That afternoon, we walked across the Sydney harbor bridge so we could see the opera house during the day. From North Sydney, we took a train to the Koala Park. We got to feed and pet a koala, feed kangaroos, and see some blue penguins. It was epic!!!
That night we road the ferry out to a small island and back so we could see the Sydney skyline. I really enjoyed Bondi beach and Sydney… lots of activities going on and a really lively atmosphere. Also, we had a great experience with the public transportation. It’s always a plus when transportation runs smoothly, so that was nice.
Unfortunately, Matt couldn’t say the same for successful transportation after our Australia trip. Evan and I flew back to New Zealand on Saturday as we both had Monday morning finals. Matt and David Moses decided to stay an extra 2 days since they didn’t have finals until Tuesday. Then a volcano erupted in Chile and the trans-continental ashcloud cancelled their flight out of Australia. Long story short, Matt made it back to Hamilton the day of his final, sprinted into the building 2 minutes after they locked the doors. They didn’t let him take the exam… Not a good day!
Our 2am flight from Cairns got us into Melbourne at about 6am. And we came from a warm beach town and arrived in a cold/windy city. Did I mention our cheap airline terminal was outside? just perfect! Our hostel check-in wasn’t until 10am, so we killed some time at the airport getting breakfast and coffee, and playing lots of cards. We spent a lot of time in the airport that week, but luckily our group of four was really fun and we managed to have a good time no matter where we were.
We took a taxi to Greenhouse Backpackers around 9am. It was a neat place right in the heart of the city with some great amenities. I took a nap in the big tv room right when we got there after watching part of the Bruins vs Vancouver game (6 of the series i think?). Later we explored downtown Melbourne, which is one of the coolest cities I’ve ever been to. There were so many neat buildings, Federation square, a river walk, china town, and even a road called Batman Avenue. What more can you ask for?
We also stopped into the travel center and talked to them about doing a day trip on the Great Ocean Road. The prices were originally $120 a person, but we managed to talk them down to $65 a person. We were pretty happy with that deal… so we celebrated with a free chili dinner at our hostel. Great success.
Day 2 in Melbourne (Mel-ben, as it’s pronounced by kiwis) we went on a coach bus for the great open road tour. It was lots of driving an not the best weather, but we got some great views of the Southern Australian coast-line. We saw a group of kangaroos and some koalas as well as the famous surfing spot, Bells Beach. The highlight of the day was seeing the famous 12 Apostles (rock formations off the coast; world’s tallest stacks of limestone). Although there were only ever 11 apostles and only 7 remain standing. On the way back to Melbourne, we watched the movie Australia. How perfect! Almost as entertaining as our bus-mates who were all Asian…with the exception of the token German traveler.
Playing with a Giant Clam on the Great Barrier Reef, no big deal.
Great Barrier Reef, Australia.
One of the greatest things about studying abroad in New Zealand is that their Uni schedule gave us lots of time for travel. The 2 weeks of Easter Break was a good time to go down to the South Island, and we also had a week off of classes before exams this month. Technically it’s a “study” week… but we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get to Australia while we were down under, so we headed to the land of Oz! (As they call it here).
Matt and I traveled with two of our American friends from Uni, Evan and David Moses. Our first stop was Cairns, which is the Northeastern corner of Australia, and the main access point to the Great Barrier Reef. We stayed at Asylum Backpackers, which was kind of a grungy place, but super cheap. After a late arrival on Saturday night, our man Martin at the front desk still managed to hook us up with a sweet scuba company that got us on a boat at 7:30 the next morning. Evan and David ended up being on a different boat as they were doing an introductory scuba dive/snorkel trip.
Our ship had an included BBQ breakfast, so that was a surprise win! Our first dive was amazing. The coral was huge and very lively and there were lots of fish roaming around. It was a perfect day with great visibility. One of the dive masters told us it was the best vis he’d seen in the year since he’d been there. Matt and I did an unguided tour, which was sweet because we were able to explore on our own. Matt is really good at finding things in the reef, so I like being his buddy. I was proud of myself on our first dive because I spotted a shark that was chilling under a big chunk of coral! It was about 4 feet long. Pretty cool… mostly I was excited to use the shark signal.
I could have stayed under the water at that reef forever, it was pretty epic. Once back on the boat, we went onto a smaller glass bottom boat tour to look at the coral from above. Then we went back to the main ship and had a big lunch buffet with fresh fruit and salad, rolls, a chicken mushroom dish, grilled potatoes, etc. Yum :)
Our second dive location was very shallow, so we were able to stay underwater for almost an hour. There were some different types of coral formations, clown fish in their anemone, and a giant clam forest. some of the clams were as big as me… really crazy! Check out the video I posted to see how they close up when you get close to them. There were also these cool purple things that would pop back into a hole in the coral when you get close to touching them.
After dive number 2, we enjoyed some wine, cheese, crackers, and fruit on our boat ride back to the Cairns harbor. We had rented an underwater camera for the day and got some pretty cool pictures/videos from our dives, so we were really glad we decided to spend a little extra money.
Day 2 in Oz, Evan and I woke up early an went for a walk on the promenade. We got some breakfast before heading back to the hostel and waking up Matt and David. David had to stay in and work on an essay, but the rest of us took a bus to Trinity Beach. It was a cute little town with a nice uncrowded beach. Spent a few hours laying in the sun, swimming, and eating some fish and chips.
After a day at the beach, we headed back to Cairns to shower and enjoy our last night up North. We attempted to go on our hostel’s “Mad Monday” bar crawl, but it was short-lived. We had a 2 am flight from Cairns to Melbourne, so had to leave for the airport around midnight. We still managed to make time to walk through the night shops and the asian market, which was fun. We learned how to play didgeridoos… or at least how you should play one. None of us were very successful, but the guy who taught us was really good.
Most of my travels here in New Zealand have been with other Americans, but one weekend I got the chance to go up to Auckland and stay with some of my kiwi girls. My friend Rebecca drove us up and we stayed at my friend Callandra’s house up by in North Harbour. Rebecca, Callandra, Hannah, and I left after class on Friday afternoon and drove straight into the city to the sky tower (tallest building in the South Pacific). Got some great views of the city! We got some coffee at the sky tower cafe and watched the sunset with a 360 degree view of the city at night. It was a lovely night with the girls!
After sunset, we drove to Callandra’s house for a delicious home cooked meal. My first one in months! It was really nice to just relax at her home with her parents, sister, and dogs. We also made a trip to her her mama’s house, possibly the most precious old lady I’ve ever met.
The next morning we went to Cal’s sister Nevada’s netball game. Netball is the most popular girl’s sport here… which is odd since I’d never even heard of it in America. It’s sort of a mixture of team handball and basketball, but with no backboard and some added restrictions. It was cool to see her play and she was really excited to have a fan club!
After netball we took a trip to the Auckland Zoo. A semester in Kiwiland just wouldn’t be complete without seeing an actual live kiwi bird! My favorite part of the zoo was definitely the monkeys… I could watch the spider monkeys goof around all day. Plus, they had some really cool miniature capuchin monkeys that I’d never seen before at any zoo.
After the zoo and some shopping, we headed back to Hamilton. Perfect weekend with some great friends :)