Update: **For those of you who have not been reading the full posts (we completely understand) you may have missed our photos page which has heaps more photos than are on this post. Head to our Week 4 InFocus page for a look at even more photos related to the post below!**
Hey, we’re kind of on a roll with this posting thing! It really does help when you finally find some decent internet, so thank you Cambodia and Vietnam for your awesome budget hotels with the best WiFi we’ve had in ages. A quick update of where we actually are in our travels: we just arrived to a rainy Hoi An on Vietnam’s central coastline, just south of Da Nang and we’ll be here for the next 4 nights. No promises on more blog posts, but it COULD happen… just don’t hold your breath and sign up for our email notifications for new blog posts if you haven’t already (or if Malcolm hasn’t already signed you up without you knowing!)
Also, check out our new map page so you can see which cities we’ve visited and where we have current plans to head next!
In this week’s adventures we continue our travels north, leaving the South Island one last time for a long drive from the bottom of the North Island to Auckland for the last time on this trip. At the end of the drive we’ll catch yet another flight out of Auckland, saying good bye to New Zealand, as we continue searching for warm and sunny Southern Hemisphere weather in Australia, the next new-to-us country, in our list.
Day 22 – Another day of travel, this time leaving the South Island for the last time on this trip. We walked back into town where the bus dropped us the day before and caught the same bus line, this time finishing the route to Picton, the ferry portal to the South Island. It was here that we caught a huge transport ferry which would take us to Wellington on the southern tip of the North Island. Departure was an hour delayed due to serious wind, which at first didn’t bother us, but once on the boat Jess realized she had left her motion sickness medication in her large bag. This normally wouldn’t have been a problem but we were caught off guard that all large bags (larger than carry-on) had to be checked in before boarding. As soon as the boat left the serenity of the bay and entered into the open ocean it was a wild ride, up and down, side to side and she couldn’t do anything but sit and try to look out the window at horizon doing her best to keep everything down. It was awful for her. Fortunately enough she was able to fall asleep relatively quickly and ended up getting a good nap in as the passing between Picton and Wellington was further delayed due to the high winds. Malcolm this whole time worked on the blog because sadly we had better internet on the ferry than we had at any point on our whole trip, 22 days in! Once we arrived in Wellington we grabbed our first international Uber and made our way to our next Airbnb. We checked in and immediately got to chatting with our host. He was a great guy – a salsa instructor and engineer who has lived a pretty amazing and interesting life! After getting recommendations from him we headed to Vietnamese for dinner and then stopped by The Library for drinks, a local bar with a great ambiance and books lining the walls. The town was popping at 10p which was a shock to us after weeks of being in small towns that shutter right at 6p. And this was a Wednesday night with no signs of slowing down anytime soon! While we wanted to stay out and pretend we were young we succumbed to our old age, exhausted from all our travels, and headed back to get some rest.
Day 23 – As we were now on the North Island we needed a new set of wheels. Instead of taking a bus or Uber to the rental office, Malcolm decided he should get back to running and would run to pick it up. Jess decided to join but little did she know it was 9 miles away, 3 of which were on a nasty stretch of pavement running alongside a fast moving highway (Seattle has it really good with all of the different trails going in all directions!). Luckily, with all the recent hiking her legs were strong and carried her the whole way there. Once we got the car we drove back to downtown Wellington and got some yummy coffee at Mojo, a local roaster who happened to serve cold brewed coffee – a big bonus for Malcolm. They even had cold brew on nitro at one of their locations though we were reminded yet again you can’t trust Google Maps for correct directions! Once caffeinated we headed back to the Airbnb to pack and shower before heading to Weta Cave for a studio tour. This is where the props, prosthetics, miniatures, etc are created for tons of epic movies including the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies. The tour was an info packed hour and is so incredibly interesting for learning what movie magic is really going on behind the scenes. Who knew so much work went into a movie’s props and costume work. For example, one girl’s job is to sew individual strands of hair onto a prosthetic to crest a full head of hair, a task that would take her several weeks for one head…so tiring. After the tour we drove to Victoria Lookout which provides awesome 360-degree views of Wellington and the surrounding hills and bays. From here we went and picked up some delicious tacos from a real Mexican food stand on our way to the botanical gardens, exploring and walking around for a few hours to avoid rush hour traffic and stretch our legs before the long drive north to the Napier region.
Day 24 – Airbnbs in New Zealand are pretty great we were finding out. Not only are the people incredibly nice and accommodating, such as allowing same day bookings hours before arriving, but when you find them in the countryside you’re likely to wake up being greeted by sheep! It was quite a magical place and we were sad to leave given that we got there at midnight. But we had a strict schedule to keep so after a nice continental breakfast we headed out for a day of wine tasting in Hawke’s Bay. After an afternoon of exploring this beautiful and diverse wine region and enjoying another great winery lunch we headed out to our next location Lake Taupo. This drive was over 100 km and little did we know there are no gas stations between Napier and Lake Taupo… something that would have been good to know since we left with less than a quarter tank, thinking we would get gas along the way. Whoops. Typically there are signs to warn you if there are no service stations for a distance such as this, but New Zealand didn’t seem to think that was necessary…. Once we came to this realization, Malcolm began to put the car in neutral on the downhill sections and putted slowly along with our hazards on during the flats and many uphill sections, while we prayed the fumes would push us through to the nearest petrol station on the edge of Taupo, just 2km from our next Airbnb. Along the way we got flagged down by a young man who stopped us to see what the deal was and then continued to follow behind us the whole way in case we ran into any trouble….how nice is that?!? Kiwi hospitality at its finest! When we finally arrived at our next Airbnb, another mother in law apartment, we were yet again greeted with amazing Kiwi hospitality and honey they harvested themselves. It was a family of four, the parents are elementary school teachers and their two kids aged 11 and 13 were so cute and friendly, the eldest of which was arriving later that night from spending 2 weeks with his grandparents on a special trip in Australia. They immediately invited us into their house to share all they could about the amazing things to do around Taupo and more specifically a rainy Taupo as the North Island had been expecting a huge tropical storm to hit at any moment. Sure enough, at about midnight said storm rolled through and dumped rain. We were up late working on the blog (it’s true, we do try to work on it!) and at about 2am our little place succumbed to the torrential onslaught and began taking on water from the ground up. At this point it was too late to do or say anything more than wait out the rain which eased up around 7am. By this time the floor and walls were soaking. All they did was apologize, feeling horrible thinking it ruined our stay (it absolutely did not) and they went as far as heading to the ATM in an attempt to refund us, which we would could not accept. We just felt terrible for them and the new construction project they weren’t planning on.
Day 25 – After leaving our Airbnb hosts early that morning so they could begin assessing the rain damage we headed Wairaki Terraces, a less than obvious hot spring just outside of town. It was lovely with a small town, local feel. There are 5 different bathing pools of varying temperatures, all fed by a thermal pool slightly uphill from the resting pools. We spent about 2 hours here before succumbing to the draw of caffeine so we headed into town and found our fix at Storehouse, back downtown. After getting some planning done, such as finding our Airbnb for the next night, we left and headed to Aratiatia Dam where they filmed the scene of the hobbits rushing down a river in barrels in the Hobbit trilogy. We couldn’t leave without stopping by the famous Huka Falls so we backtracked a little, yet again, and navigated a sea of tourists to snap a few pictures. Without much delay, we continued our journey on to our next town, Rotorua, which you could smell before you could see. Rotorua is home to many hot springs with the stench of sulfur permeating the whole area. Another diverse town we decided to try some new food and had a delicious Lebanese dinner before heading to Hot’nCold Hot springs for dusk dip. It was well past sundown when we arrived with clouds blocking the little bit of moonlight coming through making it difficult to find the springs. After a quick search, just off the main road, we found a non-descript trail leading to a set of stairs down into the dark junction of two small streams providing the cold portion of the Hot’nCold springs. People slowly came and went with one of group of locals bringing candles to place on the limestone shelves around the pools. It was a great experience getting away from the tourist crowds while enjoying a relaxing night in a local hot spring.
Day 26 – The tropical storm from the previous days was not yet over. As soon as we headed to the car to grab breakfast in town it started dumping rain. Due to the rain we decided to skip the in town geyser park and told ourselves we’d just head to Yellowstone when we get back to the states. We also had a good drive ahead of us without there being extreme tropical rains to deal with. After a hearty breakfast, we began our final drive towards Auckland. Malcolm who loves blueberries insisted we pull over at a blueberry farm a little outside of town for a milkshake, some fresh berries for the next morning’s breakfast, and of course some blueberry/date energy bites. Once we got to Auckland we headed straight to the indoor climbing gym, Extreme Rock Climbing, for some extreme rock climbing, which was a Christmas gift from Rusty – thanks Rusty! It was perfect for our raining day where we learned how to belay as everything was top rope climbing only – it was a great time. After dinner, we went back to our Airbnb and realized that it’s not always sunny and beautiful in Sydney, our next city. Silly us for assuming Australia can get bad weather, and Sydney at that?! We really didn’t believe it, Sydney was in for a week or more of rain! After spending most the last week dealing with rain we weren’t too stoked on visiting a rainy Sydney. After a lot of searching and planning we decided on a new plan where we would fly into Melbourne first and continue to re-asses the weather from there for where we’d go next. It was too late so change our current ticket to Sydney so we had to buy a new ticket to Melbourne. A new ticket at 2am and searching for the cheapest flight resulted in a 6am departure – barely enough time for an hour nap!
Day 27 – Running on hour of sleep we feel asleep quickly after boarding the plane and before we knew it were in Australia – country #2! We purchased a bus ticket from the airport to downtown Melbourne where we would then get local transit passes (Myki cards) to grab a train out to our next Airbnb which we booked on the bus into town. Malcolm went on a run, only his second since the marathon, while Jessica took a nap. It took Malcolm nearly 15 minutes to stop sweating from his 10mi run in the humid 85-degree midday sun. nce After showering we headed out to explore about the Northcote area. The neighborhood reminded us of Capital Hill back in Seattle. It was very eclectic and nearly everyone had tattoos and/or Macklemore/Ryan Lewis haircuts. We found a very cool outdoor beer garden that had tons of seating and 5 different food trucks to choose from so we grabbed some hamburgers and a beer for lunch. After exploring a bit more we headed to our first Australian grocery store to grab food and headed back with roast chicken and soup for dinner.
Day 28 – The next morning we woke up and moved to yet another new Airbnb, this time in the city where we were planning to spend most our time exploring from. Melbourne transit isn’t cheap as we found out so we would have been paying quite a bit to stay in Northcote and travel into the city area, not to mention the time. It just didn’t make sense, so we moved closer, and upgraded! We got an awesome penthouse on the 35th floor with amazing sunset views. It was a pretty stark difference from New Zealand where we had a month of small towns in the mountains, on the beach or next to a lake. After checking in we headed out to explore the cafes and shops in Southbank on our way to coffee. Our Airbnb host, Sara, was great and had a ton of helpful tips and places to check out that seemed right in line with what we were after. We ended up getting cold brew and a green bean latte to go from Cottle On Coventry for coffee and headed to GAS Eatery for lunch on the sidewalk. Sitting on the sidewalk with perfect weather, excellent coffee, and a delicious lunch we felt perfectly content to stay a while and get some trip planning taken care of. After several hours of flight, weather, and other random searches we landed on Cairns for our next destination. We knew we wanted to visit the Great Barrier Reef and with the weather in Sydney not looking great for another week we decided to head north. With our next 4 days after Melbourne planned, we ran a much-needed load of laundry as we’d finally be staying in one place long enough for it to dry. For dinner, we went out in search of food open past 10pm which is quite a bit harder than you’d imagine. We figured our best luck would be Chinatown, which we also had previous recommendations for, so we headed that way and had a great late night dinner of dumplings and sushi!
Take a look at the pictures above for a quick visual summary of the notes above and head to our Week 4 InFocus page for a look at even more photos! Enjoy