Well hello there!And as the season is fast approaching, a Merry Christmas to you all!
Now then, where to begin? Where to begin?Cairns feels like a long time ago now, but that's the last time we blogged, so I'll try my best to remember it all.So yes, after one night back in Cairns after our trip to Cape Tribulation, we boarded a flight to Darwin.The flight-sights were amazing - we literally passed over about 2 minutes of sea before seeing only red dust and 'bush' for the next three hours.We were glad to arrive into Darwin - the hub of the Northern Territory - the 'mad' city nearer to Asia than most of Australia.To sum it up, I'll use a quotation from James Mole:
"Is it Sunday or something?… Or Christmas Day?"No, no, it's Saturday afternoon.Shops were closed, the roads were clear - we, and the Aboriginals, seemed to be the only ones who fancied a strole in the 'city'.Still, we found an AMAZING shop to spend our hours - there were hats in the shape of crocs, comedy postcards, and even t-shirts with "I love Darwin" written in sparkling text.They were in the sale.Shocker.We spent our only full-day in Darwin on a day trip to Litchfield National Park.It was brilliant there - swam in three very different beautiful waterfalls, in a natural hot-tub, and in natural springs.We had a picnic on the rocks, and met lots of jumping crocs (accidental rhyme there).We had a great guide too, who took great pleasure in swimming me out underneath a 'family' of huge spiders, and getting James to touch a snake!This brilliant day in truly beautiful surroundings, was followed by a day of equal worth - a whole day on a bus!22 hours we believe, although I'm sure you understand that we lost track of time.A few highlights being … a stop in Kimberley for an hour where the tarmac was LITERALLY melting in the sun, the fact that the air con was hot, the DVD player wouldn't work as it was over-heated, and we had 'chicken' nuggets for dinner, that definitely weren't chicken, but were … hot!
We arrived the next morning into Alice Springs and were delighted to find that Alice had been hit by a freak rain storm!There were still those notorious Aussie flies plaguing our every step, but there was an actual breeze.We stayed in a nice hostel here, and cooked ourselves a gourmet dinner of Mexican chicken tacos.We also spent a lot of time in K-mart looking for cheap clothes as many personal items go missing in dorm-life (eg. Sunglasses, sun hat, skirts, t-shirts…).As everyone in our dorm was up at around 4 - 5am the next morning for an Ayers Rock tour, the lights were off at 9.30pm.I was pretty gutted about that seeing as I wasn't tired, and had been writing in my diary at the time, but it meant I got to watch the huge electrical storm going on outside while we all wondered whether we'd get to see the Rock at all (we had been warned).
5am came, and so did our mini-bus to take us into the outback for 3 days.These were quite possibly the best three days of our Aussie tour. After driving for 5 hours or so, we were still not near the Rock, but we were at King's Canyon. We were very lucky to be here as for the previous 5 days, no one had been able to access it due to storms and floods. These storms really were our best friends as they had created a cooler climate for our time in the outback AND created waterfalls within the canyon - which is quite a feat. The canyon was beautiful, and felt a bit like we were in another world, especially when we stopped off at 'The Garden of Eden' - a waterpool within the canyon itself. It was amazing to see so much green-life in the middle of the desert. We were here for 3 hours or so. What were we doing all this time? Hiking. Yep. Me and my crocs reached a whole new level of appreciation after this trip - there was A LOT of walking. On the way to our camp for the night, we stopped to collect wood. James braved a gash across the ankle from a large angry log. What a guy. Then we headed to camp. Camp being a levelled stretch of red dust and mud. We actually had a great evening, got talking to our BRILLIANT tour group (our main reason for enjoying the tour so much), ate yummy chilli, drank chilled beers, and then crawled into our 'swags' for a good ol' night's sleep under the stars. I lost count of the number of shooting stars we saw.
It was a prompt start the next morning for our breakfast of porridge and toast, and our journey to Kata Tjuta - aka 'The Olgas'. Guess what we did here? Another long walk! We even opted to do the longer, more challenging version. God we've changed! In the afternoon, we visited an Aboroginal cultural centre, and did a short walk (honestly) around part of Uluru (aka Ayers Rock / The Rock). It was fascinating to learn so much about the Aboriginal culture, and about the importance of this area to them. I didn't realise before that Uluru was actually USED by the tribes in the past - to shelter, to teach their children, and for social gatherings to name a few. Every inch of the rock, and the surrounding area is covered in Dreamtime stories and social significance - there are many parts of the rock where it's disrespectful for men to see it, or for women to see it, and it's very disrespectful to walk on the rock itself.
On the second night, we camped in a place with ... toilets ... and ... showers!! It was comedy in the showers as all you could hear from the girls' side was screaming and running due to the local wildlife! We had another great night where we sat round in our swags and sang songs. Unfortunately we must have stayed up too late, as Drew, our guide, slept in on Day Three. We very nerly missed the all-important sunrise at the rock, but we made it and all was well. Today we walked around the base of the rock - twas rather long, but definately worthwhile, and then headed back to Alice Springs (via a camel farm unfortunatly). We had a great night out with our new best friends in Alice Springs. Unfortunately we had locked our passports safely away in the Reception safe which mean that we couldn't go dancing with everyone, but we still had a great night, and heard all about the good times from our four Irish girlfriends, as we were sharing a room.
The next day, Saturday, was the day of the big reunion - with Eoghan and Fiona AND Ashcherrelle and Harriet. Wow! We flew back to our second home - Melbourne, and arrived just before 8pm. It was freezing! Especially after our few weeks in the sun. We were so happy to be back in Melbourne, and even happier to see some our favourite people again. There was a minor hiccup in the beginning as the woeful receptionist at the hostel gave us the key to the wrong room. This resulted in me RUNNING into someone else's room, throwing my bags and bedding across the floor and shouting "HELLLOOOOOO!!!". Dear Goodness. I quickly realised my mistake, grabbed my stuff and swiftly turned on my heels. We found the right room and had hugs, screams and smiles gallore. Brilliant. We spent a lot of time in the room just catching up, but managed to pop out for a drink or two. Sunday was spent in a similar fashion - catching up and eating and drinking - all things that we do very well.
We got our own back on the rubbish receptionist on Monday as me and James managed to pay nothing for our stay there! No one ever asked us for money, and when we checked out (with our cash in our hands) they just told us to have a good trip. Okay! We put the icing on the cake by asking the manager to take our photo outside his hostel! He thanked us, we sincerely thanked him and went on on our merry way. Monday ended up being our free-day as Eoghan and Fiona 'won' money from their 'empty' bank account via an ATM. James and I 'won' money from our 'empty' savings account in Australia, and we found free crisps on top of a vending machine. What a day. Unfortunately Eoghan and Fiona had to leave us for the final time to return to their darling Derry :-( It was a sad farewell, but it's not the end for us - they promise to be there in March for our returning party, so all is well.
So then there were 4. We found ourselves a cheap HOTEL - not hostel right in the city centre, with ensuite and tv. Great stuff. We had a great final week in Melbourne - seeing some sights, wrapping up the last of our Aussie ties, and James even picked up a few shifts at work. A definate highlight was a final trip to the Neighbours Night on Monday - Ashcherrelle and Harriet got up and sang, I got up and Irish danced, all of which resulted in us winning a tour around the North Island in New Zealand for Harriet and Ashcherrelle. Not bad.
And so came Saturday - James and I were up early for our flight to Christchurch, New Zealand, and we left Ashcherrelle and Harriet to continue their Aussie adventures in Sydney. Our flight was dandy, and we arrived in to wonderful Christchurch that afternoon. We spent our first evening attending "Christmas in the Park" - which was a great start to our time here. There were Christmas carols, and general singing and dancing. Santa arrived, and there were amazing fireworks to finish it all off. It's now Monday, and we're about to head off on our very own road trip of New Zealand. Yesterday we picked up our new companion for the next month - our Campervan - called JEDI. Oh yes. We love him, and all that he brings - including a DVD player! Last night was our first night with Jedi and all went smoothly - apart from needing the toilet - where's my ensuite?? Our parents have sent us lovely christmas gifts, so we've started watching Billy Connelly's travels of NZ on DVD, and are heading back to Jedi now to crack open the first window on our Advent Calendars! Judging by what we've seen, and the people we've met so far, we cannot wait to see more of New Zealand, and are so excited to be doing it ourselves. We've already had great success last night as we ended up joining in on a quiz in the pub we found for dinner. We didn't do amazingly in the quiz, namely we came last, BUT we won a spot prize of a $50 bar tab! So we had ourselves a few free drinks last night, and returned this morning for a FREE slap up breakfast! That's the way to do.
Well, we're off to hit the road. We send all our love to you all, especially at this time of year. We think of you all constantly and chat about you more. We'll be in touch again soon, so please keep messaging. All our love, Happy Advent! xxxxxxx