So, Australia! Well, we had it on our list for family visits, but otherwise I couldn’t muster much enthusiasm. Baking heat, bevies of snakes and spiders waiting to crawl into your tent. Met with a warm welcome in Sydney, we began the last leg of our journey. Geoff had booked the smallest hire car possible. The kindly lady at the hire desk peered over at our huge bags and sucking her teeth, suggested we might like to hire a car which would allow the children to travel without carrying half the luggage on their laps. We ended up with a smooth 4×4. Cranking on the air con, we set off. After a little difficulty with the blinding lack of signage, and a couple of trundles around the airport, we finally made it to Lolo’s. The beaches here, and the plants, have a much more tropical feel, and we recognised a lot which grow in Seychelles. We swam, ate and visited, all enhanced by being with family. Orlando even got a massive thunder lightning storm for his birthday! Beginning to get a taster of the huge variety of bird life with some rainbow chappies, a couple of ‘nigels’ and the beautiful kookaburra. We then head off down princes highway. We loved the drive through the bush. Such a difference from anything else. Brilliant blue skie’s, brilliant blue sea and the smell of warm eucalyptus. We stop off at some pretty sea pools. At Mikes suggestion, we turn off towards Jindabyne. First very cold night for a while. Jumpers on! I suppose this is one of Australia’s skiing areas! We stay one night in a doc style campsite. Not as private as the nz ones, we share with a goodish crowd including a big school group! Any wildlife we were hoping to see would have been sensibly in their dens. We do go on a wombat hunt, every bit of warm clothing coming out! We spot lots of wombat holes, but no sign of life. They have a happy hunt with their torches though! Orlando and I try for a sight of the elusive platypus, but no luck. Geoff and I really enjoyed all the driving here. Beautiful bush. The three agreed it was OK, but once you’ve seen a bush, you’ve pretty much seen them all. We agreed they wouldn’t have to gaze out, enthralled, and could pass the time with ds or famous 5 if they concentrated enthusiastically on the especially good bits. This worked well for all, and we passed many a happy hour in ‘bob’ the 4×4. ‘Many an hour’ is right, as we soon discovered that the chappy who superimposed the map of Europe onto the map of Australia wasn’t making a humerous joke. This place actually is huge. After a long days drive on our way to Wilson prom, we come across my least fav campsite of all time. Alongside 90 mile beach (yes, there is one here too) there is a thin strip of bush between the dusty road and the beach. It was getting dark, and Geoff had located some free camping spots along this bush bit. A squalid, dusty, charcoal, glass and bottle tops infested area with the most fetid long drop I have come across so far (we have come across a lot). I couldn’t use it it was so foul. Luckily it was just for the night. Unluckily, everyone, tent and car got covered in black. I blamed Geoff, but for some reason the three disagreed, arguing that he could not possibly have fortold such filth. We moved on swiftly in the morning. The day went quickly from 11 degrees to hot. Friendly faces awaited us, and much fun was had by all! Surfing, swimming, beach rugby and wombat hunts were highlights. Toton Willie has a gift for spotting wildlife, and he led the trio on many a forage through the bush. My bleats about the lurking deadly snakes were brushed aside airily, and many a snuffling wombat was happily tracked down and goggled at. Despite the sweeping statement that the snakes are afraid of us, there were plenty too many sightings for my liking. A lady in the campsite spotted a snake slither into the bit of bush Will and the trio were in the middle of examining. We missed seeing a Tiger Snake by a whisker, and Rio nearly stepped on what he and Tatie Jess say was an Eastern Brown Snake, and Toton Ricky says was something else. As Tatie Jess is a local, and the EBS is pretty deadly, therefore making it a much more desirable sighting, we are disregarding Rickys say, and going with the popular choice! We have been lucky enough to see so many animals in their wilderness. Kangaroos with joey’s. Kualas, Emus, Wallabies, Wombats, a snake and a huge variety of birds. Our last trip was to the platypus sanctuary where we were charmed by the playful platypus, and also saw Dingo, Tasmanian Devil, Echidna and also tiger snake. However, I digress, and have left out our tent story. We purposely bought an insect/snake/other nasties secure tent. The first few night we spent in it were great! Until we got to the prom. After a beautiful day to start with, Will organised a little wind to spice things up. This was doing a nice job of whipping up the dust. The dust was nice and fine, so it got into everything, including through the handy insect net that the inside of the tent is made of. Our first night had been fine until we woke up in the morning and Geoff discovered a biggish tear in the netting. He had the crust to suggest that I had done it while moving the tent to a flatter spor. After a luttle investigation, it became clear that a wombat had torn it in his excitement at the possibility of a food stash. It had obviously been a particularly dim fellow, as the tent was new, and no food had passed it’s zip. The only conclusion was that there had once been food on the camp spot. We didn’t fancy moving the tent in the gale force winds, so we left it. And so followed a restless night. The tent was blown this way and that by the gusts. Every time the outer flap lifted, a sandstorm blew in and settled on sleeping faces. Well, three sleeping faces. I was twitching and poking Geoff. Weird noises coming from all around, I almost missued the tearing sound. Old womby was back. Another big tear. No chance of sleep. I toss and turn, dusting the trios faces and eventually we give up, post the happily oblivious 3 into ‘bob’, bundle up the tent, dust and all, and squash in for a last car night. Geoffs back hasn’t been the same since. A huge warm welcome from jess family in Nilma, we had a lovely couple of days. The rest of the trip passes in a whirl of adventures with spectacular walks in the grampions, some first class accommodation, plenty of werewolf, animals and family fun. We loved Melbourne, and Australia, and are looking forward to exploring a bit of the outback next time! Our adventure couldn’t end without a bit of stress. I packed the bags. I packed and repacked. When they pulled out Elodies bag I assumed it was a lip balm. Imagine the dismay when the lady pulls out e”s diary, and out of the ring binding slides her gold, bullet shaped pen knife…….. the lower lip wobbles. Little tears start to form. I steel myself and ask the lady if I can take the knife back out and post it. Amazingly she agrees! Leaving the 3 and paps waiting under the sign saying any weapons in hand baggage will encute a $10 000 fine, i leg it out, buy a card, find a post box and post it to tonton Willie! I leg it back to find three tearful faces and one sweaty one looking out for me. It turns out the same lady found Rios extra large penknife secreted somewhere in the depths of his bag. What’s a mama to do? I located another security guard. Not the same one. Too cringing. Again, amazingly they handed back the knife and I legged it out again and repeated the whole sweaty, twitchy process. Geoff by this time is looking green around the edges. Worth all the stress as three huge smiles and thumbs up greet my as I come through my third bomb scan (the random picking system picked me out each time!) We made it on the plane. Not ‘just’ but close enough for Geoff to still be twitching slightly on our second flight. Poor paps. And so end our adventure in Oz.
We post up some ads for Pearl and wait for the calls to flod in. And wait. I know every man and his dog us trying to sell their car here, but Pearl is great! Surely everyone can see that! Apparently not. Geoff (and I actually ) are getting a trifle twitchy after two days of nothing. We visit the botanical gardens and the huge plaground as well as the remains of the old cathedral and the new ‘cardboard cathedral’. Personally, though I didn’t mention it to anyone, I thought the cardboard one was much better! Light and airy, with bright, beautiful windows and light, welcoming colours inside. This God chappy, if he (or she for that matter) happens to be around, would be well pleased with this new, lightfilled offering. So, after listening to a spot of yodelling inside, we head back to the playground to twitch a bit more. Geoff phones a couple of ‘butyourcarforcash’ places. They inform him, in sorrowful, apologetic voices that that car like that would be hard to give away, but they could take it as a personal favour. Geoff is pacing up and down now. He’s become quite fond of Pearl. We decide to slash the price. This results in one call. We hotfoot it back to one of the hostels to show this chap the car. He seemed a little surprised that my name wasn’t gingercarotte on the phone, and came towards me clutching our ad. I reintroduced myself, and he took a cautionary step back, pointing at the ad. ‘But it says gingercarotte here’ he says. I agree that it does indeed, but that that is my e-mail, and looking at the ad I laugh heartily and explain that I have forgotten to put my name on it. This does not appear to reassure him. ‘ oh yea? ‘ he says. This does not sound as hardbitten as it does with the English accent. It is softer with the new Zealand slant, but he edges away non the less. I slide into the sideline and Geoff takes over. The chap seems much more at ease with now, and shuffles around the car saying ‘oh yea?’ At intervals. We hang around the hostel, crisping up nicely in the midday heat while pearl is taken on a test drive. An age passes and pearl reappears looking a bit green round the gills. Geoff totters out. An indifferent driver it would seem! A longish saga follows involving the following: interest show (though we all agreed he played his cards close to his chest. Main vocabulary being ‘oh yea?’) He gave us his driving license as security and agreed to come to the campsite for a second look. However, upon our return to the campsite we found he had left our contact details in the car. Geoff leaves them at reception at the hostel and we wait. No sign next morning at 9. We hang around until 11.30, by which time we are all twitchy as no one else seems to be jumping about in excitement to buy pearl….we head off to look for the chappy. He’s gone out. Get back to campsite to find a note saying he overslept and will come this evening. The long story wears on, but it concludes in a trip to the bank (which involved the chap having temporarily lost his card and the cash machine breaking down, all of this doing a power of good to Geoffs nerves). We celebrate, after a sad goodbye with huge ice creams and a yummy feast each. R had roast, G had teriyaki, I had rahman and E had mac! And so ends our New Zealand adventure.
Geoff has booked ahead for Hamner Springs as the forecast is wet! Blissful to slide into a dry cabin and listen to the rain on the roof! There is nothing I hate more than sitting in a soggy tent. Hamner Springs centres around thermal pools, and we head over in the morning, squelch over from the car park and hand over a largish sum of money plus extra for the slides (boys only. E and I opt out). It rains all day. Non stop. I feel sorry for the lifeguards under their umbrellas. We don’t mind a bit! Great way to spend a wet, grey day. The pools are hot (I can’t imagine enjoying the 40° pool in the sunshine!) everyone us wet anyway, and no one gets burnt! The weather looks a bit bleak for the next few days, and after a bit of debating, we hunt for a cabin on the route. Fairly few and far between. In fact, the only one available is in lesser known Methven. Turns out to be a piece of good luck! Lovely campsite, chatty owner, pool,darts and a tv in the cabin! When I tell you we had time to watch one lord of the rings film, jerassic world, garfield and a documentary on cats, interspersed with Paddington 2, Ferdinand (E, O and me) and Jamanji (R and Paps) at the tiny weeny cinema in town, games of dart’s and pool, you will have an idea of how much it rained! We managed to squeeze in a lotrs film location as well. Can you guess? We sadly say goodbye to our cabin and head onwards.
Driving down the coast, we saw plenty of land slide damage from the earthquake. The road has only just been reopened. Lucky as the alternative route takes 6hrs instead of 2. We find a sheltered spot in the campsite and head off to look at the wildlife tours on offer. Christmas presents! We book a Whale watching tour and a Dolphin watching tour. Swimming with the dolphins is fully booked. We get on the waiting list. Much excitement from the three! Animals they have only seen before! Sunday is free so we head off to see the seal colony. We see one seal very close up, but compared to Cape Palliser, it’s a bit of a damp squib. We walk in the hopes of finding more seals, but it’s pretty hot and the three are beginning to bleat a bit when the phone rings. We can swim with the Dolphins today!! Only one hour to go! Much rejoicing, and we charge back to the car, dive in and Geoff suggests we head back to the campsite and make sandwiches. We all look at him witheringly and point out the lack of time. He grudgingly agrees it might be a bit tight. Luckily the local chip shop is open! Amidst much cheering, we get two massive bags of chips. 15 mins to eat them! Not problem. They are polished off in no time. The seagulls are pretty interested, and one sits on the bonnet and looks longingly through the windscreen. He guards hus prime spot tirelessly, and we reward him with a chip! It’s all we can spare. The 3 gannets have polished the paper clean! With 3 minutes to spare we bundle into the ‘encounters ‘ site. After a bit of faffing and squeazing ourselves into wetsuits, watching the safety video ect, we are off! A short bus ride to the boat and out to sea! We manage to nab the upper deck, and it’s spectacular. Riding over the waves and looking for the dolphins. We spot some Hector Dolphins. Two of them. Small and rare! They are exiting enough, but nothing compared to the pod of Dusky Dolphins! Loads of them jumping and gliding past the boat! What a sight! All the swimmers sit on the end of the boat and await the horn blast and jump in! O and R were pretty brave as it was a bit scary. The water was cloudy so visibility not great, but they swam so close, and r and I saw them underwater on the first two swims, and I got a good look on the last swim. Epic adventure! All buzzing with joy. What happy, playful creatures. R feels a bit queasy on the way back but us revived by the hot chocolate and biscuits! Elodue does justice to the biscuits and we head back. We are lucky enough to see an Albatross sitting on the water on the way back. Magnificent bird. Our next trip is the Whale watch. Much bigger boat this time, and bigger waves. The Maori captain speeds out, jumping and diving over the waves! We have to head out a long way, but the boat trip is such an exiting ride we hardly notice the time. R is obviously prone to seasickness and starts to look a bit green. Lots of people looking green. One chap avails himself of the good old paper bag. We are all scanning the horizon and the crew are using some sort of gentle sound device to listen to the Whales. They can’t use anything which interfere’s with the whales. When a whale comes to the surface there us a 10 minute window before he dives. Our captain gets a plane message saying there is a sperm whale on the surface. We speed over, and after a highly undignified scramble fir the outer deck (I manage to push rio up the stairs too hard and give him and nive bruise! ) luckily I was pushy and we got and good look at the majestic animal as he takes his last couple of breaths and dives back under, flipping his tail up in farewell. So amazing. No one can quite believe we saw a real wild whale! Kaikoura high up on the favourites list!