And we’re off! Australia here we come!



We’ve been in Aus for 48 hours now. The jet lag is possibly at its peak with maybe only 10 hours sleep since we left the U.K. 3 days ago. We’ve been staying with Tom’s aunty Pooh and uncle Ross in Wattle Grove. They have a beautiful house with lots of land and an old polo course and stables which are now unused.

We’ve spent most of our time hanging out with the family and walking their new puppy Molly. We did a tour of where Tom used to live and go to school yesterday, around Kalamunda. Because Australia has so much space, the houses are mostly single story and the roads and land plots are huge.

Today we took Molly to a dog beach for a swim and run around. The beach was white sands and aquamarine blue sea. Much more rugged beaches than I was expecting. So beautiful. After brunch with the family we headed to Fremantle (or Freeo as the locals call it) where we browsed the markets and sampled the local beers at the brewery. Freeo has a really great feel to it - chilled out with lots of beaches and cafes.

Molly the dog and Aunty Pooh (and Tom on the water)

Freeo markets


This evening we’ve been for dinner with Tom’s Godmother (Aunty Shelly) and her family. Lovely to meet them all and see the many many bikes that fill their home and fill in another piece of Tom’s Aussie life. Tom was very impressed they cooked some of the meal in a thermomix.


Perth part 2

We’ve had a gorgeous, very Australian day today! Started off with a lovely tandem cycle through the city of Perth, down by the water front, through the university and to the city gardens. It was 25degrees, blue skies and sunshine. Perth is a very clean, outdoorsie city. I love that it’s near the water with big cycle paths and lots of alfresco coffee and dining. Plus we did pretty well on our tandem once we’d learnt how to do it!

Next we headed to the John Forrester National Park to get a small insight into the Australian bush and glance at some Australian wildlife. The wildlife wasn’t hard to find as at our tavern for lunch, there were about 20 kangaroos and loads of green-blue parrots flying around! The kangaroos had Joeys in pouches and following their mommas. We then went for a walk to a waterfall which didn’t have any water. The bush is very red, very dry and there are crickets and animal noises all around

Spot the Joey

To end the day, we headed to City beach for a swim and an ice cream. So many huge waves and kids with body boards on them all. It’s another beautiful white sand beach.

We’re now chilling back at Aunty Pooh’s house with Molly the dog, getting ready for our flight to Sydney tomorrow!

Sydney Harbour Bridge

New Year’s Eve in Sydney

After an early morning flight from Perth and a 3 hour time difference we arrived in Sydney mid-afternoon and rushed to our accommodation in the northern suburbs. We were greeted with a glass of Prosecco and hastily donned our glad rags ready for the big night.

We had booked a boat party with a group of 12 friends and patiently waited in the pouring rain to be picked up at Darling Harbour - our picnic getting ever more soggy. An assortment of international couples and families jostled to get onboard when the boat eventually docked nearly 30mins late.

After 4 hours of eating, drinking, dancing and gazing around Sydney harbour we began to ready ourselves for midnight. Perched on benches at the back of the boat we were able to get a 360 view. What a display! Fireworks of all shapes and sizes lit up the night sky with the bridge acting as their foundation. The floatilla of onlookers enjoy every second as their boats bobbed around the harbour, lit up in matching pink. Happy 2019 everyone!

We returned to dock full of cheer (and beer) and headed home for some well earned rest.

The crew

Sydney Harbour bridge

First selfie of the year

James St

2019 begins

The 1st of January begin with less of a head ache than you might imagine; VB (Victoria Bitter) is clearly well brewed. We went straight for the pool where we stayed for several hours, chatting about the night before and exchanging other stories. Jess was particularly fond of the rubber rings!

Tough life

The house we were staying in was rediculous, owned by a friend of our friend Charlie’s parents. As well as an amazing pool, it also had a great outdoor entertaining area, complete with large BBQ. We all clubbed together at lunchtime to put on a feast!

Time to eat (Charlie front and right)

Feasting was followed by a trip to the local beach. We marched down a winding track through the bush, managing to get bitten by a few bull ant on the way. Chinaman’s Beach was packed with families cooking and swimming, enjoying the end of the holidays together. We played around in the water for an hour before having a few drinks and playing beach cricket.

Those that remained after the beach \240played a board game called Linkee and finished off the BBQ leftovers, before crashing early to bed. Not a bad way to start the year!

Bondi Beach

Exploring Sydney

Once we were fully recovered from new year it was time to go and look around Australia’s largest city. As Mosman, where we were staying, is far from the city’s main attractions we took the opportunity to take the harbour ferry and look at the bridge one more time.

View from the ferry

Once across the harbour we grabbed a cab over to Bondi to begin the famous coastal work to Coogee. We were greeted by a pod of dolphins and Jess was very excited to get some snaps. The walk is around 6km and follows the coast past an assortment of beaches, as well as Waverley Cemetery and a cliff top bowls club. It is not an easy treck and we ran for refreshements as soon as we arrived in Coogee.

View from Icebergs

Hitting the surf

Rock pools

After working up an appetite on the walk we headed back into Sydney to check out the famous fish market with Dani and Charlie. It is still a working area with auction house and an army of forklifts. They also have a great selection of eateries with harbour side seating. The four of us split up to see what we could come back with and then tucked into a variety of battered seafood, sushi and crustaceans. The seagulls were either oblivious or very polite as we had no trouble keeping our food on the table.

Seafood feast (Clockwise from top left: Battered fish platter, salmon and shrimp, crab leg and octopus skewer, sushi)

With our bellies full we wondered into Sydney for a bit of hopping, Jess bought a new bikini. The city was vibrant and the beautiful QVB shopping centre was packed. Sadly Sydney’s trams still weren’t up and running to wish us around the CBD. We also had a mooch around the Botanical Gardens which have a great view of the harbour. It’s a really popular spot for watching the NYE fireworks (for only $300).

Still no trams (running joke in Sydney)

Botanical gardens

More bridge

We finished the day with a couple of sundowners on top of the Glenmore Hotel in The Rocks. A highly competitive game of pass the pigs ended with another victory for Tom and we headed back to Mosman for chilled evening of leftovers and board games. Pretty good going for only one day in the city.

Top of the Glenmore


Woolongong with the Hegyis

We’ve spent the last 2 days south of Sydney near Woolongong with Dads good friend from his Contikii days - Charlie, his wife Debra and their 2 kids Paige and Connor.

They picked us up from Mosman and we hit the road South through the National Park. Driving through dense rainforest, we realised how tropical the area is. First stop was to watch paragliders sail from the cliff towards the beach. There were some novice flyers and some hairy near misses!

Next stop was the Symbio Wildlife Park to spot some native Australian animals. The park mostly takes in rescued creatures and I managed to tick off a huge number of Aussie animals! I also stroked a koala which is an Australian must do...

An albino echidna

Tasmanian devil



Following a delicious Mexican meal and some incredible views on the drive down the coast to their house, we were pretty warm so went for a cooling swim. We also tried to body surf which some people (Tom and Charlie) were better than other people (Jess).

In the evening we had a lovely Aussie BBQ with the whole family of snags (sausages) and steaks finished off with an Aussie pavalova. We then took a drive around the local area to catch the sunset and see a bit of the city and new developments. It’s changed from a steel making city to an up and coming university city which is an interesting change.

Today, Charlie made us a breakfast of Hungarian pancakes which were delicious, and powered us on for our surf lesson. We headed to their local beach and got out on our boards and tried to catch many waves (failing in 90%). But we did both manage to stand up with help and a push from Charlie! Lots of fun but with zero surf muscle power - pretty exhausting too!!

We are now on a plane to Melbourne. On route we took in a few more amazing sights in the area and a beautiful view of the city.


After a short 1.5hour hop across to Melbourne, we headed across the city to my Geordie friend Rosie’s house. They’ve been here for a year now and have recently brought a flat in Bentleigh.

After 43degree heat yesterday, we were blessed with a cool breeze and some rainy skies today.... we headed into the city after a Shashoka cooked by Rosie’s Greek boyfriend. First stop was the Melbourne Gallery to see a ... exhibition where we met Megan, my friend from medical school.

Meg and Jess

We then headed to the Sydney library and learnt about Ned Kelly and the Sumerian stone. Beautiful building with the first reclinable desk chairs! (That’s a Rosie fact so not sure if it’s 100% true).

After a beautiful Thai lunch, we explored the graffiti of Melbourne and had a drink on the river which was lovely. Melbourne feels a lot more European and lived in than Sydney and Perth.

The day finished with some gnocchi and pizza in a lovely little Italian place with all of Megan’s new doctor friends.

Coldstream Hills Cellar Door

Wine tasting in the Yarra Valley

Sunday was set aside for a wine tasting trip with Jess’ friends in Melbourne: Rosie, Mike and Megan. The Yarra Valley, 1 hour east of Melbourne has a great reputation and is particularly known for Pinot Noir and a unique style of Chardonnay. Tom volunteered to drive in Megan’s car (not all heroes wear capes) meanding we could visit any vineyard cellar doors we felt like - we chose 4 in the end.

Yarra Valley map with visited vineyards

#1 - Coldstream Hills

The first vineyard we visited was founded by famous Australian wine writer James Halliday. The tasting involved a broad spectrum of wines and was conducted a fantastic gent in his 70s who was Mauritian by birth but had been in Aus for over 40 years. Bottles of Sparkling and Sauv Balnc were bought by the group.

#2 - Squitchy Lane

Squirchy Lane was not on the originally on our intinerary but when we drove past the sign on our way to Coldstream Hills we all said we had to check it out. SL is a small vineyard but produced some really unique wines including a Fumé Blanc and ‘minimal intervention’ Sauv Blanc which they name Thermidor. These were like marmite to the group and although Rosie considered buying 6 bottles, Jess and Megan were unimpressed.

#3 Oakridge

Oakridge was our lunch stop and a much more professionalised cellar door. We ordered a couple of sharing plates and enjoyed the few of the vines. The testing was conducted by a young Aussie who was up for a laugh but appeared knowledgeable about the wines he was sharing. He talked about why Yarra Valleys micro climates made growing so many quality varieties possible and explained what rosé actually was (any wine that is pink). They also sell an unusual rosé which smells like cheese - we obviously bought a bottle!

#4 - Helen and Joey Estate

Our final stop was at the unicorn filled Helen and Joey’s vineyard. We managed to squeak in just before closing to try some of their great blends with the Wayward Child being one of the wines of the day. Tom has reached his wine intake so had a lemon churn muffin instead. We finished the trip with a bottle of bubbly out on the terrace and took a few photos with the resident unicorns.

Apollo Bay

Great Ocean Road-trip day 1

Today we’ve driven from Melbourne to Apollo Bay along the Great Ocean Road. Tom and Megan have taken care of the actual driving and Jess’ job is music master and food....

First stop was Torquay for some shopping in a massive discounted RipCurl shop where the more you brought the cheaper it became (one surf vest $42, 2 surf vests $40...). Next stop was Bells Beach which is usually full of very good surfers, but was actually very flat, so not really full of anyone.

Then we hit Aireys Inlet which is another beautiful beach with a light house and randomly an English tea shop. So after watching the beautiful waves, we had a sub par cream tea and headed off again.

Next stop was Lorne - a seaside town with (you’ve guessed it) another incredibly beautiful beach. After a swim, we headed on a walk up to a view point over looking the whole bay and parts of the road. We then headed back to the pier and watched 2 rays, abouts a meter in length swimming in the shallows.

Next stop was Kennett River for a walk in the eucalyptus forest to spot Koalas! We saw about 6 little balls of fur sleeping in the trees, and one trying to eat and dance with a branch.... so great to see them in the wild!!

We are now in Apollo Bay in a beautiful Eco friendly hostel. A filling and healthy dinner and we’re about to go to sleep ready for another full day...


Great ocean Road-trip day 2

Today started with a bit of a terrifying moment... Megan and I (Jess) were surfing in Apollo bay, practicing our new found skills, when Tom starting shouting and pointing what I heard as “shark fin”. Meg saw a big, finned animal in the waves next to us and we both started running towards the shore. For anyone who has ever run with a 9 foot surf board attached to their leg, through a strong current and 5 foot waves, it’s not particularly easy. I kept falling over and the surf board kept hitting me... and by now Tom was louder and a bit more frantic, still shouting what I heard as “shark fin” and the whole beach seemed to be pointing and staring in our direction. So I thought I was about to be eaten and my adrenaline was in overdrive.... I also can’t wear contact lenses or glasses when in the water so my vision was also pretty poor. When I finally got to the shore, I realised Tom had been shouting “Dolphin” and there was a pod of dolphins playing in the waves we were surfing! They were jumping up in the wave so you could see their silhouette through the water. So very relieved I didn’t get eaten, excited about the dolphins, exhausted from my running and sad I’d run away from so many beautiful animals!!

The rest of the day was much less adrenaline filled... We headed up to the Otway National Park rainforest next to see prehistoric looking fern trees and some Californian redwoods. Such a contrast from 15 mins south. We also did some walks through the forest to the waterfalls which were beautiful.

Californian Redwoods

We then headed back down to the Great Ocean Road where we completed the last section to Warnambool. Along this stretch is the sandstone formations created by the powerful waves crashing into the sea. The 12 Apostles (of which there have only ever been 9, and now there’s 8...), London Bridge (because it’s falling down) and Loch Ard gorge we’re the highlights.

12 apostles

Loch Ard

London Bridge

The next stop was in Port Campbell where we went to the Pig and Sow brewery to taste some craft beers and eat a well deserved pizza. We finished the day in a motel in Warnambool, playing a game of Monopoly Deal before bed.

Grampians National Park

Day 3 Great Ocean Road-trip - The Grampians

Today started with Tom cooking eggs inside a kettle... more successful than you’d imagine and we had lovely egg sandwiches for breakfast!

We headed on to the Grampians, about 1.5hours North of Warnambool. The drive was quite stunning, watching the forest covered mountains rising up from flat farmland.

Meg, Tom and Jeremiah (the car)

First stop in the National Park was the Pinnacle walk. We opted for the medium difficulty hike, through the Aussie Grand Canyon. We’ve learnt our lesson about the strength of the sun here so lathered on 3 layers of factor 50 sunscreen plus bright pink zinc paste. The walk took us up through forest and rock formations to the top of the mountain where there were impressive views across the park and surrounding farmland.

The Grand Canyon

The Pinnacle

Next stop was the MacKensie falls with a steep descent to the bottom.

Emus in the carpark

We then headed to the balconies look out with a stunning view across the forest floor.

After a well deserved ice cream at Halls Gap, we headed back on the long drive back to Melbourne. There were kangaroos (unfortunately dead as well as alive) as well as so many cockatoos which seem to be the Aussie pigeon. Our dinner stop was an Ethiopian restaurant serving a delicious tasting menu. Not really what you expect to find in outback Aus but delicious none the less.




Last day in Aus

For our final day in Melbourne we decided it would be a good idea to go for a cycle around the city. Jess and Megan warmed up with a dip in the local pool while Tom tried, in vain, to get his hair cut.

Fitzroy pool

For the ride we assembled a full compliment of Melbourne friends including Roise and former Bristol Tag rugby teammate Anna. Melbourne has some great cycle paths so we chose an abitious 35km loop of the city taking in parts of the river, Royal Park, Docklands and city centre.

Biker gang (Jess loves her helmet)

Yarra River trail

The bikes we were fast, although Toms was a little on the small side, so we covered the city in about 4hrs. Highlights include the river paths, tourist dodging on the shared boulevards and a cheeky cider break.

Once safely home we cooked a BBQ up on Megan’s roof and enjoyed one last evening in Melbourne. Packing reluctantly began at 10pm and we went to bed with full bags and fuller bellies. On to New Zealand at last!

Rooftop BBQ

Te Anau

Milford Sound - Day 1

Start - Te Anau

Finish - Clinton Hut

Distance walked - 2.5 miles

Yesterday we flew from Melbourne to Queenstown on the South Island of New Zealand. So that means we are now in our new home country!!. It was a lovely day aside from a minor, costly hiccup at Melbourne airport. I (Jess) have been doing so much reading on visas for work, which I haven’t yet been able to apply for as I’m waiting for my medical council registration, I sort of missed doing all my reading on the tourist visa which is available on entry to NZ. It turns out you need a return ticket out of NZ within 3 months of arriving. We found this out 10 minutes before check in closed. They told me I couldn’t buy a ticket online as it’ll take too long to go through, so my only option was to buy a ticket at the Virgin desk. The cheapest refundable ticket was $653... there were 3 staff working on trying to get us through the system before the gate closed which we very luckily managed... Nothing like an early morning stressful adrenaline rush to wake you up!

Luckily, NZ immigration was extremely chilled and we sailed through the tiny Queenstown airport, and we were munching on the famous Ferg burger next to a lake within half hour of landing....

Te Anau where we slept last night is 2 hours from Queenstown on the most beautiful road, next to a lake, in wonderful sunshine. When we arrived, we met Toms university friend Johnny and his girlfriend Laura who have been living in NZ for the last 2 years. After a few beers and a lovely catch up, it was still light at 10:30pm! Te Anau is on a lake, surrounded by mountains. Great first night in NZ!

Ferg Burger Queenstown

Drive to Te Anau and our car for a month

This morning after some manic packing and shopping, we hit the road, then the boat, for the start of the Milford Sound trek. The trek is one of the “Great Walks” and takes 4 days sleeping in huts on route. If we’re being honest, our planning for the trek was minimal with Johnny and Laura informing us what we need and where we need to be. So I had no expectations of anything.

Day 1 has been pretty chilled though. An easy 5km walk along the river to ease us in. The only difficulty being our 12kg packs. We even had a swim when we arrived at our hut in the beautiful glacial river. The hut is pretty basic, but does have gas cooking stoves and a flushing toilet! We’ve just been for a walk to see the stars by the river before bed. There are also amazing glow worms along the path. Fact of the day: tea tree and Manuka are the same plant!!! So the honey and the oil are both full of goodness for the same reasons! Who knew....

Start of Milford Track

Glacial swim

We’ve been blessed with beautiful weather today but tomorrow apparently a storm is hitting. So early to rise to try and get off the river basin before the flooding!!

My first successful attempt at photographing stars (needs some practice)

Mintaro Hut

Milford Track - Day 2

Start - Clinton Hut

Finish - Mintaro Hut

Distance walked - 10.5 miles

We woke up early on day two after the ranger had told us of the forecast the previous night. If we didn’t leave for 8am it was likely that we would be caught in a thunder storm and unable to cross parts of the track. A hearty bowl of porridge and tea (Jess)/coffee (Tom) got us off to a good start.

Sunrise at Clinton Hut

We made good progress early on before the rain set in. However, rain is a must on the Milford Track as in releases the waterfalls. The Clinton Valley is a straight, glacial valley so waterfalls form all along its sides. Their constant roar, combined with soft birdsong, made for an impressive soundtrack for our days tramping (kiwi for hiking).

Stick friends

The Milford Track experience

We broke for a bit of morning tea (pitta and peanut butter) at about 10:30am after fording a stream gave us all soggy boots. The rain didn’t pick up as expected so we continued on to our next hut at a constant level of damp but comfortable.

One of the best aspects of the track is the game of spotting unique native birds. The fact that NZ didn’t have mammals/ground predators mean a great variety of species have evolved. On day two the majors sightings were Whio (blue duck), Wekka (bush fowl), [insert name] (bush robin), Kea (alpine parrot) and Fantail \240. Note, the Maori names of many of New Zealand’s birds are the calls they make.


Fantail in tree

Towards the end of the day the track began to climb to the Mackinnon Pass, the major climb on Day 3. Morale and energy began to drop as we neared the hut after 10.5 miles of walking. We were welcomed at around 1pm with a varranda full of other walkers wet clothes, which we added to, and a warm fire. We spent the evening packing in the calories and playing games with friends we made amongst the group. By 9pm we were keen for bed, ready for a relatively lie in (7am) and another tough day of walking.

Waterfalls everywhere

Close to the hut


Mackinnon Pass Memorial Milford Track

Milford Track - Day 3

Start - Mintaro Hur

Finish - Dunpling Hut

Distance walked - 8.5 miles

The third day of the Milford Track is easily the hardest. Not only do you have to climb 800m of elevation but you also have to descend 950m on the other side. Thankfully the rain from the previous day had cleared the air and we were expecting fine conditions for the entire walk. The initial climb up to MacKinnon pass consists of 11 switchbacks (zig-zags) finishing at Pass Hut at the highest point on the track.



The views on the way up were amazing and we spotted multiple alpine flowers as well as some Wekka. After about the sixth switchback the Track left the tree line and the wind started to hit us. We powered on to the top where we spotted Mackinnon’s memorial. He was the first European to successfully travelling overland to Milford Sound, likely using an old Maori Track used to gather greenstone from the coast. The memorial was built after he died four years on from identifying the pass.

The memorial was dressed with a couple of Kea (alpine parrot) who were flying aerobatically and being playful. Kea are one of the world’s most intelligent birds and have been known to work their way into backpacks, so we made sure to guard our morning tea all the way to the hut.

Magnificent Kea

Team at the top

Loo with a view

After refuelling at the top we took on the gruelling decent. Both Tom and Jonny had knee injuries so were being extra cautious. There were great views on the way down, including a number of boardwalks that took us very close to waterfalls. We spotted a few Whio (blue duck) in the rivers as we went and made it down all in one piece. At the bottom of the decent there was a hut where we took lunch and rested our sore feet. After nearly an hour we summonsed the energy to do the side treck to Sutherland Falls (without our backpacks). These are New Zealand’s highest waterfalls, falling over 250m in three tiers.

A rare Whio sighting

Sutherland Falls

After the falls we donned our packs and covered the final 2 miles in good time. We had heard that there was a good swimming hole at the hut so quickly dumped our stuff and went to get clean. The water was cold, but invigorating, and we spend a while playing around and getting clean. The rest of the evening was spent eating all the spare food we had, leaving only a light lunch for the next day. We also learnt a new card game called Phase 10 from a Dutch/Australian couple called Hylke and Kate which will become a fixture on this trip we are sure. We went to bed exhausted and ready to finish the walk the next day.


Milford Sound

Milford Track - Day 4

Start - Dumpling Hut

Finish - Milford Sound

Distance walked - 12 miles

With the sun shining and the sandflies biting, we headed off onto the final leg of the Milford Track. A fairly flat but long day, it seemed like a stroll compared to the previous day.

Our first sight was One Tree Slip, where there had been a huge travalanche (tree avelanche) and left just one tree on the side of a granite slab. You could see just how little the trees had to hold onto the rock with.

One Tree Slip


The path today was mostly gravel through forest and dappled light and over rivers. It was lovely and we spotted a couple of Wekka families on the route.

The next stop was a rock on which the underside had been hollowed out when it was previously the otherway up - giving the appearance of a bell. Tom was very impressed he could stand up inside Bell Rock!

Tom in Bell Rock

After another few hours we hit our lunch spot, beside a waterfall and swimming hole. The water is crystal clear and these waterfalls we’ve reached are like paradise in the forest.... We all went for a swim(well except Laura) and somehow it was a good few degrees colder than yesterday and caught our breath as soon as we jumped in. But very refreshing for our tired and sandfly bitten legs!

Lake Ada

Swim time



We then had another 2 hours to the end. By this point Jess’ little toes were resembling small chorizo sausages (swollen and red) and it was a bit of a struggle. But that made it even better when we reached the end at Sandfly Point. Sandflies are like blood sucking gnats. So small and really easy to swat but oh so annoying!! We then jumped on a short 5 min boat ride across to the beautiful Milford Sound. It felt so so good to have completed the first of the New Zealand Great Walks!

33.5 miles done!

Boat to the incredible Milford Sound

We did it!!

Toms sandfly feet

Doubtful Sound

Doubtful Sound Kayak Day 1

We spent yesterday recovering, relaxing our legs, washing all things and trying to plan the next month... We then ate lots of vegetables and played a big game of phase 10 with Laura and Johnny.

This morning, we had an early 5:45 alarm and headed out to Lake Manapouri. We sailed across New Zealand’s 3rd largest, and one of their deepest lakes. Incidentally, there is a massive hydro power station there, created for the local aluminium factory. And that allowed the road and infrastructure put in place so we could reach Doubtful Sound - a place previously only accessible by sea or 12 hours walking from the lake.

We then got kitted out in our warm, waterproof, and very attractive kayak gear... unfortunately, during this we found the key to our hostel room from last night... ooooppssss.

All the gear... no idea....

After figuring out a rhythm and how to steer a 2-man kayak, we were off. Tom then realised his blood circulation to his legs had been cut off by the boat, and the only way for him to be able to feel his feet, was to sit on the actual boat, not seat... tall people problems! So we were a bit wobbly as a team, but managed to keep up!

The sound is incredibly beautiful, wild and remote. There are 8 of us in our group with 2 guides, and apart from 2 small boats which passed us, there was nothing else on the whole water. So special.

After lunch, we heard a few splashes across the fjord, and started to see fins. Pretty soon there were around 30 dolphins swimming, playing and jumping a few meters from our boat. Incredible!! And our guide had never seen dolphins on Doubtful Sound before.

Very blurred as very zoomed on our waterproof camera but a huge jumping dolphin!!

Our kayaking was very chilled, we didn’t head far in distance and spent ages taking in the Sound. It was also completely flat and ideal conditions for kayaking with a few clouds and some light spots of rain...

Our next spot was a seal. It popped up close to our boat and played around in the water. So lucky to see that too!!


We’ve set up camp in a forest next to the Sound. Apart from the millions and millions of sandflies, it’s ideal. Peaceful and full of bird song. We had a swim in the Sound which was far warmer than Milford Track... Our guide said that we’ve done really well to see dolphin and seal and the last one to spot is a penguin (which would be the trifecta). So fingers crossed for tomorrow!!

Doubtful Sound

Doubtful Sound Kayak Day 2

After a reasonably sandfly free sleep in our tent we awoke to a blue sky and bird song. We headed to the communal camp area to prepare our by now standard breakfast: 1 x tea, 1 x coffee and 2 x porridge with powered milk and dried fruit. It was a reasonably leisurely morning and after packing our tents and stuff back into the kayaks we hit the water around 8:30. We swapped kayaks with another couple so Tom had a bit more room for his legs.

Rainforest camp

We began by retracing our route up Hall Arm, past where we spotted dolphins the day before. Conditions were perfect but sadly nothing to be seen in the water. We amused our selves by kayaking through and limboing low hanging tree branches. We had about 4.5 hours to get back to base so the base was leisurely. We chatted to one of the guides who tried teaching us some paddle tricks. Although Jess mastered the ‘spin around the neck’ quickly, Tom seemed intent on chucking his paddle over his left shoulder. Luckily Jess remained unharmed, although a little wet.


About halfway back our guide told the Maori legend of how the Fiordland was made. It was carved by the son of the Sky Father and Earth Mother to impress them. He dug out the shapes and then asked the forest and sea gods to fill the Fiords. The Gods liked Fiordland so much that some wanted to live there. They knew man would want to settle there so to keep it untouched they filled the place with sandflies so that humans would never settle. Tom decided he need to get get a book on these legends - obviously....

The group then headed back to Deep Cove and unloaded the kayaks and started the long trip back to Manipouri. By the time we arrived at the car we were pretty shattered and weren’t too excited about our planned 2 nights in Queenstown. En route we decided on a new plan. Next stop Dunedin!

Paddle team

The bot ride across Lake Manipuri


Dunedin and Otago Peninsula

After a windy first night in our tent, we were ready to see what Dunedin has to offer. First stop was Pack’n’Save - NZ version of Aldi where you can pick up cheap food in bulk. We somehow managed to spend $187 there and pretty sure we just came out with tins of tuna and baked beans...

Next stop was the Otago museum. A very well designed 3 story museum with exhibitions on each floor. We learnt about the Maouri settlers and the now extinct giant Emu bird, the Moa.

Dunedin is quite small and walkable which is great. So we stretched our legs around town and ended up at the Emerson’s brewery. Tom was impressed with his tasting flight of beer and we left with 2 large bottles of ‘Dog Bird’.

Our fabric house

Pre beer

Post beer

Another great thing about Dunedin is the street art. Very good quality for such a small town. Many world famous artists (Tom knee then anyway), including ROA, Pixel Pancho and Phlegm, have installation in the town. A cultural group have a mapped the best ones in the city which we followed for the afternoon. These are a selection of our favourites....

Part of mural from Dunedin Street Art Featival 2014

One from Dunedin native Sean Duffell

Polish artist Natalia Rak

Phlegm’s native bird organ

Train station - Tom being a train

After dinner, it was time to drive the Otago Peninsula to go see some wildlife. The drive is stunningly beautiful, winding along the coast, and finishes at an Albatross colony which is now a protected sanctuary for albatross and penguins. The sound of the birds - mostly seagulls, is almost deafening. There were lots of huge albatrosses gliding around over head.


Albatross sunset

So many birds!

At dusk it was time to head down to the beach to try and catch a glimpse of the blue penguins as they come in from sea to roost. There was a big seal sat on the beach too which went for a swim at the same time, and when they hadn’t arrived at the correct time I was worried they’d all been eaten! But never fear, the nearly fully moon had delayed their return to land and we saw about 50 penguins hopping onto land like an army. They’re very small, about the size of a duck. It was amazing to watch!

Penguin army marching through the seagulls

Blue penguins

Penguins drying off



We headed out of Dunedin via a road that has the claim to fame as the worlds steepest. A gradient of nearly 1 in 3! As we were walking up, some show off motorbiker attempted to reach the top and did the whole thing in a wheely and very nearly crashed...

It’s steeper than it looks in the pic I promise...

We then headed North along the coast and stopped off at the Moeraki Boulder beach. Basically just some big smooth stones and lots of Chinese tourists posing on them. So we obviously joined in an posed too....

Next stop was Oamaru - the steam punk, penguin spotting, Victorian era town. We’re staying at a Japanese mans’ Victorian style b&b. A lovely ornately decorated house. Lots of floral carpets and wallpapers. Really welcoming hosts though.

Oamaru town is full of old fashioned Victorian era shops selling homemade crafts and antiques. The town seems to have brought into the Steam Punk ear theme. They’ve even restored a 1920s steam train through the town which of course we took a ride on. It went across to the harbour where we watched seals playing and chilling.

We then decided to have a sit down and watch Harry Potter and recharge a bit. In the evening we headed out for more penguin spotting. We saw 3 clambering up the rocks to the shore. But slightly more precarious route than Otago as they had to cross a road to get to their nests. Hope they were all safe!!

Lake Poaka

Lake Poaka

Today has been a day of 2 worlds. Waking up to a lovely breakfast in Oamaru, Tom headed to the Steam Punk museum to have a look at some of the old machines that they have in the town.

We then headed up the road to the Riverstone Kitchen. A restaurant situated on huge gardens - vegetable and flowers, next to a castle and a moat which the eccentric owners had decided to build to live in.... This place was fab. Seasonal menus and local or garden produce. We somehow (didn’t need much persuading) ended up with the 7 course tasting menu which was very reasonable value at £35. A quick run down of the courses: courgette fritters, bruschetta, figs with ricotta and hazelnut, pork and fennel sausage with cabbage, Mt Cook salmon with avocado, chocolate torte and local blue cheese with apricot paste. And to accompany this some regional sparking rose which was delicious. (And low alcohol beer for the driver...). It was a long lunch and we savoured every minute.

Note how I’m only adding one food photo...

We’re now in the lakes near Lake Pukaki, staying next to the very small Lake Poaka. It’s a Department of Conservation free camp site, so my expectations were low, but it’s beautiful. Clean with toilets and loo roll! No running water but we’ve got the lake to wash in.

It’s a dark sky zone around here so we’re going to get up in the middle of the night to attempt to see some stars and practice photography. So better go to sleep!

Mount Cook Alpine Salmon

Cycling in lake country

Today it was finely time for Tom to put the Lycra cycling shorts to use that he had packed from England. We took on a section of the Alps to Ocean (A2O) trail - a recently completed cycle route from Aoraki (Mt Cook) to the coast. The section we cycled left the small town of Twizle (like Twinnings) and continues up the eastern shore of Lake Pukaki, this is the reverse of the true A2O route. We rented some good quality bikes and after a few miles getting used to them and the gravelly surface, we were soon powering on.

Alps to Ocean path on Lake Pukaki

Cycling outfits

The first stop was at the top of Lake Pukaki, which was our first sighting of Aoraki (which apting translates as ‘cloud piercer’). The visitor area also had a shop by the local salmon farm selling everything from sashimi to salmon pate. We obviously took the opportunity to add some smoked salmon to our lunch rations.

We stopped a few more times along the lake front as trail really does offer some stunning views. After about 30kms we decided it was time for lunch. After Tom led us off trail to a rather anticlimactic spot, we settled down on a pebble beach under some pine trees. The salmon was worth the wait!

Local smoked salmon for lunch

On the way back the sun and exertion was beginning to tell and we quietly plough a way back to Twizle, returning the bikes around 3pm. We were smelly and tired and couldn’t face a muddy lake wash so decide to bring our planned Tekapo Springs trip forward a day.

A big ride

The springs are quite modern with various temperature pools, as well as steam room and sauna. We cleaned and sweated our way to comfort and return to camp ready for a long nights sleep.

Takepo Springs

Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park

Aoraki (Mount Cook National Park)

We hadn’t seen much of the mountains from Lake Pukaki as they had been smothered in clouds. We ventured to take a closer look as the weather was forecasted to break later in the evening. We initially shelter in Mount Cook village, looking around the excellent visitor centre. We then exhausted our welcome at the cafe after 1 pot of tea and finally decided to head up to our campsite at the top of the valley at around 6pm.

To avoid putting up the tent in the pouring rain we had an early dinner and met an interesting Irish/French couple who had spent the year in New Caledonia. The small pacific islands north of New Zealand sound idyllic and are now pencilled in as a holiday destination. We finally erected our tent at around 8 and set an alarm for midnight star gazing. Only Jess made it out the tent on what was a freezing night, but the photos were more than worth it.

As sheltered as possible

Amazing night sky

Natural beauty

After a cold night’s sleep we got up early to tackle the Hooker Valley Track. This relatively flat track led us through a picturesque glacial valley, over a few bridges, to Hooker Lake. This lake is at the foot of Aoraki and is formed of glacial melt water.

After taking in Aoraki we drove around the corner to Tasman Glacier. While it has receded a lot in recent years it is nonetheless impressive and you can still get a plane ride that lands on it. It was the time to say goodbye to the National Park, although we had to keep stopping to take photos of the amazing views. Next stop - Queenstown!

Final views of the National Park and Lake Pukaki



Queenstown - the adult playground, adventure and party capital. Since we both visited Queenstown 7-8years ago, the town has grown dramatically and has become more fancy than the backpacking paradise we remember. (Eg there is a Louis Vitton store). But you can still find $5 beers so that’s a win. We spent most of our time in QT drinking these $5 beers with Laura and Johnny and then recovering. We also played frisbee golf which it turns out Jess is terrible (or very unlucky) at and kept hitting branches and twigs and not getting near the target...

Frisbee golf skills


Tom and Jonny enjoying world bar

Also in the park while the frisbee golf was being played, we watched a series of short sketches - from MacBeth to Ab Fab, put on by local players for free! It was great.

Ab Fab

Queenstown shore

On the final morning we headed out to do a big hike up the Ben Lomond Track. The trail starts under a gondola on the downhill mountain bike track (terrifying watching the bikers!!). We then headed up quite a steep hill with incredible views over the townhouse reach the saddle at 1326m. As we sat and ate a cereal bar and caught our breath, we watched kea flying over head - lovely sight.

Ben Lomond saddle




Wanaka is another fun, lakeside town but much smaller than Queenstown. We headed there after our Ben Lomond hike, travelling over an awesome mountain pass road through some of the south island’s best ski areas (scouting for the winter). We arrived to our campsite exhausted so opted to fuel up in town rather than cooking. Jess opted for a plate from Big Fig. Pick your own meat and salads all for a fixed price. The beef cheeks with roasted cauliflowers, quinoa and sweet potato did the trick. Tom had been craving a burger so quickly chowed down and venison and blue cheese from Red Star a few minutes after Jess had finished. All fueled up for more hiking we hit the hay early. Roy’s Peak, our chosen challenge, is best climbed at sunrise, which meant a 2:45 alarm. Jess dealt with the nearby revellers swiftly and we were asleep by 9.

We arrived at the base of the trail at about 3:15am and ascended at a good pace with 20 or so other dotted around. The moonlight meant there was no need for torches and the night sky was therefor much for dazzling. After 2.5hr of nearly continuous trudging we reached the summit, with the windy ridge at the end proving the most challenging part. We settled and waited for sunrise over breakfast and tea which we had carried up. The views were spectacular and definitely made the who endeavour worthwhile.

Sunrise over Wanaka

Views worth the hike

Once back down we soaked our aching legs in the cold lake and had some refreshing smoothies. As the day was heating up we decided to spend it lying on the lake front and swimming. We bumped into Jonny and Laura at lunchtime so spent the afternoon with them just reading and relaxing. Watching first time paddle boarders struggle in the wind was very entertaining.

We decided to stay by the lake and cook dinner. Jess has been looking forward to Thai green curry for days. Unfortunately Toms new cooker guard performed a little too well and melted the stove. Looks like we will be making a trip to the camp shop first thing tomorrow. Do they sell new legs as well?

Lake beach

The Wanaka Tree


Rob Roy Glacier and Okarito

We wanted to complete one more hike before we left Wanaka - the Rob Roy Glacier. This trek is supposed to be one of New Zealand’s best half day hikes and so we thought it was worth the 2hr detour over gravel roads and through fords. We fuelled up on route to ensure we had the energy to make the climb, our third day of substantial \240walking in a row. We also managed to grab a replacement stove in Wanaka meaning we could cook our staple porridge on the lake’s edge.

Porridge on the beach

When we arrived at the trail head we set ourselves the ambitious target of completing the 10km loop in 3hrs. The climb began on the glacial valley before crossing the river into rainforest. The tree cover was welcome shelter from the sun and meant we could keep a good pace. We played a few games on the way up and were eventually rewarded with a stunning view of the glacier with meltwater waterfalls cascading from it. Possibly the most spectacular glacier we’ve seen so far in New Zealand.

Braided river

Under the glacier

We made it back to the car park on time and now had to make an epic 5hr drive to Okarito in order to make it to our kiwi tour. Tom had slightly miscalculated travel time meaning we had to eat lunch in the car. However, the drive through the Haast Pass and past the Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers was spectacular and we will have to go back with more time on the future.

We arrived in Okarito with enough time to shovel some dinner in our mouths and change into ‘quiet’ clothing (no waterproofs) for the kiwi tour. We had a short briefing on the plan for the night (find kiwi!) and then made the short trip to the Okarito Reserve. Okarito kiwi are a sub-species only found in this area and there are thought to be only 500 birds in total.

Several kiwi breeding pairs are fitted with transmitters and our guide set out to locate them for us. We walked into the environment of two separate breeding pairs with the hope of a sighting. Toby, our guide, gave us a little boot camp on how to walk quietly and how to arrange ourselves and coordinate as a team to maximise any viewings. It was like being in a jungle army. The team worked really well together and after an hour we heard our first Kiwi, Fancy, rummaging in the bush. He was heading our way, we even saw his beak, before being chased off by a possum. Although not big enough to kill Fancy, any altercation could have injured this rare bird. We continued to follow him and soon afterwards he hopped across the track in front of us, illuminates by Toby’s red torch. Kiwi 1 seen.

As Fancy has not hung around for long Toby took us to track down another bird called Jolene. Finding her was much easier and 15 minutes later we were watching her feed. Amazing! 2 of the worlds rarest birds spotted in one night. Not bad!

Drive slow

Kiwi are fighting for survival

Path to the Kiwi forrest

Kiwi safari outfits



We awoke in Okarito to a misty, breezy morning. We attempted a short walk on the beach and around the lagoon, but the visibility was pretty short so we were soon back in the car and on the road. Our first stop was Lake Mahinapua. A Jurassic Park looking lake surrounded by forest. We trundled around trying to guess birdsongs (mostly making up birds) and taking in the calm of the place.

Next stop was Hokitika Gorge. Usually bright blue glacial water, but due to rain (or lack of rain, we aren’t sure) it was a greyish colour. Still pretty good to look at with a big swing bridge.

Hokitika gorge

Next stop was Hokitika itself. The rest of the settlements we past on the west coast are tiny, usually 1 street with a few houses and a cafe. Hokitika has 3 streets so it felt like a large city in comparison. We first sampled the local ice cream (a very good passion fruit cheesecake) and took a walk on the beach. For a week in January there was a drift wood sculpture competition where people had to make things only out of objects washed up on the beach. Some of these had washed away but some were pretty impressive. From Trumps Mexican wall, to a giant fish, and mother and child flying a kite. Here are some of our faves.

For a treat as we’d lasted 8 days straight in the tent (And out of necessity for a shower and laundry - I think the car was starting to buzz with smell), we decided to book a night in a Hostel. Birdsong is run by a British couple and is a YHA with bird theme. We were staying in the Pukeko (a blue and red swamp bird) room. Beautiful hostel and so lovely to have a hot shower (I had 3...).

Pukeko on the wall and Kiwi on the bed (and a Tom)

We then headed into town along the beach, for some fish and chips and a West Coast sunset. We had blue cod sat in a sculpture of an old boat and watched the orange glow of the sky through the sculptures.

Our last stop of the day was to a glow worm dell. The worms were better than I’d ever seen and completely surrounded us. Not easy to capture on a camera so if you imagine loads of stars...

If you look closely you can see the worms

Arthur's Pass

Arthur’s Pass

We woke up in Hokitika to another misty West coast morning. We thought best to get straight on the road and head up to the Arthur’s Pass National Park. On route we walked along the old gold mining tunnels in Goldsbrough.

We then started the drive up to Arthur’s Pass. The route was found by Maouris as the first way to get East to West. There were lots of Kea circling and when we stopped at a view point, one of the inquisitive ones came to see us.


Our walk of choice for the day was the Arthurs pass Track which stretched up the valley floor. With many, many km under our belt over the last few weeks, a 3 hour hike is now a relaxing stroll. The flat terrain we were actually finding a bit dull....

In order to cure this track dullness, we’ve decided to hike a 6-8 hour “expert” climb tomorrow. The description mentions “razor blade ridges” and “sheer bluff drops” so I think we’re gonna have enough to keep our mind occupied!

Nelson Lakes National Park

Avalanche Peak

When our alarm went off at 6:20am, we set it to snooze for a while as our campsite overnight was next to both the Arthurs Pass road and the Trainline and we were woken regularly with engines going past. Not fun. After a hearty bowl of porridge, we were off on our climb up Avalanche Peak. With Jess already apprehensive about whether we would reach the top, within the first 10 minutes we were confronted with some rock climbing.... The track progressed pretty steeply for the next hour and a half before we were above the tree line. We were then faced with pretty big drops down either side to the valley below, and slippery, rocky ground but some incredible views.

Another hour and a half and we reached more big rocks for some rock climbing and a steep ridge to the top. Jess’ vertigo (and common sense...) kicked in about 1 min before the summit and Tom was left to complete the final stretch himself. However Jess was pretty much definitely also at the same height... We had climbed 1100meters vertically. We were rewarded with some beautiful views of the glaciers and valley below, and also some peanut butter sandwiches....

The descent was probably harder than the climb with lots of slipping rocks and big drops. We were very happy to see the valley floor again and have agreed not to do any more walks before Able Tasman....

After a cool off and wash in the river, we hit the road back to the West Coast. Unfortunately after our beautiful, hot sunny day in the park, the weather was foggy and cold on the coast. The views were beautiful though and the jungle met the coast with the fog adding to the Jurassic Park vibe.

First stop was pancake rocks where the rocks look like pancakes and they also serve pancakes (which were pretty tasty).

We then hit the road back in land and we reached the Nelson Lakes around 9pm, just in time to put up our tent before it got too dark and after most of the sandflies have gone to bed. Although being back in sandfly city is not fun....



After poking our head out of our tent, we were immediately swarmed by sandflies. So many of them. But also loads of bumble bees which was nice. We decided to eat breakfast in the car to hide from all insects and Jess donned her full anti-sandfly clothes (high neck and jeans) and we headed down to the Rotoiti lake. Despite the eels, Tom headed in for a cooling dip and wash and Jess realised she looked ridiculous in long sleeves and jeans when everyone else was in bikinis...


Eels and ducks

Sandfly style

A couple of hours later we were sandfly free in Nelson, the most Northerly city on the South Island. It’s famous for its craft beer breweries, artisan food and vineyeards, so we wasted no time in sampling some of the goodies on offer. After 3 breweries and a long walk around the city, we headed to Cod and Lobster for some seafood. We’ve been very impressed with the vibe (and the weather) in Nelson.

Campsite on the sea

Brewery in a converted church


Great Taste Trail, Nelson to Mapua

One of the Tasman regions greatest attractions is its food and drink, so make this more accessible the GreatTaste Trail was built through the regions key production areas. As we were staying near Nelson we decide to book a one way cycle package to Mapua - 34km total riding. This gave us plenty of time to make stops and meant we didn’t have to worry about drink driving (they drop you back at your accommodation).

The map wasn’t super helpful in and around Nelson and it took us a little while to get on track. However once there, the trail was clear and away from traffic and we peddled the first 15km pretty quickly. This was to reach the main stopping points outside the suburbs.

Trail map

Our first set of tasting stops were all along the same road. We started with a tasting of some delicious organic wines At Richmond Plains vineyard.. We enjoyed the Sauvignon Blanc and Blanc de Noir (Chardonnay plus Pinot Noir, tastes like flat champagne) the best and as we’d drink plenty of the former we grabbed a bottle of the Blanc de Noir. The lady at the tasting recommended we check out the cheese shop down the road so we raced there next.

The Junction is an artisanal food shop with a focus on local dairy. We tasted 5 or so fantastic sheep cheeses. Apparently these are uncommon in NZ despite the amount of Ewes kicking around. We both love sheep cheese anyway but some of the styles were really clever. Jess bought a portion of Brie whole Tom was torn between a Roquefort style blue vein and a cheese called Loki’s Cloud. This cheese tasted like feta inside a Camembert casing and ended up the winner. Despite already having a packed lunch we left with 200g+ of cheese and a whole pack of crackers.

Our final stop on this leg was the berry farm which advertised fresh berry ice cream. The literally crush berries into vanilla ice cream to create a delicious Mr Whippy cone. It has to be seen to be understood.

Stop 1 - Richmond Plains vineyard

Stop 2 - The Junction

Stop 3 - Tasman Berriers and the ice cream machine

With broad smiles and full bellies we rejoined the trail as it weaves along the coast. There was some significant industrial activity, with a particularly large paper mill, put also some pleasent coastal wetland which we crossed on windy wooden boardwalks. Once clear of the factories we stopped for lunch and tucked into our combo of fresh cheese and peanut butter sandwiches. We are just about reaching the limit with peanut butter sandwiches....

Cheese for lunch

The final portion of the trail was the most beautiful and was mostly away from the roads. The skies stayed blue and we pedalled hard towards the next vineyard, Seifrieds.

Seifrieds is the oldest wine producer in the area and exports a large amount of their produce to Russia and M&S in the U.K.! We had a really good chat with Elisa about their wines. They are particularly well known for their late harvest Reisling and produced some other Austro-Germanic varieties due to the founder being from that part of the world. We opted for a value bottle of rosé to keep costs down and, well, who doesn’t drink rosé these days.

On the trail

Stop 4 - Seifred Vineyard

Looking at the clock we realised that we had spent way too long drinking wine and had only a couple of hours til our pick-up. We also had to catch a ferry which only runs once an hour, so we had to race through rabbit island without a dip in the calm, crystal sea. We just about made the boat over to Mapua where we spend the final hour or so of our day. We drunk a congratulatory pint at Golden Bear brewery and browsed the charming shops on the wharf before being picked up. Luckily our campsite is right on the ocean so we snuck in a quick dip before dinner.

Unloading from the Mapua Ferry

Stop 5 - Golden Bear brewery

A day at the beach

For the first time in a while we found ourselves with a free day and thought we would revisit the beaches on Rabbit Island that we passed on our bikes.

However, first things first we had to do some admin. Our faulty double mattress was returned to The Warehouse (it had been deflating in the middle of the night, leaving us with sore backs) and Jess’ dream of a rotisserie chicken was realised. We stuffed the chicken into some baguettes, ate them and then drove to the beach.

Rabbit Island is a nature reserve owned by the regional council. They have been growing commercial forest on it for a long time so it is a strange mix of native bush and mature pine trees. We arrived in the heat of the day so decided to lie down and read our book. Jess started Lullaby and Tom opened to chapter two of Chatch 22; we haven’t had much free time...

Rabbit Island beach

After reading for a few hours we finally took a dip in the water. It was colder than the estuary near our campsite but more refreshing than frigid. We swam about and watched someone try and board their windsurf before heading back for more chicken. It was great to have a chilled one!


Farewell Spit

After packing up what seemed like our home in Nelson (3 nights is the longest we’ve stayed anywhere since Sydney). We headed North towards the most Northerly point of the South Island - The Farewell Spit.

After a hair raising drive up to Takaka Hill - where half the road is closed as it’s literally collapsed down the mountain - we hopped out to see the view across the Tasman bay to Nelson. The sound of cicadas was deafening as we walked through the forest.

We then headed to Takaka for a coffee. A hippie town where everything is painted bright colours and all the food is organic and local.

Takaka cafe

From the beautiful sunshine and blue skies, we then headed into the clouds and rain which was blanketing the view in front of us. Luckily it was short lived... The Farewell Spit is a 35km long stretch of sand and highly protected nature reserve. So much so that it can only be accessed on a tour. We didn’t do this so we just had a peak of it from the edge and had a look at the whole thing on google (which is pretty impressive).

Wharariki Beach, slightly further around from Farewell, is home to seals and pups. At the Cape Farewell beach next to it, we watched seals playing in the crystal clear water beneath a big archway.

There are 7 seals in this photo - can you spot them all?

Cape Farewell

Farewell Spit on the horizon

Farewell Spit from the south

We then drove back down South along Golden Bay - hoping to find a swim spot. Unfortunately it was low tide and the coast is so tidal - there wasn’t much sea to be found... it was a beautiful coastline however and some beautiful views.

We’ve settled in Motueka for the night and a lovely hostel called Hat Trick. We’re starting the Able Tasman Track tomorrow for 3 nights, so a night of food prep, packing and re packing!

Akersten Bay Campsite

Able Tasman - Day 1

Start - Marahau

Finish - Akersten Bay

Distance walked - 5 miles

Day from Jess’ perspective...

What a day!!! Probably the best day of life so far.... From the start, we left our hostel, packed and raring to go for our Abel Tasman trek. After parking up and fueling up on a big tupaware of pasta at Marahau, we set off to conquer the 60km Track. Day 1 hike was a short one. The sun was shining and the sea was sparkling a brilliant, inviting blue.

We arrived at Akersten Bay - a small campsite on the side of the beach with only 3 campspots. The bay was sheltered and sunny and we set up our tent just off the golden sands. Before long we were in the sea - so perfect and refreshing after a walk.

Over the past 6 weeks travelling, Tom and I have grown closer and closer. Never have I been more sure that he is the person I want to spend the rest of my life with. We’ve talked (a lot) about getting married and Tom has never been completely comfortable about the traditional idea of a man asking a girl to get married, and buying a ring as a sign of love. He thinks it shouldn’t be materialistic and should be equal in who asks. The more I thought about this, the more it was so reflective of our relationship. Equal partners in a team, unique and about moments not money.

I’d made the decision to propose to Tom on Akersten Bay a couple of days before but wasn’t sure I’d have the guts to go through with it.. I sneaked a bottle of rosé into my water bottle and booked us a fancy place to stay when we got out. I was only going to do it however if the moment and place were perfect...

It turns out that Akersten Bay is perfect. There were only 3 of us staying at the campsite, which meant that we had the whole bay pretty much to ourselves. The sun was shining and it was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. After we went for a swim, I said we should go and chill at the far end of the beach near some rocks. After a bit of persuading, Tom agreed but asked me to get his book. I came back with the water bottle of Rosé and 2 plastic mugs and our books. Trying to push the conversation onto “us” and “how wonderful life is”, Tom kept turning it back to “I need to remember to send that email”. But eventually we got there. To the perfect moment at the perfect place. However, at this point my emotions had got the best of me and I was already crying. So I finished what was left of my second mug of rosé and took a big breath. I’m not sure how much of my speech actually made it out between sobs but I think it went something like this...

Nearly 5 years ago, you chased me and wouldn’t take no for an answer. It’s now my turn to chase you. I want the next chapter in our relationship to be about equality and love. We do things in our own unique way and I want this to be a symbol of that. Will you marry me?

Luckily he said yes. And for the rest of the evening we were floating on cloud 9 and calling each other fiancée. Amazingly, Tom was also planning on proposing and had already spoken to our parents. He has also arranged for me to have my grandma Gu’s ring. That means an incredible amount to me. It couldn’t be more perfect or more us. Over the moon happy! WE’RE ENGAGED!!!!!

Day from Tom’s perspective...

We had been looking forward to Able Tasman for the whole trip and now that our legs were well rested we felt up to it as well. After fueling up with a big box of pasta and some milkshakes we hit the trail.

The trail is much sandier that Milford so good on the knees and despite my heavy pack (I had all our food) I felt fit and fast. All that walking has clearly given me some fitness. The views of the coast were amazing and the less than 2 hour walked passed very quickly. When we arrived at our campsite, Akersten Bay, there was only us and a few day tripers. It was idyllic, and as soon as we started setting the tent up we got excited about having the place to ourselves. After pitching the tent - with difficulty as you couldn’t drive the pegs in - we went for a refreshing dip in the ocean. The bay was really sheltered so just azure water and tiny waves to splash about in.

After we got out Jess seemed very enthusiastic to go sit on some rocks, down the end of the beach away from everyone. After asking ‘why?’ a few times I went along with it and asked her to grab my book while see was up by the tent. I went and picked a rock and she brought over her water bottle and cups. Not expecting the fragrant aroma that emmerged as she poured the contents of the bottle, I asked if she’d got some juice. I turned out that she’d snuck our bottle of rosé from the wine tasting onto the trip. ‘What a women’, I thought.

We began chatting about this and that and after picking up a particularly pretty shell and handing it to Jess she began to well up. I thought a combination of heat stroke and rose may have got the better of her emotions but she began a little monologue. Saying that I wanted equality and to do things our way she ASKED ME TO MARRY HER! I was amazed and a huge smile come across my mouth as I said yes. I’d been planning to propose to Jess on her birthday but this was much more spontaneous and unique. We were so happy and floated around for the rest of the evening. Our only camp mate Bjorn was an innocent bystander to all this and politely kept his distance as we kissed, took photos and generally acted loved up. Probably the best day of my life!

Start of the track

Beautiful views

Our Akersten Bay camp spot

Akersten Bay

Just after I asked him to marry me... can you tell I’ve been crying??


My lovely fiancé

Onetahuti Bay Campsite

Able Tasman - Day 2

Start - Akersten Bay

Finish - Onetahuti Bay

Distance walked - 14 miles

As forecast, the weather wasn’t fab today. There was some rain over night and it’s been overcast all day. Although only breezy at the end of the day and it’s stayed dry since we’ve been walking.

After a big bowl of porridge and writing “Engaged 5/2/19” in the sand, we left the special Akersten Bay and headed off.

First stop was Cleopatras Pools. A natural water slide and pool just off the track. Beautiful water and such a fun slide!!

Cleopatras Pool

While our feet were still fresh, we pressed on to Torrent Bay village. A very small collection of houses, I think accessible only from sea. We stopped there for a lunch and a stretch with no bags on... part of the track was on the sand which was lovely but hard work on the legs!

Torrent Bay Village

After passing over a high swing bridge, we eventually made it down into Bark Bay, before taking a painfully long and steep climb uphill, and then down again before we reached our campsite.. It’s slightly bigger than Akersten and a bit more exposed. The wind has picked up too and so we’re in our tent ready for an early night. Today has been tough. Jess’ legs did not enjoy the last couple of hours walk and all energy seemed to be gone when we reached camp. A nutritious Mexican bean feast helped warm the body....

Onetahuti Bay Campsite

Mutton Cove Campsite

Able Tasman - Day 3

Start - Onetahuti Bay

Finish - Mutton Cove

Distance walked - 15 miles

We’ve discovered that the secret to surviving long hike days is to start early. Today began at 5am as we had to reach a tide crossing at low tide, but it meant much longer breaks and much happier legs...

As we trudged across the beach with our head torches on this morning, dawn broke and the sky was alight with an orange glow. The beautiful sunrise definitely made you forget about hiking. After 2 hours we reached the crossing, but by this point the small estuaries had grown and the water was already knee high.

Dawn breaking

Sky on fire

Estuary crossing

After breakfast at a campsite, we continued the trail which had now become mostly on the beach. The white sands and blue seas were such a treat every time we turned a corner to a new cove and new view. Some parts involved climbing over rocks with waves lapping at our feet. Tom got slightly over confident with one photo pose and ended up getting a wave going right over his feet...

Breakfast stop

Climbing with a pack on isn’t easy!

Running through the coves

Made it

Wet feet


After another couple of hours we hit Totaranui. This is the only place in the park with a tourist campsite and road access. Very strange to go from a deserted paradise to being with hundreds of tourists (many who looked like they couldn’t have walked the stairs let alone 60km). Tourist mean amenities however and we were able to get a ice pop (frozen apple juice) - what a luxury.

The next cove along we stopped for an hour to read our books and warm up in the sunshine. There’s a good going breeze on the beaches and the waves are huge today. So much so we haven’t seen any kayaks out for their trips.

Our stop for the night was Mutton Cove. Another beautiful white sand beach with the campsite only slightly back from the sand. The sea was very rough but a quick dip helped clean off all the days sweat and rest our poor blistered and swollen feet!


Mutton cove - the bay on the left of the photo

Our campsite

Dinner was some dehydrated curry and by 7:30pm after a game of cards, Tom was fast asleep...

Totaranui Campground

Able Tasman - Day 4

Start - Mutton Cove

Finish - Totaranui (via Seperation Point)

Distance walked - 10 miles

We woke up on our final day of the hike early, and were treated to a beautiful sunrise over breakfast. We had whole morning to kill and only a short walk back to our water taxi. Tom decided this would be best spent covering as much of the rest of the track as possible so we set off after breakfast for Whawharangi Hut via Seperation Point.

Seperation Point is the most northerly part of the Able Tasman and is home to a weather station and artificial Gannet colony. They are using the plastic birds and loudspeakers to attract colonisers from nearby Farewell Spit to help diversity the population. We didn’t see any live birds....

Whawharangi is the last Hut on the track and used to be a homestead/farmhouse until the 1920s. Apparently the soil here is poor though. We heard from people staying there that someone had to be airlifted our the previous evening after burning themselves with their camp stove. Hopefully she got to Wellington quickly!

When we got back to Mutton Cove we went for a final swim before packing up the tent and heading for our 1:45pm pick up. Atlast our packs felt light!


Seperation Point,complete with fake Gannet coloney

Mutton Cove (top)

We were Abel to squeeze in a final dip

To get back out of the park we had booked a water taxi from the large campsite at Totaranui. The ride was fast and bumpy but really fun. Our skipper Matt did some tour guiding on the way down and was even kind enough to stop by our engagement spot (Akersten Bay) so we could take some photos from the sea. He was the first person we told the happy news to! Once back at the village of Mapua the boats are loaded onto trailers and you are then driven another kilometre to the taxi company office. This was quite a surreal experience. We suspect it is because the demand for transport has grown much faster than their ability to build a suitable wharf.

Beach front loading

Akersten Bay

Land transport

Once back at the car which we left at the start of the track, we began the long drive to Blenheim. We passed through Nelson which has been suffering some big bushfires and saw the helicopters at work. Thankfully, no one has been hurt. We managed to get ourselves stuck in the evacuation zone due to road closures and had an hours delay on the highway. Jess was very sad about all the baby wekka chicks which we’re sure have been caught up in it.

After 3ish hours we got to our motel room in Blenheim. We dashed to the shops for some bubbly and then began the long talks of ringing our nearest and dearest to tell them we were engaged. It was a long but joyous night.

Firefighting chopper


Wine tasting in Blenheim

We began the day with more calling to those we didn’t get though. Although the calls have been quite repetitive it’s been great catching up with everyone on video chat.

After a morning of calls we rented some bikes to explore the vineyards. Jess had booked a celebratory lunch at St Clair where we dined amongst the vines. A sea food platter to start was followed by Monkfish (Jess’ favourite) and Balinese curry for Tom. This was all washed down with a bottle of bubbly.

Starter fiancée

Main Course Fiancé


After lunch we set off to meet Jess’ friend from medical school Simon, his partner Sean and their friends from hospital in Christchurch (one of whom Justin, Jess worked with in Bristol - small world). On the way to meet them we stopped at Cloudy Bay for a tasting. While it looks impressive (recently bought by Moet Chandon) the wine on offer was incipid and boring. We then met the others at Allan Scott where we did a tasting and bought some of their sparkling rose. Our final stop was an organic produce called Fomm. They had a great range of reds and we bought a bottle of their natural Pinot Noir (no sulphate) which is drunk chilled.

Bike squad

Cloudy Bay

In the vines

All the drinking and biking had worked up an appetite so we retreated to Simons rental house for a BBQ. Tom was mainly successful with his cooking (the butterflied chicken was difficult) and we left well fed. After just about beating dusk on the race home we retreated to bed for a we earned rest.



After leaving Blenheim, we headed to Pelorus Bridge (which is apparently in the Hobbit) to jump off some rocks and swim in a beautifully clear river. In this super sunny and warm weather, jumping in rivers is ideal...

Sean, Simon, Tom, Jess, Justin

We then headed off to Kaikōura which is between Blenheim and Christchurch on the East Coast. Lunch was what the Kiwis call crayfish, but is actually rock lobster. The area is famous for them and Kaikōura actually means “eat crayfish” in Maouri. Tom and I shared half the smallest one they had from a BBQ shack on the side of the beach.


We spent the evening wandering around Kaikōura. It’s a beautiful bay with big surrounding mountains. There was a big earthquake a few years ago which destroyed some of the central buildings, and so there are lots of cargo containers that have been put up as temporary shops and cafes. After some seafood chowder, we hit the hay.




Today started with a dolphin tour in Kaikōura. We have been extremely lucky on this trip with nature spotting - the koalas in Aus, dolphins in the surf Aus, the very elusive dolphins in Doubtful Sound, blue penguins,, 2 of the worlds rarest kiwis and kea across Milford Track. Every time we book a trip we try and keep some of this positivity but also remember that these are wild animals which might not fancy being where we are today. The dusky dolphins in Kaikōura have been known to congregate in pods of hundreds, so we were extremely hopefully but certainly not expecting anything like we saw. The Kaikōura Canyon, lying 800m off the coast line, stretches for 60km and reaches 1.2km deep. Due to the currents created by this, nutrients get pushed up towards the surface, making a rich environment for sea creatures- from plankton to whales.

We headed out onto our boat about 45minutes from shore, and soon got excited that there were dolphins leaping out of the sea. There were small pods of 5-10, all around the boat. They were getting excited by the boat waves and leading and following the boat. Spectacular to see!

Dolphins leading our boat

As we got closer, we saw there were more and more animals in the water. At one point we were surrounded by 300 dolphins. Many of them leaping or flipping or swimming under the boat. It was unbelievable!!

Dusky dolphins are known for their acrobatics, sometimes doing 5 or more full flips in a row! There were also common dolphins and the really rare Hector’s dolphin. Which our guide said we were extremely lucky to spot!

Hector’s Dolphin

It was incredible. And once again, the nature luck came out for us!

Before we hit the road, we stopped off at the Kaikōura peninsular and seal colony. We spotted many seals playing in the waves on the dolphin tour - lovely to see.

Sunbathing seal

Next stop was Christchurch to stay with Simon and Sean. The road between Kaikōura and Christchurch was so beautiful along the coast, but unfortunately was mostly destroyed by the earthquake of 2016 so they are rebuilding it, meaning it’s slow going.

I didn’t visit Christchurch in 2012 when I came to New Zealand last as it was too soon after their 2 massive earthquakes in 2010 and 2011 which flattened 80% of the buildings in the city centre. The city is still very much in the midst of the recovery phase. There is still a lot of rubble, cornered off buildings, half collapsed buildings and new places being built. Simon lives in a newly built area in the centre. Luckily now all buildings have to be earthquake proof. They’ve built a lot of recreational spaces where there are empty plots. For example a mini golf course, the best play park I’ve ever seen, lots of parks and cycle lanes. They’ve also got some really amazing new restaurant and bar areas.

After watching the England vs France rugby, we headed out for a wander and some food and drinks. We settled in a street food court, with an eclectic mix of different nationalities of food under one roof. Moroccan Lamb pizza, pork dumplings, mac and cheese bites, teriyaki chicken - we had it all. Great to properly catch up with them and see what Christchurch has to offer.


Christchurch and Paddleboarding

We gave our lovely Toyota Corolla back today after 32 days! We’ve been pretty much living in our car so packing it all up and cleaning it out took a while...

Bye car

After a very relaxing day, we headed out for an explore of the city when the sun became a bit less strong. We saw the Botanical gardens and the Cathedral which is being rebuilt slowly.

Christchurch Cathederal

Botanical Rose Garden

Colourful street that survived the quake

We then headed an 1.5 hours out of Christchurch to the Akoroa Peninsular, where Tom had got Jess paddlebording by night for Christmas. Akoroa is a lovely little French settlement village. After a beautiful sunset, we hit the water on our modified paddle boards. They have LED light strips under the boards - in a range of colours. At night you can watch the sea life as it comes alive after dark. It was an amazing and very unique experience. Once again, the nature gods came out and we spotted not one, but 6 sting rays and more fish than our instructor had ever seen! He thinks it’s something to do with the warm weather and high tide.

The sting rays were about a meter across, and were so clear floating under our boards. As it was high tide, we were able to paddle up a little eastury on the side of the bay. There were loads of little (big) whitebaits which were attracted to the light and swarming around under our boards.

Towards the end of the session, the garfish came out in massive numbers and were jumping all over our boards! Tom even managed to get distracted by one and fall into the water....

Waikawa Campsite

Cruising in the mega-van

The final leg of our journey was planned to be a 5 day road trip up to Auckland in a rental car. Unfortunately our booking was cancelled without our knowing, so we arrived at 7am and were immediately stranded. Luckily Jess’ resourcefulness secured us a massive camper which the company needed in Auckland by Saturday morning. A luxurious road trip but only 3 days to do it.

Our new ride

To maximise our time on the North Island we immediately drove for the ferry at Picton. Other than a lunch stop it was 5hrs of driving while getting used to the size of the camper. Luckily it was all on one road with only a few roadabouts so we made it safely.


Our 7pm ferry sailed through the Marlborough Sounds at sunset which was beautiful. The rest of the journey passed in darkness and we went into the cabin to watch movies in the cinema room. By the time we rolled off the ferry in Wellington it was 11pm and we were ready for bed. We decide to drive another hour north to a free camp ground near the highway and set up the van for our first night. The bed above the cab is much more comfortable than the tent and we have a proper duvet!

Bye bye South Island

Marlborough Sounds


First day on the north island

After a bit of a lie-in we got back on the road at 10am, heading for Taupo. We were aiming to meet Langa, a friends of ours from London who was in NZ for friends weddings, for some lunch. At first the roads were very rural and agrarian, large farms with little villages ever so often. We met Langa south of lake Taupo for a quick roadside lunch. He was impressed by the van!

After lunch we began to enter volcanoe country. The Tongariro National Park borders Lake Taupo and has some beautiful mountain views. One of the peaks features as Mount Doom in Lord of the Rings!

Mount Ngauruhoe (Mount Doom in Lord of the Rings), Tongariro National Park

Our stop for the night was a small surf town called Raglan, which is on the coast west of Hamilton. Having not showers all day we made a beeline for the estuary and went for a quick swim. It was really shallow so more like wading and floating about. Refreshed, we grabbed a couple of ciders and watched the sunset from the edge of the village as two young guys did bombies off the pier. We had dinner back in the van, a couple of packets of premade Laksa. It was great to use the kitchen properly but not so great cleaning up after Tom.

Raglan estuary

Raglan sunset

Kitchen/dining with bedroom above



Visa troubles number 3 were discovered yesterday when Jess received an email from her immigration officer saying she needed a full medical, chest X-ray and bloods in the next week or the visa will be cancelled. Roll on lots of stress and many phone calls to find a doctor who would do this... The only doctors we found to do this at such short notice were in Auckland and they could do it today. So this morning we reached Auckland, Jess went and got prodded and jabbed by a Doctor, and Tom had lots of fun (no fun whatsoever) driving through Auckland CBD in the tank. He managed at one point to knock the roof of the tank which we’re hoping the rental company won’t notice...

We then escaped Auckland to complete the final night of the road trip North from Auckland. We didn’t get very far as we have to drop the tank back off in Auckland tomorrow morning, but reached Goat Bay, a marine reserve and beautiful island.

Goat Island

After a lovely swim and sunbathe, we drove to Matakana. A foodie, vineyard town with great little restaurants. We ate at an Asian style fish restaurant on the river which was lovely.


We’ve pulled the tank up in a car park in Matakana for the night and are hoping we don’t get asked to move on!



We’ve been pretty rubbish at writing our journo over the last 5 days in Auckland as suddenly our lovely holiday bubble has popped and we’re in real life with lots of things to sort out and plan.

So update since we’ve arrived in Auckland... Jess was slightly dreading the grey smellyness of Auckland as a big city, but on Saturday we had our first proper tour. The sun was shining and we went for brunch with Lisa and Will to Ponsonby - the quite cool high street full of shops, bars and cafes. We went to a food market for some brunch and then we broke the news of the engagement to them with a bottle of champagne!

Jess and Lisa

Food market

It was exciting walking around the city, knowing it was our new city and seeing all the sights. The sky tower can be seen from lots of areas, and the water all around the city makes it quite beautiful.

Sky tower and harbour

In the evening, we got some cheap tickets to see Auckland Blues vs Crusaders rugby in Eden Park (the home of the All Blacks). Auckland nearly won (so they lost...) which is what apparently always happens to them!

Eden Park

Since the weekends fun, we’ve mostly been house hunting and doing lots and lots of admin (and job hunting). We saw around 8 houses in all - in a range of standards and prices... But good news - we’ve signed for a house!! It’s a small flat below a big house in the quiet area of the city. I think it’s like the Clifton of Auckland. Lots of nice cafes and shops pretty close by, and the best news of all - there is a French market outside our door every Saturday and Sunday! So we’re going to be eating lots of cheese and baguettes... The other big plus is it’s only 10 mins walk from a beach and a swimming lagoon! We move in next Tuesday and it’s all furnished and ready to go - so we’re very excited!!

Red Dot is the new house (blue dot is where we are currently watching an old episode of Jonathan Creek)

Our new deck

New lounge

Other news, Jess very nearly has a visa. They’ve approved it but somehow the actual visa is lost in the ether of the email system.

We may not update again while our life is just work - sleep - eat French food - work, but if we go out on a fun trip or see amazing things we’ll post again.

Lots and lots of love from us in the land of the Kiwis xxx