From the Country to the city: River Valley to Wellington 

Back on the bus again for the next destination! After the disappointment of a rainy day in Taupo meaning not getting to do any scenic walks, we had a chance to stop this morning at the Tongariro National Park. The drive through the park was stunning with lush green hills and snowy mountains. We walked a two hour loop of Taranaki falls, with some stunning scenery and a real taste of how beautiful the landscape is in this country. It’s crazy in spring to be walking in green fields with snowy mountains behind! The weather was starting to be a bit kinder and at least waited until the last 15 minutes to start falling on us. 

After a fairly long windy drive, we arrived to the middle of nowhere, also known as River Valley. It was a true New Zealand countryside image with fields full of sheep for miles, no phone signal and a cute homely house to stay in. When there’s not much else to do in the middle of nowhere, you drink! We had a delicious home cooked roast dinner (with Yorkshire puds!) and several bottles of red wine before the drinking games started and I escaped before it ended badly. We’ve stayed in a lot of dorm rooms in our time, but nothing like this. It’s a 32 bed dorm and is basically just two really long bunk beds so you’re all lying next to each other like a giant sleepover but with strangers! Bizarre but a surprisingly good sleep! In the morning people went off the do rafting which we would have loved, but we need to say no sometimes to keep to budget! While waiting for the other to finish rafting, Steph and I took a few walks round the area. One of these even involves pulling yourself on a trolley along a river and for me involved tumbling down a hill getting pretty covered in mud. 

Welcome to our home away from home

Still not a scratch on mums

The only working phone in the village
Pulling ourselves along the river
Had to stop for a selfie
I’ve seen a lot of dodgy bridges in this country but this was next level!

View the top before taking a tumble
Sheep showing us the route back to the bus

After a very rural night in the beautiful countryside, it’s finally time for a bit of city as we jump on the bus heading to the capital, Wellington. Wellington is another destination we decided to stay two nights so we can get one full day to explore the capital. We arrived late so had a free dodgy dinner at our hostel then headed to a great bar for a bottle of wine and a doughnut (doughnuts seem very popular in Wellington!) 
After a bit of excitement with a power cut in the hostel at 11pm, we scrambled to bed in the dark and slept ready for a busy day. With cereal in our bellys for fuel, we headed to the Te Papa museum. Everyone we’ve spoken to has raved about this museum as one of the best in the world. It’s absolutely huge and after three hours it was fair to say we were museumed out! It is a great museum and very interactive, with our favourite section being the exhibition on the war featuring giant, incredibly realistic models of soldiers and lots of interactive displays teaching us all about a part of the war we’d never heard of before. It was about the war in Gallipoli in WW1 between the Anzacs and the Turks which claimed many lives. 
Once our brains were filled with new knowledge we headed for a stroll by the harbour and back into the city to Cuba street. We’d heard Cuba street was THE place to be full of cute cafes. I was picturing something along the lines of a Melbourne lane way, which this definitely isn’t. There didn’t seem a huge wealth of places to eat either although I had a great chicken and Brie burger at one of the more affordable cafes. After we’d recuperated and rested our feet we headed back to the city to buy a new camera as mine had finally broken and went for a trip on the cable car up for a view of the city. We then strolled through the botanic gardens (pretty nice but not the best I’ve seen) back to the city for a final bit of sightseeing, a drink by the harbour before heading back to the hostel to warm up. The capital is nicknamed Windy Welly for a reason, and we were feeling very tired and windswept after a long day on our feet! 

Such a good doughnut with chocolate and caramel injections

Cable Car to the botanic gardens
View from the top
The Beehive parliamentary building
Talk about sexual equality, in Wellington they have green WOMEN! Girl power

Taupo from above 

After a stay at Rotorua learning all about the Maori culture and admiring the Geysers, we were off to Taupo. Today was finally the day that Steph and I jumped out of a plane from 15,000 feet. I think Steph was secretly hoping for bad weather so it was cancelled, but we finally had our first glorious day since arriving in New Zealand! The skydive instructors said it was the best for a month so there was no backing out now. We stepped off the bus after several hours driving and walked straight into our safety briefing, nerves going into overdrive! It all happened so quick, we signed our lives away and next thing you knows you’re being kitted up and put on a plane strapped to a man! The flight was pretty scary in itself and it was so tense it made me just want to jump and get it over with. At about 9,000 feet they gave you an oxygen mask to help you breath! What?!!!! That scared me more than anything! If I need oxygen to help me breath at this height is it really a good idea to jump?! But while I was busy worrying about that, the door opened and we piled out one after the other in pretty quick succession. You don’t have time to look down or panic, which is definitely a good thing! 
Everyone normally says that the freefall is the best bit and goes so quickly. Well that was one of the longest minutes of my life, stressing about when the parachute would go up and I could confirm I was alive! It’s a pretty mad feeling to be travelling at 200km/hr and given how unnatural it is, caused my sensitive ears some serious pain. Even as I write this four days later, I can’t hear properly still. My favourite part had to be once the parachute was up and you just slowly glide down looking at the amazing lake Taupo below, I even took a turn at steering before we landed and the whole six minute experience was over! After lots of exciting cheering and chatter we took to the cinema room to watch our videos back. They shoot the footage using a GoPro attached to the guys wrist and for an extortionate $160 it captures some hilarious moments. In all the craziness of the freefall I completely forgot what to do and made some weird motions with my hands! We were in stitches! 

We’ve been school sistas, snorkel sistas, scuba sistas… and now we’re SKYDIVE SISTAS!

Out goes Steph!

Can’t you see how excited I am…

Trying so hard to look happy
Someone help me!
Pure relief of being alive
Now this part was incredible

Happy to be on land but ready to do it again! Thanks for keeping me alive Kieran

Once all the excitement was over and to abuse the good weather, we took to the lake with the rest of our new friends on Sail Barbary for wine and pizza whilst enjoying the views and sunset. 

Taupo was also the first place we got to stay more than one night so took that to mean we could go out drinking and have a lie in the next day for a change! Originally our second day in Taupo was reserved for a 19km hike of the Tongariro Crossing, but due to high winds and rain it got cancelled. Instead we did a load of nothing, just a well deserved rest and finally a chance to do some laundry! 

Doing our best Haka in Rotorua 

Next stop on the Kiwi Experience bus is Rotorua, home to the Geysers. Early on we made a stop for another walk, but by the time I’d put my trainers on and went to get off the bus, it was locked! Whoops! Must make sure I put my trainers on early next time! I wasn’t totally heartbroken as it was pouring rain so at least I was nice and dry when they all came back soaked through. After that it was more of the napping whilst driving combo before we arrived at Hobbiton. Much to the shock of many fellow travellers, Steph and I have never seen Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit so had no interest in this activity! Especially for the hefty price of $75. Instead we headed straight into Rotorua, to check in for our evening activity, an overnight stay at the Tamaki Maori village. This is one of the activities we really wanted to do as everyone we know that had already done it raved about it. 
We arrived to be greeted by a man and a woman who sang to us before serving us with a delicious afternoon tea. It was then our turn, our elected chief had to thank them for our hospitality and then lead us in our tribe song (we went for We Will Rock You). After that we formed a little choir to learn a Maori song with some moves to perform later in the evening. Not sure how great our pronunciation was! Once our Maori guides were happy that we’d got the song down, they lead us into the forest for some tradition Maori games involving long wooden sticks. Proud to say I won! We were then shown to our luxury version of a traditional house (marae) to settle in and have a few drinks before being lead by our chief to the main entrance for the arrival of all the other 100+ guest and formal greeting in the form of a Haka. Once we’d been accepted by the Maori tribe, they showed us around the grounds telling us about many of their traditions, such as weaving, training, song and dance. By this point we were starting to get really hungry as they lifted the food from the ground where it was being cooked ready for our dinner (Hangi). Whilst dinner was being set in the main dining hall, we were seated in the theatre for several performances of the traditional song. They were all so talented and it was a great show! One thing that surprised me was how soft the Maori language is. You’re used to hearing it when the All Blacks perform their Haka, but taken in another context, it has a really soft, pretty sound. Finally we were seated and ready for the all-you-can eat roast and it was so delicious!! After several portions and desert it was our turn to take the stage in front of the 100+ dinner guests to perform the song and dance we learnt earlier. We made our way through somehow, although can’t say it sounded amazing! After the rest of the evening guests left, the group of us staying overnight took to the hot tubs with a bottle of wine before collapsing in bed. 

Taking a photo with the bus so it looks like we went

All the boys doing their best Haka
Do we look scary?

In the morning, after a great sleep in our lovely room, we had a quick continental breakfast before loading back on to the bus to head to Taupo. On the way we managed to stop at Te Puia for a tour of the geothermal park. The science behind this is crazy and so surreal watching water and mud boiling from the ground. We were also lucky enough to see a Geyser explode, while we nibbled on eggs that had been cooked in one of the hot water pools. Before coming to Rotorua everyone warns you of the strong sulphur smell. It wasn’t the most pleasant, but not too overwhelming and didn’t put us off admiring the Geysers for a couple hours.  

Next stop Taupo!  

*the day after I started to notice red marks all over my body and realised that I’d been badly attacked by bed bugs in the village. Such a shame as it was a perfect night other than that. I let them know so hopefully they’ll be able to sort it. For the meantime I just look very red and spotty and am constantly applying itch relief cream! 

Facing my fears in the Waitomo glow worm caves 

We were up early and on the bus to the next destination by 7:30am. After a few hours nap on the bus, we stopped for a short walk at Karangahake Gorge. Luckily the rain was holding off for now and the scenes were beautiful! We got slightly lost and muddy on the way back to the bus but we made it in time for the last bit of the drive to Waitomo. 

The sign on the bridge read ‘no more than ten people at a time’…. didn’t fill me with confidence!

After a quick check in at the hostel, we were off for our fist big adventure activity with the black water rafting company. They offer lots of different trips through the famous local caves to see the glow worms. Steph and I being us opted for the most adventurous, most expensive trip they offer: The Abyss. Being the massive wimp that I am and even in my mid twenties and still afraid of the dark, water and small spaces, five hours in cave was my idea of hell. I was pretty petrified! 

Along with three boys from our bus and three tour guides we donned all our kit and started the tour with a 35m abseil into the cave. I’ve abseiled fairly recently so wasn’t too scared about this part, however half way down you have to go through a hole as big as your body into pitch black. For several minutes you are hanging in the pitch black, on your own wondering what on earth you’ve signed up for! Once we were all firmly within the cave we headed for the next part. I was attached to a zip line, all torches went off and I shot off under a ceiling of glow worms screaming like an 8 year old girl. The poor tour guides looked very confused as to why I was here! I was petrified at times, but travelling is all about overcoming fears! After a quick hot choccy break, we grabbed a rubber ring each and jumped a fair distance into the water below. I was very close to opting for the ladder at this point, but I didn’t want to be that girl! Not today anyway. 

Once in the freezing cold water we paddled along the water with our torches off admiring all the glow worms above. I don’t know whether it was the water or the welly boots, but it was so hard to swim! For most of the route there was rope to pull ourselves along but somehow I kept finding myself drifting from the group and having to speed my way back! Once we reached the end, Jack our main guide gave us a lesson on the glow worms (or maggots as we now know they really are). We sat in silence for several minutes admiring the beauty. Jack then announced the route back down the river was much easier as we all linked up and floated in the pure darkness. Being a cave, the acoustics were great and somehow I got roped into serenading the group! I was so nervous, but it felt truly magical singing in that environment and the glow worms are the best audience I will ever have. Jack also sang a Maori song to us (despite being a ginger English lad) and it was so good. One of the most surreal, incredible experiences, floating down a river below a curtain of twinkly glow worms while someone sings a beautiful song in a beautiful voice. So unlike anything I’d ever experienced! Shame we couldn’t take our gopro so I can share some footage with you! The guides took some photos for us but they were of poor quality and didn’t show the glow worms. 

Once back at the starting point where we jumped in, we ditched the tubes and took to the water by foot. It was so rocky underfoot and near impossible not to trip over a lot. One section of the walk is even nicknamed ‘the drunken stumble’. Whenever deep enough we would float on our backs but that did mean playing a bit of human bumper cars and take a rock to the bum every now and then! After a long while (almost too long as I was starting to get really cold and ready to leave the cave) we stopped for another tea break. After a well deserved rest, it was on to the next sector, crawling through tiny caves! We took a few wrong turns but were finally free of all those horrible tight spaces where my claustrophobia was ready to completely punish me. At this point all we had to do was finish up and leave the cave after three hours underground. There were two options: the boring easy route or climbing up two waterfalls. They weren’t the tallest – maybe four metres each – but the water was incredibly powerful and we had no ropes and no harnesses. We just had our hands, feet, rock and most importantly some very experienced guides to help us and catch us if we fall. It was pretty scary, especially considering how clumsy Steph and I both are, but when your life pretty much depends on it, you hold on and climb for dear life! Finally I could see the light at the end of the tunnel to signify the end of our trip. We had such a good day thanks to the black water rafting company and I just hope I wasn’t the biggest wimp they’d seen that week! Very proud of myself for getting through it all without tears or a panic attack. 
It’s fair to say that evening we were exhausted and only managed two beers before collapsing into bed. The following morning we woke with our muscles in serious pain and a few cuts to the hands but there’s no rest for the wicked as we board the bus for our next destination… 

Practicing the abseil before we began

Courtesy of google images to give you a glimpse of what we saw, just maybe not quite as many

What to do when it’s cold and rainy… dig a natural hot tub at Hot Water Beach!

After an incredible year in Australia, the time had come for us to be kicked out of the country and start our long trip home. Putting off the inevitable England return for as long as possible, we’ve planned a two month trip of New Zealand and Fiji. 
We finished work on the Friday, said our goodbyes to friends and packed up our lives once again ready to board a flight Sunday morning to Auckland. It was an emotional end! After many recommendations from friends we booked a hop on hop off pass with Kiwi Experience that will take us to see the highlights of both the north and south islands over our five week stay. The bus is a standard hop on hop off bus, with a slight tour bus edge. They book all your accommodation and activities for you so you’re spending a lot of time with the same people, but you are free to do as you please and to whatever timescale. We have five weeks and it’s going to be a slight rush to fit everything in! 

After just twelve hours in Auckland, we boarded the big green bus to our first destination, Hot Water Beach where we would spend just one night. Boy it was raining and miserable! After an hour long walk getting completely drenched, we arrived at cathedral cove beach. We were meant to be doing one of the best kayak trips in New Zealand here, but it was cancelled due to the horrendous weather (phew!) the beach was lovely though and very scenic, just a shame it was too foggy to see all the islands that can normally be seen from the coast. 

After that it was back to our very nice hostel to warm up, eat dinner and plan the next few days with our driver Lisa. Hot water beach is famous for one reason, at low tide you can go to the beach and dig holes in the sand where the geothermal waters bubble up through the sand creating a natural hot tub. Low tide was half 8 so we all headed to the beach in the dark, cold and rain with spades to dig holes. It’s amazing how it works, the water is boiling hot. Too hot to really enjoy the experience in a relaxing way! After twenty minutes or so we gave in to the cold and headed back to the hostel for some beers in the warmth.

Our new ride

Just imagine on a clear day!
Soaked all the way through

Enjoying my very shallow hot bath on the beach

Jervis Bay: The whitest sand in the world

Jervis Bay is one of those places that Sydney folk always talk about going to but many haven’t actually bothered to venture the three hours down the coast for the weekend. I don’t know why it took me so long of living here to finally visit what people talk about as one of the most beautiful beaches in Australia. One spring weekend I rented a car and headed down the coast for a couple days with a male friend that was visiting (long story!). We took the scenic route and the drive alone was beautiful and reminiscent of my time on the Great Ocean Road in Victoria. It was a sunny Sunday morning and we got in some slow traffic in the massive car I’d rented, but we weren’t moaning as we were enjoying the scenery, the company and Daniel’s questionable taste in music. As we drew nearer our destination, we could see the rain cloud that the weather man had promised and in no time we were in the midst of some very torrential rain. After a pit stop to buy some food supplies we arrived at our Booderee national park and managed to pitch the tent in a brief break from the rain. We headed down to the beach near the tent to have a stroll, but the rain very quickly returned ruining any images of the romantic movie scenes I had imagined. I was determined to soldier on as we sat in our rain coats on the sand for a few minutes before giving in and running back to take cover in the tent. Despite the rain, the sand was so pure and you can see how beautiful it would be with a bit of sun! After spending much of the evening hiding from the elements in the tent and realising that our tent wasn’t exactly waterproof, we finally plucked up the courage about 9pm to head to the communal (undercover, thank god) BBQ area to cook our snags.

rainy walks on the beach

After waking up, grateful that the tent had kept us safe and pretty much dry, we were over joyed to see the sun glaring through at us. We quickly packed everything up and headed off to make up for lost time yesterday. First stop was the Cape St George lighthouse to admire the view of the bay. This spot is renowned for Whale watching so our eyes were peeled as its right in the peak of the whale season. I found out that I’m pretty good at spotting the whales, most were fairly distant and you could only really see them spouting water, but one came right up close to the cliff face so we got a proper look. Daniel is a keen nature photographer, but even with his great camera and skills, we were far too slow to be able to get any decent pictures so you will have to take my word for it. In total we must have seen at least ten different whales, most of them looking like humpbacks, and I even saw one breach in the distance. It was incredible and got me very excited to go whale watching in New Zealand soon. After that we headed to Cave Beach within the national park which is famous for being a great surf spot. Neither of us surf and it as far too cold to even think about going near the water but we had lots of fun playing with the kangaroos at the entrance to the beach. I have never seen such friendly, confident kangaroos! They normally skip off as soon as you go near them but these ones are obviously so often fed by guests that they let you touch them with one little guy even giving me a hug!

there’s a lot of whales out there!

making his first blog appearance: Mr Daniel Brown
sunny…but still super cold

come on Joey, i think it’s time to move out

Kanga Kuddles

We saved the most famous spot for last, Hyams Beach. This beach is the reason most people make the trip down here as it sits in the Guinness Book of Records for having the whitest sand in the world. Luckily, even though it was cold the sun was out so we could appreciate it in its full beauty. It was stunning and the sand was so blinding I couldn’t look at it without sunnies on! We attempted to lie in our swimmers on the sand but didn’t last long so instead walked the length of it, taking it all in. I can’t explain how beautiful this beach is, probably the best I’ve even been on!

I would recommend to anyone coming down to Jervis Bay, it was beautiful and felt so peaceful and remote. It’s full of stunning beaches that even during the school holidays were relatively empty. I wish I’d have gone during the summer months so I could go for a swim as the snorkelling is meant to be good and I could have happily spent many more days in the area kayaking, cycling and just exploring as many beaches as possible and trying to wildlife spot! If you ever find yourself in Sydney for long enough, a trip to Jervis Bay should most definitely be on the list.

Side note: Once back in Sydney and inspired by nature, we went to the Australia Geographic exhibition at the Australian Museum and also went to the David Attenborough experience where you watch an Attenborough documentary through the Samsung virtual reality headset to experience the Great Barrier Reef in 360degrees. It was the most bizarre thing! It’s new technology so the picture quality is not quite there yet, but it felt so futuristic. This is how we will experience things in several years time. The photography exhibition was also really good showcasing award winners from the annual Australian Geographic competition. There were so amazing photos and so inspiring. Again, highly recommend.

From Surf to Snow

As a keen Skier since a very young age, the idea of snow in Australia baffled me! So much so that my friends and I booked a weekend trip to the aptly named Snowy mountains to experience this! As we left Bondi in the sunshine at 8am Friday morning, it didn’t seem possible that in six hours we would be amongst the snow. We made a quick pit stop in Canberra on the way, just so we can officially say we’ve been to the capital, and eventually arrived at our cosy apartment with full on wood fire in Jindabyne. It was pretty cold but still no sign of snow…
After an evening in with food and drinks we woke early the next day to collect our equipment and take the hour long drive to the mountain. Finally snow! In fact there was a hell of a lot of snow, too much snow even. Years of skiing in Europe and America have made me a little fussy with the conditions I like but when you’ve spent a lot of money and travelled so far for one day on the slopes; you’re going to Ski regardless. I have never experienced anything like it! The wind was crazy, at one point us girls couldn’t even get off the chair lift as the wind was blowing back against us so much. You could barely see your hands in front of you, never mind trying to spot friends on the mountain or even judging whether you’re about to make a turn on ice or snow or even hit a tree. It was pretty stressful at the top of the mountain. Although the resort isn’t massive, the slopes were surprisingly good. You might just get a little bored after a few days of the same runs.
Apart from some sketchy moments in the awful conditions at the very top of the moment, I had a great day on the slopes and I left dreaming about working a ski season in Europe next year. Talking of sketchy, I think one of my poorer decisions in life came at the end of the day when I made the call to take Steph (a complete beginner) down a tricky blue. Steph and a fellow beginner friend Sandra had spent the last few hours going down the same nursery slopes. As it was the last lift of the day I told them to come with us on a proper chair lift to take what I remembered to be an easy blue run down. As the chairlift kept getting higher, I started to realise what I had done. Turned out that it was a pretty tricky blue, the conditions had worsened and Steph’s confidence was struggling after a tiring day falling over. The situation wasn’t helped by the patrol men who came and screamed at us for skiing too slow, putting Steph under lots of pressure causing her to stress and ultimately start falling lots! We eventually got down the slope that would normally take me about 20 minutes in about an hour and a half. Huge sigh of relief when we finally saw the pub at the bottom! Very proud of my girl for not giving up!

Lots of Love-o for Freo

Most people we’d spoken to about coming to the West Coast and Perth mentioned that the highlight was the town of Freemantle. After five days in Perth we hopped on the train for a short journey to ‘Freo’ where we checked into our beds in the prison. Before you start panicking family, Steph and I hadn’t suddenly succomed to a life of crime, rather one wing of the old Freemantle prison has been turned into a hostel. One of the coolest and most modern hostels we’ve stayed in yet!

prison or hostel?
Freemantle is a very cool, young, hipster town with plenty of bars and restaurants. To best discover this town we bought tickets for a night of live music in five different pubs around the area, perfect way to explore when you’re only here for a short time. We also popped by the famous and absolutely massive Little Creatures brewery for a private tour and tasting session with the very eclectic bar manager. Afterwards we stopped for fish and chips by the marina, well it’d be rude not to! As we were there over the weekend we managed to head to the local market every day for a browse, before continuing our daily hobby in WA of drinking and eating.

On our last day, we headed back to Perth ready to fly back to Sydney, but not before one last explore of the city with brunch at a cute café and heading to do one of the most rated things in Perth, a trip to Kings Park. It was a lovely sunny Saturday and as we arrived there was a massive crowd of people. Thinking we’d stumbled across some exciting event we sped up to see what was going on only to discover that despite the incredible view of the skyline, everyone had their faces planted in their phones playing that stupid Pokémon game. This was our first realisation about how big a this game was, witnessing all these fully grown adults walking alongside their children aggressively swiping at their phone screens. It was mental! I’ve never seen anything like it, and changed our peaceful stroll around the park to something a bit more comical. The park however was stunning, with such beautiful views over the city and the river. After a long day of walking, it was time to rest our heads and feet as we boarded our flight to Sydney for the last couple months of our trip.

Wine and Wheels in Perth

Initially we had plans to go to Monkey Mia after Exmouth to see the dolphins and shell beach, but after a lot of research it was becoming so expensive as we didn’t have a car so eventually decided that we couldn’t afford it and our money was better spent elsewhere. So it was off to Perth on another horrible 16 hour bus! We arrived at 6am and bearing in mind it was the middle of winter so bleeding cold while we lugged all our stuff 15 minutes down the road to our hostel! We spent the first day very overtired and delirious while we explored our new city and planned our next few days at the information centre.

Activity one for our Perth stay was a day trip to Rottnest Island. A little hungover from our night in an irish bar, we headed to the ferry for an hour and a half tour down the Swan River over to ‘Rotto’ as it’s known by locals to collect our bikes for the day. We had a good few hours there to cycle round and discover the many stunning beaches (if only it was a little hotter so we could go for a dip!) and admire the cute Quoka’s everywhere. Rottnest was such a highlight of the West coast. It’s such an amazing, beautiful place to visit and I would love to come back one day in the summer months!

Rotto Resident

Qute Quoka

Activity two from Perth was a tour to a wine region. We were looking at going to Margaret River but after realising it was too far away to do in a day, we booked a tour with ‘Out n About’ wine tours to the Swan Valley region. Only six of us were doing the full day tour with another 10 or so joining us later in the day. The full day was definitely worth the few extra bucks as the first winery – Lancaster – was by far the best and served us the most delicious Chilli Cheese ever! By 10am and after ten or so (large!) tasters we were feeling a little tipsy already, good sign for the day. After that I stopped taking note of what wineries we went to, but there were four more stops including lunch and a trip to a chocolate shop for more free tasters. I’ve always been happy with the cheapest wine in the supermarket, and while I don’t think I’ll immediately change a habit of a lifetime, I feel like I matured my pallet and started to understand what I like. Surprisingly the reds are growing on me, but just keep the desert wines away from me please, gross!

our kind of glass!
last winery of the day…sums up the day!

Visiting Whale Sharks at the Ningaloo Reef

We’d never really planned on doing Western Australia but as we’d already spent two months working and saving money in the state, we thought it would be rude not to! The west coast is definitely the road less traveled compared to its rival – the east coast – and for that reason it’s not the easiest or cheapest to travel! There’s loads of cute towns, beautiful beaches and stunning national parks to be seen on the journey from Kununurra to Perth, but without having our own wheels it’s very difficult. Unlike the East Coast where you are spoilt for options on how best to travel, the West only has one hop on hop off bus and it only goes twice a week making it impossible to stop for a day or two, and we didn’t have the time or money to spend four nights in every town. Hiring a car or camper was also not an option as the cost was extortionate. Instead, after lots of deliberation we opted for the bus and only a few key stops on our mini WA adventure. There’s lots of scenery and national parks that are beautiful, but having spent two months working in the surrounds of the bungles, we were national park’ed out so focused on which beaches we fancied!

We said an emotional goodbye to the Bungles and Kununurra and boarded a 13 hour overnight bus to Broome. No point hanging around as we’d previously spent a long weekend here, so after a few hours spent at the town market having a massage we were back on an overnight bus for 16 hours. Previously we’d done all our bus travel with Greyhound which is pretty luxury, but as there services only go as far as broome we were to continue our journey with Integrity coachlines – not even vaguely luxury. Think old school coaches full of smelly adults for 16 hours!

Our last day in Kununurra – Lake Argyle

After a ridiculous amount of time trying to sleep on buses we arrived in Exmouth, 2500km further down the west coast then when we left Kununurra. It was clear we were much further south as we reached straight for our jumpers in the cold, grey seaside town despite being in our bikinis just the day before. Due to the bus schedule we had five days in Exmouth, despite not needing them especially as the weather was so poor. But we came here for one major reason, to swim with whale sharks! After reading about this just a few months ago, it suddenly became a lifelong dream, even if I’d never even heard of such animals before this trip! We spent our day with Three Islands, on their lovely boat in the hope of swimming alongside a big whale shark. The company was brilliant and although it was a slow start to the day due to poor visibility in the ocean, we were incredibly fortunate as the spotter plane managed to track down some young 5metre whale sharks for us to swim with.

Number one thing to do in Exmouth – see the shrimp

learning the rules for whale shark swimming

The plan is you get in the water ahead of the shark and then it slowly glides past you in a straight line and you swim behind it. We seemed to get some very cheeky little sharks hat didn’t fancy playing by the rules and decided to swim in random directions at a fair pace! I had an absolute moment of panic while waiting to spot the shark, I looked up to see that it had changed course and was coming directly towards me. That is one big mouth! Luckily they’re vegetarians…  

During my third dip in the water with Whale Shark number two, I swallowed a large amount of water in the choppy water and couldn’t keep up with the group. Being alone in the middle of the ocean, when you’re scared of the ocean and well aware of all the sharks nearby is not ideal! After launching into a slight panic attack and racing back to the boat, they dragged me on board and finally I could breathe again. Steph went in a further two times with the whale shark but I wasn’t exactly feeling up to it still so I watched from the comfort of the boat with a hot chocolate and biscuits.

It was such an amazing day and one I will never forget. Not many people can say they’ve swum with whale sharks. Despite technically being sharks, they have the beauty and grace of a whale and my only wish was that we could have seen a bigger one! The two we swam with were 4 and 5 metres, but they can grow as big as 14 metres! We were also lucky enough to see a humpback whale whilst on the boat and a hammerhead shark that swam by just as we were about to jump in (eek!)

A sea snake – more poisonous than any land snake

For the rest of our time in Exmouth we didn’t get up to much, but on the one sunny day we did have we rented a car for the day to go exploring some of the nearby beaches and do sme snorkeling off the coast. We spent most the day at Turquoise bay which was so beautiful, and again managed to spot a couple of whales on the horizon.

Beautiful Turqoise Bay

Beach babe