A Travellerspoint blog

In numbers... ;)


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16 weeks, was that much?

6 countries, 13 flights (of which one lasting 8 mins only), 3 ferries, countless rides with buses. Kayak, bike, sailing boat.
55K kms travelled, but this number is so large only due to long-haul flights. The rest includes 150km on a bicycle and few hikes of 25 kms per day.
Maybe 50 different hostels, a few nights spend under a 3kg tent (which I carried all the time) and 2 unforgettable nights in a swag.
Survived near-zero-degrees nights in Tasmania and 40 degrees heat in the Red Centre.
Two sustained colds, one (tolerable) sunburn and about a million sandfly bites.
One crocodile eaten by me (a few grams from the tail) and zero myselves eaten by crocodiles.
50+ wines tasted in 3 different locations and only one sort of beer in each country that was above average - Coopers Stout in Oz and Speights Old Dark in NZ.
Some 2000+ photos of (same) landscapes and at most 10 photos of myself.
One lost pendrive and one broken watch (during a table tennis match), no other material losses or casualties. Not a bad result, is it?

Minus 11 degrees in Berlin and 2hrs wait for the train, wearing one shirt and one fleece. Morons from DBahn delayed my train by an hour and therefore I missed my connection in PL, landing in a middle of nowhere at 11pm. Adventure to the last. Still nice to see that everything back home is same as it used to be - DBahn forever unreliable.

Thanks for reading this blog, Merry Christmas to all of you and - as one tour guide used to say - love you all.

Posted by wedrowycz 11:48 Archived in Germany Comments (1)

Switzerland


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Left Australia. You might thought the days of first-class backpacking are over now. Asia ahead. So was to my surprise when I landed in... Switzerland.

Singapore! Clean, modern, well-organised. Several cultures displaying their clothes, architecture and - most notably - food! Festival of eating all-day and all-night, everywhere and for 3 local dollars only.
National sport: shopping. After few days I was surprised that they do not walk the streets with shopping carts. On my small tourist map of Singapore City only, there where 72 shopping malls, of which almost 40 on famous Orchard Road.

Then came more "normal" Asia. On a sleeper train, up to Bangkok through Malaysia and Thai town Hat Yai. There, on one evening, a new idea was born: to buy a tuk-tuk somewhere in Far Asia and drive it home. Who knows, once....

Posted by wedrowycz 01:42 Archived in Singapore Comments (0)

Stopover


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New Zealand behind, time to head home.... slowly. In a series of few stopovers that i planned on my way to Europe, Perth was the first one. And I'm really glad to have seen it. Another good-place-to-live city. Sunny all year, wide shopping streets, nice parks. Only this isolation... you have to fly at least 3-4 hrs to get anywhere from here.

With this stop I also completed - unintentionally - the trip through all Australian states' capitals. Full loop accomplished.

Posted by wedrowycz 08:40 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

The Speight's Country


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I'm more and more delayed with my posts. Please pretend that you do not notice.

Most southern tip of the Southern Island is regarded as NZ's Wild West. It is the pioneer country, settled by tough cowboys (sheepboys?), a brave, honest and straightforward folk, who love their southern country (all this stuff...) and, of course, drink only Speight's. Speight's is a local "Koelsch" - only way better. I was particularly impressed with their Old Dark Ale.

The gate to the South is Queenstown, which is the self-declared (justified though) world's capital of high adrenaline activities. You know, people jumping off the bridges or falling into deep canyons, or at least (the most lame) skydiving at 3500m with an instructor. I decided that the best adrenaline was provided by a decent cup of coffee (actuary's extreme) and after taking few pictures from the side, I moved on onto the fiords.

There, for a price of 20 secs freefall, you may go for 2 day sea-kayaking on the most beautiful (matter of taste of course, but I agree) fiord - the Doubtful Sound. Nice way of spending time, however the number of cloth layers you have to put on, is almost like NASA mission-to-Mars equipment.

My further holiday in the South Country happened to be even more demanding, when I discovered the Central Otago Rail Trail. What's the story? The 150 km XIX-century railway line was just about to be scraped, but instead of destroying it completely, Kiwis had a better idea. The track was converted into a bicycle trail. Despite that it leads through a hilly country, it is very mildly sloped - as the old locomotives were not too powerful. Biker's paradise - especially for someone who got on the bike first time in ten years.

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Posted by wedrowycz 08:14 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Further South


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Not much to say about the next part of the trip, apart from that the landscape was getting nicer and nicer, and even nicer.
Someone had told me once, that in NZ you can go everywhere and it is just beautiful. At that time I had ignored that, thinking that this is typical Lonely Planet bullshit. You know, every place they describe, they say is absolutely unique and worth visiting. Well, in NZ's case, they would be right.

To fill some space, I'll turn for some statistics ;) It is not only me, the Kiwis love it and repeat same information to visitors thousand times. That in whole of NZ, there are 4m people, but more than 30m sheep and more than 90m possums. That population (human, not sheep) of South Island is below 1m, which is less than Auckland. At the end, on the West Coast, which is considered to be the most scenic region and receives majority of the tourist traffic, there are only 30.000 permanent inhabitants. The reason is that West Coast is a very thin strip of land squeezed between the ocean and the mountains reaching above 3000m. Great scenery, but not much space to live.

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Posted by wedrowycz 23:09 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Intro to South Island


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I noticed quite a alarming statictic that there are 23 posts about my Australia trip, and only 2 from NZ. Is it because Australia is 12 times bigger?

All right, all right, i'll try to explain myself. The plan was to write one big post about South Island. I only didn't notice that this trip would take me one month. And I also could not have imagined that so much could happen.

In order to get to Sth Island, you have to board a ferry in Wellington. You get on board in NZ's capital, and after 3 hours you get off in a township called Picton, population 2928. Given the size, my plan was to move on asap, i.e. after spending one night, as the bus departed in the morning.
That evening in Picton changed much. After checking some local info and reading Lonely Planet - mostly ignored till that time - I learned that Picton is the gate to the Queen Charlotte Track, one of the most famous hiking tracks in NZ. A 71km-walk leads on top of the hills surrounding Quuen Charlotte Sound. What is a sound? Basically, it's almost the same as - more known term - fjord. Which would promise some rather spectacular views.

Another attraction of Picton is the proximity of the Marlborough wine region. This allows you to spend a day on a "drunken bus" tour, doing so-called "tastings". Well, there are some people who can spend hours discussing wines, but believe me, after such a tour you cannot say at the end of the day if you're drinking red or white.

Last but not least of Picton's best were... hostels. Not in Auckland, not in Wellington, but here, the competition forced them to offer comfy bed and a bit more. Therefore, one of the hostels offers a free chocolate pudding each evening, while the other one answers with free apple pie & ice cream. Enought to stay a week longer?

Queen Charlotte Track defined the character of my trip in the South Island. Few days after came Abel Tasman Track, and later some other hikes on the West Coast.

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Posted by wedrowycz 22:50 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

In Brief: North Island


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Back to NZ, much less trouble at the airport.

How to get around here?
New Zealand's specialty are backpackers' buses. This is like a regular bus line crossed with a tour. You travel on a minibus with a certain route and schedule, but this bus does not take you only from A to B. There's also some Cs, Ds and Es on the way in-between. These are lookouts, short mountain walks, activities (from abseiling to zorbing), beaches... The bus driver is expected to take you around NZ and show its best. But you may also hop off at any point on the route and continue few days later on another bus which is going this way. Classic Down Under travel experiences - meeting new people, etc... - are included in the scheme.

I travelled through the North Island very quickly, without any stopovers. In short:

Close to Hahei, on the Coromandel Peninsula, you may find a hot water beach. Do not go to the beach without a shovel! After arriving to the shore, dig a mini pool for you and your mates - 30 cm is enough - and enjoy hot water raising from the deep. The last report of cannibalism at Hot Water Beach (the bodies of killed enemies were buried on the beach for few hours, which was enough for cooking time) is dated at 1902.

In Waitomo Caves, you may go underground to admire glowworms, or explore the caves in several ways - abseiling, tubing, rafting.

In Maketu, you learn a haka dance from the Maori.

Rotorua and Taupo are known center for any kind of adrenaline sport. I played it safe ;) And cheap! This is also a volcanic region with hot springs, hot mud and smell of sulfur in the air.

In Tongariro Park, a few hour walk will take you around Mt Doom. It doesn't look that spectacular as in the movie, though - where are all the flames and lava gone????

Ohakune, on the way to Wellington is a home of Giant Carrot Statue. Care to comment, anyone?

A few miles further, in Taihape, you'll find yourself in the Gumboot Capital of the World. Gumboots are popular around whole NZ, as far as I can see, but only in Taihape they are an object of some cult. The culmination point is Gumboot Throwing Competition. We also arranged a small tournament for our bus ;) For all of those, who love the idea, here's the Gumboot song (turn on the sound).

And of course, at the end comes Wellywood, the capital of their film industry. The Weta studio, where the most of the LOTR was created, works now on a new project, called Avatar.

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Posted by wedrowycz 22:27 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

World's Edge


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After colder reception in NZ (I don't mean customs, it was also the rainy weather), it was time again for some tropical chill-out.

Kingdom of Tonga, the only kingdom in South Pacific, lies slightly east of 180 meridian, and - by the measure of longtitude - this is the most distant place I could go from Europe. They should be on the eastern side of International Date Line, but they cheat: they pushed the Line to their eastern border. Therefore Tonga is the place "where the time starts" - they are the first to welcome a new day. Fine place to visit if you want to celebrate two New Year parties, one day after another.

Main island Tongatapu is quite large - by Polynesian standards - some 30x20 km. It completely does not fit the image of South Pacific paradise with Polynesian dancers, coconuts, drinks, stuff etc. The whole island is a huge village, with its buildings resembling much more Eastern Europe than Tahiti. In between, some plantations, several king's palaces and unbelievable number of churches - I wouldn't be surprised if the "churches per head" ratio were the highest in the world. This results from a fierce competition between several Christian churches, trying to win the new followers.

After living Tongatapu, I moved to the smaller island of Eua. This one is much less crowded. It offers some possibility for hike in the tropical forest, however you must be careful not to run into the sea. It is like less than 2hrs walk coast-to-coast. In order to get to the island you may take a ferry (2hrs) or fly on probably the shortest air route in the world: 6 mins. The plane takes 8 passengers and I was lucky enough to get co-pilot's seat ;)

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Posted by wedrowycz 04:17 Archived in Tonga Comments (1)

Welcome (?) to New Zealand


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You never manage to make the first impression again.... and New Zealanders perfectly missed their first chance.

I spent nearly three hours at the airport Customs. First, waiting an hour in line to the passport control and then... looking at my personal things being unpacked and examined one by one by the customs officer. To make it more exiting, the whole story took place between 11pm and 2am. Last country that provided me with such entertainment was Turkmenistan.

Despite the late night, the officers were very careful. For example, they paid attention to my hiking shoes and tent. The boots were washed by them (thanks, guys) and the tent was...I do not know, they took it from me for ten minutes and then said it was ok then. It was all about so-called biological risks - in order to protect NZ flora.

Finally, the New Zealand Customs have scored a great victory that night. They managed to find and confiscate a package of... flower seeds that i bought in Tasmania, with intention to give it to my mother. They said, these cannot be allowed in and offered to store them for me till my departure for 20$. My (very silent, naturally) response was that they can stuck these seeds... and grow them...

Well, I do not feel quite welcome here now. I thought such stories happen only in third world...

Posted by wedrowycz 04:47 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

Australia - what is it about?


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Been there, done that, that, that and that...

I notice that it has been several days since my last post. Since the time I started the blog, I was telling myself that I do not want to write a chronological report on what I'm doing hour after hour. Luckily, i just changed the country (yes, it is over with Australia), and some conclusions can be expected in this place.

So - Australia - it is first about meeting hundreds of people, who happened to have had this same idea of coming to Australia this year. Every conversation starts in similar way: where are you from, what have you seen till now, where do you go next, what do you do back home. The answers, however, are much different, and each story is in some way unique. You meet a New Zealand car mechanic who - after few beers - performs a perfect haka, then a Welsh guy who writes speeches for its health minister, a German raised in Berlin who loves the idea of living deep in the Outback... Personally, i feel that the big prize for the story should go to Maurizio, who traveled 10 months from Europe to Australia, "hitchhiking" the yachts. This is quite cheap way of travel, usually you just pay for food. Then, after a few days on the land he... pays some hundred bucks to join the 3-day tourist sailing cruise, just to be again on the sea.

Then, it is about Australians, about learning their way of life - relaxed and friendly. As they say: not a drama.

Australia is surely about seeing the nature, either from the road (looong overnight drives) or by bushwalking. In Europe, it is difficult to find a multi-day walk, because a National Park is just not big enough. In Australia, you have first to travel a considerable distance in order to access the walking path.

It is much about cuisine, especially since Italians, Greek, Turks, Asians, etc. migrated here in great numbers. Therefore, living in a big city is like never ending cuisine festival, whereas in the Outback you meet good, old, uncomplicated Anglo-American kitchen, meaning burgers, pies and fish&chips. If a burger - than it might be a kangaroo burger, if a hotdog - an emu sausage. On my last day in Queensland i tried a grilled crocodile's tail. Tastes like chicken ;)

Australia is also about active holiday. Like one of my colleagues said: this is the place where you run, jump, swim, surf, etc. As this is not my thing - there'll be no much talk about it ;)

Ok, no pictures this time. A movie, instead...

Posted by wedrowycz 03:50 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

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