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New Zealand – South Island

Christchurch

We landed in Christchurch in the afternoon, it was throwing it down with rain, but we went straight to pick up the car that we would be driving for the next 24 days, and we weren’t too impressed at what we were given, it was an old Mazda, with over 100k already on the clock, and didn’t even have central locking, it certainly wasn’t what we imagined driving for 5,000 km around New Zealand, and definitely not what we had paid for.

Because of the bad weather, and the fact that the office was about to close, we put up with it for now and headed for our apartment. The apartment was tiny, but nice, they then charged us an extra $10 to park the car which we weren’t too happy with but we just put up with it and walked down to the supermarket, for a bottle of wine, in the pouring rain.

We picked up a bottle of wine and some snacks, but when we got to the checkout, the staff and even the store manager refused to serve us without our passports, which were ten-minutes walk away in the rain. Even though we had multiple other forms of ID on us, and hadn’t needed ID once in the week we spent in Auckland. Christchurch wasn’t going great so far.

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Auckland and the North

A few days before our flight from Melbourne to Auckland, I got an e-mail from Air New Zealand about bidding for an upgrade on our flight, we’ve only flown economy so far this year, so I thought I would put in a bid and hope it was accepted. A few days before the flight, we got another e-mail confirming that the bid was accepted, and we would be flying in premium class this time, we got far too excited about this 🙂

It turned out, when you arrive at an Air NZ premium check-in desk, looking like a backpacker and messing around packing the straps away on the backpacks, they automatically assume we don’t belong in premium, and a member of staff pulled us out of the queue to go to economy check-in.

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Melbourne & Great Ocean Road

Over the last few years, we’ve heard nothing but good things about Melbourne, it’s ultra-hip and trendy cafe culture, the amazing food and good wine, the stylish centre, river front and parks. People fall over themselves to tell you what a great place it is, and travel blogs love to claim that it is the most livable city in the world.

It took us less than a day of being in Melbourne to realise that it wasn’t the Utopia it is made out to be by so many. When Melbourne gets rated the best city in the world to live, that’s probably for the people who get good jobs there who make a LOT more money there than they would elsewhere and therefore can afford the over-priced hipster offerings throughout the city.

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Adelaide & Barossa Valley

A quick morning-flight from Sydney and we were already landing in another of Australia’s big cities, Adelaide. I think in the two hours and 1,000 or so miles from the outskirts of Sydney to the outskirts of Adelaide, you must pass over about twenty houses at most.

It is a bizarre expanse of nothingness Australia, a place where everybody lives in the main urban centres and the huge area in the middle is almost completely empty. We picked up our car from the airport, a brand-new Toyota Corolla, and drove the one-hour trip up in to the Barossa Valley.

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Sydney

We flew from Gold Coast to Sydney and landed before lunch time ready to head in to the city. A couple of weeks earlier we had booked a hire car for Sydney to use for the five days we’d be here, but soon after we looked in to parking costs and it is horrifically expensive in Sydney, so we cancelled the hire car and decided we’d be using public transport instead 🙂

We treated ourselves to a nice apartment again in Sydney, overlooking the city and the harbour bridge and opera house, except, when we arrived, we found we had been stuck in a back apartment overlooking a building site in a run-down room, we complained, and they upgraded us a two bedroom apartment with the view we had been wanting, so it all worked out great.

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Brisbane, Byron Bay and Gold Coast

We arrived in Brisbane to an apartment on the outskirts of the city centre that we had booked, and we couldn’t believe our luck. The previous night we had stayed in an actual shed, now we were staying in a one-bedroom apartment with a large living and kitchen area, a big outside terrace overlooking the city and mostly free parking outside as it was a weekend. It felt like a dream. It even had a washing machine and tumble dryer, Stac was like a kid on Christmas day.

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Road Trip – Queensland Coast

We set off from cairns and headed south without a real plan of where we were going, all we knew was that we wanted to be in Brisbane in around 8 days time. The first day we drove down the main highway and stopped after an hour in Innisfail, we were just stopping as the weather was nice so we thought we would have a breakfast picnic by the river. This all went great for about the first five minutes, then we noticed a full marching band and street procession turning the corner at the top of the road and heading down towards us, we’ve still no idea what was happening, because we packed our things up and moved on before it arrived.

An hour later we stopped in Mission Beach, after a couple of ‘tourist routes’ which are drives sign-posted by the government to direct tourists on nice drives through scenic areas, rather than just driving the main highway. These are great but usually just involve passing endless sugarcane fields, so I think it might actually be a wind-up by the Queensland government sending you round in circles.

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Cairns & The Great Barrier Reef

We arrived in Cairns on an overnight flight from Bali, it wasn’t exactly what springs to mind when you think of a long-haul overnight flight, no movies and leg room here. The experience of flying overnight (but only four and a half hours) with Jetstar is similar to if you decided to cram yourself in to a box that was just a little bit too small to be able to move in any meaningful way whilst air hostesses walk past regularly, with disgusting unaffordable food, looking like they’d breathe fire if you so much as politely requested the £45 sandwich that was made three weeks ago.

We arrived to cold and rain in Cairns, not exactly what we imagined of the tropical Queensland coast, but the bad weather would only last for the day, we called an Uber, which turned out to be a huge pickup-truck, so exactly what you picture of Queensland, and were soon picking our car up that we would use for the next two and a half weeks over 3,000 km.

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Uluwatu, Bali

We travelled back from Gili Meno the long way, but again for more comfortable than we assume the fast boats are, and definitely cheaper. We got the public boat from Gili Meno to Bangsal port in Lombok at 8am, for about £1 each, it did feel a little like we might die on it, but like the locals, we’re getting used to that feeling now.

Then it was a 1.5 hour taxi to Lembar to take the public ferry back to Bali, we managed to negotiate this down to about £12, the same price as the shuttle bus would have cost for two people and much quicker and more comfortable. The public ferry was similar, but a little older and busier than the previous one, there were no seats left inside so we sat in the shaded part of the top deck and just chatted for the five hours back to Bali (again, a large chunk of that was within sight of the dock, but being unable to get off, and again, something we were now more used to).

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Gili Islands; Gili Air & Gili Meno

We arrived at Bangsal port in Lombok to take the public boat over to Gili Air, the public boats are only about £1 each for the short crossing, the boat is only small, seating about 30, but of course more than that got on, we clambered on from the beach and set off to the legendary Gili Islands.

Gili Air is the Gili closest to Lombok, the medium-sized one about 2km across, Gili Meno is the next island over, a little smaller at 1km across, and Gili Trawangan is the biggest and furthest away, the island for partying. We decided we’d only go to the quieter islands, but Gili Air was still fairly busy.

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