A Travellerspoint blog

Easter in England

A great visit with family in Shrewsbury and Ellesmere, with stops in Liverpool and a day trip to Wales!

semi-overcast 10 °C

Prior to heading out to England we needed to bridge a gap in accommodations by shacking up at Isaac's hostel which is located near the business district in Dublin and just a couple blocks north of the River Liffey. Nice hostel, friendly staff, but I am not going to lie, it was pretty tough leaving our beautiful and comfortable accommodations with James and Jaro to settle into the world of bunkbeds and shared rooms. What are you going to do though - chalk that up as a good old first world problem when travelling. Isaac's was an interesting stay as on the first night we got treated to soothing late night/early morning drunken carrying ons by some German gents - who were not even in our bloody room! These beauties got back from their night out in Dublin around 3:30 in the morning, crashed into the room beside ours and then proceeded to carry on like they were the only people in the entire city! They were like a couple of schools girls laughing and babbling on, but the worst part was likely that we couldn't understand what the hell they were saying! It was a 35-40 minute roller coaster ride of unbearable noise that would slide into short breaks of silence where you would get your hopes up that they had finally passed out, only to have your prayers shattered by some more uncontrollable laughter and even some wonderful yelling! My despise for these fella's was at an all time high, but eventually they did pass out and we got a few winks of sleep in our room before daylight made its way through the curtains. Well, I can't say we got even with these guys, but what I can say for sure is that everyone in our room made no attempt to be quite for them when started having our showers and using the washroom outside their room in the morning. I am sure a few people are asking why we didn't do something about it the night before and all I can say is, once you get your grown ass into a bunkbed, it takes a lot to get you out if it, especially in the middle of the night in a sleep depraved state where the chances of hitting your head or tripping are very good. I mean, I have suffered through having to take a leak for hours before, just to avoid having to crawl out of my cramped up bunkbed - no joke! On our second night at Isaacs we met up with a couple of our roommates and went for dinner and drinks just around the corner from our hostel. One of the girls was from Canada and she was teaching over in England, while the other girl was from Italy and she has her own business in Ayurveda massage. Sherry and her had tons to chat about this Ayurveda is an area that Sherry takes special interest in. We had a great time out with the girls and at the very least we had endeared them enough to not have them be to mad at us for needing to get up at 4:00 am to head for the airport.

As with most morning flights, the time to peel ourselves out of bed came way to early. After getting all of our unnecessary luggage stored in the lockup at the hostel for safe keeping while we were gone, it was off to the airport to catch our RyanAir flight. I had heard lots about these budget RyanAir fights and I was keen to see what they were all about. Hell, I was just ready to see what a 30 minute flight was like after all the crazy long journeys we had taken in our travels leading up to Ireland. Surprisingly enough the flight itself was comfortable and it was only 30 minutes before we landed on the east side of the Irish Sea in Liverpool! Sherry's Aunt Marj and Uncle Phil were there to greet us as we made our way out of the airport. After arriving in so many airports as strangers, left to our own devises to find our way to the next hotel, hostel or apartment that we would be calling home for awhile, It was really nice to see familiar faces smiling and waiting for you . It was the exact same feeling we had when Joe and Angel were there to meet us way back in Australia. Thinking that the plan was just to load up our stuff in the car and make tracks to Ellesmere I was already planning on how I might nod off to sleep in the car while hopefully controlling the unflattering things a persons body can do while relaxed and asleep. My quandary was quickly nixed as we would be treated to a surprise tour around Liverpool, compliments of our new tour guides, Marj and Phil! We made our way throughout the city making stops at such iconic locations as the Diocese of Liverpool and the Albert Docks where there is a Beetles tribute showcase, along with a museum which at that time was putting on an exhibition detailing the slave trade that took place through the docks of Liverpool over the years. The Albert Docks are a really beautiful area, with shops, restaurants and many other interesting stops which are scattered throughout the old shipping storage buildings (http://www.liverpoolwaterfront.org/albert-dock.aspx). The weather was a little on the cool side temperature wise, but that was secondary as it was a beautiful sunny day and that was enough to wipe the sleep away from our eyes as we toured around the docks. One of the iconic things for tourists to take part in while visiting Liverpool is a trip across the River Mersey on the ferry. This ferry trip became inshrined in music history in 1964 when Gerry and the Pacemakers wrote the song "Ferry Cross the Mersey" which turned out to be a hit in both the UK and the USA. With all that backstory in mind, we happened to stumble upon what I am sure will be known as another iconic moment in the life of the Snowdrop Ferry that crosses the Mersey. As part of commemorations for the first world war, the same artist that created the famed Sergeant Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover, was also commissioned to repaint the Snowdrop Ferry in homage to anti-submarine ‘dazzle camouflage, and we just happened to be there for the launch of it all. When Marj went to grab us tickets to take the ferry across, she came back with 3 free tickets which would allow us to be onboard the Ferry for its maiden voyage with its new paint job. This was just shear luck of the draw in that this historical event was happening in Liverpool and we had a chance to be apart of it. Camera crews, local dignitaries and Sir Peter Blake himself were amongst the one hundred or so passengers that boarded the Ferry of the 30 minute harbour tour. This was one of those one off, random experiences that just worked out in our favour and we are happy to have been apart of it. Thanks Phil and Marj for the great introduction to Liverpool (Phil's hometown).

The rest of the week was filled with plenty of rest and relaxation, some easter egg hunts and fun tours around Wales and Shrewsbury. Ellesmere, which is just a short drive to Wales, would be our home base for the first 4 days. It is a small town and is filled with all those small town charms you get to know and love in England. Historic homes, narrow, winding streets, a few pubs and lots of local shops to peruse through. On our second day we were lucky enough to be treated to a great day trip to Wales. We had the chance to see canal boats, which in my eyes, are best described as RV’s on water. These bad boys are fully equipped with kitchen, bath, living areas and even wood stoves to keep things cosy on chilly spring nights. At just under 7 feet wide so they fi inside the canal walls and up to a max of 72 feet long so they fit inside the lock systems, these floating homes are a sight to see for the first timers to the UK and if you happen across the right owner you just might get a tour onboard. We spent the bulk of our day touring sights in and around Llganogollen. One of the more interesting stops was the historical site of Valle Crucis Abbey which was built in 1201 and then dissolved in the mid 1500's. The remaining structure is still very well persevered and as such, is certainly worth a stop. Not having a vehicle to get around, there is no way we would have gone and seen the places we did on our own, but thanks to Marj an Phill we were never short of things to do. It was extra special getting to spend Easter with family. Easter brought to us not only a whack load of chocolate, but also a sense of normalcy as we were celebrating a familiar holiday and we had family to share it with. Even when you are travelling with someone else you know very well or who may even be your spouse, it is still very easy to feel lonely amongst so many other strangers as you come and go from one place to the next. Easter brought back that sense of family comfort that showed up right on que as Sherry and I were both starting to get somewhat weary of our travels.

A two night stay in Shrewsbury was next on our agenda. We headed out with Sherry’s cousin Allie and her boyfriend Alex the day after Easter. Shrewsbury is a great town, with a population just over 100,000. It is definitely worth visiting if you are travelling in and around the midlands of England (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shrewsbury). We were in good hands as Alex was born and raised there. We had been to Shrewsbury on previous travels to England with friends 5 years ago so we somewhat knew our way around which was nice, as both Allie and Alex had to work during the day - well except for the one day when they took the afternoon off to take us to a neighbouring town called Chester. As the story goes according to Alex he just told his boss that he needed time off to take “The Canadians” to Chester, to which his boss replied, sure, but do these Canadians have names. We were officially leverage in a time off negotiation and I couldn't have been prouder. We were very thankful to have Allie and Alex to take us to Chester as when we looked up the train prices, this stop was very quickly off of our things to do list based on cost. Chester is a great city, with lots of shopping, delicious food, historical churches and a beautiful horse racing track. Okay, so there is a good chance that I have just generically described a lot of towns in the UK but just in case Chester peaks your interest I have included their tourism link so you can do some research of your own (http://www.visitchester.com). It is located just South of Liverpool and is not too far from the Wales border if you wanted to slip over there during your travels. If you are keen on Roman history then Chester should certainly be on itinerary as it was originally settled as a Roman fort in the year 79 AD! So ya, its just a couple years old, with just a little bit of history going on there. There were no horse races on the day we made our tour to Chester, but Allie and Alex had both been to races and highly recommend taking one in if you ever have the time in your travels to that part of England.

Our final night in England was a short and sweet one back in Ellesmere. Short because we had to be up around 3:30 in the morning to leave for the airport and sweet because we got to spend that time with Allie, Alex, Marj and Phil. One last hang out with familiar faces before retuning to the obscurity of Dublin where we would be total strangers once again. This was not much of a concern though as our batteries were charged back up and some time exploring more of Dublin was something we both were looking forward to. Now it could have been all the Easter chocolate that we were jacked up on that gave us this feeling, but I am pretty sure it was genuine anticipation as we had only but a small taste of what Dublin had to offer in our first stop there. An early morning flight, a sleepy airport traversing and we were back on the streets of Dublin and headed to meet our new AirBnB host.

Cheers,

Shayne and Sherry

Posted by Shewy 10:37 Archived in England Comments (1)

Well Hello Spring & Hello to you too Dublin, Ireland!

Endless pints of Guinness, crazy weather, amazing AirBnB's, a complicated, tumultuous history and so much more.

all seasons in one day 8 °C

With no major flights booked beyond getting to Dublin on March 24th and 20 plus hours of flying from Perth, Australia behind us, we couldn't have been happier to know that we wouldn't be jumping on a plane any time soon. Clearing customs was the only hurdle between us and beginning our time in Ireland. This process went well as we had our documentation lined up ahead of time and I personally think the guy who was helping us just might have been to tired to bother asking a boat load of questions. This same gentlemen would be our first encounter of friendly Irish hospitality as he went on to make some recommendations on where we might have our best chance at finding work and where to avoid. This was quite kind of him and with that simple gesture, things were starting off on the right foot. For our fellow travellers out there, here is some quick insight into what we had to arrange before getting to Ireland. We ended up getting our Working Holiday Visa's through the Irish Embassy in Ottawa. These visa's would allow us to stay in Ireland for up to 2 years from our date of arrival, earn an income if the opportunity arose and to also come and go from the country as we desired during that time. The up front cost for this was $200 cdn each and it only took a couple weeks to organize all the required information and get our paperwork returned from Ottawa. Websites can be somewhat confusing when it comes to understanding what visa, if any, you require when travelling. If you have any doubt about what you need I highly recommend contacting the local embassy for your destination to ensure you are on track for your travel plans. It was just around 7:00 am when we cleared customs. As we waited for our bags a lovely Irish lady started up a conversation with Sherry while I was busy checking out the airport washrooms. They carried on for some time until our bags came gliding around the carousel and they parted ways. Another friendly face from Ireland!

Originally, we were not supposed to get into our AirBnB apartment until around 5:00 pm because our hosts would both be at work when we arrived, but thankfully I checked my email at the airport and they had left a note saying that Jaro would be around to meet us in the morning! This was a huge relief as we would of had to store our luggage and find something to do for about 10 hours, which would have been quite interesting considering our zombie like state....it wouldn't have been ideal but we were prepared to do it. Things were looking up and despite being tired we had smiles on our faces.....and then we exited the airport....When the automatic doors slid open and we walked out onto the pavement we got a lovely blast of 0 degree celsius weather. As if it was rehearsed, we both gave each other that look of "what the hell were we thinking leaving the warm weather in Australia!" I am sure that many people reading this are thinking the same and to be honest, we don't really have a great answer for that question. In our planning we just figured that after the time spent in all the other locations that it would be time for us to move on and so why not get settled into Ireland where we planned to set up shop for awhile. Pretty simple. Now that we were freezing our butts off, our next task was to navigate our way to our apartment on the South Side of Dublin. The gents that would be hosting us at our AirBnB sent us some extremely detailed information on how to get to their humble abode and from that we knew we needed to jump on an AirCoach. 10 Euros each would get us dropped off just a few short steps from our destination - which wasn't too shabby - heck I would have paid twice that just to get into somewhere warm at that point in time! The AirCoach buses can be easily found outside of the arrivals terminal and there are plenty of helpful staff if you have questions about ensuring you get on the right bus. A few pleasant features about these buses are that they have ample room for luggage storage, the seats are comfy and spacious and for the uber social media fans there is free WIF that works quite well! This actually proved quite useful for us as we needed to contact our hosts to let them know when we would be arriving on their doorstep. I wish I could tell you all that I had some amazing Irish sensation that came over me as we passed through the city to our destination, but to be honest, it was cloudy, it was too damn early in the morning, and we were cruising through a city.....so nothing too inspirational was firing up inside of me just yet. The streets were filled with pubs, I can verify that, but other then that single stereotypical observation, I really don't have anything exciting to tell you about our arrival in Dublin. Maybe the 20 plus hours of travel and over 30 hours without sleep had something to do with it.

Sherry and I had never used AirBnB before, so this was a whole new experience for us. In the simplest terms, AirBnB is a website that people can post accommodations with the intent being to rent them out in various capacities. You can rent an entire home, apartment, or just a single private room within a residence, for any given duration depending on your travel needs, with the only catch obviously being availability. In this case, we chose to rent a private room in an apartment in the south end of Dublin. What the heck - why not meet some new people and maybe learn a few things from them during our stay. To some people this may not seem very appealing as you are thrust into a living situation with complete strangers and surely it could be a roll of the dice in terms of personalities meshing or not. On the plus side, it can often save you a few dollars as you are only renting a single room and you have a kitchen to cook out of, thus giving you the chance to save on dining out every night. Another plus that you will frequently find in the shared accommodation set up is that you get first hand tips from people who live in and know the city, which in turn could lead to experiences that you may otherwise have not been aware of through the usual tourist information sources. When booking your accommodation you do have the advantage of seeing the reviews from past guests which can help to alleviate any anxieties you may have about your new roommates. As the saying goes, to each their own. I can tell you for certain that Sherry and I are big fans of having shared accommodations in the AirBnB scenario. You'll see why as our Ireland travels carry on.

Tired and groggy, Sherry and I hauled ass off of the AirCoach and then over to our apartment which was about 2 blocks away. On arrival we were greeted by Jaro, who was extremely welcoming to the dishevelled looking travellers who could have easily fit into any suspect line up at that point in time. After exchanging pleasantries and getting the lay of the land, Jaro headed off to work, we grabbed some food from a local shop and then it was head to pillow for both of us! The plan was for a short nap, but jet leg ran the show that day and we both crashed from about 2:00 pm until 6:00 am the following morning (sound familiar). The kicker for all this sleep was that it took place on Sherry's birthday! Whoops! So, quick recap here - on my birthday I jumped off of a giant canyon swing and we had an incredible dinner out, while on her birthday, just one week later, we flew for 20 hours and then slept for like another 16! So much for all that "make your birthday memorable", mumble jumble I wrote about earlier! Arriving in a new country on her birthday seemed like such a good idea when we booked everything.....

With our bodies recharged, we spent the next week or so touring around Dublin, taking in many of the essential tourist stops. Our hosts had plenty of guidance and advice for us on what to do and when to do it, which proved invaluable as we were like fish out of water in this new city. Getting around is fairly easy with tram lines running in almost all directions, plus buses and taxis being found throughout Dublin. Figuring out bus schedules is still a bit like solving the Da Vinci Code for me, so the trusty old tram (Luas green line) was our chariot in and out of the city centre for the week. It also helped that we had a stop just outside of our apartment building. Our first steps out on our own into Dublin took us for a walk around the coastal towns of Dalkey and Dun Laoghaire. When we reached the harbour of Dalkey we were met by a surprise visit from some local seals who were enjoying a fish gut lunch being provided by a local fisherman who just finished cleaning up his catch for the day. After that we made a stop at Finnegans pub, which claims to be President Obama's favourite pub in Dublin. The pub was nice as it had all the truly Irish elements found throughout it, I just felt a little out of place because pretty much the all the rest of the patrons were around when the automobile was invented! Obama must have liked this place because it made him feel young. It was really tasty lunch and In true Irish fashion, it was a fish and chips washed down by a nice pint of Smithwicks for me. Unfortunately we were hitting up these coastal towns early in the spring so they were not quite yet alive with the buzz of summer tourists and the harbours were void of the many beautiful boats that call them home during the warmer months. All that said, it was still nice to be breathing in the fresh sea air, while taking in a very relaxed environment.

When we finally made it into the city centre we got ourselves tickets on the Dublin Sightseeing Hop on/Hop off bus tour. This is the best way to get your bearings and to get a good idea of what you want to see and do while in Dubin (https://citysightseeingdublin.ie). Dublin is a city that is steeped in centuries of incredible and complex history. The tour guides on these buses will give you great insights to the major events that have taken place over the years in Dublin, along with the famous people who helped to shape the city into what you see today. As my high school history teacher Pete Carver would attest to, I am not exactly a history buff. I have the C's, D's and final exam marks to prove it. With that said though, I really did enjoy learning about the origins of the city, along with the centuries of conflict that has shaped Dublin into the city it is now, while building Ireland into the country we know it to be. Even if you cannot keep up with all the timelines of conflict, despair and growth, it is pretty incredible to be standing in front of castle walls that are almost 1000 years old (Dublin Castle - city centre) or looking at inscriptions on jail walls that were carved by the famously executed 14 hero's of the Easter Rising in 1916 (Kilmainham Gaol). At Kilmainham Goal you are even shown the exact places where the executions took place, which is quite moving on its own. History aside, the bus tour also gives you a great chance to figure out which pubs you want to grab a pint in, of which, there are literally hundreds. Take advantage of the hop on/hop off aspect and try a few out along the way!

Two stops on our initial city tour that I really enjoyed are the Guinness Storehouse and the Jameson Distillery. No coincidence that free samples came with the ticket price! The prices for each tour is respectively decent and, in my opinion, worth the spend. There are many people who will say the Guinness tour is not worth the expense as it is not a guided tour and I have agree as it would seem like a given since they are such a large and prosperous operation. Sherry and I both felt like we got value from our time at the brewery, but I can certainly see the other side of the argument. There are many different ways to purchase your tickets for the Guinness tour, we combined it with our hop on/hop off bus ticket, but another great option to help avoid lineups and to save some cash would be to use the Viator App, which I would recommend checking out for any travel you will be doing. Once purchased, your ticket includes a complimentary pint of Guinness which you can chose to use during a lesson on how to pour the perfect pint or you can relax in the Gravity Bar at the top of the building where you will be treated to 360 degree views of the city whilst sipping on the wonderful brew that helped to build it all. For Sherry and I, we ended up being able to take in both experiences. When we walked into the Guinness Storehouse a gentlemen who was unable to use his ticket for a pint, kindly offered his ticket to us to use and I had absolutely no problem accepting! On top of that, Sherry doesn't drink beer, in light of her gluten intolerance, so needless to say I was one happy lad, quite full of Guinness by the time we walked back out onto the streets of Dublin. Watching Sherry focus so intently on pouring the perfect pint may have been the best part of my day. You would have swore she was mixing highly toxic chemicals, that, if mixed wrong, would have killed everyone in the room. I couldn't even get a smile out of her for the photo! As for the Jameson Distillery (we did this on a separate day), we had a great time there as well. You can purchase your tickets right in the building and if you have to wait a bit before your tour starts there are lots of little restaurants around it where you can saddle up for some Irish grub and maybe a drink or two to get yourself in the mood for some whiskey tasting! Unlike the Guinness Storehouse, this tour was a guided one and the young lady that was touring us around did a great job of going over the whole distillery process, while sharing the storied history behind Jameson's which dates back to 1780 . At the end of the tour you are given a chance to compare Jameson's, with Jack Daniels and Johnny Walker, before heading into a private bar area where you get to chose a Jameson drink to top off your tour. There is no doubt when you leave this tour that you will have warmed yourself up on the inside and will be ready to face the ever changing weather that Ireland can toss at you. Just a quick note on the weather - the rumours are absolutely true! You can be treated to rain, snow, sunshine, gusting winds, rain while the sun is shining and just about any other type of weather you can think of, all within a single hour at times. I would strongly recommend applying the Boy Scout motto of "Be Prepared" when heading out to tour around Ireland. Investing in a durable rain jacket/wind breaker, will be money well spent all day long.

In our fist week we spent lots of time trying out some of the local pubs and doing our best to train our ears to interpret the many different Irish accents we encountered. The pubs fill up early and if the weather is all out of sorts, they will fill up even earlier. So, if you plan on just randomly popping into a pub in the city centre later in the day, be prepared to duck in and out of a few before finding a seat, unless you are one of those people who likes to get into a fresh pint early in the day, then you will have no problem finding a barstool to curl up onto - just don't mind the well weathered Irish fella who might babble on next to you in what will seem like a foreign language of sorts. Of course we made a stop in the Temple Bar district at the one and only Temple Bar. If you google "Dublin Bars" the Temple Bar will no doubt be the one that tops the list. As much as the locals will tell you that Temple Bar is nothing but a tourist trap with jacked up prices, I still can't get over how great it felt when I was tipping back my first Guinness while listening to an Irish musician entertain the bar. We were tucked into a corner that put us well within earshot of the music, but slightly out view from the singer, but it was perfect. You won't likely find too many Irish folk in Temple Bar, as it is in the heart of the tourist district, which means we were sharing this experience with...you guessed it...Tourists! Even with our company maybe not being all that genuine to the Irish experience, I still had a big old smile on my face and enjoyed every minute of my time there. If you are trying to manage your costs then you may want to limit your entertainment and dining experiences in the Temple Bar District and Grafton Street areas as food, clothing and just about everything else is priced for tourists with deep, or at least, alcohol inducedloose pockets. The good news is that you only need to walk a few streets away from these areas and you will still be able to enjoy great food and entertainment and not blow your budget. Don't get me wrong, I am not saying to avoid these areas, both Temple Bar District and Grafton street have their own unique appeal which deserve your attention. On any given day you will come across some extremely talented buskers on Grafton street (singers, dancers, artists, musicians etc.), while the Temple Bar District offers the opportunity to run into new friends from all over the world.

As I mentioned earlier, Sherry and I really hadn't made any concrete plans beyond our first week in Dublin, so as a result we spent a few days working out what we thought we should do next. This is where the AirBnB scenario played out really well, as we had the apartment to ourselves during the day and our hosts had tones of Ireland travel information gathered up that we could peruse through at our leisure. Surprisingly, during our days of planning we received an invite to head over to England and spend the Easter Holidays with Sherry's Aunt Marj, Uncle Phil, Cousin Allie and her boyfriend Alex in England! There was nothing much to discuss on this one, it was a yes right away, followed by the task of booking a RyanAir flight to get us there (so much for not flying again for awhile hahaha). While leafing through some of the pamphlets in the apartment we came across Shamrocker Adventures which offers a 7 day tour that takes you all the way around Ireland. This was a goal of ours from the beginning, but we just hadn't figured how we would go about it with no car and not wanting to overspend on a tour. The price was appealing right off the bat, so I did some research on trip advisor and could find no flaws in what I saw there. If there was room available for us in one of their upcoming tours we were sold. We had hoped to time it that when we got back from England we would jump right on this tour, but it was booked up until April 18th. Knowing we would find something to fill the time in between we signed ourselves up. Now, I may make these decisions out to be very simple in nature, but what is important to note is that there are two of us involved in each one. There were plenty of conversations and time given to each person to think through our options as they came to us, which kept things on the up and up once we finally pulled the trigger. Did we agree on everything right away, no, not always, but we have learned to give each other time to work their way through a choice before reacting to their initial feelings about doing it. These are the simple little life lessons that you go through together and which seem to be magnified when travelling and if adhered to, will hopefully only make things even easier down the road as we learn how each other operates. Alright, I think that is enough of my Dr. Phill impression, lets get back on track here!

I will leave off this post by saying that this will not be the last that you hear about Dublin and the many great experiences it has to offer. Our first week in the city staying with James and Jaro was a great introduction to Dublin and Ireland as a whole, but we knew there was so much more to see and do. Each day that passed by we became more and more comfortable with our new surroundings, which brought with it a craving and anticipation for even more!

Cheers,

Shayne & Sherry

Posted by Shewy 10:53 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

Back to Aussie Land for a Visit

Perth to Geraldton - Geraldton to Perth - Perth to.....DUBLIN! 4 jam packed days on the west coast of Australia.

sunny 30 °C

With 15 hours of travel time in the bag, we finally landed back in Perth Australia just after midnight. It was the wee hours of Friday morning and this meant that we were walking into a pretty empty airport. Tired eyes scattered the airport all around us, which included ours and we only had one goal in mind - get to our hostel and find our beds as quickly as possible so we could grab some long overdue shut eye. We booked one nights accommodation at Perth City YHA. It only took us about 25 minutes to get there from the airport and the night guard had no problems checking us in. The building itself is pretty massive and it looks like it could have been some sort of university residence way back when. There would be no lake front/mountain views waiting for us when we rolled out of bed in the morning but that was alright by us, as sleep was the only item that topped our list of things to do at YHA. The late night hostel entry routine was becoming just that for Sherry and I, routine. We went our separate ways to find washrooms and then regrouped, trying to make as quiet of an entry as possible. We had a shared room for four people and, as was expected, the top bunks were left for us. Well, there is really no quiet way to sneak into a top bunk when you are an adult. The bed is creaking, you're trying not to hit your head off of the roof and you just hope when you barrel role over the rail that the whole thing doesn't come crashing down on the unsuspecting person who has likely just nicely gotten to sleep on the bottom bunk. All went well on this "covert ops" entry and after finding some ear plugs to stifle the snoring of our new roommates, we both were counting sheep before long. Morning brought with it an open agenda until about 4:00 pm when we had to be back at the hostel to catch our ride to Geraldton with Damian. Damian is best friends with Angel and Joe and, we are now happy to call him a friend of ours as well. Damian used to teach at the same school as Joe, Angel, Jess and Nigel, but he had recently made the jump to Perth to continue teaching and luckily for us, he was ready to go back to Geraldton to see all his old friends.

After checking our bags into storage at the hostel for the day, we headed out to find breakfast, which was followed by a walk along the Swan river and around the harbour before finally setting out some towels under a park tree where we both opened up our books and just chilled under the shade. The swan river waterfront near Bell Tower is a great place to tour around and it also has ferry transportation to Fremantle if anyone is interested in heading out that way. We just didn't have time in our day to take that all in and so we just chilled. I picked up a copy of Malcolm Gladwell's "David and Goliath" when were flying to Australia and I hadn't had too much time to get into it, so this down time was a welcome chance to dive into it. I won't get into the details of the book but I will go as far as recommending reading it to those that haven't - it is certainly worth looking up. I have enjoyed everyone of Gladwell's books that I have read and this one didn't disappoint. I am admittedly not a big reader, but when I happen to find a book I really like it doesn't usually take me too long to knock it off. The day was perfect for just chilling outdoors and the time passed accordingly. Before we knew it, we had to pack up to meet our ride. Since we got back to the hostel a bit early I had time to sit in the lobby area and watch the cricket match that was on, while Sherry kept watch for Damian (Damo) outside. Damo arrived in style as he popped his pickup truck up over the curb, skimmed past Sherry's feet and then brought it to a graceful resting place in a spot that absolutely in no way resembled a parking spot - that was classic Damo. With no parking on our side of the street he just did what he had to do and made it work. After piling into the truck, we all did our best to ignore the fact that we had a 4 hour drive ahead of us, and the best way to do that was to just start chatting. Damo is a top notch conversationalist, so there was no issue with getting things rolling. We covered a lot of ground in the 4 hours we had together and at no time did we ever enter into that awkward silence as the topics were free flowing from one to the next. There were plenty of laughs had which made the drive pass by even faster. Between funny text messages to our friends waiting in Geraldton, to ridiculous stories from Damo's teaching days, there was no end to the laughter. The part that made this drive even more interesting was that we had only met Damo for 30 minutes a few weeks earlier, prior to this drive, yet you would have thought we knew each other for years. That is a true testament to Damo as a person because he is one of those people that you just gravitate to because of this zest for life and endless knowledge of just about any topic. When we finally rolled back into Geraldton, it was after 9:30 at night but that didn't stop everyone from hanging out until after midnight carrying on with even more stories and even more laughs. Sherry did her best to try and sneak off to bed early, but that good old fear of missing out kept her hanging out on the patio with the rest of us well past the time she planned on staying up until.

Saturday, was a really laid back day as everyone just kind of chilled out and rested in preparation for Damian's night out planned at a local watering hole called the Provincial. Joe had a soccer game that evening and I decided I would head up and check that out before meeting up with everyone down at the bar. Li Fiamma soccer club is where Joe plays his soccer and I had been fortunate enough to meet a lot of the guys he played with when we went on the stag trip a few weeks back. They have a hell of a good bunch of guys on the team, who seemingly come from all over the world. I am happy to say the boys pulled off the preseason win, which they really needed after a couple of rough starts prior to that. The crowd for the game was not massive but, there were those few local fans who had been following the team for years and years and who could be heard doing their best sideline coaching from start to finish. A few quick beers to celebrate the win followed the game, then it was off to join the rest of the crew down at The Provincial. The night only got better from there and in typical fashion, we finished off with some good old MacDonald's burgers and fries. Taking a step back into our time at the provincial I would be remise if I didn't mention the live music we got treated to. A young man, who was tall and slightly awkward looking (no it wasn't me....), took the small stage out on the patio and then proceeded to absolutely blow our minds with his incredible talents. He had an infectious smile and perfectly timed mannerisms about him, along with talents on the guitar and the trumpet which he seamlessly juggled back and forth between as his audience was afraid to blink on the chance that they might miss something. Toss in some beatboxing and the fact that he worked his shy, younger brother into the show and he had us all eating out of the palm of his hand. What was supposed to be a slightly earlier night, did't stand a chance once this guy took the stage!

Our last day in Geraldton was filled with lots of laughs, some goodbye tears and then another conversation filled drive back to Perth with Damo. We made a brief stop to see the Pinnacles (http://www.visitpinnaclescountry.com.au) on our way back to Perth. The Pinnacles are limestone formations which are found in the Cervantes desert and which come with a few differing opinions as to what actually created them. If you are heading along the coast on the Northside of Perth, I would recommend making a stop here. It won't be a long one and you can drive right through instead of getting out to walk around - making stops for photos as you want to. Moving on to Perth we arrived at our hotel for a good nights sleep before catching our flight on over to Dublin. Our accommodations that night were a welcome surprise for Sherry as she thought we were staying in the YHA hostel again, but as an early birthday surprise I thought she might appreciate a tub to soak in and a comfy bed for a good nights rest in, rather then dipping and diving into a hostel for a questionable sleep. We stayed at a place called the Fraser Suits. The prices were reasonably with respect to what you could be paying in most places in Perth and the accommodations were just what the doctor ordered.

It was hard to believe that our time in Australia had come to a close. Western Australia has many great experiences to offer people and many which we didn't even get a chance to take in. If you choose to go North of Geraldton you will not be disappointed and I have tossed in a link to help people who want to look into it a little bit more (http://www.australia.com/en/itineraries/wa-indian-ocean-drive.html) as we certainly didn't get a chance to do everything that was available to us (guess we'll have to go back!). There is snorkelling that apparently tops that of the Great Barrier Reef in all ways at Ningaloo Reef Marine Park. WA often gets passed over for the heavily promoted Gold Coast (which is amazing as well) but if you have time in your travels I would definitely take a peak at what adventures you could find in the West. With old friendships caught up, news ones formed, and hundreds of great memories, it is impossible to look back on our time in Australia as anything but amazing. It was hard to leave it all behind us, but we had an exciting new chapter waiting for us in Ireland. This is where our planning had really come to a stand still as beyond getting to Dublin and staying at an AirBnB for the first week, we hadn't decided on much after that. This was somewhat by design as we wanted to leave some parts of our journey to chance as you never know what opportunities may come knocking once you get to a place. A blank slate was waiting for us and we both waited with nervous anticipation to see what we would start filling it up with!

Cheers,

Shayne and Sherry

Posted by Shewy 05:59 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Queenstown, NZ - a kid in an adventure candy store! (pt. 2)

Flying through forests, gliding beside mountains, canyon free falls and everything in between!

sunny 13 °C

When I left off in the last blog post, I just finished up free falling on the canyon swing and we had enjoyed an incredible dinner looking out over Queenstown. Needless to say we both slept well that evening which made it easier to get up the following morning and pack up our bags to head to our next hostel. We would have loved to have stayed at Bumbles for the rest of our trip but it came as no surprise that it was all booked up. With our bags packed, it was off to our next destination which was Aspen Lodge Backpackers hostel. Travelling light saved us hiring a cab to get to the hostel, as Aspen Lodge is located on the opposite side of the town, since we only had backpacks it really just ended up being a nice morning walk. We couldn't check in right away so we dropped off our bags and headed out for some breakfast. Today was my river fishing trip excursion. I had been doing some research on how to get to the docks and it didn't look like it was too far away, so my game plan was to get there on two feet. This would be cheaper and the exercise never hurts to help work of some of those late night beers. At this point in time my feet were still aching pretty good from all the walking we did in Melbourne and all the touring around we had done in Queenstown, but I didn't think it was bad enough to warrant paying for transportation to the docks. After a pretty light breakfast we made our way back to the hostel, checked into our room and then it was time to make my way to the docks which I was told it would be about a 45 minute walk away. Since Sherry didn't have anything booked to do for the day she tagged along for the walk with plans to just keep on touring around after she dropped me off. The day itself was fairly overcast and even a bit rainy at times but I was dressed for it. As we were walking I kept pulling out our iPad to check how much further we had to go and it wasn't long before I came to the realization that there was no way I was going to make to the boat on time! After unsuccessfully trying to flag a few taxis down it was time to tap into my cross country running skills. In the worst running shoes possible, I took off jogging down the trail in an attempt to make it to the boat on time. One thing I should note here is that I hate being late for things, it drives me crazy when I am late and equally so when other people are late - I guess you could call that my number one pet peeve. As I am running along I could feel the aches in my feet start to get worse as the my shoes were absolute crap for this type of thing, so before long I was looking like a baby deer and feeling about 100 years old. I couldn't even look the people in the eye that I crossed paths with, as I didn't want to see the bewildered looks that I knew they would have on their faces! Well, I finally did make it to the docks just as the boat was being loaded up with the other three passengers, who looked a heck of a lot more comfortable and relaxed then I did. Once I caught my breath I was able to make proper introductions to my boat mates which included two gentlemen from America and one girl from Alberta. With a few bits of information exchanged between ourselves and our boat captain, we set off out onto the lake and then eventually down into the river system where we would do our best to catch some brown and rainbow trout. The fishing trip itself would last about 4 hours as we made 4 different stops along the river before turning and heading back to the docks. Although the weather was pretty chilly and even raining at times, it was hard not to find enjoyment being surrounded by the mountains and doing something that I really enjoyed doing back home in Canada. Lady luck was on my side that day as I was able to catch 2 rainbow trout. Unfortunately for the rest of my group there was only one other fish caught. Now, I typically don't like to complain but our guide didn't really do a whole heck of a lot to earn his paycheque that day. He got everyone rigged up, but then pretty much just hung out fishing by the boat himself. He did come by and snap some photos for you when you caught a fish and would help with snags, but I thought he would have been out walking around and giving out some tips to help increase the odds of his clients catching fish. The business side of my brain was thinking that this dude had a pretty sweet gig going as I knew how much money he was racking in from the four of us, while the other side of brain, lets call it the "wants to see everyone treated fairly side" was pretty disappointed for the rest of the group. Now, did I say anything to the guide at the time, no I didn't. I mean lets be honest, he could have just chosen to leave my skinny butt out there! Did I say anything when we got back to the docks, again, no I didn't. This was the part that I have no good excuse for and which bothers me the most. I like to think that I am one of those people that stands up for what is right and will speak up when the time calls for it, but in this instance I felt like I failed. I mean, the guy was nice enough, but he really didn't seem to do his job from my perspective. Albeit, nobody else seemed too upset about the whole situation, and I even heard the other two gentlemen saying that they had a great time. Who knows, maybe it was all for not, but I think we all struggle to varying degrees when faced with these types of situations in our day to day lives. The struggle really seems to be around putting ourselves out there to express our opinions to others with the intent of rectifying a situation that we believe to be unfair, unjust, or just not right and knowing it could be extremely uncomfortable and awkward with potentially no reward. All that being said, I was glad to have taken the opportunity to go fishing and i think I can say that, because I actually caught fish. Had I been the one that got skunked then my thoughts on the experience might be a bit different.

So, with the fishing behind us, it was now time to get my cold, tired and hungry self back to the hostel (can you hear the violins playing in the background...). Now, there was a bus stop right by the docks, but I had zero cash on me which meant I was going to be tackling the long walk back to town. By this time, my legs, along with my feet, were feeling pretty craptastic, and all I could think about was getting back to the hostel and soaking in a hot shower. The walk took over an hour and during that time I did everything I could to ignore the pain in my legs but I was pretty damn close to just stopping at one of the other hotels along the way and booking another room for the night just so I could soak in the tube for the night - but common sense prevailed and i carried on, making it back just shortly after Sherry had completed her tour around the Queenstown area. I was completely gassed and going out for food was the last thing on my mind, but we were both hungry as heck. It was at this time that we remembered the Fergburger tip about ordering them ahead and then just walking in to pick them up! Sherry, who can chalk me up for an IOU on this one, made the phone call, ordered the burgers and went down to pick them up the burgers, plus some milkshakes, while my sorry ass laid in bed after a nice hot shower. She is too good to me! Now, I should explain that the Fergburger is hugely sought after Queenstown experience . These burgers are quite famous, as evidenced by the 1.5-2 hour line-ups that people wait in to get them. The locals will often tell you that Devil Burger is better, but unfortunately we didn't make it there to give our thoughts on them. What I can say for sure is that the Fergburger was pretty damn good. It is absolutely huge and is more than enough to fill you up on its own. I am pretty sure Guy Fieri would have this place on triple D if he made it to Queenstown for a show. I am sure it will be no surprise to anyone that Sherry and I had an early night as we entered the food coma zone once we finished up our dinner.

The next morning it was time to go zip-lining and this adventure would take us back up to Bob's Peak. This is the same place where the Stratosphere Restaurant is and where we had my birthday dinner. Bob's Peak goes seemingly straight up for about 450 meters behind the centre of Queenstown and is easily accessed by a short but scenic gondola ride. You will frequently come across mountain bikers who can easily load their bikes on the gondola to get up to the peak where they will dismount and fly down the mountain at breakneck speeds leaving bystanders with jaws dropped. The other way that you can get too the top of Bob's Peak is on foot through their well maintained trail system. The walk itself takes about 45-60 minutes, which doesn't sound too bad but I should note that it also doesn't really have too many flat spots to allow to you catch your breath and rest your legs. With feet and legs hurting from the day before you would think this would have been the last way we would have got to the zip-line, but in fact, this is exactly how we got to the top. With better shoes on my feet the hike actually turned out pretty good. There are a few stops along the way to stop and catch your breath while looking out over the town and you also get an up close and personal view of the crazy mountain bikers who are flying down the mountainside. When we finally made it to the top, we had both worked up a bit of a sweat, which then quickly turned into a chilled feeling as the cold air brought our body temperatures back down to a normal place. The company we would be zipping with was Eco Trek Tours. They have a few different line combinations to chose from which helps with managing costs for those that are on a strict budget but that still want to take in the experience. Sherry and I chose to go for the whole enchilada and signed up for the 6 line tour, which included one of the worlds steepest zip-lines. These guys had safety front and centre right from the start and it was evident all the way through our high flying tour down the mountain. They even had extra gloves, toques and jackets on hand in case you hadn't properly dressed for the weather. Our group had about 10-12 people in it, with one lady catching everybody's attention as she was well into her 70's but age was non factor as she was up there rocking each and every jump like she was 25. I can only hope that I am living like that when I get to that time in my life. Each time we would get to a new zip-line our guides would stop and give us some information about the local area and explain why some things are the way they are and then they would give you a challenge to accomplish on your next zip-line. Sherry and I had a lot of fun with this as we were zipping along upside down and doing lots of fun crazy tricks to show each other up each time we came to a new zip-line. This was no canyon swing, but I had a heck of a lot of fun cruising through the bushes and looking out over spectacular Lake Wakatipu. The guides we had helped to make this a really enjoyable day as well by tossing in humour and having lots of fun themselves as they made sure we all safely reached our final landing zone near the base of Bob's Peak. The experience itself was even more meaningful for Sherry as this was yet another opportunity to challenge her body to see just how far along she had come over the last few years since all of her concussion issues. Well, as the picture will make clear, she knocked this one out of the park. She was twisting and flipping and gliding upside down every chance she had. I am happy to say she walked out of there feeling great, both physically and mentally for having faced another challenge on her list of things to do. For me, I was just happy to be there to share in it with her. Way back in the day when Sherry and I were dating and she was going through her health challenges, she gave me the chance to get out and not look back as she felt she was burdening me too much with her health issues. My simple response was, no, and that I wanted to be around for the days when she got better and started getting back to being the person she wanted to be. That day of zip-lining, as simple as it may seem, was yet another example of one of those moments I was looking forward to being apart of and why I didn't "pull the shoot" when given the chance. It is the struggles of the past that really make you appreciate the good times in life no matter how big or small they may seem to others.

For those of you who have been keeping track of time, you will know that our zip-line trip was taking place on good old St. Patricks Day! When we got back to our room, we got some rest and relaxation, then we found a nice little restaurant to eat at where we played some pool and I tried out a couple of pints local brew as a pre-paddy warm up. Now, I should likely tell you that there are not just a few people from Ireland in Queenstown, there are tones! There is a bit of a joke that if all the Irish are there, then who the heck is in Ireland? So it I am sure it goes without say with so many Irish folk on hand that Sherry and I had a blast on St. Patricks day. We tried out a couple of different pubs which were both playing live Irish music. Pog Mahones was where we settled in for the night and it was an absolute blast. The Guinness was free flowing and delicious, while the musicians had the crowds dancing and singing into the wee hours of the morning. At one point we found ourselves right up against the stage area where Sherry was showing off her coordinated dance moves with her new friend, while I was doing my best lip sync impressions letting on like I knew all the words to the Irish songs I was only hearing for the first or second time. It was deadly! What a night! Probably the coolest part was watching what I like to call "real time six degrees of separation". It all starts with stopping to talk to one person, who then introduces you to someone they just met from another country, who in turn met two other people from yet another different country and so on, until before you know it you have a nice little group of new people who you would swear knew each other forever the way they are carrying on with each other. With my belly topped to brim with Guinness and Sherry amazingly danced out, pillows found our heads around 1:00 am that night...St. Patrick you win again!

Our last full day in Queenstown was fairly relaxed as we grabbed some smoothies and walked around the park just chilling and trying our best to take it all in before we left. We even made a stop at the local hockey rink to check it out. The ice was out, but it was still really neat to stumble into a place that was so familiar to both of us from growing up in rural Ontario. Had someone asked me a true or false question 2 weeks prior about whether there was ice hockey in New Zealand, I would have not hesitated in saying false, but I was very much proven wrong and there are even some good old Canadian boys still living the dream playing for teams in the NZIHL. With our last day in the bag, it was just a matter of getting some rest and then getting up for 15 hours of travel time which would land us back in Perth before heading back up to Geraldton to see Joe and Angel again for a few days. Although Sherry and I obviously jam packed our 7 days with lot's of adventure sports, which are not always budget friendly, it is important to know there are still lots of amazing free or much cheaper things you can do to entertain yourself while still getting a great experience in Queenstown. I have attached a link to the website for Queenstown which is a good starting spot for anyone who is interested in checking out this adventure island http://www.queenstownnz.co.nz/information/Maps/. When we flew out of Queenstown the following morning I was found myself with mixed emotions as I felt like there was so much more I wanted to experience in New Zealand as a whole, not just Queenstown, but at the same time I was so very content with the time we did spend there. It was just another amazing example of what this big old world has to offer and we are so fortunate for having the opportunity to experience. I know that is something that I have said in other posts, but every time I think back over our adventures I feel guilty for not acknowledging just how lucky we are. Well thats all for now, it is off across a bunch of time zones and back to Geraldton Australia...mmmmm air plane food! hahaha

Cheers,

Shayne and Sherry

Posted by Shewy 05:41 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

Queenstown, NZ - a kid in an adventure candy store! (pt. 1)

Flying through forests, gliding beside mountains, canyon free falls and everything in between!

sunny 14 °C

Finally, the time was here, it was a day I had been anxiously waiting on since we had booked it, it was time to make our way to New Zealand and I was pumped! New Zealand had been on my radar since we made up our mind to spend time in Australia. The photos I had seen during my research and the stories that I heard from friends and colleagues who had travelled their themselves, made me even more positive about my desire to visit what sounded like a pretty magical playground. There was not one bad thing I heard about travelling in New Zealand and I wasn't going to miss out on the chance to create our own stories when we were so close to it. So, now you know a little bit about why we decided on New Zealand, let's not wait any longer to get into the details of our 7 incredible days in adventure paradise!

I actually did manage to get some sleep the night before our flight, but I was awake well before our alarm at 5:30am, popping out of bed and clearing myself out of the room like a mini fire drill was taking place. When you are staying in a room with 4 other people that you do not know, you have to make sure you are executing the quietest fire drill possible though, which I think we did pretty well at considering we had to move all our luggage out, plus try and make sure we didn't leave anything important laying around. After rustling Sherry up from her sleep we moved our operation out into the hallway where we checked and double checked to make sure we didn't leave anything laying around in the dark. All was in order and we had no issues getting to the airport on time. Taxi was our choice for transportation again due to our early flight and because the airport bus would have taken 1.5 hours to get us there and that was valuable sleep which I was not willing to sacrifice just to save a few bucks (it was literally just a few bucks). After a little sorting out of our boarding passes with the airline staff, who were visibly and vocally thrilled about the new passenger self help boarding system, (for the Sheldon Coopers in the crowd, that was sarcasm haha) we boarded our flight and were on our way. We had a 3.5 hour flight ahead of us that would land us right in Queenstown, which is located on the south island of New Zealand. As usual, I should have taken this time to grab some sleep but that just wasn't happening. Sleep was 100% out of the equation once the clouds started to part and I saw the incredible mountainous landscape below us . This was the first time in my 30 plus years that I had seen mountains before, let alone the expansive ranges that made up the landscape as far as the eye could see below us. I found myself bobbing and weaving my head around my tiny little plane window in an attempt to stay in constant line of site of this new experience. I would tap Sherry on the arm trying to get her to look out the window, which I knew was a lost cause as flying isn' t her favourite thing to begin with, but I thought I would at least try - she wouldn't even look at me hahaha - she just kept shaking her head at me and buried her face in her book further and further, in an attempt to ignore me. The jaw dropping views only got better as the plane continued its decent into the airport. Mountains surrounded us on both sides of the plane and in comparison to their size, at times it felt as though we were in a small bush plane rather than the large passanger plane we were on. Bright blue rivers cut their way through the mountain range bases and larger lakes began appearing at their mouths - Sherry had to remind me to blink every once and a awhile as we approached our landing. If you can schedule your flight into Queenstown so that you are landing in daytime you will certianly be getting full value for your money! Hell, just schedule every possible flight for the daytime because I don't know how you could ever get bored of that experience. As I am sure you are all wondering by now, did the plane ever land Shayne?! Well the answer of course is yes and we both couldn't wait to get out of our seats to get even closer to the beautiful land around us. After sneaking in a quick photo on the Tarmac and being told to move on by airport security, it was time to wait in a lengthy customs line before we finally grabbed a cab to take us to Bumbles Backpackers hostel where we would be staying for the first 4 nights. In hindsight we could have grabbed a bus for cheaper, but we landed ourselves a really friendly cab driver who offered tones of great advice about how to spend our time while in Queenstown, plus he gave a crucial local insider tip about how to order a Fergburger without having to wait in the 2 hour lineup (will explain what a Fergburger is later).

Queenstown is a far cry from some of the large and sometimes overwhelming cities we found ourselves in during recent stops. With a population of around 30,000, it is quite small and comes with all the small town feels that you might expect. If you are staying in the town centre (which we were) everything you need is within walking distance. Great food options, endless tour operators, links to beautiful walking trails and a friendly helping hand just about everywhere you turn. Now, mind you, a lot of the crazy adventures you may get yourself signed up for are outside of the town but you will be given transport by the operators to get there when you sign up.

When we checked into our hostel we were absolutely overwhelmed by the adventure opportunities that were at our finger tips. The reception area of Bumbles Backpackers was covered with pamphlets that were organized by air, land and water adventure categories. We just started grabbing whatever caught our eye and it wasn't long before we had a pretty big stack to look over and with information in hand we headed up to our room to unpack and get settled. We lucked out pretty good as our private room looked out directly at the mountain ranges and over the sparkling blue Lake Wakatipu. One of the most prominent mountain ranges in our line of sight was called "The Remarkable's", which are famous for a couple of reasons. For one, it is one of only two mountain ranges in the world that runs directly from the north to the south of a country and the second being that it has been used for many famous films, most notably being Lord of the Rings. It was quite surreal that this was what we would be waking up to for the next 4 mornings. A sense of calm and relaxation permeated through me, it was paradise and I was instantly in love with it all. Pamphlets in hand, we made our way down towards the harbour area in search of a place to top up our bellies and to start figuring out what crazy adventures we wanted to try our hand at while in Queenstown. We grabbed an outdoor seat at "The Pub on Wharf" which gave us a great view of the waterfront and allowed us to take in all that was around us while, well me anyways, sipping away on a delicious pint of beer. We had seven days in Queenstown and we wanted to ensure we maximized our time while there so we needed to be somewhat strategic in what we selected to do, while doing our best to be mindful of cost, but I am not going to lie, budget was blown while here! It wasn't the food or drink that really put us out of joint with our budget, but rather all the crazy adventure sports we decided to take on. The saying, "You Only Live Once" was front and centre in our decision making for the entire week! After narrowing down our choices, downing another delicious pint while listening to a young street performer entertain the patio goers with some pretty amazing acoustic guitar, it was time to head on back to our hostel for some rest and relaxation. It would have been quite easy to sit at the table all night and do my best to drink that keg dry, but better judgement prevailed and we packed in what had been a great introduction to Queenstown. Okay, we stopped at one more pub (The Find) before packing it in....but that was it, I promise hahaha.

The next morning it was time to get booking our adventures. This turned out to be very convenient and enjoyable as all we had to do was walk down to reception at our hostel and chat with the wonderfully friendly Denise. We had a full roster of things we wanted to book and she was amazing through it all - she even jumped in to offer cheaper or better options for your money and the best part was she had done them all so she knew what she was talking about. This might sound like an up sell to some readers, but I can tell you for sure that it was 100% genuine and she had our best interest at hand. When it was all said and done, here is what our week would look like: Saturday - Paragliding, Sunday (my birthday) - Canyon Swing and dinner at Skyline Stratosphere Restaurant and Bar, Monday - River Fishing trip, Tuesday- Zip-line, Wednesday - nothing planned, and Thursday - Fly back to Australia. We could have certainly tucked a few of these things into the same day but we wanted to keep a nice balance of being able to enjoy the town and getting the old heart pumping in the same day. For the rest of Friday we spent our time cruising around the town checking out all the little shops and stores. The sun was out, but the temperatures were not all that hot which made for a pretty comfortable time touring the town. Not much shopping took place during our day as we still hadn't got over the sticker shock in New Zealand, plus we just didn't need for anything. Thankfully our Canadian dollar was doing a bit better then the NZ dollar because things are expensive - 9-10 dollar pints and $150 sweaters are just a few examples of the cost of living in NZ. It is was quite common to run into the same waiter who served you one night at the pub, working down the street at a clothing shop just to be able to afford livingNZ (especially Queenstown). Our night settled with some pizza and beer for me, a green smoothie for Sherry and a movie on the iPad which was just alright with me after all the fresh air from our touring around.

Saturday would be the beginning of our outdoor adventures and, I will just make note now that we had both never taken part in the things we signed up for, with the only exception being my fishing trip. Paragliding was first on the docket. We were brought to the top of a mountain where we were weighed up so we could be properly paired with a guide and then it was not long before we were flying off the mountain, taking in all the amazing views. We were strapped into a seat which was attached to our guide who did most of the driving but who did give over the reins to us if we wanted to give it a try and of course we both did. Just for clarity purposes, Sherry and I were on separate gliders, in fact she went down about 20 minutes after I did, so I was able to watch her flying down and then eventually landing at the base of the mountain. The weather was absolutely perfect, which made for some really cool shots on the "GoPro" that our guide brought down with us. The ride itself only takes about 15-20 minutes and it seemingly goes by faster then that, as one you take off, you feel you could stay up there forever if the weather and views stayed just like they were that day. With the weather being so great, Sherry and I decided to jump on board a lake cruise (Million Dollar Cruise) when we got back into Queenstown. This cruise would take us for a guided tour around Lake Wakatipu and gave us a chance to take in even more of the scenery while getting some detailed insight from our captain who kept things very light and informative. The cruise itself only takes about 1.5 hours and I would highly recommend it. There are other cruises that go out of the harbour and in all honesty we didn't look into those all that much as this one grabbed our eye first so we literally just jumped on it. The evening brought a welcome surprise as Sherry remembered from talking to her paragliding guide that there was going to be a paragliding stunt show that evening that could be viewed from the beach area right by the docks. People began gathering around all over the beach. We sat perched up on a rock wall outlining the beach, while people worked their way around the water near us setting up a landing pad for the gliders made out of white water rafts in the water. The show did not disappoint whatsoever as paraglider after paraglider came sailing down from above the Skyline Stratosphere Restaurant and Bar, otherwise known as "way the hell up in the mountains". These talented men and women would do some pretty intense spins out over the water before trying to excite the crowded beachfront by sticking a landing on the rafts. The show was not without a few hair raising moments with included one paraglider spinning a little too out of control and having to pull his emergency shoot, while on two other occasions we watched paragliders suspending themselves hundreds of meters over the lake and then with no warning they would drop a person from their strapping and that person would free fall towards the water, pulling their own base jumper shoot just in time before they splashed down in the water. This was freaking nuts! It was hard to believe what we were watching could even be real at times. It was really cool that we had been paragliding ourselves just that morning as that gave us an even greater appreciation for what we were watching that evening. It is these types of unexpected experiences that always seem to standout and bring a big smile to your face when you are traveling....sure it is always nice when plans go as expected but its the pleaseant surprises that can really take your day to the next level of enjoyment.

When morning rolled around I was successful in brushing away the cobwebs created by a night of Guinness and live Irish music in a downtown pub. This was a good thing because it was my birthday and I was going to throw myself off the worlds tallest canyon swing. As we sat in the downtown office waiting for our transportation to arrive we watched videos of Jack Osborne completing his jumps when he was filming his adventure show a few years back. It looked crazy and it looked fun as hell! Everybody was sitting around with nervous anticipation about what we were all about to take part in. Fear and anxiousness can be an interesting bonding agent as we all would toss out a comment here and there and those comments would be met by nervous laughter all around. As you will see in the photos, we couldn't have asked for a better day. The canyon water was bright blue with the exception of intermittent white waters which broke up the calmness. Just so everyone can get a picture of what we were walking into - the canyon swing is 109 metres high and consists of a 60 metre free fall, which is followed by a 200 metre swing through the canyon below. You can choose to go off the platform however you like, and there are suggestions galore in case your creative mojo is not operating due to the increasing fear of what you are about to do. One guy that came with us decided to go off with his skateboard duct tapped to his feet! After watching a few of my new friends take the plunge and then be hauled back up to safety, it was my time to go and I chose to jump off backwards. Kinda of figured if it was all going to go bad I would rather not watch it happen! The guys that are running the jump like to mess with you a bit. You take a few photos and then it is up to you to take the plunge on your own or they will shove you off when you least expect it (its actually pretty funny when this happens). My nerves were in hyperdrive but I was not backing down. The only part that really freaked me out was when you are standing just a few feet back from the edge and are shuffling around to get into position. Once I was leaned out over the canyon, it was game on as I bent my knees pushing back towards the open air. Almost instantly there were involuntary noises being pushed from my chest and out of my mouth. I tried my best to hold my relaxed looking pose but the old legs and arms definitely started to flail a bit as I searched for something solid to hold onto. Once I reached the bottom of the free fall the swing caught me and I was gliding through the canyon and it really does feel like you are flying for a bit. I couldn't hold back the adrenalin induced excitement that was flowing through my body as I began shouting out some waaahooooos while gliding back and forth in the canyon. When the swing settled down, the guys hauled me back to the top and the entire time I made my ascent to the platform I was grinning ear to ear. Now, since there was time available to do a second jump for a fee that was a fraction of what we paid before, I wasn't going to pass up on that opportunity. I decided to do a jump called "gimp boy goes to hollywood" where they hang you upside down over the canyon and then release you whenever the heck they feel like it. What the hell, why not, right? Well, the first jump was intense but this jump was even crazier but just as fun. Again, it was the time where I was standing at the edge waiting to go out over the canyon that was the most nerve racking but once they had me hanging over the canyon I was more relaxed for some weird reason. More flailing, with no involuntary noises and some yelling during the canyon swing part were what made up this jump for me. It was an absolute blast, and when I finally walked off the platform and back up to see Sherry who had been nervously watching me from the viewing deck, I had the biggest smile on my face. What a way to kick off being 32! I will never forget that one as long as I live and thats maybe what is so special about it. In the past I have found that birthdays really started to come and go without any significance, which is quite unfortunate when you think about it. I am not saying you have to do something extreme to appreciate your birthday, but it is a day that is worth doing something that will help you to remember it and to make it as special as it deserves to be. Life goes by way to fast to not enjoy such a significant milestone as your birthday. When we finally arrived back at our hostel from this tour we got ourselves dressed up and made our way up the gondola to the Skyline Stratosphere Restaurant and Bar. The bar had an amazing view out over Queenstown, Lake Wakatipu and the surrounding mountain ranges. As we sat down for dinner the sun started to fall behind the mountains casting shadows across the landscape - it was really hard to believe we were sitting and eating with all this beauty below us. Dinner was another one of those moments where you felt that what is taking place was so surreal but at the same time it gives you that undeniable reassurance that you have made the right choice in doing what you have chosen to do. The meal itself was amazing, with it all ending by stuffing ourselves with way too many desserts but they were all just to damn good to resist. A serene gondola ride brought us back to the base in Queenstown where we made our way to the hostel and tossed ourselves into our bunks as the food coma's fully took over. What an amazing day....What an amazing Birthday! I felt extremely blessed that day. It wouldn't have been nearly as incredible without Sherry there nervously watching me take those canyon swings and keeping me company during our dinner. There really is something to be said about having just the right person with you to share in and ultimately enhance your experiences in life - I am pretty damn lucky that I have Sherry for that. Okay, Okay....I better pump the breaks on that mushy stuff before I have to turn in my "man card" hahaha.

Well, there is plenty more to talk about in Queenstown, but I am going to have to enter into part two of this journey in separate post as I just did a quick scroll back up the page and realized that things are getting pretty drawn out here. Hopefully I didn't lose anyone along the way. Part two won't be long in getting posted as we have finally landed back in a home base for a bit so I can keep cracking at it.

Cheers,

Shayne and Sherry

Posted by Shewy 10:07 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

(Entries 6 - 10 of 19) « Page 1 [2] 3 4 »