A Travellerspoint blog

Lake Taupo, Tongariro National Park and Wellington

sunny 23 °C
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We headed next on our tiki tour to Taupo, stopping firstly at the Huka Falls on the Waikoto River. They were fairly impressive falls - the water is impossibly blue and clear. We also saw a Jetboat (a NZ invention they won’t let you forget!) speeding up towards the river and scaring to death the passengers on it. We stayed at Reid’s Farm – a free campsite (left to backpackers by a friendly local when he died, how nice) further upstream from the falls which is truly beautiful if you can stand the smell of the composting toilets wafting in at intervals in the day. We found a spot right by the river and Richard naturally jumped in it. We had the botched plan of getting as close to the water as possible which backfired when we realised it was muddy and we couldn’t get out as the hitop is rear wheel drive! Luckily some other campers gave us a push back up the hill.


Next day we had a sort out day which was a bit boring but necessary to get everything booked you want to do – there are still lots of tourists around despite it getting towards the end of summer here. We went to Taupo and bought some gloves and hats for the hike we would be doing in a few days and Richard picked up some cheap hiking boots for an amazing $39.99! Top quality goods. We stopped off at the visitor information to plan for our trip to the Tongariro National Park and were met with a much different attitude than in Rotorua! The assistant there was a right miserable cow, reminding us why we never go to these places – because they try to flog you stuff you don’t want. We also realised how skint we are becoming! We went back to Reid’s Farm and did some much needed budgeting which is always a bit tense. We realised in the end there is nothing we can do about it apart from be really cheap from now on! We decided to forget about it and jumped in the river instead! The rapids took us both flying away downstream where we clung on to the island in the middle and got chatting to some British guys who were doing the same thing! We had to swim for our lives through the rapids over to the calm part of the river to climb up the bank. Joy was slightly scared for her life and didn’t do it again but Richard kept going back for more despite the fact he’d seen the Huka Falls (downstream) in all their power the day before!


The next day we left the campsite and headed to Whakapapa (much to our amusement we found out that a ‘Wh’ is pronounced ‘F’), after one last little stop at the Thermal Spa – another free hot spring on our handwritten maps. We had a dip, Richard opting for jumping in off the bridge then panicking about getting amoebic meningitis in his ears all the way to Whakapapa but eventually decided it was ok because it was where the hot water joins the river and the river water would have ‘flushed it out’.


We got to the campsite and began preparing for our walk the next day – all 19.5kms of it. We had to get up at 6am to make the bus there, but we managed it and both completed the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, in a fairly decent 7 hours, without serious injury or whingeing (although Joy was walking like Kryton from Red Dwarf for about three days afterwards). It was beautiful, despite being pretty scary at the top with the 45kmph winds seemingly determined to pluck you from the ridge walk and send you careening to your death. We saw the emerald lakes and the massive blue lake, but visibility was poor when we got to the top as the clouds had moved in pretty early in the day. The last couple of hours of the walk are pretty dull sadly (if you go from Mangetapopo to Katehi Carpark) as it is all downhill and seems to go on forever! We would recommend going the other way round to anyone considering it, though that would mean a few hours of uphill first before the good bits! Parts of ‘Lord of the Rings’ were filmed in Tongariro but we will have to watch it again to try and see if we can recognise anything! We did recognise Mount Doom which is actually Mt Ngauruhoe – an active volcano. There is the option of climbing to the crater of Mt Ngauruhoe which would take an extra 3 hours but our coach driver, Dave (essentially Murray from Flight of the Conchords), warned us off it because of the high winds. We didn’t fancy getting blown into the crater of an active volcano.


The next day Richard was hoping to do the climb up Mt Ruapehu but the weather had deteriorated with snow down to 900m. It would have been a guided walk but it was going to cost $90 to essentially walk up a volcano in the clouds and all the photos would have been of 3ft of mountain and a load of clouds, rain and possibly snow. Taking all this into account Richard decided not to go. Joy was relieved as she felt it would have been a bit dangerous (what with the poor weather and the fact it is classified as a ‘highly active volcano’). We moved on from Whakapapa and headed to the free DOC campsite in Manakau, passing some sheep on the way! Had to take some touristy photos. We had a barbecue out of the back of our camper, shielded from the rain by our boot, and tucked into our duty free Jim Beam.


We had the good fortune of arriving in Wellington not only on a Saturday (free parking, good places to go out!) but also whilst the New Zealand International Arts Festival was being held – a month long festival of art, dance, literature, theatre, cinema and general good vibes. We parked up near the harbour and went to the Visitor Centre (via an art gallery showing the work of local artist Paul Forrest – very good), to try to locate a free overnight camping facility the Escape guide had recommended. Thus followed a trip up Cuba Street – generally recognised as the quirkier more studenty part of town. We came across some really good shops including the Recycled Boutique – a shop where customers can bring their unwanted clothes for the shop to sell (for which they receive 50% of the profits and can withdraw their clothes anytime they want if they change their minds). Kind of like a charity shop but with a slightly better quality of stock! There are lots of record stores, independent clubs and pubs and cafes. Unfortunately the Kruzberg Cafe, where the camper parking was supposed to be had actually decided not to set up the overnight parking facility and Escape had gone to print before this had been confirmed! Damn. Luckily, as it was the weekend there were plenty of places to park up for free and we actually managed two free nights right by the harbour (without any hassle at all) on the Oriental Parade - NZ’s equivalent of the French Riviera, they say!

Firstly, we had a wander around the harbour with the intention of checking out Te Papa, the Museum of New Zealand. It is free to enter and hosts a brilliant array of displays over four floors including plenty specific to New Zealand’s geography, geology and animals not to mention Maori culture, British colonisation and European and Asian migration over the past hundred odd years. It was very interesting and well worth the visit. Right next to Te Papa is Mac’s brewery, a large brewery and bar with seating right by the harbour, so in the interest of being thorough in our research of Wellington we decided to sample a couple of local brews. We decided to be good and headed back to the camper to have our tea before venturing out at night to sample the nightlife. We headed to Mighty Mighty, back on Cuba Street which for a $5 cover charge allowed us to sample a few more local brews and see a couple of local bands. The first act was pretty pants – an emo kid with a synthesiser. The second band were great though, the lead singer looked like a young Daniel Johns and sang a bit like him crossed with Jim Morrison. The music was very Pixies/Nirvana and we decided to have a good dance on the dancefloor with the indie kids. Thank goodness we will never see any of them again as we gave it our absolute all. We headed back to the camper having enjoyed a brilliant night.


We woke up at a decent(ish – all things considered) hour and Richard opted for a swim in the harbour to wake himself up. It was freezing but having seen an 80 year old woman going for a dip earlier he couldn’t exactly back out. He made it to a little pontoon about 200 metres out where he met a woman in a wetsuit who said “you’re very brave” but was too cold to reply before diving back in and heading back to the warmth of the camper. We started our day by wandering through the streets towards the cable car, passing the Wellington Library which had an exhibition of the work of Seraphine Pick on as part of the art festival. We had a little look but Richard said ‘It’s too wierd for me’ and opted to look at some photo-documentaries depicting various NZ issues while Joy enjoyed the exhibition in peace. It was very good, kind of like a NZ Frida Kahlo. When we wandered off again we noticed that there were installations all over town entitled ‘Revenge of the Mannequins’ and several streets and shops had mannequins doing all sorts of weird and wonderful things including some firemen ‘putting out’ a fire – there was smoke and everything! We read in the paper the next day this had lead to several concerned calls to the fire brigade. It also would have stopped a few cars from being able to see a junction but we admired that Wellingtonians don’t have overly-stringent and overbearing health and safety laws!


We found the cable car and for $3 each headed up to the botanic gardens where we found a tree which had the inner branches chopped out so you could climb up for a view of the city. Naturally we had a climb, though again this wasn’t the easiest thing in the world with our hangovers (why do we always climb trees when we’re hungover?) There is also the Carter Observatory at the top of the gardens – supposedly very good – but much to our disappointment it was undergoing remodelling work and wouldn’t be open til the end of March. Boooo. From the entrance to the botanic gardens there is a route you can take (demarcated by flowers painted on the pavement) which leads you all through the gardens and back into town. We had a slow wander through and were particularly impressed by the rose garden at the bottom. There must have been about fifty different types of roses which were still looking lovely despite it being the beginning of autumn.


Our next stop was the parliamentary building to have a look and we decided it looked like the part you pull out of a hoover to dispose of the dust. That’s pretty much all we can think to say about that, not one to write home about. We headed back through the harbour (finding a second brass sculpture of a swimmer, this one looking a bit less excited about his potential swim) and found some more arts festival fun in the form of some poetry fridge magnets. We stopped and had a go, Richard’s poems always ended up being violent and Joy’s were a bit depressing. We’re blaming this on the choice of words though rather than any indication of our personalities!


Later we headed to Mount Victoria, a vantage point in the middle of the city between the CBD and the airport. It was an excellent view and we saw the benefits of moving to a new country and planning the cities whilst aware of the downsides of British cities. Wellington was purposely planned with plenty of green spaces all around it so that the urban crowds can still enjoy parks and wildlife – you’re never more than 10 minutes away from some substantial countryside or a beach in Wellington!


On our way back to our 'preferred camping spot' we found a park where Richard had a go on the climbing wall. We had wanted to go to the NZ Film Institute as it is free to watch any New Zealand film in a little room (like at the library), however it’s not open on Sundays! Damn. We really wanted to watch a film and save our pennies especially as some of Joy’s favourite films are NZ films (well, The Piano and Mysterious Creatures but there were also recommendations in our Rough Guide which sounded really good.) We read in the paper the next day that in tribute to the NZ film industry, the local council are putting up a sign saying ‘Wellywood’ visible from the city! Imagine! We wandered instead to the cinema on Courtenay Street in the hope of finding out it would be really cheap to go and see Alice in Wonderland in 3D. It wasn’t, so we opted for a wander around the harbour one last time before giving up and watching Seven Years in Tibet on the netbook! The next day we would catch our ferry to the South Island for the next stage of our adventure...


Posted by RichardJoy 16:53 Archived in New Zealand Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Auckland, Northlands, Coromandel Peninsula and Bay of Plenty

sunny 24 °C
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The flight to Auckland on Air New Zealand went very well and it was lovely to fly in luxury for the first time on our travels! The food was acceptable (and we stuffed it down even though we’d eaten breakfast at the hostel) and the in-flight entertainment was brilliant. Every seat has a screen behind the headrest and there is music, film, TV and games on offer for diddly squat! We are ashamed to say we opted to watch ’17 Again’ with Zac Efron and Chandler Bing due to wanting something easy on the brain. Before we knew it we had landed in sunny Auckland! We got some NZDs and then hopped on a shuttle straight to the door of our accommodation – Fat Camel. The hostel was five minutes stroll to the harbour and close to many bars and slightly seedier clubs (and a brothel next door). We dropped off our bags in the room which had a comfy looking double bed and a decent view of the city (even though it was downtown city). We were informed not all double rooms in the hostel had windows, which would have been pretty grim for an extended stay, but considering it was cheaper, we thought the hostel was much nicer (and staff much friendlier) than the YHA in Coolangatta.


We decided to go for a walk round the town as it was only about 4pm when we were all sorted. We had a look in some tat shops where we purchased an ‘I (heart) NZ’ flip flop shaped fridge magnet for some bizarre reason then had a stroll to the supermarket to get some noodles for tea and some cereal for breakfast. We decided on our way back to go for a local beer (‘Tui’) at the Rose and Crown(!) round the corner from our hostel. There we met Ray, a coach driver for AAT Kings (a coach tour company) who regularly travels around NZ, learned his life story and decided we’d all go to Fat Camel for one as it was cheaper. Ray left after giving us some good tips of places to go and we decided to go back to the room before cashing in the ‘1 free entree meal’ ticket the hostel had kindly given us. We came down at 7 to do this and found it was piss tiny, about 4 nachos and a teaspoon of chilli. We made the most of the 2 for 1 beers for an hour or so before retiring to the room to eat said noodles. In the ‘flat’ we met a Belgian couple who were doing pretty much the same trip as us but backwards! We gave them lots of tips on travel in Australia and they gave us tips on the good places to go in Asia. We went to bed ready to pick up the camper bright and early in the morning!


We got up bright and early, left our bags at the hostel then wandered to Escape to pick up our camper! Unfortunately, there was a large crack in the windscreen of the one we would have otherwise been able to take. We were gutted as the Escape dude said to come back four hours later to see what the progress was – there was a chance we wouldn’t get a camper til the next day which irked us somewhat. We did manage to snaffle some good books from the book exchange though, there seemed to be a high standard of books there! We decided it was acceptable to take lots as we’d have about 10 between us to give away before we left the country so the karma would be restored. We left all our stuff at Escape and wandered to the harbour again, through the city and for a look at the sky tower. On our way there we met a French couple who had just sold their camper and were their way to Gold Coast! They had a box full of camper goodies they didn’t need any more so they handed it over to us as we were just starting our trip. In it was a box full of weights and hooks for fishing they’d clearly bought as a nice little set. Amongst many other little bits and bobs there were some teabags and a copy of ‘the Edge of Reason’ by John Paul Sartre! It was strange but nice to get a little goodie box and lifted our spirits. We dropped it back at the camper place with our bags then headed to Albert Park to see what was going on. It was the weekend of the Auckland Lantern Festival so there were lots of lanterns and displays there which would have looked awesome at night but we had already decided to leave for the Northlands that afternoon if we got the camper. Freecamping in the city is always risky business.


We headed back to Escape at 3 to see if there was any progress, which there was! So we filled out all the forms and crud and then got in our camper. We managed to turn up just at the right time to get a hi-top which was good news for Richard! It also had some good art on it, Maori themed with some faces on with Moko (tattoos), a big Tiki on the back and some Maori weaving sprayed on the driver’s side. We headed up the motorway, stopped at the Pak n Save to stock up and kept going til we reached Waipu where we would visit the caves in the morning. We camped up at a rest stop overlooking the sea. (And right next to a dual carriageway but nevermind.)

We got up at a decent hour and headed to the caves! We only had Richard’s headtorch and the little windup torches that Pete (H) had given us so we were a little concerned at first when getting into the slippy, muddy pitch blackness. We soon heard voices coming from inside and spoke briefly to some Canadians who had been wandering through the caves in flip flops! We realised it wasn’t quite the treacherous potholing experience we had been fearful of and so headed deeper into the caves, eventually coming across hundreds upon hundreds of glowworms and some mighty examples of stalagmites and stalactites!


When we were done spelunking we hit the road and headed for the Bay of Islands. The weather had cleared up and it was super sunny so we went for a paddle in the sea and had a brew in the sun. Not far from the bay was Waitangi, perhaps unsurprisingly where the treaty of Waitangi was signed. We wandered around the treaty grounds and gardens, took some silly photos of us in a big war canoe and set off to get a few more kilometres behind us before camping up. We wound up at Wirinaki at a basic privately owned campsite in the hills. The view was pretty spectacular and at $13 per person per night it was worth it for a hot shower and to be able to sleep away from traffic! Also the roads in the area were quite basic with no stops where we could pull over unless we were to encroach on someone’s driveway. The sunset was lovely over the hills and we managed to have a barbie before it went dark, opting for our German friends’ favourite – barbecued sweet potato, pumpkin and kumara. Delicious.


The next morning we set off at a decent hour to go to the Waipupu forest, full of big Kauri trees (the world’s second largest tree after Redwoods). We visited New Zealand’s largest Kauri tree. It was quite spectacular but obviously a popular tourist spot, some woman from the south of England was standing in the way of everyone and wailing at her husband “Get in the photo, Derek, it don’t look that big on me screen, need something in the shot to make it look bigger.” Irksome. We cruised over to another part of the park which had other Kauri trees and also spotted some flax and tree ferns, good traditional NZ plants and a nice wander through the forest. When we were all treed out we cruised to a nice rest stop near a river where we had some lunch and a brew. We set off again to put some kms behind us once more, ending up near Bryndawyn where we parked up at around 5 deciding we didn’t want a big rush to make dinner before the sun went down.


The next day we cruised to the Coromandel Peninsula after a long drive through Auckland we decided to drive into the hills near Thames and stayed a DOC campsite called Kauaeranga Valley. We got a nice riverside spot and had another BBQ and just chilled out reading for the rest of the day.


The next day we continued further up the coast and turned inland to drive through the Coromandel Range, a large forested area, very scenic and beautiful. Eventually we wound up at our destination, Hot Water Beach. Around an hour either side of high tide it is possible to dig your own hot pool in the sand! It was quite fascinating, the local shops rent spades for $5 but when we went back to investigate after our lunch around the right time for the big dig we found people had already got bored and left their hot pools so we just hopped in it and had a bask in the heat without lifting a finger! Perfect. The pool that we commandeered was boiling and we were too far away from the sea for any waves to cool it. It was like getting into a 60 degree bath. Eventually we got partly submerged and Richard opted for the hot water bath and then running into the sea and back and forth which worked a treat as the sea didn’t feel too cold and the bath didn’t feel too hot. On his last trip into the sea whilst waiting for some good waves a Manta Ray swam two feet past Richard’s feet which led to a very speedy exit!!! One other funny thing was an American woman who came up saying “the water is boiling, I don’t know how people can sit in them”, the water does bubble but it is due to carbon dioxide escaping through rather than it boiling. Richard tried to explain this but it was futile, people really should read the signs.


As it was getting late when we’d left the beach we pulled up at a scenic rest stop and made ourselves a nice BBQ again, yum (we feel the need to explain all the BBQs, we managed to acquire one from Escape for FREE). We set off again looking for Dickie’s Flat – a DOC campsite which is supposedly free... As it was not signposted at all (harrumph) we wound up about 2kms away at a rest stop once more, but when we woke up in the daylight we realised it was the site of an old goldmine – Karangahake Gorge – so we took a look through the mines and tunnels and a walk along the gorge. It was quite interesting and made for a nice morning stroll but we decided to head off with the eventual hope of finding some showers.


We first drove to the town of Tauranga where we stopped to use the internet to let our families know we were still alive and generally have a wander about. We had lunch by the marina then headed off towards the Bay of Plenty – a beautiful stretch of coastline. It was a really sunny day so we were really hoping to find an adequate place to camp up right by the beach so we could sit and have a beer and a chill out. Luckily we stumbled on Pikewa campsite, $9 each for the night and literally on the beach! It was a really beautiful spot used by night fishers. We had plenty time to chill on the beach, have dinner and relax before the sun went down. One of our neighbours had a puppy, Mandy, which was 8 weeks old. It was unbelievably cute and after stroking it for a while we tried to coax it over to our camper to take with us but sadly it wouldn’t part from its owners! :(

The next day we drove to Matata just to get some petrol before we headed to Rotorua and found there was a village festival going on, apparently all the locals had recently cleared their waterways of rubbish and debris after a flood and had decided on a festival to celebrate, how cute! Dozens of very nice classic cars and motorbikes began parking up in the middle of the main road and there were some stalls set up on the village green. Our camper was also receiving a lot of interest and photos which was pleasing. We had a little nosy around before deciding to head off. Since we had arrived the road had been closed off and so we had to drive very slowly through throngs of people to get out, most were happy to move but one old miserable bat piped up and said ‘Go and take a tiki tour you foreign bastards.’ This infuriated Richard for the rest of the day, possibly the rest of the week.


We eventually got to Rotorua where we first visited Okere Falls. This is where a lot of people choose to do their white water rafting and sledging as there is the option of a 7 metre drop! This would be pretty hairy. We did see some people going off with sledges in tow but they were taking ages as they apparently do some sort of ritual for the Maori gods before they get in the water so we didn’t stick around to watch them. Next we went to Hamurana Springs, surrounded by a nice lake and a walk through a redwood grove. We chatted to an ex-pat gentleman who moved to NZ aged 10 and is now a policeman in Rotorua. He explained how many break-ins campers get in this area and urged us to be cautious, he did offer to let us park on his driveway but we opted for a proper holiday park in the city while we were here. The springs were very nice to look at but at 10 degrees a little to chilly to have a dip in! We did convince one of the policeman’s sons to do it though and he looked pretty blue when he got out!


We decided to nip to the Visitor Centre in Rotorua to book a visit to a Maori Hangi meal and concert. We managed to get a good deal for ‘Matariki’ and entry into Hell’s Gate spa and thermal area for free! The visitor centre lady was so helpful and patient with us even ringing the Holiday Park we intended to stay at to check that they had space. Top marks! We wondered why we never thought of going to the visitor centre before as they make things so much easier for you. We camped at Cosy Cottage for the night, pricy but worth it as it backs onto a hot lake and has its own hot pool spas and hangi oven, all geothermally heated. We had a dip in the hot pools then made dinner, using the hangi natural steam ovens to cook some corn on the cob. Next day we went to Hell’s Gate, the most active thermal area in Rotorua. There are options for spa mud treatments but at $95 for a face mask we thought we’d go without and just wander round the park. It was 50 acres in size and housed all kinds of natural geothermal jiggery pokery. Lots of bubbling mud, mud volcanoes and steaming pools. A very strong whiff of egg follows you wherever you go in Rotorua due to the sulphur. We had also made the strange mistake of eating eggs that morning. A rather queasy walk ensued.


We also feel it’s worth pointing out an annoying part of doing the typical tourist trail. On walking into the Hell’s Gate we were soon caught up by some Scottish birds. Joy was taking a look at the first thermal vent and was probably stood at a small part of the 5 metre long railing for around 30 seconds taking in the sights. When she turned round there was one of the Scottish birds, roughly 5 centimetres from her face, waiting with an indignant look on her face to take over this precise 40 centimetre area of the railing. It was as if she thought Joy was hogging the best part of the view for herself. Anyways, as Joy moved on to the next mini geyser the Scottish lady once again came right over to Joy about 10 centimetres away from her this time to look at a steam-hole known as ‘Baby Adam’. In a loud and brash Scottish accent she said ‘OOOOH BABY ADAM’ – which has since become a bit of a catchphrase on the trip. We let the Scottish birds pass as they were clearly a bit impatient.

After Hell’s Gate we cruised to the campsite to have a wee bit of lunch and generally chilled out til the evening when we were picked up by the bus to take us to Matariki. The bus dudes had mistaken the name of our campsite as ‘Cox’s Cottage’ – god knows how when Cosy Cottage is one of two campsites in their picking up zone. Nonetheless we got there, slightly late, having missed only about 3 minutes of the introduction. We were shown the traditional Maori ritual of greeting strangers, shown the hangi ovens and then we had a really nice buffet of many different meats, fish, mussels, and steamed kumara and little potato things which are depicted on the side of our van and we will one day learn the name of. Then the show started which incorporated poi, the Haka and war chants of the Maori warriors and other traditional songs. It was a little cheesy and touristy but they put on an excellent show. We especially loved the older Maori lady who compered the whole thing and put extra special effort into her parts! She could never look scary though, just cute. Also a firm favourite of the evening was a Chinese gentleman who went up with the ladies picked out of the audience to perform poi and then again with the men from the audience to do the Haka! He couldn’t get enough! He laughed his head off throughout and it was hard not to laugh along with him. All in all a very good evening, even though it was a little less authentic and a little more touristy than we’d have hoped. Nonetheless we happily posed for our photo with Maori warrior ‘TK’!


In the morning we left the campsite and headed for some sights along the SH5 Including Kerosene Creek – a hot waterfall and pool in which to have a dunk. It was free to the public which was great! We are amazed it hasn’t been snapped up by some holiday resort/tourist centred business like most other things in the area. We had a dip in it and it was lovely. Almost too hot to stay in for any length of time.


When we left Kerosene Creek we found that someone had left some maps under our windscreen wipers to other free hot springs and waterfalls! We headed to the first one and met 3 other British tourists looking for this same thing – they explained that it was secretive as the person who owned the land didn’t want it to be overrun with tourists! One of their guide books had given them a riddle to find it! We all eventually found it and it was quite a cool little adventure but no Kerosene Creek. The fact the water was very grey and sulphurous and the big sign telling us not to put our heads under the water and warning of the dangers of amoebic meningitis put us off a little bit too.


Near the secret hot waterfall were some hot mud pools in a DOC owned area so again free. It really is crazy to see mud bubbling up and steaming from the earth! We headed off again towards Taupo for the next stop on our tiki tour of NZ...


Posted by RichardJoy 16:17 Archived in New Zealand Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

WWOOFing in Murwillumbah and Burleigh Heads (Gold Coast)

all seasons in one day 28 °C
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On leaving Nimbin we took the bus on a scenic route through a town called Uki. The damage from the rain was clearly visible with trees along the river banks uprooted. The bus then went up and through the mountains and entered the valley in between the remnants of the caldera where our next stop, Murwillumbah, was located.

We hopped off the bus in Murwillumbah and had a short wait for Sheridan to pick us up as she was at the hospital seeing to a recently sustained ankle injury! Though it was tipping it down we found shelter under the pavillion bandstand with the local degenerates. When we got picked up by Sheridan we knew we’d get along, she was very friendly and chatty and full of interesting info about the town and local sights.

Chris and Sheridan’s property comprises of 5 acres, about half is forest and half is the large sloping garden and their two lodgings; the main house and the guest property; a slightly smaller house with two bedrooms, bathroom and living room with sink and a fridge. We were very impressed with our new living standards!


On our first night we met the kids, Ella, Miranda and Claudia, dad Chris and Midnight the cat and had a lovely dinner of veggie stacks (the recipe for which we have swiped.) We soon got chatting about travelling as Sheridan and Chris have both travelled through South East Asia and Japan and were full of good advice and anecdotes..


On the second day the work started. As it was raining we mainly did indoor work – everyone was at work or school but they left the house open for us to make our breakfast and lunch! We were amazed with how trusting and chilled out they were and felt very welcome in their home.

Over the next few days we did a bit more outdoor work such as planting cuttings and weeding the veggie patch and driveway. Richard mowed and strimmed the garden which was quite a feat as it was very steep in places and slightly slippy from the previous day’s rain! One afternoon Chris dropped us off at the Hastings Point near Cabarita beach before he went to touch football so we were able to wander down the beach and take some photos before meeting him for a beer at the Beach Hotel.


At the weekend we headed to Sheridan’s mum’s house to help her take down an old shed. By the time we’d got there, she’d pretty much taken it down with the help of Chris and her two friends so after throwing some debris in the skip we decided to go to the beach before coming back for tea. We all had a swim and Chris taught us to surf as best he could in an hour. Joy is very proud to say she managed to stand up on the board and actually surf for about 10 seconds! Sadly there is no photographic evidence of this but it did happen. For your benefit Joy had used her artistic skills to show you what it was like!!


On Tuesday we left for Burleigh Heads, taking the Greyhound to Coolangatta then a local bus from Coolangatta to Burleigh, as we had lined up a few days’ work with a lady named Tricia who had a half acre suburban property with a pool and a cabin in the garden for WWOOFers. We killed a couple of hours before catching the bus at the bus stop which was right next to Budd Park with a nice view of the Murwillumbah river. We found hundreds of lizards hiding in the grass on the banks which was quite strange as it was right near a busy dual carriageway.


When we got to Burleigh, Tricia picked us up with her friend Alex and we had a chat and got settled in to the Cabin. We also met Michael and Maren, two Germans who were staying with Tricia in her adjoining studio apartment. That night we ate with Tricia and her two children Oliver, 14 and Grace, 12. We got chatting with them all over dinner and again felt very welcome. We were also surprised how chatty and nice her kids were as we sat and talked to them for an hour or so after dinner when Tricia had gone to drop Alex at the airport – getting some good tips of which theme parks to go to in Queensland!


The next morning we started work by weeding the front garden and the brick driveway. The latter was quite monotonous but we must say it looked a million times better by the time we’d finished. After some lunch we got back to work and started clearing the back garden and strimming. That night we had dinner with Tricia again and then just chilled out in the cabin reading Tricia’s book about Alby Mangel, an Australian who travelled around the world in the 80s, always managing to find a beautiful model no matter how remote his location was - amusing, impressive and depressing (his boat burnt down and his dog got shot in South America) in equal measure.

On the Thursday we finished the back garden by weeding all the paths and the brickwork around the pool (again, painfully dull but looked lots better and went quickly with the help of the old iPod) then cleared all the weeds and fallen down palm fronds into Tricia’s friend’s ute. We ate with Tricia and family again and had a little fire by the pool and a few drinks with Tricia and the Germans.

On the Friday we did some last bits of work before Tricia left for New Zealand for a week. She very kindly let us stay in the cabin in her garden while she was away! Thanks Tricia! For the rest of the day the Germans had invited us to take a ‘tiki tour’ around the area with them so we piled into their stationwagon and headed to some local sights. Sadly it was a bit of an overcast and rainy day but we got to see Burleigh beach, Surfers Paradise, the spit, Snappers Rocks, Point Danger (where the dividing line between NSW and Queensland is – an hour time difference between the two states) and much more. Despite the weather it was nice to have a look around the area and made us look forward to getting a vehicle again as you can see so much more with four wheels!


That night the Germans had invited us to eat with them and have a few drinks by the pool. They prepared a delicious meal of sushi and prawns which was quite amazing and by far the best food we’ve eaten so far on our travels! We stayed up late talking and drinking chai tea and generally being silly around another little fire.


The next day we had a well deserved lie in before heading off to Carrara Market with Michael and Maren. The market was huge and comprised of both indoor and outdoor stalls (the photos don't do it justice). We managed to pick up a few secondhand books (just to make our luggage even heavier) and Joy got a nice stripy dress for $10. (£5!!) We then nipped to Coles to pick up a few bits for the barbecue we’d decided to have that night. It was a real feast with barbecued squash, mushrooms and sweet potato, salmon for Joy, steak and sausages for the carnivores and prawns. We taught Michael and Maren how to play Shithead and had a few games before having another fire by the pool.


On the Sunday Michael and Maren had some friends over for a Barbie. Suellen, Craig, Jim, Donna and Donna’s daughter and her friend. We all had another good munch and plenty of dips in the pool as the weather had gone back to scorching hot. (Perfect timing really, work while it’s hot and lounge by the pool when it’s hot again!)


On Monday it was time to leave the lovely Burleigh Heads. We took our second tiki tour with Michael and Maren on our way back to Murwillumbah, first stopping at Burleigh Beach where the boys had a dip in the sea. We then headed to the Gold Coast hinterland where the Lamington National Park is located. We stopped at a little picnic spot in the mountains (Kamerun Lookout) where we finished off the food from the previous nights BBQ. The views across the area went round 360 degrees and the sky was brilliant blue. Apparently you can see Brisbane from there. We then headed further up the mountain to O’Reilly’s for a treetop walk in the rainforest. There were many Indiana Jones-style rope bridges which were quite scary and a particularly tall tree had steps up it for about 30 metres so despite our mild hangovers we gave it a go, hanging on to the supports so hard our knuckles were white. It was really pretty and great to see some of the gold coast hinterland before heading back to Murwillumbah.


We got back to Murwillumbah, said our goodbyes to the Germans and settled back into the ‘little house’. We had another good week with Chris and Sheridan and finished lots of jobs we hadn’t had time to do before. Joy painted and cleared out the girls’ cubby house, Richard finished repainting everything with woodstain and we both put mulch down around the side of the main house and cleared all the spiders and cobwebs off both houses. We’re reasonably sure we saw another poisonous spider doing this, a little black one which apparently feels like an acid burn if it bites you. Nice! Richard also dug out the foundations for another step to be put in by the side of the house on the Friday, just before we left for Coolangatta!

Sheridan kindly offered to drop us at the hostel in Coolangatta, roughly 600m from the airport! (You could see the grounded planes from the pool area.) After we’d dropped our stuff off she also kindly dropped us at Snapper Rocks where we’d wanted to go because the Quicksilver Pro Surf Competition was being held – a pretty big deal in the surfing world! We said our goodbyes and she said we were welcome back on our return from NZ!

We had a swim in the sea to cool off before wandering around the locale and trying to get a good look at the surfers. We saw quite a few go for several hundred metres down the coast on their boards, it was very impressive! Got to see some of the girls and boys surfing before it started to close down for the day.


We’d agreed to meet with Michael and Maren and have one last cup of chai tea with them overlooking Rainbow Bay, which true to form had a rainbow over it! Michael and Maren very kindly dropped us off at the hostel and we said our goodbyes to them and promised to visit them in Germany and take a little tiki tour with them to the Black Forest and to the Danish Border! It was sad to say goodbye but we have learned a whole new load of catchphrases from them we keep using such as ‘cushy!’, ‘go for gold!’ and ‘yes we can!’. Fun times.


We eventually got back to the hostel, exhausted after all the hard work we’d been doing the previous two months (and probably the heavy drinking too) and realised how glad we were to have moved up the coast to Murwillumbah and Burleigh and how chuffed we were that we’d met such lovely people who had been so generous and welcoming. Thanks guys! We had an early night ready for the early flight to New Zealand the next day...

Posted by RichardJoy 23:00 Archived in Australia Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

WWOOFing in Nimbin

all seasons in one day 30 °C
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When we first arrived at Eric and Jenny’s there were two other WWOOFers still at the farm, Yoshi (no, not the green annoying Smash Brothers character, a Japanese guy) and Kim a Korean. They were living in the caravan which was to be our accommodation later on but for the time being we stayed at the ‘spare’ house. The ‘spare’ house was a house built for Jenny’s parents to eventually move into (though they had rented it out for a few years) so it was more or less empty but for a supremely comfortable bed. It was sheer luxury – especially in comparison to the caravan we would later stay in but more about that anon... For the first week we got our accommodation for ‘free’ (no work) as Eric was away in Sydney helping Jenny’s parents pack their belongings ready for the eventual move.


On this first day we met Jenny, Megan, Aden and his friend Bill, we had a swim in the creek at the entrance to their property (where there were catfish and eels and a turtle hiding amongst the rocks) and then had dinner of barramundi and chips cooked by Joy and Jenny. We also met Blue Dog also known as ‘$700 Dog’ due to a tractor incident that left his foot in need of serious repair. A cute dog but a working dog so very different to Saffy and Coco or Kevin and Roxy! With his run of the 100 acres and plenty of chooks and cows to harass when he thought no-one was looking he was probably in dog heaven. We also met Lulu the horse who was as yet untrained so generally spent her days badgering people for food and gallivanting around the farm quite freely. Joy also had a sighting of a goanna on our first day from the window of the house but by the time Richard had got there, camera in hand, it was gone. It was about a metre and a half long, black with white spots all over it and was probably prowling for chickens – Joy’s squeal luckily scared it off.


The next day we went food shopping in nearby Lismore. The Bus driver on the way over to Nimbin had said of the town, possibly quite aptly, “it’s only known for flooding and there is nothing else here but a shopping mall, so the residents all question why they are living here”. We had a wander around the mall with Jenny, got some nice food to fill our fridge then went back to the farm where we actually saw some cows. We had heard that there were around 30 of them but hadn’t seen any until the second day; we were to become very close with these cows over the next few weeks, as well as the chooks!


At some point in our first week Richard nearly trod on a snake in the dark while wandering to the main house. Initially we thought it was a poisonous one (Tiger Snake) but Eric was not sure when he saw the photo we took of it later on, suggesting it was more likely a python. The encounter was nonetheless a scary experience with more Australian wildlife trying to get under Richard’s feet or wheels (please note that this never happens to Joy!)


During our free week we also went to the outdoor swimming pool in Nimbin with Jenny and the kids which was nice as it belongs to a fairly central campsite in the town but anyone is allowed in for free. Probably much needed with the heat! We also saw a Redback on the bottom of one of the family’s wheelie bins, our first sighting of a poisonous spider – it was guarding 3 egg sacs but other than this was not very bothered about us or ferocious-looking unlike some of the other spider varieties in Aus – namely the fairly abundant jumping spiders which enjoyed living with us in the caravan later on. We also spotted another python at the farm - Blue Dog, doing his guard dog duty, had cornered it in a tree near the outdoor dunny and was barking at so we went and had a gawp – it had different colours and patterns to the one we had seen previously but was harmless and was probably just coming to see if it could munch any chickens, which Blue would not allow.


Finally on Friday the time came to move into the caravan. Kim was moving on to visit Sydney and Melbourne and Yoshi had been working at a Japanese restaurant in Lismore so would eventually move into a flat with a Japanese friend to be closer, but for the time being would stay in the spare house. The caravan was, in a word, disgusting - through no fault of Eric and Jenny’s. The boys had turned it into a bit of a bachelor pad and apparently not cleaned it for months! First things first, we attacked the dirt and all the various strange things in there - bushwasp cocoons, spiders webs, spiders eggs (not redback thank God) and mouse droppings all over the cutlery and pans - and got it to a reasonable state for habitation. It scrubbed up well - the only concerns were a few holes for mice and mosquitoes to enter which were the biggest bane of living there as well as the occasional cockroaches, the aforementioned bushwasps (which despite their gruesome appearance seemed to have some intelligence in being able to look around, realise it’s not for them and leave through the front door), jumping spiders (whose saving grace is that they don’t create messy cobwebs, so we’ll let them off), mammoth flies (unsure of their exact name but they are huge and bite you) and many, many annoying little flies which liked to die in mid flight and lay to rest in our bed. Home sweet home for the next month!


Our mouse catching endeavours were futile in the end, we tried everything from the old hamster catching trick (bucket with food in and a piece of wood leading into the bucket but not out), to a mousetrap (actually a big rat trap) which we tied bread onto with elastic band, only to find the elastic band and trap sans bread left untriggered in the morning. Once, when hearing it scuffling about beneath the sink, we went to investigate and spotted it running around behind some boxes. Richard grabbed some Ajax and tried to squirt it to death but it continued to run around the caravan evading us with a mere smidgen of Ajax on its face.

The first day of proper work we met Eric. It was at 8 in the morning when he arrived with the removal van and sent Yoshi up to wake us from our slumber. Not the best introduction to our new host as we stumbled down to the spare house bleary eyed and incoherent but we got on with the tasks set, scrubbing and dusting Jenny’s dad’s possessions and attempting to fit them all into the house. It was a tiresome task but fortunately the next day was Sunday so after one day’s work it was our day off! Ahhh!


On our day off we went into Nimbin with Marie (a German WWOOFer who had arrived with Eric from Sydney) as the twice monthly market was on. Unfortunately we had spent most the day reading and chilling out in the sun so they were packing up when we arrived. We had a little mooch about and around the town – Joy purchased a bag and a purse from a hippy shop for a very reasonable price - then walked back in the blistering heat with no water as we’d run out of cash. It took about 45 minutes and Richard was nearly dying. A lady stopped to give us a lift asking “are you guys alright?” but Joy said “Yeah we’re just staying at Eric and Jenny’s down the road” and before she could add “but a lift would be great!!” the lady had driven off. Bugger. When we got to Eric and Jenny’s neighbours we went down to their part of the creek and had a nice refreshing splash and looked at their horse, Jolt, as Marie is a horsey type and would in fact manage to train Lulu and Jolt a little bit in her time at the farm.


One other funny thing worth mentioning from the early days was the fact that a cow had invaded our ‘garden’ near the caravan and voided its bowels right in front of our outdoor seating area. Richard had been meaning to cover it with dirt for a while but before he managed to do this, he stepped in it in his thongs (flip flops) and slipped. You could call it shit surfing really, luckily he didn’t fall over. Therefore Richard has decided he is a world class shit surfer.


Other jobs we did during our time on the farm:-

One day, Richard, Yoshi and Eric were fixing the flashing on the roof of the house in baking sun. Richard was screwing in metal piercing screws willy-nilly to get out of the heat and Eric said ‘this isn’t cut properly and the rain will probably come through but who gives a f*** it’s not my house’, speaking Richards mind!

Mowing and whipper snippering (whipper snipper, I hear you say? A strimmer to us Poms!) the lawns of the houses.

Fixing many, MANY barbwire and electric fences.

Richard fixed some broken chairs on rainy days with some of his excellent carpentry skills.

Eric hacked trees down with the tractor (not exactly the correct way but efficient) while Richard dragged them to the side!


Joy cleaned the house, watered the gardens, fixed mosquito nets with her excellent sewing skills and watered the gardens (the world’s easiest job – God bless the iPod).

We collected hundreds of mangos from 70 year old tree which Eric’s uncle had planted with a stick of bamboo with a net stuck to the end.


We set up foundations for the cold room which was to be connected to the gas as Eric wanted to start slaughtering his own cows, much to Joy’s approval!

Richards ‘favourite’ task was thumping metal posts into the ground. The big metal ‘thumper’ was from then onwards known as Richards ‘mate’. ‘Richard, bring your mate over here’, ‘Richard, don’t forget your mate’. A heavy and painful job especially in 30 degrees on the steep hill!

‘We’ (Joy, whilst Richard took photos and Eric played with an old fire extinguisher) cleaned Eric’s boat which had sat in the garage for several years collecting dust, getting rusty and harbouring strange lifeforms... this took about 4 hours... it was so the children could use it as a play area. (They didn’t.)


One morning Eric had been out on the motorbike checking the cows and noticed there was no sign of Hank, the bull, who was the king of the other 20 or so cows and their calves. We all piled in the monster truck (an awesome old school Toyota Land Cruiser Ute with big off-road tyres). With Eric, Jenny and Megan in the front and Richard, Joy, Marie, Claudia, Aden, Blue Dog and a 50 Gallon drum of molasses (unrefined sugar to lure Hank if necessary) in the back. We drove over some pretty hairy rides, down some very steep hills and through very thick rainforest. We drove onto the neighbour’s property which the bull could have escaped into. It is owned by two guys from the Gold Coast who come to Nimbin at weekends to race trucks and motorbikes around the rain forest. The door of the house wasn’t even shut and there were shells of nice cars just dumped and becoming over grown, clearly they have too much money!

Anyway, there was no sign of Hank and after a good tour of the farm and surrounding areas we started to head back and noticed a tree had fallen over and flattened a fence leading to the other neighbour’s (Clive and Cindy’s) which was a likely place for Hank to have gone as it was full of very classy cows who are to have no contact with bulls because they are artificially inseminated with special ‘wares’. Hank was clearly having a field day and ruining the farm’s status!

We went home to get things we needed to fix the fence and only Eric, Marie and Richard went back. They chain sawed the tree and then had to entice Hank back through without any cows getting through with him. Unfortunately they were unsuccessful - one cow clearly loved the company and hopped over with him! Nonetheless they fixed the fence by tensioning the barbed wire and were just hoping to separate Hank from the cow and get the cow through a gate back to her home. This sadly didn’t occur.

The next step involved Richard circling behind Hank and his lover to try to push them towards Eric and the gate. Whilst running through the rainforest armed with a branch Richard almost ran into Hank and the amorous pair ran off... the wrong way. Richard was sent to chase them further to another gate whilst Eric and Marie followed in the monster truck. At this point running through grass up to the knees Eric commented from the comfort of the truck ‘at least you won’t have to spend all that money going to Pamploma to run with the bulls, you can do it here for free’.

So off he set with the tiny and seemingly pointless branch and Blue Dog running through long grass at first, then scrub and bush which got thicker and thicker, then rainforest and then through a dry creek bed, checking for spoors to see which direction they went (it was some serious tracking! NOT). Anyway, after about half an hour of running and much swearing, Richard cornered Hank and the cow and then Eric and Marie arrived. After an unsuccessful attempt by the bull to crush Richard (the stick worked!) they tried to lure the cow through the gate with molasses but at 7pm it started to go dark and they gave up, hoping the cow would just return to its neck of the woods. So all in all, Richard spent a whole afternoon running around, with no results! Luckily, she got home alright in the end, possibly with one on the way.

One day about 2 weeks before we left we were farmed out (excuse the pun) to Clive and Cindy. They own the aforementioned organic farm and take WWOOFers but didn’t have anyone at the time. We cleared, fertilised and covered the garlic beds ready for the next season and then weeded Cindy’s plant pots and cuttings. After 3 hours work we sat down and Cindy made us some food. We were offered beers and wine but as we thought there was more work to do we declined... we were wrong. Cindy took us to their swimming hole and we jumped in with the poor scared turtle. This was our days work. Not bad all in all compared to the 6 hours we were used to!


A few days later we were farmed out again to John and Pakau who live about a kilometre down the road. Joy was keen to speak to them as they both had TESOL qualifications and had working in numerous places around the world so Eric kindly set up a day with them. Joy was sent off fertilising and watering some native trees John and Pakau had been planting near the border of their property. Pakau joined her after a while and gave her lots of tips about the world of TESOL. Richard and John got on with digging a trench to re-enforce some foundations and lay piping.

Richard was also interested in what John had to say as they had bought about 15 acres of rainforest and were slowly turning it into a house and business. The land had been owned by hippies before them and the shack was apparently a crack den when they bought it but they had tarted it up with some decking and walls. It was just a one room house with an outdoor shower and toilet but was very nice. They are in the process, a very slow process due to John being a laid back hippy himself, of building another structure in which John wants to build furniture.

After about 2 or 3 hours of digging and lots of sweating John saw that Richard had a blister from the shovel and exclaimed ‘you shouldn’t have hurt yourself’ (imagine his voice being like Mr Garrison from South Park but with an Australian accent) and decided that was enough digging and work for one day and we had a beer. Pakau then made us a vegan lunch which was very tasty indeed. Some lovely lentil and sweetcorn fritters with a delicious salad and homemade hummus. Well worth 3 hours work. John then decided that WWOOFers were generally exploited (we agreed!) and so decided to take us to a local swimming hole where we had a few more beers!


After this we moved on to Hanging Rock after picking up Adrien (a French man who was WWOOFing with Clive and Cindy by this point). Hanging Rock was another rock pool but one of the biggest in the area. You had to jump at 3 metres to get in the water and it was surrounded by cliffs. On the cliff there was a tree overhanging which someone had hammered iron rungs into for jumping off. It was very daring at about 15 metres and there was also a rope hung from that tree at a slightly less scary 10 metres. Richard and Adrien were jumping from the cliff which was probably about 7 or 8 metres and building up to the rope which lots of kids were jumping from repeatedly. Thankfully Adrien didn’t have the balls to jump from the rope as Richard didn’t either but couldn’t have been outdone by the French! Whilst we were sitting on the edge watching the daring folk, a huge gust of wind came. It was amazing to see as all the eucalypts bent right over and then we were hit by a wall of branches, twigs and leaves. We decided to call it a day at that point and went to the outback bottle-o to watch the storm unfold with John almost running over a Brown Snake (the bite brings death very quickly, 17 minutes we believe) on the way. It was a bottle shop but with an outdoor shelter where all the local men and their huge dogs come for beer after work.


Little did we know that this storm was to last on and off for over a week and there was lots of rain as well as amazing electrical storms to come.


The second time we worked for John we did even less work. Actually not we, as Joy didn’t do anything other than look on the internet for some new WWOOFing hosts but Richard helped John arrange his foundations for the new building. After an hour of on and off rain we called it a day. It was pleasing as it was Saturday. Pakau was at work and their friend Jenny from NZ arrived to visit for a few days. She was heading home to NZ after working in Japan as a teacher. She was quite an amusing person and her jetlag made it more amusing as she kept nodding off. We sat about most the day just reading the paper and getting a hippy’s view of the world. In the afternoon we took a wander to see the extent of John’s property. It was a steep climb up the hillside through rainforest . We continued up the hill and got caught out in a downpour, hiding under a tiny tree we got absolutely soaked and covered in numerous leeches which we were continually checking our socks for, the little f**kers!

It was a nice day and John dropped us home and told Eric he had worked us to the bone! HA


We visited Nimbin market a second time but due to the torrential rain it was cancelled. A few of the stalls had set up in the village hall and there was a band playing that we watched for a while. It was a nice day but just as we were about to leave Joy’s thong (Poms, please note this is a flip-flop) broke. We looked for another pair but the cheapest were about $20 which we were not keen to pay and decided to risk the walk home. We crossed over a bridge made of wooden railway sleepers and Joy got a splinter so Richard had to do a roadside removal. Then the sun came back out with a vengeance and the tarmac was too hot to walk on. A mixture of piggybacks and white-line walking got us about 2kms until someone finally drove past and we hitched a lift. It is good because the farm we were on was in a valley surrounded by hills (part of an old volcanic caldera) and the road is a dead-end so you know all traffic going that way is someone who lives near. The guy was living at a Paradise Valley which is a Multiple Occupancy estate, kind of commune where you get a bit of land to build your house. He was very nice and dropped us to the door!


Eric had decided to get some goats in to tackle weeds which were taking over a particular hillside - Crofton’s Weed and which was imported from Europe as a hedgerow plant. Little did they know that it causes a stomach disease in horses which kills them in later life. We had spent many hours clearing these weeds from the new paddock we had created for Lulu. They really were a bane. Richard, Joy and Marie were set to building the fence to keep the goats in and when they arrive a few days later we set them off. They really weren’t game for staying in the paddock and a little one got out when the electric fence was shorted out. Quickly Richard fixed the fence, after a severe spine jolting shock, he knew it was working. The little goat tried it again and got shocked. We decided all was well and went for lunch... unfortunately the confines of the pen (about an acre) wasn’t enough for them - they preferred the shock and escape treatment. They escaped to the hills probably to be eaten by wild dogs the same night! We were all very sad about the escaped goats, particularly Eric who had parted with the cash for 10 minutes of weed-clearing.

We had befriended the Frenchman, Adrien and went over with Marie to Clive and Cindy’s to see him a few times. He taught us a new card game (much needed as after roughly 200 games of shithead we are getting very tired of it) drank wine and chatted.


On our last day we mustered the cows for do an overdue monthly check up. We sprayed them with treatments to discourage the flies from swarming around open wounds on their stomachs and eyes, sealed the wounds with some other sprays, clipped some toenails, tagged some ears and generally stood around in cow poo watching the cows relieve themselves on the cows behind them. Nice.

It was good fun to be involved in proper farm life and we had some great experiences with Eric and Jenny but the 6 hours a day and 6 days a week was getting too much like hard work for us! We decided to move on, telling Eric and Jenny a small white lie to spare their feelings about going to see Joy’s aunt and uncle near Hervey Bay. We intend to do this after NZ because we have a return flight to the Gold Coast and will have a better idea of what we can afford when we return – maybe even do a vehicle relocation from Gold Coast to Cairns on the cheap!

Our next adventure will be in Murwillumbah with our new hosts, Chris and Sheridan and their three daughters Ella, Miranda and Claudia, Midnight the cat and their chooks and duck. The aim is to get as close to the airport via WWOOFing to keep the costs low so we can travel for longer and keep bringing you our fantastic blog!


Posted by RichardJoy 13:48 Archived in Australia Tagged backpacking Comments (2)

Port Macquarie, Coffs Harbour, Byron Bay and Nimbin

sunny 29 °C
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Port Macquarie was a nice little harbour town and the YHA hostel we stayed at was very homely and welcoming. This was our first night in a dorm (amazing after all this time we know!) and we were lodged with a couple from London (more on this later). After we had checked in our baggage we decided to head for a swim as it was pretty hot. Richard had a quick dip but the beach wasn’t as nice as others we had been to and the waves weren’t as big and fun so we decided to go back and change before checking out some more of the town.


We walked to the breakers as they have a tradition of being brightly painted by visitors and residents alike. There were hundreds of the painted rocks, some better than others but all in all a nice little touch to the area. We then headed back and had a few glasses of goon at the hostel and a chat with some other Brits before retiring to watch a CSI in the bunk. When we took the headphones out to hit the hay we finally heard what we had dreaded .... SNORING! At first it was bearable until it grew to a deafening roar. After banging on the wall and shouting various expletives in order to wake the offending party, Richard glanced over to find it was the lady snoring and not the brutish man as one might have thought. It was a terrible sight. She was a big lady and was lying on her back with mouth-wide open. We decided to make use of our ear plugs and grab as much sleep as we could.


Our bus the next day didn’t leave until 2pm so we were up bright and early to visit the koala hospital. It was pretty good to read the stories of the koalas that had been rescued from bushfires and road traffic accidents. All in all it was nice to see that people care about them but not as fascinating as seeing them in the wild. We returned to the hostel, grabbed our bags and headed to the bus stop to catch our bus to Coffs Harbour. On arrival at the bus stop Richard was accosted by a German guy who wanted him to push his camper down the street as his battery was flat. After this was successful and Richard was positively hot the bus turned up and we began to board. It was at this moment the ‘snoring lady’ turned up to get on the same bus as us. She started chatting to Joy who tried to be nice while Richard stood there tired and grimacing. Let’s just say it was never going to be a lasting friendship. One snippet of information we were able to gather was that they were NOT staying at the same hostel as us in Coffs (thank ****).


Arriving in Coffs Harbour we were dreading the long walk to the hostel but it transpired that they provided a minibus so we boarded it with a couple of other folk heading the same way. The bus driver took us up to a lookout point where we could see all of Coffs Harbour and explained where everything was. On arrival at the hostel we thought it seemed like a bit of a young crowd and was going to be a bit crappy. As it was 6pm that we popped to the supermarket to get some dinner, then munched said dinner and went for a couple of drinks outside. Richard went to get something from the room and got chatting to an Italian man whose girlfriend had left him to go back to Italy. He spoke in very broken English but Richard managed to discern that his girlfriend had said he had poorly planned the trip and she had also been in hospital for 8 days with an intestinal infection in Brisbane... So much for the trip of a lifetime!

When Richard returned to where we were sitting, he found Joy had already found two guys to replace him. They were two Aussies, Goody (an aeronautical engineer in the Navy) and Sean (a roofer) both from Sydney. We chatted to them for a while and then teamed up with some Glaswegians, Liverpudlians and some Londoners who were playing ‘Ring of Fire’ (a drinking game for those not in the know). We knew this would turn out to be a lively event! All in all it was a good night and we convinced Goody and Sean (who were on their way back down the coast to Sydney to get back to work) to drive back to Bryon Bay for another night. Next morning bright and early they were true to their word and we dumped our stuff in their nice spacious (except for the surfboard) SUV. We left at 10am and it was unfortunate that we didn’t get to see any of Coffs especially as we didn’t take any photos at the lookout point. On the plus side we arrived in Byron Bay at 2pm (rather than 10pm) having been dropped door to door by our new buddies for FREE! We even got to stop off at the Big Prawn cafe and take a pic!


Byron Bay was truly beautiful, well worth visiting. We stayed the entire four nights at the Belongil Beach House which we had booked in Sydney after a frantic morning when everything seemed to be booked up for days! Once again having read some bad reviews online we were concerned but it turned out to be idyllic (as far as dorms go). One of the more northerly beaches, Belongil is less populated than Main Beach and Clarke Beach and a thirty second walk from our dorm got us right there. On our first day we dropped our bags off, messed around in the water for a while then went to meet Goody and Sean for a few beers. We eventually got peckish and treated ourselves to a Dominos as it was cheap Tuesday, then sat on the grass near the main beach to eat it. There was a big screen and projector set up where a video was being played, scenes from around the world and nature set to some tribal beats! It was spectacular, especially after a few tinnies so we stopped there for an hour or so before getting changed and heading back out to meet the boys.


We did the obligatory tour of Bondi’s watering holes, passing loads of street performers and genuinely good local bands playing – one of these got stopped by the police, causing a fair few boos and some drunken heckling. We ended up in a club called ‘Liquid’ which was playing some good techno. Sadly there wasn’t much of a crowd so the atmosphere was a bit off, despite it seeming to attract some strange folk doing some very strange dancing, some breakdancing in the middle of the floor, one girl doing some kind of drunken Spanish dancing and some barefooted drunkards just flinging themselves around. We called it a night, bid farewell to Goody and Sean and hotfooted it back to the hostel. Whilst sitting outside our room in the cool before going to bed we spotted a Huntsman spider on a wheelie bin near our door! It was gruesomely big. We took some photos of it ‘til a helpful Aussie staying in a nearby dorm scared it off after tapping the bin to show us how far they jump.


Our next few days consisted of little more than wallowing in the sea and reading on the beach, some piss-poor attempts at surfing , wandering around Bondi perusing the shops and generally people watching. There isn’t a massive amount to see here so it does attract a lot of beach bums and tanorexics but despite its reputation as a tourist dive it is a pleasant and friendly place where you can easily spend a few days just wandering around and having a look. On our penultimate day we did the lighthouse walk to Byron Bay Lighthouse which was quite gruelling in the afternoon sun but worth it for the view, we even spotted a bush turkey but Joy scared it off, too eager to pose with it in a photo. Just before we got to the lighthouse there was a walking path which took us to most Easterly point of Australia, which was nice. On our way down we also spotted a stingray in the sea below us, which was pretty cool.


On our last night in Bondi we decided to wander down to the beach with some leftover beers (so we didn’t have to carry them onwards, of course!) and met a Swede who we chatted to for a while before being joined by a hippy on a motorbike from Mount Warning. He was intending to sleep on the beach (we aren’t entirely sure he had a ‘home’ as such in Mount Warning) and stopped to chat with us for a few hours. We (I say we but mean Richard of course) made a fire and had a nice evening star gazing and looking out at the lighthouse we’d climbed earlier.


On our last day in Byron Bay we had to be checked out at 10am and had to try to make it into town to get the bus to Nimbin. After a lot of frantic rushing to give the key back and get our last bits of food from the fridge we realised we were screwed in terms of getting to the bustop in time for the once daily bus! Luckily, some twist of fate meant that the Hippy Bus pulled up outside the hostel as we were giving up for the day! We decided to hop on as it was only $6 more than the proper bus thus we had a nice chilled out drive to Nimbin in the big multicoloured double decker, listening to some hippy beats and nearly falling asleep.


On arrival, after being offered our choice in mushrooms, space cookies and crack, we found we had a bit of a trek to our hostel – Granny’s Farm – but once we made it there we found ‘Granny’ really lovely – another ex-pat, originally from Birmingham! We stayed with Granny for three nights and spent our days either in the pool at the hostel or wandering into Nimbin to see the sights. The Nimbin Museum was a highlight – a lot of tat and pro-weed propaganda in a series of cobwebby rooms with a dubious looking cafe at the back! (Although we didn’t sample the food, it could have been delicious!) The Food Emporium is great here also and the mangos on sale for 60 cents each are the best Mangoes we’ve ever eaten! We also picked up a bucket of local honey for about $5 which is again very tasty. There does seem to be a high propensity of people in Nimbin with missing limbs. I’m not sure I can follow that sentence up with anything that would make sense as to why! There’s even a three legged Alsation for good measure.


At the hostel we met a crew of people travelling Australia together made up of a Londoner, a German and three girls from the Pharoah Islands (ten points for knowing where they are without Googling). We spent our last night at Granny’s with them, playing huge games of spoons and shithead (shithead was eventually amended to include every rule anyone had ever heard of for it leading to massive confusion as there were 9 people from 4 different countries.) In the morning, bright and early we were picked up by Jenny, one of our WWOOFing hosts who lives on a cattle farm about 5 minutes out of Nimbin with her husband Eric and three children, Aden -11, Claudia – 8, Megan – 4, Blue Dog, LuLu the Horse, Jilly the 18 year old fleabitten dog and plenty of chooks and cows! More on this in our next instalment!

Posted by RichardJoy 06:24 Archived in Australia Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

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