A Travellerspoint blog

New Zealand Begins

Living off the kindness of others, Auckland, Car Auctions, Ron Burgundy, Whangarei, Wading through caves and Diving the Poor Knights


View October 2011- July 2012 on Laura Mitchell's travel map.

New Zealand has got off to a nice relaxing start by staying with friends. We arrived at Auckland Airport to be met by Amy and Dan who drove us back to their house in Glen Eden to spend a few days with them, Daisy the Dog and George the Parrott. The majority of our time there was spent looking for cars. James took the safe option and rented for two months, whereas Nathan and I decided to head to Turners Auction and take a risk on buying one.

After spending hours traipsing through cars, ruling out the too expensive, too leaky, non-starters, cars with no WOFs and the massively juddery when test driven, we were left with relatively few options. Not looking promising. Anyway we had a list of a couple we would consider bidding on. When it came round to the first on my list, a Hyundai Sonata, I thought I would do one bet, then someone else would outbid me and I would give up (seeing as I couldn’t really remember the car overly well, I just knew I had put a tick by it on my list). So I bid $1,100 and waited for someone else to pipe up. Nothing. SOLD. Frig I just bought a car. OK calm down and frantically try to remember if all its lights turned on, if its radio worked, was it leaking, if it even started. Oh well too late I’ve bought it now. Luckily on second inspection it seemed golden, and after coming up with his name, Ron Burgundy (because he is burgundy and I had recently watched Anchorman), I started to love him. Nathan bid on a Subaru Legacy, which rattled all the way home (not good). However he got lucky and a mechanic fixed the rattle the next day for free (he hit it with a metal pipe then it was fine). We were ready to go.

Ron Burgundy

Ron Burgundy

Next stop was visiting Alex and Heather, Family friends living in Whangarei. There was no way to get lost as seemingly there is only one road in New Zealand (Highway 1) so Ron got me there no problems. My time here has been spent gathering camping supplies (borrowing a tent and going to Warehouse (the shop which has everything) for the rest), eating ice cream in the town basin, swimming at Matapouri Bay, researching climbing areas (and planning my route), and going to Waipu caves with Ollie and Helen (Ollie is Alex and Heathers son who last I saw when he was a small 10 year old, and now he is a giant with a New Zealand accent) which involved wading through muddy water in the dark up to our thighs and checking out the awesome sight of loads of glow worms. My final day here was spent diving at Poor Knights Island.

Wading into muddy water in the Caves

Wading into muddy water in the Caves

The diving day involved driving to Tutukaka, where I got the dive boat out at 8.30am and spent an hour getting to Poor Knights Island. The dives were both located in a sheltered bay at Brady’s Corner and Trevor’s Rock. The visibility was awesome and the diving involved swimming through forests of Kelp and checking out the underwater caves and the massive Sting Rays. I also saw Goatfish, Nudibranch, Damoiselle, Crimson Cleanerfish, Leatherjackets, massive shoals of Koheru and a few Kingfish (well that’s what people identified for me and I wrote in my log book anyway). When we weren’t diving the skipper took us around the islands to look at the biggest sea cave in the world, to drive through some impressive archways and to splash us in the face with excessive amounts of sea spray on the way back. All in all a good day, though the sea temperature was a bit lower than I was used to and I got a bit tired of people pointing out I had gone blue. Luckily for the second dive I got given extra wetsuit layer, though on the down side it did mean I could barely move/breath I was so squished in three layers of wetsuit. And I still went blue. I am not made for even slightly cold water.

Diving with a Sting Ray at Poor Knights Island

Diving with a Sting Ray at Poor Knights Island

After a few days staying in the comfort in a house, I am now setting out with a tent in the back and travel starts in earnest! Looking forward to exploring New Zealand :)

Posted by Laura Mitchell 00:11 Comments (0)

Goodbye Australia

The Last Days Down Under


View October 2011- July 2012 on Laura Mitchell's travel map.

The last week in Australia I spent mostly in the Blue Mountains which was awesome. I filled my days with walking round the trails near the Three Sisters, Climbing out of my depth with some cool new people, climbing achievable routes but in ridiculous winds with Nathan and James, and spending the evenings with awesome people in the Flying Fox, my favourite hostel in Australia. I was sad to leave, but unfortunately I had to. However I was looking forward to visiting the Mexicans in Brisbane (The ones I met in the Flying Fox), and after a long overnight train journey from Sydney, I arrived at the convenient time of 5.30am in the morning.

Standard touristy photo of the Three Sisters from Echo Point

Standard touristy photo of the Three Sisters from Echo Point

About to get in over my head on a pumpy overhang (on top rope though...)

About to get in over my head on a pumpy overhang (on top rope though...)

I had been to Brisbane before and repeated some of the things we did last time (climbing at Kangaroo point, BBQ by the river) but also added some new experiences of seeing Bisbane from the top of Mount Coot-tha (whilst eating Nachos and ice cream) then having to walk/run down a ridiculously steep hill to get back down, going to the morning markets to get breakfast and going along the river at night in the City Catamaran. A couple of days in the city and it was time to catch our flight to New Zealand.

View of Brisbane from Mount Coot-tha

View of Brisbane from Mount Coot-tha

Bye Australia! I’ve learnt a lot whilst travelling round you, including:
•Koalas are only interesting the first couple of times you see them, but Kangaroos maintain their novelty for much longer.
•No matter how comfy a seat seems at the beginning of a 14 hour bus journey, you wont be able to find a comfy position within a couple of hours, except maybe 10 minutes before you are due to get off.
•Vegemite is not as nice as Marmite, but you learn to love it (or hate it).
•You are much more tolerant of dirty clothes when you’re travelling.
•Always take into consideration when your bus arrives, because if it’s at ridiculous o’clock in the middle of nowhere, you might end up sleeping on the floor of a petrol station.
•Backpackers can be lured almost anywhere with the promise of free food
•Nothing is more exciting than cheap ice cream in the outback (except maybe cheap petrol, but I don’t think that exists)
•Canadians take Halloween really seriously
•It’s not wise to have a hangover on a long bus trip, especially if you’re a bit predisposed to travel sickness as well. Only a KFC stop will cure you.
•Despite common belief, the weather isn’t always nice in Australia; its wise to have an umbrella during the rainy season in Cairns.
•Campervan etiquette is important, if in doubt, wave at everyone.
•There really is Nothing in the Outback
•You won’t see as many spiders as you think you will, but they are massive when you do see them
•“no camping” signs are there to be ignored
•Don’t venture outside in 38 degree heat, you won’t make it that far; but if you do, plan a route of air conditioned buildings’ to stop and recover in
•Climbing grades are massively inconsistent
•Two of the most annoying things in Oz are flies (especially at Ayres Rock) and road trains (try overtaking a 53m long truck in a Campervan with poor acceleration)
•Driving in the city in a Campervan is awful, as is driving in Crosswinds, and rain. Really there aren’t many conditions in which driving a Campervan is good.
•Backpacking in Australia you will hardly meet any Australians, but most likely A LOT of Germans.
•Don’t worry too much about spending money on doing things, you never remember the money you spent, but always remember the good experiences.
•You always have fond memories of a place if you meet cool people there, no matter what the place is like.
•Australia is MASSIVE and even in 3 months you barely scratch the surface.

There is probably much more but I cant remember now.....

THE END OF PART 1…to be continued in New Zealand

Posted by Laura Mitchell 19:39 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Sydney and The Blue Mountains

Bondi beach, massive amounts of climbing faff, terrifying rope swings, Batman signs in the sky, Lightening storms, Rain and Jungle Speed.


View October 2011- July 2012 on Laura Mitchell's travel map.

From one city to another I caught a 10 hour overnight bus to Sydney (which wouldn’t have been too bad if they did keep waking us up at ridiculous o’clock for meal breaks, who eats breakfast at 4am??). Anyway arrived at 7am and met up with my friend Charlotte from England at the station. Together we caught the bus to Coogee and did a scenic walk round the coast to Bondi beach where, being as unprepared as I was, I had to buy a bikini in a convenience store ($20 not bad!) to answer the irresistible call of the sea.

Bondi Beach

Bondi Beach

Later in the day I caught the 2 hour train up to the Blue Mountains (which is apparently very scenic, but I wouldn’t know as I was fast asleep) and settled down into hostel number 1, Central Backpackers, in Katoomba. I then went on a search for a climbing partner which involved going into Adventure companies, knocking on the windows of closed gear shops and wandering around other hostels. Eventually in hostel number 2, the flying fox, (which I have now moved into after 2 nights in the other hostel) I found James, a climber who knows the local area, jackpot.

The next day James and 4 other girls staying at the flying fox (Misha, Adrianna, Marianna and Heli who all live and study in Brisbane but are from Mexico and Ethiopia originally) went out for a day off mass faff and climbing (mostly faff). As Heli and Misha had never climbed before we started off on an easy route which was pretty cool but took us a while as 6 of us had to climb it one at a time. We then moved elsewhere to do a multi-pitch. Now try abseiling down in two pitches, with 2 people who have never abseiled before, when not everyone has a harness (creating the need to pass a harness to and from each other via rope) then climbing up one pitch, cramming 6 people onto a small ledge and making them safe on one belay system (though one person doesn’t get to be safe, as remember we are one harness short) then climbing up another pitch and then doing another harness/shoe/chalk bag transfer to get everyone else up that pitch, and you have the definition of faff. So anyway once we were all safe at the top we quickly ate some food (as it was 5pm and we hadn’t eaten lunch as we massively under estimated how long it would take) then went back to the hostel and ate MORE food (awesome Mexican food)

Four of us on the ledge...two more to go

Four of us on the ledge...two more to go

The next day was filled with almost as much faff as we headed to hanging rock (the rock of the front of the Australia Lonely Planet Guidebook) to do a rope swing. After quite a long walk in and a lesson of how to use an ascender using a rope tied to a tree, James set up the swing (with an audience of French people constantly asking questions) and was the first to jump. Adriana then followed, who set up the ascender a bit wrong (worrying us in the process by undoing knots) so took a while to get back up, followed by Marianna who terrified us all with her screaming and worried us again when she couldn’t figure out the ascender (but eventually made it up using a comical karate kick technique), followed by me (desperately trying not to think about the jump and then stepping straight off before I had a chance to think about it and chicken out) though I had no problems with the ascender as it was just an easier version of using a prussic (thank you Mark Page) and finally came Misha, who stood there for about half an hour trying to psyche herself up, but ended up psyching herself out and deciding not to do it. We then enjoyed the scenery in the setting sun for a while (including spotting a Batman sign in the sky), and then realised that might have been a mistake when we walked out for ages in the pitch black in the middle of a lightening storm (though luckily we made it to the car about 3 seconds before it started pouring with rain). So we drove back to the hostel and ate pizza, good end to a good day.

Getting ready to jump off a cliff at Hanging Rock

Getting ready to jump off a cliff at Hanging Rock

A long way back up...

A long way back up...

So yesterday it was raining, ruling out the chance of any climbing, also because it was so misty I couldn’t even do any walks as I wouldn’t have been able to see the scenery! So we were confined to the hostel for half the day (writing blogs, playing Jungle Speed, drinking beer) and the coffee shop and pub for the other half of the day. Could have been worse…

Today the sun is back out so better get going and get outside!

Posted by Laura Mitchell 14:29 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

Coast in the Camper and Christmas in the City

Rain, Misty Viewpoints, Great Ocean Road, Chocolate, Mazes, Penguins, The City, Christmas, New Years and Fireworks


View October 2011- July 2012 on Laura Mitchell's travel map.

After the Arapiles we headed in the Camper to the Grampians with the hope to do more climbing. Unfortunately we were met with rain and mist which pretty much destroyed any possibility of climbing, so after spending the night in a campsite full of kangaroos, walking to a waterfall, visiting an awesome viewpoint (see below) and spending some time in a café playing snakes and ladders, we headed down to the beginning of the Great Ocean Road.

Awesome viewpoint at the Grampians

Awesome viewpoint at the Grampians

The next couple of days we spent driving down the windy, mildly nausea inducing roads along the coast, stopping at every viewpoint along the way to look at various rocks off the coast (most famous of which were the 12 Apostles) and various waterfalls inland. We also spent a morning walking through the tree tops in Otway and made the all important ice cream stops.

The 12 Apostles along the Great Ocean Road

The 12 Apostles along the Great Ocean Road

Once we finished the road we drove through Melbourne and further to the South to Phillip Island which is famous for its penguins. Once there we found loads of tourist attractions to keep us busy; we spent the morning touring a chocolate factory (eating as much free chocolate as possible) and then went to “A-Maze-‘N’-Things” where we wandered round the rooms of puzzles and optical illusions, raced around a maze and played some crazy golf. We then spent the late afternoon walking along the coast spotting baby penguins in their nests and to swan lake which was swarming with butterflies. Finally in the evening we watched small groups of penguins’ dash across the beach to get back to their nests in the “Penguin Parade”. Pretty awesome day.

Getting lost in the Maze in Phillip Island

Getting lost in the Maze in Phillip Island

After Phillip Island it was back to Melbourne to say goodbye to the camper and start the holiday season in the city. After a total of 7,500km we were pretty sad to see it go, but looking forward to chilling out in one place for a while.

Melbourne involved a variety of stuff including chilling out in the Botanical Gardens, watching a dress rehearsal of Wind in the Willows, having surprise presents from home at Christmas, eating an “Orphan Christmas dinner” at Space Hotel, climbing at the indoor wall, visiting the markets, exploring the parks, Lawn bowling, walking to St. Kilda beach, Eating out, shopping and generally chilling out. We also spent New Years enjoying fireworks in the park and watching the tower they went off from get accidently set on fire. All in all a good time in the city; though looking forward to leaving the concrete and getting to the Blue Mountains (though on my own as Nathan has gone to Tasmania and James is going to Canberra, so hopefully will be able to find some willing climbing partners hanging around up there!)

The end of Christmas dinner

The end of Christmas dinner

Fireworks at New Year (the tower which got set on fire)

Fireworks at New Year (the tower which got set on fire)

Posted by Laura Mitchell 18:06 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Climbing Contines...

Morialta and Arapiles (and all the faff which goes along with trad)


View October 2011- July 2012 on Laura Mitchell's travel map.

Morialta – 13.12.11

Far Crag –
Due to lack of Sport climbing options we have now moved onto trad, despite our somewhat limited gear. We started the day (after sleeping in the camper on the side of the road near the crag) in Far Crag with James trying to lead a grade 8, but after having a bit of an unexplained epic (we all get them) and a sit down on a ledge half way up, he had to back off it, so Nathan finished it and I seconded, and James followed no problems. So after the morning faff we moved onto some real climbing.
Nathan lead a cool 15 where the crux was right at the bottom (which threw me as there is nothing less motivating than not being able to get off the floor for ages), and then I lead a 12. In between climbs some of the locals were telling us how good the trad in the Arapiles was so we decided to ditch climbing round Adelaide and drive there ASAP after today’s climbing.

Standing at the bottom of "The Lords Prayer" Grade 15 at Far Crag

Standing at the bottom of "The Lords Prayer" Grade 15 at Far Crag

Boulder Bridge –
After lunch and an unnecessary battle through trees and bushes for Nathan and I walking to another crag (James sensibly scrambled out but Nathan and I carried on round the bottom of the rock face “Im sure there is a path here…”) Nathan and I fitted in one more which was a 3 star 16 called Muesli. I kind of dismissed Nathan panicked cries of “I’m so pumped!” as he lead it clean, but when I followed it was the MOST sustained climb I have ever done (so had a few falls with my inferior arm strength) though it was still pretty awesome.

Arapiles – 15.12.11 –

Organ Pipes -
After a day of driving to get there, we arrived at the Arapiles around 5pm on the 14th and parked up in the Campsite at the foot of the crag. The next day we were up nice and early (at the crag ready to go at 8am) where James started us off by leading a grade 9, we followed him up and then I lead the “steep and exposed” second pitch, which was still a grade 9 but kind of cool to get used to the height and exposure. We then moved on to Nathan leading a 3 star 13 which again was pretty good. We then decided to get out of the midday sun and went to get a pub lunch/use the internet in the “town” Natimuk (town which consisted of one pub with a single computer for internet access, a newsagents, a place which sells milkshakes, and lots of closed looking buildings).

Me looking up at the pitch I'm about to lead

Me looking up at the pitch I'm about to lead

The Atridae
At 4pm we returned to the crag and got on a 3 star 13 called Muldoon. Figuring it would be nice and straight forward Nathan and I set off not realising we were embarking on a 4 hour epic. The first pitch (Nathans lead) went off with relatively little drama, then my pitch went a bit less smoothly (being quite overhanging and exposed, and even though there was quite a few jugs, this didn’t stop me practically sobbing with terror), but the true epic came about when we couldn’t find a way down. After several attempts of climbing round trying to find the decent gully, and unsuccessful shouting conversations with James who had the guidebook, we decided we would have to abseil. However we were at the top of a 42m climb with a 50m rope (you have to half the rope length when abseiling for those who don’t know) so quite a lot of faff followed involving abseiling down to a ledge half way. Anyway, we got to the ground safely and it was still light, so all in all, not too bad.

Up on the first pitch of Muldoon

Up on the first pitch of Muldoon

16.12.11

In the morning we only had time to do one climb before it got too hot, a climb up a pinnacle called Picolo which I lead (it didn’t help that I faffed halfway up). Then we drove to the bigger town nearby called Horsham to stock up on food, after getting more vital supplies (milkshake) we headed back to a different crag to do a climb suggested by Little Chris to Nathan which had a pretty cool photo opportunity. Cue epic number 2.

After the initial faff of trying to get to the climb (we came from the car park at the top of the cliff and walked straight past it before we realised we couldn’t go any further down safely and had to go back, though luckily when we turned round we were practically staring the climb right in the face) we eventually made it, set up a rather dodgy feeling belay point (which although was perfectly safe on a bolt, still felt terrifying when hanging over the edge) went through the faff of lowering James onto a ledge so he could get in a good position to take photos then started on the climbing. Nathan had a shaky lead up the first section of the climb (Kachoong) to the roof (he almost backed off as it was pretty damn scary, but he persevered, made some high pitched noises of terror, had some full body disco, then made it to the top), where he then set up some bomber gear, got the photo and got lowered back down. Then I “climbed” up to the roof (with my hauling and resting on the rope in between as I was too scared to function) got the photo and abseiled back down to safety. We then had to go through the faff of setting up an abseil to get the gear back (with me hanging in place at the bottom to drag Nathan in to place whilst he hung in midair), rescue James from the ledge, then make it back to the car. Still we made it back before dark with no injuries, so although a lot of faff, not a true epic. And we did get some cool photos…

Terrified (even though completely safe) on Kanchoong

Terrified (even though completely safe) on Kanchoong

17.12.11

We spent our last day in Arapiles on a 5 pitch multi pitch which was good fun but pretty easy climbing, and just as we topped out it started pouring with rain, which wasn’t ideal, but at least we were off the climb. So we made it back to the bottom without too much trouble, and then headed off.

We are now sitting in a Campsite in the Grampians area, though what we do here kind of depends on the weather…

View from the top of the Arapiles, The Atridae area, before we realised we couldn't find the way down...

View from the top of the Arapiles, The Atridae area, before we realised we couldn't find the way down...

Posted by Laura Mitchell 00:01 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

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