A Travellerspoint blog

Vientiane & Vang Vieng, Laos

By Kevin

sunny
View Amy & Kev's Itinerary on amyandkev's travel map.

Vientiane is the capital and largest city of Laos (population: 235,000), but life still feels utterly simple and basic here. It’s almost as if we’ve somehow stepped back in time—which I suppose makes sense. Laos was not open for foreign tourism until 1989 (after the fall of the Soviet Union), and private enterprise wasn’t really allowed until the years thereafter. (Laos was and remains under communist rule, although capitalism now prevails.) As a result, Laos has very little of the modern development of even its Asian neighbors, making it seem like life has changed very slowly in the past few decades. Vientiane is not particularly charming or pretty in the traditional sense; but it definitely has charm in its own way. Its simplicity and laid-back feeling is quite appealing, and we ended up staying a day longer than we had planned. As stated by our Lonely Planet guidebook: Vientiane might just be “the most relaxed capital city on earth.”

IMG_1295.jpgIMG_1088.jpg9IMG_1018.jpgIMG_1276.jpg

Laos is cheap, cheap, cheap. A typical sit-down meal is $2-3 and a bottle of BeerLao is a $1 or less. Even in a fancy restaurant (or as fancy as Lao gets), a dish of any ethnicity will almost never go beyond $5 or so. Amy and I, for instance, went out to a more upscale French restaurant recommended by our guidebook and—after a steak, pork chop, and wine—our bill was still only $12. Our biggest expense so far (other than lodging) was using the swimming pool at the fanciest hotel in town ($6 each).

IMG_1256.jpgIMG_1282.jpgIMG_1071.jpg

Other notable costs: a one-hour massage: $5; fruit smoothie: $0.50; glass of wine: $1.50; anything from an on-street food vendor: $0.50-$1; mid-range hotel: $30 per night (with breakfast); ride in the tuk-tuk taxis (picture below) $1-2.


IMG_1306.jpgIMG_1274.jpgIMG_1314.jpg

Vietnamese and Thai food is very common here, but Laos has its own take on that style of cuisine. Our favorite dish is chicken laap, a spicy Lao-style dish of minced chicken, garlic, lime, and onions--and served with sticky rice. Tasty. Despite appearances, we also had the best Vietnamese crispy spring rolls at the place below (we went there twice)... which, yes, also rents out motorcycles from the restaurant. (Uh...)

IMG_1050.jpg

The Lao people are known for being very relaxed and friendly…. and we definitely agree. Everyone seems to smile and say “sabai-di” (hello) as you walk by. And the market vendors are extremely laid-back and reasonable; much different than the loud, aggressive, and hard-bargaining street vendors that I’ve seen in other Asian countries.

IMG_1285.jpgIMG_1040.jpg1IMG_1093.jpg

After a few days in Vientiane, we took a hot and humid bus ride to Vang Vieng (which is basically a stop-over point on the way to another city, Luang Prabang). The town of Vang Vieng is very small and overly-touristy (and a bit on the dirty side), but the surrounding landscape is flat-out gorgeous. Huge limestone cliffs tower over the town.

IMG_1341.jpgIMG_1102.jpgIMG_1109.jpgIMG_1122-1.jpgIMG_1348.jpg4IMG_1107.jpg
IMG_1115-1.jpg

The most popular activity in Vang Vieng is to take an inner tube down the Nam Song river. The 3.5 km trip is so popular that various “bars” have been set up on the beaches along the route, with operators that hold out bamboo poles to bring you in to their bar. Definitely a 'college spring break' vibe. (They’ve also set up various rope swings and water slides to further entice you.) Amy wasn’t feeling well that day, so she wasn’t able to give it a try. I, of course, was inclined to stay back and take care of her, but she insisted that my duties as a blogger demanded I float down the river (with a Beerlao in my hand). The things I have to do for our readers!

108105750_0ce9bf5c2c.jpg267_img.jpgc373c3eb5b..38762cb.jpg

Anyway, we’ve now left Vang Vieng and just arrived in the city of Luang Prabang. More soon....

Posted by amyandkev 22:59 Archived in Laos Comments (1)

Kuala Lumpur

By Kevin

sunny
View Amy & Kev's Itinerary on amyandkev's travel map.

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (commonly known as “KL”) is an enormous city with a rare blend of the ultra-modern (i.e., soaring skyscrapers, monorails, and fancy, enormous indoor shopping malls ) mixed with the traditional and simple (i.e., street markets, food hawkers, ancient temples, quaint shophouses). In lieu of our typical blog entry, I’ll let some of our pictures fill you in instead on our two days in KL…

First off, the twin Petronas Towers (formerly the tallest buildings in the world) are among the most striking, super-cool skyscrapers I’ve ever seen---and are completely mesmerizing when lit up at night.

IMG_1133.jpg

In utter contrast to their fancy, modern shopping malls, we also shopped the bustling, outdoor markets of Petaling Market (in Chinatown), where we could haggle on knock-off goods and taste unique dishes.

IMG_1160.jpg

As we also did in the Night Bazaar (in the neighborhood of Little India).

7IMG_1014.jpg

On various occasions, we ordered food with only the slightest notion of what we would be served. (Either the menu was unintelligible or there wasn’t a menu at all.) Fortunately, we loved the food overall and had several ridiculously-good meals. Here’s a food pavilion in Little India.

IMG_1251.jpg

The most traditional method for eating is to use your spoon (with the fork only as a guide to get food onto your spoon; and never a knife.) But many Malays---as you can see in the photo below--- don’t use any silverware at all regardless of the dish. Often, there will be a sink with soap in the middle of the restaurant to clean off your hands afterward. (Also, check out the fake Burberry bag on the guy next to him. Everyone has knock-off items!)

IMG_1151.jpg

Just a few miles outside of the city center are the Batu Caves, which are huge limestone caves that contain sacred Hindu temples. Plus, monkeys everywhere!

IMG_0992-1.jpg
IMG_1222.jpgIMG_0965.jpg

KL is known for having some of the cheapest five-star hotels in the world. We splurged a bit and stayed at a fancy hotel with modern rooms and a gorgeous infiniti pool overlooking the Petronas Towers… for only $75 per night (including a full breakfast for two). Here's the pool:

IMG_0938.jpg

While we understand their fascination with snowmen, that still doesn’t fully explain the exhibit we stumbled on: Winter World.

1IMG_0931.jpg

After our short stay in KL, we are flying to Vientianne, Laos and plan to spend roughly a week or so in Laos (mostly in Vientianne and Luang Prabang). I’ve heard fantastic things about the country, so I’m excited to get there.... but we have pretty much no idea what to expect.

FYI, you can check out our Kuala Lumpur pictures at Flickr.com. You can also see all of our New Zealand pictures here.

Posted by amyandkev 06:46 Archived in Malaysia Comments (3)

Australia

by Amy


View Amy & Kev's Itinerary on amyandkev's travel map.

(Written on Saturday, February 14, 2009)

Well, as quickly as Australia began, it is now over. Kevin and I had only planned for 6 nights in Australia (5 of which we would spend in Sydney). Australia is a country that I've always wanted to visit -- and wish I would have while I had free lodging many years ago when my good friends Krichelle and Matt were living there temporarily. However, due to time constraints and wanting to visit so many other countries in (ironically) our short 5 months of travel, we had to limit our time somewhere.

We arrived in Sydney on Sunday, February 8th and from the moment I saw downtown, I was awestruck. The beauty of the city is unparalleled. The weather was warm, with clouds coming in overhead. We had booked a little bed and breakfast in a surfing town just 30 minutes by Ferry from downtown Sydney called Manly Beach. Our intentions were good -- we figured after nearly a month of traveling by bus every day or two around New Zealand and staying in hostels, we'd be ready for some ultimate sun and relaxation. So we booked our 5 nights in the B&B on Manly Beach, just a short 5 minute walk to one of Sydney's most popular surfing beaches. The ferry ride to Manly was gorgeous with fanstastic views of the harbor and skyline on full display.

IMG_0991.jpgIMG_0988.jpgIMG_0986.jpg

We had picked up several brochures to help us decide how we would plan on our week -- would it be a 3-day surfing camp, bike riding nearby, or just lounging out on the beach until we've finished the couple books we bought at that used book shop in NZ? While our intentions were good, our luck was not so much. That first night would be the last clear day or evening that we'd see during our entire stay in Australia. Unreal!

The beach in Manly where we stayed:
IMG_1058.jpgIMG_1059.jpg

Instead we woke up on Monday morning to gray clouds, wind, and intermittent rain. We checked the forecast thinking we had time to weather a few rainy days out -- not so much. The weather pattern looked to be here for the next week (our entire stay). At first, being from Seattle and knowing that you can never trust the weather forecasts, we just simply figured that we may have to "weather" out a few days, but the sun would eventually come shining. Alas, it never really did. But we still managed to get some of our intended activities in, even if the beach sunbathing would have to wait for Thailand.

Some of the highlights: We took a tour of the Sydney Opera House -- stunning! I was so glad to take the tour because while seeing the Opera House from the perimeter is quite amazing in itself, I had seen so many photos of it over the years. But actually getting to go inside and see the various theaters and learning the history of how it came to be (and how it almost didn't) was thoroughly interesting. Unfortunately, we don't have too many pictures to share here, because photos aren't allowed inside the theaters. But trust me -- it was beautiful. I was so entranced, I convinced Kevin (it wasn't easy) that we must see our first opera in this place while we were visiting. Alas, his luck ended up on the right side for him this time, for when we inquired for tickets the next day, they were all sold out. (Why am I jumping? I think it was due to my pure joy when Kevin finally agreed we could see the Opera!) The bridge shot is the view from the Sydney Opera House.

IMG_0992.jpgIMG_0996.jpgIMG_0998.jpg

We also went to the Sydney Wild Animal Park -- basically an indoor zoo of sorts at Darling Harbor. It was pretty fun getting to see the various wildlife that is native to Australia. We especially enjoyed the kangaroos and getting close and personal with the koalas. They are so cute!

IMG_1009.jpgIMG_1011.jpgIMG_1014.jpgIMG_1018.jpgIMG_1027.jpg

What else did we do in Sydney? Well, we basically took the 5 days pretty easy. We were surprised at how much we didn't mind the rain and actually welcomed several days of doing nothing -- if you call eating at great little restaurants, playing cards in the cafes over tea and a mid-afternoon snack, checking out the shopping and sites in downtown Sydney, and eating and drinking doing nothing.

IMG_1098.jpgIMG_1096.jpgIMG_1043.jpg

Probably both the highlight and lowlight of our time in Sydney was when we attempted their famed "Spit Bridge to Manly Harbor" walk. It is a 9K walk that one of our books claimed was a 2.5 hour walk. When one of our days proved to be promising (mostly cloudy with pockets of sun and hopefully no rain), we put on our improper footing and set off to complete it. We caught the public bus to the starting point -- it would finish just steps away from our B&B. The walk was beautiful. But hardly easy. It didn't help that the moment Kev stepped off the bus, he must have stepped wrong, and possibly tweaked his leg a bit. He started out the walk limping. Uh-oh. Immediately the route had us climbing up rocks, over foot bridges, through sandy beaches, and via gravel & dirt paths. It was pretty to say the least, but several hours in, we realized this would be much longer than 2 hours for us. With the wrong footwear for such an intense walk (I had thought my sandals would be fine), my feet kept getting new and different blisters. Luckily, I had brought with me several band-aids, but halfway through the walk, I had exhausted them and needed more. After more than 3 hours of walking, Kev and I were spent. We finally found our way to a road and saw a bus stop. We waited it out 30 minutes until the next bus arrived to take us back. We never did finish that walk, though it was very pretty. Whoever said 2 1/2 hours was out of their mind -- and we seriously question the 9K -- it felt much longer than that and we didn't even do the whole thing! Oh well! Here are some pictures from the finer moments of that walk:

IMG_1060.jpgIMG_1066.jpgIMG_1072.jpgIMG_1074.jpgIMG_1082.jpgIMG_1094.jpg

We finally left the rain and the grey skies on Friday, February 13th for the Gold Coast where we were hoping to find sunshine and warmer weather (so we could finally make use of those beaches I hear Australia is famous for). We should have known better flying in on Friday the 13th. Our plane barely was able to make it -- with the pilot telling us he may need to detour due to the foul weather preventing him from landing. We circled the airport for about 30 minutes trying to wait out the weather -- meanwhile many people starting to get ill from the motion. However, luckily the weather cleared up just long enough for him to make a safe landing. But it didn't hold -- the weather poured and the wind blew hard. This was the type of rain that you actually get wet in -- really wet (unlike Sydney's rain where is was more like a mist). However, we still enjoyed our day in the Gold Coast again relaxing and taking it easy. (I guess New Zealand really wore us out!).

Australia didn't exactly live up to our expectations (due to the weather), but I don't think either one of us is too disappointed. We needed the reprieve and it was nice to have the excuse of poor weather for convincing us to relax and stay in and take it easy. So we now leave behind all our experiences with English-speaking countries and look forward to navigating through non-English speaking countries (we left for Malaysia on Saturday). We are well-rested, refreshed and ready to bring on our adventures in Asia!

Have a very happy Valentine's Day. Miss you!

IMG_1107.jpgIMG_1110.jpg

Posted by amyandkev 02:05 Archived in Australia Comments (2)

NEW ZEALAND: WRAP-UP

By Kevin & Amy

What We Did: We spent a total of 25 days travelling from Auckland to Christchurch, heading straight down the North Island and then nearly circling the South Island from Picton to Christchurch. In the North Island, we stayed in Auckland, Rotorua, Taupo, and Wellington. In the South Island, we stayed in Picton, Nelson, Greymouth, Franz Josef, Wanaka, Queenstown, and Christchurch.

Overall Impression: We flat-out loved this country. So many amazing things to see. So many amazing things to do. Kevin had already been here six years ago, but he was blown away for a second time. And Amy is convinced that New Zealand will be her favorite country on the trip.

new_zealand_map.jpg

How We Travelled: We took the “Magic Bus” from place to place, a poorly-named, hop-on, hop-off bus system that runs throughout the country. (Yes, it sounds like something out of a bad Cheech and Chong movie). While on the bus, the bus driver will detour to various sights and activities along the way and also book or recommend activities and accommodation at your destination. Best of all, the bus system provides total flexibility. If we decided to stay at a place for an extra day (or three), not a problem; another bus comes through each day and we could just hop on a bus on whichever day we wanted. Makes travelling very easy. Plus, it’s a great way to meet people. The bus is filled with similar-aged travelers from all over the world (most from Europe; very few from the U.S.). It wasn’t uncommon to be sitting on the bus next to six different people from six different countries.

3232915613..8171b_m.jpg

Activities: Activities are limitless in this country. We went blackwater cave rafting; rafted the tallest commercially-rafted waterfall in the world; hiked on, in, and through Franz Josef glacier; hiked and kayaked in Abel Tasman National Park; hiked the three-day Routeburn Track and a part of the Queen Charlotte Track; went canyoning down and through waterfalls; played Frisbee golf repeatedly; did street luge and ice climbing; and, of course, went bungee jumping.

Favorite Activity: Amy’s favorite was bungee jumping in Queenstown. Kevin’s favorite was the glacier hiking in Franz Josef.

IMG_0433.jpg

Favorite City: Amy loved the town of Nelson in the South Island. Charming downtown, hot weather, and a nearby beach. Kevin’s favorite was Queenstown. Picturesque setting, great restaurants, and a limitless amount of activities. We both also really liked Wanaka, Picton, and Wellington.

Most Disappointing: The North Island. We enjoyed our time on the North Island (especially in Wellington), but—if we could do it again—we might have chosen instead to ditch our week on the North Island and spend more time on the South Island. The South Island blows away its northern neighbor.

3233828120..6c4cf_m.jpg

Costs: We were fortunate to benefit from a fantastic exchange rate: the average rate was $1 NZ = $0.53 US, or almost half-price. We spent a huge chunk of our budget on thrill-seeking activities (which are often very expensive), but food and accommodation is quite reasonable. For accommodation, we averaged about $40 U.S. per night for a private hostel room with a bathroom, or $80 US per night when we sprung for a good mid-range hotel. Hot dishes for breakfast and lunch we found to be about 30 percent cheaper than in the U.S., while a gourmet restaurant for dinner is typically 50 percent cheaper. A steak, fish, or lamb at a top-notch restaurant, for instance, is typically priced at only $12-$15 U.S.

Food and Drink: The food was consistently great throughout our travels. Amy had muesli with yogurt and fruit almost every morning (and raved about it almost every morning), while—shockingly---we had the best breakfast burritos of our lives in Wellington (yes, a lonnng way from Mexico) and incredible veggie burgers at various stops. For dinner, we had great lamb and mussels (as we expected) but also had fantastic Indian food, pizza, steak, sushi, seafood, etc., etc. The wine and beer are also consistently good.

IMG_0314.jpg

People: In general, Kiwis are incredibly friendly and outgoing people with often a dry sense of humor.

Weather: The South Island typically has unpredictable weather (even in the summer), but we had mostly sunny skies throughout with temperatures generally in the low to mid-70s. Very nice. Our only disappointment was that windy weather in Taupo kept us from hiking the Tongariro Crossing.

IMG_0726-1.jpg

Next Up: We are spending four days in Sydney before heading to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on February 14, where we will begin our 6-week leg in Southeast Asia. We're a bit sad to be leaving New Zealand/Australia, but we're excited to head to a region that looks and feels nothing like we're used to. The adventure continues!

Posted by amyandkev 20:16 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

Taking the Plunge in Queenstown!

by Amy


View Amy & Kev's Itinerary on amyandkev's travel map.

(Written on Sunday, 2/8/09)

I….DID….IT…!!! “Did what?!?” you may be asking. Did the one thing that I absolutely could not leave New Zealand before doing. The one thing that I was the most scared of attempting and waited until the last possible day before getting the courage to go through with it. The one thing, that required a phone call to my sister to muster up what it took to sign on the dotted line (yes, signing my life away). The one thing that defines Kiwi culture above and beyond everything else: more than ice climbing, glacier hiking, river rafting, fjord tramping, and alcohol consuming (yes, even more than that).

I COMPLETED A BUNGY JUMP!!! (And – even better – have lived to tell you about it.)

It is true – bungy jumping, which is now popular in many parts of the world (though nowhere near as popular as it is here in the Kiwi country), originated in New Zealand. A.J. Hackett became famous for creating the world’s first commercialized bungy jump. Today, he has many different jumps throughout New Zealand, and even a few others sprinkled throughout the rest of the world – I hear that Whistler has one. So far on our tour of New Zealand, we have passed up several opportunities to bungy. However, nowhere in New Zealand is it as popular as it is in Queenstown. There are so many to choose between in Queenstown, it can make you dizzy. It was a difficult decision to choose which one to jump – but ultimately Kevin and I decided on the Kawarau River Bridge Jump – the world’s very first bungy jumping site. Now Kevin left this decision on which jump to take – and frankly whether I should jump at all – completely up to me. When Kevin was in NZ six years ago he completed all of the A.J. Hackett jumps in Queenstown. (There are more jumps today than when he was previously here).

I decided on the Kawarau River Bridge jump for multiple reasons – it’s the only jump where they allow you to jump tandem with another person (so I would be able to jump arm-in-arm with Kevin, which built up my confidence some). Another reason is it is not the longest jump – the jump is just 43 meters (about 141 feet) from a bridge over the river. The largest jump is the Nevis Canyon jump – which would be 137 meters high! Plus – I would have to jump the Nevis alone. Finally, if I was going to get one jump in, it felt fitting that it would be from the world’s original bungy jump. So on Friday, we booked ourselves for a tandem jump from the Kawarau Bridge for the next day – Saturday. I was feeling confident. No nerves at booking time. (Maybe this was going to be easier than I thought).

Saturday at noon we caught the bungy bus with 10 other passengers for a 25 minute ride to the bungy site. It was starting to feel real, and I could feel the butterflies starting to come out of their cocoons in my stomach. I turned to Kevin and asked him whether he was nervous – not a lick. Great. But I still thought if this is as nervous as I get then it’s not that bad. Then the music started. Our driver played several songs during the ride out – Knocking on Heaven’s Door, Highway to Hell, among others. Okay – those crazy A.J. Hackett people should be calming us down – instead their trying to superficiously get us freaked. It was working! Are we really doing this?? The only sense of comfort that I had was Kevin did 3 jumps 6 years ago – he lived, and in 6 years they must have made even more safety improvements, right?

As if this wasn’t bad enough, it was this point when I realized Kevin and I were in flip-flops….everyone else had on tennis shoes. We would be jumping barefoot while the norm seemed to be with bulky athletic shoes. My head started doing the calculations. You are strapped into the bungies by your ankles. Certainly the bulkier of the shoe that you had on would help prevent the bungy from slipping off your ankles…since we were barefoot --- would that mean that there was a greater likelihood that the straps could come off our feet? I looked at Kevin’s feet and mine. At least he has wide feet – harder for the straps to slip off of. But I have such freakishly narrow feet….. I shared this concern with Kevin and he tried to reassure me that it would be fine. But I later noticed he was searching the bus himself checking out everyone’s feet….oh no…is my source of confidence starting to get concerned too??

We arrived at the bungy site and quickly registered – we were weighed separately and then our weights added together to determine the amount of bungy and type that would be used during our jump. They wrote these numbers on our hands – I quickly checked her math myself before heading to the jumping platform as I didn’t want to trust the clerk behind the registration counter with our lives – I seriously doubt A.J. Hackett requires math degrees for these positions. Yup….her math was correct. Okay, now we were told to walk out to the bridge and wait our turn.

At this point the butterflies in my stomach are going crazy….we were 3rd in line. We watched the first person go ahead of us. Instead of jumping, he hesitated and then basically just fell off the platform. Okay, one more to go and then it’s our turn. Oh god. And then the guy harnessing the jumpers asks me my weight…”Oh no, we’re not next…we’re behind this guy” I say quickly and point to the jumper ahead of me. The employee then tells me, “Nope…you’re next”. I feel my stomach drop before we even jump. I wasn’t ready!!

Bridge_Bungy.jpg

So Kevin and I take our seats in the little platform box built off of the bridge. They quickly put the bungy harnesses around our ankles, constantly tightening them and checking them for proper fit. The guy wrapping Kevin’s ankles turns to the other employee and says “now is it twice around the ankle and then through, or through the ankles and then twice around?”. You’ve got to be kidding me right?? Then I see the smirk on his face as he looks at me. Okay, he was kidding me, right? Yes, Amy, certainly he was. He had to be.

They asked us if we wanted to touch the water. Kevin and I talked about this before hand – we decided that we wanted to touch – or be dunked – in the water. So I respond a quick and probably barely coherhent “um, yeah”. Then they gave us some short instructions. Just that we were to put one arm around each other and leave our outside arms up in the air – when we got to the water these arms should break the water and we duck our heads when entering (chin to chest). That’s it. “Now scoot out to the platform and wait for our count” he said. With our ankles wrapped together, scooting out to the platform was not an easy task. I was deathly afraid that I would scoot too far and down I would go. But we managed to get to the edge and I had a deaths hold grip on Kevin’s side. On the count of three we would jump – I bore into myself to not look down no matter what – I knew I wouldn’t be able to jump otherwise. Instead, I focused on a tree in the distance and waited for his count – I blocked everything else out of my mind. Then I heard the count – 1….2….3! And so I jumped straight into the air and I felt Kevin jump with me and it’s a feeling that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to describe accurately.

You know that feeling you get when your stomach drops on a roller coaster? Well multiply that by a zillion. I felt my whole body tense up and my stomach disappear somewhere….like it was asking me what the hell I was doing jumping off a bridge! I don’t think I breathed for those few seconds…and then I saw the ground, or the river actually, getting closer and closer and closer and somehow I felt my body relax….and just as we were getting about to hit the water we prepared by lowering our heads for impact, and then “boing!” we were bounced back up in the air. We didn’t touch the water, but the experience was exhilarating. As we hung there by our feet bouncing up and back down a few times, I couldn’t help but scream out in pure joy – it was so much fun!

AJHK902060577107.jpgAJHK902060577109.jpgAJHK902060577108.jpg

Then the raft came underneath us and we were lowered in. The jump was over…all 60 seconds later. But the buzz still lived on. I was joyous. Afterwards I wanted to do it again. I was so high on the bungy jumping that I wanted to somehow figure out how to get another jump in – this time on The Nevis – the 2nd highest bungy jump in the world! (The first is in South Africa). There was no time left yesterday, so we went to an internet café to see if there was any way we could delay our travel to Christchurch one day and still make our flight to Sydney on time. Alas, there was no way. So the Bridge jump will end my bungy jumping in New Zealand (my mom is breathing a sigh of relief).

Today we caught our flight for Sydney and left New Zealand to our memories and blogs. It was a wonderful 3 ½ weeks and will be difficult to beat. But now we look forward to our next adventures in Australia and beyond.

In the meantime, I’ll be looking forward to a future visit to Whistler (I hear they have bungy…).

Miss you!

Posted by amyandkev 03:22 Archived in New Zealand Comments (9)

The Routeburn Track and Milford Sound

By Kevin

The country of New Zealand has designated nine so-called “Great Walks,” which are multi-day hiking treks that require advance bookings (sometimes months in advance). Amy and I chose to take on the Routeburn Track, a 24-mile, 3-day hike through the mountains of Fiordland National Park in the southern part of the South Island. After spending three days on the track, we emerged tired, sore, and—in my case anyways—quite dirty and smelly. (If anyone ever offers you cologne called “Three Days on the Routeburn,” you should be very, very afraid….) But we also hiked most of the track with huge grins on our faces. Time and time again, we were blown away by the eye-popping beauty of area. The Routeburn Track has some of the most diverse and spectacular scenery we have ever seen. Huge, impossibly steep peaks surround you at every turn. Glaciers, waterfalls, rainforest, beech forest, gorges, lakes, swing bridges….. Wow.

IMG_0754-1.jpgIMG_0587-1.jpgIMG_0807-2.jpgIMG_0794-1.jpg

Prior to setting off on the hike, we rented backpacks, sleeping bags, and cookware in Queenstown and also took along three days worth of food. (Most hikers try to make their packs as light as possible. Us? Well, uh, we stubbornly brought along two boxes of wine…. although I suppose the alcohol helped with the added back pain---so maybe it’s a wash.) In lieu of tents, our accommodation along the track were spartan “huts,” which provide roughly fifty hikers each night with a non-heated bunkhouse, a communal kitchen and living area, and bathrooms (but no showers). We greatly enjoyed cooking our dinner, socializing, and playing cards amongst travelers and languages from all over the world…. Although, then again, we did not enjoy listening each night to snorers and sleeptalkers from all over the world. (Next time: Bring ear plugs!)

IMG_0814-2.jpgIMG_0818-1.jpgIMG_0726-1.jpgIMG_0667.jpg

We lucked out with two days of sun, although we hit a bit of fog on our second day that prevented us from seeing much of anything from the track’s summit. I just wish that our photos did justice to the stunning beauty of this track…

IMG_0730-1.jpgIMG_0878-2.jpgIMG_0795.jpgIMG_0845-1.jpg

At the end of the track, we caught a shuttle to nearby Milford Sound before finally heading back to Queenstown. While at Milford Sound, we took a boat cruise through the sound….. and I’ll just let the pictures fill you in. (Hint: It did not suck.)

IMG_0816.jpgIMG_0876.jpgIMG_0931.jpgIMG_0963-1.jpgIMG_0964.jpgIMG_0975.jpgIMG_0891-1.jpg

Hard to believe, but we only have two more days in New Zealand before heading to Australia. We are catching a bus tomorrow to Christchurch---but we can’t leave Queenstown without doing what Queenstown is famous for: bungee jumping. Stay tuned!

Posted by amyandkev 13:28 Archived in New Zealand Comments (6)

Canyoning in Wanaka

By Kevin

OK, let me first get the record straight: This was Amy’s idea, not mine. (I swear!) We had originally planned to spend our full day in Wanaka hiking the Rob Roy Glacier Valley.... but Amy had other ideas. During a lunch stop on our way to Wanaka, she stumbled upon a brochure for canyoning…. and, on a whim, our plans had suddenly changed. Instead of the standard hiking trip, we would now be “hiking” in and through the Niger Stream (which cuts through a steep, narrow canyon) using nothing but some rope, a harness, a wet suit---and a whole lot of gravity. Canyoning involves abseiling and rapelling down waterfalls…. sliding down natural water chutes… swimming and floating through gorgeous,water-sculpted canyons… and leaping off ledges into water pools. (Very, very fun. And such a unique experience.)

I think the pictures and videos explain it best….. (And, yes, we both loved it. Great idea, Amy!)

IMG_3247.jpgIMG_3249.jpg5IMG_3335.jpgIMG_3265.jpgIMG_3274.jpgIMG_3289.jpgIMG_3313.jpgIMG_3326.jpgIMG_3337.jpgIMG_3258.jpg

Posted by amyandkev 15:21 Archived in New Zealand Comments (7)

(Entries 29 - 35 of 43) « Page 1 2 3 4 [5] 6 7 »