A Travellerspoint blog

Sydney Part 2

Featherdale Wildlife Park and Blue Mountains

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Hello again all, we havent forgotten about the blog it's just been a bit trickier finding somewhere here in Thailand to sit down and write it! More about Thailand shortly, but first we'll fill you in on our last couple of days in Sydney.

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The day after new years day we got the train out of Sydney to Featherdale Wildlife Park in hope of a few close encounters with the famous aussie animals! We chose this particular place as it's out of the City so large enough to let some of the animals roam around and lets you into their enclosures to stroke and feed them. On our way in we came across a cute little wallaby and some very lazy wombats! We also saw a cassowary which is an enormous bizarre looking bird which looks like it should have been extinct with the dinosaurs! They had a big koala enclosure with lots of little fuzzy bears hugging trees, as they spend about 18 hours a day sleeping. They make the branches look extremely comfy as some of our pictures should show.

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After quite a long time checking out the super cool koalas we headed into the kangaroo area to see if they might be peckish for a bit of the food we'd bought. Turns out there were far more visitors with food than there were hungry kangaroos, so instead we fed the emus that were also strutting around. We felt a bit sorry for the poor kangaroos, who were constantly being pestered by children shoving food cups into their faces!

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We saw too many types of bird to mention, some dingos, a big crocodile and a tasmanian devil (which was a lot cuter than it's name suggests!). We meant to spend a couple of hours here but ended up being there all day, it was awesome!

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The next day we got the train to the Blue Mountains, which are about 2 hours away, to do some bush walking and see the famous 'Three Sisters' rock formation. On our way the weather was awful - really misty and drizzley (bad news for good views of the valleys). The next morning the weather was pretty much the same so we weren't expecting to see what we'd wanted, but as the day went on the cloud disappeared and the sun came out for us! We hadn't come all the way for nothing after all, we were so lucky! The views into the rainforest covered valley were amazing and the haze from the eucalyptus trees gave off the blue tint that the mountains are named after.

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We had a bit of a panic on the way back as we thought we had missed the last train back to Sydney (due to a wrongly printed leaflet!) and needed to get our flight to Bangkok first thing in the morning! It all turned out ok though, and by the following afternoon we had arrived! No time now to write about Thailand though as the internet cafe shut 5 mins ago!! Write soon! xxxx

p.s The internet in Thailand seems to be the fastest internet in the world so we've managed to upload the new year fireworks video below!

Posted by alexdani 06:21 Archived in Australia Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

Sydney Part 1

Happy New Year!

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We can't believe we're in Australia! It was such a short flight from New Zealand it seems strange that we're here already. We arrived at our hostel late evening and it may well be the greatest hostel in the world! It was only finished about a month ago so its super modern with spacious rooms and ensuite bathrooms! The thing that really makes it though is the view from the roof terrace. Within about an hour of arriving into Sydney we had a stunning view over the harbour bridge and the opera house, about 10 steps away from our room! Don't think you'd get a better view from any of the 5* hotels around us!

Our first day in Sydney we decided to jump on a ferry to Watsons Bay which is right on the tip of the harbour. We avoided all the expenisve tourist cruises and took the comuter ferry which went all the way through the harbour giving us some great views of the city for a fraction of the price. The city was absolutely full of people and we soon realised that although this would make for a good atmosphere on new years eve it wasn't exactly the best time to be a tourist trying to see the sights! Once we arrived at Watsons Bay though we managed to escape the crowds and head out to the South Head (the tip of the harbour which looks out to sea) we saw a few lovely sandy beaches (one of which turned out to be a nudist beach with only men on! :s) and the old iconic lighthouse at the end.

In the afternoon we caught a bus to the famous Bondi Beach. We'd been warned that it wasn't as good as some of the other beaches and just had the 'famous name' but it was still a fairly decent beach. There were hundreds of people on it taking up almost every inch of sand and lots of people surfing the big waves. We went into a seafood restaurant to taste the obligatory 'shrimps on the barbie' which were very tasty indeed! On the look out for some kangaroo steaks now...

We did the recommended coastal walk from Bondi to Coogee beach stopping off at another few beaches on the way. It was a lovely walk, especially as it was now early evening and not so baking hot. There were lots of people jogging the route which was seriously impressive seeing as we were tired enough just walking it! Think we've seen the Sydney beach life pretty well after today but hope to check out Manly beach (which we've been recommended) as well the day after tomorrow.

We'd planned to see the sights of Sydney today and soak up the new years eve atmosphere but the whole city is pretty much closed down in preparation for new year and a lot of the attractions like the opera house and botanical gardens are prime firework viewing spots so have restricted access and huge queues! We saw people camped out for their spots by 11.00am but many of them looked as though they'd got there even earlier! V.pleased we've got our tickets for the hostel roof terrace! As a change of plan we took a look around the Museum of Contemporary Art, which had a really interesting Aboriginal Exibition and then headed to Darling Harbour to see all the bars and restaurants. The whole city was buzzing in anticipation for new year, we really felt like we were about to be lucky enough to be part of something very special! :) On the way back to our hostel to get our prime viewing seats we spotted a HUGE lizard type thing just sitting on a wall, it was the strangest thing ever to see a lizard about as long as our arms lounging right in front of us posing for pictures. Guess Australia is famous for its unusual wildlife!

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The fireworks display can only be described as utterly spectacular! There was actually an earlier display at 9pm for families that was almost as good as the 12am ones! We really were being spoilt! We thought the roof terrace would be packed out with people but it turned out that they were only allowed to have 150 people so it was all rather spacious and civilised, unlike the massive crowds gathered below us! It wasn't exactly the party we'd been expecting, and we were a little disappointed that we werent in amongst the crowds but it was definitely worth it for the view we had over the harbour. We really couldn't have asked for anything better, it was just amazing. More fireworks than we'd ever seen, all along the harbour, off the bridge and even off the buildings around us. We took a video to try and give you an idea of the scale of it all but its too big to upload! :(

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Hope everyone had a fantastic new year. Missing you all very much. xxxx

Posted by alexdani 03:57 Archived in Australia Tagged backpacking Comments (3)

Auckland

Saying goodbye to beautiful New Zealand

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As soon as we left Mount Maunganui the weather returned to the usual clouds! It seemed we were treated to some great weather for christmas but that would be all! We jumped on the Magic Bus for the last time :( and headed back to where it all started 4 weeks ago...Auckland. The hostel we'd picked was a fair way outside the city so we had our longest trek so far with our rucksacks (something its probably best we get used to now!). When we arrived though it was a lovely old (for NZ) building with big verandahs overlooking the city.

We didn't really get up to much in our last few days as we needed to take some time to plan the next few weeks of our travels and take a bit of a break before our busy schedule in Sydney! We did take a trip up Auckland's Sky Tower though, which is the tallest in the Southern Hemisphere at 328m (bigger than the Eiffel Tower). We decided to go up at night to see the city lit up which was pretty cool. The lift up to the top had a glass floor and windows so we could look down into the shaft as we shot up into the sky. All the glass made it a thrilling ride but Dani was a little freaked out at how high we were zooming!

We've had the most amazing time in New Zealand, it seems hard to believe that anywhere else we go will be as fantastic. Saying that though, we feel like we've seen so much in the short time we've been here and we're ready now to move on to some new challenges and see some different cultures. Off to Sydney next! Reallly can't wait! :)

Posted by alexdani 02:57 Archived in New Zealand Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Mt Maunganui

It's Christmaaaaaas!

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Sorry we couldn't have this post up for Christmas but we had some 'technical difficulties' with the blog and we're only just able to put it on now!

Anyway, we arrived into Mount Maunganui on Christmas Eve, and even though the weather has been pretty unpredictable in NZ it was reassuringly hot and sunny. Looked like Christmas day on the beach was on the cards after all! Unfortunately, unlike some of the other hostels, there was no communal Christmas lunch planned so we had to pop to the supermarket to get food! It was nothing like the Christmas Eve shopping experience at home! It was unusually busy (for NZ) but people weren't shoving each other out of the way to get the best turkey!! It made it feel a bit more Christmassy though, seeing all the local people buying their Christmas food (which as far as we can tell involves glazed hams!).

We got up early on Christmas day to make the most of the free breakfast that they had prepared for us, which was nice apart from the fact that the hostel was full of Germans who all knew each other and most lived there so there wasn't as much Christmas spirit as we had hoped. The owners of the hostel were using the kitchen for their Christmas lunch so we took our picnic down to the beach (about 5 mins walk away). There was hardly anyone on it and we had a huge stretch of sand all to ourselves! The weather didn't disappoint either, we spent most of the afternoon sunning ourselves and Alex went for a swim in the sea! Very unusual activities for Christmas day! We had to keep saying "Merry Christmas" to each other to remind ourselves what day it was!

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In the evening we made our Christmas dinner, which was a pre-cooked stuffed chicken, frozen roasties, veg and gravy!! It was a bit of a sorry looking Christmas dinner compared to home standards but we agreed that it was the best dinner we'd made the whole trip!

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After dinner we decided to walk up to the top of Mount Maunganui to watch the sun go down. It was a bit more of a trek than we had expected, but the view (and the mince pie as a reward) was definitely worth the effort!

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The mount is at the end of a peninsula so it is almost surrounded by water, which makes for rather impressive views.

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We had a fun and very unique Christmas but decided that the best place in the world to be on Christmas day is most definitely at home!! We missed everyone (and mum's cooking) very much!

Hope everyone had a fantastic Christmas!! xxxx

Posted by alexdani 19:20 Archived in New Zealand Tagged backpacking Comments (3)

Rotorua

Thermal Wonderland and Polynesian Spa

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After a quick stop of in Taupo to collect our lost camera!!!! YAY! We arrived in Rotorua. First port of call was Wai-O-Tapu "thermal wonderland", a thermally active site with lots of hot springs, mud pools and stunning naturally coloured pools. It was a lot like the place we'd been to a while ago in Taupo but on a much larger scale and much less rainy day so we thought we'd take a look. The colours created by the different types of minerals were amazing (but sadly didn't really come out in the pictures). The place did absolutely stink of eggs though, because of all the sulphur steaming out of the pools.

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After dinner we headed to the Polynesian Spa. We'd seen lots of hot pools but hadn't had a chance to dunk our aching limbs in them yet! The steaming hot water for the pools is pumped out of the surrounding ground and apparently is excellent for muscle pain and silky smooth skin. We stayed for ages, enjoying the views over Lake Rotorua as the sun went down. There were 7 different pools but they were all just hot hot hot!

Before leaving for Mt Maunganui this afternoon, we spent the morning walking around the local park. It wasn't your average park though! Bubbling mud and steaming pools in between the trees and playground! Definitely a health and safety hazard back home! We also stumbled across a local flea market which was a refreshing break from all the super touristy things we've been doing these last few weeks. It was just lots of locals selling bits and bobs and a few maori's dancing and playing music but we really enjoyed it!

Can't believe it's Christmas eve! Just doesn't feel right to be in the sunshine. Its going to be a very strange day tomorrow.

P.S I've updated our Queenstown entry. Check it out!

Posted by alexdani 00:10 Archived in New Zealand Tagged backpacking Comments (3)

Napier

Beers, Kiwis and Art Deco-ville

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We actually returned to Wellington between Kaikoura and Napier but we're running out of our NZ budget so made the most of a day doing absolutely nothing of interest (apart from the return trip across the Marlborough Sound from the south island to the north, which was just as impressive as the 1st time).

The journey to Napier had another helping of jaw dropping scenery, this time cruising through the Rimutaka Ranges (basically just enormous mountains covered in dense forest.) The first stop on the trip was the Mount Bruce Wildlife sanctuary, where we finally got a chance to see New Zealand's most famous bird, the Kiwi! It's nocturnal, so we had to go into a dark house made especially so that people can catch a glimpse of the elusive creatures during the day. We saw absolutely nothing at first but after our eyes became accustomed to the light we saw one. They're the strangest things ever, about the size of a chicken but like a big ball of fur with legs and a long pointy beak. Unfortunately due to it being dark we can't show you any pictures but trust us, it was one strange looking bird! Kiwi's are on the decline in NZ as they've evolved to be flightless so can't escape all the nasty predators that are roaming about. There are lots of projects around NZ to rescue them! At the wildlife center we also saw a few more types of rare NZ birds, including Dani's favorite, the Takahe, which is bluey-green with a bright red beak and feet.

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Next stop was definitely one of Alex's favorite coach stops of the whole trip, the Tui Brewery! It was a hot sunny day so we sat out in the beer garden sipping freshly brewed beer at 30p a glass! Awesome! Also discovered that the best sleep on a bus is after a few beers, as by the time we woke up we were in Napier.

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Napier is a lovely little town that had to be completely rebuilt in 1931 after a huge earthquake pretty much wiped out the whole place. As it was the 1930's the entire town was rebuilt in the Art Deco design, which is still how it is today! Not a lot to do here other than check out the architecture so quickly back to Rotorua tomorrow to do the things we missed the 1st time.

Posted by alexdani 23:43 Archived in New Zealand Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

Kaikoura

Dolphins, Killer Whales and Flying a Plane

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We’ve had the most unbelievably amazing day. We’re both still in shock. We’d planned on going whale watching today and dolphin swimming tomorrow but the dolphin swim was fully booked tomorrow so we had to go today. It was a bit of a rush to get all wet suited up in time and we were both a bit flustered when we clambered on to the boat but we soon forgot all about it! After just 10 minutes heading out into the ocean we were in the water with 100’s of completely wild dusky dolphins! They’re renowned for being the most acrobatic of the dolphin species and they were leaping and somersaulting all over the place. Amazing. When we were in the water the dolphins literally came whizzing right past us, through our legs and past our faces so close we could have reached out and touched them! There were so many zooming along we werent sure how they didnt bump right into us! We had no idea we’d be getting so close or seeing so many of them as due to the dolphins being wild its up to them if they want to approach people, definitely not your average captive dolphin swim experience. We even saw quite a few tiny baby dolphins swimming closely underneath their mothers. Once the dolphins had swam past we jumped back on the boat to find another pod and within another few minutes we were in the water again!

We got into the water 4 times in total, but on the last swim we were hurriedly called in because the guide had spotted KILLER WHALES in the water, that had scared the dolphins off. Seeing killer whales is extremely rare so we gave up the dolphin hunt and went in search of them instead. Thanks to the captain’s excellent eyesight it wasn’t long before we found them, a pod of about 10-15 killer whales including a baby! They’re enormous, about 9m long and one surfaced right next to the boat. It was breathtaking. Even the guide couldnt believe it, she was running around the boat taking pictures, repeatedly telling us how lucky we were to see Orca so close, as they only spot them a few times a year and never so close to the boat. Hopefully the picture we managed to take will show you just how close it was!

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We both really can’t believe our luck, we’ve had big fat grins plastered all over our faces all evening! :)

After yesterdays fantasticness we didnt know if we should cancel the (quite expensive) whale watching trip we had booked in for today (we had seen killer whales afterall) but as it turned out, due to strong winds and choppy sea all the days trips were cancelled anyway. It seemed odd, as its been the hottest sunniest day we’ve had in NZ so far!

So not wanting to spoil the day we decided to fly a plane instead! We hadn’t planned on this little activity but when the manager of the hostel told us that we could take off, fly and land a light aircraft over Kaikoura’s sparkling coastline for less than 60 quid we couldnt really refuse could we!?

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The pilot came and picked us up in his car, in full pilot atire (epellettes and all!) and drove us down to the airfield. After a quick briefing which included the advice “don’t worry, it’s just like driving a car”, we were in the cockpit. Me first with Dani freaking out in the back, then a quick change around and off again! We were in the air for about 20 minutes each but it felt like ages. We were both absolutely terrified when the pilot told us to push forward the throttle and lift the plane into the sky.

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Don’t worry though Mums, the pilot had dual controls and had everything under control if we messed up! He even showed us a few tricks so we could experience some positive and negative G force and a semi loop the loop! It was a really cool experience, especially as we got to enjoy the views when the other was flying. The peninsula looked awsome on such a bright sunny day! It almost made up for the fact that we couldnt go out whale watching to see sperm whales, but we had seen whales the day before so we shouldnt be greedy!

P.S We’ve put LOADS of pictures on today as we’ve found a PC that would let us do it. You better appreciate them as its taken us about 2 hours of internet time to upload them all!

P.P.S Ava, there’s a few pictures of a Kea up really close for you to see. Its an alpine parrot and very friendly! :)

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P.P.P.S Miss you all, thanks for all the messages, they make us feel not so far far away! Can't believe you might be getting a white christmas, the ONE year we're away (not that we're complaining!) X x x x

Posted by alexdani 21:19 Archived in New Zealand Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

Christchurch

Spending the night in jail

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After one last breakfast on the lakefront bench we’d made our home it was back on the bus to the “capital” of the south island, Christchurch. It couldn’t have been more different from the leafy lakeside town we’d just left, a big city full of traffic and noise! The hostel we were staying at was MILES away so we had to lug our bags to the bus station and work out where we needed to be. All was forgiven when we arrived there though, the hostel was an old converted prison which housed prisoners just 10 years ago. The rooms were in enlarged cells, but with very comfy beds so although we spent the night behind bars it was all very enjoyable! They had a “cinema” room with a big projector and surround sound and when it came to choose a film to watch it had to be the Shawshank Redemption! Very strange watching one of the most famous prison films whilst in a prison ourselves! The hostel turned out to be the highlight of our short stay in Christchurch. NZ really is all about the stunning scenery and not the cities. It wasnt all bad though, we had a stroll around the botanical gardens and looked around the museum.

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We look forward to heading to the far less busy seaside town of Kaikoura tomorrow, where hopefully we’ll see some dolphins! (Dani: WHOOP!)

Posted by alexdani 20:53 Archived in New Zealand Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Lake Tekapo

Lakes, Horses and A Trillion Stars!

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We started our trip to Lake Tekapo by walking/climbing up the world’s steepest street (according to Guiness), which wasnt the most popular activity at 8.30 in the morning! Then it was off to the coast to see the world famous (in NZ) Moeraki Boulders, which are basically just some very big spherical rocks on a beach. Saying this they were actually pretty cool, we took quite a few good “jumping” pictures off the rocks (which you should be able to see in our photo gallery).

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We arrived in the sleepy town of Lake Tekapo early afternoon. It was a beautiful little place with our hostel being right on the lake front. They had a bench out the back looking out at the lake and the mountains which we claimed for pretty much the whole afternoon, relaxing (finally) and enjoying the unusually warm weather.

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In the evening we decided to do a star gazing trip, as the area is supposed to be one of the best in the world to see the night sky as its in the middle of nowhere! We thought the tour was going to be cancelled at first as it had got quite cloudy but luckily the clouds cleared and we had the most amazing view of the night sky we’d ever seen. We saw the southern cross (which can only be seen in the southern hemisphere), Jupiter (and its 4 moons!), a few satalites orbiting, lots of shooting stars, and a couple of globular clusters (Dani can explain those to you another time!) We even saw the cloudy haze of the milky way which we’d only ever seen before in pictures. It was unbelievable.

The following day in Tekapo was pencilled in as a “rest day” as we were both pretty exhausted. So we decided to climb a mountain. We’d heard the views from the top were amazing and although we were almost crawling by the time we reached the top it was definitely worth it. Views of the mountains and the lakes stetching for miles.

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We had to hurry down though as we had horse riding around the lake in the afternoon. We were both very aprehensive when we saw how big the horses were and we were only given about a 2 minute lesson on how to ride them! Dani got the nice little horse (Frank) and I got the mischievous one, great! They were all quite well behaved though, following each other through the woods and around the lake. They were so used to the route I’m not sure how much we were actually controlling where they went, but it was fun nevertheless.

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Posted by alexdani 20:47 Archived in New Zealand Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Dunedin

Albatross, Seals, Sealions and the rarest penguins in the world!

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Spotting some birds

Spotting some birds

A pretty uneventful bus journey from Queenstown to Dunedin but we were looking forward to our Otago Peninsula Wildlife tour in the evening. A short trip out from our hostel and we were surrounded by wildlife, our guide pointed out 22 (yes we counted!) different species! First stop was the Royal Albatross colony, the only mainland colony in the world. The albatross were HUGE, they're the worlds largest sea bird and can have wing spans of up to 3m. It was windy and cold (just for a change) but we've finally learnt that we need to wear essentially all the clothes we've brought with us if we're venturing out in the cold! Next stop was the seal colony and penguin beach which were on a stretch of privately owned coastline, so only our small group of 8 and our guide around. We saw hundreds of New Zealand Fur Seals and as it was breeding season lots of big frisky males and cute little cubs flapping around. Seals aren't the nicest smelling animals but we stayed for ages taking a closer look with our super trendy binoculars! On the way down to penguin beach we saw a massive sealion surfing into the beach on a wave but as there weren't any females around he made a swift exit and unfortunately we couldn't get a decent look.

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The highlight of the evening though had to be the yellow eyed penguins. They're out at sea fishing all day but return home to their nests on the beach at dusk, so we were just in time. One by one we watched them come waddling out of the sea up the beach, it really was the most amazing sight. We also saw a family in their nest, the male and female doing some cute penguin kissing (where they rub necks with each other) and their two fluffy little chicks pestering them for food. On our way back off the beach we came within about 6ft of one of the penguins so got to have a really close look. We couldnt believe how lucky we were to get so close (and see so many) of the rarest penguin in the world.

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As if all this bird watching wasn't geeky enough, we plan on going on a star gazing tour tomorrow as Lake Tekapo (the small town we'll be staying in) is supposed to be one of the best places to see the clear night sky in the southern hemisphere.

Posted by alexdani 23:40 Archived in New Zealand Tagged backpacking Comments (2)

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