Friday, December 28, 2012

2012 Travel's In Review

So 2012 wasn't as big a travel year as 2011, but it did start off with a bang..

January 2012
We finished 2011 in South America and our trip there continued through January.

Machu Picchu, Peru (New Years Day)
Cusco, Peru
Colca Canyon, Peru
Arequipa, Peru
Nazca, Peru
Paracas, Peru
Lima, Peru
Galapogos, Equador
Quito, Equador
Iguazu Falls, Brazil and Argentina
Santiago, Chile
Rapanui/Easter Island
Papeete, Tahiti
Moorea, Tahiti

February 2012
We kept it local for our five year anniversary, spending the day eating at Peats Bite, NSW

April 2012
We spent the Easter long weekend snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef on Wilson Island, Queensland

June/July 2012
We once again visited the Cook Islands, starting in Rarotonga, Cook Islands, including the Cross Island Track, then heading off to one of the smaller outer Islands Mauke, Cook Islands.

September 2012
While based in Melbourne, Victoria for work, DH came down for a weekend.

October 2012
Not one's to stay at home when we can get away, we visited Hobart and it's surrounds in October.

Hobart, Tasmania, including MONA
Port Arthur, Tasmania
Tasman Island, Tasmania

Followed by a quick trip to Brisbane, Queensland for the rugby.

December 2012
Saw us celebrate my birthday by a home stay in Sydney


Okay, when I put it all together, it's not a bad effort for 2012....what was your year like?

Thanks for reading my posts this year, hears to great travels in 2013!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Wish List: NYC on NYE!

We live in one of the best cities to celebrate NYE. There is simply no better place to bring in the new year, than sitting on Sydney Harbour watching the fire works on a warm, balmy night.

But I got distracted, new years in New York has always been on my wish list, but that's a little bit unoriginal. So I was very pleased when I found the New Year's Eve Midnight Run & Fireworks in Central Park. The 4 mile or 6.4 km, starts at midnight. They have fire works, plenty of supporters and a champagne station, yes a champagne station.

This isn't a race for those trying to achieve a personal best for the distance, there's no corals, no timing chips, it's all about getting out and having some fun to bring in the new year.

Has anyone done this run?

What's your plans for bringing in the New Year?

Friday, December 14, 2012

Travel by Accommodation

We've been lucky to travel to some a wide variety of places and the accommodation we've used has varied from the luxuriousness to the basic. They each have there advantage and disadvantages. Sometimes when all your doing is sleeping at the place basic is all you need, other times there's not a lot of option. Glamping has become a newer thing in Australia, which I personally love because it has the advantages of camping with a touch (or two) of luxury! So these are our favourites by "category"

Hands down it has to be Lord Howe Island and the Capella Lodge.

The Bay of Fires lodge used during the Bay of Fires Walk is a close second.

This is a toss up between Paperbark Camp in Jervis Bay (which reminds I'll have to blog about that sometime soon) and Wilson Island, which is well know for it's "Ship wreaked in Style" feel.

We haven't done a lot of this lately, but the place we slept on day 1 of the Inca Trail had a spectacular view, and someone else set up your tent for you.

This one is difficult we've staying in quite a few small, boutique places, including the Islington Hotel in Hobart.

This is the prime example of where to stay when you want to spend little money, and there's one country that does them extremely well - New Zealand. The room we stayed in in Te Anau to base ourselves for our Sound cruises was clean, private (you can choose private rooms with or without private baths) and inexpensive.

We haven't done a lot of this, cruising isn't really our thing, but there are some places that are better seen by boat, such as our cruise on Doubtful Sound or our cruise in the Galapagos. Our boat in the Galapagos was our favourite, mainly due to the low number of guests (16).

Some trips we've been on a tight budget, so it can be a mater of how to we find budget accommodation without a tent and without staying in a hostel? One good example of this is the cabins we stayed at in Kings Canyon National Park in California, they were a great low cost option right in the park.

This is a bit of a broad group, and maybe should be other. I guess out of everything left the Hotel Bristol in Opatija with it's gorgeous sea views also belongs on this list.

Where is your favourite accommodation? Do you tend to stick to the same style?

Friday, December 7, 2012

To tour or not to tour

Everyone has their own travel style. Most people have strong opinion one way or another on traveling in groups or a tour group. We do a mix and match. Why? Because there are advantages and disadvantages to both:

Advantages of a tour group

  • There's a coup or a natural disaster someone has already figured out your alternative arrangements and made on the bookings (this includes minor things such as planes being cancelled)
  • You can pack as many things into as tight a time frame as you have
  • If your travelling alone it's a great way to meet other people, even as a couple it's great to travel with like minded people
  • The your transport, accommodation and tips of the areas your visiting are pre-planned, and for most of the trips we do there's time to do your own thing
  • If you can't speak the language or don't speak more than a few key phrases a group can give you more security

Advantages of doing it on your own

  • You can change your itinerary just because you liked a specific location
  • You can mix and match activities to suit your mood or style
  • You can choose your own accommodation based on where you are and what you've heard
  • Sometimes you want to immerse yourself in one city for that one trip and pick up side tours as you go along

Disadvantages of a tour group

  • There can be the over whelming personality Tip: Just go with the flow, sometimes by fussing you can make it worse
  • Even in a group that you get along with after a certain time period on a bus you just want a break Tip: Choose a tour where there is free time and/or optional activities build it
  • Some tours include things like meals, which limits you to more of the tourist style places Tip: Choose a tour with limited add on meals and do your own research
  • You can spend all your time on a bus/train/ferry Tip: Research the tour company and itinerary well before you book, don't be afraid to email the company and ask them lots of questions
  • Someone has always been somewhere you never thought of travelling to and you end up crossing off 5 countries this trip to add 20 to your wish list Tip:  The world is large, add it to your list, who knows what you've been missing

Disadvantages of doing it on your own

  • If you can't speak the language a boarder crossing can become lots more complex, or as we saw with a couple on the Thai/Cambodian boarder, stuck without transportation Tip: Research before you go to learn key phrases or find other travelers that have done it before
  • Costs can be more of a unknown, if exchange rates fluctuate unfavorably then the price goes up, or you don't get the group rate Tip: Plan ahead or if you like to be spontaneous then add some beef to your budget for the what if's
  • You can spend half your time trying to figure out where the doggy parts of town are, or what really is the best place to eat guinea pig Tip: Talk to other travelers as you go to see what they're experiences were, usually you can find someone who's just been to the place your headed to

So for one or more of those reasons we either do it alone, join a tour or do it in combination. It's really up to you and what you find to be the advantages or disadvantages, just don't tell me I'm not doing it "right" when I travel with a group :)

If your looking at small group travel two groups I recommend are:

Intrepid Travel - small group adventures based in Australia
G Adventures (previously GAP) - small group adventures based in Canada

Friday, November 30, 2012

Travel by Season

We don't always plan our trips based on what the best season is. But since we've started to do more outdoor related activities this has been more important  It was interesting to look through our recent trips and think of them in terms of the season, depending on the location it wasn't always easy to pick!

We got mostly dry weather when visiting the Milford and Doubtful Sounds of New Zealand.

Yet it was hot and humid, when visiting the Iguazu Falls.

We live in a location with a relatively mild winter, so Vegas in January isn't too bad. Especially considering DH is wearing a T-shirt in this photo.

Most of our rugby trips are taken in the Southern Hemisphere winter (being a winter game and all), including this game in Auckland in July.

Spring in the California National Parks such as Yosemite can be pretty spectacular, with the snow melting the falls are in full swing.

While the weather wasn't fantastic for our trip to Lord Howe Island, I think the season helped the green's in the fantastic scenery and also meant it was warm enough to go swimming.

The leaves were starting to change on our trip to the Plitvice Lakes in Croatia.

It was also autumn when we visited Launceston prior to our Bay of Fires hike in Tasmania.

Do you have a favourite season to travel in?

Friday, November 23, 2012

Trip Must Have's

I did a post a while back on our typical packing list, but this is more about the five must have things I take on any trip, whether it's a weekend away or a 6 week trip.

1. My camera
The invent of the digital camera has allowed us to take large numbers of photos at little or no cost (once you have your original investment), and the technology in the camera's allows you to take some pretty magnificent shots without too much know how.

I have a  Lumix - drop proof, water proof and freeze proof - in other words Rebecca proof.

2. A book (or in most cases my Kindle)
I love to read, and in 2009 there was a number of occasions where I got stuck during my FIFO schedule without a book. Books in Australia are also expensive, so even though I didn't want to be on a 5 hour flight without a book I also wasn't too willing to hand over $35 to do so. Hence where the kindle came in, it's light, it holds 100's of books so there's no risk of running out and the battery charge is relatively large.

3. Pen and Paper
I use to have elaborate travel diaries and still have them stacked on my bookshelf, but now seeing most trips get transcribed right into this blog when we return, a pen with any form of paper will do the trick (I've even used serviette's when I've realised I've left the note pad at home).

4. Sunscreen
Living in the Australian sun trains you young that you do not want to spend your trip burnt. Most moisturiser sold here comes with SPF15+, but we always carry a roll on of sunscreen.

5. Torch
We tend to get off the beaten track, where sometime electricity can be unpredictable (or as in the case of Wilson Island limited at best), so a tough torch or a headlamp helps.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

We had such a good time at the rugby here in 2011 we decided to come back. Instead of rain and the miserable weather we had last year, it was bright, sunny and a balmy 30C (approx. 85F). We also had less time this trip taking a later plane from Sydney and catching an earlier flight back on Sunday due to DH being on the back shift.

Accommodation can be in peak demand and pricey for these games. So while I paid more than I would have wanted to for a 4 star hotel, I was much happier with this option than where we stayed last year. The room at The Sebel Suites was clean, had a good view and was quiet. My only complaint would be is that you can tell these hotels are old from their bathrooms, which don't seem to get updated as much as the rooms.


Lunch at AJ Vietnamese Noodle House. We were early at noon, but by time we left the small cafe was bustling.

We tried to find a better spot for breakfast, but due to time restrictions once again found ourselves at Spoon Expresso Deli. Give it a miss, the service is poor and the food is average, particularly for the price your paying.


Catch a game at Suncrop Stadium, I still think it's the best venue to watch a rugby game

Have a drink and take a walk along Southbank

Friday, November 9, 2012

Travel by photo

Some of my favourites since the age of digital photography (or more to the point since I embraced digital photography!).

Lord Howe Island, Australia
This is a favourite because it was our outlook for breakfast each day we stayed on Lord Howe Island, but the different shades of green and blue show the diversity of the Island.

Plitvice Lakes, Croatia
This was one of the places DH pushed for us to visit (normally its the other way around) and I like the colour of the water, matched with the rushing water.

Doubtful Sound, NZ
We had been disappointed with our trip the day before on Milford Sound, but I knew it would be a different experience when we hit this lookout on our way down to Doubtful Sound.

Galapagos, Equador
There are so many pictures from our trip to the Galapagos Islands, but this seal, combined with the red vegetation behind it made me think of home.

Bay of Fires Walk, Tasmania
The combination of the white of the lighthouse, the texture of the body of the lighthouse and the ripples caused by the wind in this picture make me remember what became a sunny lunch break.

Mauke, Cook Islands
We spent hours watching waves roll in the day this picture was taken. The blue in the waves and sky are calming for me.

I can remember how I felt when we took this picture, after four days hiking at altitude and a early morning start, seeing Machu Picchu was so much more spectacular than I expected it to be (and than this picture shows).

I don't know what I love about this picture, but we have this one in a few places over the house (including framed in A3 size), I think part of it is the sunlight on the left hand side.

Sunrise at Angkor Wat, Cambodia
A typical shot taken at Angkor Wat, but it's the colours that I love in it.

Where's your favourite picture taken from? What makes it your favourite?

Friday, November 2, 2012

MONA, Hobart, Tasmania

I am not a fan of modern art, but this was DH's main drive for coming to Hobart.

We took the first ferry of the morning at 9:30 am, arriving at MONA at 10:00 am.

The MONA gallery has only been open since 2011, and is privately owned. The gallery is actually underground and the architecture seems to have been designed to match the art inside.

We had lunch in the cafe, but the Wine Bar or the Source might have been better locations (the food was ok, but over priced, my perri perri chicken salad, was small and not at all spicy like I would have expected, yet still tasty).

Like I said I'm not a fan of art but it was easy to spend the day there.

We finished by catching the bus directly to the airport at 3:30 pm, they definitely have it all set up well.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Tasman Island, Tasmania


I had no idea what to expect, it definitely wasn't the spectacular scenery we experienced on our cold trip out to Tasman Island.


We did this as part of a day trip from Hobart, which also included a side trip to Port Arthur.


We even got to wear these dry suits, which even though aren't that attractive were more than welcome in the wet, windy and cold conditions.


The three hour boat ride takes you up the coast, stopping at major points for pictures and an explanation by the boat crew.



The trip ends with spectacular views of Tasman Island, before heading back to the starting point.