As this stage of our little JWalking trip comes to a close, I thought it might be fun to summarise a few things that we’ve seen and done in the past ten months. That could easily have turned into a mammoth rambling essay that just went on and on and on so that idea was instantly rejected and a far better one popped up.
For those of you that know us, and those of you that don’t, we love a Top Five so that’s what this is. A few Top Fives of memories, places and people that we just can’t forget. Sorry if it’s a little self-indulgent but this is for us as much as you guys. Our favourite is highlighted in blue but the others are in no particular order (probably).
Reef Beach, Fairlight, NSW, Australia – Just one of those incredible days, a tiny patch of sand on the edge of one of Sydney Harbours numerous bays and no-one else but us to swim in the beautifully cold water in the roasting hot sun. We could have stayed there for days, it was so perfect.
Sumner Beach, Christchurch, South Island, New Zealand – Fabulous sandy beach full of surfers and crashing waves. Like all big kids I love playing in the surf especially if it breaks crazily over my head and turns me upside down. Brilliant fun. Plus this is where we saw our favourite Chinese tourist couple, wandering confused and cracking us up at every turn.
Shelly Beach in Manly, NSW, Australia – We made two completely different visits to this little bay tucked away on the Pacific coast south of Manly. The first day was so quiet, full of us paddling and swimming and just relaxing together (possibly because of the “shark spotted” sign) but the second was nuts. Thousands of people surfing, playing football, pushing boats in and out, and generally having a massive beach party.
Oneroa Beach, Auckland, North Island, New Zealand – A beautiful sandy beach on Waiheke Island with lines of yachts and sailing boats anchored just offshore and lovely warm water. Great for digging holes too, which should, of course, be an Olympic sport.
Trinity Beach, Queensland, Australia – The classic palm tree lined Queensland beach. Hot sun, golden sand and gently breaking waves perfect to swim in. It felt like it was specially made just for the two of us, perhaps it was.
Franz Joseph to Wanaka, South Island, New Zealand – Down the west coast of the South Island along twisty turny cliff edges past Franz Joseph and Fox Glaciers with the Tasman Sea breaking just feet away, this was an incredible experience. Every corner threw up a new jaw-dropping view and the drive with mountains on one side and the ocean on the other was spectacular.
Te Anau to Milford Sound, South Island, New Zealand – Long drive down the banks of Lake Te Anau through mountain ranges, thick forests, and across huge valleys surrounded by snow-capped peaks on the way to Milford. Then the Homer Tunnel to finish it off. A crazy steep descent through sheer rock! Fantastic.
Wanaka to Queenstown, South Island, New Zealand – Up over the Crown Ranges through Cardrona, and the lovely pub, right to the lookout at the top of the pass. Then a crazy steep twisting turning race downhill into Queenstown. Heart in the mouth for most of the time!
Launceston to Hobart, Tasmania, Australia – Driving down to Hobart via the Great Lakes Road was just incredible. The temperature dropped by 12 degrees as we climbed to the highest point and the landscape was completely stark and unworldly. Like being on the moon. Then the descent on unmade roads through strange isolated towns and cut-off communities was fascinating. What a drive!
Hokitika to Franz Joseph, South Island, New Zealand – Wild? You’re not joking. The road from Hokitika looks like its been roughly carved on the side of the mountains with massive steep drops at every single corner. Completely terrifying and exhilarating at the same time. So much to see too but you couldn’t take your eyes off the road for a second!!
Milford Sound, New Zealand – How could this not be the best boat trip? Christmas Day in beautiful weather in one of the most incredible places in the world, plus swimming and canoeing! Perfect and a never ever to be forgotten experience (except for the annoying Melbourne couple that blamed me for Gallipoli).
Interislander Ferry, New Zealand – It may only be a ferry but the 4 hour trip from South to North Island New Zealand was amazing. Obviously we were the only ones in t-shirts and shorts on deck the whole way but we were also the most excited. Scenery was spectacular.
Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, Australia – Our major indulgence on this whole JWalking trip, we just couldn’t miss out on visiting and diving on the Great Barrier Reef. An unforgettable day in great weather with some wonderful people (and some strange Irish guys who couldn’t swim a stroke and lots of Chinese peeps who hated the water!).
Lake Taupo, New Zealand – The trip on the Barbary sailing boat out into Lake Taupo was brilliant. So relaxing with the sun going down and the sails blowing in the wind. One of those trips that we just never wanted to end. Plus more swimming! Think we shocked all the other passengers as we lept into the lake. Surely we were too old for that?
Captain Cook ferry, Perth, Western Australia, Australia – A real unexpected treat. The best way to go to Fremantle from Perth is along the spectacular Swan River winding past all of the millionaires houses on the cliffs. Plus free coffee all the way! We know how to live.
Mount Cook, South Island, New Zealand – Just one of those perfect days. Snow topped mountains all around as we walked the Hooker valley towards Mount Cook. Photo opportunities in every direction. I think we just had great big smiles on our faces the whole time. Plus we did Bruce’s Freezing Hand Challenge so that really made our day.
Styria, Austria – The best times are often surprises and when Othmar and Eva took us for a long walk in the mountains on our final day in Austria it was just magical. To spend the day with good friends in such a beautiful place was so emotional and we treasured every single moment. We desperately want to do it again someday, so if you’re reading this Eva stick it in the diary !
Rotorua, North Island, New Zealand – I keep saying it’s not places but people that make travelling so great and this was one of those times. Barbara and Phil took us to Blue Springs for a beautiful long walk along the river through giant redwoods and past thousand year old springs. Incredible. Such a fabulous day made even better by spending it with friends.
Sydney Harbour Park, NSW, Australia – We’d read about the Harbour walk from Manly to the Spit and it surpassed our expectations. Hardly any people yet loads of wildlife, including lizards everywhere, made it even better. Passing so many perfect little beaches we couldn’t help swimming and paddling on the way. A classic walk.
Okarito, Franz Joseph Glacier, South Island, New Zealand – Recommended by Holly our host, we’d never heard of Okarito but it turned out to be a Kiwi reserve and a huge forest-covered hill. So tough to climb but the 360 views of the glacier mountains, sea and lagoon at the top were well worth the effort and the sweat!
The Power of Love – Back to the Future? What more can I say?
Stuck on You – Sat in Taupo harbour listening to Huey doing a sound check when they played the whole of this track. Surreal experience. Not sure any of the sailor types understood what we were so excited at and why we were singing out loud!
Hip to be Square – That’s me that is.
Do You Believe in Love – Um, yes.
Jacobs Ladder – Nice track but we keep seeing references to the fabled Jacobs Ladder down here in museums and on Jo’s plaques (she loves a plaque as you all know).
Munich Christopher Street Parade – Ha! Unbelievably crazy day in Munchen as the world turned pink all around us and we felt like the straightest, most boring people alive for a bit. So many outrageous performers and visitors as the Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender parade took over the whole city.
Melbourne Cup Parade – Another odd one, loads of jockeys and horses and people dressed as jockeys prancing around in the Melbourne rain. Interesting to watch although a little strange. The Melbourne Cup seems to be the biggest event in Australia ever!
Santa Parade in Christchurch – So surprising to be thrust into the middle of Christmas the day after we arrived in Christchurch. Just couldn’t get our heads around Santa Claus and Reindeer in the middle of summer. That’s not right surely?
La Strada – Old Peoples Street Theatre in Austria – The most mind-blowing, unexpected experience ever. A small Austrian village where hundreds of people turned out to watch some bizarre street theatre performed by a group of 70 year olds as it paraded around the streets and ended with one of the nice old ladies going topless on the top of a ladder! Huh?
Chinese Lanterns in Auckland – A little more sensible and very impressive as the massive Chinese community of Auckland celebrated Chinese New Year in style. Hundreds and hundreds of paper lanterns all over the Domain and so much incredible food to choose from.
Max – Carolyn and David’s fabulous little terrier. Up and down the stairs and skiding around the polished wooden floors constantly. Defending the house bravely too with serious yapping.
Teddy – Trisha’s little white terrier that had me running down the road calling his name when I thought he’d escaped. In and out of other peoples gardens and out on to the main road shouting ‘Teddy, Teddy’ before returning crestfallen to Jo saying ‘he’s gone’. Then turning to see him sitting right behind me! Twas the wrong dog.
Lucy – Gill’s lively little dog that raced over the backs of the settees constantly and never ever seemed to sit still – even though he was a bit under the weather and was doggie-sitting her doggiefriend Ruby.
Mika – Sheena and Malcolm’s lovely big fella that just relaxed all day with one sneaky eye following you around the place just in case.
Jessie – Rosa and David’s very relaxed guard dog (pictured above). Nothing seemed to bother her at all. Her special treat was a frozen chicken wing!
Bridge of Spies – Great film, watch it if you get the chance. However the plush seating and posh-ness of the Frankston cinema in Victoria were fabulous. Jo could have curled up sideways in the huge soft seats and we would have happily paid just to sit there for 3 hours without a film! So comfy. Film great too of course.
Star Wars VII, The Force Awakens – Back to their best with the new Star Wars film but the fact we watched it in a classic Art Deco cinema in Wellington made it a great evening out. Historic building in a cool part of the city. Loved it and slightly regret not indulging in the Star Wars cocktails on offer. Beats popcorn.
Wild Hogs – Yes thats right, the old John Travolta Wild Hogs film. May be naff, may be corny, but we watched it at Carolyn’s house in Seaford and they were bikers and it just seemed appropriate. Funny in places and we’ll always think of her and David if we ever see it again. Is that insulting? Not sure.
The Christmas Candle – Jo’s Christmas film 2015 watched in Wanaka with our host the lovely Gill. They curled up on her great big sofas with Lucy and Ruby, the dogs, and a few glasses of wine to share a festive moment. Roasting hot and sunny outside with all the windows wide open but still Christmassy.
42 – Never heard of it? Neither had we until we chose it on Netflix in Zorneding in Munich. With a single pair of headphones (one earpiece each) and our heads pushed together we watched this incredible film one evening. Sometimes when you know nothing about a film and expect even less it just jumps up and grabs you, this was one of those films. About the first black baseball player in the US. Fantastic.
Milford Sound, South Island, New Zealand – How could this not be our top swim? Christmas Day in one of the worlds most unbelievable locations as we canoed then dived off the back of the boat into the freezing cold waters of the Sound. So deep, so still, so cold, yet breathtakingly amazing. We didn’t want to get out. More than perfect.
Hot pool in Rotorua, North Island, New Zealand – Not really a swim I suppose but the experience of bathing in the muddy hot pool in the pouring rain as the sun went down was almost magical. The rain so cold on our heads with the incredibly warm spring water all around us. Another time we won’t forget ever.
Trinity Beach, Queensland, Australia – What’s better than great big waves crashing over your head and throwing you up in the air? Shattering but you just can’t stop leaping into them can you? Would have loved our three boys to have been with us there, how great would that have been?
Reef Beach, NSW, Australia – Great beach but the calm waters of Sydney Harbour were just made for swimming. Hardly any waves to mention and beautifully warm it was like our own private pool, but with lots of ferries and boats crossing all over it on the other side of the harbour.
Lake Taupo, North Island, New Zealand – Taupo is a huge lake, over 40 miles long I believe, and our little swim there from a quiet spot along the shore was so nice. No waves but so fresh and clear you felt like you were floating. Unfortunately this was where I lost my towel right at the moment of least clothing at exactly the moment a lady walked past. Embarrassing? Just a bit. As she left us she told Jo she’d seen it all before. Don’t remember that!
Zorneding Festival, Munich, Germany – We love going to local events and this town festival saw pretty much the whole town turn out in a small park where there were stalls, tons of food, beer tents and of course plenty of beer. The Germans love a festival. There were a few live bands performing and as we got merrier and merrier we found ourselves singing along to classic rock and traditional German songs. What a night!
Rotorua Park, North Island, New Zealand – Another live event in the park on Sunday afternoon. Sat amongst a few hundred local Kiwis chilling out and enjoying the soft rock anthems being pumped out. I was desperate for them to do Hotel California but alas not, a couple of other Eagles hits had to make do.
Frauenthal Concert in the Park, Styria, Austria – Cycled to the next village with Eva and Othmar to watch the Sunday morning jazz concert in the town square. Everyone in town seemed to know them and we were introduced to so many people, mainly by Oma (Evas Mum who appears to know absolutely everyone in Austria!). Seemed to be a lot of wine drinking going on too …….
Peter at the BBQ, Vochera, Austria – Not really a show but certainly live, Peter (Eva’s brother in Vochera) sang the whole of Hotel California to us over a bbq at his house after one or two beers. Every word with no backing track. A real experience that we won’t forget.
Cornwall Park, Auckland, North Island, New Zealand – Another free concert? Yep. This time a band from X Factor NZ were on and we laid on the grass listening to pop hits and then some 1970s prog-rock. Favourite moment was the guitar-solo heavy rock version of The Godfather Theme. Very different.
June 2015 – February 2016