A Travellerspoint blog

meeting our fellow Topdeckers


View New Zealand - 2014 on Ils1976's travel map.

Another day, another early rise, but this time we stayed up early to do another "start to run”. After all, I wanted to become fit and this trip is as good as any other to begin with that. Today I had lesson number 2, so this meant that I had my first 3 minutes run or in my case to jog and to my surprise, I felt really energetic when the lesson was over. Bring it on! I am so ready for a new day here in NZ!

The two of us had a quick breakfast and after a nice hot shower, it was already time to pack our stuff. Checking out went very swiftly and before we knew it, we were on our marry way again for our next big adventure, a 17 day tour on both the islands with a company called Topdeck.

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We were a bit worried who our fellow travelers would be and hoped that it wouldn’t be a young party group like we had a few years back, but as soon as we saw a few people coming towards the bus, we know it would be fine, what a relief! They were young compared to me and Tania, but we soon found out that they weren't really heavy drinkers, so no worries there at all!!

Since the bus wasn’t going to leave in yet another hour, we were told to grab something for lunch, which we did at a food court nearby and exactly an hour later we were back at the bus and met up with all our other fellow travelers.

As soon as everyone said hi to each other, we found a place to sit and we were on our way towards the Bay of Islands, which was a good 3 hours drive.

Luckily we didn’t do the drive in one time, we first had a quick toilet stop at a very small place I just can’t remember the name of and than it was onwards again till we had another stop at one of the oldest trees on the island, a Kauri tree.

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Sadly enough it was but a quick photo stop, so as soon as we all got a picture of the gigantic tree, it was back on the road again and although the sceneries were very beautiful, I dozed off again more than once. Luckily I wasn’t the only one coz the girl next to me, Kelly, seemed to have the same problem.

Our last and final stop before we were going to arrive at the Bay of Islands was at a waterfall, which is called the Whangarei Falls and although it was but a very short walk towards the falls and back to the bus, I am glad I did it so that I could finally stretch my legs for a bit.

It must have been about an hour later when we finally arrived at our destination, the Bay of Islands and some of us, including me and Tania were going to stay overnight on a boat. We booked a „Rock the Boat” experience and although I almost forgot we prebooked it, I was now more than ever curious what we could expect.

With just 10 of us, we were brought to the boat called „Rock", hence the name of course, which was basically an old ferry totally rebuild with rooms and kitchen and so on. I must say, it was very basic, but nevertheless very cozy as well.

We were welcomed by the crew and as soon as we put our bags in our designated rooms, it was time for the safety instructions and than there was nothing else for us to do than to enjoy the outing. Me and boats, it never is a good combination, but somehow I felt at ease here. no sea sickness at all, fingers crossed!!! 

Our crew wasn't there alone to handle the boat, they also made up a few activities for us such as shooting at a duck in the water with a paintball gun, fishing and even kayaking in the dark in search for fluorescent algae. All in all it turned out to be a great evening and even the BBQ we had was really good, but the best thing of the evening was the smoked fish fresh from the water, that was just so damn good, even better than the marshmallows we had to stick in the fire, although if I have to admit, it makes up for a great dessert and when you are with so little people together, it is also a great way to bond as well. Friends were made over a bit of wood, how cool is that! :)

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Getting close to midnight, it was time for me to hit the sack. I was really tired and all the rocking of the boat made sure I fell asleep as soon as my head touched the pillow.

Posted by Ils1976 22:56 Archived in New Zealand Tagged landscapes waterfalls sunsets_and_sunrises people trees walk tour oceania Comments (2)

a glowing in the dark experience


View New Zealand - 2014 on Ils1976's travel map.

Making sure that we weren’t going to miss our bus to the caves, the two of us set our alarm clock yesterday evening, since we already had to leave at 7 AM, but hearing the noise of one alarm clock is worse, but the noise of two, that’s just insane! One thing is for sure, we were quite awake!

We quickly got dressed and ate some instant porridge with a cup of tea and than we were on the move towards the ferry building so that we could catch the 7.20 bus from Naked Bus all the way to Waitomo. Upon our arrival, we noticed that there were three buses in total, but with a bit of asking around we were on the right one in no time and we even got a nice enough view coz we were in the first row. Talking about a great deal.

Exactly at 7.20 AM our driver left Auckland behind and it was a good 2 hours drive towards Hamilton where we had a 15 minute break and about another hour and a half later, we arrived at the small town of Waitomo. Most of the people got out here, so it seemed that me and Tania weren’t the only ones who wanted to see the famous glow worms.

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Since we were still a bit early to go on our tour, we wanted to get something warm to drink and although the town isn’t that big, we eventually found a nice enough cafe where they served an excellent cup of tea and they even had a yummie pineapple and cheese toast. I have to admit it was but a quick bite, but we needed to get a little bit more food in our system before our tubing through the caves.

As soon as it was time for our tour to the caves, we walked down the street towards Caveworld, where we booked the whole „water tube adventure”. It seemed we were the first once to arrive at the „scene”, but a short while after even 3 girls from the UK and a couple from Germany arrived as well and together we would form a group for the next 2 hours.

Our guide arrived a few minutes later and as soon as he introduced himself we could all leave in the van towards the spot where we could change into our swimmers and where we got our wetsuit. It wasn’t that long of a drive, about a minute later we arrived already and the two of us were wondering why we drove all the way while we could easily had walked, but hey, when in Rome!?

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Getting in our swimmers wasn’t that big of a problem, but as soon as the wetsuits were handed out, that was quite another ordeal. The one I got seemed just too small, Tania on the other hand had a different problem. Hers was just too big, but it seemed that not all sizes were available, so we just had to go with the flow. Easier said than done and although most of our group already had their wetsuit on, mine wasn’t moving anywhere, my god, who on earth invented this shit!?

With a little male help from our guide, eventually I even got suited up so to speak and after even getting my boots on, there was a quick explanation of the lights on the helmet and off we went, after a few group shots that is.

The drive towards the cave wasn’t all that long, but a bumpy one and I was glad I had my helmet on coz more than once I said hello to the window of the van. My God, I just hope that I survive this thing!

As soon as we arrived at our cave, we all got our „tube” and after crossing a meadow, we finally arrived in some kind of forest and to be honest, I expected a hobbit to pop out any minute. It was really fairy-like. Without even knowing it or should I say realizing it, we entered the entrance of our cave. On came the lights and as we walked a little further into the cave we suddenly had to put off our lights and than the most amazing thing happened, we saw our first glow worms!

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To say it in the words of a kiwi, that’s mint bro!!!! (I don’t know if this is written correctly though ????)

Our guide gave us an explanation about the life of a glow worm and I have to admit, it doesn’t sound that appealing when you know it is actually pooh of a worm that makes the glowing effect, but nevertheless, it is quite nice to look at.

From here we walked further into the cave and got the see even more glowworms and a few minutes later it was even time to try our tube … OMG, the water was just freezing and went through our wetsuits like nothing, but hey, that’s part of the adventure I suppose. As soon as we walked for a bit, it was time to test our tube and with our heads pointed to the ceiling while gently floating, we saw another bunch of glowworms, that's what you call an experience. I know it is but a stupid comparison, but it looked like thousands of stars in the sky on a very dark night. Like I told you, no comparison, but that’s how it looked like.

After floating for a while and even crawling between some zip lines, we arrived at our first waterfall where we had to jump backwards into the depth, oh well, it was but a few meters and thanks to the tube we landed safely on our butts, but on the other hand, we were soaking wet as well. The word "freezing" popped up in my head more than once!!

Going deeper into the cave, we once again made kind of a snake and floated a bit more, but this time we went with the flow, much nicer when you come to think about it, I like to see what’s coming, but that’s just me! :)

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A few meters further up, we arrived at the second waterfall which was about 7 meters high and although our guide made the appearance we had to jump off it, when we finally arrived, it turned out it was just one gigantic slide. Man, I really loved this, but once again, in the end you were soaking wet and the water wasn’t exactly warm.

We weren’t that far removed from the end of the tunnel and although we had lots of fun slithering through the water, jumping of waterfalls and that sort of things, in a way I was also glad to be out of the water again, because I was frozen as hell.

The walk back towards the van wasn’t that long and walking once again through the forest, I am sure I saw something moving between all the ferns, so maybe there was a hobbit somewhere. Anyway, I was glad to be back at the beginning and after a warm shower and a cup of hot coco I felt like a human again.

Since we still had lots of time to kill till we could take the bus back to Auckland, we first looked up another cave, but not wanted to sit in a boat and pay a lot of money for seeing another group of glowworms for just 15 minutes, however amazing they are, we decided to go for a walk instead. There weren’t that many trails, but one trail in particular, the Waitomo Walkway, went up to some kind of lookout and since it was only an half hour walk, we even could have some lunch afterwards as well and this time we went for a wrap with fries, one word only : delicious!

We stayed at the porch of the cafe till it was time for us the leave, I was a bit tired and closed my eyes while enjoying the rayes of sun on my back and head while Tania updated her latest blog and checked out more things on the internet and believe it or not, before I even realised it, it was time to leave already.

Just as punctual as it was this morning, our Naked bus arrived right on time and although I tried to stay awake this time and gazed at the beautiful sceneries, I couldn’t but help to doze off from time to time. I am bad when it comes to traveling with a bus, I can’t help it, but I constantly fall asleep.

It was already 9.30 PM when we finally arrived back in Auckland and we still needed to look for something to eat. It was dark outside and just by looking at the different streets, we quickly noticed that there weren’t lots of options, so instead we went for the quickest one and went to a local supermarket and bought ourselves some noodles which you can make in a microwave oven. I don’t know if this actually is healthy, but going to the Golden Arches isn’t as well so, we took our chances.

Dinner wasn’t too big of a success, like we expected in the first place, but I was just too tired to think about that and after a quick shower, it was time for once again a well deserved nap, after all we are on our holiday, we can relax!

Posted by Ils1976 11:42 Archived in Australia Tagged landscapes people animals adventure tour group oceania Comments (4)

getting to know Auckland a little better

Wow, it is amazing what a bit of alcohol can do to your system. I really slept like a baby and it was a pity that we had to get up so early, but we promised Katrien that we were going to join her when she went to her Zumba lesson. Yesterday evening it sounded great, but now that we had to get up in the wee early hours it is a complete other thing. It must have been the alcohol talking, but okay, a promise is a promise and as soon as we got dressed and got a bit of food into our tummies we were ready to go and get fit.

It was only a 15 minute drive towards the community centre, but still we made it in the nick of time since we also had to stock up on water and gas for the car. It seems we all need the right fuel from time to time.

Upon our arrival we immediately got a friendly welcome from the teacher and as soon as we were all ready, she started with her classes and boy, I had never done Zumba before, but it is more than just dancing, it is a complete workout and all my respect goes out to all the people in the world who do this just for fun. It was tough, but I liked it and the best thing about it is that you aren’t tired anymore. All energized, I was more than ready to see the city.

We first had to pick up Danny and our luggage and by the time that it was 11 AM we drove off to our next adventure, that is before we first had one quick stopover at a local mall for a bite to eat and than we were more than ready to see all the major sights. I was more than curious to see what Auckland had to offer.

Because we didn’t had enough time to go and have a look at One Tree Hill, Danny decided that it was better to go to another viewpoint and this was Mount Eden.

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It wasn’t too bad of a choice coz the weather was fine and the views were more than amazing. We could even see One Tree Hill in the distance, so I guess from wherever viewpoint you are, your eyes are always attracted to the city centre and to be more precise, the telecommunication tower.

After we parked the car, we went to visit the tower and even the views from up there were amazing. I must admit that it was a bit expensive getting up there, because after all, it is just a view point, but the extra kick is that you can see jumpers passing you by when they make there way down. Awesome to see and scary to think that you are only hanging on 2 ropes … yikes!

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Since the weather was still nice and the sun did her best to come out, we walked all the way towards the waterfront. Here they have a new project called Silo. What once was just an industrial zone is now completely transformed into a recreational zone where is is fun to be. I am amazed to see how they upgraded the neighborhood and I am impressed by the way they think. They even made sure it is a place where everyone can come together and the street art is amazing as well. My respect goes out to them and I wonder why we can’t do something like that in our tiny country.

As soon as we walked through Queen Street which is basically the main shopping street of the city centre of Auckland, we had almost all the major sights behind us and with still some time to kill before dinner, which was going to be in an Belgian pub, we walked towards Albert Park where we met up with Kilian, the son of the family.

Now that we were all one group again, we slowly walked towards the pub to enjoy a Belgian meal since we were all amongst Belgians and knowing this, it goes without saying that we all of course tried one of the many yummie fluids that Belgium has to offer. I myself went for Leffe, such a divine drink, but sadly enough with a high alcohol percentage, so I knew that I was going to regret it later on!

Foodwise everyone went for the gigantic mussels they serve here, but since I am allergic to the stuff, I went for another Belgian favorite, the typical Belgian beef stew which was made with Leffe as well and surprisingly enough it was quite yummie. I have been to so many places where they try to make it as well, but most of the time the meat is so tough that it just becomes inedible. I am glad to say that this was not the case.

A little bit lightheaded we left the joint coz it was time for the two of us to go and check in to our hotel and as soon as we walked back to the place where we parked the car, we only had a 15 minute drive towards the hotel.

Sadly enough it was time to say goodbye to our lovely hosts as well, but I am sure we are going to keep in touch with them through internet. I am sure of it.

Check-in went very smoothly and as soon as we found our room and managed to get rid of all of our stuff, we went out again and looked up the ferry building for our trip tomorrow to the Waitomo caves, something I was really exited about.

Tired as hell and still a little bit under the influence of alcohol, I didn’t wanted to walk through the whole city again, so instead we've just made a quick inspection of the hotel right after we got back from the ferry building.

The tiny gym looked very interesting and even the sauna looked inviting, but we were just so tired that we gave it a miss. There is always tomorrow and instead we just went for a quick shower and a good night’s sleep. I was really sleepy and it didn’t take me too long to doze off.

Posted by Ils1976 11:05 Archived in New Zealand Tagged landscapes people sports sightseeing oceania Comments (2)

land of the long white cloud be prepared coz here we come!


View New Zealand - 2014 on Ils1976's travel map.

It was early in the morning when we arrived into the country I love so much. Although I had a bit of sleep, I still felt really tired, but once we got out of the plane, I found my spirit again.

We had a bit of time to kill in the airport, so the first thing on our mind was to have a bit of food into our system and so went on the search for a "brekkie" which to be honest was not that difficult with all the choices in front of us. A hot cup of tea was all I really needed and together with a toast and something sweet afterwards I was more than ready to tackle the many shops we could visit during our short stay here in the airport.

Time went by very quickly and while we headed to our designated gate, we noticed more and more Maori, the indigenous Polynesian people of New Zealand, walking in our direction. It was sure, this clearly meant we were on our way towards our next adventure and I liked the idea more and more.

Although the flight on itself wasn't that long, a little more than 3 hours, I somehow managed to drift off to sleep more than once. To be honest, I even missed our touchdown as Tania had to wake me up.

Happy to be in the land of the long white cloud, we couldn't wait to get out of the plane, but for some reason it seem to take forever. Lots of people brought their luggage into the cabin of the plane, but boy, they don't pack light, that's for sure.

As soon as we picked up our luggage we went to the arrival gate and waited for our Belgian host to pick us up. One of Tania's uncles has a best friend living here in Auckland and today his wife was going to pick us up. Since she was still on her way and we got a bit hungry, we went for something small from the Golden Arches. Not that we love to eat at this place, but since it was the only thing available, we just went for it and with a bit of food into our system we were good to go.

It seemed perfect timing coz as soon as we were finished, Katrien appeared and with her, her lovely smile as well. It was nice to see a friendly face after a semi long flight and we quickly put our luggage into her car and on our way we were.

Driving on the Auckland streets, we noticed that it looked very European and this was quite a surprise, it was actually like coming home but with much better weather. This seemed like a dream come true.

Luckily we didn't had to drive very long and as soon as we arrived at our home base for tonight, we put our luggage into our room and went on discovery of the area. Katrien guided us on this very long, but pleasant walk and although it were just streets we walked through, I must admit I really like the small town atmosphere they were living in.

As we arrived back, we met up with Danny as well, the best friend of Tania's uncle and although I never met the guy, you can't but love him. Like Katrien, he had a big smile on his face and he was glad to hear something of his friend again. Although they chat a lot, you saw the smiles on their faces as we showed them all the gifts we brought them from the homefront. Even Kilian, was over the moon with his comic books.

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Surprised as they were with their gifts, we were spoiled as well coz the boys turned out very good BBQ masters. They really made us feel welcome and I had never seen so much food either. Together with some delicious liquids we ended our first day here with a smile on our faces as well. Feeling a little bit tipsy, I called it a night a little after midnight.

Posted by Ils1976 11:17 Archived in Australia Tagged people airport walk plane oceania Comments (2)

we’ve gone floral

I am just so happy that Mr. Sandman came along last night coz I really was in need of a good night’s sleep. It felt so good, I can honestly tell you that. When we wake up, it is almost 8 AM and although we snooze a bit longer, we just can’t stay a whole day in bed. It is our last day here in the Lion City and we definitely want to make the most of it.

But we can’t do that without a good breakfast of course and just like yesterday we opted for the French toast with bananas. Once downstairs, we immediately noticed that all the seats outside were taken by a group of Malaysian people and although this necessarily wouldn’t be such a bad thing, they just sat there and claimed all the seats so that people who wanted to have breakfast, including yours truly, had to go and sit inside in a small room where the air-conditioning is working overtime.

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Not happy about it all, we decided to check-out first so that in the meantime maybe the group would leave, but as soon as we were back, they were still outside … bummer!

As we wanted to say something about it, the friendly receptionist guy of 2 days ago is there again and notices that we wanted to sit outside. He doesn't understand it, but he has a small conversation with the people anyway and moments after he comes back and assures us that there isn't going to be a problem coz it seemed that the group was due to leave anyway. He's a real sweetheart and knows how to spoil his clients with just simple things, that is for sure.

With an empty plate in front of us and some energetic food into our system, there is nothing else left for us to do than to enjoy our last day here in the city. After all, we’ve already checked out half an hour ago.

Today we planned to go and visit the Gardens by the Bay and because it is such a beautiful hot day, we decided to walk all the way towards it.

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Unfortunately today it is not only a hot day, it is a humid one as well and by the time that we reached the Marina Bay area, I felt like I had been swimming with my clothes on. Boy, never in my whole life I had sweat so much as during this walk, but looking at things on the bright side of life, maybe I lost some weight in the process! Wouldn’t that be great!

As we arrived at the Marina Bay area we decided to have one last look at the Merlion, that lion / fishy statue that vomits water … I could say nicer things of course but hey, this is just the truth, who comes up with such things anyway. Although, if I have to be honest, we Belgians aren’t better either coz we have a little boy in the nude that pees water / beer or anything else as long as it is liquid, not something to be proud of I know, so maybe it is better to tell people next time I am a Malaysian, but I don’t think they would buy it! ;)

Anyway, after this quick photo stop, we walked further along the water and about half an hour later (more or less), we finally arrived at our destination, but it wasn’t without a bit of hardship. Just like the subway incident, this time we had to look for the entrance of the gardens as well. It seems that the Singaporean are not going to make things easy for us tourists, but I have to admit, the walkway to the gardens is really beautiful, but beware coz you can’t have fear of heights and I know what I am talking about.

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Our first garden we visited was the Supertree Grove and finding it wasn't all that hard, finding the ticketing office is a bit harder, but than again, 2 people sitting under an umbrella can hardly be called an office can it?

At this garden you also can’t have fear of heights, but since I am trying to do something about it, I go along and although I don’t feel all that safe up there, I must admit that the views are really awesome and worth all the trouble.

Once back on "terra firma" we walked a bit around a few gardens and ended up at the 2 domes, but since the weather was still fine, we decided to go and look up the Chinese, Malay and Indian garden and many more of which I already forgot the name of. I must admit that I sometimes expected more flowers but on the other hand, maybe it wasn’t really the season for all these flowers. The hibiscus flowers all over the garden looked fine though and the frangipani made sure the place smelled really, really good.

With all this hot weather, we were more than lucky to find an ice cream vendor and although the flavors sounded all a bit exotic, the rose vanilla was more than delicious and just what I needed with these temperatures.

Sadly enough this didn’t last all that long coz after a few minutes we saw it all change from sunny, into light clouds to even very dark ones, so rain was really coming our way.

This made us think it was the best time to visit the domes after all and as soon as we got our tickets, it started to rain. That is what I call perfect timing!

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We first went to the Cloud Forest of which the key element is the major waterfall and although it is strangely enough very cold inside, I soon forget the cold because of all the strange exotic flowers. It is really a nice dome.

Second one of the day is the Flower Dome, but although they housed magnificent baobab trees, the flowers inside weren’t really all that special and most of them could be found in our country or surrounding ones anyway. I know this sounds a bit selfish coz people from other continents find these kind of flowers maybe just as exciting, but if I have to be honest, I have to admit that I expected more of this dome and in the end I found the 28 Singapore dollar you had to pay for those 2 domes just a bit expensive. Of course I know that they have to water the plants and everything, but this is just my personal opinion.

After getting out of the second dome the weather was still cloudy with a few raindrops and for us this meant it was perfect timing to say goodbye to the gardens and went back on our merit way towards our hotel, but not before we had one last stop in Chinatown to have some lunch. Yesterday we saw a Thai restaurant which we liked very much and upon our arrival they didn’t let us down, the food was really good and with full tummies we just strolled around the market street more to have a look at the different shops and more importantly, to spend our last Singapore dollars. We even had a quick look inside the Sri Mariamman Temple. A few years back we couldn’t because there was a wedding going on, but now we had enough time to wonder around this place. I can highly recommend it coz the colors are so beautiful.

Still craving for some dessert, we spend our very last dollars on a strawberry sundae of Mac Donalds and I have to admit that our last „bucks” were wisely spend coz it was really yummy.

Back at the hotel, we went straight to the swimming pool and made sure our last minutes here in Singapore were well spend. Sadly enough about an hour later, we had to leave the hotel as well and after we changed into another set of clothes, we went back to the reception and asked for a taxi, which arrived a few minutes later.

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Although they warned us that there was lots of traffic, we made it at the airport well in time, so that we could even have an early check-in and which in turn made it able for us to have a closer look at the many shops inside the airport. But like all things, even this came to an end as the time for boarding came closer and closer and our Airbus A330 awaited us for the flight all the way to Brisbane.

With about a 40-minute delay because of the bad weather, we could finally leave Singapore behind us and once airborne, the meal service started. I was’t really in the mood for a hot meal, but dessert isn’t really something I decline often, especially if it is eatable and together with some Australian sparkling wine, I hoped to get some well deserved sleep, but not before watching one more movie. After all I wanted to be very tired.

This time my choice was "Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy", an action movie with strange creatures, lots of witty humor and of course great music. What can I say, I just love the 80’s music and of course, the racoon „Rocket” was great to look at. All in all an entertaining movie.

As soon as the movie ended, there was nothing else for me to do than try to sleep, after all … it has been quite a long, long day and since I was really looking forward to arriving in Brisbane tomorrow morning I just closed my eyes!

Posted by Ils1976 05:44 Archived in Singapore Tagged skylines flowers singapore sightseeing asia Comments (2)

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