From Sunny Sydney to hurricane hamo, we now enter the blistering temperatures of Christchurch ,New Zealand. Our hosts are Dayna, Sue, Athena, Quenavere and Gabriel (humans) 2 cows, 1 Bull, 3 chickens,1 cat and One eyed dog. ( animals) This was our welcoming family live in Oxford. New Zealand is around the same size as United Kingdom. United Kingdom is approximately 243,610 sq km, while New Zealand is approximately 268,838 sq km. Meanwhile, the population of United Kingdom is ~64.4 million people (59.9 million fewer people live in New Zealand (4.5 million) an amazing fact. Which means that everyone has so much space. roads are wide and built on a grid system. new estates are built with all amenities put in first. you buy the land within the area, lay a solid foundation, then plonk your prefab house or timber frame house on it and literally plug it in. so simple.
You can drive for an hour on a dead straight road and ,in some parts, not see another vehicle. In fact going round a roundabout is seen as excitement.
The brilliant thing about NZ is the accent, a cross between OZ and white south africarn. the main focus is on the I and E. The E is replaced by the I and vice versa. Everyone in New Zealand are proud of their dicks. yes, In fact they want you to examine them and sit on them. Its all they talk about and you cannot help but giggle every time you hear it. Getting pessed on the dick is common place.
Akaroa. Beautiful idealistic bay .
Eco straws advertised proudly, accept the come in a plastic pot with a plastic top. you carn’t help but think they are missing the point.
Previous weather checks had given us a strong indication that Hamilton island was going to be a week of heavy rain and storms. Obviously the main focus of the trip was to meet Wes and spend some valuable time with Chloé. Secretly we all hoped that every weather channel was wrong and that the sun was going to surprise us and shine. For me just seeing Chloé was worth the trip. I have missed so much of my children’s lives with them living the modern lives of travel, that I relish every moment with them.
We arrived on Hamilton island in the pouring rain and boarded our curtersy bus with loads of Chinese. A situation which was going to prove common. We had been to Hamo before so new the procedure, however today was going to give us a new unwelcome challenge. As we announced our arrival to Patrick the receptionist he seemed slightly confused. “Thornback you say, just give me a moment” ah , I thought Chloé has arranged a surprise band to sing a welcome song, or maybe upgraded us to a premier room. That girl. Always thinking of others.
Patrick returned. “We seem to have a slight issue” he said. Apparently the agent had cancelled our booking, but taken our money. F#$k S $#T AAAAAHH! !! . After a few minutes to digest what had just happened I said my usual ‘lets be positive ‘phrase. ” OK Patrick, we are here on an island in the Whitsundays and we need a bed. How can we make this happen”. It appears all that was needed was for me to purchase another room. Which I did. Challenge is to trace back and sort credit cards etc. A bit upsetting but normal service resumed. I am fairly confident we will be able to fight and receive a refund.
It was really great to meet Wes, Chloe’s kiwi fella, such a nice bloke and he couldn’t do enough for us .As it rained constantly we spent a lot of time indoors playing cards and drinking gin. we stocked our fridge with all we would need and spent some brilliant family time together. we also purchased plenty of Tim Tams, a biscuit chocolate bar that I am addicted to.
Our first morning was spent hiking around the island in the pouring rain. it was brilliant. We were literally soaked to the skin but so happy. The muscle bound Wes won the wet t shirt competition and i had the biggest pot belly. Too many Tim Tams.
we have been lucky enough to visit Sydney before so I was a bit concerned that it might be a let down. I couldn’t be further from the truth. Being with Todd and Nicki makes an obvious difference plus the place is mid summer,busy and buzzing.
Flight time KL – Sydney 8.45 hours. Arrive 10pm – book in hostel – find local pub = 1st Ozzie pint. G’day mate !
Foolishly I had agreed to join Todd and Nicki on a Sydney Park run. We arrange to meet at 6.30am our first morning…..yes 6.30am!!! What the. ….
After a 45 min walk with plenty of negative unhelpful comments comments from me and a lot of rain, we arrived. As about 100 runners gathered and the rain eased, I could sense I was in good company. We ran,strangely enough, around the park. Me and Nicki achieved good times respectively and Todd proved his superiority by by winning the bloody race. A fantastic achievement as Their were plenty of seasoned runners competing. Well done Todd. I felt more that a ting of pride.
The rest of the day consisted of walking, exploring, a beery lunch with Nicki’s visiting friends and market food. A great day.
Day 2 Sydney.
Today we walked around the city in search of a of a dress shop for Julie. She is down to her last 20. Bright warm sunshine made the quest bearable. The whole area was busy due to a massive cruise ship docked in Sydney Harbour. I am sure this is a welcome sight but it did block our view somewhat.
We decided to explore by boat ourselves and booked the ferry. This gave us views of Darling harbour, Manly and stopping for fish and chips at Watson bay. Todd and Nicki were keen to visit Bondi beach. Its fame for surfers and shark attacks meant expectations were high. We sat on the beach in anticipation but only the surfers materialized. We journeyed back by bus and ferry. After a quick freshen up we hunted down a great little restaurant where you pay a lot of money to serve yourself and cook your own food. Basically paying to go to your own BBQ. To be fair it was fun and the steak was massive. To finish the day we met on the roof terrace with a Gin and tonic admiring the new very created by the absence of selfish cruisers. Perfect day. Hamilton island next .Threats of rain and flooding. Ho hum.
My day starts with a jog across Sydney Harbour Bridge. Had to do it. Box ticked.
Heathrow terminal 5 has presented a new experience. Up until the security check we have not seen a human member of staff. You print your boarding pass then you proceed to a zone and you then weigh and check in your own luggage. The machine prints out the bag tags and you trust that your luggage will arrive at the same destination as you.
I remember as a teenager we joked that one day all jobs will be taken by computers ……well kids, it’s happening.
Julie has again booked us into the posh lounge away from the rif raf. complimentary food and drink. We have 3 hours to kill and I am convincing myself that copious amounts of food and alcohol will help me sleep on the plane. Probably just pee a lot.
Great to see Todd and Nicki and their new apartment is massive. If you had 20 friends round with the idea of cat swinging this would suffice.
After the obvious jet lag problems we eventually got into awake mode for a full day. On our second day Todd and I decided it would be a good to eat out and what better form of transport than our legs.
In principle, this is a great idea as I was keen to do a 5k run in each country. What I did not take into account was the intense heat and humidity KL offers. As our run started Todd and Nicki were on good form. 1k in for me felt like 5. My legs were working but little oxygen was getting to my lungs and if your head could feel like a colour, it was purple and clearly about to explode. I needed vents in my ears to release the steam and pressure.
KL itself is a mixture of poor streets housing illegal immigrants to buzzing food markets, high rise buildings with own pools,shops and gyms plus modern shopping mauls. All of these we visited and sampled what was on offer. Accept for the immigrant streets. That was a swift jog through.
Now I always travel with hand luggage. The reason being the most frustrating thing for me is waiting by a slow conveyor belt watching hundreds of cases go by hoping that the next one will be yours……. It’s going to be hot ! You will only need shorts,the shirts, pants toiletries and flip flops. How can you fill a case the size of Kilimanjaro?
So my journey started with a small piece of hand luggage filled with essentials for what was essentially going to be a hot few weeks on the other side of the world.
Chloé had message me, asking if I could bring case of her stuff that she had left at Todd’s previous. Anything for my beautiful daughter. If Kilimanjaro had a 4 story house on it with a massive extension and an impressive conservatory, in the world of large, then this was Chloé s case!
I was now expected to travel from KL to and through the streets of Sydney hauling this gigantic monstrosity behind me.
At the airport bag drop I placed the bag on the weighing conveyor belt. Surprise surprise. ….you are 25 kilos over sir… $75…. cash or card?……no no this is not me!!, this is not how I managed my life. I am a small hand luggage person, I insist. The desk lady is clearly not interested. I take out 25 kilo of contents and put them in the first bag I come across. I have gone from a respectable small bag carrying flyer to a queue holder upper with over sized luggage, who’s hand luggage is an old laundry bag with a broken zip.
OK, firstly £1.99 for a bar fruit and nut at Exeter station is a Rip off, that is until you are confronted with a bill for £3.10 for a flat white. A coffee that is half the size of a normal one for over 3 flipping quid.
So off we go to kuala Lumpur to see Todd and Nicki. Exeter train station to Paddington no surprises….Paddington to Heathrow.. £74.00 to do a 15 min return journey to terminal 4. Big fucking surprise! By comparison Alicante airport to main town, 30 mins bus, €2.00…our rip off day continues.
After arriving at the airport we had a some what Heart stopping moment. Bag I put our passports in, no longer contained our passports. 30 long seconds of shear panic. After opening the case up fully, it became clear that the travel documents had slipped out. Not sure what bothered Julie more, my facial expressions or choice of language. If I were a smoker that had given up smoking ,I would have started again. Normal service resumed.
After a long wait, as you may know I am fashionably early for everything, on this occasion 3 hours, we checked in. Julie had surprised me with access to the sky lounge. For the poorer people reading this, it is a lounge that gives you the opportunity to escape from the flying rif raf whilst giving the opportunity to eat from a well stocked buffet and sample as much beer and wine as you wish. All for a reasonable price, given the cost of a flat white in these establishments.
Needless to say I belive the recommended amount of red wine will help me sleep on the plane. The only down side to this area is they allow other people’s kids in .After the 13 hour flight which included more dinner, cat naps, breakfast and one bowel movement, we landed at KL.
KL was and still is very humid, Todd explained that there are daily thunderstorms around 4.30pm and that we had arrived just as a major one had finished. In its wake, it had left trees across roads and brought traffic to a near standstill. True to Todd’s information, we have experienced Thunder and lightning everyday since. As an introduction to Malaysian food we are taken to an out door eatery called Banana leaf. Basically, this restaurant has bypassed the serving of food on piece of slate and gone straight to serving your chosen food on a very large leaf.
Todd and Nicki,s apartment is housed in, and surrounded by tall buildings. I mean tall, 33 floors. Those of you who have never set foot out of Devon can only imagine surrounded by skyscrapers. Then , amazingly a fully inhabited jungle within walking distance.
As K.L is very much a city, this was not going to be a lazy sunbathing holiday, it was going to be an experiencing Malaysian culture and food type break. As food goes the most memorable was “chicken fish”. yes that’s right , chicken fish! its a large fish, cooked or poached with added ingredients that gives it the taste and texture of ……you guessed it ….chicken. bloody delicious. did you notice the teeth?
They are not mine I promise. The food is amazing, so full of flavours and spices and it really is part of every day life. as is eating food at home. The difference being is it is to be enjoyed and becomes an occasion rather than filling a space. Busy buzzing street food at night. love it.
The only down side to this type of establishment is the lack of toilets. now I have tackled the subject of my use of toilets on many occasions and this is no exception. Because I have a condition that means I visit the toilet on a more regular basis than most, it means I like to be aware of the correct facilities should the need arise……..or descend, as in the case. fortunately there are toilets aplenty, albeit the basic, but clean. On a market visit I felt the need and made my way to the lavatories………..I was greeted by a kindly gentleman who allowed me in for the price of 50 ringgits (10p). Not only did this gain me entry, but also a purchase of 4 squares of toilet paper into the bargain. now I am not sure about you, but I am a pull some of the roll and wrap it around my hands type of guy. In fact 4 squares is barely enough for a nose blow. fortunately a nose blow was all that was required. On this subject, by the side of the toilet there is a powerful spray of water, I am still not sure if it is to clean yourself or any pooh dashed carsy.
when Todd and Nicki were working we would spend our day eating in local food halls or visiting markets or plunging in the infinity pool on the roof of the sky scrapper. they really know how to make use of the out door spaces. A beach on the roof ! classic! As Todd had warned the rain would come down every day around 4pm and true to his word, it did every day. very refreshing.
After much much convincing, Julie decided that our next holiday would be in the form of a cruise. Our usual trips are based upon travel to different countries to gain experiences and enjoy different cultures where we can, whilst journeying on local transport. So being on a floating hotel with 1,800 other British people isn’t what I would consider my usual type of holiday.
The Aurora disembarked from Southampton and we were greeted with a champagne reception ( 7.95 a glass) we declined. Julie had had the foresight to pack 3 bottles of our wedding champagne. 6 glasses free. Thanks for the gift.
The ship itself isn’t as posh as I had imagined, however the majority of the quests certainly are a pretentious bunch.lots of bars restaurants and entertainment. We have booked ourselves into some complementary fitness classes, but after the champagne, I am not sure if we are going to make the early start.
Today we explored the ship. To be honest I am not as impressed as I believe I am supposed to be.There are plenty of restaurants and bars catering for every palet. Busy rooms, quite rooms, all decorated differently and all very nice but once you’ve eaten and had a couple of drinks, we a struggling to fill the day. We made it to the fitness class which was occupied with people, generally large people, pretending to be interested in their health after consuming 3 different types of breakfast in one sitting. We’ve all done it. It’s available therefore we eat it. And go for seconds….so breakfast,gym, walk explore, avoid similar aged people looking for new friends, Knapp ,dinner , comedian, drink ,bed,Feeling fat and slightly inebriated….sleep. I fear I am giving a negative view regarding this cruise ship experience…….well I am desperately trying to find something positive. Our evening meal, approximately 4 hours after our lunch, was in a smart restaurant where we were seated with 6 other quests. Fat couple with no teeth, retired posh couple and frail old boy with younger wife. As dining commenced and small talk grew, we all soon realised that we had absolutely nothing in common. They all compared past cruises,ship sizes and destinations.Julie and I were clearly the newbies. I am not sure I see the fascination in this type of holiday.maybe my attitude will change as the blog matures.Tomorrow we will research more of the activities on offer (finger painting, bingo,dieting lessons and maybe try a different restaurant, ignoring the last class.
Is that all it is day 3? So after breakfast we walked back to the cabin and readied ourselves for lunch. Seriously the sun shone today and we are headed swiftly towards our first stop Cadiz on the Spanish coast. We did a gym routine with the misguided understanding that it would counteract the 3 breakfasts and large lunch we were bound to succumb to later in the day. Julie went off to listen to a seminar on how to walk properly where as I had perfected my walking over the 54 years of my 55 on the planet so I practiced laying on a sun lounger.lovely relaxing day aboard ship. This evening everyone is expected to dress formally in black tie and evening dresses for the ladies. I must admit it was nice to dress up but I am still not sure why. We gained a free glass of red and a G &T so worth the trouble. At dinner we were seated with 4 other fellow guests, pissed old woman with moaning husband with massive ears and shy couple from Liverpool….who new? After the usual “how many cruises have you done” telling new table friends massive untruths is so tempting. Todd gave us some great ideas. Tomorrow I shall be Mr freshly released from prison and Julie the 3 times married, criminally obsessed widow. Julie cringed at my under cover piss taking. I am beginning to think we are the only normal people on board.
Today we docked at Cadiz. Very nice typical Spanish port. Plenty of bars and restaurant’s. Each selling realistically priced beers and tapas, unlike the over priced alcohol on board. G&T, rum and coke £14.50. Good day in Cadiz lots of markets and cobbled streets to explore. Back on the boat in the afternoon to mix with the old people. A good 70% are over retirement age, some have no right still being alive. Tonight I played numbers, we watch a 1970s comedian telling jokes first heard in the 1960s to a group born in the 1940s. After we buy a pint and half for £8.40 we retire at 10.30.
It’s dawned on me…….Prison this is basically a posh expensive prison…..genius….who ever tried to sell this must have been best salesmen ever.
Right so we invite loads of people on a ship. Give them a very small room to live in.tell them what to wear and when. Give them regular meal times. Keep their spirits up by offering seminars about all aspects of life. Offer amenities like a gym or dancing classes. We encourage an aged generation to take part, whose memory is undoubtedly failing, so they’ll believe they had a great day yesterday and want to repeat it. Give an exercise areaThe only difference with this and prison is no work to do and the memory loss is due to drugs.
Oh yeah and who drinks UHT milk by choice?????
Similar to yesterday except Julie can now walk and we dined as a couple. Both sick of making small talk with strangers competing with each on how many cruises and different ships etc. I will always come last as this is my one and only cruise.
Tomorrow we reach Messina, Italy.
In Messina we decided to climb aboard the hop on hop off sight seeing bus. As we have little less than 5 or 6hours it seems a sensible way to familiarize ourselves with the area and at €15 each it seems a fair price. Compared to walking aimlessly in temperatures of 30+. The bay itself is very pleasant with lots of interesting facts attached to it. None of which I can remember nor wish to share.
Italians are probably a nice race , but I didn’t get that experience. Considering ships dock here all the time very little English is spoken. We walked around the streets popping in and out of various shops to sample the air conditioning rather than purchase. Of course we stopped at a Back street bakery and enjoyed a traditional freshly cooked doughy pizza and a local messina beer. Bloody lovely. During a wonder round the local supermarket we found some Corona beer on special €1 a bottle. Nothing unusual there, I hear you cry. Well it’s £3.50 a bottle on ship. We loaded our bags and now we have our day time drink sorted around the pool. Same brand ,cheeky saving, happy chappy.
On a side note, of all the aged, overweight people on this ship, I am trying to work out which comes first,stick to support being overweight, or becoming overweight due to stick support. Either way they all have a good bad back story.
Venice. 1030 and we treat ourselves to our first beer on the beautiful stunning oldy worldy narrow streets of Venice. The cities bridges and the maze of of streets make for some brilliant photo opportunities……however it was so hot, frankly I couldn’t be asked.
Sebenic. Croatia. Hot again 33 predicted. Had breakfast. Made rolls for lunch nicked from cafeteria. Got tender to shore with load of pensioners complaining about the wait and being cramped. Got on coach with same said pensioners complaining about lack of air conditioning. Got dropped of at port walked had an earned beer.€1.50 happy. Heat now 37 wow hot hot !! More walking, back to coach and tender all complaining about heat, lack of air conditioning and being cramped. I am doing the old people proud. I might even fake an illness to tell everyone about. Be part of the team.
Dubrovnik. We had been to Dubrovnik before and had really done the old town to death. On our previous visit we found a really nice unspoilt cove flanked by cave bars offering free sunbathing and inexpensive food and drink. We both commented on what a real gem we had found.Two years on, we revisit to find a massive 5 star hotel has taken over the bay and the cave bars.The sun loungers are now £24 each for the day and the drink and food prices had risen to the price 5star guests like to pay. Just before the waters edge there is a small wall, the other side is a small area, of this tideless beach ,for mere paupers to sit on the pebbles. I still have the pebble imprints on my buttocks.
Back on board we sun bath and eat and its becoming increasingly boring.I have read 2. books. Unheard of. That’s double my life’s book reading to date. Not including Janet and John. The only saving grace is alcohol.we have brought local beers whist ashore and drink them by the pool. It’s gives me a great sense of satisfaction, knowing I am drinking a bottle of beer that cost a Euro rather than the £4.20 the ship charges. I also purchased a bottle of rum and a flask. My evening drink costs me £1.25 per half a Pepsi. Julie has taken a fondness to gin and tonic. I wished she had mentioned this earlier.
Saturday 5th. Three more days.
The sell. I put you in a hotel with 1800 people. 70% Over 65. And lock the doors. During your stay. I will supply you with as much food as you can eat and serve it at a very high standards. Your servants will all be mainly from India and will address you as sir or ma’am, so you can feel very superior. During you stay you will have access to alcohol at inflated prices. Daytime, you will be encouraged to attend seminars, talks and demonstrations about general life,Followed by a sales pitch. and of course sun bath to your hearts content. . In the evening we will offer a variety of activities,from a 1970s comedian, to a boy band tribute act ,to our own entertainment team singing and dancing. Cinema, casino, food plus drink at inflated prices are always on offer..I will tell you what to wear and when to wear it. Accept during the day. Every other day I will let you all out of the hotel. I will drop you off , leave you to roam, but you must be back by the time I specify.
At sea today heading towards Gibraltar. Breakfast, sun,snack, sun swim,lunch , sun swim, knap.evening meal. Watch tribute act.highlight of today was seeing various schools of dolphins majestically jumping from the water by the side of the ship. Really was fantastic to see. Lots of close sightings during the day. Julie wasn’t impressed as there was no ball balancing involved.
Gibraltar. We have arrived in Gib, as seasoned travellers refer to it. We are allowed of between 8am and must be back on board by 1pm. Otherwise the captain gets angry.I so want to break the rules. Gibraltar is a bit surreal,in that it clearly emulates the british shopping streets with major stores such as marks and Spencer, debbenums etc but you are served by ,mainly,Spanish assistants. The main shopping area revolves around the purchase of cheap tobacco and booze. It was very tempting,even as a non smoker to take advantage.We did purchase a couple of bottles as Julie has succumb to the trappings of gin.
Back at sea today ,leaving the weather behind it seems. . We are reading and crossword in one of the ships quite rooms. Actually quite nice.
Monday. As we head home, we have left the good weather behind us.
So cruising, good way to see snippets of different places, if only day time. If like doing nothing but eating and drinking then cruising great. If you like mixing with older people telling you about the past cruises,then great. Don’t get me wrong I love old people, but they do come with certain smells and habits.Dribbling for example.
It wasn’t all bad, if our aim was to put on half a stone ,we done well. Maybe in another 10/15 years I will give it ago. By then we can mix more and discuss knee and hip replacements and conquer the quick step. What’s next? Watch this space