Over and Out from Down Under: Our Adventures in Australia, New Zealand and Singapore!

Happy Sunday everyone! Hope you weren’t too disappointed last week as I missed to post a new blog post online. If you’re following me on Instagram, you already knew of course that hubby and I had been travelling for a month. The idea was to escape the harsh European weather. Ironically, the weather was much better here in Europe for a week or so than where we were, literally on the other side of the world! I had written a few blog posts in advance, but ran out of time to write one for last week.

Inspired by our trip to New Zealand last year, hubby and I decided to go back to that beautiful country again, but to explore some areas we never reached last year. This time we broke up the flight a bit and spent a week in Australia at the start of the trip and again almost a week in Singapore. I will write more detailed articles about this whole trip with recommendations for things to do & see and places to eat and sleep on my travel blog Done That Been There but for now I wanted to share a first few photos and memories here with you. Shall we go?

Part 1: Australia – The Great Ocean Road & Melbourne

Prior to this trip, I didn’t have particular positive associations with Australia.When I was still at Uni I won a scholarship to study in Melbourne. I was very excited to spend half a year Down Under, but cancelled my plans when my father-in-law was diagnosed with terminal cancer. I never regretted my decision though as I got to spend another year with one of the kindest and funniest men I’ve ever known. And I probably wouldn’t have made the same life choices that I made now, which ultimately led me to hubby.

When I did get to Australia for the first time a few years ago with hubby, we had to return home after a few days already. Hubby’s mother had fallen ill very unexpectedly and we basically had to return home to say goodbye to her. Since then, I’m always a bit nervous about making a long and faraway trip and hope nothing happens to my loved ones as it’s very demanding and quite traumatic to try to return home when you’re stressed and upset already.

Fortunately, this year I managed to overcome my ‘demons’ as our recent trip to Australia was absolutely perfect. We got to see stunning landscapes whilst driving along the scenic Great Ocean Road and even met up with a bunch of friends in Melbourne.

This was our route for Australia

After landing in Melbourne at 6am, we took the train to Geelong, the former wool centre of the world. After relaxing here for a day, we picked up our rental car the following morning and started our 3-day long road trip. You can see our route here below. Although you could drive this in one day, we wanted to take it easier at the start of our trip and stayed a night in Apollo Bay and a second night in Princetown. However, we found that one could easily spend much longer on this trip as there are so many things to do and see along the route.

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Catching stunning sunrises

Since our body clocks were still trying to adjust, we managed to catch this stunning sunrise in Apollo Bay. I bought a special camera filter (Neutral Density filter) before our trip which allowed me to take photos like this one!

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Sunrise at Apollo Bay

Feeding kangaroos

I was hoping to see sleepy koalas, colourful birds and cute kangaroos on our trip. Although we saw dozens of beautiful exotic birds, we never managed to see koalas and the only kangaroos we saw were lying dead along the road (very sad!). Thankfully we discovered there’s a family-run, sustainable animal sanctuary on the Great Ocean Road. We got to see dozens of kangaroos here and even got to feed them! Some of them had their little ones safely tucked up in their pouches which was amazing to seem from up close!

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The Twelve Apostles

One of the main ‘attractions’ along the Great Ocean Road are these limestone formations, called the Twelve Apostles. These formations are very vulnerable and erosion already destroyed a few of them, as some other famous nearby sights. It’s strange to realise that some of these world-famous sights will completely change (or won’t even exist anymore) during our lifetime.

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Looking over the Twelve Apostles (at least a few of them)

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The Grotto, another famous sight along the Great Ocean Road

Melbourne

After three days on the road, it was time to return our car and head down to Melbourne. Although it was great to explore the city and meet up with friends, a few days in the big city were quite enough for me. I was itching to get back on the road and disappear in nature!

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Melbourne is filled with stunning street art!

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You can even see these rare Little Blue Penguins from up close just outside of the city centre (on the pier of the area of St Kilda).

Part 2: New Zealand – South Island

Last year hubby and I travelled across both the North and South Island of New Zealand for almost three weeks. This amount of time allows you to see a lot of the main highlights, but hubby and I both felt we had some unfinished business and decided to return. This time we spent two weeks only on the South Island. While last year we drove in a diagonal line from Christchurch to Queenstown, we now explored parts of the East, North and West Coast.

It’s heartbreaking and difficult to comprehend Friday’s terrorist attack in Christchurch, a city that’s both emotionally and physically still recovering from the destructive earthquakes only a few years ago.

For me New Zealand symbolises peace and it’s been a relief to escape all the daily bullshit like Brexit and other current political and social turmoil on our side of the world. Not only were we in Christchurch just a week before the attacks, the suspect appears to live in Dunedin on a road where hubby and I drove past. The world is a messed up place indeed…

This was our route for New Zealand

After a very late and delayed arrival in Christchurch we try to catch some zzzzzzzz’s before picking up our rental car the next morning and doing our grocery shopping in the same supermarket we went to last year. I think I even recognised some of the people working there! We didn’t spend much time in Christchurch, but noticed a lot of new homes being built since last year. Yet, lots of old buildings that were destroyed by the earthquakes are still being kept upright with scaffolding.

Our first stop was the beautiful Banks Peninsula, an hour’s drive south from Christchurch. The peninsula offers stunning landscapes (as you can see in the top image of this post) and lots of wildlife such as dolphins, fur seals and penguins!

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Wildlife and stunning landscapes

After one night on the peninsula, we drove up north again via Gore Bay to see yet other stunning limestone formations, called the Cathedral Cliffs.

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The Cathedral Cliffs in Gore Bay

The following day we drove through stormy weather (due to the tropical storm that was heading towards Australia) further up north. Along the way we passed Kaikoura, the whalewatching capital of the world. We went on a whalewatching tour there last year, but stopped here briefly to try to see fur seals. Last year was a bit of a ‘disaster’. After walking for a fair bit to reach the famous seal colony of apparently hundreds of fur seals, we only managed to see four of them.

Since we had a car now, we decided to drive up to the colony again. We were lucky to see a few from up close again, but were still disappointed to see only a couple of dozens of seals (in the distance). Luckily I had read about a new lookout point about 30 minutes north from Kaikoura. And yes, here we saw hundreds, if not thousands, of fur seals and their pups sleeping and playing just below us!

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Fur seal with modelling aspirations in Kaikoura

From golden sand beaches to glaciers

Hubby and I walked parts of two of the Great Walks in New Zealand in the north, the Queen Charlotte Track and Abel Tasman Coast Track. The first one offered beautiful sights of the Sounds (fjords) which we had seen a bit already last year when we took the ferry from the North to the South Island. The second track offered spectacular views of golden sand beaches and clear blue water as you can see in the photo below.

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Abel Tasman National Park

While we were walking through the tropical looking Abel Tasman National Park one day, we witnessed alien landscapes and also the so-called ‘Pancake Rocks’, rock formations that do look like stacks of pancakes, the next day. Photos of those sights will follow on my Instagram and also travel blog Done That Been There!

Passing the famous and ever-retreating Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers, we drove the epic inland route from Haast to Dunedin. A long and exhausting drive, but absolutely stunning!

Dunedin and Otago Peninsula

During my holiday research I had read a lot of great things about Dunedin, a modest version of Edinburgh in New Zealand. True, the old architecture is very beautiful, but we spent three full days there which felt a bit too long. I did enjoy the stunning street art trail there and also our trip to Otago Peninsula where we did not manage to see the world’s only mainland breeding colony of Royal Albatrosses, but did find ourselves up close to fur seals and sea lions!

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Absolutely stunning mural by DALeast in Dunedin

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Very dramatic morning skies on Otago Peninsula. Can you spot the lighthouse?

Mount Cook National Park

From Dunedin we followed the East Coast to Shag Point, where we saw even more fur seals, and the curious Moeraki Boulders which look like alien pods that landed on the beach! The next stop was Oamaru, a city that seems to be frozen in time as its Victorian architecture is still immaculate. This was one of my favourite places during our trip actually.

We finished our New Zealand trip in the same comfortable cottage in Twizel we stayed in last year. From here you can go on special Lord of the Ring tours, but also drive up to some of the largest lakes in the area and of course to Mount Cook, New Zealand’s tallest mountain.

Since we already did a 3-hour walk close to Mount Cook last year, we decided to do a few shorter walks on the other side of the park. These walks led up to the Tasman Glacier Lake where we saw huge icebergs floating in the (nasty coloured) water.

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Floating icebergs in Tasman Lake

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One more look at Mount Cook via the wing mirror

Part 3: Singapore

As we were approaching the end of our New Zealand trip, hubby and I were starting to dread our trip to Singapore. After having enjoyed being in nature, far away from crowds of people, we weren’t particularly looking forward to being in a big city again.

But from the very first day Singapore managed to change our minds. It was my first visit to an Asian country and although more experienced ‘Asia travellers’ will say that Singapore is too sterile and more Western than Asian, I absolutely loved it there. I didn’t mind there was no shouting, no noise, no catcalling etc. I felt so safe there and it was quite a relief not to have to worry about carrying a camera or iPhone in my hand.

Yet to me, the city offered a great glimpse in such diverse cultures, since Singapore’s demography is made up mostly of residents from Indian, Chinese and Malay origins.

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Hindu temple in Singapore’s Chinatown

The only thing I found rather challenging are the shopping centres there. Hubby and I must have spent hours in shopping centres, trying to find certain shops or the correct exit. Even when the building looks quite faded from the outside, they are often much bigger and modern from the inside. I often felt like setting foot in Narnia. You need to experience it just to understand what I mean!

Although I have many more adventures to share about Singapore with you, reliving our trip and writing about it is quite exhausting. It must be even more exhausting for you to read about it all, haha! So I’ll stop here for the moment and let you enjoy the photos. Remember, if you want to read more about our trip and see photos, make sure to follow my Instagram account and Done That Been There travel blog!

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One glance at the Old Police Station with its colourful window frames and you immediately understand why this image is so popular on social media!

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Enjoying the roti and Indian food in Little India. The food was almost as good as my mum’s! 🙂

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I hope you enjoyed my recap of our trip. Although it turned out much longer than anticipated (what else is new?), I still have so much to tell you about it! But first, let me know what have you been up this last month. I’m curious to hear!
Until next week again, Zarina xx

road-trip

Going on holiday can be bloody exhausting, haha! At least I managed to reach the finish line!