Tag Archives: new zealand

Loving Travel, Loving Life

12 Jul

Fellow Blogger Travel with Papino recently blogged about travel bliss, a rare moment when the outside world seems distant and all you can do is bask in your surroundings. Be it someplace exotic, a moment with good friends, or a break from it all; when we capture these unforgettable moments on camera they make for truly captivating photos.

I have just browsed through album after album of old photos from life in Ireland to life on the road, from Ireland to Latvia, Ethiopia to Taiwan, and Australia to Korea looking for photos that really capture the moment, be it travel bliss or just a moment of extreme happiness.  

This collection might seem a bit random but all these photos hold a special place in my heart and memories come flooding back upon seeing each one of these pictures. If you want to know more about any of them feel free to ask, but I think the picture with the caption tells it all. Let your imagination or heart work out the rest.

Feel free to share yours be it a story or a photo.

Thanks to Papino for this awesome idea.

Boracay Island, The Philippines

Holidaying at home; Baltimore, West Cork

Isle of Tiree, Scotland

Masaii in Mombassa, Kenya

Life is full of joy, Kitale Kenya

Close to Paradise; Auckland, New Zealand

Spreading joy on Childrens Day in Dublin, Ireland

Pure couchsurfing heaven...on a river!

Setiing my eyes on Sydney Opera House for the 1st time...Amazing

At the summit of Mt Seoraksan in South Korea...Breathtaking!

Frolicking in the Cherry Blossoms, Gyeongju

Pure Travel Bliss

Bloggers Day for New Zealand

22 Mar

As I recently made a post urging people to donate to the Japan earthquake appeal, I would also like to post about New Zealand, and encourage people that, despite the devastation caused by the earthquake in ChristChurch, New Zealand is still one of the most beautiful and amazing countries to visit in the world.

Due to the bad media and natural devastation caused by the earthquake, recovery is proving to be a slow process. While one of their biggest money earners, tourism, is in desperate need of a boost, New Zealand, and of course all its people, is suffering terribly. Travel bloggers world wide have set aside these 3 days, from the 20th to the 22nd March to encourage more people to visit the rugged isle that brought you The Lord Of The Rings, All Blacks Rugby, some of the worlds most delicious wines, highest sky dives and bungee jumps along side stunning glaciers and breath taking mountains and lakes.

So in an effort to persuade more people to think about visiting New Zealand, a decision I guarantee you won’t regret, here are a few of my favorite holiday snaps from my 2 weeks travelling around in a camper van with my parents and best friend this time last year and 1 week exploring Auckland.

Our camper trip started in Queenstown, went all the way up the west coast to Abel Tasman National Park then back down the East coast past Kaikora and into the Canterbury plains and finally Christchurch. It’s hard to believe so much of that study city is now destroyed or sitting under rubble.


Sky Diving over Lake Wanaka


Dad at Lake Wanaka

Walking through Abel Tasman National Park

Swimming with Dolphins, Kaikora

New Kiwi friends


Hot Air Balloon ride over Canterbury Plains

Awesome Auckland

Paradise in the city, Auckland


International Adventurers: Exploration by Bike

26 Nov

Feature 2 of my thesis

Lois Pryce


Take a woman on the verge of insanity, a motorbike verging on dangerous and the length of three entire continents and you have yourself a wild adventure.

Torn between following in the footsteps of two famous relatives, Max Born, the Nobel Prize winner in Physics and his granddaughter, Olivia Newton John, Lois Pryce instead opted for a life on the road. In April 2003 the ‘whiter than white’, five foot four, product manager from London left her cosy houseboat, her loving husband and her job with the BBC to embark on a 20,000 mile trip of a lifetime.

“I was looking at the Americas and it really does start right at the top of the globe and end right at the bottom so it’s like travelling half way around the world,” she recalls.

Travelling down through the Americas Lois had no real schedule, deciding it was much more fun to sit back and enjoy the ride. She spent over a month in Mexico staying in cheap, grotty hostels infested with cockroaches and with no running water where she suffered from a nasty case of food poisoning. She also ventured down a lawless jungle highway into Colombia, a country renowned for its international drug trade.

When you get from Panama to Colombia the road actually runs out. It is just this dense lawless jungle for about 75 miles and no one has ever cut a road through it. I was nervous about entering Colombia because back in 2003, a few weeks before I arrived, a group of English backpackers were kidnapped there.”

Following on from the success of the trip, Lois had officially caught the travel bug and set her sights on traversing Africa, a 10,000 mile journey taking her through some of the most lawless and dangerous countries on the planet. She says she was in search of a ‘real, proper, old-fashioned adventure’.

Africa was a real tough trip compared with my first trip. Even though the American journey was twice as long; Africa was ten times as hard.”

Lois’s unconventional route through Africa turned out to be very testing and took her through war-ridden countries with little to no infrastructure, where level motorways were a distant dream.

Once you get to the Sahara its just sand and rocks so that’s really tough going. Then in central Africa it’s just mud and where there is tarmac it’s all broken up with potholes so it’s physically a very difficult continent to cross”, Lois says.

My greatest memory though would be riding across the Sahara, from an actual motor biking point of view. It’s the best riding I’ve ever done in my life; it was so exciting.”

One of the scarier moments from her trip was when, she had to choose between a concrete road dotted with landmines or a muddy track which had been transformed into a gushing river, reminding her that tarmac roads aren’t always the safest.

Her route into Africa included a boat trip from France to Tunisia and then riding on into Algeria where she met some other bikers.

“In Algeria I was really grateful that I had the company of some other travellers because I was thinking ‘my god what would this be like if I hadn’t met up with them and had done this on my own’. I would have been so miserable; I wouldn’t have been able to do anything. I imagine it’s a pretty bleak place to be completely alone if you’re a white woman.”

As she was crossing a border in Algeria into the Sahara, officials refused to give her a permit simply because she was a woman. Often men would totally ignore her which left her feeling excluded and lonely. She believes that they were simply “not ready for the idea of a white woman riding a motorcycle.”

“It was just beyond their comprehension. They would think I was a man a lot of the time when I would drive up to checkpoints. When I would speak back to them, and they realised I was a woman, they would literally flinch and pull their hand away.”

From Algeria she travelled straight through Niger where chickens had run of the villages and cigarette smugglers were in abundance. She then crossed the northern part of Nigeria, a country which she had worried a lot about ever since entering the chaotic Nigerian Embassy back in London.

“I was worried about Nigeria because it has a bad reputation for corrupt officials and bribery but we didn’t have any of that and actually I found it very welcoming.”

Having survived Nigeria, Lois had only one thing on her mind: The Congo. Throughout Africa Lois was warned not to venture into the Congo, one of the deadliest conflict zones in the world. She put on a brave face, however, and entered the heart of darkness.

On entering the immigration office, Lois was left speechless at the sight of gruesome photos of tortured civilians. From genital mutilation, de-capitation and hangings, she recalls being guided though the casualties by the young immigration official who, when asked why these gruesome murders took place, calmly replied, ‘C’est la vie’.

There is a definite air of hostility, not just towards travellers but amongst the people themselves. They have been brutalised over the years of the regime and through civil wars. It’s an unpleasant place to be whether you are Congolese or English. There were a lot of signs of brutality. It’s in everybody’s life, in their eyes in their faces. It’s a hard place to live. I had a lot of scary moments there with officials and the police as they are the people you fear over there.”

Following the terror of the Congo, Angola turned out to be the biggest surprise for Lois and her favourite country on her trip. The West African nation has been troubled by civil war for nearly 27 years and is known to be an impossible country to traverse due to widespread land mines and bombed roads and railways.

Despite the county’s troubled past, Lois found the people went out of their way to help her.

“I could not have asked for more friendly and welcoming people; they were just so lovely. The place is a wreck; there are tanks all over the place abandoned by the side of the road, land mines everywhere and kids who have got their legs blown off because of mines. It’s horrible but the people are just fantastic,” she remembers with a sad smile.

On her next trip, Lois hopes to ride eastwards towards India or Mongolia and perhaps take her husband, who has also embarked on biking trips around the world. She leaves me with some wise advice.

It’s better to travel alone than to travel with the wrong person. You need to choose your travelling companions very carefully!”

SIDE BAR- Polly Evans

Polly Evans


Another Intrepid traveller who decided to leave her loved ones in search of a motor biking adventure is Polly Evans, travel writer and author of ‘Quirky Travel guides’. Unlike Lois Pryce, however, Polly Evans has always been a little offbeat.

Evans strives to find the interesting in the ordinary wherever she travels, preferring to dine in restaurants that dish up road-kill or bars that serve cocktails garnished with human toes rather than visiting tourist attractions. So when she decided to embark on a biking trip around New Zealand in search of the last bastion of masculinity; the Kiwi bloke, nobody bat an eyelid.

Despite Evan’s mad raving lunatic expeditions around the world from reindeer chasing in Siberia to learning to Dog sled in Canada, speaking to her you will quickly discover she is a very calm and quiet woman. When asked where she got her ‘quirkiness’ from, the ever modest Evans denies she is ‘all that quirky’ and puts it down to her odd personality which has grown with her throughout life.

Evans grew up in Derbyshire, in England, until she was nine years old, when her family moved to Tokyo for a year, something she feels was a strong motivating force in travelling later on.

When I was in school there we had 18 kids in the class and between them were ten different nationalities. It was a very big eye-opener for me coming from rural England to see that there were all sorts of people in the World doing things differently and that they were still good people.”

Her biking trip to New Zealand, although predominantly a search for some Kiwi masculinity, brought her in contact with numerous interesting characters along the way.

Unfortunately, I didn’t find what I was looking for. I decided that all the real New Zealand men had probably disappeared, as you would imagine. I wasn’t expecting that New Zealand men would still be in the 19th Century and indeed they weren’t. They had moved on with the rest of the male species across the globe which is probably a very good thing”, she laughs.

Her journey around New Zealand brought her in contact with Maori warriors who carved their enemies’ bones into cutlery, a pioneer family who lived in a tree, and some flamboyant gold miners who lit their pipes with five-pound notes and wondered how their descendants have become pathologically obsessed with helpfulness and Coronation Street.

To find out more about the adventures of Polly Evans, log on to her website, www.pollyevans.com and be sure to look at her section on ‘Hamster escapes’. The quirkiness continues…

My first Dolphin Encounter

30 Mar

I love Dolphins!!!

Towards the end of our awesome road trip we ended up in the idyllic seaside town of Kaikora on the east coast of New Zealand, known for its amazing marine life. From whale watching tours, dolphin encounters and swimming with seals to  bird watching and nature walks around the ruggedly beautiful Peninsula, Kaikora is a nature lovers heaven.

While my parents headed off on a 3 hour hike around the bay, Ali and I set off on our full day Dolphin Encounter. The excitement I expereinced at the thought of swimming with dolphins in the Pacific Ocean reached a whole new height once out on the open sea. It was not some small pod of tamed dolphins showing off around hundreds of pesty tourist boats, it was a HUGE pod of between 200 and 500 wild dolphins jumping, flipping and frolicking in the open ocean. Similar to white backed dolphins, dusky dolphins are known for their displays of aerial acrobatics!

Dolphins, Dolphins everywhere...

Our small group of 15  quietly slid into the water to observe the beautiful creatures. We were not allowed to reach out and touch them and were simply told to ‘sing’ to them and swim around in fast circles to attract their attention. The dolphins would often simply ignore us and swim off in the opposite direction where upon we would all swim back to the boat as fast as our flippers would allow us and follow them from a safe distance then slip into the water to play with them a little more.

Once we were all exhausted from jumping in and out of the water the tour guides fed us with cookies and hot chocoalte and we had a photo taking session as the dolphins swam majestically in front of the boat, occasionally jumping out of the water and doing flips and turns. It was a truely unforgettable experience and the absolute highlight of my 2 weeks in New Zealand.

Little show off!

Another show off..

Pancake rocks, Glaciers and Swing bridges!

27 Mar
Leaving Wanaka behind us we set off again in our trust Maui camper up the west coast of the South Island and past some of the most stunning scenery to be found; long never-endling flat lakes surrounded by huge, towering mountains, winding roads with not a car to be seen for miles, cute little picnic stops, and the rugged NZ coastline.

It’s a puzzling world…

26 Mar

While enroute to Lake Wanaka we dropped into Stuart Landsborough’s ‘Puzzling World which is a world unique attraction specialising in puzzling eccentricity, an attraction which may well have the most photographed odities in New Zealand. The attraction has the world’s first ‘modern maze’, a puzzle cafe and mind boggling illusion rooms, the likes of which I have never seen before.

Puzzling world, Wanaka

  Continue reading

Are you an adrenaline Junkie?

24 Mar

“Be brave. Even if you’re not, pretend to be. No one can tell the difference”.

These are the wise words I was given before jumping out of a plane from a dizzying height of 15,000 feet in New Zealand; a country that  is foremost known for being home to the set of The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, The All Blacks rugby team and lots, and lots of sheep. In fact there are 10 sheep for every one person in New Zealand. That is one hell of a lot of sheep. But enough about sheep…what some people may not know is that New Zealand is also the adrenaline capital of the world. You name it, no matter how crazy the concept, they probably have it.

My 2 weeks of adrenaline junkie heaven started on New Zealand’s South Island in the picturesque Queenstown, where I met up with my best friend Ali and my parents. Queenstown is like no other place I have been. As my plane from Melbourne landed you could see everyone admiring the stunning surroundings of  huge, snow-covered mountains and never ending glistening glacier lakes. It is such a popular destination, especially during the winter ski-season, yet some how has managed to hold on its quaint, small town charm.

Ali and Me in beautiful Queenstown by Lake Waktipu

On our first day we set off to get our hearts pumping on the ‘Shotover Jet’, tagged as ‘The World’s most exciting jet boat ride’. And by god was it exciting. On many occasions I thought my heart was going to fly up and out of my mouth as the driver spun crazy 360′ turns at breath-taking speeds in the narrowest parts of the canyon with the sheer cliff face mere inches from my frightened face. Despite only lasting about 35 minutes, it was boat ride I will never forget.

You WILL get wet! Shotover Jet, Queenstown

Shotover River Gorge

Back into the Camper and off we set on our 10 day adventure with our next stop being Lake Wanaka, which I decided would be a good place to throw myself out of a plane. I saw this toilet graffiti while over there and felt it really explains my reasoning;

“If not here, where? If not now, when? If not me, who?”

The only available jump was at 2pm so we set off to the near by National Park, where I, despite sub arctic conditions, decided to run off the jetty and dive into the lake. The glacier lake. The lake surrounded by snow-capped mountains. Cold would be one way of describing it. Icy would be another!

Feeeeeeezing cold glacier water...gahhhh.

After drying off and feeling wide awake I was ready for my sky-dive. I suited up, was given a 5 minute safety breach and off we went. The 3 other jumpers casually ‘fell’ from the plane at 12,000 feet but as I had opted for the ultimate adrenaline rush from the altitude of 15,000 feet I had to hold on a bit longer. As the plane slowly climbed higher and higher, and my heart started beating faster and faster at the thought of soon having to jump out, I was given a oxegen mask to wear (as we were climbing to an altitude where it was becoming difficult to breathe). Far from calming me down or making me feel safer, this actually made me nearly poop my pants. Finally we had reached our destination and from the plane we flew.

As we tumbled from the sky, free-falling towards the ground at breaking speeds, and the ice-cold air brushed against my face I felt ecstatic. After about 45 seconds of free-falling the parachute shot up and we slowed right down, finally bursting through the cloud to take in the absolutely mesmerizing scenery of Mount Cook and Mount Aspiring National Park. As we gazed over to the glistening waters of Lake Wanaka, I told my tandem partner of my swim earlier that morning to which he replied, “Girl, are your crazy?!” Funny reaction I thought, as I’m not the one who jumps out of planes for a living! 

It was an absolute once in a life time experience that I’m sure to never forget. After all, it’s not everyday you strap yourself to a beautiful stranger and leap from a perfectly good aircraft!!

Taking in the view over Lake Wanaka

Setting off with my 'Beautiful stranger'!

" Free...Free Falling...!"

Kia Ora New Zealand

2 Dec
 It was just a usual Monday afternoon in Cork, as I was sitting down to eat some soup and sandwiches for lunch. Suddenly my mobile rings and it turns out to be a good friend of mine, Dan, calling from New Zealand. He is walking home from a drunken night out and it is circa 3am in NZ. We chat for a while and I laugh (at his drunkeness!) and then he asks me, “So, when are you coming to visit me in New Zealand?”. As I had plans to travel to Oz in the near future (just waiting for my Visa) I tell him some day, some day.
As fate would have it,and much to Dans shock, some day turned out to be that weekend!! Flights were booked 72 hours before departure and off I went to pay a visit to Dan and of course my best friend  Ali, who was living in Auckland.
While most people have a long list of places they *must* visit I simply had a list of people I had to see. It was absolutely awesome to see Ali again and meeting her new love, Ben.
As Ali was working most days I got in touch with the ever trustworthy Auckland Couchsurfing network and signed up for a free tour of Auckland’s Beaches. We drove all around the city and ended up at the opposite side of the harbour with spectacular views of Auckland’s Skyline.

From some old war bunker to protect against attacking russians (yup New Zealand ACTUALLY feared Russia might one day attack them?!?!?) to miles of glistening white sand, cute little Ice- Creameries and quaint suburbs, my little tour of Auckland was magical.

Pretty Blue Harbour…oh and me!
Aucklands beautiful beach

Dan hitchhiked from Lake Taupo for the weekend and we partied like we’ve never partied before, (pub) crawling our way around a city neither of us knew too well, and ended up in a Casino circa 5am. We also bumped into a fellow Irishman, who turned out to be from Galway and went to School with my cousin. Small World.

The second night we ended up in some “Cowboys and Indians” bar which I still claim to be the most awesome bar in the world. They gave away free cowboys hats to all customers, the beer was seriously cheap, there was Karaoke on ALL the time, and they even let us stand on the bar to do Riverdance. Fun times!

One of my last days in Auckland, Ali’s boyfriend Ben organised for us all to go on a bus tour with his hostel to Piha. 30 crazy backpackers on a bus and the ‘tour leader’, a young welsh guy who must have eaten WAY too much skittles (as his energy is endless), decides it would be a good idea to stop at the Bottle-O to stock up on alcohol for the 2 hour bus journey. So now we have 30 crazy, DRUNK, backpackers on a bus.It was  SWEET AS, as the Kiwis would say. 

The tour itself was incredible and included swimming under a waterfall in a national park, an awesome picnic on Piha beach, which is one of the most dangerous yet most spectacular stretches of coast in all of New Zealand. Despite big plans to party the night away back in Auckland with all our newly made friends, the effects of alcohol, dehydration and exhaustion set in and I had my first (and only) lazy night of my trip.

For my last night Ali and I ended up heading the Auckland Couchsurfing monthly meet up down in the harbour. I had previously planned to meet up with a friend from home, Aimie, who was alos visiting Auckland, but she had a prior dinner commitment with her family.

The CS party was great fun and there were over 50 people from various countries to talk to. ABout half way through the night, I heard someone call my name, only to turn around and see Aimie and her family having dinner in the same venue as the CS party. We couldn’t believe the co-incidence. Yet again I say, SMALL WORLD.

Auckland Skyline
Janet and Ali, Cowgirls
Shosef (from Galway) and Dan

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