Days 12 – 13: LAST DAYS IN TOKYO

As our time in Tokyo came to an end we had to see the sakura (cherry blossom) at least once. The sakura forecast predicted the blossoms to be in full bloom five days later but we wanted to see them opening nonetheless. Our flat was located next to the Gyoen Park so we decided to give it a try there. As countless other tourists and Tokyo inhabitants did. Despite the size of the park, it was really crowded. We strolled through the park with our camera equipment and the tripod. But we were actually one of the modest photographers there. Some of the park visitors had very expansive cameras and even more expansive lenses. But there were artists as well. People created images with chalk or pens. Some painted with brushes. They were all inspired by the beginning cherry blossom, it seems.

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DAYS 10-11: VISIT FROM HOME

We started the day early. At least we tried. We planned to visit the famous Tokyo Fish Market Tsukiji which starts at 5am. We realistically evaluated the chances of us getting up that early and dismissed the idea completely. So we went to Tsukiji when it was almost over (not that there were no other tourists…). Even after it was almost closed it still was an impressive place to see. The Tsukiji is located in several buildings and has the size of several small towns. Or at least it feels that big. Actually it isn’t this big but still huge. You can walk around the place for hours and see whole sellers, restaurants and a lot of frozen fish. Because we were terribly late we mostly saw a lot of frozen fish garbage, expensive restaurants and not whole sellers but tourists. Although the Tsukiji inner restaurants are highly recommended by many people, it isn’t worth the price in our opinion. The restaurant prices were hefty AND the restaurants were crowded although the Tsukiji already was closing down. The experience is probably super nice and the Sushi probably exceptionally but after we saw the price (and all the fish garbage) we decided not to eat there.

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LAST DAYS OF AUSTRALIA

Visiting Australia was a childhood dream of Tina. Seeing Kangaroos and Koalas, learning about the culture of the Aborigines and seeing the red sand which Australia is so famous for. Despite experiencing her dream the both of us felt as if our time in Australia was coming to an end. Australia is a fantastic and vast country which we’re happy to have visited. The people are kind and the animals here are (from our perspective) super strange and interesting. We only had seen a tiny bit of this continent and there is still so much to explore. We missed the Uluru and the outback. We haven’t seen the northern tropical parts or crocodiles. The cities of Perth and Cairns hadn’t had the chance to experience us. And we didn’t see the Great Barrier Reef.

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FRASER ISLAND

Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world and there are a lot of tours one can book on Fraser Island. We decided for a guided one-day tour in a four-wheel-drive. The tour included the guide, ferry and national park fee as well as lunch and pickup. When we got picked up we realized that we wrongly assumed “four-wheel-drive” is some puny pickup semi-truck or such. Actually the “four-wheel-drive” looked like the lovechild of a full-blown truck and a bus, with some offroad magic sprinkled in. A huge monster of a bus with seating for 40 people and as offroad capable as any buggy. Our guide Cameron was a local who did the tour for ten years and had a lot to tell about the island.
The first highlight was the ferry with which the bus was set over to the island (when we first saw the bus we asked ourself if the bus will drive through the water while having low tide maybe). On the ferry were warning signs for estuary crocodiles, which we hadn’t seen so far (lucky us…). After the ferry the bus drove with  the maximum allowed 80km/h over the sandy beach to our first stop, the morning tea at the Eurong Beach Resort. Actually, writing about it: 80km/h does not sound that fast. But in a bus on a beach this speed already translates into pretty violent jumps for the passengers. Driving on the beach with maximum speed in a bus is an experience for itself, but we also overtook basically every car we saw. Also we drove through really steep and narrow rain forests with the bus. But the bumpy forest road was worth it: We arrived at the Lake Mackenzie. We were given plenty of time to swim in the clear water and even a short rain shower did not mar our good mood. Replenished and wet we climbed back into the bus and were driven to the Resort where we had our lunch. The second part of the trip again involved bumpy forest roads but now we were used to it. We stopped at a former logging camp which was the start of short bushwalk. Our guide showed us a crystal clear creek and some plants unique to this area. From the bushwalk we drove back to the beach where we saw the shipwreck of the SS Maheno as well as a holy place for the Aborigines, the Pinnacle Colored Sands.
When we returned from the Sands we were offered the chance to do a scenic flight over Fraser Island in a Chessna plane. As I never did that before I seized the opportunity flew 15 minutes over the island. When the plane landed I rejoined Tina at the Eli Creek where we chilled for a while which would have been more relaxing if there hadn’t been several other tourists also making a pause at the Creek.
The crocodiles we have been warned of before didn’t show up. Also the (in)famous Fraser Island Dingo was nowhere to be seen (which is probably good, as there are warning signs of “Dingos WILL steal your baby” and “Dingos hunt in packs” literally everywhere). The only sign of dangerous animals we have seen were small holes which our guide identified as “Funnel-Web Spider” holes.
The day on Fraser Island ended almost the same way as it began: A bus full of tourists driving with 80km/h over the beach. But this time everyone was so knackered that the whole bus was quiet.

WATERFALLS AND BEACHLIFE

As we had to return our car (we called it Uma – Japanese for horse) in Brisbane we drove further north to reach it. On our way we stayed a night in Nambooca Heads. This small city has both: hills and beach. Our motel was located on one side of the hill so we had a good view over the city. Asked for a restaurant recommendation our motel manager recommended the V-Wall Restaurant near the breakwater of the city. The restaurant had really good fresh fish and a direct line of sight onto the waterways surrounding Nambooca Heads. But actually not the water but the breakwater is mentioned in travel guides. The breakwater consists of big natural stones, which are painted by tourists and locals and show greetings, condolences and farewells.

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SYDNEY, NEWCASTLE AND FRIENDS

Before we got to Australia, I had two particular images of Australia in my head: The first being the vast outback with the Ulluru in the background and kangaroos jumping through the desert. The second image I had was the Sydney Opera House. Although we didn’t see the desert and the Uluru, we saw the Opera House.
We arrived at our accommodation in Sydney Balmain and were greeted by our host. We had a nice big room with our own deck and a stunning view over the city. The house, the room is located in, was occupied by three friends living there together. All of them were super friendly and we had good inspirational talks with them. We even were invited to a breakfast with friends of them! In retrospect this was probably the best airBnB accommodation we ever had.

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MELBOURNE TO SYDNEY

After our fantastic time in Melbourne and our experiences on the Great Ocean Road we started our road trip to the east coast.
We tried to keep to the coast as much as possible on our trip as we love the sea. Our first stop on our tour was the town of Lakes Entrance. As the name suggests, this town lies at the entrance of a system of lakes. When we drove in the town we had a stunning view from the top of the surrounding hills. Allegedly there live estuary dolphins in the lake but we didn’t see them.

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FOOD IN NEW ZEALAND

Now that we are not in New Zealand any more we have time to write some posts in retrospective. One of these topics is food in New Zealand. Especially we want to point out some differences to Food in Germany.

Breakfast

When we got our camper van we went into a supermarket to stock up our food for the first days. The first mission was to find breakfast: Bread, cheese and some meat/sausages. A typical German breakfast I would say.
While I do know that in Germany the range of bread is pretty wide and this is not typical in the rest of the world, I was still surprised to see such a different variety of bread. Whereas there is no other flour used as wheat and even sour dough is considered a “speciality”, the options for toast is stunning. At least three big brands provide each six to nine different flavours (“dutch”, “flax seed” …) and in addition the own brands of the supermarket add even more to the mix. So while the variety in flour is non existing and bread all in all looks the same, toast is available in a wide spectrum and the kinds I sampled were very good.

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BLUE LAKES AND ROUGH SEA

After almost two months the end of our time in New Zealand loomed at the horizon. So much to do, so little time. Although we had an exceptional time in this beautiful country and already saw some amazing landscapes and met fantastic people we still had some things on our to-do list.
To check some of these off of our list we drove up the east coast to the city of Kaikoura. Kaikoura is famous for its whale watching tourism. The both of us had been very lucky as we had been gifted two tour vouchers with which we booked a tour. Before we even started our trip in December, there had been a strong earthquake near Kaikoura. Besides making the access to the city complicated (the North-Road was still unaccessible when we arrived two months later and the South-Road only opened during the day time) the earthquake interfered with the whale-watching business: The city of Kaikoura had been lifted by the eathquake almost one meter so the boat ramp did not reach deep enough into the water anymore. The whale watch company modified their trailer to be able to at least start the business on high tide (what is what we were booked for).

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THE EAST COAST

After the stunning views and experiences at the Milford Sound we drove off to the east coast of New Zealand. We drove straight from Te Anau to our most southern point in New Zealand: The Kaka Point. At the Kaka Point there is a hidden spot to watch Yellow Eyed Penguins, a severely threatened kind of penguin. Unfortunately no penguin showed up while we’ve been there so we moved on to our camp ground in Brighton.
Besides a campground with a beautiful view we met a family from Germany which we met on multiple occasions later on our trip. We had a nice evening with them, a glass of wine and some good talks. The next day we explored the city of Dunedin. One of the attractions (we saw) in Dunedin is the steepest residential street of the world, the Baldwin Street. It has a slope of 35% which does not sound as impressive as it feels, when you (try) to climb it. This street seriously is steep.

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