Along the Away

travel, dream, create, inspire, appreciate

Posts Tagged ‘ adventure ’

Kangaroo Island Tour

Our first adventure on our second (and last) day on Kangaroo Island was to go koala visiting. Despite the island being called after a different Australian animal, there is actually a huge koala population there. I saw more koalas here on one day than I have ever seen in my life!

Kangaroo Island Tour - KoalasKangaroo Island Tour - Koalas

We drove to the Hanson Bay Wildlife Sanctuary where we were free to wander among the eucalyptus trees at our own leisure, our heads craned backward, eyes glued upward at the tree branches. We didn’t have to go far to spot them – in fact we saw a mum and baby in a tree along the driveway!


Once again I find myself doing a little belated post-holiday updating! Seems to be often the case, but that’s OK – the reminiscing is good for the soul ;-)

Over the last new year break I went on a getaway trip to Adelaide with my twin sister. While my hometown is famous for its spectacular NYE celebrations, the mega-crowds it attracts can make planning anything around town a bit of an effort, so we fancied spending the holiday out of Sydney.

We decided only a few weeks before that we’d take the trip, so I spent about a week googling ideas and asking friends for suggestions on things to do. For some reason Adelaide has a reputation for being a bit… plain. A lot of people responded with “WHY!?!?!?” when I said I was going to Adelaide for New Years. After a truly wonderful, jam packed  7 days I’m going to tell you why over the next series of blog posts! The key is to do some research ahead of time and have a rough idea of what you want to do and when. Adelaide may not be the best city to just turn up and see what’s happening – the streets are so quiet, and at times we found ourselves musing ‘where is everyone?’ in a tone on the border of FOMI (fear of missing out) and eeriness (was there an apocalypse? has the city been evacuated?)

Here’s an overview of our one week itinerary in Adelaide:

Day 1: Fly into Adelaide early, day trip to Hahndorf

Day 2: Day long Barossa Valley Wine Tour

Day 3: Tram to Glenelg Beach and a coastal walk to Henley Beach and back

Day 4 & 5: Two day tour to Kangaroo Island

Day 6: Mountain biking down Mt Lofty, picnic in the Botanic Gardens

Day 7: Panda experience at Adelaide Zoo, lunch and shopping in the city, evening flight home.

It was a jam packed week, which I’m now going to relive here, one day at a time…

So the day after Boxing Day, after a quick coffee and bagel at the domestic terminal, we left Sydney EARLY at 6:45am with Jetstar and had a good flight to Adelaide.

Airport Waiting

Compared to the Sydney comparative we were impressed how cheap and easy it is to get a bus into the city from Adelaide airport. Relying on my iPhone map app we got off the bus in the right place and found our hotel, the Grand Chancellor on Currie St. I had booked it through Webjet after comparing a few CBD alternatives, we were happy to find it clean, comfy and conveniently located.

The great thing about our early flight was that we arrived with the whole day ahead of us. In my research I’d read that the German heritage town Hahndorf is a great day trip excursion from the city and easily accessible by bus. We’d purchased a Day Trip Metroticket for the airport bus for $10, so it was a good economy to go to Hahndorf that day.

We were on our way there within an hour of checking in to the hotel using the Plan My Journey feature on the Adelaide Metro website. We spent a few minutes walking up and down the block outside our hotel trying to work out which of the three bus stops we were supposed to be at but we found it eventually. It was about a 50 minute journey and easy to know when we’d arrived – the main street is just as described.

Hahndorf town

Lots of quaint shopfronts, tree-lined footpaths, cafes with tables and chairs clustered out the front.

Hahndorf town

First order of business was coffee and scones sitting in the sun on the veranda of the Herbees Garden Café, which is a historical German house built in the 1850’s.

Cute cow milk jug, Hahndorf

We spent a couple of hours wandering down the Main Street, there are lots of stores worthy of popping into – bakeries and fudge shops, and giftware and designer boutiques.

Street art, Hahndorf

We had lunch at Café Assiette which was packed went we first wandered by. I usually can’t help myself and check online for recommendations for food and coffee when I am somewhere new. Trip Advisor reviews raved about Café Assiette so we decided to take our chances on loitering nearby for awhile – and we got lucky! The wait staff were rushed off their feet but going out of their way to make everyone happy. The food was really great (veggie pie was delicious), made even better sitting outside under the trees, listening to the live music playing next door.

Hahndorf town

We spent some time in the Hahndorf Academy art gallery and museum, a beautiful 19th century heritage building which was once a boarding school and then a maternity hospital. There is a mix of contemporary art on display as well as some rooms presenting art and artifacts from the area’s past. There is a shop with an interesting range of gifts including local art and jewellery – it is well worth a visit.

Art in Hahndorf town

It was a bright, sunny day so we stopped by one of the artisan ice cream shoppes before we hopped back on a bus to Adelaide.

Hahndorf town Hahndorf town

We finished off our first day of sightseeing with a walk through a deserted Rundle Mall (seriously, where is everyone?) which hosted a number of interesting street sculptures and Christmas decorations.

Rundle Mall


We drove into Nelson just as the sun was going down. We drove through the town to our accommodation close by Tahunanui Beach. It may be winter, but that’s not going to hamper the enjoyment of a sundown stroll along the sand.

Tahunanui Beach, Nelson, NZ

Tahunanui Beach, Nelson, NZ

Tahunanui Beach, Nelson, NZ

The sun set boldly into the horizon, the clouds changing their colour every few minutes.

Tahunanui Beach, Nelson, NZ

Tahunanui Beach, Nelson, NZ

As I was fiddling around with the mysterious settings on my camera I saw a group posing for photos in the fading light so I snapped a few of my own.

Tahunanui Beach, Nelson, NZ

Before arriving, I was mostly looking forward to visiting the arty, laid back town of Nelson just to have down time exploring the town’s galleries, cafés and pubs, but then the opportunity to go on a quad biking adventure at Happy Valley came up and I unexpectedly decided to give it a go! There are so many things to do in New Zealand and a lot come with a significant price tag so I have been picking and choosing as I go. The quad biking offered a chance to see some of the local bush though and I find it hard to turn down nature time so I signed up with some buddies from the tour.

It was so much fun! We went with Happy Valley Adventures who picked us up from the hotel and took us to the property. When we arrived we were fitted with our helmets and hopped on our quad bikes for a quick lesson how to use the gears, accelerate and brake.

Quad Biking, Happy Valley, Nelson

We rode around a circular practice track for awhile to build a bit of confidence which I was grateful for; I was stop-starting a bit at first and braking down the little hills haha! But soon felt like I had control and could pick up the pace.

Quad Biking, Happy Valley, Nelson

One of the girls in my group couldn’t quite get comfortable with it (she doesn’t even have her drivers license so I can understand) and the guys were great, they put no pressure on her at all and she was still able to come on the ride with us by riding on the back of the guide’s quad bike.

Quad Biking, Happy Valley, Nelson

We went on the Bay View Circuit track led by our guide Fletcher and accompanied by the charismatic Border Collie, Jenna, who very happily sat on the back of Fletcher’s bike the whole time.

Dog Quad Biking, Happy Valley, Nelson

Quad Biking, Happy Valley, Nelson

We winded up through the mountain on a well worn 14km track through native forest. There was never any particularly hairy bits, just twists and turns, ups and downs, over bridges and through big puddles. Over the two hours I picked up speed and had more thrills. I only ever went as high as 30kmh (hey it felt faster on a twisting dirt track!) but the guys from our group that went on the tougher track went as fast as 60kmh!

Quad Biking, Happy Valley, Nelson

Once we reached the top of the mountain track we had the option to go on the Skywire, which is a paid extra. It is basically the world’s longest flying fox. There is a hanging car with four racing car seats; we got securely strapped in and told to brace ourselves for the chill factor – I soon realised why! The first 800m is a freefall drop onto the flying fox where we apparently reach up to 100kmph! It was stomach dropping but a lot of fun! The wind chill sliced right through me in the drop but then we slowed as we flew 150m across the valley.

Skywire, Happy Valley, Nelson

The view was beautiful, it felt like my feet could touch the native forest densely packed below us.

Skywire, Happy Valley, Nelson

Quad Biking, Happy Valley, Nelson

From there we headed to a lookout where we stopped to drink Milo and refuel on biscuits. It was a nice opportunity to stretch the legs and appreciate the view.

2014 New Zealand (2564)

Quad Biking, Happy Valley, Nelson

Quad Biking, Happy Valley, Nelson

Back at the bottom we got about ten minutes for some crazy freestyle riding on a track laid out between some farmland. Somehow a sheep found his way on the track and took off running at the sight of me bearing down on him. Of course I slowed down, but did the silly bean get off the track? No, he kept running on the track taking peeks over his shoulder at me as he went. I tried pointing and waving at him to move sideways off the track which he eventually did, but not before we were all banked up behind him doing 5kmph hahaha!!

Quad Biking, Happy Valley, Nelson

After our ride we got driven back into town where our first priority was food. I did my usual online cafe researching and led the quad biking crew to The Morrison St Cafe, we sat at a big round table and had a wonderful hearty tummy-warming lunch.

After that we all split up and went our own ways for a wander around the town of Nelson. I checked out some of the art stores with a couple of the girls and the Christ Church Cathedral at the end of the main street.

Nelson, New Zealand

Then I struck off on a mission to visit a jeweller I had read about, Louise Douglas. I had seen photos of her work and loved the reflection of nature in her designs. I splurged on a treat to remember NZ by and bought a beautiful freshwater pearl ring designed like a seed pod… It is like the pic below but I got the gold tone pearl not a black one. I love it, wear it all the time, and remember NZ and Nelson every time I wear it.

Louise Douglas Ring

Along the Away NZ Trip Map Rotorua

Poor Rotorua and it’s stinky reputation. Not stinky as in it’s the pits, but stinky as in, rotten eggs stinky… That’s the sulphur for you, that darn old thermal activity.

Which gives us hot thermal springs and nutrient rich mud baths (good).

Lake Rotorua

And the bog of eternal stench (bad).

Rotorua Mud Pool

It was not so bad really, though no one is joking when they say that ‘the smell’ lingers gently over the whole town. You learn to breathe through the mouth.

Rotorua’s other reputation is for adventure filled fun so I definitely signed up for some of that. First up was white water rafting on the Kaituna River, a grade five river, which according to Wikipedia in white water terms means:

“Grade 5 – Whitewater, large waves, large volume, possibility of large rocks and hazards, possibility of a large drop, requires precise maneuvering.”

To put my feat in context:

Grade 6 – Class 6 rapids are considered to be so dangerous that they are effectively unnavigable on a reliably safe basis. Rafters can expect to encounter substantial whitewater, huge waves, huge rocks and hazards, and/or substantial drops that will impart severe impacts beyond the structural capacities and impact ratings of almost all rafting equipment. Traversing a Class 6 rapid has a dramatically increased likelihood of ending in serious injury or death compared to lesser classes.

Yes, so Grade 5 is a big deal. The biggest deal you can raft without facing almost certain death. I was quite excited and a little apprehensive about the cold (yeah the cold, and maybe a bit about smashing my head on a rock or getting trapped under a capsized raft, but mostly the cold). I psyched myself up to tackle the challenges on the river including surviving the largest waterfall drop which can peak to 7m depending on the conditions! I’m not a thrill seeker by any means, for example you will not see a post featuring bungy jumping or sky diving from me. But I do like adventure!

We got picked up by River Rats From the hotel and drove about 40 mins to a shed a couple of hundred metres from where we would be starting our raft. We got kitted out in fleece tops, wetsuits, boots, helmets and life jackets. We hopped in the raft on the gravel to run through a quick lesson on what to do on each instruction. We practised synchronised rowing – funny that took the longest to master – and the ‘hold’ sequence, basically grabbing on and ducking down, which would be our go-to position on the scary-uh-I-mean-turbulent parts. Like the 7m waterfall drop. Yikes.

We spent about an hour on the river paddling when we told to and holding on the extra-turbulent parts. Our instructor was good fun and guided us through numerous rapids, down three waterfalls and UP a couple as well (the splash back was good fun!)

I thought the water would be unbearably freezing but with all the paddling and adrenaline plus the fleece and wetsuit it was actually OK!

The biggest deal was the big waterfall! It was at 6.5m when we got to it. There were three rafts in our group and mine was the last, bobbing on the water off to the side, hanging on to bits of leaves and branches while the other two took their turn paddling to the top of the waterfall then tipping slowly over and plunging down. The first raft tumbled down the white water and disappeared before it’s underside popped back up to the top while it’s occupants scattered around it scrambling to right it and get back in. The second raft approached the top with everyone grimmacing with concentration – over it went, disappearing in a flash before popping back up underside at the top. Oh no! Two capsizes! I really started to get uncomfortable with the idea of getting stuck under the raft. But no time to dwell on it, our guide yelled out “PADDLE!” and we gripped our paddles and splashed them haphazardly in the water, getting closer and closer.


Ahhh we’re so close! We reached the top, the adrenaline pumped, we started to tip…


I yanked my hand to the rope at the side while still gripping my paddle. I shoved my body down in the tiny space and scrambled my other hand to find the hold inside the raft. I felt the raft get ripped off the top and accelerate down the drop. My last thought was ‘I am NOT falling out of this raft!’ I tucked my chin just as we entered a washing machine spin of chaos. A jet of cold water slammed up my nostrils into the back of my skull. I swished and swirled and lost all sense of anything til I felt us surge up and I emerged coughing and spluttering. ‘What happened? Did we make it?’ was my first thought as I opened my eyes. The two girls in front were missing, I looked beside me and noticed the four of us in the back were all still wedged in our places, helmets askew and watering streaming out of everywhere. WE MADE IT!

We located our missing crew and pulled one poor girl back into the raft with blood gushing from her hand. A fake nail had been ripped off in her tumble from the raft. I felt so bad for her that she had to get back in and keep paddling, blood running a river down the side of the raft.

But after that waterfall it was all cake. Some more fun rapids before we hopped out and trudged up the road holding our raft above our heads. That was the worst bit actually, I was one of the tallest and the full weight of the raft crushed down on my neck causing something to twinge! Didn’t really appreciate the guide laughing off what could have caused a potential neck injury but apart from that the adventure itself was good fun!

The photo below is not mine (it’s all over the web though I believe original copyright must belong to River Rats) but you have gotten through my long written account of the adventure, you deserve a visual – here’s a pic of the waterfall:


My next Rotorua adventure was off to Hobbiton! The film site of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit where rolling green hills are dotted with colourful front doors built into the hillside, picket fences and vegetable gardens and hobbit-sized laundry flapping on clothes lines. Adventure in a different sense of the word.

Hobbiton New Zealand

Hobbiton New Zealand

It was certainly a fun experience, I’m a fan of the books and films so I got a kick out of seeing the attention to detail that went into the set production.

Hobbiton New Zealand

Hobbiton New Zealand

Hobbiton New Zealand

Hobbiton New Zealand

Hobbiton New Zealand

Hobbiton New Zealand

Hobbiton New Zealand

Hobbiton New Zealand

2014 New Zealand (1421)

For your information, this tree is part real tree, part fake. Peter Jackson was so particular about recreating the hobbit village exactly as the books describe that they relocated this tree from somewhere else, stripped all the leaves off and sewed silk leaves onto it’s branches… The attention to detail is serious business.

Hobbiton New Zealand

Hobbiton New Zealand


Hobbiton New Zealand

I’m not sure the $100+ entry is quite justified though it does include a beer, cider or ginger ale in the Green Dragon Inn which is a real treat – roaring fire place, a friendly cat sleeping on the rug, lots of big wooden tables and chairs, a truly cosy and leisurely end to the tour. If you’re a big fan you won’t want to miss out, just cough up the price and go.

Hobbiton New Zealand

There’s so much to do in Rotorua, if I’d had time I would have liked to go to the thermal sulphur baths however I couldn’t fit it in. Next time!

Goodbye Lake Rotorua, I’m off to Lake Taupo in the morning.

Lake Rotorua