After spending a fabulous February in New Zealand there was one weekend remaining on my round-the-world trip. I was back in Sydney, where I had initially entered Australia in early January. It was overcast and cool, not the near record-setting heat that greeted my previous visit to the city. I visited a few of the attractions, including the world-famous Sydney Opera House and Manly Beach. It was a relaxing weekend and as I packed my rucksack one last time, I was feeling thankful and humbled by all the remarkable people, sublime beauty, thrilling adventures, amazing moments and dumbfounded discoveries I experienced during my journey. While I saw significant, and increasing, challenges to the people and ecosystems of our beautiful planet, I felt ready and excited to forge ahead! Thanks to everyone who followed my journey and offered heaps of support! Stay tuned for the next chapter…


Aotearoa is the Maori name for New Zealand and is roughly translated as ‘Land of the Long White Cloud.’ While there were long white clouds on the North Island, they were definitely longer on the South Island. In fact, everything is longer, greater, bigger, and more dramatic on the South Island. The South Island was where we really experienced the landscapes of New Zealand. In our 18 days we managed two kayak trips, a walk on a glacier, hikes to towering waterfalls and plenty of WOW moments as we crisscrossed the island from north to south. Whenever possible we stayed at the Department of Conservation campsites, which are cheap, quiet and located in spectacular locations. But, we also stayed at a number of Top-10 Holiday Parks where we took warm showers, watched movies and enjoyed the camaraderie of other travellers.

We also found the South Island’s fine hospitality to our liking, including Valentine’s Day at the Hanmer Springs Spa Resort, a Saturday at the Marlborough Food and Wine Festival, and enjoying great food and beer in Nelson, Christchurch and Queenstown.

Leaving the country on Air New Zealand, we were treated to the world premier of the latest safety video, a real crowd pleaser, that aligned nicely with our month of adventure.


Flying across the Tasman Sea from Australia on a perfectly clear afternoon, I was excited to arrive in New Zealand during the middle of a South Pacific summer.  The Air New Zealand safety video on my flight over gave me a pretty good indication that I was embarking on a month to remember, a bit of a fairytale at the close of my travels.

I was excited to have the opportunity to travel with Dee for a month. It had been about 4 months since we had met in South Africa and during this time we had become pretty close. After meeting up in Auckland and spending a day seeing the ‘City of Sails,’ we set off in our borrowed campervan to see a few of the highlights of the North Island. Over this first week, we experienced a little bit of Maori culture, relaxed on the beach and along a beautiful river and generally adapted to being travel partners in our 5′ x 15′ steel and fiberglass box on wheels. The use of the campervan was a great gift from one of Dee’s friends from South Africa who recently obtained his citizenship in New Zealand.

As we began our drive along the beautiful back roads of New Zealand, it quickly became apparent that the campevan was the preferred method for touring New Zealand. Nearly every other vehicle was a campervan! Besides sheep, they are the local fauna. All sizes, shapes and colors of campervan are available for rent. There are campervans for all budgets from backpackers to retirees.  It was fun to look at the different options to see how the spaces were configured and what options were provided.  I enjoy tiny spaces that are efficiently designed and the various campervan designs certainly fit that mold with lots of innovative features for storing gear. After a few days, we began to unlock the secrets of using our campervan efficiently, including mastering the toaster oven and the art of keeping things cold in the mini-fridge. It was a good adventure for Dee and I.

Having more than managed to have a good first week together in a campervan, we drove onto the ferry in Wellington and departed for the spectacular South Island.


A Final Leap

16Mar13

Until I’m able to post more stories and photos from New Zealand, here’s a sneak preview of the big finale of my Round-the-World trip. Almost two years ago, I took a giant leap of faith, leaving my job and a stable situation to explore the world and try new things. To complete my travels, I took a final leap from the world’s first commercial bungy jump, at the historic Kawarau Bridge near Queenstown, New Zealand. It was a great way to celebrate my adventures! Much more to follow from New Zealand!

You can watch a video of my final leap here


Although I was having a great time in Melbourne and could have easily spent another few days exploring the museums and enjoying the vibe of this mellow city, my flight to New Zealand originated in Adelaide, 450 miles further west along the coast in the State of South Australia. During my planning at the end of my time in India last November, I decided to include the Great Ocean Road in my itinerary. There are heaps of options for doing the Great Ocean Road. The two-day / one-night trip I selected included both the Great Ocean Road and the rugged mountains and valleys of the Grampians. The tour was well-organized and I enjoyed the variety of things we saw. There were places I wish we would have spent more time exploring, but overall this trip met my expectations for a low-cost backpacker adventure.

One of the highlights that didn’t make it on to my camera was the drive from the Great Ocean Road to our lodging at Halls Gap in the Grampians, a journey of 90 minutes. This is a beautiful drive, passing through small valleys into the heart of the rugged Grampians. During his morning overview of the trip, our driver and guide had offhandedly mentioned that we could expect to encounter, and probably hit, kangaroos along this section of road. As the late afternoon light faded behind the mountains, we began to see a few kangaroos along the side of the road. We moved quickly past the first groups of kangaroos without any interference. After several more miles, we encountered more playful kangaroos who would run along side the van as we sped along. As we all tried to snap pictures, one kangaroo hopped along the side of our van for several hundred meters. Finally, this brazen kangaroo darted across the road in front of the van. Narrowly missing becoming a kangaroos kebab, we hurried along while this daredevil kangaroo waited for this next passing vehicle so he could further practice his Frogger skills.


Following World War II, Australia had a population of about seven million people. Isolated and without a sizeable population to fend off invasion, Minister of Immigration, Arthur Calwell, famously proclaimed that Australia must “populate or perish“. In the decades since, Australia has grown surely, if not steadily to a current population of 21 million. While I only saw a small sliver of this large country, I have every reason to believe that it still feels awfully desolate in many regions. In fact, as I expected, I came across large rural areas largely devoid of human settlement. Two things, however, really did surprise me:

1. Australia is as culturally diverse as any nation.

2. The small towns of Australia have done a wonderful job of preserving and utilizing their historic resources.

Attending the citizenship ceremony on Australia Day, January 26th, in Darebin, an inner-city suburb of Melbourne, introduced me to the breadth of cultures that now call Australia home. In Darebin, there are nearly 150 different nationalities living side-by-side! Visiting Darebin’s Preston Market later that same day, I marvelled at the bounty of ethnic foods available. Many of the market stalls were owned by immigrant families, many having emigrated several generations ago. At the same time, more recent arrivals had taken over some of the meat and seafood stalls.

My host in Darebin was my friend Bo and his family. I met Bo while backpacking through Europe in 1999. All these years later, Bo is now a Darebin City Councillor where he is an advocate for great progressive causes like renewable energy, sustainable transportation and urban agriculture. Bo and his wife were both raised in families that immigrated to Australia during their childhoods. In addition, I met Lonely Planet co-founder Tony Wheeler, who happened to be attending the citizenship ceremony as an Australia Day ambassador. My entire Australia Day experience was very special. it was easily one of the best days of my global journey not only for the community spirit I was apart of, but also,for how the day connected directly to my interest in cultural exchange and understanding.

Throughout my travels in Australia I was very impressed with the historic streetscapes in Australia’s small towns. Several locals told me it was due to the country’s reliance on tourism and wanting to project a clean and tidy image. Whatever the reason, it was great walking around these towns, gazing in the commercial storefronts and reading the interpretive signage that explained their significance. Launceston and Hobart, on the island of Tasmania, had two of my favorite historic downtowns. Combining great local beer and historic buildings and you have a winning combination!


Road Trip

16Mar13

Australia is perfect for road trips! Picking up my rental Toyota Yaris in Sydney, I had one week to travel to Melbourne where I would be leaving for Tasmania to walk the Overland Track. Open roads, light traffic, small towns and diverse landscapes made my first week a wonderful introduction to Australia.

Heading south from Sydney, I stopped at the popular surf and sun beach at Bondi and Royal National Park, about an hour south of Central Sydney. I settled in for the evening in Wollongong, a small port city another hour south. In Wollongong, I snuck into the final minute and overtime of a professional basketball game at the arena. I just happened to be walking back from dinner at a microbrew pub and the arena doors were wide open!

Waking in Wollongong, I enjoyed a leisurely breakfast before heading further down the coast. Kiama impressed me with its natural beauty and committment to historic preservation. At Seven Mile Beach, I happened upon a great event celebrating the 80th Anniversary of the first trans-Tasman flight between Australia and New Zealand. Before ending my second day, I dropped in on the resident kangaroos at Murramarang National Park. Staying at the hostel at the caravan park in Bateman’s Bay, I enjoyed meeting travellers from Australia and Belgium.

Sunday was partially wet, adding a bit of atmosphere to the coastal towns I drove through. As evening approached, I decided to head inland towards the Snowy Mountains. Arriving in Cooma, I was greeted with a spectacular rainbow and sunset. In Cooma, I got a feel for the surprising cultural diversity of Australia. Cooma is largely a town of immigrant families who arrived following WWII to build the Snowy Mountains Scheme, a complex hydro-electric and irrigation project that took 25 years to complete.

Moving further into the Snowy Mountains, I arrived in Thredbo, designed as an “alpine village”. In the winter, July and August in Australia, people travel from Sydney and Melbourne to ski at Thredbo. In the summer, it is a fairly quiet village of vacationing families and couples using the slopes for mountain biking and hiking. I took advantage of a clear summer day, hiking up to the overlook of Mt Kosciuszko, Australia’s highest mountain. Once again, with the interesting diversity of vegetation, I really sensed that I was in Australia.

Leaving Thredbo, I decided to push along to the west along the Great Alpine Road. After driving a few hours with few passing vehicles, I turned onto a secondary gravel road that took me further into the wilderness. I was a little nervous travelling these desolate back roads in a rental car. It was a beautiful drive and I eventually came upon a lovely camping spot next to a peaceful river. Besides a few logging trucks that thundered past the campground, there was very little activity in this area of Northern Victoria State.

The next day, my destination was Wilsons Promontory National Park. Passing through Omeo and a few other small towns, I enjoyed snacking on a hearty meat pies and a delicious apple square. I reached Foster, a gateway community to Wilsons Promontory, and settled in for the night. The following day, I spent a few hours exploring Wilsons Promontory before driving the final three hours to Melbourne. Without a decent map, I managed to negotiate a toll-free route into urban Melbourne, arriving at my hostel, The Nunnery, in time to join the Thursday evening pub crawl. After a few beers, I headed back to the hostel to prepare for my early morning departure for the Melbourne airport. My meandering drive between Sydney and Melbourne was a completely satisfying introduction to the wonders of Australia!