Sunday, 24 March 2013

Asia Part 2

Okay lack of updates once again, simply too busy enjoying things :)

So I writing this update from Dublin so I made it back here safely.
Apologies in advance for the lack of photos here, I will do a number of posts when I fully finish my travels with photos, I simply haven't had time to sort through everything.

When I last left off the blog I was in Thailand, so I guess it is easiest to take it up from that point.
From Thailand I flew to Cambodia specifically Siem Reip which is the city nearest to the famous Angkor Wat. I decided to relatively splurge while I was there and stayed in a decent hotel and to take a private tour of the temple complexes.  I had an excellent tour guide a Mr Son who proved to be very knowledgeable and one aspect I enjoyed was the ability to avoid some of the big tours, most of them for example visited Angkor Wat in the morning so we were able to visit in the afternoon, this avoided the total tourist squash.
Even though Angkor Wat may be the most famous of the temples it is in fact on one of a very large number in the area, I think I visited over 12 different temple complexes in the 4 days along with a visit to the floating village, if you are going to Cambodia look up this tour guide he can be found with a quick google.

From Cambodia I headed to New Zealand, I flew into Auckland (via Kuala Lumpur and Sydney) from there I rented a car and started driving (If you read about the drives in America you may be surprised that Hertz hasn't banned me). From Auckland I first headed north to Cape Reinga which is the most northerly point of the North Island, from there I headed South to the Bay of Islands which I have to say is quite stunning, it is internationally famous (but the name may not be known) as the final resting place of the Rainbow Warrior (the Greenpeace flagship that was sunk by the French in Auckland harbour), The ship was sunk here after the police investigation and can now be dove by recreational divers, this was an excellent dive for me as I love wreck diving in general and especially if there is some known history attached to a wreck.
After my days diving I bounced around the North Island for another 4 days just seeing as much as I could, some of the other highlights included thermal springs which were lovely for relaxing in, I would have liked more time to visit more of them.  After the general tourist drives and such I headed to Wellington to drop of the rental car and to get the ferry over to the South Island.
Once I arrived in Picton on the South Island I picked up another car of my ten remaining days in New Zealand.
One difference I noticed very quickly between the two islands was the number of hitch hikers on the South Island compared to the North Island, the majority of these were tourists like myself but some were Kiwis, most days I picked up at least one set of hitch hikers and sometimes multiple sets, this was my way of paying back Karma for the hitches I got when I was hiking in the US and to be honest they were just some interesting people.
I really bounced around the South Island, I'll cover my approximate route and mention some of the highlights.
From Picton I headed towards Christchurch but didn't actually go down quite that far, I then headed across the mountain range and back up towards Golden Bay (I had originally decided to skip going up here but from talking to a hitch hiker it sounded nice and I detoured)
From Golden Bay I headed to the West Coast specifically Westport, I got very lucky when I visited the west coast as I saw very little rain, two weeks before I was there there was bridges and roads washed out form the rain, the average yearly rainfall is somewhere in the region of 3000mm in the area (according to one of the informaiton signs I read)
I then headed down the west coast to see Franz Josef Glacier, this is an impressive coastal drive and you start to see the Southern Alps. The Glaciers have retreated significantly in the last hundred years, it is interesting to pass signposts listing where the glacier was over different times, from the 1940s marker it is another 10 minutes drive and then a 30 minute walk to the current viewing point.
Then I headed uo into the mountains towards Queenstown then on to Te Anau and I drove up to Milford Sound which is an interesting drive on quite a small road in places at the bottom of quite small valleys, there is a significant tunnel to pass through as well to actually get down to Milford Sound, Milford Sound itself is a fjord, to be honest it is beautiful but the beauty would not justify the road and tunnel construction to, I asked a local and he explained it was a combination of a war project and a depression project that built the road and tunnel it was originally envisioned that that it would be a new port being one of the only deep water anchorages on the west coast of the South island (i.e. the nearest side to Australia) but with improved shipping and better ports on the south of the island it was easier to bring goods into other ports than transport them over a small road that would have been prone to being closed due to snow and other weather events.
From there I headed to Bluff which is the most southern point of the South island at this stage I realised I was ahea dof schedule so I decided to see some of the centre of the island so I headed back up towards Christchurch via the middle of the island and back down to Dunedin via the East coast.
In total I managed to drive 6000Km in New Zealand.

From Dunedin I flew direct to Sydney.
Once in Sydney I rented another car (Hertz still hadn't learned), From Sydney I headed north to Cairns I had to divert inland a couple of hundred kilometres due to sever flooding in the coastal areas I would have been passing through, the areas I passed through is one of the major farming areas of Australia especially growing crops and it was actually a lot greener than I was expecting.
I got one days diving in Cairns but I have to say I was very disappointed with the general conditions of the reef, the boat I was on was not the largest but there was still maybe 40 plus divers, there is a lot of signs and such dealing with rubbish i.e. don't near the reef, but as an example I collected 5 snorkels and a mask during my three dives alone, along with these dive specific pieces of rubbish I noticed additional pieces of rubbish, along with this there was significant amounts of broken coral, along with very significant bleaching.
I have heard that the health of the reef and the diving is a lot better if you can go to the more remote sections of the reef.

From Cairns I headed West to Darwin, this was my first real experience of driving in the more outback areas (the east coast is relatively densely populated, i.e. a town at least every 50Km or so), while driving to Darwin it was normal for it to be five or six hundred kilometres between towns for these larger stretches it was normal to find a roadhouse every two to three hundred kilometres, a roadhouse usually consisted of a petrol station with an attached restaurant and maybe a bar and usually a motel out back along with some accommodation for the staff and that is it!!

Once I hit Darwin my original plan had been to go directly south through the middle of Australia but I realised I had under estimated the distances I would cover each day (in the outback it was normal to cover between 700 and 1000Km if not more) so I decided to head for Perth, my one regret here was that I didn't stick to the coast road but swung inland at one stage, the coast road is meant to be a lot more scenic.
At this point I have to mention the Road trains and road kill (they both go hand in hand), the sizes of the road trains varied but were shorter than I had originally feared, the biggest ones allowed were I think 56m, still impressive, think of a big truck pulling 3 normal trailers and this is approximately what you get, these things cant stop too easily so you end up with road kill! One of the biggest road trains I saw was in the mining areas where I saw a number of trains with I think 7 trailers and I think 25 axles (98 wheels!) these were basically a string of dump trucks so were still only about the same length as the other trucks but due to the loads each trailer was smaller with more axles to take the weight.
On the front of road kill I probably say a couple of hundred dead kangaroos and another hundred plus dead cows, the biggest road kill I saw was a camel, I didn't have any issues myself with only one kangaroo getting within maybe two meters of being hit by me.
From Perth I headed along the south coast but took a little diversion up to see Uluru (~1200Km detour), from there I headed down to Melbourne then up back to Sydney with one stop on Parkes to visit the Observatory that was made famous by the file "The Dish" this 60+ meter radio dish was used to relay pictures of the first moon landing.

From Sydney I headed back to Dublin. Your probably wondering what I up to now, well I am flying to France tomorrow to start walking the Camino de Santiago walk in the north of Spain, the 780Km section I'm hoping to finish starts in St Jean Pied de Port just on the French side of the border.

I'm hoping to complete the walk in about six weeks but have almost 8 weeks available if needed, I won't give too many details of the walk for now but if you are interested in the trail a quick google will provide plenty of information.
I hope to get some updates posted but considering my recent update frequency please don't hold your breath between updates as I don't want to be responsible for people passing out :)

Sorry for any spelling/grammatical errors in this post but I am rushing it out a bit as I finish packing and getting ready for tomorrow.

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