Friday, 31 March 2017



Back into uncharted territory and we took the very short flight from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur, (although the airport is actually about a 45 minute drive from the city) and checked in to our room with a view. The traders hotel, a recommendation from friends whose photos we had envied, put us on the 13th floor (the hotel didn't have a 7th floor, but 13th is fine in asia) with a view both of the Petronas towers, and into the rooms on the other wing of the hotel.

The city itself was lovely, although getting around was most easily achieved via air conditioned walkways between shopping malls, and one time we tried to find an area with street food the whole outdoors of the city centre was full of smoke and ash from a car fire!

We browsed the malls (Lisa took a fancy to a rather nice Alexander McQueen handbag, which we discovered cost about £10000) and ate green tea ice cream and exciting curries in the food hall. On the second day there we went to the top of the towers, and across the sky bridge which made us both feel pretty wobbly, and we were quite glad that the ticket was for a limited time, and we were herded back down from the 88th floor.

The next day we used the subway, and a train to get out to the Batu Caves, a complex of temples utilising some spectacular caves in the cliffs we could see from the top,of the towers.

The first was full of life size models of the Hindu gods, and told various stories about waking a giant to fight in the war, and the monkey god not realising his tail was on fire.

The second was up a flight of about 300 steps (in 32° heat, with monkeys jumping all over people- at one point a monkey tried to jump on a lady's hat, discovered it wasn't solid, so bounced off her shoulder, leaving a tiny poo on her nose. She was not impressed. I laughed.

At the top it was like being in the bottom of a volcano, with open air above, and monkeys and chickens around, and some sweet little shrines around us.

A cornetto and a bottle of strawberry Fanta later, and we headed back into town. We tried to see the historic quarter of KL but it was surrounded by a building site so totally inaccessible.

The second part of Malaysia involved a plane to Penang, for a laze by the pool or on the beach, some reading of books and chilling out, and an enjoyable day trip to Georgetown, the old capital of the island, which is now a unesco world heritage site so protected to ensure it retains its colonial charm. Unfortunately, and for only the third time of the whole trip so far, rain stopped play, so we hid in a cafe and braved the storm, making a juice, an iced tea and a plate of (spectacularly good) waffles last a good hour and a half, with only the local cat to entertain us.

Eventually the rain subsided, and we happened upon a hairdresser called "son and dad" and realising this might be my last chance for a while, I allowed a man who spoke barely any English to have his way with my Barnet and beard. He did an excellent job, and I rounded the price up to something resembling what I used to pay for a haircut 10 years ago in Cardiff. Lisa was happy looking round the shops, and sheltering from some more rain.

We drank cordials and compared pokedexes with the old men who were camped out in the pokemon cafe, before eating some excellent Italian food (slightly randomly) and heading back to the resort on the 101 bus.

The final whole day we once again lazed around the hotel, only going out in the evening when we got hungry, exploring the night market, and eating curry from the hawker centre.

Monday, 27 March 2017


Part three of the trip (in our heads it was always 1- New Zealand, 2- Australia, 3- Southeast Asia) began in a familiar way, with Singapore, one of only two places we had both been to before, but one we had unfinished business with from last time, so this time we made a bee line to the gardens by the bay, which weren't in our guide book last time we were there, and we only found out about them when we got back.

They didn't disappoint, with spectacular sky trees, each being a vertical garden in itself, connected with terrifying walkways, an added bonus was that they were surrounded by colourful animatronic dinosaurs. And hoards of children, but that wasn't so bad.

We ambled around there, then went into the huge glass houses (climate controlled to be nice and cool - my glasses only steamed up when I went out again). One was full of flowers, with the emphasis on the Japanese cherry blossom, and the other was more rainforests, with a 7th floor walkway around the inside (Lisa didn't partake).

It rained mightily while we had coffee and cake, but we didn't mind a bit. Got the tube back to find out luggage, and headed over to our friends Bert and Adrienne, and e settled into their beautiful 20th floor apartment.

After lots of wine and Mexican food by the river on Friday night, we were nicely prepared for the early start for Singapore's nicest parkrun (they have two) where we stumbled round, ended up as a pair of sweaty messes (Lisa beat me!) and had coffee and cake at Starbucks.

We showered and then headed out to little India, visited some temples, (one Buddhist, and one Hindu) and stopped for wine, then found an amazing veggie restaurant, where we ate masses of dosas and vadai and then we had more wine.

On Sunday morning, Lisa and Bert went running in the other (proper) botanical gardens, and Adrienne and I met them later on. We had breakfast, and then did some more exploring, finding the orchid garden, and a palmetum. It was lovely, and we found monitor lizards and chickens too.


Hobart airport is tiny, and Hobart itself is pretty wee too, although not without a lot of charm. We spent the first evening wandering the hip waterside and battery point, finding things which it would be impossible to continue to carry round the world or send back (massive metal garden sculptures, that sort of thing. We admired the number plates, (they have thylasines on them) and generally mooching about. We ate by the waterfront and drank local wine and all was well.

The next day We did more of the same in the morning, then picked up the car (same Toyota Camry as before, but in white) and drove out to the museum of old and new art (Mona). We had heard good things and it didn't disappoint. Hewn from solid rock, we took the lift to the bottom, and were faced with four doors. Each took us into a different selection of works, and we could have spent hours and hours there. There were a few old favourites, and some new wonders, and experiments and theories being tested (I got to try a method for drawing/forging based on using a little mirror to copy an upside down photo, and produced a passable pencil drawing.

We had to leave earlier than we would like, and drove off to Coles bay, ready to do an epic walk the next day.

On Friday we did an epic walk. Do a google picture search for Tasmania, and you will get 200 views of wineglass bay. We did the walk to the top, met a friendly wallaby. Then carried on to the bay itself. The day was beautiful, the water was a crazy colour, the sand was pure white and we practically had the place to ourselves. Not fancying the really steep climb back up, we continued round the hazards bay route, taking a total of about 5 hours hiking in 30° heat (albeit in the shade for some of it). We got back thirsty and hot, but it was totally worth it.

A two hour drive to Launceston, and a glass of wine and a pile of food, and a hotel over a nightclub and Friday was done.

Saturday started with a lovely parkrun (Dave was fastest again!) and then we headed over to the east coast again. In a desire not to go over the same roads, we went the long way, and ended up doing about an hour on proper unsealed mountain roads. Oops. Glad it wasn't my car.

We spent Sunday around the bay of fires, and Monday in Richmond, the oldest town in Tasmania.

Monday night we were in a place in the middle of nowhere, where we ate mulberries off the tree,  Lisa was attacked by the biggest spider in the world (it took a cereal box to evict it) and she met a tiny snake while running. After dark we went out with torches to spot the wildlife, and our airbnb host came out with a proper torch and showed us stuff, lots of wallaby eyes, and we could hear possum fights.

We spent the last two nights on Bruny island, which is a ferry ride, and a long drive south. We did some good walks, visited a vineyard, and destroyed the house's water supply (and the front bumper of the hire car), just as we were leaving. It only rained as we were driving back to Hobart on the final morning, which is probably a record based on what we had been warned about Tasmania, but we really warmed to the place.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

The great ocean road and the grampians

We spent the next few days driving along the south coast, pausing to admire the beautiful beaches, to walk inland up rivers and see waterfalls and to eat local fish (usually battered) and massive salads.

Lorne was a nice seaside town, with a holiday park at one end, and a pretty prominade of shoots and cafes. We are huge ice creams, drive up to viewpoints over the mountains, and jogged into the woods.

After lorne we found a little koala on Lisa's map, so stopped there for coffee.

We walked up a road from the coffee shop, and found some very tame parrots sitting on tourists hands and heads. Further up the track and into the forest every hundred yards or so there was an adorable bump in the tree which was a koala, just sleeping or occasionally eating. A couple had babies with them, although none were close enough for any brilliant photos, it was still a pleasure to see them in the wild.

Port Campbell and port fairy were both nice places to stop, and happened to be where we had found airbnb places, they also had more exquisite beaches, and amazing rock formations, the 12 apostles being the equivalent of old harry rocks done the Aussie way, bigger and brasher and more obvious.

I had my close encounter with a snake on a walkway here, literally about 8 inches from stepping on something huge and brown/black, which was either the eastern brown snake (utterly deadly) or a tiger snake (mostly deadly). I heroically held Lisa back as I stopped sharply. A couple walking the other way jumped a mile and sprinted off like lunatics, and the snake slithered over the path and hid in the bushes.

Forgive me for not going into more detail of the great ocean road, but the photos I will put up eventually should do it more justice.

The end of the road was mount Gambier, which just sneaked us into South Australia, so we had to change our clocks by 30
Minutes (hardly worth it really) where we stopped at a cheap and cheerful motel, ate copious amounts of pizza, and a garlic bread smothered in bolognese sauce and mozzarella (which I had seen advertised 200 times on local tv).

The next morning was the mount Gambier parkrun, 5k around the lake, (although actually the rim of an extinct volcano). We found a little village type fair on a green bit by the town hall and had coffee and cake, and chatted to some locals and listened to folk and admired some old Holdens.

A march up the mountain, and down a sinkhole, in blazing sunshine meant we were ready to spend the early evening in the cinema (the excellent trainspotting 2) before spending the evening in the local pub drinking cheap local reisling, and eating roast pork (me) and veggie stir fry (Lisa)

The next day was a long drive out towards the grampians national park. We stayed in halls gap, at a holiday park surrounded by kangaroos and cockatoos, and drove to all the viewpoints, where crazy rock formations stick out of craggy mountains, and you get 360° vistas over the whole of Victoria.

Again, the pictures I'll eventually share will be far more effective than my gibbering attempts to describe these places

The drive back to Melbourne a couple of days later was lovely, with aboriginal paintings and a walk round a lake, before a final night near the airport, and an early flight to Tasmania!

Tuesday, 7 March 2017


Delays in actually getting (and then finding) our hire car meant we got into Melbourne pretty late, and were thrown into the traffic good and proper. They have a massive bridge with views over the city, and it all goes a bit bladerunner, which is a good look for a place.

Without a working phone (the NZ one didn't roam) we had to beg local bars for wifi to contact the airbnb host and find out where the keys were hidden, which gave us an excuse to sit in a lovely bar and drink some wine while I communicated. There was an r&b covers band playing, who were really good (they made Rihanna's "Diamonds" sound good, and I really hate that song.

We had been fed on the plane so didn't have to worry about that, and we did eventually find a key to the flat, which was tiny, but really nice.

We liked melbourne a lot. The mistakes we made were getting accommodation with cooking and breakfast/coffee making facilities, which meant we didn't have a good reason to utilise the amazing cafes and restaurants right outside out doorstep.

The first morning we went out and had some of the rocket fuel they call coffee (I swear it was doing all the wonderful things that a good wine does, dancing on the tastebuds, and changing the longer you think about it...) and some insane breakfasts. I ordered the breakfast burger, expecting something similar to a mcmuffin, but it was actually a proper massive (and really good) burger with eggs and bacon all over it. Lisa had eggs and spinach or something. I didn't pay a great deal of attention through my morning meat sweats.

We spent the day wandering in the Nelson street area, lots of cool independent clothing shops, a Marimekko store, a Vodafone shop (yay!) and a vibe similar to Park Street in bristol, but three miles long. Lisa bought some socks, and I very nearly bought the most beautiful shirt I had ever seen, but then looked at the price and remembered I don't have a job.

Knowing we had an early start the next morning, early and headed back and prepared for the big race.

Saturday morning we had the alarm set for 4am (fortunately we were still on NZ time, so it only felt like 6am) and it was up and in the car to drive off to the Rollercoaster run. Even though this hire car was brand new, and huge and didn't smell of fire and death (the NZ one did, I might not have mentioned that, it was a Nissan Bluebird and it had 330,000kms on it by the time we gave it back, 2733 of which were ours) I still worried about some of the hills we were making it climb, and also worried that they same hills might be even less kind to our legs.

My fears were completely founded. Starting at the top of a mountain, it was basically a run down the mountain, back up a bit, down again, and then all the way back up. For a 21km race to have almost a Km of vertical ascent is insane, and it finished with about 4km up a dusty track.

I only fell over once, and a rolled, so didn't damage anything. My legs were better going up the hills than Lisa's although she is better than me going down. Finishing on a hill meant I beat Lisa in a distance event for the first time since the Budapest marathon.

The medal was beautiful, and the kudos was great. The times were hopeless (about an hour and a quarter slower than a normal half marathon!) but I'd class it as one of my favourite races ever. The slices of orange at the finish line was the best thing I've ever tasted!

After a shower and a rest (and a massive lunch by the beach) we met up with Duncan, (Lisa's second cousin,) and drank and ate and admired the beautiful people in the bar we'd found on our first night.

On Sunday we met up with Duncan again (a little later than planned, as we were both very tired, and not moving especially effectively - I've never known aches like it) and we took the tram to the national gallery of Victoria, a lovely space, crammed with are from Europe and Asia. Very impressive stuff. A light lunch in the sunshine, and a tram ride back to st Kilda, and we spent the rest of the afternoon/evening (finally) booking up all the flights around south east Asia, and most of the accommodation too.

Sunday, 5 March 2017

How could I forget Dunedin?

It was so long ago I forgot a whole two days in lovely Dunedin.

We found on airbnb a family who had a converted bus, which they used when they went on holidays, but was parked up on the small holding behind their house the rest of the time, so for a very reasonable rate, they let us use it, and fed us eggs from their chickens, home made bread and jam and generally were wonderful (they even let me cuddle their baby!)

On the full day we had in Dunedin we drove to the peninsular and did a few walks, and at the far end of a beach so secret my grandma would be proud (it was a 45 minute walk to get to it) I decided to go all the way to the rocks in the shade, only to discover they were seals, including some really tiny baby ones. We ate at a hotel with the most amazing food (I followed up the most amazing tomato soup, with an incredible piece of Gurnard) and it was all totally brilliant.

If it is any consolation my personal diary is even further behind this one.

Queenstown and the rest of NZ

Sorry this has taken so long. Let me tell you about all the other adventures in New Zealand.

Friends had recommended puzzle world in Wanaka which served as a great place for lunch (a pie and a tangram) and then some imromptu exercise in the mid day heat, as we attempted to solve the maze, a devilish and huge thing, with bridges and the objective to get to the four corner towers (we took selfies to prove it) and out again. I wish I had switched my garmin on, as I'm sure we moved several miles, used up all our water, but we make it through to tell the tale.

After that, the air conditioned luxury of the mystery rooms kept us entertained, with everything from a room at an angle to make you feel drunk/fall over, holograms and optical issusions, and one of those rooms that makes you seem big at one end and small at the other. Make sure to see the video on Facebook or when we get home.

After this it was onwards to Queenstown, and we checked in to our beautiful studio with a stunning lake view (another win for AirBnB) and had dinner at Fat Badgers Pizza (amazing pizza) before walking back via the town "beach" which was full of beautiful people, either slacklining or sunbathing.

The next day we drove up an endless gravel track, to the start point of the half marathon we had entered. And lined up with a hundred hardy fools (although not as hardy as those doing the full) to basically run up and down a mountain a few times. And through some rivers. Proper knee deep rivers, about 20 of them, and proper hands on the thighs to get up the hills. Stunning views, great fun, and beer at the end, we took it fairly easy, took lots of photos, finished together and got beer at the end. It was pretty awesome. I thought I had finished in 5th place for all those in my new category of 40-49, but the official results found some more and apparently I was officially 8th. In the evening we found a Mexican restaurant and ate our body weight in cheese.

We finished off queenstown the next morning, with an epic breakfast, a little Pokémon hunting and watching some of the crazy people doing crazy things with jet packs and shark boats in the town centre, and bungee jumps as we drove out (from one place we could see the view from lord of the rings with (or without as we didn't have the benefit of CGI) the huge statues on either side of the gorge, and a massive bungee jump off a bridge where they had people dunking their heads in the water as part of the jump. We didn't partake.

The rest of the day was another pleasant drive to Millers flat, a town chosen based on its distance between queenstown and Christchurch, where we also found a lovely community swimming pool, so did a few gentle lengths before dinner.

Another day of driving and stopping to admire the view and driving and having lunch in pretty little towns and driving followed, ending up at a horse farm, where we patted horses, were fought over by cats and a friendly dog, drank wine on the veranda as the sun set, and repacked our bags ready for the flight the next day to Melbourne