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Uluwatu

Uluwatu

Uluwatu was one of the more surfy and relaxing spots we went to. Lots of Australian accents drifting past, and lots of modern dining options. We were advised to stay near Padang Padang beach, and although our hotel’s description of ‘beach front’ was pretty misleading, Padang Padang was a pretty cool spot. The Uluwatu Hotel Guna Mandala was all round pretty dingy, but although it wasn’t beach front, it couldn’t have been much closer.

Padang Padang Beach was just across the road, past the entry fee (!! Thankfully not much) and through a long narrow tunnel, around which the monkeys tended to frolic. The beach was incredibly small, and far too crowded for any of our likings, but if the beach had been deserted it would have been positively stunning. The water was clear, warm and shallow for days. There was also a cave right nearby which was extremely fun to explore.

 

On our second day there we hired scooters and hit the road running. We made our way to Bingin beach, and clambered down the hill (over far more steps than what we could count). Bingin beach was a popular surf spot, evidenced by the boards in the water and the schools lining the shore.

After a delicious lunch stop at The Cashew Tree (read about all the yum places we ate at here) we kept on scootering to Dreamland Beach. This place had massive waves that broke really shallow, which made for some hilarious people watching as people took tumbles more often than not. After observing for a bit, we were confident in our ability to master the timing and make it out past the break without being dumped by the waves. Once past the break, it was easily the best beach we swum at our whole time in Bali. The water was crystal clear and like being in a bath; we literally stayed in the water for hours.

To get our daily dose of culture we headed along to the Uluwatu Temple for sunset and then bought tickets (100,000 IRD) to the Kacek dance afterwards. Again there were monkeys frolicking about, so again I had to take a wide berth. The dance show went for about an hour, so it is actually worth getting there about fifteen minutes early in order to secure a good seat. I would also recommend taking water and snacks… it gets a little slow in places. By the end of it, the others were quite impatient to leave – however I still thought it was really good to see.

Nusa Lembongan

Nusa Lembongan

Nusa Lembongan couldn’t be more different than Gili T. Given that we had just jumped from one island to another, we had expected them to be somewhat similar, so it was exciting to see such a massive change. Gone was the party, the hectic streets and the mass of vendors; Nusa Lembongan was all about the scooters, the rural villages and the different spots to explore.

We stayed at Lembongan Hostel. Upon arriving on the island we got into a tuk-tuk which dropped everyone on the boat at their respective accommodation. We weren’t sure whether it was free or if it was part of the ferry ticket, but it sure made our journey hassle free. The hostel was clean and very well air-conditioned. The bunks were incredibly high (the kind that I hate to imagine the damage caused if you fell off the top). The showers were a bit gross, and the breakfast pretty simple, but the staff were so incredibly helpful – they were the real highlight of staying there. The hostel was down a long gravel road which had too many potholes to count.

There are a few different spots you can stay when you are at Nusa Lembongan, although it doesn’t really matter because you basically have to scooter everywhere you go anyway. Down in the village would be ideal, not only is there a good beach, but most of the bars and restaurants are down there too. On our first evening there we hired scooters (70,000 IRD per scooter) and headed to Sunset Point to, you guessed it, watch the sun set. The scenery is certainly spectacular. Not far from there is Devils Tear, which is another awesome spot to watch the sun go down. It’s also absolutely incredible at high tide; it reminds you just how powerful the ocean can be.

 

There are two spectacular day trips to be had from Nusa Lembongan and I don’t even know which one I would recommend more.

The first is doing a snorkeling trip. There are so many cool spots to snorkel at, including swimming with manta rays. This was one of the coolest things I have ever done, even though I felt the execution of the trip was nowhere near as good as it could have been. We were picked up from our hostel at about 2 pm, and taken to Mushroom Beach were we climbed aboard a pretty small boat. There were six of us snorkeling, and just the one driver (who only spoke limited English). We set off, and about half an hour later pulled into the first of our three snorkeling spots where we were told to ‘jump in’. It was my brother’s first time snorkeling, and he looked at our driver as though he was joking. Upon realizing that he was deadly serious, he questioned where the life jackets were. And understandably so. The swell was huge, and we were surrounded by sheer cliff faces that didn’t look all that pleasant to crash into (in fact, they looked deadly!). What was worst though, was that right next to where we had stopped the boat,there was a floating, bloated dead DOG. It was awful. We spent our time in the water taking ‘dog shifts’, because we wanted to stay as far away from that thing as possible. There was a stack of rubbish in the water, which was actually really sad to see, because the ocean in those parts of the word is so painstakingly beautiful, and receives next to no TLC from its people.

However, the real purpose for jumping in the water was to see the manta rays. The moments that weren’t spent watching for a certain dead dog were spend with our heads underwater, absolutely in awe of these massive creatures that were so majestically gliding about. Occasionally they’d pop up for air, and if you happened to be looking at the right spot at the right time, you could this massive animal launching itself about the surface. It was quite scary when they came close – they are so big (and quite ugly!) but they certainly lived up to their gentle giant reputation.

After our time with the mantas we headed to snorkel spots #2 and #3. Firstly we snorkeled on a coral reef, and lastly on a mangrove reserve. I was actually feeling pretty sick and contemplated sitting the last stop out, until the others jumped in and stressed just how much I was missing out on this spectacular mangrove reserve. So in I got, and man I did not regret it. The mangroves growing underwater formed a thick grassy terrain, which provided the most spectacular backdrop for some pretty interesting fish. It was definitely one of the best snorkeling sites I have ever visited.

The other day trip well worth making is one across to Nusa Penida. It is possible to stay on this island, and I daresay we would have if there was any more time. Instead we got up early and headed down to the Yellow Bridge where we negotiated our way to a return fare to Nusa Penida. The boat ride took about an hour, but felt so much quicker because the whole way we were entertained by the smallest puppy I have ever seen. Once we got to the island we hired two scooters and we were off (80,000 IRD each).

The island is actually pretty big, and so much bigger than I ever realised. From the get go we were going to be pushing to make it to all the places that we had talked about, but we decided to give it a crack anyway. Our first stop was Ahtu Beach. We headed off around the island through villages and along the coast, up and down hills; boy it was even further than we realised. We got to the top of the biggest hill yet and noted that Andy and Summer’s scooter was almost on empty. Because we were basically in the middle of nowhere, we thought we should make filling up a priority. After about half an hour I think we found what must have been the only petrol station on that side of the island. Half an hour behind schedule, we continued on.

Following the signs to Ahtu Beach we made our way onto a gravel road, which got increasingly bumpy and narrow. Summer and Andy kept suggesting we park up and walk the rest of the way but Jamie and I wanted to press on as much. Well, until we saw Summer and Andy’s scooter hit a rock and slide out sideways beneath them. Summer was a bit grazed, but the worst part was that the scooter wouldn’t start. Panic set in, and Jamie and I helped the other others drag the scooter to the side of the ride and park it. We fiddled for a bit and realised that it definitely was not about to start. Jamie and I managed to convince the others (I’m not kidding when I say it took some serious persuasion) to lock the scooters and just head along to the beach anyway. It was quite a trek down, and everyone was pretty tense. Unfortunately it made the beach trip a little less enjoyable, as the others would pretty worried about how the afternoon was going to play out. It wasn’t entirely unwarranted, given that we were literally in the middle of nowhere. The beach was beautiful to look at, but average for swimming as the undertow was full on. I thought it was far too hot not to swim; but I was the only one.

We were so incredibly thankful to get back to the scooters after the hike up the hill (it felt like forever!) and then a miracle happened when both scooters started on first attempt. We were keen to get out of there pronto and back to civilisation… just in case. We stopped at The Gallery on the way back for lunch – even though it was such a hot day the curry sounded too good to resist; it was definitely the right decision by moi!

Up next was the iconic Klung Klung beach – or more famously known as the T-Rex beach. Another long scooter ride (and in the opposite direction) saw us bouncing over many a pot hole, topping up with petrol (AGAIN) and all getting rather a lot of sun. The views at this beach were absolutely incredible. We didn’t go down to the water’s edge (it was a very long way and it looked so hard and steep that we didn’t know if we would have the energy to climb back up!) but we did manage to get some epic photos.

In the end we had to forego the waterfalls we had planned to visit, because we were just too pushed for time. If I had the option, I would probably choose to stay two nights on Nusa Penida, just to ensure a more thorough exploration of the island.

 

Gili Trawangan

Gili Trawangan

Getting to Gili T (as it’s more fondly known) is pretty easy to get to, even if it feels time consuming. Most places you visit in Bali assume that visiting the Gili islands will be on your itinerary somewhere, and can suggest, even organise, your means of transport. Our hostel in Canggu organised ours. It was pretty confusing: we got picked up in a shuttle van and driven around a bunch of places picking up people, but our driver did seem quite lost so maybe that is while it took awhile. It was hard to tell what was going on, we just had to trust he would get us to the ferry on time. We arrive at Pai Beng and with hundreds of other people, joined the queue. Again it was hard to tell quite what was happening, and when we finally climbed aboard, we were all a bit reluctant to part with our bags – which were taken from us to be stashed on the top of the boat. A little over 2 hours later, we finally arrived.

We stayed at an Air BnB which was so nice we ended up extending our stay. It has two rooms (three beds) and two bathrooms. (Get in touch if you would like the details of the host). We were fortunate that it was incredibly close to where the boat had docked – none of us were keen on catching the horse and cart taxis (the horses all looked pretty miserable). Although Gili T has a rep as the ‘party island’, there is definitely so much more going on than clubbing. Here are some of my favourite recommendations:

1   Hire a bike and cycle the island. It is possible to walk it, but biking gives you so much more freedom to take your time and stop at the different beaches, without ever being too far from the finish line. It probably takes about 2 hours to cycle it (at a meandering pace) and would definitely take less if you didn’t stop at all.

2   Outdoor food market. Occurring each night, it is possible to sample local Balinese deliciousness at incredibly cheap prices. There are both sweet and savoury options and is always bustling with locals and tourists alike. Be a little bit careful though; no-one wants Bali belly whilst on holiday!

3   Sunset swings. Probably easiest to do as you are cycling around the island, but you may need to plan ahead if you intend on cycling in the dark. You can’t go to Bali and not get a photo with these iconic beauties! It isn’t essential that the sun is actually setting when you snap that shot, but it is pretty important to make sure the tide is high enough that the swings actually have water below them (and not just grotty sand).

4   Experience the night life. There are a bunch of cool bars and clubs dotted along the waterfront which are sure to provide a good time. We were pretty careful with out drinks, sticking basically to beer (and almost exclusively Bintang). There is a place which is set up entirely for beer pong, and you get free popcorn (as if you needed any more incentive!). Sama Sama Reggae Bar (turns out you can actually stay here too!) was a real highlight; great atmosphere + live music = great combination for a fun night out!

5   Sign up for a snorkelling tour. Hands down one of the best things I did while in Bali, it certainly created some lifelong memories. On every street corner (and every second vendor between) are stalls with people offering a variety of tours, each one more keen than the last for you to sign up. Shop around, or just pick one – it doesn’t really matter, but at least once you do sign up you can tell the other vendors that. On our snorkelling trip we went to three different spots as well as Gili Air for lunch, and we were fortunate enough to spot several sea turtles. The trip goes for about 5 hours and it is ideal to go in the morning in case the wind picks up.

6   Gili Air is only a short boat ride away and Gili Meno is even closer. Gili Meno is the smallest of the three islands and basically consists of a turtle sanctuary (it was off the coast of Gili Meno that we swam with turtles). Gili Air is larger, and is known to be more serene and beautiful than Gili T. It is popular with those looking for more of a peaceful retreat. Even though we didn’t spend too much time here, it is somewhere I would seriously consider staying next time I’m in Bali.

7   Gili Yoga. It was a lovely way to begin the morning, especially when we finished it off with breakfast at The Banyan Tree next door. There is an abundance of healthy options on Gili T (and of course, some not so healthy options too), you can read my post on food on Gili T here.

Canggu

Canggu

The first place we stopped off in Bali, Canggu is essentially Australian owned and Australian based. Canggu isn’t a patch on Kuta or Seminyak when it comes to drunk Australians though, and the Australian influence sure creates a good recipe for brunching options. It shouldn’t be surprising to hear that with so many Australians around, good surf is inevitably not far away.

We stayed at the Lay Day Surf Hostel. For only $16/night it was pretty decent, although you could probably get somewhere cheaper if you wanted. The hostel was supposed to be a ‘party hostel’, it wasn’t at all – but our jet-lagged selves were somewhat relieved to see that it didn’t live up to its name. To describe it as ‘incredibly social’ would be entirely accurate; everyone tended to lounge around the pool area making it a fabulous way to meet new people. The facilities were decent, and the location wasn’t too bad either.

Canggu is definitely a beach town. There is one main street, with stacks of cafes, bars and shops that touch on both rustic and boutique. There are a fair few stray dogs (my least favourite part), and stacks of scooters. If you are in Canggu predominantly to surf and you stayed close to the beach, you could almost get away without even a scooter (although a scooter does allow for better exploration). Nearby is Echo Beach, which also has good surf. The beaches themselves weren’t particularly nice for swimming though, so if you don’t actually intend to surf, you really only need a couple of days here. My favourite thing about Canggu was the vibe and the food – brunching was 10/10 (you can read about it here)

Devonport, Auckland

Devonport, Auckland

Only a short 20 minute ferry ride away from Auckland’s CBD, visiting the seaside village of Devonport can sometimes feel like a whole world away from Auckland.

You can catch a ferry from Queen’s Wharf and it costs $12 for a return trip (although you can get a concession if you plan on making the trip more frequently). They leave regularly – every half hour on the hour for most hours of the day. Devonport is actually a great place to stay when you’re visiting Auckland. It’s a base away from the craziness of Auckland’s CBD, but is still oh-so-convenient. Accommodation prices tend to be lower; although it depends what you are after because the boutiquey stuff can get expensive quickly. There are direct ferries to Waiheke Island (see the Fuller’s timetable here) and there is plenty to do nearby. It takes quite a bit longer to get to by car, as you have to go right over the bridge – so I would avoid doing that if possible.

There are a number of things to do within Devonport itself, but being so small a lot if it may be weather dependent. In saying that though, it rained most of the time I was there but it is still small enough that in the rain breaks we were able to still cover most of the outdoorsy stuff.

When you arrive in Devonport, the main street, Victoria Road, is essentially straight ahead in front of you. The main street is jam-packed with restaurants, cafes (Manuka, Corelli’s and Portofino to name a few), boutique shops and the most well stocked second-hand bookshop (Bookmark) you ever will see. There’s definitely enough in and around Victoria Road to keep one’s self entertained for at least a few hours.

If the day happens to be a wet one, then continue up Victoria Road for a few hundred metres until you reach The Vic: Devonport’s own boutique cinema which also serves some of the best gelato in town. Once doubling as a music vennue, the main cinema sits with the screen at the back of a stage, and the surroundings were painted by someone who clearly used a palette of cutesie pastel colours. Another great indoor activity is visiting Devonport Chocolates. Not far from the main street, this boutique chocolatier is expensive but extremely charming. Luring you in with the offer of free samples, obviously it’s hard to say no – and it doesn’t take long to become mesmorised by the delicious smells and mouth-watering chocolates lining the walls. If you do purchase, I’m sure it will be well worth it – but be prepared to walk away with your pockets slightly lighter (although there’s no denying that you pay for what you get).

Hopefully the weather allows for some outside time, in which case I would head out east along King Edward Parade to North Head. You begin by walking alongside the waterfront, past the Torpedo Bay Navy Museum (another rainy day activity!) and right around the point, which brings you out at Cheltenham Beach. It is a stunning wee spot, rather fancied by kite-surfers, swimmers and the like. There are also some epic caves for exploring. You can also climb Mt Victoria (which was ironic, given we had come from Wellington) which isn’t too far at all and has an absolutely stunning church at its base.

A gorgeous wee spot that I would definitely recommend visiting if you get the chance.

 

 

The Botanist

The Botanist

The Botanist (219 Onepu Road, Lyall Bay)

Lyall Bay’s latest addition, The Botanist, is off to a cracker of a start. It only opened in January 2017, and already I feel like most people I have spoken to have either been there or it’s on their to-do list. A few of us headed out there the other weekend to give it a test. Located on the corner, very close to Maranui, the cafe seems to have been converted from what looks like a house. There is a lot going on; patterned floors, lots of (fake) shrubbery and ivy, and also a rustic setting with a wall of (fake) bricks. It is light and spacious, with a nice courtyard area that seemed pretty sheltered (but who knows in Wellington!?).

We got a bit of a shock when we looked at the menu – we knew that it was supposed to vegetarian and vegan friendly, but we didn’t realise that it was strictly that – no meat whatsoever! Not that any of us were opposed to eating vegetarian, it was just odd to have that choice taken away from us. The menu was very interesting; lots on there tempted me! In the end I couldn’t resist the haloumi, mainly because I really felt like fries, but also because I was starving and I wanted to make sure it was going to be a big enough meal.

When we ordered, our waitress advised us of the 40 minute wait – which we presumed was on the conservative side, but she wasn’t kidding. Not that any of us had places to be – but the cafe just didn’t seem quite busy enough to justify that long a wait. We put it down to them still finding their feet, and it was worth the wait: the food was delicious. (Admittedly, none of us was keen to try the soy sausages or the facon (‘fake bacon’) so that part of the menu remains to be reviewed…)

 

Bondi to Coogee Walk

Bondi to Coogee Walk

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On a weekend away that was otherwise designated to eating and drinking, I was extremely excited to walk the Bondi to Coogee trail. Approximately 6 km long and estimated to take about 2 – 3 hours (depending on the length of any stops made) we went prepared. Although it probably doesn’t matter which direction you do it in, it seemed easier logistically to catch the bus/train to Bondi Junction and then a further bus onto Bondi Beach.

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There is a few good brunching spots out in Bondi (we opted for Brown Sugar, but another option that is supposed to be good is Icebergs and if the day is warm you might opt for something cooler at Gelato Messina instead) which is a great way to energise before the walk. The beach is sprawling and had rolling blue waves with golden sand – I can see why the beach is packed during summer. (Despite being sunny, it was only spring when we were there and extremely windy – leaving the beach relatively deserted.)

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The first leg is from Bondi to Tamarama. It’s only about 1.2 km and the first part is along the beach. Make sure you stop near Icebergs to appreciate the sensational panoramic view, and to take in the wonder that is Sydney’s very own world famous ocean-side pool. It was fascinating to watch people attempt to swim lengths; they’d succeed until a massive wave would come and throw everyone massively off course.

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Next up is Tamarama to Bronte and then onto Clovelly. The track gets more and more rugged, and (thankfully) the people get more and more sparse. We were fortunate enough to be there at the same time as the Sculpture by the Sea exhibition; essentially a series of open air sculptures lining the walk way. There were some that seemed incredibly clever and others that felt entirely abstract and beyond any comprehendible meaning. We were actually lucky to see them when we did; massive winds and waves caused serious destruction the following week. The last leg of the walk is supposed to be a boardwalk, but other recent bad weather had caused it to be closed to the public. The current alternative route is through a very extensive graveyard, which had incredible panoramic views (making it a prime piece of real estate and therefore an interesting place for a graveyard!).

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The current weather situation meant that the final leg from Covelly to Coogee was incredibly gnarly and exposed. The wind was blowing sea spray all over the path and creating some pretty monstrous waves. The wind strength probably didn’t help, but we were all feeling pretty tired by the end of it and were looking forward to climbing back onto the bus for the ride home.

If you are in Sydney for even just a few days I would definitely suggest you add this to your itinerary. It need only take half a day and Bondi beach is probably one of the most beautiful spots Sydney has to offer. All you need to remember is a pair of comfortable shoes, some sunblock (even through the wind we still managed to get burnt) and some money for transport and snacks. Have fun!

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Gals’ Getaway – Sydney 2016

Gals’ Getaway – Sydney 2016

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My first time properly visiting Sydney, and it certainly won’t be the last. The city is an absolute delight; the people were friendly and helpful, the food was seriously scrumptious and the streets and buildings were unexpectedly beautiful. A girls’ getaway never goes amiss, and we were all excited to wine and dine in a foreign place (read some of my reviews here). We stayed at an Air BnB in Pott’s Point (near King’s Cross Station) which was a super convenient location. Catching up with friends and exploring new places is always a treat; hopefully I’ve managed to capture some of the fun we had in the below video.

Brown Sugar

Brown Sugar

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Brown Sugar (106 Curlewis Street, Bondi)

Having read about Brown Sugar on TimeOut, we conveniently planned our journey here so that it coincided with us doing the beach walk from Bondi to Coogee. We were a bit unsure when to get off the bus, but a nice Aussie lad helped us and pointed us in the direction of where we should go once we got off the appropriate bus stop. Stupidly, we walked straight past Brown Sugar (despite commenting on how full this particular place was), and had to double back once we virtually got to the sand and realised we hadn’t seen it yet. We had to wait for about half an hour before we could be seated, but boy, that was a good decision. I think anything that you could have ordered would have been bang on, we all walked away very happy! The service was awesome; everyone that works there was so friendly and accommodating! Our waitress was happy to change my order after I’d ordered it, and even let me amend it further (such a difficult customer right?!).

It was a good way to start our walk, and if I could recommend anything on the menu I would say everything – but with a side of hashbrowns! Perfectly fried and so fluffy on the inside, they were such a treat.

Bikin’ the Bays

Bikin’ the Bays

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Wellington’s coastline stretches out across a number of kilometres, and with bays for days what better way to see it than by bicycle? It is a unique daytrip with some incredibly diverse scenery, opportunity for plenty of photographs and an endless supply of delicious eateries to nourish one’s soul.

First and foremost, you will need to get yourself a bike. Fergs Kayaks is my go-to for any outdoorsy needs. Secondly, layer up. We’ve all experienced the icy blasts that Wellington can deliver and with a curvaceous journey ahead, a ferocious headwind at some point is inevitable. Lastly, and most importantly, plan your route. Delicious food stops are crucial; it pays to be strategic.

Logic says follow the bays out past Oriental and around towards the airport. Beach Babylon provides an early pit-stop if your legs are screaming already, or push on to Chocolate Fish, where the fresh seafood sandwiches cooked on the BBQ are positively delicious. Save some room for Scorch O Rama; it’s just around the corner and has thick-shakes worth waiting for. Scorching Bay comes at the end of some gnarly, rugged landscape, which serves as a perfect viewing spot for ferry-watching. My favourite leg to cycle, this leg of the Tour-de-Wellington provides scenery like nowhere else.

Cue scenery change as you encounter the ‘burb that is Seatoun and the first (and only) hill of the journey. At least an up means a down, and the downwards stretch through Breaker Bay is nothing short of jaw-dropping. The baches, divers, beaches and shrubbery are incongruous (but charming), given that our country’s capital city lies just around the corner (and an international airport closer still).

Maranui and Spruce Goose mark the beginning of the final stretch.  Loop back here and at Queen’s Wharf you will have clocked a solid 32km (or continue to Island Bay and even Owhiro Bay if your butt and legs haven’t yet surrendered). Now you can enjoy the immense satisfaction of ticking something off your bucket list that most Wellingtonians don’t even realise should be on there. Add it, if you haven’t already.

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