Around the world with Julie and Marc: ‘Down Under’ and beyond…
The continuing adventures of globetrotting teachers Julie and Marc Goulet takes us to the lands of kangaroos, koalas, and kiwis.
Since leaving Fiji, our travels have literally taken us from ‘A’ to ‘Z’ (or Australia to New Zealand).
If you’re looking for scenic landscapes to photograph or serve as a backdrop to your next major movie trilogy—these two countries have breathtaking scenery in spades!
First, the lowdown of our time ‘Down Under’…
From the feeling of soft, white sandy beaches between your toes, to the absolute vision of clear turquoise waters—every Australian moment offers a surprise to your senses. That ‘sensual’ journey continues with mouthwatering delicacies to satisfy your taste buds. Deserts such as Tim Tam (a brand of chocolate biscuit) and Anzac (a sweet type of biscuit) are unique to Australia and seriously addictive. Plus there’s no shortage of fresh seafood, fruits, vegetables—and if you also happen to be a wine connoisseur, you won’t be disappointed with the various bouquets that Australia has to offer.
If you love the great outdoors, Australia is all about living life… OUTSIDE.
With hundreds of national parks, numerous hiking trails, and countless valleys, gorges, and dunes to explore, it’s no small wonder that Australians are a people that like to take living from the inside, OUT. Many are avid campers; so most town parks are equipped with gas barbecues to make cooking outdoors, readily available.
Since, for us, this year is all about diving into the local culture, we thought why not follow the lead of our Aussie mates and experience firsthand what the great Australian outdoors has to offer. But with so many great spots to choose from, how do you pick just one? So we decided to really ‘camp it up’ by experiencing SIX national parks (Blue Mountains National Park in New South Wales, Daintree National Park in Queensland, Ulurau-Kata Tjuta National Park in the Red Center, Port Campbell National Park in Victoria, and Cradle Mountain and Maria Island National Parks in Tasmania). Let’s just say that you haven’t truly lived until you’ve camped out in Australia!
Overall, Australians are a very accommodating people who always seem to answer ‘no worries’ to everything. When you consider the kind of life they live in this beautiful country, it’s easy to see why any ‘worries’ are few and far between.
Next it was off to the land of ‘kiwis’ (or as you may also know it as—New Zealand).
As with Australia, New Zealand is a photographer’s paradise. Across the country, panoramic views open up at every corner like scenes from a high-definition wilderness documentary—except we were active participants in this ‘documentary’! Forests, mountains, lakes, beaches, and fiords all make New Zealand one of the best hiking (or ‘tramping’ as locals call it) destinations on the planet.
Our discovery of New Zealand began in North Island, where the rich presence of Maori culture is alive and well.
Just as common as it is to see English and French signage in Canada, all around North Island of New Zealand it’s common to see signs in both English and Maori—and the Maori culture itself is one that is very accessible and engaging to visitors. Easily join in on a haka (war dance), a hangi (feast cooked in the ground), or sit with a local and carve a pendant from bone or jade, or have them teach you some words of the Maori language.
After visiting with the locals – it was time to for a ‘do-it-yourself spa day’.
One of the ultimate highlights of New Zealand was our visit to the Coromandel Peninsula where you can actually dig your own personal spa on the legendary Hot Water Beach. It’s definitely called ‘Hot Water Beach for a reason! Piping hot geothermal springs (as hot as 64 degrees Celsius) bubble up through the sand, so you definitely have to be careful not to boil yourself like a pot of soup.
If hot springs aren’t hot enough for you, how about a casual stroll through a few volcanoes?
Our tour then took us to the heart of North Island—Tongariro National Park, which presents a landscape of alpine desert punctuated by three volcanoes(some still fuming). We tramped 19.4 kilometres along the Northern Circuit Pass through colourful volcanic features that took us through craters, lakes, springs, as well as various other formations including cones, lava flows, and glacial valleys. It’s a trek that took five and a half hours to complete, which left us with a feeling of total accomplishment!
It was then time for us to hop the ferry and head to South Island.
After all the walking we did in North Island, South Island enabled us the opportunity to hop in a car and drive the scenic route through the Marlborough Sounds.
Now to give you a bit of context as to what ‘driving the scenic route’ means in New Zealand—picture a road filled with winding curves and hairpin turns on the sides of cliffs. While those gorgeous cliff-side views of the ocean can be lovely for the passenger, it’s not exactly something you really appreciate if you happen to be the driver (let’s just say that it takes a lot of deep breaths and positive thoughts if you’re behind the wheel on these roads for the first time).
Once we had our fill of the twists and turns of driving, the taste of the vineyards called our name.
It’s almost impossible to be in the Marlborough wine region without sampling their infamous Sauvignon Blanc. So we parked the car and rented bicycles for a day to ride around the endless sea of vineyards. The region boasts over 140 registered wineries with over 40 cellar doors open to the public for a taste and chat (and taste and chat we did).
However, our bicycle tour wasn’t strictly wine sampling. We also made a pit stop at a berry farm to pick a few raspberries, boysenberries, and cherries (did you catch the subtle ‘pit’ pun there?).
One thing we definitely haven’t had to worry about on our travels is getting enough exercise.
After our bike tour through the vineyards, the next day we loaded our backpacks and were off to hike along the spectacular rivers of ice that make up the Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers. We had initially arranged for a helicopter to pick us up and drop us off for a closer look of the various ice caves, crevices, and formations of the Franz Josef Glacier—an exploration that would have ended with us soaking in the thermal waters of the glacier’s hot pools. However, our pilot, alerted by the lowering clouds, cancelled the tour 5 minutes before we were scheduled to take off. He said he wasn’t about to risk not being able to go back up and get us after our 3-hour trek. As much as we were disappointed, the thought of being stranded on a remote glacier was enough for us to quickly get over that disappointment. After all, there’s no controlling Mother Nature.
All in all, our trek across New Zealand and Australia has left us with an appreciation of the beauty and wonder of what life has to offer in this scenic, culture-filled corner of the world.
Ka kite ãno! (Maori for ‘see you again’)
Julie and Marc
A few facts about Australia:
- Australia started as a British colony for convicts—with 11 convict sites now recognized as part of UNESCO heritage in Australia (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization)
- The Tasmanian Devil really does exist (only in Tasmania of course) and is a protected species since a great number are suffering from cancer (a number of sanctuaries can be found all over Tasmania in order to help the healthy ones to procreate)
- Koalas are NOT bears but marsupials (same as kangaroos) and can be found in different areas where four specifics types of Eucalypt Trees grow
- Eucalypt trees, because of the oil in them, ignite easily in the heat and must burn to regenerate (controlled fires are thus frequent in the spring every year)
- Morning and afternoon tea (as well as High Tea on special occasions) are part of regular practice (whereas we Canadians typically call it, ‘coffee break’)
- Horseracing is part of Australian culture from north to south (we even experienced ‘racing fever’ firsthand, watching the Cairns Cup and Melbourne Cup while we there)
- Surfing is part of seaside living (it’s amazing to watch everyone rush to the beach as soon as school/work is done with their surfboard tucked under arm)
- While driving country roads you need to watch for kangaroos (which is different to the moose we have to look out for driving in northern Ontario!)
Some notes on New Zealand:
- New Zealand is known as “the land of the long white cloud”
- Kiwis are big into rugby as much as Canadians are into hockey (they’re very proud of their All-Blacks champion rugby team)
- The term ‘kiwi’ (when used as a nickname to refer to a New Zealander) derives from the kiwi bird, which is native to (and the national symbol of) New Zealand
- While New Zealand is known to also be the home of another type of kiwi—kiwifruit—the fruit actually originates from the Yangtze River valley of northern China and Zhejiang Province on the coast of eastern China (the first seeds were brought out of China by missionaries to New Zealand at the turn of the 20th century)
- New Zealand became a tourist mecca since The Lord of the Rings series of movies were filmed there
- Sites of the films can be visited all across the country including ‘Hobbiton’, the 12-acre filming set (which today is a working farm), as well as ‘The Hobbit Holes’, the ‘Mill’, and the ‘Green Dragon Inn’ (where we actually stopped in for some New Zealand ale!)
- A ‘traffic jam’ in New Zealand is having to wait for cattle or lamb to cross before driving on
Did you know that Educators Financial Group helped Julie and Marc put a financial plan together to save for their yearlong global adventure?
If you have dreams of taking a 4 over or 5 (or in the case of Julie and Marc, a 1 over 2), contact us. We’d be happy to help you work towards taking a year away, however and wherever YOU want.