Christmas Road Trip: Part 3

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An other-worldly pond near Fox Glacier

For the final leg of my trip I traveled up the west coast of the South Island through Haast, Fox Glacier, Hokitika, and Punakaiki. Unfortunately the weather became pretty stormy so the photography wasn’t as spectacular, but I still saw gorgeous sights and lots of wildlife. Major highlights were Ship Creek, seeing glow worms in the Tatare Tunnels, and the Pancake Rocks at high tide.

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Christchurch Botanic Gardens

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A flower in the Cunningham House

One of the touristy highlights of Christchurch is the sprawling, 50-acre Botanic Gardens next to Hagley Park, right in the center of town. My favorite part of the gardens was the Cunningham House, which has a tropical collection of plants from all over the world. There is also an “Erica Garden”! You can easily spend a couple hours wandering around and getting lost in your thoughts.

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The Coast Walk at Royal National Park

The iconic wedding cake rock on the coast walk in Royal National Park

The iconic wedding cake rock on the coast walk in Royal National Park

The very last stop on my ten month trip through Australia was, finally, Sydney and the surrounding area. I met up with an old travel friend and he insisted we go on the Coast Walk in Royal National Park, which is just south of Sydney. We didn’t have time (or energy, frankly) to do the entire 26k trek, but we did about a third of it. There are gorgeous cliffs, a huge variety of plant and animal life, and swimming holes along the way.

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Sightseeing in Cairns

Gigantic estuarine crocodiles at Cairns Tropical Zoo

Gigantic estuarine crocodiles at Cairns Tropical Zoo

I spent about six weeks total in Cairns, mostly working with teens at language schools but also doing a fair amount of hiking and other activities with a Meetup group, which as usual was filled with lovely, happy people. I was also fortunate because the school programs I was teaching for combined classroom hours with excursions, so I got to go on trips like taking the famous Kuranda Scenic Railway and visiting the Cairns Tropical Zoo – and get paid for the pleasure! It was certainly a departure from my typical budget-minded sightseeing style, and I was glad to be able to see so much.

It’s hard to believe my time there is over. Six weeks is the longest I’ve spent in one place in a long time, and it actually started to feel a bit like home. Of course it’s the nature of the traveler to move on, and my next Australian adventure lies in the Northern Territory!

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