Exploring Perth, Australia

Exploring Perth, Australia

After our week long stay in the coastal city, the two of us agreed that, given the chance, we could’ve happily stayed in Perth for many more weeks. The early November weather was hot, sunny, and dry, much to my joy and MJ’s dismay (she’s recently compared herself to a penguin that’s been dropped in the West Australian desert).

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Wai-O-Tapu: New Zealand's "Sacred Waters"

Wai-O-Tapu: New Zealand's "Sacred Waters"

Maori for “sacred waters,” this beautiful tourist hotspot is a geothermal area at the southern end of the Okataina Volcanic Centre. The area has a number of hot springs that are known for their dramatic colors (and seriously disgusting smell…mmmm sulphur). 

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Driving Creek Railway in Coromandel, New Zealand

Upon the suggestion of my dear friend and director of EcoQuest, Kim and I decided to take the long way back from Whatianga. Instead of coming back the way we came, we looped around the peninsula to the town of its namesake, Coromandel. 

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Driving Creek Railway is a bit north of the town of Coromandel, but well worth the drive. DCR is not only a scenic railway, but also an art gallery and creativity garden. Barry Brickell, DCR’s founder, originally purchased the land for its reserves of yellow plastic clay. Once he got his workshop and kiln up and running, Barry began to draw sculptors from all over the country to come to his co-op - being that it was the only pottery workshop in New Zealand. Soon, Barry was hosting artists from all over the world to come be a part of his homegrown pottery haven.

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While Barry was first and foremost an artist, he quickly became an engineer and builder when the next available clay reserves were moving up and up the mountain. Again, being an artist, Barry didn’t have much money to dedicate to building a railway. So, he reused old tracks and carts from abandoned gold mines (reduce, reuse, recycle)!

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As if Barry’s bohemian heaven wasn’t already amazing, it turns out that he was also a naturalist and conservationist. Before his ownership, most of the land was poor quality farmland and cleared pastures. So instead, Barry used this opportunity to revegetate his land with native bush species such as Kauri, Totara, and Rimu trees. He even built a fenced in, predator proof sanctuary on the grounds for native wildlife.

Art? Trees? Conservation? This place is the most wholesome endeavor you will find anywhere, ever. Barry Brickell didn’t even set out to build a tourist attraction - it only opened recently to the public. Now, it’s protected under a Queen Elizabeth II National Trust covenant - all 23ha. 

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I sat on the creaky rail car as it carried us all the way up the mountain, through 5 switchbacks, 3 tunnels, and 2 bridges. I was overwhelmed with admiration for the craftsmanship of this railway. Each tunnel was lined with beautifully crafted bricks and glass accents. Little clay creatures hid amongst the ferns. Expressive faces peacefully waited for you around every turn. The entire track was adorned with sculptures, making it one big creative, engineering masterpiece.

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At the very top awaits the Eyeful Tower (ha ha, very nice Barry). If not for the sculptures along the way, the railway is worth the ride even just for the view at the top. We climbed up the pagoda-esque structure and out onto its balcony for an awe-inspiring view of the Coromandel Peninsula and the Hauraki Gulf. Again, we were blessed with another blue sky day.

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On the way back down, the ride is both comforting and inspiring. Being surrounded by so many pieces of creative beauty right alongside such expansive natural beauty is really quite magical. Driving Creek Railway is, through and through, the definition of a hidden gem.

Love It or Leave It

Well, we’re not quite sure if we figured it out, but here’s what we’ve got:

Solving the Climate Crisis

What does New Zealand, Australia, Southeast Asia, India, the Mediterranean, and Northern Europe all have in common? Not their climates. 

To solve this problem, we have set up a very particular solution - with the help of our loved ones back home (thanks moms!). Aside from what we brought on flight NZ 5 (pictured below), we additionally packed three more boxes of clothes/gear to be shipped to locations along our path. First, a box of tropical wear will be shipped to us for muggy Southeast Asia. Second, a box of dresses and sandals will be shipped to us for the sunny Mediterranean. Lastly, a box of sweaters and socks will be shipped to us for wintry northern Europe. With each box, we will swap out what will no longer be needed for the next leg of the trip — i.e. that Patagonia nano puff will not be needed in Southeast Asia. 

But until those swaps happen, enjoy a peak into our 70L packs:

Kim’s magenta Gregory Amber 70L (left) & MJ’s Egyptian blue Gregory Deva 70L (right).

Kim’s magenta Gregory Amber 70L (left) & MJ’s Egyptian blue Gregory Deva 70L (right).

 

The Overflow Part

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Kim:

  • Lo & Sons camera bag

  • Lewis N Clark day pack - compacts down into teeny pouch

  • Generic black purse

  • Nat Geo baseball cap

MJ:

  • Osprey Talon 33L day pack

  • Generic grey purse

  • New York Yankees baseball cap - to rep the home state

 

The Gear Part

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Kim:

  • First Aid Kit - ace bandages, neosporin, band-aids, aquaphor, various meds, dramamine so as MJ does not puke on boats, etc.

  • Outdoor Master ground tarp

  • Screen cleaner rag

  • Camping utensils

  • Luggage scale - we’re looking at you, budget flights

  • Black Diamond headlamp

  • Build & Fitness pack towel

  • Collapsable coffee mug

  • Collapsable water bottle

  • Sea to Summit UltraLight sleeping mat

  • Bandanas x2

  • Sleeping bag in a Sea to Summit stuff sac

  • Cocoon Mummy Liner (silk)

  • Eno double hammock and straps

  • MAPS!

MJ:

 

The Please-Don't-Steal-These Part

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Kim:

  • BUBM electronics organizer - assorted cords and accessories

  • Nintendo DS - Pokemon is a religion for me (see toiletries below)

  • Bose bluetooth noise-cancelling headphones - f*ck you airplane turbines

  • GoPro Hero 4 with underwater housing unit and float accessory

  • iPhone camera attachment

  • Canon EOS Rebel T2i

  • Canon EFS 18-55mm lens

  • Canon EFS 18-200mm lens

  • Apple earbuds x2

  • MPOW rugged portable speaker

  • Divoom portable speaker - yes, we need two

  • Skyroam - useful portable wifi and service generator (look it up if you’re interested)

  • RAV Power iSmart battery pack

  • Matador camera case

  • Assorted chargers and car charger

  • Universal outlet converter

  • Flexible tripod

  • Apple MacBook Pro

  • iPhone 6S

MJ:

  • Bose noise-cancelling headphones - thank you Mama Walker

  • POWERADD solar battery pack

  • MatadorUp camera case

  • Altura padded camera lens case

  • Canon EFS 55-250mm lens

  • Canon EFS 24mm "pancake" lens

  • Canon EOS 80D - represented by the empty space

  • Commander hand strap for camera

  • TIMEX Expedition analog watch

  • NZ outlet converter

  • Apple earbuds

  • Extra camera battery and charger

  • A/V camera battery car charger - we are road tripping after all

  • FitBit Flex 2 - ask me about it, I will rave for hours

  • Port converter - honestly Apple, you’re getting on my nerves

  • ZOOP dive computer

  • GoPro Hero 4 with underwater housing unit

  • Phone charger - sticker on it to distinguish my own from the 50 other ones in a hostel

  • Micro SD card reader

  • Extra SD card

  • SD card reader

  • iPhone 6S

  • Seagate external hard drive - I’m taking A LOT of photos

  • Apple MacBook 12” in gold - I know, it’s super cute :)

 

The Bulky Part

Fun fact: Kim & MJ are the same size shoe… HOW CONVENIENT.

Fun fact: Kim & MJ are the same size shoe… HOW CONVENIENT.

Kim:

  • Mime et Moi black leather sandals with two pairs of heel attachments - because I couldn’t bring just one pair of heels..

  • Columbia lightweight rain jacket

  • Timberland boots

  • Pink Tevas - we don’t have to talk about how cute they are, but we can

  • Croc sandals (they’re cool, okay)

  • Patagonia fleece - SUCH a classic

MJ:

 

The Hard Part

Socks, underwear, and bras not pictured. Obviously we brought them. And yes, they’re sexy. Sometimes they match. We’re on the road, but we’re still single.

Socks, underwear, and bras not pictured. Obviously we brought them. And yes, they’re sexy. Sometimes they match. We’re on the road, but we’re still single.

Kim:

  • Sun hat

  • Black v-neck wool sweater

  • Patagonia hat - it’s MJ’s. She loves Patagonia. Ask her about it.

  • Gloves

  • Long-sleeve base layers x2

  • Short sleeve purple dress

  • Romper

  • T-shirts x6

  • Tank tops x3

  • Encircled multi-way infinity scarf

  • Black leggings x2

  • Blue jeans

  • Bikinis x2 - BEACH PICS

  • Rash guard - for diving

  • Shorts x5

MJ:

  • Black Patagonia mid-layer

  • Black cardigan

  • I <3 Pizza hat - shoutout to Picasso in Stowe, VT

  • Gloves

  • Grey infinity scarf - RIP American Apparel

  • Belts x3

  • Rash guard

  • Long-sleeve base layers x2 - one of them is Patagonia…

  • Tank tops x3

  • Lace bodysuit

  • T-shits x10

  • Dresses x3

  • Romper

  • Bikinis x2

  • Patagonia shorts x4 - I honestly didn’t mean to do that

  • Jean shorts x2

  • Blue jeans

  • Joggers

 

The Fun Part

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Kim:

  • Toiletries - just what you’d expect

  • Pokemon face masks - I told you it was a religion

  • Inflatable neck pillow and eye mask

  • Mini plastic bags - I have a sand collection, it’s really cool

  • Mystical Fire color packs x2 - keepin’ it colorful

  • Waterproof phone bag thing

  • iPhone powered fan - #selfie game strong

  • Mini spray bottle with peppermint oil - spiders hate it, and that’s what matters here.

  • Twist ties and locks

  • Sunnies

  • Sunblock and tattoo guard

  • Journal - thanks Sarah

  • Harry Potter playing cards - I’m a Slytherin. My patronus is a hummingbird, since you asked

  • Kindle

  • Flask - thanks Dave

  • Pencils n pens

  • Business cards - gotta work bitch

  • Snazzy hair clips x2

  • Mase & a taser - fuck with me.

MJ:

  • Sunglasses with croakies

  • Gold switchblade with roses on it - definition of a badass babe

  • Inflatable neck pillow that I forgot to use on the 12hr flight

  • Extra Ziploc bags

  • Journal

  • Doorstop

  • Purell

  • Waterproof phone bag thing

  • Leatherman Juice CS4 - literally the best thing I’ve ever owned

  • Aquatabs

  • DIY travel candle and matches

  • Pen

  • Sudoku book - I’m not a grandma, I just like to stay sharp

  • Polaroids from home <3

  • BANANAGRAMS

  • Kindle

  • Makeup bag with 50 shades of lipstick

  • Toiletries - just what you’d expect

  • Mase & a taser - fuck with me.

 

Oh, and paracord. The blue thing running down the middle.

 

The Thoughts Part

We’re guessing here. This is not a science. We had limited space, and this is how we filled it. Yeah, it’s pretty heavy - around 42.5 lbs each to be exact. But right now, we can’t imagine getting rid of any of it. Maybe we’ll change our minds after carrying them up a few mountains. We’ll keep you posted.

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“What is the weirdest thing you brought with you?”

Kim: Pokemon face masks and Mystical Fire color packs.

MJ: BANAGRAMS.

 

 

Fun fact: between the two backpacks, we brought a whopping 17 Patagonia items. SPONSOR US PLEASE. #girlswhoexplore