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Oh Vivonne, Bae.

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When we were in the visitor’s information centre at Kangaroo Island, I saw a wonderful sentiment that I would like to share with you today. “Kangaroo Island is not what it was nor what it will be. It is a story about change, isolation and remoteness. Natural change is never ending. Human activity influences change. Conservation is about managing the rate of change.”

Whilst the main point about conservation is importantly clear, I think its also a great reminder of why you should travel. Do it now and do it often because the places you go today will look different in ten years.

Take Vivonne Bay for example, in a survey of 10 000 beaches, it was judged one of the best beaches in Australia by University of Sydney’s marine studies centre director, Professor Andrew Short. I’m not exactly sure how they reached this conclusion but there’s something magical about those turquoise waters. That magic may disappear in the future but for now I’m just glad that I had the opportunity to see it.

Recreate my Look:

Kimono (c/o) / Tee / Jeans / Watch (c/o) 

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Topdeck NZ Northern Explorer

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When I was initially researching this trip, I looked high and low for a review about this specific Topdeck tour but I couldn’t find anything that answered all my questions and was also recently published. Now that it has been almost a month since my return, I wanted to create a post for anyone who is looking to do the Northern Explorer tour in the future. I will be covering accommodation, food, attractions and the people 🙂

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I booked my tour a few months in advance with STA travel but you can also book online directly through Topdeck’s own website. I would definitely recommend doing it in person through an agent because you can ask as many questions as you please, the price is exactly the same and you don’t have to pay the whole trip up front, only a small deposit. If you don’t want the hassle of booking flights and buying insurance separately, STA are happy to hook you up as well but if you want to save some money you can grab those through Webjet which is what I did.

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Accommodation

My friend and I went together so we upgraded to twin share which was an extra hundred each. This was a really great decision on our part because our room was always much nicer and we would always have access to our own private bathrooms and amenities. I think the accommodation was fantastic in terms of variety, as you can see we stayed in a ski resort, a Maori Marae (which is the sacred meeting place) and also a small boat!

These are all the places we stayed at:

  • Pre-Accommodation at Travelodge Hotel, Wellington
  • Skotel Alpine Resort, Mount Ruapehu
  • Maori Marae, Rotorua
  • Sudima, Rotorua
  • Rock the Boat, Bay of Islands
  • Tanoa Paihia Hotel, Tanoa

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Rotorua Museum of History & Art

Attractions

I paid for three optional extras: Hobbiton, Hell’s Gate mud spa and Rock the Boat. There is a ton of other cool things that you can also participate in such as white water rafting, zorbing, inflatable kayaking and bungee jumping.

Hobbiton: to read more about my Hobbiton experience, you can visit my first New Zealand post here.

Hell’s Gate: was a nice experience after having skipped way too many showers on this trip! We spent an hour in the hot mud and springs where our noses accommodated to the sulphurous scent of Rotorua.

Rock the Boat: this was my favourite part of our entire trip! For 22 hours we went on a tiny little boat and saw all 144 islands with a very enthusiastic local crew. There was a paint balling introduction, fishing for dinner followed by night kayaking which was breathtaking. We paddled out at 10pm and the water was filled with phosphorous algae so when we dipped our paddle or arm in the water, a beautiful trail of glow in the dark algae moved along with us. We also lay in our kayaks and looked up at the glowing night sky and it was quite magical 🙂 After kayaking, the brave kids jumped in for a swim. It was cold but so worth it because as we swam, the algae continued to glow and everyone felt like a mermaid. Once all warmth had escaped our bodies we jumped back out and sat by the fire. The next morning we went snorkelling and hiked up a lush island barefoot. I don’t think I’ve ever had that many adventures in under 24 hours!

The activities that were already included in our tour were just as great and the night at the Marae was my favourite. Some of the things included a hike in Tongariro which you can read more about in my previous post here, a rugby lesson at the NZ Sports Academy and a night learning about Maori culture including the haka and poi dances at the Marae.

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If you choose not to participate in an activity you have the option of exploring the city yourself. None of the activities are affiliated with Topdeck so you can do as little or as much as you would like. Here’s a snap of me ‘skydiving’ and another of my friend bungee jumping.

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Te Papa Museum

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Food

Breakfast is included every morning at the location of the accommodation for the previous night. We had a combination of cold and hot breakfasts and three dinners were included. Lunch was always up to us and we were given the opportunity to go to grocery stores and stock up on water and snacks if we were heading somewhere remote.

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People

For the trip we had a tour leader, a driver and an extra person who did both jobs whenever the main people were tired. No tipping is required and they were all very helpful. Most of the the other travellers were Australian like myself but around 30% were from overseas. We had a big group of almost 40 including people from the UK, US, Germany, France and Switzerland. The best way to describe the environment would be like a big school camping trip. I know tours like these have a reputation for being party tours but I think it usually depends on the group itself. This was a bit of a quiet group so there was no pressure to drink if you didn’t want to and the places we travelled to lacked night life so there wasn’t much on offer in terms of after hours entertainment.

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Waiotapu Geothermal

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Overall, Topdeck tours are very fast paced adventure packed trips. If you want to see lots of scenery, I wouldn’t recommend going on one because we were only allowed 10 to 30 minutes tops at some scenic lookouts. However, they are very well organised so you don’t have to do much thinking aside from getting to the bus on time.

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Huka Falls

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I never have much use for souvenirs so I only bought one thing for myself – a kiwi charm (only available to purchase in New Zealand) to finish off my pandora bracelet for 2015.

Hopefully this whopper of a post was helpful for some people. If you have any questions in general about Topdeck tours or more specific ones about the northern explorer I would be happy to answer them in the comments below. Thanks for reading and I’ll be back with a fashion post on Friday! Lets hope this weather clears up a bit too eh?!!

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SS Goes to Brunch with Juliet

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I hope you guys are ready for a rather chatty post this hump day. I’m starting a new series on Style Smorgasbord called SS Brunch and today I’m delighted to introduce Juliet from TheJulietReport on Instagram. The idea behind these posts is just to feature other voices and personalities on this blog so you don’t get sick of me and my puns all the time. We’ll talk about all kinds of random stuff and then open the floor to you guys as well so you can join in the conversation too! As a trial, we’re keeping everything lighthearted today but in the future, I would love to delve into some other issues too. And what better meal to pour over our chatty concerns than brunch!? So without further ado, lets give a hand to SS BRUNCH WITH JULIET! I fell out of my chair when she agreed to draw something for Style Smorgasbord and I hope you guys hop over to TheJulietReport for more of her work.

Karen: I thought I would wrap up my holiday posts with several travelling questions so tell me, what’s your favourite city to holiday in? Juliet: Even though I have been there about five times already I still always dream about New York. I feel a special connection with New York. There is always so much to do there, it is a very inspiring place. Karen: That reminds me I need to put Welcome To New York as my phone ringtone, the opening tune is the best!

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Karen: I feel like packing your carry on has almost become a science nowadays. There’s all these special compartment bags you can get and bottles that meet security guidelines … I tend to love overpacking reading material and then abandoning it for in flight entertainment … and then falling asleep! What are your personal in flight essentials? Juliet: I love to keep busy so I have to take my drawing equipment, a new book, magazines, skincare, especially lip balm and a refreshing face spritzer.

Karen: This is a bit of a strange one but I recently got my passport photos taking so I was wondering on a scale of one to ten (one being hate), how much do you like your passport photo? Juliet: Two. It isn’t a very flattering photo. I don’t think it even really looks like me.

Karen: When you step off the plane, are you a Kate Middleton or Miley Cyrus (i.e. polished and fresh or half dead haha)? Juliet: I’d like to think that I’m a Kate Middleton. I always choose style over comfort. Karen: Unfortunately, Miley for me. I just slap on a hat and sunglasses and hope I’m incognito lol.

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Karen: Tell me about your creative process, do you draw at a particular time of the day? What materials do you use? Juliet: I have always been curious and always love to share what I know. Most of  my inspiration comes from my world, the things I do, the people I know and the things that I am interested in. It always begins with an idea, a thought, or a feeling. Depending on where I am or what I’m doing, I usually just keep notes on my phone to remind me, or I take photos of things I’d like to draw. I draw all the time, I draw when I wake up, on the train ride to and from work, at my desk, at cafes on my lunch break. I am a little bit obsessed with drawing, I can’t stop. I love to use watercolour but at the moment I am having a lot of fun with using Copic Markers. Karen: That’s amazing! I can totally see it come through your work as well 🙂

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Karen: When I first came across your feed, one of the things that struck me about your work was the little captions underneath. I personally think they’re charming, witty and relevant but what’s the significance of them? Juliet: The captions are usually things people have said to me, sometimes they are from things that I have read. I never know what they will be until I hear it. It can really be anything that I connect with, anything that makes me think, or question what I already know. The quote usually comes first, however sometimes if I see something I’d really love to draw, I then find a quote that will go with it. Karen: That is so interesting because for me, I always shoot my photographs first and then the caption or title comes later!

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Karen: My readers would like to know your biography … or at least a little about you – what do you do, how you roll? Juliet: I was born in Perth and moved to Melbourne about eight years ago. As I mentioned, I’m super curious so that means I have tried many different things. I have studied, accounting, journalism, makeup artistry, fashion and textiles merchandising and currently I’m in my third year of a Fashion Design Degree. I have worked as a barista, in fashion retail, I worked in Finance for ten years and now I work as an Assistant Designer for a Menswear label and as a Freelance Illustrator. I love doing new things, I love spending time with my friends, I love reading, going to the movies and drinking coffee. Lots of coffee please! Karen: Wow, that is really something, thank you so much for sharing!

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That is a wrap people! I hope you enjoyed this Wednesday special and for now, I will leave you with this box of adorable doughnuts!

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