Around The World 1997 Travel Diaries

25 years ago, we embarked on our first great adventure together. We moved to Oslo in 1996 after having met in London in 1995. We both got jobs, Tanja at a property developer office and Ørjan eventually landed a job as a travel consultant in the hippest of youth and student travel agencies, Kilroy Travels. It was at the height of the youth and student travel craze, before internet took over, you had to go to a travel agency to book your tickets. And thousands got their first taste of the big wide world via Kilroy Travels.

In full backpacking regalia, Fiji airport

We are not sure exactly what prompted our first around the world trip. The short explanation was that Ørjan was quite good at selling air fares, bus passes and adventure treks without having been to any of the places he was talking so enthusiastically about at the travel office. We think that this trip was suggested as a kind of study trip to some of the more popular destinations on the around the world circuit. As far as we can remember the airfare for Ørjan was sponsored by Kilroy Travels, and along the way there were free bus passes, some hotels and other useful things. In return Ørjan signed an agreement to work for at least 1 year after returning, schedule weekly calls to an Oslo radio station and make a presentation of photos and stories that could be shown at travellers’ evenings in the different Kilroy offices around Norway. No problem!

Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge

We borrowed money from the bank (30 000,- NOK) to finance the rest of our expected expenses, maybe not the soundest financial advice to pass on but for us it made sense then and it enabled us to do this adventure on relative short notice. Tanja got a leave of absence from her work for 3 months, and Ørjan the same, our flat was short time leased to a friend of a friend. Our budget was tight, no doubt about that. It was classic backpacking, with actual backpacks, our home was carried with us on our backs. No hotels, just dorm rooms and cheap accommodation. And we must mention the travel bible, pre internet, the mighty Lonely Planet! The best source of information to be had for all intrepid travellers in the 90s. We had all the books for all the regions we were going to visit, vaccines were taken, visas applied for, and plans were made for our first big travel adventure.

New Zealand, Lake Matheson

We booked plane tickets to go from Oslo to Bangkok, planned to travel overland down to Singapore and then fly to Bali. From Bali to Darwin in Australia, Oz Experience bus pass to Alice Springs, fly to Cairns and Oz Experience buss pass down the coast to Sydney. Fly to New Zealand and do Kiwi Experience bus passes on the South and North Island before heading to Tonga and Fiji in the Pacific Ocean. Time did not permit more exploration of the western parts of USA, so we booked from Fiji via a long stopover at LAX in Los Angeles back to Oslo.

Bad taste party in New Zealand

We both wrote travel diaries, and we have never read them after our trip. We still can remember the good and some of the bad experiences along the way. Including forest fires, stomach amoeba, epic sunsets, the red centre, the great barrier reef, seeing kangaroos for the first time, the epicness of New Zealand and countless dorms with fellow backpackers.

Blackwater Rafting, Waitomo, New Zealand

We thought it would be a fun idea to find those diaries, and transcribe them verbatim, and see how our experience was, what two people see and feel differently while having the exact same vantage point to the world passing by. We are sure that many things we will not recall at all, and some things are etched in our communal memory bank. We also took plenty of slide’s pictures, this was before digital photo, so the only way to show pictures on a big screen was to photo positives and show them on a slide projector. All millennials, go ahead and google! Ørjan also called Radio Oslofjord once a week to talk about our trip and what it was like, we still have those tapes given to us after we came home.

Australias Red Centre, Uluru (Ayers Rock) in the background

This was our first time outside of Europe, and our first big trip together as a couple, we were both excited. We hope you will enjoy this little quarter of a century old school travel diary thing. We will for sure, and since this was written before we started to read and transcribe the diaries, we have some small butterflies of anticipation ourselves.

Petting kangaroos, or maybe wallaby?

Even before we started our planned journey, we had some unforeseen trouble. At the time of our departure in the fall of 1997 there were some huge man-made forest fires in both Sumatra and Borneo that devastated large areas of rainforest, and the ensuing smoke cloud laid thick over large areas that we were supposed to cross from Bangkok to Singapore. We were recommended to avoid those areas due to high pollution levels. Read more about this catastrophe here.

The epic Australian roads

We had to ditch our plans to go overland and rebook our tickets to go from Bangkok via Hong Kong and Singapore to Bali and stay longer here than what we had originally planned. We ended up staying for a short while in Bangkok, staying in Bali, Lombok and the Gilli Islands of Indonesia. Going overland from Darwin to Alice Springs and Australias red centre. From Cairns we visited the Daintree rainforest and took the OZ Experience bus all the way down the coast to Sydney via Magnetic Island, Whitsunday Islands, Frasier Island and Byron Bay. In New Zealand we travelled both the North and South Island with Kiwi Experience. Having an awesome time Blackwater rafting in Waitomo. From New Zealand we travelled to the Pacific islands of Tonga and Fiji, and from there back to Norway via Los Angeles.

The Gilli Islands of Indonesia

We had great fun digitizing old photos we had not seen for years and years, and not least reading an transcribing our own diaries and comparing what we had written about experiencing the same things in different ways. It is easy to see that Ørjan is a man, and on a trip to gather information, a bit more cold facts and costs for different services and quality of accomodations and transport. Tanja shows more emotions and gives more depth to our experiences, the good and the bad.

Local Indonesian girls facinated by Tanjas hair

We will put in some comments along the way, just to clarify and maybe explain some of the entries done along the way but this is non edited and non censored straight from our diaries written in 1997. The images have varying quality, some of the negatives had deteriorated through the years but we hope the photos that made it will give a good impression of our journey.

Part 1, “Jetlagged in Bangkok” will be published soon!

Jetlagged in Bangkok!

Part 1, Jetlagged in Bangkok


28 September 1997, flight QF002, somewhere above Turkey:
So our great journey has finally begun. It was strange leaving Norway, family and friends, knowing it will be more than three months until we see them again, after Christmas and New Year. I have travelled a lot before, but that has been different to this; I have only been in Europe, and I have been working – in a safe environment, well known to me. Now everything is new and unknown!  I’m very excited and can’t wait to see all these new countries. Some things are on my mind though; how do we manage the heat, will we like the food/can we avoid getting upset stomachs, or any other illnesses, will we stumble upon any poisonous/dangerous animals, will our trip be affected by the fires in Indonesia, and how will Ørjan and I manage seeing each other 24 hours every day for three months and 12 days? I’m sure it will all go well! Will try and get some sleep now, it’s been a long day, and it’s still more than seven hours left of the flight, my eyes are hurting…


After having gotten out of bed at 05:00 on the 28th of September I was tired as usual when getting up that early. I have dreamt of this for so long, can’t wait to get going! The flight was from Oslo via London where we had to wait for 4 hours, then we boarded Quantas flight QF 002 to Bangkok. The flight, food and service on Quantas was great. Passing Indian airspace we saw a great thunderstorm beneath us, it was amazing to see the clouds lit up by lightning from 12 000 metres up at around 1000 kilometres per hour.

The Royal Hotel

29 September 1997, Hotel Royal, Bangkok:
Lying in bed at the hotel room – it’s seven p.m. and I’m exhausted! Just got a couple of hours sleep after arriving at the hotel around eight this morning. The drive from the airport in a Bangkok taxi was hazardous, and first impression of Thailand is that the traffic is chaotic, it smells strange, it’s humid and it feels sticky, probably because we’re in Bangkok -probably different in the countryside. We have decided to leave for Bali on Thursday instead of next week and have rebooked our tickets. Went to Kao Sahn Road – the backpacker street – lots of tourists, stalls and restaurants. Nice clothes, but we’ll probably do some shopping when we get to Bali instead – have been told it’s cheaper. Watching telly, but will soon go to sleep, need a good night’s sleep. Hope to see a bit more of Bangkok tomorrow.

Thailand traffic!

Landing in Bangkok was a shock to the system. 32 degrees and high humidity was a new experience! We landed at 06:30 local time after being on the move for more than 20 hours, I have slept maybe 3. We took a taxi from the airport to the hotel, traffic was pandemonium! It cost us 300 Bath and we had to pay tolls as we went into the city at around 47 Bath. We arrived at our pre booked Royal hotel at 08:00 and thankfully the room was ready for us. We could lay down our tired bones after around 48 hours on the move from our flat in Oslo. We slept for 3 hours in a nice airconditioned room. I went to the hotel travel agency who suggested a plethora of things to do and see in and around Bangkok. It was monsoon season in Bangkok so there were some doubts about what we could do in northern Thailand, so we decided to change our tickets to an earlier departure from Bangkok to Bali. We think that 3 days in Bangkok will suffice. We paid 25 kroners for the change of departure day on our tickets. We headed to Khao San Road where all the backpackers hung out in Bangkok it seemed like. And millions of Thai people who wanted to sell you everything under the sun. We ate dinner with 2 beers for me and a Fanta for Tanja and paid 55 kroners (5 dollars) at the Hello bar, they had an internet café on the 2nd floor. We walked back to the hotel, talked about doing a sightseeing tomorrow.

Thai street food

30 September 1997, Hotel Royal, Bangkok:
Slept in today… Awoke at around 7 a.m., but thought we’d get up around 8, so we got back to sleep, and didn’t get up until 1 p.m… A couple of biscuits and some coke for breakfast before embarking on a walk in about 35 degrees Celsius. My goodness – the traffic! There seems to be no respect for pedestrians, so it feels like you’re risking your life to cross the road. Have been proper tourists today and taken lots of photos. We went to the area with the Royal Palace – impressive construction! Quite colourful and golden, really different from anything we’ve seen before. Was told off by a guard for having my feet facing a buddha in a temple – they are not to be visible… Went to another temple; Wat Po, with a 46 metre long reclining buddha. Exhausted after just a few hours outside; hungry, thirsty and slightly faint, so we went back to the hotel for some relaxation. Then to Hello restaurant, sent some emails back home, watched Mr. Bean on video. Back at the hotel room now, watching an Indian version of MTV.


We slept for nearly 16 hours; this is our first jetlag, I guess. We got out of the hotel at 13:00 and went to the Royal Palace. It was filled with what looked like sequins and trinkets in shades of green and gold. It was very tranquil inside. No shorts allowed but they lent us some wrap around sarongs to wear. We walked to Wat Po, the 46 metres golden reclined buddha. The Thai seem very devout and all over there are people lighting candles and incense in front of deities. Wat Po was enormous! We went into a small temple with an emerald buddha, Tanja kind of insulted the deity by showing her foot soles to it, this was not allowed! All over the place outside the palace there are men calling “tuk-tuk mister?” or “Mr! Mr! do you want….??” After a while I have learnt to ignore them. We walked back to the hotel for showers, after a day out in 35 Celsius heat, we needed it! We sent an email form the internet café at Hello restaurant. It only cost 20 Bath for 10 minutes at the computer. We also ate dinner at Hello again. I made a collect call home to dad to say everything was ok, he was a bit quiet, not sure what was the matter. Tomorrow we will try some shopping.

Tuk Tuk mr?

1 October 1997, Hotel Royal, Bangkok:
Last night in Bangkok, which feels good. We have realised that we’re probably a bit old to be “proper” backpackers – we enjoy a little bit of luxury and do not like Bangkok that much. People stare a lot, and some seem suspicious and reserved, although many are also very polite and friendly. We don’t like the feeling of everyone trying to sell us something, or trying to trick us into something, we were charged double the price on our return trip by taxi today than we did going into the city this morning. We went to Siam Square and Siam Shopping Centre, not very interesting – very much like any shopping centre in Europe with McDonalds and Pizza Hut. Explored some of the smaller streets instead, but it’s just too hot, humid, polluted and noisy, so we went back to the hotel after a couple of hours. Went back to Hello restaurant at Kao San Road where we had great food; two dinners, one beer and a coke, costing us about 187 Bath, which is about 45 NOK/4 GBP. Have packed our stuff, will get up at around 5 a.m. have some breakfast, and leave for the airport at around 6.30.

Khao San rd

Did not sleep that long today, still tired. We took at taxi to Siam Square, it cost us 150 Bath and it took a while to drive there. The Siam shopping centre was just like any other shopping centre in Oslo. The real Siam Square market area was a bit of a let-down, just lots of shiny cheap stuff. We also met a nice Thai man who said he had something to show us. After 5 minutes of explaining that we did not need anything from him, not even sure what he was trying to sell us, he gave us his card and told us we had to follow him to his shop. I clearly said NO and we walked off, he came after us and wanted his card back… I was feeling a bit faint, probably after too little hydration and we took a taxi home. This time the taxi driver wanted 400 Bath, I haggled down to 300, still double the price we paid in the other direction. After a short rest we walked back to Khao San road, ate at Hello again and I called to Radio Oslofjord for a live broadcast from Bangkok. Back to the hotel room to pack and get ready to fly to Bali tomorrow.

Fun to read the first entries here. It does seem like we are struggling with jetlag, humidity and the new experience of a chaotic city with lots of people that was hot and noisy. We have never travelled back to Thailand after this visit.

Ørjan and Tanja 2022

Part 2, Bali and Lombok, it feels like a holiday at last!

2 October, only entry from Ørjan, no entry from Tanja. Travelling from Bangkok to Bali.

After a night of little sleep, it was back to travelling again and first it was a taxi to the airport. It was a relief to leave Bangkok. In the flight to Bangkok the commercial said that it was the city of smiles, but we experienced few or none who even remotely tried to be nice or polite. Bangkok was one of the most polluted and noisy cities I have ever been to! Our flight took us via Hong Kong, I had caught some sort of stomach bug in Bangkok, so the flight was spent mostly in the toilet. We had the gayest flight crew ever! It was an all-male crew, all must have been ex musical performers or something, the entertainment level was hilarious. “Coffee? Tea? Me?” was served with the beverages – it was like a non-drag drag comedy show all the way to Hong Kong. The flight path into Hong Kong was bonkers! I felt like the plane was going to land into a block of flats! We could see the people who lived with the flight path literally in their living rooms and what they had for dinner! And when we touched down it felt like we were going to drive into the sea! Bonkers! After a 1 ½ hours stop, we took off in between the skyscrapers, I wish we had a longer stopover here, could be fun to see Hong Kong. Our musical air steward crew was with us all the way to our next stop in Singapore. It was a bit unnerving when the cabin started to smell like something burning but the captain told us that this was from the forest fires that currently was still raging out of control in Sumatra. When we landed in Singapore it was almost zero visibility, and even though it was mid-day it was almost dark, the sun was shrouded by the thick smoke that hung in the air. No very nice at all. From Singapore to Denpasar in Bali the flight was filled with a lot of young people like us. We landed in Bali quite late and booked a hotel room at the airport. The hotel was ok, nothing more but still expensive. Fell asleep immediately after hitting the pillow after almost 24 hrs travel nonstop.

Kuta Beach, Bali

3 October 1997, Puri Bunga Cottages, Bali:
The sound of the air condition and the faint sound of a motorcycle is all we can hear from our hotel room here in Bali. We arrived at around 1 a.m. – pretty exhausted. The room costs around USD 35/night, so pretty expensive, but we didn’t have the energy to go look for anything ourselves when we arrived, and just asked for a quiet place at the airport service desk. They found a nice place for us, we’ll stay until tomorrow, then we’ll leave for Lombok by bus/ferry. Hope we’ll find a nice, cheap place to stay where we can relax for a few days. Haven’t quite got that feeling of vacation yet, too much travelling, and a lot of chaos in Bangkok. Yesterday we flew from Bangkok via Hong Kong and Singapore before arriving in Bali, quite a long trip! My ears are hurting a bit and my hearing isn’t great – probably from taking off and landing so many times yesterday, feels like I have a cold, too. Feels good to be in Bali though, the people here seem friendly, but as in Bangkok – trey want us to buy something from them all the time; watches, lighters, rings, tattoos – you name it, or wanting to braid my hair… The worst though is when people start touching me – I don’t like it! Starting to get hungry, so we’re going out for some food. Will probably be an early night, feel tired and need a good night’s sleep.

Puri Bunga cottages

We slept long again, missed breakfast. We walked down to the restaurant to get some food, I am sure I ordered some chicken with rice, got served a whole grilled snapper with rice. Hot but delish. We took a taxi to Kuta beach, walked around the beach area, lots of surf shops, and cheap! We thought Bangkok hustlers were an annoyance, but the Kuta hustlers took everything to a new level. A gazillion street vendors who wants to sell you watches, sarongs, silver rings and everything under the sun. They kept running after us even after we had politely said no to every one of them. What a nuisance! We bought bus tickets and ferry ticket to go to Lombok tomorrow. Cost us 70 kroners (6 USD) per person. Tomorrow we will be at Lombok! Met an English couple from Southampton when we stopped for beer at a bar. Maybe we will meet them in Australia, but we can’t know for sure. The frogs in the pond make a lot of noise!

Kuta traffic jam

4 October 1997, ferry Bali – Lombok:
All I can see is the ocean, the sun shining from a sky partly clouded, and Bali in the distance – about an hour’s ferry ride away. Only three hours until we arrive in Lombok, then 45 minutes by bus to Sengigi Beach where we are planning to stay. The ferry is making strange noises and it is quite rusty, don’t think it would have been approved as seaworthy in Norway, but I’m sure it will reach its destination today as it has on so many trips before this one. Feeling a bit under the weather today, probably the cold, but I might also get some side effects like nausea from the malaria pills. Probably better than getting malaria though. Got quite late last night, met a nice English couple; Charlotte and Ian, and had some drinks together with them. Broke my “food rules” yesterday, too; had king prawns and green salad after eating just bread and vegetarian curry and rice until now – very tasty. Went by bus from Kuta today to Padangbai where the ferry departed. Got to see quite a bit of Bali, very green and lush! Lots of palm trees, rice fields and beautiful flowers. Looking forward to staying at one place for a few days, maybe we’ll rent a car, maybe we’ll book a trip to see the Komodo dragons, or maybe we’ll just stay on the beach and do some snorkelling. I don’t know yet, and it feels good not having to plan everything ahead, we’ll just see what we feel like doing. That’s what a vacation is all about – and imagine – it’s more than three months still left of our trip. A bit more expensive here than in Thailand, but a nice dinner costs around 20-50 NOK (2-5 GPB). Bargaining is important – yesterday’s taxi driver told us it was up to us how much we would pay. Today’s driver on the other hand tried to trick us into paying more than we should. Bought some trousers yesterday, after some bargaining, I got them for 17,000 rp, around 50 NOK/5 GBP – down from 25,000 rp, not bad. Wish I had a lot of money, or that Bali was the last stop on our trip – there is so much nice stuff to buy.


At 13:00 we got crammed into a small bus with no suspension with a bunch of other backpackers. Driving in Indonesia is something else. It seems like everything is random, seems like chaos to me. Ubud was the first stop for the bus and most people got off here, except us. In the middle of Bali this was, very lush and green landscape. Kept driving like a mad man until we reached the docks. Ferry departed at 16:30. It took about 4 hours on this hardly approved by any official ferry to Lombok. The toilet was probably the foulest smelling room I have ever been in! It the dock there was a small bus that took us the rest of the way to Sengiggi Beach. The hotels recommended in Lonely Planet was MUCH more expensive than stated in the book and we wanted a place near the beach. We decided that Dharma was the place for us. We paid 45 000 rupia for the first night with the promise that we would get a cheaper bungalow nearer the beach the next day. Sleep was imminent.


5 October 1997, Dharma Hotel, Lombok:
Arrived in Lombok yesterday evening at around 9 p.m. and were picked up by a minibus that took us to Sengigi Beach. Pleasantly surprised at how well everything worked out with bus, ferry and minibus, although it was only Ørjan and I who travelled with Perama. Another hazardous drive in the dark passing motorcycles, cyclists, pedestrians and horse carriages, seems they don’t have lights on anything or wear any kind of reflective clothing – just luck we didn’t hit anyone on the way here – we’re definitely not going to drive in the dark. Everything seemed strange and desolate, but when arriving in Sengigi there were a few tourists and some restaurants and bars along the way that were open. Looked for a place to stay, thought it was a bit expensive at Dharma, so went along with someone to look at another cheaper place in the middle of the bush, but decided to go back to Dharma when we saw the horrible rooms and the people who stayed at the other place – obviously under the influence of something. We got a bungalow at Dharma almost at the beach for 45,000, with an open-air shower/toilet – very nice. The receptionist suggested we’d give our valuables to him for safekeeping – he would hide them under his pillow… Originally, he said yes when we asked if there was a safe deposit box in the bungalow, seems they nod and say yes when they don’t understand the question. Slept quite well, and woke up to a “great” breakfast; two small bananas and a cup of tea… Well, enough to keep us going for a couple of hours… We have also switched rooms – only paying 35,000 for this one. Feels so nice to be here, as if we’re in a cottage, just the sound of nature around us; a grasshopper singing and the waves breaking. Wrote some letters sitting at our balcony this afternoon overlooking the ocean, the palm trees and the sun and just enjoyed the feeling of having time off, I really feel I’m on vacation now. We went to the beach, were swimming, sunbathing and just having a great time. Pity there’s some garbage from the ocean at the beach, but otherwise it’s just lovely. Wasn’t in the sun for a long time, but managed to get sunburnt on a few spots anyway – have to be more careful tomorrow. Did some shopping at a supermarket nearby, pot noodles which we boiled in water – quite nice, and very cheap. Had a meal later at one of the near empty restaurants – not many tourists around. Spoke to some Germans who live next door, they’d been to Gili Air, expensive and not any nice places to stay they said, but we’ll probably go anyway. Have picked up some leaflets describing boat trips that we might book. Ørjan wants to go to an island with big lizzards, apparently four metres long and weighing 130 kilos, but still not dangerous! (?) It’s past 10 p.m., and time for bed. Feel so relaxed now – it’s so nice after having been travelling all of last week, nice to calm down a bit. The thought of having more than three months off is wonderful!


When we woke up, we immediately walked to the reception and got shown a bungalow on the beach with a proper bathroom and toilet! It had a fan in the bedroom and paper-thin bamboo and straw walls. From the veranda we can see the sea and beach, fantastic! All this for just 35 000 rupia (120 kroner, about 10 dollars) per night. We had our first visit to the beach; the sea was warm and refreshing and no street/beach vendor in sight! Indonesians seems like a friendly bunch, much more than the Thai. Everybody smiles and wants to help us if we have problems. Not always sure thing if they do this out of friendliness or if they want money or something else from you. Usually, they want money but at least they smile when they ask for handouts. This is finally starting to feel like a proper holiday! OBS when the Indonesians say “yes” it does not always mean “yes”, they will say yes if they do not understand, if they do understand or if they simply did not understand what you said. It is important to understand the delivery of the “yes”.

6 October, entry from Ørjan, no entry from Tanja

We did not do much more that sleep, read, swim and shop some noodles for lunch. Ate at a local restaurant, I got a tack in my food, and got a fruit salad as consolation. Power went out for 1 ½ hours. We wrote cards to our family. We also exchanged some more American Express travel cheques. Since our last exchange, something has happened to the Indonesian currency, and we got twice as much as the last exchange! Everything is now half price! Phoned for my weekly rapport to Radio Oslofjord from a local phone box.

Just relaxing at the beach

7 October 1997, Dharma Hotel, Lombok:
Just got back to our beach cabin after having been to Mangsit – a small place around three to four kilometres away. We were offered transportation, but refused, seemed like a nice stroll. What we didn’t think of was how fast the darkness arrives, started walking around 6 p.m., and half an hour later it was pitch black. Felt a bit unsafe then to be on an unfamiliar country road with very few people along the way without fully knowing where we were headed. When a scruffy dog started following us I started to get a bit nervous, so when a Bemo (local mini bus) stopped and asked if we wanted a ride we said yes please. Then we were only a few hundred metres away from our destination, but it was well worth the small amount we paid. The place we were visiting was Warung Bagus – a pub/eatery owned by Tor from Mandal, recommended to us by Ørjan’s brother. They remembered his brother well, and thought they’d seen a picture of me, too, but that must have been a picture of his girlfriend, we don’t look the same at all, but to them maybe blondish long hair made us look alike. Tor talked about his Balinese wife and plans for his business, and also told us that seeing a big gecko meant luck – the sounds we hear in our cabin are probably geckos.
The last two days we’ve been relaxing in our cabin, slept in, enjoyed the quiet and the view from our balcony, had some food, done some reading, been to the beach, done a lot of swimming. There are sellers on the beach trying to make us buy stuff, but they actually accept no, and started talking to us instead. One of them couldn’t believe that Ørjan and I were from the same country, since Ørjan’s skin is so much darker than mine… At the same time he said everyone here wanted to be as white as me… There was also a nice lady wanting to braid my hair, give me massage or manicure, and just smiled even though I said no thanks. A bit of a headache this morning, probably because I don’t sleep so well, disco music kept us awake till around 5 a.m. The first night I could hardly sleep because there so many strange sounds; from the ocean, the wind, animals and people – the walls are so thin that you can hear everything. But I do like it very much here – slow pace and relaxing. Got a nice surprise when we changed some money yesterday, the rupi has been devaluated and we get quite a lot more for our money than we anticipated. All of a sudden it costs us NOK 40 (GBP 4) instead of NOK 60 (GBP 6) per night. The exchange rate is now around NOK 2,20 per 1000 rupi now and not NOK 3,40 per 1000 rupi that we have calculated.


Since the walls are wafer thin, we had problems sleeping with the waves crashing in so close to our little bungalow. Had to wear earplugs! Read the final chapter of “Sophies Choice” I will probably have to read it one or two more times. Long day in the shade, swimming, and noodles for lunch. In the afternoon we walked to a restaurant up the road in a village called Mansit. A local from my hometown runs a restaurant there, the Warung Bagus, and my brother stayed there a year ago. The restaurant was small but ok, Tor was nice to us, and we sat there talking about all kinds of stuff. The locals came to look at “the brother of Kristoffer”. He offered us a trip around the island the next day with a driver but we are not sure if we will take him up on the offer. After having said hello to his monkey he drove us back to our bungalow. I am thinking another day at the beach tomorrow. If you should hear a gecko croak more than 7 times it means good fortunes. The flower petals and small banana leaves outside shops are offering to the Hindu gods, they also offer the first rice cooked in the morning.

The local shop, Tanja probably buying noodles
8 October, entry from Ørjan, no entry from Tanja

Tanja got sick from the food we ate last night at Tor’s place. Typical that we would get sick when we visit someone from Norway in Indonesia. Tanja had to stay close to the toilet today. Relaxing and sunbathing between runs to the white throne. We had plans to go to Komodo to see the dragons, but we are not sure now. We have done a bit of research, and the boats that go there do not look safe, the season is not right and the cost for flying is too high. Seems like the dragons will not get a visit from Norway.


9 October 1997, Dharma Hotel, Lombok:
Sitting in Ørjan’s bed watching him pack his clothes, he can’t find his long trousers, and is unsure whether he brought them at all from Norway. Last night in Sengigi for now, we’ve had some nice, relaxing days. Yesterday we did hardly anything, but I suffered from diarrhea the whole day – probably from the fish or the ice cubes in the drink I had at the Norwegian’s restaurant. Hardly eaten anything today, haven’t had any diarrhea either, but have some stomachache. Bought some jewellery yesterday at around NOK 4-5 a piece (50 pence), and a sarong at around NOK 17 (1,5 GBP). Won’t go on the boat trip we considered, we thought it seemed a bit unsafe, were going to sleep on the boat during the night while sailing, don’t think I’d been able to sleep at all… Considered going by plane, but that was too expensive, or by bus, but that would have taken 14 hours. So, we’ll go to Gili Air tomorrow, then we’ll see. Have just paid for our stay, total cost for six nights, including some water, faxes and laundry amounted to around NOK 560 (56 GBP).

Waiting for the sunset

Tanja feeling better, not a bigger bombshell that the day was spent relaxing and swimming in the sea. We have decided to drop the Komodo trip and rather go to the Gilli islands that are closer to Lombok. We will go to Gilli Air tomorrow. It will cost 15 000 rupia for a direct boat from Sengiggi to Gilli Air. Departure 08:45 tomorrow. Today Tanja tried to order something that was not on the menu in the local restaurant, and this caused quite the commotion. She wanted fried vegetables and rice, nothing too heavy for her upset tummy. After 3 waiters and 2 chefs had come by our table to ask what she really wanted, she ended up with a kind of broth containing some sorry looking over cooked vegetables and rice. At least they got the rice correct.

That wafer thin walled hut on the beach was our first real taste of staying cheap at a great location. Even though we seem to complain about the waves being loud, it is still the sound of that small bamboo cabin on the beach, falling asleep to the sea thundering against the beach below.

Ørjan and Tanja 2022

Part 3, The Gilli Islands, oh the disappointment!


10 October 1997, Gili Trawangan:
Went on a joke of a boat to Gili today. Since there was no boat by the dock, we had to be taken by a small rowing boat. Four passengers with luggage and two crew were a bit much for the little boat, and several times we almost fell overboard. Actually, someone did fall into the sea on trip two on the same boat. The bigger boat that took us to Gili wasn’t much to talk about either, but we got here in one piece. Glad we didn’t book the trip to Komodo – same type of boat, only slightly bigger – NO WAY. Everyone on the boat were departing on Gili Trawangan except for Ørjan and I, so we decided to depart here as well. But what a disappointment! Well, we did have a nice day at the beach and did some snorkelling in crystal clear water, but this place is so dirty with garbage everywhere and lots of mosquitos, which we’ve hardly seen at Lombok. The place we’re staying doesn’t cost more than around NOK 30 (GBP 3) per night, but it’s not worth much more either. The bathroom is disgusting, uugh! Will only stay this night, then leave by boat to Gili Air at 11 a.m. tomorrow. Hopefully Gili Air is nicer, if not we’ll head back to Lombok. Lots of Norwegians here, and we’ve met some nice English girls and a Scot. Going out later with them and some Danes. If you’re looking for a party this is probably the place to be, but that’s not really what we’re after. I’m surprised at how open minded everyone seems to be towards drugs, many have tried “mushrooms”, marijuana, opium etc. I’m definitely not going to join that “club”.

The transfer boat second before it lost one passenger

Rise and shine to get the boat to Gilli Air. First, we had to get into a much smaller boat from the beach to the bigger boat. It was the smallest dinghy loaded with 6 backpackers and luggage. A small wonder that we did not flip over and sink! On the second run they filled up the small boat with even more people and luggage, and a Danish boy fell off and had to be picked up from the water, we laughed hard and long. The bigger boat was a typical Indonesian narrow boat with a large superstructure that made it less than stable. To make the boat go in a straight line we had to move around so that it was balanced. It was an enjoyable boat trip and we made friends with some English people and a wet Danish boy. Everybody was getting off a Gilli Trawangan, so we thought we might as well do the same and check out that island. On shore we were met by horse carriages, no cars or mopeds on the island, and the carriage we got onboard, they Shanghaied us and drove off to a remote part of the island. I was sure the horse was going to lift off the ground with the weight of the small buggy we sat in, poor horse! After a small argument, the horse man took us back to civilisation and we proceeded with a short shopping around for a room for the night. We found a hotel that looked ok and left our luggage there. The price was 30 kroners (2 dollars). The island itself we thought was a huge let down, very dirty, garbage floating everywhere, structures half torn down. Nothing is clean or tidy. A run-down former has been of a place. I would not recommend this to anyone. The beach is ok but nothing to shout about. Water is crystal clear but there are no corals left and thus no fish since the corals have been destroyed by anchors and dynamite fishing. We will stay here for 1 night and then move on to Gilli Air tomorrow. We spent the evening together with our new friends drinking beer and eating food, first at a bar that had only warm beer. After the warm beer we went to “Rudy’s” who had “free popcorn and a spliffin` good time”. Loud and varied music, free popcorn as advertised. I did not feel very well after a few hours, and we decided to go back to our hotel and room. The flat we got was full of mosquitoes, the bathroom was a disaster area with water overflowing and the mattresses on the bed looked like someone had been murdered on them. I found it very hard to fall asleep, and around midnight the disco next door fired up and blasted music that rattled our teeth. After what seemed like a little eternity without sleep, I started suddenly to vomit like a fountain. I felt ok after. Not sure what caused the projectile vomiting but could well be the shrimps I had earlier. The tooth rattling disco ended at around 3am, then the buzzing of mozzies took over until the roosters found out it was time to get up, just in time to the morning call of the Minaret up the street….. happy to be leaving this hell hole in a few hours.

One of the few photos we took at Gilli Trawangan
11 October, entry from Ørjan, no entry from Tanja

After the most horrible night ever we took a boat to Gilli Air. At the “dock” that was really the beach there were 15 boats, we got told what boat we needed to board. We asked them if they were going to Gilli Air “yeeees” they said, and by now we know that a hesitant yes is an uncertain yes. We asked a few ladies that were on board, and they claimed they were going snorkelling. And when the boat proceeded in a totally different direction that Gilli Air, we had to ask again. “Gilli Air later, first snorkelling” was the answer. I kind of lost my shit, wanting to sleep after a long sleepless night, and having a rabid viking on board was not what they desired, so they took us first to Gilli Air. Same story on the docks with horses and willing transport providers. I left Tanja at the dock with our luggage and searched for the accommodation farthest from any disco I could find. A poor horse and his handler took us to the Indah, and again the accommodation was a let-down, the same as the island. Dirty, filthy, no running water and a non-functioning toilet. We walked around the island to see what it was like, and it was just as disappointing as Gilli Trawangan. We decided to go back to Sengiggi beach the next day. We had heard that the Gilli Islands were paradise from other backpackers, and we are bitterly disappointed. I cannot understand how the locals cannot take care of their environment, dispose of their waste, clean up and make sure the coral reefs survive for the next generation.


12 October 1997, Dharma Hotel, Lombok:
Lying in bed, just relaxing. Fresh from the shower, good bed, Bon Jovi on my Walkman, eating some biscuits and most of all feeling happy about being back in Lombok. Gili islands were a big disappointment! We had pictured some paradise islands, but our experience was that it was dry, full of garbage and just awful. But maybe we’re a bit spoiled? Left Gili Trawangan yesterday after getting almost no sleep at all. We went out with the English girls and the Scot (a doctor), had something to eat and then disco. Left around 11.30 p.m., but the disco was just around the corner from where we stayed, so there was loud music until 3 a.m. Ørjan got sick and had to vomit, which made me feel nauseated as well, had to go to the toilet, but turned when I saw it, dirty as hell! The mosquitos were at us all night, and we woke up with bites all over our bodies – and we’d been so happy about not having had any bites until now. Hope we haven’t managed to get malaria now – the Scot – aca the doctor – said it would take 14 days before it would show, and we’ll be in Australia by then, probably better health care than here. Hopefully we’ll be fine. We were happy to get on the Perama boat to Gili Air, but soon realised there was some misunderstanding. The two lady passengers onboard were on a day trip from Lombok to Gili islands, including snorkelling, lunch, and then a visit to Gili Air. The crew wanted us to snorkel, too on the reefs they stopped at, we tried to explain that we had booked a trip straight to Gili Air only, and although they didn’t speak much English we made ourselves understood and were taken there. As usual there were lots of people wanting us to stay at their place, Ørjan went with one of them on a horse carriage, but when he didn’t like the place, they wanted him to pay for the ride… We booked ourselves into Gili Indah by the harbour since it looked ok – a big bungalow. First impressions can’t always be trusted though, the bathroom looked ok, but the shower didn’t work, the toilet wouldn’t flush and there was no water in the tap, and it was very dirty – hair on the floor, sticky and dusty. We told the receptionist who came over with a dirty cloth and started “cleaning” without any soap or warm water. Lights and fans only worked during certain hours of the day, which no one told us of course. And the price for this was 55,000 rupi per night which is quite expensive around here. We felt cheated, but at least the beds were good, and we got some hours of sleep before we went out to have something to eat. And we had no better experience of the place, ok, the beach is ok, the sea is blue, and there are probably some ok corals, but 10 metres from the beach there was garbage everywhere, which is just so off-putting! We each had a portion of fries before heading for Perama where we booked the trip back to Lombok and Sengigi – we had no wish to stay at Gili at all. Slept until 6.30 a.m., then on the boat at 7. When arriving in Lombok people came running towards us asking if we were with “Perama” and grabbed our luggage when we confirmed. We assumed they were working for Perama, but no – they were “porters” and started to make signs with their hands in front of our faces saying “money”. We’d had enough by then, carried our own bags, which we always do and want to do, and didn’t give any money. Then they were offended and wanted to take our luggage back to the boat. They only wanted a little bit, and are probably poor, but we just don’t like the way things are done, and feel we support the community by paying for transportation, stay, shopping and food, although I did feel bad afterwards. Happy when we arrived in Sengigi again, Ørjan looked around for a place to stay, but we soon realised we just wanted to go back to Dharma. So here we are in a new bungalow costing us around 45,000 rupis per night; comfortable beds, a good bathroom, nice and clean, think we’ll probably stay a few nights before heading back to Bali.

Hand painting the road!

Up at 06:30 to get the boat from Gilli Air to Bangsal at Lombok. When arriving at Bangsal there were hundreds of people at the dock who wanted to “help us” with carrying our backpacks from the boat to the bus. There was a while when both our backpacks disappeared in the chaos, and I had to wrestle my backpack from a man who just took it, I told him to put it back in the boat where he had taken it from, he proceeded with demanding money for dropping the bag back into the boat! Pandemonium! Tanja had similar problems with her bag being kidnapped, and she had to run after a man and tell him to give the bag back, he proceeded to ask where she wanted the bag to be delivered…. And demanding cash. The bus ride from Bangsal to Mataram and Sengiggi was nice. In the mountain we saw monkeys and the local highway patrol who hand painted the stripes on the road!

We had to stop in a small village, and we had a short walk, the kids and elders of the village were so fascinated with Tanja’s blonde hair, she caused quite a stir. And when we said that we both were from Norway, they would not believe that since our complexions are very different. Back at Dharma hotel again and we splurged on a nice hotel room, clean, crisp sheets, working toilet and a nice staff. We will be staying here a while longer.

Local girls facinated by Tanjas hair

Those few days in the Gilli Islands still are some of the most horrendous days on a trip we have ever had. In the 90s everybody who came back from the Gilli Islands said that you just HAD to go there. We guess we came at the end of an era, we can read how dissappointed we were, and we can still feel that.

Ørjan and Tanja 2022

Part 4, back at the beach and leaving Bali with an amoeba

13 October, entry from Ørjan, no entry from Tanja

This day was used to do absolutely nothing! Beach, shade, swim. We decided to rent a car with a driver to take us around the island tomorrow. We had dinner at the local restaurant and met the two English girls we had beers with at Gilli. They were on their way to Bali and then to Australia. We talked for a long while. In the bathroom we had a feisty gecko.

Tanja having a pineapple lunch at the beach

14 October 1997, Dharma Hotel, Lombok:
Getting a bit fed up with Indonesia now, people trying to sell stuff to us all the time, the garbage, being careful with the food. Feeling a bit homesick, too, miss my family, and we’ve only been away for about two weeks. Looking forward to getting back to “civilisation” again, only 10 days to go now. Imagine being able to eat whatever I want to without fear of getting ill, and if we get ill at least we’ll be in a place where the health care works. Both Ørjan and I are struggling with our stomachs now, he hasn’t been to the toilet for days, while I still have diarrhea. Have tried drinking a lot of water the last few days so to avoid dehydration. Not much for the stomach to work with either with a diet consisting of toast, biscuits, overcooked vegetables, rice and fries. Probably should have eaten some meat, raw vegetables, fruit and whole grain bread. Missing a good steak, nice sauce and potatoes, or meatballs, or salmon. Might think twice before going to places like this again, and to embark on such a long journey, only after 14 days it feels like we’ve been away for much longer. Some of the people we’ve met are travelling for about a year – don’t think I could be away such a long time. But – I’m looking so much forward to seeing Australia and New Zealand. Met the English girls from Gili at a restaurant here in Sengigi yesterday, they’re going to Bali, then Australia where they are going to work and stay for more than six months. Developed some photos yesterday, only about NOK 40 (GBP 4), beautiful colours. We went on an excursion today. Called Tor’s “helper” yesterday and arranged to be picked up at 9 a.m. today. We paid around NOK 150 (GBP 15) for the tour which included a jeep with a driver and a guide, and we were back at around 4 p.m. They wanted to take us to places where they made different stuff, probably so they could make us buy stuff, but we told them that was not what we were after, but that we wanted to see beautiful scenery. We drove through Monkey Forest and got some nice pictures of monkeys – a strange sight for a northerner. They wanted food, but didn’t come too close when they realised, we didn’t have any. These monkeys are apparently shyer than the ones in Bali where they run away with people’s sunglasses, cameras etc… We also went to a waterfall, which was nice, but we have so many of beautiful ones in Norway. Foolishly we climbed down the path to the waterfall, not considering that the climb back for slightly untrained, half sick Norwegians in 40 degrees Celsius and scorching midday sun, without bringing any water was not such a good idea. Out of breath, exhausted from the heat and lack of water we got back, and only felt better after some fries and water for lunch… Lunch was a strange experience, the driver’s food was put on our receipt, while the guide didn’t eat anything at all – maybe we were expected to ask if he wanted lunch? Hopefully Tor would have told us if that was the case, we’re not familiar with the customs. Don’t think we’ll go on any more of these excursions, probably rather rent a car ourselves, or check if Star Tour has any tours in Bali that we can book, I think someone I worked with in Italy had worked in Bali and longed to go back. Maybe we’ll stay here for another two-three days before going to Padangbai, the English girls said it was worthwhile going there – nice snorkelling, and then heading off to Kuta. 25 October is the magical date – when we leave for Australia – feels like the promised land to us now.

Ørjan with locals

Ana picked us up at 09:00 and drove us to Mataram to look at a Hindu temple. We were not wildly impressed. We drove to the monkey forest, and it had a lot of monkeys in and along the road. We drove north to the foot of the volcanic mount Rinjani with its 3726 metres peak. You could trek for around 3-4 days up the mountain to look into the crater with its lake who has a small active volcano in the middle of it! We only had a short trek to a waterfall; it was hard enough in the stifling heat. We found out that we could just as well have driven ourselves, there is not that much traffic on the island if you avoid Mataram. We tried a new restaurant. After having ordered squid with sweet and sour sauce, I got prawns. The waiter said he had written down shrimps, so I had ordered shrimps, end of discussion. Tanja got what she wanted for once, and she was happy! My mixed fruit juice, without banana, tasted almost entirely of banana. They had forgotten to say that the juice I had ordered was sold out, so they gave me a banana shake instead. Good thing I was not allergic. I said that I would not pay for the juice, the waiter said “yeees” and of course we had to pay for the juice. We are dreaming of bloody steaks and chips instead off all that frikkin` rice! We are looking forward to Australia.

15 October, entry from Ørjan, no entry from Tanja

Sitting in the shade reading a full day, followed by the shits in the evening. We have decided to go to Bali on Saturday, possibly to stay a few days in Padang Bay or Ubud.

16 October, entry from Ørjan, no entry from Tanja

Beach day! And suddenly…. We decided at the dinner table to go to Australia as soon as possible. We first had to find out if the clothes we had delivered to the cleaners could be ready the next morning. I had to check if my films were going to be developed in time, and the owner of the shop promised to bring them to our hotel in the morning. Exchanged some traveller’s cheques after a bit of debate after I had forgotten my passport as ID and brought Tanja’s travellers cheques. We booked ticket to go to Kuta Beach the next day. My developed photos came to our room that same evening, great! Bags packed and alarm clock ready!


17 October 1997, Kuta Beach Club, Bali:
I’m ill and feeling very sorry for myself, as well as being a bit nervous. The feeling that I’m about to vomit has returned, might be from the malaria pills. Haven’t experienced this and the heavy breathing since Bangkok and the first couple of days here, so thought it had passed. Weird feeling around my throat, neck and chest, and ears. Hope it will pass. Going to the toilet a lot, and vomiting, but probably got myself to blame. We’ve been on the go again, from Lombok to Bali with Perama, arrived in Kuta around 6 p.m., although we were told we would be here at 4.30 p.m. The only thing we’d eaten was some toast for breakfast, and we hardly had anything to drink to avoid going to the dirty toilet on the ferry. In addition, we were “smart” and spent three hours on deck in the midday sun without a hat and almost without sunscreen. As could be expected, I felt quite exhausted before we had got halfway, and towards the end of the trip I discovered some red patches on my body that started to sting, the bladder started to feel like it was about to burst even without anything to drink, and I was sweating heavily. The bus ride from Padangbai to Kuta was an ordeal, even if it felt good to be back in Bali with green rice fields, beautiful temples and statues and more people. When we finally arrived in Kuta we had some problems locating the hotel and the agent that Kilroy works with. Wandered about a bit, which doesn’t feel too good when you’re tired and not feeling well, when you feel you don’t exactly smell like roses, and when you’re so sweaty it looks like you’ve just showered – in addition you’re carrying a big backpack and a smaller one in front. Finally located the place, but couldn’t rebook our tickets today, we’ll try again tomorrow, hopefully we can go to Australia sooner, maybe already tomorrow. We agreed that we don’t want to just try and make time pass here any longer, we both long for a bit more civilised environment, without people trying to sell us stuff all the time, new experiences, nice food and access to good doctors. A bit sad that we don’t get to see more of Bali, but the way I’m feeling right now there’s no point in staying here, think I’ll feel much safer in Australia. Nice guy at the travel agency, wanted to help us find a cheaper place to stay than the one we’d booked, and when Ørjan showed his business card and letter of recommendation he got us a room for only USD 25. Although it didn’t feel that money really mattered right then, we just needed to go to a place where we could have a shower and relax. Didn’t really want to leave the hotel room, but realised we needed some food. We had spotted Pizza Hut on our way in to Kuta, and boy did that look tempting! So, we went there and had a feast of garlic toast, pizza, coke and juice. Maybe too much, too fast, because I got rid of it all as soon as I got back to the room… And that after craving some familiar western food for a while… Met a nice couple from England on the Perama bus and had a good time with them on the ferry, but as usual they were taking a different route from us; to Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand.
The last few days in Sengigi we had our normal routine; beach, relaxation, reading, shopping, eating, and getting annoyed at all the sellers… But some of them are quite sweet, our friend with the rastas, has joined us every day for a chat, without trying to sell us anything, and even brought us a coconut for some coconut milk. We wanted to leave our floatable mattress for him, but we left early in the morning, so left it in the reception at Dharma, hopefully he gets it. 

Back on the ferry to Bali with fellow backpackers

Fresh faced and ready for an early start we got up at 07:00 for a banana sandwich breakfast as a batch of freshly ironed t shirts was delivered at the door. The ferry left Mataram at 11:00 and we settled on deck with a couple of British backpackers. Bus from Padang Bay to Kuta Beach took forever! We used a long time to locate the travel agency we needed to change our departure date from Bali. They could not help us that late since the Quantas office was closed. We must come back tomorrow and hope there are seats available. We both got sunburned from sitting on the deck of the ferry, rookie mistake in the wind! Tanja got scorched. Pizza Hut for dinner. Back at the hotel room Tanja said hello to the pizza again. I killed a cockroach the size of a loaf of bread. We are looking so much forward to OZ!

18 October, entry from Ørjan, no entry from Tanja

We got new departure date, not so quick as we hoped, we must wait until 20th for our flight to Darwin. Tanja has taken a turn for the worse, and we must change hotels, since Kuta Beach Club is fully booked. Lots of sweating and walking to find a new hotel not far from Kuta Beach Club, and we could move straight I to our 35-dollar room, and we did. Tanja spent the rest of the day in bed feeling awful, I stayed in as well.

19 October, entry from Ørjan, no entry from Tanja

Slept in. Tanja still not feeling well. After moving out of the room we stayed in the reception, it has aircon. I went on a small shopping expedition, bought a pair of pants and a surfer hat. Took some pictures at Kuta Beach and lost my ring from Rome in the sand. After 12 hours wait in a reception area, we headed to the airport and our flight to Darwin, Australia.

We are both a bit ashamed for being not so nice about some of our experiences in Bali and Lombok and being on the verge of rude to the people. We were disappointed about how the people handled their thrash, not caring about the environment and how they always wanted something from us. We now know that this was our reaction to a foreign culture, and even though we tried to explain many times that we could not afford 5 sarongs since we were on a budget trip, we probably had more money than most of the locals we met. We have also realized over the years that we like more “western” destinations, call it the familiar side of the world, so we are not overly adventurous even though we like to travel to new places. We have since this visit never been back to either Bali or Lombok, but we still remember that straw hut on the beach with fondness, and we still talk about that night in that hell hole in Gilli Trawangan. And we also found the reason for Tanja not feeling so well those last days in Lombok and Bali, she had caught the giardia stomach amoeba, and it really makes you sick. We have never been back to Bali or Lombok since.

Ørjan and Tanja 2022

Part 5, Australia! Going to the red centre

20 October, entry from Ørjan, no entry from Tanja

Flight to Darwin was good but no sleep. At Darwin airport we got a shuttle bus to city Centre. We checked into a backpacker’s hotel double room since Tanja was still feeling unwell. We slept for a while until they shut off the aircon in the middle of the day, if we thought Bali was hot, it was nothing compared to Darwin! We went to a doctor and Tanja got some pills to feed her stomach amoeba. She had caught giardia while in Indonesia, so a handful of monster sized pills needed to be taken. Rest of the day in bed, and we caught a movie in the evening, Contact, great film!


21 October 1997, Melaleuca Lodge, Darwin, Australia:
Not feeling well – tired of being ill. Went to the doctor yesterday and got some pills for stomach-ache and nausea. Feel numb in my face, arms and legs, my whole body feels tired, my chest is aching. Went for a walk, but my whole body was shivering, so had to go back to rest. Sick of this. Want to get well.


Tanja stayed in our room. I walked to a travel agency that cooperates with Kilroy in Norway and talked to them and got to send some emails home for free! I also talked to Margot at Northern Territory Adventure Tours who gave us a good offer on a 6-day trip to Alice Springs for 400 Australian dollars for the both of us! Rest of the day was spent with Tanja watching TV.

The Stuart Highway becons

22 October 1997, Melaleuca Lodge, Darwin, Australia:
Finally starting to feel better! Hope it’s not temporary, but that I’ll get well and stay well. Never felt so weak and helpless before. Wanted to go back to Norway but didn’t know how to muster the strength to do that either. Ørjan has been so kind, helpful and understanding. Felt that I’ve ruined his vacation, too, haven’t had the strength to do anything. He’s been shopping, walked around on his own, made food and looked after me. My wonderful boyfriend! He’s also managed to book us on a nice tour – we’re leaving on Friday for a six-day safari from Darwin via Katherine Gorge and Alice Springs to Ayers Rock, the Olgas and Kings Canyon. He gets the tour for free, while I pay around NOK 2000 (GBP 200), but we’ll get refund for about the same amount for the flight tickets from Darwin to Alice Springs that we won’t be using, so the tour will cost us almost nothing, and food is included! I’m looking so much forward to this trip, so much better than just going by plane! If only I get completely well, I’ll be even more happy. Only got one day left in Darwin, sadly I haven’t seen anything at all, but don’t think there’s that much to see either. About 70,000 people live here, but you wouldn’t think so judging by the size of the centre, doesn’t feel any bigger than Fredrikstad. Quiet and laid back. And best of all; no sellers wanting to sell stuff no matter where we go. My/our patience was starting to get pretty low the last days in Indonesia. Don’t think I’ll go back, maybe just to see a bit more of Bali, which we sadly didn’t get to see much of, upon arrival we were really tired, then went on to Lombok, and when we returned, I was ill, and we just wanted to go to Australia.
Today we’ve eaten kangaroo! And milk and whole grain bread – it was so good! Boiled potatoes and gravy also tasted great, and the kangaroo almost tasted like game at home. Ørjan made it himself in the kitchen at the lodge. Very convenient that we can buy food and cook ourselves. We have fridge in the room too, but no shower or toilet. But that’s ok – both are situated right across the hall.

Tasty kangaroo!

Slept in. When Tanja was about to take the last 4 pills of her cure, she puked them straight up again. Had to go to the doctor again to get new pills. At the same time, he gave me a cure as well, just to be on the safe side. For dinner we had filet of kangaroo, it tasted a bit like moose but a bit finer and more tender. We proceeded to order the 6-day trip to Alice Springs and Ayers Rock.

23 October, entry from Ørjan, no entry from Tanja

I woke up with a feeling like I was starting to get a cold. We went past the travel agency to cancel our flight from Darwin to Alice Springs since we now would be doing this overland by bus. We also rebooked Alice Springs to Cairns for the 30th of October. At the travel agency we found out that the imbeciles at Quantas in Bali had us as NO Show from Bali to Darwin, this resulting in cancellation of the next 2 legs in Australia. Thankfully they had not cancelled our Sydney to Christchurch ticket or any other flights. Luckily there were 2 seats left from Alice Springs to Cairns on the 31st of October. I need to rapport this to Quantas when I get back home!

24 October, entry from Ørjan, no entry from Tanja
First marsupial spotted!

Up at 05:00 to get to the bus departing at 06:00. After lunch we got to Katherine Gorge, a series of gorges filled with water. We stayed at a tented camp, small 2-man tents with a BBQ area. We had a very nice boat ride up the gorge. And we had time to go for a swim in waters that supposedly only had freshwater crocodiles and they only nibble your feet. The trip in the gorge was amazing. The rockface climbing 65 metres straight up above us. In the wet season the water rises by 5-7 metres. On our way back to the tents we saw the cutest wallabies grazing on the lawn, we could almost pet them! My first marsupial. Back at camp we had a delish BBQ with beers. It was around 40 degrees Celsius in the daytime, and it did not feel like much less at night. After dark even more wallabies came to graze, we got some great photos we hope. After battling with an army of ants that had occupied our tent, we tried to sleep but it was difficult due to high temperature and strange noises from wallabies and kookaburras outside our tent.


25 October 1997, Renner Springs, somewhere between Darwin and Alice Springs, Australia:
Never thought I’d get to experience this! We’ve just been told by our driver/guide Jaime how to use our swags, i.e., a kind of mattress/sleeping bag, and at the same time he recommended us to open them slowly and ensure that no snakes had taken shelter in them… We’re in the middle of the desert, a place with lots of snakes that we’ve been warned of, the most poisonous of them all could be in the bushes right next to us… Strangely I don’t feel that scared, but I might not be able to sleep tonight, under a canvas on the ground, in the open, together with the other people on the tour. We’ve been on the bus a lot today, left Katherine this morning at around 7.30 a.m. after getting up at around 6. Tired then, had only just fallen asleep after lying in a small tent that was so hot, I could almost bathe in my own sweat. Plus, I was thinking of all the animals that might get into the tent, and tonight I’m sleeping in open air… We were only on the road for about an hour before arriving in Mataranka – a place with thermal pools – with a temperature of about 27 degrees Celsius.

Not very cooling in other words, so I skipped the whole thing. What was interesting, though, were all the sounds in the forest around the pools, a cacophony of noise. And when we looked up to the trees there were hundreds, maybe thousands of flying foxes, a big bat species. The fauna here is just extraordinary; yesterday we were close enough to pet a wallaby, or actually several, they were almost tame, probably because we were at a camping site, and they are used to people – luckily we got some photos. We were also swimming in Katherine Gorge, and a bit later, about 50 metres from where we were swimming, the guide on the boat trip we were on pointed out a crocodile to us. Luckily it was only a freshie that only get to about three metres long and is apparently not dangerous to people, but still… Katherine Gorge was beautiful, several lakes in a row between high ravines – almost as Grand Canyon I imagine.

The water had an almost green-like colour. The place we were swimming reminded me of a small, quiet lake at home, only with very different vegetation, palm trees, eucalyptus etc. There were warning signs stating it was forbidden to go ashore on certain beaches because the crocodiles laid their eggs there for hatching. We left Darwin early yesterday morning, and stopped at Adelaide River for breakfast before arriving in Katherine at about 11.30 a.m. One of the largest towns between Darwin and Alice Springs only had one street going through, I think: the Stuart Highway. Bought something to drink at Woolworths and went to Katherine Gorge where we chose a tent to stay in, had some lunch, and went down to the lake. We went swimming, and then for a cruise. Ate dinner and got to know the other 25 people on the trip, went to bed at around 11 p.m., pretty tired, but great fun to be part of a trip like this! Get to know a lot of people and see/learn a lot more than if we had only travelled on our own. Although there isn’t that much to see along Stuart Highway, a lot of dirt, trees, dirt and trees… But interesting to see how desolate it is! Will soon have dinner, the little weight I’ve lost while being ill, will soon get back I’m afraid.

The Stuart Highway belle

After a long and clammy night and some rain we got rudely awakened at 06:00 for breakfast. Back at the bus down the epic Stuart Highway towards Alice Springs. We stopped at the Mataranka hot springs for a swim in the crystal-clear water. Thousands of flying foxes hung upside down in the trees above making a huge racket. We ate lunch at Daly Waters, population 70 in the middle of nowhere.

We stopped for the night at Renner Springs where we had our first night in Swags. A kind of canvas sleeping bag thing, very Australian. We had to check the swags for snakes before we crawled into them, this could be an interesting night!

26 October, entry from Ørjan, no entry from Tanja

It was a horrible night! My cold had bloomed, and my head hurt like hell. I was a little nervous for those snakes, so after trying to sleep in the swag, I went into the bus and caught a restless sleep for a few hours in a bus seat. We ate breakfast as usual and drove to the Devils Marbles, rocks that look like giant eggs. The Aboriginals of the area think that these are eggs from the Rainbow serpent. We had lunch at an old telegraph station. Remember that most aboriginals do not like us taking pictures of them, they think that this removes some of their spirit. So, best be avoided. We got to Alice Springs and those who travelled on an OZ Experience bus pass left us after a farewell dinner at Melanka lodge. We got an OK room but without aircon it was hotter than a baking oven! At least we got our first shower in a few days.

Seems like we were both happy to be in a more “westernized” country, even though Tanja had a rough time getting over her amoeba stomach alien. We took no prictures in Darwin for some reason. Australia was a dream come true, and in the following weeks we had some of our greatest experiences in the wonderful down under.

Ørjan and Tanja 2022

Part 6, Kings Canyon, climbing Uluru and walking with giants in the Kata Tjutas

27 October, entry from Ørjan, no entry from Tanja

On the 27th we had an early start to start the second leg of our 6-day trip. We were just 18 people in a smaller bus with Steve as our guide. We found out that this leg was way more informative and interesting that the previous 3 days. Our camp was at Kings Creek Cattle station. A much finer camp than the previous nights with large tents and a nice camping area. We got some time to settle in and relax after the drive from Alice Springs. In the afternoon we drove to Kings Canyon for a short trek, standing on the edge of that canyon was nothing short of spectacular! After peering into the abyss, we walked to the Garden of Eden, an oasis in one of the canyons. We had a refreshing bath in a small pond of fresh spring water. The walk back was long and essential was good shoes. When we got to the bus our knees where sore and our feet likewise. Back in camp we had BBQed chicken and beer. Sunset was epic.


28 October 1997, Ayers Rock Resort, Australia:
Sitting in the dining room, relaxing. Soon to depart to watch the sun set over Ayers Rock. Quite incredible – a cliff rising more than 300 metres in an otherwise flat landscape. We’re supposed to climb it tomorrow, but after having seen the path today I don’t know if I dare. It was literally going straight up on the steep cliff wall. And after walking in military boots both yesterday and today I’ve got a lot of blisters that hurt. Maybe I’ll just stay around the base of the cliff tomorrow. Today we were at the Olgas, or Kata Tjuta, as it’s called in the Aboriginal language, meaning “many heads”. All these places are sacred to the Aboriginals, believing that the spirits of their ancestors dwell there. The Olgas were as impressive as Ayers Rock, consisting of several peaks. From a distance apparently, they look like a reclining Homer Simpson. Didn’t manage to walk more than three kilometres today due to the blisters, but what I saw was very nice. But also, very hot! The heat here is almost unbearable, the same goes for the flies – they constantly buzz around your face.

Last day of camping for now, both sleeping outdoors and in tents, getting up early, feeling sweaty and dirty almost all the time has not been a problem, rather a new and exciting experience. Still, looking forward to getting to a hotel room with aircon, a shower and toilet (hopefully). Yesterday we hiked 6 kilometres in steep terrain in Kings Canyon – beautiful! Swam in a waterhole about halfway – very refreshing! Left Alice Springs quite early, stopped for lunch at a pub in the middle of nowhere along Stuart Highway.


It was another early start to drive to Kata Tjuta or The Olgas as the foreign invaders called them. Kata Tjuta can be seen from Ayers Rock or Uluru in local aboriginal language. Equally as impressive these stone formations look like alien spaceships that have landed in the arid desert. The local aborigines think that they are heads of ancestral beings who created the world, thus a sacred place. We had a great walk among the enormous rock massive, Tanja had blisters on her feet, so she had to turn around halfway. My first encounter with the Australian flies! They will drive you mad! Argh! After a 6-kilometre trek in scorching heat, the wind felt like a hairdryer on full tilt, the flies getting in my face constantly, I had blisters on both my feet, beer! Now! After we returned to camp we walked to a lookout with great views of the setting sun, Ayers Rock and the Olgas. The setting sun behind the Olgas made Ayers Rock change colour from bright red to dark red to almost purple. Amazing! Hamburgers and salad for dinner!

Sunset at Ayers Rock
29 October, entry from Ørjan, no entry from Tanja

Had to get up at 04:00 and drive to Ayers Rock at 05:00 to get to see the sun rise from the top of the rock itself. Tanja decided not to climb due to her blisters. When we got to the foot of the rock it was pitch black, and we started to climb with only small torches to light our path. First part of the climb was incredibly steep with only a chain to hold on to, the drop on each side felt sheer and it was pure horror. I was scared and nervous and exhausted after a few hundred metres. The walk is about 45 minutes, and by walk, I mean mostly climb. It was tough as hell! I was unsure on the way if I would get to the top by sunrise, the elevation from bottom to top is 340 metres in about 1,4 kilometres. After a few breaks I was sure I was at the top, but it was a false summit, I settled at the false summit and the sun rose behind Mt Connor and the feeling and views were indescribable. I have never felt this before, to sit on top of Ayers Rock and see the infinite landscape being illuminated by the rising sun was epic! I could see for miles and miles as the wind picked up, and I laid down on my back and felt the earth beneath me and the wind howl in my ears, magical. I took a few pictures, and I felt very sad that Tanja was not with me, her feet too blistered to follow me up to the top. The trek down was even longer than I imagined. Now that I could see the surroundings, I saw the mass of people now scrambling up the incline we had passed earlier. They looked just as tired and scared as I probably had coming up. It did not help that my cold was still bugging me. When I came down to ground level again, I could see the antlike people still climbing above me, and I could see how steep and sheer the drop off each side of the path was. There had been several fatalities with people falling off the path and they said that a guide had died a few weeks before, trying to retrieve a cap that one of his guests had lost.

We had a trek around the base of Ayers Rock, we saw cave paintings, a water source that never ran dry even in the driest of times. The sandstone of Ayers Rock is like a sponge and soaks up any moisture from the ground and deposits the lifesaving drops in springs around the rock itself. No wonder this is a very sacred place for the local aboriginals. There are many sacred places among the rocks at the base, but we were not allowed to take pictures at those sites. There are sacred spaces for men and women. The women would gather the food, roots, and grubs. Different groups had different languages, they think that there are/were around 250 different tribes and 750 dialects in Australian Aboriginal society. To become a man, you had to pass an initiation rite that meant you could be wandering the land for up to 10 years before you were allowed back to the tribe. They had to follow song lines that were sung by the ancestral beings, and they had to find and follow their own totem animal, it could be a kangaroo or a wombat, a totem animal that was then considered a brother that you could not eat, but you could participate in the hunt. You were taught the ancient ways by your elders since your parents still were young and could partake in hunts and other activities that demanded physical strength. We walked via the visitor’s centre on the way back to camp, we packed our gear and ate lunch.

500 kilometres back to Alice Springs, it was a long ride. When we got back to Melanka lodge we had a small argument with the management, we had a free room, and we wanted aircon and shower in the room, we won luckily and got a nice room with all amenities. To shower off all that sweat and red dirt was heaven after days in a tent. In the evening we had a farewell dinner with our fellow travellers to Ayers Rock. Kangaroo and camel BBQ meat with salad. Beers and wine and slept like a log.


30 October 1997, Melanka Hotel, Alice Springs, Australia:
So nice – feeling rested, relaxed and clean. It’s 10.30 a.m., have been up since 9. Got here last night around 6 p.m., the receptionist didn’t quite believe that we had two nights free stay in the hostel, and it became more confusing when we asked to pay for the upgrade to a motel room. However, instead we were given a family deluxe room with a double bed, bunks, a dining room, fridge/minibar, TV and separate shower, toilet and bathroom – all for free! Finally got a whole night’s sleep, the last nights I’ve probably only slept for about two-three hours. Yesterday we were going to get up at 4 a.m. but woke up around 2 a.m. from a sound coming from the tent zipper – sounded like something tried to get into our tent. Didn’t dare to go and have a look, and imagined all kinds of stuff, snakes, spiders etc. Asked someone to check from the outside before we got up, and it was only a big grasshopper… Left camp at around 5 a.m. and drove to the base of Ayers Rock, where everyone except three others and myself climbed the rock. The four of us instead went for a
9-kilometre hike around the cliff, we got to see a beautiful sunrise, but would much rather have been on the top. Looked like a strenuous hike – 1.6 kilometres on a very steep path to the top, pitch dark when they set off. Worried about Ørjan, happy to see him when he’d finished the hike – everything went well. He was beaming – something he’d been wanting to do for a long time, so well pleased that he’d managed the hike – I think it was a great achievement! After the hike the guide Steve took us on a short walk, telling us about the Aboriginals’ attachment to Ayers Rock. We also visited a cultural centre. Then back to camp, packed up our stuff, had lunch and started on our five-hour bus ride back to Alice Springs. Met up in the evening for dinner consisting of camel meat and kangaroo meatballs – not something I’ll have again, I think. Had some drinks with the others before heading off to bed at around 11 p.m. – knackered. Felt great to go to sleep in a nice, soft bed in a cool airconditioned room. Sad to say goodbye to the others – it’s been so nice travelling with them. Glad the camping trip is over, but it has been really exciting!

The intrepid crew!

Used the day to relax and do some shopping.


31 October 1997, Melanka Hotel, Alice Springs, Australia:
Sitting in the backyard by the swimming pool feeling a bit cold. Strange feeling, since setting out on this journey more than a month ago I’ve been sweating, sweating, sweating. There was heavy rain and thunder last night, and we were cold when we went out to find something to eat. Thought it would be warmer today, but even the wind feels a bit cool – almost like a Norwegian summer’s day, and I like it! Had to locate my warm sweater. Have just finished writing some post cards, nice to just relax for a bit, doing nothing. Our flight leaves at 7 p.m., hopefully we’ll arrive in Cairns around 10 p.m. We’ll travel together with the Danish girls and have already booked a room. Very excited to see what the north-eastern coast has to offer. This is a nice and quiet place, almost no traffic, few people, and no pushy sellers. Was at an opal jewellery store earlier and bought a nice necklace for gran. The store’s walls were filled with autographed photos of celebrities that had been to the store. When the owner discovered that I was a Bon Jovi fan he ran into the back of the store and returned with a plectrum with Jon Bon Jovi’s initials, which he’d been given by BJ’s personal assistant (the owner’s best friend apparently) on last week’s concert in Australia. Got a kiss on the cheek on my way out. Bought a blue-stone ring for myself at another shop. Last night we brought take-away from Pizza Hut to the hotel room, relaxed in front of the telly with “The Saint”, and had some nachos with dip for dessert – guilty pleasures… Talked to mum who said we’d received a 700 NOK (GBP 70) phone bill – most of it from Indonesia – forgot how expensive it was to make calls from there…

The Red Centre of Australia was totally spectacular; it moves your soul and you heart. Climbing Uluru is now banned, and has been for many years, due to the sanctity of the whole area. Even when Ørjan climbed it, there were cautions that this was a little rude to the local aboriginal tribe, but you could climb if you felt like it was ok. Ørjan still remembers this as totally lethal in the dark but also an experience for life. We loved the red centre, so much so, that a few years later in 2004 we came back and did a 3-week trip in swags from Darwin to Perth through the great state of Western Australia seeing fantastic gorges, the Bungle Bungles and we swam with manta rays and millions of fishes at the Ningaloo reef.

Ørjan and Tanja 2022
Ørjan at the top of Ayers Rock, thank you sponsor Kilroy Travels!

Part 7, Cairns, Cape Tribulation and the Daintree Rainforest

1 November, entry from Ørjan, no entry from Tanja

Australian motels have early check outs! Before 10:00 is normal. We used our time after checkout to lounge by the pool. Flight took off at 19:15 and it took 2 hours to Cairns. We met two Danish girls called Rikke and Pernille and we shared a cab to Caravellas 149 since the free pickup shuttle was full. The lady at the motel counter was possibly and old hippie and she had possibly had too many hits from the bong. She was a character for sure. We paid 34 dollars for a double room with discount. Small and claustrophobic rooms but clean and tidy.

We were walking to Cairn’s city centre to visit the travel agent that cooperated with my travel agency. We had hoped that they would offer us some activities at discounted rates but no such luck. Too bad! We ended up walking around Cairns, a nice town. Tanja bought a small new backpack and a pair of shoes. I delivered some photos to be developed. I was in several didgeridoo shops to see how much it would cost to buy one. The prices were half of those in Alice Springs, less than 100 dollars for a nice one. I bought one at 90 dollars and it cost 110 dollars to ship it to Norway.

Ørjan with didjeridoo, never really mastered that instrument….

It will hopefully be waiting for me at the post office when I get back home. We discussed if we should take a trip to Cape Tribulation. In the evening we met Rikke and Pernille, and they had already booked a trip there on Sunday morning for 3 days and 2 nights at 79 dollars. We decided to do the same and travel with them. We wanted to be back in Cairns on Tuesday evening since the OZ Experience bus leaves on Thursday mornings. It will give us a day to pick up photos and sent them back home to Norway on Wednesday. We spent the evening with our Danish friends.


2 November 1997, Crocodillos, close to Cape Tribulation, Australia:
Arrived in Cairns the day before yesterday, went by taxi from the airport, which we got a refund for from the hostel we stayed at, Caravellas 149 on the Esplanade. Met by a somewhat peculiar lady in the reception who was blathering, wanting to tell us everything at once, we were tired and just wanted to go to bed. Paid AUD 34 for a tiny room with no sink, shower or toilet, I wanted to leave straight away – it felt claustrophobic, but funnily enough I slept really well, and so we booked the same room for one more night – at least it was quiet… Went for a short walk along the Esplanade – the street along the sea – reminded me of typical tourist destination in the south of Europe, lots of hotels, restaurants, snack bars and pubs. Got up around 8.30 a.m. yesterday and didn’t get back until around 4 p.m. – went for a stroll around the town. Cairns is much bigger than both Darwin and Alice Springs, but still not a big city. Laid back atmosphere, nice along the sea, no beach really, but a nice harbour, and a beautiful back drop with mountains covered by rain forest surrounding the town. Ørjan finally bought a didgeridoo, cost AUD 90, plus another 110 in shipping cost. He tried to play in the store, and with a bit more practice I’m sure he’ll manage to scare the neighbours back home…

Cape Tribulation

I bought a new small backpack for AUD 49, very practical with many pockets, and a new hat and a net to keep the flies away from my face. Bought a ring for AUD 4 at the market – similar stone as the jewellery I got from mum from Cyprus. Returning to the hotel we met the Danish couple Tim and Johanne, and went with them, Rikke and Pernille to a night club where you could get free food as long as you bought a mug of wine or beer which cost AUD 6 – good deal! Had nachos which were really good – can’t say the same about the red wine. Also booked another tour which we are on now, from Cairns to Cape Tribulation – a bit further north along the coast. Paid AUD 79 for transport and 2 nights’ accommodation – very cheap compared to other tours. Checked with the travel agency Kilroy is cooperating with if we could get some good deals, but there was no one there with the authority to promise anything, so will go back on Monday. Left 7.45 a.m. from Cairns and had a couple of stops before reaching our destination. Drove along a beautiful stretch of coast – the only place the rain forest goes all the way down to the sea. The guide was very informative and spoke a lot about the rain forest, many of the same species grow here now as 150 million years ago. Rain forests cover only 6 per cent of the world’s area but contain more than 60 per cent of all vegetation – no wonder why it will be a disaster if it disappears. Was on a boating trip on Daintree River – looking for crocodiles, but with the current heat they tend to keep under water and are rarely to be seen, so we’ve still not seen any crocodiles – too bad!

No crocs!

Here in Crocodillos we stay at “Silky Oaks” – in a dorm for 20 persons, Ørjan and I have a bunk bed each, we’re not very picky anymore regarding where we stay, so I’m pretty sure I’ll sleep well tonight. We’ve been on the “Orange Walk” – a small path through the rainforest. Packed with different trees, plants and flowers, and we also encountered a wild boar family. Felt a bit anxious with two big ones and a baby on the path in front of us, and one big one behind us, but all went well. We also saw some birds, a lizard, a turtle and a possum – looked like a mix of a rat and a kangaroo. I startled as it jumped up beside me by the dorm, hadn’t seen it was there. Have bought some spaghetti and sauce, which we’ll cook soon – cheap food for four people.


We are getting to be professionals at getting up early. 06:30 to get the bus to Cape Tribulation. The driver was the talkative kind. We drove into the oldest rainforest in the world, it was so lush and green! We were to spend the night at Crocodylas some place in the middle of the rainforest. It was perfectly placed and camouflaged in the forest. We spent the night in a 20-person dorm room. The romance! We went for a walk in the forest. We saw wild pigs, a chicken that makes huge mounds of twigs and leaves. Lots of turtles and a couple of bandicots, a cross between a wallaby and a rat. The vegetation was awesome, and we saw the “wait-a-while” shrub, so called because of its sharp spikes and if you get stuck in one, it takes a while to get unstuck. We did an alligator cruise, we saw no crocodiles, it was too hot. We played Trivial Pursuit in the evening and went to bed early. The amount of sounds emanating from the forest surrounding our dorm was just deafening! I got chilly and a bit damp during the night, so I was glad I had an extra blanket with me. Tomorrow we will travel to PK’s Jungle Village closer to the coast at Cape tribulation. And a possum broke into my backpack during the night and nibbled at my soap.


3 November 1997, PK’s Jungle Resort, Cape Tribulation, Australia:
What a lovely day! A bit boring and some time to kill before we were picked up at 12.30 p.m. to go here, but that was all forgotten when we got here! A bit sad we didn’t know how nice this place is, we could have stayed two 2 nights here instead. Surrounded by rain forest here as well, and the beach at Cape Tribulation is so beautiful – fine white sand which almost feels like snow, and by the sea it’s hard, so easy to walk along. Not many people here, and no sellers to hustle us. The rain forest reaches the beach, it’s so scenic! Wouldn’t mind staying here for a week, but we have no time for that of course. Will try and rebook our tickets to try and stay one more week in Australia. The Oz Experience bus stops at some prescheduled places whether we want to or not, so we’ll probably be spending some time in places we wouldn’t necessarily have visited otherwise. Anyway – we’d much rather stay here for another week, than two weeks in Tonga. Tonight we’ll stay in a dorm with eight beds – an improvement from last night’s 20 beds. Don’t really mind, I slept well last night, although I was a bit cold and had to get into Ørjan’s bed for a while. A pity that it’s not safe to swim here, there might be box jellyfish – the most toxic animal in the world, which can kill you in matter of seconds. A group were horse riding in the sea – looked so nice, wish I had booked a tour too, maybe I’ll get the chance in New Zealand? Trying to save some money at the moment – they seem to vanish very quickly – this is almost as expensive as at home…

Beach at Cape Tribulation

After a long and quite surprisingly cold night we had to check out at 09:30. We sat around until 12:30 when the bus arrived. PK’s is next to Cape Tribulation. When we arrived, we regretted not booking 2 nights there instead of stopping at Crocodylas on the way. PK’s had the same jungle location but livelier vibe and a stunning beach just below the compound. They have a large pool and a sand volleyball pit. We spent the afternoon relaxing at the beach. There were people snorkelling, but we opted not to do this since there was a chance for the deadly box jellyfish in these waters this time of year. We just waded and had a swim in the pool instead. We got booked seats with OZ Experience from Cairns but since the ride down to Townsville takes more than 30 hours we are wondering if we should rent a car or take a train or flight since we are running a bit behind our schedule. We have found that the drawback with OZ Experience is that they use many hours on short stretches of road. If you are in a hurry that is not so good. For example, you use from 08:00 to 16:00 on a short 100 kilometres stretch from Cairns to Mission Beach. We are also contemplating to change our departure from Australia with one extra week here, and to cut a week at Tonga. Maybe we will because we love Australia so far!

4 November, entry from Ørjan, no entry from Tanja

It was a pleasant night’s sleep even though it was a dorm and snoring were all over the place. After breakfast we wanted to walk up to Cape Tribulation Beach, but Tanja was a bit grumpy, and she stayed behind. It was a short hike, and the beach was like the one at PK’s. Bus back to Cairns was once again driven by a loony local driver who looked like he could play bass in ZZ Top. He drove like a maniac and played loud music, what a character! After having visited a tropical fruit farm and the Mossmann Gorge we came back to Cairns and checked into our motel. We used a free voucher to get a free meal with purchase of a beer at The Beach bar. We also found that we could get a Greyhound ticket to Townsville for 22 dollars as a night bus, we could book that and save a night’s accommodation.

5 November, entry from Ørjan, no entry from Tanja

My cold got worse in the night. I got a high fever and my head hurts like hell. We decided that a trip to the doctors would be wise. I got a good check; I had a sinus infection and got some antibiotics that would sort this out. We also took a blood sample to check if we had contracted malaria in Asia and got told by the nurse that Chlorokin we took was worthless and old fashioned as a contraceptive against malaria. While I was with the nurse getting my blood drawn, I noticed a commotion in my fevered state. Tanja had passed out during the blood draw and was now carried by two orderlies to a bed in an adjacent room. Nice job from the both of us. We were allowed to keep our room to 12:00 due to our sickness and we took a courtesy bus to the Greyhound terminal where we stored our luggage. We picked up the photos we had developed and sent them home by mail. We walked around the promenade and saw pelicans and had pasta with Rikke and Pernille. To pass time we went to the cinema and saw “My best friend’s wedding” and it was OK. Walked to the bus station a bit before midnight and boarded the bus at 01:00. The trip to Townsville took 5 hours with a stop at a “papaya fruit quarantine area” were we had to turn in any fruit we had with us. It was to prevent fruit flies spreading across states.

The rainforests north of Cairns were just magical. Our first visit to a proper old forest filled with magnificent beasts and birds. We can still smell that very damp “rainforest” smell if we close our eyes and think back to our visit. It seems like we love Australia!

Ørjan and Tanja 2022

Part 8, seeing koalas for the first time and driving a Moke!


6 November 1997, Townsville, Australia:
We went back to Cairns the day before yesterday, along some stops that felt unnecessary, at least for us, since we wanted to get back to Cairns as soon as possible. The driver was slightly strange, was humming, sighing and babbling about uninteresting stuff… But at least I won a tropical ice cream at the enormous value of AUD 3… Melbourne Cup – a horse race was on that day, and everyone on the bus got a ticket with the name of the horses participating in the race, and mine, Might & Power won. Received the ice cream in a tropical fruit farm, a typical guide-stop to get us to buy things, then onwards to Mossman Gorge where we only had 30 minutes to swim and take photos. Drove through Port Douglas, a holiday destination and a place where the well to do live, before arriving in Cairns at around 6 p.m. Got a nicer room than last time, rested there for a while before going to the Beach for free food – good deal from the hostel. Ørjan woke up yesterday morning with fever, very warm, so we went to a doctor, and Ørjan was given some antibiotics for a throat infection. Both of us also took blood tests to check for malaria – luckily negative but might apparently still be dormant in our bodies. Quite expensive – AUD 30 to see the doctor, and 35 for each of the blood tests. And of course, I nearly fainted – again… Quite a shabby looking couple who got back to the hostel a bit before check out time, asked to stay a bit longer, and got to keep the room until 12 p.m. Also got to do a bit of laundry, so a hectic morning. We both felt better after a while, and arranged a few small things, like rebooking our tickets, so we can stay for one extra week in Australia, meaning one week less in Tonga. We also booked Oz Experience from Townsville on Monday, will stay in Magnetic Island for four nights before that, and are currently on the ferry taking us there. Sent some negatives, slides, jewellery and letters for mum and gran, and picked up two new rolls of developed photos – nice pictures! Spent some time at the promenade by the sea in Cairns, watched the lovely pelicans. Had lunch at Hungry Jack’s – the equivalent of Burger King, then pizza and garlic bread for dinner – a bit much greasy stuff for one day, so didn’t feel great… Went to the cinema to watch “My best friend’s wedding” to kill some time, then went over to the Grey Hound bus station at around 11 p.m., waiting for the bus to leave at 1 a.m. We arrived in Townsville at 6 a.m., now it’s 8.45, and I’m tired. We’ve booked a room at Geoff’s in Magnetic Island – hope it’s nice, so we can stay for another three nights. Just want to get some sleep if the room is available when we get there.

Magnetic Island friend

We arrived in Townsville in the morning at 06:00 and after a quick wash in the public toilet next to the ferry terminal that had the boat to Magnetic Island. We bought ferry tickets and a night at Geoff’s Place in Horseshoe Bay for 29 dollars. The ferry took 20 minutes and we got picked up by a minibus at the dock. The place looked OK from the outside and we had booked a 4-man room, we found the “house” to be tiny with 4 beds and not much space for anything else. 4 persons plus backpacks was an impossibility. It was unclean and the toilets and showers had a foul smell. We wanted to move straight away. We asked for a discount on the room closed for 4 people, but no way we got that, rip off! We took the bus to Arcadia and got lucky on the first try, a 4-room flat, 2 bedrooms and a bathroom, it was TV, fridge, and oven. All that for just 15 dollars! There was no doubt that this was it! All we had to do was survive a night at Geoff’s or Bates place as we had dubbed it, and we could move into cheap luxury tomorrow! Geoff had two nice peacocks and a possum in the roof, best two things about the place!


7 November 1997, Arcadia Resort, Magnetic Island, Australia:
The room at Geoff’s Place was horrible! A tiny triangular cabin that was supposed to house four people. Claustrophobic, horrible, dirty, the same goes for the shower and toilet area, old and derelict, with a sleazy manager. We thought we’d stay if we’d get the room for AUD 10 per person per night, but they wanted 14. After some sleep and a walk along the beach in Horseshoe Bay, we took the courtesy bus to Arcadia and got really lucky! The first place we entered, which looked way too expensive for us, cost from AUD 4 to 15 per person. And it wasn’t just a room either, but an apartment with two bedrooms, one living room, kitchen, dining room, toilet and shower – we were over the moon, and wished we could move in straight away. But, back at Geoff’s we took use of the only nice thing there, the pool, then we had something to eat before going to bed at around 10.30 p.m. Called mum too, she had decided to pay the 700 NOK phone bill – very nice of her! Slept well last night and checked out at 9.30 a.m. this morning, the bus left at 9.45, then we got into our luxury apartment together with Pernille and Rikke, unpacked all our clothes – nice to get some control of what we’ve got after a few one-night stays. Went to the supermarket to buy some food for tonight. Ørjan and I are now taking some time out, lying in the sunbeds by one of the two pool areas, nice weather – Walkman in my ears. Have decided to relax all day – have some proper vacation. We’ve booked a moke – an open jeep-like car for tomorrow – to explore the island. Sunday we’ll either just relax again or go for some short walks – nice to have a few days in the same place, so that we don’t have to be constantly on the road.


After a night of heavy coughing, we moved to Arcadia resort. A nice place with 2 pools and we had plenty of space in the flat. We shopped some food and spent the rest of the day by the pool. In the evening I made dinner for Tanja, Rikke and Pernille and we watched Indiana Jones on TV. We also booked a Moke for tomorrow, so that we can explore the island a little.


8 November 1997, Arcadia Resort, Magnetic Island, Australia:
Strange feeling that it’s November, at home it will be wet, dark and cold, while here we are soaked with sweat. Today has been terribly hot and taking a two-kilometre hike when the sun is at its highest, not drinking enough, then you’ll get a bit faint and feel a bit unwell like I did earlier today. Anyway – we’ve had a nice day. Picked up the moke around 9.30 a.m. but were a bit disappointed to find out that we could only drive along the south and east coast, meaning the west and north coast was unavailable to us. Anyway – first we went to Picnic Bay where we arrived by ferry, then to Nelly Bay where we bought some food, then to Radical Bay and Florence Bay – a lot of unspoilt beautiful beaches. Unfortunately, there’s the danger of encountering box jellyfish, so we don’t dare swimming. Carried on to the Koala Park where we got to pet and take photos of the small, extremely cute animals who can sleep around 18 hours a day, we even saw a baby of about four months old who was in his mother’s pouch. There were also talking birds, saying things like “Hello darling”, and “You dirty old thing”, two big emus, and some kangaroos and wallabies, that we got to pet. Adorable!

Chilled out for a while at Horseshoe Bay before the girls wanted to go back for a swim at the apartment, then we went for a hike to see wild koalas, and we got to see six of them, including a mother and her baby – they are just so cute! Quite docile, they were sleeping in the trees, but some woke up and started to climb and eat a bit and we also heard some loud roars from males in the forest looking to mate. Amazing to walk around listening to all the sounds from nature, especially from all the birds, they sing and make a lot of noise. Magnetic Island has beautiful scenery, covered in forest it reminds me a bit of Norway, except from the palm trees and eucalyptus trees – there’s even rocks by the sea like where we go swimming at home. Have just eaten some very nice Ørjan-spaghetti and feeling tired. Nice to chill in the room by ourselves for a bit, too.


We picked up the Moke at 09:00 and I found it a bit peculiar to drive on the wrong side of the road for the first time. We drove to Radical Bay and Florence Bay which were both stunning. Horseshoe bay was equally as nice, and we saw koalas for the first time! I have dreamt about seeing koalas ever since I got a small stuffed koala bear (fake) from my uncle when I was a kid. Amazing! We got up close to the koalas. We visited a koala refuge and they had koalas we could pet plus kangaroos and wallabies. So cute! Lounged at the pool later. We drove on to The Forts, a second world war fort in the hills. It was a 1,4 kilometres trek, and on the way, we saw 5 wild koalas sleeping in the eucalyptus trees. We also saw a koala mother with a baby on her back. I cooked dinner for the ladies again. The antibiotics work but I still have a bad cough.

Magnetic Island

9 November 1997, Arcadia Resort, Magnetic Island, Australia:
Last day in Magnetic Island, ferry leaves at 10.30 a.m. tomorrow. Very relaxing day today. Slept in, had breakfast, went to the pool, had a shower, had BBQ for dinner and have done some packing. Tomorrow it’s exactly two months until we get home – feels like a very long time. Strange to be on a journey most people are envious of, and still feel a bit homesick now and again. Probably because we’re so far away from home, and because we’ve been ill as well. Ørjan is on his last day of antibiotics, but still has a bad cough and doesn’t feel great, hope my love gets well soon! And of course, I’m thinking of my family at home, hope everyone is doing fine. Worry a bit about our budget, we seem to spend a bit too much almost every day, and it won’t be easy saving money going to Whitsundays, Fraser Island and New Zealand with all its exciting adventures… Have talked about skipping Tonga and going home for Christmas and a couple of weeks earlier than planned, but then we’d miss out, so don’t think we’ll do that.


Delivered Moke, fell asleep when I returned to the flat, woke up at noon. Lounged by the pool until 17:00. We got to wash our clothes; it was time! We had a BBQ at the hotel restaurant, and it was good. We are now packing to leave tomorrow; we are going to Airlie Beach and possibly to the Whitsunday Islands. I am worried that my cough is still bad, and this is my last day with the antibiotics.

Seeing koalas for the first time was just awesome, both in the wild and in the sanctuary were we got to feel their incredibly coarse fur. Magnetic Island was our first few days spent in the same location in a while and it seems like we enjoyed it.

Ørjan and Tanja 2022

Part 9, the Great Barier reef and Pricilla, Queen of the Desert!

10 November, entry from Ørjan, no entry from Tanja

We took a bus from the hotel to the docks. On the way we met Tim and Johanne who we had travelled with from Darwin to Alice Springs. Back in Townsville we visited the impressive aquarium, they have a live coral reef there, very cool! OZ Experience bus was pretty crowded on the way to Airlie Beach. The movie in the bus was once again “Pricilla, Queen of the Desert” for the 5th time since we started our trip around Australia on bus. We booked room at Koala Backpackers in Airlie Beach. It was a smart choice. Koalas was a prefect backpackers place with nice huts that could accommodate 6 persons with a kitchenette and bathroom. Location is also good. We stayed with our Danish friends, Tim and Johanne and that was a full room, no “strangers”. We had delish nachos at Beaches, one portion was enough for 2 people. I have a splitting headache still that I hope to get rid of soon.

At the Great Barrier Reef

11 November 1997, Koala Backpackers, Airlie Beach, Australia:
Arrived in Airlie Beach yesterday evening, and haven’t really had the chance to see much of the place yet, first impression however is that it’s a typical tourist destination built to take tourists to the Whitsundays or Great barrier reef. Only one street packed with shops and restaurants that runs along the beach, which is apparently not so nice. Dined at Beaches yesterday, AUD 5 for nachos, with a portion so big I could only manage to eat half of it. Lots of tourists in party mood, so very lively! We live in a nice six-person cabin with toilet and shower/bathroom, living room with TV and a small kitchen, but without cooking possibilities – got a discount of AUD 3 the first night and paid only AUD 11. Sharing the cabin with Pernille, Rikke, Tim and Johanne.


We have decided to take a daytrip to the Great Barrier Reef, it is probably our last chance. We were supposed to do this in Cairns where the reef is closer to the coast, and it is cheaper there. We ended up paying 76 dollars to do the trip. If you want to go sailing around the islands you will pay 300 dollars for 3 days/2 nights. The rest of the day was spent relaxing, I feel better, and I am looking forward to tomorrow’s trip.


12 November 1997, onboard Fantasea, Whitsunday Passage, Australia:
Blue ocean with beautiful islands, the Whitsundays, is all we can see now. Have been on a boat trip all the way to the Great barrier reef and done some snorkelling – great! Lots of nice corals and beautiful fish, small and big ones. The water is not as clear as it was in the Gili Islands, but it was still a great experience being in the water for about an hour, and we got to take some nice underwater photos. You know this is a luxury tour by looking at the clientele; mostly 40–50-year-olds with a lot of money! The tour originally costs AUD 119, but we got it at AUD 76 because of our ISIC-cards. Still – if we’d visited the reef from Cairns, it would have been only AUD 45… But – we got to see a bit of the Whitsundays too – at least from a distance. Tim and Johanne were also on the tour, and tomorrow we’ll go with Oz Experience again, have to spend a night in Dingo before continuing to Hervey Bay on Friday. Have already booked a room at Koala – hope it’s as nice as this place where we’ve had a nice room and a good time, might even get a 4-person room in Hervey. Had a big buffet lunch today but might share some nachos later. Didn’t do much yesterday, it was very hot, so we just went for a short walk to check out the one street in Airlie Beach before returning to the airconditioned room to chill out, then nachos at Beaches.


We took the bus to Chute Harbour, the Fanta Sea was a large catamaran boat, and it would take us to the reef. We had to stop at one of the Whitsunday Islands to pick up a large horde of Japanese tourists who were also going to the reef. After a long but scenic boat ride we came to a large “barge” at almost 800 square metres with all the facilities we could need. We dived in for our first snorkel at the reef, I had heard so much about it, and seen so many tv programmes, and the number of fish was just amazing. A bit of a let-down was that I had thought that the water would be clearer. We were told this was due to the tide and time of season. We snorkelled for a long while and saw lots of corals in different shapes and forms. The groupers were huge! The biggest one that had his territory around the barge was supposedly around 400 kilos! We had lunch in the “U-boat” a kind of glass dome that was under the barge itself, so you could eat and watch the groupers swim by hungry for my sandwich. The Great Barrier reef is just amazing. I am glad we decided to do this visit. The trip itself was a mass-produced affair, we got our money’s worth but next time (if there will be one) I think we should go for something more exclusive, not the mass tourist thing. The boat ride back was amazing, the boat went in between several of the Whitsunday Islands, there are 74 of them, and I wish we had stayed here for a few days. There was a courtesy bus back to Airlie Beach. We ate nachos again, my new favourite food. When we came back to our room, we had two new English girls living with us. Tim was unhappy that he had not been successful in getting seats on the OZ Experience bus tomorrow, after having spent considerable dollars on a payphone. We have heard rumours that it costs 25 dollars to stay at a “forced” stop in Dingo since this is an overnight stop for the OZ experience bus. Hope it is not so, this is quite expensive for a stop we are forced to take, not something we would choose to spend money on. Got to pack!

After a long day, every snorkelling hero needs a nap

A few years later we had the great joy of visiting Cairns again, and going to the Great Barrier reef, this time we had a bit more money, and we had a great helicopter rider over the reef, in addition to some epic snorkelling in crystal clear water! It seems like this was the start of our life-long love of nachos, we think this was our first-time eating nachos, and it seems like we enjoyed them, and kept eating them. And they were cheap!

Ørjan and Tanja 2022

Part 10, the unnecessary outback stop and Frasier Island.


13 November 1997, Dingo cattle station, Australia:
What an unnecessary stop! We travelled from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. inland into nowhere land and Dingo cattle station, when our destination is Hervey Bay along the coast. That’s the drawback with Oz Experience – expensive stay over too – AUD 15 to stay, and the same for dinner, breakfast and farm tour, in addition we must pay for drinks. Staying in a six-person room which is connected to another 6-person room, and a 4-person room – shower and toilets are on the other side of the courtyard. Almost like our safari trip, except from not sleeping in tents. Not much to say about the food, I had a veggie meal; was told it was lasagne, but it turned out to be a not very tasty vegetable pie. Lots of overcooked vegetables in a dry dough, boiled vegetables and boiled potatoes on the side – not very exciting at all! Can tell by the number of insects that we are inland, much more of them here than by the coast. The farm tour was ok, the Aussie cowboy was a knowledgeable guide, and he also tried to teach us how to use the whip on the ground. Then we had tea and cake in the garden by the swimming pool. Then we were shoved into cattle cars for a 30-minute round trip of the farmland, where we were told they had to bring tourists here to break even, they couldn’t make enough money from their cattle. A major problem is the lack of rain, leading to dry land with not enough food for the cattle, which meant too little meat to sell. The used to have three water holes here, of which only one is working now – for how long they don’t know – the other two have already dried out. We were asked not to use too much water, so I skipped washing my hair – and it’s dirty! Both my hands and my brush got brown from the hair combing through it earlier, because of the dust from the farm tour. The guide also told us about the difference between the big burger chains, some were thinking about the environment buying from sustainable farms in Europe, Canada and Australia, while others wanted to make as much profit as possible, buying from less sustainable farms in South America. Don’t know if I want to eat burgers anymore – apparently only the meat from the oldest cows which can’t be sold as beef is turned into mince. We also had a lesson about castration and branding and the ox that had sex eight times a day, serving 45 cows… By the way – the day didn’t start in the best way, were waiting for the bus and were told we were on a stand-by list and that there were no seats available – no one had told us, so I was quite pissed off. We’d written down our names on the list more than 48 hours before departure on the bus to Airlie Beach, according to the rules, and the driver gave us the impression we would then automatically have a seat, but we didn’t, and we weren’t even told. So, the two of us, a Danish/Norwegian couple, and Tim and Johanne who didn’t get seats (they hadn’t written their names on the list, but tried to call Oz Experience for three days without getting through…). The poor driver was told off, felt bad afterwards since it wasn’t his fault, but spending another two nights in Airlie Beach waiting for the next bus would have messed up our itinerary. Luckily there were four seats available after all when he’d done his last pick up, and we got two of them. Felt sorry for the others who didn’t get seats. On the bus again tomorrow – from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. – not looking forward to such a long drive. There are many Danes travelling, but we’ve hardly met any Swedes or Norwegians. Quite a few Dutch people also, and Brits and Canadians – nice to meet so many different people.


The day started off in a bad way. We were waiting for the OZ Experience bus with quite a few other people. When the bus arrived, and the guide started reading up names he said that those not on the list or on stand-by would not be able to come along since the bus was fully booked. We thought we were safe since we had signed up for this leg when we arrived in Airlie Beach. We were a bit surprised when our names were NOT on the list, but on the standby list! Around 10 others had the same issue, and the guide was less than helpful, we could just fuck off and call the OZ Experience main office and complain if we wanted to. And to call the OZ Experience office is nigh impossible if we were to believe Tim who spent half of yesterday trying to contact them. After ½ hour of trying to call them, Tanja came running back and said that the bus had returned with 4 available seats, and we could get 2 of them! I felt a bit rotten leaving those who had no seat but what could I do? The drive to Ding was long, and why travel hundreds of miles inland into the bush instead of a more direct route is something I do not understand. The accommodation costs 15 dollars, dinner 7 dollars and breakfast 3 dollars. We took a “farm tour” were we learnt how to make a bullwhip crack, throwing a boomerang and you get to be driven around on the bed of a truck in the red dust until you are covered head to toe in the red stuff. When we came back to camp after our dusty trip, there was no water left, so I was happy for my shaved head, Tanja was less happy with her dusty hairdo. The camp itself is OK. Meals not worth the price. You can go bush camping in swags. Perhaps the coolest thing to do if you stayed a few days is that you could make your own didgeridoo with a local aboriginal. The ones I saw looked great and they cost around 140 dollars and only cost 50 dollars to ship home. I think this stop was a bit of wasted time and wasted money for us, we did not need to see a bush farm. We have been to the bush in Alice Springs. We have met more Danes and they are also travelling on to Frasier Island like us. Call me dusty!


14 November 1997, Koalas, Hervey Bay, Australia:
Finally arrived at Hervey Bay after a very long day on the bus, from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. – feel worn out and very tired. Breakfast was as bad as the food yesterday, ok selection of bread, cornflakes, jam etc., however, when more than 100 people are to be fed within half an hour on a tiny veranda it’s no wonder everything turns out to be chaotic. The milk was warm, which makes cornflakes taste like shit. Not very hygienic either, everyone washing their cutlery and breakfast bowls themselves, in dirty, cold water. Happy to leave Dingo Cattle station behind! Problem with the payment, were promised yesterday that we could pay by credit card, but that wasn’t possible after all. Anyway, we explained we didn’t have enough cash, so then they accepted the card after all. The bus trip became quite strenuous too, especially since the driver Maverick had to get a new tyre, we were supposed to be picked up in Rockhampton at 12 p.m. – he arrived at 1.20 p.m. And when we should pick up the rest of the passengers by the zoo one had disappeared, so they had to go look for her. Found her, but by then we were already delayed by two hours. A Danish couple were annoyed due to the loud music in the bus, but the driver refused to lower the sound even though they asked nicely. He also started bad mouthing them to an American girl who refused to swap seats to give place to the couple so they could sit together, since she was afraid to get sunburnt through the bus window. She talked shit about the couple as well, lost all respect for both of them then. The music was on during the whole trip, only break was when Top Gun was on, then loud music by Metallica, Aerosmith and Nirvana. The Danes asked again if the driver could please turn the volume down a bit, but he said the majority should decide, without him actually having checked what the majority wanted… The Danish girl got so upset she started to cry, the American girl took the driver in defence, and the driver stopped the bus and took the Danish girl outside to discuss, but don’t think they saw eye to eye anyway. Very glad to arrive at Koalas, although it’s not as nice as the one in Airlie Beach. We’re in a room for five people now, costs us only AUD 10 per night for the first night, but will change for a double room tomorrow I think – only costs another AUD 5 extra. Two Swedes in the room – nice to speak with someone that’s easy to understand, and who understand us easily as well!


After countless people had run in and out of our dorm we got some sleep. Up at 07:00 to get an OK breakfast. We were supposed to leave at 09:00 but did not move until 09:45 – this was due to the guide who had messed up the money paid and thought that someone had not paid their stay. On the bus it was the same too loud music as the day before. People started complaining about this, but no action was taken by the guide who thought this should be a party bus. In Rockhampton we had to wait for 2 hours since the bus had to change a tyre. The music continued incessantly and there was an obnoxious American girl who ran the show in the bus, and our new Danish friends Patrick and Lykke got told off after they tried for the 4th time to ask nicely to turn down the music. The whole thing culminated in the bus driver stopping the bus and taking Lykke out of the bus and telling her to stop complaining! WTF? The driver was a total fucktard and made this into something it was not, idiot! He could have turned down the music, but he chose not to, and that American girl gloated, she should be the one thrown off the bus. I was happy when we finally arrived at Hervey Bay and could disembark the disco bus from hell. We checked into another Koalas, and it cost only 10 dollars for the first night. Great room and a great shower to get rid of the last of the red dust. We will possibly move into a double room tomorrow; it is only 30 dollars. I think that the bus drive from Airlie Beach via Dingo to Hervey Bay was a waste of time. Dingo is a rip-off with high prices and lacing in facilities. Also, not very impressed with OZ Experience so far!

15 November, entry from Ørjan, no entry from Tanja

After a night in a 5-man dorm we switched to a twin room, it only cost 30 dollars! We travelled to the city centre to send emails from a “cyberlink” shop. It was inhabited by a horde of nerds playing Quake in a network while their parents were hijacked by salespersons who tried to sell them a PC. When we sat down to send mails to Norway, we attracted attention from around 20 people who stood around us asking us questions. We explained that we sent mails to Norway and one man asked, “how long does it take to reach the recipient?” and we said that this was instant. Applause and amazement followed upon this new tech marvel! They must have sold 10 PCs just from our “show and tell” to the shoppers. The shop manager was so happy that he gave us free use of the PC for as long as we needed. Happy days, and obvious that Australia is a bit behind on the tech front compared to home. Back at Koalas we decided to do a day trip to Frasier Island tomorrow, it will cost 65 dollars. The evening spent with beers and good company.


16 November 1997, Koalas, Hervey Bay, Australia:
Today we’ve been on Fraser Island – the biggest sand island in the world. And we’ve even seen it from air! Decided to go on a day trip that cost AUD 65, even though we didn’t get any discount from the ISIC card or since Ørjan is a travel agent. A bit of a stressful tour, but don’t think I would have wanted to go on a three-night jeep tour with seven others, with the possibility of getting on the same tour as the obnoxious American girl from the bus – spotted her on the ferry… Got to see the most important stuff anyway, although I would have liked to have a bit more time on some of the stops. Our first stop was at one of the many lakes on the island, made up of natural rainwater – it was very beautiful with white, fine, fine sand. Ørjan went for a swim, while I rinsed my ring with the sand – as recommended by the driver. Then we went for a short walk through the rain forest to one of the resorts where we had lunch, which was included. The resort was situated by a beach at one side of the island which was as long as the island – 120 kilometres with white sand – that’s what I call a beach! Apparently quite dangerous to swim in the sea, however, Lonely Planet stated that there are a lot of undercurrents, which we witnessed crossing the Great Sandy Strait – and there are sharks. We were told we might see whales, dolphins and dingoes – Fraser Island being the only place left where they are a pure breed – everywhere else in Australia they have mixed with dogs -unfortunately though we saw none of the above. Anyway – we decided to go for a ride on a small plane which cost AUD 30 – and was really nice!

Lykke and Patrick came too, a bit nervous since it was a very small plane with room for only five people plus the pilot, and since it was really windy, we could feel every wind gust inside the plane. Everything went well, though, got a tingle in my belly a couple of times, but really nice to see the island from the air. It’s covered in dense, green rain forest, the long beaches and beautiful lakes and sand dunes. We were let off a bit further down the beach at some rock formations made of sandstone with nice colours called the Pinnacles sacred to the Aboriginals. Then we went by bus to a shipwreck stranded on the beach. Then further on to the biggest creek on the island where we could swim. Cold and refreshing in the water, strong currents, so we could just lie on our backs and float down to the sea. Lovely place! Was a really bumpy ride on Fraser, it’s all sand which was really dry now due to lack of rain, so difficult to navigate – almost felt like driving on snow back home – no wonder they need 4-wheel drive. Even saw a 4-wheel drive Rolls Royce! Got back from Fraser at around 5.30 p.m.

Didn’t really do much yesterday, it was overcast and a bit cooler, thankfully, than further north. There’s a long beach, but it was very windy, so we just went for a walk, and had a look around the place. Not that much to see, really, we took the bus to a place called Pialba and an internet café called Cyberlink. There was an Expo, so lots of people. One of the managers there told us they were about 10 years behind in the IT-business in Australia, so they were trying to boost interest. We were supposed to pay AUD 10 per hour to use the computers, but since they considered it to be good advertising for them having backpackers from Norway sending emails back home, they let us use the computers for free for as long as we’d like. And – quite a few people gathered around us asking what we were doing. After that we went for food, unfortunately not a nice experience with lasagne that didn’t taste good at all, and we were persuaded to add garlic bread which doubled the price – stupid tourists!


The bus left at 07:55 and the first people we saw were Patrick and Lykke! We were driven to the ferry who would take us across to the largest sand island in the world. The ferry was full of 4WD cars with locals who were already quite drunk, strange to go to such a natural marvel being totally out of it. We got on to our 4WD jeep which took us across the sand, it was like driving on Norwegian snow and we got stuck a few times on the way. The sand is silica sand, all the small grains are totally circular and that makes for very smooth and fine sand. We swam in one on the crystal-clear lakes on the island, surrounded by huge sand dunes.

Amazing! We walked the rainforest and we had lunch on the 12-mile beach. Not really 12 miles, but who cares when it is this spectacular? We got an offer for a flight with a small plane over the island, and it only cost 12 dollars, of course we said yes! An incredible flight over some of the coolest and strangest landscape I have ever seen. We had some turbulence that made my stomach churn, the landing was an epic feat of flying from the pilot landing in between cars driving on the beach. We drove past a wreck of a ship that was stranded here in 1935 and we swam in a small creek. If we had 150 dollars, we could have taken a 3-day trip around the island but we got to see a whole bit in the time we had and it was truly epic.

Frasier Island wreck
17 November, entry from Ørjan, no entry from Tanja

We slept in for the first time in a while, a classic breakfast on Nutella and white bread. We washed clothes; it was about time. After washing all clothes, we found that they were just a dirty as before. We asked reception about this, and they said that their washing machines only had cold water! After a short argument we got our 2 dollars refunded and went to a cleaner in the city centre with warm water and they only charged 1,60 dollars! Our Danish friend came by and said that they would be moving to Beaches backpackers, it only cost 9 dollars for a 6-man room with bathroom and TV. We walked over and had a look, and it was better than Koalas. We moved into Beaches with Patrick and Lykke. I called OZ Experience to check that our next leg was booked and OK to Byron Bay, my booking was OK, but Tanja was on no list! In other words, a good thing I called and checked. We spent the evening in Danish company at Beaches saying goodbye to Pernille and Rikke, they are going to Frasier Island tomorrow, and we doubt that we will cross paths with them anymore on our trip. They were great company. It was a Danish/Norwegian room at Beaches, and we ended the evening with Friends and Dumb and Dumber on TV.

We are still upset when people treat other people with disrespect, and we wish we had intervened at the bus altercation but it is never easy when you are outnumbered by party people on a full bus. We were not very impressed with the handling by OZ Experience coach driver or the American girl who took it upon her to be spokeswoman for a whole bus of people. Frasier Island was beautiful, and we could easily have spent more time there.

Ørjan and Tanja 2022

Part 11, learning to surf in Byron Bay!


18 November 1997, on the bus from Hervey Bay to Nimbin, Australia:
Currently in Brisbane, glad we’ve decided not to stop here, looks like any other big city – has about 1.5 million inhabitants and is the fastest growing city in Australia at the moment. Was elected the most liveable city in the world last year. But – we haven’t heard that much positive about it, so decided to skip it. Will go to Byron Bay tomorrow and plan to stay there 5-6 days if we like it there – have been recommended to go by many people. We almost decided to stay in Hervey Bay yesterday to go back to Fraser Island on a jeep tour – Pernille, Rikke, Tim, Johanne, Kasper and Tordis got to Hervey Bay on Sunday evening and knocked on our door yesterday asking if we wanted to hang out with them. Very nice seeing them all again – a bit sad to be travelling alone now that we met them again, so we almost decided to go on the tour they had booked for today, but we have already spent AUD 95 on Fraser, so didn’t want to spend another AUD 80 per person, we also don’t have the time to postpone our trip, so we couldn’t go. A bit annoyed with ourselves for not looking around when we got the rooms at Koalas that we weren’t happy with – the others moved to Beaches after a night at Koalas and got a 6-bed room with shower/toilet, fridge and TV for AUD 9 per person. When they said to Koalas they’d move they were however offered better rooms at the same price at Koalas – monkey business… Now we’re entering Surfer’s Paradise on the Gold Coast, but as the driver said – “the surfers don’t like it, and it sure ain’t no paradise…”. Looks like a city of concrete! Has been a tourist hot spot since the 1880ies, booming in the 1960ies. But the skyscrapers actually cast so long shadows on the beach so that the sun doesn’t quite reach it. Lots and lots of tall buildings along the beach – very uncosy and touristy, glad we won’t be stopping here! Now we’re out of Surfers, but haven’t got long, we’re in a queue at the motorway, first time that’s happened to us here in Australia. We’re 1.5 hours away from Nimbin, mostly known to backpackers as a place for hippies with an alternative lifestyle, and for arranging a big annual festival. Yesterday we visited the Danes on Beaches, watched Friends, dined at the hostel and then watched Dumb Dumber. Sad to say goodbye to them, exchanged addresses with Pernille and Rikke, maybe we’ll meet again some time? Might even see them again here before leaving Australia. Not so sad to leave Koalas however, most places are manned by other backpackers, and they seem to have no authority to make any kinds of decisions. We were going to do some white clothes laundry yesterday, paid AUD 2, but were unable to choose the right programme, the receptionist said the programme for coloured clothes would be the same, of course it wasn’t – the white clothes were washed in cold water and were just as dirty as before we washed them. Tried to get our money back, but they said all washing machines in Australia only had cold water programmes, which is bullshit since we’ve washed in warm water in every other place. Got a tip of a laundry from a Dane where it cost AUD 1,60 to wash our clothes in warm water, and another AUD 1 to dry them – so finally some clean and fresh clothes!


The bus trip from Hervey Bay via Nimbin to Byron Bay was WAY better than the last leg we had on OZ Experience. The bus drivers name was Sharkey, and he had a girlfriend with him who we think was called Shelley. We drove to Noosa first and we had a 1 ½ hours stop there, looked like a nice place. We drove via Brisbane and Surfers Paradise “No surfers and not a paradise!” Sharkey declared. On the way into Nimbin we thought the forest was on fire, but it was only the sunset who set the sky on fire, one of the most spectacular sights I have ever seen! Nimbin is a bit of a hippie colony, famed for growing the best weed in Australia. Grannys Farm was our accommodation, surely a nice place to stop for a few days. It was so lush and green in Nimbin, very cool place indeed. We had great pizza and beers at the only pub in town. We had trouble sleeping since our room was adjacent to the TV room, and the TV was on until 02:00. Annoying.


19 November 1997, Byron Bay, Australia:
Just arrived in Byron Bay after just 1.5 hours’ drive. Ørjan is around trying to find us a place to stay. Want to stay until Tuesday, so we hope to find somewhere nice, but not too expensive. We were dropped off at Holiday Village where they wanted AUD 45 for a double room which was connected to another 4-bed room where we had to share shower/toilet, living room and kitchen. Too expensive! Hope Ørjan will find an alternative. A bit cool today, overcast, quite nice, but hope the weather will change so we can go swimming/surfing. Nimbin had a very pretty location, the sky was yellow, orange and red as we drove through green hills wet from the dew and lots of beautiful jacaranda trees with bluish purple flowers – some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve ever seen. A pity we didn’t get to take a photo of it. Stayed at Granny’s farm, got a double room for AUD 26, and were taken by minibus to the town, although it was only a five-minute walk away. Had pizza and garlic bread and some cider at a pub – nice! Talked for a while with the Oz guides Michael and Shelly – nice people, knowledgeable and informative, good natured and smiling. Had a hard time falling asleep last night, people were up talking and laughing right outside our room, probably high from something, heard they started talking about hashish cookies as soon as we entered Nimbin. We saw the people of Nimbin today, I hope their lifestyle is making them happy, but quite a few looked like they’d had a hard life. By the way – yesterday when we stopped at a café, a woman was walking by staring at Ørjan, she came back and told us she was to pick up her nephew from Denmark that she hadn’t seen for 15 years, and since Ørjan looked a bit like his father she’d thought it might be him. But she was confused when she saw me, because no one had told him he was travelling with his girlfriend…


Got up at 09:00 to see some more of Nimbin. Pretty Flower-Power vibe village – only drawback was that the town had some more unsavoury inhabitants who did more than just smoke the hooka pipe occasionally. Bus left at 11:00 and we drove through a landscape that looked like the English countryside, no wonder this is called New England. It took around 1 ½ hours to Byron Bay. We walked to Holiday Village, a place we got recommended and we saw right away that we were in a pricier area than up North. A double room was 45 dollars! Dorm beds were 2-3 dollars more expensive than earlier on our trip. I checked out other options, but they were in the same price range. We ended up at the Aquarius with a nice dorm room with bathroom, kitchenette a balcony. 4 bunk beds and a separate double room per unit. Dorm room cost 16 dollars and we could have gotten a discount if we had a VIP card. We should get one. Byron Bay has lots of cool shops, a great beach, and a cool vibe. The hotel has curtesy bikes and boogie boards! We shopped for food at Woolworths, we need to save some money, and we will cook our own food, there is a nice communal kitchen here at Aquarius. And we found some delish blueberry muffins!

The wannabe surfers!

20 November 1997, Aquarius Resort, Byron Bay, Australia:
We’re staying at Aquarius, a nice resort where we’re in an 8-bed room at AUD 16 per person per night, a bit more expensive than up north, but ok. We have our own shower/toilet, fridge, table and chairs, and a veranda. We’ll try not to spend too much money on food and stuff, have done some shopping at Woolworths, and made spaghetti in the shared kitchen yesterday. Run into a Norwegian from Karmøy yesterday – he was a bit like us – longing to meet some other Norwegians and speak our own language, told us he walked around with a Norwegian cap, looking hopefully around to see if there were any Norwegians around… Had been sailing the Pacific since January – started in Venezuela (if I remember correctly). Talked to mum, Ørjan’s didgeridoo had still not arrived, so Ørjan had to call the shop in Cairns, and said he’d spent probably AUD 3 just to spell mum’s name… We were lucky enough to have the whole 8-bed room to ourselves yesterday – that was nice! A couple of girls have checked into the room tonight though. We’ve been quite sporty today! Borrowed some bicycles, paid AUD 80 as a deposit, but luckily got the money back upon return. We went to the light house at Cape Byron, quite a steep hill, so we both got tired and sweaty, not in great shape at the moment, but it was worth it! Beautiful view over all the beaches, we saw loads of people out surfing, and we might do a surfing class on Saturday – we’ll see how that turns out… Cape Byron is the most easterly point on mainland Australia. Went to a pristine beach later on, with fine white sand, lush green bushes on the side and beautiful blue sea with big waves, but pretty cold water. Had lunch there which we’d brought from the hostel. Delivered some film for developing and sent some emails from an internet café.


After good night’s sleep I walked down to reception and paid in advance to stay until Tuesday. We borrowed a couple of bicycles and headed up to the lighthouse, it was a steep hill but the views over Byron Bay and the beaches was incredible. Byron Bay is probably one of the nicest places we have been to ever, plenty of beach space, surfing, cool shops, cool bars, and people makes it a dream destination. The surf is supposedly great, I must book a lesson soon. I had to call and ask where my didgeridoo was again, still not appeared in Norway or any other place for that matter. I rebooked our stay in Sydney too and it only cost 20 dollars per night!


21 November 1997, Aquarius Resort, Byron Bay, Australia:
Great day! Just got back from the beach – so nice down there. We were swimming in clear water with high waves and chilled out in soft sand dunes. Didn’t go there until around 3.30 p.m., had a single shopping day before that – from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Found a nice Thai-style t-shirt and finally a bikini! Really nice in velour, blue colour, and only about AUD 49. The family who was staying here last night weren’t very considerate, got up early, talked loudly, didn’t close the door to the bathroom while using it, all while we were trying to sleep. Glad they’re not staying for another night. Two Germans or Austrians have moved into the double room connected to our dorm, they don’t say much – probably not very sociable.


We had a little shopping done in the morning and headed for the beach in the afternoon. I bought a cool t shirt and I signed us up for a surfing lesson tomorrow.


22 November 1997, Aquarius Resort, Byron Bay, Australia:
Today we’ve been surfing! Didn’t think we’d get on the tour, cause when we got to the reception at 9.30 a.m. there was no one there, it got to be 10, and still no one. We called them, they said they didn’t have our names on their list but put us up for tour at 11.30 instead. A surfer dude arrived in a van, but as soon as we got in the van stopped, and didn’t start again… The guy got super stressed; he was about to pick up more people for this tour and drive the people from the first tour back. He called a car rescue company, and after about half an hour’s wait, we were on the go. There were two other Norwegians on the tour, Pål and Svein I think their names were. We were taken to the surfer dude’s house, pretty messy place, picked up some surfer suits and drove to the beach. In all we were seven people trying to learn how to surf, and the instructor, Jeremy had been surfing from the age of three, and had been a professional for about 10 years. Got into our wet suits and went down to the beautiful beach in the lagoon. Great conditions for surfing today with lots of high waves. Practiced a bit on the beach at first, then into the sea, and the first thing I did was to cut my hand on the board – quite a lot of bleeding, so not the best of starts… Once in the water it was very difficult to get far enough to get to the actual surfing, felt like I took one step forward before the big waves hit me ten steps back again, quite strenuous! But Jeremy got to the rescue, held my board so that I could get onto it, then pushed me away as a nice wave came along. The first time it went so fast so I didn’t dare do anything but get up onto my knees and ride the wave like that, felt that I could have tried to stand up though, I felt the balance was there, and the next time it worked. Very proud of myself when I was riding a wave standing on the board, had to jump off as I got close to the beach. Managed this a few more times, it was so much fun! Swallowed a lot of water though and got really tired from trying to get far enough out in the sea fighting the big waves with a big board in my hands. Felt a bit dangerous with the big, hard board with a sharp fin underneath, if you’re hit by it you’ll be pretty badly injured. I had the board tied to my ankle, so every time a wave hit the board and made it “fly” away, I went along with it. Had chicken with some bread from Woolworths when we got back, tired and with itchy eyes from all the salt water, so reading was not an option, think I’ll go to bed soon.


We should have been picked up at 09:30 outside Aquarius but by 10:00 no one had turned up to get us and we called the surf place, and they had no record of us coming on that morning’s lesson. We had to wait until 11:30, this was OK for me, Tanja got into a bit of a hissy fit but apologized for this right away, not much we could do. We walked to Woolworths to stock up on food and blueberry muffins. When the man came to pick us up, his van stopped dead and would not start. We had to wait around for a quick fix at the side of the road. The dude who drove us was a typical surfer dude, highly strung but funny as hell. There were also 2 Norwegians on board. When we arrived at the home of our teacher it was a shack filled with surfboards and wet suits, combined with a small kitchen and a bedroom. This was a home and a business. We found fitting wet suits and got our surfboards and headed for the southern end of the beach for our lesson in the art of surfing. The waves were perfect and would suit beginners we were told. Lots of experienced surfers all around, and us! It was incredibly hard to stand up on the board, I am sure my board was too small for me, I had no chance of catching a wave and gain forward momentum. Tanja did great and caught some waves and managed to stand up a ride for a short while, I got more and more frustrated. It was incredibly hard to fight your way out into the waves only to be washed back onto the beach and having to start the whole process again. It was great fun though, and very enjoyable experience but a surfer I will never be! I was thirstier than a camel in the evening after having swallowed litres of salt water while trying to catch that wave.

23 November, entry from Ørjan, no entry from Tanja



24 November 1997, Aquarius Resort, Byron Bay, Australia:
Exchanging addresses now, met up with the Danes again yesterday evening. Tim and Johanne moved in with us after we told them we had the room to ourselves, just a while after three others moved in… Rikke and Pernille checked into Holiday Village. Was with them at the beach today, rented body boards and rode the waves, swallowed some litres of water again, but great fun! But we, or rather I, got sunburnt again – incredibly strong sun! Today we’ve blown our budget again, well not really, but we’ve spent a lot more compared to the other days here. Were just out and had something to eat with the others, we paid AUD 28, and had planned to spend only 10… Much more expensive here than further north, AUD 3.80 to wash clothes in cold water – double the price as we’re used to paying, the same amount for drying the clothes. So, washed my t-shirts by hand yesterday, and we’ve been really good with money earlier this week, bought food from the supermarket, both for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and have saved a lot of money that way. Both our bank accounts and our traveller’s checks are decreasing, so we have to be a bit more careful with money. Have booked a hotel, well hostel, in Sydney for AUD 10 per person per night, which is really cheap. But we’re a bit sceptical about staying in King’s Cross – it being a red-light district and there’s a murderer on the loose there now. We’ll just have to be careful. Went to the beach today with Tim and Johanne, Tim loved the body boards and was in the water the whole time. I had to hide under my towel and keep my hat on in order to avoid getting even more sunburnt.

Johanne, Tim and Ørjan having breakfast

We walked to get Tanja’s developed pictures. Walked to the beach with Tim and Johanne and brought bodyboards with us, had great fun in the waves. Stayed at the beach until 18:30 and we all met Rikke and Pernille for dinner. We ate at Hogs Breath, and it was nachos again! Home to pack our stuff since tomorrow we will be going to Bellingen and on to Sydney. No news about my didgeridoo.

We absolutely loved Byron Bay, it was for sure one of the highlights of our time in Australia. Ørjan has still not managed to get that elusive wave, and Tanja still craves those blueberry muffins.

Ørjan and Tanja 2022

Part 12, the Blue Mountains, Sydney and farewell Australia!

25 November, entry from Ørjan, no entry from Tanja

Morning spent washing some clothes and posted a few negatives back to Norway before we boarded the OZ Experience bus. The drive to Bellingen was 6 hours, the hostel was nice, and it cost only 12 dollars. In Bellingen there is a bat cave, and the bats start flying out of that cave at exactly 19:55 – it must have been tens of thousands of them. Very cool!


26 November 1997, Astoria Hotel, Sydney, Australia:
Finally arrived in Sydney after travelling for two days. Left Byron Bay yesterday around 1.30 p.m. and arrived in Bellingen at 7 p.m. Quite a nice place, and we got a twin for AUD 28. Went to watch thousands of bats as they left for their nightly hunt for insects at exactly 7.55 p.m. – and what a sight! A magical atmosphere with the crickets and kookaburras singing, the shine from the river and green hills as backdrop. Saved some money eating noodles in the hostel while the others went out for barbeque… Left around 8 a.m. this morning, then many hours on the bus, arriving in Sydney around 6 p.m., where we stopped at Circular Quay for champagne – marking the end of our trip with Oz. Weren’t sad to say goodbye to anyone on the bus, most of them we’d only seen these past two days, so we really only wanted to get to the hotel. But there was a great view from Harbour Bridge over the city and especially the opera. We’ll do some more sightseeing tomorrow. We’re staying at a nice hotel with bathroom/toilet, television, fridge, a double bed, couch, tables, night tables and so on – quite the luxury. And at only AUD 10 per person! But we’re only staying here for two nights, then we’ll have to move to a backpacker room, but maybe we can stay here for another AUD 10? We’ll see what the other room looks like, and check if this room is still available. Soon going to bed, we probably have some “hard” days ahead.

Hello Sydney!

Started at 08:00 and after a lot of meaningless stops and another meeting with our nemesis American Obnoxious Girl we came to Sydney at 19:00. The bus stopped first at Circular Quay for a “champagne” for 45 minutes, we have no idea what that was, total waste of time! The bus stopped outside the OZ Experience main office, and we walked a few hundred metres to the Astoria hotel, and we got a nice room for 2 nights for 20 dollars. We ate dinner at Burger King, tomorrow will be a big day!

Christmas in Sydney

27 November 1997, Astoria Hotel, Sydney, Australia:
Have walked around a bit in the area today, went into the centre of the city and walked around surrounded by lots of massive skyscrapers. I’m already longing to get out of the city and the smell of exhaust, also a lot of strange people here in Kings Cross. Ok in the day but wouldn’t want to walk around during night time. We walked by St. Andrews Cathedral by chance at 12 p.m. and heard Nick Cave’s rehearsal for the funeral of Michael Hutchence of INXS later today – very sad. Then we went by a partner of Kilroy Travels to see if we could get some discount on tours, but they weren’t interested in giving us anything. Very nice lady in the Sydney Euro Center though, we got refund for all our medical expenses from the insurance, AUD 270 in total. Continued down to Circular Quay and Rocks before heading back by train, heavy rain, thunder and lightning made us appreciate staying in the hotel room more than wandering the streets.

Sydney poser

Started the day trying to find the student UNI Travel agent. On the way we stumbled upon the church where the service for Michael Hutchence will be held later in the day. We heard Nick Cave dress rehearsal, and he sang “Into your arms” I felt sad. It was gruesome to be back in a major city for the first time in a while. I got stressed at once. We found the UNI Travel office on the 8th floor but after a quick talk with their manager there were no freebies to be had from them. We walked to our insurance brokers office in Sydney to get our medical expenses refunded and fill up our travel kitty again. Very helpful people and we got to read relatively fresh Norwegian newspapers! We walked to Circular Quay and the Rocks, a nice shopping area. In the afternoon it started to rain with thunder, so we walked to the Kings Cross “Underground” a strange area filled with everything from souvenir shops and tourists’ side by side with strip clubs, transvestites, prostitutes and drug dealers. The weird and the wonderful inhabited this area. There were rumours in Sydney about a serial killer that targets backpackers, he is said to have killed at least 3. We used the rest of the night in our room with some TV and a whole bag of candy.


28 November 1997, Astoria Hotel, Sydney, Australia:
Slept in today, and didn’t leave the room until 1 p.m. – nice to have a slow start for once. Tomorrow we need to get up early though, bus pick up at 7.40 a.m. leaving for Blue Mountains, if we’ll be able to go, read in the newspaper today that the national parks will be closed for 48 hours due to fires. We got a really good offer from Debbie at Oz Experience, only AUD 10 per person to go on the tour. We also got t-shirts, and a free extension of our Kiwi Experience passes in New Zealand. Went by underground to Townhall, then walked to Centrepoint Tower and paid AUD 8 to go to the top – more than 300 metres high, great views although we weren’t able to go outside. Went from there to Darling Harbour – an area with a lot of shopping, a museum and a newly opened casino. We visited a gaming place, great fun for Ørjan. Went back by underground, had something to eat at Hungry Jack’s and have just been chilling out in the room after that.


2 months until my birthday! Slept in for the first time in a long while. We started our day with visiting Debbie at OZ experience, she was very nice to us and treated us to a free trip to the Blue Mountains tomorrow! We read in the papers that most forest areas and parks around Sydney were closed due to bush fires, it had been a very dry and windy few weeks. We also received our complimentary Kiwi Experience bus passes for New Zealand, yay! And a t shirt. I must remember to send her a fax to thank her when we get back home. We walked back to the hotel and got some food before we took the train down to Town Hall in the city centre. We got off a few blocks from the Centre Point tower – a golden “thing” in the middle of Sydney at 326 metres tall. We took the elevator all the way to the top and the view was amazing. You could see all the suburbs, the beaches and all the way to the airport. After the visit we walked to Darling Harbour, a nice area with shopping and the Maritime Museum. We visited Sea World, but it was a huge disappointment. Walked back to the hotel to watch the Simpsons and to have a read through the Kiwi Experience catalogue.


29 November 1997, Astoria Hotel, Sydney, Australia:
Got up early, had the alarm set for 6.45 a.m. and were picked up at 7.40. The same driver, Fly, as we had from Townsville to Airlie Beach, her first tour to Blue Mountains on her own, and she did a very good job. Must be hard driving the bus and be guiding at the same time. Foggy and no views in the morning, but it got better later on, and we again got to see what a beautiful country Australia is. Green and lush and beautiful formations in the canyon. The mountains have their name from the silver-grey eucalyptus trees that from a distance give the mountains a bluish shine. The oil in the leaves however is one of the reasons why the fires get up to around 100 km per hour, the fire hits the oil, causing explosions of balls of fire flying to the next tree. Also why the koalas are so drowsy – as they get a bit intoxicated from the oil, or so they say. Went for a walk of more than 1000 steps of stairs, luckily downhill, and got on a skyrail, a roller coaster-like train that went almost straight up the mountain wall – very short ride, but great fun. Also went by a nice little zoo, Featherland Wildlife Park (I think), where we saw koalas, kangaroos, emus, wombats, dingoes, crocodiles, lots of beautiful birds and bats. Got a few tips for Tonga from two Swedish guys on the bus. Back in Sydney around 6.30 p.m.

The Blue Mountains pose

Had to get up at 06:30 to get the Blue Mountains bus at 07:40. Blue Mountains got its name from the blue haze that can be seen over the eucalyptus forests. The eucalyptus oil reflects the blue light, hence Blue Mountains. Our driver was a girl named Fly, we also had her as a driver from Townsville to Airlie Beach. The mountains were spectacular with deep valleys and canyons. We stopped at Windsor to walk to a lookout point I forgot the name of. At Westworth Falls we walked around 1000 steps down and we took an old mining train back up at an angle of 51 degrees – it was a steep ascent. We also stopped by some nice waterfalls. We ended in a small Australia zoo where we got to see most of the amazing Australian wildlife including wombats and Echidnas, a kind of hedgehog looking thing. I got some good pictures, I think. It was a great tour, helped by the knowledgeable Fly who guided us all the way.


30 November 1997, Astoria Hotel, Sydney, Australia:
Last day in Australia, excited to move on to New Zealand now. Have done some packing and have to get up early tomorrow – around 5 a.m., bus pick up at 5.30 for the airport, flight leaves at 8. Slept in today and went through Wooloomoloo (?) to the harbour and the botanical garden. Beautiful park with nice views over the opera house and the bridge from Mrs. Macquarie’s pt. A “chair” was chiselled in the stone where apparently Mrs M. had been sitting looking out across the harbour. Saw the “Bounty” copy that was used shooting the film and which is now a cruise ship. We went over to the opera house and bumped into Tim and Johanne, then a bit later when in the market at the Rocks Rikke jumps out in front of us, Pernille was there as well of course, so we got to see them all again before leaving Australia. But they won’t be leaving for New Zealand for a while, and Tim and Johanne are going to Hawaii, so we’ll probably not see them again after today. Both Ørjan and I bought nice rings at the Rocks. Went into the centre of the city and into Victoria Building – a big shopping centre in an old building – really cool. There was a replica of queen Victoria on coronation day dressed up in all her glamour – lots of glittery stuff. Paid for the stay now, and they have charged us AUD 2 per page for emails, so the four-page email I sent yesterday cost AUD 8 – a bit expensive I think, and they claim we got if for half the normal price…


We walked through the awesomely named Woolloomooloo bay to the botanical garden on our way to Mrs Macquarie’s chair, a great vantage point to the Sydney Opera House. The whole area around the iconic building is very nice with parks and great views. At the opera house we met Johanna and Tim! Of course, in a city of 5 million we would meet them by chance. We walked to The Rocks area under Sydney Harbour Bridge, they have a great weekend market there. We bought a couple of rings at a shop. And wouldn’t you know it, we met Rikke and Pernille! Had lunch at Mc Donald’s. Walked around this amazing city for the rest of the day. Dinner at Pizza Hut and took the train back to our hotel. Sydney is a bit like London, only with more high-rise buildings, more construction sites and a little less history. Australia has been everything I hoped for and a place we will come back to sometime in the future. There is so much more to see in this amazing country. Tomorrow we fly to New Zealand!

We really loved Australia, it was such a good place to travel and experience all kinds of new and wonderful sights and animals. Highlights that we still reminice about was the red centre, surfing in Byron Bay and seeing the wild koalas. We have been back once since and travelled from Darwin to Perth via the vast and mostly empty Western Australia state, it was totally awesome spending 3 weeks in a swag around a campfire seeing amazing canyons, the Bungle Bungles, the Ningaloo reef and countless other sights. We hope that we can go back one day and maybe explore the south and Tasmania, that would be awesome!

Ørjan and Tanja 2022

Part 13, hello New Zealand! Arriving in Christchurch, and having a bad taste party in the bush!

1 December, entry from Ørjan, no entry from Tanja

Up at 05:00 to get the bus to the Sydney airport. The flight was 2 hours and 15 minutes to Christchurch, New Zealand. Lots of immigration checks and we were not allowed any Australian produce into NZ. This was the first time in a while that we felt cold, it was like Norwegian spring, warm but cold wind. Bus from the airport took us to Cathedral Square in the city centre. Walked first to Backpackers Inn at the Square right in the middle of the square like the name implies. Always a bad sign when they do not want you to see any of their rooms before you make a reservation, so we walked out again. Left Tanja on a cold café by the church and had a wander around to find other options for accommodation. I ended up back at Backpackers Inn, and we just had to take the chance. I showed them my travel agency credentials and to my big surprise they showed me a room without bathroom and in the end, they gave us a room with bath for free! I walked to get a frozen but beautiful Tanja at the square. The hotel is pretty run down but the location is perfect, and the Kiwi Experience office is at the hotel, perfect! Having checked in to our room we huddled under a layer of blankets and had a nap. Had a nice dinner before having to call the Oslofjord radio station and give them an update.

The wizard of Christchurch in front of the cathedral

2 December 1997, Backpackers Inn the Square, Christchurch, New Zealand:
Landed in New Zealand yesterday, didn’t get any breakfast on the flight due to some catering problems, so we were really hungry. Nice to fly over the alps coming into New Zealand though, high, pointy peaks covered in snow in some places and with green trees in other places. Then the landscape changed, and we saw lots of fields going all the way down to the blue sea. Exchanged some money at the airport and took a bus to Cathedral Square. Hadn’t booked a place to stay, and first went into this place, but the receptionist didn’t want to give us the chance to have a look at any of the rooms. Then we went to a YHA where they wanted NZD 22 for a dorm. After having something to eat Ørjan went around on his own to try and find a nice place to stay, while I was waiting and feeling very cold – it is quite cold here – we need to buy some jackets. At least Ørjan got back with a smile on his face, he’d ended up where we started, and watched as they filled in some Kiwi passes for some Kilroy tourists, upon which he’d shown his Kilroy card and his letter of recommendation and ended up getting a twin with shower/toilet either free of charge or at half price. It looks pretty shabby, but it’s still ok. Going out to try and find some jackets now, then visit Kilroy’s partner agency, and maybe see a doctor, have struggled with headaches for a couple of weeks. It’s 10.30 p.m. talking to the radio station again. Have done our packing and are ready to leave again, will be back in Christchurch in about a week and have booked a room here already. Got the two nights here for free which is great, because we’ve spent some extra money today on fleece jackets for both of us. Looked around in different places, very expensive everywhere – from NZD 100-200 for a jacket, but finally got into a shop where Ørjan got his fleece at sale for NZD 29,-  and mine cost 59,- – not too bad. Went to a very nice doctor, checked different things, didn’t think it was anything dangerous, but asked me to call if it got worse, and told me to take some pain killers to see if that would get rid of the headache.


We sorted out a few things today. First, we found some cheap and warm fleece sweaters for both of us, we needed them! Tanja went to the doctors to check out a headache she has been having for a while, the doctor told her to take some painkillers, and the headache disappeared. We booked some legs on the Kiwi Experience bus, they had no records of our tickets or our first leg that we booked in Sydney. Tanja had an eyelash colouring, and I washed some clothes, starting the session with filling the tumble dryer with washing powder, great job!

3 December, entry from Ørjan, no entry from Tanja

After a bit of stress in the morning we got to the Kiwi bus. Only 3 people on the bus and our driver Deano. Today was mostly driving with a cool stop at some thermal pools, it smelled like rotten eggs, and we decided against swimming in the warm water. Picked up 7 people at Nelson and drove through Buller Gorge on the way to Westport. The nature in New Zealand is so green, with lush valleys and high mountains. In Westport we checked into Basil’s Backpackers, a great place with a fantastic communal kitchen. We did some shopping and made spaghetti for dinner. We walked to watch a seal colony in the afternoon.


4 December 1997, Bazil’s Backpackers, Westport, New Zealand:
Packed and ready to move on again. Left Christchurch with Kiwi Experience and the driver Dino yesterday and drove through beautiful green mountainous landscape with valleys in between in partly rain and partly sun. Some really heavy showers now and then – almost felt like being at home. Went by some thermal pools where it smelled like rotten eggs, the others (one passenger and the driver) went into the pools for a dip, whilst we didn’t, but had some lunch instead. Then we picked up ten more passengers coming in from Nelson and went here to Westport. Really nice hostel! Went out to Cape Foulwind, named by captain Cook, where we saw a colony of fur seals. It smelled quite bad, and it was difficult to get good photos of brown seals resting on brown rocks, but nice to see them. Beautiful and rugged coastal landscape with big wild waves. Made some dinner at the hostel, watched telly and then bed.


Our trip continued down the west coast with its stunning landscape. Large limestone formations green with trees and plants that grow in this southernmost rainforest. We had a great trek along a river, and it was nice walking knowing that no poisonous creepy crawlies could come and bite you, compared to Australia, this is bliss! We drove on to Pancake rocks and blowholes, rock formations that look like pancakes with blowholes whooshing and blowing water with the huge waves that pounded the shoreline. The other Kiwi Experience bus that was travelling the same route as us left a message at a gas station that there was to be a bad taste party at the next overnight stop. We made a stop at a thrift store on the way and bought some cheap stuff to make our outfits. The stop itself was in the middle of nowhere, basic, and pretty cold in the rooms. We got a great dinner and changed into our bad taste clothes, Tanja was a hippie girl, and I was the disco boy. The other bus had some younger kids that behave a bit childish, but it was a great party. It was a bitterly cold night with little sleep and one of the boys in the dorm snored like a wounded bear.


5 December 1997, Bushman’s centre, New Zealand:
This is what I don’t like about OZ and Kiwi Experience – unnecessary stops where we have to pay admission fees. The others are on a round trip learning about how they managed to survive before, and they’ll learn how to throw knives, hunt with bow and arrow etc., but I didn’t feel like going. Drove from Mahihapua about 1,5 hours ago. We stopped there at a pub in the middle of nowhere where the rooms were so cold that we had to rent blankets, and the toilet was outside, so we had to get fully dressed every time we had to go. Good food last night though, BBQ for NZD 7, a good-sized portion too. Got in before the other 50 people staying here, so we didn’t have to stay in a long line to get served, and had nice salad, boiled vegetables, potatoes and a big steak – tasted really good! Bad taste party afterwards, stopped by a second-hand store on our way there, and spent around NZD 3 each on clothing for the party. I got a really colourful dress and a white fake-leather jacket which actually didn’t look that bad, together with white socks, military boots and my hair in plaits I looked real nice… Much more people in the other bus – 42, while only 7 in total in ours, many of them young people ready for a party. Went for a walk by a river in the rain forest, some were meant to go canoeing, but the currents were too strong. Very beautiful place, we found a place by the river and had lunch there. We also went to Pancake Rocks with its blow holes – high waves hitting the rocks, a really beautiful coastline!  


After a cold night we woke to the sound of heavy rain. We drove to the Bushman’s Centre where we were shown how the old timers survived in the bush. Mildly interesting. Before the white man came to New Zealand there were no mammals here other than 3 kinds of bats. Now there is an estimated 70 million possums who were introduced by the fur industry. Possums are now public enemy number 1 because they ruin the rainforest and the native animals’ habitats. The only good possum is a dead possum they say. We were supposed to go to a gold mining camp, but our driver Deano took us to a great walk instead at the Forks. We walked up a lush and green hill and got a great view toward Franz Josef’s Glacier, our overnight stop. While we walked, Deano went down to the beach to surf, I suspect that was why he dropped the gold camp. The drive to Franz Joseph was not a long one. Deano helped us book our onward journey. You can take a full day excursion up on the glacier itself, but the cost was high, and we have glaciers in Norway combined with a changing weather situation, we dropped a trip onto the glacier. Tomorrow we will just relax, take a walk up to the glacier and see what happens.


6 December 1997, Black Sheep, Franz Josef, New Zealand:
After Bushman yesterday we went further along the coast and went for a hefty walk up to a viewing point from which we could see the Franz Josef glacier. We should have seen Mount Cook too, but New Zealand’s highest peak of around 3000 metres hid behind clouds, so we couldn’t see much of it. Great view over a big lagoon coming in from the ocean though. Deano was surfing while we were walking – nice job! Were supposed to have visited a gold mining place, but the seven of us were persuaded not to go there. Came here later yesterday, no double rooms available, so back in a 4-bed dorm with two who snored all night… Nicer place than yesterday though, an oven in the room, so not so cold, didn’t need the duvets we borrowed, and toilet/shower is inside, just beside our room. Went for a short walk towards the glacier, it was cloudy and raining, so didn’t see the glacier in the best weather either. Decided not to take the glacier tour, cost NZD 30 per person and 66 for a full day tour, probably quite hard, too. Anyway, we’ve got glaciers in Norway too. We’ve talked to people who’ve done the tour though, and they say it’s really nice. We slept in, then went shopping, did some reading, made food and went for a walk along the river – nice and fresh air, green and lush, high peaks – reminds me a bit of Norway, we don’t find the tree ferns and the palms at home, though.


We slept until 13:00, took a walk to the small city centre and used the rest of the day to read, walk and watch Trainspotting on TV in the evening.


7 December 1997, Makarora, New Zealand:
Got up early today, left Franz Josef at 7.30 a.m. and went to Lake Matheson where we went on a 1.5 hour walk around the lake and got some great photos. The sky was clear and blue, and the peaks of Mt. Cook and Mt. Tasman covered in snow mirrored in the lake. Quiet and nice area – a beautiful morning! Had breakfast there before continuing along the coast, and lunch at the beach where we turned inland for the Haas-pass. Looked more and more like Norway, high snow-covered peaks surrounded by green forest, beautiful clear watered rivers with round rocks. We drove into Mt. Aspiring national park and watched the top of this mountain from our Wilderness stopover at Makarora – a beautiful place. Managed to get a double room for NZD 17 and had quite a nice BBQ for 7 per person. Fresh air and beautiful scenery!

Lake Matheson

We got up early to get going before the other buses. A short drive to lake Matheson, a lake that with the right conditions you can get the reflection of both Mt Cook and Mt Tasman in the lake. We were lucky and the lake was like a mirror when we got there. The reflection of the surrounding landscape was amazing. Hope my photos turn out well. From the lake we continued towards the coast and had lunch at Shipwreck Creek. We continued up the Haast pass that runs under Mt Aspiration. Great photos were taken we hope. The landscape has big similarities to Norway, only it is greener and more intense. We got to see 3 great waterfalls on our way to Kaikoura, and this was one of the more enjoyable “forced” stops we have had. Nature was great and it was peaceful and quiet. Tomorrow we head for Queenstown.

New Zealand was love at first sight, and we have been lucky enough to be back one more time in 2005, going by car instead of a bus, read more about this here. We feel a deep connection with New Zealand, it is similar but very different from Scandinavia.

Ørjan and Tanja 2022

Part 14, nearly bungee jumping in Queenstown!

8 December, entry from Ørjan, no entry from Tanja

The only stop we made en route to Queenstown was at a place that had a lot of puzzles, not very interesting and frustrating to have a go to say the least. The scenery changed quite a lot during the day. The mountains were still there, but the rainforest and its greenery disappeared, and it was replaced with more brushland and firs. Just before Queenstown we stopped at the Kauwaru suspension bridge, the birthplace of bungee jumping. At 91 dollars it was too expensive for our budget, and we lacked a bit of courage too. Queenstown is the action capital of NZ and therefore pretty overpriced. We thought we could get a double room at a “normal” price at Central Backpackers, but the price here was 42 dollars for a double and 34 dollars for a 3-man dorm! The city was like any other alpine resort kind of town with tons of bars with happy hours. We went for a short walk in the evening with our travel companion Paul who has been with us in the bus since Christchurch.


9 December 1997, on our way from Alpine Stopover, Queensland, New Zealand:
So the bus has stopped, and we miss Deano already! Have a new driver, David, not very informative, but he thinks there’s no major problem with the bus, and that we’ll probably be on the go again soon. Yesterday we left Makarora around 10 a.m. and arrived in Queenstown around 4 p.m. Had our first stop at a labyrinth which we didn’t bother to visit, then went on to a bridge where some of the others were bungy-jumping. A lot of money for a very short thrill! Queenstown seemed like a really cosy town, beautifully situated between mountains and by a big lake, also quite touristy – we saw horses with santa hats on. Stayed in a 3-bed room together with Paul (“Val”) from Canada for NZD 17 per person at Backpackers Downtown, a double would have cost 42. Toilet and shower in the room, so it was ok to share. Dined at Pizza Hut, then to Abbey Road – a pub to meet up with the others, then on to a night club where happy hour drinks cost only NZD 1! Went home early, around 11 p.m., Paul got back around 2 a.m., got a bit wild after a while he said, topless dancing, party sex- games, and quite a few from the other bus had paired up, not a surprise really. We’re the only ones left from our bus now, some stayed in Queenstown, the others left the bus at other places, so we’re with strangers again – poor us…


We said goodbye to Paul before entering the bus en route to the Alpine stopover. It was also goodbye to Deano who drove his bus back to Christchurch. Our new driver was Davies, and he was a bit more quiet compared to Deano. The landscape did not change, and we had a stop in Cooktown which lies under massive mountains and Mt Cook itself. There are plenty of hikes here, from short 2-hour hikes like we did, and long ones that could be for days. We walked an easy trek to the foot of the mountains and glaciers of Mt Cook. It was amazing. We stayed at some great big huts with 7 beds and a decent kitchen and bathroom. It was me and 6 girls and that limited my access to the bathroom considerably. The stop itself was well worth it. It was so cold during the night that a fully dressed Tanja came sneaking over to my bunk bed in the morning to get warm, she was shivering!


10 December 1997, Backpackers Inn, Christchurch, New Zealand:
Got back here at around 4 p.m. today and have got a double room, nice to share bed once in a while! Yesterday we were in a seven-bed dorm, ok with kitchen, toilet, shower and TV, but was cold last night and had to get up and put some more clothes on, stupid not to rent a duvet. Went for a two-hour walk towards a glacier yesterday, just Ørjan and me which was nice, could walk in our own pace. Nice and quiet, only the birds singing and the occasional rock-slide and small avalanches that broke the silence. Fresh, nice air and loads of beautiful lupins along the way. We were hungry when we got back, so had a “gourmet” meal with instant noodles back in the cabin. Exchanged some money today and got more for our USD than last time, NZD 327 for USD 200 (only 322 last time). We have around NZD 30 to spend per day, should try not to use Visa too much, need to have some money when we get back, too. Lousy weather today, grey and raining the whole day, slept almost all the way on the bus from Cooktown. Leave for Kaikoura tomorrow at 8.20 a.m.


The day was spent on the bus on the way to Christchurch. We got another complimentary night at Backpackers Inn, and we got to wash some clothes.


11 December 1997, Top Spot, Kaikoura, New Zealand:
I’m cold – really cold in the house due to the constant draft, but it’s quite nice apart from the bedroom – only three bunk beds, and that’s it. But there’s a big nice kitchen, living room with TV and a nice patio outside by the garden with a beautiful view. Left Christchurch around 9 a.m. and arrived here at 12.30 p.m. – nice to get to spend some of the day here, and not having a very long drive. Kaikoura is beautifully situated by the sea, went for a long walk, and it was so nice to have the smell from the salt water and the seaweeds, almost like home. Went into a fish shack to see if they had some prawns, but apparently, they don’t exist in the sea here. They had big crayfish and lobsters though with lots of nice white meat, but we’d already bought food and stretched our budget, so we didn’t buy any.  We also went on the “Scenic walk” to see the colony of seals but didn’t spot any. Then we felt tired, and Ørjan tried to hitch hike, and we got lucky on our third attempt. A kind couple from Nelson drove us all the way back into town, and we were very grateful! Relaxed for a while in the sun before making delicious dinner – fajitas.


New bus and new driver up to Kaikoura. We got to Kaikoura at 13:00 and walked along the stunning coastline to spot seals and dolphins. We hitchhiked back to town. We made fajitas for dinner, noms! We stayed at Top Spot, it was nice with a big kitchen, nice rooms, and communal areas. Tomorrow we will drive to Picton to catch the ferry to Wellington and the North Island. Those who had been swimming with the dolphins said it was fantastic, we regretted not doing that. The whale spotting was also said to be nice.

When we came back to the South Island in 2005, the one thing we were really certain we would do was swim with the dolphins at Kaikoura. The advice we had in 1997 to wait until Bay of Islands in the North Island, was completely wrong (more on that later). Read more about our swim in 2005 here.

Ørjan and Tanja 2022

Part 15, the North Island! Taupo, Napier and thermal parks!


12 December 1997, Downtown Backpackers, Wellington, New Zealand:
Won’t be seeing much of the capitol. Got here at 5.30 p.m. following a three-hour ride on the ferry after a three-hour bus ride from Kaikoura. Got a twin at dorm price, NZD 17, since they had no more beds left in dorms, good for us! Chilled for a while, then went downstairs to have some food, they have their own restaurant, pub and even gaming room here, we watched Friends and are now back in our room. It’s really windy outside, so don’t feel like going outside, I’m guessing it looks like most other cities. At least I understand why it’s called City of Winds. Not too happy with our current driver, says almost nothing, he doesn’t even remember to give us important information, like we were being picked up at the ferry terminal.


The drive from Kaikoura to Picton was not that interesting. The ferry takes 4 hours to Wellington, it is a big ferry with plenty of room. We sat with a group of people from all corners of the world and talked during the crossing. When we arrived Wellington, we understood why it is called “the windy city” holy crap it was windy! We stayed at Downtown Backpackers, an old hotel with 70s peeling wallpaper. We got a twin room with the tallest bunkbed we have ever seen! The hotel has a restaurant, pub, gaming room, kitchen and TV room. We had dinner at the restaurant, saw a Friends episode on TV and went to bed. We were tired after spending last night with a quire of 3 snorers.


13 December 1997, Central Backpackers, Taupo, New Zealand:
We’re in a really nice town now, situated by Lake Taupo – the world’s largest crater lake made from one of the most powerful volcanic eruptions almost 2000 years ago in 186 AD. The area still has volcanic activity, one of the volcans by the lake erupted in 1995. According to the Kiwi leaflet we were supposed to visit Huka Falls, but our driver never took us. When we were by the lake we watched some people trying to hit three golf holes from a 100 metre distance, no one managed, but it was fun to watch. Tried to be sensible and went food shopping (pasta, soup etc.) to save some money, but when we got to Taupo we were both so hungry that we went to Burger King instead – tasted good! Went by a pub called Holy Cow to get a cap for Ørjan like the one Deano was wearing, but they didn’t have any. Many from the bus are going out tonight, but think we’re staying in.


Rise and shine! 06:00 for breakfast. Bus left at 07:30. The landscape is not as spectacular as the South Island, no big mountains, only rolling hills. We drove over a mountain pass to the art-deco city of Napier, a very nice town by the sea. If we had the time, we could easily have spent a day extra here. We decided to stay in Auckland until the 17th of December and then go to Pahia on the 18th. There have been some mistakes from Kiwi Experience, they had no bookings from us, they said that the fax from Deano had not come through. Argh! A frustrating phone call. Onwards to Taupo without stopping at some waterfalls promised in the brochure. Taupo is a cool town with a great view over a large lake that was once the caldera of a volcano. It was also quite hot today, first time in sandals since Australia. We are wondering of the driver will take us to the promised locations from the brochure tomorrow…

14 December, entry from Ørjan, no entry from Tanja

We left Taupo in a hurry to get to a geyser in a thermal park that I have forgotten the name of. We got there just in time for the geyser to erupt at exactly 10:15 every day. Just down the road there was a spectacular thermic field, driving there was very cool with steam venting out of the ground along the road. In the park itself there was that smell of rotten eggs again, but this was acceptable when the surroundings were this spectacular. The champagne pool was a large basin with bubbles coming up from the bottom of it, it had a spectacular orange fringe of deposited minerals and it looked awesome with the steam coming from the surface. All over the park it was boiling mud, steam vents with yellow sulphur deposits and large waterfalls with boiling water. Very cool! I guess the early Christian settlers must have thought this was the gateway to hell. In Rotorua there is more of the same, only here it is in the middle of town! Drove past Rotorua and headed for Waitomo. We stayed at a hostel next to the Black Water Rafting company headquarters. We used the afternoon to walk around and relax a little. Booked our Black Water Rafting trip for tomorrow at 09:45.

When we travelled back to New Zealand in 2005 we revisited all of those thermal parks around Rotorua, and even stayed in a hotel with boiling mud pools in the backyard. Read more about this here. We also got to see the mighty Huka Falls, finally.

Ørjan and Tanja

Part 16, the best day ever! Black Water Rafting in Waitomo, New Zealand.


15 December 1997, Juno Backpackers, Waitomo, New Zealand:
What a day and what a birthday! We’ve been going full tilt from 9.45 a.m. to 8 p.m., and I really mean full tilt! We’ve done both blackwater rafting 1 and 2. Started with number 1, we were equipped with wetsuits, socks, boots and helmets with torches before a 10-minute drive to Waitomo Caves.

The crew!

Picked up an inflatable inner tube each and practiced on throwing ourselves into the water backs first with the tubes under our bums – great fun! Then we went for a short walk to the cave entrance. Got a bit sceptical upon seeing the tiny opening and how dark and narrow it was, and thought I’d feel claustrophobic, but luckily, I didn’t. We walked a bit, then floated on the tubes and jumped around in the caves. Nice formations of stalagmites and stalactites and beautiful glow worms with an almost bluish shine up close in the darkness, while they looked like white stars from afar. Everyone turned off their torches and we were floating in “eel”, i.e. everyone attached their legs to the tube in front of them, while holding the legs of the person behind, all the while we were floating down stream and all we could hear was the water dripple from the cave walls and the dump sounds from the tubes in the water, other than that it was completely silent, and we were just lying there watching the glow worms in the cave ceiling – magical. We we’re in the water for about an hour, not so long, but long enough to get really cold, especially on our hands which we used to paddle, so got all numb in the end, so the warm soup and bread which we got in the café afterwards hit the spot in more than one way!

Ørjan thought it was so fun that he wanted to go one more time. He told them he worked for Kilroy and got a good deal; two for the price of one at NZD 63 per person for the second tour, and 59 for the first one. And since it was my birthday Ørjan paid for both as a birthday present – that was so nice of him! So, at 2.30 p.m. we went for it again after about an hour’s rest, and this was a completely different tour. Got the same gear as before, but in addition we had climbing gear and safety equipment. The first thing we did was to abseil down about 35 metres into a very steep and narrow cave. We’d practiced outside on the field, but it felt quite different hanging in loose air trying to abseil down to the bottom. Started a bit too fast and my right hand almost got caught in the equipment but managed to stop by squeezing with my left hand – oops! Didn’t feel very comfortable on my way downwards, only glimpsed two torches far below. Had a burning sensation in my right hand where the rope got caught, so quite painful. Got to the bottom somehow and was happy to put my feet on the ground. Even happier when the guide Andrew told us there would be no more abseiling. Waited for the other eight and two guides to get down, then wandered into the caves. Got to a very steep drop where we had to tie ourselves to a line and fasten the safety gear, one of the guides was showing us how to move on, when he suddenly slipped and fell, or at least that’s what we thought, but it was all part of the tour of course, but we got really scared. Then we were pushed hanging onto the line in full speed over a 10-metre drop, all the torches were switched off to make it even more exciting. When we reached the end of the line, we were served hot tea and a big sandwich – tasty, because I was quite cold again even though we hadn’t been into the water yet. That’s where we were headed next though, the tubes were waiting for us in the water, so we had to jump from a cliff, went under when I hit the water, so got even colder. We were swimming, floating and wading before forming another “train” floating in the dark, watching glow worms. Left the tubes where we started and continued in the water by foot. Very slippery with lots of rocks in the water and on the walls so we had to be careful. Had to steady myself on the sharp cave walls a few times, so my hands are quite sore, not to talk about the way my nails look. Some places the water was ancle deep, in some places it reached our shoulders and some places we had to swim. Had another stop and were served hot chocolate and a hot orange lemonade, everyone started getting really cold now although the guides claimed the water was warm – around 12-14 degrees Celsius, compared to how cold it is during winter. After a while we got into the same area, we had been on the first tour, but didn’t take the same, easy way out of course. This time we climbed a waterfall, a few metres up a steep wall with sharp rocks, never thought I’d dare or manage doing that. But with the help of our eminent guides, it went really well, and after climbing a couple more waterfalls we were out in the daylight again. Suddenly it felt warm! Were served hot soup with bread again, so at least we’ve had enough to eat. We also got some ice cream on our way to the caves. Went back here and had a shower and am now lying in bed feeling exhausted. Will remember this birthday for a very long time – it’s been an exciting day.

Feeding the wildlife

Didn’t do much yesterday, or actually we did after conferring a bit with Ørjan. Left Taupo at 9.30 a.m. after a free breakfast at the hostel. Just reached a thermal park at 10.15 in time to see a hot spring erupt into a high, warm ray of water – exciting to see how it the hot water started to ripple, then bubble and eventually explode. Not too excited about the smell though. The sulphur in the hot springs smells like a thousand rotten eggs, and I don’t want to go swimming in any of the springs. Went on to a larger area where we paid a NZD 7.50 admission fee, and it really was worth the money. Walked around and saw all this activity in the crust, craters rippling with boiling water, boiling clay, boiling lake with beautiful colours of green, yellow, orange and red with an area looking like a big boiling beach – fascinating, but again – the smell! Went on to Rotorua where we had a half hour stop, glad we decided not to spend the night there. Got to Waitomo around 3 p.m. We’re staying at a really cosy place with a big kitchen and living room with TV, nice and quiet, a nice outdoor area surrounded by grazing horses, calves, boars and goats, rural, green and lush. We just rested in our room, watched telly and read some magazines last night.

Birthday girl in her birthday wetsuit!

Tanja’s birthday! It is a long time since I have been this excited about anything, and nervous! I have looked forward to this for a long time. We started our adventure by donning wetsuits with purple tights and white gumboots. We got helmets with lights attached to them. There were 12 people including us. We drove with a minibus to the cave entrance. Here we got to choose an inflated inner tire tube and we got to try and jump backward into a small creek. The entrance to the cave was tight and after a while of climbing and crawling we did a new backwards jump with the inflated tube held firmly to our bottoms into a large underground lake. Inside the cave it was pitch black darkness and we floated down a subterranean river. We all held on to each other and formed a long chain of rubberized humans. The most amazing thing happened when we all switched off our headlamps and we were plunged into total darkness. At first, I thought we say daylight but when we came closer it was millions of glow worms hanging from the roof of the cave! It was like floating in space and the glow worms above were the stars, it was one of the most amazing moments of my life. All was quiet, it was like all of us held our breaths just to savour the moment, it was otherworldly! At this point we were around 65 metres beneath the surface and the water was around 13 degrees, so my hands started to get a bit cold and also my feet. We walked a bit more and did another 5 metres backwards jump into a small pool. After climbing upwards, we ended up in daylight in the same creek where we had started a few hours earlier. Back at camp we got hot soup and bagels for lunch. We both thought that this experience was one of the best things we had ever done, so I decided to see if I could get a discount if we wanted to go with the advanced afternoon tour. Incredibly we got half price on that tour! Amazing! We had a 1-hour break before it was time to don the wetsuit and cave exploring attire. We also got harnesses for rappelling and an extra battery for our headlamp, this trip was a full 3 hours underground. We drove up to almost the same spot as earlier only a bit further up the hill. There was a brief introduction to rappelling.

Next step was to rappel down into a small hole in the ground, did not look that spectacular but when I exited the hole on the underside, I was suddenly 35 metres above the ground! It was a huge dome like cave, and I could see my fellow cavers like small ants below me. Holy crap Batman! We navigated small hallways before we got hooked onto zip lines, told to turn off our headlamps, and we were launched into darkness for a few glorious and angst-ridden seconds. We got some hot tea at the bottom of the cave system, and we got our own rubber ring again to jump into a pool from 4 metres. We floated into a large cave and switched off our headlamps again. And I was an instant interstellar traveller, just as awesome as the first time. We walked in cold water, and we swam in cold water. We went through a passage called the “rebirth” channel, and it was claustrophobically tight! At the end of the trek it got pretty hairy. A couple of passages were so narrow that when I laid on my back, my nose touched the ceiling of the passage. I had to crawl backwards with my nose in the rock, and I had to muster every one of my calm nerves not to freak out! I entered a small room where a waterfall came cascading into the middle of the room. We climbed that waterfall and 3 more to get to the surface. My hands and feet were numb, and I had sores under my arms from the wetsuit, but all that was worth one of the most epic days ever! It was challenging and I am proud we both made it. Back to camp for some well-earned soup and bagels again. This is something I will recommend to anyone going to New Zealand!

This video gives an impression of the thrills of our last adventure the Abyss Tour!

There is a reason that this day got such a big entry from the both of us, it is still one of the most exciting things we have ever done. Thinking back on it now, I am not sure we would have dared this adventure today, but we are so glad we did it then. The memories are still so vivid! Should you be in the area, please go to Waitomo and have the experience of a lifetime!

Ørjan and Tanja 2022

Part 17, Auckland and the tropical north

16 December, entry from Ørjan, no entry from Tanja

We slept in until noon. It was raining quite heavily, and we spent the rest of the day relaxing until the Kiwi Experience bus took us to Auckland. We stayed at City Backpackers; it was a nice place. And we had dinner at Burger King before heading back to the hotel.


17 December 1997, City Backpackers Hotel, Auckland, New Zealand:
Got to Auckland last night after a 3-hour bus ride from Waitomo. It was raining all day yesterday, so we slept in and were just relaxing until we were picked up at 3 p.m. Checked in here together with Jody and Richard from Canada and went for a meal at Burger King. Didn’t sleep much at all due to the telly being on high volume somewhere, a lot of loud talking from the room next door, Jody’s talking in her sleep and someone getting into the room at 4 a.m. Still not very tired this morning. Visited YHA Travel, Kilroy’s partner agency, then we went to find Tonga Royal Airlines which had moved out of the centre. Had some breakfast and took the Link-bus to Kiwi Experience’s office where we reserved place on a bus and booked a room at Pipi Patch in Pahia, also got some free t-shirts. Did some shopping, went back to the hostel, then to the cinema where we watched Peacemaker, back to the hostel again, had pasta together with another couple, then watched telly. Glad to leave again tomorrow, don’t enjoy big cities much. Can’t get any peace and quiet, lots of people, heavy traffic, it smells bad – much better to stay in smaller places, normally the hostels are nicer too!


Booked onwards bus journey to Bay of Islands and booked a room at Pipi Patch. Walked around Auckland and saw some sights. Made pasta for dinner together with Richard and Jodi. I got a fax sent to Kilroy in Oslo.

The stunning beaches of the tropical north
18 December, entry from Ørjan, no entry from Tanja

After having said goodbye to Jodi and Richard we got on the Kiwi bus at 08:00. Our driver was Richard, and he was a knowledgeable guy. At the breakfast stop the bus broke down and we had a bit of a delay to our first stop at Pakiri. Here we rented 4X4 quads and went driving in the sand dunes and on the beach. Saw the remains of a dead whale on the beach. Onward to Waipu cave where some of the bus had a very muddy trek into the cave, we stayed out in the sun since we saw the most amazing caves just a few days ago.

Next stop was Whangarei where we shopped for some food and two bottles of red wine. We stopped at Whangarei Falls; a huge waterfall 20 metres high. Three idiots on the bus had to jump this, a girl and two boys from Denmark. The first guy jumped, not even knowing how deep it was, he landed ok. The next guy missed his jump and landed with a sickening smack on his back. He surfaced white as a sheet and barely made it to the bank of the river. After seeing this, the girl in her infinite wisdom decided to jump as well, same thing happened, and she missed her take off and landed flat on her back. It looked like she was ok. When she got back to the bus, we could see that her whole backside and the back of her legs were dark blue and there was blood seeping from the skin. She looked like she was in shock. When we reached Pahia a few hours later the boy passed out and the girl was whiter than a ghost. A doctor arrived and we do not know a lot more. Let’s us hope they are alive tomorrow, stupid people! Pipi Patch gave us a nice room complimentary the first night, great! We are sharing kitchen and bathroom with 4 others. I sent a fax to the Kilroy office to ask if they could contact Beachcomber Island in Fiji to get a good price there, hoping to get a reply before we travel on.

19 December, entry from Ørjan, no entry from Tanja

A beautiful day with an early start, we are both getting a bit tired of travelling without stopping much but I guess this is how it is to be on a tight schedule. After some driving, we came to the Kauri Forest containing some of the last patches of Kauri Trees left in New Zealand. It used to cover the island, but they were great for masts on sailboats, and well, that was it for the mighty Kauri Tree. The few remaining are huge! We also visited a place that made different things from old Kauri trees found in lakes and swamps. They get a beautiful golden colour when polished. They had a table that cost 50 000 kroners! Onward to Cape Reinga, we stopped to swim and bodysurf on a beach, but it was chilly.

Cape Reinga is the northernmost point of New Zealand, and spectacular. Below the cape the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific to form currents and water colours that are just phenomenal. It has a great significance for the Maori as well. They believe that the souls of the deceased come here and enter the sea to travel on to the islands where their ancestors came from. On the way down to 90-mile beach we got to try bodyboarding on the huge sand dunes in that area. It was incredibly fun, but you ended up with sand where the sun doesn’t shine and beyond for the rest of the day.

90-mile beach is just 65 miles but still awesome. It is an actual road. We saw some wild horses on the way. We stopped at a pub to rinse the bus for salt water from the beach and our driver Wazza took us to a fish and chips shop by the sea. It was probably the best fish and chips (in New Zealand lingo fush and chups) meal we ever had! We arrived at Pahia 20:30 and proceeded to shower away all the sand that had been lingering in our orifices since Cape Reinga. Rest of the evening spent with fellow travellers and beer. Got to bed at 01:00.


20 December 1997, Pipi Patch, Pahia, New Zealand:
Nice with a laid back day! Feel we’ve done nothing else but get up early, get on a bus, go for a walk about in a city or have some other activity, a bit tired of just being on the road all the time, so it’s been nice doing nothing. Slept until noon, had some breakfast and went into the village. This is a tiny place, so not many shops. Tried to find a place to develop some photos, but more expensive than in Norway. Found a hairdresser and got a haircut, much needed. Did some shopping, booked a dolphin swim tour for tomorrow and headed back to our double room. Got a night for free here, so even though the room costs NZD 20 per person per night, we only paid 15. Nice to have a room to ourselves! The driver was a student having his first day on the job for the season and didn’t have the best start as something was wrong with the bus, and we were an hour delayed from our first stop. Then he forgot our tickets on the next stop, and at the last stop he almost lost two of his guests. We started quite early from Auckland at 8 a.m. and went north. Had a stop in a small town to have breakfast. Got to know Lucy from Dorchester, Dorset, England – nice girl! Had to wait for a while in the town while the bus was fixed. Drove on to the countryside and a farm, Pakiri, where someone went horse riding, three people who were on an advanced level, so I didn’t dare book a ride even though I’d really like to – lots of beautiful, amazing horses there. We went to the beach instead together with Lucy and a few of the others, had forgotten to bring bikini and towel in my backpack, so no swimming for me even though it was nice and warm. Ørjan was riding a trike – looked like great fun! We continued to Waipu caves where most went on a walk with the guide with only rubber shoes and candles. We decided not to go since we’ve been on our great caving experience in Waitomo. Just as well, it was quite cold in the caves and without a wetsuit I think I’d been cold. We made our own fun throwing a ball to one another instead. Stopped at a supermarket before heading to Whangarei falls. Three idiots jumped off the steep cliff above the falls – about 15-20 metres from the water, where no one knew how deep it was, and they were jumping from slippery sharp rocks. A Dane jumped first – he knew how to do it, then his friend who’d been standing hesitating for a long time, probably didn’t want to jump I think, but was too embarrassed to pull out once his friend had jumped. He almost did a flip in the air and landed on his back. Gasped for air as he got his head above water and had difficulty swimming to shore. Then a very young girl wanted to jump, don’t know if she understood what happened to the Dane, but we tried to persuade her not to jump. She probably wanted to prove she was just as brave as the guys, so jumped of course. But as soon as she jumped her body sort of flattened in the air, and she landed with a splash straight on her back – not a pretty sight, actually surprised she wasn’t knocked unconscious. She swam slowly towards the shore, and the first Dane who jumped swam out to fetch her. As they got into the bus, we could see how awful they looked, especially the girl, the whole of her back and her legs looked as if they’d been burnt, blue and red circular marks on their skin – looked painful, and both of them were quite pale. Travelled on to Pahia, and the inexperienced driver insisted on taking us to Fullers, an activity centre where they wanted us to book other tours. Inside the Danish guy fainted and the girl was in so much pain she couldn’t leave the bus, but instead of getting the two of them to a doctor, we stayed there for more than half an hour. In addition, the driver took us for a tour of the place. It was now 9.30 p.m. and we were delayed more than two hours, we were hungry, tired and just wanted to go to the hostel, we were also worried for the two who were injured and not very interested in listening to the guide. Think the ones who jumped were idiots risking their lives like that, but also think the driver should have told them this was not a place to jump. It could have ended much worse, both got medical assistance once we got to the hostel, and the girl had to stay in hospital overnight for observation, might have injured some internal organs. Saw them both again yesterday, so hopefully they’re ok. Finally had our longed-for BBQ and went to bed. Didn’t feel like getting up when the alarm rang at 7 a.m., didn’t want another day on a bus after the previous day, but had a really nice day after all. Went to Cape Reinga – the northernmost point in New Zealand. Nice and knowledgeable guide too. Went for a short walk to see some Kauri trees, giant trees and very tall – popular as building material. Went by a place where they sold furniture made from Kauri and saw an amazing table at just NOK 50,000 – about GBP 5,000… Had a couple of shorter stops before heading for a beautifully desolate beach. Ørjan was surfing on a boogie board, I brought one too, but was already cold while on land due to the cold wind, so didn’t want to get into the water, but it was nice to just relax on the beach too.

Cape Reinga!

Then we went to Cape Reinga, a beautiful place with a nice light house. We could see the place where the Pacific and the Tasman Sea meet, the waves were going in all directions and the currents looked very strong – cool! From there we went down to an area with big sand dunes where we were sand boarding/sledding down the dunes on boogie boards, lots of fun, but sand everywhere. Went onto 90-mile beach that got its name when the farmers herded cattle down the beach, they spent three days from one end to the other, they reckoned they went for about 30 miles per day, hence 90 mile beach. Actually, the beach is only 64 miles long though. We drove the whole length of the beach and came across several herds of wild horses – what magnificent animals! Stopped at a local pub on our way back, then to NZ’s best fish and chip shop. Had spring rolls, first time I’ve had those with fish, and an enormous portion of chips, so I was stuffed. Ørjan had calamari, really tasty too. Got back around 8.30 p.m., jumped into the shower and rested for a bit before drinking red wine and chatting to Lucy, in bed at 1 a.m.


Slept like logs until 13:00. Walked to the city centre and Tanja got an overdue haircut. Relaxed back at the Pipi Patch, washed more or less all our clothes and relaxed some more while the tumble dryer did its work. Had spaghetti for dinner again, cheap, and good. Booked a dolphin swimming boat trip tomorrow, looking forward to that since we were recommended to do this in Bay of Islands and not in Kaikoura.


21 December 1997, Pipi Patch, Pahia, New Zealand:
It’s about 7 p.m., and I’m feeling tired. After a night with very little sleep due to people talking loudly outside and going to bed at 4 a.m., and we had to get up at 7. Had to sleep a little in the afternoon, but that makes me drowsy the rest of the night. The dolphin swim tour was quite the disappointment. We did see four or five very cute dolphins, but we were never anywhere close to getting to swim with them. Don’t know why – maybe the sea was too rough? One can’t swim with them if they have babies, or if they are eating or resting, but don’t think that was why. Felt a bit ripped off, it seemed they knew before we started that we wouldn’t go swimming with them – they never informed us what we should do if we got the chance, no mention of wetsuits, fins or anything. Still, they sell this tour as “Swim with the dolphins”. Wouldn’t have paid NOK 350 (GBP 35) if we’d known. Then we’d rather go on a sailing trip which Lucy had booked and which cost NZD 60, which is less than NOK 300 (GBP 30). Didn’t even get anything to eat, very low service compared to our trip to the Great Barrier reef for instance which cost AUD 72! Interesting to get to know a bit about Maori customs and culture, though, we were welcomed by a “warrior” who was dancing, a woman who sang and a kind of prayer before leaving shore. They also told a couple of stories along the way, took us to a hole in the rock and some lagoons amongst the 144 islands where we stopped for 15 minutes to swim. But it still wasn’t what we’d paid for. Regret not having booked a swim with dolphins tour in Kaikoura instead, the people who did said they’d been swimming with more than 300 dolphins – which I’m sure would have been a great experience. Well, maybe we’ll get a chance to do this some other time? Only four days left before we leave NZ and that feels ok, and although it looks a lot like Norway I’m very glad to have had the chance to visit. Only three days left until Christmas as well, almost impossible to get a grasp on that, have no Christmas spirit at all. Strange to be 28 as well, replied that I was 27 a couple of days ago, haven’t realized yet that I’ve grown a year older… Had Lucy over for dinner last night – very nice. We made spaghetti and shared a bottle of red wine of ours, and she brought a bottle as well and some watermelon for dessert – delicious!


We were met by a Māori ritual at the dock, we were challenged by a Māori warrior, and he put a small fern leaf on the ground before us, the warrior looked fierce and threatening poking his tongue out and waving his spear at us. One of us had to pick up the fern to show that we came in peace, if we did not pick it up, there would be trouble. After the fern was picked up the Māori women sang a welcome song (Hare Mai I think) and we did the traditional greeting of pressing noses and sharing a breath, very cool and moving way of welcoming us aboard the boat.

Fierce Maori warrior with fern leaf on the ground

The boat was a nice catamaran type boat. We spent quite a while finding dolphins and we found only a few, we were not allowed to go into the water and swim with them, and that was very disappointing. This was supposed to be a dolphin swimming excursion! It did not seem that this was something they did, so we felt almost cheated even though the scenery and islands around us were lovely. We rode the boat to Hole in The Rock, a huge hole in a rock in the middle of the sea. It was so large that on high tide the boats could drive through the hole. We could swim in the ocean if we wanted by the rock, we chose not to. I got pretty seasick after a while on the huge swells that were rolling around the rock. The trip was OK but should have been called Dolphin Watching and not Dolphin Swimming. Had we known this we would have chosen a sail trip instead at 60 dollars, we would see dolphins and get a better experience on a sailboat. We should have done the dolphin swimming in Kaikoura…

Luckily, we visited New Zealand again in 2005 and visited both Kaikoura and Pahia on that trip, and we did as we promised we would do, we swam with hundreds of dolphins in Kaikoura.

Ørjan and Tanja 2022

22 December 1997, Pipi Patch, Pahia, New Zealand:
Last day in Pahia. Have left a note stating we want to go to Auckland a bit earlier tomorrow, Ørjan wants to develop some slides before arriving in Tonga/Fiji as he thinks they might get damaged due to the heat and moisture. If we go with Kiwi Experience we’ll spend the whole day on the road, supposed to arrive at 7.30 p.m. and leaving here at 8 a.m., while actual driving time is only three hours. Checked with another bus company and it cost NZD 29 with the ISIC card for a 4-hour drive. Decided it was a bit expensive as we pay nothing going with Kiwi. Been a relaxing day today, slept in, had breakfast and went into the “centre” of the village. Ørjan bought some jewellery and then we played mini golf which was fun! Stayed at the beach for a while before heading back here. Have done a bit of reading, watched Simpsons and Friends, made some food and then we’ve been sitting on the terrace together with Lucy who’s also leaving with Kiwi tomorrow. Ørjan is watching X-files, while I’ve been packing.

Lucy and Tanja sandboarding

More relaxing.

Classic vintage self timer picture. If you look closely, Ørjan was trying to bring his arm around Tanja in time for the photo but ended up hitting her in the head with elbow instead. This is taken about 1/2 second after impact.
23 December, entry from Ørjan, no entry from Tanja

It was Scotty who drove us back to Auckland. On the way we stopped in another Kauri Forest and I saw some of the biggest trees I have ever seen! The biggest one there is so huge that the Māori believe this tree holds the earth and the sky apart so that the sun can shine in the day. The tree is over 2000 years old. We stopped at a beautiful lake and had a swim and we arrived in Auckland at 18:30. I got my photos delivered for development just before the shops closed. The room we got was not that nice, no window and it was next to the common room, where there is always something going on. Not so much sleep during the night.


24 December 1997, City Backpackers, Auckland, New Zealand:
Hard to imagine it’s Christmas Eve, well here at least, at home it’s still only 9 in the morning, so at least they’re not having Christmas dinner now. We are having nachos and salsa today and we had lunch at Pizza Hut. Developed some photos today, a lot of nice ones from Oz and NZ. Didn’t sleep well last night, when we went to bed there was almost as something was banging at the door, probably the music from the night club or strip tease bar next door. When I finally fell asleep, I awoke from some loud voices, when our “considerate” flat mates got back from disco and continued the nachspiel in our dining room right next to our bedroom. It was five when I checked the last time, and they probably continued for another hour. Horrible double room by the way, no window, no daylight or fresh air, no furniture, only a square room with a bed, quite sad when we arrived and saw the room. Luckily, we’ve switched to a much nicer room now. Haven’t seen anyone else here either and are sitting alone watching telly. Long day yesterday, get so tired when on the bus for a long time. Left Pahia at 8 a.m. and went to a place where we could sandboard on the dunes for NZD 13 or go for a walk. Two went sandboarding, the rest of us went to a café – enough of such adventures now! Got to see the biggest Kauri tree in NZ – 1200 – 2000 years old and a giant! We also had a stop at a lake with a beautiful beach where we went swimming – really nice. Leaving for Tonga tomorrow, haven’t booked anywhere to stay yet, and tomorrow is a holy day, and Tonga is a very religious place, so hope we’ll find somewhere to stay…


After waking up I went to reception and upgraded us to a nicer room on the 6th floor. We picked up my developed films and had lunch at Pizza Hut. Walked around Auckland and looked at the Christmas decorations. Shopped some bits and bobs we thought might be good to bring to Tonga. I also called Royal Tongan Airlines to reconfirm our flight tomorrow. We brought some Christmas treats to our room and watched TV.

New Zealand was amazing! We have a special bond with the people and the country we feel. This may be since it is similar to Norway but still it is so very very different. The air is crisp, the landscape is green and changing all the time. We have mentioned before that we were so lucky to be able to visit New Zealands South and North Island one more time in 2005. And if we get the oportunity, we will visit again some time in the future. We love NZ!

Ørjan and Tanja 2022

Coming up next: Tonga!

Part 18, Tonga!


25 December 1997, Tony’s guesthouse, Nuku Alofa, Tonga:
So both transport and lodging turned out not to be a problem, we were shanghaied at the airport. Tony’s had good reviews in Lonely Planet, and we were also recommended to stay here by someone we met in NZ, but what a creepy, worn-down place! We’ll check out as early as we can tomorrow morning. The flights were smooth, first 2 hours 40 minutes to Fiji, then 1 hour 10 minutes to Tonga. Only met friendly people so far.


After a good night’s sleep in a good bed, we headed to the airport in Auckland. The bus cost 7 dollars and we got there a bit early so check in was not open yet. Our first meeting with the airline was not a good one, a rude stressed-out check in person is not a good first impression. We had to pay 20 dollars airport tax directly to the airline, something I did not know. The plane was a spanking new Boeing 737, same as Braathens have in Norway. We flew 3 hours from Auckland to Fiji, they showed the new Men In Black movie, and that made the flight seem shorter. The airport at Fiji is quite small and basic and almost empty, well it is Christmas morning… The flight from Fiji to Tonga took only about an hour. Very basic airport, I felt we were landing in a coconut field. We were a bit nervous that there would be no taxis or transport available since it was Christmas, but we did not need to worry. We were shanghaied by a lady that represented Toms Guest House and it would cost only 20 dollars for the both of us in a double room. We were a bit disappointed when we arrived, in Lonely Planet there were only good words about Toms, but it seems like Tom has had better days. I am now on the bed in the room listening to big band music from the room next door and dogs barking on the street, and there are plenty of dogs here. We will move accommodation tomorrow; this is no good. And I need to talk to Royal Tongan Airlines about flights to Ha’apai island.


26 December 1997, Breeze Inn, Nuku Alofa, Tonga:
What a place we stayed in last night! Couldn’t even stomach myself to get washed this morning, there were hundreds of ants in the sink, and the bathtub was full of dead and living insects, and lots of mosquitos were flying around in the middle of the day. Worst place we’ve ever stayed at, even worse than Gili Trawangan and Geoff’s Place. Got our backpacks on and literally run away from the place, first to Tonga Royal Airlines, to check the possibility of an agent ticket to Haapai, but they weren’t very friendly there at all. They didn’t have any agent tickets, knew nothing of the fax Ørjan sent before we left, and said we had to wait for the supervisor who’d be working tomorrow. The only flight tomorrow leaves at 7 a.m. however, none on Sunday and Monday was fully booked. So, it will be too late, think we leave from here on Saturday. Then we tried the Tourist information office, but even though it said it was open it wasn’t… And the bank. So, there we were, hungry – hadn’t eaten, no place to stay, and back and bellies were aching from the weight of the backpacks – exhausted! Luckily, we found a nice place to stay – read about it in Lonely Planet. Double the price compared to Tony’s, but well worth the money. Am sitting outside on the terrace now in a garden filled with flowers and palms overlooking the sea.

Doesn’t seem too nice to swim here though, a big reef just by the waterfront, and quite murky water. We’re in the capitol, which doesn’t really look like a city at all. Luckily, we found a supermarket that was open, so we finally got to eat. Maybe safest to cook ourselves, don’t want to get any stomach problems again. Feel like proper tourists again, people are staring at us, maybe not so strange – haven’t seen many other tourists so far, so probably not high season. Met a Swedish couple who’d been the only ones apart from two other people on Sun Island. A bit nice too, that there aren’t too many tourists here, will probably be different in Fiji. Hope Tourist information will be open tomorrow so we can find a place to stay by the beach for a few days. The locals seem a bit reserved and sceptical towards us. The royal palace is situated close by, looks like a villa in Oslo – a big wooden house.

Tongan palace

After a restless night with howling dogs and an aggressive cockroach the size of a whale we ran out of Toms the next day! We found that the whole city of Nuku Alofa was closed due to Christmas, so we were not able to exchange any money or travellers’ cheques. The people at Royal Tongan Airlines were not very helpful and seemed like they had PMS or massive hangovers the whole bunch. No flight to Ha’apai was available they said, and that was a bit of a downer. The map in Lonely Planet was a bit erroneous so we had trouble finding Seabreeze Inn, but we were pleasantly surprised at only 40 dollars for a double room with bathroom and a nice view, and it is quiet around here, bonus! We walked back to the city centre where a few shops were open, we did some shopping and went back to the hotel for dinner and an early bed.

27 December, entry from Ørjan, no entry from Tanja

We packed our stuff and went down to the city centre to visit the tourist office. We got talking to a girl that told us about the Good Samaritan hotel and that there was a free shuttle bus there at 13:00. We decided to go there, it was on the other side of the island with a great sunset she said. We walked to the Air Pacific office, and they were very helpful in helping us change our tickets back to Fiji at 03:00 on the 1st of January. And they did it for free! The bus to Good Samaritan was a small van that stopped every 500 metres so the 15 minutes it was supposed to take took double that. The hotel had no beach as such, but it was possible to swim in the ocean. We got a small hut, like a dolls house in the garden. It had ample space and a nice view over the garden and the sea for only 40 dollars. The sunset was amazing from the huge deck in front of the restaurant. We had some great food from the restaurant, it is a shame that they do not have a communal kitchen, it will be a bit expensive in the long run to eat at the restaurant every day. We ended the day with drinking the local Kava brew, it tasted like muddy water and made my lips go numb.

28 December, entry from Ørjan, no entry from Tanja

Breakfast was a disappointment, ants in the tea, and ants in the breakfast cereal. The rest of the day was spent in hammocks between the palm trees, reading and swimming in the sea. Tonga is a place to just relax and do nothing. We are both getting a bit too excited to travel home again, even though we are lounging in hammocks under palm trees.


29 December 1997, Good Samaritan Inn, Tonga:
Just got back from a shopping trip in town, free transport every day from here. Extremely hot and humid today, so pretty exhausting to wander around. Went for a swim, then a shower, so we could cool down a bit. Nice just to be resting a bit in bed now. Have been here since Saturday 27th. Were picked up at the post office and driven here. Quite a nice place, a resort of sorts with a restaurant, entertainment, pool table, TV and so on, situated right at the sea. We’re staying in a small Fale, i.e. a bungalow, on the beach, from which I’m looking out onto the Pacific now. Amazing sound when the waves hit the reef, especially during the night, sounds like thunder. A bit difficult to swim, the reef is going all the way in towards the beach, and it seems to be low tide all the time. We’ve found a couple of sunbeds though and a nice spot underneath the palms in the shade. Have met an Australian couple, and a grandmother from Sweden. No cooking facilities, and the restaurant is quite expensive, but we only pay USD 15 per person per night, we have to share toilet and shower, but that’s ok. Have rebooked our tickets so we’re leaving two days before scheduled, at New Year’s Eve, or rather January 1st at 3 a.m…. No, point in staying any longer, maybe we’ll leave Fiji earlier too, but that might be difficult, hope Fiji is nicer than Tonga. If we follow our current itinerary, we’ll stay there for about a week. Sent a fax to Beachcomber Island from the Tourist information today, hope we’ll get a good deal there. Starting to long for home now and am counting the days. Feels strange and wrong when we’re in a place most people would love to be.


There is a courtesy bus from the hotel to Nuku Alofa so we took it into town to shop some groceries and drink so that we do not have to eat at the restaurant every evening. The market was cool and very vibrant. The Tongan people are colourful and very very large! Sent a fax to Beachcomber Island to check if we could get a discount. I am a bit worried how we will get to the airport for our flight in the middle of the night and how it will be landing at Fiji at 04:00 in the morning. Relax, relax, relax…

30 December, entry from Ørjan, no entry from Tanja

Basically, just relaxing. We have sorted transport to the airport just after midnight so that we can celebrate New Year’s eve as the first people on the planet. Got talking with a Swedish lady called Susanna who had been to India, New Zealand, and other places just by her own, she was 60 years old, what an inspiration!

31 December/1 January, entry from Ørjan

After having packed and relaxed some more we went for dinner with Mick and Carla from Australia. Not many people in the restaurant and bar, so we played a bit of pool. I had a 4-course dinner with lobster, it was good, and it was only 15 dollars. Midnight was a bit on an anti-climax, being used to fireworks, here there was nothing. We sat in t-shirts and shorts by the ocean drinking beer until we had to leave for the airport at 01:00. We checked in but had to wait 20 minutes for the lady who collected the airport tax to come to work. We took off at 03:00 and got dinner on board! When arriving in Fiji we had to set our clocks one hour back, so it was in fact 03:00 when we landed. After customs seized our noodles, we exchanged some money and ventured out into a very hot a damp climate. We had been recommended a place called Sandalwood Inn and after a bit of searching we found a courtesy bus to the place. We had only one thought when we got there, sleep! It was 05:00 and we slept until 14:00 and went to Mc Donald’s for a meal. We lounged a bit by the hotel pool, the hotel itself was nice. Tomorrow we will get up a bit earlier and see if we can get hold of Beachcomber Island.

We remember Tonga as a bit of a let down, we had hoped to go to one of the smaller islands that we had read about in Lonely Planet but that was not possible. The small hut on the beach was nice, falling asleep to the sound of the crashing waves on the reef was something special. In addition it is easy to read that we both feel a bit homesick and find it hard to appreciate the places we are staying in…

Ørjan and Tanja 2022

Part 19, Fiji!


1 January 1998, Sandalwood Inn, Nadi, Fiji
Here we are in another paradise island, and all we want is to go home… Even Ørjan has said so a few times now – enough of new places for a while… Will go to Kilroy’s partner agency tomorrow to see if we can rebook our tickets and go home earlier. Really hot and humid here, even worse than Tonga which had a subtropical climate, while Fiji has a tropical climate. The last days in Tonga we were just chilling under the trees in the garden – in the shade – reading. “Celebrated” New Year’s Eve yesterday, hardly any people, a mediocre band, not much of an atmosphere either. Had dinner with Mick and Carla from Australia, and the Australian female manager who gave us some tips on Fiji, amongst others this place which is ok. Seemed she was of the impression that we envied her “being on holiday” in Tonga all year long, but we don’t. I wouldn’t like to live in such a remote place. A lot more tourism here. Were almost shanghaied at the airport again, but we went to a travel agency instead which booked this place for us. We were really tired when we arrived here around 4.30 a.m., 5.30 Tonga time, so we’d been awake for almost 24 hours. Went flat out when we went to bed even though it felt like a baker’s oven in the room. Slept until 2 p.m., which was fine, since it was bank holiday there was no point in getting up early anyway. Went for a meal at McDonald’s just around the corner, and my stomach was shocked at getting so much food again. Hope we’ll be able to go to Beachcomber, even though it’s a party place. Maybe try to get some tan back on the body, if we’ll get any sun at all that is – it’s been overcast and raining all day today, and the same forecast goes for tomorrow and the day after.

2 January, entry from Ørjan, no entry from Tanja

After a warm and clammy night, I woke early and called Beachcomber Island to see if we could get a good deal there. I was very disappointed when they could only offer a 15% discount on the most expensive huts and nothing on the dorms. I had to say no thank you. When I paid for our room at Sandalwood Inn, I got a 25% discount since they had a cooperation with Kilroy Travels. Yay! We took taxi to the city centre and found Argo Travel to see if we could change our flights out of Fiji, but all flights were fully booked due to New Year’s traffic. We talked to Rachel at the office, and she was very helpful in finding a place to stay in one of the smaller islands. She found a place called Dream Beach on Mana Island; it would cost 70 dollars for 3 nights. We had to buy a boat transfer, either “small ferry” for 30 dollars or “big ferry” for 40 dollars. We chose the small ferry. We got transport down to the small ferry, it was an 18 foot open boat with a 40hp outboard motor! We waited for an hour on the beach while petrol was collected and poured into the boat. It was a 45-minute boat ride to the island, and we were met by Sam at the jetty who took us through a small village to Dream Beach on the other side of the island. Probably the hottest day since Australia, I sweated buckets! It was a secluded bay with some huts and larger dorms. They were expecting us and had prepared a meal for us. We got a huge dorm for ourselves, not very romantic, but plenty of room to dance. The bathroom was “private” meaning everyone used it, and there were cockroaches scuttling all around. There was a grasshopper who decided to sing us to sleep, and we did eventually.


3 January 1998, Dreambeach Village, Mana Island, Fiji
Took a taxi to the travel agent’s yesterday. No available seats before the 9th, only three flights a week. Went to the airport too to see if we could talk directly to Air Pacific, but no, the flight today for instance was overbooked by 13 people… Met up with a travel agent’s too, and she recommended this place for USD 76 for a double room with three meals included, with discount we ended up paying USD 70. We also got a 25% discount at Sandalwood, but Beachcomber, the only place that Kilroy has a deal with, gave us no discount on the dorm price (USD 69 per person). Went back to Nadi which was horribly hot yesterday, did some shopping and waited for the transport to Mana. Had to pay USD 30 per person for “small ferry” which proved to be a small dingy… A bit steep we thought! And we had to wait for the driver at the beach in the sun for almost two hours because he had to go for petrol. The driver excused himself by saying this was “Fiji-time”, well pretty annoying when there’s no information and we’ve paid quite a lot for this. On top of that the only thing we’d had to eat was a small bag of crisps and a Fanta. It was almost 3.45 p.m. when we got into the small boat, and after 5 when we got to the island. Thought we’d reached the destination, but then we had to walk over a hill to the other side of the island – quite exhausting, so really tired when we finally got there. Melanie, a nice lady, was very thoughtful and had saved some food from lunch for us, so we had pizza at a bit after 5 p.m., then leg of lamb, potatoes and vegetables at 6… Three more couples are staying here, German, Danish and Swedish. We’d been informed that there were no more double rooms available, but we’d stay in a house all to ourselves with private facilities. Well, we’re staying in a 7-bed dorm, but we’re the only ones here and they’ve made a double bed for us. But toilet and shower are outside, so not very private. Anyway – we don’t really care anymore; we’re used to worse… Didn’t feel so good though when we learned that a worker and his daughter normally sleep on the terrace and in the dorm, and heard the daughter crying on the stairs outside the dorm last night, waiting for her father. Went to bed early last night and fell fast asleep even though it was really hot and sticky in the room. All the windows are open, and we don’t live far from the beach, but there was hardly any wind at all yesterday, and we were constantly sweating. A bit better today. Right now, it’s pouring down outside and I enjoy listening to it. Hopefully the air will feel fresher too after the rain. Got up early for breakfast at 8 a.m. today, pancakes and donuts, not very healthy, but tasty and filling. Then we went together with Pernilla and Anders to a beach on the other side of the island, amazingly beautiful – just as we’ve seen in pictures, golden sand and turquoise sea. Dived in and did a bit of snorkelling, quite a bit of dead coral reef, not many fish to see, but the ones we did see were small and colourful. Was in the shade to avoid sunburn, but forgot to put sun lotion on my back, so got a bit burnt after all from the snorkelling… Back here for nice lunch at 1 p.m. Then a shower and a rest in the bed. I feel so exhausted from the humid heat, so feels good lying in bed doing nothing. Probably food again soon, don’t quite know what time it is, but dinner is at 6 p.m. Not used to having regular meals, and not having to cook at all. One week until we’re home and only 6 days until we leave Fiji. Can’t wait!


Breakfast at 08:00 was nice with pancakes and freshly baked bread. We walked with new friends Pernilla and Anders to Sunset Beach, about 20 minutes’ walk from Dream Beach. A spectacular beach, and we stayed there until we had to go back for lunch at 13:00. Rest of the day spent by the water at Dream Beach.

4 and 5 January, no entries

6 January 1998, Dreambeach Village, Mana Island, Fiji
Only two more days in Fiji before entering the flight to Los Angeles, the first stretch on our way home. Can hardly wait, but at least it’s not long now. Quite nice here now, the weather has changed and it’s very windy, overcast and liveable… Nice to get to know Pernilla and Anders, too. Up before 8 a.m. again for breakfast today and getting a bit tired of sweet pancakes now… Went back to bed, then to the beach. Couldn’t stay long, the wind was so strong that the sand was everywhere, sticking to our bodies. Spent 45 minutes in the shower trying to get it off. The day before yesterday we went back to beautiful Sunset beach, while we were just chilling here yesterday. Ørjan played volleyball together with a few others in the afternoon – Norway against Sweden. There are actually a few Norwegians here, two on this side of the island, quite full of themselves, so no one really likes them. Last night we went to see the school choir sing, lots of small children who sang really well. Were asked to give a small donation towards the build of a new school. Everything doesn’t work perfectly here, Ørjan went to buy something to drink earlier, but they were out. The water is coming and going, and our “private facilities” are used by the workers. The Swedish couple waited to get back USD 50 in change, but that wasn’t written down anywhere. They also treat the dogs really badly, the kids are running around with sticks and beating the dogs, learnt from the adults of course, who are throwing rocks at them, or knives and machetes as they did the other day. Have to speak up about it before I leave I think. Don’t know what we’ll do tomorrow, “small ferry” is due to leave in the morning, but with the strong winds and high waves I don’t know if I dare. “Big ferry” leaves in the afternoon, but costs USD 10 extra per person – steep prices. Looking forward to getting back home now, imagine having our own bathroom, take a shower and put on some properly clean clothes, sit down on our own sofa in our living room, watch telly and have our own kitchen! Can’t wait!


It has been a few days since my last entry. Mainly because we have done the same thing every day for a few days now. Up at 08:00 for breakfast, walked to Sunset Beach and back again for lunch at 13:00. Relaxed and played beach volleyball in the afternoon. Dinner at 18:00 and then card playing with Pernilla and Anders. Early to bed every night since the power gets cut at 22:00. We had one excursion to the village to see the children sing, and it was great. There are quite a lot of Norwegians and Swedes on this island we have found. We had a friendly match between Sweden and Norway at the beach volleyball court, Norway won! Yesterday the weather was ok first and then it went over to heavy rain and high winds. We have packed our stuff since we are leaving tomorrow. The night was heavy with rain, thunder, and wind.


7 January 1998, Sandalwood, Nadi, Fiji
Thank God we’re here now! Been on the worst boat trip in my life – was really scared and thought we’d sink. Got up this morning, had breakfast and packed the rest of our stuff. Played cards to pass time before getting on the boat at 11 a.m. – had to be there at 10. They said we’d probably have to take the “big ferry” due to strong winds. We were waiting for Pernilla and Anders when Pernilla arrived to say we might have a problem, maybe they boat wouldn’t leave at all, had to wait to see if there was a hurricane coming. Oh, my goodness, we pictured being stuck at Mana for days, missing our flight to LA.

But the boat arrived and departed. Was pretty smooth in the beginning of the trip, picked up some people from other islands, big, nice catamaran-like boat. But then it got bad, giant waves making the boat rock steeply sideways, then up and down between the waves. Every now and then we hit the sea with a bang, heard sounds from the boat that didn’t feel like they should be there, and the splatter from the sea and the waves now reached the top of the boat. Really scary! Didn’t feel any better as Ørjan had to go and sit on the sundeck due to the smell from the toilet beside us. Was nervous about how he coped up there, and was scared he’d fall overboard, would have liked him beside me holding his hand. People got sick and were vomiting everywhere, the crew handed out a lot of plastic bags. Pernilla sat covering her eyes with her hands, very scared too. Had to hold on to the chairs during the worst waves. The only thing that was reassuring was that the crew were very calm and collected. Over the moon when we finally got into the harbour and learning that my love was ok. What a trip – must give thanks for getting through that! Just got back to the room after a visit to McDonalds with Pernilla. Were almost back as the sky opened and heavy rain made us soaking wet within five seconds. The forecast says a cyclone is passing around 360 kilometres offshore, and it’s the results of this we’ve been experiencing today. Hope it doesn’t hit the island and that the flight will leave as scheduled on Friday. Not a particularly nice ending of this trip having to worry about cyclones.


When we were about to depart from Dream Beach, we got word that the little ferry would not be coming due to a hurricane warning for Fiji. I got a bit nervous since our flight from Fiji to Los Angeles was in just a little over a day. We could not afford many delays. We walked with Pernilla and Anders to the other side of the island and at the jetty we got word that the big ferry would depart for the main island. The ferry was a passenger catamaran, and it looked ok, but I was still nervous since the wind was picking up and the skies were black. The first part was quite rough and already then there was puking from some passengers in the large cabin we had gotten seats in. We stopped at Castaway Island and a few other resorts and since we were on the backside of islands, the sea did not feel that rough. I went up to the sun deck to get some fresh air and Tanja stayed behind with the luggage in the cabin together with Pernilla and Anders. When the boat rounded the last sheltered part behind the last island all hell broke loose! I am sure that some of the waves were 10 metres tall towering over the boat that was now more a cork floating in the currents and wind as supposed to a passenger ferry. I had no chance of leaving the sundeck without fear of being washed overboard. And had I gone indoors I am sure I would have spewed my guts out. I just had to hold on while big waves washed over the boat and the sundeck where I held on for dear life together with fellow passengers who were screaming on the way down a wave and of the way up while water cascaded over us. An Asian man had gotten hold of a large dustbin and spent most of the trip with his head down in there calling for whatever god he could get hold of all the while spewing the contents of his stomach into the black hole beneath him. I have rarely been this afraid, the boat seemed to become smaller and smaller in the increasing waves and the islands around us seemed to become smaller and smaller. I was comforted by the fact that I sat on one of the life rafts, and that the water was warm, only the possibility of being eaten by a shark to worry about. I had no way of communicating or getting to Tanja, so I was worried about her as well but comforted that she had Pernilla and Anders with her. I could see into the captain’s wheelhouse and there were two dudes with turbans holding on to the rudder for dear life. After 1 ½ hours of pure terror we approached the jetty and the sea got calmer, I found Tanja and kissed her, and when I got on dry land, I kissed that as well. The crew were all helpful and gave a hand to those who were bruised and those who had said farewell to their breakfast and lunch. We got a bus into Sandalwood resort and made a deal with Pernilla and Anders to meet them at Mc Donald’s at 18:00. Only Pernilla showed up, Anders had gotten the time mixed up. Later that evening a Cyclone warning was issued for Fiji, it is supposed to pass later tonight. I am happy we got off Mana Island when we did, even though the trip was rough. We will go for some shopping with Pernilla and Anders tomorrow, and if the weather is bad, we could just play cards…

Anders, Pernilla and Ørjan
8 January, last entry by Ørjan, no entry by Tanja

The night was very windy and blustery, and it was raining coconuts and mangos on our roof during the night. It was cyclone Susan that passed, and it missed Fiji by a few miles, it could have been much worse. Pernilla and Anders woke us up and we walked down to the city centre. I purchased a large hardwood traditional mask to hang on the wall, it was 90 dollars and I got it for 50 dollars in the end. We found another one a little later that was only 35 dollars, but it was not as nice as the one I bought. Tomorrow we will get up at 05:00 to undertake the first leg of our journey home. I think it will be quite OK to get back home to civilisation in Norway….

We flew home via Los Angeles, and we spent a full night at LAX together with other backpackers and crazy people.

The last picture of 2 backpackers at Fiji airport in full regalia with wooden mask safely wrapped in cardboard.

10 January 1998, London Heathrow, British Airways flight, London
Ready for take-off to Fornebu, Oslo. Finally – the last flight on this journey, and it’s taking us home to Oslo, feels almost surreal. Feel worn out after two (or is it three) hard days of travelling. Getting a bit confused from crossing these date lines too… Between Fiji and LA there was a 20-hour time difference, and we landed the day before we left… Between LA and London there’s an 8-hour time difference, but the other way… Anyway, when we get home the day will be turned around for us, we’ll be around 11 hours behind what we’ve been for a long time now, wonder how we’ll feel Monday morning at work. A lot of hassle at the airport, were 20 minutes delayed due to having to remove the luggage of someone who’d checked in, but not boarded the flight. Then we had to wait on the runway for almost 45 minutes after landing – probably because we didn’t get a gate. We landed on terminal 4 and had to get to terminal 1 which is a long way away. So, we had to run past a lot of people to reach the airport shuttle bus. Then some shopping in the tax-free shop, before finally boarding the plane, at least we’re here now. Someone at Kilroy has obviously had some fun, both at the flight from LA and now we were asked if we were newlywed and on honeymoon as it said in their passenger lists. We said no at first, didn’t understand it was a joke, then the flight attendants asked many others too, but no one confirmed they were newlyweds. Just before we landed, they announced over the speaker system that Mrs. Eriksen should let herself be known to the personnel. Told them I was Ms. Eriksen, they were still looking for newlyweds, and the other name was unpronounceable they said, so we understood they were actually looking for us and Ørjan told them there were probably some colleagues of his doing a prank. A supervisor then came over and said Ørjan should tell Kilroy to stop that sort of bad behaviour, the cake we should have got, but never got, “cost us money” he said. We’ll see if we’ll get any cake now. Am so tired, my eyes are hurting, haven’t slept properly for more than 48 hours. When landing in LA we decided to stay overnight at the airport together with Pernilla and Anders, so we were slumbering all night, but not getting any sleep. Met three other Norwegians to keep us company. P & A left around 6 a.m., whilst our flight didn’t leave until 5 p.m. Had planned to go into Venice Beach or Santa Monica, but we were exhausted, and it was pouring down too, so we just stayed at the airport. Boring to stay there for such a long time, but the thought of getting home soon kept our spirits up. Quite exhausting with two 10-hour flights after one another too, a long time to stay on a plane, but luckily both felt like they were over pretty fast. Watched some movies, had something to eat and slept for a while to make time pass. The last day in Fiji was a nightmare. P&A came over at about 11 a.m., then we had some toast in the restaurant before taking a taxi into town. Went into a souvenir shop where we were denied to go into the part where they sold jewellery at 50 % discount, since the man who run the shop thought we didn’t look as though we had the money to buy anything… Then we went to get a refund for the ferry tickets we never used, around USD 60, but they were closed of course. Went to the market, and then back to the hotel before meeting up with P & A to play cards – really nice people. Looking forward to arriving in Oslo, see mum, go to our flat, buy some good food and sleep! Mum will pick us up and said she’d bring some lapskaus (Norwegian stew) for us so we can have that for dinner – sounds so good with some proper Norwegian food after pancakes, rice and food on flights!

It may seem like we were a bit ungrateful at the end of our trip. A major case of home sickness we think we can call it, for the both of us. In hindsight the time on Mana Island was a nice one but we were a bit disappointed that we could not get the resort we wanted in the first place. We still laugh about our “private” dorm, and we still laugh about the “little” ferry and the near death experience on the larger ferry in the storm.

Ørjan and Tanja 2022


Well, that was it! This was our first great adventure together. Since that trip we have been back to Australia and New Zealand, both countries hold a special place in our hearts. We have not been back to any of the Asian countries we visited, and do not really have any desires to do so in the foreseeable future either. We have over the years realized that we enjoy more “westernized” countries and cities, and that it basically why, some people love and travel all over Asia, we have not done that, it is that simple.

At the peak of Ayers Rock, sunrise

To see two pacific islands was cool but we think and read in our journals that our tight budget and expectations did not meet the standards we could afford at the time. We have been back to the pacific later, visiting Tahiti, Easter Island and the Galapagos Islands. 1997 was our first around the world trip, and we did it again in 2005, and we will not be surprised if we do it one more time in the future. It was an adventure, with highs and lows. We can see now that we both were sick a few times during the trip, and that we both longed for not staying in dorms. We also did the classic mistake of trying to do too much in too short time, we can read that in our diaries quite a lot, it is better to allow better time to slow down and get a feel for a place before traveling on down the highway.

Surfing Byron Bay

We made it through the whole journey without having any big rows or falling outs, we can see that Tanja worries a bit about this, after all, we had only been together for a few years, and living on top of each other for 24 hours a day, can make any couple a bit loopy.

Nothing like a bad taste party!

We met many great people along the way, sadly we have lost contact with all of them, we wish that maybe one or two will read this and find the younger self a part of someone else’s adventure of a lifetime.

And what were the highligts? Australia for sure, standing on top of Ayers Rock was a once in a liftetime experience. Surfing in Byron Bay and snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef among the others. Black Water Rafting in New Zealand was another highlight, and we did revisit many of the places we saw both on the North and South Island when we came back in 2005.

Black Water Rafting crew in Waitomo

We hope those of you who have read some or all of the epic 19 posts from our travel diaries have enjoyed the read. It is a verbatim translation directly from the diaries, no censoring og altercations have been done. Thank you for following and liking, travel safe and let love rule.

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