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As I stood over my backpack reviewing what I had decided to take on the 8 month honeymoon, I was not sure that I had made all the right choices.

After a two year engagement we were now husband and wife. Our wedding in Sydney on NYE was wonderful, it was a perfect day filled with love, laughter and joy. It had been the best day of our lives so far and I had a feeling things were only going to get more exciting from this point on.

From a elegant wedding

Images courtesy of Lindy Goodwin

We were setting off on a honeymoon but we were certainly not putting on the Ritz. There were no 5 star resorts on our agenda, we were travelling on a maximum of $100 per day. This was to include accommodation, food, drinks, entertainment, and any sightseeing that we wanted to do. It also included any bus, train or plane flights.

Our odyssey started in Vietnam for 40 days travelling from south to north; a week with friends in Hong Kong; three weeks in China; a week in Barcelona and then just over 4 months in South America. Here we travelled from Rio to Argentina, across to Chile and Patagonia, then flew to Colombia, visited the Amazon and from there caught a boat to Peru. Then Bolivia and finally down Chile to Santiago, where we would fly home – all in 8 months!

We’d sold our car, moved our belongings into a storage unit and quit our jobs. Well, I had wound down business, Jessica Beattie Millinery, and Hubby had actually been made redundant a few months earlier. We were no-strings attached, apart from the rings on our fingers!

All up we had spent around 9 months researching where to go and what to pack. There is a ton of great advice online and we made the most of other’s generous documenting of their own experiences. We meticulously prepared a list of clothes that were for summer and winter conditions and it all weighed a tiny 15kg in my 60Lt pack!

Photos from Jessica’s collection

This is what I packed:

3 x Long Pants: Lightweight cargo pants, loose cotton pants and jeans. According to all the good advice, jeans are a traveller no-no. They are heavy and take too long to dry. However, I live most of my life in jeans and the thought of leaving them behind for some new-age, super-fast drying, micro-weight traveller pants that zip off at the knee just wouldn’t cut the mustard. This, in the end, was a mistake. My advice is to take the daggy-quick-drying-traveller pants. You’ll thank me later.

3 x Short Pants: Leggings, 3/4 loose linen and shorts. Shorts were a mistake … your newly-purchased-super-daggy traveller pants zip off at the knee! However take the leggings for comfort.

1 x Skirt: I’m a girl, I like wearing skirts, I’m bringing one and it’s pretty. I ended up wearing it too.

2 x Dresses: Cotton knee length and maxi dress. Another mistake. They took up room, were heavy to carry, and I only needed one. Take a full-length dress, its perfect for night, and keeps the mozzies away.

8 x T-Shirts: 2 x thermals, 1 x wool & 5 x cotton. It’s a lot but you get SO bored with them and bored seeing yourself in photos! Other blogs have suggested 4 tees but I’m a chick and I like choice.

3 x Long Sleeve: 2 casual (one wool, one cotton) and one shirt.

1 x Black Wool jumper

3 x Jackets: Goose-down Jacket, casual zip-up and a cotton cardigan. My advice, ditch the casual zip up.

10 x Underwear: 4 x bras and 10 x underpants. Most bloggers suggest packing 4 but they don’t take up much space and only taking four pairs means a lot of washing. My advice is to take plenty. We bought more along the way. You can wear clothes more than once, but not underwear! Also getting the right size for your husband can be a challenge in some parts of the world.

3 x Shoes: Hiking/walking shoes, reef shoes and a pair of thongs. The reef shoes were not a good idea. I ended up buying a pair of funky sneakers, because I got sick of always looking like a backpacker!

My luxury items: One husband, a travel hair dryer, a tiny amount of make-up (which I ditched later), and my pillow (no joke, it reduces down to the size of a 2kg bag of flour but weighs a lot less). I got so many raised eyebrows about the pillow, however it was my No.1 item. I used it every day and when we stayed in questionable places it was my only comfort. I sometimes woke to my husband pulling it so he could rest his head on it. I would take it again without question.

What I didn’t pack: The kitchen sink, jewellery, accessories and stuff that I don’t wear at home but think I’ll wear whilst traveling!

Ms Gingham says: I feel like I’m getting ready to go overseas while I’m reading this! It’s the air of anticipation and excitement … I wonder what happens next?

Jessica Beattie says: ” I am a milliner based in Sydney who specialises in custom made headpieces, fascinators and hats for bridal, racewear, special and casual occasions. For my honeymoon, my husband and I packed up our home, quit our jobs, threw a backpack on our backs and went around the world for 8 months. We visited Vietnam, Hong Kong, China, Barcelona, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Peru and Bolivia. A trip of a lifetime, lots of stories to tell, lots of wonderful memories”.

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Splinters Guest House

Because of the time of year we got married, James couldn’t take much time off work so we delayed our big honeymoon for April and decided to take a 5 day mini moon after the wedding. Seeing as our wedding was in the Hunter Valley we wanted to find somewhere close by to relax and unwind. I had been researching places to stay on the internet and staying more than a weekend in the Hunter can get quite expensive. So rather than looking for the hotel options we researched some of the B&B’s in the area and found Splinters Guest House. It truly is an amazing place to stay! The owner Bobby is one of the friendliest ladies we have ever met. She took care of all our plans as well being the best host. Not only is the property gorgeous, but the whole feel of the place is so warm and welcoming.

Splinters Guest House Scenery

Enjoying our first breakfast

As soon as we got settled, we were brought complimentary wine and cheese and Bobby went through all the dining options in the area, wine tours, day spas and asked what our Melbourne Cup plans were. We had already made a booking at Peterson’s Champagne House so all that was needed to be done was arrange how to get there, which Bobby took care of for us. When our lift arrived we were pleasantly surprised to see a limousine pull into the property. So off we went in style!  The food was delicious and my favourite the pink sparkling wine is definitely worth a visit, it was a fantastic function and a fun way to spend our first Melbourne Cup as a married couple. Most wine tours stop in there, but if you want to go for a nice lunch or dinner than the Cuvee restaurant is a must.

After the lunch was finished we were still in the mood to celebrate so we headed to Harrigans Pub. It was nice being back there because the night before our wedding all our guests joined us there for dinner and drinks. When we were ready to go home we called our driver to pick us up but he was stuck on another job, so he spoke with Bobby and she came to pick us up. Talk about going above and beyond. It was this kind of service that made our stay amazing!

Drinks at Harrigan’s Pub

The following day we tried our hand at golf … but neither of us was very good. So we just enjoyed the sunshine and attempted to play as best we could!

Playing golf terribly

Because we were in walking distance to the Blue Tongue Brewery we headed there to taste all the beers they had to offer. They also have a cellar door which has lots of wines from small wine makers so we were able to try about 30 … no joke. It was a very enjoyable afternoon. Walking there was a good idea, but walking back … not so good when it was about 2 kms back to the B&B and we were both armed with bottles of wine!

Tasting paddle at the Blue Tongue Brewery

That night Bobby recommended another restaurant called Botanica at the Vineyards Estate. It was three properties down so we could walk there and back: it was so beautiful walking amongst the vines through each property.  After we were seated the waitress came over with two glasses of champagne compliments of Bobby congratulating us on our wedding! Seriously if you want a fantastic weekend or few days in the Hunter I highly recommend staying at Splinters, and enjoying a meal at Botanica … the food was delicious!

Giant eagle

On our last day went on a Hunter Valley Wine Tour. It was a full day tour and we went to a lot of vineyards and cheese and chocolate factories. As fun as it was, a full day tour is quite tiring especially if you are tasting wines at each stop so if I were to do it again I think half a day would be perfect.

Relaxing by the pool at Splinters Guest House

Laughing at the statue on the estate

The five days we spent there went so quickly, but it was so nice to relax after the wedding and stay in such a gorgeous place. If you only have time for a short break I highly recommend the Hunter Valley and a stay at Splinters Guest House.

Photographs by Caroline and James.

Ms Gingham says: Thanks to Caroline and James for sharing their mini moon experience with us. After a hectic wedding filled with emotion it’s so nice to be able to recharge the batteries! You can read all about Caroline and James’s wedding here.

Caroline says: “My favourite part of the wedding day was definitely our ceremony and marrying James, but also knowing that everyone was there because they love us and seeing everyone so happy for us really blew us away. We wanted one big celebration and that’s exactly what it was!”

Next stop, Bora Bora, French Polynesia – the second stretch of our honeymoon. SQUEEEEE! Due to connecting flights, we flew to Sydney from the Gold Coast and stayed overnight at the Stamford Plaza Sydney Airport Hotel. At the crack of dawn we flew to Auckland for a 3 hour stopover. We were oh so close! After a 5 hour flight, we reached our stopover destination, Papeete. As we arrived in the evening, we headed straight to our resort and to bed. Our accommodation was a Lagoon Suite at the Manava Suite Resort Tahiti.

Foyer

Lagoon Suites

Our suite was so modern and spacious with a private terrace overlooking the lagoon. The view was amazing, the perfect teaser, we couldn’t wait to reach Bora Bora!

View 7

View 6

On our return to Australia we had another stopover in Papeete with more time to explore our surroundings. We decided to travel by foot, but to be honest, there wasn’t much to see or do within walking distance of the resort. We strolled up and down the highway sticking out like sore thumbs! It was a great opportunity to see the local homes and people. If you’re interested in viewing more of the city, it would be best to travel by taxi (although expensive). The local food trucks known as “Les Roulottes” on the main wharf are supposedly popular with tourists.

The following morning we departed for our most anticipated destination, Bora Bora. Trip Advisor was a great research tool during our planning and thanks to recommendations from the website, we sat on the left hand side of the plane (when facing the cockpit) to maximise our view of the islands. We all rushed to the front of the line, teeth gritted and elbows out, and charged onto the plane to ensure we secured the best seats. I’m surprised the plane didn’t tilt to one side!

Plane

The glorious views of Tahiti and Her Islands.

We touched down 45 minutes later and were welcomed by a resort representative and decorated with leis. Bora Bora Airport is located on its own motu (islet) and each resort has a boat to transfer guests.

The weather was a tad gloomy upon arrival, however nothing could diminish the brilliance of the azure water!

Our home for 5 blissful days – Bora Bora Pearl Beach Resort & Spa. The only resort on motu Tevairoa giving us a sense of total seclusion. The majority of resorts were on the main island.

Resort Sign

Walk Way

We checked into our Overwater Bungalow (#22), settled and then explored the rest of the resort. Bora Bora was everything we had imagined and more. It was truly breathtaking. It was such a surreal feeling, we had to pinch ourselves.

Number 22

Bungalows

View 4

Bath

The view from within our Overwater Bungalow.

Bedroom View

Glass featured throughout the room – the vanity, the bath tub, the bedside tables and the coffee table. The tables had tops that slid open to feed the fish below, this was such a novelty! We spent hours gazing at the marine life, I’m sure we had a resident fish who visited us daily for a snack.

Closed Centre Table

Open Centre Table

Our terrace equipped with lounge chairs and a lower sun deck with a ladder plunging directly into the lagoon. O…M…G! Most evenings we would sit on the lower sun deck and feed hundreds of fish by hand. The little suckers tickled our fingers with their hungry mouths!

Deck Chairs

My honeymoon gift, an authentic Tahitian black pearl.

Tahitian Black Pearl

Poolside.

Resort

Poolside

Pool

Taurearea Bar, where we sipped $25 cocktails/mocktails!

Bar

Taurearea Bar

Tevairoa Restaurant overlooking Bora Bora lagoon and Mount Otemanu. Our honeymoon package included morning and evening meals and we gorged ourselves on sumptuous buffet breakfasts and French influenced cuisine for dinner. If you’re staying at this resort, I would recommend a meal package as there are no self-catering facilities in the bungalows and food and beverage are astronomically priced. You’ll find most things are quite expensive throughout French Polynesia. If you’d like to spoil yourself, there is a popular restaurant on the main island called Bloody Mary’s.

Tevairoa Restaurant

Every Friday evening a Polynesian Show is held in the restaurant, a beautiful display of culture and dance. Guests were pulled up on stage, myself included. I shook my booty as best as I could!

Dance

The weather was typical for the tropics, some days were stunning and other days it would rain for hours and then clear. This didn’t deter us from partaking in some adventures!

Us

As Bora Bora Pearl Beach Resort & Spa was on its own motu, a regular boat and bus shuttle service was made available to guests wishing to travel to the main island. We decided to visit Vaitape for a wander and a spot of grocery shopping. It was such an interesting day! The local shopping centre consisted of 7 shops and at the local supermarket, we purchased a loaf of bread for $10 and a 1 litre bottle of soft drink for $7! I wasn’t kidding when I said everything in French Polynesia is expensive!

Boat Transfer

Mini Shopping Trolley

The first tour we booked was a full day that involved shark watching, visiting a Lagoonarium and a picnic. We snorkelled with reef sharks and stingrays as our guides fed them. While it was nerve-wracking, it was incredible being so up close and personal.

Mount Otemanu

The Lagoonarium, an outdoor aquarium, was my favourite stop of the day. We were able to feed fish, pet stingrays, watch sea turtles and swim in the coral garden amongst more reef sharks and stingrays. The surrounding views were spectacular! The picnic was delicious, we enjoyed a variety of Polynesian dishes and beverages and learnt the technique of tying a pareo (sarong) in different styles.

Stingray Feeding

Sea Turtles

Lagoonarium

Picnic

Pareos

Our second tour was a half day 4 x 4 safari adventure that took us to several viewpoints around the island, World War II cannons and a pearl farm. Unfortunately the weather was quite dismal on this day, so the panoramic views went to waste. It was a real shame as the photo opportunities would have been superb. We still had a fantastic time nevertheless, decked out in our sexy ponchos, holding onto the jeep for dear life as we drove up and down bumpy terrain.

Jeep

Canon

Bunker

Sexy Ponchos

We booked a third tour, Sailing Sunset Cruise, however this was cancelled due to the wet weather. Although I’m an absolute control freak and prefer to have every minor detail sorted, I would recommend booking tours once you’re on the island. That way you can book according to your mood and the weather. Our resort had a Tour Desk and staff readily available to assist.

All was not lost, I made use of the night in and indulged in a traditional Polynesian massage at Manea Spa. It was worth all 195 dollars! I love a good massage, especially when the therapist walks on your back. Crack those vertebrae, yeah! I felt like jelly afterwards. Bliss!

Manea Spa Sign

Manea Spa Entrance

Manea Spa

When we weren’t on tour, soaking up the sun, sipping cocktails/mocktails or lazing about, we were canoeing in the lagoon …

Canoeing

Snorkelling in the resort’s coral nursery that was purposely installed to maintain coral and marine life …

Lunching at Miki Miki Restaurant & Bar

Miki Miki

Miki Miki

And finally … playing mini golf (I kicked Matt’s butt big time!).

All photos by Katrina and Matthew

Ms Gingham says: Do you ever have the feeling when you’re on holidays, that things just aren’t real? Almost as if you’ve stepped into a postcard and everything around you has been staged like a performance for your benefit? I think that’s how I’d feel in Bora Bora.

Katrina describes herself as: Recent bride turned wifey turned wedding tragic. Two years on & I am still obsessed with all things wedding! I plan on annual vow renewals, but shhh, hubby has no idea. Hehehe! 😉

Check out Part 1 of this honeymoon here.