is so cool! Too excited for the next batch!
This is so awesome! Too excited for the next batch!
This is so cool! Too excited to do more!
One part of Australia I had been really looking forward to was Ayers Rock. On Tuesday 1st March I caught a flight from Cairns to Ayers Rock Resort. The Resort was pretty amazing, basically a cluster of hotels and shops in the middle of the desert with a tiny little airport next door. I stayed in the Outback Pioneer, a YHA hostel, but it was in a hotel complex so I had access to a nice pool! Everything at the resprt was crazy expensive, as you would expect from somewhere with little competition. I had been worried I was flying to the wrong place, most of the tours I had looked at went from Alice SPrings, but I got myself sorted the first afternoon I arrived. At Ayers Rock there is a shuttle bus that runs to Ayers Rock and back, and Kata Tjuta and back. Again, they are fairly expensive but the cheapest way to get to the rocks, and then you can just walk around yourself.
My first day I was up early for sunrise at Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock, which was lovely but not exactly spectacular due to the clouds! We then got dropped off at the base of the rock and I took a free guided tour a couple of kilometres around the base, led by a fantastic Ranger, before checking out the Cultural Centre. Some of the Aboriginal stories of the creation of the Rock and of life around the Rock are really fascinating. The second day I caught the shuttle bus to Kata Tjuta, also known as The Olga’s. I completed a 7.4km walk around the rocks in the midday heat with flies buzzing everywhere. It doesn’t sound pleasant but the views were absolutely spectacular and it was pretty cool to walk around and see the different rocks. In all it took about two and a half hours! On my third day I really wanted to go to Kings Canyon but the trips out there cost upwards of a couple hundred dollars, so that got ruled out by myself and the friends I had made. Instead I spent the day in the sunshine around the pool and watched the sun set over Uluru and Kata Tjuta from the lookout at my hotel. On Saturday I caught my flight to Perth, and whilst I was waiting had a mean looking spider crawl up the cushion of the couch I was actually sitting on. It took until I googled it in Perth for me to realise that it was indeed a red back..
Upon arriving in Perth I caught a taxi to meet back up with Scott, and we stayed the night at his friends house before catching another bus down to Albany. There we spent a fantastic week with some relatives of mine, checking out the tourist attractions and beautiful beaches. Our first day, which was the Monday, we did a driving tour of Tonndirrup National Park, which bordered John and Christine’s house. Along the seafront are some spectacular sights. We went to Jimmy Newhills Creek, the Salmon Holes where salmon get caught when the tide goes out and climed up Stoney Hill where there used to be a watchtower. Next stop was The Gap and Natural Bridge. These are natural rock formations which are amazing to look at with the waves crashing up onto them. They are both exactly what they are named, The Gap being a huge crevice in the rocks, and the Natural Bridge being a huge rock creating a bridge across a crevice. The power of the waves was huge and amazing to see. We also went to see the Blowholes, which is an area of rock with small tunnels that have formed underneath. The waves force the water through the tunnels and crevices and the spray gets blown up high into the air. Another very impressive sight, and with the thunderous noise underfoot reminds you of the power of the sea. That afternoon we also went to check out the Wind Farm which is in the hills high above Albany.
On Tuesday we went to see the Princess Royal Fotresses. This particular day they fired a canon which was pretty cool, and loud! The morning was spent looking around the guns and exhibitions and that afternoon we went to look at the Desert Corps War Memorial, which had beautiful views over Albany and the King George Sound. Scott and I then went down to Goode Beach, where the sea is a beautiful crystal clear turquoise and the sand is pure white. The sea was so calm, especially compared to the surf of the East coast, and lovely to swim in, despite the slight chill!
Wednesday we took a drive out to the countryside, out past Denmark to the Valley of the Giants. This was a huge forest with a walkway 40m high up in the treetops. It was really cool to walk through, although not for Scott who is scared of heights! We then took the Ancient woodland walk through the forest which went past huge trees that have holes formed in their bases so large that you can stand in them! We stopped off at the Whiskey Distillery on the way home and then had an early night.
Scott and I spent Thursday morning doing the historical walk around town, looking at all the old buildings. Albany has a rich history as it was the first place to be settled in Western Australia. We looked around a full scale replica of the Brig Amity, the first ship that arrived with convicts and supplies, and also the Patrick Taylor Cottage Museum which is the oldest dwelling in Western Australia. That afternoon was spent down at Goode Beach again before going for a lovely dinner in Albany with John and Christine.
On Friday Scott and I went to Whale World, which is based in the old whaling station. Some of the exhibitions and old photos are pretty gruesome to see, but the history of whaling was pretty fascinating. We had a look around the old whaling ship, and saw skeletons of some of the biggest whales in the sea - absolutely massive! That evening we went for a BBQ at John and Christine’s daughters house which was lovely.
Saturday saw us get a bus back to Perth, where we have now been for just over a week. We took it easy on Sunday and on Monday took the bus and train into Perth CBD to have a look around. We ended up walking miles along the seafront and to Kings Park, which is the biggest inner city park in the world.
On Tuesday we took an early bus to Fremantle where we got the 9.30 ferry across to Rottnest Island. There we spent the morning at the beach in Geordies Bay, had some lunch and took the shuttle bus to the Barracks. We also walked all around Lake Baghdad, which was basically a huge marsh so we felt a bit like intrepid explorers finding our way through the bush! We had a really lovely day, and saw several of the little animals that inhabit the island, called Quokkas. They are basically tiny little kangaroos, with faces a bit like a badger and super cute!
On Wednesday afternoon we went to Cottesloe Beach, with Aaron, Scott’s friend that we are staying with. The beach is beautiful and had huge art sculptures on display! The weather here in Perth is probably the hottest weather I have encountered in Australia, with temperatures upwards of 30 every day, reaching 35 some days. That evening we had a BBQ.
Thursday 17th was Scotts Biiiiirthday! So we went to Hillary’s Harbour just north of Perth and had a lovely lunch in the marina. That evening we went out in Perth, obviously it was also St Patricks Day so everywhere was very busy and we of course ended up in an Irish bar! We also met up with a friend of mine, Mike, from Sydney which was great.
Friday was spent chilling at home with a hangover! Saturday we went up into the hills above Perth to Aarons sisters house for a BBQ. We were out in the Bush and had a good time riding quadbikes and exploring!
Yesterday Scott and I met our friend Mike at Cottesloe Beach in the afternoon, and had a few drinks. We also got our flights booked for Tuesday to Adelaide, so we are looking forward to moving on! The decision has now been made that I will go to Adelaide, then Melbourne and finally Sydney where I will fly home from a few weeks early. Looking forward to going home now but glad I have a few more weeks to make the most of!!
So, the top of the East coast has been reached! After an epic two and a half months of travelling by campervan from Melbourne, I am now in Cairns, and as if Mother Nature is congratulating me, the sun is shining.. Not. I am currently sat in my hostel, Gilligans, watching the rain pound against the windows, with a load of backpackers behind me watching the TV because there is absolutely nothing else to do. I just got soaked going to the supermarket to buy sausages! I am afraid to say my travel umbrella has been used more times than I care to admit over the last week or so. But I won’t let it dampen my spirits, to be honest it’s quite a nice relief from the heat and humidity that we’ve been experiencing this side of Brisbane.
I last wrote the day before I did a skydive, which I can happily say I thoroughly enjoyed! Considering I had sworn not to throw myself out of any planes or off the top of any tall towers attached to a bungy, I was quite calm about the situation! Lucy and I arrived and had a briefing, got into some trousers and then had a slight wait for some (more) rain and clouds to pass. Safe to say the waiting didn’t help the butterflies in my stomach, nor did the videos of other skydivers being shown on a giant plasma on the wall.. But it wasn’t much of a wait and then we boarded a light aircraft with about 8 other people. Lucy and I jumped from 9000ft, having won the dive I decided not to upgrade but to buy the photographs at the end (which are hilarious!). After some shuffling around in the plane I somehow ended up next to the door which meant I was first out! Argh! Probably a good thing I didn’t watch anyone do it first though. I was strapped to an instructor obviously but he was behind me, so I had to swing my legs out first and then after a bit of rocking back and forth he pushed us out! I had to have my head leant back on his shoulder so I didn’t get the opportunity to look down, which can only be a good thing really. Within a second or two we ended up falling face down, and he told me to spread my arms out. Now this part was freefalling for 25seconds and I can tell you it feels like floating in clouds, most definitely not falling! There was no falling to my death panic, not even the feeling that my stomach had been left behind! Just total calm and wonder to be honest! The bit I didn’t like was funnily enough when he pulled the cord! The parachute going up makes you flip upwards and that’s when my stomach flipped with it. But again within literally a second or two I was put into a seating position and I was flying :) I had a hold of the parachute, which I wasn’t sure I trusted myself with, and then the instructor put us into a couple of spirals which were awesome! Watching the world approach, it was amazing, I saw our shadow in a rainbow going through a cloud, it was so pretty! My legs were lifted for the landing, but we still did a tumble at the end, rolling over for the final stop! So, after all my refusals, I can now say I am SO glad I won it! Cheers Arts Factory :) That night Lucy and I celebrated by dancing on the tables at the notorious Cheeky Monkies bar!
The next day Lucy and I had our surfing lesson! So it was all go, go, go. The lesson started with a talk on the waves and rips and how to read the ocean, the sea out here really can be lethal and you really have to know what you’re looking at before you go swimming on an unpatrolled beach. We then had a lesson lying on our boards on the beach which was pretty amusing, before all piling in the water to basically beat each otherup with out boards. They were so big and heavy! I came off my board once right next to Lucy who was still in the shallows and the second I stood up a big wave came in and I got absolutely floored by her board!! Cheers babe!! I also scratched up my knee on the sandy floor and Lucy came out bruised like a peach, but we had the best fun! I was absolutely chuffed when I got up on the board on my very first attempt! And then again a couple of times with the instructors help. Unfortunately the more time you spend in the water the more exhausted you become, which made it less and less likely for me to get up, and by the time it was hometime I was pretty much done!! I would like to give it another go though, surfing a wave is the best feeling.
After our exhausting couple of days in Byron we headed back to Surfers Paradise that evening for a weekend of beaches and partying, and then got the train up to Brisbane.
Brisbane is where it was all change for me. First Scott arrived all the way from England woop! That was really exciting, just to see a familiar face from home and even better that it was Scott! Brisbane wasn’t the most exciting start for him as alot of it was still damaged from the floods. But we had Lucys birthday on Tuesday 8th for which we had a lovely Japanese dinner and then a night in the Valley. Thursday was then the Day of Doom because Lucy left! It was a most depressing morning full of tears and horrible goodbyes, and I pretty much didn’t cheer up til we left Brisbane and Scott and I got on our proper travels!
So now it is Travelling Part Two: The Adventures of Hayley and Scott! The first thing we did was to book a campervan for twelve days up to Cairns, and book Fraser Island and Whitsundays tours!
We got going the day after Lucy left and had a night in Noosa before arriving in Rainbow Beach. We had an afternoon talk on the safety aspects of our Fraser Island tour and on Sunday we were off! I hadn’t really known alot about Fraser Island up until booking it. We were on what’s known as a tag along tour, where the group is split into four 4x4’s and we all follow each other with a guide in the front car. So it was awesome because we all got the opportunity to drive on the beaches and round the islands sandy roads. The first day we got the ferry across to the island and set up camp on the beach. That afternoon was spent at Lake McKenzie which was beautiful! The water is meant to be like a health spa for our skin so I didn’t get out for two hours :) That night was spent with the group, which actually consisted of 8 cars of 8 people, so alot of us all camping together! We cooked ourselves on stoves and then spent the night playing drinking games! The rain arrived during the night though and it was absolutely torrential! We had a tarpaulin over our tent but it got blown away, so Scott got out to move it back and promptly let all the water that was on top of it into our tent! So that night was spent sleeping in the sand filled 4x4 - lovely!! The next morning we went to Eli Creek, which they call hangover creek because it is so cold! But it was still lovely, and then we headed to see the islands shipwreck, which was fascinating. Apparently the ship was bigger than the Titanic when it was built in 1903, and after being used in WW1 and as a commercial ship, it was decomissioned in 1937. The Japanese bought it and unfortunately it never made it out of Australian waters as a huge storm shipwrecked it on Fraser Island. It was used a restaurant for a time (it must have been a wonky restaurant…) but now it is just the remains.
Onto the Champagne Rock Pools after making up some lunch, so called due to the waves crashing into the pools and creating a fantastic swirling and frothing effect! It was brilliant fun to be sat in the pools as the waves came in, and all get thrown about! Luckily no cuts on the rocks! We then all took a walk up Indian Head, which was a beautiful viewpoint over a couple of the beaches. The rain came again that night so it was drinking games under a big tarpaulin before finding any dry tent you could..
The third and final day was spent on a 2km walk through the jungle to Lake Wabby. Fraser Island is the worlds largest sand island, but absolutely unique due to the rainforest that has still managed to grow. Lake Wabby was reached via an amazing sand blow, and the dunes ran right down to the lake. We had a refreshing dip and then got all sweaty again walking back, before heading back to Rainbow Beach for a nice shower!!
The next day we headed up the coast to a town called 1770. This was the first town that Captain James Cook found when he discovered Australia, but there was absolutely nothing there! It was more a night stop for us before carrying on the journey and completing 600kms to Airlie Beach the next day.
Airlie beach is a great place for backpackers, it’s where all the Whitsunday trips depart from so the town is thriving. Scott and I arrived fairly late but still headed out that night. The next day we set off on our two day two night sailing trip! We were abroad the amazing Boomerang, a very impressive ex racing yacht. That afternoon we sailed across to the islands which was great fun, all sat along the side leaning right over. We moored up and had a swim and then a BBQ dinner, and had a fairly quiet evening chilling on deck. The next day we went onto Whitehaven Island and walked to the Lookout for amazing views of the swirling sea and sand, before sunbathing and swimming off Whitehaven Beach. Spotted a baby shark swimming around our feet in the shallows which was cool! We then snorkelled in two separate spots that afternoon and saw an abundance of fish swarming around us, including one particular giant fish which was actually quite daunting!! For sunet we were dropped on a sand spit which completely disappears at high tide, to enjoy the views over a cheese platter! We all got on the wine under the stars that night and I ended up sleeping on deck as it was just so hot underneath! Beautiful :) The next morning we sailed back to Airlie Beach and were back in town for lunchtime. Another fantastic trip! Everyone from the boat including some of the crew got together for dinner and drinks that night which was great fun.
Monday we set off in our Spaceship on another mammoth day long journey to Cairns. We stopped in Mission Beach to check it out, it had been absolutely devastated by Cyclone Yasi, it was quite amazing to see the effects, trees were completely bent over and stripped bare. The town was completely wrecked so it is absolutely amazing that thankfully nobody was hurt.
We have now been in Cairns since Monday and we are staying in one of the biggest hostels in the southern hemisphere! It has a great atmosphere here and it’s a great place for our last stop. The club downstairs is great fun and lots of our friends from Fraser Island and the Whitsunday trips are also here. Yesterday we went on a diving trip on the Great Barrier Reef which was amazing! We went on a beautiful privately owned catamaran, and went two hours out to the Reef. We snorkelled first and then did a half hour introductory scuba dive which was amazing fun! The sensation of breathing under water is brilliant, although the air tank and weights are still very heavy under water! We snorkelled again that afternoon and all in all saw an abundance of marine life! The best was a huge sea turtle! I was just chilling out floating above him and following him around the reef! I also saw a couple of stingrays, a school of squids and some huge clams that opened and closed as you swam by! There were some huge fish swimming around, particularly some called Maori Wrasse. I was absolutely in awe of everything and didn’t want to get out of the sea!
Last night was a friends birthday so a big crowd of us went out and had a great night! Today it is tipping it down as usual so it was the perfect opportunity to update everybody :)
I can’t believe I have completed the East Coast, and now only have a couple of months left! Onto Ayers Rock on Tuesday and to Western Asutralia for a couple of weeks chilling out after the madness of the East Coast!
Two more months to go, the countdown has begun! xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
So Sheila the trusty Jucy Campa is now gone, after an amazing three weeks exploring the coast between Sydney and Brisbane. We still haven’t quite reached Brisbane, having dropped it off there we went back on ourselves a bit. But I’ll start where I left off two weeks ago..
Port Macquarie was awesome, we checked out on the Tuesday and went to Ricardo’s Tomato’s! A tomato and strawberry farm. We had a free tour of the place and picked some strawberries, before heading back to town. We had a cup of tea overlooking the ocean and then did a really cool coastal walk along a couple of the beaches, up to a historical lighthouse spot. Lucy and I expected to see said lighthouse, or at least some ruins, but there was just the patch of grass ‘where the lighthouse stood’…. Oh. But still, nice bit of exercise!! We then went to Shelley Beach and had some sandwiches on the picnic benches, being watched the entire time by a huuuge goanna clinging to the tree above our heads. Two more smaller ones were also scurrying around, and eventually the third one made a move. They are so fast! And basically look like dinosaurs!! We were intending to stick around that day for a sunset cruise that evening but the weather unfortunately turned and before we knew it we were being rained on eating our dinner at the side of the road… Time to move on. So we got back on the road and made our way to Coffs Harbour, stopping along the way in Nambucca Heads, a pretty rough little town to be honest so we were glad not to be stopping there! Made it to Coffs Harbour pretty quickly and after trying and failing to find a rest stop for the night we settled on a McDonald’s carpark!! We are all class these days. We made up the bed in the back, battened down the hatches and sat and drank red wine in the back of the van in a far corner of the carpark, trying to be conspicuous in our bogey green backpacker van. Although the police would have a job moving us on after the amount of goon we consumed! Goon, by the way, is a box of wine. Just not very nice wine.. Over here their wine is made using the assistance of eggs, milk and FISH, I kid you not. And goon is basically the crap stuff left over that noone wants (except backpackers) that they box and sell off in 5litre boxes for about $10. GROSS! We have tried to maintain a bit of class by going for the middle of the range stuff, only two whole litres for $14 (about 8 pounds)… So expensive..
So anyway, after sneaking into the BP garage to clean our teeth on Wednesday morning we checked into Park Beach Caravan Park (only Australia would have the same word twice in a place name). That day we took a stroll to the bank in the blazing heat only for it to be tipping down by the time we got back for a swim! The bad weather appeared to have followed us from Port Macquarie so that afternoon was spent in the van drinking cups of tea, before sitting in the van drinking red wine.. Yes, we developed a red wine habit in the van!!
Thursday we checked out after just a night in the caravan park, and as it was still raining went to the big shopping mall for a coffee and a look around the shops. When we came out the sun was shining so we drove down to what they called the Jetty area. We had a walk along the harbour and then across Muttonbird Island to a fabulous viewpoint. And then, about 30 minutes away from our car, it started raining! So we hot footed it off the island (not easy as it was a big hill) and stopped for a cup of tea in the Yacht Club. We then drove to a beach and sat in our camping chairs reading our books for a bit, before cooking up a curry in the carpark! That night we parked up on an area of land called the Gallows on a fantastic headland, right by the ocean. It was a bit back to basics with our toilet being behind a big rock… But it was really cool, with loads of other campervans parked up too, some of which we soon realised appeared to be permanently inhabited by their drivers.. Basically we were drinking beer with backpacker travellers and then ‘proper’ (being homeless) travellers!! But the next morning we woke up and looked out to see dolphins playing in the water.. That’s what it’s all about :)
So that day after seeing dolphins frollicking in the ocean we then went to the Pet Porpoise Pool, something a bit sad about that. But it was awesome, we watched a dolphin show and got a dolphin kiss! And then watched a reptile show, fed Little Penguins and got a seal kiss!! Amazing. The morning was spent there and then we drove to Glen Innes to stay with a friend of ours for the weekend. That evening was his work do so we found ourselves in a town of about 5000 people, in the town hall, with everyone wondering who the hell we were! But we indulged in the free food and wine and soon found ourselves back at someones house in their hot tub drinking, you guessed it, red wine, until about 5am! We ended up having a really nice weekend in the town, the next day we went to Guyra which was close by for a Lamb and Potato Festival, get us being all country! And in the evening went to a familys house for a BBQ which was a really nice evening. We then left Glen Innes on Sunday afternoon.
The rest of Sunday is somewhat of a blur, as we ended up in a little town called Nimbin. This particular town is basically one of the worlds top ten hippy towns, and was founded in the 70s when a group of students came and put on the Aquarius Festival. Anyway I won’t go into details about our evening, I’ll just say Google ‘Nimbin’.. ;)
Monday we had a swim in the morning and then had a look around the towns hippy shops before driving the last hour of our journey to Byron Bay and checking into the Arts Factory. We spent the evening in the hostel, soaking up the atmosphere and getting a henna tattoo!! The Arts Factory is basically one of the biggest and most popular hostels within the backpacking world, and people end up staying in this place for months! There’s always stuff going on, from Bush Walks, to Didgeridoo lessons, to the aforementioned henna tattoing, all for free!
On Tuesday we went to the beach for the morning, and then the pool in the afternoon, taking full advantage of the beautiful weather. That evening was pretty cool, as we took part in the Trivia evening and I won a skydive! Arrggh! I wasn’t even planning on doing a skydive, far too scary, and then I won it, so now I have to! The ridiculous thing was, I wanted to do a surf lesson, which Lucy didn’t want to do, and she won the surf lesson!!! So now we are both doing both!! The winnings were celebrated by drinking in the hot tub for the night!
Then it was Wednesday 26th January which is Australia Day!! We spent the day drinking Byron Bay Premium Beer in the Buddha Bar next to the hostel, which was happy hour prices all day long, with an awesome band playing and a free Sausage Sizzle! We had a really cool day in the sunshine, and had a swim in the pool in the evening before heading to the Beach Hotel in town. It was a day spent doing exactly what Australia is all about, drinking beer and eating sausages in the sunshine!!
Thursday was then pretty brutal, on a slight hangover we had to get the van back up to Brisbane by 2pm. The thing was that New South Wales is currently on daylight saving, whereas Queensland is not, so we were losing an hour. Or so we thought.. After bombing it up the highway and basically emptying the van at our friends house in Surfers Paradise, we whizzed to Jucy Headquarters and phew! We were on time. It was only after we left and got on the 1.18 train back to Surfers that we got utterly confused and realised that Queensland is in fact an hour behind.. Not an hour ahead.. We had dropped the van off two hours early.. We are stupid. We spent the journey back to Surfers Paradise shaking our heads the whole way! That night we took over our friends landing with all our rubbish and stayed there for four nights.
Surfers Paradise is an awesome city, it’s really small, at least in our standards, and all highrise. The city is really new so really clean and the buildings are all really sleek. Our first night we went out in the area of Broadbeach to a club called East and had a great night. On Friday we had a look around the town and went for a swim at a friends apartment building.. Turns out their apartment was in a hotel complex, how very Hollywood! That night we went to a pub in Surfers Paradise that reminded us rather alot of the Hope Tap in Reading!!
Surfers Paradise is like Venice, as it is built all around a series of canals; it actually has nine times the length of canals as Venice. We went to a really lovely lake, just off one of the canals, which people use to swim in, it was so warm and we had a lovely afternoon floating around. That evening we went back out to the pub and then to a club called Vanity. Well it would have been rude not to, Surfers is known as the partying capital of the East Coast, with apparently over 30 clubs in the city!
We hit the beach on Sunday, but the sea was pretty rough so we didn’t stay long. We then went up the Q1 tower which is the tallest residential tower on the Gold Coast, with spectacular views, and then for a BBQ at the hotel of our friends family who were visiting them. We took it easy that evening, and then today we were on a bus at 4pm back to Byron Bay, which is where I’m currently sat, trying desperately hard not to think about the fact that I am throwing myself out of plane tomorrow morning..
Wish me luck!!!! xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
So, the van was picked up, which involved a huge barter over insurance as funnily enough they were reluctant to let me leave with a $30,000 van with only basic insurance… The outcome was they gave me rather a large sum of money off the upgraded insurance, but it was the free picnic table that really swayed me ;)
Our first stop was Mudgee, which was about four horus inland from Sydney, to visit our friends Sam and Joe who we had met in south east Asia. I’m afraid to say those two nights weren’t actually spent in the van but in Sams house! We drove for miles with nothing but countryside around us, but Mudgee itself turned out to be quite a big town with it’s own pubs and bars, actually a bit like Wokingham! We had a bbq at Sam’s that first night and then a night out in his local which was great! The next day Sam drove us around many, many vineyards! Lucy and I enjoyed tasting, red, white, rose and sparkling - even sparkling red?! And then some cheese tasting at the end! We had a few drinks where Sam was working that evening and set off about lunchtime the next day. We wanted to go somewhere in the Hunter Valley so we stopped in a town called Cessnock in a great little campsite. We stayed for two days, and spent one day at the Hunter Valley Zoo where we patted kangaroos and koalas, and watched aligators and monkies get fed. It was a really great day out. Our evenings were spent cooking up dinner and watching DVD’s in the back of the van. The next day we went on a half hour horse ride trail which was cool and then drove to Newcastle. There we had lunch on Nobbys Beach and had a look around and then drove the extra half hour to Nelson Bay in Port Stephens, which had been recommended by Sam. We found a really cool backpackers campsite called Melaleuca, where the owners also care for sick or injured wild animals before re releasing them, so there was a really tame kangaroo roaming the campsite, not to mention the hens that would wander up behind you and peck your legs! We spent three nights and three days in Port Stephen and had a great time. The first day we ate a packed lunch on One Mile Beach then drove to Stockton Sand Dunes. The sand dunes are the largest moving sand dunes in the southern hemisphere and were an amazing sight. We climbed to the top and expected to drop down the other side, but instead the dunes went on and on. We had a walk around and found that you could barely tell where the sand was going up or down, it was all sparkly and amazing! That afternoon we went to Samurai Beach which was alot quieter as it was unpatrolled, so really lovely. We spent the second day on Little Beach getting a nice suntan and the evenings were spent at the campsite cooking up dinner and drinking wine. We bumped into a girl we had met back in Halong Bay which was pretty surprising! The last day we got a lovely hour long boat ride across to a place called Tea Gardens, which was basically a little street! We ate our picnic, had a walk along the seafront and then had a drink in the pub before heading back. That night we carried on driving north and planned to stop somewhere random to sleep in a town called Forster. We ended up at Diamond beach, and cooked up a bbq in the park for dinner. We were about to move on to somewhere to stop for the night but then couldn’t start the van! Everything had locked up and I knew that some kind of immobiliser had kicked in but had no idea how to turn it off! We tried locking and unlocking and unlocking again but to no avail, and neither of us had phone reception! Luckily a woman sat on her verrandah opposite us came out and said she used to work in a car garage, she had a little play around and turned the steering wheel and voila, lock off! She then suggested we park up on a grassy area next to her house which was really kind of her and then invited us up for a glass of wine :) Aussies really are so friendly, and so accepting of us backpackers!
The next day we drove into town and ended up spending the morning on Tuncurry Beach and the afternoon on a beach in Forster. We overdid the sun a bit that day as we both came out a bit burnt. We showered in the beach facilities (everywhere is so well equipped for backpackers!) and decided to treat ourselves to dinner out. We then drove on and stopped at a rest stop for the night, which was also equipped with toilets and bbq’s! When we awoke we had breakfast and made the short drive to Port Macquarie. Two nights in a row sleeping ‘al fresco’ was enough for the time being so we checked into a great caravan park right in the town centre. Yesterday afternoon was then spent sat reading our books outside the van and cooking up dinner. Today we visited a rainforest centre up the road and had a guided tour around a boardwalk which was great! We plan to spend another couple of nights here then move on again. Campervan life is proving great fun, really relaxing and nice cooking up our own dinners! We have a tent that pops up on the roof which we are sleeping in, which leaves the back of the van as a table and seating for us to watch dvd’s, have a cup of tea and store our bags. We also have a nice little set up outside the van with our picnic table and chairs, and a fridge and stove that is accessible when you open the boot. We love it!
One of the last trips we made in Melbourne before moving onto Sydney was to the Great Ocean Road. Johnny, Lucy and I drove Johnnys car down the spectacular coastal road, which hugs the sea almost the whole way. Driving down the winding road in the beautiful sunshine was a fantastic experience, and we stopped at several beautiful beaches along the way. This was really the first glorious sunshine we had seen since arriving in Australia! We drove down to Apollo Bay which is actually only about half of what we could have done, but it made a great day trip out, and was fun to go with Johnny who although living in Australia for a couple of years, had yet to make the trip! The three of us then left Melbourne on the 23rd December at 6am, and made the ten hour trip to Sydney.
Our first night in Sydney was spent in a friend Mikes sisters house and the next day we moved to his friends flat in Coogee. Coogee is about ten minutes from Bondi and about half an hour from Sydney Harbour so it was perfectly placed. It also had it’s own great beach with bbq facilites (everywhere in Oz seems to have free bbq’s!) and a row of shops and bars. Lucy and I ended up staying in Sydney for two weeks!
Christmas was an entirely different experience to that of home, as I’m sure everyone can imagine. Christmas Eve at home would normally be spent in the pubs of Wokingham, and Lucy and I saw in midnight sitting outside the Opera House in the bar with a glass of sparkling wine, overlooking the Harbour Bridge - quite a welcome to Sydney! I could barely contain my excitement, the first view of the Opera House and Bridge is remarkable, and to be honest, so is every view after that! After our civilised glass of bubbly we then went to meet our friends Danny and Richie from south east Asia in the backpacker club ‘The Gaff’. More wine and jagerbombs followed and actually Christmas eve didn’t turn out that different to home after all!!
Christmas Day Lucy and I woke up and exchanged pressies in bed (we sound like a couple), had breakfast, rang the family and then prepared food! Sounds a bit like a normal English Christmas so far hehe but that’s where the similarities ended. Lucy and I weren’t preparing a turkey (which to be honest, I don’t do at home anyway), we were skewering chicken and making potato salad! At about midday we headed down to Coogee Beach for our Christmas Day BBQ. Unfortunately, every backpacker within a ten mile radius wanted a bbq on Coogee beach too, and the queues for the bbq were a mish mash of groups of people sat around their raw food. Now, Lucy and I had spent a fair few hours the night before searching for a disposable bbq, and to our utmost confusion discovered noone knew what the hell we were on about! Turns out Australia - the BBQ Nation - do not have disposable barbies. So there we go, no disposable bbq, and we definitely weren’t queuing so we decided to make the most of the fact our apartment was ten minutes away and Lucy and Johnny went back to the flat to cook the food in the oven! Once they were back we had a great feast of chicken, prawns, sausages, steak, potato salad, coleslaw and chips n dip! As you can imagine, we had a shit load left. After the food we commenced drinking, sat on the grassy area above the beach with a load of other backpackers we knew from south east Asia, all sat in santa hats! It was a great day, but the fact it was Christmas Day somewhat passed us by. Someone later commented that it felt more like a Christmas themed festival, and that was very true. Lucy and I have both already said we are going to be double excited for Christmas next year, because even the Aussies agree that there is nothing like an English White Christmas :)
Boxing Day was a fantastic day! We all donned our finery (all tailor made for about ten quid in south east Asia) and attended International Day at Randwick Racecourse. Lucy and I loved dressing up, having spent ten weeks wearing harem trousers and no makeup in Asia! Sparkling wine is cheap as chips in Australia, so copious amounts were consumed, and bets of no more than $5 were put on each race! The last time I went to the races in Ascot, my betting skills were immense, but it must have been beginners luck as Lucy and I basically lost every race. It was laughable though so it didn’t dampen our day and we spent the evening back in Coogee.
The period between Christmas and New Years Eve involved alot of drinking with a fantastic group of friends we had met in south east Asia and who had all ended up in Sydney, aswell as a few friends of friends. We really, really enjoyed ourselves, going out in Darling Harbour, Circular Quay, Kings Cross and The Rocks, aswell as all having a day on Bondi Beach. Lucy and I also had a day out in the Botanic Gardens, went to Kirribilli for dinner and a look at the bridge close up, and booked a show package at the Opera House!
New Years Eve! The day started pretty early, with Lucy and I finding ourselves in the biggest queue of our life to get into Mrs Macquaries Point in the Botanic Gardens. We had packed a picnic and got down there for about 11am, which apparently wasn’t early enough. Unlike the firwork viewing in London, the main areas are all strictly no alcohol, and require bag searching before entering, resulting in the massive queue. However we were pleasantly surprised as the queue basically moved the entire time and we were in in about an hour and a half. We set up on a grassy verge, unfortunately - being in a Botanic Garden - under quite a few trees… We ate, slept and drank the day away and then at 9pm the childrens firework display went off. Obviously through the trees we didn’t see much, some people don’t mind but I was having none of it, I didn’t come all the way to Sydney to watch the fireworks through bloody trees! So pretty drunk and in the dark, we packed up and pushed our way right down to the front :D We had the most amazing view of the Bridge and the Opera House and waited patiently stood in the crowd for the next couple of hours before the spectacle began. The day long wait was worth it and the fireworks were incredible. They were going off from every direction, with a barge directly in front of us, and the bridge only a short distance to our left. To be honest, with all the sparkling wine that was consumed the day is a slight blur.. But I know that planning our trip around the Sydney fireworks was a decision well made.
Somehow, Lucy and I managed to get home and in bed for 2am, some people had nightmares getting home but we must have been lucky, therefore the next day wasn’t even that hungover! Everyone congregated down on Coogee Beach and the bbq’s were free this time so we cooked up a fantastic New Years Day feast, to see in the new year, but also as a bit of a Last Supper now that everyone was planning on moving on. That evening Lucy and I went to see ‘Love, Lies and What I Wore’ at the Sydney Opera House. It was so funny! It was basically two hours of five women telling stories about their outfits, mothers, handbags, love lives and marriages. Lucy and I were cracking up and they were the type of stories that women everywhere could relate to, everyone in the audience was nodding their heads and Lucy and I were nudging each other all the way through! Lucy nudged me when there was a comment about plane food being kept in handbags to ‘save for later’… Definitely not something I have done!! Afterwards, we met up with everyone in the Coogee Bay Hotel for one last mighty piss up - what a great day.
The next few days involved our ‘pre show’ dinner that we obviously didn’t make it to ‘pre show’! And our tour around the Opera House. We also booked our campervan and were able to pick it up on Friday 7th, but had to be out of our flat early Wednesday! So we spent a couple of nights with our friend Jo in Leichhardt, the other side of Sydney. We had a really nice couple of days with her and her flatmates and friends. Then on Friday I got a cab to Sydney Airport to pick up our campervan and the adventure began!!
Hello Australia! Melbourne has been a city of shopping and drinking with the Irish! Lucy and I have been lucky enough to stay with a friend of ours we met in Thailand, and we have been here a week now. The weather has been unexpectedly dull here, with even a bit of rain! So much for the unbearable heat we were warned about in South East Asia - it was actually hotter there! We have been told it will be hotter once we’re up in Sydney though so we should hopefully still have sunshine on Christmas Day!
The first few days were spent shopping in the city and sorting things out, we needed normal toiletries (all the ones in south east asia were whitening!) and shoes, bags and fascinators for the Boxing Day Races we are going to in Sydney! We got a simcard and bank account sorted and did our mounds of washing! We’ve also finally got our roots done, although our idea of waiting for Australia to get someone who knows what they’re doing didn’t turn out too true, as we ended up with a crazy Greek lady who definitely turned our hair slightly yellow! We’ve also eaten out in the backpacker area of St Kilda, and had a night out in the city. The weekend was a hectic one with the Great Santa Run on Saturday in the bars and pubs of St Kilda with the Irish expats!
Sunday afternoon Lucy and I drove down to Phillip Island which is about an hour and a half away. The island is famous for the Penguin Parade which occurs every night, when thousands of Little Penguins come ashore to go back to their burrows for a night after a days fishing! We bought tickets and took a seat on some tiered seating on the beach and waited about 45 minutes for the penguins to come in at about quarter to nine. They started coming in slowly, in little groups, and then before we knew it there were hundreds! They swim into the shallow water looking alot like ducks with their heads above water, and then slowly come ashore, being washed over quite a few times by the sea! When they first come ashore they have a little look around for predators and dive back in the water several times before finally making a run for it across the beach. Walking back up the walkways to the visitor centre you can look over into the dunes and see the penguins waddling to their burrows!
Monday night we went to Neighbours Night at the Elephant and Wheelbarrow which was amazing! We met ex characters irish Connor, and Sky Mangle, and Dylan Timmins made a short appearance, but the best was meeting Steph Scully! And then Paul Robinson performing with Karl’s band The Waiting Room. Dr Karl was unfortunately over in England which is typical! We drank lots of wine and got lots of photos and had an awesome evening!
A couple more days left of Melbourne now and then off to Sydney! I hope everyone has a very Merry Christmas! xxxx
1. Riding a moped around Koh Samui.
2. Sunbathing in Angthong Marine Park on a postcard perfect beach.
3. Standing in the shallow sea on Koh Phangan watching the sun go down with a beer in hand and fish swimming around our feet!
4. Sat at the edge of the ocean watching the sunrise over the sea from Haad Rin Beach after a long nights partying at the Full Moon Party!
5. Trekking for two days in Chiang Mai, and more importantly, finishing the trek!!
6. Having a chat with an orange robed monk so he could practice his English in a temple in Chiang Mai.
7. Kayaking down the Mekong River!
8. Two days tubing in Vang Vieng - the best partying of South East Asia with the best crowd!
9. Sailing through the rocks of Halong Bay on the front of a wooden junk with a beer and the sun going down.
10. Watching the sunrise over Angkor Wat in Cambodia.