Monthly Archives: February 2016

Here’s to…

Here’s to sailing boats from the America cup, dodgy moustaches, white sands, unexpected rain showers and cups of tea on deck. To buffet lunches whilst suppressing sea sickness, and hoisting yourself back onto the boat after a snorkel session. To tropical fish and water up your nose. Here’s to gigantic sea turtles who look wise and prehistoric. Here’s to making new friends who live 20 minutes away from you, despite being 10,000 miles away from home. To wearing sexy swim suits because the jellyfish and the string rays have come out to play. Here’s to sand so soft and white that it feels like icing sugar. Here’s to goon and hungover bus journeys with a broken toilet. To moths that were hiding in the breakfast bananas and leave you feeling like you now need therapy.imageimageimage

 

Here’s to Magnetic Island and the Whitsundays. To good friends, and being too hot to leave the hostel. To instant coffee, and discounted bakery food. Here’s to factor 50, laughing until you cry and singing loudly whenever you get the chance. To flute practice in a hut at the end of someone’s garden, where we happen to be staying. Here’s to being very cautious about spiders and beasties. Here’s to mosquitos. Here’s to Australia!

image

image

image

image

image

image

blogsignature

Fraser Island

From Noosa, we embarked on a very uninformed trip to Fraser Island. Uninformed, in that we had no idea what we were doing really. The previous evening, we watched a briefing video, which explained how to drive a 4×4  in sand, what to do if your stuck in sand, how to adjust the tire pressure for sand, etc. etc. This all went completely over my head, and I hadn’t realised we were meant to be driving, so I had a bit of a sense of foreboding.Anyway. We had a two hour bus journey to Rainbow Beach, where we were split into four groups and given a 4×4 each. Wow. There were six of us in our car; me, Tom, Luke, a Swiss French girl called Naila and two French sisters, Nadia and Dulia. We all got on really well, which was nice! Luke drove first, onto the ferry to the island and then for about forty minutes along the beach. We drove pretty fast, communicating with the tour guide who was in the front car via walky talky, which was really fun and reminded me of the 90s. (Walky talkies are equally exciting now, if you’re wondering.) It then began to piss it down.

 

image

A running theme on our trip so far has been that it violently rains every time we spend money on an activity, and Fraser Island was no exception! Our first destination on the island was Eli Creek, a river of really pure drinkable water that you can float down into the sea. We were drenched to the bone from the moment we left the car, so it was quite fun jumping in the river, although it was freezing! The river was shallow, so we swam a little and walked too. There was one moment where I was walking along the sandy riverbed when I stepped into a hidden hole and disappeared, Dawn French style.

image

We then headed back to the cars. It was so wet that there was no point even getting dressed so we were all in our swimmers getting stuck to the leather seats, which was a bizarre but hilarious experience. We then drove to a huge wrecked ship sat on the beach, which we ran to, took a photo of and then ran back. It was a tropical storm so wet that it’s almost hard to breathe because so much water was going up my nose!

image
After that, we headed for a walk through the bush, down a gigantic sand dune and then chilled out by a big lake. The rain picked up again on the way to the hostel. We had a Chilean room mate who didn’t seem to own a shirt.

The hostel was nice, in that only people from our group were there. What followed was a very messy night, involving trying to “phone” eachother across the dance floor using the biggest item we could find. (We got shouted at for holding barstools to our ears) and some ridiculous dancing.
We were a bit worse for wear in the morning, but thankfully, Naila offered to drive first, taking us through the lush rainforest to Lake McKenzie. The lake is on a huge sand dune and is famous for its white sand. It was nice to chill out and sober up. The boys clowned about and did lots of belly flops, Luke did a good seal impression in the water, and I was just using the sand to exfoliate which I’ve been DYING to do since we left home. Clean skin at last! Then it came to my turn to drive…

image

I’ve never driven a 4X4, on sand, or abroad before. So it was all a new experience. To be honest, it wasn’t too different to driving normally, other than the car felt huge. The difficult bit was being in the second car, and the leader would slow right down with no warning, so i’d have to try hard not to stall/rear end him, and when we drove on the squishy bits of sand, sometimes it would slip a little bit. We then headed back along the beach to the ferry. Luke drove and we had some songs on and had a sing. All in all it was a really fun trip and my favourite thing we’ve done in Australia so far.

image

image

image

 

 

blogsignature

 

Byron Bay and Brisbane (Bris Vegas)

Byron Bay and Brisbane (Bris Vegas)

After Sydney, we got a delightful bus to Byron Bay. Delightful in that the driver was a vile racist, we weren’t allowed to eat, and there was no leg room and it was a 14 hour drive through the night. Well we survived, knackered and with legs swollen to the size of tree trunks, but we survived!

Byron Bay, to those whose have seen the second inbetweeners movie, is where the lads go and will sings by the fire. We saw a lot of dreadlocks, idiots with fire poi and dancing Hare Krishnas. There was also an old man busker who frantically hula hooped whilst shaking a pineapple and banana and shouting at everyone. Not sure what he was on, but I think I’d like some. There’s something quite reassuring in knowing that if everything goes to shit, you can leave the country and busk with a hula hoop and some fruit shakers.
Our time was mainly spent on the beach, having some much needed down time, and we had a quick trip to Nimbin.

image

image

image

We then got back on the bus, (only a few hours this time thank GOD) and headed to Brisbane. We wandered around in the heat, Brisbane definitely being the hottest place we’ve been in Aus, trying to find wifi and using a pay phone to no success to get in contact with Ali, Tom’s lovely friend from home. It’s hilarious how much we rely on finding an Internet connection. Anyway, we finally got in touch and Ali picked us up and we went back to his flat where he lives with his wife Fulden. It was so lovely to use a clean bathroom and chill! We had some lovely home cooked salmon and then headed into the city for a drink. Tom had a hair cut session.

image

The following day, we went to find Luke at the bus, which was a bit late, and then went for a wander in the city. They have a really cool pool in the middle of the city, which kept us cool.

image

In the evening we met some of Ali and Fulden’s friends, and went for a Singaporian meal, which was nice and really cheap! We were sad to leave the following day, staying with friends is so much fun, and a relief to escape the hostels for a bit, but we arranged to meet them at the zoo the following day, and caught the bus to Noosa.

The hostel in Noosa was a shit hole, think 16 man dorm with no air conditioning in 30 degree heat. Anyway. After very little sleep, because a man in the room kept sleep talking and saying “oh no!” all night, we headed on the luxurious greyhound to the Australia Zoo.

image

It was a really fun day! The highlight was holding a koala called Diesel, who was very heavy, with sharp claws. He smelt like eucalyptus, and did a little sneeze when I handed him to his keeper. The other animals I loved were the Tigers, the crocs, gigantic tortoises, the Kangaroos and the wombats. (Hehehe) The Tasmanian devil was a dissapointment. I was expecting it to whizz around like Taz, but it was just a glorified rat really.

image

image

 

blogsignature

 

Sydney dreaming

Off the bus we hopped again, arriving in Sydney after a somewhat shorter journey (phew.)

We were too early to check in, so plonked our bags at the hostel and went for a wander. We hadn’t realised that we’d arrived right in time for Chinese New Year, and found a Chinese market, which was pretty cool. One of the stands was a huge tree covered in red envelopes. We both picked one and opened it. Mine had a chocolate coin in, which I was more than happy with, and Tom opened his to find a $20 gift token for an electronics shop! He was even more chuffed when we went to the shop and he bought a small key ring USB charger that means he can charge his phone on the go, how lucky is that?!

image

(Some of the lanterns in Chinatown for the new year celebrations.)

After checking in, we went for a wander, through town, where a Chinese calligrapher wrote “luck” for me, and then to the Sydney opera house. It was so cool to see such an iconic building. The sun was gleaming on the roof and it’s so so much bigger than I thought it’d be.

image

 

We decided to go inside, and discovered that Jose Gonzalez was playing that evening. We both love his music and have seen him play in Leeds before, so we thought we’d get some tickets. It was sold out, but the box office lady told us to come back at 7pm and see if they had any cancellations. So we headed back later on, with low expectations to find that there were tickets available for some really good seats, about five rows from the front!

What a lucky day! We waited for the doors to open, with the fancy opera crowd giving us dirty looks – we’d been wearing the same clothes for days and didn’t blend in too well. Then we went in and had such a wonderful time. Jose was joined by a four man band, and the acoustics were out of this world. It sounded better live than in the recordings, and it brought a lump to my throat and tears to my eyes. Magic. I feel so lucky to have seen one of my favourite artists play in such an iconic venue.

image

The next day we had a wander, stumbled across a Serbian festival, and then went to the Chinese Botanic Gardens, which were stunning, and made us really excited for Asia. Then we spent about an hour trying to figure out how the hell to use the bus system and bought the Oz equivalent of an Oyster card then got the bus to Bondi Beach. It was a really sunny day, so sunbathing on the beach and cooling off in the sea seemed very appealing. Unfortunately only the first half of this came true…

As we were lying around with our Kindles, we clocked the first aid station, which had a small queue of people outside pressing ice packs to their various body parts. Tom said “I wonder why they’re doing that?!” After a few more minutes I wanted to go for a swim and headed to the shore to find loads and loads of mini jellyfish all over the beach. There was only a few surfers in the sea. I was like “hmmmm” but didn’t want to bother the lifeguards, who had their hands full. I found a local and said “are the jellyfish dangerous?” To which he replied “oh yes, absolutely!
You’ll be okay if you stand on the head, but the tail will give you a nasty shock. They’re not lethal, but very unpleasant.”

image

So swimming was off then. There were lots of alarms and lifeguards everywhere, but we managed to cool off in the baby pool (ha!) and under the showers. Never a dull day in paradise.

There’s something so lovely about being in warm weather. I immediately feel like I’m on holiday.

The following day we checked out the art gallery in the park, then headed back to the harbour and caught a ferry across to the other side, where we wandered around the very creepy “Luna Park” which is a bit like a 1950s funfair and then walked back over the harbour bridge. We had a bottle of wine and chip butties in the park watching the sunset over the Opera House, which was lovely.

image

 

image

 

blogsignature

Melbourne and Canberra

Hello from Australia! Sorry for the late update, wifi has been hard to get hold of and I’ve basically been lying around on the beach for the past few days. Anyway, here’s an update : our first two stops in Australia: Melbourne and Canberra.

We were really sad to leave New Zealand. We had to say goodbye to Philine and Kerry, who we’ve been with for seven weeks all together, but we’ve promised we’ll visit them to go and see an authentic German Christmas market, and they’re going to come and see us too.

The flight to Australia departed at 8.30pm. I think evening flights are my favourite time to fly because there’s none of the getting up at a ridiculous hour nonsense which always makes my belly hurt for some reason, plus you can watch the sunset from above the clouds, which is pretty spectacular. The flight was beautiful, and we were sat next to a really cool South Korean bloke who is travelling the world with his family. The kids are 11 and 13 and they’ve already seen 31 countries in 9 months. How insane is that?

image

We touched down in Melbourne after a three hour flight and got off the plane. The air felt different. I love changing countries and breathing in the air and experiencing a new climate. We got through customs, got a bus to the city centre and then began looking for our hostel which was allegedly opposite the bus station, but to no avail. Then a really old man with a beard, eating an icecream (at 10.30pm – legend) shouted “BACKPACKERS ARE YOU LOST ALREAADY??!!!” at us. I said yes and he directed us to the hostel.

We had our own room, with a bunk bed in it again. I still can’t get my head round this and it makes me a bit hysterical and think of that scene from Stepbrothers. Anyway.

The next day we headed into town. I decided to hit H&M for a new bikini, and found a MATCHING one in the sale for $10, which works out at a fiver. Bargain. Then we found some discount sushi for lunch. I was delighted at my bargain hunting and we were practically skipping across the road in delight, wondering what our next stroke of luck would be when it came in the form of a huge bird poo that splatted all over us both. We managed to wash it all off in a fountain luckily.

image

(There’s lots of yarn bombed trees in Melbourne!)

We then went to a film museum, which was really cool, and stumbled across a Buddhist monk leading a free meditation class. There’s lots going on in Melbourne. We also enjoyed the cool street art on Hosier Street. We then wandered around a bit more, went to the hostel and tackled our laundry mountain and then watched the Matrix Reloaded (it’s rubbish) then fell asleep.

The next day we walked back to the city centre and then jumped on the free old fashioned city tram. There was a bit of a rush to get on, and I jumped on before realising that Tom had got on the back door and was laughing his head off at the look of panic on my face when I thought I’d lost him. We headed to the park, which I was enjoying until Tom started walking around at about 100mph because he was convinced a tarantula would drop out of a tree and onto his head. Not very relaxing. In the middle of the park is “the oldest building in Australia” which was made in 1770 in England and shipped over to Oz in 1934…. Hmmmm….. There were people dressed in stupid outfits pretending to be Captain Cook and I was a bit like WHAT THE FUCK then realised that I’ve been spoilt growing up in England. We have so much history. Kendal castle was built around the 13th century for gods sake. Anyway. I had a reality check and got over it.

We went back on the tram and headed to harbour town and had an incredibly strong coffee and more discount sushi. Melbourne is famous for its coffee, so I was eager to try it. I then gave Tom a mild heart attack by spending $30 on a new tangle teezer because I’d lost mine in New Zealand and the cheap replacement one I’d bought was making me bald. Long hair problems.

image

(Here’s Tom doing some drumming to vent his despair.)

The next day we went downstairs in our hostel and found Luke, who’d arrived from Bali on an early flight. He even came in a matching outfit! It felt a bit like when we met Billy in Queenstown: surreal but completely normal. It was great to catch up on his adventure so far, and we went to the travel agent who helped us book our buses up the east coast, a trip to the Steve Irwin zoo (thanks for the recommendation Nia!) and a trip to Fraser Island. We then said bye to Luke, who was staying on in Melbourne and got on the Greyhound bus to Canberra.

I hadn’t realised that Canberra is the capital of Australia. I’d assumed it was Sydney for some reason. So we decided to go, mainly because it’s another place, like Melbourne, in that Tom hasn’t been there before, and also because the travel agent said “Canberra is good for porn and fireworks.” …
The bus journey was a bit freaky really in that we were on it for eight hours and we saw about two small towns, a few petrol stations, lots of huge trucks and a load of flat desert land covered in trees. I got a bit spooked because I kept thinking of Wolf Creek and panicking that the bus would break down. Too many horror films.

image

Anyway, we made it to Canberra, absolutely knackered and starving. As we waited for the bus to our hostel, I heard a cheeping sound and a load of parrots flew past. There were bright red and green parrots everywhere and big parakeets who were making a bloody awful racket. I couldn’t stop watching them! The hostel was nice (bunk beds again!) and we had some food then conked out.

The next day we decided to head into town to have a look at Parliament. A good idea in theory, but in reality involved five hours of walking, with not very much to look at. A lot of building sites. Also there was no shops or food places anywhere near Parliament so I got a bit hysterical and nearly died of starvation when we finally had lunch at 3pm. The good thing about the day was that we walked through a park when a huge bat flew past us. It had about a 70cm wing span, and looked like batman. We watched it fly into a tree where it hung upside down with a load of its buddies. Absolutely awesome and terrifying.

image

We made it back from parliament, completely knackered, and after a short nap headed up to Mount Ainslie, recommended by a fellow backpacker for the wild kangaroos. I was very excited. We walked through a few housing estates before coming to the foot of the mountain. Within five minutes we’d spotted our first kangaroos! They had clocked us way before we’d seen them and were frozen, ears cocked, looking right at us and chewing grass. We saw probably about thirty in total, and they were so lovely! There were mummies and babies and big huge muscled daddies. When we got too close they would bounce away from us. We were totally captivated and amazed that several locals were out jogging. Kangaroos are completely normal for them!

image

After a long while trying and failing to get decent photos, we decided to walk back down the hill. We heard pounding feet and stopped, and a pair of kangaroos bounced right behind us. We were frozen, and amazed. They were so close and unfazed by us, it was truly awesome.

image

So all in all, Canberra as a city was a bit dull, but the incredible parrots, bats and kangaroos made it well worth a visit. Not what you’d expect from a capital city!

blogsignature

 

Two final videos from NZ

Hello from Australia. It’s cloudy!! Bloody typical. Melbourne was cool though. Currently on the greyhound (aka swankiest bus ever) to Australia’s capital: Canberra. A certain someone totally didn’t realise the capital wasn’t Sydney until a few days ago… Hmmm. Anyway. I thought I’d use the albeit very slow bus wifi to share two videos from New Zealand. Here’s the first one, made by lovely Thomas:

 

And the the second was made by Kerry, showing our dolphin swim in Kaukoura.

blogsignature