Been back and for ages too

16 05 2010

Oopsy, have faced some harsh criticism over not finishing off the story… ooooooops!  I think I left you in Newcastle, which could very easily be my new home.  Actually, my new home is in Bristol, but for how long I am not sure…

From Newcastle I took the hungover express – my last Greyhound coach journey – to Sydney.  The hangover was courtesy of Rowena aka the bad influence.  Seemed to end up in a pub a few miles away from anywhere, and met some random Scotsman who reminded me a bit of the bloke from Erasure.

Anyway, Sydney!  I spent the first few days with my good friend Eric the Dutchman, on his last few days in Australia before returning to Holland.  We did some good sightseeing and souvenir shopping, and of course saw a bit of the city nightlife 🙂  It was sad to say goodbye, but we are staying in touch.

Fortunately I wasn’t alone in a strange city.  I had a couple of friends visiting from the UK, who introduced me to their friends on the north shore, who let me stay with them for a few weeks.  It was a hard life… in their amazing house with fantastic views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House, mingling with the millionaires… a struggle indeed!  And I also bumped into Sheree, who I’d met a few weeks previous in Bellingen (my favouritest place in the world)… she lives in Bristol too!

Sydney was a fantastic place.  Public transport was a bit difficult to understand, but being just a few minutes walk away from a ferry wharf it seemed crazy not to travel mostly by boat.  And boat was one of the best ways to see Sydney, either in the middle of a sweet sunny day, or at night on deck gazing at the lights.

So, cue lots of sightseeing, including the botanical gardens with their myriad of flying foxes creating a raucous kafuffle in the middle of the day (mating season apparently!), Manly’s fab beach, cinema and bars, the walk from Bondi Beach to Coogee Beach, taking in oodles of amazing cliff and coastal scenery, and the Australian museum’s hours worth of natural history specimens and information.  I saw my first ever game of Aussie Rules Football.  Throw in the meeting of another amazing friend, Asuka the lovely Japanese lady I met in Sydney’s great Central YHA, and it was even more amazing.  Hai, so desu.

My penultimate night was a natural culmination of the whole travels for me.  I’d taken my new iPod touch away on my travels, and one of the most listened to albums on there was by the Fray.  When I arrived in Australia I saw an ad that they were playing in Sydney just before I left, so I had to buy a ticket.  The show was at Luna Park, which was an easy five minute walk from where I was staying, and one of my friends came along.  What a show!  The music was amazing, and just a perfect ending to my time away.

Next time, summary and thoughts…

Coal and free food

24 03 2010

Newcastle was the land of free food for the backpacker.  And the land of coal exports from Australia.  There’s a big port there, and a queue of ships waiting to come into the harbour when you look out to sea.  Regardless, I think Newcastle is somewhere I could actually live quite happily.  Just a nice atmosphere, nice seaside, nice!

I stayed in the fantastic YHA in town… all wood panelling and leather sofas.  Just round the corner from the town, not 5 minutes from the beach, and quite handy for the Hunter Valley.  The first night was a free sausage sizzle and bingo in a local hotel bar.  Couldn’t say no really.  Didn’t win – although was just one number away from a full house, but also one number too late! 

Took a day trip the next day to the Hunter Valley, chocka full of grapes, and hence wine.  I was on the tour with a couple of pale English girls, newly arrived in Australia, and who looked barely old enough to be drinking.  They had just graduated though, so were old enough to try some of the lovely wines at the 4 vineyards we visited.  It was a day of much wine, but no drunkenness only vague tipsiness.  One vineyard had 13 wines, fortified wines and ports for us to try… blimey, not bad for free too!  And the day completed with free pasta meal at the local pub.

Day 3 was a day of pampering.  New shoes, new hair (well, a haircut anyway),  relaxing with a book and then mayhem.  A free BBQ at a distant pub, one bad influence in the form of Aussie girl Rowena, several drinks later and I was on stage ‘singing’ karaoke.  Oh dear.

Next stop, Sydney!

Relaxing and other excuses

17 03 2010

So, I’ve forgotten how to blog.  So, another mammoth catchup session?

Maroochydore – or Maroochybore?  It weren’t that exciting.  Went to the Eumundi markets where I could have spent loads of money, had I not already spent it in Noosa a few days before.  Went to the beach which was too hot to walk on.  Swung in a hammock.

Next stop was Brisbane.  Ah, Brisbane.  On the bus I heard Billy Idol’s ‘Hot in the City’, and it was kinda hot in Brisbane.  Bumped into Eric from Holland in the corridor in the hostel and made plans to go to the pub and visit a brewery the next day.  Ah the benefits of hindsight… waking up at midday with a headache is not the best state to be in for a brewery tour and 4 free beers at 4pm… Anyways, off to the Castlemaine XXXX brewery we went.  I wouldn’t give a XXXX for it though… bleurgh, horrible, tasteless brew.  What more of Brisbane.  To the Botanical Gardens and to the market.  Oh, and a day trip to North Stradbroke Island – the world’s second largest sand island – which was lovely!   I had a swim in the clear crystal blue sea… amazing!

From Brisbane, bypassing Surfers Paradise, to Coolangatta, which sits on the border between Queensland and New South Wales.  Which means the clocks change if you wander too far south.  Luckily I managed to stay north of the border and away from any confusion during my time there.  More beach, more swimming in the sea.  Fantastic beach, but it was a really grotty hostel, and there was no natural food to be found for miles, so I ended up with a beef soup and a snack-pack of cheese and biscuits for tea.

Byron Bay was up next.  A really lovely place, but just jam-packed full of tourists.  Some of them were familiar though!  Like Rachel I had met in Mission Beach, Roisin I had met in Noosa, Eric I had met in Brisbane and Florian I had met in Hervey Bay.  Strange to wander down a street in a foreign land and bump into familiar faces!  Apart from the people, I also spent time with dolphins in Byron Bay, on a sea kayaking trip.  Very much to be recommended, apart from the seasick girl I had to share the kayak with, and the falling in the sea when riding the tiny waves back to the beach.

Next stop, Lennox Head.  The hostel formed a triangle with the sea and the tea tree Lake Ainsworth.  Add in the very friendly and helpful pharmacist and you make a nice pointy arrow.   Picture this… me in night-vision goggles on a ‘Vision Walk’ (a pitch black bush walk to spot the creatures of the night!).

Yamba!  Totally lovely hostel, totally lovely little place, shame about the regulars in the hostel who are not the most open and welcoming bunch in Australian hostels (we’ll get to them soon though).  Took Shane’s ten buck tour, which involved snake fighting, piranha feeding, cliff jumping, and all manner of tall tales.  A great tour, and super-good value for money!  Plus, beach, swim in sea, pelicans… yup, pelicans!

Coffs Harbour, land of beach, swimming in sea, erm, and that’s about it.

Bellingen, Bellingen, I love you Bellingen.  Totally lovely place, lovely people.  They say it is what Byron Bay used to be like without the tourists.  Well, I flippin loved it.  Didn’t do a lot, but then it is possible to do nothing and not feel the slightest bit guilty there.  Although I did find the time to eat the most amazing chocolate ice cream, whip everyone’s *sses at pool, read a fine book, detox at a far infrared sauna, make couscous and haloumi summer salad twice, drink goon for the first time, rattle on an escaped mini-punk-chicken, and generally chill out so much I didn’t want to leave.  I did though and on to…

Port Macquarie, with the worst YHA hostel in the world ever.  I had to upgrade to a family unit, the dorm was soooo bad.  Never go there, please, ever.  All the healing effects of Bellingen lost in one fell swoop… how horrible.

Laurieton saw me stay with my old penpal Elayine, in her house of children, cats, dogs, fish and husband.  A jolly nice stay it was too.

Newcastle next.  Might save it for next time, whenever that might be!

Erm and oops

5 02 2010

So, it has been a right long time since I have blogged.  Erm, sorry, and oops, I will try not to let it happen again.  So much has happened though that it is now going to be difficult to catch up!  I’ll try…

Melbourne: had a couple of quiet days there, then took a trip along the Great Ocean Road, went out with Jude who I met in Canberra the week before, and went to the Australian Open Tennis to see Maria Sharapova get knocked out, and Andy Murray go through to the second round.

Cairns: sucks

Port Douglas: is full of miniature sandflies, that want to suck your blood.  Took a day trip to Cape Tribulation, and saw snakes, a baby crocodile, a tree frog, petted kangaroos and wallabies, drank tea made in a billy can, saw a cassowary (!) and his baby chick, and made a special hunt for a peppermint stick insect 🙂

Cairns: still sucks, but took the Skyrail to Kuranda, 7.5km over the rainforest each way, went to the Butterfly Sanctuary and saw REALLY big caterpillars (awesome!), went to the Venom Zoo and held a(nother) snake and a spiny leaf insect – woohoo!

Mission Beach: in the rainforest and full of big bugs and beasties.  Stayed in the Treehouse hostel, where there was nothing to do all day but swing in a hammock.  Played poker with Rachel and Mark, both English, both travelling alone, had the best pokerface of the lot. 

Magnetic Island: saw in Australia Day with a big party that culminated in dancing on the tables and in the rain.  Stayed for another coupla days in the rain, rain, more rain, monsoonal trough.  Thought I might be stuck on the island forever and ever.

Airlie Beach: took a one day boat trip to the Whitsundays.  It was raining, so it was just as well that the boat I took was a white knuckle thrill ride with the waves pounding overboard.  Drenched all day!  Swam in the sea for the first time!  Snorkelled for the first time and saw some amazing things… fish were swimming past my face!

Rockhampton: a quick overnight stay, avoiding the overnight coach which seemed to be the most popular way to travel.

Hervey Bay: two days on Fraser Island.  Rain rain rain.  Spent the first day in the car soaked to the skin… not so rainy on day two.  Saw a dingo, a goanna, some golden orb spiders, catfish, and swam in Lake Garawonga.

Noosa: scene of my makeover!  Spotted a clothes shop from a distance, and went in to try and buy a dress.  Ended up with a dress, a tunic dress, some wide white trousers and a lovely vest top, oh and a chunky wooden necklace too!

Maroochydore: that’s where I am now!  Off to the Eumundi market tomorrow morning.  Otherwise, got a bottle of rose wine in the fridge, the makings of a creamy, mushroomy, pasta dinner, near the end of Stieg Larson’s “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and starting to think about what I am going to do when I get to Brisbane in a couple of days time.

Pheweeee…. and…. relax!

Big buildings and no people

13 01 2010

So, Canberra.  I’ve spent a week here, and now I am a bit worried that has been too long and it might stop me from seeing other more exciting places.  Oh well, I have kept busy at least.

For those who might not know, Canberra is a planned city, so has an air of Milton Keynes to it.  It was planned in the early 1900s, and is a city of big buildings… National this and National that… and big empty spaces between them.  (I do have photos, will load some soon)  It’s a bit weird when you go out at 9:30am on Saturday and there is just nobody else around… then the buildings take on a foreboding atmosphere.  A lot of the streets are concentric too… you could circle round and round for ages, completely lost.

What else?  The bus service sucksInvariably, when you want to get somewhere or get home you find that there is one bus an hour which you have just missed, or that the buses stop long before you are planning to leave. 

But I have kept busy.  Here’s a rundown of some of the things I have done in the past week.  Visited the botanical gardens.  Went to Summernats Street Machines Car Festival.  Visited Parliament House.  Went to see the John Butler Trio in concert.  Saw The French Kissers at the cinema.  Visited CSIRO and seen loads of pretty moths.  Visited Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve and seen wallabies, kangaroos, pukekos, cockatiels, reptiles, loads of butterflies and no koalas.  Visited the National Australian Mint, where they weren’t making money (it was tea break).  Visited the National Library of Australia.  Visited the National Museum of Australia.  Visited the National Zoo and Aquarium for a ZooVenture tour.  And all in >30C!!  The mercury hit 38C yesterday…. pheweeeeeee!

ZooVenture was fantastic.  It started with a bear licking some fruity goo off my hand, passed through handfeeding cougars, lions, tigers, giraffes, had a bit of snake holding, reptile handling, and dingo stroking!  Quite an amazing couple of hours 🙂

To Melbourne!

Sun and more sun

11 01 2010

So, time has passed and I have ignored my blog.  But I have been busy!  My last few days in Auckland were very potter-y… nothing very exciting, except I did have a day behind the scenes at Butterfly Creek 🙂

Onward and westward… I am now in Australia!  I arrived into Sydney on 5th January, flying from Auckland on an Airbus A380, which is definitely THE way to travel!  There were loads and loads of things I could have watched on the entertainment system, but only 3 hours in which to watch them!  Anyway, I met a lovely American, and was so busy in conversation to her that we both got a fright when we landed… wondering what was that bump???

So, Australia.  I love it.  Spent a brief night in Sydney before moving on here to Canberra.  It’s a bit of an odd city here… it was planned in the early 1900s, and it feels a little bit like Milton Keynes sometimes.  Some days it feels like there is loads to do, loads of people about, and it’s great.  Other days I wonder where the people are, what to do, and it’s not so great.  Still, only a couple of days left and I’ll be in Melbourne.  Woo yeah!

PS Yep, it’s pretty sunny here!

Say woo and yay

3 01 2010
Ladi6 at Music Mountain Matakana

Ladi6 at Music Mountain Matakana

Aye!  Happy New Year to yis all!  Hope 2010 brings you much joy.

I spent Hogmanay in the company of many strangers, at a music festival, on the top of a hill in Matakana, north of Auckland.  It was a 12 hour festival, and given that I was travelling on the bus, I was about the 5th person through the gate.  It was a long old afternoon, punctuated by beer, a tickie wine, and lying on the grass watching the clouds drifting as the beats took over.  Lovely.  Drinks and food were payed for by ‘funny money’ – NZ$7 for one token – a wee bit pricy if you ask me. By midnight I had managed to sweet talk one of the barmaids into giving me a free drinkie, had fended off one rather too eager Kiwi guy, had spoken to the godfather of New Zealand hip hop, and was dancing like a mad thing to the sweet sweet music with loads and loads of strangers!  It was awesome 🙂

I think I dropped into bed at 4am.  Lovely sleep.

It’s been a relaxing New Year so far, just pottering about, getting ready and planning for Australia.  I cannot wait to get there… I hope it lives up to the hype!   Looking at the weather forecast it seems to be around 30 degrees everywhere at the moment… so I’ve been out and bought another skirt to wear to try and keep cool… hope it works.  Apparently I will adjust… I hope so!!

No dolphins and no sprouts

30 12 2009

OMG It’s been a week since I blogged.  What have I been up to?  2 nights in Whangarei were rather disappointing… the whole world were Christmas shopping, and my lovely day out in their quiet little town turned into a massive traffic jam.  Oh well, at least the day was saved by another Damned pizza from Hell.  How do they make them so tasty??

From Whangarei to Paihia.  Was going to spend just two nights there, but extended it till three because I was planning on doing the dolphin encounter cruise on Boxing Day with Katie and her family.  Paihia is lovely, and across the water Russell is even lovelier.  That is where I spent my Christmas day, as the ferries were running and I hadn’t been there before.  Just a gorgeous little place, but mostly full of holiday homes.  I had a blue nose for Christmas lunch… better than a red nose?  Don’t know.  It’s some sort of game fish.  Well, it was supertasty and washed down with a glass of Moet to boot.

Back at the hostel the Christmas BBQ got underway.  Quite a mellow affair with loads and loads of food, a wee bit of singing, and lots of lovely people.

Boxing Day – no dolphins!  This was a real shame for Katie and her parents I think, as it was their Christmas present and they didn’t have time to stay and do it again (you get a free voucher for another trip if there are no dolphins).  I did have time, so the following day I went out again.  Not a sausage.  No dolphins here 😦  Apparently the sea breeze makes it difficult to spot them as the sea gets a bit choppy… rubbish!  Oh well, I suppose they are wild creatures.  The same day was slightly redeemed when I went parasailing – very relaxing after skydiving a couple of weeks ago!

What next?  One night in Omapere, on the Hokianga Harbour, where I met some lovely ladies who invited me for a drink by the waterfront, and the harbour was just sensational when the sun was setting.  The next day travelling through ancient forests and looking at flipping huge kauri trees.  The a boring night in boring Dargaville where instead of sightseeing I slept for about 15 hours.

So here I am back in Auckland.  Have a drinks date today with the lovely Hannah who I met a few weeks ago.  And have just started packing my bag for tomorrow’s New Year festival in Matakana… woohoo… can’t wait.  Here’s hoping 2010 brings fantastic things!

Oofflies and spa

22 12 2009

Goodbye Erminjuce, hello Nissan Sunny (too unstylish to warrant a name). I’m in a motel! There are multitudes of motels in New Zealand. For a little over £30 I have 2 beds to sleep in, a TV (my god, I haven’t watched TV for more than 5 minutes in yonks! too bad there isn’t anything on tonight, grrrr), kettle, microwave, fridge, and my own en-suite bathroom. Wow, just think I can have a shower that is more than 6 minutes long. Honestly, how can 6 minutes of hot water be long enough for a shower? I have visited many campsites over the past fortnight… loads of ‘press the green button for 6 minutes’, ’50c for 5 minutes’, ‘press the red button for 8 minutes’… I hereby declare, 8 minutes is just right. Although 30 minutes of hot springs spa action is better.

Yep, my final night in the van was spent at the campsite just next to Miranda Hot Springs. Before checking in I thought I might treat myself to a bit of spa action, and bubbled away quite nicely for a while. Too bad about the sulphur smell… although I guess it was good for my skin.

Wind back the clock a couple of hours and I was in the Thames Butterfly House and Orchid Gardens. Piffle to the orchids; more interesting were the 400+ butterflies flapping round me, landing on me, being snapped by my camera, and being reared and looked after by a lovely chap from Kinloch Rannoch. I’ve never been somewhere with so many butterflies before. Chappie on reception said there would probably be an Atlas moth or two in there, but try as I might I couldn’t spot any, and they are quite hard to miss.

Wind back the clock a couple of hours previous, and I was on a wee train (the Driving Creek Railway) going up a big hill, round a narrow gauge track hand built by one man over the course of 27 years.

Wind back the clock a wee bit further, and I was trying to eat my breakfast but being pestered by a very, very bolshy duck. I thought it was going to grab my loaf of bread and run off!

Wind back the clock just a teeny bit further, and I was racing against the clock trying to get the shampoo out of my hair before the hot water ran out…….

PS The internet connection at the Central Court Motel in Whangarei is rubbish

Sky and sea

17 12 2009

So, I did a skydive from 15000 feet!  Woohoo!  Having done one parachute jump (although without freefall) before I was slightly less terrified than the woman (who thankfully jumped out before me) who screamed every time someone went out the door… but it was still a complete adrenalin rush and I absolutely loved it!  Definitely have to do it again some day 🙂  The next day was a bit more sedate… I went to the Agrodome to see an hour long show about sheep – who knew there were so many types of sheep!  Then I took a tour round their organic farm, which included tasting their kiwi juice, kiwi wine, honey, and feeding sheep, alpacas, llamas and ostriches.  They had an ox there too… flippin huge!

On my campervan tour I’ve visited quite a few places, mostly staying in Top 10 holiday parks, which have fantastic facilities.  Last night I opted for an independently owned park, right next to the sea.  The facilities are still top notch, but it is so much quieter, and I think the peace was just what I needed.  I had a bit of a sunbathe, and paddled in the sea.  Fantastic.  It was the first time I’ve had my pink straw cowboy hat on since I got here.  It was the first time I have dropped it in the ocean.  It was the first time I have rescued it from the ocean!  Fortunately I had the whole beach to myself, so didn’t feel too much like a plonker.

Where am I and where have I been?  Taupo, with the lake as big as Singapore, which was beautiful.  Rotorua, with the eggy smell, which was good in 2004 but rubbish this time.  And now Whakatane, on the coast with views to White Island, pretty much an active volcano.

Where next…?