Posted in Uncategorized

Psst… it’s me!

It’s embarrassing when you realise you forgot to post a homecoming blog post and just left everyone hanging post-Blue Mountains.

One day I might post a throwback post with the pictures of my last couple of days (spent back in Perth with Beth) and the motley parade that met me at Heathrow Airport when I got home! But for now, something a little different.

This was never just meant to be an ‘Australia Blog’, hence my not putting anything overtly Oz related in the name of it. It’s a travel blog and I plan to do a lot more travelling. There’ll be quiet periods, as there’s been for the last 3 months, but when I am travelling, I plan to write about it. I’ve always loved writing; English was my favourite subject as a child and all the way through school. To that end, the other reason I intend to keep this platform alive is to keep writing, little and often (ish), because it’s something I really enjoy. And if I can write about my adventures, so much the better! I’ve not got a huge amount planned for the rest of the year, but I’m certainly not staying at home – especially not during this beautiful heatwave we’re having in the UK – so, keep your eyes peeled for some travel related tidbits here and there!

Posted in australia 2018, Uncategorized

The Great Ocean Road

The Great Ocean Road is a famed must-see here on the South coast. Without the time or the means to go and roadtrip it on my own, I visited a Backpackers Travel Shop down the road from my hostel and booked a day trip to go and see the main sites.

Having slept until 8:30/9:00 most mornings since I’ve been here, it was a slight shock to the system having a 6am alarm, but was definitely worth it. The tour I took was actually referred to as the great ocean road ‘in reverse’; most tours start at the Melbourne end, stopping at various places and then making the long trip back in one go. We did the opposite – drove all the way out to the end and then stopped at the sights on the way back. One of the main advantages of this was that it was much less busy everywhere, as we got to places at different times to all the other tours that go out.

The first place we stopped was Port Campbell, a little seaside town where I met a lovely lady who runs a souvenir shop called ‘Spence’. It wasn’t your average tacky souvenirs though, but unique products designed by herself, her daughter, and other local artists.

Port Campbell beach

The main attractions we saw throughout the day were the Loch Ard Gorge, The Twelve Apostles, The Otway Rainforest and Kennett River.

The coast that the GOR runs along is split into two sections; the Shipwreck Coast and the Surf Coast. The latter is named for obvious reasons; the former is named for its notorious history of ships running aground. These ships include the Loch Ard, which was coming in from Scotland in 1878. When a thick fog came down, the captain was unable to see how close they were to land, and they ran aground on a reef. There were only two survivors; a young boy who swam to shore, and a young girl named Eva Carmichael. The boy heard Eva’s cries and went back out to rescue her. They came ashore at what is now known as Loch Ard Gorge, later named to commemorate those who had died in the wreck.

Loch Ard Gorge

Next, we saw the Twelve Apostles… of which only eight are left! There actually was only ever nine apostles, and I don’t think anyone’s quite sure why they’re named the Twelve Apostles. They used to be referred to as Sow and Piglets, but this was changed to something more appealing when the site became more popular with tourists. The Apostles are a collection of sandstone stacks, caused by the erosion of the cliff face. The ninth apostle collapsed in 1990 and eventually, the other will as well, as the sea erodes away the sandstone over time.

The Twelve Apostles. Well, some of them anyway!
The Twelve Apostles feat. Me

After this point, the Great Ocean Road goes slightly inland and cuts through the Otway Rainforest. This was a particularly cool part of the trip, probably because a rainforest just isn’t what you think of when you think of Australia! Our tour guide took us on a walk at a point called Mait’s Rest, and talked about the wildlife and the symbiotic nature of the rainforest, where none of the plants can really survive without the others. His explanation made me nerd out and go ‘argh, nature is so cool!’.

There are two interesting things about this tree. No.1: The hole underneath. Many moons ago, this tree would’ve grown out of an old dead fallen down tree, using that for its nutrients. As the dead tree decomposed, and this one kept growing, this hole underneath formed. No. 2: This was known by the Aboriginals as the fertility tree. It was believed that if a woman walked in one side, when she came out the other she’d be pregnant. Safe to say, I stayed well away!
These ferns can’t survive without the canopy of the tall trees above, protecting them from the harsh direct sunlight. But those tall trees wouldn’t have anything to root themselves in without the soil which is formed of the fallen leaves from the small fern trees. Symbiosis everybody!

In Kennett River, the idea was to see Koalas in the wild, but I only managed to see one, way high up in a tree. Which seems unfair when you find out that someone else in the group saw one on the ground right in front of her! I did get plenty of attention from the wild birds though!

I made a friend (but really he just wanted me for the food I was holding)

We finished the day with pizza and drove back to Melbourne.

Posted in australia 2018, Uncategorized

Surprise, I’m in Melbourne!

Look. I know I said I wasn’t coming to the East, but after the clustertruck with the car, I reserve the right to change any and all subsequent plans!

After the Contiki Tour, I flew from Alice Springs to Melbourne. It feels pretty weird to be back in a big city, having spent a few weeks in the outback. Add to that the fact that I hadn’t planned any of my movements post-flight and the first half hour or so of my time here was a little overwhelming..! But I soon found my way onto a bus and into a hostel.

I’m staying at Flinders Backpackers, right in the CBD (which means Central Business District, as I learned a couple of days ago, despite having been in this country for two months!). Tired from travelling, I aimed to get an early night my first night here, but I ended up acquainting myself with two of my dorm-mates and going for a walk with them. Nicole from Glasgow and Tom from Cambridge met in Sydney and then came down to Melbourne together, and since I arrived they’ve taken me under their wings also. Tom came home to bed but Nicole and I stayed out wandering the town until past 11…oops!

The last couple of days have consisted of about 50% sleeping and 50% sightseeing. For some reason, I’ve been feeling very fatigued over the last few days, which I’m not at all happy about. This is something I struggled with back home but, save for the jet lag, haven’t experienced while I’ve been out here. I seem to be slipping into a routine of getting up around 8:30 for the free breakfast at the hostel, going back to sleep for a morning nap, waking up around lunchtime and then spending the afternoon sightseeing. Not ideal, but I wouldn’t say I’ve not made the most of the time I have been awake!

In the three days I’ve been here, I have:

  • Explored Bourke Street Mall (including the biggest bloody H&M I’ve seen in my life!).
  • Been up to the Eureka Skydeck to see the city from the 88th Floor.
  • Visited the Immigration Museum, which was immensely interesting and thought provoking.
  • Spent the evening at the Victoria Street Night Market, upon entering which, my first thought was ‘This is like Covent Garden, but better!’
  • Lit a candle in St Paul’s Cathedral (yes, they’ve got one here as well).
  • Been to the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI), a museum all about the history of film, TV and video games, including a whole tonne of interactive areas.
  • Had a mooch around the National Gallery, Victoria.
  • Visited the Eureka Skydeck again at sunset.
  • And done a whole lotta exploring the city on foot!
View from the Eureka Skydeck, 285m over the city of Melbourne. The lift takes you up 88 floors in 38 seconds!
One of the more interesting mirror selfies I’ve taken in my time.
That pointy thing is Melbourne’s Arts Centre!
Posting my Mummy a post card from Australia’s highest postbox.
Feeling smiley in the sun!
The sheds of Victoria Street Market, home of The Night Market. (It looks dead cause I took this on my way out, after the market closed/ended.)
Sat listening to these amazingly talented guys for a good half hour. Go check them out on Instagram, they’re planning to release an EP soon.

I’m loving Melbourne; it’s been voted the world’s most liveable city something like 8 years in a row, and is dubbed the cultural hub of Australia. There’s something about the gentle hubbub of Melbourne, combined with some beautiful architecture in amongst the skyscrapers that make it feel homely rather than overwhelming.

All that being said, I am wanting to explore further afield while I’m here on the south coast, so this afternoon I went to a Backpackers travel shop and booked myself onto a couple of day trips over the weekend; on Saturday I’ll be taking on the famous Great Ocean Road, seeing the likes of the 12 Apostles, Loch Ard Gorge and the Otway Rainforest, and on Monday I’m off to the Yarra Valley Wine Region for a day of wine and cheese tasting – yes, please!

After what I think will be a much needed lie in Tuesday, after all the wine, I’m catching a late-afternoon flight to Sydney, where the adventure continues! Of course, I will let you know in detail how all of this pans out, but for now, I’m going to sleep!

Posted in australia 2018, Uncategorized

The Contiki Tour – Part 3: Champagne Sunset

So far you know that I overslept, watched the sunrise, walked around the base of Uluru and spent some time in the Cultural Centre – all  before 10am!

On our return to the hotel, I took a nice long nap, and followed this with a swim before getting dressed up to head back to Uluru for a Champagne Sunset, organised by Tom, our lovely trip manager, and Dave, our driver.

Don’t ask which I preferred between the sunrise and the sunset ’cause I honestly couldn’t decide. Tom and Dave kept the champagne flowing and provided us with chips and dips and various other nibbles – the whole evening was just lovely. As it was the last night we’d all be together, we said our thank yous to Tom and Dave, and everyone posed for photos with everyone else in front of Uluru! Even in the four short days that I’d been with these people, I’d had such a wonderful time, made some lovely friends and shared such a unique experience with them. I said this in the caption of one of the photos I posted on Instagram and it’s true: I will never forget those moments or the people I shared them with.

The sun went down and I left feeling happy and calm and positive. It’s amazing how a beautiful place like that can make you feel.

The evening’s fun only continued when we got back to the hotel, as there was live music in the outdoor bar, which we stayed up listening and subsequently dancing to into the night.

I’m so grateful to have been on that tour; Uluru itself wouldn’t have been any less amazing if I was on my own, but the people I shared it with just made it!

Thank you to my very first Contiki Family, I’m sure that won’t be my last Contiki tour.

Posted in australia 2018, Uncategorized

The Contiki Tour – Part 2: Uluru

Hey, that rhymes! Simple things please simple minds, eh?

So, when I left off, I was on the coach on the way to Yulara. Yulara is the only town in the vicinity of Uluru/Ayers Rock. Previously, there was nothing there in the way of civilisation, but due to people illegally camping close to the rock, disrupting the wildlife, disrespecting this sacred Aboriginal site, and causing danger to themselves.

Heard of the ‘dingo ate my baby’ story? No, neither had I until I got to this country – but it turns out it was quite famous, and a completely true story. In August 1980, a family were camping at Uluru when a dingo snuck into the tent, took and killed their two month old baby. The body was never found. Situations like this one led the Northern Territory government to build the town of Yulara so that people had a safe and regulated selection of places to stay. It was owned by the government at first and then later privatised, and the whole town, save for the bank and the post office in owed by the same company!

We arrived in Yulara and checked into The Outback Pioneer resort, with three or four of us to a dorm room. The first thing any of us wanted to do was go for a swim, but just our luck, the pool was closed for 24 hours for cleaning. After we spent half an hour whinging about the lack of pool, I suddenly realised: the whole town is owned by the same people. Surely, this meant we could just go into one of the other hotels and use their pool! I was right. Naturally, myself and a couple of others chose the most expensive hotel to go and crash, and preceded to spend the afternoon here. Five stars an’ all!

It was another early start on Thursday to go and see the sunrise at Uluru. Though not as early for me, given that I didn’t wake up until about 6 minutes before the coach left, and even then only woke up because one of the others phoned me to find out where I’d got to. (Thanks Cam!) I was a little miffed that my room mates hadn’t woken me up, but when I spoke to them later, it turns out they had tried…multiple times! They turned on the lights, told me it was time to get up, told me we were leaving soon… at one point I even responded, but alas was dead to the world, until 05:24. I got out of bed and threw some clothes on simultaneously, and hotfooted it to the coach, where I collapsed into a seat and practically fell back to sleep for the half hour ride to Uluru!

And then, finally, the main event! Everyone knows how big and beautiful and impressive Uluru is, but you never quite appreciate it until you’re there. I have no words to describe it, but I did take plenty of pictures.

After the sun rose, we walked around the base, taking in the sheer size and beauty of this giant red rock. There were some parts which are considered sacred sites by the aboriginals and therefore you’re not allowed to take photos of them. The parts that I could take photos though, I mostly did, except for those moments when I just stood there and soaked it all in. It really was bloody beautiful.

By the time we’d done this, I was starving, having missed breakfast, so I grabbed a ham’n’cheese toastie in the café a few kms away (bizarre thing to eat in 40 degree weather, let me tell you!) and then had a wander around the Cultural Centre; a museum of sorts which has lots of information on the meaning of Uluru to the indigenous people and some of their traditions and customs. I’ll write about what I learned there in a separate post, as there was so much interesting stuff that this one might turn into a novel!

Next up: the Champagne Sunset…

Posted in australia 2018, Uncategorized

The Contiki Tour – Part 1: King’s Canyon

First off – apologies, it has been a little while since I updated. What follows will be updates on the last week or so!

Having made it to Alice Springs (I was able to get a bus straight there from Katherine, without having to go to Darwin first) and joined my Contiki tour a day late rather than having to cancel it, I then had a wonderful four days in the Outback!

On Tuesday we went to Kings Creek, where we camped for the night.

The intention was to sleep in ‘swags’; one-person, tent type contraptions. The night started out with mine open, quite literally sleeping under the stars. When it started to drizzle I closed it up and nodded off to sleep. Next thing I knew, the others were waking me up, cause it was pouring torrentially and a full on thunderstorm had hit. We were moving inside!

I must say, I was a little irked because I was actually warm and dry inside my swag and getting out of it meant I was then exposed to the rain and pretty soon was drenched. We all had to frantically gather our belongings, chuck the swags in the trailer and then traipse to the other side of the campsite where we took shelter in reinforced-tent-cabin-rooms (I honestly don’t know what else to call them!).

Thinking this was the end of the night’s drama, I dried off and went back to sleep. Only for the smoke alarm to go off two hours later..!

Don’t get me wrong, low battery warnings are great, and they do save lives, but they’re not fun in the middle of the night. I got up and took the battery out, and it took all my self control not to open the door and toss the thing into the rain!

Come 5am, it was time to actually get up for real. The early start was so that we could do the hike around the rim of King’s Canyon before the sun got too strong and the temperature too hot.

This was a pretty easy hike, save for the very first leg, known appropriately as ‘heartbreak hill’! This was the steep uphill that was necessary to actually get to the rim of the Canyon. Once we were up there though, it was worth it for the beautiful views and the early morning walk. And though this makes me hated by the majority, that is exactly the kind of thing I enjoy!

The bottom of heartbreak hill – I like to think I’m pretty fit and healthy, but I was ready for a nap and a gallon of water after 15 minutes of this!
Views over the rim of the Canyon

Inside the Canyon, there’s a gorgeous microclimate. Over the top, the sun in so strong it just bakes everything to death, but down here, where the sun only hits for a few hours a day, wildlife is allowed to thrive, creating a little jungle inside the Canyon!

After the walk, we headed back to the campsite for a cooked breakfast and then set off on the coach for the town of Yulara.

Posted in australia 2018, Uncategorized

36 hours later…

I’m very happy to report that I have made it to Alice Springs!

Jane drove us through to Katherine in pretty much one go, save for a few hours between 1am and 6am when she stopped to let the horses have a walk about. I laid down for a kip in the cab of the truck and subsequently got eaten alive. (Don’t give me that look Karen, I swear I thought I had enough Mosi-Gard on!). Suffice to say, I’ve learned my lesson on that front, and the itching is a constant reminder of my errors. I have so much Stingoes on me, I look like I’ve bathed in the stuff!

Around 1pm on Monday, we finally pulled up at the transit station in Katherine. After thanks and goodbye, Jane went on her merry way.

I had until 5pm before I needed to get on the Greyhound bus to Alice Springs. Desperate for a shower and with no clean underwear left, I sought out the Backpackers Hostel in town and they kindly let me use their shower and laundry facilities. Fast forward a couple of hours and I was clean, dry, dressed, content and just waiting for the dryer to finish so I could be on my way.

Then it was the overnight Greyhound bus to Alice Springs. I fell asleep after a few episodes on Netflix and woke up in Alice Springs.

09:18 was the time. I knew that the coach for my excursion was leaving Alice any minute now, so I phoned up Tom the tour manager, who said they’d already left but if I could jump in a cab and get to the airport, they’d turn around and pick me up there. Cue me hotfooting it to the taxi rank with all my stuff and quite literally jumping into a taxi!

It all came together in the end, I rocked up at the airport and 5 minutes later, so did the Contiki bus, and that brings us up to now. I have another couple of hours on this coach before we get to today’s destination, so excuse me while I doze off again!