Posted in australia 2018

Another airport shambles!

So, remember when I arrived in Perth 9 weeks ago and the airline had left my luggage in Malaysia? Well, it happened again. Welcome to the fail that is my life!

I made my way to Melbourne Tullamarine airport on Tuesday morning, and admittedly I was cutting it a bit fine for check in. That said, I wasn’t late – just last minute!

So I dropped my bag off, all fine, and hotfooted it to the boarding gate, arriving a mere moment before they opened for boarding.

The flight was smooth and easy, they’d moved me to the emergency exit row due to a lack of passengers there, which meant extra leg room for me!

I landed in Sydney, and went to grab my rucksack off the carousel. Slowly but surely, the crowds dissipated, and he bags on the conveyor belt got fewer and further between, but no sign of mine. *sigh*

The lovely lady at the service desk, Yasmin, checked with the ground crew to see if it had fallen off the outside carousel, and then phoned Melbourne to see if they had it. They did. Somehow, my bag hadn’t quite made it onto the plane!

Thankfully, they rushed it onto the next flight and it was delivered to my hostel the next morning. AND by a twist fate, when I’d put the booze from the wine tour in my bag, I’d taken out a few clothes and shoved them in my hand bag to make room – so I even had a change of clothes while I waited for my luggage.

Get your shit together Australia, you’ve been amazing but you are not good at handling luggage!

Posted in australia 2018

I chundered in a Pharmacy

Tuesday = worst day ever.

I woke up feeling dreadful, and within minutes of drinking a large glass of water, thinking it would make me feel better, I threw up.

My first thought was that I must be hungover from the day before – but even this seemed odd, because I didn’t think I’d drunk enough to warrant this reaction. Nevertheless, I went back to bed to sleep it off. I was actually meant to be checking out this morning as well, so that was an added complication.

My bed was booked out for that night so come 10am, I had to pack my stuff and vacate the room. Shoutout to Nicole for letting me sleep in her bed for most of the day!

Long story short, the vomming didn’t stop all day and I decided to go to the doctor and get a certificate, so I could change my flight and claim the money back on the insurance. He also prescribed me some antisickness tablets so I could actually drink some water and have it stay in my system; I was well on my way to dehydration by this stage.

Unfortunately, while waiting in the Pharmacy, I went again. The poor staff member looked a bit shocked when I interrupted her conversation to say “I need a bag, I’m gonna be sick!”. The staff were very sweet and professional, and one of them showed me to the staff bathroom so I could wash up. Thank you nice lady from Priceline!

I checked back into a different room at the hostel for the night and got straight into bed, where I slept from about 6pm until the next morning. Thankfully, I woke up feeling much better (if a little weak and weary from not having eaten anything the day before) and jumped on a plane to Sydney… that comes with its own story though!

Posted in australia 2018

Yarra Valley Wine

What better way to spend my last day in Melbourne than touring the Yarra Valley tasting wines?

It was another early start, catching the bus at 7:45, and heading first to the ‘Gateway Estate’. Here, we were shown around the indoor Capsicum farm (a capsicum is a bell pepper, who knew!), where the owner told us about the growing and farming process, which sounds dull but was actually super interesting! However, the tasting was a lil more exciting! Three types of strawberry liquor, strawberry jam, capsicum chutney – not bad for a first stop!

Throughout the day we visited the Napoleon cider-house and brewery, the Killara winery, Punt Road winery and the Yarra Valley chocolate factory and ice creamery.

At Killara, we had the most delicious provided lunch. Italian tapas to start, which honestly could’ve filled me up by itself! Followed by a choice of Pizza, Pumpkin Salad, Gnocci or Tortoloni for mains. I went for the Gnocci but did a classic switcheroo with one of the people in a little group of 5 of us who were the same age, so he had some of mine and I got some of his pasta. It was all bloody delicious!

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…