This is something that my boyfriend and I disagree on. If we’re out in the rain, I’ll inevitably whinge about it, and he’ll inevitably question why I hate it so much.
He loves rain. But there is one element of it that we can agree on and that is that the sound of it on the roof or the windows, when you’re snuggled up in your pyjamas with nothing to do and no where to go, can be calming and soothing. It makes me feel cosy too, knowing that it’s gross outside but I’m all warm and comfy inside.
I know a lot of people who are scared of thunderstorms. But I’ve always loved them and been fascinated by them (again, from within the comfort of my house with four walls!). In my old home, my bedroom had a window seat, and if there was a thunderstorm, it wouldn’t matter what time of the night it was, I would get out of bed and sit on the window seat to watch the lightning strikes and listen to the rain and thunder. I just think there’s something so beautiful about it.
Last year, when I was in Australia, I was near a town called Broome, on the North West Coast and I was there during wet season. The night I was there, the most fantastic electrical storm was occurring and I couldn’t take my eyes off it. It actually started as I was driving into the town and I sat in the car for ages, just in awe. For once, I didn’t try to take pictures that would inevitably turn out like crap, I just sat there and enjoyed the moment because I think it was the most incredible thunderstorm I’ve ever seen.
This has been a little bit of a rambling post but my point is, I don’t like being in the rain, but I do like watching thunderstorms. Fin.
I spent the day at the Blue Mountains National Park, which is located about a two hour train journey west of Sydney.
I caught the train to a town called Katoomba where I purchased a hop on/hop off bus pass with a company called Blue Mountain Explorer Bus. Let me just tell you, this was an amazing way to see the area! There are a lot of companies who run guided tours, even picking you up from your hotel/hostel in Sydney, but I wanted to go it alone and do the day at my own pace, which is why I chose to catch the train.
When I bought the ticket, I was given an amazing little guidebook, which actually is the ticket – you just wave that at the bus driver when you hop on. The book had a map of the bus circuit, an full index of all 31 stops, an example itinerary for getting the most out of your day, detailed information about all the stops and attractions, and smaller maps of each area which could be used for the walks. Furthermore, the drivers was so friendly and informative; I can’t say enough, how awesome this service was!
Anyway, the first place I hopped off was Katoomba Cascades. The whole area is full of waterfalls and streams, so this was the first of many that I came across. I walked for an hour or so, through to ‘Scenic World’, where I stopped for a sandwich. Scenic World is an amalgamation of the Skyway, Cableway, Railway and Walkway. I didn’t go on any of these due to the price and the fact that I wanted to see as much as possible rather than linger over one area, but it’s definitely one I’ll add to the list for next time.
Here, I hopped back on the bus to Echo Point. This is where you can get the best views of the Three Sisters, the main attraction of the Blue Mountains.
Having walked down to the bridge where you can actually touch the Three Sisters, I got back to the bus stop to find that a bus had left about 5 minutes before. (This was admittedly my own fault for not keeping an eye on the time or checking the timetable which was literally in my hand…). The buses run every 30 minutes, so rather than sit twiddling my thumbs for 25 minutes, I decided to walk round the escarpment to the next stop. Somewhere along the way I must’ve misread the map, because two hours later, I’d walked all the way down into the valley, and back up again…oops! Though to be fair, it was a beautiful walk and it didn’t take long for me to realise my mistake, at which point I chose to just carry on, rather than walk back on myself. For anyone who’s familiar with the area, I walked from the Three Sisters to the Leura cascades, and for anyone who’s not, I walked a bloody long way!
When I eventually got back to civilisation, around 4pm, it was nearing the time of the last buses and it looked like I wouldn’t have time to do much else without missing the last bus. I asked one of the drivers what he’d suggest and without a second thought he recommended Wentworth Falls. This is a little further out from Katoomba and Leura, and the explorer company run a shuttle there; you get off the bus at Stop 21, and immediately get on another, which takes you to Wentworth Falls at Stop 31. Pretty nifty. This was the last shuttle out there, but the Wentworth Falls train station was a short walk away and on the same line as Katoomba. I was sold.
Off I went to Wentworth Falls and it was so worth it. If I’d admitted defeat and finished the day at Leura, it would still have been awesome, but Wentworth Falls was a perfect round-off.
I put my bathers on and went for a swim at the Fletchers Lookout, before heading back. I had two options here; either walk in a straight line down the main road until I reached the train station, or take the Charles Darwin Trail through the forest. Since I had no time limit, I obviously chose the scenic route! The Charles Darwin trail follows the stream back up and was a nice easy, mostly flat walk, unlike the many many steps of my earlier hike. What turned out to be a major ego boost is that the official estimated time for this trail is 1 hour and 15 minutes – I managed it in 40! *muscle flex emoji*
Back in Wentworth Falls, I got on the train back to Sydney, and after a shower and some dinner, I crashed out for a good 12 hours! (Note: my legs are definitely feeling it this morning!)
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!
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!’.
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!
We finished the day with pizza and drove back to 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!
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!
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.
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!
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!
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.