A Travellerspoint blog

Australia

The Iconic Aussie City

gets mixed reviews from us

rain
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It was mid morning and wet when we arrived in Sydney and it stayed wet for a lot of the time we were there which unfortunately didn't help us fall in love with the place. We trudged from the main station with our bags, in the rain to our hotel which was in a pretty good location. There was no way we could afford our own room so we'd opted for a three bed dorm. Both of us are fairly intolerant when it comes to snoring and so we prayed for a quiet room mate. After dumping our stuff we found our way to the centre and were kind of aiming to find the Opera House although this didn't happen.

Sydney is quite a grand city, the majority of the buildings are all well proportioned, Victorian giants that loom large over the busy streets. There is a pleasant red brick Cathedral and lots of green spaces with statues, fountains and tree covered walkways.
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It does have that big city feeling though, fairly impersonal and no obvious heart. As a tourist you seem to be being pulled in several different directions most of which involved spending money we didn't have so I think we felt a little like children staring in through the sweetie shop window.

There are two main harbours, the most famous of which is home to Opera House and then there is Darling Harbour. We found our way here and had a look around. It would have been nice to go in the Aquarium but it was silly money and so we just sat for a while, doing some people watching, attempting to soak up the damp atmosphere. After traipsing around a bit more; looking in shops, trying to find a cheap cinema but failing and then somewhere cheap to eat in China Town but failing again we headed back to the hostel. We ate here because it was as cheap as anywhere else and then headed up to the room. Here we met our roomie, he was a wee man, probably in his fifties from a small island close to Fuji. He explained he was here on business and had been for a couple of months, although we never established what the business was. He was very sweet and we both liked him but from the get go you could tell he was going to snore. Unfortunately this wasn't the only thing he did, he also ground his teeth and the noise he produced was unbelievable. It sounded like nails on a blackboard. Suffice to say we didn't sleep too well that night, or the next.

Our second day in Sydney we walked purposefully towards the Opera House which was smaller than I'd imagined but still unique and it was special to be laying eyes on such an iconic building.
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Mum had asked me to tell her what I thought because it was designed by a Danish Architect apparently. Well Mum, he didn't do too badly.
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After snapping a few photos and listening to some Aboriginal men playing the Didgeridoo although according to one of the men this is not what they themselves call it but in fact Irish Gaelic for black man playing a pipe. The name originating from the observation of the act by some Irish fella it would seem.

Then we walked back to the city through the Botanical Gardens which made for a pleasant stroll. The sun was sort of out now so we took our time about it, took pictures of some flowers and then we stumbled upon the bats.
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I have never seen so many bats in my life. There were about four or five trees full of these leathery capsules.
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Thankfully the majority of them were motionless but a few were flapping about and making a fuss. I found it all a bit eerie but Adam liked them and wanted to get a picture of one of them in flight so I waited dutifully.
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That box ticked we continued on and spent the rest of the day dodging the rain, although we weren't too successful.

The next day was completely frustrating and we spent most of it in McDonalds using their painfully slow Wifi to find a place to stay in Santiago. This was also when I got up to speed with all the gapes in the daily record of our spendings. By the end of it I had plunged into a mood and really could not be bothered with anything and I think Adam captures my mood quite well here.
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The city seemed to be frustrating me, we couldn't afford anything and the truth about what Australia had actually cost us just compounded this fact even more. We left the plastic, pre fab modernity of McDonalds and went to sit in a park for a little bit but the sun was going down and it quickly got too cold. I decided a £5 steak each for dinner was the answer although Adam still thought this was a little extravagant, and he was probably right. We attempted to go back to the Opera House to see it at night but it seemed like a lot of effort to me and in the dark I stepped in to part of minimalist water feature, drenched my foot and declared I'd had enough for the day.

Thankfully for Adam I woke up in a slightly better mood. He however was feeling a little blue himself but being slightly more mature than I managed to put this to one side and we made good use of our last day in Sydney. First off we went to the Contemporary Art Gallery which was free, and both felt baffled at times about how certain pieces could really be art. Still there were some interesting, thought provoking and even interactive works on display.
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We just didn't linger so long over the video which showed someone trying to pull different inanimate objects through the holes in a ruler.

Next we walked up through an area of the city called the Rocks which I think used to be the poor, more industrial part. It sits close to the harbour bridge and there are lots of renovated terraced houses and some quite fancy shops selling opals and top end souvenirs.
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It was quite a long walk back in to the city then with our tummies rumbling and we were quite pleased when we reached Subway. This was really the cheapest and most filling option when it came to food. At least it involved some salad! Then we popped in to McDonalds for a 50p apple pie each and Adam managed to have a disjointed Skype conversation with his parents using the dodgy WiFi.

Then we walked back towards the Rocks and went over the Harbour Bridge as the sun was beginning to go down. We joined hoards of people who were getting in their after work run, I'm not sure how far it is across the bridge but there and back seems to be considered a good distance by many. It wasn't raining which was nice and we got some good photos of the dying sun on the white sails of the Opera House roof.
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We then walked back down and wandered around the harbour a little before making our final walk back to hostel. This had definitely been the best day we'd had in Sydney. With the weather improved and actually seeing a little more of the city it had given us a better lasting impression.
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Back at the hostel the man from Fuji had been replaced by a French man the previous night who also snored like a trooper. We were both looking forward to the private room we had secured in Santiago, despite both being a little apprehensive about what lay ahead.

Australia had been really enjoyable, and we were pleased we'd visited both coasts as they are so vastly different when it comes to scenery and people. It was a good balance between the quiet remoteness in the West and the fast paced, bigger cities in the East. The freedom of the campervan and seeing Kellie had really made the visit memorable, the perfect interlude in our round the world adventure.

More Soon,

Laura & Adam

Posted by LauHot10 10:13 Archived in Australia Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

A mid trip holiday!

complete relaxation

sunny
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Kellie's parents had flown to England the previous Thursday to see some of her father's family. His immediate family moved to Australia when he was young but there is still a large Hairsine clan up in Yorkshire. This meant that the house was likely to be pretty empty, although Kellie's two younger brothers, Rohan and Alex still live at home they are both old enough to have active social lives which mean they come and go quite a bit. One member of the family who is pretty much always at home is their dog Zeus or Zu Zu as he is affectionately known.
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He is a very lovable doggy and very sturdy. A cross between a German Shepherd and a Dingo he has a massive head, and is generally pretty powerful. Adam and I liked him immediately. Kellie's parents live South of Brisbane near a town called Cleveland. They recently rebuilt their house and now it is a very modern building with lots of glass, an upstairs terrace area and a pool. There is a view to the ocean as well, yep they've got it all!
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The first day at her parents we headed out to the beach. We walked out to a little island which is accessible at low tide and ate a huge pile of chips for our picnic style lunch.
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We were all feeling a little bleary eyed from the night before and it was a nice relaxing day. Back at the house we had a swim and then I read a book, Adam played Xbox and Kel mooched about as she slowly evolved into holiday mode. This wasn't like travelling at all now, it really was like being on holiday and we were loving every minute.

The next day we all walked down in to town for the weekly Sunday market. Zu Zu strode out ahead, although he was well behaved and didn't pull too much. Kellie had invited a couple of friends over for lunch, Ruth and Matt who got married a few years ago. We bought a few items, drank a slush puppy each and then headed home again. It was another really lovely day, Ruth and Matt were both very friendly and Matt is from Colombia so we quizzed them a little about South America and they had some helpful things to tell us. We munched down yet another lovely meal that Kellie had prepared and Ruth had brought homemade scones, homemade jam and cream. It was a good food day. Adam then got some proper boy time as he and Matt played Xbox for most of the afternoon. Kel, Ruth and I chatted away, played a board game and then went outside for a spot of croquet. I am please to say that I did England proud and beat them both fairly convincingly, twice!

Soon the day came to an end and we waved goodbye to Ruth and Matt. We did talk about maybe meeting up with them in Colombia around Christmas as they have a trip planned but having really had a good look at how big South America is it seems highly unlikely that we could make it that far North in time.

The following morning we were packed up once more and driving South to Kellie's parent's unit on the Gold Coast. The beach runs on for miles and is therefore divided up. The main hang out for the young kids, a whole host of which descend when they finish high school and are aptly named Schoolies is Surfers Paradise. We were based a little further South at Broad Beach. The one bed unit was on the seventh floor of a lovely apartment block. It had a sea view from the two balconies and a bright and airy kitchen/living room area, a bathroom and a spacious bedroom. We set up shop on one of the very comfy pull out sofas and couldn't really believe our luck. As Kellie wouldn't let us pay towards it we were getting all of this luxury for free! There are lots of similar apartment blocks along the coast and most, including this one has a pool, a jacuzzi, a sauna and a tennis court. We made good use of the facilities.

The first day at the beach we wandered down to the ocean but it was actually quite cold so we opted for a swim in the pool a little later. More book reading, tv watching, sea gazing, good food consumption and it was time for bed. The following morning Kel went off as she did every morning to get a cup of coffee at her favourite coffee shop while Adam and I slowly started our day. A little while later we were on the balcony, my nose in a book and Adam suddenly exclaimed that he'd seen a whale.
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I jumped to my feet and peered out at the ocean and soon enough there was another eruption of white as a humpback slapped his fin or tail into the water. We saw lots of them over the next couple of days and we never got tired of watching. Even Kel was pretty impressed when she got back as she said she'd never seen them that close to shore before. When they seemed to have passed on we drove over to another beach further down the coast, parked up and walked down some trails which ran along the coast. After a while we came to a little inlet and went for a swim. The water was quite nippy but once in you got used to it pretty quickly. We splashed about for a little while, then took the longer route back to the car before driving off in search of some good fish and chips.
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That evening Kellie made roast lamb, our first roast since we left home and it was lovely. I bought her possibly the most expensive bottle of wine I've ever purchased as a thank you and we all munched away happily. The next day we went to a large outlet shopping complex as Kellie needed to buy some new work clothes and Adam managed to find a bargain priced pair of jeans and some shorts. We also bought Kellie another little gift to say thank you as she really had treated us so well and whenever I'd tried to offer money she'd always told me to put it away. As we sat in the jacuzzi when we got back I began to feel a bit concerned about how we were going to get back in to the swing of travelling. Especially as we were now going somewhere which had such a mixed reputation, we didn't speak the language and we were a bit out of the flow of backpacking. Kellie did remind me though that I was lucky I didn't have to return to work on Monday morning like her, I felt better after that!

That evening we sat down to watch some tv and Kellie had noticed that it was the second reunion show of Hey, Hey It's Saturday. This programme was on for about 25 years and is/was a kind of mix between the Generation Game and Live and Kicking. It appears to be a bit of an Australian institution and Kellie was keen to watch it. For us it all seemed a little dated, whether it was largely lost in translation I'm not sure but I don't think it would be getting prime time viewing in the UK. The reason I mention it and I'm not sure how news worthy this was back home, was the Jackson 5 sketch which we watched in live horror. In case you didn't hear about it basically entailed four guys initially coming out in white suits, black afro wigs and their faces painted black. A few seconds later a fifth man appeared wearing a Michael Jackson thriller style outfit with his face unnaturally white. As soon as they emerged Adam and I said almost in union, 'they can't do that.' Kellie seemed equally shocked and we all watched as they went about their little routine. They were part of a small talent show and there was a panel, which could hit a gong when they had had enough. Part of this panel was Harry Connick Jr, the AFFABLE American singer/actor from New Orleans. When it came to scoring he looked absolutely horrified, quickly gave them 0 and said 'if they came out like this back home, it would Hey Hey There's No More Show.' At the end the main presenter apologised to Harry on air and they seemed to have seen the error of their ways. Although how they were ever allowed to go on stage like that in the first place still completely baffles me.

We woke up the next morning and packed up our stuff as we were catching a night bus to Sydney from Brisbane. On route back to the city Kellie took us up in to the Hinterland and we walked through some woods to a little viewing platform that looked across to a waterfall.
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We had our lunch here, as Kellie, continuing to mother us had prepared sandwiches. How were we going to survive without her?? A few hours later we were outside the bus station and saying our goodbyes. It would Kellie's turn next to make the trip over to England, so we knew we would see each other again in the not too distant future.
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With a few hours to kill before our bus we stowed our bags in some lockers and walked around the streets of Brisbane once more. I had now been bitten by the reading bug and ended up buying two books to satisfy my need. Soon enough though it was time to start our 17 hour journey down to Sydney.

More Soon,

Laura & Adam

Posted by LauHot10 10:01 Archived in Australia Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Our visit to the Sunshine State

with our hostess - Kellie Hairsine!

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When we walked up the ramp from the aeroplane and I spotted Kellie jumping, waving and smiling it was a very good feeling. We hugged and I introduced Adam before we headed down to pick up our bags. A part of that good feeling came from the fact that for the first time in 6 months we didn't really have to do too much thinking for ourselves. Having finally got our bags we followed Kellie to her car or rather her brothers as she usually drives a Ute (a pick up truck) but we wouldn't all fit in there. Then in true Kellie style she launched into a night time sight seeing tour as she pointed out the various landmarks we passed on the way to her home. She has recently bought her own place which is a two storey apartment in a small residential complex. They call apartments units and apparently Kellie's is very unusual because it has two levels. She then placed a home cooked meal and a bottle of wine in front of us, and so our “holiday” began...

The next day Kellie got up and went to work. It was now Wednesday and she was working for the rest of the week, she then had the next one off and we were all heading down to her parent's unit on the coast. Adam and I stayed in the whole of the day. We had considered going into town but the lure of a proper house, a sofa, a tv and a kitchen at our disposal were just too great. We also indulged and washed another load of clothes in a better washing machine with nice smelling powder and then hung it all out to dry on the line. It's the simple things.

When Kellie returned I was reminded of a promise I had made the night before when I had some alcohol induced confidence. Stupidly I said that I would play netball that evening. Kel plays twice a week, once on a Monday in a competitive ladies team and then again on a Wednesday in a supposedly more relaxed mixed team. As she was short a few people and because I had already made my promise I didn't really feel like I could back out. I really wanted to though and butterflies were multiplying in my stomach. I hadn't played netball since I was 15 and although not terrible at it I hadn't exactly thrown myself into competitive team sports. Unfortunately after a week in the campervan my knees were quite a bit better so I couldn't use that as an excuse.

Once Kel had lent me some tight, sporty trousers we jumped in the car to pick up various other members of the team. Firstly Jess, who is Kellie's brother Rohan's girlfriend and one of the most joyously bubbly, vivacious people I have ever met. As soon as she was in the car she was chatting away about this and that and her up beat attitude was pretty infectious. Still I could ignore the gnawing worry in the pit of my tummy. Next we picked up Michael from a street corner, not quite as dodgy as it sounds and Kellie works with him so it was all above board. I made my worries clear and everyone was doing their best to put them to rest. However when we turned up at the sports hall, and I caught a glimpse inside as we looked for a parking space my fears all came rushing back. I was kind of expecting one outside court, with a rusty hoop and limp net only attached by a few threads. Instead there were about eight courts, all with games in full swing and there were plenty of people waiting to play or simply spectating.

Once we were signed in and knew our court we went over to wait for it to free up and Kellie rounded up a couple more players. One guy often fills gaps on other people's teams if they're short, it seems he spends most of his time hanging around the courts. He was friendly though, a slight manic look in his eye but welcoming and clearly up for it. When it came to deciding positions I opted for a quieter but unfortunately still fairly vital role, there isn't a hide in the corner option sadly. I was to be Goal Shooter which meant I mainly had to stick by the hoop and try to score when I got opportunity. Thankfully the ownance wasn't all on me as Goal Attack can also shoot and there was a very capable boy filling that spot.

I must admit that most of the game went by in a bit of a whirlwind. As I was fairly rusty on the rules I just kind of muddled through and thankfully didn't commit any major offences. Adam watched from the sidelines and said that if he had known the rules/ever played before he would have liked to play because it looked like fun. Which I will admit in a way it was, my adrenalin was pumping a bit and I managed to score four goals. A couple of which were at a crucial moment as towards the end there was quite a deficit between the teams and not in our favour. In the end it was a draw, which really stung because in the last minutes we scored but the ref disallowed the goal as a member of the opposition had committed a foal. She therefore wanted us to replay the point and the offender (I think a little clueless like me) took so long to realise what was going on that we never got another chance. All seemed a bit unfair but atleast we didn't lose!! Afterwards people were very nice and told me how well I'd done. I was just relieved I hadn't let the side down in an any major way and pleased that I'd managed to score a few times.

The following day we did make it in to Brisbane. The city sits on a river with the main financial and shopping areas on the North bank, which is where Kellie works as a lawyer. The South bank is therefore home to the everything cultural, artistic and most recently an artificial beach.
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So this is where we decided to head for on Kel's advice and we walked down the road to catch the catamaran. The boats are as well used as buses and it is how many people, including Kel get to work. The sun was shining which made a nice change from the wet west coast and for part of the ride we stood out side. Although it was a nice way to travel it seemed a tad slow when it came to getting people on and off but I think this had a lot to do with it being school holidays.

Once we disembarked at South bank we got our first view of the artificial beach. It was much more extensive and elaborate then either of us had been thinking. I'm afraid it made Birmingham's attempt look a little lame but they have the weather for it here, so it's a bit more of a worthwhile investment. It was like a top end, 5 star hotel's swimming pool which incorporated sand and had many different areas with plants and fun water fountains dotted about. Very impressive. As we weren't planning on having a dip we went off in search of food. This was when I first noticed the Ibis. For those of you that have never seen one they look a little like a vulture I think, with that wrinkly skin on their head and neck, they're big things and they stalk about the parks and outside eateries in Brisbane.
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I was petrified of them. I could not really enjoy my sandwich as I was continuously keeping a watchful eye out for any that might be approaching. When we got up to leave a young boy at another table whispered rather loudly to his mother, 'that girl's afraid of the birds.' Slightly embarrassing.

For the rest of the afternoon we went to the natural history museum which was free and pretty interesting. We were hoping to fully identify any kind of creepy crawly which might be able to do us harm but despite there being a lot dead specimens on display it didn't offer this fairly vital information.
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Still there was a lot of other things to look at and great displays on the indigenous animals to Australia and also an interesting exhibition on Aboriginal culture and history. The treatment of the Aboriginal people by the colonisers is still a fairly thorny subject and the repercussions continue to be incredibly evident but are trying to remedied.

Next we headed over to the art gallery but unfortunately there was a large portion that was closed as the exhibition of American Impressionism had just come to an end. There were still a few things to look at but we ended up outside once more a little early than anticipated.
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We wandered over one of the many bridges that connect the two banks and had a little look round the shops before catching the bus back to Kellie's. She arrived home not too long after us and we packed a few snacks in to a picnic basket and drove over to Red Cliff to watch the sun go down over the city. It was really nice and Brisbane has a very attractive skyline.
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Quite a compact place, and according to Kel still viewed as quite country by the larger cities to the South. To us though it had an incredibly warm and inviting feel, it made Australia seem like a pretty attractive place to live.

Once the sun had disappeared we drove over to a shopping mall for late night shopping. Kellie needed to pick up a few things and she thought it would give us an insight in to normal life. What surprised me most was that it was carpeted, I don't think I've ever been a shopping centre where the main thoroughfare has dark green, patterned carpet. We didn't linger too long, as by now we were all starving so we grab sushi for dinner which is incredibly popular here. It is only the second time I've sat in front of a sushi train and it does make for quite a unique dining experience.

The main focus of the next day was that we would be meeting Kellie after work and going out for a few drinks with some of her friends. Adam and I headed in to town late morning and did some shopping. I had been informed by Kel that I could not wear my sandals as I would probably get some glass in my foot so I needed to find some cheap shoes. Cheap and Australia unfortunately don't really go together, not on our budget anyway and so we had to do some hunting around before we were willing to part with any money.

At about 5pm we waited outside Kel's building and she emerged with a couple of pals. We then headed over to a bar which looked out over the river and had a good early drinks deal on. This is where we spent the next couple of hours and we enjoyed a continual flow of free food from another table who were having some kind of function but couldn't consume all the catering that was on offer. Stuff tastes better when it's free! Next we headed over to the Port House which is where we spent the rest of the night. There were about ten of us in total and we chatted away about our trip and people seemed genuinely interested so that was nice.
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At the end of the night Adam and I ended up talking to some old bloke who was heading over to Wales soon to see his long lost relatives. He was a bit of a character and I think a good night was had by all.
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It wasn't a really late one as Kellie was pretty wiped out and wanted to get a few good hours sleep before we drove to her parents the following morning.

More Soon,

Laura & Adam

Posted by LauHot10 09:52 Archived in Australia Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Happy Campers

Part Two

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View Around We Go on LauHot10's travel map.

Albany is a little larger than most of the other towns but is still relatively small. We stocked up on supplies at Woolworths, bought petrol and used the internet in the local library before heading on to the war memorial which marks the location of where the first Australians and New Zealanders set sail to join the fighting of World War One. It sits proudly on the top of a hill above the town and provides some really good views. Next we made the decision to head inland a little way to the Stirling Ranges, which are a cluster of mountains surrounded by crop fields.
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Many of them are the bright yellow of Rapeseed and against the orange earth and bright blue sky it was a eye popping contrast. It didn't seem like it had rained so much here and the sun beat down on us. The road there was long, straight and sealed as not all roads in Australia are.
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Once we reached a National Park camping area we pulled in but for one reason and another it just didn't feel right and we decided to keep going. After exploring a little more it became clear that at none of the places in this area could we have a fire and we really wanted one so we left the Stirling Ranges and went back towards the coast.
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That evening we came across possible the best spot we had the whole time we were there. It was in the free camping book and should have coast us $5 but no one ever turned up to collect the money. It was set by a little bay in amongst a few trees and there was plenty of wood.
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We arrived quite early which was good because it got dark about 6:30pm so we had to try and get most things done before then. The next hour or so we gathered up as much wood as possible and Adam thought he'd seen a Huntsman Spider scuttling away, which thankfully was our first and only encounter with anything of that variety.

The fire that night was impressive even if I do say so myself. We had run out of tin foil so we set up a makeshift barbacue using the stove top and some precisely placed rocks.
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With the wood being that little bit drier and an abundance of it the fire burned long and hot. It was really the first time we'd be able to sit round and get some proper warmth from it. It was the way camping should be.
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The next couple of days we spent at the beach. We found two pretty good spots using the book and despite stating a fee would be collected it never was.
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Which was probably due to it being out of season. We had fires both nights and at the first place the stars were absolutely amazing. At the second the wind blew furiously and the rain came intermittently. Still we were not to be deterred and we climbed to the top of the sand dunes to gather up piles of dry drift wood.
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We had bought steak for this meal and we cooked it on top of a piece of discarded metal; it was lovely.
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There were very few people and apart from brief conversations in shops and petrol stations we hadn't really spoken or seen anyone over the last couple of weeks. It was very pleasant after the hectic busyness of Asia.
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By now we were halfway between Ravensthorpe and Esperance and we came to the conclusion it was time to head back towards Perth. Instead of backtracking we took the inland road via Wave Rock which sits in the middle of the bush, and not by the sea as you may think. It is the most photographed landmark in the whole of Western Australia and as the name suggests is shaped like an enormous wave.
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It didn't take too long to get there, it is surprising how the kms tick by on the long, straight roads. Very different to when we were on the motorbikes!

The town of Hyden is the closest place to Wave Rock although this doesn't seem to have done anything to catapult it into a tourist mecca. It is a sleepy little place, another blink and you'll miss it. There were a few coach loads of people at the Rock as we expected but we stayed long enough to get our moneys worth. I can't remember the geological reasons why it's shaped how it is, something to do with harder and softer rocks eroded differently I think but whatever the reason it is pretty impressive.
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We walked all over the large rock which sits behind it and there were some quite good views of other, similar rocks in the distance. If rocks get you excited it's great but after about half an hour we called it a day.

As we continued on towards Perth our free camping book became useless as it didn't cover this route. Finally before Adam fell asleep at the wheel we pulled into a lay-by next to a yellow field and closed the curtains for the night.
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When we woke we continued on to Perth and spent the day driving around Fremantle, the small town/suburb to the south of the city. The sun was shining and everyone seemed to be enjoying the better weather. There were people running, power walking, and cycling all around us and we bitterly thought everyone in England could be this active if the weather was as nice. We then watched some people surfing for a little while as I'd never seen it on this scale before and I had one of those thoughts of, that looks quite easy I bet I could do that, before I realised that that was silly and Adam told me it was really hard and you have to be very strong.

We spent the night in another lay by just North of Perth which was quite high up and gave a good view out over the ocean. The next morning though we headed over to a camp site because I needed to have a shower and we needed to have a better base for exploring Perth. Which is what we did after we were settled in. They have good train links in from the suburbs so we parked and rode. Perth as suspected is very, very small and we'd basically walked round the centre in about ten minutes. That said it was very clean, modern and friendly. We grabbed some lunch, mooched around the shops and watched a few minutes of the preliminary rounds of Australia's search for their Miss Universe candidate which were being held in a central square. After a few hours though we decided to head back as we couldn't really spend any more money and we had got a good feel for the place.

The following day we stayed at the camp site and completely cleaned up the van and used their on site laundrette. In the evening we treated ourselves to fish and chips which were not quite up to English standards. Knowle Fish Bar still reigns supreme in my eyes!

In the morning we drove the van back to the garage but Geoff wasn't there so we handed it over to another guy. He asked us about what we'd been up to while we waited for our taxi to the domestic airport to catch our flight to Brisbane. By now I was getting quite excited because before the day was out I was going to see my friend Kellie who I hadn't seen in a year and half! Just to set the scene for the next blog I met Kellie in September 2003 when I turned up wide eyed and nervous for my first day of university. She was over for a semester of study abroad and despite only being a year and two months older than me, became my surrogate mother for a few months!

More Soon,

Laura & Adam

Posted by LauHot10 04:04 Archived in Australia Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Happy Campers

Part One

rain
View Around We Go on LauHot10's travel map.

When we touched down at Perth International Airport in the early afternoon we were informed that it was 14 degrees and when we stepped outside it was quite a shock. Despite being in the green corner of the country, and therefore acknowledging that it has a slightly moister climate we still both naively believed that it was always hot in Australia. I mean they do tend to go on about how wonderful the weather is!

We jumped in a cab and made our way to the mechanics garage where we were picking up the van. The company is based on the East coast and is a one man show I think. He then simply has vans in different cities throughout the country and entrusts one or two guys to deal with dishing them out and their general up keep. When we reached our destination we were met by a very friendly Aussie named Geoff who showed us all the ins and outs of the van. We were really impressed and pleased that Adam had found this small company because we knew we were getting loads more for our money than we would with one of the larger organisations. They were pretty much giving us everything including chairs, a table, blankets, an a-z, even the kitchen sink, so we were happy. As Geoff milled about the van checking this and that he idly asked us where we were going and we said we weren't sure but aiming to head down to Margeret River. His response surprised us slightly, 'You're going South?' he said looking slightly alarmed. We had never considered this to be a problem as in our minds we presumed it would be warm everywhere and I hadn't actually thought about how South could now equal cold! He quickly russelled up another thick blanket for us to take as it slowly dawned on us that it could actually be quite chilly and our thoughts of sweating in the van at night were well and truly out the window.

With everything packed into the van we waved goodbye to Geoff and headed off on our new little adventure. Adam seemed to get to grips with the van pretty quick and as they correctly drive on the left hand side of the road so there were no major complications. We stopped in at Woolworths, yes it lives on! In Australia it is a supermarket very much like Tescos and it was nice to wander up and down the aisles. An ordinary and usually tiresome task at home was so different to anything we'd really done in the last six months that it was fun. Once we'd bought supplies we started the journey South out of Perth.

From what we could see of the skyline it was clear that Perth was a very small city and we intended to have a look round at the end of the trip. By now it was rush hour and we made quite slow progress to begin with as we headed down past Fremantle and on to Rockingham. We had read in a number of places that you could free camp in Western Australia and as this was already costing us a bomb we were hoping to do this as much as possible. There was a book which listed all the well known spots which we had searched for but thus far had not found so we were hoping to pick it up at some point. Without it though we just kind of had to guess and after a bit of driving around in the dark we pulled into a sandy lay-by by the beach and called it a night.

With the extra blanket and our clothes on it was not really cold at all over night. It was pretty chilly when we woke up though and it was quite an effort to leave our makeshift bed but we managed it. In the morning light we could see exactly where we were and went to have a glimpse of the sea. Unfortunately despite it being daylight the sun was hidden behind cloud and so although it was nice to see the sea it wasn't perhaps the sight it should have been. As we were still in the middle of Rockingham we decided to continue on until we found a better place to have some breakfast. We began our daily routine of opening all the curtains, tidying the bed away, and washing up the dinner plates before we set off.

After a bit of driving we saw a sign for Preston Beach and parked up in a small deserted car park. All the facilities by beaches, play grounds, and in the national parks are really good. You are never far from a well maintained toilet and a cold shower which unfortunately for us was not appealing. However the access to toilets was a big help with us not having a campsite as a base most of the time. We made ourselves some breakfast and our first cup of tea of the day. Then we had a look at the beach and the ocean, the sun had broken through the gloom and even though it was still quite brisk it was a nice sight.
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A couple of local people out to stretch their legs struck up a bit of a conversation with us and asked where we from and then the guy informed us, 'you've come at the wrong time.' Which was really helpful but we just laughed it off. For a good part of this trip people have told us we were in their country at the wrong time weather wise. For us though it generally works because it's quieter and that's the way we like it.

The rest of the day we did a lot of driving. We saw our first Kangeroos as they lazed around in a field. We weren't sure whether it was some kind of farm, or whether people even farm Kangeroo but we never saw them in that large a number again.
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They were also enclosed in a paddock with a very low fence, one which they could easily jump over. Another couple had also stopped and the woman was out of the car and in amongst them which we thought was pretty silly seeing that Kangeroos (as Adam informed me) could be pretty dangerous. They seemed quite skittish though and moved in unison when they felt threatened. We left them to it and continued on.

Margaret River which is the next place we reached is renowned for its wine and we passed vineyard after vineyard. All of which looked incredibly fancy and not the kind of places we would feel comfortable pulling in to for a bit of a tasting. The closest we came on the trip was visiting a small toffee producer and sampling some of their hard work! As we were still without the free camping book we pulled over into an area which was marked as National Park (so we knew it wasn't private land) and found an area concealed from the road by trees.

Another cosy night in the van and another chilly morning but we still managed to set off again nice and early. We continued to head down the coast towards the most South-Westernly point in Australia. This part of Western Australia is characterised by its rugged, slightly wild coastline and in land the tall trees of the forest.
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Much of it has been declared National Park which in many ways was good for us because it offered places to camp and good, basic facilities. We decided to hug the coast for now before heading into the forests. Augusta is the last town in this corner of the country and as with many of the dwellings in the area it mainly consists of one through road with a few shops, a petrol station or two, and a school. The resident's houses then spread out from it. More often than not they tend to be blink and you'll miss them places but they have country charm to them and the people are always incredibly friendly.

We made our way to the light house which sits on a cliff above where the Pacific and the Southern Ocean meet.
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It was very, very windy and wet but it was refreshing and we enjoyed breathing in the clean air. Due to finances we decided against going up the light house and you got a good enough view from the cliffs. We also began our dedication to whale watching as we stood for a while squinting out at the ocean not exactly sure what signs we were looking for but hopeful nonetheless. After all of our cobwebs had been well and truly blown away we dashed back to the van to escape the torrential downpour and were off on our travels once more.
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As the early evening approached we began searching for a place to stop for the night. We decided to pull in to one of the many information bays and were presented with a map which marked some places near by where you could camp in the national park.
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Twenty minutes later we pulled into Susan's Bridge which was a nice area in the woods by a river. There was another caravan there with some smiley oldies and also some poor sods in a tent. We found a good, flat spot with a fire pit and Adam's caveman instincts/boy scout teachings surfaced with determination. It costs $7 per person per night (roughly £3.50) to stay in a set up and maintained National Park camp. You have to complete a form and pop the money in an envelope then post it into a little letterbox. It is obviously up to people being honest, which we of course always were but I think generally people follow the rules. While I was completing the paper work Adam went about collecting wood for the fire. Unfortunately the elements were generally against him as the wood was pretty wet but he persevered and given the circumstances did amazingly well to get a fire going.
It was a bit of a battle to keep it lit though and when the rain came again we decided it was time for bed. We heard a few interesting noises outside the van that night, including a large squelch and after Adam discovered a footprint we decided a Kangaroo had been having a nose about.

In the morning Adam got the fire going again when the wood was a little drier and we watched the pretty flames before it was time to move on again.
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The next couple of days we drove around the acres and acres of forest that cover this part of Australia and camped in the National Parks. Unfortunately we couldn't get out and do much exploring because it continued to rain and rain and rain. Still our spirits were quite high because we were really enjoying being in the van. Being pretty much self sufficient was incredibly satisfying and as long as we ignored the money side of things it was ok, which I did quite effectively by avoiding writing down what we were spending. Although the true horror of it is now recorded!

Our basic diet became sausages and potatoes which we wrapped in tin foil and buried in the hot coals of the fire. Very rustic grub indeed but yummy and certainly cut down on the washing up. We had a couple of good fires despite the damp conditions and Adam seemed to be in his element. Good clean living!
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After a couple of days in the dense, damp forest we visited a very blustery beach. It was the site of a Norwegian ship wreck and is called Mandalay. The Southern ocean has this beautiful colour, similar to that of glacial lakes which I am presuming may have something to do with all that ice in Antarctica. Whatever the reason it was wildly beautiful with the beach deserted, the sand golden and the sea rough, green and frothy white.
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A small plaque described how every few years the ocean uncovers some of the wreck from the ship and there poking out of the sand were dark, eroded pieces of wood, it was all a bit ghostly. There were also some extracts from the Captain's diary written before, during and after the wreck, he was a jolly and humorous fellow considering his predicament and it was an interesting insight into the history of this very new country.
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Our time on the coast over we were back in the woods around Walpole and we went to have a look at a massive Red Tingle tree which you can stand in the middle off.
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The trunk is naturally hollowed out and even though it looks like it should be keeling over it continues to thrive. There used to be an even bigger one which people could drive cars through but all this damaged the roots and it died. After the big trees we ventured on to Denmark!
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Not the country but the town on the South coast of Australia. I really wanted to find out why it was called Denmark and I also thought I might feel some natural affinity with place being half Danish and all but neither happened. I found nothing to inform me as to why it was called Denmark and it was really just like most of the other towns in the area.

In Walpole we had finally managed to purchase the free camping book and that night we headed to Parry Beach were there was a small camp site set up in the trees by the bay. The book details free spots and also ones which cost a minimal fee. So for example to camp at Parry Beach cost $7 for both of us and we gave this to a nice lady caretaker. That evening we didn't have a fire as there wasn't much firewood about and it was still very damp. Instead we walked along the beach a bit and there was a lovely rainbow.
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It was a pretty spot and the weather held long enough for the warm glow of the sunset to give the scenery that soft fuzziness before it started to rain again.
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The next day we backtracked a little so we could visit the Tree Top Walk. We had decided not to go the afternoon before because it was pouring down and the car park was busy. However at 9am the following morning it was raining even harder and the car park was just as busy but really it was now or never. This little tourist treat consists of a elaborately erected bridge which takes you high up into the tree tops.
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Its construction involves springs and I think is doing the least amount of damage possible to its surroundings. Even though it was wet and cold it was worth doing. It was a completely different perspective of the forest as it opened it all out around you. The bridge was quite bouncy which I enjoyed but I think anyone who has a fear of heights should definitely give this one a miss.
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On our way to Albany which is the largest town in this part of the country we stopped in to sample the traditional toffee and bought a bottle of homemade cider. I also purchased some olives which Adam thought was incredibly extravagant, to be fair it probably was but I still find myself fighting this strict budget at times! Then we went to the beach and the sun came out which it seemed to do whenever we came to the coast.
Here there were some rocks shaped like Elephants and narrow passage ways to pristine beaches.
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The wind whipped round and over all the obstacles in its way which Adam demonstrated by climbing on top of a massive rock and almost taking off.
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As much as I was loving camping and I really was, we hadn't come in to contact with a shower since this adventure began and it was beginning to get to me. Taking this in to consideration we decided to splash out on a camp site which was situated on the opposite side of the bay to Albany. It seemed expensive for what you got, basically a patch of land and some hot water but in my opinion worth it as I felt like a shiny new penny when I emerged from the shower block.
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Seeing as this was a two week expedition I thought I'd divide it in half. So that's part one!

More Soon,

Laura & Adam

Posted by LauHot10 03:35 Archived in Australia Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

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