Australia - 3 months in just one blog...

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Oceania » Australia
May 20th 2009
Published: May 20th 2009EDIT THIS ENTRY

Before you start this, I think I should tell you that maybe we should have split it over a few blogs... being as its 3,650 words long... so take your time, relax, have a cup of strong black coffee to keep you awake... and maybe make another one half way through and enjoy finding out about our adventures in the land of Oz...

We arrived in Perth, somewhat jaded and almost keeled over at how expensive bacon and eggs were.
Spent the day recovering at Mike’s, our first couch surfing experience, which turned out perfect as he had to work all day so left us to fall asleep to the background sound of wall-e. Spotted some Ibis and saw Milk at the cinema.

Next day we couchsurfed in Freo, where a B52’S themed party took place We stayed with 9 other couch surfers of various nationalities and all chipped in with buying food and cooking.... plus looking pretty stupid in our 60’s gear we all bought from op-shops (Aussie word for charity shops). A great night complete with BBQ, Crepes, a small fire, and a few drinks.

We hired a small car, a Getz, and drove to Dwellingup, a small village full of local people with proud beards and surrounded by beautiful forest. Here we volunteered for a week with the Department of Environment and Conservation. We spent our time walking down untouched forest, and coastal tracks off limit to the public, spotting wildlife whilst looking for signs of feral cats and foxes.

Spent a couple of days exploring the Margret River region, famous for its wineries, and used our tent for the first time. We walked along the “longest wooden pleasure pier in the southern hemisphere” in Busselton - not quite as impressive a title as Southend’s longest in the world - but equally as pointless. Was actually a nice walk - better than the short swim in the sea we had afterwards - short due to lots and lots of jellyfish!

Then Hannah drove us back to Dwellingup, to pick up Jeremy, a French traveller who would accompany us on the road to Ningaloo Reef and back again. The first night we camped at Cervantes, near to the pinnacles desert, which was an amazing place to watch the sunset and 2 kangaroos who didn’t seem to notice us for a while whilst we were sat on a big rock.

The landscape was invariably beautiful throughout WA and we saw many a kangaroo and emu, both while walking and driving. Not to mention other birdlife, Galahs, Lorikeets, Cockatoos, Ibis, Egrets and many birds of prey, the majority being wedge tailed eagles.

Stopped off in the small town of Geraldton, went for a swim to cool down in the beautiful sea, used the library, then the free BBQ’s on the beach to cook sausages and spent the night at Coronation beach, where .

The next day we drove to Kalbari and walked around the spectacular gorge, and photographed some ‘tata(?)’ lizards. Visited the stromatolites near to shark bay, and took a look from eagle bluff, where I spotted a feeding shark whilst the wind roared. Spent the night next to the bay, and watched swifts dart after insects. Whilst we ate our pasta cooked with sea water.

The next day we passed through shark bay and washed our pots and pans in an impressive lagoon, before stopping in Carnavon for supplies and had a BBQ, where the seagulls made off with Jeremy’s pork tenderloin.

Spent the night at coral bay, and made it to Exmouth the next day. Ningaloo was utterly breathtaking and we had an amazing time here, spending the days snorkelling and the nights gazing at the Milky Way.

Turquoise bay was our main swimming choice. Swim out 20-30 metres and a drift current will carry you past the coral, parallel to the shore. Here we saw amazing corals, countless fish, a few sharks, and a few rays, including one giant stingray close to two metres wide! Unforgettable. Where we camped, the shallow sea was filled with sea grass, and it was a totally different experience snorkelling there, avoiding stingrays and opening curtains of seagrass to explore further. Hannah was the first to spot a two metre long Shovel Nosed Ray (also known as Shovel Nosed Shark) right next to us...

You can see a ship wreck from one shore, and it was there that I spotted what turned out to be huge turtles, both hawksbill and loggerhead. The sea was really rough here, but we waded out and swam a little to get a closer look. Popping up for air, you’d catch a glimpse before they glided through the strong sea with ease. Through the crest of a wave you could see them race by.

On the way back to Freo we snorkelled at Coral Bay, which although not nearly as impressive, did yield a big ray and some Fire (Lion) Fish.

Dropped off Jeremy and drove down south, for a few nights around Albany. Swam at Greenspool, slept under a peppermint forest, ate the largest icecream in Denmark, and went for a few scenic walks and drives under Karri tree forests. Not in that order though.

Dropped off the car, couch surfed at Eli’s place, and ate fish and chips next to the harbour.
Next day we boarded the Indian Pacific to Adelaide. Travelling Red class, we didn’t get the best night’s sleep- but the trip was well worth it. Passing through the Nullabor was a great experience, such a vast and empty landscape. And the dining cart’s teas were quite nice. It was a good time for us to read and write.

We arrived in Adelaide and couchsurfed with Jess, in our own large en suite. It was good. We spent a few days exploring the town during the day, and going to the fringe festival during the evenings. Saw a couple of excellent puppets shows, “The Grimstomes” and “Randy’s postcards from purgatory” , as well as “Potted Potter” and “Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Saline Solution”. We also happened upon Kings of Leon and caught a few songs. Jess took us to the Barossa Valley, a wine region, for the weekend. Her family was involved in selling coffee at the Tununda agricultural show. We later found out this was due to her uncle owning Rockford wines. We slept in a caravan, next to the combine harvesters, in the middle of a vineyard. Each night we were plied with wines, all excellent and made to feel right at home. They had a Jack Russell called Captain Wellington. We had our hair cut too.

Then we boarded The Ghan to Alice Springs. A similar experience to the last train, if a little less comfortable. We were met at the station by Hannah’s parents, and later checked into our room, in a caravan, at the hostel. Alice was quite a sad sight, with some many Aboriginal people sat around the river beds , looking out of place, or rather, having no place to go. It was hot and dry.
Had an amazing five days on the wayoutback safari, seeing Uluru, Kings Canyon, The Olgas, etc and sleeping in our swags each night, under the stars. Went for a walk with Craig, a proud Aboriginal farmer who was a wealth of information and really opened our eyes to the Aboriginal way of life. We only got a tiny glimpse into the culture, but learned a great deal. It was a great trip, with a nice group.

Then we returned to the Ghan, and travelled to Darwin. We spent the first night at the YWCA before spending the next few days with Stephanie and Regis. Darwin was hot and humid, with more than the occasional storm. We spent our days exploring the museum where Regis worked and getting to know the town. Went to the cinema and saw “Watchmen”, where the staff turned the cleaning lights on twice, and we left with four complimentary tickets after complaining. Interesting film though.

Our next destination was Cairns, we took a flight there to avoid the 2 day bus journey from hell (as I’ve seen it described), it was a pretty smooth flight but I still prefer my feet to be on

Shortly after this, the one looking at us chased us back into our car!
solid land... or floating in liquid water. But we made it, checked in to a fairly grotty hostel, managed to get an ensuite with no natural light for just £27 a night (missing the £10 huge suites of South East Asia!) but it included two free meals a night at the Woolshed a canteen style place, where we had dinner for 2 nights then avoided it due to ill feelings!

We made the decision not to do the Great Barrier Reef due to costs and the feeling that it couldn’t beat Ningaloo. My parents went on a one day tour and we had use of their apartment, which was a little nicer than our dark box, so we used the internet and chilled out on their balcony. We spent most of our time in Cairns wandering the streets, seeing the Botanic Gardens which were really nice and doing our old favourite eating. Neither of us were impressed with Cairns to say the least - a well oiled tour making machine, and if you’re not there to swim the Barrier Reef, you’re probably making a mistake! We had to spend a couple of days longer than we wished as we had to wait for a car relocation deal down to Brisbane.

We said goodbye to my folks for a week and Cairns forever after acquiring our 3 berth hitop camper with gas cooker, microwave, sink, crockery/cutlery etc and a big bed and had only done 5,000kms in its short life. Best thing was the car was an automatic - like driving a gocart - loved it.
First stop was Paronella Park - a fabulous castle and grounds with a huge waterfall. We decided to stay overnight and saw tiny bentwinged bats, huge eels, turtles, few frogs and several cane toads (so they do exist....!) and a couple of bandicoots. So nice to be out of Cairns and couldn’t be much nicer than here!

We continued our journey the next day, breakfasted at a cliff overlooking mission beach - attempted to find the rare cassowary - although we heard several they were a little too elusive for us and we never actually saw one. We also tried searching for the old platypus - to no avail - and the cuddly koala bear... also no luck. We did see more wallabies than I could count (so at least 4), kangaroos, several kookaburras, whites tree frogs, loads of skinks and few bigger lizards, couple of fairly big snakes, and countless birds in the national parks we visited enroute. But it was definitely busier than the west coast and the last two days the rain began... and continued on and off with extreme prejudice.
Sad to drop off our home on wheels but very happy we didn’t get charged for the chip in the windscreen we had added to the pretty new camper.

Made it to our next couchsurfing host after lugging our ridiculously heavy and numerous bags across Brisbane. Stayed with a couple of guys who were in very good shape - went out to partake in some kind of sport every night we were there.... whilst we sat on their couch and watch tv or a film! We did a fair bit of exploring each day - having to avoid the rain which seemed to have got stuck above us like in cartoons. Went to a couple of art exhibitions, spent a lot of time aimlessly wandering the city - when I got my way always in the general direction of a Krispy Kreme 

After 3 nights couchsurfing, our hosts were off on holiday for the Easter break so we went to find somewhere to stay. Found a huge room with its own kitchen, ensuite (with bath), table, desk, couch and room to swing a hyena. Cost £55 a night but thinking how much we’d saved couchsurfing and camping we splashed out and loved it!

My parents were in Brisbane for their last few days so they treated us to the Outback Spectacular. Free meal (actually really good food and plenty of much needed wine!), just had to sit through 3 hours of yee-haing good fun...! It was nice to see my parents again and finally meet the infamous Judy who came with us, but I couldn’t in good faith recommend it... to anyone! Although maybe I’m being unfair - as we had actually been in the Outback we were expecting something a little more... realistic. The word spectacular should have been the first clue... Still, we all had fun laughing about it and it’s something to tick off the list.

The next day Judy picked us up from our hotel and we all went to Mount Coo-tha and the botanic gardens - despite the frequent showers a far more successful time than the night before! Really beautiful gardens absolutely full of Eastern water dragons, colourful birds and tiny frogs. Ben and I got called “cheapskates” by some grumpy git because we didn’t pay $4 to get into a flower sale.

Had a nice BBQ round Judy’s then said goodbye to the olds (heehaw - sorry, had to!) and got a lift back to our hotel with Judy’s son, who gave us some ideas of what to do in Sydney.
Spent a few more days in Brisbane, enjoying our big room and venturing out in brief spurts, before cowering away from the rubbish weather. Had far too many Easter eggs - making ourselves feel sick due to our diet on Easter Sunday of chocolate eggs, with a break for hot chocolate (Ben had a coffee) and only one main meal which involved no chocolate - dinner. Twas a good day.

Got ourselves another relocation deal down to Sydney - this time a 2 berth with shower and toilet. Sounded awesome. Went to collect it and within half an hour I nearly had a nervous breakdown and returned it. It was horrendous. Almost 6 metres long, with the whole side behind me being blocked out due to the shower, a diesel so loud and bumpier, had already done 400,000kms and was a manual. I managed to stall it within 2 minutes on a really busy intersection. And then twice more within the first hour of driving. And the roads were so busy. Miss the tiny Getz, or even the nice automatic Maui, but I stuck with it. Swearing more than I knew I could at every tiny thing that went wrong (I’m sure it helps somehow) and tried some deep breathing. We stopped off at what we think was Phil’s old family house in Springwood, then went to a nearby forest to look for more koalas. Unfortunately half the track was impossible to pass due to recent flooding, so again no koala’s, but a few more kangaroos, wallabies and kookaburras (which turned out to be the last time we saw any of them) then drove to a village about 30kms off the highway... which we found out was a little steep in places and not good for my nerves of jelly. Made it going about 50kms - a little slower than my usual speed...and I collected a whole host of pissed off drivers behind me - but we made it alive and stopped in a powered site to charge our battery for the fridge, kettle and microwave.

Spent the next few days driving and stopping as close to the highway as possible to avoid any steep climbs or twisting roads. Went to the ocean a few times but never made it in the water. Our final campsite was right by the beach in a conservation area. Rained most of the day, so we stayed in and drank lots of tea and keeping away from the bunch of little kids who must have decided before our arrival that our camping area was their play area... and they weren’t giving that up. Luckily the rain kept them at bay and stopped them glaring at us for a while. That evening the rain stopped for long enough to let us get down to the beach to watch an amazing stormy sunset.

The next day we dropped the beast (the car, not Ben) off and we gladly caught public transport - train and a ferry - to our first Sydney couchsurfer’s, who lived over the bridge from the main city and down the road from the prime minister. Enjoyed our stay there for a couple of nights, but there was not even a couch, just the floor. Our host took us over the bridge and we thought it seemed an easy enough walk... turned out neither of us had really paid attention and after leaving the bridge we got pretty lost for a bit. Had to ask for help from several people and eventually we made it back!

We then moved on to another couchsurfer, who just hours before had got off a plane from London via Singapore. Ann was a film editor and her boyfriend, Evan (who got back from a flight from London via Hong Kong for a day) was a film director. Really enjoyed our 4 nights with them and got inspired to start writing again - also slept very well on their sofa bed, despite Ben being wired on the amount of caffeine he consumed from the countless espressos and flat whites he was made!

Sydney was a nice place - although we spent a large portion of it going to the north to the canon centre, trying to get Ben’s camera fixed... so no good pictures of Sydney, as on the way my camera was dropped and is now pretty blurry - but I’m sure you’ve seen pictures of it - big opera house by a big bridge. Why take photos when words are enough?

We ate quite well, went to some art galleries, saw a giant rubber ball being pushed down the street followed by a stream of screaming people, went to see Mary and Max (go see it!) and saw lots and lots of fruit bats. So all good.

After Sydney we got a train to Adelaide - a place we’d already been but due to our railpass by far the cheapest way to get to Melbourne! Our taxi driver was more insane than Robert Deniro acting as a personal tour guide who was not fitted with an off switch and made a 15 minute taxi ride one of those times you desperately try to look interested, but actually the thought of opening the door and rolling down the motorway seemed more appealing. We spent a few days at Neil’s place - a guy we’d met on our Alice Springs tour - he lived by the beach in Glenelg, a really nice place to spend a few days, and when it rained (which it did a lot!) we stayed in and watched Lost on Neil’s 40inch plasma screen. Nice. As Neil had an oven and we had time we cooked a meal we’d constantly missed since England - a roast. Twas a good evening!

After saying adios to Neil we went to catch our final Australian train to Melbourne. A mere 12 hours later our train had arrived and we were on a tram (helped out by a very friendly lady as we were clearly lost backpackers!) to our hotel. After saving so much money we decided to stay in a hotel costing £50 a night, but included a small kitchen so we could cook our own meals... not that we did you understand - eating out in Melbourne is where all the fun is, but breakfast was cheap!

Enjoyed the few days spent in Melbourne - did a fair bit of shopping, whole lot of walking (our hotel was just under an hour’s walk from the city... and I was too tight to pay for the tram!), met up with a guy we’d met in Dwelllingup for a day, and did some more walking. Our last day was spent packing, and as we were we couldn’t find our document bag. After taking both our bags apart and searching everywhere we could think of, Ben lifted the mattress... and our bag was there, opened with everything taken out and lying next to it... which was weird. We then noticed our money belt, which still had our passports and credit cards in, no longer had the US$100 we had for emergencies, along with some shells we’d saved since Thailand and 3 memory cards. We reported it to the hotel and after a few hours of investigating they told us someone had accessed our room with a keycard - but they had no idea who. Because of that they paid us Oz$100 - which is all they’re liable for and apologised... A lot. Still, they never contacted the police but gave us the number so we could call them - which we did. The police asked us to walk to them and report it. When we asked the receptionist how far away the station was - he told us 40 minute walk. It was our last night, we hadn’t finished packing and didn’t feel like spending it walking along a boring road and sitting in a police station, so we left it. And that was our last experience of Australia - a place we’d come to feel so safe that we didn’t feel the need to lock everything away at all times... ah well, at least the rest of the time was good!

Apologies for this being so long, but we keep getting a little bit behind...! We are now in New Zealand and it’s cold but beautiful. I would promise another blog soon... but I don’t know if I can keep that promise  Until then, enjoy whatever weather you’re having - it probably isn’t as cold as here!

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5th June 2009

nice blog, narrative and pictures.
I really liked the blog and pictures. Hopefully i will visit australia someday :) Iyad Atuan

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