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Monthly Archives: June 2011

Coral Bay – Day 151 to 157

8th of June to 14th of June 2011

Coral Bay – week 1
Day 1

Arrived at 11.30pm, went to bed.

Day 2

For some obscure reason I woke up at 6am, managed to lay in bed till 6.30am then decided to get up and head to the beach to check it out.
After looking at the local map to orient myself I left the front door of the hostel and turned left heading over the sand dunes that would obviously lead me to the pristine beach I had seen in the pictures. As the kitchen had been closed I had been unable to get a cup of coffee (thats my excuse and I am sticking to it), and so, when somewhere in the far reaches of my mind the fact that I was walking towards sunrise on the west coast of Australia looking for the beach seemed strangely wrong, I didn’t react. After about 15min of walking, cresting the final sand dune and I came across… a road??? I turned around very confused only to see the ocean behind me towards the west, where it should be,
since the sun rises in the east, even in Australia.

Mentally kicking myself in the rear I headed in the correct direction and was speechless when I finally walked onto the beach. There wasn’t a breath of wind, the bay was completely still, the water was a shocking
turquoise blue and there were fish everywhere in the shallows, I waded in upto my ankles and was suprised to see at least 4 stingrays sitting right in front of me. Flashbacks of my friend getting stung in Ecuador and the crocodile hunter made me retreat fairly quickly. But I had no need to worry as these rays are used to tourists and usually get out of the way when people intrude on their personal space.

Back at the hostel the kitchen had opened and I made myself a quick mug of coffee, sugarless as I had not had the chance to buy some. Then I reported to reception to complete check in and get my duties for the day as Oompah Loompah designation 23. The deal with hostel was in return for 2hrs of cleaning I received free accommodation. Not a bad deal if you ask me. My chore for the day was cleaning one of the empty rooms. This involved a whole list of things including: cleaning the skirting boards, air conditioner filters, windows, wiping down mattresses, vacuuming and more. It felt strangely good to do house cleaning…. maybe I have been on the road too long????

Liezy and Kazuki decided to head to Exmouth. Kazuki to see his friend and Liezy to do a whale shark tour. The whale sharks had started
early and had already moved up north. I called Greyhound for Kazuki to see about the mix up of his ticket and listened to the lady talk for over 10minutes without saying much of anything. Then we made them a sign and they headed out to hitch hike the 2 hr trip north.

Later that morning Jason and I helped out a family, mom and 2 kids, unpack her car and watch the kids while she got herself sorted.
She seemed to be in a complete tizz and completely disorganized. She turned out to be a hairdresser and when I expressed interest
she made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. In exchange for watching the kids while she went to solicit haircuts, she would split her earnings with me 50/50 and give me a free haircut. Sounded excellent! Jason also helped and after watching the kids for about 2hrs we found ourself earning $50 each. Pretty sweet. The kids however were a handful, ADHD personified, possibly something to do with the amount of junk food she fed them to keep them still. She asked us to do the same thing in the morning, but when morning came she was no where to be seen.

Day 3

Gabriel (France), the long term Oompah Loompah, moved into the long termer’s room, which meant I could move down to the bottom bunk.
Which was fantastic as the bunks didn’t have ladders and I could barely reach the rungs at the end of the bed. It also meant I could finally get some serious cleaning done in the room, it was pretty close to disgusting, having had all boys in the room for the past few weeks.

My duties for the day included: vacuuming the hostel – managed to kill not one, but 2 vacuums! Scrub the picnic tables – excellent
for arm muscles. And close the kitchen at 10pm.

Spent most of my day walking around the town and heading to the beach. It was just superb and took my breath away every time I went for a walk. I went to get a wifi card from the resort and attempted to get some of my blog entries done. But being in the middle of nowhere meant that internet just barely worked and none of the blog entries would load photos, so was forced to write them in notepad and upload them all at once. Internet cost $3 for 30 minutes at the hostel or $10 for 100 minutes to use the wifi at the resort.

One of the staff asked if I was interested in picking up some work and if I was to head over to Reef Cafe and ask for Johnny. He wasn’t there but I spoke to him over the phone and he said he would stop by the hostel the next night and chat to me about everything.

Closing the kitchen that night I had a couple who had just arrived ask if they could quickly make dinner, I said sure and scored a burrito out of it in the process. EXCELLENT!!!

Day 4

Duties for the day:
– Vacuum again, one had been taped together and I managed not to kill it again.
– Morning kitchen clean at 10.30am
– Clean outside of level 1 windows, removing screens. Rather amusing as I couldn’t reach the top of the windows and the screens were not very easy to remove, there was a lot of colorful language used.

Liezy got back that day and said she had had a great trip and seen some beautiful whale sharks. Part of me wishes I had gone too, but $365 was just out of my budget.

When locals come to the hostel bar they need to be signed in by someone staying there. When I was asked I cheekily said, “depends do you have a fishing rod to loan me?”. Graham replied “no, but I have a tour boat and you can get on for free”. DEAL!!! In the end I spent the whole evening with the guys and attempted to say no to the beers bought for me, around 5 in total… I think.

Day 5

Duties for the day:
– 3pm Kitchen and Bathroom clean
– Clean chairs in bar and reception
I had tried to see if the little gift shop would sell some of my bracelets, unfortunately the owner said no. But the girl who I chatted to was very interested and so I headed down to the market area to let her choose colors and designs. Well I was fitting her anklet a lady in the store asked if I would make one for her too. I said sure and we sat and chatted well I put it together. By the end of an hour and a half I had earned $25 and a cup of coffee. I decided not to hunt down Johnny about the job and just start selling bracelets, turned out to be a good move.

Day 6

Duties for the day:
– Kitchen close at 10pm
– Scrub wooden picnic tables
– Wipe outside of doors, this one is the equivalent of doing 50 squats and it hurt the next day.
Orders for bracelets and necklaces have started pouring in and I am making an average of 3 or more a day. Giving me enough money for food and the occasional treat. Have started a habit of buying an apple and a chocolate bar, much to the amusement of the shop staff.

Day 7

Duties for the day:
– Vacuum the hostel
– 3 pm kitchen and bathroom clean
Has been very windy the last few days and not that pleasant on the beach. Mostly hung around the hostel and then headed down to see the sunset, which is always beautiful and often spectacular.

Then a bunch of us headed to happy hour at the pub. Carolin and I started our tradition of sharing a box of chips and having a half price pint of cider.

Back at the hostel the first of the giant jenga competitions began and there were times you feared for your health and well being when the tower threatened to collapse.

All in all a good first week and I can’t wait for the next.

 
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Posted by on June 29, 2011 in Australia, RTW, Travel

 

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Perth – Day 146 to 151

3rd of June to 8th of June 2011

Perth

Deb and her family live in the suburb of Mandurah, about an hour train ride from Perth itself. I spent the first day with the family
at the estuary, and was welcomed to the area by a pod of dolphins that frequent the area, a good start if I say so myself.

Day 2 I headed into Perth and spent some time at the library before meeting some couchsurfers who were interested in heading up to Coral Bay in the next week. I was hoping to meet some folks who would want to do the trip in 2 days and rent a car or something. I had great potential with the kiwi girl who had a friend and wanted to go up for 4 days, meaning they could take the car back with them. Another girl, from Belgium, wanted to take her time going up and spend at least 3-4days on the road, which meant it would end up costing more than the Greyhound bus. We all exchanged numbers and went for lunch. That evening I heard from the kiwi saying her friend only wanted to go the
following weekend, so that option was out. I called Liezy, Belgium, and we decided to keep our ears and eyes open for others and try do the trip together, she had decided 2 days would be ok.

Monday was a public holiday so Deb and I went into Perth and spent the day wandering around and catching up. She is Scottish and I met her at the Ben Nevis hostel in 2000 when I was traveling in the area, we have stayed in contact since and have been able to meet up once since then. Its crazy how random meetings can mean lasting friendships.

While in Perth I made a few contacts with possible travel buddies but by the end of the day none of them had worked out. I called Liezy and we both decided if we had heard nothing by the next morning that we would most likely take the bus.

Tuesday I was supposed to head to Rottnest Island with some of the folks I had met at a hostel yesterday, but woke up with a killer
headache and decided to just hang around the house and catch up with my blog. Deb went to pick up her client, she works with disabled people, and then came back to pick me up. Her client for the day had decided he wanted to go to the beach and have coffee and it would be cool to have
someone new to go with. The beach was stunning and made me feel much better. I called a couple more people to see what was happening, but to no avail, it appeared the Greyhound was the way forward… for 15.5hrs, again I hate long bus rides. I also spoke with the girls who were going to Rottnest Island, turns out the cheap ticket was only available online, and when they showed up they were told it would cost $69, so they decided to spend the day in Fremantle. We headed that way for lunch and I met up with the girls as they explored op shops, 2nd hand stores. I managed to find a skirt for $1 that was brand new with a broken zip, a smart casual shirt, half price for $4 and a good book for $2 (my most exciting purchase).

When we got home around 5pm I went to book my ticket, I was told I had till 6pm to get the special $160 ticket, apparently they were in
Brisbane and that was 6pm east coast time, so my ticket ended up costing $191… ouch! I was set to leave at 7.35am in the morning, which meant I had to get up at 5.30am to catch the 6am train to Perth by 7am.

The bus ride

When I got to the train/bus station I had been told to go to over the phone, you would think I would have been suspicious considering they failed to mention the ticket price conditions, I discovered Greyhound had done it again and I was on the wrong side of town. I frantically tried to catch a cab, none available and rush hour. I called Liezy who was at the bus station, and asked if she could find someone who had a taxi number. I called and the taxi finally showed up 15min later giving me just 10min to get across town. The driver waS from Pakistan and we had a great talk about life and travel and such. He was very sweet and calmed me down. I arrived paid my $17 taxi fee (there goes food money for the day, glad Deb had given me stuff to eat) and ran to the bus arriving at precisely 7.35am. The bus hadn’t even been loaded yet.

We met a very confused Japanese guy by the name of Kazuki, who had a ticket to Exmouth. He was told by the driver that that service had been cancelled a week ago and they would not be able to drop him off anywhere there. You could see the attempt to comprehend what they were telling him, but the fear to truly understand that he would not be able to get to his destination. We told him to come with us to Coral Bay, 2hrs from Exmouth, and that we would figure it out in the morning. I called the hostel to let them know we were coming and that we had picked up a stray.

The bus ride was very long and very tiring, but our drivers were amusing and Liezy and I had managed to get the very front seats. About 5hrs into the 15 Liezy was able to move to a free seat and we both got some shut eye. The 2 drivers took turns every 3 or so hours driving or napping in the back. They would have to do a total of almost 60hrs before arriving at their destination of Broome, get a few hours sleep and then turn around and do it again. Call me crazy but that
just sounds like they are pushing the limits.

At the outpost of Overlander, the turn off for Monkey Mia, we were treated to a beautiful sunset. We also met a guy named Jason, Aussie,
who was heading up the coast from Perth to try get work on the boats and get a direction in his life. Then the last 3 hrs were started. We were running 40min late so would only arrive in Coral Bay after 11.30pm. On this last section you had to be very careful of stray cows
and bouncing kangaroos. the kangaroos apparently don’t have an iris and so are blinded in the headlights and have a nasty habit of jumping the
wrong way. We didn’t see any cows, but on the last loop off the highway towards Coral Bay we found the mob of kangaroos and I merrily started counting them. It involved something like this:
1,2,3……9,10,11 THUMP!, 10…..
I counted a total of 16 minus the one we hit making 15. The driver slowed down dimmed the lights but at the very last minute the roo jumped smack in front of the bus and there was nothing the driver could do without risking rolling the bus. Later when I got out I checked the front and there was no damage or sign that we had hit anything, the driver assured me being hit by a Greyhound killed them instantly… good to know.

I went into my room to discover it appeared full, but it was the guy on the bottom bunk who had all his stuff everywhere, he cleared it off and I attempted to climb into the top bunk, there was no ladder, and promptly fell asleep. Did I mention I hate long bus rides.

 
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Posted by on June 28, 2011 in Australia, RTW, Travel

 

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Melbourne…again – day 143 to 146

Return to Melbourne
Flying back into Melbourne, my friend Wendy met me at the bus station. Wendy had “surfed” my couch almost 3yrs ago and we had stayed in contact (never know when the favor might be returned). She had just moved to Melbourne from Brisbane (literally the day before) and her work had put her up in an apartment where I was able to make use of the fold out couch. Its not what you know its who you know.

The next day I went downtown while Wendy went apartment hunting. Meeting up with James (my friend from the looney farm – see Boorowa blog entry) we hung out at the library and messaged each other from across the room as we checked our email. Then we went in search of food, I hate to admit it but I turned to the dark side and had KFC… At 6pm Ari (the 3rd member of the Looney Farm Escapees) joined us and we headed out to meet a fellow *couch surfer (see definition below). Ai is a walking encyclopedia when it comes to Melbourne and he loves showing people all the hidden spots in his city. He gets so excited sometimes that it is hard to keep up with him.

We had a great night out with happy hour wine, good cheap asian food and ending with delectable deserts in Lygon Street. A great night was had by all.

Thursday Wendy and I explored the Victorian Markets on the free tourist shuttle, walked through the downtown area to the next shuttle stop and caught it to the botanical gardens. The gardens were fantastic but I must say not as diverse as I had hoped.

They have an excellent program where you can take a walk through the gardens with an Aborigine and learn about the values of the plants. Unfortunately you had to book and pay in advance so I was unable to take advantage of this great opportunity.

Then it was off to meet James and pick up some of my stuff I had left in his safe keeping and finally off to meet 2 more couch surfing friends and pick up my big backpack I had left in their safekeeping during my time in Tasmania. We went out for Vietnamese food and then they were kind enough to drop me off saving me the train fair and the hassle of carrying my bag.

Friday morning at the crack of dawn Wendy had to leave for a flight to Canberra for a meeting, I was only leaving that afternoon, but was able to stay in the apartment till I had to set out. After doing laundry, cleaning the kitchen, making breakfast, lunch and some sandwiches for dinner on the plane. My plane was leaving at 5.15pm and arriving at 7.15pm in Perth. For some reason my mind had decided that meant I only needed the 3.45pm shuttle which would get me there at 4.30pm. Around 1.30pm I realised that I should never become a math instructor and starting, well, shitting myself, as the next shuttle only left at 2.45pm and would not get me there with the required 2hr leeway. I hurriedly repacked the bag and finally headed out to catch a tram to Southern Cross Station where I had to get a bus to Avalon airport (almost an hour out of the city). I got there at 2pm and had a 45min, nerve racking wait. But we got there in perfect timing (turns out that was the preferred shuttle for that flight so had no need to worry). Got checked in, was actually 2kg over the 15kg limit with my big bag so just removed a few things and stuffed them in the little bag bringing me in at 14.5kg. A close call of nearly having to pay $20. The guy checking in at the station next to me had only carry ons which meant he should have checked in online and printed his boarding pass, it also meant checking in at the counter cost him an extra $30. Ouch! Got to love cheap airlines… The flight was uneventful and I had a whole row to stretch out.

My good friend, Deb (met in Scotland over 11yrs ago), met me at the airport and we headed to her house. I do love travel where you get a chance to meet up with old friends after many years.

*Couch Surfing is an online community connecting people from around the world who have the common interest of travel and cultural exchange. Members “surf” on fellow members couches for a set number of days at no cost, except maybe a beer or 2 for the host.

 
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Posted by on June 27, 2011 in Australia, RTW, Travel

 

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Tasmania Days 133 – 143

The management wishes to apologize for the delay in this post, the availability and quality of internet is not what it should be in a first world country

May 21st to 31st 2011

Hobart
Having to wake up at sparrow’s fart and trying not to make the hostel bed creak (which is nigh impossible, as breathing makes it creak), walking to the train station in the dark and catching the shuttle to the airport is always a fun way to start your day. But it’s what you put up with when you are heading off on another great adventure. This time the destination is Tasmania, another far off place I always hoped to visit.

Getting to the airport I walked the mile from the shuttle drop off point to the Tiger Airlines terminal. Tiger air is the type of low budget airline that charges for everything short of using the loo. But it also means you get things like return flights for under $150. Since I only had a carry on and had checked in online I went straight to security where they weighed my bag but didn’t check identification. Then I went through the scanner and managed to get my whole tube of toothpaste through no problem and again no one confirmed my identity. Finally we boarded the plane after a few gate changes and were on our way to Tazzie.

My friend, Rachel (who I worked with in Korea), was able to meet me at the airport. Got to love having friends all over the world. the plan was to spend the weekend in Hobart helping her get her house ready to be rented and then heading up North to the tiny town of Forth, about 15min north of Devonport. Window washing, paint touch ups, wall touch ups were all par for the course and well worth the free ride and accommodation.

Mona Museum
The Mona Museum is a must see in Hobart. Its owned by someone who is ridiculously wealthy and comprises of his personal art collection. Presently it is free to the public, but there is talk of charging an entry fee in the near future. Located in the middle of a vineyard (renowned for its wine) and in a very snazzy building with all the latest gadgets, it is a sensory overload.

I started on the ground level which is 3 floors down into the bedrock. The walls are all the natural rock and the sounds and sites from various art pieces are truly overwhelming. There is definate emphasis on grotesque modern art, but there are some amazing Egyptian pieces and some funky interesting things to check out.

I spent over an hour in the museum, managed to get lost on more than one occasion and eventually ended up in the cafe with my exorbitantly priced coffee and cake (but hey the museum was free so I figured it evened out). As I left the rest of Hobart had apparently showed up and the line was almost wrapping the property. Then I wandered around the grounds and to my great pleasure I found bean bags scattered around the lawn and so promptly collapsed in one and waited to be picked up by Rachel. I enjoyed around an hour in the sun, and am not ashamed to admit that I woke myself up snoring at least 3 times, it was just that good.

Moving North
After finishing a few more things at Rachel’s house and meeting the new tenants we headed North towards the tiny town of Forth, literally a blip of houses a corner store. I got to spend the next 5 days doing not much of anything. Rachel and her roommate worked during the day, so I would write my blog, read my book and cuddle up with Pippa the dog for the day. When the girls returned I made dinner. An excellent relationship to all concerned.

On Monday Rach and I drove to the town of Penguin, where we had an icecream, a photo with the giant Penguin and then drove home, not seeing any penguins, but we did see a stunning rainbow.

After Penguin, we went down to the beach and saw some black macaws.

Return to Hobart
On Saturday I decided I should probably think of seeing something while I was in this beautiful and unique section of Australia and headed to Hobart with the plan of exploring and hopefully getting on a tour.

Rach drove me to Devonport and I caught the Redline bus to Hobart. I checked into the Central Hostel and went to explore Salamanca Market down at the waterfront, a great farmer’s market that is only on Saturdays. Also met up with a Brazilian friend I had met in Melbourne, Leandro, for lunch.

Saturday through Monday I spent my time exploring the city and hanging out at the waterfront. Due to the sterile vibe at the Central Backpackers I moved to the Pickled Frog (and its bright green building) on Sunday and was welcomed with a fireplace a bar and a great backpacker vibe.

Monday I decided to call one of the tour groups that had been recommended and see if I could get on for a discount, in exchange for writing an article (which I still have to do asap). I managed to get a full day tour to Mt. Fields for $80 vs $120. Not to bad and just able to squeeze it in before I left on Tuesday evening.

Tours Tasmania – Mt. Fields Tour
Jeremy picked me up bright and early at 8am on a very brisk Tuesday morning. The tour ended up being only me and a girl from Thailand, but it made it more personal and allowed us extra time here and there. Driving out of Hobart, we headed to Mt. Fields National Park. Along the way Jeremy frequently explained interesting information about the history of Tasmania, how hopps is grown (Tasmania is the main area for growing hopps) and the different ways they are used to make beer etc.

We made a brief breakfast stop. Then we hopped back on the little white bus and headed to the park. The information center was closed due to winter hours, so we headed out on the trail planning to check in when we got back. There are a number of interesting little critters that can be seen in the park, including quolls, wallabies and pademelons. We were lucky enough to see pademelons (small kangaroo like marsupial) within 10 steps of walking into the trees. Then we saw another and another until they almost became boring…almost. They are super cute and were very relaxed with us around, often just standing and staring at us as if they were posing for photos.

We walked along till we came to some falls, Jeremy, an excellent photographer, gave us some great tips on shooting moving water and using manual modes.

I have not had to use these skills since so I fear I might have forgotten them already. We came across an old tree that had been cut down for safety reasons and its size just blew your mind.

Up numerous stairs to a stunning view of the canopy and what is named Horseshoe falls, some perilous posing on a tree stump in the middle of the river.

Down again we got back in the van and drove up Mt. Fields through 4 very distinct ecosystems: eucalypt forest, temperate, sub alpine, alpine. It was almost as if someone had drawn a line in the sand as to which trees could grow where, the most instantaneous changes I have ever seen. At the top we got a view of the alpine with heather fields and small lump like plants that are actually hundreds of years old and very delicate, dying if stepped on.

Heading to a lake, we walked around and came across wallabies. In fact there was a youngster that we nearly tripped over as he was sitting just off the path.

Jeremy showed us wombat scat (poo), the only known animal to poop square due to the hard plate that runs down its back. I would hate to be a constipated wombat!

The lake had a thin layer of ice over it and was truly spectacular. As we walked through very unique plant systems we reached a grove of Pandanni plants, a type of palm of sorts that can grow to a very old age.

Back in the truck we drove back down the mountain and went on a short “tall tree” loop walk, with some of the tallest eucalypt trees in the area. The tallest being over 79m tall, you can barely see the top and you definately feel small and insignificant when you stand next to it.

Next we drove to a wildlife sanctuary. Unfortunately due to financial issues we were to be the sanctuary’s last group of visitors. Here I got to see Tasmanian Devils, Golden Possums, Spotted Quolls, wombat and most exciting wild platypusses (platypusi?). The 2 females and 1 male live in the river below the sanctuary and it was very exciting to see them, unfortunately they were so far away and it was getting dark so I was unable to get a photo.

On the way back to Hobart we saw a kookaburra on the telephone lines, so another one to cross off my list. So far I have seen in the wild:
kangaroo, koala, pademelon, wallaby, platypus and kookaburra. Up on Mt. Wellington we nearly froze, the wind was so icy that you soon lost
feeling in your nose and the fear of frostbite came to mind. We explored the rocks and took some amazing sunset pictures.

A great day all around and a company I would highly recommend.

With near perfect timing Jeremy dropped me off at the bus station and I had just enough time to pop back to the hostel and grab a coffee before my airport shuttle arrived. I think the next time I visit Tasmania I will do it in the summer and rent a car. But for now it was a great trip with a great friend and new friends made. What more could you ask for.

 
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Posted by on June 27, 2011 in Australia, RTW, Travel

 

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