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Category Archives: Australia

30+ is Never Too Old For Adventure!!!

Expectations of the Civilized World

There is a certain stigma to being over 30 in the Western “Civilized” world. You are expected to:
– Have a steady job
– Be Settled
– Be Married, preferably with children
– Have a dog and a cat
– Have a car or 2
– Have a nice house
– Be financially settled without debt

In truth most people who follow the stigma are:
– Hate their job
– Don’t feel settled, grass is always greener
– Have a rocky marriage
– Can’t stand the dog or cat
– Have a house mortgage threatening to bankrupt them
– Have student loans and car loans and fake financial security by having multiple credit cards

When People Ask Me How??

People often ask me “how I do it, how do I travel and live all over the world??”, I reply that I just “do”! 15 years ago I was still paying off $25 000 US in university fees, had a car payment, rent. I paid most of it off by working as an English Teacher in Seoul, Korea and getting to travel at the same time. Then in 2009 (6 years ago) I was working 3 part time jobs and on unemployment. But I found a way of saving, I gave up my car and used the bus, I shopped at the charity shops, I learnt to reuse things for other purposes, finally I moved back in with the folks and managed to find a great job as a vet nurse and then I saved! I didn’t buy name brands or expensive cars or felt embarrassed that I lived with the folks at 32. Heck, I paid a small rent and helped around the house. I paid off my school loans and without a car or a home loan I had no debt… which meant I could explore the world.

At Machu Pichu, Peru

At Machu Pichu, Peru

True I am not married or have kids, yes that does make things a little easier. But I have met people from all over who sell everything that society “requires” you to have and takes their kids on an amazing worldwide adventure. Experience is often the best education.

Bathing in Thermal Mud in Rotorua, New Zealand

Bathing in Thermal Mud in Rotorua, New Zealand

Creativity Makes the Difference

Another important note is that I travel creatively, I find ways to save money from couchsurfing, to work trade in hostels/ backpackers, volunteer work where accommodation is provided, eating locally, not drinking in excess and spending money that way. I spent less than $20 000 total on a year long adventure to 8 different countries from South America to Australia to Nepal.This adventure led me to to work on cruise ships for 2 years all over the world, and, ultimately, to my present job as a dive instructor with Scuba Futures in Thailand. It might look easy every time I try something new or move halfway across the world on another crazy adventure, but I promise you, if you had to watch me trying to decide to buy my air ticket you would see someone who is crazy nervous and on the verge of hyperventilating, and having an internal battle between my “responsible” side vs. my adventurous side. It is never easy to decide to change, but 9 times out of 10 it is worth it.

Working on a cruise ship - Zakynthos, Greece

Working on a cruise ship – Zakynthos, Greece

Doors are always open if you look and even if the path seems difficult and weaves away from the “required” path of 30+ year olds, it’s one hell of a fun path to follow, so give it a try and do something different.

Working as a dive instructor, Koh Phangan, Thailand

Working as a dive instructor, Koh Phangan, Thailand

Go ahead, follow Alice down the Rabbit Hole and see what LIFE has in store for you!

Kissed by a Dolphin in Jamaica

Kissed by a Dolphin in Jamaica

 

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Reflections of a Year Abroad…Part 1

2011 was an epic year in so many ways, good and bad. I still can’t believe that I visited 8 countries (9 if I can count Malaysian Borneo separately, I did have to go through immigration) in under 12months.

Ready to Go…

Here are a few flashbacks and memories. The titles are all linked to the first blog entry of that country with a few others scattered around. Hope you enjoy…

Peru

When plans to volunteer in Botswana fell through I felt I needed somewhere else to replace those months before heading to Australia and New Zealand. It’s not like any tickets were bought or anything, it was just something my mind had decided on, there had to be a country or two before. I was at a loss of where until a friend said “don’t you know someone in Peru?”. Why yes I did, a co worker from the Seattle Woodland Park Zoo. Fernando was our imported penguin expert for the new exhibit and all of us summer employees got on really well.

So I contacted him and it was on, Peru was destination 1. I honestly had no idea what to expert, I had never been to South America and the only Spanish I knew was hola. But ever the one to shrug off obvious adversities I booked my ticket the day after my 33rd birthday. Now only 4months and 5 days till I would leave.

Peru was amazing, and I loved every minute of it. Cusco is now one of my favorite cities, although next time I am definitely pre-dosing on the altitude tabs… Man that hit me hard.

Fernando and Me

Machu Picchu was at first unimpressive, just a ruined city in the rain… the the clouds parted and it all became clear why it was so revered as a must see, that and the thought of “what bloody crazy idiot would make his people lug thousands of stones up a mountain side that scares the living daylights out of on the bus ride…and down??”. Seriously, it was breathtaking.

Good Friends: Cathleen and Me at Macchu Picchu

Lake Titicaca, just giggle everytime I say that, was awe inspiring and I would love to go back. However, the port city of Puno was a real dump and I was glad for fellow traveler advice to avoid it as much as possible.

Lake Titicaca Local Kids

The worst thing to come from Peru : The altitude sickness that actually had me bed ridden for a day.

The best thing to come from Peru : A great new friend named Cathleen!

A reason to go back : I haven’t tried roasted guinea pig yet 🙂

Ecuador

I was almost to the point of buying tickets when my mom held out a newspaper article about volunteer travel. It had a 2 sentence blurp about Amazoonico Wildlife Refuge in Ecuador. The part that caught my eye was the minimal cost of $120/month for food and accomodation. Bonus! I dropped them a line and soon had that on the map. Or actually I couldn’t even find the town of Tena on the map, but Ecuador was right about Peru so how hard could it be.

42hours later my bus (with the locked bathroom) pulled into Quito. Have you ever experienced the need to pee so bad that you can’t… Let’s just say when I could finally see through the wall of water in my eyes, I was in love with the loos of Ecuador. At least the one in the daughter’s home of a lady I had met in Spanish class and who was kindly putting me up for a few days.

My two months at the refuge came with high highs and low lows. The first month was tough as I was the only new volunteer, all the others were girls averaging 21 and had Spanish as a common language. By now I think I could almost say my name and ask where the bathroom was. In short it soon became apparent I was back in highschool and … I still wasn’t popular. My amazing volunteer co ordinator, Sarah, took me aside and said “you can leave, or you can stay and it will change your life”. Who am I to argue with authority, I stayed and in that first month got through a good number of books and enjoyed my alone time since group time was in Spanish, which I was picking up quite well.

“Walking” a Monk Saki Monkey

The second month was much better, we had a new cycle of fresh blood, English became the common language, I was a senior volunteer (and ok I admit I love being the one who needs to teach others), and I discovered my gift for making cookies… That pretty much made me popular in high school! It was very hard to leave.

Beata Relaxing at Sunset

At the end of my time in the jungle I went to the ocean and saw blue footed boobies… again another thing that just makes me want to giggle.

The worst thing to come from Ecuador : Struggling with the volunteer dynamics that first month.

The best thing to come from Ecuador : Blue Footed Boobies!! Oh and discovering an inner strength.

A reason to return : Perhaps a chance to see the Galapogos.

Surprise Easter Visit

It turned out cheaper to fly back to the states and then to Australia rather than from Peru to Aus. So I found myself with 8days in the states. I decided to surprise my parents for Easter. Officially the best surprise I have ever pulled off. The first time they were ever speechless.

Australia

Australia and New Zealand were always on my list, part of the reason for this trip was to find a place I might want to live and since they were on the “most likely” list.

My first impression of Australia, especially after 3 months in South America, was “Oh shite!!! I can barely afford a coffee”. I was shocked at the prices and the Aussie dollar was stronger, of course that changed a few weeks after I left… I quickly worked out plans to mooch… I mean visit any friends and family I had, along with sorting work trade with hostels.

Yes my finger is down its throat


Forcefeeding Kookaburra at Currumbin Wildlife Center

Australia ended up being a country of many new experiences:
I attempted work trade at a farm that has now become known as the Looney Farm by all of us who were there.
I saw Koalas, Kangaroos, Platypus and many other strange and wonderful critters.
I saw friends I hadn’t seen in over 10yrs.
I shaved my head for charity.
I swam with manta rays.
I force fed Kookaburras.
I swam in a freezing lake.
It might have been expensive, but I have some amazing memories that are worth every penny.

Carolin and me!!


Carolin and Me on the Day I Shaved my Head for Charity

The worst thing to come from Australia: The cost.

The best thing to come from Australia: Shaving my head for charity.

A reason to come back: Friends and a little town called Coral Bay.

Tonga

I discovered this amazing organisation that spent a month on the island of Tonga every 3months running a vet clinic. I contacted them months before arriving and was super excited. Accommodation was included and there was no fee to volunteer. A great way to experience island life and do something good for the community.

This was a month of extremes, as it turned out there had been a misunderstanding and I went from being a vet nurse to designated pee/poop cleaner and coffee maker. But I had committed to a month and so I pushed through proving my skills on more than one occasion when they needed me to monitor during surgeries when no one else was available. I think one of the biggest problems was that I was there in the middle of a year long trip and to volunteer while reserving my finances, the others were there as a vacation and had money to spend.

My Favorite Puppy

At the same time I met some amazing people, locals and expats (including 4 South Africans, what are the odds) and got the chance to visit one of the outlying islands.

No Matter What, It Sure Was Pretty!

The worst thing to come from Tonga: My treatment by the other volunteers and the organisation.

The best thing to come from Tonga: Fulfilling my commitment and discovering an amazing culture.

A reason to go back: maybe for a vacation and not to volunteer.

I must admit I had a hard time finishing this post for some reason. So many things that go through my mind and writing this entry makes the journey complete. Luckily there are still many more to come.

 
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Posted by on September 6, 2012 in Australia, Germany, RTW, Travel

 

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Coral Bay – Day 165 to 169

22nd June to 26th June 2011

Day 15
MANTA RAY, WHALES, SHARKS and DUGONGS! OH MY!

Today there was a chance I might be able to get out on a full day Nature Tour which included manta snorkeling. Dragging myself out of bed at 8am I checked in at reception and found out that yes the tour was going and yes they could squeeze me on free of charge. Absolutely brilliant! If I got to see a manta ray, besides being downright cool, it also meant I could rationalize spending $18 on a pair of silver earrings shaped like mantas. Woohoo

The timing was also perfect, allowing me to return just in time to do my chores of 3pm kitchen and bathroom clean and 4pm vacuum. the boat I was going on was called the “Ningaloo”, very appropriate as Coral Bay is surrounded by the Ningaloo Coral Reef. The Bayview caravan park (who also own the hostel) run it and it usually costs around $150 and includes some snacks. At the front desk I discovered a fairly hungover Sandra, French girl from the bakery, was also hoping to get on the tour.

At the dock as we loaded the boat someone yelled out that they could see “Merv”. Merv is a 400kg grouper that lives under the jetty. In truth he is now a she and is called Mervette (groupers are prone to hermaphrodism). When I first looked over the jetty I saw a huge fish, then I realised that was just her fin, she is bloody blooming massive. I am sure if whale shark groups don’t see any she could quite easily double as one. She must have been over 2m long.

Heading out into the bay we turned left and went quite close to the outer reef. Here we had our first of three snorkel spots. The coral and fish were incredible, truly spectacular. We were warned not to swim towards the white wall that were the waves crashing on the outer reef, as, if we made it through, it was a one way ticket to the African coast.

Next stop was a 20min ride to the headland where I had walked to in previous days.

To ensure that we don’t spend hours boating around the area looking for the manta rays that live there year round, the company sends up a spotter plane. They tell the tourists it is strictly to find the mantas and save time, what they fail to mention is that they also spot tiger sharks and ensure that none come closer than 200m to us snorkeling.

Separating us into 2 groups we prepared to enter the water as soon as we found the manta. Since I was in group 2 I went to the front of the boat to help spot. Suddenly I say this dark shape turn white and knew I had seen the manta doing a feeding roll. It was enormous! Group 1 jumped in and my group prepared. When it was our turn we quickly slipped into the water and swam towards the deck hand who was following the manta while the others were picked up by the boat. Swimming over we realised the manta was almost 3m long from wing tip to wing tip and was right below us. It was so majestic as it literally “flew” through the water. Without warning it suddenly flipped over backwards and appeared to be coming straight at me. But was simply starting a feeding roll. Truly spectacular!



Once I got back on the boat I just sat and thought about the magnificent creature I had the honor of swimming with.

Then it was off to do look for whales. We were lucky enough to come across a humpback with a newborn. They were beautiful. We followed them for about half an hour and then headed off for our 3rd and last snorkel spot, the shark cleaning station. Due to the location of the station the boat had to anchor a bit of a swim away, guess that just made us easier to catch if we came across a hungry shark.

At the cleaning station we saw a number of grey reef sharks and apparently a bronze whaler (bronzy). Bronzies are also known to be a little on the meaner side and that might have been why we suddenly turned around and headed back, but not before we saw “Tripod”. A turtle with only three flippers who likes to hang out at the feeding station – possible explanation to the missing flipper.

After a truly spectacular day with yummy snacks and great company we headed back to shore just in time for me to start my chores of 3pm kitchen and bathroom cleaning. That evening was burger night and I excitedly got my burger, with an egg, and settled down to enjoy. Unfortunately, due to the long day in the sun and forgetting to drink water, I was completely exhausted and headed to bed at 8pm.

Day 16

Didn’t do much today, just relaxed, still felt a bit rough from the full on day before. JP and Carole, my fellow Oompah Loompahs, were leaving today but had commissioned a total of 10 bracelets from me, so I spent most of the morning doing those. Then did my chores and read my book.

Eik and Alex had caught fish so we had a fish fry with potato wedges and zucchini, yummy yummy!

Day 17
Shaving Day!

Today is the day! Everyone keeps asking me if I am nervous, or if I want to back out or if I am going to run off to Denham with the money… I wasn’t feeling nervous, till people asked me. I had no choice now after over $1000 raised so no backing out. And running off with the money…I wouldn’t be allowed home if I did that.

A photo blog will be up next so stay tuned to this page.

Day 18

Waking up with a lot less hair than I started with is an interesting experience. It also turned out to be the crappiest day since I had arrived, grey and rainy. In fact it was more like rain with the occasional downpour. This meant bed sounded good and I didn’t move until later in the morning. Did my chores, had my hair trimmed up and so it looks more like a number 2 and then hung out with Carolin. We had a bingo night at the hostel and I won a free bag of chips, just what I wanted for the bus trip tomorrow. So much for taking photos and doing a final lap of Coral Bay.

Day 19
Red Earth Tours

Got up at 8am to a beautiful clear day with not a cloud in the sky. Go figure. Went over to say goodbye to Carolin and Sandra at the bakery and pick up a pastry and cup of coffee for breakfast. After many farewells and hugs I boarded the bus to Perth with Red Earth Tours. Today would be 7hrs of driving but first we stopped at the sign announcing you have crossed over the Tropic of Capricorn.

On to the city of Northhampton where we stayed at the Old Convent (a 100yr old convent now turned hostel). As a beautiful sunset started there were tons of birds heading into the trees to roost.


Dinner was fish and chips, after which we all sat and watched Master Chef Australia and the Mentalist. Then time for bed as there was a 6am start the next day.

I shall miss Coral Bay, it is definately a place where time seems to stop and life involves beach and beer, or cider in my case. It is filled with great people and stunning scenery. But, as much as I hate to admit it, it is time to move on and discover more adventures.

 
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Posted by on July 2, 2011 in Australia, RTW, Travel

 

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Coral Bay – Day 158 to 164

15th June to 21st June 2011

Day 8

Duties for the day:
– Scrub picnic tables
– 3pm bathroom and kitchen clean

Woke up at 6.45am, sunrise at 7am, to look with rays/skates in the shallows with Nadine, Germany. Unfortunately I seem to be missing the time they are there as there were none to be found. Spent the day at the beach and watched the sunset.

That night we all went down to the beach to see if we could find the rays/skates again but once again to no avail. However, numerous folks had brought something stiff to drink and keep themselves warm… I of course, with a few other responsible parties, returned to the hostel… where we could drink in the warmth 🙂

Day 9
Lunar Eclipse!

Was first woken up by a few drunk Germans at midnight to wish Carolin (a fellow Oompah Loompah from Germany) a happy birthday, she slept through it, I told them to go to bed. Then woke up at 2am to watch the Lunar Eclipse. A fellow backpacker/part time astronomer had assured us the height of the eclipse was at 2.30am so 2am was a perfect time. Turned out the eclipse only started at 2.30am and after standing in the freezing cold at a time when even the sparrows aren’t farting, Carolin and I headed back in around 2.50am. the die hards, however, stayed put and were wonderful enough to get us some great pics.

We went snorkeling down at the jetty in the morning. Truly amazing, the coral was everywhere and tons of stunning bright fish, some quite big. I had almost forgotten how much I enjoyed being in the water, if only it wasn’t so expensive to rent snorkel gear.

Nadine and I decided to walk along the beach back to town, a good mile or so. Turned out we had to wade through a fairly rocky area first before we got anywhere near the beach, but it was good fun. After lunch my bracelet making was in high demand and I had about 3 customers.

Carolin’s birthday
For the birthday dinner we made rice with sausages and zucchini, the joy of backpacker budgets. Then we brought in a lamington (australian cake with coconut) sporting 3 candles and sang “Happy Birthday”.

Her gift was a surfer rash (not the medical kind, but a shirt surfers/swimmers wear to protect against the sun – usually quite expensive but we found it in lost and found) and she was required to get at least 26 signatures. It was great fun and with limited people at the hostel they were forced to head out to the pub. Since I had to clean the kitchen for closure in 15minutes I had to miss out but they swore they would be back in 30min… they arrived home around midnight!

Day 10

Just after midnight we said farewell to Nadine from Germany, goodbyes are never pleasant, but making friends make them worth it.

This morning Carolin started her job at the bakery and this meant half price pies for yours truly. Its all about where you encourage your friends to get jobs.

Had 2 new Oompah Loompahs join us in room 105, Carol and JP from France. Seem like a nice pair and I just enjoy listening to them chat in French. Then I borrowed Carolin’s phone to make a few calls to figure out how to get a ride back to Perth in the next week. I tried a number of companies getting prices and then, since I am planning an article about Coral Bay, seeing if they had a concession price for writers. Only 1, Red Earth, was prepared to give me a discount. So I booked a spot for $100 (usually $200) for the following sunday. It consisted of 2 days of driving, accomodation and food, pretty good considering Greyhound was almost $200 and sucked 16hrs of your life away, if they were on time.

That afternoon Luke, Australian and traveling around in a camper, Corny, Bavarian – full name Cornelious, and I decided to try get to the headland. Since it was a fair walk and Corny was feeling sick we decided to drive…and drive…stuck in sand… drive some more… almost stuck in sand… drive through locust swarm… finally turn round and drive back and realise we turned down the wrong road. Back at the hostel we grabbed lunch and walked to the normal beach instead. Somehow Luke managed to lose his car keys but we found a maintenance guy who could unlock it and also taught him to start it with a screwdriver!

The evening ended with Carolin and I having our tradition of happy hour cider and chips and a twister competition.

Day 11

Decided to do morning walk to the headland, as no one else was interested or moving at 9.30am I headed out alone. It was a beautiful and around a mile or more through soft sand that felt like walking in a snow drift.

Once you finally got there and your egs stopped cramping, it was truly breathtaking with tons of shells and no one in sight.

Heading back I literally thought my calves were going to seize up and I would be left on the beach with no one around. Luckily the numerous naked sunbathers tend to take your mind off the pain, especially the guys (which is a little scary to tell you the truth). By the time I got back all I craved was a dip in the cold bay, and it certainly refreshed me.

Back at the hostel I worked on Carolin’s necklace finishing it just in time as she showed up with my pie….mmmmmmmmmm pie (beef and cheese). Wipe off drool here!

After such a good day I learnt some devastating news. My best friend had lost her baby. She went in for her 39week scan and was told there was no heartbeat. The doctor had no medical reason to give them except for SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). I was terribly upset and wished I could do something, but with the time difference I couldn’t call till the next morning. It is so unfair how life works sometimes.

Day 12

I woke up at 7am and walked up the main road (in truth the only road) to the resort where I could access wifi (at a cost) and call my folks and my friend. Luckily I was able to reach all concerned and send my sympathies and thoughts. I wished again there was something more I could do.

Duties for the day:
– clean doors again
– vacuum again
– kitchen closure…again

That night was the free movie at the resort – Gulliver’s Travels with Jack Black. Carolin and I decided to, wait for it… buy a full price cider and a box of chips for the occasion. Eik and Alex joined us and we sat and watched it along with 2 kids and another couple. It was a little chilly being outside on the grass, but well worth it.

Day 13

Duties for the day:
– sweep and mop bar decking, to be started by 9am.
– 3pm kitchen and bathroom cleaning.

I woke up at 8am to get an early start on the bar decking and had it all done well before the hour was up. Carolin showed up at 9.30am and we headed out to walk to the headland. Once again we hit high tide and soft sand, I am going to have calves of a marathon runner and even possibly thigh definition by the end of this trip.

It took us just over an hour to get there followed by some shell collecting, there are so many you can actually get picky.

We attempted to go swimming but soon discovered that the headland was where 2 currents converged and within minutes it was obvious the shore was the place to be. I wouldn’t say there was panic, but some definite rapid thought processing and lots of kicking and eventually reaching the beach. Later that evening we were asked never to do that again, since along with the strong currents it is also the location of many tiger sharks (the spotter plane for the mantas, is in truth a spotter for the sharks – they just tell tourists the former). Oops!

Eik and Alex met us in their 4×4 and did some fishing. We didn’t pick up anything very big but we did get to watch another swarm of locusts fly by, so many in fact, that it looked like a dust storm arriving.

After the boys dug the car out we headed back to town and I finished up my cleaning and passed out, love afternoon naps.

In the evening I was chatting with Jody, from Ireland, who was seeking sponsorship for the big party/fundraiser on friday. He was planning on shaving his head. The money was for Red Nose day, a national fundraiser for SIDS and Kids (a group dedicated to research and support). This made some interesting thoughts pop into my head. As I was drinking a rum and coke and waiting for some friends to arrive I suddenly decided what I had to do, I was going to shave my head and raise funds in memory of my friend’s son. When I broached the subject with hostel staff they all told me to think about it but that they would sponsor me. The thinking was over when Nicky asked a guy if he would sponsor me for shaving my head and he promptly handed over $10… guess the decision was made.

For the rest of the evening I asked people to sponsor me and while they all told me I was crazy in the same breathe they said I was very brave.

Day 14
Waking up that morning I remembered my decision of the previous night, and while part me screamed the insanity of it, the only reason I could find not to do it was – vanity! And that wasn’t a good enough reason.

That morning I taught Carolin how to make a bracelet as another swarm of locusts invaded the town. there must have been millions of them, and they pooped everywhere!

Around noon I was told that Graham was finally living up to his promise in the first week and I was given a seat on his boat the Aqua Rush. It involved speed boating out of the bay, jumping waves, getting sprayed with water and also 2 snorkel stops. Adrenalin filled pure joy and the coral was nice too. We did see the biggest ray/skate I have ever seen.

By the end of the 2hrs I could just barely finish my chores before I collapsed into bed. This was proving to be an intense week for a wide range of emotions and experiences.

 
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Posted by on July 1, 2011 in Australia, RTW, Travel

 

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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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