A Travellerspoint blog

Australia

All Quiet On The Western Front

February 11th – March 14th

Some of you may now be wondering by now if Mark turned out to be a psycho killer and if I'm now in pieces buried under his Barbie (or even on his Barbie!). Well, I’m pleased to report that I’m very much alive and kicking and settled into a life of domestic bliss in a Perth suburb. I’m beginning to feel a bit like an extra in "Neighbours" and have learnt the finer arts of swimming pool maintenance, getting goat faced (despite Aussie wine being more expensive here than in England – what’s that all about?), cockie spotting (don't ask!) and generally “fiddle-arsing” about.

To be fair, the souvenirs I brought back from India included a nasty dose of the flu and my first couple of weeks back I was (as Mark described me) “crook as a dog”, so didn’t really feel up to doing much at all. Plus, Perth was enjoying one of it’s hottest, driest summers, with temperatures in the high 30’s most days – just as the air-con decided to give up the ghost. Still, I comforted myself by adding the London weather forecast to my “favourites” to give me a daily boost, whenever I started feeling homesick.

Mark was due to go off on a 14 day tour up to Broome, but my rain-dance ritual paid off, when the west coast was flooded out by Cyclone Diana, and he had to return home to me after only 5 days.

Strangely enough, after 9 months travelling around the world, it made a nice change to be settled and doing household chores again. I had the time to go shopping and found myself enjoying cooking and housework and a bit of gardening. My near perfect suburban live was marred slightly by the extremely bad Aussie TV (a mish mash of regurgitated British comedy from the 70’s and 80’s – think Porridge, Allo Allo and Man About the House – with a fair sprinkling of mediocre US sit-coms and very old black and white movies). Oh, how I miss the Beeb.

Lethargy had began to set in, and after a few weeks of “bludging “ about, I was excited when after his next tour, Mark suggested we take a road trip down to Albany on the south coast of Western Australia. For someone who makes his living from driving thousands of kilometres a day, Mark sure loves his road trips. I’m curious as to how he’s going to find the roads in England when he comes over in July – it may put him off driving for life! Our first couple of nights were spent in the peaceful country town of Walpole, which is surrounded by national parks filled with majestic forests of Tingle and Karri trees – some of the largest trees in the world. The 40 meter high Valley of the Giants tree-top walk was impressive, but beginning to feel a bit “treed-off”, we branched out and headed to some of the most stunning and isolated beaches I’d seen. Not to mention the kangaroos that seemed to be hanging around just waiting to have their photo taken!

Finally making it to historic Albany, WA’s first city – we settled into the hostel there before exploring the this old colonial town and it’s surroundings the next morning. The hilltop war memorial overlooking King George Sound (where 30,000 Anzac troops set off to fight in the trenches during the First World War) was an interesting and moving site. Along the rugged coastline, Mark showed me several lovely beaches in the Torndirrup National Park including The Gap and The Natural Bridge and the strange granite formations at Elephant Rocks.

Our final night was spent in the pretty(and slightly hippy-ish) town of Denmark, where we found a lovely romantic little rustic cottage in the bush for not much more than the cost of a hostel. Surrounded by Karri forests, stunning beaches and wineries (not to mention an award winning pie shop – sadly didn’t get to try the “Vinda Roo”`) we vowed to make a return visit in the very near future.

Back to Perth, it is now only a matter of days before the end of my trip and reality is beginning to bite. I find myself with mixed feelings – both dreading and looking forward to returning home.

The last couple of months have been an unexpected detour from travelling, but the whole point of my journey was to explore and enjoy some new life experiences, which I feel I have certainly done! Meeting Mark has been wonderful and has turned my plans upside down, but I can now return to the UK with a new sense of purpose and direction. I do need to earn (and probably borrow)some money as my trip has gone well over budget, but plan to rent out my house again for another year and return to Perth with Mark after his trip to “Pommieland” in July.

I am now looking forward to catching up with friends and family, briefly settling back into life in England, watching some decent TV, going to Glastonbury, celebrating my 50th birthday on both sides of the world (I still feel much too young to be 50!), and then moving on to the next chapter of my life.... watch this space!

ps. Any leads to potential job opportunities (or loan offers!) would be greatly appreciated...

Sunset over Perth

Sunset over Perth


King George Sound, Albany

King George Sound, Albany


Tingle and Karri Forest

Tingle and Karri Forest


It's A Hard Life!

It's A Hard Life!


Walpole Sunset

Walpole Sunset


Woody

Woody


Tingle Tree Climb

Tingle Tree Climb


Weird Ring in tingles!

Weird Ring in tingles!


Trek to the Summit

Trek to the Summit


What a Poser!

What a Poser!


Help! I'm turning into a Sheila...

Help! I'm turning into a Sheila...


Walpole

Walpole


Walpole at Sunset

Walpole at Sunset


Pelicans Nornalup

Pelicans Nornalup


Pelican Feeding Time

Pelican Feeding Time


My Treehouse

My Treehouse


Our Off Road Driving Expedition

Our Off Road Driving Expedition


No Comment!

No Comment!


Tingle (Tangle) Tree

Tingle (Tangle) Tree


Valley of The Giants Tree Top Walk

Valley of The Giants Tree Top Walk


Tree Top Walk

Tree Top Walk


Torndirrup National Park

Torndirrup National Park


Torndirrup National Park

Torndirrup National Park


Torndirrup National Park

Torndirrup National Park


Elephant Rocks

Elephant Rocks


The Natural Bridge

The Natural Bridge


The Gap

The Gap


Torndirrup National Park

Torndirrup National Park


Our Cozy Cottage, Denmark

Our Cozy Cottage, Denmark

Posted by kathystravels 16:00 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

A Very Happy New Year

Sydney and Perth Revisited

Dec 27th – Jan 18th

Dodging the flooded roads I finally made it to Sydney around 1am, and settled into my very noisy city centre hostel for the night. After watching the news unfold of the disaster in Queensland over the following days, I felt relieved I had decided to travel south instead of north for the New Year.

I'd arranged to meet up with Mark (one of the tour guides on our trip up to Broome), and after a rather nice reconciliation at the airport (yes, I realise I’m going to get a lot of comments and questions about this part of my trip!), we picked up a car and headed up into the Blue Mountains, where we’d planned to spend a couple of relaxing days before heading back to the bustle of Sydney for the New Year Celebrations.

We were staying at a pretty little guest house in the town of Katoomba, nestled amongst the impressive gorges of the Blue Mountain ranges. Having the car meant we could explore the area at leisure and we set off to visit the Three Sisters, a rock formation shaped like three women. The Aboriginal Dream Time legend goes that three aborigine sisters had fallen in love with three brothers from an opposing tribe. The brothers tried to kidnap the sisters so a local witch doctor turned them to stone to protect them. However he was killed in the battle before he could reverse the spell and they remained frozen for perpetuity.

Although cooler than the city, the following days it reached the 30s but we enjoyed a couple of bushwalks to stunning lookouts over the gorges, waterfalls and mist covered mountains. Our last morning was spent experiencing the Scenic Railway, the world’s steepest passenger railway which took us down the valley into the bottom of the gorge.

Back in Sydney we checked into our accommodation at the University of New South Wales (a room here was cheaper than a hostel and ten times better – no grotty student digs for these guys), we had started to plan our New Year’s Eve. Watching the celebrations and fireworks in Sydney had been an almost lifelong ambition for me. The stunning displays over the harbour bridge and opera house had always impressed me when they were shown on British TV, and my vision of enjoying them with a glass or two of champagne, in the warm night air was about to become a reality. By a fabulous stroke of luck, Mark’s brother and his wife had decided to spend a few days in Sydney, and their daughter had an apartment overlooking the harbour, where they had invited us to join them.

So instead of queuing up with the crowds to get a good spot on the water’s edge, we had our own private balcony with the most amazing views, with good champagne, good food and good company on tap! The fireworks lived up to my expectations and this was a New Year’s Eve that I won’t forget in a hurry. I finally convinced Mark to walk back through the city to our accommodation to "soak in the atmosphere", and two hours later, we were still soaking it in, albeit a bit less enthusiastically than when we set off! After a very late start the next day, we enjoyed a spot of shopping in Paddy’s Markets, a large complex where you could buy anything from knickers to cabbages and most things in between.

After sharing a half decent curry in the picturesque suburb of Rose Bay, we said goodbye to Terry and Pam and promised to come visit them in Canberra on my next trip. Mark was returning to Perth the following evening, so despite the increasingly gloomy weather, we hopped on the ferry over to Manly for a picnic on the beach before I saw him off at the airport.

On my final day in Sydney, I had arranged to meet up with Jo, who worked with me back at EMI in the 80’s. We hadn’t seen each other since just before she emigrated here 5 years ago, so it was a lovely re-union and great fun catching up with each other’s lives.

So... this is where my story starts to turn into the plot of “Eat, Pray, Love”!!! (substitute “Drink” for “Pray”). (For those not in the know – a book/chic flick about a woman who feels her life needs a change of direction, so goes off travelling).

Taking me completely by surprise, I found myself falling for this funny, rough, tough but very sweet Aussie bloke, who’d pursued me all the way across Australia and who had made my New Year extra special. He’d persuaded me to follow him back to Perth while I was waiting for my Indian visa to be processed. So, my last two weeks in Oz were spent making myself at home in his comfy house on the outskirts of the city.

Perth definitely seems to enjoy one of the best climates in the whole of Australia and while hot (who cares when you have a pool, a cool drink and an air conditioned house), enjoys more days of sunshine than anywhere else and an average winter temperature of 21 degrees.

We decided to leave Perth for a few days to explore the scenic Margaret River coast, south of the city. Our trip took us through the stunning seaside resorts of Yallingup, Busselton and Dunsborough, rolling farmland, wineries. Mark took great pleasure in showing me around his beloved Western Oz and I think he found it a nice change since most of his tours were to the north of Perth. Unfortunately I caught some kind of virus and felt a bit under the weather while we were there, but still enjoyed our stay, and in between doctors visits, exploring August and the Cape Leeuwin–Naturaliste National Park.

We had a lovely evening watching a film under the stars with a picnic, lazing on the lawn of the Mentelle winery. Stopping off for lunch at the pretty town of Dunsborough with it’s white sands and crystal clear waters, we returned to Perth for a few days where Mark took great pleasure in introducing his new “Pommie girl” to some of his friends and family.

Sadly, my time in Oz was coming to an end - my Indian visa had finally come through, and I had managed to change my flight to Singapore so that I didn’t have to return to Sydney. My six weeks in Australia had been more eventful and memorable than I had ever imagined. My trip had taken on a new meaning, my life had been turned upside down, maybe fate had played a hand and I have a feeling I will be seeing a lot more of Perth in the very near future (enigmatic, or what???!!!).

PS: If they ever make a Hollywood movie of my story, I want Cameron Diaz to play me! Not sure who would play Mark (Mel Gibson perhaps?!).

The Three Sisters, Blue Mountains

The Three Sisters, Blue Mountains


Our View for New Year's Eve

Our View for New Year's Eve


Sydney New Year Fireworks

Sydney New Year Fireworks


Film Night at the Winery

Film Night at the Winery


Blue Mountains View

Blue Mountains View


Red Gum Tree, Blue Moutains

Red Gum Tree, Blue Moutains


Ferns, Blue Mountains

Ferns, Blue Mountains


Sydney Skyline New Year's Eve

Sydney Skyline New Year's Eve


Rose Bay, Sydney

Rose Bay, Sydney


Fireworks Sydney New Year's Eve

Fireworks Sydney New Year's Eve


Sydney Fireworks, New Year's Eve

Sydney Fireworks, New Year's Eve


Scenic Railway Blue Mountains

Scenic Railway Blue Mountains


Sydney with Mark

Sydney with Mark


Weird Boobie Art Installation, Opera House

Weird Boobie Art Installation, Opera House


Me and Jo, Sydney

Me and Jo, Sydney


Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse and Cow!

Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse and Cow!


Yallingup Beach

Yallingup Beach


Cape Leeuwin National Park Beach

Cape Leeuwin National Park Beach


Cape Leeuwin National Park

Cape Leeuwin National Park


The Rocks - Cape Naturaliste

The Rocks - Cape Naturaliste


Mark's Pool

Mark's Pool


Mark Trying Very Hard Not to Let Me Go

Mark Trying Very Hard Not to Let Me Go

Posted by kathystravels 16:00 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Let It Rain, Let it Rain, Let it Rain!

Melbourne, Brisbane and Byron Bay

December 16th – 28th

After a relatively short flight back down to Perth (I found it hard to believe that it took less than 3 hours to cover the 4,500km/10 days we spent on the road) – I think I know which mode of transport I'll be taking if I ever travel to Western Australia again.

Back in Perth for a couple of days, it almost felt like home and is a strong contender for my favourite Australian city so far. Even the Christmas shopping crowds were quite civilised compared to the UK, and I found the 30 degrees and blue skies a relief to the searing heat of Karinjini! Checking the weather forecast for the South Coast, I decided that I had better top up my tan while I had the chance and spent a relaxing few hours on the beach in the refined but very expensive (£6 for a bottle of Corona!) seaside resort of Cottesloe, just outside of the city.

My next stop was Melbourne and my flight with low-cost operator, Tiger Airways made me vow never to complain about Ryanair ever again. After making us queue up on the tarmac for half an hour, we were finally allowed to board the plane and took off over 3 hours late (at 3am in the morning). What with the time difference, I arrived at my hostel in the suburb of St Kilda mid morning having had around an hour’s sleep. Undeterred, I took the chance to go on the city walk, led by the entertainments manager of the hostel. As the average age of most of the residents was around 20, I shouldn’t have really been surprised when instead of visiting the sights, she showed us down sleazy, graffiti covered alleyways, where apparently all the best clubs could be found.

Despite this, my first impressions of Melbourne were of an interesting historic, but vibrant city with a host of different neighbourhoods to explore and put me very much in mind of San Francisco without the hills. Vowing to return the next day to explore properly, I returned to the hostel to catch up on my sleep.

The following day, I caught the tram back into town and dodged the rain (Melbourne’s climate seemed depressingly similar to London’s) by jumping on the free tourist bus which did a circuit around the sights, including the "almost too arty for it’s own good" Federation Square, the gloriously dated Flinders Street Station, the modern complex around the docks, Chinatown and Parliament House. Walking back alone through Kings Domain just south of the Yarra River, I was left feeling slightly downhearted. I was really looking forward to my visit to Melbourne and I do believe that it has a lot to offer, but this is a city best enjoyed with company and money.

The stormy and cool weather the following day didn’t do much to lift my spirits, as I wandered down the bohemian streets of St Kilda, lined with fancy boutiques, impressive cake shops and cafes. The time-warped Luna Park amusement arcade and the Esplanade Sunday market all-too-briefly doused in sunshine, took my mind off the dark clouds, but I was once again soaked in a deluge just as I reached the end of the pier.

Jumped on a tram back into town to check out the famous old Queen Victoria Market (sadly, no sign of Dot Cotton or Peggy but plenty of traders hawking their fruit and veg). After a quick spot of lunch in Chinatown, I checked out the absorbing Australian Centre for the Moving Image in Federation Square.

The weather showed no signs of improvement the next morning and I found myself spending most of the day stuck in the hostel taking advantage of the free internet. Then one of the strangest things happened....Feeling the urge to go out for some fresh air, I was waiting for a tram into town when one of my ex-colleagues from London walked along the platform towards me! I knew she was travelling around the world too, but what were the chances she would not only be in the same city as me, but to have been catching the same tram at exactly the same time? It was incredible. Was really happy to catch up with Deeps and arranged to meet up with her later for a meal. Happily, my rather disappointing stay in Melbourne ended with a good night out, I checked out the next morning for my flight over to the east coast, hoping for some sunshine. (I later learnt that the road we had driven up to Broome had been flooded and closed off and one of the towns we had passed almost washed away, so were fortunate to have done the west coast trip when we did).

It started off so well...the weather was glorious as I arrived into Brisbane and I enjoyed a pleasant stroll watching the colours reflecting off the river as the sun went down. Brisbane’s version of the South Bank reminded me very much of London’s and even boasted an arts centre, street entertainers, a market and even a large “Brisbane Eye”, although I’m not sure how popular the tropical swimming pool complex would be in our “not-so-tropical” climate.

Tropical downpours would be the theme of the next few days, and I awoke the next morning to the predicted rain storm. I’d arranged to meet up with Urvy and Pete, who I’d met in New Zealand and killed time by doing something that I thought I’d gotten away with for this year – the dreaded Christmas shopping! Nothing as bad as London’s crowds, but it brought back bad memories nonetheless and after struggling through the crowds for a couple of hours I retreated back to the hostel.

Urvy and Pete picked me up and I revisited the South Bank (and our adventures in Kiwi Land) over a coffee and a cake. They were staying with a friend in Brisbane for Christmas, so we said our farewells and promised to meet up again back home.

The following morning I caught the bus down the coast to the notoriously awful resort of Surfer’s Paradise, where I was stopping off to meet up with my friend Mandy (who I worked with in London and who was now living back in Oz). It certainly lived up to it’s reputation rather than it’s name (unless most surfers like fast food joints, overpriced bars and tourist tat with their waves?). My hostel was reviewed as one of the best on the “strip”, and came complete with volleyball pitch, cheap bar, blaring music and a pile of vomit outside my dorm – nice!

Luckily Mandy took me to more upmarket resort of Broad Beach along the coast for a Japanese meal and we spent a really lovely evening chatting and catching up. Glad to be leaving, I caught the early bus the following day further down the coast to Ballina (just south of Byron Bay) where I was looking forward to spending Christmas with my friends Shane, Phyl and family.

The rain had set in with a vengeance by the time I reached Byron, but jumping over the huge puddles at the bus stop I was met with a warm welcome (and apologies for the weather) by the family. Much as I was looking forward to Christmas on the beach in the sunshine, it was wonderful just being with friends in the comfort of their large and cozy home overlooking (they assured me it was there, through the mist and rain!) the bay.

The rain and waterlogged roads prevented us travelling too far afield, but the family enjoyed their traditional Christmas morning swim together in the ocean (I bottled out – it just didn’t feel right swimming in the rain – even though the sea was warm) and I enjoyed watching the surfers riding the impressive waves. After a light lunch, we went to the airport to pick up their daughter Bridie (who I’d also met in Cuba), and the family (almost) complete, we spent a relaxing afternoon opening presents and eating, accompanied by the sound of the downpour outside. At least the frogs were enjoying it, and I had to put earplugs in most nights to get to sleep! It had certainly been a very different Christmas Day, and not quite the one I was expecting, but it was extremely relaxing and a very welcome change from hostelling!

Finding ourselves going a little bit stir crazy, on Boxing Day they offered to take me to the weird and wonderful hippy town of Nimbin. It was settled by new agers back in the 1970’s for the experimental Aquarius Festival and has remained a centre for the artistic, new age and eccentric ever since. One wall even featured an original “Rolf” graffiti –how cool is that!. The boutiques, cafes and shops were a fascinating and fun way of passing a rainy afternoon, although if I’d had to put up with the gloomy weather much longer, I think I would have been tempted to extend the trip and take in the atmosphere, if you get my drift?!

After another round of fond farewells, I waited at the very soggy bus stop for my 12 hour ride down to “sunny” Sydney for the New Year Celebrations.

Melbourne Grafitti

Melbourne Grafitti


Famous Flinders Station

Famous Flinders Station


Brisbane Sunset

Brisbane Sunset


Wet and windy Ballina Beach, Christmas Day

Wet and windy Ballina Beach, Christmas Day


Christmas Dinner Aussie Style

Christmas Dinner Aussie Style


Weird and Wonderful Nimbin

Weird and Wonderful Nimbin


Luna Park, St Kilda

Luna Park, St Kilda


Forum Theatre Melbourne

Forum Theatre Melbourne


Melbourne Skyline

Melbourne Skyline


Brisbane Eye

Brisbane Eye


Pete, Anita and Urvy, Brisbane

Pete, Anita and Urvy, Brisbane


NW Coastal Highway - 3 days after our trip!

NW Coastal Highway - 3 days after our trip!


The Cullinane's Christmas on the Beach

The Cullinane's Christmas on the Beach


AC DC Lane Melbourne

AC DC Lane Melbourne


Up and Coming Business!

Up and Coming Business!


Happy St Kilda

Happy St Kilda


The new and the old - Melbourne

The new and the old - Melbourne


Cake Shop St Kilda

Cake Shop St Kilda


Melbourne from St Kilda Pier

Melbourne from St Kilda Pier


Melbourne Arcade Christmas Shopping

Melbourne Arcade Christmas Shopping


Green Frog Brisbane

Green Frog Brisbane


Surfers, Christmas Morning Ballina

Surfers, Christmas Morning Ballina


Parakeets Nimbin

Parakeets Nimbin


Nimbin "High" Street

Nimbin "High" Street


Can you guess what it is yet???

Can you guess what it is yet???


Nibmin Street Code

Nibmin Street Code

Posted by kathystravels 16:00 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Road To Nowhere

Perth to Broome Road Trip

3rd – 15th December

Up bright and early to join the rest of the group on my Western Exposure 10 day trip from Perth up the west coast to Broome. Having never travelled to Western Australia before, and having heard good things about Monkey Mia, Coral Bay and Broome, I was looking forward to the experience. However, what transpired was more like a 10 day intensive Glastonbury training course! (minus the mud and music but with added red dust, heat and flies). The 21-strong group consisted of 7 Brits, a couple of Irish lads, 3 Japanese/Taiwanese and the rest were made up of Europeans. Our tour guide, Tamantha (nicknamed Tammy or "Tim Tam") turned out to be one of the best I've ever known (sergeant major, big sister and Fairy Godmother rolled into one) and this fact, combined with the great camaraderie of the entire group ultimately made the trip not only endurable but a memorable and enjoyable experience.

After my initial group introduction, a voice piped up from the back of the bus “Blimey, I’ve come all this way, only to come across an “Essex Girl”!”. It turned out that Pete (our resident “Essex Boy” not only came from Brentwood but lives in the house next door to where my dad lived!). Sue, my “roomy” and travelling companion from Worcester, proved great company throughout the trip – our two person “Book Club”/Counselling/Personal Development Sessions were a highly enjoyable way of whiling away the relentless hours on the bus.

Our bus/come truck made mincemeat of the first 500kms to Horrocks, via the Nambung National Park and the weird and wonderful Pinnacles Desert – made up of limestone pillars (basically the gaps between ancient forests which had long since disappeared – or rival hunters turned to stone depending on which culture you believe). Next stop was to sand board down the massive sand dunes at the appropriately named Sandy Cape on the way to Geraldton, our first overnight base. The cosy hostel was right on the sea front and after a quick stir fry and a look at the eagles nesting on the beach, we all collapsed into bed.

Up very early next morning for out trek to the Kalbarri National Park to explore Murchison Gorge, Natures Window and Z Bend Gorge. Some chose to abseil down the gorge, but we found it more fun watching the aerobatics as our tour mates stumbled and spun round on their descent. Only 350km on the clock today to our destination of Denham, via the pretty shell beach (no prizes for guessing how it got it’s name). Another cool hostel on the beach, but felt too exhausted to go to the thermal springs. The only hot water I could face that night was doing the washing up. We did get to see the baby roo that had been rescued by the hostel owner though – very cute!

An early appointment with the famous dolphins at Monkey Mia (have they never heard of “lie ins”, the greedy beggars!). Apparently the town had become famous after a local had started feeding the dolphins that subsequently turned up in droves, which in turn attracted busloads of tourists to see the spectacle. Environmentalists finally discouraged the practise, as the lazy mammals eventually couldn’t be bothered to go out hunting naturally when they had food on tap so as a compromise they only get fed 3 times a day with a minimum amount of food! A case of money over principles if ever I saw one! Still, it was entertaining viewing watching the dolphins sitting in the water with their mouths open at the ready. Even more entertaining was the cheeky emus that helped themselves to our breakfast, while we were watching.

On to Carnarvon to see the amazing Stromatolites at Hamelin Pool (didn’t they have a string of hits in the early 80’s, you’re thinking) – but no...they are in fact the origins of live on earth, responsible for creating earth’s atmosphere and allowing other life forms (including us) to develop. I have to admit the lumpy brown rocks were less than impressive, but you had to give them their due. Carnarvon was also known for being the site of a NASA satellite tracking dish, made famous by the quirky film “The Dish” starring Sam Neill.

By the end of the day, and another 550kms on the milometer, we had reached Coral Bay to explore the delights of the Ningaloo Reef. I was tempted to go diving (annoyingly the divers saw reef sharks, manta rays and turtles), but decided a day of rest on the beach was called for and spent a relaxing few hours topping up my tan and catching up on e-mails. The following day’s excursion (a mere 150km) to Exmouth included several hours snorkelling in the exquisite Turquoise Bay, a quick stop at the Vlahming Head Lighthouse (purportedly the site of the first European landing on Australian soil) and a drive through the Cape Range National Park.

The next day disaster struck, when the air con in the main part of the bus decided to give up the ghost in the 40 plus degree temperatures. One by one we all started to pass out, but I got in quick and pulled out the “age” card and secured a place up front with Tammy in the fully functioning air-conditioned cab. Only another 500kms to go before our camp for the next few nights in the Karijini National Park! Camping, outside in 40 degrees of heat...miles from anywhere... millions of flies...3 days of trekking up and down gorges...basic loos and limited showers...even more limited alcohol....I couldn’t wait!! I was beginning to wish I had feigned sickness and ditched out in the iron ore mining town of Tom Price our last stop in civilization.

Arriving too late to care, we chucked dinner together and retired to our tents for a hot and sweaty night. I must have been too exhausted to notice the tent pole collapsing on us in the middle of the night, and Sue struggling to re-erect it. The next morning the flies were out in force – I can’t describe how irritating they are, especially when trying to eat. They seem to go for moisture so are constantly trying to attach themselves to your nose, your mouth and your eyes – yuk! I began to wish I had invested in a fly net, despite resembling Ena Sharples on acid, they seemed to do the trick.

The discomfort unfortunately detracted from our forays out into the Gorges. Trekking for hours up and down narrow ledges (I wasn’t aware that I had signed up for a crash course in rock climbing) in incredibly high temperatures was not my idea of fun, even if we were rewarded with nice dips in refreshingly cool water holes at the end of them. I have to admit all the areas we visited in the Hammersley Range: Fortesque Falls, Fern Pool, Circular Pool, Weano and Hancock Gorges were incredible picturesque, but quite frankly, once you’ve seen one gorgeous gorge, you’ve seen them all. The experience wasn’t enhanced by the Great Camera Disaster on Day 2. Pete, our resident Essex Boy, offered to carry all our cameras in his “Dry Bag” as we had to swim our way through to Kermit’s Pool. A dozen completely flooded and knackered cameras later, he wasn’t our favourite person that day. We had to rely on those sensible people who either had waterproof cameras or had left their cameras behind, to take group photos for the remainder of the trip. He was forgiven....just!

Only one more night to go, thankfully, and our 500 km plus trip to Pardoo Station (a working cattle station) took us via Port Headland, where we were lucky enough to see a pod of dolphins splashing amongst the freighters in the harbour. That night we were promised a proper bed, air-conditioned rooms and even a swimming pool (we didn’t care how many sheep we would be sharing it with). Most of us (some had already succumbed to heat stroke) had opted to swap buses and had scrounged a lift with another group in their fully functional air-conditioned bus –luxury!. A dip in the pool was a much needed treat and lifted my spirits for the final day ahead.

The last 1000kms (a doddle – my drives back from Edinburgh will seem like a piece of cake from now on) to our final stop in Broome was broken up by a breakfast stop at the fabulous sands of 80 mile beach – although as the tide was out, it felt like it was 80 miles to the sea – some of us never made it! Never were a group of people so glad to make it back to relative civilization. A sensible few of us had chosen the sterile but clean and comfortable hostel in Broome on Cable Beach and settled in for a few well deserved days of r 'n’r at the Beaches of Broome Resort.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but I think that if I’d had known in advance how much time we would be spending on the bus with nothing to look at apart from red dust, Kamikaze kangaroos, that seemed to wait on the roadside for the odd bus to come along, before launching themselves in front of it (??) and the ever fascinating “Tammy Facts” from our knowledgeable and very entertaining guide, I think I would be reluctant to ever travel in Western Australia again. However, I must admit that this trip was one of the most memorable episodes of my entire travels, mainly due to the highly amusing abrupt “stops” along the way to view a tree/a lizard in the middle of the road/a mad Japanese cyclist making the journey on a pushbike from Perth to Darwin/the dubious soundtrack of Spice Girls and Abba at full blast and above all the great group of people I had the pleasure of sharing the ordeal with.

After initially being treated somewhat suspiciously by the “other” group (in their air-conned bus) we finally bonded with a few of them in Broome, including their very charming tour leader, Mark.

It seemed that out timing was good, as the second day in Broome the weather broke and we were treated to a sample of what the “wet” season was like with a day of torrential downpours. The following day was spent scootering around to Gantheaume Point to see the dinosaur tracks followed by a fun but not- so-refreshing dip battling the waves in the bath temperature sea, followed by a stunning sunset watching the camels being led along the beach. The day was topped off by a wonderful evening at the oldest open-air cinema in the world, watching a great Aboriginal film “Bran Nue Dae” to the sounds of crickets chirping and frogs croaking. Plus...I now felt confident that I could cope with the worst that Glastonbury could throw at me!

Pinnacles Desert

Pinnacles Desert


Dolphin Feeding Monkey Mia

Dolphin Feeding Monkey Mia


Stromatolites

Stromatolites


The Gang

The Gang


A Gorge

A Gorge


Sunset over Karinjini

Sunset over Karinjini


Sunset Cable Beach, Broome

Sunset Cable Beach, Broome


Termite Mound Karinjini

Termite Mound Karinjini


Pinnacles Desert

Pinnacles Desert


Nature's Window

Nature's Window


Kalbarri National Park

Kalbarri National Park


Kangaroo

Kangaroo


Where's Rod Hull??? Emus in Monkey Mia

Where's Rod Hull??? Emus in Monkey Mia


Sunset rRoad to Karinjini

Sunset rRoad to Karinjini


Bats Fern Pool Karinijini

Bats Fern Pool Karinijini


Warning - Humps! (Signpost Broome)

Warning - Humps! (Signpost Broome)


Ray The Hurler at Sunset Broome

Ray The Hurler at Sunset Broome


Circular Pool Karninjini

Circular Pool Karninjini


Baby Joey - Shark Bay

Baby Joey - Shark Bay


Turtle Moneky Mia

Turtle Moneky Mia


Horny Devil, Karinijini

Horny Devil, Karinijini


Coral Bay Babe!

Coral Bay Babe!


Tropic Of Capricorn Sign

Tropic Of Capricorn Sign


Gold Bugs - Murchison Gorge

Gold Bugs - Murchison Gorge


Mad Japanese Cyclist

Mad Japanese Cyclist


Our "truck" Susie

Our "truck" Susie


A refreshing dip

A refreshing dip


Reflection Karinjini

Reflection Karinjini


Shark Bay

Shark Bay


Deep Outback - road to Karninjini

Deep Outback - road to Karninjini


Sand Dollar 80 Mile Beach

Sand Dollar 80 Mile Beach


Sunset Broome

Sunset Broome


Sunset Broome

Sunset Broome

Posted by kathystravels 16:00 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

The Heat Is On...

Back Up North: Punakaiki, Abel Tasman National Park, Nelson and Picton

26th - 30th November

After travelling back up to Christchurch, I'd decided to hire a car for my final few days in New Zealand. I’d come to the conclusion that this seemed like the best way to gain access to most of the places I wanted to visit, as well as giving me the freedom to stop off whenever I wanted and appreciate the scenery. Risking the "limited insurance" option to cut the cost (falling asleep at the wheel after counting all the sheep seemed the most likely cause of an accident here) I set off very carefully.

Plugged into my ipod, the open road beckoned and I revisited the road trip I did with Peter and Urvy through the mountains to the West Coast via Arthur’s Pass. The weather was a great improvement on last time and I had fantastic clear views of the snow-capped mountains, as well as an inquisitive Kea (the alpine parrot) who tried to get into my car when I had stopped to take a photo. Tempted as I was to have some company, I think the conversation would have been a bit repetitive!

I’d been recommended a hostel in Punakaiki, just north of the Pancake Rocks (the stacks of limestone were supposed to resemble great piles of pancakes – they’d obviously seen and tasted my pancakes!) and managed to find my way there in time to enjoy a walk from my lodge in the middle of the rainforest, through to the beach. Making dinner in our “greenhouse” kitchen, full of herb and flower beds (very unusual!), I certainly felt like I was in the middle of the jungle. Waken by the sounds of birdsong, I travelled further along the coast into the Abel Tasman National Park and as the sun came out, I found myself in true “Lord of the Rings” countryside amongst soaring pine clad hills.

My final destination was the sedate but pretty town of Nelson, which was a hive of inactivity in the middle of a Saturday afternoon a month before Christmas! A quick aside: Although I’d thoroughly enjoyed my stay in New Zealand, I was beginning to feel that beyond the scenery, life outside of Auckland and possibly Wellington, was conducted at a pace I would find frustrating after a while. The lack of decent technology (come on, this is the 21st century!) – limited mobile phone reception and erratic internet, is strange for a First World country and while they have embraced tourism extremely well, often the administration was lacking.

Yet, the people were on the whole were extremely warm and friendly and I was impressed with how wholeheartedly the Kiwis had overcome any prejudices and racism encountered elsewhere against the indigenous population. Maori culture was embraced and celebrated (I hoped that the graffiti I witnessed everywhere proclaiming “Go Blacks” referred to the national rugby team!).

Back in Nelson, my hostel “The Coach House” was a charming old building, with splendid facilities and a lovely sunny balcony where I partook of a glass or two of chilled local wine and settled down to read my book – a little slice of heaven after a day’s driving!

My plan the next day was to drive to Kaiteriteri and take the water taxi up the scenic Abel Tasman coast to Anchorage Bay, and then walk back from there. The weather was glorious and had started resembling summer at last! Setting off along the track which meandered along the coastline, I stopped off at white sand beaches, and paddled in the unbelievably clear blue seas watching the kayakers. Although my feet were aching at the end of the day, the scenery more than made up for it and I wished I had more time to spend here.

Onward and upward to Picton where I’d started my South Island adventures, for a quick trek along the Queen Charlotte Sound pathway. It had turned extremely hot by now (at least it would help me to acclimatise for the heat of Northern Australia), so despite the hilltop views, after a quick spot of life contemplating, I curtailed my walk in exchange for the air-conditioning of the car. Just when I felt I was all “sceneried out”, the drive around to Kaikoura stunned me with a truly awe-inspiring palette of bright azure seas, foaming white waves, dazzling blue skies backed by grey misty mountains.

Returning to the cozy Fish Tank Hostel in Kaikoura (where I’d previously done a bit of whale watching) felt like home. I was even welcomed back with a friendly “Hi Kathy!” – maybe I’ve been here a bit too long! Nathan, the manager explained he was looking for someone for a spot of “WOOF-ing” (I nearly took him up on his offer). OK, OK, before you start jumping to conclusions, it’s nothing obscene. I’d met a lot of “WOOF-ers” during my travels – it stands for Working on Organic Farms – but can mean any sort of temporary work in hostels, restaurants or bars in exchange for free lodging. Sadly, I didn’t have time to hang around.

A quick stroll along the frankly quite uncomfortable pebbly beach (perhaps flip flops or “jandles” as they call them here, wasn’t such a good idea, especially with my sore feet) and I felt ready for a pre-dinner drink on the balcony watching the sun go down (you’re excused for thinking that this was becoming a bit of a habit). An early night in preparation for a very long day ahead – driving back to Christchurch followed by flights first to Sydney and then on to Perth – Western Australia, here I come!

G’Day Sunshine – Return to Oz

Perth, Western Australia

30th November – 3rd December

Crossing the Tasman Sea and several time zones, left me arriving in Perth, the remotest city in Australia feeling absolutely shattered. Luckily the flight arrived early and I made it to my hostel (which seemed like the remotest hostel in Perth!) around midnight (or 5am New Zealand time). Surprisingly, Perth offer several free (yes, free- Boris take note) circular bus routes around the city so I jumped on the Blue Cat to the city centre to explore. I started off alongside the river at the Swan Bell Tower, a modern structure housing the old bells from London’s St Martin’s in the Fields. Perth is a mixture of old and new with some interesting historic buildings but no more than a morning’s worth of sights. I climbed up Jacob’s ladder (a steep staircase popular with masochistic joggers) to King’s Park, an attractive garden set amongst natural bushland. It had wonderful views over the city and passed a very pleasant couple of hours.

Had a quiet evening back at the hostel (well, apart from being offered another my second joint of the trip and an invitation for a bit of a tumble behind the driers – both of which I politely declined!) and moved the following day to the YHA which was slightly closer to where the tour started from.

The weather looked good again, so I caught the train up the coast to the historic whaling port of Freemantle (or Freo as the Aussies call it – why does everything either get shortened here or extended with an “o” or an “a”???). After seeing my first Kookaburrah in the town square, I visited the old prison which was mainly built by British convicts in the mid 19th century and only closed in 1991. Walked along Essex Street (coincidence that it happened to be right next to the prison!) to the quite blustery foreshore for lunch and then on to The Round House, the oldest public building in WA, used as the prison before they build the main one (they seem a bit obsessed with law and order here).

Had an early night washing and sorting out my stuff for the 10 day road trip up to Broome, through the Pinnacles Desert and up the West Coast. I wasn’t too sure what to expect but nothing had prepared me for the ordeal I was about to encounter! (Next instalment follows soon......)

Can I get a lift to I-Kea??

Can I get a lift to I-Kea??


Abel Tasman Beach

Abel Tasman Beach


Queen Charlotte Sound

Queen Charlotte Sound


Northern Coastline

Northern Coastline


The Bells...The Bells.... (Perth)

The Bells...The Bells.... (Perth)


Arthur's Pass National Park

Arthur's Pass National Park


Arthur's Pass National Park

Arthur's Pass National Park


Feeling Sheepish - Arthur's Pass

Feeling Sheepish - Arthur's Pass


Tree Hugging, Punakaiki

Tree Hugging, Punakaiki


You should see the bottle of Syrup!

You should see the bottle of Syrup!


Freemantle Prison

Freemantle Prison


Road to Nelson

Road to Nelson


Buller Gorge Swing Bridge

Buller Gorge Swing Bridge


South Street Cottages, Nelson

South Street Cottages, Nelson


Abel Tasman National Park

Abel Tasman National Park


Split Apple Beach, Abel Tasman

Split Apple Beach, Abel Tasman


Abel Tasman National Park Beach

Abel Tasman National Park Beach


Fern, Abel Tasman

Fern, Abel Tasman


Abel Tasman Beach

Abel Tasman Beach


North Coast, South Island

North Coast, South Island


Kaikoura Sea Front

Kaikoura Sea Front


Fire Station, Perth

Fire Station, Perth


Kangaroos, Perth (They're not real)

Kangaroos, Perth (They're not real)


Black Boy Trees, Kings Park, Perth

Black Boy Trees, Kings Park, Perth


Kookaburrah, Freemantle

Kookaburrah, Freemantle


Freemantle High Street

Freemantle High Street

Posted by kathystravels 16:00 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

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