Archive for December, 2008

Published by Linda on 23 Dec 2008

Mammy, I’ve decided to join the Circus……

Now really, how often do you get to try out a trapeze? I wasn’t nervous at all, I don’t think I quite thought  it through to be honest. So I drove to the place, sun was shining, happy out and while I was parking the car, I knocked over the instructor’s scooter! Can you believe it? I’m such a moron. I’ve never crashed in my life. No major damage done but I have to say I got a bit of a fright and then climbing up that HUGE shaky ladder (which turned out to be the scariest part) and swinging into the abyss, certainly got the nerves going! After a couple of times up I began to relax and the adrenaline started pumping in a good way. The trapeze is a lot of fun and if you live in Byron you can actually take a proper course – check out some people on my flickr page, it’s pretty cool. Gutted I don’t have a good pic or video of me doing it but I managed to hang from my knees on the swing, catch a lift to the person on the other swing and somersaulted backwards down to the net. Fun, fun fun!!!!

 

Byron Bay is definitely somewhere you can embrace and nurture your inner hippie (if you have one and you certainly will have by the time you leave). Following strong recommendations, I stayed in The Arts Factory hostel and it really was brilliant.

 

 

Total hippie joint, you can learn massage and take yoga classes in the Tepees dotted around the massive complex. You can also play volleyball, table tennis or even paint your own didgeridoo. No shortage of music, either people strumming guitars or live music in the Buddha Bar (not kidding – it really is called the Buddha Bar) or if you’re feeling really lazy you can have savage scrambled eggs and a smoothie and then lounge in one of the hammocks overlooking the lake. It really did have fantastic facilities and the staff were really great. There’s so much more I could say but I think that’s probably enough. By the time I left the Arts Factory, I could see why people stay there for a couple of weeks or more. If you do manage to tear yourself away from the hostel, you can venture into Byron town itself where all these activities are on offer or you can choose to stroll around the many tiny art galleries, stop in one of the gorgeous organic (naturally) cafes or hit the beach for good surfing, sun basking and people watching. There’s piles of other activities like sea-kayaking, surfing and of course a compulsory day trip to Nimbin, to name but a few.

 

Aside from me swinging from the stars, I decided to go diving too. Byron has a good reputation for diving, not in terms of corals but the wildlife was supposed to be great. We headed off from the beach through the rough surf and honestly the boat ride like a feckin roller-coaster!!! So when we got to our spot my stomach was sitting somewhere in the back of my throat. It was a bit scary actually, because I’m new to diving and had been graced with the calm waters in Queensland, I found the rough water and poor visibility a bit daunting until we submerged. It was bloody freezing too, even though we had really thick wetsuits on, it took a while to warm up afterwards. As for the dive itself, as I said poor visibility but the big stars of the show were a huge bull ray and some sting rays.

 

There are also some lovely walks around Byron Bay, you can go from beach to beach, to Cape Byron and then end up at the lighthouse which is the most easterly and strongest lighthouse in Australia. 

You get some spectacular views of the bay up there too. I also met up with a few from the hostel to have a few drinks in the Buddha Bar and we headed off to Cheeky Monkeys nightclub to finish off the night. Byron Bay is great because you literally can be a total hippie and are almost expected to be. At the same time, I really felt my age in Byron, a few young fellas joined us for a while and one of them showed me his ID and he was born in 1988!!!! He and his buddies were a full decade younger than me!! Now that’s depressing. Anyhoo, we all partied so I guess you’re never too young or old to have a bit of craic. I have to say it’s a place I’d go back if I had more time.

 

 

And so that was the last real stop on the road trip which ended up being 3500km, I reluctantly (because it really just a place where you constantly find yourself sighing, ahhhhhh) left Byron Bay the next day and drove the 8 eight hours to Nelson Bay just to break the journey, was totally shattered so didn’t even leave my room. The following day I arrived in Sydney and had to give the car back – no more “flash-packers” – booooo!!! Will be staying in Coogee Bay, which is next door to and a miniature version of Bondi, for Christmas and New Year. Lots of friends from travels to meet up with and I’m really looking forward to that and to sitting still for a while. Have been blogging a lot this last week or so due to all the stops but I’ll probably take a little break now, sit back and enjoy Sydney. Will fill you all in on what I get up but apart from a couple of things I want to do, I intend to relax.(yes really!!)

 

It still doesn’t feel very Christmassy, although a stroll around Sydney helped matters a little today. Might try and catch a night mass on Christmas Eve and will be eating Christmas dinner on the beach on Thursday. I’m sure the party season is well started at home and I wish everyone Happy Christmas and a Happy New Year. Enjoy it!! I will miss family, loved ones and friends very much over the next few days. It’s really weird not being there. So Happy Christmas everyone, hope it’s a great one!!!

 

 

P.S. I heard the ham situation has been resolved at home. I’m going to miss my Christmas sandwich which is wholemeal bread, ham, honey mustard, a layer of stuffing, turkey and cranberry….drool. Someone send me one, please!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

More photos on http://www.flickr.com/photos/lindybear/sets/72157611391796082/ and http://www.flickr.com/photos/lindybear/sets/72157611510055485/

Published by Linda on 21 Dec 2008

Crikey!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! We’ve been to Australia Zoo……

…..founded by the late Steve Irwin and to be fair to him, it’s a fantastic zoo.  The enclosures are as natural as they possibly could be and the animals have a lot of room to roam free. We saw more scary crocs, although after being in the Northern Terrirtory so long, the novelty has worn off a little. We were more interested in the otters, turtles, koalas, tasmanian devils, kangeroos and tigers. The koalas are pretty much as you would imagine, lethargic stoned little feckers but you can pet them and their fur is really thick so maybe that’s why they move soooo s-l-o-w-l-y!! Na just kidding, they are pretty cute though in fairness……

We wandered up to see the elephants and the tigers who are always pretty interesting I think….

We saw a little girl about 2ft old who was scared to get her picture taken because she didn’t understand that the tigers couldn’t come through the glass. Awwwww it was really sweet, oh dear god, I must be going soft!!

We had seen a few kangeroos whilst driving but we had to take a look at them up close. To be honest they are pretty lazy too, they were all just lying around. We had expected that they would be hopping around. The signs we saw asking people NOT TO CHASE THE KANGEROOS suddenly made sense. Still though at least I finally got to ask “What’s that Skip? Sonny’s fallen down a hole?” :-)

Funnily enough, he didn’t answer like in the tv show…… :-) I also finally got a picture of a Komodo dragon (remember my camera broke in Indonesia), these were the guys wandering around Komodo and Rince islands all those months ago…..

Off to Brisbane we headed afterwards and believe it or not we went to the dentist, Kate out of necessity, me out of addiction – I’m probably the only person in the world who loves going to the dentist. He gave out to me for brushing the enamel off my teeth and caught him by the collar and said JUST CLEAN THEM – okay, okay, I didn’t really but if it had came to it, well……. Ahem! We stayed with Kate’s brother, Andrew who kindly cooked us dinner. It was nice to chat with someone from home and get a home cooked meal – thanks Andrew!

Next was Surfer’s Paradise, another compulsory stop on the east coast trail. I was kinda expecting it to be like Cairns but in a small surfer town setting. Was I wrong, it’s a really big place with high rise buildings and a strip of bars and clubs. It kinda reminded us of Santa Ponsa or Ibiza, masses of people navel gazing on the beach, cheap eats and drinks & a lot bars and clubs. It’s the kinda place you have fun in but there’s nothing distinctive or memorable about it. Still though we headed out with the masses and had a good night out…..

We also met a fellow Irishman, Stephen, who we had great craic with. Somehow I don’t think white hair suits me though?!

I have to say, it did feel a bit more Christmassy in the likes of the bigger places like Brisbane and Surfer’s, the shops are busy and they have nice street decorations. Anyhoo that was the last stop in Queensland and the rest of the roadtrip will continue in New South Wales.

More photos on http://www.flickr.com/photos/lindybear/sets/72157611390443456/ and http://www.flickr.com/photos/lindybear/sets/72157611318752137/

Published by Linda on 20 Dec 2008

Noosa Heads & The Sunshine Coast

The first thing I said to Kate when we rolled into Noosa was… isn’t this fierce like Killarney??

Only short the horse & carts!!!! It has the same kinda touristy feel to it and a lovely atmosphere. The perfect town to stroll around in. I have to mention the hostel we stayed at in Noosa, it’s a long standing YHA and it’s probably nicer than a lot of hostels we’ve stayed at but the reason I really loved it was these steps…..

…..you can see how worn down they are and I love the thought of all the (bare) feet that climbed these steps with their backpacks. We also got a great laugh out of this campervan we spotted in the car park when we were leaving the following day…

I’m not really sure who has the time and effort to do this but it certainly made us smile :-)

After exercising some self restraint window shopping in Noosa (by the way if you’re a shopoholic and on a budget, avoid Noosa like the plague – it’s really not a good place for backpackers!!), we headed off to drive down the Sunshine Coast. Ah the Sunshine Coast is just lovely and we were so jealous of the people who lived with this beach as their view…..

Nice for some, huh? Still though, to be fair, we are lucky enough to have seen it. We breezed through Coolum Beach, Marcoola, Mudjimba Beach, Maroochydore, Mooloolahba (which we loved saying over and over) and stopped in Caloundra for the evening to find that everything there closed at 9pm! Doh!

More photos on http://www.flickr.com/photos/lindybear/sets/72157611390379796/ and http://www.flickr.com/photos/lindybear/sets/72157611390409034/

Published by Linda on 19 Dec 2008

“Short-Shorts” in Harvey Bay, Frazer Island & Rainbow Beach

After our surfing we left The Town of 1770 and headed for Harvey Bay which is the main jumping off spot for Frazer Island – another big hit on the east coast aussie list.

Most people camp on Frazer Island for 2 nights/3 days or something like that but we had a blow out with the Whitsundays trip so we had to limit ourselves to a day trip.. Frazer Island is amazing, rainforest in some places…….

….

………then massive expanses of woodlands with beautiful ferns and deep-grooved trees……..

…….and then huge highways of beaches. 

We started our tour with a visit to Central Station which is where all the industries and the school were before the island was given World Heritage Site status. We were warned about spikey pine cones that could fall from the tall trees overhead, the cones are hard, have sharp spikes, grow to the size of footballs and weigh 3kg – so I reckon if you’re hit with one, you’re a gonner!

We headed out on the sandy highway (aka 75 mile beach), which is actually the main motorway and landing strip on Frazer Island. The rest of the island is accessed by uneven sandy tracks which have to be levelled every other day and you need a 4wd to navigate them. Anyway, I digress, we hit the highway and saw The Maheno Wreck which is pretty impressive…..

…. and then on to the Pinnacles, you can see all the different coloured sands and it’s just so striking and like a different world to the rainforest and thick forests only a couple of kilometres away inland.

We had a paddle in Eli Creek which has an amazing sand bed, swirls of white and black sand. The water comes straight from the rainforest and is just gorgeous.

After a spot of lunch we drove our huge 4wd bus over the sandy tracks (a rocky ride, reminded me of several bus journeys in Asia :-) ) to Lake McKensie, although it does look like the beach and has that incredible white sand, it is actually a rainwater lake on Frazer Island. The water was just perfect and we chilled out and soaked it all in.

We had a good day but we didn’t get to spend much time in each place. My guidebook said that the company we booked with ran small tours so you moved around quickly to get in as much as possible in throughout the day. There was about 40 people(!) on the bus which was a pain, because you’re always waiting for someone. I definitely would have liked to have seen more of Frazer but hey, them’s the breaks, right? :-)

Back in Harvey Bay we decided to hit the tiles…….

…….which we don’t actually get to do a lot of due to all the driving. We had a good old night out. It’s just dawned on me, if you’ve been checking out my photos, you’ll probably notice that we almost always go out on the town in shorts – I would NEVER wear shorts at home. Further realisation……. I’m wearing “short-shorts” (like the song……) OH NO!!!!!!!! Work people will know what I’m talking about 😀 

The following day we drove over to Rainbow Beach and lay on the beach to banish the demons. Rainbow Beach, as the name suggests, has the same multi-coloured sand…….

…..and it’s such a nice backdrop for chilling out (and recovering!) for a few hours before hitting the road again. The time is just flying now and Sydney is literally around the corner. It doesn’t feel Christmassy here at all, YES because it’s sunny, it’s just too weird. We even bought a Christmas CD for the car to try and get us in the festive spirit but it’s not really working. Maybe when we hit the bigger spots like Brisbane and Sydney but before that we off to……..Noosa and the Sunshine Coast.

 

More photos on http://www.flickr.com/photos/lindybear/sets/72157611321600976/ and  http://www.flickr.com/photos/lindybear/sets/72157611321516060/

Published by Linda on 17 Dec 2008

Sailing the Whitsundays & The Town of 1770

Okay, okay, okay I’ve seen some beautiful place in my life but sailing around The Whitsunday Islands was just breath-taking. I can honestly say that Whitehaven Beach is the beautiful beach I’ve EVER seen. We strolled up to the look out and it was AMAZING!!!!! Perfect white sand, torquoise and navy striped water, just beautiful. The photos don’t even do it justice really. The only slight downer was that we had to wear stinger suits because it’s stinger jelly fish season here in summer. The suits provided good entertainment value though.

Anyway we after messing around in the suits we swam here…….

You see, I wasn’t exaggerating, it is just beautiful. It’s supposed to be one of the top ten beaches in the world. Now for the science bit…… :-) There’s a really high silica content in the sand which makes it soooo white, so much so that it’s not even hot to walk on. It’s also really fine and soft, amazing!! So we chilled out there for a while and took some funny trick photos like this one……

Sorry, me thinks this blog is going to have a lot of photos…

We decided to choose a diving boat, Kiana, so we headed off to the outer reef on the promise of some great diving and it didn’t disappoint. We saw some amazing coral, tons of fish, including a few Nemos…..

……..turtles and white tip sharks. I did four dives in total and the last one, a shark came really close. No worries though, as the white tip shark has a mouth about the same size as a human’s so you could totally fight back :-)

It was such a treat sailing around for a few days, lots of early starts because of the diving and the crew were great fun. I’d highly recommend it. As The Whitsunday Islands are part of a World Heritage site, we were told to take nothing (unlike someone who allegedly stole a bag of sand(!) and got fined $10,000 or the guy who carved his name into a turtle – who does that!!!) but memories and photographs and leave nothing but your footprints, so that’s exactly what I did :-)

DO YOU SEE HOW SOFT THE SAND IS???????? Well satisfied, we headed back to Airlie Beach to get a good night’s sleep before our 9 hour drive (which we were dreading) to the twin towns of Agnes Water and The Town of 1770.

The drive wasn’t too bad at all actually, we swap around every couple of hours so it’s all good really. The Town of 1770 is very small but extremely chilled out, a real surfer town. It was a great place to stop after a long drive. We had a good night out in the pub and the following morning we signed up for a surfing lesson. Now I kinda thought, oh I have to try this but it’s not really going to be my kind of thing. Well, I just LOVED IT!!!! Only stood up a handful of times but I think I’m addicted already…..

Sooooooo have to try again and again and again!!!!!! I was just full of energy and on a high after it :-)

Please check out loads of great photos from the Whitsundays, including some great underwater ones (they really are worth a look) on http://www.flickr.com/photos/lindybear/sets/72157610926707351/ and the Town of 1770 is on http://www.flickr.com/photos/lindybear/sets/72157611321653272/

Published by Linda on 14 Dec 2008

Townsville & Magnetic Island

Back to civilisation and we put our dancing flip flops on :-) to check out what the night life in Townsville had to offer. I heard that Townsville is really disappointing and only worth going to to get to Magnetic Island. In fairness though, I really liked it, it’s pretty big, I think the biggest city in Northern Queensland. There’s a real home style, almost cowboy saloon feel to some of the buildings, which I don’t really have pictures of as we had a really big night out…………

 

………and the brain/body were barely functioning the following day. Still though we’d good craic there, even though we were evacuated from the pub just after buying drink, due to a fire in the hotel adjacent. Anyhoo we headed off to the Mad Cow nightclub where it’s all happening. Well actually I think that’s where all the damage was done. We popped outside just after 3am. Queensland has a weird lock down rule so if you literally put a toe on the street, you can’t get back in. Disaster, although the state of us the following day was bad enough without another couple of hours there.

After a very slow and pretty early check out from our hostel, we eventually(!) set off on the ferry for Magnetic Island. It’s a gorgeous place.

 

I know, I know, I say every place is lovely but this is just perfect. We could have rented a 4-wheel drive and trekked around the island but as we are doing so much driving, we opted for a couple of days lazing on the beach, which was just lovely. I’ve decided that I don’t mind lazing by the pool or the beach during the day if I have my ipod. It’s at night I start climb the walls. I think it’s because I don’t have the attention span for tv, movies or books and there’s only so much internet you can handle. I think I must have driven Kate demented as all I did was research the Lonely Planet and find more and more things we could do.

Anyway we have almost booked everything down the coast so it’s kinda scary because it feels like our roadtrip will be over really soon. That said though, then we’ll be in Sydney for Christmas and that will be fantastic too. So it’s Sunday night and we arrived in Airlie Beach a few hours ago. Heading off on a boat to sail the Whitsunday Islands tomorrow. We are going on a dive boat and might even squeeze in a scary shark-filled night dive. I’ve also bought a book which I’m going to attempt to read on board. I may even be relaxed coming back, who knows?

More photos on http://www.flickr.com/photos/lindybear/sets/72157610847406936/ and http://www.flickr.com/photos/lindybear/sets/72157610780340239/

Published by Linda on 07 Dec 2008

Cairns, Crystal Cascades & Mission Beach

CAAAAANNNNNNNNEEEEESSSSSS is what the locals call it and it lives up to it’s reputation. We drove around the town (or is it a city?) and had a short stroll on the esplanade………

………..before heading out for the night. It’s a town built for backpackers, there are hostels everywhere so we were ready for action. Have to mention that we got a beer and a HUGE dinner in our hostel for the bargain price of $8!!!! You see, it really is a haven for backpackers.

So with our stomachs full, off we headed to P.J. O’Briens and were disappointed to find that it was pretty quiet but then it was a Monday night so I suppose we couldn’t expect it to be manic. Then we headed on to the Wool Shed which is a compulsory backpacker venue, complete with obligatory dancing on the tables and a Mr. and Miss Backpacker competition!!!

 

I kid you not! This is the Ibiza of Australia people and that’s all good in it’s own right, it’s also pretty entertaining :-) I think we possibly felt our age here more than anywhere else and the proof of that was when the Mr. Backpacker contestants were dancing on the tables and swinging off the roof beams, Kate turned to me and said “god, imagine if he fell”. These are the things you don’t even consider if you’re at the average Cairns backpacker age of about 21!!! So the place was heaving and it was a good laugh but it felt forced to me in a way, i.e. you HAVE to drink piles of shots, you HAVE to get wasted drunk and you HAVE to dance on the tables. I hate that, I’ll have too many drinks and dance on the tables with the best of them but it can’t be forced and should be somewhat spontaneous I reckon.

 

The following day we left Cairns and stopped at the Crystal Cascades, just outside town. It’s beautiful there, the scenery reminded me of Mossman Gorge up north, perhaps not as stark or bold or spectacular but lovely all the same. Had a nice stroll and a swim. The water was sooooo good. There was piles of fish in the water which turned off our Kate a little, I plunged in regardless, although I didn’t like the look of a rather large eel and a big black fish with whiskers!!! Oh dear! At least I only saw them afterwards :-)

 

We drove on to our destination for the night, which was Mission Beach. A really beautiful beach in one of the most peaceful places I’ve ever been. It’s a real sleepy town where you HAVE to relax. So I tried, I really did. We went for a walk on the beach and then for a swim in the enclosures (we’re still in Stinger territory). The temperature of the water is just amazing, so, so warm. Even though the enclosures kinda take away from the view, it’s still really lovely. This is Mission Beach with Dunk Island in the background. Sweet :-)

 

We strolled back through the “town” and the sun wasn’t even setting and the panic set in. I cannot relax, I need constant distraction or I start climbing the walls!!!!! We ate our dinner and watched them start to close up the pub around 9pm!! Right around then even Kate started to get a little agitated too, so at least there were two of us climbing the walls. I can’t tell you how lovely it is here but it possibly was just a little too quiet for us. We’ll probably be crying out for a spot like this in a couple of weeks time but hey, them’s the breaks. On the plus side, the humidity is back down so we’re not sweating like we were in the 85% humidity that Port Douglas offered! After a swim and a laze on the beach, it was back into our White Toyota Corolla to make the 4 hour journey on to Townsville……

More photos on http://www.flickr.com/photos/lindybear/sets/72157610575443605/ and http://www.flickr.com/photos/lindybear/sets/72157610779999611/

P.S. Did I mention that the Mozzie War is back on??? Thw two of us have got eaten since Port Douglas – boo to it :-(