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Settling in Sanur

I arrived in Sanur knowing I would settle here for my final part of Bali.
I had good intentions of jumping on a boat to Nusa Lembongan and also of taking a day trip to Uluwatu and Nusa Dua… but my sciatica was in full force against me, my stomach was still not right and I decided that it was OK for me to just lie on a beach for my last two days and rest, eat well and prepare myself for my journey home.
So that’s what I did. I found a place to stay, opened my suitcase, pulled things out and felt pleased to know I would only have to repack it one more time!

The Lonely Planet coins Sanur as the youngest of the Three Bears – not too crazy like Kuta, and not too sleepy like Nusa Dua. Neither of which did I visit: Kuta didn’t appeal to me in the slightest, and Nusa Dua was on my to-do list, but maybe next time.

I enjoyed walking the entire length of the promenade and LOVED that fact that I got hassled twice. Only twice. This may have been due to the festival Galungan which took place on my second day there and meant that many businesses were shut and locals weren’t around to bother me!

I loved the fishing boats stacked randomly on the beach up and down the coast – some looked like they’d been there for so long, but it may have only been a few hours. In a place like that – you feel compelled to eat fish! I wanted to give those fishermen the business of my taste buds!

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Sanur and Bali seem so far far away from me now, as I sit at my desk wearing jeans and a long sleeved top. Oh how I loved the food!
Check out this beautiful Mahi Mahi fish I had on my last day, and the beer I rewarded myself with afterwards…

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I also made use of very cheap massages, facials and manicures, and let’s not forget that I found Hardy’s supermarket wonderful for all my gifts and nicnacs to take home – I’d only been trolling about 21kg, which felt like more, but I had up to 30kg allowed…

Final thoughts on Bali…

The Balinese are a kind nation, who have welcomed tourists with open arms, and in some places I sense this has been slightly to their detriment. But then Bali is indeed what you make of it – it can be entirely what you want it to be. If you want a resort where you need to do nothing other than change from your bed to your sunbed – you can have that cheaper than in Australia – and if you are game you can venture out for some cheap food, booze and clothes. If you come over with surfboards tucked under your arm looking for the ride of your life, it’s pretty much a given. And if you want to get off the beaten track, sample the cuisine, walk through rice fields, feel the energy in a temple or calm yourself with yoga – you can do all of that too. I don’t think the last option is very advisable when you are a single female, lugging around a suitcase and 2 years of thoughts and feelings to process topped with a bad back and a keen sense adventure without the budget to cater for it.

But what a great two weeks in the end – I was tested a little, I treated myself as much as I could afford to and I was touched by some of the people I met and the moments I shared.

I came home with stories to share, a tan to show off (not easy when you have to dive into winter wear…) and a blog that I think needs to be continued as I find my way around at home in the UK and figure what to do next.

Watch this space folks!

Padangbai

I felt like I found the Bali I was looking for here…

Not too many hassles, no pretentiousness, no over pricing, great beaches.

I arrived on Monday morning and decided within minutes I would settle here for two nights. I had a beautiful lunch with interesting conversations at Zen Inn where I was staying, before taking a hike to the beach.
I thought I had got the directions wrong when I Looked at the steep rocky footpath that apparently led me to Bias Tugal ( White sand beach ). I persevered in the heat in my $3 flipflops and made it to the top breathless from the hike and my breath taken away by the view. A small palm fringed cove at the bottom of the cliff awaited us, with gentle surf and not many people, and out on the horizon a few boats making their way to Lombok or back.

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I spent a few lazy hours there enjoying the surf and the tranquility. One lady asked me if I would like a massage, to which I politely responded no, and she left me a alone. An Ice cold Bintang made it all the better too…

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Wandering around Padangbai i discovered a charming little village based on fishing, boats to Lombok and diving. It’s a pretty laid back place where ceremonies take precedence and life rolls on. I was disappointed to see where all the obsessive sweeping and countless offerings end up, and you really wouldn’t want to sit on the main beach here…

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The Blue Lagoon beach which the Lonely planet recommends was not one of my favourite places. Whilst the snorkelling is very good, you are subject to hassles on a very small beach, or very desperate women wanting to sell you their sarongs and bracelets, and after paying twice what I think I should have for a broken snorkel set I was then sarcastically told I was “very nice English” when I didn’t want to engage in conversation or even look at the sarongs being thrust under my nose. Honestly, yes I KNOW everyone is just trying to make a dollar, but their tactics need to be changed, they have little understanding of how to make a sale in my opinion and thanks to that experience, I didn’t spend very long at that beach. I did a few snorkel sessions, admired the view and then hiked back to my preferreed beach of Bias Tugal. A lady approached me – the same as the previous day, and said she recognised me from the day before, would I like a massage today? I said I wanted to have a swim first and would think about it when I had rested. She waited a considerable amount of time before approaching me again, and I did say yes simply because the politeness and simpleness of her enquiry made me want to give her my business.

We chatted a little before and after and she told me I was a Strong woman for travelling to Bali alone. This was worth more than the massage itself, as the past few days I had started to question whether I was enjoying myself at all – dealing with a poorly tummy, a bad back and a constant feeling that everyone wanted to extract money from me rather than help to enjoy being here. So thank you to the nice massage lady on the beach – such a simple thing to say and such a lasting effect it had.

More of Padangbai

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Candidasa

Continually moving, I spent one night in Amed, and moved onto Candidasa, further south.
Perhaps another day would’ve been nice, but I didn’t even have money to spend! I had forgotten to withdraw cash from Ubud before the trip, and the only ATM in Amed was not within walking distance, meaning I would have had to pay someone to drive me there.

So I took a lift to Candidasa, which took much less time that the reverse had done the previous day. The journey itself is quite spectacular. The rice fields around Culik are said (by locals) to be some of the best in Bali to look at, and since they are all stacked up and down the sides of a steep valley whose views are breathtaking, I would be inclined to agree.

On arrival in Candidasa I checked into Ari Homestay which has rave reviews on Tripadvisor. It was more expensive than I had been paying in Amed and Ubud, but comfortable, clean and worth the personal touch. Garry, a Sydney born man and his wife Tyo run the very successful guesthouse and hotdog bar downstairs. The downside is that you are right on a very busy, quite noisy road. This doesn’t affect the rooms as such, in fact I had the pleasure of hearing the sea from my room at night, but when you are having lunch there are trucks and motos whizzing past you. They proudly sell NO Indonesian food – instead burgers and hotdogs from local ingredients with some Aussie stuff thrown in. Chicken salt for your chips and Vegemite for your breakkie. Normally, and I remarked this to Garry, I would steer clear of such places, as I really enjoy local fare when I travel, BUT i was so thankful to have something that wasn’t nasi or mie goreng and my poorly stomach really needed a break.

I have to say I didn’t rate Candidasa too highly myself. I really wanted to just lie undisturbed on a beach, which was nearly impossible. The pictures I had seen online were much like this one…

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Candidasa doesn’t really have a beach, it was washed away. But a clever camera angle – I know because I took the same photo, makes it look like you are going to be sitting on paradise’s beach, but not is the case. This particular beach was only a few feet wide, and not the kind of place you would want to sit and spend a day. I tried my hardest to look for a beach, and eventually, I must have walked over an hour, I found a small stretch of sand. I had to fight off board fishermen desperate to take me out snorkelling and then parked myself in front of a hotel for a few hours. It was sad, as all I wanted was to sit and relax, but a few metres away behind a breakwater were about 5 men who were bent on selling me a snorkelling trip on their boat, so I couldn’t sit anywhere near them on the beach.

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The next day I did battle with drivers drying to find a reasonable price for the short drive to Padangbai, down the coast. I had talked at length to Garry at Ari Homestay about locals hassling tourists, or ripping them off, and he couldn’t get them to understand they were pushing tourism away in their desperation to make a sale, a ride or whatever it was they were offering!

Candidasa was enjoyable for a night, but I felt that the unless you were in a beach front resort on Jl Pantai Indah, you can’t really enjoy what little beach there is, as there is no apparent way of getting to it ( just a very small path leading you directly to hungry fishermen!), unless you sneak through one of the hotels, which I did on my way back.

Ubud to Amed

30/11/13
UK

I really did have so much to say about Bali, but racing back to my room each day to write about it wasn’t really top of my priorities! Now back in the UK, suffering from a mix of emotions with a bit of insomnia thrown in, I guess it’s time to catch up!

After a few days in Ubud I was keen to get to the coast and experience another aspect of Bali, so having done a bit of reading and chatting to other travellers I decided to head to Amed and work my way down the East coast to finish in Sanur.

The journey to Amed took much longer than it should have thanks to a ceremony. This didn’t seem to bother anyone at all, and I found this quite surprising as traffic was backed up for kilometres in both directions as a procession was slowly making its way along the road. Sitting in a bus with no air conditioning when the temperature is 30 something and the humidity is high wasn’t ideal. Most people got out of their cars, and I asked our driver how long we’d have to wait. “No idea” was his response. I asked what the ceremony was for ” No idea” was the response again. I understand that it’s perfectly acceptable in Bali for ceremonies to stop everything, and that such ceremonies can occur at any given time, often without much planning or warning…

On our arrival in Amed, as I ranted about earlier, we were dropped off outside a hotel and told we weren’t to be taken any further. You can imagine my horror as I looked at the uneven roads, hoisted my backpack onto my shoulders and wondered how far my suitcase would allow me to walk. To our rescue came Kadek ( very conveniently of course) who drove the French passengers to their hostel and me to his cousin’s homestay. It wasn’t where I had planned to stay, and once I looked around I realised it wasn’t where I wanted to be either, as I had to walk 45 minutes to go snorkelling. However, such is life, and at the mercy of two years of luggage from Australia, I had little choice.

Once I had freshened up and had a ridiculously cheap lunch of omelette and tea cooked at the homestay, I had a look around. I had been invited, and I later realised, possibly caused great offence by saying no, to a ceremony that was taking place on the beach that afternoon.
Kadek told me all of his family would be there and I would be most welcome to join, I could take photos and experience something of true Bali. Yes I was intrigued, but desperate after a week in Bali to immerse my aching body in the sea. I enquired as to what happened in this particular ceremony and was told that thousands of people would go to the beach at 4:30 pm, dressed in white. And what do they do there, was my question. Everyone brings animals which are sacrificed on the beach, to the gods. What?? Yes, goats, sheep and I thought he said dogs, but perhaps he said ducks. Never-the-less – keen though I am to get involved and experience something magical, I just didn’t feel I could support, let alone watch something like that. I hold no religious standpoint in this area, but my “religion”, or at least my way of life, does not agree with things like that. Sorry!

So I walked along the beach, past the angry dogs, and children asking me to take their photo and then asking for money for it, past the nice looking guesthouses on the beach, all the way to Jemeluk to snorkel.
Oh the relief to get into the water, and oh the wonderful things I saw. Ouch, I bashed my knee on the coral and saw blood spilling out as I understood the sign I had read about snorkelling only in high tide. Oops. So I got out, and went further round the bay, refusing a few massages, drinks and beds to reimmerse myself in the refreshing water to watch the underwater spectacular and pass away an afternoon finally doing exactly as I pleased.

Outdoor shower in my homestay
Outdoor shower!

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Local residents…
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Snorkelling happy
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Not as bad as it looked
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The highs and lows of travelling solo

19/10/13
Candidasa beach

Note: Apologies readers, my blogs are not coming out chronologically. I wrote this on the beach yesterday, later finished on my room, as I had had some frustrating moments over the last few days. Take it with a pinch of salt please… It aint all bad!

Tea for one…
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The highs and lows of travelling alone

Since leaving the life I had made in Barcelona 3 years ago I have been wandering around on my own. After a few months in the UK with mum and dad I had a 6 month teaching adventure in Slovakia and on a very low salary I saw the neighbouring countries on brief weekend visits. I then had a few more months at home to earn just enough money to buy my flight to Australia where I have spent the last 2 years doing my own thing.

The number of people who are surprised to learn I have done it one my own surprised me in fact. Some just couldn’t get to grips with the idea of someone just jumping on a plane and heading somewhere new for a while. They found it strange I had not done it with a friend or a boyfriend, or often asked if I had someone at home waiting for me. Many have even called me brave, but I don’t think travelling to Australia, or any of my Asian stopovers have needed bravery. A little more cash would have been useful and yes, at times I would have like a bit of company, but I have managed it without needing anyone to hold my hand. I haven’t left a trail of destruction or broken hearts in my wake, and thankfully mine hasn’t had any further damage. I have met people along the way: some I have seen again since, some I know I will, and some I am pleased I won’t.

I have worked as hard as I have needed to to look after myself and I have had a pretty good time doing it and for the most part I wouldn’t have travelled with anyone other than myself. Not having to answer to anyone, nor compromise or deal with disagreements has made life a lot easier. I travelled with a then very good friend of mine many years ago – when I was just getting a taste for this nomadic way and I have barely spoken to her since. I am sure I am not the only one who has lost a relationship through their travels. Only yesterday I was sitting in a Warung in Amed having my lunch when two French girls walked in. One had a red face, barely able to hold back the tears and the two could barely look at each other. I caught snippets of their conversation when they seldom spoke but I didn’t need to hear to understand that the strain of travelling had taken its toll on their friendship.
When I first arrived in Bali I had no watch – I’d lost it in Australia a few days before. Although I was frustrated not knowing the time at first, I found being timeless quite liberating. I got up when I woke up and went to bed when I was tired. I ate when I was hungry, and did what I wanted for a few days. I came to Bali with no plans at all – just my trusted lonely planet and a few recommendations and have been taking each day as it comes, at my own pace.

But when you are in a country that has such an abundance of places to go (where doesn’t?) and number of different interests to satisfy – someone to bounce ideas off and help make decisions would be really helpful. Instead I wrack my brains wondering where to go, or whose advice to take and often arriving somewhere thinking the sand is white on the other beach…

I have also felt alone here for the first time in a long time. I thought Bali would be an easy place to get about when you are travelling alone, but perhaps not when you are lugging suitcase, a backpack and a laptop around. I am also paying twice what everyone else is paying per night, as rooms are charge per room, not per person and full price for any travel I do, as I am paying for just me rather than splitting the cost. There have also been times when I have felt vulnerable on my own. Never in danger – don’t get me wrong. I walk down the street anywhere n Bali feeling perfectly safe, but just vulnerable. I suppose it’s still a rare thing for them to see a woman on her own, and I seem to be a target to get hassled. I simply cannot walk past a male (or female) without them attempting to offer or sell me something. Whilst I understand most people are just trying to make a living I wish the colour of my skin didn’t mean there was a dollar sign flashing on my head and the fact that there is no one by side didn’t mean I was an easy target. Having experienced this before, but to a much lesser degree, in Malaysia and knowing how different the culture is here I have taken to wearing a fake engagement ring. This has worked a few times, but the ring is so cheap that I cannot take it off now for the awful green ring it leaves giving me away!

There have been a couple of occasions over the last few days where I have felt frustrated because I have had to ask for help or been put in a position where I am reliant on the help of a stranger – who under the guise of “helping” me has used it for his own gain. Take yesterday for example. I had booked a shuttle from Ubud to Amed the previous night – organised by the helpful man at my accommodation, He gave me the address of his cousin’s homestay in Amed and since he has been o kind I was only too pleased to take his recommendation. I was told to be ready just before 7, and that I would be helped with my case, and dropped at my accommodation. Not was the case. I struggled down the steep steps alone, as the driver waited patiently at the entrance 15 minutes earlier than I had been told watching me struggle with all my luggage he then turned on his heal to walk up the gang to the car! I had to ask him to help me to which he did of course, but clearly felt it wasn’t his job. The “direct shuttle” wasn’t direct, and we had to change buses in Padangbai to one with no air con (later traffic jam was very unpleasant). On arrival in Amed the driver dropped us (there were fortunately 2 French passengers with me) at a hotel in the “middle” of Amed, refusing to drive any further and drove off. Now it’s NOT easy to get around when you are lugging what I am, in that heat with motorbikes whizzing around uneven roads and no pavments. We were all pretty disgusted that he was prepared to just leave us there! A member of staff came out of the hotel, and seeing our predicament offered us to drive us to the hotel the French people had booked, at a steep price. I told him I had the address on the back of my bus ticket which the driver that driven away with. When I told him where it was, he said he would get me a better place, for a better price. Of course I was taken to his cousin’s homestay, which, pleasant though it was, wasn’t where I wanted it to be – It was far from the nice part of the beach, although I was assured this place was “on the beach” it wasn’t. But what else could I do?

Today, in a new location I became frustrated at everyone approaching me offering me a taxi, even after I said no I would often be followed down the street and asked again repeatedly. The same thing happened at the beach. Do I want to go in a boat? No thank you. Then following me, or approaching me again after I have sat down to ask me again, and again, not today? Tomorrow? It’s doing my head in! And much as I would love to go in a boat please, I won’t say yes and pay the same price you charge for 6 people as I am on my own, or get in a boat out to sea with an Indonesian man who is likely to grill me about my personal life (this too is normal and apparently harmless, but wildly frustrating!) I think I actually upset the driver I had in Ubud the other day when I refused to answer his questions about my previous relatonships to which he persistently asked, despite me telling him I was not in the mood to discuss my heartbreak.

So travelling alone? Good or bad? It has its merits of course, but right now perhaps I am in the wrong frame of mind. I am tired, keen to step onto my own turf, keen to have someone by my side and tired of having to struggle when I could do with a hand…

Bali beginnings

“I have absolutely no desire to go to Bali” “Everyone goes there!” “I don’t know why you want to go to Bali”
“I wouldn’t go to Bali if I were you, it’s not safe anymore” “Ooooh you be careful there in Bali. it’s quite dangerous you know” “Why go to Bali? There are so many other places you could visit”

Just a few of the reactions I got when I told people I was spending two weeks in Bali on my way home to the UK.
I consider myself to be fairly streetwise, not as well-travelled as I would like to be, but an optimistic, open-minded traveller in any case. These comments, although disappointing, were not going to put me off visiting a country that has been on my wish list for many many years. Yes, I indeed had conjured up (possibly unrealistic ) images of white sandy, palm-fringed beaches and those lovely bed-like seating areas in beach bars to sip long drinks and watch the sunset. I also had a serene, green country in my mind, where people take life slowly, do yoga, eat well and live our dream. Of course I know I had to reduce and re-check my own expectations, but what I can conclude after my third day is that Bali clearly is what YOU make of it.

Forgive me for the lack of pictures in this post, but perhaps thanks to my flight, a lot of moving around, carrying heavy bags and the emotional stress of saying goodbye to so many people – my body seems to have decided that now is a good time for it to hurt. A lot. So I have been trying to walk around with as little as possible, meaning my camera very often gets sacrificed for a bottle of water. At this point I also wish to add that this post (and entire blog) is merely my opinion, and my musings on what I have observed and experienced. If I am offending anyone ( I probably will ) then please do not comment – as I won’t post it. I have to say this, as I once wrote something that a reader disagreed wildly with and wrote so in a comment which I deleted.

My first port of call was Legian – supposedly much less frantic and touristy than Kuta, and a little less snazzy than Seminyak. I think someone told me there are 6 flights daily out of Perth to Denspasar, Bali – so it’s little wonder that tourism has exploded, Australians are everywhere and catering for the masses means that some of Bali’s charm might have been reduced. It’s not hard to escape the fact that this once small, probably quaint seaside village has now morphed into a “cater for all” type destination. You cannot walk down the street without people calling out “Hello Darling shopping? Nice looking! Transport? Taxi? Nice things! Bloody good price ( this made me hoot the first time I heard a little Indonesian man tell me in an Aussie accent that he would give me a “bloody good price”). Every restaurant offers you the 5 same dishes – Mie Goreng, Nasi Goreng, Chicken Satay, Gado Gado and seafood Laksa. On the same menu you will find steak and chips and every Western item they can think of. It’s also not hard to ignore the fact that there are large (sorry but they are), tattooed Australians walking around in Bintang vests, and yes true to the stereotype – often sunburnt. We have the equivalent undesirable tourists from the UK who make me cringe when I am on holiday, trying to hide my nationality, so I am not bashing the Aussies, just the ones that embarrass me.

Walking on the beach brought it home to me – it turned my stomach in fact. This apparently beautiful 12km strip of sand was littered with plastic waste – coming from the sea. I had my beer on a sun lounger, watching the sunset, so I could say I had done it. But I didn’t enjoy being hassled by the sellers, not did I want to even put a toe into the revolting looking water.

Now I am sounding very negative I know, and I didn’t even go to Kuta – imagine what I would say about that! But as I said, I think Bali is what you make of it. For many Australians it’s a cheap get away – cheaper than going somewhere locally. You have got guaranteed sun, cheap food, beer, clothes and services ( massages start from just $6 – If I were Australian I’d be flying over for pampering alone!) and your dollars can probably get you a nice hotel with a pool if the beach isn’t appealing. If you surf – I imagine everything else is a bonus.

But I am generalising wildly of course and speaking of the stretch from Kuta to Seminyak – the most popular tourist areas and easiest to get to from the airport.

In my case – I am certain Bali has much more to offer. I have eaten those 5 dishes, had a massage, manicure and pedicure, done my sunset beer, and then started to get a little irked by constantly feeling like people saw me as a walking cash machine and keen to spend. So I am heading inland to Ubud, for a change in pace, a change in atmosphere, a slight change in temperature and to try and find the essence, not the tourist face, of Bali.

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East coast family and friends

08/10/13
The Three Monkeys
West End, Brisbane

I am sitting in a cafe I am very fond of in Brisbane with just two days left in Australia.

My back hurts, my shoulders are sore, I am tired, I have just cried a little bit into my iced coffee and I wondering if I just tried to achieve too much in the last 3 weeks here.

Since leaving Perth I have raced up and down the East Coast trying to fit everyone in and keep everyone smiling.I’ve travelled on trains, planes, buses, cars and even a taxi. I have pulled 23kg + my laptop + my backpack around (and listened to EVERYONE tell me it’s too heavy, ask me why I have so much, and tell me I will hurt myself. Very helpful comments and questions kind people – please note this – NO tired traveller who has painstakingly given and thrown away many many things wants to ever hear this!) and I have not slept more than 4 nights in one bed, which used to be fun, and now at 29 it’s just exhausting!

As I sit here in Brisbane with watery eyes waiting for painkillers to take away the pain that is wriggling across my upper back, I worry that I have tried to do too much and have potentially made my two week Bali adventure an uncomfortable experience.

But in the name of optimism and good blog stuff let’s look at what I HAVE managed to get done over here recently.
First of all, three and a half lovely days with my new-never-met-before-Maltese-Italian-Aussie family that was filled with food, laughter, stories, love and more. I met so many wonderful people that I even rearranged my last few days in Australia to see them again.

Then a train ride from Brisbane through the NSW hinterland back to a much loved home from home on my lovely cousin’s organic farm. Four blissful days were spent cuddling cows, playing with dogs and horses and laughing till I cried, in some favourite locations too.

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Poppy and Venus

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May I say that these four days might have been four of the most memorable in Australia? And let’s not forget the food feasts! I was staying with an incredible cook and also a chef, yet I won our rendition of Come Dine With Me, with my Spanish themed evening – and even got a certificate! One of my proudest moments!

Images from Bundjalung National Park

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Then there was another early departure and a terribly emotional bus trip north as I realised, as one does unexpectedly sometimes, that such a lovely experience as that would never be repeated again and the many fond memories I have started to build up will soon be nothing but memories. Of course I have known ever since arriving that the end would come, but it is sad to leave a place you have been back to a number of times, knowing it’s your last.

I arrived in Brisbane transit centre and sat there for over an hour as my connecting bus was delayed. All I really wanted to do was put my head on someone’s shoulder and go to sleep, but maybe not wise to do that to a stranger!

A little later than planned I arrived at Nambour and was met by a great uncle, who confessed he couldn’t remember meeting me! When people make such a fuss about you spending time with them, it’s a little disconcerting when they say they can’t remember what you look like.

Three days were spent on the Sunshine Coast, filled with plenty of stories, spectacular views and glorious food. Highlights include my 77 year great uncle beating me to the surf at Mooloolaba, a lunch at the magical Secrets on the Lake and some very cheap, yet delicious fish and chips!
Kondalilla Falls
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Lake Baroon
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After my time in Bli Bli I was taken up the coast to Noosa and handed over to a friend for the weekend. My cattle station friend ( we’d met when I was “doing my time” on the station) and I had plenty to catch up on and did this eating copious amounts of cheese, drinking too much beer and chilling on the beach in between.

I sadly never made it to Noosa Heads, as thanks to a public holiday parking was almost impossible.

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A drive down to Caloundra for lunch at another great uncle’s and thanks to a lift in the land cruiser life was made easier. Thankfully I didn’t attempt public transport twice that day as because of a “new” public holiday the Translink website was mistakenly telling me and every other commuter in Queensland the WRONG information. So after a relaxing few hours in Golden Beach, catching up with another relative, I had a rather sticky and stressful commute back to Brisbane.

Since arriving back here I have had another Maltese-Italian banquet and met more family members! I have had a wonderful lunch with another cousin, and yet to come morning tea with my bush family mum and dinner out with another cousin, then lunch with more relatives.

I will be unable to do anything other than sit on the beach once I arrive in Bali!

What is Australia for me?

Wednesday 28th August

Here’s a post I wrote on my day off about a week ago…

What is Australia for me?

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It’s this: sitting in a cafe on my day off: enjoying a banana smoothie and an ocean view whilst listening to relaxed tunes and having a moment to write this.

It’s the smells that should be bottled: eucalyptus trees on a hot day, barbecues in the park, wild flowers in bloom.

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It’s the sound of a kookaburra laughing about something in the distance.

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It’s amazing creatures like kangaroos and koalas and cockatoos, parakeets and galahs…

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It’s the taste of beer and the sound of live music.

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It’s chance encounters with people from all over the world.

It’s meeting members of family you never knew you had, or old friends in sunny places.

It’s feeling very welcome, but not quite belonging.

I’ve experienced many things in Australia – yet none of them have been bad. Even finding a 6ft python lounging over my toilet gave me a (horrific) story to tell and I learnt a lesson of caution when using the toilet.

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Being unemployed and unable to enjoy it thanks to lack of funds wasn’t exactly a bad experience.
Neither was feeling used and unappreciated in my first Au Pair role a bad experience. It was incredibly unpleasant and draining but taught me what to ask for and what I deserved in my next role.

I have avoided most extreme weather situations in Australia – not had to endure many 40+ C days, nor suffered a long winter. I was relatively unaffected by the cyclones on the East coast and the bush fires didn’t come close enough to pose a real threat.

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Am I sad about leaving? That’s what everyone keeps asking me. And the answer is yes and no. I knew Australia couldn’t last forever. I’ve not had any of the experiences I thought I would have, but instead had experiences I never imagined possible.
I never made it to Ayres Rock, didn’t buy a car so I could drive around the perimeter of Australia, never made it to the Northern Territory or Tasmania and have really only scratched the surface of this land of plenty.
I have been a waitress, a receptionist, a bar person, a teacher, a tutor, a farm hand, a nanny and a cleaner. I have worked for great money, no money and shit money.
I have tried new sports, new foods, learnt new skills, dropped bad habits and even managed to improve my Spanish.

So… Australia has given me so much, yet not quite enough to stay any longer. I know it’s time to leave and try something else. I am feeling a pull towards the UK, to the place I used to call home, to my family and to a culture and lifestyle I have been avoiding for many years. It’s time to see what’s coming next!

Hope it makes good blog material!

Ready for Rottnest Island

08/09/13

My day out in the national park on Saturday made it easy for me to get an early night once I’d arrived home.The pint of cider I’d had in Mandurah after a walk around the marina, the venetian canals and the waterfront sufficed my need for a drink that night, and so ensued a good night’s sleep. Is this an age thing? Not long ago that pint merely would’ve been the start of an evening – being tired never came into it.

Anyway, I awoke fresh faced and rested and was out of the door by just after 9 to catch the bus to Hillarys. I never used to be fond of Sundays, in fact don’t think I even existed on a Sunday morning previously. I found myself surprised at the number of people out and about enjoying breakfast or an early morning swim in the sun. Tell me British readers – is this something we do? If my all-nighters are coming to an end will there be people getting up early to meet me for breakfast on a Sunday morning?
Ponderings aside I’ll continue…

I arrived at Hillarys with quite a silly grin on my face. I was smiling because I was so pleased that I had remembered to have a good time by myself. I was smiling because today’s plan didn’t involve relying on anybody, nor were my plans hindered by anything. I had chosen to get up early and catch the ferry to Rottnest Island to explore and enjoy Rottofest. By myself. Coincidently I did know someone who would also be there and as I’d predicted – our paths didn’t cross, so I spent the day by myself.

The crossing was about 45 minutes with a slight swell. I stood at the back of the boat with my hair flying out of control admiring the bright blue Indian Ocean and wondering what my day would bring.

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Wrist band slapped on. Programme and map to hand I set about getting my bearings and finding something to eat. Almost immediately I saw a little quokka. At this point I hadn’t realised they were ten to the dozen, so took some very average photos which were later replaced.

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I have never been to a comedy show alone, so I shuffled into my first show, careful to sit somewhere inconspicuous. I felt relaxed and able to laugh with the crowd. Jokes can be enjoyed and shared by anyone. I saw Suns of Fred – a musical theatre trio whose songs were expertly crafted with lyrics and improve comedy.

Once back in the sun I went for a wander to check out the sights on foot. I made my way to Basin Beach, Geordie Bay and Bathhurst lighthouse and spent come time soaking up the sun whilst contemplating a few things.

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I headed back to the music stage to enjoy fish and chips, a pint and Bastians Happy Flight.

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Another comedy show and another beer, followed by another wander and then a bit of photography on the beach as the changing light promised a palette of interest across the sky.

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I got bitten to pieces whilst waiting for the ferry home – my trousers rolled up from paddling along the shore.
And because we know I don’t have perfect days – the ferry I arrived on docked 10 minutes after my last bus home. Hillarys is a long way from my house when you consider doing it on foot. So a $17.50 taxi took me the measly 6km not even to my door because I stopped him when I saw the price on the meter!

Cervantes to Perth

One of the wonderful things about not planning things is the adventure you can have with unexpected new friends.

I was sharing a room in Kalbarri with a girl from Belgium, and having mentioned that I hadn’t planned my trip back to Perth, she suggested I join her, driving back as she was going back the same time. Perfect.

Myself, the Belgium girl and another guy from the hostel, loaded into her little hire car on Friday morning. Me with a sore head from a spontaneous drinking game the night before and also with a heavy heart – not quite ready to return to Perth and say goodbye to the residents of Kalbarri Backpackers.

We ambled our way down the highway towards Perth, stopping in various places of interest along the way, to maximise the opportunity of having the freedom of a car.

The first stop was Cervantes. A town with a Spanish name, and Spanish named streets. There is not much going on in Cervantes to be honest and for that reason we had the hostel to ourselves, bar the two resident cleaners from Taiwan. The hostel was spotless with plenty of homely touches – books, magazines, herbs and spices, toilettries.
http://cervanteslodge.com.au/pinnacles-cervantes-lodging-backpackers-hotels-rooms-rental-bed-breakfast-overnight-stays/

What Cervantes is known for is its proximity to the Pinnacles Desert. This is an eerie place, which we visited at sunset, and if I were a more talented photographer, perhaps I could have captured better its science fiction-like atmosphere. Strange stones rise out of the desert making you feel as if you have walked onto a Star Wars set and you should be carrying a light saber!

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Driving through yet another national park as we made our way down the coast, we stopped at Hangover Bay – wonderfully named place with a beautiful beach. I would LOVE to cure a hangover there!

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Next stop was Lancelin – because my big brother told me to go there, so we dropped in for a photo op and a toilet stop.

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Nearer to Perth, and the departure of our other passenger was Yanchep National Park – where koalas were sitting in trees, wallabies were nibbling the grass and Kookaburras were singing up above.

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