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things to do in Kalbarri

I arrived in Kalbarri without my usual precision planning – aiming to just see what was going on, enjoy the sunshine and some time away from Perth.

The only hostel in town was run by a very friendly couple – Joe, originally from the UK, and his Australia wife Carol. http://www.kalbarribackpackers.com

On checking in, I asked out of concern, if they had any idea what the weather was likely to do, and what ways I might enjoy my time in Kalbarri. The response regarding the weather was not what I wanted to hear – that it had been lovely last week, beautiful today, but was set to change tomorrow. Being from a country of bad weather, I try not to let a bad forecast put me off, but as it was a much needed and looked forward to holiday, I found myself feeling I’d got a bad deal.

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Kalbarri National Park is where most visitors go: for walks, amazing views and of course their iconic photograph sitting in Nature’s Window. What a lovely idea – how can I get there? Well, as is my luck, the park was closed to the public due to the re-laying of the road. The only way to enjoy it during the week was to go on a tour. How convenient. So, I paid for 2 tours – one to go kayaking in the gorge and one to see the sights.

Tour one was fabulous. I was picked up in a very old, large 4 wheel drive bus, and driven out to the park. Due to the roadworks, we were escorted through the park, and then drove off road down a private track, where we then scrambled down into the gorge, walked along the river bed to the boats. I got paired up with a Singaporean guy, who behind me in the boat chatted to me about life in Singapore, living in Perth as a student, food, cooking and travelling in Asia. As soon as we got into our boat, it started to rain, of course, but once it cleared up: the sunshine, the tranquility and nature’s great landscape was awe inspiring. After about an hour’s paddling, we arrived on the shore for homemade cake and then climbed back out of the gorge, stopping to admire breathtaking views as the sun graced kissed the cliff tops.

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The tour I did later, was met with rain. Lots of it. Not having even a jacket, let alone a rain coat made it a very uncomfortable afternoon indeed, but was assured that I was having a very unique experience as nobody gets to see Nature’s Window in the rain! The Z bend was also on our itinerary, and despite feeling very cold, I was very happy to experience the national park in unusual conditions…

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here comes the rain!

Nature's Window

Nature's Window

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Other things I did, as I often do, was long walks. One was along the cliffs to Nature’s bridge with my hostel roommate, in the hope of seeing migrating whales, but none wanted to show themselves.

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I also took a very long walk along the beach, without intending to – sometimes I just start walking, and like Forrest Gump: I forget to stop! So I ended up walking about 5 kms out of town to Red Bluff, stopping to paddle, stopping to think, stopping to pick up seashells, stopping to photograph huge crabs and stopping to breathe and absorb the wonderful Indian Ocean views.

Blue Wave rocks

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Giant crab!

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Red Bluff

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4 days in Kalbarri was enough to clear my mind, refresh my photographs, restore my faith in hostels ( thanks to an awesome bunch of people staying there) and as if I needed to – remind me of what a wonderful land Australia is.

Live loving and love living… continued

Here are a couple of drafts that never made it onto my blog, so I’ve put them together here…

Happy New Year everyone!

As I sit in bed on January 1st, looking at the glorious sunshine out of my bedroom window, it’s hard to imagine the torrential rain yesterday that caused rivers to swell, roads to becomes rivers and puddles to become ponds. Just driving out of my village was like driving upstream yesterday which is something I don’t remember ever having to do before…
It’s nice to have a moment to contemplate where you have been and what you have achieved over the past year, and to feel inspired about how you will continue this year.

* * *

I write this as I sit on the train making my way from Taunton to Bristol, where I will meet my sister-in-law who will have a late lunch with me, drive me to Reading, where I will take the Airbus to Heathrow and later on tonight, be on my merry way to Singapore for the next phase of my journey.

2012 was a wonderful year. I decided to Live Loving and Love Living and that I did.
It was a full calendar year in Australia where my friends became my family, my adventures became my stories and my challenges became my strengths.

I fell back in love with my career: teaching English thanks to the ever-changing 18 or so students who I spent 4 hours a day with. Apart from a few personality clashes in the classroom I honestly never felt like I was going to work. Getting up every morning and knowing I was going to spend time with a group of wonderful adults never felt like work at all. In turn for improving their English, they shared their cultures, their music, their dreams and their trust in me and I couldn’t have asked for anything more. I experiences Colombia, Korea, Thailand, Japan, China and Brazil all from inside my windowless classroom in Melbourne.

I had a number of opportunities to see Victoria and more from behind the wheel, from hire cars, to mini buses to motor-homes. I have driven along the Great Ocean Road, through the Grampians, down to Lakes Entrance, over to Philip Island, raced into Adelaide, got lost in Canberra, traversed a steep mountain road and driven around Queensland chasing waterfalls.

I’ve also lived the city life, lived the bush life, Lived the country life. I have taught and been taught and learnt so many lifelong lessons as I have continued to Live Loving and Love Living throughout the year.
I had the opportunity to meet family I didn’t know I had, to reconnect with friends from the past simply have a few moments to just enjoy being.

This year, I have decided will be the year to Make it Happen. I no longer have any time for useless aspirations to lose a few pounds, get a bit fitter or eat less chocolate and feel that the one goal we should all strive to achieve is to be happy. That’s all it needs to ever be.

So this is the year to Make it Happen. I achieved so much my myself last year, that I shall continue to do so and to go for the things I want. So If I want to go and lie on a white sandy beach, I will make it happen. If I want to visit a far away friend – I will make it happen. If I want to learn something new, I will make it happen. I am starting to believe that the power we have to do what we want is just endless.

January sky

January sky


So… 2013 will be the year to continue to Live Loving and Love Living, as that proved to be one of the best years I’ve and also to be the year that I Make it Happen – whatever it is!
So, who’s in? What are you going to Make happen this year? And did you have a go at Living Loving so you could Love Living? I would love to hear feedback from my readers!

Buddha Beautiful

Big Buddha
My first day in HongKong was spent elbowing my way through the throngs of market goers, wandering through the busy streets of Hong Kong with a dead camera battery and my mouth agape at the colours, lights, noise, smells and everything that was being offered to me.

Day two, I took a more tranquil trip to the Island of Lantau to pay the Buddha a visit.
The 34 metre Buddha, on the top of the mountain took 12 years to construct and towers 34 meters high, facing north to offer Hong Kong and China his blessing. Out of the hustle and bustle of the busy city, Buddha sits calmly on the mountain top, unbothered by the tourists rushing to have their photograph taken in front of him and creating a sense of calm and serenity as soon as you catch a glimpse of him.

But with all things religious of course, it’s not just a pilgrimage for Buddhists to visit: It’s also, rather unfortunately, a money creator. A “village” has been built to cater for the hordes of tourists, with restaurants to feed you, shops to tempt you and a well marketed cable car to get you there.

A sucker for heights and seeing things from a different point of view, I opted for the cable car to get there. Little did I know the rest of the world would be doing the same thing. It was a Sunday after all, and I guess everyone had the same idea. Queuing politely, we waited over an hour just to buy the tickets. In countries such as Hong Kong people queue politely – It’s wonderful! After buying the ticket, you then stand tantalizingly close to the cable cars, but realise that the line snakes back and forth and you have at least 30 minutes more to wait. There are two options: the standard car or the “crystal car”, which of course is much more advertised and twice the price of the standard car. It’s got a glass bottom. I do not what want to be swinging over a mountain with no solid floor thank you.

When it was time to get into the car, I clambered in with 9 other people who were a family together. Once in, then broke out the cakes: eating and talking with their mouths full, crumbs spraying everywhere as we swung up the cable, over the waterways, past the airport and up over the mountains.

On arrival, you are accosted by people wanting to sell you a photo they took of you as you got into the cable car. There it is, ready printed and in a frame, or wait for it, in a snow globe! You are told how beautiful you look and what a great Christmas present it would be. Really?? Do my family want a snow globe with a picture of me sitting in a cable car that is still in the station?? Doubt it, but thanks anyway. Next there is a stream of restaurants and gift shops with Buddha paraphernalia offered to you before you have even him.

Breezing past all of that, I made my way to the monastery. At the foot of the steps to Buddha, as I passed glass window, I was asked if I wanted to have lunch. I had been recommended to do so, so I complied and bought my lunch ticket. Instead of visiting Buddha, I was redirected to the Monastery Restaurant. Now, I had imagined a quiet, zen-like place to eat a beautifully cooked vegetarian mean surrounded by monks. Instead it was a clangy canteen restaurant, where I was quickly parked at a table for one, my chopsticks and crockery plonked on the table in front of me, all the time being barked instructions in Cantonese. Not very Zen. A friendly couple caught my eye from a few tables away and invited me to join them, so I gingerly moved tables, upsetting the staff furthermore. Oops sorry.
There are 254 steps to get to Buddha. He’s worth it, but it’s not an easy hike to get there. Once there, you are rewarded with what I can only describe as a majestic presence and despite the tourists getting in each other’s way for photos, a sense of calm descends upon you. In front of Buddha you can see the lush green mountains and behind him, the outlying islands sitting in the haze. There are bronze statues of other gods presenting their offerings to Buddha, with signs in English and Cantonese asking you not to throw coins. Everyone was throwing coins to be caught in the hands of the gods. You could see areas where the statues are starting to be worn, after 20 years of having coins tossed at them.

In the area also, there are options for hiking the island, which if I had had company and better shoes I would have loved to have done. The Path of Wisdom is on at the start of one of these hiking trails.
There are a number of stray dogs wandering around the monastery. I guess they are safe here, as the Monks are vegetarian.

To get back to the metro, I decided to take the bus, rather than pay another $94HKD for the cable car back down the mountain. The bus ride is an attraction in itself, as you wind around the island up and down steep mountain roads and hairpin bends, in a crowded bus. I tried to put my seatbelt on, of course, but it was stuck. So I clung onto the seat in front of me for dear life.

Here’s a selection of photos that show a totally different view of Hong Kong.

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campervanning to Adelaide

I was close to tears when I saw the size of it, filled with fear when I watched the dvd on how to use it and elated at the prospect of another Australia adventure to add to my list…

7.7m long

Relocating camper vans is one of the best and cheapest ways to travel around Australia. I managed to find a van that needed to be driven to Adelaide, I found two friends who wanted to come and i managed to muster up the courage to say yes when the relocation company only had a 6 berth dual cab van available – the biggest in their fleet!

We checked around the van, marking damages and scratches, and then the van man got into the cab with me to show me how it all works for the driver. Now the school bus and even dad’s van seemed a piece of cake, as this vehicle was far far bigger! The monitor/computer screen that I needed to use for reversing was broken. Great. Then the reverse sensor that tells you when you are going to hit something was also broken. I was starting to feel pleased I hadn’t paid $600 to rent this thing!

So we pulled out of the parking space, swinging wide to compensate for length, rounded the corner and exited the car park. The most challenging part was about to come, as we needed to park in a car park to stock up on supplies. I found a large space, pulled in and felt pretty pleased with myself. After loading the fridge and the various cupboards with food and booze for 3 days, we set off on out way to Adelaide via the Grampians National Park. As we got onto the road, my confidence grew and I realised how exciting it was, squawking ” I’m driving a house!!!”

Driving along the highway we were making pretty good progress, as I cruised along 10km below the speed limit ( to be honest that didn’t last long) but a light came up on the dashboard… an exclamation mark! I was rather alarmed, so pulled over, whipped out the manual and we all tried to figure out what on earth it meant. It seemed to be something to do with the vehicle’s speed equalization…

Further on, I looked in the wing mirror and saw that the door to the “house” part of the van was swinging open!! We pulled over, again on the highway, all jumped out and found it closed and locked. The three of us wondered if it was possible we all could have imagined the same thing, but carried on our way. As we pulled into a lay-by for a toilet stop the girls were pleased to see people waving to us. They weren’t, they were waving their arms in horror as they too noticed our door swinging open! It seems something was broken, which we solved by tying it with my scarf!

No other major drama other than almost running out of diesel because we couldn’t find a diesel pump that wasn’t for trucks! And almost arriving back at the drop off point late because of it…

The day after I dropped off the van, I got into the driver’s seat of a car and hated it! It was strange to be so low down and not see anything!

Did I enjoy the experience? Yes of course! What would I change? MANUAL transmission please! Would I do it again? Yes, indeed I am driving to Sydney next week!

Further posts to come of the fun had on the way to Adelaide…

lakes entrance

This is about a month overdue, but too much of a fun weekend not to share!

Down in the very south of Victoria, some 4 hours from Melbourne, the clue is in the name as to what this place has on offer. It is indeed the entrance to a network of lakes and home to a medley of hotels, motels and souvenir shops. In the off season is it is almost dead, which meant myself and my cosmopolitan group of travellers, this time the Colombian numbers were higher than before – standing at 5:4 Thai: Colombian and one English of course.

This was an overnight excursion and at sunset the beach was dowsed in the most incredible array or colours: pinks, violets, reds, deep oranges. We played volleyball until the light failed us and it was time to check into our highly recommended YHA hostel cabin.

The following morning a stroll along another beach before a 3 hour boat cruise complete with afternoon tea and excellent commentary. The cruise took us deep into the lakes’ system and offered us kangaroos, giant pelicans, a huge number of different species of birds, a dolphin, and a seal who joined us to play in the surf at the lakes opening.

That’s all for my commentary, enjoy the photos!

March moments #4

Bus driving, horse riding and Mornington Peninsula.

As driving is one of my favourite things, I jumped at the chance to drive the school bus/minivan to Mornington Peninsula for a school organised excursion. The crew consisted of three teachers and 6 Colombian students.

The hardest thing for me to deal with was not being able to change gear when I wanted to which made driving out of Melbourne particularly stressful in this matter, as at  traffic lights and junctions I wasn’t able to tell the bus to do what I wanted it to do.

That said, it was an easy drive down to Mornington, with no hiccups other than an unfortunate hangover (not my own) causing one of my passengers to need me to stop every so often for a quick vomit. Fun.

I dropped some off at the beach, and four of us continued to our horse-riding location, where we mounted our horses and enjoyed a leisurely trek through the countryside. I say leisurely and I mean incredibly slow: unfortunately we were booked into a beginner’s hack, which meant I honestly could’ve walked faster than my horse Woody was allowed to go and at times I had visions of kicking his flanks and taking him for a quick canter over the hills. The girl behind me asked if my horse was called Woody because of Toy Story, but no, as I had suspected, he was so called because of something else… 😉

After our little horsey jaunt I drove around looking for nice beaches and picturesque photo opportunities and due to my lack of local knowledge, this involved a few U turns and parking tricks, but fun was had by all. We found an incredibly windy location, which made for a hilarious hair-flying-in-the-wind photo shoot, complete with numerous Marilyn Monroe moments of mine where-by everyone got well acquainted with my underwear.

The bus was delivered back to Melbourne without a hitch only 3 hours later than scheduled. No, this was not due to my incompetent time keeping, but a group decision to enjoy the day and stretch it out as much as possible. This is a common trait of mine, because yes, I do and have enjoyed living in Melbourne, but give me a chance to leave the city for the day and I will make it last as long as possible.