Blog Archives

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.

Spartacus

Poppy and Venus

Poppy

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!

the start of the goodbyes

The END of Perth
I should have posed this ages ago, and written it even longer ago, but such is life and busy I have been.
I sit here on a Queensland veranda enjoying a beer before midday, because I can, listening to the occasional kookaburra or gecko and Pumpkin the dog for company.

I left Perth just shy of two weeks ago, to begin my East coast jaunt stopping off at the all the relatives I can manage, and a coupele of friends too – some fit into both categories.
This was going to be a post based on my last few days in Perth, with some photos of Kings Park, then I was going to write about the joys of having family in different parts of the world. I had a muse in my head too about the merits of travelling alone, and whether I will be able to settle down when I arrive back in the UK. And then there were a few photographic adventures to post too…

It seems that every minute has been filled from about 3 weeks ago where I was fitting all the things in that I wanted to do in Perth: seeing as many people as I could and frantically weighing items of clothes, giving away things and throwing away as much as I could to fit everything back into 23 little kgs – 5 of which were the bloody suitcase. There were coffees, dinners, goodbyes, see you laters and more. Then I arrived on the East coast, to the open arms of family I didn’t know I had until a few months ago. I have been fed ridiculously, entertained, cooked for, driven around and just been having possibly the most pleasant, albeit stressful two weeks in Australia so far.
There is something to be said about leaving a place – of course It’s when you start to realise how much you like it. And let’s not forget the drama and the stress of fitting everyone in – giving everyone an equal allotment of your time – not wanting to overstay a welcome, nor offend by not staying long enough. Then there are the joys of getting to all these places – long bus journeys, early trains, pick-ups in unknown locations and better still the sheer ridiculousness of lugging a suitcase, backpack and computer around and not getting more than 4 nights in one bed!

There have been a few moments when I have thought about just rolling up to the airport and waiting there, or flying directly home and skipping my upcoming Balinese adventure… but then I wouldn’t have all these lovely things to write about as I make my slow, heavy-hearted departure from Australia…

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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!

sitting through a cyclone #2

Sitting through a cyclone
New Italy, Northern Rivers, NSW
28/01/13
12.45PM

Two weeks have passed since I arrived back in Australia and though I seem to have plenty to say in my head none of it is making its way out of fingers and into this blog.

I had 4 interesting days in Singapore with a good set of photos I have yet to type about, I have met up with the Maltese/Australian connection of my family and I have reinstated myself on the little farm belonging to my mum’s cousin, whilst I look for a new job and a new challenge.

All of that is a little stilted at the moment as ex tropical cyclone Oswold is traversing down the East coast of Australia and here on the little farm my second cousin, the cows, horses, dogs and the cat are waiting to see how bad it will get and what it will do when it hits us.

It’s already caused tornados up in Bundaberg and the Sunshine Coast, widespread flooding throughout the East and South-East of Queensland and winds of up to 144km are pushing down into New South Wales as I type. The rain is lashing on the windows, the wind is whipping round the house, the trees are bowing and Sky news is informing us of its route and what it’s done so far.

It doesn’t make for a very good night’s sleep when you wonder if a tornado will come, or a tree might fall on the house. Or you worry that the horses are distressed, as dear Kasimir didn’t know what to do with himself yesterday – galloping from one side of his paddock to another, bucking, rearing and farting wildly – which did make it quite amusing.
I feel thankful that we are not on the coast itself, seeing the terrible devastation this cyclone has left in its wake, knowing there are people waiting to be rescued from their roofs and seeing people whose houses are submerged up to the bedroom windows. But instead we play a waiting game. We wait and see what will happen, when the news tell us it’s “not arrived here yet”.

Maybe I will at least get some writing done, as sitting here, in the safety of a one storey, brick house, on a hill, all I can do is sit and wait to see what happens.

sitting through a cyclone

Sitting through a cyclone
28/01/13
New Italy, Northern Rivers, NSW
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Caloundra

Caloundra

This trip has been interesting so far in many ways. Firstly I am experiencing a new love: one for Australia that has been continually growing within me. It’s a love that sometimes just bubbles over and makes me giddy with joy when I look out of the plane window for example as I am coming in to land, or when I meet a stranger who treats me like a friend, or when I am sitting on the beach watching the surf and I just feel very happy to be where I am. That’s what travelling is all about isn’t it? Finding happiness in the places you visit and learning more about the world and yourself as you go along.

So the first destination on my 10 day reprieve from the bush is Caloundra on the Sunshine Coast to visit my grandmother’s brother who I last saw about 10 years ago. My uncle (B) referred to his street as “God’s waiting room” and when I asked him what people did in Caloundra, his response was “retire!” That should give you a clue about the people and their lifestyle in this seaside destination. I found it rather a pleasant place to live, but it does have an alarming number of retirement villages, luxury apartments and mobility scooters buzzing around. Perhaps it was because I spent time with the elderly for two days that I noticed more elderlies than I otherwise would have, or maybe there are just no young’uns there.

It has a big fishing and boating lifestyle and only 5 minutes after meeting B’S neighbour I was invited on a fishing trip that evening! It seems anyone who isn’t out catching the surf is either fishing or just boating around. A little walk along the waterfront in front of B’s house and I learnt a remarkable amount about local flora and fauna that I otherwise wouldn’t have paid attention to.

The climate is temperate and the sun nearly always shines on the Sunshine Coast, so there’s little to complain about in a town as such. B told me there is a saying about the weather on the Sunshine Coast which says it’s fabulous one day and marvellous the next, or words to that effect. It’s near enough to Brisbane for those that need a city hit now and again and far enough away to enjoy life on the water’s edge. It made perfect sense to me why so many of my relations journeyed across the world to the Sunshine Coast to resettle for a sunnier kind of life.

on to Mackay

On to Mackay…

28th June

Weather: sun and cloud

Temp: 20-25 C

I had to get up at 3:50am today, to get a bus at 4:10, to get a 6:am flight, 2 infact, to fly all the way to Brisbane and then back up to Mackay. Why? Mackay was the easiest place to get back to the bus from. That’s really all there is to it. There is nothing else there!

There is no public transport from Mackay, to go 6km to the city centre. The options are hiring a car or spending $20 on a taxi! Hmph.

I arrived at Gecko’s Rest hostel and went to check in. Bed wasn’t made, so I went back to reception, to leave my bags and pass the time looking for a much needed coffee.

“So what I can I do here?” I asked the receptionist who seemed just so bored of her life. “My budget’s low, so where should I go today?” Despite the array of tourist paraphernalia adorning the walls of the reception, her response was; “there’s nothing much to do here.”

Me – ever bright and positive: “Well, I’ve heard that the sun is going to come out later, so I’d like to go to the beach, how do I get there?” “There is no beach here, and no buses; you need to take a taxi” What?? If it costs me 20 bucks to get here from the bloody airport, I shudder to think what the price of a round trip to the seaside 16 km away would be!

As a last resort I asked for a map, and said I would like to have a coffee and breakfast so she got a photocopied map and reluctantly highlighted the “main” streets for me and just about managed a smile as I wished her well and sloped away. I was exhausted. I hadn’t got up that early since catching a red eye flight to Barcelona last summer, so all I wanted was to sink into a comfy chair with a large coffee and ask the Lonely Planet what to do. Could I find such a place? Don’t Australians drink coffee? Do they not need breakfast? Is it not the school holidays? Where IS everybody?!

I spent the day wandering around, in and out of a few shops. I found a charity shop, which made me happy. I found a nice place to sit down and try and sunbathe at the Bluewater Lagoon, which I enjoyed until the sun went in and an ant bit me on the bum. I browsed a few shops and finished a very long day off at the cinema, which as you’ll now know is a rare treat!

waterfalls

Waterfalls, waterfalls and waterfalls. 27th June Weather: cloudy Temp: 24C The next day in Cairns was indeed poor weather again. At this point, I had not seen the sun now for days. My money was dripping away but without a hot beach to sit on and not spend it, I decided to spend it and enjoy every moment I had in the “sunshine state”. I hired a car. I met a Polish girl the previous day on my Daintree trip and a Swiss girl in my room the night before. I took the plunge and, so with two new friends, the lonely planet and vague idea of where we were going: I put the Toyota Corolla into Drive and off we went. (I hate automatics)

With ONLY the Lonely Planet for reference (I don’t bother with GPS) we headed out of Cairns hoping we were going south. After a few wrong turns we got onto the Bruce Highway (does anyone else find that funny?) heading towards Gordonvale, took a sharp right and drove up into the hills towards the waterfall circuit. The view was spectacular and although I loathe automatic transmission, It made the hairpin bends, steep hills and frequent road work stops ( due to landslides!) much easier, if a little boring, to handle.

First stop was the Cathedral Fig tree; an ENOURMOUS, ancient tree strangler tree whose root grow down from the top. The first and probably most exciting fall was Malanda falls. We picnicked here, and then, as I hadn’t had a decent swim at the beach, I jumped in! I wasn’t the only one and the water was surprisinglynwarm, so the shock I had prepared myself for as I gingerly stepped in was totally unnecessary. I swam out to the slippery rocks behind the fall, trying not to think of whatever might also have been there, and also avoid thinking about how slippery the rocks were. I hasten to add, this wasn’t a dangerous whimsical swim: there were many others and no snake warnings, hence deeming it safe to swim. As I swam through the fall, I was surprised at how gently the cascading water fell. It really was akin to walking under the shower.

The following falls were each different in their own right. We took left and right turns and guessed our way to some 10 different falls. Some you could hear long before you saw them: some were mere trickles: others pounding, almost deafening demonstrations of water’s power. I enjoyed my day. I loved behind behind the wheel for the day, and was pleased to have seen something much more cheaply than a chartered tour would have allowed. As I handed back the keys, I found myself going back to that familiar dream of buying my own set of wheels and touring around Australia before I leave… Hopefully you can appreciate the difference of each waterfall as I have finally found a way to up load pics…

no worries… too easy

No Worries…. Too easy!

Or… a visit to Mossman Gorge, The Daintree Rainforest and Cape Tribulation.

June 26th

Weather: Cloudy and drizzling

Temp: 25 C

Having had relatively little sleep, thanks to the difficulty of getting the boat to stop moving (see The Great Barrier reef) and some noisy neighbours and not having had a decent night’s sleep for over 5 days AND getting up at 6.30am again, meant I staggered onto the tour bus in a zombie like fashion, desperate for a coffee but with ever the optimistic smile of a good day ahead on my face.

3 Backpackers got on the bus at the next stop having rolled out of the hostel bar not long before and personifying everything I hate about backpackers. I was grateful for the Polish girl who sat next to me, who later became the following day’s travel buddy and someone for me to repeat the phrase: No Worries, Too Easy with as many times as we could.

That catch phrase was coined by our guide who was every stereotype he could be. A skinny, shaggy- haired, smiling Queenslander with a laid back, slow drawl, who finished EVERY sentence with “Noooooooooooooo Wooooooooooooooooooories” and very often followed that up with “Tooooooooooooooooo Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeasy”. It went something like this: “Ok guys, just relax and take in the scenery as we head up the coast, nooooooooo worries”. “ Ok gang, we are about to arrive at Mossman Gorge, where we’ll be be getting out for a walk noooooooooooooo worries”. “So the saltwater crocs here are the most aggressive in the world, so don’t go anywhere near the water nooooooooooooo worries”. “we’re gonna head up towards the Daintree now and I’ll be giving you some commentary on why I think rainforest is awesome, noooooooo worries, tooooooooooooo easy”. Get the picture? I wish I could have recorded him. Now I’ve spent so long telling you about the driver, and not anything about the amazing things we saw or the interesting anecdotes this guy had to tell us (someone who loves his job as much as this guy makes trips like this such a pleasure) which I learnt so much from.

So first to the Mossman Gorge. ON the way up here, we had interesting stories about Sugar cane farms, their history, the geography of the area, the aboriginal tribes and also the nasty things in the rainforest like the Stinging Tree, which if you accidently brush against it will leave you in pain for at least 6 months. He told us about a guy he met in the Daintree, who he told this fact to, to which he responded “six months? Mate ( all Aussies say that, doesn’t matter if they’re your mate or not) I was held up by that for 10 years!” Message? Don’t touch ANYTHING!

Mossman Gorge: I went a bit snap happy here, as I couldn’t get over the tranquillity of the calm green water and the rushing splendour of the waterfall within metres of each other. My photos, are (as you should know by now) totally untouched by photoshop and what you see, is exactly what I saw.

Onwards to the Daintree. The rainforest mist and rain added to its atmosphere and the smell of freshness is nothing like shower gels claim it to be. It’s a million time fresher. Crossing the Daintree river on the cable pulled ferry, the stories started about things that go on in the Daintree, due to the fact that there are NO police THAT side of the river, so pretty much anything goes. Our driver at this point took off his seatbelt, telling us that there were no police around to fine him for not wearing it. This is a concept I found difficult to comprehend. Do people in Australia only wear seatbelts for fear of being fined if they are not?

The Daintree is the oldest rainforest in the world being at least 115 million years old and the number of species of EVERYTHING in it are almost uncountable. Rainforests need 2 metres of water a year to survive, London has 0.6 metres a year, but some parts of this rainforest have between 8-10 metres per year! It’s one of the most toxic in the world, thanks to its many poisonous flora: although these hopefully will be the basis of cancer cures in the future.

Cape Tribulation is where we stopped for our picnic lunch and a nervous stroll along the beach. We were advised that if we wished to swim, we had about a 60% chance of survival right in front of the picnic area, but going near the water anywhere else, no chance! We were also reminded that crocs can hold their breath for 3 hours, so they can quite comfortably sit in the water waiting as

long as they want.

The river trip, on the flimsy little boat took us up stream through the territory of Scarface, the 5m alpha male, who didn’t make an appearance, but we met 2 of his girlfriends: Dusty and I can’t remember the other’s name. We also saw Lumpie, and smaller male and several baby crocs resting on the river. We were assured that thanks to a lack of sun of late, the crocs were particularly lethargic and unlikely to do any jumping! We learnt about Yellowtail, who took a 9 year old boy from the river bank and Fat Albert who killed one-too-many cows, so was shot by the farmer.

The ride back to Cairns was scattered with more stories and anecdotes of all of the above, amidst stops at lookouts and the most amazing icecream I have tasted from the Daintree IcecreamCompany. Wattle seed was my personal favourite.

A good day? No, a fabulous one that made me laugh, gasp, question and relish in the true beauty of the world we live in and the things we can love and learn every day.

townsville

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So, my first impressions of Townsville, apparently a capital city, were that it was full of overweight men and crap restaurants. After that, all I could think about was rain and a bit more rain and some more crap restaurants.

It wasn’t all bad. I had a wonderful night’s sleep in a double room in a squeaky clean hostel, which I would recommend. After a 6 hour journey in the ute from the farm to civilisation, I was looking forward to my week of well deserved adventure. When the rain came in and the clouds dropped making nothing off the coast visible, you can perhaps imagine my disappointment…

I went to the Reef HQ aquarium. It’s recommended in the Lonely Planet and with the help of my student discount and my glasses I had a good look around. I went to the Turtle Hospital and learnt that one of the biggest threats to turtles is that they swallow plastic bags thinking they are jelly fish. Their insides get clogged up, they can’t poo, so they fill up with gas and float to the surface. Poor things.

I also took to time to read all the info and check out all of the images of all of the things in the ocean here that will kill me, or would like to. Very useful information.

After that I had a soggy walk along the esplanade. A 2.2km stretch of beach with information stations about skin cancer and deadly jellyfish. Really all very positive messages. I also tried in vain to find restaurants that the Lonely Planet recommended me, figuring the least I could do in such crap weather was enjoy a decent lunch. That was all in vain though as at least 3 of them had long gone ( my edition was only printed about 8 months ago) and the one i chose was crap.

I can’t say I would rush back to Townsville, and really would urge people to just jump straight on the ferry, heading over to Magnetic Island ( post to come) if the weather is good or up the coast if it’s not!