Tuesday, 14 December 2010

San Francisco, USA

I travelled back in time on Sunday. My first Sunday 12th December was spent lazing in the sun on Bounty Island and then my second Sunday 12th December was spent flying half way across the world to San Francisco, 21 hours behind Fiji time. San Francisco is my last stop on my round the world trip. It's a great city. I did my own walking tour of the very hilly city. Union Square is great for shopping, with a huge Macy's, and Bloomingdale's nearby. From there I walked up through China town to North Beach, the Italian quarter, and then to Fisherman's Wharf. Pier 39 at Fisherman's Wharf is great, it has good views of the Bay and Alcatraz Island, lots of restaurants and small boutique shops. From there I walked along the wharf to Hyde Street Pier and then up the very steep Hyde Street to Lombard street which is apparently the crookedest street in the world! It's on a very steep incline so the road weaves to help the traffic get down it.

I caught a boat to Alcatraz Island, about a mile from the mainland. It used to be a fortress and military prison, and then a maximum security penitentiary, today it is a national parkland. I took a guided audio tour of the cellhouse which housed all the inmates, famous occupants were Al Capone and Robert 'The Birdman' Stroud. It was a fascinating tour, I tried to imagine how it would feel to be cooped up in a 5ft by 10ft cell all day, every day, only leaving for meals and recreation if you had good behaviour. If not you would get locked up on D block, in isolation 24 hours a day. The guide demonstrated the locking mechanism of all the cells and the clanging sound made me shiver. The other buildings that used to house the warden and other officers are now ruins or demolished.

The one thing I did really want to see in San Francisco was the Golden Gate Bridge, and I wasn't disappointed. It was a cold but bright sunny day so I hired a bike to cycle over the bridge to Sausalito. It was a nice ride, not too many hills (surprisingly!). The bridge ride itself was great and then I carried on along the bike path through Sausalito to Mill Valley and then back to Sausalito to catch the ferry to Fisherman's Wharf. I think San Francisco is my favourite city in the states.

I am sad that I have come to the end of my year of adventure, but it has been a fantastic year with so many great and unique experiences, it's too difficult to pick a favourite! Deciding to travel round the world was the best decision I've ever made, and I now have so many great memories to look back on.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Mamanuca and Yasawa Islands, Fiji

Fiji is actually made up of over 320 islands, with Viti Levu being the largest. I visited 6 of the islands in 12 days taking the Yasawa flyer, a large catamaran between islands. First stop was South Sea island, one of the Mamanuca islands. It's tiny, taking 2 minutes to walk across from one side to the other. It was a really friendly island where all the staff knew you by name as there was only 11 of us staying overnight. At every island the staff greet you from the boat singing and playing their guitars with their traditional welcome song. Meals are at set times every day and there is usually a buffet breakfast, lunch and dinner. I went out on a submarine boat to see the coral reef, however the water wasn't very clear after all the rain. The snorkelling trip from the island was a little better, I saw a lot of colourful fish. All the non-motorised watersports were free so after lunch one of the staff taught me how to sail a hobbycat, sailing around the island, it was something I had never tried before but really enjoyed. It was a really windy day and the little boat went very fast, it was great fun. After dinner there was crab racing, the first crab to make it from the centre of the circle to the outside wins, and my crab, Mr Claws, won, so I had to make an acceptance speech and receive a bottle of wine. After South Sea, I went to Kuata, about an hour and a half away, one of the first islands in the chain of Yawasas. From here I did a snorkelling trip to find reef sharks, on Moua reef, they tend to swim along the ocean bed, and I had great fun diving down to take a closer look. They are about 1m long but luckily quite harmless. I spent 2 nights on each island which gave plenty of time to look around and swim and sunbathe each day. After Kuata, I went to Korovou resort, Naviti Island and then Coral View resort, Taweha island. From here I went scuba diving to watch the shark feeding. At a depth of 18m the Fijians feed the sharks every day, and invite the tourists to watch the feast. I wasn't sure what to expect, the sharks were a lot larger than I thought they would be, the lemon shark is 2-3m long, and looks quite mean, I also saw white tipped and black tipped sharks, which were slightly smaller. It was an amazing experience, and I didn't feel scared at all. On my second day I visited the Sawihla caves. It took 40 minutes on a speed boat to get there. The first cavern is huge, very tall and has a lovely large pool of water to dive into, from this first cavern, more caves can be accessed by swimming under the water for about 1m, and then a torch is needed to see inside the caves as unlike the first cave, no natural light comes through. From Coral View I went to Mantaray island which was a very nice island with a great beach and great food, and even a menu to choose from, unlike the other islands. I went scuba diving on a reef about a 20 minute boat ride from the island. The coral reef was very colourful and I saw plenty of fish, a grey reef shark and a turtle. My last island was Bounty Island, one of the Mamanuca isles, a nice small island with a swimming pool and nice beach, apparently Celebrity Love island was filmed there....
I really enjoyed the islands and found them very relaxing after all the bus travel over the last 5 months.

Viti Levu, Fiji

I flew from Auckland to Nadi, Fiji and was greeted with torrential rain! Not what I was expecting! Apparently there was a cyclone on the way. I waited 2 hours at the airport for my resort transfer, I was now on Fiji time! It happens when it happens! It was still raining the following day so I caught the local bus into Nadi town. The bus has no window panes so I got a little wet even on the bus. Nadi is a small town with one main street, there is a market selling fruit and vegetables, and a craft market. I wandered into a craft shop and ended up sitting down at the back to join a kava ceremony. We sat cross legged on the floor, the kava is made from a ground up herb which is put into a cloth and then dipped into a bowl of water, the water turns a muddy brown. Surprisingly it does taste like muddy water too! It made my tongue go a bit numb. I ended up buying a sarong, a kava bowl and a turtle necklace, for good luck, none of which I knew I needed when I went in. The following day I started my tour of the mainland with Feejee Experience. First stop was Natadola Beach, however the weather was still wet and we couldn't really enjoy it. Then on to Malomalo Village, a traditional Fijian village. We all had to wear sulus (sarongs), even the boys, and ensure our shoulders were covered to be respectful of their culture. We wandered around the village, made up of large square wooden houses. The village children followed us around and found us amusing. Afterwards it was sandboarding in the rain! Not my idea of fun, but some of our group had a go and got filthy. We stayed at Mango Bay resort that night and took part in a kava ceremony, the taste is growing on me and it made me feel relaxed, and my lips slightly numb. After dinner there was Fijian and Polynesian dancing which I enjoyed. The next day we drove to Pacific Harbour, it was still raining, the cyclone had been expected for 3 days now. It was disappointing because we couldn't do the rainforest walk as planned due to the road being flooded and without sunshine there isn't much to do inside. I tried a local dish for lunch called Kokoda, which is raw fish marinated in lemon, with chillies, and coconut cream, served in a coconut shell with cassava chips. It was delicious. The following day we went to Suva, the capital of Fiji and visited the Fiji museum. The road from Suva was flooded so we had to retrace our journey and go all the way back round the island to get to our last stop at Volvoli beach, as there is only one main road around the island. We stopped at a children's home, Treasure House, to give them some gifts, the children seemed well cared for and happy. Afterwards we stopped at another Fijian village where we were treated to another kava ceremony, traditional singing and dancing, and then we all joined in dancing. There was a massive tropical storm that night at Volivoli and then the next day it was brilliant sunshine and very hot. At last! Although I knew it was rainy season here, I thought it would be short sharp showers and then sun....how wrong I was! I finally spent the morning sunbathing before heading back to Nadi in the afternoon. We stopped for a curry at lunch time, it was very good as 30% of the population are Indian, descendants of Indian contract labourers brought over there by the British in the 19Th century. We stopped at some natural mud pools where we got covered head to toe in mud, then baked in the sun before rinsing off and then climbing in to a very hot pool, so hot in fact, that I wondered if the Fijians were still cannibals as it felt like I was being cooked alive. The good news was that the cyclone had finally passed and the weather had turned glorious, around 30 degrees...fantastic!

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Mount Maunganui

From Kaikoura, I travelled up to Picton to catch the ferry back to Wellington in the North Island, from there I travelled to Rotorua, stopping overnight before finally staying in Mount Maunganui for a few days to recover from 4 days of constant travelling, I am thoroughly fed up of sitting on a bus now! Mount Maunganui is a popular seaside resort town, it has the best beach in New Zealand after Abel Tasman. Mount Maunganui is a dormant volcano 232m tall. I climbed to the top for fantastic views of the town and the ocean, and then spent the following day relaxing on the beach as luckily it was a hot sunny day. Great training for Fiji next!
New Zealand has been a great place to travel around, the South island is so beautiful, and I have done some great adventure sports too. A fantastic 6 weeks!

Saturday, 20 November 2010


After leaving Christchurch, the next stop was Kaikoura. Something I have always wanted to do is swim with dolphins and Kaikoura is the best place to do this in New Zealand. The dusky dolphins are found year round in the Pacific Ocean next to Kaikoura because the ocean is so deep there. After being kitted out in a wetsuit, jacket, hat, snorkel and flippers, the boat took us out into the ocean from South Bay, Kaikoura. After only 15 minutes we spotted our first dolphin, then soon after a pod of over 100! We dove into the cold water and the dolphins swam around us, to keep them near us, we had to keep them entertained, so we sang to them, dived down and swam in circles mimicking their behaviour. It was thrilling for them to come so close to me, at times I could have reached out and touched them. After the pod moved on we clambered back on board the boat and looked for the next pod of dolphins. 5 minutes later we spotted another pod and got straight back in the water to play with them, they would flip in the air and swim round in circles under us, it was such good fun, I enjoyed every minute and thought how lucky I was to be able to swim with wild dolphins. We followed the dolphins for 3 hours, swimming in the ocean with them whenever we could, it was such a great afternoon, one of my favourite days in New Zealand.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Dunedin, Lake Tekapo and Christchurch

After Queenstown we headed to Dunedin, meaning Edinburgh of the South, it's also the beer and chocolate capital of New Zealand, with a Speights brewery and Cadburys chocolate factory. The following morning, we walked up Baldwin street, which, according to the Guiness Book of Records, is the steepest street in the world. We then stopped off at the Moraki Boulders, huge spherical rocks scattered along the sea shore. We reached Lake Tekapo late afternoon and had a BBQ which was delicious, with homemade burgers, and hokey pokey icecream. Lake Tekapo is a good spot for star gazing and the night sky was wonderful, so many stars. I hiked up to Mount John summit, 1043m above sea level, the view was good but it was so windy, it took my breath away. My hostel is right by Lake Tekapo with views from my dorm room accross the lake, which is so beautiful. Lake Tekapo is home to two of New Zealands most photographed landmarks, the Church of the Good Shepherd and the Sheepdog statue. Not sure why!? After Queenstown, Lake Tekapo is a great spot to relax and take in the views.
We arrived in Christchurch early afternoon from Lake Tekapo, and took a short tour on the bus, it's a really pretty city, very English. The earthquake damage wasn't immediately visible, in the city centre, a few of the buildings have lost their roofs and the pavements are cordoned off to protect the public in case of falling tiles, but on the whole I wouldn't have known that an earthquake 7.1 on the Richter scale had happened here. I took a shower that evening, and felt the earth move! An aftershock rumbled through the building for several seconds and I started to wonder if I should get dressed and get under the door frame, no way was I running out naked! Luckily it stopped shortly after! It's quite a common occurence after a large quake. Christchurch is known as the English city, due to the gardens and buildings around the city, and the Avon river where you can go punting. I wandered round the Art gallery, the museum and the Botanic Gardens, with rose gardens and lily ponds, gorgeous. The following day I took a day trip to Akoroa, about an hour away from Christchurch by bus. It's a historic French and British settlement nestled in a beautiful harbour. It was a really hot sunny day and I strolled along the sea front to the lighthouse, stopping to browse in the local shops on the way, and then sunbathing in the park after lunch, a really great, lazy day.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010


After Franz Josef we headed further south to Queenstown, and discovered where all the people are! Queenstown is a very busy but small town and has everything you could ever want, plenty of adventure activities, gorgeous scenery and a great nightlife. Louisa and I took a day trip to Milford Sound which was beautiful, it was a 5 hour drive from Queenstown, passing through Te Anu on the way and then through some of the most spectacular scenery I have ever seen. Beautiful blue sparkling lakes with snow capped mountains as a backdrop. We took a boat cruise at Milford Sound, we saw lots of gushing waterfalls and even saw the rare yellow eyed penguin. Something else you have to do in Queenstown is try a Ferg Burger, it was enormous and so good, it's probably the best burger in the world! I had to go back the next day and have another! I also went hang gliding at Cornonet Peak, just outside Queenstown, as it was something I'd always wanted to do but never got round to it. With my instructor, I ran off the peak at 3,800 feet above the ground, that was the scariest bit! Once airborn it was brilliant, it really felt like flying, we were gliding for about 10 minutes, and then just before we landed we took some nose dives which made my stomach lurch, but added an extra thrill. Queenstown is situated on the edge of a huge lake, which we took a walk along and it has a small stony beach to chill out on too. It is definitely my favourite place in New Zealand. I spent 5 nights there and ended up going out drinking 4 of the 5 nights, the nightlife was so good!

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Franz Josef Glacier

After Nelson we headed down south along the west coast, stopping at the Punakaki pancake rocks on the way to Greymouth. The rocks are an unusual rock formation as the rocks look like a stack of pancakes. We stopped in Greymouth overnight, however there isn't much to do there apart from a brewery tour and then arrived in Franz Josef at lunchtime the following day. Louisa and I hiked to the Franz Josef Glacier car park and took the Douglas walk passing Peter's Pool on the way which had a great reflective view of the glacier. The following day we did a full days Glacier experience. We were equipped with waterproof jacket and trousers, hiking boots and socks, beanie hat and mittens, and of course crampons, that fasten onto your boots for gripping the ice. It was an hours walk to the foot of the glacier and there we attached our crampons, and our guide led us onto the glacier. My first few steps on the ice were tentative but the crampons gave fantastic grip and soon we were hiking up the first slope with ease. It got colder the further up we climbed, we went through the bottom of a steep gorge, the ice walls on either side were so narrow, it was a squeeze to fit through. Ice steps had been cut into the steep slopes with a fixed rope to pull ourselves up. We stopped for lunch on a rocky part of the glacier but after only 10 mintues we were so cold and keen to keep moving. We climbed down to an ice cave, the water dripping onto our heads from above, and then pulled ourselves up a rope on the other side. Having climbed about halfway up the glacier, about 500m above sea level, we then slowly made our way back down. It was a really enjoyable experience, despite the cold, and we spent around 6 hours on the glacier altogther, a really fantastic and memorable day.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Abel Tasman National Park

It was a 3 hour ferry crossing to the south island, and after stopping for some wine tasting, we arrived in Nelson late afternoon. It's a really small city but really lovely and the gateway to the Abel Tasman National Park. We did a days hike in the park, taking a ferry from Kaiteriteri to Anchor Bay, and then tramping back along the coastal path to Marahau, a really beautiful walk, amazing blue waters and golden beaches. We headed out in the evening for a few drinks in the city centre dressed as witches for Halloween and discovered that Kiwis don't do that, there were very few others dressed up, but we had a good night. The following day we tramped up to the centre of New Zealand, which is up a very steep hill, but a great view, and then walked along the river and fell asleep in the sun. Fab!

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Waitomo Caves and Wellington

On the way to Wellington, we stopped at the Waitomo glow worm caves to take a walk through. The caves are over 30 million years old, the glow worms are actually larvae, they live for about 10 months by catching insects with strings of mucus they make, which hang down quite prettily, they then hatch into flies which only live for 5weeks. The larvae glow in the dark and make pretty patterns on the wall. We also stopped at Tongariro National Park on the way through to view the snow capped mountains, so beautiful.
Wellington is the captial city of New Zealand, but it is really small, it only takes about an hour to walk from one end to the other, so was really easy to get around. I really liked it, much nicer than Auckland. We visited the Te Papa museum, New Zealands National museum, it was really good, set over 6 floors and telling the history of New Zealand's history, culture, people, land and art. We took a tour of Parliament House, the buildings and the really ugly beehive which is actually the executive wing, so called becuase of the shape. Afterwards we took the cable car at Kelburn, one of New Zealand's oldest and most popular tourist attraction, to the top of the Botanic Gardens, visited the Cable car museum, and then walked back downhill through the gardens,which were really lovely. The following day we hiked up Mount Victoria for 360 degree views of the city, it was a really clear sunny day, so well worth the steep climb. We tramped back down along the winding road with houses tucked away on the steep hillside, what a great (and expensive!) place to live.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Rotorua and Taupo

From Auckland, I started the journey south, first stopping at Mount Eden, an extinct volcano in Auckland, for panoramic views of the city and harbour. Then through the Hauraki plains to Thames, through Paeora, where New Zealands most famous fizzy drink, L & P, was first made, which was really refreshing. Then on to the Shires rest for lunch, gateway to the Hobbiton movie set, surrounded by lots of rolling green hills and sheep. When we reached Rotorua, the smell of rotton eggs hits you, this is because of the dense sulphur deposits in the area. In the evening I went to Tamaki Maori Hangi and Concert evening in the Tawa forest. In the village we learnt about Maori traditions and culture, and saw the Hangi, where they traditionally cook their meals, a hole in the ground, with lots of rocks in the bottom, the food is then covered with earth and left to cook for a few hours. The Maroi's danced and sang for us, and performed the Haka, then we sat down to enjoy our hangi meal. There was chicken, lamb, vegetables, stuffing and gravy, and in true backpacker style I ate like it was my last ever meal. There was even steamed pudding and custard, and pavlova so I had to have 3 helpings, since I have not had a dessert for 4 months!
The following day I walked round the Government Gardens in Rotorua, which were created in the 1890's, originally a scrubland geothermal area, turned into Edwardian Gardens which were really lovely. I walked along the shore of Lake Rotorua, which was milky white due to the particles of sulphur suspended in the water. It was amazing to see the amount of gas rising into the air, and hear the bubbling noises and smell the sulphur! Afterwards I went to Kuirau Park, another thermal area in Rotorua.
In the afternoon I went white water rafting on the Kaitaki River, grade 5 rapids! It was so good, we went over a gentle 2m and 1.5m waterfall easily, then the big one, 7 metres! It was so exciting, I was at the front of the raft and as we tipped over the edge our guide yelled 'down' and we all dived for the bottom of the raft. The nose dipped into the plunge pool at the bottom of the falls and then we bobbed up again, not one of us had fallen out. Awesome!
On the way to Taupo, we stopped at Lady Knox Geyser which is a natural geiser that erupts every day at 10.15am, which I thought was very strange that nature could be so precise, until the guide explained that he put something like soap powder in the geiser to create a reaction. The water reached about 10m high when the geiser erupted! It was then on to Huka Falls which has the greatest volume of water falling over it in New Zealand. Our overnight stop is in Taupo which is a small holiday village, next to the largest lake in New Zealand,which you could fit Singapore in. A really pretty place.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Auckland to the Bay of Islands, New Zealand

I flew from Brisbane to Auckland, New Zealand, which was a 3 hour flight. On first appearance New Zealand has a very similar feel to Australia, same urban landscape, etc, but with more English weather. One day it was really hot, next day pouring with rain! I stayed in downtown Auckland city so it was really easy to walk everywhere. I visited 'The Domain' where the War memorial museum is located. It's a really pretty, huge open area, with indoor Winter gardens which were beautiful. The following day I took a ferry to Rangitoto Island which is a volcanic island that erupted from the sea about 600 years ago. It was raining quite hard by now, but I still decided to hike to the top hoping the rain would stop. It didn't! I got soaked walking for about 40 minutes to the top and instead of spectacular views of the crater, and the island, all I could see was a fine mist, so disappointing! I could also visit other islands with my ticket but the rain didn't let off all day, so I caught the ferry to Devonport, a 15 minute trip from Auckland, which is a really picturesque town, with lots of cafes, antique and book shops, and very pretty colourful houses. It was nice but not so enjoyable to wander around in the rain.
I took a bus from Auckland north to the Bay of Islands and stayed in Paihia. Paihia is a very pretty beach town, from which you can take a day trip to Cape Reinga, the most northerly point of New Zealand. We stopped at Puketi karui forest and did the Manginagina scenic walk to view the native flora and fauna. Next on to Cape Reinga, where the Tasman sea meets the Pacific ocean, and you could see the waves crashing together where they met. There is a quaint light house right on the headland, which you could walk to. The cape is a spiritual place for Maori's who believe it is the departing place of the Maori spirit. After lunch at the beach we headed to Ninety Mile beach via Te Paki quicksand stream, if the bus stopped we would be sunk! We stopped off on the way to go sandboarding, which was great fun. We climbed to the top of a very steep sands dune, laid on our boogie boards and then went sliding all the way down. We drove along some of Ninety Mile beach in the bus which was specially built for driving on sand. On the way back to Paihia we stopped at Mangonui, a fishing village that apparently has the best fish and chips in New Zealand! The following day, we headed to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds where the treaty was signed between the British government and the Maori's, however as there were 2 versions, one English and one Maori, there were differing interpretations and the obligations the treaty placed on each side has been in contention ever since. We had hired bikes from the hostel so we also went to Haruru falls, which we thought was a 5km walk, so we locked our bikes to the fence and started walking, not realising that was only one way. They were good though. When we got back to our bikes, the combination lock had been broken, so that the numbers weren't visible and we had to call our hostel manager for him to come and cut the chain with bolt cutters. He thought it would probably have been some local Maori boys. That's the only attempt I am aware of on all my travels to steal from me, so I think I am doing well so far.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

The Great Ocean Road

From Adelaide I headed to Melbourne along The Great Ocean Road. We drove for about 8 hours to reach The Grampians National Park, where we did the Hollow Mountain hike, a 1.2km hike which was more of a rock climb than a hike. It was so steep but the view from the top was fantastic. Afterwards we went to Mackenzie Falls, named after the first prime minister of Australia. About 200 steps led down to the falls which was fun climbing back up after all the hiking I had done over the last 6 days, my legs were aching! The following day we headed for another hike in the Grampians, this time called 'The Pinnacle'. As you can guess it was another steep hill and more amazing views. Our first stop on the Great Ocean Road was 'The Bay of Islands', which was really beautiful, then the 'Bay of Martyrs, London Bridge (although part of it had fell down!), and then the Gibson steps to viw one of the twelve apostles. After dinner we headed back to 'The Twelve Apostles'- although there are only 8, as two of them fell into the sea twenty years ago and there weren't 12 in the first place! We watched the sunset over the apostles which was beautiful. The following day we took a treetop canopy walk at Otway fly in the rainforest. The drive along the great ocean road is gorgeous, the majority of the road is right by the ocean and quite twisty, it winds round the mountains, unlike most of the roads in Australia which are very straight. We stopped for lunch and koala spotting which we did see a couple high up in the trees. We then went to Bells beach for a spot of sunbathing, before making our last stop at Torquay, the home of surfing brand, Ripcurl. We reached Melbourne about 6pm and although we were all tired, decided to go to 'Neighbours night' at a pub in St Kilda, it had to be done! It was a fun night, there was a quiz and then Dr Karl's band played, and there was even an appearance from Paul Robinson. I had my photos taken with Karl, Stingray and some guy who I had no idea, but i think it was Paul Robinson's son. I haven't watched Neighbours for a very long time, but the place was packed with Brits, so it must still be popular!?

Friday, 8 October 2010

The Flinders Ranges

Quorn was a further 800km drive from Coober Pedy, taking about 8 hours. We stopped at a salt lake on the way, untouced by man as it is so remote. The salt is 3 times as salty as regualr salt. We stopped in Glendambo for a bbq lunch, population = 30. It used to be an army base, hence all the houses are very square. We reached Quorn late afternoon, it seemed strange being in a place with people and traffic again as we were no longer in the outback. The following day we visited Wilpena Pound in the Flinders Ranges National park which is a natural amphitheatre in a huge stone crater. We hiked up to the top which took about an hour and involved a lot of rock scrambling. The climb was worth it though as we had a fantastic 360 degree view of Wilpena Pound. We had a bbq lunch in the park, which is a great thing about Australia, bbqs are everywhere. Afterwards we visited the Yourambulla caves where there are Aboriginal paintings, which is the main way Aborgines communicated their culture, laws and teachings to the young. Thier language was a spoken language only until the 'white fella' came along and wanted to write it down. Last stop was Warren gorge where we tried to spot Rockwallabies, no luck though! The following day we got up at 5am to catch the sunrise at 'The Dutchman', another steep hill in the Flinders Ranges. It was so cold as we started hiking, it was a gradual climb taking about an hour to reach the top. The view was spectacular, the outback stretching as far as the eye could see. Lots of wild purple flowers, which was unusual but it has rained alot this year in Australia. We reached Adelaide late afternoon. I didn't like Adelaide much, it's just another city really.

Coober Pedy

Coober Pedy is a small opal mining town, about an 800km drive from Uluru. Coober Pedy is an Aboriginal word meaning 'whie fella in hole'. When the opal was discovered here, due to lack of timber and because it was so hot in summer and cold in winter the miners dug themselves homes underground as the temperature remained constant down there. We had a tour of the opal mine, and then a wander round Coober Pedy itself, it's deceiving because most of the houses are underground so it doesn't look like many people live there. Or hostel is built into the side of a rock, it is quite strange to be in a room with rock walls and no windows! Coober Pedy is the strangest town I have ever been in and I can understand why it's used in a lot of films. So surreal!


The view from the plane as the plane touched down in Alice Springs was exactly how I imagined the outback to be, a flat barren landscape, mainly red with some greenery as well, however the amount of greenery is unusual, but it has rained alot this year, which is unusual. Alice Springs is a very small town with a couple of blocks of shops in the central business district and thats about all. An afternoon was long enough to see the whole of Alice Springs. Next morning, it was a 5.10am pick up from my hostel and then a 4 hour drive to Kings Canyon. Kings Canyon was formed about 480 million years ago, it's made up of two types of sandstone rock. We took a 3 hour hike, up, over and in the canyon. It was a really hot day 35 degrees but a dry heat. I was pestered by a lot of flies, the insect repellent didn't seem to have much effect. It wasn't a difficult hike but so hot. We visited the Garden of Eden, right in the middle which has a small lake. After clambering back down we headed back to the the campsite for a BBQ, camel sausages, kanagaroo steaks, both really good. We had another really early start the next day, 4.30am to catch the sunrise at Uluru by 6.26am. It was spectacular as the sun rose the rock turned different shades of red. We then walked round the base of the rock, which took about 2 hours. Up close the rock has large craters in it, and caverns. There is a climb to the top of Uluru but it is often closed due to high winds or rain or death! 77 people have died since 1985. The Aborgines who own the land do not like visitors to climb Uluru as it is a sacred site for them. There are parts of the rock where photography is forbidden as they are sacred spots to the Aborigines. After Uluru we headed to Kata Tjuta (The Olgas), part of the Uluru National Park. These were formed millions of years ago and are made of conglomorate rocks from the sea bed. It is strange to see the rocks sticking out of the landscape. They have been gradually eroded by the rain and wind into dome shapes.
We visited the Cultural centre in the afternoon, and then did the Mala walk round Uluru where Sheldon, our tour guide told us loads of interesting stories about Uluru and the Aborigines. We then caught the sunset at Uluru, where we had champange and nibbles....cool! We headed back to camp and I spent our last night sleeping in a swag under the stars. Beautiful!

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Cairns and the Atherton Tablelands

I took a day trip from Cairns to the Atherton tablelands, just south of Cairns. These were created by European settlers because they discovered how fertile the soil was and cleared acres of rainforest in order to grow sugar cane. It's quite strange to be one minute driving through thick rainforest and then suddenly it disappears to be replaced by fields of sugar cane. We stopped at Josephine falls, waterfalls with rapids and rocks to slide down. Great fun. Next stop Johnstone River lookout, a spectacular view across the rive valley. We had lunch at Mungalli falls, which was really good, even had pudding! Afterwards we headed to Millaa Millaa Falls where Peter Andre filmed his video to 'Mysterious Girl'. I had a swim under the waterfall, the water was so cold. After our swim we headed to Lake Eacham which is a volcanic crater lake created thousands of years ago, it contains 100% rainwater so really pure. It was lovely swimming in the lake and we spotted turtles native to Lake Eacham, they can breathe out of their bottom. The last stop was the curtain fig tree, this is another strangler fig tree that killed the host tree and then fell sideways creating a curtain effect with its roots. In the rainforest we also saw large orb spiders and the 'burning leaf' tree which if the leaf touches you, causes a burning sensation which can last up to 5 months! Our guide Roger was very knowledgable, and it was interesting to learn about the Aboriginal people who were not considered part of the Australian population until 1968 when the government took a poll asking white australians if they thought Aborigines should be classed as Australians. 90% voted yes, until then they were classed in with the flora and fauna!
Cairns is a nice small city with a swimming pool lagoon as the sea is full of crocs!. The night life is pretty good too. Gabriela and I went out for her last night in Oz to the Woolshed, the most popular bar/nightclub in Cairns. We had a good night and with about 3 hours sleep, I waved her off on the bus to the airport. After two months travelling together I was so sad to say goodbye.
Cairns is my last stop on the East Coast of Australia, tomorrow I fly to Alice Springs to join a 10 day tour from Alice Springs to Melbourne.

Cape Tribulation

After a quick overnight stop in Cairns we travelling even further north to Cape Tribulation. First stop a riverboat cruise on the Daintree river looking for crocs! The first one we saw was tiny, sitting on a tree stump sticking out of the water, and I was a little disappointed. However then we saw a much larger croc half submerged in the water which was pretty impressive. Then we saw an even bigger one right by the edge of the bank, it was so good to see crocs in the wild, needless to say I kept my limbs in the boat at all times! After the cruise we headed farther into the Daintree National Park for the Marja botanical boardwalk, a half hour walk through the rainforest. We saw strangler fig trees that find a host tree to put down its roots and then slowly drains it of all its nutrients so it dies. We arrived at our hostel in Cape Tribulation in time for lunch and to spend the afternoon relaxing on the beach. The following day we took a walk to Emmagen Creek to a swimming hole, as there aren't many place to swim at Cape Tribulation because of all the crocs! After an hour and a half hike we reached Emmagen creek only to find the swimming hole wasn't as picturesque as we were led to believe. Anyway we were so hot and sweaty after our hike we jumped in to cool off. We got talking to an English guy and his son in the swimming hole who were staying at our backpackers and so caught a ride home with them. Cape Tribulation is advertised as where the reef meets the rainforest, it certainly is a spectacular spot. The following day we took the tour bus back to Cairns stopping at the Alexandra range lookout, crossing the Daintree river on the ferry, before stopping at Mossman Gorge, a really nice swimming hole with rapids. Finally, we stopped in Port Douglas late afternoon for a wander up and down the main street and a peek at the beach. It was the busiest beach I've seen so far on the east coast, there are usually just a few people dotted around but this one was packed! Port Douglas reminded me a little of Byron Bay, small but a bit more upmarket. It was good to get out of Cairns and see the Rainforest, it's so beautiful.

Rum Runner, Barrier Reef

Our sailing boat 'The Rum Runner' left Cairns at 7am and by 11am we were snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef. Amazing! The coral reef is so beautiful, so colourful. The array of fish is wonderful too. The second spot we went to we did a scuba dive to about 14m deep for about 30 minutes, which was really good. Another snorkelling session after a fantastic lunch on board in an even more impressive spot.
Sleeping on a rocking boat took some getting used to, but I eventually drifted off and then was up and rearing to go at 7am for my next scuba dive. It was even better than the first one as I was more relaxed and looked around more. We then had breakfast and went to our final spot on the reef. Snorkelling around the tall towers of coral is so spectacular, it's difficult to describe, you need to be there! The crew on the Rum Runner were really good too, so we had the best time. In the evening when finally back on land, our skipper treated us to beer and pizza in the local pub, 'The Woolshed'. Awesome!

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Skydive at Mission Beach

We ended up travelling up to Cairns a day early because the weather was so bad and then going back to Mission Beach a couple of days later for my skydive as I really wanted to land on Mission Beach. I felt a little nervous on the bus ride to Mission Beach but also really excited. There was a lot of hanging around as there were 18 of us doing our skydive. I started to feel even more nrevous, then all of sudden my name was called and having missed the safety briefing (isn't that important!?) I was strapped up ready to go. It was a 20 minute plane ride on the smallest plane I have ever been on to climb up to 14,000 feet. My instructor Mike gave me some last minute tips on the plane and then it was finally my turn to jump. There wasn't time to think about it, we were free falling through the clouds.... It was totally exhilarating and I loved every minute of it. After 60 seconds the parachute opened and then I had a go at steering us down to the beach. We went through quite a lot of cloud and then I could see the ocean, Dunk Island, sugar cane fields and the beach, an absolutely beautiful view. We landed on the beach on my feet! Awesome!
Gabriela and I watched my dvd back in the skydive centre, that Mike had recorded on a handicam, he did a fantastic job and I'm looking forward to showing you all when I get home. I would really love to do another jump....maybe New Zealand?!

Friday, 24 September 2010

Magnetic Island & Mission Beach

Magnetic Island, just a 20 minute ferry ride from Townsville was really beautiful. Our backpackers was right on the beach, more of a resort than a hostel. The weather was so hot so we headed straight for the beach on arrival. The following day we caught the bus to Florence Bay, on the north east coast which we were told was a good snorkelling spot. After wandering round the wrong track for an hour, we did the Fort walk by accident, (a walk round the headland to view all the gunning points from the war), we eventually found the beach, however the snorkelling was a little disappointing as the water wasn't very clear. We were glad we wore stinger suits as we saw a few jelly dish, the box jelly fish causes more deaths in Australia each year than anything else. We did see some wobbygongs and other small fish though.

It was really hot and humid walking to Florence Bay so we decided to hitch a lift back to our hostel and a couple picked us up who were going there for lunch with their grandson, what luck!

After 3 days on Magnetic Island we left for Mission Beach. We were planning to do our sky dive there, however the weather had turned cloudy and wet. We went for a Rainforest walk instead, however after trekking for half an hour into the rainforest, and then through a creek, the track got really boggy, Gabriela lost her flip flop in the mud and mud splattered all over her face and arms, I thought it was hilarious but for some reason Gabriela didn't see the funny side! I struggled through the mud too and then we realised the track got even muddier, the walk was supposed to take 3 hours and Gabriela was getting bitten quite badly so we turned back. A really disappoining walk!

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Whitsundays and Airlie Beach

The main reason people go to Airlie Beach is to visit the Whitsunday Islands. A group of 74 islands off the East coast. Airlie Beach doesn't really have much of a beach, instead they have built a lagoon with a small beach and lots of grass and palm trees surrounding it. Really lovely and no danger of stingers or sharks when swimming! We spent a few days chiling out around the lagoon and a few nights drinking in our hostel bar, with live music every night. Great!
We sailed from Able Point Marina to South Molle Island on our 18m catamaran ''Kora''. We had beautiful weather that afternoon and sunbathed on deck all afternoon, it's a hard life! We reached the island and went for a bush walk up to Mount Jeffrey where we had a 360 degree view of the island. The following day we boarded the boat at 8am and sailed to the Barrier Reef for snorkelling. The weather wasn't very good and water wasn't very clear, however we still saw plenty of fish and the colourful reef. We had lunch on the boat and then sailed to Whitsunday Island where we visited the white silicone sand beach, really beautiful. We spotted mantarays in the water. On our last day the weather was really hot with clear blue skys showing the islands to their best. We sailed to Blue Pearl Bay for snorkelling. This time the water was really clear and we saw so many fish, some really huge ones too. We then sailed back to Airlie Beach, after having spotted a whale making its way back to the Antarctic. It was a really good sailing and snorkelling trip.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Town of 1770

Town of 1770 is the only place in the world with a number for its name. Captain Cook named it when he landed there to stop for supplies in 1770. The best thing you can do there is Scooterooing. The Scooter Roo company are based in Agnes Water and have lots of scooter bikes done out like chopper motorbikes, but are just twist and go. We did a massive ride-out, about 60 bikes and spotted kangaroos, stopping for potato wedges in 1770. It was great fun and I really enjoyed being on a bike again, although with a top speed of 55 miles per hour it was a little tame.

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Fraser Island

The Fraser Island trip was brilliant. Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world. The highest sand dunes on the island reach up to 240m above sea level, and it is the only place in the world where tall rainforests are found growing on sand dunes at elevations of over 200 metres. The island has over 320 species of birds and the dingo population is the purest strain remaining in Eastern Australia.
We went for 3 days and 2 nights camping. There were three 4 wheel drive vehicles and we had a guide driving the lead car and then everyone took it turns to drive the 2 vehicles following. There were 23 of us in total so it was a tight squeeze in the cars. After sorting out our camping gear, we caught the ferry to Fraser Island. The island is very beautiful, the roads are sand tracks which can be very soft and difficult to drive on. On each side of the road there are tall rainforest trees. We took a walk in the forest and drank water from a creek which was so pure because the water is filtered by the sand. We then drove to Lake Wabby which is at the bottom of a massive sand blow (A very steep sandhill). We sunbathed and swam in the lake. We then drove along the beach for a good hour to reach the Maheno ship wreck, which is rusting away on the shore. After that we headed to camp for a BBQ and campfire, and of course, lots of goon!
On our second day I had the pleasure of driving the jeep for about an hour, along some of the sand track roads, it was great fun, a bit like driving in snow, it was a blast! We went to the west coast of the island where we could swim in the sea, as on the east coast, where we are caming, the sea is full of sharks and rip tides, so very dangerous. In the afternoon we drove back to the east coast and went to the Champagne pools, so called because the pools are cut off from the sea by rocks, and the waves come crashing over, wiping you out, good fun! We then walked up to Indian Head, a great lookout from which we could spot dolphins, turtles and mantarays, so cool!
We got up early the next morning to watch the sunrise, so beautiful. We packed up our camping gear and headed off to the beach to do a creek walk. The water is crystal clear, about knee height. We then headed to Lake Birrabeen for lunch, swimming and sunbathing. The sand is white silcone, really bright and the water is so clear. Early afternoon, we headed back to catch the ferry to the mainland. A really great trip and a fun group of people. We all met up back at the hostel in the evening for drinking games and then nightclubbing, a great time!

Monday, 30 August 2010

Noosa to Rainbow Beach

I met up with Gabriela again in Noosa and we went to Australia Zoo. Australia zoo was started by the Irwin family in 1970 so they were celebrating 40 years. The zoo is now on a 70 acre site with over 1,000 animals. There were wombats, kangaroos, koalas, birds, dingos, elephants, tigers, turtles, snakes, tasmanian devils and of course, lots of crocs! We fed the elephants, patted the koalas, and watched the Wildlife Warriors show in the Crocoseum. A great day out.
Next stop Rainbow Beach. The first day we spent at the beach and counted the 74 colours of sand that can be found there. It's a very beautiful beach and the first one we have come across which can be driven on in 4x4's. We went sea kayaking to see dolphins and after about an hour of looking, we spotted some quite close to our kayak, fantastic!