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Perth, WA, and how I spent my summer holidays

Australia is big. I mean, really big. Take Europe for example, and then add some. Stuck in this continent over the Christmas period due to mandatory leave at the most expensive time of the year Cindy and I decide to head as far away as we can get without heading in to tropical wet-season in the top-end. We decide to head to Western Australia (WA).

Draw a line about a third of the way though Australia (that’s about half the size of Europe) and you have the state of WA on one side (and only 2.5m people), and everything else on the other (about 20m people).

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Perth, population 1.8m. 75% of the population of WA lives in this one city, the rest are spread out across that continental span I showed you in the above image. All in all, it’s a pretty empty place. Somewhere half the size of Europe yet today The London Underground will have twice as many passengers than there are people in this entire state.

As the digital tourists we are we were reliant on Google Maps from the airport to our hostel, a small and easy city to navigate we don’t fret getting lost. Some friendly statuesque kangaroos give us some selfie photo ops as we walk to our hostel.

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First impressions were of a laid-back and pretty city with lots of sculptures and beautiful buildings. Plenty of Japanese and Korean restaurants fill the streets, leaving little opportunities to deviate but after delicious kare-age and sushi-train we don’t mind.

For the day we head to Fremantle (or Freo as the locals call it) for the day. Fremantle is about 30 minutes away by train from Perth Central. We didn’t expect much to be going on during Boxing Day but found the market and most of the shops to be open and selling all sorts of food and curios. As the afternoon crept in and we started to feel the tiredness from the early morning flight (and two hours jetlag) we crash out on the lawn near the esplanade and eventually move on to the Little Creatures brewery for a complimentary beer tasting.

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Rottnest

The next day we took the ferry down the Swan River to Rotto (Rottnest Island). About 45-50 minutes later we’re pulling into harbour, we grab our bikes, load up on sandwiches from the Subway shop in town and head out west. Mmm… I can smell them sammiches now.

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On such a hot day we’re burning through water and calories. The frequent stops to refresh in the pristine beaches and crystalline waters are a cool relief.

The west end of the island has a lookout but no beaches to swim and is about 2 hour bike-ride away, we should have just stayed at the last spot. The one saving grace was that it does have the only shade on the entire island as we sit in the bus shelter eating our sandwiches with the company of a large, black lizard whom no doubt smelled the food.

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Refreshed we start our cycle back to the beaches, by the early afternoon they’ve cleared out, the waters have warmed a little and we enjoy the refreshing dip and swim without all the people. The waters were so incredibly clear, such an unreal blue like something out of a cartoon.

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OMQUOKKAS!!!

On our ride back we spot some quokkas chilling out by the side of the road. We pull up and have these friendly visitors jump up to us and investigate the smells of us and our bags (sorry guys, you don’t get any people food). Posing for the required #QuokkaSelfie makes the day, and my life, complete.

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South and Margaret River

We’ve hired a Wicked Camper again, the same one we had in Cairns a few months back. Leaving midday Monday we drive south through Mandurah and Bunbury towards Dunsborough and Margaret River. We stop outside Mandurah at a place called Silver Sands for lunch and a swim. A small dog comes to bark at us at the water’s edge, a little too afraid to brave the breach himself.

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I can’t believe how busy this area is, actually it’s xmas time in the biggest tourist spot in WA; yes, yes I can believe. As we head into the Margaret River/Dunsborough area every beach, every car-park and every town is just packed with slow moving traffic, double-parked cars and thousands of people. The Perthians have all flocked south for Winter (and wine).

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It’s Christmas time and there’s no room at the inn. The places we’re trying to camp or park are all full. We decide to spend the day in the area but head somewhere remote for the night. So we let tonights problem slip away from our minds and enjoy the vineyards and wine tasting, some more beautiful beaches for swimming, stock up on food and head south and inland to the Giant Karri Forests, saying goodbye to the beaches for now.

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Pemberton and Walpole

So we arrive into Pemberton late afternoon. Everything is closing up and we haven’t sorted our nights stay. I’d been on the phone to the local hostel who said they had a bed, but when we arrive he lets us know there’s a camp spot down the road nestled in the forest – sounds awesome. It’s a short drive, but we constantly feel like we’re heading into unknown territory, no sign posts, we pass a golf course and a field full of wallabies. Cindy mentions that Wolf Creek is set in WA, probably not far from where we are. She’s not a reassuring girlfriend.

Our car is on its own surrounded by swarms of mosquitos, we’re the only ones here and we feel like we shouldn’t be here. We set up our sleeping arrangements, hunch over our dinner and eat. It gets dark. We try to go to sleep. Every slight sound we hear, worrying for that eventful tap on the window from a ranger, still with that fear of dread that we shouldn’t be here despite the local advice, but we’re tired and we drift off to sleep.

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Next morning we check out the national parks, the large Karri, we climb the world’s  second largest fire-lookout tree and paint the car red off-roading to rock formations, pools and the world’s largest eucalyptus tree (so big you can park a car inside the trunk).

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Today has been cold and wet, so when we make it to the town of Denmark, famous for it’s amazing beaches and coastline we’re a little underwhelmed. We ask in the information centre what to do in the rain and are met with blank stares.

Have ya seen the trees?

Awesome.

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So we decide to fill up the tank and make a dash back to Pemberton, 8 degrees and freezing cold down south but closer to Perth is a balmy 32.

New Year

New Years eve, we’re awake at 6am again after one of the coldest nights. We stayed the night, again, in Pemberton but due to the rain and winds the temperature had dropped drastically and we had to wrap ourselves in beach towels and huddle together for warmth; shivering ourselves awake several times throughout the night.

We start the long drive back to Perth. We rest in Bunbury where the temperatures are now back to an awesome 34. We swim, bathe and bake.

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Returning to Perth and blue skies, after a long and tiring day and little sleep. New Years has never seen less appealing. Cindy and I stare at each other, blank faced over a Shark Bay Prawn Burger from Jus’ Burgers, our minds now empty from tiredness.

Is it wrong to just want to sleep through New Year? I feel like we should do something.

But instead we do nothing. We eat dinner, stroll through the park, head to bed around 10pm and nap through it all.

The next morning we head back to Fremantle, we get caught up in the excitement of the markets again and end up running late, so late, to the beach to meet friends. We manage to get a quick swim in to cool down and then race to the airport for check-in. A flight back to Melbourne and, once again, soon to be back at work.

Flickr Album:

WA

Cairns and the Atherton Tablelands

I love Cairns, especially in winter. The far north is tropical and warm and a nice contrast to the counter-side of the continent in Melbourne.

Cairns is like any big city and the year-long good weather attracts many backpackers and day-trippers. We’d seen the city before and we certainly hadn’t travelled all this way for sushi rolls and supermarkets.

We’d hired a Wicked camper, a tiny little Toyota Corolla, we nicknamed Ringo, that we can fold down the seats and make a bed to sleep in for the week – magic. After some fuss with the roof storage and paperwork we were on the road – first stop Palm Cove for a few well earned days of R&R.

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Cindy and I took an easy pace. We drove up to Port Douglas for an open-air, moonlight cinema to see Disney Pixar’s Inside Out. Snuggled up on our beach towels for a beautiful evening under the stars and cicadas with the tropical rainforest all around, what a magical experience.

Continuing our relaxiation we spent a day beach hoping Ellis Beach, Trinity Beach and Palm Cove. Coconut hunting.

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And croc and jellyfish spotting.

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We didn’t see any though.

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Our last day around Palm Cove and we drive up towards Cape Tribulation and the Daintree rainforest.

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A long winding road through beautiful countryside. Stopping at scenic lookouts, beaches, and hiking trails all throughout the day.

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The next morning we’re out on the road, leaving our beach resorts behind we head into the wilderness. First night is at a free camp-ground somewhere outside of Mareeba. We arrive in the pitch of night, hungry. Somehow we manage to navigate the maze of cars with barely any sight and set up camp. We befriend some fellow travellers after we realise we haven’t bought any gas to cook with. The stresses of our first night were over, we slept okay and woke to a beautiful day.

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Today we drove inland through the highest elevated town in Queensland past dairy farms and mountains and made our way to Mr Suprise and Undara Volcanic National Park.

We’re definitely in the outback now.

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We stop for the night at Undara under trees and the most breathtaking sky-scape of the Milky Way.

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The next day waking for tours of the lava tubes and meteor craters.

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We leave the day behind us and make way back towards the coast and back into the Atherton Tablelands on the other side of the Great Dividing Range, we stop at some free natural hot-springs for our ‘shower’ before camping for the night at another roadside stop. It rains heavily all evening and we enjoy watching Jurassic Park – somehow it feels such a fitting location to watch it.

Next day a scenic drive passing lakes and waterfalls.

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Recognise this next one? It’s from Peter Andre’s one-hit-wonder six-pack-tastic music video; Mysterious Girl. Not quite as inviting in the winter though, brrr..

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A dusk visit to the abandoned Paronella Park, once home to a Spanish Sugar-cane entrepreneur who had a dream to recreate the majesty of European Castles in Queensland. Sadly, after his death the estate fell into disrepair and was left to the wild. However it’s now an amazing place to explore.

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Stopping for the night in mission beach and a drive through Cane Country. Choo choo, watch out for that Cane Train. We arrive later than planned and miss out on all the camp-grounds. It’s a Friday night and everywhere is either full or closed for the evening. After much stressing we find out we can camp in the YHA car park for $6, winner-winner!

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Lastly, back to Cairns and the beautiful Great Barrier Reef. Rough seas make for a bit of an unpleasant, cold and wet ride – but still worth it for the beauty.

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So long and thanks for all the fish. You can view my photos on Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/omgaz/albums/72157657631396580 or through the embedded carousel below.

Atherton Tablelands

Life is pretty good here in Australia: good weather, great natural scenery, affordable living, and a welcome escape from ‘The London Commute’. I certainly don’t miss an hour waiting at Paddington Station, or being packed into the tube like a sardine.

This is happy Gary, without grey skies, without expensive paninis, without city claustrophobia, without an oyster card.

Happy Gary

I’ve wanted to write this post for a while now; it seems fitting that I do it now at the anniversary of my time in Melbourne. There’s been so much happening this last year, that I feel it’d be nice to share in one post.

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After travelling to New Zealand last February I came back to Melbourne. I spent most of the month of March and early April living in a house-share with French backpackers, and Alex, just 2 minutes walk from the beach and then a few more to the bohemian hub of St Kilda. Midnight strolls and midday swims just moments from my front-door were bliss, but mingled with that happiness were the stresses of being broke and unemployed.

I soon found work though and moved to West Melbourne in a shared flat overlooking the city. I’m still here and have enjoyed walking or biking commutes to work and the city – or enjoy the free trams.

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I started working out of the premier startup hub in the city known as York Butter Factory with the motto of #GSD (Get S**t Done!). And we did, mostly; fuelled by Melbourne’s amazing coffee culture of course.

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My weekends are often spent in the wilderness surrounding the city. One of my favourite places is in the Dandenong Ranges, the wine regions of the Yarra Valley, or at the beaches.

Below is a nice photo from a weekend away wine, beer, cheese and chocolate tasting in Healesville with the girlfriend :)

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The kookaburra really does sit in the old gum trees.

Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree

When I’m in the city I find myself visiting the Queen Victoria Market for fresh and cheap groceries – just 2 minutes from my door – or enjoying one of the many events going on in the city from street festivals, to outdoor shows, to multicultural fêtes or open-air art exhibits.

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Back in December Alex and I even went surfing, we managed to stand up… sometimes. We visited the surf capital of Australia, Bells Beach, along the Great Ocean Road and surfed with Blue Bottle Jellyfish (Portuguese Man of Wars).

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It’s a great feeling having the beaches and outdoors so close. I sometimes go to the beach after work for an evening swim with work colleagues, followed by some beers in the sunshine with salt encrusted skin.

Today I cycled to a billabong. I didn’t even know what one was until today. Now winter is coming, again, and I’ll settle in for the cold – but at least the sun will still shine.

Going Home for Christmas with a Detour via Tokyo, Returning to Melbourne Via Hong Kong

Around September of 2014 I started to massively stress. Although I wanted to stay in Australia, my visa wouldn’t allow it. I managed to find myself a job after a few, very stressful, weeks. A condition on my acceptance was a period of leave to head home for Christmas, so goodbye Melbourne.

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I was so excited to be heading back, such anticipation; I was heading home for Christmas! It had been a year to the day since I had last seen my parents in Vietnam and, almost, 18 months since seeing the rest of my family as well as the new addition – my nephew Matthew.

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First stop on my trip to the UK was the country I loved so dearly every second I was there, Japan!

Last time I was here I had my fortune told at a temple, I received the worst fortune – so bad it told me to stop everything I was doing, I was going to get sick, I should leave my job, I should not travel, I should live in status-quo. I interpreted the last fortune as a delayed re-telling of the last few months prior to leaving the UK on my big adventure but nevertheless I thought I’d see if my luck had improved.

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Woohoo, good fortune! The tides had turned and I’m on the up. Time to celebrate with my favorite things: Takoyaki (octopus in batter covered in dried tuna flakes).

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Sushi train.

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Katsu Kare Don with Fukujinzuke (panko crumbed pork with curry sauce, rice and pickles).

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And just taking in the city, trying to see the few things I missed last time and revisiting the places I was fond of, and trying not to feel too cold in the 5 degree temperatures.

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Sadly I only had two days and most the parks and museums are closed on Monday’s and everything runs shorter hours on Sunday so I missed out on a lot of fun.

By the time I made it home I felt I had had a nice holiday from work and broke up a tiring 26 hour flight. I was greeted by a beautiful sunlit city and my parents who I’d missed so very, very much.

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Again, time was spent with family, friends and food. Although I was gone for a month, it didn’t feel long enough.

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Christmas day was magical, to spend the time with the people so far from my new life that I miss and care for so dearly and the village and home where I grew up.

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Taking a walk around the local area I suddenly felt so disconnected; most was the same, a few childhood memories forever gone like the fields of blackberries cut away and no more for future generations; and the bakery, pubs, restaurants, and railway station drastically changed or closed; my closest childhood friends now with kids. I noticed besides family and friends few things remained that didn’t leave me feeling like a tourist in my own country.

It was a long trip, a short trip, a cold trip, a sunny trip. Before I knew it I was back in the sky bound for Hong Kong.

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A chance to see my girlfriend in the city she grew up in and be given the local tour.

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I really enjoy Hong Kong. It’s a city with beautiful parks and food on every corner.

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But another short two day stop and I was heading back to Melbourne, summer, work and my new/old life.

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I’m writing this a year late, but it’s good looking back and reflecting. Maybe I’m getting myself into a similar situation now. I’m heading home again in a few weeks time, and I’m also contemplating wanting to get my permanent residence. I do miss home, I miss my family so much it hurts at times. I miss the connections that feel so distant and how with each day I feel some vanish and others wear down. I’m enjoying my time in Australia, it’s not a sad thing, there’s the damn inevitable change happening and I’m enjoying the ride.

Once again, photos on Flickr or the carousel below.

Christmas Trip Home

Much love, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year 2015.

Tasmania

Work was over, for now. I’d finished up a contract and was looking for new work and on the eve of my departure to Tasmania received a job offer with sponsorship – woo!

Pete and Claire were leaving Australia and a friend of theirs (and mine) came to see Australia whilst they were here. Tasmania is one of those nearby places you never actually see until the last moment and so was the case for Pete and Claire.

Arriving for our long weekend in Tassie we start off with a trip to the infamous MONA (Museum of Old and New Art), shuttled by a re-purposed military search and rescue catamaran we’re taken from the docks in downtown to a shopping centre, a fake facade, cut into the belly of the rock on the outskirts of town. Down and down the stairs went where we began our expeditions.

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A heart-rate recorder, a wall of vaginas, tubing of bacteria with ‘feeding times’, a library of empty books, and a room lined with televisions blaring out the worst karaoke of Madonna’s ‘La Isla Bonita’.

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All very interesting and peculiar stuff we decide to leave the city for nature and drive north to Wineglass Bay.

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Wallaby selfies.

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Sampled some fresh and famous Tasmanian oysters and sparkling wine.

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Launceston, the ring of fire and many fine beaches.

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And back to Hobart; a short 5 day trip and back into Melbourne and a new adventure at a new job.

Photos, as always, on Flickr! https://www.flickr.com/photos/omgaz/sets/72157655832732675

Brisbane to Cairns (Fraser Island, Whitsundays and the Great Barrier Reef)

I sailed a yacht, slept under stars, fell in love, ate tree ants, swam with turtles, and jumped out of a plane. The following is my account of two incredible weeks travelling from Brisbane to Cairns with GAdventures.

Such a beautiful country, Australia. Even in the midst of Winter with the cold in my bones and the wet in my hair. Summer had come and gone, and the amber colours of Autumn departed; the trees now lay bare. I had sunk so much time and effort into my job that I decided it was time for a break. I packed my things and flew north; I was on my way to the tropics.

I started my journey in Brisbane where I could catch up with friends, beer, and sleep.

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I spent a good amount of time with Ryan and Aymee. Ryan showed me the bars, and Aymee showed me the sights; the later of which I have more memories and, luckily, more photos.

Hello, Brisbane.

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Holding koalas and feeding kangaroos.

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By the time I hit the road, a few days later, I was suitably relaxed and totally hung-over following a three day drinking bender.

Starting my trip on the pristine sand-island of Fraser (K’Gari), but running a little late we have to race across the sand to catch the ferry. The waves lapping at our wheels on one side and forest grazing our flank on the other, tightly trying to tip-toe our truck towards the ferry, but making it before high-tide and before the ferry leaves without us.

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As we head off to the island we see pods of dolphins swimming around, and migrating whales spouting plumes of white water into the air. We enjoy a beautiful sunset as we drive to camp, sleeping in huts nestled in the rainforest.

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We spend a few days bathing in paradise, swimming in crystal-clear lagoons and lakes, and floating down creeks.

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Exploring the island by beach and rainforest.

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At night, we walked down to the ocean, guided by the gentle crash of the waves. Standing in complete darkness on the shoreline truly felt as though I was standing at the edge of the world. Nothing before me but sea and stars, endless in it’s expanse. Each star clinging on to the milky way, a wispy arc bending across the sky.

Next stop, after leaving Fraser Island, is Rockhampton for a campfire dinner at a farm and sleeping underneath the stars. Waking up early morning to feed the farms cows and goats.

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Once everyone is fed we drive to the docks and board a yacht, our home for the next few days as we sail the tropical Whitsunday Islands.

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Ahh the serenity, so much serenity.

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Stopping off, on our three day cruise, at various islands along the way.

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We found these tree ants which taste like limes. You move your hands near one till he raises to attack, then pinch his head before he bites you and lick his behind – the green tastes like you’re licking limes!

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Back on the yacht and batten down the hatches – heavy winds are on their way!

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Docking in Airlie Beach and continuing our journey north, we’re now well within the tropics and are Cairns bound for the Great Barrier Reef.

Wow. This place is amazing, but it’s only through hindsight that I realise how many people there are and how damaging this is all to the eco-system. Enjoy my photos, I recommend going, but maybe try to do it as enviro-happy as you can.

I got to swim with fishes.

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Tuuuurtles :) Yo jelly-dude, you were all like woah!

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Then I was all like woaaah as I jumped out of an aeroplane at 15, 000 ft. Glided in over the Great Barrier Reef watching turtles, then cruised in for touch-down on the beach.

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Then calming things down in the Daintree Rainforest for my last few days in the sun.

Mossman Gorge

As usual, photos on Flickr, check out the full album here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/omgaz/sets/72157645641444565/

 

Kia Ora, New Zealand

Well isn’t this a surprise, a sudden detour methinks. A few hours before my departure to the Great Ocean Road I book a last-minute trip to New Zealand. Flying out of Sydney to Wellington, when I get to the end of my road-trip.

I hadn’t been to Wellington in a few years but the city seemed different. I still remember the same high hills lined with cable cars. I also had a vague, fond memory of a drunken St Patrick’s Day with my brother the last time I was here. Yet, this time, I was on my own and started my experience at Zeelandia – a protected forest enclosure built to replicate New Zealand before the Europeans arrived. It was here, at Zeelandia, I felt so close to the wonderful nature of this far-away place. The pleasant song birds, the lush undergrowth, and the amazing views.

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The next day , after having met with my tour group, we made our way to the ferry and the South Island. Due to delays we didn’t arrive at the Abel Tasman National Park until late. We arrived late to the park to catch a boat into the bay yet, due to our earlier delays the tides had already left the shores, we were unable to leave.

We all board a speedboat and a local farmer tows us, by tractor, to suitable depths – high enough to float – and we were off.

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We spent the night aboard a larger, sleeper boat after a refreshing evening swim and we wake up bright and early to hike out of the park, back to where we had left the bus. We spent some time at the Venus Pools, a fantastic secluded lagoon just for us to enjoy. Moving on we stopped for lunch at a bay and had a swim in the ocean – quick and cold.

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Feeling the summer heat and the afternoon winding on we finally make it to the pub, and the finish line, to enjoy some delicious, cold cider.

The next night we spent at Punakaiki at a rainforest lodge near the Pancake Rocks. The group prepared dinner, homemade fish tacos and lots of wine, and we partied through the night.

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The next day on to Franz Josef. For me this was to be one of the highlights of the trip because I’d get to go on a helicopter ride to the top of a glacier and a hike across the ice – but sadly the weather drowned us out and the rain meant it was a no-fly day. Grounded, but not perturbed we hiked to the lookout to try to catch a glimmery glimpse of the iced wonder.

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It was unfortunate that we had no luck with visibility but we did have a nice hike there and back as well as a treat to hot chocolates around a roaring fire pit upon our return.

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The next morning more than made up for the bad weather, beautiful views overlooking Mount Cook.

Mount Cook, NZ

And a pre-lunch trip down the shallow river in a jet boat before making our way to Queenstown.

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Beautiful sunshine and stunning mountain vistas in the adventure capital of the world. A few days are spent here doing all manner of adventure activities: downhill mountain biking with a few nasty cuts and scrapes; white water sledging – think white water rafting without the rafts; and go-karts down the mountain-side.

White water sledging

After an adventure filled few days, and an infamous Ferg Burger, we move on to the Doubtful Sound, actually a fjord, and named so because Captain Cook was doubtful he’d be able to sail back out. He also commented on the sheer deafening noise of the local song birds.

We hike through the park, looking for seals, and have an early morning kayak through the fjords; dead arms by the end. The evenings we spend in silent darkness, outside, waiting and watching for the elusive Kiwi.

To get into the park we had to take an hour by van, bus and boat but we leave in style. We phone up a local sea plane operator and are flown over the fjord on a scenic, aerial flight around the Doubtful Sound, out to the coast, over snow capped mountains and finally dropping us off at the bus stop for our journey to the next stop – the Otago Rail Trail.

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The Otago Rail Trail is a 35km bike ride through a historic, and beautiful, part of the country, ending up at a quaint little English-style pub for dinner and a nights sleep.

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Our last few days we travel up the coast and back to the ferry-port, Wellington and eventually my flight to Melbourne. We stop in Christchurch and witness the collapsed city still in tatters and make our way to the seal capital of the South Island around Kaikoura.

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New Zealand is truly beautiful and I loved every minute – even the early mornings. Do have a look at the rest of my New Zealand photo set is on Flickr, there’s so many amazing pictures: https://www.flickr.com/photos/omgaz/sets/72157641540096374/

Great Ocean Road and the Grampians

It had been a long while, since August, since I’d seen Alex and Chris. It was now January and the height of Summer and I had arrived into Melbourne from Alice Springs to venture out West along the Great Ocean Road.

We hired a van, which we nicknamed Marty, and set off along the Great Ocean Road along a 243km scenic coastal drive to Warnambool.

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It takes a while to get out of the city, but when we were rolling and we’d loaded Marty up with fuel, food, and feel-good vibes we were rocking!

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We stopped off along the way at some vineyard cellar door for some wine tasting – and made a purchase to go with dinner that evening – and an obligatory stop at Bells Beach; the surf mecca of Australia.

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Next up was Great Ottway National Park for the ‘Round The Twist’ lighthouse, hiking through Australian bush, koala spotting, and a practice run on the didgeridoo. Ummmoooooowooooooowulluuuuuoooooooommmmmm!

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The 12 Apostles, or more like 6, were next. We should have stopped off a stop earlier at Gibson’s Steps so we could walk down to the beach away from all the tourists.

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After the 12 Apostles we reached the outskirts of Warnambool for our nights stay before heading north to the Grampians and Halls Gap for a night sleeping with kangaroos in the national park.

We chose the only campsite that claimed to have a shower which turned out to be filling a bucket up with creek water and pouring it over yourself in the dark… pleasant.

Most of the Grampian’s were on fire when we arrived, but that didn’t stop us from going on a little hike, eating ice creams and enjoying the beautiful park before we made our way to Canberra and Sydney, just in time for Australia day.

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The road from Halls Gap to Canberra and then Sydney is quite rural, we stopped at a few minor towns and mingled with the locals and stopped at cultural sites such as the town made famous by the outlaw Ned Kelly.

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Canberra was a strange town, very quiet and confusing with all it’s one way streets and concentric plan – something artificial in feeling. The campsite we stayed at on the outskirts was filled with bogans – most likely living in camper vans – and everything felt as though it was from a horror movie; especially when Chris started backing up and a ghostly figure appeared next to the van, it turned out to be an old lady in a negligee offering to help us reverse.

Made it to Sydney, a little tired, but in one piece (mostly); Marty flooded and the power cut out; and we hit a massive pothole that broke my phone, and felt as though we’d broken Marty.

My Flickr gallery is here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/omgaz/sets/72157647651165141/

Adelaide to Alice Springs – The Great Outback Adventure to the Red Centre

Whilst I was in Japan I booked to go on another GAdventures tour. This time with Blanca and David, and in Australia. The goal was to cross 2325km of Australian Outback to reach the Red Centre and Alice Springs. To put those distances into perspective that’s roughly like driving from New York to Los Angeles or from London to Azerbaijan… a bloody long way.

Clare Valley Wine Tasting, a drive through the Flinders Ranges and a night in a swag

Leaving the urban area of Adelaide we take an early morning cruise north into the Clare Valley. We pull over in a layby and set up a breakfast of cereal and fruit under the canopy of trees at the edge of a town too small to show up on a map and too insignificant to remember it’s name.

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We carry on our drive as the morning sun continues to rise and we make it to a vineyard in the Clare Valley for some mid-morning wine tasting – I don’t think anyone minded a bit of slosh that early in the day; it is holiday after all. The wine in this region provides most of the communal wine for the Catholic Church in Australia.

Clare Valley Vineyard

After some Shiraz and Resiling, and an introduction to the vineyard cat, we leave the Clare Valley behind and continue north to a town called Quorn where we load up on supplies for the next week on the road. Meat, cheese, milk, bread, salad, fruit, snacks, beer, and ice all get loaded into our Eskie cooler boxes; this food needs to stay fresh for a week of driving through the mid-summer Australian wilderness.

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As we drive further north the lush wine region makes way to golden corn fields and eventually untouched wilderness. We arrive in the evening at Wilpena Pound after a long drive through the windy, dirt-roads of the Flinders Ranges.

Wilpena Pound to Beltana Station

Last night was spent sleeping outside under the stars in swags. A swag is a small, one-person canvas tent without poles; a bivvy or bivouac may be a more common term. The night was cold, especially without a sleeping bag or insulation to keep us warm – but we persevered as we knew how hot it would get as soon as the sun rose. Sure enough at 5am we were up and ready to head on a hike, by 8am it’s already past the 30 degree point and we’re getting sweaty.

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We learn some aboriginal folk stories about a god that battled a snake, thus creating the landscape, and enjoyed the serenity that came from the valley area around Wilpena Pound.

William Creek along the Oodnadatta Track and a Visit to a Desert Philosopher

A long drive today along the Oodnadatta Track and not much to look at but hours of endless outback. Occasionally a wild kangaroo or emu would be seen in the distance – and occasionally right up close or darting dangerously in front of the truck.

Emu

We make a stop in a town called Maree to fill up the truck with fuel. It feels like a ghost town so far from anywhere.

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Along the drive we pull off and make our way to an open-air art gallery and meet a desert philosopher called Talc Alf. A large, elderly guy with a beard who explained to us, his version, of the origins of man, language, the world and Australia.

The first letters of the alphabet are A for Adam and B for Boobs (women) makes C for Child… And aboriginals are the Original Adams and Boobs (women). ABOriginal.

Clearly a few too many hours in the sun huffing on talcum powder.

Talc Alf, Desert Philosopher and Jade

There are many videos of this guy on YouTube explaining the word Australia, here’s a more recent one. N.B. That’s a boomerang and a real kangaroo foot he’s holding in the photo.

A few hours later, and with the feeling the day couldn’t get stranger, we arrive in William Creek. Population 2. In the middle of nowhere. Maree suddenly feels like the ‘big city’. An aeroplane is landing in the middle of the road.

Welcome to William Creek

Looks like we won’t be alone tonight, at least we’ll be joined by the company of the entire town. Some of us opt for a scenic flight over Lake Eyre, whilst the others tend to day-to-day outback life such as putting out wild bush-fires and repairing broken windows caused by airborne stones flicking up from the dirt roads. Never a quiet moment in the quiet outback.

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After the drama of the day is over and all fires extinguished we enjoy a buffet dinner provided by the rest house family. We call ‘liar’ on their population of two as we’ve clearly seen three people working the rest-stop.

Ah yea, mate, we’ve forgot to update the sign. There’s four of us now.

Clearly a city on the rise.

The night here in William Creek also feels like the perfect time to enjoy some Aussie pop-culture and watch Priscilla Queen of the Desert.

Lake Eyre to Coober Pedy and the Opal Mines of Australia

More driving, more nothingness, more time to contemplate the vastness of Australia and how much of it is untouched. A trip to Lake Eyre, provides us with a panoramic metaphor for the Australian outback.

Lake Eyre Salt Lake

Endless, unimaginable, nothing…

After a few more hours of driving we make it to Coober Pedy, a town at last.

Welcome to Coober Pedy

Coober Pedy is opal capital of Australia. It’s a mining town. It’s also so hot in the summer that most people live underground. In caves. These caves are reminiscent of the Flintstones home, jagged rock walls lining the living room with a TV set in the corner and dishwasher in the kitchen.

Uluru Marla Walk Around the Base of Uluru

Next stop Uluru. More early morning starts whilst we are at Yalarra and Uluru (Ayers Rock). The day-time temperatures are hitting over forty and so we have to start our days before the sun comes up. That means we need to be doing our Uluru base walk at 6:30 in the morning so we can then escape to the shade of the cultural centre for midday.

Uluru Wind Carving

Getting up close and personal with such an icon is incredible, there are so many minute details hidden away that you really come to appreciate that it’s more than just a big rock in the middle of nowhere.

Uluru Cave Paintings

Sunset at Uluru in the summer is majestic and breathtaking. You can just about make out some people slanding in the foreground (for some perspective on size). In the distance is Kata Tjuta, where we will be going the following day. The tree, just left of centre, is the most photographed tree in the whole of Australia.

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The next day we’re up for the sunrise. Still beautiful, but still too early. It’s all about scenic cereal and tired toothbrushing.

Breakfast at Uluru

Kings Creek, Kings Canyon (Valley of the Winds) & Kata Tjuta (The Olgas Rock Formation)

Our last day around Uluru and we visit Kings Creek & Kings Canyon. A rock formation cut out by a river with valleys, waterfalls and lush gardens nicknamed The Garden of Eden.

Trekking King's Canyon

A long hike around gives us an appreciation for it’s beauty. We then jump aboard a helicopter for a scenic flight over both King’s Canyon and Uluru.

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Uluru is a magnificent, monstrous, monolith.

Uluru from the Air

Alice Springs

Back on the road and on to Alice and our flights home. Thanks Damo and GAdventures, you were rad!

On Road Times with Damo and GAdventures

Until next time folks. Check out my Outback Gallery on Flickr.

Kanga Sign