Australia – in summary

by Kt

29.03.2012

Well to sum up Australia in a few words? Bonzer!! Ripper!!! BBQ-tastic!!!

Actually we never actually managed a BBQ in all our time, too much rain, but even though it was unusually cruddy weather we loved it anyway. We just had to leave early because that aussie dollar was so super strong it really did cripple us staying for just over a month. I think we managed 6 weeks of our planned 3 months, but at least we leave knowing that we will make sure some way, somehow, we will return to the land down under (where women glow and men plunder… yes I know, I didn’t realise the actual words – weird aren’t they?).

So without question my favourite place was Melbourne, but I was also particularly taken with Adelaide, Cairns and Perth (sorry Sydney, maybe I expected too much of you). Mark however seems to have forgotten the mosquito attacks not to mention the constant threat of some kind of death and would love to go live in Cairns.

Highlights, faves and funnies:

V8 vs maestro
Not long after we were due to leave Adelaide their fringe and then their full arts festivals were on. They were setting up for all kinds of things for that and also they seemed to have some barriers setup for some kind of race that would be going on.
Adelaide is not the hugest city by any means, one of the things that makes it so pleasant in fact, but you would not think that two big things going on in the city could be organised/thought about so very separately.
The opening night of the Adelaide Festival, an outdoor concert where the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, conducted by world reknowned maestro Ennio Morricone, was apparently ruined by it being drowned out by the nearby V8 Supercar race. It shouldn’t be funny. It’s terrible really, but oh my!!

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Aussie TV and news
We LOVED Aussie TV, in terms of their kind of news/chat/info type shows. They are just so blunt, it is fantastic. We were there during a crisis for the government where slimy Kevin Rudd decided he wanted to oust the prime minister Julia Gillard. Big stuff for the country and the coverage was gripping. They weren’t all stony faced about stuff that, ok is serious, but took the mick a bit, even when talking to senior politicians. I think the thing that was quite shocking is that most of the politicians joked back. They could hold their own. They didn’t drone and waffle. They were blunt too. I mean politicians are politicians but I thought Australia could teach us and other countries a thing or two. Getting to the point of things for one. It would be fair to say Mark doesn’t get involved/think about UK politics at all if he can help it. He now knows 20 times more about the Australian government than he does our own.
A couple of shows were stand out fantastic. Both on channel 10. The just launched breakfast show with a Kiwi guy who had been sacked from his New Zealand TV job for saying something unprofessional on air. Well that’s pretty much why they hired him I think. He is very funny and just says what he thinks. Again, refreshing. It’s so boring people always saying the right thing for fear of beings sued or of a backlash – things shouldn’t be taken so seriously.
The other program which we both loved (I have never known Mark to ever watch/tolerate daytime TV in the UK) is The Circle. This has 2 main presenters and 2 guest presenters of a rotating familiar few. Again, they just say what they think about stuff and in fact got into a lot of trouble for it even when we were there. There was a backlash for making some comments about the SAS guy who saved all his colleagues and got the victoria cross or something – there was a photo of him looking especially ripped in a swimming pool and they made some comments about him being a meathead or something and they got massively attacked for being disrespectful of a war hero. Fair enough, but they weren’t slating him, they were just being stupid. They laugh at themselves and others. Culturally (or maybe that’s not the right word) there really was a difference to the UK. It’s become so banal and anyone who does say anything about anything gets slated by the media and umpteen ‘groups’ within hours. It’s just all a bit much.
I was also gobsmacked that the news readers use the word ‘bashed’. I thought that was just a slang word but they use it on the actual, grown up sensible news. Don’t know why that tickled me so much!

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Cairns Bowling Club
‘Bowlos’ are big in Oz. We were gutted in fact we never got to have a go at barefoot bowls – where the clubs let in the casual bowler for some fun sessions, often including music and BBQs.
We didn’t get to play but while in Cairns we did spend time in the Edge Hill Bowls club, mainly because it was the nearest place you could get a drink where we were staying, out in the suburbs. It was a funny but friendly place with pokies in the corner and a decent little kitchen churning out the pub staples.
I was utterly fascinated by the big board they had up there listing the winners for the latest ‘Goose Club Raffle’. Prizes include a bacon and egg tray, beer, barbers certificate and an array of other interesting things.

Estate Agents/Realty
What do you do in a foreign (or even just different, up the motorway) land? You have a nose at the house prices. Is that a British thing? I don’t know, but whenever on your hols it’s nice to know what you can get for the price of your current home. It makes you feels better when you can buy 10 acres of the sahara dessert for the cost of your 1 bed studio flat. For some reason though, 90% of the time, in Australia, the estate agent windows were full of pictures and descriptions but without prices. What is the point of that? It just seemed very strange and a bit annoying really. I want to be nosy and see – why the secret?

Hungry jacks
We kept seeing this Hungry Jacks place and thought it looked incredibly similar to Burger King with it’s logo and colouring – how could they get away with that and not get sued? Turns out that Hungry Jacks is a franchise of Burger King. Who knew they did that? I don’t know why this fascinated me, it just did. Those brands, like McDonalds etc are so strong I would have thought that it would be crazy to have it called different things in different places.

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Australian Teenagers Tortured
For anyone who watches the Oz soaps, those school uniforms have always seemed a bit ridiculous haven’t they. Especially when you’re talking about 17/18 year olds. But here’s the thing, that’s not made up for TV, they really do make their school kids (and near adults) look like complete tools.
The boys, in the long tailored shorts – I know it’s hot, but those kind of shorts should not be worn past 9 years old. And they then have socks and ‘sensible’ shoes which are like something only your great uncle Arthur would wear with his cords and his tweed, elbow patches, jacket and a pipe.
The girls then have hideous dresses (sometimes with skirts of a creepily short length considering every other aspect is clearly designed to make them look bad). And their shoes? Oh dear me. I have never seen the like. Well that’s not true, I seem to remember seeing that kind of thing back in the 70s when there was only about 5 styles of shoe available anyhow. And they’re not good in a retro way either. And with socks. Wrong-ity-wrong-wrong.
Hopefully at least these bizarre uniforms keep down the teen pregnancy rates. Though I can’t imagine they work well to keep kids in school once they reach 16. I’d flee first chance I got. I am considering alerting Amnesty to this cruelty.

Toilet graffiti in the Hotel Exeter, Adelaide
The Hotel Exeter was a cool bar in central Adelaide that had been a great place to go for years. Their toilet had some great graffiti, including what is possibly my favourite ever. Someone had simply written ‘Bouillabaisse of broken dreams’ (in reference to the Green Days ‘Boulevard of broken dreams’). I don’t know if this makes me slightly cool for liking the song reference, or, the more likely, sad, for appreciating the Bouillabaisse reference and also Mark and I checking and admiring that they’d spelt it write!!!

Booby Trap shop
This was the name of a lingerie place in Adelaide. I’d only been in Oz a little while and seeing this made me think that I was going to like the place.

Airbnb
Australia was the place where we discovered the joys of Airbnb. It really was a revelation and I really don’t know if we’d have enjoyed ourselves half as much had we had to take the hostel route. Not only did we stay in totally different types of places with different types people we also did things that we wouldn’t have gotten to experience otherwise. It was definitely more a taster of ‘real’ life, rather than being outside in the hostel world like in New Zealand where we met very few New Zealanders. It almost felt like the different people we stayed with represented different elements of our personalities. We’ve been grown up, cultured, silly, foodie, boozie – a little bit of everything.

Lowlights:

Can of piss
This was an expression I first heard in New Zealand but then heard a fair amount more in Oz. I learnt that this means a can of beer. Now I’m not known for being lady like and my language isn’t always that fragrant but this, and Mark agreed, is a horrid, horrid expression I’d prefer never to hear again. Don’t know why but just bleuch!

Pokies
Again I think I mentioned these in regards to New Zealand but they seemed even more prevalent in Australia. So many pubs had a pokie/gaming section.
In one way they were great – you could certainly view some interesting people and interesting goings on, but mainly they were just annoying.
I think the main reason is the god damn noise. Drives you absolutely mad. And I still just can’t get my head around pubs mixed with arcades and betting shops. It makes for a generally male dominated, depressing environment.

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Marks latest annoying torture technique was formed
Mark likes to annoy me. A lot! But he also likes to amuse himself more than anything else and sometimes he latches onto to phrases or jokes that he will repeat many, many times a day. There’s been many of the years. I won’t repeat any for fear of reminding him and him starting any of them up again. Plus they probably wouldn’t translate to being written down anyhow.
In particular many of these seem to materialise when we are on holiday. Maybe it’s just because we are together pretty much 24/7 so he can practise them over and over to his constant audience. Anyway, in Australia Mark came up with something so annoying, it’s a wonder I didn’t leave him in the rainforest/dessert.
It goes something like this….
A word is used in any kind of conversation, I might, for instance, say to Mark ‘would you like a yoghurt’. Mark then replies ‘You’re a yoghurt!’.
‘Mark, can you pass me that map’ …. ‘You’re a map’
‘It’s really humid today’ …. ‘You’re humid’
I imagine you get the drift. It is especially handy when we are in a rush or packing and trying to get something done and I need him to do something or answer me something seriously.
‘Have you got the passports?’ …. ‘You’re a passport’ – ok, so not that last one, everyone knows I don’t let Mark near the passports since the notorious bag on car roof incident.
Sometimes it could get quite obscure. I was talking once about some kind of architecture somewhere (I know, cultured aren’t I?) and was saying it was Gehrylike, in reference to the great architect Franky Gehry (who’s work we could have had in Brighton if the council hadn’t p’d him off – gutted!!!). So what is my response? ‘You’re Gehrylike!’ of course – which actually if you think about his wobbly, misshapen buildings isn’t a compliment.
So Australia is the home to the invention of Marks, probably most annoying ever, ‘tortures’.

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Perth

by Kt

24.03.2012

We arrived in Perth on a sunday. I could have kicked myself because as we have learned previously, it’s not a good day to travel. We had to get a bus from the airport, walk a bit through town (always fun with the heavy backpacks) and then pick up another bus at the bus station. However, it was sunday so the normally every half hour buses were running at over an hour between them, so our journey from the airport ending up taking a depressing 3 hours. Add to that, we were staying out in the suburbs and we realised that the sunday buses back out of the city stopped at 7.30pm. Hmm.

Anyway, we got to our accommodation and were blown away by the luxury. Another airbnb triumph I must say. Airbnb wasn’t very prevalent in Perth as apposed to the other cities we’d been to and was also generally pretty pricey because of that, but as it was our last stop in the western world, we decided to go for somewhere a little pricier than we’d hoped and in fact the place we stayed was pretty much the same price as the hostels anyway. It was a brand new build home and our bit was the upstairs with our own lounge (TV!), bedroom and bathroom. It was all rather lovely, as were our hosts. Once again, we’d got lucky. They’d also decked out the lounge with some old radios, record players and musical instruments, which we loved. There was an old organ which was one of those ones that they used to play in the cinema and at shows. Mark had a go on that which sounded pretty cool. He also got to go on Peter’s rather lovely guitar which he was very excited about and they even had a little jamming session.

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That first evening wasn’t great as we headed to the CBD to get something to eat only to find that nearly everything was shut. We ended up in an Irish bar which would normally be a simple and easy solution for cheap beer and food but wowsers (yes I did say wowsers – saves me swearing online) Perth was up there with Brisbane in the expensive stakes. But we didn’t have much choice. We hadn’t gotten the measure of Perth or where everything was and we were tired from our travelling so we accepted the scarily expensive option and then caught a taxi home with a lovely African guy who’d lived in Australia for 5 years. He was a sweetheart and gave us some good tips on where to go.

The next morning we awoke to a beautiful, gorgeous day (had I forgotten to mention – we’d finally hit jackpot and were having the kind of weather that you imagine in Australia). We also had a delightful breakfast spread laid on by our hosts and had a leisurely breakfast sitting on our sofa watching TV. Oh that did feel a treat. But Perth beckoned and we headed off to the beach.
We had had another bit of luck by heading to Perth earlier than intended (about a month early in fact). There had been something on in Bondi, somewhere in Queensland and now in Perth (with the day we were going, being the last day), called Sculpture on the Beach. When we’d seen this back in the UK we had really wanted to go but the dates and places had never worked out. But it did, on that gorgeous sunny day in Perth and it was so worth it.

Cottesloe Beach is totally stunning. It’s the one thing everyone said to us about Perth – the beaches are amazing – and it is so true. The weather was glorious, hot and sunny with a bit of a breeze to keep the edge off. I was even wearing the hat that I had looked long and hard for, only to find after I bought, I never needed due to lack of sunshine.

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It would have been a great enough day just going to the beach but the addition of the sculptures was just fantastic. I adore sculptures – the bigger the better and if anyone remembers the dismal, disappointing trek out to a sculpture event in Auckland we had endured, this felt like payback for our suffering. There was some incredible work there.

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The thing that I found a bit mind bending, being at the beach, is that it was the Indian Ocean.
That seemed just downright odd. I have only seen the Indian Ocean once in my life – at the bottom cape bit of South Africa, where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Indian Ocean and you can see the join.
I can’t believe that that ocean comes all the way over to the edge of Australia. I mean, that is BIG!
Geography dunce Mark, just rolled his eyes as I kept repeating that I couldn’t believe that it was the Indian Ocean as we trekked up through Cottesloe to the train station.
Cottesloe we discovered is a rather lovely place in itself. And judging by the properties – a much desired and expensive place to live. Mark decided that when he made his millions he would very much like to live there.

We caught the train to Freemantle, less than half an hour away. I’d not been blown away by Perth up to now. I mean it’s very lovely and nice and all those positive things that people say when they tell you about Perth but it didn’t seem to have a whole lot going on. Freemantle, I had heard had a much more quirky, eclectic vibe and almost as soon as we stepped out of the train station I liked it. It was possibly because it, being the original main port that the whole world and it’s goods came into, was full of characterful old buildings. I don’t think buildings have to be old to have character, but it does help. It also had quite and arty vibe to it and had some cool restaurants and bars scattered about.
We had a quick drink in a place that was also it’s own brewery and although he didn’t go for it, Mark did eye the tasting menu they had for the beer. On our wandering, we first stumbled across a photography exhibition that was part of the university I think and was really amazing and then at the beach itself we found somewhere to eat that didn’t totally break the bank and had some fish and chips.

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It is a bit sad, but I really liked the road name signs which were done in a kind of old fashioned serif font (oh i do like a nice font!).

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Something that tickled us on the way back to the station was this van we came across for a business selling roadkill jerky. Why not indeed! But I think my favourite bit was the strap line to ‘bloody’ try some.

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The next day we had lots of dull practical things to do. Mark had to get some medication sorted out (what’s that you say? Hadn’t he left that rather until the last minute? Well it’s not for me to judge…!!??!) and we had to just get some odds and sods for bali like strong mozzie spray etc.
Mark went ahead into town and I met him much later, having missed the bus and somehow hailed a taxi in the suburbs where there’s barely any cars let alone taxis. Another delightful guy, from Somalia who has lived in Australia for 20 years but has been all over the world. He made me laugh with his description of London being like a zoo, it having every species (i.e. nationality) there. I said I didn’t think I’d ever seen an Eskimo there though. It didn’t matter that I was so late getting into town as Marks stuff took forever anyhow.

We had a bit of a potter around the cbd.

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Mark went kangaroo riding.

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Once we met we headed to Northbridge, a small suburb just north of the bus and railway station which was meant to be a bit more buzzing and house the best bars and restaurants. It was also home to the cities contemporary gallery which I was hoping to go to (we’d been unfortunate so far in Australia – the Sydney contemporary art gallery was shut and other places had either been closed or inaccessible). I’d intended to go early, on my own, rather than have Mark following me around going ‘meh’ or ‘but is it art?’ to the point that after throwing many a dirty look his way, I usually have to get violent. But luckily, the main exhibition covering the building was photography so he could appreciate and enjoy as much as me (with only the occasional ‘i could have done that’ comment).

We then had a bit of a walk about the neighbourhood. The area also doubled as a kind of china town so that was looking hopeful for some dinner before heading home later.

We had a quick drink in an English pub – yes I know, I wasn’t thrilled, but Mark had seen a sign that offered super cheap drinks but that turned out to be only on a Thursday or something. And it had a nice area to sit outside and we hadn’t actually eaten or drunk outside that much in Australia due to the dire weather so that felt nice and holidayish.

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They certainly had the fanciest Dominoes pizza I’ve ever seeen.

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We then stumbled across a place called Pot Black which was a snooker hall. Now usually you get a pool hall with the odd snooker table in it but this was the other way around. I think it’s because this was in an asian neighbourhood and snooker is really popular in asia – not just with pie eaters and nans like in the UK. The reason I’m even talking about, for those of you who don’t know, and I’m thinking that’s probably many of you as I do try to keep this a secret – Mark loves snooker. He’s played it since he was a teenager. I know, cool wasn’t he? This is the point where I normally cough ‘loser’ into my hand, but to be honest, I’ve just given up and much like his love of magic, have accepted it as a part of him. I suppose it’s better than football which is on all the time, at least with snooker it’s on TV a few times a year (although the matches last for about 20 hours so it’s a bit much). Anyway, imagine Marks excitement bless him, so seeing that they at least served alcohol to dull some of my pain, I agreed that we could go in for a game. It was a funny old place. Massive, painted in deep red, full of Vietnamese teenagers, with lots of rock n roll and movie posters on the walls. Although the inclusion of a Justin Bieber poster and a So Solid Crew one was a tad peculiar. The real bonus for me was that they were playing some fantastic hip hop videos the whole time. So while Mark marched around the table doing his thing, I could sit back with a glass of wine and listen to some great TUUUNES! and watch some cool videos. It did go a little awry later in the evening, I think a new shift of staff came in and the music got a little off what I had been enjoying. There was some girl rapper with the somewhat odd lyric of ‘I got the swag and it’s puffing out my ovary’. REALLY LADIES?
And I did actually ‘play’ snooker against Mark. Obviously I was worried but I gave it a go. It’s actually a bit more enjoyable than pool I thought. That’s probably because pool is so quick, my defeats are so rapid that I fail to see the point. My biggest problem though (apart from the fact it is snooker and they wear waistcoats and stuff) was the fact that the table is massive so I needed one of those long sticks with a cross on the end, A LOT in order to have a chance with shots – I’m just too short!! After our game, Mark then just did some practising, clearing type stuff while I sat happily, bopping away to myself. Now I’m sure Mark won’t mind me telling you this (umm, tough if he does) but he decided he wanted a video of himself clearing the colours (if you want to know the colours – please refer to the 1980s Chas n Dave hit – Snooker Loopy). So I sat there with the camera lined up with the table while he made, several, or rather, lots, of attempts until he finally did so he can pretend on his youtube video that he did it first time. Like I said *coughs* loser!
We ended the night with a couple of drinks at the famous (apparently) Brass Monkeys hotel. I can’t imagine that it ever gets brass monkeys (for those not in the cold, that is old english for bloody cold – I’ve no idea why) in Perth. Finished with a chinese meal and a chat with another friendly cab driver on the way home who suggested we go to all the places in Bali that we are definitely intending to avoid, bless him!

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That was pretty much it for our Perth adventure. It was gutting to be there such a short time, particularly as we finally had such glorious sunshine. I’d wanted to hire a car and drive down to see more of the area south and south east of Perth, including going to the huge trees where you can walk in the canopies, known as the Valley of the Giants. But having found it to be incredibly expensive, I realised that we really did need to get the hell out of Australia or we would be back home within a couple of months. Mark, unsurprisingly, would like to live in Perth! He was seduced by the climate and beaches. I really liked Peth. I wasn’t sure at first and I do think it’s a place that is more about living in the suburbs and needing a car. That said, public transport was good (apart from on a sunday) and the cheapest we have used so far.
The houses in the suburbs do have more character than you would think because they are all different – so you don’t just have row after row of the same thing. And you do have some interesting, characterful places like Fremantle and Northbridge, but they are both pretty small. I so wish we’d had more time to spend here, I really am not quite sure what I think of it quite yet. It seemed to be a place full of contradictions. Like I say, it feels like you need a car really but public transport is good. The bus is great but it drops you off and the streets aren’t very well lit so if you then have to walk to your house after dark with no pavements, it’s a bit odd. I’ve met some of the friendliest, loveliest and some of the grumpiest, moodiest people here.
They have big old plots for houses but often have a big, pointless front garden but not much space out back. They go on about water shortages and taking quick showers etc but there is sprinklers all over the place. However, I’d definitely like to go back again to discover more nuances as maybe things like that are what makes it interesting.

The not so red, but actually rather green centre of Oz

by Kt

20.03.2012

I had to refuse Mark’s suggestion for a title for this blog of ‘We will, we will Ayers Rock you’. Firstly because for the millionth time of me reminding him, Uluru hasn’t been Ayres Rock since the mid 80s and secondly of course because that really is just plain bloody awful.

We are in Alice Springs, in the middle of Australia, miles and miles from everything. It is the desert but they have had lots of rain and were due some while we visited – it no longer surprises me at this point, but apart from a few showers at night, cloudy skies and a cooler than normal temperature, it’s actually been nice. It’s odd being so very far from everything. We would most definitely be screwed if any kind of ash cloud style incident occurred.

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We are in a hostel for the first time in Australia. It’s a fairly quirky place. Bright, colourful, basic but friendly enough. I haven’t missed hostelling though, that is for sure. Tiny kitchen and so few toilets for so many people and walking miles in the dark to get to the toilet in the middle of the night (trying not to trip over any snakes on the way!).

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I get the impression the owner of our hostel was once laid back and thought running a hostel would be great but over the years has been worn down by lots of feckless backpackers. I love his wall of shame in the kitchen. We are allowed 2 pieces of bread and a bowl of cereal between 4 and 9am for breakfast (trust me, this sounds tight but this is unheard of in a hostel – any breakfast is amazing). People, however, clearly took advantage of this free food and took to digging in at other times. So he setup a webcam in the kitchen – hence the wall of shame. There is a girl crouching down with a bowl of cereal, a bloke who is completely starkers (it is only 10.40pm) and most peculiarly a girl who has on a t-shirt but no bottoms, including knickers. Bizarre and most entertaining and of course a warning to all those naughty, unprincipled backpackers.

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After arriving and settling into the hostel, which consisted pretty much of putting down bags and finding plug sockets to charge things, we headed into town to explore. It’s actually not as small as I had thought it might be judging by some descriptions, but the real centre is probably made up of only a few blocks. There wasn’t a huge amount of people about, a few folks milling around down the main shopping street, Todd Mall, an uninspiring pedestrianised area they built in the 80s. There’s a little theatre type space there where they sell musical instruments and do little shows. There was a guy playing didgeridoo. It’s not the first time we’ve heard this in Australia, obviously, but he was particularly good. It is such a gorgeous sound when done well. Very calming!
There was the odd restaurant, cafe and mostly day-to-day shops.

We headed up to a restaurant/bar that I had read about which sounded touristy but fun. ‘Bojangles did not disappoint.
It was a big place with every inch covered in some kind of interesting outback style paraphernalia. The outside space, in particular was amazing with an entire old car out there, seats made up from old tractor seats, shot up signs, old mining equipment.
Inside had some interesting touches – the snake who lives in a huge glass cabinet containing a motorbike and the taps in the toilets which come out at different sinks when you turn them on, causing much head scratching.

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We later went for a below average italian (seriously, how can an italian overcook pasta – they should be strung up) where we met a lovely girl from Wales working there. Can’t imagine staying in Alice for a long time, I think it might send you a little batty, but unsurprisingly with the problems we’ve been having, she’d run out of money!

Next day we were being picked up at 6am for our long day trip out into the red centre to visit Uluru among other places. We’d really ummed and ahhed about going ahead with this trip as it was rather expensive but we concluded we couldn’t miss the opportunity to see Uluru (or Ayers Rock as Mark continues to call it). And it was at least 4 hours drive to it from Alice and there didn’t seem to be any other way without flying and staying in the screamingly expensive resort there. Seriously, to stay on the campsite there is more expensive than a night in a fancy London hotel.
I have always wanted to go to the red centre. I love the desert and I’ve always gotten quite dreamy when I’ve seen images of the place with the rich red sand dunes and the dry arid terrain. So, I have to say, I was rather gobsmacked and a little gutted at quite how green all of the red centre is currently.
I did find my little pockets of red and it probably looks like there is more if you look at the photos, as I was obsessed with capturing the red and shunning the greenery.
The reason for this is 2 fold. Firstly they’ve had an incredibly rainy year. It’s not a total freak thing. I have seen pictures of floods from back in the early years as well as one in the 70s – but normally they are in a constant dry state. So, the soil is rejoicing in all this rain and the much of the plant life is thriving.
The other, slightly more sinister (I think) reason is due to a kind of grass that has been ‘introduced’ to the region. They have a special place in the desert where they experiment with different species to see how they would thrive in the desert, often to see how they could help with farming.
They introduced a tough type of grass, a little at first, but then en masse by spraying it from planes. This is all well and good but the desert has it’s own system of how things work and most of the plants actually need fire to keep going/to re-seed. The indigenous folk have been setting controlled fire for years and when the authorities handed over the Uluru national park area back to them, to be co-run with the national park service, back in the 80s, they showed them how the fires work and also how certain natural plants control the fire themselves. So, the problem with this grass, alongside it thriving a bit too much and changing the red centre to green, is that it burns at a higher heat than the other natural vegetation. This means that the bushes and trees which have seed pods and things like that which should explode in a fire and scatter the seeds about, are at such a high heat, the pods don’t explode, they burn out. It’s depressing how people don’t seem to learn the lessons of introducing outside species of animal and plants to places. It’s normally for some kind of monetary gain, for farming etc, but it often leads to total disaster – like the ever pesky cane toads. I’m sure it won’t be the last time though. Exasperating! Will be interesting to see if the red centre, in drier years to come, gets it’s redness back.

I can never tire of the red sand though, it’s just gorgeous. And it is set off beautifully against the bushes and trees that have been burnt and so are black and silver and a lot of the greenery has a silvery tint to it as well.

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Our ‘day trip’ as I say, began at 6am and we weren’t due to be dropped off until gone midnight so we were prepared for a lot of time on the coach doing nothing. The first few hours we did get to catch up on a little sleep from the early start but after that, it was amazing how the time was filled and even though we were on the coach for majority of the time, we were always entertained.
The first stretch before a toilet/tea break was a good 3 hours. It was great to watch the desert past by from the coach window (after I’d gotten over my upset at the desert being green). We had 2 drivers/guides on our coach, Calvin and Tic, they were both great. They were very funny, incredibly knowledgeable and extremely Australian. They also had a real respect for the land and the indigenous peoples and basically took the piss out of themselves, each other and any and everyone! Tic told some great lies, like the communication towers were used by the farmer (who owns land the size of scotland on the edge of the national park) to play music to his cows to keep them happy. He reckoned every time we went passed one and couldn’t hear the music is because the farmer (Joe I think his name was) was changing the cd. Lame but made me laugh, especially to think that somebody, one day, might believe that to be true.

Our first proper stop was Kata Tjuta in the national park, which was a mind blowing sight which could easily equal Uluru. It was made up of lots of bumps and domes and the texture of the parts that had broken off were like nut clusters. Much of this place is very sacred to the local aboriginals and so you can’t access that many areas as they still perform important ceremonies there.

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We then went to the Cultural Centre where you weren’t allowed to photograph (along with certain areas of Uluru which are considered sacred).
I thought it was interesting although we didn’t have a whole lot of time. It contains some of the stories from creation time, about how Uluru and Kata Tjuta came to be and about how they grow up and are taught/learn their ways. I particularly liked the ‘Sorry’ book, where people had taken bits of rock from Uluru over the years, have had bad luck befall them and so have sent them back with a letter of apology. Quite right too. A bit like stealing the treaures from the
Egyptian tombs. Although there was one letter from a lady from last year, who hadn’t taken a rock or anything and hadn’t knowingly photographed any of the banned areas but thought that she must have because she then went to Japan where they had the earthquake and the tsunami. I think she may have been a little unhinged, bless her, so might have been best to leave that one out!!

We then went to see Uluru up close. We’d been admiring it at different angles, from a distance all day. It really is just gorgeous. It’s actually odd that it is solid rock. Kata Tjuta, despite looking similar, is made up of a less compact mixture (for want of a better word, all this geology stuff confuses me), so it crumbles more easily and there are clusters of rock lying around. I thought these rather looked like honey nut cluster cereal! But Uluru was made up of finer stuff and so has created a solid rock which is only shaped by wind and water erosion.

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The stories surrounding the different markings on the rock were fascinating (to me anyhow, Mark didn’t really like that side of things). I could have listened to them all day, although there was a lot of death and destruction – lessons learned but not really happy endings.
Two things we learned at the cultural centre, related to the story, I thought was a particularly interesting insight. Firstly, there are the stories that children our told, like the ones we were told. Then there are many further stories, but you have to earn these stories as you get older and wiser. Age isn’t always relevant to the stage you are considered to be at, it’s more about personal growth. So you could be in your 30s but if you are still considered to be irresponsible and you haven’t learnt, you could still not be told anything further than the children’s stories. We, as outsiders, would not get past these early stages of course. And these stories/learnings continue for your whole life. The second thing, is that locations are important. One of the stories from Uluru meant that the indigenous tribe that used to live there, ran away and fled to South Australia, never to return. What happened to them next? Well you have to go to South Australia to hear about that. That, partly, is what going ‘walkabout’ is for – going off to learn the stories, to grow. Interesting or what? Well it was to me, not Mark – philistine!

As the day began to end it was clear that the cloudy weather wasn’t going to produce the glowing sunset everyone hopes to capture. So, rather than going to the sunset car park where everyone congregates (only buses/tours are allowed at this prime spot after 4pm), we agreed with Tics suggestion that instead we start by going to the brand spanking new sunrise car park they spent 22 million dollars on to have our alfresco dinner, then head off to the other place at the last minute to catch the sunrise. This turned out to be a genius plan. If nothing else, because they have toilets there, as apposed to the other place – these kind of things became important when you were travelling for hours at a time, but mainly because not a single other sole was there. It wasn’t the most genius thing to build this new place and spend so much money (although how beggars belief – it really is just a car park, some toilets and a few wooden viewing platforms) and put it in a place that was rubbish at sunset when most people are about. Anyway, we enjoyed a lovely bbq style dinner with lots of (surprisingly tasty) sparkling wine, with all the space in the world, with not another soul about, overlooking the gorgeous Uluru. We then packed up and headed over to the sunset spot where there were tons of people waiting for that, oh so key moment. Just remember when you do see those amazing shots of Uluru with the sun setting behind it and the rock glowing red, which seem so serene and calm, that the photographer is most likely in a car park with tons of other tourists all taking the same shot or others with pictures of themselves jumping up and down in front of it or trying to hold it in their hands. Not quite as serene, but fun none-the-less.
After this we headed home, eventually getting back to our hostel at about half midnight. A long day, but definitely worth it.

Other things we learnt/saw on our day out in the desert:
Camels
There are about a million and a half camels roaming free around the Australian outback. They were brought over in the early, pioneer days, to carry stuff through the un-explored desert and then somehow many ended up going free and breeding happily. They thrive in Australia (although it’s not ideal for the environment, as per other feral animals) and are such healthy animals, they get rounded up and sold back to the Arab lands.

Snakes
We didn’t get to see any, darn in, but we did learn a very interesting fact. If you’re gonna get bitten, you’re better off being bitten by a bigger snake, rather than a smaller one. This is because that a large snake knows not to use all it’s venom on an attack, as they will have no venom left for when they next need to eat. The small, young ones, haven’t learned this lesson and bite, using all the venom up, which is worse for you and them, as they could end up starving. The big ones are essentially giving you a ‘back off’ bite.

The road to WA
We passed a road, which apparently goes all the way to Western Australia, for 1100km. Not particularly amazing but there is no bitumen, this is a red dirt track the whole way – over 680 miles!

The Man from Snowy River
On the long drive home, we filled in the first couple of hours watching the Man from Snowy River, a movie I’d never heard of from the early 80s, set in the rough terrain of the mountainous outback in pioneer times. Starring the very un-australian Kirk Douglas as two brothers. Fabulously cheesy and perfect way to end the day.

We didn’t have much time left in Alice but I did manage to drag Mark along to the Royal Flying Doctors visitors centre. Geeky, but really interesting. And although they have grants, the aircraft and lots of other things all rely on donations – crazy huh?

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Mark did enjoy it in the end and decided that when he grows up he wants to be a pilot for the flying doctors.

We finished our time in town with a quick drink in the nearest pub. It was basic but did the job, but the strong smell of germaline was a bit off putting so we headed home and passed the time throwing wine gums at the ceiling fan to see if it would chop them up (in case you are interested, it didn’t, it just batted them back – don’t try this at home kids!).

One final note on Alice Springs. I’d heard/read much about Alice and it’s social problems and was expecting so much worse. Sure, there are people hanging around town doing nothing and in the night time there is the odd person lying around drunk, but nothing majorly off putting, particularly if you’re used to seeing people lying around drunk as much as we get in Brighton.
And also, let’s face it, Alice Springs is a small town that is TOTALLY in the middle or nowhere. All small towns that don’t have great employment and people don’t have that much money or much to do, you get people hanging around and ‘social’ issues. In fact, walking around the bland buildings and on the badly paved pedestrian street, passed some dodgy people, it reminds me rather of my last place of work, Redhill….

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One of my favourite things about Alice was that it had lots of galahs. Firstly, I love the word itself, especially when it’s used as an insult, a la ‘you flaming galah!’ Secondly, because they are just funny old birds (bit like me, eh?). They kind of waddle about and seem to be a bit stupid. Like many birds though of course, they look lovely and graceful when they take to the air.

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Other thing I loved..

The Old Timers Village is an old peoples home in the town and they even have their own little museum with stuff from the early days of farming etc.

The music everywhere seemed stuck in a time warp. Everywhere we went, including the Woolworths supermarket, was playing only music from the 80s. Mark, of course, felt right at home!

Look out – there’s a lot that Cairns get you!

by Kt

14.03.2012

Cairns is totally tropical. Which is odd for a ‘normal’ australian town. You kind of feel you’re on a Caribbean island. But then you get the bus and go to the supermarket and everything is there in a normal everyday way. Mark has fallen in love with the place. I really like it too, it has a very definite holiday kind of vibe to it. It is the wet season, however, and boy has it rained, but it’s not like the unexpected rain we were having in Sydney and on the east coast, it’s tropical rain. So you’re warm at least. Even if it rains so hard in 5/10 mins of being out in it, say waiting for a bus (as happened to us our first night) you are completely a drowned rat. I don’t think my hair ever gets that wet even when I shower. The advantage of course is if my hair is soaked through then it can’t be a big humidity induced frizz!

The city itself is pretty small. There isn’t a beach but a kind of mudflat that goes out quite far, but there are beaches further up the coast.
This is quite a backpacker/traveller town and so there’s lots of cheap pubs and bars and places to eat which has made a nice change. But being a small place, apart from the clubs, most stuff shuts pretty early.

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I did discover a new taste sensation in a quirky little place in town called the Lillyput cafe – Paris style eggs, which is soft poached eggs with blue cheese and cream with onion, asparagus, spinach kind of baked in a ramekin thing (but somehow are still soft poached) with sautéed potatoes and Turkish toast. Massive, huge YUM to that!!!

On the whole we have stayed around the house a fair bit. Another airbnb triumpth, the house is an older style and has a swimming pool set amongst a ton of tropical trees and bushes. This actually keeps me out of it as this makes likelihood of snakes and bugs and other things quite high. But it’s not really been sunny enough for me to dip anyhow. The girl who owns the house is a cool lady who’s done a lot of travelling herself and runs a dance school here as well as teaching and doing burleque shows.
The moment I set foot in the house I loved it as she has all kinds of quirky bits of art and photos and pictures and ornaments up. Reminds me a bit of ours – if she likes something, she just sticks it up!! Has made me feel very at home.
Again, the lack of need for security here compared to home leave me gobsmacked. The bathroom is out the backdoor (I tend not to go in the middle of the night as I am a wimp) and the back can be accessed from the front and is full of tropical trees and things that go bump in the night (and actually make a row all times of day and night).

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The worst thing about Cairns is the mosquitos – they are plentiful and unforgiving. We are both pickled in bites from head to toe.
I would definitely like to come back in the dry season when the days are fine and you are not so under attack.

Speaking of being under attack – we have been on a couple of adventures the last couple of days, in the domain of the many things in Northern Queensland that will try to kill you.

Firstly we took a trip out to Cape Tribulation – this is about 3 hours away and in the depths of the 140 million year old (I think that stat is correct) Daintree rainforest. The rain forest is just amazing. Utterly breathtaking.
To start proceedings off we went on a river cruise looking for crocodiles. We didn’t see any but I was disturbed enough with the idea that they were there and that those little life jackets tucked up in the roof of the little boat, wouldn’t help us much. I was then completely freaked out when we got off the boat only for it to be mentioned that there is also bull sharks in the river. What the?????

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We did see a tree snake swim impressively quickly across the river and up into a tree. As I watched Mark lean over the side of the boat to photograph it (okay, I’d actually sent him up to do it), I made a mental note that if he went in, he was most definitely on his own and he would have to hope for the heroics and kindness of strangers!!

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Deeper into the rainforest after a ferry (it’s more like a floating platform) trip across the river we reached Cape Tribulation where we stopped for lunch. The setting was amazing and I did think it would have been nice to stay there. I say did, as there was a few things to change my mind. The beach, just a couple of minutes walk through the rainforest, was very beautiful but firstly it is the season for these tiny little jellyfish called Irucandji, which are the size of your fingernail and invisible and can very easily kill you if they don’t at least put you in critical condition.

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Secondly, the salt water crocs from the river also live around the sea and so are also quite likely to snap you up.
By this point, the concept of crocodiles in the sea and sharks in the rivers had quite literally blown my mind. We visited a variety of places through the rainforest and learned and saw some cool stuff. We didn’t spot a Cassowary (a large, emu type bird with a blue head), unfortunately but they are v rare and there are signs everywhere to be careful on the roads as they too often get hit by cars.

One particular sign which was graffitid by a local kid and has become a tourist attraction in it’s own right, creatively used the speed bump sign as part of the warning.

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Most of the time we were there, the rain continued to bucket down, so much so, that as we started to leave, water was starting to flood onto the roads at various spots. We got through a couple, but then reached a rather deep one where a few cars were stopped and people were out, kinda staring at it. The issue with this, was that if we couldn’t cross this, then we were stuck in the rainforest that night. That wouldn’t be the end of the world, but my frayed nerves didn’t fancy the idea of being surrounded by flood waters carrying said hungry crocodiles. And it’s not as if the place was packed with accommodation – I think it had the one small place we’d gone to for lunch, which I guess if it was full, some kind of camping may have been involved (heart palpitations just thinking about it). In the end, some lovely, tall, german guy got out of the bus to wade into the water to see how deep it was. It above his knees (he was a very tall guy) but our guide decided that there was a good to fair chance the bus could get through it. So we went for it. And we made it – yey! Leaving folks in cars and trucks behind. This is photo from bus as we drove through it.

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But that wasn’t the end of it, unfortunately. The rain was still pelting down and we had a fair way to go to get out with a bridge which could potentially flood too. As we drove – quickly – along the small roads with sheer drops down the sides, we kept coming across places we had passed earlier which had trickles of water pouring down the slopes, which were now like waterfalls. It was a happy, happy moment when we reached and crossed the bridge and even happier when the ferry took us over the river back onto the right side for transit home.

We drove higher up and out of the flooding areas and went to Alexandra look out which was pretty amazing and you could look over and see those crazy dark clouds which were pounding the forest.

Aparently, on a clear day you see the island off of which Steve Irwin got killed. I know it was a freak accident but just another example of killer Queensland to me :)

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Many of us slept much of the way back, but I did wake up in time to see loads of wild wallabies. Ah, at last something that can’t get me. At least I not that I’ve heard about …. yet!!!

Next day we went off on another excursion, out to the Great Barrier Reef. This was a full day boat trip and Mark was going to be diving and I was to be …. possibly …. snorkeling. Now, I don’t really like water deeper than my knees and the idea of jumping into the ocean in the middle of nowhere where sharks are a plenty. I was properly feeling sick at the idea of it all and decided I would go in with Mark between his dives and be a proper girl and get him to hold my hand.

Well first off, we had a warning when checking in that the conditions were ‘choppy’. As we set off it didn’t seem too bad, but within 10 minutes the boat was banging about all over the place. By the time we arrived at our location after about an hour, most of the boat was if not actually throwing up, were feeling sick and had a bag to hand or just sitting or lying still with eyes closed. I had done to preventative things – first time ever i took a seasickness tablet that they were selling on board and then, the best tip I have ever learnt – the whole way I just stared at the horizon. When we arrived I was pretty much only person tickety-boo. I think it was mainly the horizon thing as one of the guys Mark was diving with had taken the same tablets and he was feeling pretty green.
It wasn’t as choppy once we stopped but it was far from calm and the visibility off the side of the boat was almost non-existent. Not like the clear water in all the clips you see on tv.
Mark went ahead with his dive and I got kitted out to go sborkelling. This included $6 for a stinger suit – a full body suit to prevent jellyfish stings, particularly from the little ones mentioned early. They ‘suggested’ you wear one but didn’t provide them for free which rankled me a bit (this was a pricey trip!). Anyhow, by the time I had all gear it seemed a bit pointless to go back inside and sit and wait for Mark so putting aside the fact the guide had been telling us that the other day they had a leopard shark and a white tip shark around the boat and that we didn’t have to worry about the white tip (what about the leopard shark !!!????!!!), I slid off the side of the boat to possible death. Yes, of course it is unlikely that they’d take a load of people out and throw them out into water where they were in danger, but still. I was scared. OK? I’m a water baby, and not in the good sense. But it was better visibility than I had thought and there was tons down there. The coral itself wasn’t that impressive but the sheer variety of fish was amazing. My favourite being the the big, friendly Napolean Wrass who liked to hang out by the boat. I didn’t go crazily far and tried to keep at least someone who may be tastier to sharks than I, within easy reach. But I did stay out a while and went out again later in the day to a better part of the reef and was jolly pleased with myself and my outstanding bravery in the face of adversity. I am still waiting for the medal and the message from the queen.

Mark really enjoyed his 3 dives. We got talking with the people in his dive group. We had Antoine from Paris who’d quit his job and come to Australia for a month. Jimmy, from San Francisco, who used to work in Silicone Valley, was now retired. He had first dived in 1964 and after Cairns was going up to Papua New Guinea for 3 weeks. Then there was Suzy, who Mark buddied with, from … Brighton. So, that was a treat to have someone to gossip about home with. She and her other half, another Mark were in Australia for a couple of weeks and had done a bit of Sydney, come up to Cairns (like us, not really being aware what the wet season entailed) and were then heading back to Sydney after Cairns. We ended up going into Cairns with them, after we got off the boat, for a ‘quick drink’ which lasted a bit longer than quick and included a search for somewhere open with Chinese food, and an interesting menu choice for us all as they staff packed the chairs and tables up around us. It was a great night, we all got on really well and had a good laugh and chat and will definitely be looking them up when we get back to Brighton. We just, with a bit of running, got the last bus home too, so well done us.

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Next stop is Alice Springs. I am hoping for less mozzies and more sun – it’s the desert, so surely it can’t rain? But I’m not going to jinx it by saying so……..oops, I guess I just did.

East Coast Roadtrip

by Kt

12.03.2012

Mark and I do like a good road trip. The driving bit itself is a lot of fun. You see something interesting, you stop and have a look. Although actually you don’t do that as much as you would think when you’re trying to do a lot of miles, but it’s fun. The radio stations go in and out of signal and you’re left with whatever you get. When we’ve road tripped in the USA before, all we found when we got far away from the cities was that you could only get Country & Western music. Well that is just mighty fine for a road trip let me tell you! Oddly, I wasn’t expecting to find the same here – for some reason one of the channels we seemed to get everywhere was a religious country and western channel. Not so great, being on the religious side, but entertaining from time to time.
There was also, for some reason a lot of 80s music on the radio station. Mark, of course was in his element there. There was also an alarming amount of Fleetwood Mac. I’ve never really gotten Fleetwood Mac, apart from the odd tune, I’d prefer not to hear them quite so much – but there she was, every few hours on the various channels, old Stevie – warbling away.

We managed to sort out the issue with the ventilation in the van by fashioning a solution involving a cut up mosquito net and lots of gaffer tape. It must have been watching the A-Team and MacGyver. We were very proud of it, unfortunately it kept raining so hard we couldn’t open the windows much to get all the air in. But hey ho. A useful tip for other Jucy camper van victims, erm, I mean ‘customers’.

There were breaks in the rain from time to time and we did see some cool things along the stretch from Sydney to Brisbane.

The Koala Hospital in Port Macquarie was a charity run little place where they nurse back to health injured Koalas. The things that make the Koalas sick are varied, but generally fall into the category of Bush fires, road accidents and dog attacks (they come down from the trees and roam about/move trees at night which is when these two occur). A lot of them also suffer from a form of chlamydia which is due to their shrinking habitat as there’s not enough wide spread breeding. Some of the stories of the Koalas were heart-breaking. Particularly the bush fire victims. It was also sad how often the same koalas returned time and again.

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Another place we stopped, purely for a much needed toilet break, was the small town/village of Chatsworth. This is a little loop off the main road and runs by a large river, (there are so many rivers in australia and they are massive). For some reason here they have developed the ‘Thong Tree’ which clearly travellers have added to over time. There is also another tree with a collection of toothbrushes and some other oddities such as garden gnomes and an ironing board. Strange.

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The farther north we got as it got a bit more tropical, there was lots of growing of Bananas (Coffs Harbour is famous for it) and sugar cane – with the aptly named Sugar town.

We got to Byron Bay, where I’d planned we would stay a while but with the weather as hideous as it was, there was just not much we could do. Our campsite was only 10 minutes walk from the centre but it was tipping it down and our umbrella had broken with the constant bashings of the rain. As we sat in the van with the rain pounding outside – with me sat in the passenger seat with Mark sat in the back as there really was only room for one person at a time in the back – we hit probably our all time low. What were we going to do for the evening. What were we going to do if every night continued to be like this.
After an hour or so there was a lull in the rain – it didn’t stop of course. We made it into town had a drink and a bite to eat and made the decision that we were having a fairly miserable time and it was also costing us a huge amount of money (we’d not looked that closely at our budget for a while and it was lower than we had thought – my fault as I am the spreadsheet/banker girl). We had been surprised that life on the road wasn’t particularly cheap. You were looking at 20 quid a night absolute minimum but much higher than that in popular places like Byron. With over 20 days of the trip planned this was going to be a fair bit of money on top of petrol and general expenses and to be spending that money when you were having a sucky time seemed crazy. We had flights booked out of Cairns where we were eventually headed, at the end of March, to go to Alice Springs and then onto Perth and we’d then fly out of Perth to Bali. We decided to ditch the van early, see what we could cancel and get out of Oz as soon as possible. It was in one way a relief to make that decision so we didn’t have the constant nag of how much we were spending each day but also having come all this way, to think Mark wouldn’t dive the Great Barrier Reef and I wouldn’t get to go the Red Centre – things we’d dreamed of, was a tad depressing. But it was good to have made the decision and with the weather not looking like it was going to improve we decided to get to Brisbane, ditch the van and move on to wherever. As if someone was looking down on us, we did manage to walk back to the van that night without getting rained on but 5 minutes after settling down, the most almighty, night long downpour hit us. We’d made the right decision.

The next day was actually much brighter and we decided that we’d make the most of having the van and visit some of the places on my list rather than charge straight to Brisbane.

First stop, through some amazing scenery was the small town of Nimbin. This is a small place but is a popular tourist destination as it’s somewhat unique. In 1973 a music festival was held in this small, half abandoned dairy town and basically the hippies never went home. So this town is all peace and love and tie-dye and hemp (etc) and anti-establishment. I was worried that it wouldn’t live up to the hype but it so did. A very cool place. Wished we could have stayed the night. Of course, lets be honest, some of the hippy values are negated by the fact that the town probably keeps going from the fact it’s a curiosity for tourists and the tourist dollars they bring. But it was great to see the older guys who had clearly come and stayed and the younger ones who’d dropped out to come live there. And for anyone who wanted to partake, there was lots of polite offers to ‘help you out’. Rather gentile in fact.
The museum was mix of the towns history and an amazing gallery with all these mind blowing bits of art covering every corner. It had a fair bit of stuff about the history of the treatment of the indigenous aboriginis which had been missed out from more main stream museums.
It was by donation only and here is the ‘guide’ we got when we went in which I think sums up the nature of Nimbin.

“While you are here now please walk the Museum Rainbow Serpent path throughout he dinosaur, aboriginal, pioneer and hippy eras of this piece of earth we now call Nimbin.
The Museum is a volunteer run community venture that was begun almost twenty years ago by local artists as a place for visitors to meet locals. More ar than museum perhaps, the ‘legal trip’ starts on the footpath outside and follows a million years of Nimbin history.
The journey begins with the Aboriginal Dreaming story of the Creation among the local dinosaurs which then lead into the Bundjahlung era. Aboriginal people lived sustainably on this land here beneath our feet for thousands of years with an intimate knowledge and understanding of the natural cycles. They had a culture which could have taught us so much but the whitefellas who arrives here only 150 years ago cut down the forests, brought in cattle and worked very hard to make it look like where they had come from.
In the Pioneer Room the Rainbow Serpent loses its colour as the trees disappear and Christianity rules until the Hippies arrive in 1973 for the Aquarius Festival.
They eat the magic mushrooms growing in the cow pats and get a dose of enlightenment. Colour returns to the path as the new settlers move out of the cities and into their communes. ‘It’s a dream of harmony between the tribes, between the planets and its people.’
The Forest Walk hallway leads to the Rebirth Cave where you may discover, ‘what you need is here already!’
Out of the cave you can enjoy a coffee (with a cannabis cookie if only it was allowed) and a game of chess in the Museum cafe.
The final room on the path is the original HEMP Embassy (now across the road) and devoted to ending the illegality of the hippies sacred herb, cannabis. Nothing has made the alternative lifestyle efforts of the pioneers more difficult than the outlawing of this herb which not long ago was the most popular plant on the planet. It nearly is now again and we believe the ‘war on drugs’ is breeding disrespect, as bad laws do.
The path then leads back into the front room completing the circle. Visitors are welcome to to photograph and film and touch, but please donate in the can.
We need over $100 a day just to pay the rent and electricity, which we often struggle with. Meanwhile, love one another best you can, eat whole food, consume as little as possible and recycle by leaving this paper here unless you want it! ” www.nimbinmuseum.com

Oops – forgot to read that last bit and took the paper with me. I always want to be a hippy but just can’t do it when push comes to shove. But hey, what’s so funny about peace, love and understanding?

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After leaving Nimbin and traveling back to the coast through some more amazing scenery, we visited the complete antithesis of what Nimbin stood for, the vegas-esque Surfers Paradise.

Now I thought I wouldn’t like it at all but thought I had to go and have a look. I was actually quite surprised that I quite liked it. It’s got probably the most beautiful beach ever with a backdrop of sky rise blocks of apartments. It is what it is really. It’s not as cramped and claustrophobic as I had thought – the tower blocks don’t seem oppressive and unlike many seaside resorts, there isn’t a main road next to the beach chocca with cars. The area is pleasantly walkable and there are bars and restaurants aplenty. Yes there’s a big Maccas (the fab aussie name for McDonalds) but then there is on many seafronts in Oz.
Mark was very happy to see the Surfers Paradise Meter Maids. These are a couple of scantily clad ladies who go around and top up the parking meters of un-suspecting tourists who’ve overrun. It all started back in the 60s and we’d seen it on some UK documentary program a while ago. Very strange, probably rather sexist but is just part of the history of Surfers Paradise and you’ve kind of got to love the tackiness of it all.

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Highlights of our roadtrip included us seeing our first Kookaburra. Me seeing my first wild Kangaroo (Mark missed it).
The signs for the person who was running for office in Brisbane, who’s name was Grace Grace.

The lowlights were the van and when we very nearly ran out of petrol and some stupid iPhone app took us on a wild goose chase down some dodgy looking road to a non-existent petrol station. We luckily found a pleasant chap, photographing his suped up car, who pointed us in the right direction and hearts in throats we made it and vowed to never let it get much under half a tank again as the distances between petrol stations could be very long.

Road trip general:
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We got to Brisbane and checked into a basic Formule 1 airport hotel which seemed like the absolute lap of luxury after the van. We still had the van for a day or so, which we were going to use to go into the city and pick up our macbook which had been shipped up from Sydney for fixing. We realised on the first evening there that parking in the city might just be an issue as we tried to park in one of the underground carparks only to find it was about $11 per hour. Luckily, we found somewhere out of town where you could park 2 hours for free. It was then just a real walk in the humidity to get into the city centre.
We also discovered that $11 an hour was a bargain as another one we tried was $14 – jeez. On the whole Brisbane seemed to be the most expensive place we have visited and also the least inspiring. Admittedly we didn’t do a whole lot of exploring but the city really was a mass of big new buildings and fly overs. In fact big and brash is how I would describe Brisbane in general. But it does the job and has so many amazing things right on it’s doorstep – it’s a fantastic gateway to such a variety of things – bush, rainforest, beaches, rivers. We decided to move on pretty quickly though – basic as it was that hotel was costing a bomb. We spent most of the time there organising our next steps. Turns out we couldn’t leave Oz as soon as we had intended as we couldn’t change or cancel most of the flights very easily. What we decided to do instead was to stick with our original plan but just do it all much quicker. So rather than a long, leisurely drive up to Cairns we got cheap flights straight up there. I was made up that I was still going to get to the places I’d really wanted to go – even if it would be on fast forward.
Our only other venture in Brisbane was picking up our new macbook. The insurance company had finally conceded that rather than paying the same price to fix ours as a new one,that a new one made more sense. So, we headed out to the faceless and overly huge Westfield mall out of town to pick one up at the Apple store. As I may have mentioned before, I hate shopping malls. I’d been pleasantly surprised by the swanky one in Sydney but I think that was a bit of a special one off and was on lots of floors rather than a spralling mass. Once we’d got our purchase I decided I needed to get out of there asap as was just feeling so claustrophobic so headed for the nearest door, just figuring we could walk through the car park rather than the mall. Well this place was big and we walked and walked and we got lost – in the car park of a mall – ridiculous – and we wasted a good 20 minutes trying to find our way back. I concede that this really was my fault in my hurriedness to get out. I hereby apologise publicly to Mark.
My strange highlight of Brisbane was when we went to the post office to post back the broken mac to the UK. By the way mum, if you’re reading this, I forgot to tell you – you’ll be receiving a package in about 3 months by sea mail!! Sea mail – what a romantic notion eh? Anyway, the guy serving us in the (very swanky, modern) post office was from Ireland and he had moved over just before the Irish financial crisis and the aussie dollar went crazy – good timing eh? Well we had a good old chat with him about stuff and as we left, unbeknownst to me (Mark had twigged earlier and was feeling uncomfortable), a rather large queue had formed and were glaring daggers at us with their eyes, clearly wanting us to shut the hell up and move on. I can imagine in their position I would have been less than happy – especially as it wasn’t that long until it was due to close. I don’t know why when I think back on this it makes me giggle, but it really does. I think it’s just the idea of how much those strangers hated us so, in those few moments where our paths crossed. Hee Hee.

Next stop, Cairns (in the wet season) …..

A crackling time in Ubud – caves, temples, paddys & pork

by Kt

12.04.2012

We ended up staying in Ubud and in the same accommodation for 2 and a half weeks.
It was so nice to just be somewhere for a while and Ubud is such a great and easy place to be, it’s difficult to ever leave I think. We ate in lots of interesting places, braved the market, wandered down some out of the way streets. Wandered back the other way down some out of the way streets when an unfriendly dog clearly wasn’t going to let us past. There’s always something going on in Ubud and I swear everytime we walked down the street we saw a new store or business that we were sure wasn’t there the day before.

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Blackpool and pork
In our second week a couple turned up at our accommodation who we ended up having a right old royal craic with. You know when you just meet people and you just find you’re on the same wave length? Well that was Steve and Michelle. Hailing from Blackpool, this pair take a month off every year and take interesting, definitely not run-of-the-mill holidays. Fabulous for us as we got lots of great tips on places we are yet to venture to. Steve is an action man. He’s an ice-climber. He goes climbing in winter!?! Yes, I know – barking isn’t it? Michelle is newer to the more adventurous type of holidaying, much like Mark and myself, having previously enjoyed more upmarket holiday experiences but over recent years she has become well and truly bitten by the bug – although she did take a hair brush up with her when she climbed a mountain once, but that’s another story! Michelle’s mum and dad run an old skool b&b in Blackpool. The same guests come back time and time again – and the same set of guests go there every christmas and swap presents with people who were at one time strangers. How cool is that? I love it that these places still exist – long may they thrive. Mark lived in Blackpool for a while, back in his yoof, so the guys swapped stories of the various salubrious establishments and how they had changed over the years. It’s definitely time for us to go back for a visit – sounds like lots been going on in recent years – and now with our new found friends – the perfect excuse!! A Blackpool knees up is definitely in order when we get back. We ended up a few evenings in a row, at the restaurant down the road having a right old gas and giggle. Believe it or not, this was with Mark and I still not drinking. Get us! Unheard of! We went crazy on water and ginger tea. Anyhow, it was so great to meet these guys and to have a few days of chatting and belly laughs – something you miss when you’re so far from you friends. It was a shame that they couldn’t stay longer but they were off to the Gili Islands off Bali for some further adventure. But to top off our bonding, we did all share a pretty special pork experience. Intrigued? Well read on….

For those of you with clean minds, yes you guessed it right, I’m talking about the meat. Pork is big in Bali and is used for special occasions generally as they like to roast a whole pig. There is a place in Ubud that is pretty famous for it’s pork. Steve and Michelle had been there but were up for it again as it was so good, so next day we met up for our pig-fest. The place has some high tables, but mainly low ones where you sit on the floor, which is where we were. They are open from 11- 3 everyday and in that time they basically just roast a couple of oinks. Now I don’t really like pork but Mark does so I thought I’d maybe see what else was on the menu. Umm – nope – just pig. So I went for the pig special, which consisted of pork meat, pork meat fried in flour, pork blood sausage, pork skin and stuffing and a bit of rice for good measure. It was actually fantastic. The pork was so tender – really yummy. The fried stuff I didn’t like so much but the blood sausage I also surprisingly did. It was kind of like a spicy black pudding. I had to draw a line at the skin though – i tried it but is so not my cup of tea – but Mark was more than happy for any of my left over and the guys worked through a couple of plates of what can only be described as roasted pork skin. You could also get some pork scratching like crackers too – so why not? I seriously thought Mark may go into cardiac arrest then and there.
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We really must give a special mention to our favourite eatery in Ubud.
It is called ‘Yummy Yummy’ and they do the best Nasi Goreng and Satay and in fact everything they do is …. well… yummy, yummy!!!! We’ve spent a lot more in town on food but it’s never been quite as good. It’s a brightly painted place and the uber friendly owner likes his rock music and donned an interesting range of cool t-shirts. Once again, there’s not much more to say than.. yummy, yummy!

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Green, Old, Steep and a Dud
No, I’m not talking about Mark!! I’m talking about the places we saw when we did eventually venture out of town. First up, we went to what’s known as the ‘Organic Cafe’ (but I think it’s got a proper Warung name too). Anyway, the point of going to this cafe is not so much for the cafe itself, but for where it is. To get to it, you go disappear up a lane from Ubud’s top main road and walk for 15 or so minutes up a track through the paddy fields. So you have the green and ordered rice fields growing on either side of you and it is really quite stunning.
On the way up (and back down) the path you meet a few people. The odd person going to or back from the cafe, some on mopeds carrying stuff up to where they are doing some building and some tending to the paddy fields. The women, as you see all over Bali (and much of the world) carry stuff on their heads. It is mind blowing the weight of stuff they can carry – large buckets of sand and breeze blocks for instance! There are also ducks tinkering about in the fields – they eat the pests so are a useful part of the process. There was a woman who Mark though was raving mad, shouting things, until I told him (as I’d read about this previously) that she was actually shouting at the ducks as they surprisingly comply with such orders. I would comply with anything this woman shouted – she certainly meant business!! Along the way there is the odd small building where they were selling things such as masks and kites. Stuff you obviously don’t need but they know that the tourists traipsing up here may be tempted. Although it was only a 15 minute walk, it was very exposed and very hot. It also took a lot longer as we were taking photos and videos, so it is a great relief to reach the cafe and some shade. The cafe is raised up a floor, so you have amazing views over the paddy fields. There was lots of wholesome food, most of which is grown in their own gardens and it was decced out with lots of big, loungey cushions. You could probably easily lose an afternoon there.

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We also went out to see a couple of things in the Ubud surrounds. The Elephant Cave (Goa Gajah) is a temple complex which was uncovered in the 1930s. It was ridiculously old – from the 11th century. It included a cave that had been dug out of the rock, god knows how, in which people went to meditate. There were chunks dug out on the side a foot or two from the ground, in which people would meditate which only a candle to keep them company, for days on end. The area was built next to the river and had lots of sources of water, which is why it was built there. Years after finding the Hindu temple, they discovered that on the same site, just a little further along there was also a Budhist temple – from a few hundred years before the ‘new’ hindu one. It’s mind blowing how old this stuff is. When we were in Australia and New Zealand it was always interesting to see what was described as a ‘historic site’ as generally our house was older than such things. Wer’e used to things being old in Britain, but these temples trumped all that – times 100!!! It’s a whole other realm of old!

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We also, briefly, went to see the Ceking Rice Terraces. These are basically just paddy fields built on a hill, so the land has been terraced so the water can sit, as the rice needs. There’s not much to say about them. They are worth a visit as they’re pretty amazing when viewed from the high ridge opposite.

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Our next stop was a bit of a non-event, but interesting none the less. Well that’s what I tell Mark when he implies that it was a boring waste of time. He’s probably right but a life of no regrets and all that – I won’t allow myself to regret sitting in a field watching not much happen for a couple of hours!!
The village of Petula, since the 60s, has been home to a kind of heron called the Kokokan bird. Every night at about 6pm, these birds come back from where ever they have been to roost. There is apparently 15-20,000 birds in this one small village. The villagers believe that the birds presence brings them luck as before they arrived the village was very poor. Oddly, they do not move onto any other village – they stay only here and also don’t roost in any of the residents gardens. Whatever the reason for them being here, it has become a bit of a tourist attraction. You get a sprinkling of people turn up for it in the evening and I think pretty much every person there was a bit under enthralled. The idea of these thousands of birds coming in sounds amazing until you get there and realise that they don’t literally descend at the same time and land in the same place. It is spread out in time and area. They trickle in and certainly, at the peak time of 6pm they are definitely more impressive in number and coming in from all angles. So, it was a bit interesting but not much. Reading about it is probably more interesting than being there. Another boring place I have dragged Mark to and I’m sure it won’t be the last. The village itself is very simple and traditional. My interest was piqued to see a big Westlife poster in one of the small stores which was out of place to say the least.

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Driving around I actually realised how big Ubud was. It is a bunch of villages all joined together but it really does go on for miles in various directions, yet at the same time you can be out into quite paddy fields in no time. The huge carvings you find all over the outskirts are truly amazing. I wonder if the fact that so much is created – art and craft, in Bali and in particular in Ubud, is why it’s such a laid back, aggro free place. Lots of people are creating beautiful things and all around you are colourful and bright art and objects. I personally got extremely excited at the huge disco ball selection we saw – disco ball buddhas too – oh I’m so having one of those one day!!!

Sydney and some Jucy gossip

by Kt

10.03.2012

So, our time in Sydney continued, mostly in the wet. They’ve had the wettest summer on history or some happy fact like that and in fact it’s pretty serious with large parts of New South Wales under severe flood warnings.
We noticed it even where we were staying. The nearby flood drains which were dry when we arrived were almost to the top one day as we walked to the train station.

Probably the worst weather day we had was when we were going over to north sydney to see an old friend of mine Darren who I haven’t seen in a good 10 years, with Sarah his english wife who I met briefly but who was hospitably inviting us for dinner and meet his two boys Toby and Cameron. I spoke to Darren who suggested we could get to him by getting the ferry over to Manly – this seemed like a great idea so we could checkout the famous manly beach on the way. However, that day it rained and rained and rained. And this rain isn’t like standard english rain – it’s really hard. The ferry over to Manly, where you normally would have stunning views of the mouth of the Sydney harbour, was so overcast that you could barely see land. We got to Manly, trudged down to the beach, just so we had seen it and then tried to catch the bus. Stupidly we just missed the one we should have gotten, then discovered we could get another bus which turned up while Mark had disappeared off to the toilet. So rather than being early we were in fact rather late. The lovely flowers that I had bought for Sarah which were wrapped in brown paper, were waining to say the least and we were a little frazzled. But it was so fab to see Darren after all this time and have a good old gossip with Sarah about what she did and didn’t miss and about what the differences are about living there and lots of general girlie stuff. And it was great to meet the boys and be entertained by their light sabre swordsmanship (who doesn’t want a light sabre eh?) and Cameron’s forward rolling ability – magnificent. We had a really nice time – it’s so good to sit with fun and lovely people – we’ve met some lovely people along the way but there’s nothing like that sense of familiarity, a bit of common ground and some reminiscing. My highlights include the fact that Darren has a jack hammer. I don’t why that amuses me but it does. I guess it’s when someone you know grows up and builds things (the decking is very impressive) it’s just a different side to them. Mind you Mark built our decking about 8 years ago and um, well, I can’t really comment other than it was definitely sturdy!
Another highlight was Sarah introducing me to sparkling red wine. Not pink – full on dark red. I know!! It sounds wrong but it was really good. The heaviness of red but then kind of lighter. A revelation. But the main highlight was just hanging around with lovely people and they fed us lovely food and it was a laugh and great to have girlie chat. And the boys made me laugh, especially in the morning. Before even 8 o’clock we had animals, dinosaurs, homework and guns! Plus, they let us crash there rather than get a few buses/trains back in the pouring rain. AND Darren gave us a lift back in the morning. He’s the coolest (hope you’re listening fella – bigging you up here!!).

After that we didn’t do a huge amount of exciting things in Sydney. We went to the Newtown area which I’d been told was pretty cool. It was ok and it did have THE BEST second hand bookshop in the world EVER!!! I know I found one in Wellington, NZ that I thought was great but this is on a whole other scale.
‘Goulds’ has been around for donkeys years and is just this crazy place stacked to the ceiling with books. Even Mark, who hates being dragged to bookshops, loved it. I’d like to say it’s organised chaos but I believe that most of the books aren’t catalogued but they do put them in general areas. There were thousands of books in the area we were looking on Australia, as we thought we could find some old guide books. But you easily got distracted by a book on Cairns from 1970s with amazing pictures, or a write up of something from early 20th century. I’m probably not selling it by my description but it was such a treasure trove. And if you moved away from the section you were in then you’d just get sucked into some other topic and the thousands of books on the subject. They even had so many books that some you couldn’t even see/access as were still in packing boxes. I think if I lived in Sydney I would go there once a week like going to church. V cool, if dusty, place!

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That evening things went a little awry and rather than grabbing a bite to eat in Newtown we headed up to Epping, the suburb after Eastwood (where we were staying) on the train, to meet Jo who’s place we were staying at through airbnb. This was her home suburb and we met her at her local which is half bar/half club. It was great to spend some time with Jo, get to know her a little better and meet lots of random people, but the fact that we hadn’t eaten and had been out for a while, led to a slightly messy evening. There was some dancing with Jo on the club stage with wigs on, I have no idea why and I’ve no idea where Mark even was during this time but we had fun and we got home (somehow). Now it may sound like we are drinking our way around the world as we mention bars so much in our blog but although we have frequented many along the way, we haven’t often been in any for more than a few drinks. So this mad night out really was a shock to our poor systems and we had a very quiet next day. Which was nice actually. We ordered pizza and watched TV. Proper lazy and stuff – it was great. A couple of wonderfully terrible made for TV movies for extra bliss. Of course this was all within our small little room but on the move these places quickly become our little castle.
We did, much to Marks horror, have to drag ourselves out in the evening as it was Sydney’s gay ‘Mardi Gras’ parade – the reason we’d extended our trip for a night. Rain or no rain, I was not going to miss this. But boy, the rain was gonna have a good go at hindering things. Stupidly I had thought, as at such events in the UK, there would be tons of people cashing in on the rain and selling ponchos etc (our umbrella had died a death the day before). But nope. Not one person – big money making opportunity missed there. So we got there fairly early – but realised we couldn’t wait until the parade started and get a good place because it was pouring and in an hour we would be drenched and miserable. So we headed off for a couple of drinks and prayed the weather would improve. It hadn’t when we first headed back, just after the parade had hit the area we were. The worst thing was that all the umbrellas actually added height to all the people at the barriers so you could see very little. Even with the rain though there was a palpable sense of fun and good humour. The vibe was just great. So then, the gods looked down on this happy place and the rain stopped and then for a good 2 hours while the parade finished, the rain held off.
I was a little surprised as I had thought as it’s such a huge thing in Sydney, that there would be big bucks spent on these huge floats and it would be lots of light and glitz, almost disney parade style. It was, however, quite small scale in that sense. It was not really about ‘floats’ but more about the tons of people marching the streets. Which was cool and probably more about what the mardi gras represents than big floats. I was just surprised that’s all. It’s maybe because I’m from the west country which is carnival country so I’m used to seeing big, impressive floats with themes and big lights and big music.
And also, Brighton Pride, is probably more impressive on the floats front too. But as I say, I don’t think that’s what this is about, it was just an expectation I had for some reason. I think this is amazing for the amount of people who take part and showing all the different charities and support groups and sports clubs and just people power really. It really did have such a great and special vibe and I really, really enjoyed it.
But one final, controversial note – at Brighton Pride – the ‘ladies’ are more impressive on the whole than at Mardi Gras – sorry but they just are!!

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Best bit was the one where they were all dressed as Kylie (who was there to perform at the post parade party) from the ‘I just can’t get you out of my head’ video with the white catsuits. That was genius!!

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During a break in the rain, we had the chance to enjoy the local Cockatoos. Please, no jokes, as if I haven’t heard enough from Mark. They are very cool birds though and definitely not shy. If anything they are a little ‘cocky’. They fly right up close to you and if there’s something in the road they want to eat, they’ll sit in the road and eat it and will maybe hop over a bit but generally are not fussed about moving for cars. They are pretty big and it just seemed so bizarre to have these kind of birds in a residential neighbourhood. Well bizarre to us poms – obviously the natives don’t bat an eyelid.

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And the rain continued – we went into the city to do a bit of shopping (searching for a replacement Kindle for Mark – we have all the luck with electronic equipment). I did have a moment of sorrow when we entered a department store in search of the electronic floor and I had to walk through this most amazing cosmetic floor. I remembered when I had nice things. Nice creams. Nice smelling things. Oh to have nice things again. Need to avoid such shops. They are evil and tempting….. Sob….

And the rain continued. By this point 75% of New South Wales (which is a blooming huge state – probably the size of Wales or something) was on flood warning. We were a bit concerned about our road trip but the route out of Sydney seemed to be ok.

On our last evening we stopped for a drink in pretty much the only place you can get a drink in Eastwood. The hotel has a very modern but cheap interior with a big room for pokies etc. It’s ok – does the job and the drinks are a bit cheaper than in the city. We found, though on that last night, that in about 4 places, the ceiling was caving in, in the bar area, because of all the heavy rain. As I mentioned before, it’s been the most rain Sydney’s had possibly ever and buildings like these just aren’t handling it. It was actually quite shocking to see how much the building had disintegrated in about 4 days since we’d last been there.

We ended that evening with our first ever Korean meal. It was quite late at night and it’s tricky ordering when it’s unfamiliar food to you but it was really, really nice. The main dish we ordered was squid but when it came it was octopus which was okay by us and we had some interesting accompaniments, like a kind of pickled seaweed and something that I think was marrow which was gorgeous. It was pretty good all round and was please we took the opportunity of staying in that mainly Korean/Chinese/Vietnamese neighbourhood to try the one cuisine we weren’t familiar with. One thing to note was that on every table they had a box of christmas tissues. Obviously this isn’t that weird as the tissues were to use as napkins and maybe they had a job lot left over from christmas time but the peculiar thing was that all the restaurants in the surrounding streets, when we looked in the windows, had the same tissues. Did a christmas tissue factory close down and have thousands of boxes left? Could you get no tissues other than christmas tissues at the local wholesalers? Who knows and the sad truth is, we may never know.

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To leave Sydney we had to go down to Botany to pick up our camper van. I say van – car is really what it is. It’s a converted people carrier really. We (I am saying this through gritted teeth as it was Marks fault and caused a lot of happiness and hugging and loving in our lives – not) went wrong on the freeway, just after we went over the harbour bridge. This wrong turn was at such an awkward place that we had to go back the way we came to correct the mistake – we couldn’t just get back on, in the direction we were going. So we added a good 40 mins to our journey and we ended up going through the same toll booth twice so had to pay double and it generally created lots of annoyed and fedup-ness. And then when we got the van back and actually looked at the non-existent space, we got a little concerned but ploughed on and managed to get on the road and out of the city as the weather had actually cleared up for once.

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We were going to stop an hour away at Newcastle, but we made such good time on the highway that we decided to crack on and get a bit further on.
We eventually managed to get to the place we had originally wanted, just north of Taree, by a national park where the camping was cheap and there was lots of wildlife. Well, I say get there. We got to the bottom of the dirt track this was at and realised we probably didn’t have enough petrol to get the 15km (I kid you not) up the dirt track and back so we thought we’d got at one of the nearby holiday parks. But it seems that these holiday parks close reception at 4 – 5pm – WHAT?? What on earth kind of road trip means you have to be somewhere at a set time. That’s not the freedom I was promised. And… gulp… if that was the case with all of them, what the hell were we going to do now? Luckily, at the campsite up the road, which looks like it is run by Norman Bates, Mark rang the bell for the night (it’s 6pm folks) porter and they let us in for the night. It was a nice, basic site, mainly of holiday home type caravans – we were the only camper. We got out our food only to be attacked by a swarm of midges and mozzies so annoying that we sat in the dark to eat. But it was ok, we just had to be super careful about opening the van door and letting mozzies in – ooops – too late – place is full of the b’tards. Mark swatted a few but then we thought we could – wait for it, this is pure genius – spray into the van so they all get nuked to death while we went to the shower block. But of course – can you see where we went wrong? When we got back, we needed to air out the van because we’d just sprayed poison into it. But we can’t because if we open the door more mozzies will go in. Bugger. So we tried to open the door a bit, but not too much but we did end up having to shut ourselves in with the poisonous gas to some extent. Let me tell you the problem about Jucy vans. The size is a pain, no question, if you want to sit in the thing but once the bed is setup it’s not too bad and is fairly comfy. But. There is no – zip – nill – ventilation. It wasn’t even the warmest night, it was fairly cool (for Australia) but the heat that generated in that van (and not in a Tina Turner way folks) meant within minutes it was steamed up and there was no air, other than the poison we had sprayed in earlier. And the key issue here was that we couldn’t open any windows coz we are in freakin’ australia, on the edge of a National Park, which is basically in middle of nowhere with mozzies trying to attack, as well as spiders that may make their way in (that is Mark’s issue – not so much mine may I say, but I didn’t want to test out making a point and wake up in the morning with a huntsman spider on my face. Mainly because Mark would scream like a girl and leave me to it. I thought because I was so knackered that at least I’d just drop off and could then deal with everything in the morning but I did not, I could not sleep. I was dripping sweat – sorry – I was glowing(!) and just couldn’t breath. I kept ripping open the curtains and opening a window for a bit and panting out if it like a dog. I am, admittedly a bit odd temperature wise. I never, at home, have the heating on at night – even if it’s freezing out. No matter the temperature, my temperature raises so much when I’m asleep that I wake up boiling. Mark often wakes up freezing where as I’m boiling – 5 minutes out of bed and I’m frozen, when my temperature has dropped to my surroundings. The other odd thing I have when my temperature goes up massively is a bit of an odd one. I had it in Fiji but never mentioned it as it is odd, but hey it does happen so no point being ashamed. When my temperature goes up I have a tendency to hallucinate. I properly see something right in front of me – stone cold sober – that is not there and I half know is not there but I can see it.
That night I saw a bunch of stuff. I’d lie there and watch it – think I’m probably aware that it’s not real but still hold my breath, a bit scared in case it is to see what happens. In particular I saw a huge spider on the sheet next to me, crawl over in the direction of Mark. I figured, either it would crawl on his face, wake him up and he’d scream or it doesn’t exist. It wouldn’t hurt him either way (I’m not cruel – I know the big ones don’t bite).
In between I did try to look out of the window, knowing that all kinds of amazing wildlife were out there – most stuff in Oz happens overnight – I would have loved to have seen a koala on the move but between the curtains being up and the windows being totally steamed and it being so dark out, I couldn’t see a thing. All I could do was sit and wait for morning. It couldn’t be far away could it. I’d be up and out the second the sun rose. But then Mark woke up and told me it wasn’t even midnight. Oh god. I basically stayed awake until the early hours where I finally fell asleep only to be awoken by Marks snoring. I guess it was the lack of ventilation but oh dear – the next few hours were violent poking and desperate need for sleep on both sides. We both finally slept for a couple of hours around 7am when the temperature had dropped as the rain had followed us up there.

And it rained.

And it rained.

And it rained.