Thursday, 29 December 2011

Sydney and Christmas in Katoomba

Sydney Opera House

Echo Point, lookout of the 3 Sisters and Jamison Valley

Me, Nikki and her brother Scoot walking in the Jamison Valley

After a 10 hour overnight bus ride I was fianlly in Sydney. I'd arrived a bit early so I slept on the floor of the greyhound terminal waiting for my friend Emma to come pick me up. She came, we hugged, drank coffee, got accosted by a tramp after our money, then got the train over to Nikki's where I slept and showered. Nikki, Emma and all of their housemates were in this installation piece down in the Rocks that evening, so I got a lift in and wandered round, taking in the Harbour Bridge, Sydney Opera House and some light festival entertainment such as Zumba Fitness, Silent Disco and 2 teenage boys playing Billy Jean on the flute, which was lovely.

The next day Nikki took me into the city where we had sandwiches in Hyde Park before seeing the cathedral, the city art gallery, the David Jones Christmas windows, and the QVB. On the way to picking Emma up for Christmas Eve festivities, we got baking supplies. Nikki planned on making truffles and I wanted to make some shortbread biscuits. We got Emma and her little bunny and went back to Nikki's where we had dinner whilst watching the Aussie classic, The Castle and started baking round about 10. To my astonishment, there were no scales so I devised a rough estimate of the ingredients using a pen on the packets. They worked out fine with a little teasing, and thus we had around 50 shortbread biscuits. We still haven't eaten them all.

The next morning Nikki made blueberry pancakes. I got a call from my mother to wish me happy Christmas , which was lovely, because it was still their Christmas Eve and they were all rather inebriated. Bless. We packed and got ready then set off for Glenbrook to see Nikki's family for Christmas lunch. Coming into the Blue Mountains, I felt I was beginning to fall in love with Australia. We got to Glenbrook andhad a lovely lunch with Nikki's family (her Gran even bought me some Ferrero Rochers) and ended up having a bit of a bushwalk, even spotting a pregnant skink. Around 5, Nikki drove over to Katoomba where we stayed at Bob and Sue's place (family friends also there at lunch) along with Nikki's dad and brother. Enjoying the view of the Blue Mountains we talked and ate a bit, then Sue demanded we watch Fargo as the majority of us hadn't seen it. Then off to bed, wearing clothes from the ragbag Nikki's friend had left in the boot of her car.

The next morning, Nikki and her brother and dad and I went to Scenic World and saw Echo Point, the 3 Sisters, and the Jamison Valley. We went down on this little train which was incredibly steep, proclaiming itself the steepest railway in the world, then we walked round the Valley and went back up in the gondala. We met Bob and Sue for lunch in the Common Ground Cafe run by a little sect in the community that are Christian but don't believe in Jesus and are more or less communists. Well, anyway, they make nice food. Overall, Katoomba was pretty wonderful; a small town in the heart of the stunning Blue Mountains with a good deal to see and do.

Then we drove back to Sydney which seemed rather smelly after all that tropical fresh air. But we didn't stay long.

Melbourne, Mark and Moving On

Mark, 34, from Adelaide, stands just over a foot taller than me.

Flinders Station near Federation Square. Look at all the people!

Melbourne from the War Memorial

My final train ride across Australia was the Overland Train running from Adelaide to Melbourne in around 12 hours. Alanna was also on the train but sat in a different carriage. By some stroke of luck I ended up in Red Premium and got restaurant service, which was lovely. I sat in my chair waiting for whoever it was that would be put beside me to arrive. And in walked a 6"6' ginger man weeping his little heart out, and plonked himself down next to me. I promptly gave him a hug and tried to talk to him but he continued to sob for a while. He got himself together eventually. Turns out he was 34, had lived in Adelaide his whole life and was moving that very day permanently to Melbourne. So we got chatting and by the end of the trip, him me and Alanna who had joined us from Red Service, were jolly good friends and arranged to meet up before I left Melbourne.

I stayed at Nomads that night but due to its shittyness I moved to Alanna's hostel, Hotel Discovery. On the first day Alanna and I went to the market and bought food for that night, then got on the free bus service and went around Melbourne stopping at the waterfront, the Botanic Gardens and War Memorial. We had to get out in the Arts District and walk home by Federation Square and Swanston Street. I made stir fry for us both but there was a bit of drama as the rest of our food which we were saving for the next night got chucked out by some flashpacking scallywag because they wanted to use the pans. As you can read I'm still not quite over it. I mean, what kind of backpacker chucks food away?

The next day we met up with Mark at Parliament and we walked the mean streets of Melbourne for a few hours and ended up in an "Irish" bar for a pint before saying goodbye forever. Alanna and I went back to the hostel and ate before meeting up with a friend of hers who took a bunch of us to some secret bar thing called Madama Brussels or Bruge or something which had a nice view but was pretty lame due to the amount of yuppies that frequented the place. We had Pimms though, which was lovely.

On my final day I went to the library, had a curry, wandered the city centre, said goodbye to Alanna perhaps for forever, then walked to the station, where I boarded my overnight bus to Sydney.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

The Ghan, Adelaide and Couch Surfing

The Ghan runs from Darwin to Adelaide, I got on at Alice and it took 24 hours.

Jari and Me on the epic night out in Adelaide

The Ghan was a pretty standard train ride really. I was sat next to a nice German who hadn't read that we weren't allowed alcohol on thee train so I helped him dispose of the evidence. Jens and Toby were a few seats back and that was cool but there were literally no seats left free so I spoke to them rarely. They were talking to this Cnadian called Alanna, more on her later.

So we arrived in Adelaide, got our luggage, of which mine yet again was the smallest, and Jens, Toby, Alanna and Me popped into a taxi. Alanna and I got some lunch, $5 pizza, can't go wrong, and I got a call from Jari, the girl I was couch surfing with. She came and picked me up and drove me back to her house in Adelaide Hills, where I slept, washed and got fed. That night I met up with the Germans (Jens and Toby) and Alanna, which was fine but I had to get the train back in. Oh, and by a stroke of genius I remembered my old friend Yvetta was back in Adelaide so she came out too.

The next day Jari took me out to Hahndorf, a little German town in Adelaide that's very pretty, and so it proved. We had a lovely coffee and cake in one of the little cafes and I bought my first souvenir: a miniature music box that played Somewhere Over The Rainbow. We also shopped in Op Shops for stuff to go out in that night, and I got a right bargain. For $10!!!! a lovely dress with some Italian label. I later found a shop of this label in Melbourne, walked in and found the dresses were worth $3-400, so my little dress, which now has burrito stains down the front, was quite the discovery.

So went out and Alanna came too, and we didn't get back till 5 in the morning. There were some fights in the streets because Adelaide turns out to be rather rough actually, and I think some guy got his ear bitten off. Ce la vie.

Then I think I left Adelaide. Yes I definitely did, on the train. Couch surfing was a really good experience and Jari was great to hang out with, though I was rather disturbed she turned out to be 19, looking after me and all. It would have been nice to stay for longer but adventure calls and I was on the train again, bound for the mean streets of Melbourne with some rather interesting accomplices...

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Alice Springs and Uluru Tour

Adventure Tour group at Katatjuta lookout. We seem to be having a rather nice time, don't we?

Ayers Rock at sunset.

Kings Canyon after walking up "Heart Attack Hill".

I later found out that it was 41degrees when I arrived in Alice, so no wonder I felt like collapsing carrying all my stuff to the hostel. Fortunately for our tour group it was nowhere near as hot. On the first day we drove out to the camp and went to Katatjuta, a similar rock to Ayers Rock but far more complex. To walk around it you cannot even start out if the temperature is 36 degrees or above. We started at 35 degrees and walked a 6km track to the lookout point. This was the hardest walk of the tour but I was completely fine. Drinking water was essential, so inevitably needing the loo all the time became the main topic of conversation. At some point that first day too, I rode a camel for $6. Bargain.

Then we went to the camp site and had a bbq for dinner, kindly organised by Rachel, our superb tour guide. There was beef, kangaroo which I thought was delicious, and then camel sausages. It was quite bizarre to eat camel when I had ridden one hours earlier. Yummy though.

Then we drove over to Ayers Rock for the sunset, which was beautiful. At that moment I got a real sense for how aeseomly old Australia is. To think it's been there for millions of years was astonsihing. There were a lot of tourists, many of whom were not on the el cheapo tour like us, but had champagne and loads of food accompanying this visual extravaganza. Luckily for us, as we were passing a table we saw there was some wine left and raised our voices saying "oh would you look at that, they've gone and left some wine in the bottle" to which the kind waitermanboy said we could have it. So we drank that there and then, and because the waitermanboy was feeling generous, being so close to christmas and all, he gave us a whole bottle for free! Well I thanked the gentleman and wished him a merry day and we ran off back to camp where the wine was consumed gratefully. Then we got into our little swags and lay under the stars praying it wouldn't rain. It didn't but we still had to get up at 3.45am, but it was worth it to see the sunrise at Ayers Rock.

Ayers Rock. It was gorgeous, better than the sunset because all the colours in the sky came to life and undulated quietly before us. We were offered the chance to climb it but it's extremely sacred to the aboriginals and extremely dangerous (somthing like 1/36 die either on the rock or afterwards) so we declined, and opted for the 10km base walk instead. That was done by 9am. I don't think I've ever achieved so much before 9am in my life. Then we wnt to the cultural centre, no biggie, then back to the resort for lunch. I didn't think I'd need by swimmers but there was a pool and some of our gang went it, and I thought, sod it, I'm hot and bothered and I want to swim, so I went in in my shorts and top not giving a hoot.

Then we went to our camp and had dinner. Some of us were rather bored so we played poker with forks, knives and spoons. We were on the swags that night too but this time it rained... unbeknowns to me however as Andrew told me the next morning I was the only one in our group not to wake up. I was lying there, face to the rain, blissfully unconscious whilst everyone else sought shelter. I love this fact.

On the final day, we got up at 5am, breakfasted then left camp for Kings Canyon. We had a lovely 6km walk round there though the weather was rather dull, overcast and raining from time to time, but we had fun ambling along and taking photos. After that we had lunch then drove home, many of us sleeping after our exertions*. That night we all went to Anie's Place for dinner, $5 meals, can't go wrong, then there were about 6 of us left at the end of the night dancing in Bojangles. What larks Pip!

On the way back to the YHA me and Andrew found a shopping trolley, and well, cos it would be rude not to, he pushed me all the way home in it. The next day a bunch of us were on the Ghan, including the 2 German guys, Jens and Toby, more on them later. In fact, ust more later, I can't be bothered at the moment, and we're leaving for Milton now.

*I had to look this up in the dictionary.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Indian Pacific, Adelaide, Coober Pedy

On the Indian Pacific, about a 40 hour journey, I was sat next to Martin, a nice German, and we ended up staying in the same hostel and bumming round Adelaide with Yvetta who we met in our room. Crossing the Nullabor Plain was rather epic and showed just how massive Australia is. Adelaide is really nice. One day we got free bikes and cycled to the beach and back,was about 25k so we got a good bit of exercise. I said goodbye to Yvetta and Martin, not knowing if I would see them ever again but hoping I would.

Then I got the overnight bus up to Coober Pedy, arriving at 4 in the morning, at 22degrees. I was the only one staying in the underground dorm room with no door, but was too tired to be creeped out. In the morning I went to make breakfast but found my bag infested with ants, so I had to wash everything and buy a new cool bag cos they got in the lining, the buggers. Had a wander around and saw the spaceship left behind by the film crew for "Pitch Black", and talked to a nice Greek guy on his porch for a bit and ended up having a beer with him later on down the pub, as there wasn't much left to do except talk to the locals, and miners who all seemed very Australian. Then on getting on my second bus up to Alice Springs, who should I find but Yvetta! She'd made a decision and followed me up to Alice. So here we are. Got my tour the day after tomorrow round Uluru and Kinfs Canyon. It's so hot here, I keep having to drink water. Still not feeling 100%, this virus is taking awhile to go away. Not sure what I'm gonna do in Alice, might go on a star gazing tour tomorrow night, and try and get used to the heat.

Saturday, 3 December 2011


I know, I know, I haven't blogged in 4 months, and that's because I've been rather busy taking care of 3 little girls in Perth. Being a nanny is rather hard work, but I love these kids, and today, I'm leaving them.

Above, Tiana, Kayli and Lara, my little monkeys. I will miss you!

Yesterday was a great last day in Perth. Me and the family went for a lovely meal by the beach, and they presented me with some fantastic leaving gifts, including a travel bag, mosi net, mosi repellent and an iPod shuffle!! Spent most of last night getting music onto it. How generous is that!? And then we went onto the beach and swam in the Indian Ocean and it was gorgeous, 36 degrees roughly, and I do believe I caught the sun.

So after 4 months nannying and working in Mt Henry Tavern, I have feretted enough money away for a rather amazing trip. First thing, I'm taking the Indian Pacific train to Adelaide, so I'll be seeing a lot of countryside and sand and not much else. And I won't die of boredom now I have an ipod, a book, a deck of cards and hopefully nice people keeping me company.

Anways, I'm OFF! Tata for now.