Saturday, June 28, 2008


I had a bit of a lazy time in Sydney as I was still pretty worn out and it was good to be staying with someone (Emma) in a house for quite a while and just be able to chill out - the old holiday from traveling.
I arrived at noon on a Monday and Fiona and Emma (part of the original Cambridge crew) were kind enough to pick me up and take me to lunch in Chinatown before heading out to the flat Emma was living in in Haberfield, which is about 30 mins from town by bus. The house had been her grans, and had a definite old persons house feel, winning points for having a log fire and a bath. Unfortunately Em had a deadline just when I left so was a bit busy with work all week, so on the first night I went out for dinner with Fiona, who was also staying there for a further night, to Newtown where we had an African meal. Next day Fiona left for Singapore with her family and was exchanged for India the cat, who was very talkative and friendly, and pretty stupid. The next day I failed to get up, then had a lazy bath and trip to the supermarket and before I knew it the day was gone. In the evening I met up with Irene and Rachel again, for the 3rd time in Oz, and along with their random cohort of hostel roomates we headed to the high class dining establishment known as "Scruffy Murphys" for a cheap dinner, which was actually pretty good. After that, and necessary faff breaks we all headed to the Shangri La hotel, which has a top floor bar with views of the harbour bridge and opera house. No I didnt have my camera on me. Yes they let us in despite out scruffiness. It was a rather nice spot and you almost didnt begrudge paying 10 quid for a cocktail.
Following day I was going to do all the big sites... but I failed again. Instead I managed to make it out to Bondi, a 3 bus trip, in the late afternoon and got there in time for sunset on the beach, whcih was really nice. The idea was to meet Louise, who Id last met in the Cameron Highlands, and go out for a drink with her and her English friends who live in OZ, in whose flat she was staying. We headed out to the Beach Rd Hotel which was a huge place with many bars inside, and I was kindly offered a sofa, with hotwater bottle, for the night, to save the long journey back to Haberfield and an early departure. I was also kindly offered to be showed around a bit of the city the next day, as I was sounding slightly miserable. So the next morning I went for a coastal walk from Bondi to Cogee then bused into town where I climbed the pylon of the harbour bridge. After that I mey Lydia, one of the flatmates and we had a bit of a wander, past the opera house and down to Darling harbour where we had lunch. After that I checked out the nearby maritime museum, where the star attractions were a destroyer and submarine that you could go inside and clamber about on. That evening I went back to Haberfield and hung about in the house. The next day I did nothing constuctive either, until going out to meet Paul and Maureen, the Scottish couple Id already met in Thailand and KL for many many beers in Wooloomooloo and Kings Cross. They are now working in Sydney for a while, he for backpacker publication of ill repute "British Balls" and she for the British Lolly shop, just the place if youre craving tunnocks tea cakes. Had a great night, and eventually stumbled back to Haberfield and nearly 4am.
The next day obviously required a sleep in and not much activity, and I did nothing, saving myself for the final day. I met Paul and Maureen after lunch and we got the ferry over for a stroll at Manly Beach and then back in time to meet Sean and Sally, more of the Cambridge Australian crowd, whod literally just moved back to Oz from the UK. We had a drink in a very nice location by the opera house before heading to Glebe for dinner. Had a firly early night as Sean and Sal were jet lagged, and the rest of us had plans to get up and watch the Euro 2008 final at 0445. Id actually moved my stuff to a hostel in town as Id be going almost straight from the game to the airport to fly to Chile. We watched the game in a bar in Kings Cross and it was remarkably civilised, and the first time Id ordered my first beer of the day at 5am. The trip to the airport was uneventful and I settled down for a long trip. We touched down for 1 hour in Auckland and got off the plane, but I dont thing I can count that as a trip to New Zealand.
Apologies for the lack of punctuation, I cant deal with this Spannish keyboard. The lack of exclamation marks is particularly disappointing.

Bondi Beach.

The Opera House from the Pylon of the Harbour bridge.

The Harbour Bridge.


The trip from Melbourne took around 9 hours, half by train then the rest by bus. It was reasonable scenic in the middle and the longest journey I'd done in one go for a while. I got to Canberra at 9pm on Friday night, and their were already a few casualties around the place. The hostel was about the only one in town and was an outrageous $32 a night. Because of the extortionate rate I decided to make use of the facilities as much as I could: umpteen cups of free team, and a few visits to the pool, spa and sauna. Unfortunately my plans to do a few lengths were confounded by the fact the pool was around 2m by 2m, and 1m deep (the no diving sign wasn't really necessary). The spa was to cold to sit in for long, the sauna wasn't hot enough and the light didn't work, but I went back the next day to get my monies worth, god damn it! The hostel was also pretty dead and about the only guy in my dorm was Taiwanese. He was a nice guy, but man, he had a serious snoring problem, enough to ruin my nights sleep. I spent 2 days/3 nights in Canberra, on the first day, after buying my bus ticket to Sydney, I bussed over to the War memorial/museum. First up was a long and fairly informative tour, starting in the memorial and moving on to the vast museum. There were also large exhibits featuring in sound and light shows, including a Lancaster Bomber, and a Japenese mini-sub that had got into Sydney Harbour. I went back through the centre of town for lunch and then to the National Museum of Australia. This was modern, good and quite quirky. Like the war museum I spent over 2 hours here and didn't see everything.

On the second day I first went to the Australian Institute of Sport, where there was a 90 minute tour led by an athlete, an archer in our case. This was okay, but nice to do something a bit different! After my packed lunch I went to the parliament house. Again there was a free tour, and I was the only one on it at that hour. Got to see in both chambers, went up on the roof and saw some old documents including a copy of the Magna Carta. After that it was off the the National Gallery of Australia, which I really enjoyed, and again didn't cover all of. After that I just had a walk back to the hostel via the shores and bridge over lake Burley-Griffen. That night I met a guy from Northern Ireland and we went for a quick pint, but Canberra was sooo dead on a Sunday night. He told me he was going to support Partick Thistle if he went to Glasgow Uni as Mark McCrystal had gone to us from Derry! The night before I'd got up to try and watch the football, but they didn't have the right channel so I've not seen any games so far, but am aiming for the final tomorrow night!

Stained Glass window at war memorial.

View down ANZAC parade to war memorial from roof of new parliament building.

The old parliament building.

Melbourne part 2 featuring Great Ocean Road

The day after the Penguin trip I went on the Great Ocean Road trip. This headed off very early in the morning, on a rather cold and windy day. After driving for a bit we got down to the Coast. We stopped first at Bells Beach, where part of Point Break is set apparently. The next stop was a lighthouse, the one used in Round the Twist! Had a bit of a walk around there and then a cup of tea, before heading back in the bus. There was a brief stop at Memorial Arch, the official start of the great ocean road, and as far as I can remember the next stop was for lunch in Apollo Bay. Now I remember, we stopped before that to see some Koalas and Rosellas, in the wild this time. After lunch there was quite a bit more driving and stops at the main attractions, there were the 12 Apostles and Loch Ard Gorge. The 12 Apostles (of which around 7 remain) are large rock stacks on the coast and are pretty scenic. Loch Ard Gorge (anoingly pronounced more like Lockhart Gorge by the guide!) is named after a ship which was wrecked there with the loss of all but two lives. There were 3 short walks to do and more spectacular cliffs and beaches. The final stop was at 'London Bridge' a single arch cut off from the mainland (it used to be double arch but the inner one collapsed a few years ago - A couple were marooned on the outer arch until rescued by helicopter - the guys wife was not pleased when she saw him on the tv during his business trip!). Anyway, it was a decent trip, but the weather was damn cold, and I was feeling a bit down and antisocial due to my still missing bag and I didn't really speak to anyone on this trip. On returning to the hostel I found out the bag was found and was much relieved!

The next day I did some washing and then headed to St Kilda, to first pick up my bag and then have a look around. It was nice down by the pier in St Kilda but it was a pretty grey and cold day. In the afternoon I went to the Ian Potter Gallery of Australian Art, which was again very good. I was going to head to the contemporary art gallery on my way back, but I was a bit galleried out by this point. Next day I headed to Canberra on the bus at around noon. Despite setting my alarm for 430 a couple of times to watch Euro 2008 matches, I never made it up!

Round the Twist Lighthouse!

Some of the 12 Apolstles.

London Bridge.

St Kilda Pier.

Photos Updated.

I've added photos to all posts right back to Bangkok, so check them out if you want (you'll have to go beyond what's on this page). Sarky comments welcome.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Melbourne part 1 and Penguin trip

Originally I was only going to spend a few days in Melbourne and then try to hire a car to head up towards Sydney, but this option looked like being to expensive and lonely so I ended up spending 6 nights in Melbourne and taking two daytrips out of the city. I went to the same hostel as Irene and Rachel, who'd been on the middle trip in the NT and on the first day I went with them to see an Aussie Rules Football game: Carlton Vs. Collingwood at the MCG. There were 80,000 people there, and as i decided to support Collingwoon, they lost. It was a very swish stadium, and of course you are allowed to get your beer inside, which is very civilised. That evening we met up with another friend of Irene and Rachel, who happens to be a particle physicist (!) and went to a Burlesque show, of all things. It was actually very enjoyable. A strange combination of activities though.

Next day I wandered into Melbourne and took in a few museums, starting with the Immigration museum (good and a bit different). The art gallery I planned to go to next was shut but next door was an exhibition of classic computer games, which I went to instead, again a bit different, and it was fun to play all these old classic arcade games. I also went to the International art gallery of Victoria, which had some very good collections, and tonnes of stuff too. During the day I also booked my daytrips for the next 2 days. Because I booked two trips I got a free ticket to Neighbours night(!). I was persuaded to go along despite my antipathy towards Neighbours by the promise of a good night and some free drinks included! That was this very night, and after first taking advantage of the free welcome drink and free (hearty) barbecue in the hostel I got on the free bus to the Neighbours night. I actually was having a great night: firstly some of the 'stars' came out and answered questions before going round the tables for photos. Then there was a pub quiz and some silly games where people could win free trips. Our table of people from our hostel won almost everything, including first prize of $250 in the quiz (which was mostly down to me, even if I say so myself!). Then "Dr Karl"'s band played a set of covers, which wasn't bad. Unfortunately my bag got misplaced around this point when tables were cleared from the centre of the room, and I was unable to get it back that night. Next day was my trip to see the Penguins and it still hadn't turned up by that evening so I reported it stolen and canceled my credit card that was in the bag along with some other valuables. The next day I was pretty down about it, but when I got back from my Great Ocean Road trip that day they had finally found it behind the bar in the pub, much to my great relief!!

Anyway: Penguin trip. This set off at about 11am, and after about a brief lunch stop the first stop proper was a wine tasting. This got everyone warmed up and I really enjoyed this trip as it was a good group of people. Turned out the bus was full of physicists and biologists in town for a brain imaging conference! (After meeting a particle physicist, here for a different physics conference two days before, it seemed Melbourne was crawling with physicists.) Next stop was a wildlife park with a placid wombat, some Koalas, and many a Wallaby and Kangaroo amongst other things. There were a couple of scenic stops on Philip Island, before we got to the main event: the parade of little penguins. At dusk they come out of the sea and waddle up the beach to there homes. There's a big stand build where you could watch them come out of the sea, but much better was after where round the back you could see them up close wandering to their nests. Little penguins are blue and only 1 foot tall. Unfortunately you were not allowed to take photos, but this was a great thing to see. The last stop was for a pizza dinner on the way home. This trip featured an Israeli couple who had the most amazing and blatant disregard for timekeeping, which totally pissed off everyone on the bus and had the driver fit to throttle them. Other than that it was a very good group, some very nice people, good tour, good guide, and I was able to forget my missing bag most of the time!

To be Continued...

Inside the MCG

Me and my good mate Dr Karl

Sleepy Koala

Tasmania - part 2

On leaving Launceston, I headed up to the North coast. First stop was the little town of Penguin, and you can see why I had to go there! In the centre of town was a large concrete penguin, and I got a few funny looks as I was taking numerous self-timer shots of me posing with the penguin. Many of the business premises in the town also had their own penguin statues and signs - what a great place in was. I had a little wander, took some photos and bough some postcards and a little penguin for my collection. Unfortunately it was the wrong time of year to see the little penguins from which the town takes it's name: they all head off as it is too Baltic.

Next up was the town of Wynard where the strange coastal feature called table cape, and also some fossil cliffs where many important fossils were found by Errol Flynn's dad (this is true!). Even further along the north coast was Stanley, with another strange rock formation on the coast called the Nut. At both there places I got out and had a stomp up and around the cliffs, not taking the the big jessie cablecar. I had some nice fish and chips in Wynard too. That evening I headed to Devonport, a big town where I though I might meet some people who wanted to head to Hobart. Turns out I was the only one in the hostel, probably in the whole week. I had enough time to do a little shopping in Devonport. As my sandals were too cold and stinky and my boots to uncomfortable to drive I got some cheap shoes. Also picked up some more socks and a CD for the car. I'm sure you're fascinated.

Next day was into the scenic mountains and I got up early and headed for Cradle mountain. Was a bit wet when I got there but decided to do a walk, a circuit of Dove lake, anyway. Was fine until near the end, and the peak of cradle mountain drifted out of the cloud occasionally. But the last half 20 mins I was walking into wet driving rain and really suffered from my lack of waterproof trousers! I dove out of that area through the hills and stopped briefly to look at Zeehan (a dive) before getting to Strahan for a late lunch. Strahan was a bit dead in this season, and the big thing to do is a 4 hour river cruise, which was too expensive, and not at the right times for me anyway. I quick look round the town, and a little museum type thing in the information centre and I decided to drive out to viewpoint near the mouth of Macquarrie harbour. Turned out this was a pretty hairy unsealed road, and the end wasn't really worth it. Then I tried to head out another road to Ocean beach, but the unsealed road was in bad condition and I didn't fancy taking my wee hire car any further down it. I then headed to Queenstown as the hostel in Strahan was closed for the winter so there was no cheap accommodation. On the way the sun came out, and it looked like it would have been a glorious sunset if I'd made it to Ocean Beach and stayed. Queenstown turned out to be a bit of a dive, in an even worst setting. The main local feature being an open cast mine surrounded by barren slopes. I did get cheap pub accommodation here though, and didn't have to spend much time.

On the last day with the car I headed straight to Lake St Clair, another national park connected to Cradle Mountain by the famous overland trek. When I pulled up to the visitor centre it was snowing, so I decided it was not the time for walking, and drove off, heading towards Hobart. I was thinking of heading to Mt Field national park too, but driving past Mt Field I could see a huge wadge of grey cloud right on top of Mt Field though the surroundings weren't too bad. I deliberately drove past the turning, and stopped very briefly in the town of Hamilton (yes Bothwell and the river Clyde were nearby too) and the weather was actually beautiful there, so I decided to go back to Mt Field. When I got near I saw it still had its wadge of grey cloud but I went anyway, and did a couple of walks, to the waterfall (I forget the name) and among the tall trees, which were very pleasant if a little damp. Then I just headed back to Hobart and got there just before 3pm (car was due back by 4pm) and internetted a little before meeting Niall (who I hadn't seen since about 15 years earlier in Scotland) who I was going to stay the night with on the outskirts of Hobart, where he lives with wife, daughter, mother-in-law, three cats and a dog. I had a good night, with some rather large measures of whiskey and was dropped in town the next day and didn't have time to do much before heading for the airport and off to Melbourne.


Penguin at Penguin

This is the Nut at Stanley

This is Cradle Mountain, just about visible.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Tasmania - part 1

I got into Hobart airport and got the shuttle bus in to town. I was too early to check into my hostel, so I took a stroll around town, to the famous Salamanca Market, which was happening that day. As well as lots of food stalls, and a stall where I was able to buy some very necessary gloves, there were 2 pipe bands, one of them even played waltzing Matilda! I had fish and chips by the quayside, checked out car rental prices and then checked into the hostel. I then checked out the local museum, which was really good, I had to leave when it closed for the evening. There were some very sobering exhibitions about the treatment of the local aborigines. For tea I had some curry as I was walking past a cheap curry place and the smell got me!!

Next morning I picked up my car, a little white Suzuki Swift, for my road trip around Tasmania ( I advertised in the hostel for other people, but Tasmania was very short of traveling backpackers at this time of year, hostels were empty or full of working people and weirdos). I had 6 days and did 2000kms, I aim to cover the first half here.

On day one I headed for the former penal settlement at Port Arthur. Famed for it's grim atmosphere and harsh environment, it was actually a really nice day when i got there, which I think detracted from the experience! The ticket came with a harbour boat tour (out past the Isle of the dead where the dead were buried, the prisoners in unmarked graves) an introductory walking tour and a playing card. Everyone got a different card and it matched up to a certain prisoner whose story was told in the museum section. Of course mine turned out to be from Glasgow, transported for stealing candles, he died fairly young. Also on the Tasman peninsula and around were a number of natural coastal features, including the blowhole and remarkable cave, which wasn't sooo remarkable! So I went to see them too. It starts to get dark very early so I had a bit of a night drive and stopped for the night at a rather flash hostel in a place called Swansea, getting a dorm to myself, which is generally a bad thing.

Next day I headed onto another peninsula, this time the Freycinet one, home to the eponymous national park which contains wineglass bay (oops, I did stop at Coles Bay to look at the Hazards (rocky outcrops overlooking the town) first). It was a short hike to view the bay, and while it was very nice, it wasn't as amazing as many people had told me! Here I also met with the first in a series of crap photographers, who when asked to take a photograph me in front of the bay, did exactly that, so you couldn't see the beach (he also did it to someone else, so we both had to sheepishly ask another person to take another photo of the same thing - yes it was busy up here, it's one of the main attractions and I coincided with the adventure tours bus (who I went down the NT with)). See also later photographers of me holding animals in wildlife parks - yes I'd prefer all of my head in the photo.

I stopped for lunch in Bicheno where I thought I might spot some little penguins, but no such luck. Very nice fish though, shame about the chips! I then headed to the Bay of fires where I had the whole place to myself. Again this is considered a highlight of Tassie, but while it was very nice, was not spectacular! A bit of a drive took me to the small town of Bridport, where I thought I'd spend the night and pick up some postcards for those who know the other Bridport in England. Turns out the rather small hostel had no dorms left (a single block booking of 7 had filled them up) but they pointed me towards the pub, which was a bit of a revelation to me: in these small towns the old town hotel often has very cheap old fashioned rooms upstairs. For the same price as a mid-range dorm bed I got a single room with a very comfy bed, a sink and .... an electric blanket! They also had a communal kitchen and tv lounge, as well as a lovely big bath, which I made use of! Of course it's also very near the bar!

Next day was to be wildlife day so after a quick look at the beach in Bridport I headed for the town of Beauty point where they had a platypus centre. I was getting up very early on this trip to make full use of the light (not only is it not so pretty to drive the scenic roads in the dark, there's also a big risk of hitting animals), so though it was open when I arrived, I had to wait almost an hour for the tour to start - I did get a nice free hot chocolate though! The platypuses were pretty cool, a bit smaller than I imagined, and full of energy (well some of them were). They also had echidnas, which I really loved! I stopped in Deloraine for lunch (no not fish and chips today - I was inland) and then headed to a wildlife park near Mole Creek, mainly to see Tasmanian Devils. Here I got to handle a devil (not allowed in many places) and a wombat (which did bite me quite a bit) as well as seeing gangs of devils being fed and hearing their crazy noises (and no, they don't spin). They also had quolls, kangaroos, various birds and a Koala, which only presented itself as a snoring grey ball of fluff in a tree. After this I headed in to Launceston and had time to go and visit cataract gorge before checking to the hostel. Cataract gorge was pretty but unfortunately I didn't have time to do the fairly long walk up the gorge before dark. In the hostel here they had a piano, and I couldn't resist a shot, and so met a french guy who likes Yann Tiersen! He'd travelled in South America and gave me some tips. I also met his coworkers, and I have to say they were 'bogans', but for once I met some people in Tassie! The hostel also had a very fat cat called Fuji, who was on a diet.

This is Wineglass Bay.
This is the Bay of Fires

This is a rather smelly Tasmanian Devil.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Alice Springs

We rolled into Alice Springs and I was pretty knackered after 9 early mornings and 10 late nights! After the traditional end of tour shebang the night we got there I managed to rise at a not too unreasonable hour of the morning. Most of the people from tour were heading out on further tour segments, North to Darwin or South to Adelaide. Naya, Frank and Me were hanging around another day though (in fact I had 4 days to kill in Alice, not such an easy task!). So we had a wander around together, and managed to see a lot of Alice without actually finding the reasonably nice main street, we did see some 2nd hand shops and book shops, and climbed up the Anzac hill for a view of the town, there we happened to bump into Edi and Ali, the 70+ Swiss-German couple, again.

The 3 of us cooked dinner in the hostel and then headed out to buy a few beers. On the way back we had a bit of an depressing encounter with some Aborigines, which I'd rather not dwell on.
Anyway, we made it back to the hostel and had some last good times, great times.

The next day I spent the morning catching up on some much needed sleep, and most of the afternoon on the Internet and doing a little shopping. I was pleasantly surprised that some girl gave me a free beer while I was just sitting having my tea! on the third day I went to the cultural plaza, where they had various museums including Art, Geology and aviation, and a quite interesting graveyard (neatly divided into sections by religion of course) including the graves of Lassiter and Albert Namitrija (the first Aboriginal to get Australian Citizenship - to visit the queen). Then after lunch I went to a free didgeridoo workshop, where various terrible farty noises were made, before doing a little more shopping (warmer clothes for Tasmania) and going to the flying doctor centre. On my final day I had to head to the airport in the afternoon, and in the morning I again went shopping, and may have accidentally (or deliberately) spent lots of money on a nice didgeridoo!! I had to get the airport bus much earlier than my flight was due to leave, which is just as well, as it turned out my flight had changed and had already gone in the morning. Thankfully they rebooked me on a flight to Sydney and then from their to Melbourne, meaning after an uncomfortable night in Melbourne airport I got my flight to Hobart in Tasmania early the next morning as planned.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Uluru Trip

This final segment of the trip was out from Alice springs to Uluru (The Rock formerly known as Ayers) and back to Alice, and this was probably the most enjoyable. The only survivors from the last part were myself and the 2 Dutch guys, one of whom (Eelco) I managed to hassle to start teaching me Dutch... so I now know some choice phrases! We had 18 on an 24 seater bus so a bit more room. The new recruits were 2 Danish girls, 2 German Girls, South Korean guy and girl, French couple, 2 French girls and French guy, American guy and Swiss/German couple in their seventies who've been sailing around the world for the last ten years! Our guide was Azza, who had a very different style from the previous two guides, but they were all very good (good times, great times, as Azza would say).

So we headed out of Alice towards Uluru, the first stop was near Mt Connor, sometimes called Fooluru as people think it might be Uluru from far away. We stopped nearby for photos where there was also a large salt lake. We continued on to our camp near Uluru, but first went to see the Olgas, a collection of rounded mountains just sticking up which is pretty impresive. We went to Uluru for sunset where we got some sparkling as we watched the sun go down and Uluru change colour. Uluru is just one piece of rock, and is believed to extend 5km below the surface, which makes it even more impressive. Then it was beers and campfire time, and Azza proved himself to be an excellent cook. Many of us slept in Swags for these two nights (I'd actually already slept in one on the last night of the previous tour). This is just a sort of bedroll that you put your sleeping bag in and sleep outside under the (very impressive) stars. Have to watch out for dingoes coming to give you a kiss though!

It was up early and back to Uluru to see the sunrise, and then a walk around most of the base. The option was given to climb the rock, but the traditional owners ask that you don't! I wasn't going to, but it was shut due to high winds anyway. Because of the traditional significance you are not allowed to photograph many of the interesting features on the rock. After our unguided walk most of the way around, we had a guided walk for the last section when we learnt many of the interesting aboriginal stories behind and uses for the various sites. We also visited the official visitor centre. After lunch we headed off to King's Canyon for the night, but on the way we stopped to look for Witchety grubs! I found one (one of only 3) and had a piece of it cooked up that night! We stopped for firewood as well, and it was there that we met a stick called Hermione, but that's another story.

The last day we started with a walk round Kings Canyon, which was quite a serious proposition. It was pretty spectacular: the Olgas and Kings Canyon both deserve to be better known. It was a long drive back to Alice after that. That night we went for dinner to Toddy's (with stick in tow) before heading out to Bojangles later in the evening, where too much beer was had! There they have webcams where you could have watched me, and you could have bought me a drink over the internet, but I thought I'd rather not have you watching me make a tit of myself on the dance floor!


These are the Olgas, they're bigger than they look in this photo.


I found some dinner!

This is by Kings Canyon. Apparently it features in Priscilla, queen of the desert.

Darwin to Alice trip

The next trip was from Darwin down to Alice Springs, and this part of the trip had a LOT of driving. This time there were 22 of us on a bigger bus, with crazy hippy Nat in the driving seat. Nine of us continued on from the last trip (Aussie, German, Japanese, Korean and Englishers) joined by 3 Danish girls, 2 English girls, Anglo-Canadian couple, American guy, Israeli guy, Swede guy, two Dutch guys and German school-girl.

First day first stop was another waterfall, the Edith falls. It was actually a bit overcast and chilly, and the water didn't look so inviting, but a few of us brave souls went in and swan across to the falls. Afternoon was Katherine gorge, where a few of us went canoeing. For me it was a bit of a disappointment after the guide built it up a bit! There were some amazing large bats in the surrounding trees. We made the customary wood and fire stops before heading to our camp outside Katherine.

Next day was back on the Stuart highway heading south (named after John McDowall Stuart, another Pioneering Scotsman who led an interesting life). We first stopped at some hot springs, which were nice but just a few degrees short of being perfect. Nearby we found a big python, which is always fun. We stopped at the bizarrely decorated Daly waters pub for lunch, where I had the most expensive pint of my life! Then it was a long drive to Tennant Creek for the nights bonfire and beers.

On the last day we stopped at the devils marbles, an array of large rocks and boulders, where we walked and climbed around and took lots of silly photos. This was fun! We stopped at a telegraph station and some roadhouses, but these were really non-stops. The final stop was at the marker for the tropic of Capricorn. That evening we went out to Annies places for dinner and some more beers, in fact some shots were even taken, but many people were pretty whacked by the early starts, and those going off to Uluru had another really early start to look forward to.


Canoeing at Katherine Gorge
On Board the bus of fun.

Me at the devil's marbles

Dear oh dear.

Kakadu Trip

From Darwin I was booked on a 9 day trip to Alice Springs, which was really 3 3 day trips, the first of which went into Kakadu national park before returning to Darwin. It set off nice and early at 6am, with 16 of us in a little 4WD bus: me, Australian guy, German guy, French guy, Kiwi couple, American couple, French couple (in their 60s), two English Girls and 3 Japanese Girls and a South Korean girl.

The first day we headed into Lichfield National park and stopped at a couple of swimming waterfalls, which were pretty cool. The second especially which had a great small deep pool that you could dive into - I eventually got the courage to go off the top rock! After that we drove to Mary River National park where we had a boat trip getting to see various birds as well as both Freshwater and Saltwater crocodiles (the Salties are the bigger, and are the dangerous ones). Then we stopped to buy beer and collect firewood before going to our camp for the night - all the nights in the tour we stayed at permanent camps, which basically have lots of little 2 person canvas huts and a big kitchen hut. The food had not looked promising as lunch was hotdogs, but things improved after that and we got Kangaroo one night. On these trips everyone mucks in with the cooking and cleaning, so it's just like a big camping trip, and it was nice to hang around afterwards and have a few beers around the fire, Andreas (German Guy) and myself proving to be the ones who were always up latest (not that late as we always had to get up 5ish.

On the second day we headed into Kakadu proper, stopping to have a look at some wetlands before heading to the rock art sights at Nourlangie and Ubirr. Ubirr was a really nice area to watch the sunset too. We'd also fitted in a short walk and a stop at our accommodation where we could use the pool before we returned in the evening for the normal dinner, beer and campfire routine, with added digeridoos. That evening we were visited by a giant tree rat that tried to steal some food from the kitchen- I got photos! Actually I tell I lie, there was no campfire this night and the digeridoos were the night before. There was lots of complaining about frogs in the showers.

On the final day our departure was marked by our driver/guide (Luke) snagging the bus on the kitchen tent and getting a bit stuck. Our first stop was another waterfall, the Gunlom falls I think it was called. This was really nice, first we headed up to the top which was a bit of a climb. Here there were lots of nice little pools and a great view. After we went to the large pool at the bottom, which apparently does have a crocodile in it, but its only a little freshie, so won't bother you! It was quite a long swim over to the waterfall, wondering what was lurking in the depths below (snakes too apparently). The last stop was another waterfall, this one much more secluded and we were the only ones there. Here some people got a bit hysterical when we spotted a 4ft water monitor (lizard) at the side of the pool, thinking it was a croc! This day I sat in the front and exercised ruthless control over the iPod! When we got back to Darwin we went out to the infamous Vic again (well we got free food there!) where only 3 of us stayed for any length of time. We entered the free table-tennis competition with big prizes, but I drew the Korean guy and he destroyed me!

Photo time!
Sunset on the Mary River.

At the top of the falls.
Sunglass may be required to view this.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008


I got into Darwin about 1am and headed into town and to my hostel which I'd prebooked. Didn't seem to be anywhere I could watch the Champions league final (on at 415am here) so I went to bed. I had three full days in Darwin, which was a bit of chance to regroup and enjoy western comforts. The first day I went shopping a bit and got myself some decent shoes for walking in, a new hat, a guidebook, and various other odds and ends that I needed, as well as going to the supermarket as after seeing the prices, cooking for myself in the hostel was the only way forward. In the evening I went to the market at Mindil Beach, which was pretty nice. It was mainly food stalls with a few bands playing and craft stalls. It was a bit like strawberry fair in Cambridge but with more class and much nicer. I realised this was because there was no alcohol! On the downside there was no alcohol.

The next day I headed down to the harbour, visiting the underground oil storage tunnels from the war, and various points of intrest with boards to read (including the interesting story of this Scotsman's raft trip before heading to the wharf for some delicious fish and chips for lunch! Afterlunch I took in a sort of Aquarium display that had recreated reed ecosystems, which was pretty interesting before just taking a walk along the esplanade.

On my last day I headed north, getting to the Fanny Bay (yes really) Prison Museum, where I was lucky enough to join a one off free guided tour which was very informative, then I went to the Museum of the northern territory, which had a really excellent mix of natural history and art (and was free) including sweetheart, a massive stuffed crocodile. Like everything else in Darwin there was also a lot about the war, where Darwin was bombed by the Japanese (the same planes that bombed pearl harbour, and they dropped more bombs on Darwin) and also a lot about Cyclone Tracy which completely flattened the town in the 70s. Afterwards I took a walk back via the Botanic Gardens, but they were not in their normal state as there was a massive music festival going on (Bass in the Grass, shall someone else point it out to them or shall I?) featuring Powderfinger and Wolfmother as well as some quality pasifika which I overheard. That evening I went out with a nice young German couple who were in my dorm, we went to the Vic, a cheap and cheerful backpackers bar that was certainly an experience. By 930 people were dancing on tables, and the atmosphere was like the garage/WPR just before closing. Didn't stay too long as it was a 6am start the next day.

Photos (not very exciting):

In the oil storage tunnels.

An old gun by the sea.

Boats in the museum.