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Australia, Travel

The Margaret River – Wine, Chocolate, Cheese and more Wine.

December 28, 2014

Australia is renowned for it’s wine so it was only right that after living in this country since March that I finally got round to trying a few (apparently ‘goon’ doesn’t count). We were in West Australia to visit friends in Albany and to break up the journey we stayed in the Margaret River region for two nights. It was during this time that we took part in the Bushtucker winery tour. The tour had a fantastic rating on Trip Advisor so we had high hopes and we left far from disappointed.

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The tour lasts all day and during this time you visit a number of wineries, a brewery, a chocolate factory and a cheese shop. In the first winery our guide, Silvano, taught us how to ‘Swirl, Smell and Swallow’ our wine to get the best flavour. I’d always thought that at a wine tasting day you would only be sipping the wine and then spitting it back out but we were encouraged to drink all of the wine we were given. This resulted in us feeling a little tipsy so have a decent breakfast before the tour! Luckily for us, just as the wine was giving us a fuzzy head, lunch was served. This is a delicious buffett of local meats, bread, dips and cheese. Silvano made sure everyone ate until they were full and there was still more food to come! The afternoon is spent eating chocolates and cheeses and even more drinking. We went home extremely full and extremely happy.

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It really is a great tour and I would highly reccommend it to anybody travelling through that area. I certaintly learnt alot about wine and tried some that I would usually turn my nose up at. I’m looking forward to impressing my family and friends with my new found knowledge and my wine swirling technique once I’m home!

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Australia, Travel

The Outback with Mulgas Adventure Tours

December 1, 2014

One of the most iconic symbols of Australia is that big ol’ rock they have in the centre, Uluru. I was desperate to visit Uluru during our time in Australia because I felt that by visiting the Aussie Outback, I would be experiencing the ‘real’ Australia. So last month we finally made it to the Red Centre and took part in a 3 day tour with Mulgas Adventure Tours.

The tour picks you up from your accommodation in Alice Springs at 6am on Day 1. Alice Springs is the nearest city to Uluru and it’s still about a six hour drive away which just goes to show how big Australia is. Aside from a few stops at random roadhouses, the first morning is spent in a coach. Your coach driver is also your tour guide so you do get a bit of information as you’re travelling. This journey will make you realise just how little there is in the middle of Australia. It’s amazing how little the terrain changes over hundreds of kilometres.

You arrive at camp in time for lunch. Your coach driver/tour guide now adds the role of Chef to their job title. Our guide was called Lockie and he was very good at his job with a good balance of informative and fun. Our group also helped prepare the meals and I think this is standard across every tour. After lunch, it’s finally time to head to Uluru! We’d had our first glimpse of the rock from a distance but nothing prepares you for how big it is.

The Mulgas tour gives you time to walk around the base of Uluru which is about 10.5km. I just couldn’t believe how long it took us to walk around it, every time you thought you were near the end, you would turn a corner and realise there was still a lot more to see. Lockie told us some of the Aboriginal dreamtime stories about Uluru which are really interesting and it’s good to find out what makes Uluru so sacred to the Aboriginal people.

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Once the base walk is completed, you head to the sunset viewing area to watch how the colours of the rock change as  the sun goes down. The change is quite subtle so it’s best to take a picture of Uluru every 5 minutes and look back on your photographs afterwards. If I’m honest, I didn’t think it was that impressive. I think this feeling comes from seeing photos of Uluru at sunset which were clearly taken by professional photographers.

This trip gave me one of my favourite travel memories to date, sleeping under the stars in the Australian Outback in a swag. A swag is like a big canvas sleeping bag and looks like this.

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With next to no artificial light at the campsite, the stars look truly amazing.

Day 2 involves a beautiful early morning wake-up call of 4am. However it is totally worth it to go and see the sunrise at Uluru. Next up is another big walk of about 8km around Kata Tjuta which is another rock formation near to Uluru. In my opinion it’s actually more impressive than Uluru and the walk is a lot more interesting as there is more to see.

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Day 3 involves more walking, only the 6.5km today! The final landmark of the trip is Kings Canyon and your guide will take you on the rim walk. This walk starts with a steep climb up the ‘Stairway of Death’ but the rest of the track is relatively easy. As this is the final day, once the walk is completed, it’s time for lunch and then the long drive back to Alice Springs.

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I really enjoyed this trip, especially all the walking, it felt good to be doing that much exercise! I’m glad we made the effort to go and see some more of Australia and I would highly recommend Mulgas Adventure Tours. This trip cost $355 each and was definitely worth it.

Australia, Travel

The East Coast of Australia

November 29, 2014

Have you done the East Coast yet? Did you go up or down? I’ve heard you shouldn’t bother going here but should definitely spend at least 3 nights here! How much money do you need? How long does it take?

The Australian East Coast trip is infamous with backpackers. It’s usually where they spend the majority of their time in Australia and sadly sometimes the only part of Australia they will see. I’m lucky enough to have done the East Coast twice so hopefully I can help with some of the standard questions every newbie in Australia seems to ask.

Up or Down?

Typically, when travel agents say ‘East Coast’ they mean Sydney to Cairns or vice versa but some do include Melbourne (and so they should as Melbourne is awesome!). Where you start your trip usually depends on where you flew into or where you closest. If you are bang in the middle of the two cities, you should think about the weather conditions. Do you want it to get warmer or avoid the heat? Planning ahead is also a good idea. Australia is an expensive country so you may need to work after completing the East Coast. Where would you rather work is a question you should be asking yourself. I travelled up towards Cairns from Melbourne on both occasions. The first time because I flew into Melbourne and out from Cairns and the second time because I was travelling just as the coast was starting to get warmer and I wanted to end in Cairns where it would be hottest. Let’s be honest, all I wanted was a tan!

Where to go?

I’m probably going to contradict myself in this next section. When deciding where you want to visit, talk to friends and travel agents to get their advice but don’t listen too closely. This is YOUR trip. Your best friend might think that you only need to spend 1 night in Byron Bay but you might love it there and want to stay 3 nights. So do your research and make up your own mind. I’ll write where Stu and I went on our trip to give you an idea but there are plenty more places to visit so don’t think this is all the East Coast has to offer.

Melbourne (7 nights) 5 nights spend in a campervan doing the Great Ocean Road and Phillip Island. 2 nights in the city. 

Sydney (3 nights) We’d been to both Sydney and Melboune before hence not staying long in each city.

Byron Bay (5 nights)

Surfers Paradise (3 nights)

Noosa (3 nights)

Rainbow Beach and Fraser Island (2 nights in RB, 2 nights on Fraser then 1 more night on RB) A self drive 4×4 Fraser trip is the one to choose!

Airlie Beach and The Whitsundays (1 night in AB, 2 nights on a boat trip then 3 nights in AB after) A travel agent will give you the best advice on which boat is best for you. 

Mission Beach (3 nights) We only went to Mission Beach to do our skydive – amazing as you get to land on the beach.

Cairns (6 nights) There is loads to do here – The Great Barrier Reef, Bungy Jump, Atherton Tablelands, Cape Tribulation etc.

How long does it take?

The simple answer is, as long or as short as you want it to be. It all depends on how many places you want to visit. A typical amount of time is about 6 weeks. You can get open-dated travel vouchers for your trip so if you don’t have any limits on time you really can take it at your own pace. Another factor that comes into play is how you will be travelling the East Coast. If you have your own car or campervan this gives you a lot of freedom. If you will be using either the Greyhound or the Premier coach service then you have to stick to their timetables and ticket restrictions. Most of all, it depends on how much money you have and how long you can actually afford to travel for. Which brings me to my next section quite nicely…

How much does it cost?

It always comes down to money unfortunately and Australia is known for being very expensive. As well as paying for your boat trip and Fraser Island tour, there’s transport to think of, accommodation, extra activities, food and drink. It can add up to crazy amounts and unless you are really good at budgeting, you will spend more than you hoped you would. Our East Coast package cost just over $2000 each. This included our transport up the coast, all our accommodation, our skydive, the Fraser trip, the Whitsundays boat trip and the campervan hire in Melbourne. On top of this is spending money. Everyone will need different amounts of spending money but the East Coast is mainly about making friends and going out every night with them. You can stick to goon as much as you want but you’ll soon realise you’re spending money very very quickly. However, do not panic, remember this is a once in a lifetime experience and you don’t want to be missing out on memories because you can’t afford to do something. Just work a couple more months and do it properly. Australia might be a long way from home and you don’t want to go back with any regrets.

I hope this blog helps some of you plan your trip and you get the most out of it. And don’t forget that Australia is a massive country and there’s a whole lot more of it to explore than just the East Coast.

Fraser Island

Australia, Travel

The Great Ocean Road and Phillip Island, Victoria

October 30, 2014

Melbourne is a beautiful place but if you get the chance to leave the city for a few days, go and explore some more of Victoria. Stu and I rented a Jucy campervan for 5 days so we could drive the famous Great Ocean Road and go and see some wildlife on Phillip Island.

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The Great Ocean Road goes all the way to Adelaide but the standard tourist route stops not long after the Twelve Apostles. We drove from Melbourne down to Lorne on the first day. All of the little towns along the route are pretty similar but Lorne is my favourite. The beach is really pretty and it’s really close to a waterfall called Erskine Falls – well worth a visit!

Every town has campsites so you don’t have to book anywhere in advance. We tended to pay between $20 and $30 a night which seemed reasonable to us.

We camped near the Twelve Apostles on the second night so got to see them both at sunset and sunrise. They rocks change colour at these times so it really is the best time to go and see them. The campsites by the Apostles (in Princetown) are home to some wild kangaroos so it’s amazing to be camping next to them.

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After our roadtrip we drove to Phillip Island to see the world famous penguin parade. Australia is home to the little penguin and you can watch hundreds of them come home from a day at sea on Phillip Island. We loved watching the penguins walk up the beach and back to their nests. They have to build up the confidence to come out of the sea so they keep running in and out until one penguin is brave enough to make a run for it. The penguins are extremely shy so no photos are allowed and you have to keep very quiet.

Phillip Island wildlife park is a great little place to go in the day. You get to walk around with kangaroos, wallabies and emus and feed them. The wallabies even hold your hand whilst eating – so cute! The park has tons of other animals in enclosures including wombats, dingoes and koalas.

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Australia, Travel

Bundaberg, Queensland

October 30, 2014

Stu and I came to Australia on a working holiday visa. This gives us one year in Australia and the opportunity to work to fund our travels. You can gain a second year visa by completing 88 days of regional work. This means that if you are employed in certain postcodes you can stay in Australia for another year. You don’t have to do the 2nd year straight away so you can bank it if you decide to come back to Australia before you’re 31.

Bundaberg is a fairly popular place for backpackers to do their regional work and it hosts a large farming community. You hear a few horror stories of backpackers who have been ripped off by farmers but Stu and I had a good experience all round with Bundaberg.

We chose to find work through a ‘working hostel’. These are hostels where the manager finds the residents work and they usually provide transport to the jobs as well. All you have to do is pay them rent. Most working hostels have a lengthy waiting list because looking for a job is a nuisence that most backpackers would rather not worry about. Luckily Stu and I got into East Bundy Backpackers a couple of weeks after first ringing up the owner Christine. My sister did her regional work there last year so I think that helped! A few days after arriving we both had full time jobs on a farm and were being paid hourly (some farms pay on a contract rate which means you get paid for how much you can pick or pack – not ideal). I worked on a sweet potato farm. Mostly packing but also weeding and planting. Stu worked on a farm where he picked a variety of vegetables in the morning and then packed them in the afternoon. I’m not going to sugarcoat it, farming is hard work. It’s certainly the most gruelling work I’ve ever done, both physically and mentally. Doing the same thing for up to 12 hours a day is tough on your mind and body. Stu’s farmer was a lovely guy but the locals who worked with me hated backpackers and would scream in your face to get you to work harder.  There were plenty of days where I wanted to walk out of that packing shed and forget about farmwork forever. However, we both stuck it out, saved thousands of dollars and now have our 2nd year banked should we ever decide to come back.

If anyone is thinking of doing their regional work in Bundaberg you should definitely contact Christine at East Bundy Backpackers on 0741543700. It’s the best hostel in the area with the best jobs. It’s good whether you want to gain your 2nd year visa or just want to save some money to continue your travels.

Bundaberg itself is an interesting place… It’s technically a city but not a city as we know one – it’s tiny! The main attraction is the Rum Distillery but even that isn’t that exciting. There’s one ‘club’ which all the backpackers go to on the weekend where the same band play every weekend with the same set list. Basically there isn’t a whole lot to do there but take that as a positive and see it as a chance to save money over the few months you stay here.

Farm work was such a hard experience but I met friends for life there and without working I wouldn’t have been able to travel for as long afterwards. So for that, I wouldn’t change it for the world.

bundy rum farm life

Australia, Travel

Brisbane

September 22, 2014

Staying at Base Central.

Back in April, Stu and I visited Brisbane for a week. I never made it to Brisbane on my last visit to Australia so I was excited to see another Aussie city. It’s a lot smaller to Sydney and Melbourne and I guess that appeals to a lot of people and it also suited our timeframe as we were only there for a week. A week is more than enough time to get a feel for the city and the surrounding areas.

Like all major cities it has a CBD with the standard shopping malls but the best parts of Brisbane are the outskirts. You have the Southbank area which is a man made beach next to the river with bars, restaurants and a cinema situated nearby. This is a perfect place to spend a sunny day. Stu and I were here for ANZAC day so the beach was rammed with families.

A relaxing alternative to Southbank is the Botanic Gardens where there are a number of relaxing walks to do or just sit down and enjoy the scenery. If you’re feeling up to a more challenging walk you can climb the nearby Mount Cootha. The top of the ‘mountain’ gives a brilliant view of the Brisbane skyline.

My favourite trip we did by far whilst in Brisbane was our trip to Australia Zoo, made famous by Steve Irwin. It was the most incredible day and I loved every second. All the zoo keepers are fantastic and have such enthusiasm for their jobs and for continuing Steve’s legacy. You learn so much about the work he did to help wildlife. The best of the day is the midday show at the Crocoseum. You get to see birds of prey racing around the stadium, crocs jumping out the water and much more. Don’t miss it!

We both enjoyed Brisbane but we felt like we couldn’t stay any longer here, unlike Melbourne where I could easily live long term.

Australia, Travel

The Harbour Bridge Climb, Sydney.

September 21, 2014

Wow.

This was such an unforgettable experience. I actually climbed over one of the most iconic bridges in the world! Those of you who have visited Sydney will know that this is one of the most expensive tourist attractions in the city and that definitely puts a lot of people off but believe me when I say that it is one of those things worth paying for. You will be completely awestruck as you are ascending the bridge and walking over the famous arch is a surreal moment. Your tour guide takes the walk nice and slow so you have time to take in all your surroundings whilst listening to the history of the Harbour Bridge and surrounding area. The guides really do know their stuff!

The one downside to the climb is that you aren’t allowed to take any belongings with you due to safety reasons. This obviously includes cameras. Yes, you are going to climb the Harbour Bridge and not be able to put a selfie taken at the top on Facebook afterwards. Gutted. However, your tour guide does have a camera and they will take lots of photos which are available to purchase at the end, sneaky.

Australia, Travel

Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk

September 21, 2014

Once again, apologies for the lack of writing. I’ve been very busy doing my regional work but that is now all done and dusted and I can get back to travelling! I’ve got trips to write about that happened months ago but I’m going to try my hardest to get this blog up to date as quickly as possible.

Back in April this year, Stu and I were in Sydney for the first time and we spent a week with Stu’s parents. It was a fantastic week and we did so much in so little time. Even now I look back at that week thinking it was one of the best parts of our whole time away. The day after they went home was certainly the most home sick we have been.

One thing that sticks out in my mind about that week was a coastal walk we did from Bondi beach to Coogee bay. It’s a fairly easy walk that can last half a day if you take a picnic as we did.

From Sydney CBD you can catch a bus to Bondi to begin your trip there. Bondi is obviously world famous but I don’t actually know why it’s any more famous than other beaches in Australia. It’s not my favourite by far because it’s full of tourists. If you get the chance definitely visit some of the lesser populated beaches around the area, especially the ones along this route!

Along the coast there are a number of bays and picnic areas to rest at and break up the walk if you want to make a day of it. The views of the sea and surf are incredible. We saw plenty of surfers during our walk and I’m still itch ing to give the sport a go!

The end of the walk is Coogee which is a really pretty beach. You will definitely want to stop off for a well deserved beverage at one of the bars over the road. We went to the Coogee Bay Hotel which has great views of the seafront with big panoramic windows. I recommend the Dirty Granny cider, goes down well after all the sea air!

 

 

Australia, Travel

The Melbourne Laneways

April 27, 2014

It’s exactly a month today since we landed Down Under and I can’t believe how much we have done and I haven’t managed to write a single blog! I’m going to write about a few of my favourite experiences so expect an influx of posts…

Our first stop was Melbourne to see my sister Josie after almost a years separation. After an emotional reunion it was soon like we had never been apart and although she’s grown up a lot, she’s mostly stayed the same!

One of my favourite parts of Melbourne was the Laneways system they have. Walk away from the main streets and you’ll soon find a number of lanes filled with quirky shops, cafés and world famous street art. You can pick up a map from the tourist information centre on Federation Square which helps you find which lanes have the best artwork.

It’s really strange when you first turn down some of the streets. These are the dirty alleyways your parents warned you not to walk down alone surely? Well apparently not as you soon find yourself surrounded by incredible artwork and little tucked away bars. If you’ve got the time definitely walk away from the main tourist attractions and see what you discover down one of the laneways.

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