Category Archives: Australia 2011

Day 25: The Great Ocean Road

I decided to spend my last day in Australia on the Great Ocean Road which runs 150 miles along the south-eastern coast. It was built between 1919 and 1932 by soldiers returning from war and is therefore considered to be the world’s largest war memorial. It would be easy to spend a week travelling along the coastline as there is plenty to see – my one day tour allowed me to see just a few of the highlights.

The tour company picked me up from my hostel and we headed towards the coast, where the Australian version of Torquay was our first stop for a quick coffee break. As we continued down the coastline we passed Winkipop and Bells beaches which are among the best surfing locations in the world. Bells is the only official surfing reserve in Australia and hosted the first modern professional surfing competition in 1973.

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My time in Australia wouldn’t be complete without one more koala sighting, which I had when we stopped at the Kennett River. This was the first time I’d seen them in the wild and, as usual, they were fast asleep at the top of some very tall trees. The nearby parrots were more friendly and one of them sat on my hand while having a late breakfast courtesy of our tour guide. We then continued slightly inland to Maits Rest and took a walk through the temperate rain-forest there, which is part of the Great Otway National Park.

After stopping for lunch at The Roadhouse in Lavers Hill we drove back towards the coastline and one of the highlights of the Great Ocean Road – The Twelve Apostles. This is a collection of rock stacks a short distance from the cliffs. Each stack would have originally been attached to the cliff before the sea eroded purchase cheap viagra an archway which in turn collapased to leave the stack. It is debatable whether there are actually 12 stacks – they are gradually collapsing (most recently in 2005) and new stacks will eventually be formed. Nevertheless, they create a stunning view – one of the most iconic in Australia.

Slightly further down the coastline is Loch Ard Gorge, named after the ship which was wrecked there in 1878. The Loch Ard had left England 3 months earlier headed for Melbourne but heavy fog hid the nearby lighthouse from view and it ran aground on the reef leaving only 2 survivors. There are many more rock formations here too – Muttonbird Island, The Island Archway, and The Razorback. After a quick photo stop at Two Mile Bay (where you can see along much of the coastline back to The Twelve Apostles) we came to the London Arch. This is another famous rock formation which recently went through dramatic change. In a similar way to The Twelve Apostles, the sea eroded two archways through the rock, leaving a natural double-span bridge that was known as London Bridge. In 1990 the arch closer to the cliff collapsed leaving the formation that can be seen today.

Finally, we began the long drive back to Melbourne, which was also the start of my even longer journey home. I collected my bags from the hostel and caught the SkyBus to Melbourne airport ready for my 13 hour flight back to Doha and the further 6 hours to London. The Great Ocean Road was definitely a great way to finish my time in Australia!

Day 24: Alice Springs airport

I left my hostel at 7am for the airport and my flight back to Melbourne with Tiger Airways – virtually the only internal airline I hadn’t tried yet. While I was standing in the queue to check in they announced that the plane was stuck in Melbourne and the flight would be delayed until 10:20 – an hour later than scheduled. Clearly the luck I’d had with all my flights so far had finally run out! This soon became 15:20 and I spent a long day in the departure lounge. Alice Springs is not the best airport to be stuck in – it handles only a handful of flights each day, has two small shops and a cafe, and the only available Internet access costs $2 for 6 minutes.

The reason for the delay wasn’t particularly clear – either a fault with the plane or because the pilot called in sick (maybe because of Australia Day celebrations the night before?). Either way, a large number of passengers missed connections and had to make alternative arrangements. For me, the 6 hour delay just meant I didn’t arrive in Melbourne until late evening. I checked into my hostel, grabbed a sandwich, and went to bed.

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Tomorrow is my last day in Australia and I’m going buying viagra from canada for an organised tour along the Great Ocean Road.

Day 23: Kings Canyon

We were up at 4:30 again this morning. Within an hour we’d had breakfast, packed up camp and were back on the road.

This morning we did a 6km hike around Kings Canyon. Like most of Central Australia the area used to be under the sea – fossilised water ripple marks can still be seen today. The rock was built up by layers of sediment (which can also be clearly seen) before the sea dried up. Around 350 million years ago a crack formed and erosion gradually cut out the canyon. It is still a relatively wet area and so a wide variety of plant and animal life can be seen. The aborigines only used the canyon as a last resort in times of drought, so that they did not waste its resources unnecessarily. At the bottom of the canyon is a lake surrounded by trees known as the Garden of Eden. We stopped here for a short break (and appropriately ate apples) before having a swim in the water (which is appropriately home to some water snakes). This was the coolest water I’ve been in over the last month, but was still a pleasant temperature. There were many amazing views as we walked around the rim of the canyon – the photos could never do it justice, but I did my best anyway!

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We went back to the campsite for a traditional barbecue lunch – camel burgers for the non-vegetarians. There was also just enough time for one last swim before getting on the new canadian meds road back to Alice Springs. The four wheel drive really paid off when we drove 100km on a dirt track. Not only did this take 160km off the journey that most tour coaches have to take, but it was also another unique (and very bumpy) outback experience. We only saw 3 other vehicles in nearly 2 hours.

Alice Springs seemed remote when I arrived a few days ago, but returning from the outback it feels like a bustling town! I had a few hours back in my hostel to relax and have a shower before meeting up with the rest of my tour group in town for dinner and drinks. Today is Australia Day so most of the local people were out celebrating – Happy Australia Day everyone!!

I’m catching the 7am bus back to the airport tomorrow morning for my flight to Melbourne.

Day 22: Sunrise in the desert and Kata Tjuta

Belinda woke us up at 4:30am while the stars were still out and the moon was shining brightly. We had a quick breakfast and packed up camp before walking up to the nearby lookout to watch the 6am sunrise. It must be winter in the rest of the world because the sun only left Australia for about 9 hours!

In the morning we took a 3 hour walk through the Valley of the Winds. The 7.5km walk meanders through another nearby set of rock formations known as Kata Tjuta, which means ‘many heads’, each head being a large dome shaped rock. These are of just as much importance to the Anangu people as Uluru, and the walk is carefully planned to avoid areas where the aborigines would prefer visitors not to go. They say the strong winds that pass through the valley are their ancestors speaking to us. The temperature did not go below 28°c overnight and it was already well above 30°c. The walk is closed for safety reasons at 11am when the temperature exceeds 36°c. Despite the temperature though it was well worth doing and the rounded rock formations are fascinating. Halfway around we stopped for refreshments while Belinda explained some of the geology behind the rock formations. Next stop was the picnic area in the Ayers Rock resort for some lunch and a much needed swim in the nearby pool.

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In the afternoon we had a long 3 hour drive to the Kings Creek Cattle Station where we would be camping for the night. On the way we stopped to collect firewood and to look across the desert at Atilla – a rock similar to Uluru but even larger (despite being two metres shorter). It has just as much significance as Uluru, but the latter was chosen for the tourism drive and Atilla is still within private land. Although there is a large campsite at the cattle station, Wayoutback have a special arrangement with the landowners which allowed us to camp a few kilometres down a dirt track – literally in the middle of nowhere. We had a small shelter with running water and near-traditional bush toilet and shower – two small huts down a footpath. The shower has lovely hot water (as the pipes run through the ground) but was covered with ants so most of us went without. The toilet has a family of frogs living inside it – for some reason they seem to like that environment!

We did the initial preparations for dinner and started the campfire – my job was to make the bread from scratch! While dinner cooked on the fire we walked to a slightly higher point so that we could have a good view of the sunset. As the sun went down Belinda provided champagne and canapés, and we also came across some wild camels! We had dinner around the campfire while Belinda told a few stories and then had another night under the stars in a swag.

Yet another early start tomorrow so we can do all our walking before the sun is viagra cheap canada too hot.

Day 21: Uluru and the Anangu people

I was picked up from my hostel just before 6am by Wayoutback tours, who use 12 seater four wheel drive vehicles for the journey into the outback. I definitely chose a good day to go as only four others started the tour in Alice Springs with another two joining in Uluru, so it would be a particularly personalised tour.

Uluru is a 450km drive from Alice Springs. Along the way we stopped briefly at a camel farm. Camels are not native animals but were introduced in the 19th century for expeditions across central Australia. There are now around a million of them which is endangering other native species because of the amount of water they drink. We also stopped off at the Mt Ebenezer Roadhouse where a large collection of aboriginal art was on display.

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When we arrived at Uluru we went to the campsite where we would be staying tonight. Although there is a resort nearby, our area consisted of a small hut for cooking, eating and washing up, and a patch of red sand where we could sleep. After making some sandwiches for lunch we had time for a quick swim in the resort pool – by now the temperature was above 40°c! We then drove for another 30 minutes to the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. This is the site of Uluru itself (also known as Ayers Rock) – a large expanse of rock standing around 350 metres tall in the middle of the desert. It is unique because, other than its size, it is more or less flat on top with very steep sides. It is also of particular significance to the Anangu people – the aborigines who live here.

We visited the cultural centre which explains something about the way aborigines used to live. The tensions caused by western invasion of their land are clear, although many compromises have been made and the site is joint managed between the aboriginal elders and the state government. After driving further inside the park we reached the base of the rock. Visitors are given the choice of climbing up to the top or doing a base walk around it – nearly 11km total. While the aborigines seem to welcome visitors wishing to learn about their culture, they strongly discourage people from climbing their spiritual site. However there is no law against it and unfortunately many do. We did a shortened base walk – the temperature was 44°c and far too hot to attempt the whole distance. Our guide (Belinda) explained the significance of some of the areas we walked through. I then went on a small optional tour led by an aboriginal guide speaking through a translator. He showed us drawings inside caves where children would be taught, explained how they would hunt and find water, and told a couple of the ‘dreamtime’ stories. These stories explain how the land (with which they have an inseparable relationship) was formed and include their moral code. They believe that the rock was created by the spirits of their ancestors, and can explain many of its features in this way. The stories are usually passed between grandparents and grandchildren to maximise the information transfer. The translator also demonstrated how they make food and medicine from the surrounding plants. Only small westernised aboriginal settlements still exist and the true culture (which is at least 40,000 years old) has essentially been lost over the last few centuries.

Just before sunset we drove back to the campsite and walked to a nearby lookout. Uluru is said to have many different ‘moods’ as it changes colour with the weather and time of day. At sunset it is supposed to turn red but in reality this only happens a handful of purchase viagra in australia times each year, and we weren’t the lucky ones! The sunset itself was very picturesque though. Meanwhile Belinda prepared dinner back at camp which we ate by candlelight. She then showed us how to make up a swag – the authentic Australian way of sleeping in the bush. It’s a bit like a strong outer sleeping bag and does not cover your head so we literally fell asleep under the thousands of stars which was an amazing experience. Even at night-time it is still very hot though – I drank over 5 litres of water today!

Tomorrow is an even earlier start so we can be at the lookout by sunrise!

Day 20: Alice Springs

Almost exactly 24 hours after surfacing from my last dive (the recommended safety time before flying) I was back on a plane again. This time it was a Qantas flight to Alice Springs, 1500km from Cairns. Alice Springs is one of the few major towns in the Northern Territory and is in the heart of the outback. This area is known as the Red Centre – the vast expanse of red soil clearly visible from the plane on our way in. Landing at around lunchtime it was a moderate 41°c! I also changed time zone again – the Northern Territory and South Australia are 30 minutes behind Queensland.

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Unfortunately time doesn’t allow me to see much of Alice Springs itself, which used to be inhabited by the Arrernte Aboriginal people. A telegraph station was later built here to link Adelaide in the south to Darwin in the north, and this opened up the interior of Australia for permanent European settlement. In addition to the telegraph station, one of the main attractions is the Royal Flying Doctor Service base. The town is primarily used by tourists as a base to explore the outback, particularly Ayers Rock.

I spent the afternoon settling into the hostel, repacking my bags (again!), and cooling off in the swimming pool. Tomorrow I’m going on a 3 day safari into viagra jelly uk the outback, which includes camping in the bush and cooking over a fire! Unsurprisingly, it doesn’t include wireless internet access so although I’ll be writing my blog as I go, I won’t be able to publish it until I’m back on Wednesday night.

Day 19: Sea turtles and a stormy ride home

Everybody was up at 6am today for another busy morning. The boat was due to leave the reef at midday and we had three dives to complete by then, plus the necessary breaks to ensure we didn’t exceed our nitrogen limits. It was very overcast and raining heavily, so underwater was probably the best place to be! The first dive involved navigating to and swimming the whole way around a bommie (which is a large area of coral, almost like a huge rock on the bottom of the sea). The surface of the water was quite rough but once we were 2-3 metres down below the waves there was just a mild current, and the visibility was excellent again. On our way out to the bommie Steve and I saw our first Green Sea Turtle of the trip.

While we had breakfast the boat was moved again to an area called ‘Tennis Courts’ on the Flynn Reef for our last two dives. On the first we saw a Titan Triggerfish, so called because when protecting the nest and feeling under threat it raises its dorsal fin in a trigger-like action. Although not particularly dangerous, these fish will chase and bite divers if they get too close. We also saw another Green Sea Turtle and a Pipefish. The highlights of our final dive included seeing a couple of Bluestreak Cleaner Wrasse. These fish stay in areas called ‘cleaning stations’ and, as other fish swim through, they will use their mouths to clean them of unwanted parasites. Sometimes the wrasse will even swim inside the mouths of larger fish to clean the inside! By hovering in the water quite close to the cleaning station we were able to have our fins cleaned for a few minutes. This also prompted Steve and I to do a spontaneous underwater rendition of the Car Wash from ‘Shark Tale’ (Oscar, played viagra propranodol by Will Smith in the film, is a Cleaner Wrasse). This progressed into the ‘Sprinker’ and the ‘Macarena’ – maybe we’d had too much nitrogen after all! On the subject of films, during one of our previous dives we found Nemo – a Clownfish, which is a particular breed of anemonefish. While navigating back to the boat we were distracted by a Hawkbill Turtle and the current took us slightly off course (we weren’t the only ones!) so had a speedboat tow back to Scuba Pro II.

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Once everyone was safely back onboard, the boat quickly left the reef for the three hour journey back to Cairns. This took us straight through a storm and so it was a particularly rough ride. The wind was in excess of 40 knots, and there was a swell of up to 3 metres. Almost everything (and everyone) on the boat was thrown around – saucepans fell out of cupboards, drink cans exploded, part of the ceiling in the dining area fell down, and we exhausted our supply of sick bags. Fortunately I escaped with a couple of minor bruises, and proved that I definitely don’t suffer from seasickness. Overall it was a really good trip from start to finish, and in total I spent about 10 hours underwater on the reef.

In the evening most of the divers and divemasters met in town for dinner and drinks followed by the Woolshed nightclub. While a few managed to keep going until 3am, I headed back to my hostel at about 1am ready for another early start. Tomorrow I fly from Cairns to Alice Springs, right in the centre of Australia.

Day 18: Grey sharks at night, diver's delight

Last night was fairly choppy in the Coral Sea. The captain moved the boat slightly in the middle of the night to try and give everyone a steadier night’s sleep! We were woken up just before 7am while the boat was being moved to Flynn Reef ready for today’s dives. Our first dive was at 7:30am and was the deepest of the trip, at about 19 metres. The diving is getting noticeably more comfortable as I’m getting used to being underwater so much. The visibility was also excellent and we saw a wide variety of different fish. After breakfast we were back in the water again at the same site but for a shallower dive – the highlights being a Great Barracuda and Yellow Trumpetfish.

While we had a break for lunch, the boat was moved to a slightly different place on the Flynn Reef for our afternoon and evening dives. Although other divers saw a few sharks yesterday, Steve and I saw one for the first time this afternoon – a Whitetip Reef Shark. We also spotted a Kuhl’s Stringray and followed it for a while. In the break between afternoon and evening dives there was a Green Sea Turtle and Giant Manta Stingray swimming just off one side of the boat.

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We stayed at the same site again for our night dive, but this time went in buddy pairs instead of groups. As we prepared our equipment a number of fish could be seen off the back of the boat including some sharks. Some of the smaller fish were even jumping out of the water onto the entry platform, presumably to get away from the sharks – meanwhile we were jumping in! We quickly moved away from the boat and towards the coral wall. There were many more fish than there had been on the previous night dive, perhaps because there were fewer divers in the same place. The highlight of the dive though was when we returned towards the boat, as it attracts a large number of fish. Amongst the Giant Trevallies and Red Bass we could see pairs of large green eyes in the darkness – four generic viagra from canada or five Grey Reef Sharks circling. There was definitely a buzz among all the divers as we got back onto the boat – this was probably the best dive of the trip so far!

For the rest of the evening we played cards and talked about the day’s diving. Everyone quickly drifted off to bed though, ready for our even earlier wakeup call tomorrow morning.

Day 17: Diving on the Great Barrier Reef

I was picked up from my hostel at 6:15 this morning by Pro Dive, one of the many SCUBA diving companies in Cairns. After a quick stop off at their shop to complete paperwork and store excess luggage, everyone was taken down to the marina to board Scuba Pro II which is a liveaboard boat. Along with a group of around 30 other divers, I’ll be spending the next three days diving on the outer reef, around 30 nautical miles from the coast. The boat has three decks made up mainly of bedrooms, a kitchen/dining area, and outside areas for preparing equipment. As soon as everyone was onboard the boat left the marina for the three hour journey to the reef. Meanwhile breakfast was served and the divemasters went through the various safety procedures. The divers are a mixture of those doing their open water qualification, those taking their advanced course, and certified divers.

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Despite the fairly rough trip out to the reef (seasickness tablets were strongly recommended!) everyone was looking forward to getting into the water to see one of the best dive sites in the world. There were four dives planned today, the first two at Milln Reef. As soon as we arrived, our Irish divemaster (Chris) went through the plan for the dive, including a rough route and maximum depth/time limits. As a certified diver my dives are mainly unguided, so I can explore the reef with my buddy (Steve). We put on all our equipment, ran through the safety checks, and then jumped off the back of the boat! The water temperature is 29°c at the moment and feels more like a warm bath than the sea. Much of the coral reef is in shallow water so we stayed at around 8 metres throughout. This also means we can get about an hour buy cialis viagra underwater each dive! The reef is fascinating and teeming with life. As well as plenty of fish (we saw lots of Butterflyfish, Parrotfish and a Lionfish among others) there is every variety of coral imaginable, and a good number of sea cucumbers. Other than a couple of pool refreshers this was my first dive since Tenerife 8 years ago, and it was great to get back in the water again.

The rest of the day was non-stop. Lunch was served as soon as we surfaced from the first dive, and within an hour we were back in the water again for the second. This time we swam along a coral wall which stands in about 8 metres of water and reaches to just below the surface. We were out of the water just long enough for some tea and cake while the boat moved to the next site, another wall a little further along Milln Reef in 12 metres of water. This time we saw a number of Anenomefish which have a symbiotic relationship with the anemone (a type of plant) they live in. The plant provides protection for the fish (it can sting potential predators) while the fish keeps predators away from the plant. We also met a very small (and unidentified!) yellow fish which followed us for 20 minutes all the way back to the boat.

After dinner we prepared for our first night dive, which was at the same site so we would know our way around. We had an extended briefing, and were reassured that any sharks that might come out of the darkness are normally not aggressive. The storm that had developed while we were having dinner also added to the slightly nervous atmosphere! This time we were divided into small colour-coded groups (with glow sticks to match) and each group went on a guided dive with one of the divemasters. Although many fish are hiding from predators at night, there is plenty of other marine life on show, and it is a completely different experience to diving during the day. Shining torches into the darkness picked up many pairs of shrimp eyes. We also saw a large (30-40cm) crayfish swimming along the bottom, and some worms spiralling through the water. Finally it was back to the boat for some cake before everyone had an early night (except me – I was busy writing this blog!).

Tomorrow is another full day of diving starting at 7:30am.

Day 16: Cairns

Kat and I were up at 5:30 this morning so she could drive me to Brisbane airport for my flight to Cairns. This time I flew with Jetstar, which is the Australian equivalent of EasyJet or Ryan Air – and definitely a much better experience than both!

After checking into my hostel I went for a walk around Cairns. It is a small modern city in the state of Queensland, and the most northern point of my journey before I start heading back down towards Melbourne. A few hours was sufficient to walk around most of the city, with the main highlight being the marina and nearby lagoon. Although there are relatively few points of interest, it is a good base for exploring the surrounding area female viagra jelly of tropical rain forest. It also has the best access to the Great Barrier Reef, which is why I’m here!

In the evening I spent some time looking around the night markets, and experienced one of the frequent tropical storms they have in this part of Australia. After doing my best to dry off, I went to ‘Reef Teach’ which is a two hour presentation by a marine biologist explaining the large variety of fish and coral life that can be found on the reef. The Great Barrier Reef is around the size of the UK and is the only living organism that can be seen from space. It was particularly interesting to hear how the coral grows and recovers from damage caused by cyclones etc, but yet is so finely balanced that overfishing of just one type of fish can have a devastating effect. Perhaps the most important part though was the description of things to avoid – the most dangerous being the Box Jelly Fish, which is thought to be the most venomous animal in the world.

Tomorrow is another very early start – I’m off to see the reef up close!

Day 15: Brisbane and Mount Tamborine

While Noz started packing for her flight back to Sydney, Kat and I headed out into Brisbane. We planned to drive up to Mount Coot-tha where there is a lookout across the city but this, like many other places, was still closed off following the flooding last week. Instead we had a walk around the nearby botanical gardens and lunch in the cafe there. It was very hot and humid in the gardens, the temperature getting close to 35°c.

In the afternoon, while Kat took Noz back to the Gold Coast for her flight home, I met up with Alicia (another Australian friend) and we drove 70km south of Brisbane to Mount Tamborine. Here there are a number of wineries and other specialised shops – we tasted local cheese, fudge, and of course wine. Unfortunately my baggage allowance didn’t allow me to purchase any to bring home, but I can vouch for it all being very tasty – especially the cappuchino fudge and Moonrise Estate Shiraz! We then did a short walk into the rainforest to Curtis Falls. Along the way we saw a number of large lizards, and bush turkeys building their nests.

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In the evening we headed back into Brisbane and had a look around the CBD. It’s hard to believe that most of this area was under water just a few days ago – they have done a very impressive cleanup job. There are still some broken traffic lights, water being pumped out of underground car parks etc. and a few areas closed off for cleaning. Most of the restuarants are also closed but we found a sushi bar for dinner.

It’s an early start tomorrow – my flight to Cairns leaves Brisbane at 7:25am!

Day 14: Australia Zoo

Today we drove 60km north to Australia Zoo. Originally known as the ‘Beerwah Reptile and best prices on viagra Fauna Park’, it was established in 1970 by Steve Irwin (aka The Crocodile Hunter)’s parents. Steve and his wife Terri took over the running of the zoo in the 1990s and ensured that conservation and the animals in the zoo would always come first. Since Steve was fatally wounded by a stingray in 2006, Terri and their children Bindi and Robert have continued to expand the zoo in his memory.

The zoo is very impressive and well organised with plenty of shows and opportunities to interact with the animals there, many of which are ‘at risk’ species. My favourite is undoubtedly the koala, which is in decline due to deforestation (and therefore an ever decreasing habitat), attacks from domestic pets and car accidents. We also had the opportunity to feed the three elephants and get up close to the kangaroos. I’ll let the photos below tell the rest of the story, with the exception of how hot it is here! The temperature is noticeably higher in the Brisbane area (30°c or higher), presumably because it is slightly further north, and further inland than the other places I have been so far.

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In the evening Melita and I went for a quick run around Carseldine (in an attempt to try and do a least a little bit of marathon training!). We spent the rest of the evening relaxing at Kat’s house – Kat and Melita made fajitas and rice noodle rolls for dinner.

Tomorrow is our last day together in Brisbane before Noz flies back to Sydney and I continue my journey up the coast.

Day 13: The halfway and most eastern point

After checking out of our apartment this morning we had a very relaxing day around Byron Bay. Today is the halfway point of my time in Australia so it was a good chance to recharge ready viagra rx in canada for the next few weeks!

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We found a nice shady tree by the beach so we could sit and read for a while. However we soon realised why nobody else was sitting underneath it when a couple of birds landed on the branches above! Our search for a slightly safer location took us back to the Beach Hotel where we found a palm tree that was much less popular with the birds, and we stayed there for lunch.

In the afternoon we drove up to the Cape Byron Lighthouse which marks the eastern most point of Australia. We took one of the footpaths down to the rocks where there are lovely views of the coastline. We also saw a wallabe and mountain goat on the steep hills around the lighthouse.

Just before sunset we went back to the beach for an hour. It was very high tide so only a few metres of the beach were dry and the waves were a bit too strong for swimming, but we did manage a quick paddle. After filling up with pizza at Earth ‘n’ Sea we were back on the road. For the next few days we’re staying at Kat’s house in Carseldine, which is 10 miles north of Brisbane and thankfully unaffected by the recent floods.

Tomorrow we’re planning to go to Australia Zoo!

Day 12: A weekend in Byron Bay

We checked out of our Gold Coast apartment this morning and went to Madisons cafe in Broadbeach for some breakfast before the one hour drive down the coast. Next stop is Byron Bay, which is the most easterly town cheap viagra internet in Australia and is a popular holiday destination for both Australians and foreigners. We also crossed the border from Queensland back into New South Wales. Queensland is the only state not to use daylight savings time (apparently because it would confuse the cows!) so we lost an hour.

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Joining us for this part of the trip is Brooke, one of Noz’s friends from Camp America who was also over in London between 2005 and 2007. She currently works as PA to Anna Bligh, Premier of Queensland, and has therefore been very closely involved with the handling of the flood crisis.

After checking into our apartment we spent a few hours lying on the beach and swimming in the sea until sunset. In the evening we went for an alfresco dinner at a nice Italian restaurant called Fresh and then had a few drinks in the Beach Hotel. A live band called the Feramones were playing a variety of rock hits – their British lead guitarist also played lead guitar for 10cc. We finished the night at Cheeky Monkeys, a local tableTOP dancing club, where half of the dance floor is made up of tables!

Tomorrow we are planning to have a relaxing day in Byron Bay.

Day 11: Last day on the Gold Coast

Beck popped round this morning with Mia and Zoe to bring us some T-shirts she made to commemorate our reunion. my canadian pharmacy online We had brunch at Pancakes in Paradise and, while I was happy with the All You Can Eat option, Noz went for the slightly unusual combination of bacon and maple syrup!

In the afternoon we spent a little while relaxing in the apartment before meeting up with Kat’s sisters, Sandra and Melita. We all went to play a few games of Putt Putt (also known as mini/crazy golf). The second course was definitely the more challenging of the two and while some of us kept our composure, others (not mentioning any names!) got more frustrated and ended up hitting the ball all over the place!

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In the evening we went to Broadbeach and met up with Beck and Matt for one last time. After some pink champagne in one of the many bars we had dinner at Mama Roma, while a live band played on the nearby outdoor stage. We moved onto a bar called Howl on the Moon which is known for its live pianists and vocalists playing a mixture of contemporary and older music while dancing on the pianos! We finished the night at a couple of clubs in Surfers Paradise.

We have to be out of our apartment early tomorrow before moving on to Byron Bay!

Day 10: Water, water and more water

We were up (relatively) early today and drove to Southport for a surfing lesson. Southport canada viagra for sale is the northern most part of the Gold Coast and was officially the first settlement point in the area. The lesson started on the beach where the instructor gave us a quick overview of how surfing is supposed to work, the kind of waves to look out for, and how to handle the rip currents. In summary, to be a successful beginner you need to:

  1. Walk out a suitable distance from the beach
  2. Pick a good wave
  3. Lie on the surfboard and start paddling towards the beach
  4. When the wave catches the surfboard stand up

Unsurprisingly, all of these are easier said than done! We started by practising the first three stages on the beach, and then in the water. The sea was quite rough again today so fighting the waves to get out into the sea was difficult enough, let alone finding the right type of wave and getting on the board in time! However, we all managed it a couple of times and then went back onto the beach to practice standing up. There are a couple of different methods but they all rely on being exactly in the right position and balanced on the board, or you end up performing a wipeout! We practised the movements a number of times on the beach before going back into the water to give it a go. After many failed attempts and a couple of wipeouts I did finally manage to stand up on the board for a whole 2-3 seconds, so the lesson was at least partially successful. In conclusion, surfing is definitely much harder and physically exhausting than it looks… and I might need a few more lessons before I enter any competitions!

We then drove to the opposite end of the Gold Coast for lunch at the Beach Shack in Currumbin, followed by a walk along the beach. This is a particularly picturesque (and surprisingly quiet) beach, at the end of which is Currumbin Rock where some nice rock patterns have formed.

We spent the evening at the Wet ‘n’ Wild Water World theme park which has a variety of water rides. After some hesitation we went on the newest and fastest of these which is the AquaLoop. You start the ride by standing in a capsule and, after a countdown, a trap door opens and there is a near vertical drop leading into a large loop. Apparently you can reach speeds of 60km/hour on this ride!

After all our exertions we’re planning to have a more relaxing day tomorrow…

Day 9: Beach and BBQ

Today we had a very traditional Australian day! The sun was out this morning so we decided to postpone Wet ‘n’ Wild and head to the beach instead. Our accomadation is in the Surfer’s Paradise area of the Gold Coast, and just 10 minutes walk from one of the many beaches along the coast. The sea was particularly sildenafil rough today, but the lifeguards are very good at keeping people in safe areas and away from the rip tides. We had lunch on Cavill Avenue, which is the main street in Surfer’s Paradise, with plenty of shops, cafes and restaurants.

In the evening we made the short journey down the coast to Palm Beach, where Beck, her husband Matt and their children live. Beck’s parents (Pete and Pat) own a camper van and are always on the move, but happened to be staying outside Beck and Matt’s house at the moment before leaving for Tasmania in a few weeks. We had a nice relaxing evening with a BBQ, pavlova (which is a traditional Australian dessert) and plenty of XXXX (which is brewed in Brisbane!).

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Tomorrow we’re continuing with the Australian traditions and going surfing!

Day 8: A final look around Sydney

Today was my last day in Sydney before moving on to the Gold Coast. While Noz did her packing, I went generic viagra cheap back into the centre for a last walk around before leaving.

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I started by taking a tour around the inside of the Opera House. The tour focused on the architecture, the design of which was chosen from hundreds of competition entries in 1955. The design was originally controversial, and construction work started before they had any idea of how to build the iconic roof. The project went so over budget that the government removed funding before work was completed, and the chosen architect (Jorn Utzon) was forced to resign. The inside therefore features a mix of Jorn Utzon’s architecture, and that of the local architects who replaced him. Jorn Utzon was later brought back onto the project, but never saw the finished building. In addition to the large concert hall, opera theatre and three smaller theatres there are 1000 other rooms, some under sea level. Although the audience experience is first class, the building provides plenty of challenges for the theatre companies performing there. The most difficult of these is the lack of wing space caused by the narrow piece of land (Dawes Point) on which it is built.

Next I walked up towards Hyde Park and had a look around St Mary’s Cathedral, which is unusual as it has a north to south orientation, rather than the usual east to west. After a further 15 minute walk down the busy Market Street I reached Darling Harbour. This is a recently rejuvinated area of Sydney and features mainly bars, restaurants, leisure venues and museums – including the Sydney Aquarium, Sydney Wildlife World and the National Maritime Museum (home to HMAS Vampire). I spent 30 mins looking around the shark exhibition in the Maritime Museum, which might come in useful when I’m diving with some of them later in my trip!

In the afternoon I met up with Noz and went to the airport for our flight to the Gold Coast in Queensland. Kat drove from her home in Brisbane (which is around 70km away) to pick us up from the airport, and we are all staying in an apartment a few minutes walk from the beach. The weather is very mixed here with the recent heavy rain causing severe flooding in Brisbane and the surrounding area, some of which has been evacuated. The flooding has mostly affected areas that are slightly inland, and therefore the Gold Coast should not have any problems. The peak of the flooding is expected in the next day or two, after which it is hoped that the situation will improve.

In the evening Beck (who lives on the Gold Coast) joined us in the apartment for drinks. Noz, Beck and Kat were my first housemates in Drury Road, and it’s the first time we’ve all been together since Kat left London at the end of 2005!

Tomorrow’s plans are very weather dependant – if it’s dry we’ll probably go to the beach, otherwise Wet ‘n’ Wild where it won’t matter too much if it’s raining!

Day 7: Driving down the coast

Today we drove southwards down the coast from Sydney. After about an hour we reached Wollongong where Noz viagr a pfizer went to university, and 10km from her family home in Dapto. We took the Grand Pacific Drive which follows the coastline and features the Sea Cliff Bridge. The bridge is parallel to the coastline but extends out above the sea and therefore away from the rock face. It was built in 2005 primarily to reduce the risk of falling rocks hitting traffic, and has been used by a number of car manufacturers for their TV advertisements.

Next we headed inland slightly to Jamberoo and the nearby Illawarra Fly Tree Top Walk. As we drove up into the mountains the weather quickly changed from a warm sunny day to cloud and drizzle. The tree top walk runs through the rainforest and is up to 45 metres above the ground. Although we could hear plenty of wildlife (there should be birds, wombats, snakes and owls among others) we didn’t actually see any. The views of the rainforest and surrounding area (including Lake Illawarra and the coast) were excellent though.

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We then drove back down to the coast and a town called Kiama. Here there is a natural blowhole which forces a jet of water into the air as the waves come in. There wasn’t a huge swell today so only the crabs and lizards on nearby rocks were getting wet – I’m sure it would catch a few visitors by surprise when the sea is rougher!

Once back in Sydney, I went to the open air cinema in Bondi Pavilion (right next to Bondi Beach). The Australian Film Festival (Flickerfest) is taking place at the moment and they were showing 10 short films from emerging Australian filmmakers. Everyone was given a score sheet to rate each of the films so that they can decide on an overall winner at the end.

Tomorrow we are flying to the Gold Coast in Queensland to meet up with Kat.

Day 6: The Blue Mountains

This morning we set off for the Blue Mountains. This mountain range surrounds Sydney on the west and runs right down through New South Wales and into Victoria. The mountains get their name from the blue tinge of the gum trees. We parked in a town called Katoomba – the largest town in the Blue Mountains and traditionally a centre for coal mining. We had some lunch in the Common Ground Cafe which, we later found out, is natural viagra pills run by a contraversial sect called The Twelve Tribes. The food was very good though, and catered well for vegetarians!

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After lunch we visited Scenic World. Despite sounding like a theme park, they offers a variety of ‘rides’ and walks around the valley, rock formations and rainforest. First we took the Scenic Skyway which travels across the Jamison Valley, 200m above the rainforest below. It provides excellent views of the Katoomba Falls and the Three Sisters – a rock formation surrounded by Aboriginal legend. From the other side of the valley we were able to walk down to part of the falls and through some of the nearby rainforest. Next we took the Scenic Railway (which has the steepest railway incline in the world) deeper into the valley and walked through more of the rainforest and areas where coal used to be mined. Finally, the Sceniscender (the steepest aerial cable car in Australia) took us back up to the top of the valley, past another rock formation called Orphan Rock.

We spent the final few hours of sunlight walking around the Prince Henry Cliff Walk which takes you onto the first of the Three Sisters and then further round the cliff edge. The views across the valley and mountains stretch as far as the eye can see and are breathtaking. After all the walking we had a well deserved coffee and chocolate cake before starting the 2 hour drive back to Sydney for a takeaway curry and film!

Tomorrow we’re planning to drive down the coast to Noz’s home town of Wollongong.

Day 5: Sydney Harbour

For the third day running we made the 30 minute train journey from Noz’s house in Kingsgrove to Circular Quay, which is the right in the middle of Sydney Harbour, and close to both the Opera House and Harbour Bridge. From there you can catch ferries to various places around the vast harbour.

We took a ferry over to Manly, cialis online ordering which is a seaside resort near the main entrance to the harbour, and just slightly down the coast from Bondi Beach. The 30 minute ferry ride offers excellent panoramic views of the harbour, which was the perfect opportunity for me to try out the panorama feature on my new camera! The journey was eventful in itself though when we seemed to be heading more towards the South Pacific Ocean than Manly, but after a short stop while they resolved the ‘technical difficulties’ we were on our way again.

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Once in Manly we walked along the waterfront and found Hugo’s Pizza Bar. Having had the best milkshakes and cocktails in the world yesterday, this was undoubtedly the best pizza! The selection was very good (even for vegetarians!) but we finally settled on “Roasted pumpkin, zucchini, sweet and sour onions, gorgonzola, pine nuts” and “Asparagus, goats curd, walnuts, garlic, egg, parmesan and truffle oil”. The view wasn’t bad either!

Having caught the ferry back to Circular Quay we headed over to the south end of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, where we had a bridge climb booked. This 3 hour experience allows you to climb right to the top of the upper arch on the bridge on the east side, and then back down on the west. It took around 30 minutes or so for our group to prepare for the climb – putting on grey jumpsuits (so we would blend into the bridge and not distract traffic), harnesses, and radios so we could hear our guide. They also provided special clips so we could secure sunglasses, hats etc in case it was a little windy! The first part of the climb was inside the structure of the bridge, where you really get an idea of the scale and complexity of the construction. Although the design itself is not unique, it is the largest and widest single span bridge in the world, catering for 8 lanes of traffic, 2 railway lines and a footpath. The climb then took us up through the road onto the upper arch of the bridge, and as we continued to climb we could see across the whole of Sydney – from the Blue Mountains to Bondi Beach. Our guide was very knowledgeable – not just about the bridge itself, but Sydney as a whole and how it grew from the time the first convicts arrived. As we climbed down the east side of the bridge the sun was just starting to set over the city.

After a quick recovery drink in the Harbour View Hotel (which itself was relocated by about 100 metres so that the bridge could be built) we walked to Hyde Park where the first night of the Sydney Festival was in full swing. Most of the city seemed to be out for the free street entertainment.

Tomorrow we’re planning to drive inland slightly, and up to the Blue Mountains.

Day 4: Milkshakes, sangria and cocktails

As planned we had a nice relaxing day today, starting with a cooked breakfast at a local cafe. The building used to be a post office, so it is called the ‘Post generic viagra professional Cafe’ and (according to Noz!) serves the best milkshakes in the world. Over breakfast we made plans for the next few days in Sydney, and the rest of my time in Australia.

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We spent the afternoon driving around Noz’s neighbourhood, including the houses she’s lived in and schools she’s worked in since she left London in 2007.

In the evening we met up with Noz’s sister Shaina and her fiancé Mark at a nice pub in a part of Sydney called The Rocks. This (originally rocky) area is close to the harbour and reminds me very much of Covent Garden with a vibrant atmosphere, street stalls and live music. Tonight it seemed to be full of the Barmy Army celebrating the Ashes win earlier in the day. Noz’s parents joined us all for dinner (and sangria) in an Italian restaurant where the intermittent but heavy rain forced us to play musical tables most of the evening. We ended up changing tables multiple times and had problems getting our food to follow, but apart from that it was a lovely evening.

Finally Noz and I walked down George Street (one of the main streets through Sydney) to Australia Square and the Summit building. On floor 47 was the rotating Orbit bar which (according to me!) serves the best cocktails in the world.

Tomorrow we’re planning to climb Sydney Harbour Bridge!

Day 3: I'm off to Sydney

I woke up quite early viagra with no prescription in britain and started getting all my things together ready to move on to Sydney. I had an hour or so to spare before leaving the hostel so went for a walk around the St Kilda area where I’ve been staying, a few kilometres south of central Melbourne. There are plenty of bars and resturants, an amusement park, and beaches. It was much warmer in Melbourne today, probably getting close to 30°c.

I had a much easier transfer back to the airport than I did when I arrived, and it took less than 10 minutes to check-in and get through security! The flight to Sydney was just under 2 hours and provided a great view of the city as we landed, including the top of the famous Opera House in the distance. Noz picked me up from the airport and we headed back to her house in the suburbs for a few beers and a catch up. I also met Stella, Miles, Bella, Missy and Kate (2 dogs, 2 cats and Noz’s housemate respectively), and was treated to Stella’s customary welcome (which is probably best described at a later date…)

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We decided to spend the evening in the city centre, starting with a glass of champagne in the Opera Bar – right next to the Opera House and Harbour Bridge. I also had my first experience of Australian rain – within seconds of the first couple of drops it was pouring down, but it was the warm kind of rain and didn’t last too long. We found a nice restaurant for some dinner before getting the CityRail back home for some much needed sleep.

Tomorrow we’ve having a relaxing day while planning the next couple of days in Sydney. In the evening Noz’s family are all coming to the centre and we’re going out for dinner!

Day 2: Kangaroos, Koalas and Penguins

My planned search for Fairy Penguins almost fell at the first hurdle when a mistake on my booking meant I didn’t get picked up when I should have, but fortunately a short taxi ride later I caught up with the tour bus!

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The first stop was the Moonlit Sanctuary wildlife conservation park which is around 40km south of Melbourne. Here we saw many animals indigenous to Australia – overnight canadian viagra including long-neck turtles, koalas, dingos, wallabies, wombats and kangaroos. Koalas definitely win the prize for the cutest animal, but also the laziest… they do very little other than eat and sleep! We then moved on to a working farm on Churchill Island which included a sheep shearing demonstration and a chance to look around the old farmhouse, restored to its original state when it was built in the 1850s.

Although we had already had the chance to see one koala in the conservation park, we popped into the Koala Conservation Centre where you can see koalas in their natural habitat. The highlight was a mother and baby, and a male who obviously wanted to be the father for her next baby! Continuing our journey onto Phillip Island ready for the main evening event, we spent some time at Cape Woolamai which is a lovely beach (with the exception of the dangerous rip tides and occasional Great White shark) and Seal Rock (which is unsurprising home to a large seal community).

Finally we took up our seats on Summerland Beach ready for the famous ‘Penguin Parade’. Everyday thousands of Little Penguins (also known as Fairy Penguins) make the journey up the beach from the sea to their burrows, which can be over 1km inland. At this time of year most have chicks waiting at home and spend the day fishing out at sea. The event happens daily like clockwork, as the penguins wait for the sunset to reduce the risk of predators as they cross the open beach. It is a fascinating experience to see so many penguins (which are about 1 foot tall) waddling up the beach in packs, occasionally running back to the sea if they think there might be danger before regrouping and trying again.

My time in Melbourne is already up, although I’m hoping to spend a few more days here at the end of January before flying home. Tomorrow I fly to Sydney to meet up with Noz!

Day 1: Melbourne

I arrived in Melbourne late last night and despite missing the last trams I finally found my hostel and went straight to bed. It was quite strange to wake up and see sunshine out of the window… Melbourne is a pleasant 25°c at the moment. I decided to spend my first day exploring the city a bit – starting with the impressive Queen Victoria market with 100s of stalls selling everything from food to souvenirs. Then I moved on to cheap viagra for sale the old Melbourne Gaol which is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Melbourne and has a very interesting history, particularly surrouding Ned Kelly who was contraversially hanged there in 1880. Next I hopped on one of the old trams and headed down to the north bank of the Yarra River, and lunch in Federation Square. On my way I caught my first glimspe of the MCG (don’t mention the cricket…) and the giant screen showing the final test in Federation Square was certainly not drawing huge crowds! Just off Federation Square is Melbourne’s own version of St Paul’s Cathedral – not quite as large or historic as its London counterpart but a beautiful building all the same. Finally I spent a few hours wandering through the vast Royal Botanic Gardens. Tommorrow I’m off to Phillip Island in search of Fairy Penguins!

Almost there!

We have just crossed the west coast of Australia, around 24 hours after I left Heathrow. It’s my first time in the southern hemisphere – unsurprisingly it looks much the same as its northern counterpart, but I will be testing the direction water runs down the plughole at the earliest opportunity – results to follow! Australia itself looks like a very big desert – most importantly there is plenty of sun and not a flake of canada viagra no prescription snow in sight. Anyway, the stewards are about to serve the second dinner of the flight (the first was a Doha time dinner!). Next update from Melbourne…

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A quick(ish) stop in Qatar

Well that’s part one of the journey done! I’m now in Doha, the capital city of Qatar which is a small country viagra buy now on the east coast of Saudi Arabia, and very close to Dubai. On the flight I met someone from Chennai in southern India. 45 minutes before his connecting flight out of Doha I found him fast asleep in departure lounge so woke him up, helped him find his missing boarding pass and got him on the flight – definitely my good deed for the day! Now I’m trying to find things to keep me occupied for the rest of my 7 hour wait (like updating this blog) so I don’t fall asleep too!

I'm finally on my way!

After a packed week of doing almost everything but packing, I did finally start getting buy viagra on internet all my things together just a few hours before leaving for Heathrow. I’ve been so busy with things like New Year’s Eve, the dreaded tax return, and tidying up the house that I haven’t really had a chance to get used to the idea that I’ll be in Australia in about 30 hours time! Hopefully I haven’t forgotten anything and I can just get on the plane and fall asleep…