Thursday, December 28, 2006

An authentic aussie barbeque

Wednesday, December 27, 2006


So - what have I been doing in Australia? After 5 days in Sydney I hired a car and hit the open road. Basically my plan was to head south from Sydney, take in Melbourne and head over to Adelaide. Unfortunately I hadn't reckoned on how bloody big Australia is, and seeing as it's 1000kms from Sydney to melbourne and I had the car for only 8 days, I struck Adelaide off the itinerary.

The furtherest west I went was the Great Ocean Road - which had spectacular rugged cliffs and long stetches of golden beaches - and on the way back I passed the edge of the enormous forest fires they have been having in Victoria. Dead wierd experience actually. Also I've done yoga on the beach at Byron Bay and met a pron star called Ceaser while out clubbing in Melbourne.

However, the highlight of Australia so far has to be snorkjelling on the Great Barrier Reef, where you get amazingly clear views of multi-coloured coral, thousands of tropical fish swimming just out of your reach and jellyfish you can bat around as you like. The only drawback was the ridiculous superhero type pajama things you have to waer because it's stinger season. I was out in the water for about and hour and a half, but it just went in no time. Unfortunately I made a bit of a twat of myself in the beginning because my mask wasn't on properly (I have to say tours aren't very thorough with their instructions in Australia in my opinion). When I jumped in, my mask filled with water and basically I couldn't see or breath. But after everyone had seen my flailing around, gasping for air, trying to get back to the yacht it all went smoothly. One of the best things I've done on the trip.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Walkabout in Oz

So with the benefit of hindsight, I realise I have probably overdone my enthusiasm about my two weeks in Australia so far - and if I'm honest my impartiality will be in large part due to my brief but perfect holiday romance with a beautiful German from Munich who I met in Sydney.

But having said that I am still a little bit in love with Australia. It's not the weather, because that's been mixed since I've been here - I got absolutely soaked in a thunderstorm in Sydney the other week and when I went to the Blue Mountains west of Sydney it was so cold I could see my breath when I breathed. On the other hand, there have been days when it was sunny all day and the temperature was about 40 degrees.

What I love is the way the scenery is spectacular, but taken for granted. In New Zealand it wasn't exactly congested, but here the geography is so much bigger and the tourist industry so much less commercialised that you feel more dwarfed by the landscape. When I went along the Great Ocean Road west of Melbourne, I found loads of beaches completely deserted where I could walk for hours and hours completely undetected. I also love the fact that in most restaurants it is standard practice that you can bring along your own bottle, mostly without corkage as well. And the food is so fresh and cheap - main courses will often cost less than AU$10 (four quid).

Things I have learnt:

  • Parts of Australia have a half hour time zone. If it's 10am in Sydney and Melbourne, it'll be 9.30am in Adelaide. i think the same is true for the Northern Territories. Has anyone heard of anywhere else in the world with a half
    hour time zone? I haven't. I can't see the need for it myself, as the half hour can't hardly make much of a difference for those few days each year when it's relevant. Personally, i think it's mostly so that they can be mentioned on every time
    check on every radio station on each and every hour.

  • Australian drivers (or at least those between Sydney and Melbourne) are incredibly bad at moving into the left-hand lane when driving. Therefore you see an enormous amount of overtaking on the inside lane - which would drive my brother mad. He get worked up by the bad habits of most drivers, but overtaking on the inside is his particular bete noire.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Arriving in Oz

Well apologies for not updating this blog more often over the last couple of weeks, but I have had an absolute ball of a time in Australia. To tell the truth, I only came to this part of the world to visit New Zealand, and to explore the amazing countryside there, and might well have not stopped in Australia if some of my family hadn’t lived here.

I really enjoyed Sydney, and could easily see myself emigrating - great restaurants, great nightlife, great city in which to just chill-out and watch the world go by. The only drawback I've seen is the addiction to jogging. One my first day I thought I had stumbled across a special charity day of jogging, as thousands and thousands of people were streaming past me when I was trying to see the sights. Weirdly they seem to do it all the time...

I also met up with Neil Phillips while I was in town (veteran and former ippr-staffers will know who that is). Unfortunately he looks younger, thinner and healthier, but apart from that it was good to see him again. (I do have a picture of us both taken by a drunk Australian in a pub, but he has his eyes closed and it's not a good one of me, so I'm not going to upload it).

Have to rush now to get a train, but that will at least give me a chance to write up some of my experiences in Australia so expect more on Sydney et al soon(ish).

Cute little animals

I've had a request from one of my many followers for more information on the cute little animals I've encountered on my travels, and I'm only too happy to accommodate. I came across all of these animals in the South Island of New Zealand, and just bumped into them in the wild - no zoos were visited in the making of these pictures...

  • I came across this big fellow on one of the beaches in Southland. I had just pulled over to have a walk on the beach and have a look at a small lighthouse, and saw four/five sea lions relaxing further along the beach. This one had come up from the water and was having a bit of a kip, but I never saw the one in the background move so it could have been dead...

  • After nearly running over that penguin I parked up, but sadly didn't get that close to one again (if only I'd been quicker with the camera). In any case, these are Yellow-Eyed Penguins, quite rare but not as rare as the Fiordland Penguins I saw in Milton Sound.

  • A seal in Kaikoura.
  • I came across these baby chamois during my two-day walk on the Queen Charlotte trail. To be honest, I hadn't realised that a chamois was an animal and thought it just referred to a generic piece of leather you could use to clean your car.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Leaving New Zealand

It's been over two weeks since my last blog, so apologies to regular readers (both of them) but I'm now in Melbourne and before I update on my Australian adventures, I thought it best to finish off with New Zealand.

Since I left you, I've been hiking around Mt Cook, the highest mountain in NZ; wildlife spotting in the Caitlins, where I nearly ran over a penguin and got up close and personal with a sea lion; hiked 50 kms in a 2-day walk along the beautiful coastal Queen Charlotte Walk; and raced the car back to Auckland.

New Zealand had spectacular scenery, and I really enjoyed my time there and at some stage I hope to go back to do some more walks that take a few days. Auckland was pretty dull, and I begrudge the time I spent there but Wellington seemed like a city with more going on. In some ways I thought it still felt like a frontier mentality - car culture is dominant and there is literally next to no public transport, if the media is any guide agriculture is the only industry worth bothering about and there were just too many anti-tax anti-government bumper stickers not to remind you of mid-west USA. But the tourist industry is incredibly entrepreneurial, and as they sell themselves very well it's incredibly easy to be a tourist and you'll end up having a great time whatever you choose to do.

Things I have learnt:
  • The mullet is fashionable again amongst young men in Australia (then again,
    perhaps it never went out of fashion)