Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Brisbane to Cairns...

Road Trip 2: Sydney to Brisbane:

We left on Easter weekend, destination Brisbane via the beautiful East Coast on another road trip. It was not to be as epic as our first mammoth journey across Australia, but, it was to be yet another little cracker. Our travel companions; Ayse and Dan, a couple from Southampton that we actually met way back in October in Halong Bay, Vietnam are great fun and full of life. It really is a small world full of surprises. The east coast is all about the beaches, they have some beautiful tranquil spots with a host of water sports always on offer. We first went to a place called Caves beach, the waves were really crashing in and we were welcomed in by the local life guards who were celebrating Easter in their little social club by the beach. Great stuff, I was called a POMIE all night but it was worth it as they fed us up well with plenty of fresh prawns and beer all night...they loved us really. I remember going back to our tent that night and looking up at the sky, it was flickering with lights in the distance; a storm was heading our way and building it's rage as it swept across the sea. We watched with nervous anticipation, as the storm edged closer and the sound, the rumble of thunder got louder and louder. And then quiet...the storm was right over us. We all held our breath and looked at each other, and then without warning a gust of gale force wind picked up our tent and almost blew us over. The power was unrelentless; lightning strikes, torrential rain, gale force wind...I loved it.

We traveled further up north to a place called Seal Rocks, and the beach was a little bit special. I tried surfing for the first time here and spent most of the day trying to just stay on the board never mind catching a wave. I got talking to a guy whilst we were waiting for a wave and asked him if any sharks came here, and he told me a couple of Tiger sharks patrol this area and are regularly seen. He even said I might see one today. I wished I'd have never even asked him that question as I realised how far I had drifted; I was right out with all the big boy's and the realisation quickly dawned on me that I would be the last one out of the water if a shark was sighted. We made our way up north and passed through Port Macquarie, Kempsey, Arakon before arriving at the beautiful coastal city of Coffs Harbour. We where almost half way to Brisbane now and had camped in some very remote stretches of beach. We arrived at one of my favourite places, Byron Bay on the 11th April. It has a cool hippie vibe, and everyone is concerned with having a good time. We went on a lovely coastal walk up to Cape Byron, battling through the elements to be greeted with a stunning panorama view of the Bay and of a Pod of dolphins swimming in the current below us. In my opinion it is so much better than Surfers Paradise; a place that is commercial and over hyped. We had a great week traveling up to Brisbane, it was yet another week on the road waking up to new landscapes and experiences every day...It is definitely the core to a man's living spirit.

Caves Beach

Beautiful beach of Seal Rocks...

First ever attempt at surfing

Another beautiful beach on the east coast...

Nobody but us was on this secluded stretch of beach at Bundjalung NP

View from Cape Byron

Windy on Cape Byron

You can just make out the Pod of Dolphins playing in the surf

Brisbane to Carins and the Great Barrier Reef...

The only good thing about Brisbane was beating Everton in the FA Cup Semi-Final and watching it with a load of scousers that I had met in South East Asia. The weather was grim everyday and me and Laura were feeling the pace of being on the raod. So we decided on heading up to Carins and the Great Barrier Reef, the cheapest and quickest way and that was to fly directly to Cairns and catch a return flight back to Brisbane in order to get our international flight out to NZ on May 2nd.

The humidity was the first thing that hit us when we got off the plane, the heat was intense but lovely. We spent the next few days taking it easy, enjoying the heat and after a couple of days the sunshine. I knew right then we made the right decision in coming up to Cairns, it is a place to relax and take it easy. We booked our Barrier Reef trip and I ended up securing a good deal which included two dives on the outer reef. The day was beautiful, sunny and so calm. We arrived at Moore Reef and I got set up for my dives. The dives where great but I expected more. To be honest the snorkeling is better, since all the life and colour is in the first 4-6 meters. We dived at around 16 meters, although it was a great experience, the the visibility was poor. So after both dives I indulged in some top notch Snorkeling observing a host of beautiful and colourful coral, graciously flowing in the current and glistening in the sunlight. I love to swim with the fish and watch them carry on  with their daily lives, chasing one another, prodding and eating the coral and cruising happily past me completely at ease with human's a surreal experience.

Australia was a pleasure, so diverse and so massive that it has it all; landscape, wildlife, culture, sport and much more. We spent 3 months traveling around and never even came close to seeing it all. It is definitely a place I will go to again. Next destination is New Zealand, a place of so many scenic wonders and a drop in at least 30 degrees, which means I will be swaping my 'boardies' for 'longy's' for the first time in 10 months.

Let's have it !!!

On route to the outer Great Barrier Reef

Getting ready for my first dive on the reef

Waterfall in Cairns

Saturday, 26 May 2012

The East Coast...Melbourne to Sydney


"Oh my God, it's Jesus of Nazareth"...This was the first thing Laura's cousin, Kev said to me when we arrived in Melbourne after 12 days on the road. I was by now looking a bit like a hippie, resembling my hero; Lister out of Red Dwarf, so it was time for a good shave and a hair cut...Ok a trim. It was great to know that we were staying with Lauras family right in the heart of Melbourne city; a place to relax with out the fuss of looking for accommodation and spending lots of money. Melbourne is a great place, it is so cosmopolitan and Bohemian. What I love about it more than anything else is that there is always something happening every day, it has a special vibe and you can feel it as you meander around the city streets. For example, One day we walked into a superstore in the city and the next thing I know I am having a question and answer session with Jamie Oliver and ended up winning a $200 frying pan...'only in Melbourne' . Our arrival coincided with the Fringe festival which meant that the city was alive with music, art and dance, even the busking is of the highest calibre. Most days we would walk over to the city via the beautiful Botanical Gardens, were hundreds of people run around the famous 3 mile Tan; health & fitness is a life style choice over here and it seems that everyone is getting involved. If there is one thing the Aussie's love more than anything else, it's sport, they love their sport, and their passion for it is evident all around the city. The massive sporting complex  on the edge of the city has everything from an indoor football pitch to state of the art Tennis facilities where they hold the Open, to Rugby stadiums and of course the MCG that holds Victoria's prestigious Australian Rules Football Grand Final. Professional and amateur sports play along side each other and there are pitches and sports fields everywhere. Even on the Yara river sport takes place; rowing clubs compete almost every day and while we were there they hosted the World Water Skiing Championships which was great to watch. I can see why It was voted the most livable city in the world. 

The first day I was there I was walking past the MCG on the way into the city and noticed  that there was a one day international cricket match on: Australia v Sri Lanka, Great stuff. I bought a concession ticket with me out of date student card and watched my first ever international game at the MCG. What an amazing stadium. I was sitting with all the Sri Lanka fans, they just love their cricket and they are renown for creating the best atmosphere. I got up close and personal with Lasith Malinga and was actually thinking of All Saints version of Malinga; Elis 'Malinga' Rawlinson, so the photograph is for you mate...believe me I had to duck and dive through security to get it so enjoy. I remember going to get a coffee during the game and noticed a small crowd, when I got closer I realised it was the cricket nets that  they use to warm up before and during the game. I was standing  watching Micheal Hussie in the nets with his coaches just before he came on to bat at number 6. He just makes it look so easy, he has every shot in the book and to watch him at such close range was unbelievable. One minute he is a couple of metres away from me and the next thing he is at the crease...crazy. I had a great day at the cricket and the Sri Lanka fans went berserk when  the main man Malinga bowled his trade mark wide arm sling  to Doherty in the final over, who went for a big six to win it for Australia and was caught by Dilshan on the boundary.  Sri Lanka won it in the 50th over to clinch victory after a nail biting finish in Commonwealth Bank Series.

While we were there it was Lauras birthday so we all got dolled up and went for a meal in the city. As we were waiting to order Lauras Mum and Dad came into the restaurant...what a surprise, it must rank as her best ever birthday present. Kev booked us all tickets for the Australian Grand Prix on the Sunday to further celebrate Laura's birthday. It was the opening race of the season, and what a race and what a day. It was the first time I had ever been to the Grand Prix, there is such an electric buzz around the place and the noise of the F1 cars is unbelievable...such raw power. Before the race all the drivers take part in a lap of honor. I got right up to the track and gave Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton a shout and they let onto me ha ha ha... 'only in Melbourne'. We got ourselves a great position on the track and watched a really exciting race; but Jenson Button was class and led from start to finish after a shaky start. Every lap he showed skill and aggression to keep the class Sebastian Vettel at bay and get the best out of the Maclearn car and win the opening race.  He was just unbeatable and to watch him has made me a F1 fan. Vettel came second and Lewis Hamilton finished third to get himself on the podium, which meant a great day for us 'English'. We had a great 3 weeks staying in Melbourne and we were fully recharged and ready to travel up to Sydney. There is a special vibe in Melbourne and we had so many unexpected surprises in such a short time. Kev summed this beautiful and vibrant city, the best, he would sit back with a wry  and assured smile and proudly utter the words ...'Only in Melbourne'.

Watching my first ever international at the MCG

He's not happy, I Ducked and dived security for this photo

This one is for Ellis 'Malinga' Rawlinson

Overlooking the Yara river with Melbourne city behind me

My hero...Jamie Oliver...where's me pan?

Me and Emma with our $200 frying pans...get in there!!!

All the gang on a day out in Melbourne

At the Grand Prix

Soaking up the electric atmosphere

Sebastien Vettel who trailed Jenson Button all race


After a 14 hour train ride through the night and pins and needles in both legs we eventually arrived in Sydney on the morning of Wednesday 21st March. It was a gloomy day in Sydney but we made the most of the day by visiting all the icon attractions including the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. We were lucky to be staying with some more of Laura's family in's mad, I have never known anyone to have so much family in the Southern Hemisphere. Laura's family, Brian and Marie and of course Nina Aka...'Slasher' the cat, live in the beautiful suburb of Caringbarh, located perfectly for access to all the best beaches; Cornulla,  Bronte and Bondi. Over the next few weeks, Marie and Brian took us to great places around Sydney, visiting beaches, doing coastal walks and eating in delicious bistro's and feasting on Brian's excellent home cooked culinary delights...I actually think I put weight on for the first time in my life. I love to cook and he taught me some great dishes which I have since used whilst on the road...delicious. Through the week days, me and Laura did our own things, sightseeing, walking around Woolworths and spending lots of our time down the local beach at Cronulla. What a mesmerising beach; everyone is surfing, swimming, kayaking and what ever else you can do in the day I watched a year 8 class surfing as part of there PE lesson...class.  

Laura's best friend Katie and her boyfriend Kieran had only just emigrated over to Sydney from Liverpool when we arrived. So, after a couple days we got to meet up, spending the evening in their wonderful new home and indulging in a great 'Ozzie' bbq! They live in Newtown, a very open, bohemian and cool little place with a very friendly vibe. People work hard here, long hours, but, they play hard too, and really live at the weekends., its my kind of place. We met up with Katie and Kieran a number of times together with their Dutch friends and had some great times at the beach, surfing and body boarding and having a few beers...good times. We had a great stay with Maria and Brian, they are lovely people and made us feel right at home in their beautiful apartment. Again we were planning to get back on the road, and has fate would have it we got in touch with a couple we first met way back in October in Halong Bay, Vietnam. Dan and Ayse are from Southampton an were looking for travel companions on their way up the East to Brisbane. Great news. We exchanged numbers and organised a date for our 2nd road trip...Sydney to Brisbane and it was to be yet another little cracker.

Sydney Harbour Bridge

Outside the Oprah House
This time on a sunny day...

Surf lesson on Cronulla Beach...class

With Marie and Brian on a coastal walk


Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Perth to Melbourne... (Part 3)

Saturday 25th - Sunday 26th February 2012

It was late in the afternoon when we arrived in Adelaide and we were feeling a little tired after camping all week, but, we were excited to be meeting our friend Olympia again. She is a beautiful spirited, warm and welcoming. We met her and her two boys in Vietnam way back in October. Her boys Panayioti (19) and Harris (17) as you have probably already guessed are of Greek heritage and are similar to their mum in that they are just quality genuine people. I remember when we bumped into them in Vietnam, we just hit it off and she invited us to stay with them when we arrived in Adelaide. We bumped into them a number of times as we traveled around Vietnam. It was clear when we did as we would hear the familiar humble greetings shouted out to us by the boys...SCOUSERS!!!. She welcomed us into her home and made us feel part of her family. Beautiful aromas filled the Greek styled house as we first entered and we all settled down for a good catch up. Olympia lived only five minutes from the beach and Me and Laura would take walks up to the beach and along the pier. Lot's of people come here to relax, swim, kayak and fish. The first day I was at the pier I was lucky enough to see a young Bull Seal swimming about cunningly robbing the bait from the fisherman's lines and bait boxes. A local woman next to me said its was the first time she had ever seen a Bull Seal in the 27 years she had lived here and I said to her that it was the first time I had seen one and I had only waited 27 minutes. It was a great weekend to be in Adelaide as it was the start of the 'Fringe Festival'. On the Sunday I was in charge of the BBQ...which took me forever to light (I would never make a Aussie) then we all went off to enjoy the vibrant atmosphere of the festival at a place called 'The Garden of  Unearthly Delights'. We had a great time over the weekend filled with so much laughter and fun. It was sad to leave so early, but, us nomads had to get back on the road again.

First hours in Adelaide

Adelaide beach

The pier in Adelaide

The Bull Seal I watched playing in the waters by the pier

The calm waters of the Ocean

Sunset in Adelaide

Enjoying some fish & chips as the sun goes down

Me and a Pelican on Adelaide beach

This BBQ is having me on

With all the gang...Left-right: Emma, Harris, Olympia, Panayioti and Me

Monday 27th February

We said our good byes and left in the afternoon for new pastures further east. It's great to know we have good friends in this part of the world and that we are always welcome; virtue and generosity rewards you in ways that you can not know. We decided on heading up to the Grampians NP, one of Victoria's most outstanding natural features before heading towards the coast. The drive was very scenic and reminded me very much of the English countryside; the landscape of this incredible country was also changing once again. Unfortunately the weather was also changing. In the distance the clouds sagged stormy in the dark bruised sky above and the all to familiar sign of rain hung in the air. However It felt strangely reassuring to feel the familiarity of home and at times I felt like I was driving through parts of the Lake District. It was getting late so we decided to camp at Horsham just outside the Grampians NP and indulged in some home cooked Lasagna in the local pub near by.

Tuesday 28th February

It was a beautifully scenic drive through the Grampians NP surrounded by green lush trees and rolling hills. We visited the spectacular Mackenzie waterfalls and then drove up to the highest viewpoint overlooking the Grampians. We were treated to a magnificent panoramic view of this vast and wonderful range. The whole range has this beautiful blue colour that rises hazily into the air, an effect created by the thousands of eucalyptus trees that grow here. We drove on towards the coast until we reached Warrnambool late in the evening. It was 7:10 pm and we had just reached the start of 'The Great Ocean Road'. I was feeling so tired now, more mentally than physically, but, the world keeps on turning. We set up camp close to the windswept coast and as the sun was setting we visited the 'Bay of Martyrs' about a 10 minute walk from our campsite. With the strong sea wind in our face and the sun going down, we all stood on the edge of the cliffs overlooking the savage and untamed sea smash into the cliffs below. The whole experience is even more magical  at sunset. I just love watching sunset, especially over the ocean: the rich colours and light blend naturally together creating new shades and textures that reflect beautifully onto the ocean and in the sky painting the most dramatic of landscapes. If I was an artist this would  be the type of landscapes that I would paint.

Mackenzie Waterfalls

Laura and Nader at the foot of the waterfall

The stunning view of the Grampians

Notice the hazy blue effect of the landscape

On top of the world again!!!

The Bay of Martyrs

The Bay of Martyrs

Windswept overlooking The Bay of Martyrs

Feeling it now after 12 days on the road
Enchanting landscape at sun set

 The colours of Sunset

Taking it all in.

Wednesday 29th February: The Great Ocean Road

Breathe, breathe in the air.
Don't be afraid to care.
Leave but don't leave me.
Look around and choose your own ground.

                                                   Breathe-Pink Floyd:

We woke up early and packed our tents away for the last was a poignant moment to think that today was to be the last day of our road trip. Today was also a leap year so I was half expecting Laura to propose to me before we set off on our final day on the road. We were to travel along one of the most scenic roads in the world: The Great Ocean Road, and then on our way to our final destination, Melbourne. The Great Ocean Road is famous world wide and is said by many to equal California's Pacific Coast Highway. The road spans a mammoth 285km all the way from Warrnambool to Torquay and is actually a memorial to all the Soldiers that fought and died during WWI. We headed off towards Cape Otway and along the way stopped off at some stunning view points. This stretch of coastline is better known as shipwreck coast. During the 19th Century it was a notoriously dangerous stretch of water to navigate through due to the numerous hidden reefs and frequent fog...this resulted in over 80 vessels perishing in less than 40 years. This stretch however has some of the most dramatic and fascinating limestone rock formations, some of which tower to a massive 70m over some fierce seas. It's the power of this relentless sea that has created these rock formations: 'The Grotto', 'London Bridge', 'The Arch', 'The Lock and Gorge' and 'The Twelve Apostels'. The latter we missed because I was to busy listening to the album, Dark Side of the Moon; what can I say? I was lost in the moment, the atmosphere...the music of Pink Floyd really lends it's self to these types of drives. Each rock formation has it's own story to tell. One of my favourites was about London Bridge. In 1990 whilst people were on the rock formation, the connecting bridge to the mainland collapsed and fell into the sea leaving two people stranded for up to two hours 70m above the sea...imagine looking behind you and watching the arch collapse and being marooned on the cliffs edge. It was a spectacular drive through some rugged and dangerous coastline. The weather now was as threatening as the sea: untamed and powerful. It creates this wonderful atmosphere, one that makes you feel quite vulnerable as though you at the mercy of some omnipotent being; the force of nature...I loved every moment of it. 

When we arrived at Cape Otway lighthouse it marked the second most southerly point on the mainland of Australia. From here we entered the NP, It was here that I saw my first Koala bear in the wild. It was raining now, very overcast and blustery and I could feel the temperature falling. The road veered away from the coast before heading back towards Apollo Bay and again we were treated to some more stunning views of the turbulent and rough sea. From Apollo Bay the road hugs the coastline all the way to Anglesea and again the views of this stormy sea at times are breathtaking. The landscape to the left was similar to parts of the Lake District, in particular the weathered crags and mountains of Great Langdale and Wasdale. We nexted stopped at a place called Lorne, it was here that I watched surfers in action for the first time in my life...poetry in motion. They are crazy, adrenalin junkies, I mean the conditions were horrendous, but, I suppose that's the lure of surfing, the search for the biggest waves and as they say the key to adventure is risk. The final drive passed through the towns of Angalsea and Torquay; it was getting late now as we got onto the main high way that took us away from the coast and towards the city of Melbourne.

On the horizon I watched the blue city grow as we drove closer and closer until at last we arrived in to the cosmopolitan centre. I was sitting in the back of the car exhausted. We put on the song; 'Somebody I used to Know' by Gotye one last time and sat back reflecting on this amazing road trip. What an adventure, what a journey and what an experience. I remember thinking that that was one of the best 12 day's of my was an aesthetic voyagers dream and I had lived it.

      "...a country such as I firmly believe has no parallel on earths surface"
                                                                           -The Explorer Charles Stuart 1844 

Shipwreck Coast

Rough seas

London Bridge which collapsed in 1990 leaving 2 people stranded on the cliff

The road trip crew

The Gorge

The entrance to the Gorge where 2 people swam to safety after their ship sank in the 19th Century

It's a bit windy

Beautiful fresh it

The untamed sea

Poetry in motion

Surfing Oz style