Our journey around Australia ended some months ago, now. I feel I should bring things up to date and finish up the last page of the story.

When we returned to Sydney we had less than a week in Australia. The time was mostly spent visiting relatives there, whose paths we had somehow barely crossed with the whole time we’d been here. I spent much of the time reflecting on the trip as a whole; it seemed crazy to think of the things we’d done and the places we’d been, even so soon after it’d happened.

A breathtaking view of Sydney, from the auditorium at Taronga Zoo

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Sydney, Revisited

Alex’s Note: Yes, it’s been quiet on the blog front for quite some time now. But after our return, life barely gave us a week to breathe before it all got crazy again. Yet we can’t just leave the ending hanging in the balance, so onward to the conclusive entries!

Return to Sydney


I’m pleased to report that the luggage key for the Indian Pacific was eventually found and once we were reunited with our luggage the search for finding a hostel for a night begun. It then ended shortly afterwards as our first stop, the Railway Square YHA (as the name suggests, located right next to the station)  had a couple of nights availability. So we settled in, enjoying a 5-bed dorm all to ourselves, and had a think about what we do over our last few weeks.

Whilst reaquainting ourselves with Darling Harbour we popped into the Tourist Info centre for a few ideas and Alex spotted information about the tall ship, “James Craig”. Originally from Sunderland, England, she had a long and busy working life before being abandoned in Tasmania in 1932. After sitting there for forty years, she was rescued and lovingly restored by the Sydney Heritage Fleet. It took 20 years and lots of labour (mostly from volunteers) but she is now in magnificent working order and is the only ship of her kind to regularly make trips out to the ocean. As Alex has wanted to travel on such a ship for quite some time now it seemed a most fitting activity, and what a ship to experience going under the Harbour bridge in. We only did a day sail but you could get involved as much, or as little, as you liked and they provided lunch and drinks for the day. Alex was available to help with anything and I believe he was told to be careful as if he carried on being so helpful he might end up on the crew! I helped out every now and again, mostly heaving on the ropes to move the sails. At one point when I went to offer a hand, the captain of the James Craig tapped me on the shoulder and asked my name. He then told the guys already on the ropes who I was and that I was here to sort them out, hehe. Well, I’m not sure it was my sorting but together we got the sails where they needed to be. Very satisfying. The weather was beautiful throughout the day and added to it being thoroughly enjoyable, however I have got a bit ahead of myself as we sailed the James Craig on Saturday 10th but I’ve neglected to tell you what we did on Friday 9th.

During the day on Friday 9th we met up with another familiar face, Toby, who we had first met in Airlie Beach was in Sydney for just the one day before catching his flight home. We had moved to a hostel across the road (no availability at the YHA over the weekend) which has a cafe at the front so there we were sitting enjoying our breakfast. I had sent a text to Toby to see where he was when just a short time later he appeared right next to us. We then proceeded to spend the rest of the day moseying around Sydney city, slurping on Slurpees and on the hunt for cuddly Australian animals (no not literally, the stuffed toy counterparts). As evening began to set in we parted ways, Toby was meeting up with another friend and Alex and I had a date with a bridge.

We ended up actually having to rush a bit between leaving Toby and getting to the BridgeClimb in time as it took longer to walk back from the Circular Quay area than we remembered – but fear not, we arrived at the bridge with just enough time to peruse the gift shop! Climbing the Bridge was an unforgettable experience that we both felt was well worth it. The harnesses and jumpsuits, in addition to the industrial surroundings, made it all quite different and exciting. Though we couldn’t take our cameras up (due to potential murder by falling camera), we still had a beautiful picture to remember it by.

We had a couple of weeks in the Sydney area so there was plenty of time to check out another nearby must-see: Katoomba and the Blue Mountains.

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Perth and Beyond

Our time in Australia was coming to a close. Our month and a half in Perth was far from uneventful: between Lucy’s work we saw and did plenty. We kayaked to Penguin Island (where, while snorkelling, I had a surprise random encounter); revisted Margaret River for some incredible cattle mustering on Horseback at Jester’s Flat; saw the sweet French film ‘Romantics Anonymous’ at the open-air cinema at the Somerville Auditorium at the University of West Australia. We met some of Lucy’s West-Oz relatives, caught up with Lorne on his continuing cycling adventure up past Perth and beyond.

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Return to Albany

After our South-West tour (see previous entry) we returned our hire car to Perth and wandered into the CBD looking for inspiration. We still had about 2 weeks before Lucy’s work in Perth (and thus our accomodation) was due to start, so the rough plan had been to come back to Perth and hang out or something. We set up camp at the Carillon City food court and began to scour the internet for hostels in Perth that didn’t suck. Unfortunately as we were looking for that same night, the choice was limited and patchy. Either it was full, grossly expensive or rubbish. It was a saturday, so for the most part they were simply full.

While in Albany some days before, we met Dan and Jade who mentioned they were also heading to Perth that same weekend. Theu had kindly offered us a lift if we fancied going back to Albany. It was certainly tempting, the only problem being how we might eventually get back to Perth again once the 2 weeks were through. For those unfamiliar with the area, the distance between Perth and Albany is about 420 kilometres; that’s almost the distance from London to Newcastle. So getting back here on public transport would be interesting, but whatever! We decided to jump; screw the details.

So we caught the train to Rockingham, where Dan and Jade were setting out from. Then we all bundled into the car, even managing to fit all the bags we brought, and set off on a road trip down the Albany Highway. The time actually passed surprisingly quickly and after just a stop or two at random truckstops, we found ourselves back in good ol’ 1849 Backpackers.

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A Five Day Tour of W.A

We left Alice Springs the morning after our Rock tour ended, we were headed to Perth, WA. The plane journey was nice and easy, though it felt strange not having to show your passport for the flight, particularly as it would take three and a bit hours, but that’s just how crazy big Australia is.

We had arranged to stay in Perth YHA for a night before embarking on our mini-adventure down the South-West coast. It was alright, nothing to shout about. It looked like it could be great but there was just a bit of a ‘feeling’, perhaps influenced by our roommates having had their food stolen from the fridge – doesn’t fill you with confidence. It was situated beside the main rail lines into Perth, between McIver and Perth station. The trains were interesting to watch, not all that noisy either (as several Trip Advisor reviews suggested).

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Journey to the Centre of Australia

Another Quality Entry brought to you by… Luce De Spruce!

Alice Springs

It was just after midnight when we headed for the Greyhound stop, it wasn’t due to leave for another half hour so we were surprised to see it waiting in the bay already. What was even more of a surprise though was bumping into a couple we had met on the boat on the reef over New Years. It was great to see them and it turned out we had been allocated the seats next to them on the coach anyway so we had plenty of time to chat (though as it was past midnight we were all a bit on the tired side). It was a bit strange having allocated seats on the Greyhound though, in our numerous trips this was the first time we were told where to sit and the driver didn’t seem to be the happiest of people. The first leg of our four bus journey to the Red Centre took us back South along the coast to Townsville. For the majority of this stretch I was in the Land of the Zzz’s, with only fleeting moments of consciousness, however during those moments I felt a little uneasy with the style of our happy drivers driving skill. Alex, who unfortunately had to endure the experience conscious as he doesn’t tend to sleep on vehicles, described his driving as having all the finesse of a brick propelled by firecrackers – and I have to say based on the glimpses I had and the reaction of our two friends when we got off the bus at Townsville confirms this as pretty accurate. At this point we parted ways for the second time, they were headed further South whereas we were about to start heading West.

During the remaining journey (a journey which lasted thirty-something hours in total) we met Natalie whilst sharing a table at one of the various rest stops along the way. It turned out that she was also doing the Rock Tour on the same dates that we were, though she was staying at a different hostel in Alice Springs. When we did finally arrive in Alice Springs it was nine in the morning. The YHA where we were booked to stay was a short walk from the bus stop so we loaded ourselves up and headed off. As we were a little early to check-in we just left our main bags in their luggage room and headed off to sort out some errands. This ended up taking most of the day and although we were ready to drop at any point from the lack of proper sleep on the coach (particularly for Alex) we kept going until all was sorted. We knew that we had an early start the next day (we were being picked up at 5am) so we headed to a local pub for dinner. It was actually raining at the time we headed out – turns out the week we were there was during Alice Springs wet season, which lasts a whole 2-3 weeks – and so when we saw the pubs blackboard advertising a roast our taste buds were tingling at the thought. After placing our drinks order, we then waited half a century for someone to collect our food order, then proceeded to wait the remainder of the century to be told that in fact the roast was no longer available. Gutted. At this point we would have left however in the year leading up to the turn of the century our drinks had arrived so we kind of had to stay. We had a brief look over the menu and made our second choices: for me, the good old Aussie burger and chips and for Alex, a salmon salad. This was put through the kitchen quickly and I’m pleased to say the food was actually rather good, it was just a shame the service didn’t match it. Anyway! Once we were fed, it really was time for sleep (unfortuantely the delays at the pub had led to it being a bit later on in the evening than we had hoped but nevermind!).

The Rock Tour

The next morning we were waiting at the front of the YHA at 5am awaiting pick-up for the tour, it was here that we met Sabrina and Laura; two friends travelling together from Germany, they were also coming on the Rock Tour. Our hostel was the first pick-up of the morning so we got comfy in our seats and started chatting to Adam (aka Cow); our guide for the next few days. By the time we had completed the hostel pick-ups the bus was about half full (including Natalie who we had met on the Greyhound). The rest of the group would be picked up from Ayers Rock Airport later in the day. Continue reading

A Tropic Days Xmas & A Great Barrier New Year

Xmas at Tropic Days

Tropic Days was a lovely hostel, easily one of the best we’ve been to (if not the best). It was definitely a good choice for Xmas, not least because they put on a complimentary continental breakfast with champagne. On Xmas Eve, our friend Eddie offered to cook us a Carbonara, pointing out he was both Italian and pretty good with food. We heartily agreed to the venture and even learned how to make our own Guacomole from an authentic Mexican recipe he knew of.

In the evening we gathered in the hostel for drinks. After a few, what began with a few googles on the laptop for Youtube Xmas song videos became a big sing-a-long marathon that covered just about every festive song we could think of, including the Twleve Days of Christmas. Five Gold Rings is always best when drunk.

On Xmas Day (after the fine breakfast), Lucy and I took to the beach for a barbeque; your standard Aussie cliché. But I was at the point of being bored of the Standard Xmas of the northern hemisphere so I actually found the idea of spending it in a tropical summer as refreshing. In any case, Cairns doesn’t really have a beach so this was in fact a barbeque on the Esplanade park overlooking the mudflats of the bay, but that doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.

The week between Xmas and New Year began as a busy one, but due to serious storm weather rolling in it was soon a lazy one as one thing after another got cancelled. First my flying lesson, then our kayaking… then our sailing trip for new year! It was a catastrophe. But luckily we were able to get a rebooking for New Year, on the overnight snorkel & dive experience at Reef Encounter. Continue reading

Cairns Arrival & Lizard Island

So, we reached Cairns. The terminus of our great trek up the East Coast and our locale for both Xmas and New Year, we’d done our research and booked ahead at the Trip-Advisor-adored Tropic Days, to ensure a place and to minimise Holiday Season stress. Although we had a fair wait for the courtesy bus when we arrived, any minor worries about the place were soon swept away. The lady on reception, Helen, was fantastic. The decor was from the heart; other guests friendly; and mostly everything was free*, decent and in good supply. The hostel’s only real drawback was often cited to be the 45 min or so walk to town; but with a free courtesy bus a dozen times a day, this was hardly fair criticism!

Not long after we arrived, we had the opportunity to fly up to Lizard Island for a day trip. Can I resist the chance to take a flight on a light ten-seater plane? If its destination also happens to be snorkelling off a remote island usually inhabited by no more than a few Monitors and a handfull of people paying two grand a night to stay there… well then that just seals the deal doesn’t it? And so we were off to Cairns airport, to board a plane for…

Wait wait wait. We’re going snorkelling. I need a camera. A camera that goes underwater. For tomorrow. I have a freaking brilliant idea! Continue reading

Townsville – Reef Lodge

Hello there once again dear readers. In this installment I shall be portraying our time spent in Townsville. Although only there for 2 nights we packed a fair bit in so there are a few tales to be told.

Before even starting on Townsville a mention should be given to the Greyhound driver who brought us to Townsville, as he was a bit of a character; Alex named him “the Book”. Up to this point the journeys on the Greyhound had been fairly easy going, everyone just piles on, finds a seat and sprawls out if they can … not on this coach though. The driver (I don’t recall his name) was adament that you were NOT to stretch over the seats; you were NOT to have your legs, arms and bags encroaching on the aisle space; you MUST wear seatbelts as it is the law in QLD and if you chose not to you would get a fine and be taken off the coach at the next available phone box. This of course is the shortened version of the rules, for if I was to go into detail you would be here for an extra half an hour and we still haven’t even reached Townsville, which is to be the central piece of this entry.

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Airlie Beach – YHA

We arrived at Airlie Beach in the early hours of the morning. We’d originally intended to visit Mackay for half of the time we eventually booked to Airlie, but there seemed to only be one hostel in the entire town and it didn’t allow check-ins after 10pm. As the only Greyhound with a sensible transit time arrived in the middle of the night, we decided to just go straight up to Airlie. It was not a decision we would regret.

On our first morning we look a look around the YHA to get familiar with our surroundings. The hostel was putting on pancakes this evening, at $10 a head. Sign me the heck up for that! Then we got to know the vicinity of Airlie Beach by walking in the direction of the supermarket, Coles; which ended up being an afternoon adventure across mountains, rivers and beaches (apart from there were no rivers and not really any mountains either) in the oppressive midday heat of mid-Queensland. By the time we’d picked up the shopping, the sky was threatening downpour. We had no idea when or where the rumoured bus to Coles and back could be caught from and were lumbered with heavy shopping. There was that unspoken notion again that, y’know, maybe we could walk this. I then pointed out that we should have learned our lesson by now and suggested a taxi. Lucy agreed and we took a ride from the rank outside back to the hostel. No sooner had we got in and unpacked, a heavy thunderstorm exploded above, raindrops hammering every horizontal surface. We also noted a couple of guys outside that had decided to enjoy the storm in the superconductive vat of the hostel swimming pool. They are probably mental, I thought. As it turns out, I didn’t know the half of it! Continue reading