A Travellerspoint blog

Australia - Melbourne

Neighbours, Point Break & Round the Twist.

semi-overcast 16 °C

We hadn't originally planned to travel as far south as Melbourne but we had cracked through the East Coast quicker than expected and time was on our side. We opted to stay in St Kilda a few Km's from the city centre - popular with the young, rich and beautiful so we figured why not hang out with our own kind for a week or two...!

I liked Melbourne as city but it's pretty different to Sydney in that there are alot less sights to see. The main part of the city focuses around big shopping centers, trendy bars & expensive restaurants, not ideal when your travelling on a tight budget but we really enjoyed moseying around and looking at stuff we couldn't afford. After a good look round the city and went to the ACMI (Australian Centre for the Moving Image) in Federation Square to watch some funky short films but the majority of our time was spent hanging out in St Kilda. We were staying in a hostel which was a converted old house so it had a really homely feel to it and we shared a dorm with some nice Irish folk so we spent alot of time hanging out with them.

Melbourne is of course home to Neighbours so we thought it would be a right laugh to go on a Neighbours tour.

Would you feel like a wally on this bus?

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FACT: Producers came up with the name Erinsborough the factious town Neighbours is set from the acronym Neighbours itself.

We clambered aboard the tour bus to a blaring Neighbours theme tune and cruised out of Melbourne listening to pop songs by old Neighbours cast members - plenty of Kylie, Holly Valance & Jason Donavan etc. When we arrived at Ramsey St (although obviously it is called something else in reality) we were all pretty surprised how small it was, there are literally only 5 houses on the street all of them had people living in them permanently. The guide gave us a brief history of each house so a proper walk down memory lane with the likes of Mrs. Mangle, Doug Willis, Helen Daniels & Bouncer. Then we were free to take our photo's. After Ramsey St we drove to the school they use for Erinsborough High and also past the studio's where they do the majority of the filming. Unfortunately with it being a weekend we weren't able to go and have a look at the sets. It was a good trip out but the real treat came on the drive home when we had to decide which classic Neighbours episode we wanted to watch. The overwhelming majority opted for Scott and Charlene's wedding, it was so cheesy but there still wasn't a dry eye on the bus.

Ramsey St

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Can't believe I'm on Ramsey St!

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The Great Ocean Road

We also took a 2 day trip along the Great Ocean Road one of the worlds most scenic roads along the coastline of south-west Victoria. There are lots of sights to see along the way.
On our first day we visited the Bay of Islands, Bay of Martyrs, London Bridge and then watch the sunset over the 12 Apostles. It was amazing to learn that these sights have been created by the erosion of coastline by a combination of ocean and weather over thousands of years. The sunset really was spectacular, we were really lucky that it had been a clear day. After the sun had gone down there are hundreds of these tiny penguins which come ashore to spend the night on the beach to re-waterproof themselves ready for the following day (there is probably a more technical term for this procedure but they basically have a waterproof oil on their skin which protects from the water and cold conditions. They have to renew this every evening so they do this on the beach) They are only 30cms high so they really are tiny and they like to travel in groups for protection against predators so as they start to come onto the beach they wait until there are 40 or 50 of them and they all leg it up the beach together.

Bay of Islands

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Bay of Martyrs

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The 12 Apostles at dusk

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Sunset at The 12 Apostles

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We stayed in a really tiny hostel in the really tiny town of Port Campbell for the night. We had a BBQ for tea and then a group of us ventured out to the local pub. It was a proper locals place so we met some interesting characters including a older guy called Wozza who took abit of a shine to us. He was a really nice guy who said he just loved talking to travellers so we had a good chat. When the pub shut he wanted us all to go back to his caravan to carry on drinking and look at his photo's (of tuna...?) - we've all seen Wolf Creek and the plot seemed all too familiar (strange local guy befriends group of travellers and invites them back to his caravan in what seems like a random act of kindness... a mass murdering session me thinks) We said our goodbyes to Wozza and hit the hay.

For our second day on the Great Ocean Road we went back to the 12 Apostles where myself and Mark decided to take a helicopter ride over the 12 Apostles. It is the only way you can see all 12 Apostles (well there are actually only 11 left - one crumbled down last year) on a line. It was the first time I'd been in a helicopter - it was a pretty cool experience. We got some wicked photo's and were especially impressed that we got to wear Top Gun style headsets so we could communicate with one another during the trip. In the afternoon we visited Bays Beach one of Australia's best surfing beaches and where they filmed Point Break and also the lighthouse where they used to film Round the Twist if you remember that (Have you ever, ever felt like this, when strange things happen are you going round the twist?)

We had one last night in Melbourne but to be honest we were so exhausted from all the excitement of the Great Ocean Road that we just chilled at the hostel with our Irish dorm buddies. The following day we had to be out of the hostel by 10am but our night bus back to Sydney wasn't until 7pm so we had alot of time to kill. We decided to hit the casino in town - why not try and double our travelling budget...! The casino was massive, it had loads of pokies (Aussie for slot machines) which were being propped up by elderly Japanese women who looked like they had been in residency for weeks. They also had poker tables. I managed to resist the $100 poker tables, a decision based largely on the fact that eventually after 5 months of travelling I have only just about mastered Rummy. I thought I may look abit of an amateur playing with the big guys. However, we had a good afternoon wandering round and watching other people win big and lose big - then it was time for the bus.

Our next stop - Sydney (again)

Posted by greggers 01:19 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

Australia - Canberra

A cultural overload..?

all seasons in one day 20 °C

Canberra was established in 1911 to create a national capital for the newly federated country of Australia. The task was awarded to master designer Walter Burley Griffin a Chicago architect who won an international design competition. The city certainly has a very planned feel to it, everything is very well laid out and green. The city is arranged around Lake Burley Griffin an enormous man-made lake featuring the Captain Cook Memorial Water Jet. Canberra doesn't appear to feature too heavily on the backpacker route and we soon discovered this was because old Walt forgot to include any form of nightlife!

Captain Cook Memorial - Lake Griffin

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The cool thing about Canberra is that there is plenty of stuff to see and what's even better is that it is all funded by the government so its free. We ended up staying in a pretty awful hostel so we figured it was best to spend as little time as possible there. On your first day we went to the National Museum of Australia on the north side of Lake Griffin which detailed how the city was planned and built. It featured a pretty cool model of the whole city complete with commentary and flashing lights.

Next we hit the National Gallery where we had an hour long guided tour by an art expert. I have never been much of an art lover but this guide was awesome. She explained in a very "arty" fashion all about various paintings and what the artist was trying to convey. I just thought a painting was a painting but soon we were all openly discussing each brushstroke - scary. Things got even scarier when I got told off for touching this well old painting from the 1800, I mean it's not as if I was going to smudge it!

National Gallery - Art anyone?

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We were on a cultural role (well there is nothing else to do in Canberra) so we headed over to Parliament House. After another brief tour we were able to go in and watch a session in progress. It was abit disappointing actually, i'd heard Australian politics can get pretty fizzy a times but there wasn't so much as a brief scuffle. Having said that it was actually pretty interesting to see how it all worked and building itself was seriously impressive.

We hired bikes on our second day as you have to walk for miles to get anywhere in Canberra, even by our standards it was abit much. We spent the morning at the National War Memorial resisting the urge for a 2 hour tour this time. Then we cycled over to check out the Prime Ministers gaff but you couldn't see anything apart from a big set of gates. We loitered for a while hoping this might provoke some action but no such luck. After a brief trip looking at all the different embassies we retreated, a little exhausted to the park to chill.

National War Memorial

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I'm glad we checked out Canberra, I did learn a fair bit about Aussie politics, Aussie War, Aussie architecture and Aussie art - this travelling lark isn't all about chilling on beaches drinking goon you know!

Now get me to the pub...

Our next stop - Melbourne

Posted by greggers 00:59 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Australia - Sydney

Plenty of sight seeing.

all seasons in one day 20 °C

It was a pretty lengthy bus journey down to Sydney but luckily we were kept well entertained by a group of young girls who were making the most of their school holidays - I've never heard language so foul (learnt a few new ones). It felt good to be back in a big city, we sourced ourselves a decent hostel and then typically ventured out on one of our infamous walking tours.

We covered quite alot of the main city until eventually we hit the two big ones, The Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge. Although this is my second time in Sydney they are both just as impressive sights. To be honest I made abit of a tit of myself, as we arrived at the harbour Mark was like "Hey check out Harbour Bridge - that's pretty cool" and I was like "Nah - that's not Harbour Bridge, Harbour bridge is red" turns out I was confusing it with the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco - what a lemon!

Sydney Opera House

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We took loads of photo's of the outside and then decided to take the tour inside the Opera House. The guide was really good and very knowledgeable so we learnt alot about it's controversial background - some of which I already knew from reading a Bill Bryson book. The architect was a young guy from Copenhagen called Jorn Utzon who's original drawings were rejected by the panel of judges due to the complexity of the design. However, there was one american judge on the panel who felt that Utzon's sails design would look well wicked and persuaded the rest of the panel to pursue it. The building began in 1957 but they were working purely from Utzon's drawings, arguably, it was beyond the capabilities of engineering at the time. It wasn't long before they were over budget and the New South Wales government refused any further funding, Utzon's resigned from the project. The building was eventually finished in 1973 and although Utzon did re-join the team and went on to design the majority of the interior he has never been to Sydney to see the finished building. Today the Sydney Opera House is one of the most recognised and photographed buildings in the world.

Main concert hall

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We were lucky, there weren't any performances when we took the tour so we went into both the main concert rooms which really were really amazing but smaller than I imagined. The interior is very retro and has alot of exposed concrete, apparently Utzon was a fan of "Brutalism" initially it looks abit weird but I suppose it helps to make the building unique. All in all it was a really interesting tour. We did try and get tickets for that evenings performance of Pirates of Penzance but weren't really that surprised when informed that tickets typically sell out weeks in advance. We went back to our dorm and met Matt (from Texas) and Andrews (from Norway) so we headed out to drink some beer, they were really funny guys, we had a top night.

The following morning, despite feeling abit rough we headed back down to circular quay with Matt and Andrews to go Jet Boating. The concept is pretty straightforward, you pay $30 to be ragged around the harbour for 30 mins in a 850 horse power speed boat reaching speeds of 80km per hour. The boat does 270 degree spins and loads of other tricks to basically get you soaked. We held on tight, we nearly hurled, we certainly got soaked but it cured our hangovers so we were more than happy. We spent the rest of the afternoon checking out more of Sydney.

Our plan was to move on to the beaches of Bondi and Manly but the weather took a turn for the worse and with it forecast to last a few days myself and Mark decided to make the 2 hour train to Katoomba to explore the Blue Mountains.

FACT: The blue haze that gives the mountains their name, is the result of the ultrafine oily mist given off by Eucalyptus. Seen from a distance the haze makes the mountains look blue.

Katoomba is a pretty small place in itself and we stayed in a really weird hostel run by a really weird guy but you can't knock Katoomba for its scenery. We headed to Echo Point in the Blue Mountains National Park as we were both pretty keen to see the Three Sisters. The views really were amazing, we spent the afternoon walking around the National Park and taking lots of photo's which all look the same.

The Three Sisters

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After a few days in Katoomba we got the train back to Sydney but the weather so still abit ropey so we decided to continue our journey south and hit Sydney's beaches before we fly out at the end of the month.

Our next stop - Canberra

Posted by greggers 18:33 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Australia - Byron Bay

Kayaking, Surfing & Hippies

all seasons in one day 22 °C

We'd heard innumerable glowing reports about this little surfing town and I'm delighted to announce that Byron didn't disappoint - we had ourselves a cracking time.

Bryon was an unassuming little town until in 1963 surfers discovered "The pass" and over the following years it became a settling ground for artistically minded people. It's like visiting a little hippy / surfing commune - very chilled out.

We opted to stay at a hostel called The Arts Factory on a recommendation from some girls we met in Malaysia. Described as "an enchanted 5 acre subtropical haven" it has it's own bar, restaurant, pool with hot-tub, cinema and whole manner of daily activities including Didgeridoo Making and Yoga. We were allocated a 10 man dorm and soon discovered we were in party dorm. There were two Canadian couples, two American lads and two other lads from the UK, soon enough the goon was flowing and we were bonding great guns.

The following day we decided to go Dolphin Kayaking with Si and Russ the two English lads from our dorm. According to the guide we are guaranteed to be petting wild Dolphins in no time. We were slightly disappointed to discover the Dolphins were having a day off and Kayaking was actually pretty hard work. Mark was sat at the front providing "the power" and I was at the back steering. Little did we know that some Irish girls we had met the previous night were watching us from a whale watching point. Apparently we had the most comedic kayaking style as we battled against the surf, oars and kayak all over the place - they didn't half take the piss that night. We were compensated for our lack of dolphin action with a free return session - our confidence was dented, we never did make it back in a Kayak.

Giving the water a break, we made the lengthy walk to Cape Byron Lighthouse (named after George Gordon Lord Byron) located on Australia's most easterly point of mainland. We had more success with this venture and managed to spot a fair few humpback whales coming back from their annual migration. They move from the feeding grounds of the Antarctic during the summer to the high latitude equatorial regions during the winter for breeding and calfing and then back again. This means you invariably see a load of whales splashing around in the water as they pass Cape Byron.

Australia's most easterly point.

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Cape Byron Lighthouse

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Enough time spent on dry land we enrolled ourselves at surf school having been guaranteed to stand on our first lesson. It was such a good laugh and we were chuffed that we both managed to stand on our third and fourth wave. Admittedly, there is quite alot of work to do on the looking cool and being able to control the board front but we have plenty more surfing opportunities on the rest of our travels - I'll certainly be back in the water soon.

Surf School

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And ten minutes later....

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There was this crazy guy who worked at the hostel called Cockatoo Paul who was a kind of hippy guy who carried his pet cockatoo on his shoulder everywhere he went. He did daily bushtucker walk around the grounds of the hostel. He enlightened us as to which plants we could eat if we found ourselves stranded in the bush, which plants would make our tongues swell up so much we would die and how to throw a spear to kill animals - all useful stuff to know as we travel down the East coast on the Greyhound!

Our final day in Byron was spent on a day trip to the nearby village of Nimbin. We all boarded the retro style tour bus, met Dougie a real life hippy and our driver and hit the road. Dougie liked to crank the tunes so there was alot of Bob Marley and other cool tunes as we cruised into Nimbin. Periodically he would get on microphone and tell us about Byron's and Nimbin's battle to keep them unspoiled and unique. He was very anti large corporations such as McDonalds and KFC being allowed to infiltrate small tourist places like Byron purely by throwing their weight around. He was an active member of the local pressure groups. We though Dougie was well cool, he was a man on a mission.

Nimbin is like the village the 60's forgot, everyone there are hippies and "at peace" with just about everything. We had a few hours to wander round and enjoy the atmosphere. After Nimbin we went to one of Dougie's mates houses, an American hippy who built his own house set in 26 acres of forest which he planted himself - every last tree. We sat on his deck eating Macadamia nuts listening to his stories.

And so our time in Byron came to an end, we made some great friends, did lots of cool, it is worthy of its reputation.

After Byron we continued our journey south and stopped at two smaller towns en route.

Coffs Harbour

Originally called Korffs Harbour, this small shipping town settled in the 1860's. There wasn't a great deal to do in Coffs but I enjoyed the few days we spent there relaxing and playing cards - (ALOT) with our new friend a lad called Liam from Sheffield. We took a trip to the nearby Muttonbird Island which is occupied by some 12,000 pairs of Muttonbirds from late August to early April. It was also another excellent land point to do some more whale watching.

We did another of our walking tours, the town is pretty spread out so we clocked a fair few K's checking out the Botanical Gardens and exploring the Marina. Mark did some more diving and I took a trip to go and see the Big Banana, banana growing is big business for Coffs there are trees everywhere. I went round the banana plantation museum and treated myself to an excellent banana smoothie for the walk home.

Port Macquarie

Really liked Port Macquarie, again its a fairly small town but abit more compact than Coffs. On our first day we did a monumental walk, we left the hostel at 11am and didn't get back until 6pm. We basically walked the whole of the town but the walk included all six of Ports beaches and we saw some brilliant scenery and a dead snake and some naked sunbathers.

On our way back we chanced across the Sea Acres Rainforest Centre. We were taken for an hours tour through the rainforest by a very knowledgeable man called Roy. Roy knew his subject well and told us all about how each tree, plant and animal within the rainforest has a very important and specific role within the ecosystem.

We were staying in a really cool hostel which was the oldest building in Port and a heritage listed building. It was like staying in someone's home. We met a really cool crowd of people and we all spent the evenings having a few chilled beers on the veranda.

On our last day in Port Macquarie we went on a really good boat tour. On the way back the captain announced that they were going to lower the "Boom Net" if anyone wanted a go. We had no idea what meant so we went to the back of the boat to check it out. The Boom Net is a massive net (obviously) on a frame which they lower into the water an then you can sit in it and be dragged through the water behind the boat. This seemed like fun and they had no takers so we dived in. I didn't have my swimmers on so I had to go in wearing my trolleys. Everyone else on the boat came to watch so it was abit embarrassing when I got out of the cold water in my clingy undies.

Our next stop - Sydney

Posted by greggers 03:45 Archived in Australia Comments (2)

Australia - Brisbane & Surfer's Paradise

Finally - we saw some Australian wildlife.

sunny 23 °C

So it was time for some R&R after all the excitement of The Whitsunday's and Fraser Island. We hit Brisbane and treated ourselves by actually staying in hotel after having spent the last 10 days sleeping on boats, buses and in tents - I have seriously never appreciated having a comfy bed and clean towels more. As it was the last few days of Rich, Jules and Lisa's holiday we decided to completely spoil ourselves and went to the award winning steak restaurant Cha Cha Char for..... award winning steak - really hit the spot!

The following morning, on the recommendation of Paul and Maz we went to visit Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. Its primarily a Koala Sanctuary but it also had all number of Australian themed animals including Kangaroos's, Cassowary's and various snakes and spiders. There was a massive Kangaroo enclosure you can go into and feed the Kangaroo's, it was very amusing watching a load of Japanese tourists chasing Roo's around the enclosure with massive camera's trying to capture the elusive action shot.

The highlight was obviously the Koala Bears and at the risk of sounding like a proper soft-lad they were undenyably cute! Apparently they sleep for 20 hours a day as their diet is made up solely of eucalyptus leaves which has very little calorie content so they have no energy to do anything else. When they aren't asleep they just chill out in the tree's. For a measly $15 you could have a picture taken with one so I coughed up and had my photo taken with Bertha.

Me & Betha

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[u]Could this Koala be more chilled out?

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After the other guys had gone home myself and Mark stayed in Brisbane for another 3 or 4 days just exploring the city and relaxing. We satisfied our cultural appetites by visiting the Queensland Museum, the Botanical Gardens and did the walking city tour recommended by Lonely Planet. We also met up for drinks with some of the people we had met on our Whitsunday's trip. On our final day we went to the Mt Coot-Tha lookout which promised to deliver a breathtaking panorama of Brisbane city. Unfortunately, just as we reached the top it started to piss it down so we sought shelter in the Thomas Brisbane Planetarium - I am now an absolute expert on the solar system.

All in all I really enjoyed Brisbane it's a pretty chilled out city (and Australia's 3rd largest Fact Fans) you can easily spend a fair number of days exploring, I'd recommend it.

Surfer's Paradise

Really didn't rate Surfers at all. We were going to pass through anyway so we figured we might as well stop off for a few days - we managed 24hrs. It's just one of those places which is full of massive high-rise hotels, tacky souvenir shops and hideously expensive bars. No one there seems to own any clothes either.

We did stay in a pretty good hostel and shared a dorm room with two nice lads from Bournemouth so we decided to go along to the hostel organised drinks night. We tried our best to have a good night but when everywhere you go is the sort of place where they are looking for volunteers to get naked for a round of appaulse I suddenly went all shy. We decided to leave the following morning.

Our next stop - Byron Bay

Posted by greggers 20:41 Archived in Australia Comments (2)

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