Friday, 27 November 2015

Australia: Month 11 Recap

Well that's month eleven over and done with.

This month has been a blur of working and saving as usual. We've done a bit of exploring though: We went to the Blue Mountains (It was freezing) and on a pirate ship around Sydney Harbour (it rained). Sydney is gearing up for Christmas and to be honest it all just feels a bit weird. (You can read more about that here).

This month we've started booking things for our 2016 SE Asia trip. We have our overnight train to Chiang Mai sorted, our day at the Elephant Nature Park paid for and managed to get ourselves two nights in a swanky Phuket hotel that we would probably never have been able to afford under normal circumstances - Thank you Groupon!

The savings did take a bit of a hit though as we decided to invest in the new TomTom Bandit action camera. We thought it would be ideal for our shark cage dive and the adventures that follow it in Asia. The biggest draw was definitely the shake to edit mobile app as we are a little bit technophobic - So expect some ridiculous videos in 2016!

I hope everyone had a lovely November and that you're all getting ready for the big C word!


Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Spending Christmas in another country.

Jingle Bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way! Oh what fun it is to ride in a one horse open sleigh, HEY!

With less than a month to go until Christmas it's started to sink in that I'm not going to be in Yorkshire or with my family for the festive period for the first time in 23 years. Christmas trees have started sprouting up in Sydney, Christmas songs are on the radio and the shops are chocka with Christmas foods and gifts and it doesn't feel real.

Normally I've already planned and bought most of my Christmas gifts, I've eaten my way through at least 7 chocolate oranges because they were on offer at Morrisons and I've already watched Elf and Home Alone at least once.

I haven't done any of these things this year - I haven't even got an advent calendar yet (partly cos my Mum usually gets me one and partly cos the chocolate in Australia SUCKS).

Even though our visas expire on the 28th we've decided to spend Christmas in Bali due to extortionate flight prices between Christmas and New Year. It will probably be a million degrees despite it being the wet season but maybe the rain will remind us of home?

Instead of moping around, we have big plans to spend Christmas Eve getting drunk and watching Christmas movies (If I can bear to watch them) before possibly going the Waterbom water park on Christmas day to take our minds off the whole being thousands of miles away from home thing.

So I ask you fellow travellers this: How do you deal with spending Christmas away from home, away from your family, in a climate totally different to what you are used too??


Saturday, 21 November 2015

Why Fremantle should be on your list of places to go to in 2016.

When the Lonely Planet's Best of 2016 list was released and we saw Fremantle was on the list we both thought 'Well duh'. Our only qualm with the list was that it was only at No.7.

When we lived in Perth, Fremantle was our go to day trip. We would load up the car and spend the day wandering around, finding something new every time we went. A lot of people make the mistake of missing the West coast when they come to Australia and Fremantle is just one of the many reasons you should make WA a priority.

The Breweries and Bars.
Fancy a drink? Then Fremantle is the perfect place. Crammed with bars and breweries Fremantle leaves you spoilt for choice. Most notable is the Little Creatures brewery which is seriously popular any day of the week and when we used to go I was partial to a drink at the Ball and Chain or the Sail and Anchor.

The Restaurants and Cafes.
I could go on all day about the various eateries in Fremantle but I will stick to just three. The Bather's beach house is located right by the beach and does THE BEST beef short ribs (althought the service isn't amazing). There is also Wassup Dog in amongst the market serving up amazing gourmet beef hot dogs and the monk brewery which does a cracking steak sandwich (My apologies to any vegetarians!)

Fremantle Prison.
If you're into a bit of British/Australian history this is a good place to go. Naughty brits were sent here in the 1850's and built the place from the ground up. It offers some really interesting tours - the normal prison tour, the great escapes tour and even an underground canoe tour.

The Markets.
Fremantle market is great. It has loads of different food options, stalls that sell all sorts and even a place where you can go get a head, neck and shoulder massage. It also has street performers. I don't think I need to go on.

The Shops.
Aswell as the market, Fremantle is stuffed full of cool shopping opportunities. From shops like City Beach that sell premium brands like Ripcurl, Billabong, etc to shops like Cheep, that sell vintage and kitsch clothing at low low prices. There's also Krazy Tees where I picked up a sweet Fight Club t-shirt.

The Beach.
Fremantle beach is nice. Like really nice. Soft, white sand and beautiful blue colours. It gets a pretty nice breeze aswell making it the perfect place to sunbathe and swim.

The Vibe.
Fremantle has that laid back, easy going seaside town kinda feel, You can easily spend a day here and not actually do anything apart from lie around, potter around stalls and eat.

So there you have it. Fremantle. Quite possibly my favourite place in Australia. Try not too miss it!


Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Five awesome and unique Australian getaways

Everyone loves a quirky and unique place to stay right? Somewhere different, that not many people can say they've been? Well this list showcases 5 awesome places that Australia has to offer ranging from Budget to Luxury. 
blue mountains cave
The Enchanted Cave, The Blue Mountains, NSW
Price range: $$$

Lionel Buckett stumbled across this cave whilst bush walking on his family land and fell in love with the view. With 25 years of building experience he decided to turn this little cliff top into an amazing space made out of concrete and steel.

With a background in eco friendly buildings, this little pad was built facing North so it would be warm in the Winter and cooler in the Summer. The area is steeped in aboriginal history so in keeping with this, there are carvings telling stories throughout the cave.

Sadly though, one night in this badboy will set you back $1100 a night...One for the bucket list/lottery win right?

Find it on AirBnB here.

fremantle prison yha

Fremantle Prison YHA, Fremantle, WA
Price Range: $

When I arrived in Perth, Fremantle prison was one of the first places I went to. I remember hearing that the women's section was a hostel but never thought to go there. The prison itself was built in the 1850's and the whole prison was only decommissioned in 1991 - so not that long ago really.

The prison has been converted and you can now stay in a 10 bed dormitory for $26 a night or a double for $112 a night. But for those wanting the true prison experience you can stay in a double cell for $68. It's also got 5 stars on TripAdvisor which is always a good sign!

Book on the YHA website here.

taronga zoo roar and snore

Roar and Snore, Taronga Zoo, NSW
Price Range: $$$

The idea of Roar and Snore is simple. Sleep under the stars and be lulled to sleep and then rudely awoken by the roar and trumpet and chirps of the various animals that inhabit Taronga zoo. Sounds totally romantic and awesome and fun for all ages right?

Roar and Snore starts in the evening with a buffet dinner, snacks, desserts and some photo opportunities with some of the zoo's cutest and cuddliest residents. You then get an early night as it's a 6am start for breakfast and two behind the scenes tours before your spending the rest of the day at the zoo or heading home.

This sells out quickly though so if you want to go you have to be fast. Prices start at $525 for an adult and a child and $640 for two adults.

Book tickets here.
undara experience railway sleeper

Undara Experience, Undara Lava Tubes, QLD
Price Range: $$

Fancy a night in the outback? This might be the one for you. The Undara Volcanic national park is just over 300km's Southwest of Cairns and is famous for it's lava tubes and gems. The lava tubes are considered some of the largest and longest on the planet.

The Undara experience offers huts, tents and a caravan park but my personal favourite option is the converted train carriages. They look super cosy and just add something a bit extra to your trip.
A railway carriage doesn't come cheap as it will set you back $170 a night for a double room but it definitely makes for interesting story telling.

Currently closed until February for Green Season, you can make a booking using the details found here.
desert cave hotel

Desert Cave Hotel, Coober Pedy, SA
Price Range: $$
Located 8 hours Northwest of Adelaide people were drawn to Coober Pedy as it is a fantastic place for mining opals and is known as the opal capital of the world. It's also super well known due to the fact most of it's residents live underground to escape the scorching heat.

This unique way of living draws tourists into Coober Pedy which brings us nicely on to the Desert Cave hotel. The 4 star hotel was completed in the 80's and offers both underground and overground rooms - but why would you stay in a room above the ground when you can experience a night in the quiet and cool darkness of the underground for only $10 more?

It's $149 to stay above ground and $159 to stay underground and you can book a stay here.

Have any of you guys stayed in any unique and wonderful places like these that you care to share?

All images are sourced from Google.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

A couple of days in Byron Bay

On my way to Sydney from Bundaberg I stopped at Australia Zoo and Surfers Paradise - which I've already told you about - But I also made a pit stop in Byron Bay. It was over a month ago now and I'm  only just writing about 3 days in the must go place for any East Coast backpacker. Oops!

byron bay kookaburra

Byron Bay - Known for it's laid back hippy vibe and loved by pretty much every backpacker (and human) to ever pass through it. It's a small place known for it's awesome surf, chilled out lifestyle and all round awesomeness.

We rocked up on the Greyhound bus after a disastrous 3 days in Surfers Paradise and really hoped that everything we had heard about Byron Bay was true. And guess what? We pulled into grey clouds and a threat of rain. Just our luck.

I was a little bit worried that Byron Bay would be overran by backpackers trying to live the backpackers dream in this cute little town - And there was a hell of a lot of them (us included) but with the beautiful beaches and the quirky shops you couldn't help but fall in love with the place...Even when it was wrapped in gloom. 

aquarius backpackers

Image from Aquarius backpackers website.

Anyway, we stayed at Aquarius backpackers in a private room within a dorm. It was $79 each a night totaling £237 for 3 nights ($118.50 each). It was a bit of a splurge but after spending the last few weeks in dorms we needed space from other travelers.

Aquarius was really nice and clean, with a great bar and food menu (Try the pulled pork sliders!). The dorms all had private CLEAN bathrooms which was a major bonus after the dingy, smelly toilets of our Bundaberg backpackers. Located outside is the pretty kick-ass mural of a kookaburra and surf which I had seen on Instagram many a times but have now seen IRL.

byron bay cliffs

For 2 days we didn't really have a lot to do thanks to the odd torrential downpour and bank accounts that were slowly getting emptier and emptier. Our dreams of sea-kayaking with dolphins seemed impossible thanks to a pretty gloomy forecast.

Then low and behold, on the morning of our final day, the sun peeked out to say hi.

As sea-kayaking requires you to pre-book we were devastated that we hadn't just taken the risk and booked the kayaking regardless of what the weatherman says but you may or may not know, we Brits are obsessed by the weather and what the weatherman says, goes.

Instead of being upset over missing out, we got ourselves outside and tackled the Cape Byron walking trail - Four kms of ocean views, coastal cliffs and a great viewing point for dolphins and whales.

There are loads of opportunities to lay on the beach or take a dip in the ocean along the track but our goal was to get to the Cape Byron lighthouse.

byron bay lighthouse
The walk itself was pretty sweet but I definitely wouldn't recommend it to the seriously unfit or people with pushchairs/wheelchairs. Neither do the NSW parks department! BUT we did see people of all ages doing the walk so I guess it just depends on how fit you are.

I'm not gunna lie, on parts of the walk I thought I was going to die. It was Bluff Knoll all over again. Super steep steps! If you're fitter than me (which isn't hard) you will be okay, just take it easy and make sure you take water aswell as it can get pretty hot on a nice day. There are vans selling juices and a cafe near the lighthouse though if you do forget.

For those with pushchairs or people who aren't as mobile as others, there is a car park by the light house and a road leading up to it so fear not!

easterly point of byron bay

Part of the Cape Byron track is the most Easterly point of the Australian mainland which I was pretty chuffed about. It's hard getting a picture of the sign without some random tourist in because of course everyone wants a photo at the end of Australia.

On route we saw a load of dolphins playing and doing tricks which was really cool. Seeing dolphins in the wild is one thing that will never grow old! We also saw the sea kayaking expedition that we would have been part of getting pretty close to some dolphins - it's something I try not to think about.

 cape byron lighthouse
Eventually we got to the light house despite the heat and a bit of moaning (by me obviously). The lighthouse has been there since 1901 and has a huge light inside which is one of Australia's most powerful.
Just as we got up a tour guide was due to start a tour and had two free, extra tickets that he was trying to give people before he started and who did he see looking at the light house wondering if they could go up?
Jody and I of course.
detail of byron bay lighthouse

We learned about the lighthouses history - none of which I can remember now - and the guide (who was a volunteer) was really informative and managed to make a boring, old light house sound pretty interesting.

We went up to the top of a lighthouse and were allowed out of a little door to see the 360 degree view that it offered.

Byron By Lighthouse view

Pretty sweet right?

From our viewing point we could make out a momma whale and her calf as well meaning we had had a very successful whale watching season without having to step foot on a boat (we saw some in Bremer Bay and Fitzgerald River Park in Western Australia the month before).

If you are into combining good views with a bit of exercise and fresh air then I can't recommend the Cape Byron Walking track more. We spent a good few hours out of the hostel catching tans and best of all, it was all free!

But don't worry, even if you aren't into pretty but long coastal walks there's a viewing platform near the start of the walk where you can see dolphins playing before relaxing on the golden sand.

We may have been rained on in Byron Bay but our last day made up for that. Byron Bay is catered nearly completely for backpackers but it still has an underlying charm to it that will be hard to shake no matter how many hostels open up.

What do you guys think of Byron? Beautiful haven or backpacker playground?


Monday, 2 November 2015

A few of my favourite (travel) things

This month I decided to be a part of the November Travel link up! This month's link up is on the subject of our favourite things.

Flying over lit up cities at night.
When your luggage comes out first at the baggage carousel.
White sand that feels like powder between your toes.
Fresh lemon juice on a melting hot day.
Collecting pin badges from each destination I go to.

What are your favourite things about travel?