A Travellerspoint blog

Adelaide

Part Two

sunny 30 °C

Tuesday brought us a change of hotel, moving from Hindley Street (central, but the red light district) to South Terrace- further out but with lovely views of one of the many parks in Adelaide. By this point James had decided on which car to buy, so we went and picked it up for a couple of days before having it transported up to Alice Springs ready for our return home after Christmas in Darwin.

Having collected the car we were at a loose end for the rest of the day, so we opted to take it out for a test drive out into the Adelaide hills. We chose to go up to the Botanic Garden at Mount Lofty- picking a place at random from a map. We definitely made the right choice. As with so many great places in Australia it was pretty much deserted- ours was one of 3 cars in the car park. The Gardens were beautiful, with lots of manicured lawns, a huge range of trees and plants, and sculptures scattered throughout. We picked a spot in the shade of a tree and spent a happy couple of hours picnicking and reading, enjoying the peace and quiet.

We chose the scenic route back to Adelaide, weaving along some very windy mountain roads through the forest. I was excited to see a sign warning of koalas crossing the roads, but wasn’t holding out too much hope having seen signs over the past few days but not having any luck. Not 5 minutes later I squealed, James pulled over quite rapidly and there was a koala, hanging out in a tree right next to the road. It wasn’t at all bothered by the strange person hopping up and down taking photos, and went right back to sleep. As you can imagine, it made my day!

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We spent the next few days having a leisurely time looking around the rest of Adelaide, which really is a lovely city. It has a reputation for being quite quiet, and apparently lots of people who are born here move away for University to the bigger cities like Melbourne and Sydney. However it does have a lot going for it, and there are certainly a number of beautiful parks and buildings that you don’t get in other cities around the country. Another huge upside to Adelaide is that it has a wider range of book shops than anywhere else I’ve seen- something that I have really missed on our travels.

The Botanic Gardens were lovely. As soon as you step through the gates there are lots of different birds- my favourites were the Rainbow Lorikeets, which I spent a few frustrating days trying fairly unsuccessfully to photograph:

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Another aspect of Adelaide that we enjoyed was the food- I hadn't expected it to rival Melbourne, but it really did. Chinatown in Adelaide is a huge area, and there is definitely a culture of going out to eat. The restaurants were by far the busiest part of the city, moreso than the clubs and bars in Hindley Street, and even the market during the day was bustling with people visiting the cafes. It's possible to eat out incredibly cheaply if you take the time to find your way around. We had a great dinner at the market foodcourt for about £4 each- it was clearly a local haunt with a very vibrant atmosphere. It also served alcohol at reasonable prices, with surprising but sensible serving suggestions:

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By the time Sunday rolled around, we felt pretty at home in Adelaide but we were ready to move on to Darwin for our next stop- an Australian Christmas!

Posted by AngelaO'Donnell 28.01.2013 19:19 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Adelaide

Part One

overcast 20 °C

Adelaide was a shock to the system after our road trip! Suddenly there were people, traffic jams and multiple options for places to eat. Our first job was to go and see a couple of cars that James had been looking at online- the urge to buy a Skyline was overwhelming, so we made that our task for the day. Navigating around Adelaide was an interesting experience as we had opted out of having a sat nav, and had chosen instead to use printed maps. Having not used a map properly for a few years, it took a bit of getting used to but really helped in the long run- over the next few days we got to know Adelaide really well and were able to find our way around with few problems.

After looking at the potential new cars, we headed south out of central Adelaide to a suburb called Happy Valley (yes, really) to stay with some of James' old friends from Alice. We had a great evening with them, trying out their pool and enjoying a few bottles of wine before crashing out in their living room and waking up at an obscene hour of the morning to watch multiple episodes of Peppa Pig with their two young daughters. Having had our fill of Peppa, we opted to spend the day looking around at the McLaren Vale wine region, which is further south and slightly to the west, closer to the coast. It was a terrible day in terms of weather- very grey and drizzly, but it felt very much like home! It would have been absolutely stunning on a clear day, as the area is much more hilly and scenic than the flat expanse of vineyards that Coonawarra sits on. We also managed to find the elusive wine barrel chopping boards- a cause for much celebration.

The weekend was James' mum's birthday celebration, so having picked up several family members we started the celebrations by heading out to Glenelg for an art workshop. Glenelg is a very trendy area a 30 minute tram ride away from central Adelaide, with lots of galleries, boutique shops and restaurants with a lovely beachfront. Having completed our resin paintings we set off for a leisurely stroll along the main street, mixing window and real shopping and stopping for lunch at a noodle bar. Our tram ride back to Adelaide was livened up by a stag party playing miniature golf along the length of the tram, to the great amusement of the rest of the passengers and the annoyance of the conductor. In the evening we had dinner at the hotel and then set out to visit the casino for a few drinks. We had a lovely time and ended up seeing the stag party again, who seemed to have lost their clubs but not their spiffy socks and jumpers.

On Sunday we went to see Cirque du Soleil- an incredible experience, and one that I'll hopefully repeat in the future. We had fantastic seats with great views of everything that was going on. I can highly recommend seeing them if you ever have the chance. We spent the late afternoon at a small festival in a side street- there were lots of different dance and music acts, and interesting stalls with different foods and Christmas gifts.

We spent Monday having a stroll around the shops to finish the Christmas shopping and a visit to the cinema to see the latest Bond film. Adelaide to me feels the most like home of all of the places that we have visited- the climate is more British than most places, and the main mall area could be just about any of the cities in England. It was also a novelty to have late night and Sunday shopping again- Sunday shopping seems pretty rare over here, and in Alice all but the food shops close at about 1pm on Saturday until Monday morning- not ideal if you like to sleep in at the weekend and have something you need to get!

More on Adelaide soon.

Posted by AngelaO'Donnell 28.01.2013 18:15 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Vineyards

Apollo Bay to Portland to Naracoorte

sunny 30 °C

Our stop in Apollo Bay was pretty spectacular, and was probably one of my favourite parts of our whole trip. We stayed at a fantastic hotel with a bath in the bedroom and a balcony which looked over the bay itself (I highly recommend the hotel if you ever find yourself driving the ocean road). Apollo Bay is a sleepy town with plenty of places to stay, not many places to eat and precious few tourist traps- in other words, perfect. You can imagine that if anywhere as beautiful was to be found in Europe, it would be overrun by tacky souvenir shops and noisy bars and clubs. Luckily Australia has so many beautiful places that very few seem to be like that.

We left the hotel reluctantly the next day and drove on towards Portland, stopping off regularly to see the sights. The coastline wasn't quite as spectacular as the day before, but there were some beautiful views and there is some lovely countryside running right up to the ocean which made for fantastic views. The road itself was very quiet- there weren't very many people around at all in spite of the fantastic weather. Our main stop during the day was to see the Twelve Apostles (of which there are no longer 12). It was by far the busiest and most touristy place that we stopped, with the obligatory bus loads of visitors milling around the car park and getting in the way of everybody else.

Having become quite a fan of Australian signs, I was pleased to see this:

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After that we drove on a short distance to visit Loch Ard Gorge and Thunder Cave- the views were just as beautiful as at the Twelve Apostles, only more peaceful. Again, I was amazed at how undeveloped the area is- I'm sure that there are plenty of laws to prevent these places from becoming too commercialised, but it was still astounding to see that the only adjustments were good quality paths, a few signs and a small car park.

Our next main stop was at Logans Beach near Warrnambool- I saw a sign for a whale nursery and couldn't resist. Although we didn't see any whales at all (it was the wrong season entirely), the view was still worth it and the stairs down the cliff onto the beach made for a great workout after sitting in the car. Whale watching has been added to the to-do list for our next trip along the coast!

Portland was a very quiet place- most of it was shut by the time we arrived at about 5pm, with many of the restaurants and bars closed completely. Portland actually does what seems to be an industrial port- there was an odd mix of container ships and yachts moored out in the bay. Having walked around the main streets, looked at the house prices (cheap) and established that most places were closed, we got a takeaway pizza and called it a night in preparation for our drive to Naracoorte the next day.

Heading away from the coast to reach Naracoorte took us through Mount Richmond National Park for a short distance before we entered Discovery Bay Coastal Park. There we saw a sign for 'Ocean Beach' and decided to take the chance to go for a swim before we headed further inland away from the ocean- we weren't disappointed. We had the beach to ourselves, save a couple and their dog in the distance- a few km of white sand and very clear waters. It was a perfect last stop in Victoria before we crossed over into South Australia.

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From there we made a stop at Mount Gambier for a quick lunch before driving up to Naracoorte through the town of Penola and the Coonawarra wine region. We made several stops on the way up, searching for a chopping board made out of an old wine barrel as a present for James' mum- it was a fruitless search but it was nice to see the vineyards, enjoy the scenery and prat about:

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We had another great stay in Naracoorte- we lucked out with our booking as we had managed to book a whole cottage for the same price as a hotel room- having a sofa again was a novelty, and we enjoyed being able to cook our own breakfast the next morning. We ventured into Naracoorte, not expecting very much given our experience of Portland the night before, but we were pleasantly surprised. We'd picked out a place to eat which as luck would have it was hosting the end of year party for the local senior school. In spite of needing to cater for over 100 people in a kitchen you might expect in a reasonably large house, they were more than happy to cater for us and the food was fantastic.

Then we turned in early, ready for our trip to the bright lights of Adelaide the next day.

Posted by AngelaO'Donnell 28.01.2013 17:13 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

The Great Ocean Road

Melbourne to Apollo Bay, Apollo Bay to Portland

sunny 25 °C

It's really hard to describe the past couple of days in words, so I think it's better to just upload some of my favourite photos. This has been just about the most beautiful place I have ever been lucky enough to visit- I don't think I've ever said 'wow' so many times in a day, or felt my jaw drop so often. Suffice to say that the Great Ocean Road should be on everybody's bucket list.

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Posted by AngelaO'Donnell 11.12.2012 02:10 Archived in Australia Tagged ocean great road Comments (0)

Melbourne

sunny 37 °C

Having gotten a feel for Melbourne on Friday, we revisited the market on Saturday morning to find some breakfast. After weaving through the narrow aisles of delis and shopfronts, we found a shop selling enormous almond croissants- perfect for me, I've missed them since we left the UK 4 months ago! We had a lovely time sitting on some crates in the market, munching on croissants and watching the world go by. As it was Saturday, it was incredibly busy and lively- lots of musicians, performers and an extra helping of tourists. We picked up some fruit and set off to the beach at St Kilda. After a stressful hour trying to pay for and get on a tram to the beach, we eventually found ourselves at the beachfront. Given that it was a 37 degree day the beach was pretty packed, but we enjoyed a stroll along it and a rest sitting on a grassy mound looking out at the jet skis and swimmers.

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Eventually the heat got too much, and we headed off to find icecreams, which we did at Cold Rock- my first visit! Cold Rock is possibly the best thing ever on a hot day- dozens of icecream flavours to choose from, with dozens more things that you can have mixed into your icecream- I went with maltesers in mine. Having enjoyed the air conditioning and icecream, we jumped on the tram back to the CBD. Arriving back in the city centre, we were met by a strong blast of cold air coming down the street- it turned out to be the start of some much fresher weather. It was a pretty bizarre experience- certainly not anything I've experienced before. The cooler weather brought with it a fairly spectacular sunset:

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Sunday was a much cooler, fresher day- we spent it wandering around the markets and catching up on laundry (exciting!) before heading out to the casino in the evening. We had a lovely walk through the city, and enjoyed a quiet drink in the fairly spectacular surroundings of the casino. It was very different to star city in Sydney- much quieter and more understated. We had a great time people watching, and grabbed some dinner before heading back to the hotel to prepare for our trip to the Great Ocean Road the next day.

Posted by AngelaO'Donnell 11.12.2012 01:45 Archived in Australia Tagged beaches buildings birds melbourne Comments (0)

Melbourne

“Have you seen my passport?”

sunny 27 °C

Is what I head from James just as we were picking our bags up to walk out the door and drive to the airport this morning. In spite of the fact that we are travelling on domestic flights and don’t really need them, we brought our passports anyway just in case we needed extra ID. He was quite unconcerned in telling me that he hadn’t seen his since Perth, and wasn’t sure where it was. His approach of assuming that it must be packed somewhere was worrying, but he assured me that it would be fine so I reluctantly went out the door and spent the next couple of hours wondering what he’d done with it. Upon taking our travel documents out of his bag at the other end to check the hotel details, his passport was quite clearly in the plastic wallet that he had ‘looked through 20 times’.

Passport troubles aside, we had a great trip from Sydney- the flight was only an hour and the shuttle bus brought us right to the hotel door. After dropping the suitcases off we headed into Victoria Markets to have a look around and find some lunch. The markets are huge, and very busy- it’s possible to buy just about anything there, but there are particularly good fruits and vegetables- very cheap and really good quality. Melbourne has a reputation for some of the best food in Australia, and it’s easy to see why with the range of different foods available. A couple of hours of happy wandering led us to the best burgers we’ve had in a long time, bought from a Winnebago caravan parked in an alleyway- the menu consisted of 2 choices of burger, both of which got enthusiastic thumbs up from us and neither of which, I was pleased to note, contained egg. Australians have peculiar ideas about burgers, and seem convinced that a burger is not complete without the additions of egg and beetroot. Luckily the owners of Mr Burger seemed to have come to their senses and left them off the menu.

After lunch we dropped by the hotel to check into our room and decide what to do with the rest of our day. We decided on heading out to wander around the shopping area of the CBD, which is filled with boutique shops and independent cafes. The whole of Melbourne feels a lot busier than Sydney did, perhaps because the streets are older and there are also trams competing for road space alongside the usual traffic. After browsing for an hour, we walked down to the river and followed the riverside walk along to the aquarium, for the sole purpose of visiting Batman Park- no superheroes in sight, sadly. We also scouted out the Crown Entertainment Complex, which we’ve earmarked to visit tomorrow night. After that we hopped onto the City Circle Tram- a free tram which also has a commentary guide running which allowed us to learn a bit about some of the different places along the route and to get more of a feel for the city.

So far, Melbourne seems more like a British city than either Perth or Sydney- both of those have had more of a deliberately designed feel to them, with more modern buildings split into clearly defined blocks. Melbourne on the other hand has a much more eclectic mix of buildings, with old and new right next to each other. The alleyways and small side streets make the city harder to navigate but much more interesting- we’ve already stumbled across a number of streets that we want to investigate further to see what they have to offer.

Venturing out for dinner was quite an experience. We'd had a taste of pushy restaurant owners in Sydney's Chinatown, where there are staff out the front of the restaurant trying to talk you into choosing their restaurant to eat at- it's impossible to just stand and read a menu without being accosted by somebody wanting to read it for you and list all of the specials. But the street we found in Melbourne was on a whole other level! It was a narrow street with most of the space taken up by tables and chairs, almost all of which were packed with people. There were live bands at either end of the street and the noise of the music and chatter made for a great atmosphere- more like a street party. Eventually we found somewhere a little further up the street which did incredible Greek food. Melbourne has something like the third largest Greek population in the world, and we'd found the Greek area of the city. It certainly had a more Mediterranean feel than anywhere we've been so far, which made it feel more familiar than the other cities we've visited- much more like holidays I've had in the past!

Wandering back to the hotel, the streets were busy but not manic- the lack of a central area for bars and clubs meant that people were spread out in the various areas of the city rather than concentrated in one place. We made our way back, wondering what tomorrow would bring.

Posted by AngelaO'Donnell 07.12.2012 14:05 Archived in Australia Tagged people melbourne markets restaurants Comments (0)

Sydney, Part Two

sunny 27 °C

At the weekend we spent some more time with James’ extended family. We headed out to a buffet on Saturday night, followed by a trip into Sydney city centre to see Sydney at night. The harbour which had been so relaxed during the day was buzzing with people, outside restaurants bars and clubs and down the steps to the waterside. There was a fantastic atmosphere, very calm and friendly- the kind of place you’d feel safe enough to walk through alone, unlike so many other cities. We went on to visit the Star City casino, which was pretty spectacular- when there’s a Gucci shop at the entrance that is still open at 10pm, you know there are people with money to burn inside. Unfortunately we weren’t those people, but as places for people watching go, we’d found one of the best. It was certainly a contrast to the casino in Alice Springs…

On Monday we moved on to Baulkham Hills, another Sydney suburb, to visit more family. Sydney and the suburbs seem to go on forever, and there’s no discernible divide between suburbs in spite of the fact that some of them are the size of UK cities in themselves. Parramatta, which sits roughly between Baulkham Hills and Sydney, is about the size of Oxford, but it just blends into both.

Tuesday was a lazy start followed by a drive up into the Blue Mountains and a town called Katoomba. We started off by a trip to Leura Cascades, a river running down the mountainside to a very high, steep waterfall (definitely a waterfall, not a cataract, Dad) dropping into a valley. Blue skies and fairly cool temperatures (mid-twenties with fresh mountain air) made it a stunning walk, and we were lucky enough to have chosen to start our sightseeing away from the rest of the tourists. The path and steps wound down through the woods, following the path of the river and lots of little cascades until it abruptly ended in the waterfall. There aren’t quite words to describe the scale of the valley and the sense of space and distance- it was another of those moments when I realised just how huge this country really is. As we were standing admiring the view and taking copious photos, a wild cockatoo flew in to drink from the river. I managed to take some photos before it flew off over the valley- definitely one of my favourite photos as it was only one of two that I’ve seen in the wild so far!

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Wild Cockatoo at Leura Cascades

We followed with a short drive on to Echo Point to see the Three Sisters, which are three pillars of rocks sticking out further along the same valley. I was prepared for the scale this time, but it was still an incredible sight. After lunch in Katoomba we drove on to Scenic World, which is another stop along the same valley. From there it’s possible to ride on two different cable cars and a railway which runs down the mountainside at a 51 degree angle- I think it’s the steepest in the Southern Hemisphere. Unfortunately it wasn’t working, but we were able to get some good views from the lookout point to finish off our trip.

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The Three Sisters, seen from Echo Point

Thursday was our last day in Sydney, so we caught the ferry from Parramatta into Central Quay in the city centre which gave us the chance to arrive in Sydney by sailing under the Harbour Bridge- a bit of a must! The weather was perfect for walking, so we headed up through the area called The Rocks, a bit of a maze of alleyways and boutique shops, onto the Harbour Bridge to walk across to North Sydney. It was definitely worth the climb up, as we got some incredible views of the city and the Opera House again. It turns out that the water and sky really can be as blue as the postcards show- I always thought they were photoshopped! After a leisurely walk back to The Rocks we stopped to have a drink and watch the world go by, before heading off to do exactly the same thing in a different location- this time watching people arriving to board the cruise ship that was docked in Circular Quay. Late afternoon soon rolled around, so we said our goodbyes to Sydney and jumped on a train to get back to Baulkham Hills in time to pack ready for our next stop- Melbourne!

Posted by AngelaO'Donnell 07.12.2012 13:55 Archived in Australia Tagged mountains people birds night Comments (0)

Sydney

West to East across Australia

sunny 30 °C

Sunday 25th November found us at Perth airport for a 9am flight to Sydney. Again, it was easy to check in and get through security, although there was a bit more to see in the airport itself this time- we browsed the bookshop and sat down for a coffee while we waited for our flight to be called. I’d managed to strain my back the previous day getting off the bus (I have no idea how), so James threw himself into an enthusiastic demonstration of how to stand up which ended up with the lady behind him being belted with a stray elbow- I’m not sure why standing up involves arms flailing, and I’m pretty sure she didn’t either, but at least she found it funny.

The flight went pretty quickly in spite of the turbulence- we flew through the storm system that had passed over Perth the previous night. Four hours later we found ourselves at Sydney domestic airport which is huge! It was 4.30pm by then, so we were a bit thrown by missing 3 hours of our day. James’ uncle kindly picked us up from the airport, and we got to experience Sydney traffic! It was a half hour trip out to Liverpool where they live. I hadn’t realised how huge Sydney and the surrounding suburbs are- it seems to take as long to get into Sydney from Liverpool on public transport as it took to get from Oxford to central London!

We had a couple of relaxed days lazing around the house, doing laundry and going into Liverpool- it was humid, rainy weather which was perfect for a couple of days of reading and shopping. On Wednesday we headed into Sydney for a couple of nights, staying the first night at a hotel in Woolloomooloo, right next to the main park. We caught the train from Liverpool, and then were able to walk to the hotel. From the hotel we went straight out to walk along Finger Wharf, stopping for lunch at a café opposite the Art Gallery and followed by a wander into the Botanical Gardens. The Botanical Gardens are beautiful although not very big- but the cockatoos flying around made up for that! I also saw my first orb spider- actually really interesting, rather than scary, although I’m glad not to have walked into it! Dad and Ann will be pleased to know that there are ‘Friends of the Gardens’- they do indeed get everywhere!

From the Botanical Gardens we walked on through the park, where I got my first view of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge- I was quite excited, and think I might have taken a few too many photos! It was quite an overcast day which meant it was quite cool and ideal for walking, so we headed round the quay to have a closer look at the Opera House. It’s covered in over a million tiles, and really is spectacular to look at. We went into the reception area to have a look around and see what was on, and get a close up view of the inside. After a break sitting down at the quayside to write some postcards, we headed on around Circular quay to an area called The Rocks- a really lively area of Sydney filled with lots of winding passages and restaurants. From there we headed out to Chinatown to find dinner, before making our way back to the hotel.

We started Thursday with a bracing walk- 268m above Sydney! We had headed up the Sydney Tower for a guided walk around the outside of it on a platform which gave us spectacular views all around the area. We were strapped onto a rail, which helped us to feel a bit more secure, particularly when we headed out onto the glass walkway which we could see straight through…and had to jump up and down on for photos. It was a bit nerve-wracking, but thoroughly worth it- I’d do it again given the chance. After that we moved on to Sydney’s Madame Tussauds- my first experience of one, and absolutely brilliant fun! We took some fantastic photos, and enjoyed being very touristy. We caught the tram back to the hotel, and then headed to the ferry over to Manly, which is north of Sydney. The ferry ride was one of my favourite things on the trip so far- the sun was out so I got some better photos of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge, and it was great to see the sights from a distance. Manly itself is a lovely place- family friendly but also very vibrant, and popular with surfers. We waited to meet Dean at a bar at the wharf, which gave us some great views of the ferries and sailing ships heading in and out. Dean and Donna live in an apartment on the beachfront, with a balcony which looks out over the beach and ocean- absolutely perfect for a night away from the city! We went out for dinner in a pub which boasted 4 table tennis tables, which made for an interesting experience trying to get out after we’d eaten. We made a stop at a rum and cider bar before heading back to the apartment for the night.

This morning was spent walking along the beach, enjoying the fresh air and sunshine and spotting Water Dragons sunning themselves on the rocks. We also spent some time watching some of the local school children having swimming and surfing lessons, which looked like a great way to spend a sunny Friday morning! We’re now back in Liverpool for the weekend to spend time with some of James’ family, before moving on to stay with some more family in a different suburb next week- no doubt we’ll be back in central Sydney at least one more time before we fly to Melbourne a week today.

Posted by AngelaO'Donnell 29.11.2012 19:11 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Perth

Leaving the Northern Territory

sunny 30 °C

After three months in Alice, the time for our trip around Australia finally arrived! We’d enjoyed our time in Alice, and it had been great to see what life was like in the NT, but we were both excited to be seeing some more of the country and what it has to offer. It’s a bit less exciting for James as he has been to many of the places before, but his comment of ‘oh, I thought this was in Melbourne!’ about a particular part of Sydney suggested that he might need a bit of a geography refresher course.

Our first stop was Perth. We flew out on Tuesday 20th November (a one day working week for me- what a hardship!), leaving Alice at a very civilised 10am. Alice Springs airport only does domestic flights, and as first experiences of domestic flights go, this one was great. There was one check in desk open, with no queue, and the security person not only looked at me as if I might be a normal person rather than a terrorist, but she actually smiled and made a joke! At no point did I have to show any form of ID- we just handed over our printed out boarding passes, and that was it. I think they were more concerned about people smuggling fruits and flowers than checking who was on the plane! We sat outside in the sunshine having a coffee and waiting for the plane. The flight was uneventful, but we did get to see forest fires and salt pans from the plane window- again, the scale of the outback is enormous and surprisingly engrossing considering we’d just spent three months living in it.

Because of the time difference we arrived in Perth at 11.35, hopped in a taxi and were at the hotel by midday. It was a really odd experience to see traffic, big shops and lots of people again! We were also very happy to discover that Perth has a free transport system in the CBD (central business district), and other transport is really cheap. Our first stop was Cottesloe Beach, about a 30 minute train ride/ walk away from the CBD, which was beautiful- lovely soft sand and blue water, although pretty windy. We ended up sunbathing on some wide turfed steps, which shielded us from the worst of the wind and gave us great views. After a couple of hours of sunbathing and walking on the beach, we headed back into town. We spent our first evening visiting Kings Park, venturing up some very steep, very dark and uneven steps through a heavily wooded area and finally emerging on a hill overlooking Perth and the harbour. It was definitely worth the climb! The view was stunning.

Our second day was spent at Perth Zoo, which I can thoroughly recommend- it’s huge, with an enormous range of species, lots of areas to rest/picnic and some beautiful plants as well as really well designed enclosures. My favourite points were the Painted Dogs exploring some cardboard boxes, seeing the Pelicans being fed and discovering that there is such a thing as a Sausage Tree. It was a hot and humid day, with a storm that rolled by but didn’t amount to anything. After the zoo we had a reviving drink and headed back over to the CBD on the ferry- it was lovely to see the view of the city from the water, and we got some more great photos. We had dinner at an amazing Vietnamese restaurant that we spotted from the bus when we took the long route home.

Thursday was spent at Katrina and Darren’s wedding by the river in the Swan region- it was a beautiful ceremony and we had a fantastic time looking at the vintage cars during the reception.

Friday was spent recovering from the night before, with the aid of a quiet brunch spent reading books, some retail therapy and a long siesta for me in the afternoon before we headed out to eat. On Saturday we revisited Kings Park to see it in the daytime- it was definitely worth a return trip in the sunshine. It’s huge, with lots of different areas with a range of plants and trees. In honour of Sarah D, we went for a visit to Acacia garden to see where she and Greg got married- we took some photos! We spent a few hours ambling around admiring the view, stopping to stretch out in the shade every now and then. On Saturday evening we packed and prepared for the next stage of our trip- Sydney.

Perth was fantastic, a really beautiful city which is easy to get around and which has loads to offer. We ended up deciding to add it to the shortlist of possible places to live- it’s not really a shortlist any more, more of a list of places that we are adding to every time we visit somewhere new…

Posted by AngelaO'Donnell 29.11.2012 19:09 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Darwin to Alice Springs

Or, how I found out that Australia is quite big.

sunny 40 °C

So then we set off for the long drive from Darwin to Alice Springs. At 1500 km, it was going to be a couple of long days of driving, but we were planning to stop off at some hot springs at the end of the first day and I was excited to see what the outback was really like. We spent a couple of hours driving from Darwin to a place called Katherine, stopping off a couple of times for petrol and lunch. It was amazing to drive so far on just one road, with no traffic lights and hardly any roadsigns. The road trains were pretty impressive, with 3 or 4 trailers each- driving too close is not a good idea! I found the fire warning signs fascinating- I don't think I ever want to find out what the 'catastrophic' fire danger level looks like!

We made it to Katherine eventually, after a pretty hot couple of hours after our last stop- we were trying to balance enjoying the air conditioning with actually having enough petrol to get to the next pocket of civilization, which is quite an experience after England (although I did once run out of petrol in the middle of Witney). Just north of Katherine is one of the Charles Darwin Uni campuses- there are 3, spread out between Darwin and Alice- 1500km between campuses is a pretty big gap! Katherine itself is fairly small, but with some beautiful scenery- we went down to see the river which was fairly low at the time, but the water level has raised several metres in the past, flooding the town.

After having a look around we decided to head on to Mataranka and the hot springs, where we were due to stay the night before starting the next long day of driving. On the way out of town we stopped so that I could take a photo of a fire warning sign, and then carried on- for about 2km. All of a sudden, the engine cut out. Luckily there was no traffic (I mean none), so pulling over was easy. We stopped, tried to restart the car, and got nothing. Thankfully Teena and Nick weren't far behind, so we called to let them know what had happened. We were lucky to not be far from Katherine, because we only had phone reception close to the bigger towns along the way, and we weren't due to see another one for quite a long time. After a few hours sitting at the side of the road, we finally managed to get somebody with a tow truck to come and pick us up to take us back to a garage in Katherine. The tow truck driver was very friendly, and gave us a very serious verdict of 'ants eating the wires'. It turned out to not be ants, but the CPU which had fried- we only got the car back a couple of weeks ago, after a lot of hassle and stress.

After a night in Katherine, and a fruitless wait at the garage the next morning for some news, we set off for 10 hours of driving. It turns out that Australia is big. Very big. And the outback is not really a good source of I Spy ideas, although James and I strung out a game for 40 minutes. The open spaces were pretty spectacular, even though they were pretty plain- you start to get an idea of the sheer scale of the country when you drive up a slight hill and can see nothing but scrub for miles in every direction.

Our first few days in Alice were spent having a look around, and starting to get a feel for how things are around here. It's certainly very different to Witney! Almost all of the houses are one level, and even in the centre of town the buildings are 3 storeys at the most. I was surprised by how green some areas of the town are- in spite of water being obviously limited, there are lots of sports fields with some lovely grassy areas outside the library and in some of the older parts of town. Public transport is pretty limited, so most people drive around town- it's too hot to walk, and there's plenty of parking everywhere that you need to go. There's a real sense of the distance from other major towns and the cities- the ads on TV are almost entirely centred on local businesses, including ads for school fairs. There are lots of activities around town, particularly sports clubs- I played hockey on my first Saturday here (and haven't played since- I've never played hockey in anything other than icy conditions before!) and it's really easy to just get involved.

I've really enjoyed settling in here and experiencing a change of pace and culture- everybody is so friendly and laid back, and it's nice to be getting to know more faces around town. James and I spent the last week helping out at the hockey part of the Masters Games, which is a multi-sport competition that is run in Alice every two years. It was nice to get involved in something like that, as it was a good chance to meet a few people and see another side to the town. I particularly enjoyed the closing ceremony, which involved a band called Icehouse who were apparently big over here in the 90s- I didn't really have a clue who they were, but the atmosphere was fantastic, and it was nice to go to an open air concert that didn't turn into a bog!

That's the last couple of months in a nutshell- I have lots more stories to share, so the plan is to actually write some of them down over the next week or so, so that I don't forget them! I'll also add some more of my favourite pictures to my photo album.

More soon!

Posted by AngelaO'Donnell 22.10.2012 04:15 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

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