A Travellerspoint blog

Tioman Island and a long road trip. Pictures too!

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From Mersing where I last updated I eventually caught my ferry onto Tioman island, its almost 50km off the shore so the ferry took almost two hours and was pretty bumpy. Shortly after I wrote my blog I had an amazing lunch from a local Indian restaurant; this didn't feel so amazing on the ferry ride!

Tioman island was a lot more undeveloped than I'd expected, there is only one road on the island and that only runs a couple of kilometres down one side, the rest of the island is accessed by walking tracks through the rain forest or by boat tours. I've already become tired of the constant hassle you get for being white in South-East Asia and a couple of days on the island was perfect to relieve this. Even though all their guesthouses and restaurants are in competition with each other, they really don't mind where you eat or stay as long as you are happy!

The island was just getting up and running in the past couple of weeks and there was just a couple of dive shops open, i decided the water was so clear here close to shore that I'd leave diving until Thailand and just enjoy a nice couple of days relaxing on the beach! I met a really nice crowd of people at my hostel and at the bar in the evening. I was meant to be going hiking across the island yesterday but I convinced two Swedish guys that I was meant to be hiking with to stay up and watch the Chelsea game, we ended up drunk and were not up by our intended leaving time of 10am. Instead of another day on the beach i decided to head back to the mainland and get back on the road.

Due to other bad connections between the ferry and buses I changed my plan completed and decided I was going to head to the island of Penang in the north-west, quite a journey away! I had to stay the night in Kuala Lumpur again and the journey include two boats and three buses. Luckily I had two Portugese guys and an English girl in tow for most of it, friends I had met on Tioman Island and who will also be going to Thailand for next months Full Moon Party.

I arrived on Penang island this afternoon and will probably spend three nights here, I'm in the capital, an old colonial city called Georgetown, tonight. It has some of the best food in Malaysia here and I'm about to go and explore what I can get for dinner!

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Kuala Lumpur
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KL telecommunications tower and the view from the top of the famous Petronas towers
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Petronas Towers from the bottom

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A very big staircase leading into the Batu caves, and an even bigger Hindu Statue!

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Central Square, Melaka
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Melaka night market in Chinatown

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Tioman Island

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Looking a little sunburn (and underdressed for a muslim country) on an old bus

Posted by pullboy 02:18 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

Learning Lessons

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Hello all, I've got a few hours to spare as I'm waiting for a boat onto Tioman Island on the East Coast of Malaysia, My bus failed to connect with the midday ferry by 10 minutes so I have four and a half hours to burn in a town with a lot of fishings boats, a huge fish market and plenty of restaurants selling seafood. This would be brilliant if I liked fish, I don't.

The last few days have really got me into travelling again, I've also been planning for the next two months. I spent another day in Kuala Lumpur and a couple of days in the historic town of Melaka that has a lot of old churches and buildings built by the Dutch, Chinese, Portugese and British that have inhabited the town over the past 500 years.

I've also learned a few lessons about travelling in Asia already,

1 beer = 1 night or 3 meals
Despite the reputation of Asia being very cheap, there is one thing that is not cheap in Malaysia and that is beer. It is a Muslim dominated country but something isn't right when a beer costs Rm13 a dorm for the night Rm10 and a meal of curry and rice Rm3.50
Fortunately some of the islands (including Tioman where I go tonight) are duty free. Take that Mr. taxman!

What not to wear:
When shopping in KL, the worst possible thing you can wear is a Chelsea shirt that is a year old. Every single stall here seems to have Premier League football shirts and every single stall owner took great pleasure in telling me that my shirt is a year out of date and that he has the new one (whether or not I want a fake shirt is irrelevant). It does provide some good opportunities to talk to the locals about football though, and Chelsea are easily the most popular team here due to various tours over the past 5 years.

Guidebooks:
Whilst I would probably be lost without it, guidebooks give really bad advice as well as good advice. In the hunt for a traditional melay restaurant listed in my book (its about a year old) I found it was no longer in existence, having walked about 20 minutes out of town.
I was also debating whether or not to come to the East Coast of Malaysia as apparently they are in the middle of monsoon season. I decided to take the chance as worst case would be a couple of days of rain and then move on. Upon arriving, a guy told me they had barely seen rain here for 3 weeks and that the monsoons ended over a month ago!

Vegetables aren't so bad:
In news that is sure to shock my mother, I have been eating my vegetables! Most veggies out here aren't the same as home and those that are I actually like (onions, green beans). If I don't know what it is and the other option is chicken that doesn't look like chicken, then vegetable curry it is, yummy!

Some countries don't like backpackers:
I had planned to spend about 3 weeks in Thailand after Malaysia but that is now going to be cut short as the Thais only offer a 14 days visa for people arriving over land (but strangely 30 days if you arrive by air). This, according to others, is because the Thais don't like backpackers. Seems a bit ridiculous considering most of their islands are supported by us. I will now spend 14 days in Thailand before disappearing to Laos and Cambodia, and then I will return to the north of Thailand to complete my trip.

Internet is almost non-existent in Tioman Island so I will have a few days to relax on the beaches, snorkel and hopefully scuba-dive. And of course enjoy a cheap beer!

If you want to see some pictures of where I'll be head to:
http://images.google.com.my/images?q=tioman%20island&oe=utf-8&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a&um=1&ie=UTF-8&sa=N&hl=en&tab=wi

it looks great!

Posted by pullboy 22:24 Archived in Malaysia Comments (2)

Kuala Lumpur

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So my time in Asia as now began and free internet in my hostel means its the perfect time for an update on how I've been adjusting to being back on the road by myself in a new continent. I've now been in Kuala Lumpur for 3 days.

After yet another round of goodbyes to everyone in Melbourne, I'll forgive them that they don't actually believe I won't be back! An eight hour flight and I am back in the northern hemisphere for the first time since I flew to Nairobi 16 months ago. A few notes on arriving in Asia first: they really like to scare you with an announcement on the plane of "the trafficking of illegal drugs in Malaysia is a serious offense and carries a mandatory death sentence." That was my realisation that I wasn't in the Western world any more (and a bit scary considering my luck at immigration)! You also can't really prepare yourself for the humidity as you step out of the plane and onto the runway in this part of the world, i was nice and sweaty and in need of water by the time i reached the terminal!

I had no plan on arriving in Kuala Lumpur. I was meant to pick up the South-East Asia guidebook at the airport in Melbourne but all the shops were sold out. I had a little walk and found myself an internet cafe before finding myself a hostel just outside the city centre. I have since moved from here, deciding it was to expensive, and am now somewhere 2 pounds cheaper! When hostels only cost 3 pounds and I only have just over 10 a day to live on- its a lot of money!

I spent a day exploring the various shopping malls and picking up a few things that I have waiting for here for, knowing that they would be cheaper- a new day bag, sunglasses etc. There are so many shopping centres and markets here specialising in different things- there is a 5 story centre that literally just sells electronics.

Today I followed my new guidebook to the sights of KL, not that the main two are hard to spot. First off I got a lift to the top of the fourth largest telecommunications tower in the world, this gave a good chance to assess the big buildings of the business district of KL, I felt a bit ignorant not realising how developed this city is- there are 40+ story buildings everywhere. Next up I took a walk over to the Petronas twin towers (I'm sure most of you would recognise these towers, as they have a very unique design with a bridge connecting them). They are the worlds third tallest buildings, with just Taipai 101 and the new one in the Emirates being bigger. They have a really nice design and are even better to view close up. Following this I took a walk round some of the older buildings in the city, many of them with Islamic designs and through Chinatown. I also had my first experience of a squatting toilet on this trip, and it cost me 50c! I'll be making good use of the hostel facilities from now on!

KL and Malaysia has a huge mix of people from the various inhabitants of this land over the past hundreds of years. There are influences from all over Asia but most notably China, India and Thailand. This contributes to a blend of cultures across the city. Although most Malaysians are Muslim and therefore wear trousers even in the high 30s heat, there are all sorts of people here and all the dress is very colourful. The food was something I was looking forward to and it hasn't disappointed, I've stuck to mainly what I know so far, but shall hopefully be expanding onto all kinds of Malaysian dishes as I go.

So whilst KL might be just as I'd expected being an Asian city- hot and humid, polluted, worn down in places, with everyone trying to extract as much money of possible as possible and a few stray dogs in for good measure; I've been surprised by its modernness and its friendly and exciting culture.

Tomorrow I'm taking a bus out some caves just outside Kl that have statues in, and then I'll be going South to Melaka and then onto the East Coast to some nice beaches and scuba diving/snorkeling.

Posted by pullboy 02:07 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

South East Asia Plans

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I thought I'd also include a quick run down of my plans for the final two months of my trip. I include a map because I had no idea that some of these countries even existed before researching them, so I'm sure most of you don't either!

I fly tomorrow to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia from Melbourne where I'll spent a few days getting my bearings and sorting out a few essentials for my trip. I have 2 or 3 weeks in Malaysia where I hope to get out to some of the islands to scuba dive and relax! I'm not sure if I'll go to Singapore, it depends if I can get a cheap flight from here into Thailand.

Most of my time (at least three weeks) I'll spent in Thailand, as there is the most to do for backpackers here. I have a friend celebrating a 21st there at the end of Feb, and a lot of friends I have met in Melbourne shall be there. There is also the famous full moon party on the beach of Koh Phangan at the start of March.

After leaving these I will rush round Cambodia,Vietnam and then Laos before going back to Bangkok in Thailand to fly home on April 6th.

My plans are very open as most the time I'll be travelling by train and bus rather than flying. I'm really looking forward to seeing completely different cultures and having heard so much of these countries, I'm sure I'm going to enjoy them! Although I've been away for such a long time, in 10 different countries so far, nearly all the countries I have been to have been ex-British colonies and our influence is still all over their culture, their cities and the people. Asia certainly won't be like that!

Having visited America when I was younger and Africa and Australasia on this trip so far, this will be my fifth continent.... and it will be just South America and Antartica to go!

Posted by pullboy 20:27 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

Milford Sound and finishing off New Zealand

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I've been busy over the past week doing a lot of driving for the last few days I had in New Zealand in order to get to Christchurch in time for my flight. I also had a lot of stress with my onward flight to Asia- as I didn't realised this hadn't confirmed. As a result, I didn't fly to Malaysia on Friday as I planned and have been in Melbourne (where else!?) for the weekend. I fly to Kuala Lumpur tommorow.

I last updated from Queenstown, which was a bit uneventful for myself and Gar as we decided we couldn't afford to do any of the 'adrenaline' activities there and spent three days sleeping in and going out drinking in the evening. Not very productive really, but so many people get stuck in Queenstown for this reason.

We left Queenstown to spent last Ffriday and Saturday at a hostel in a small town, Te Anau. This is the closest town to Milford Sound and allowed us to spend a full day there. Te Anau also has limestone caves on its lake, these provide one of the best viewings of glow-worms in New Zealand, little worms which literally have a light shining out their bum. This attracts flys, moths and other insects into their sticky traps. The trip was good except for being put in with a huge Japanese tour group which talked very loudly and kept using their cameras (they don't allow pictures inside as this disrupts the glowing).

The next day we drove through Fiordland National Park to Milford Sound, stopping off at lakes and streams on the way to admire the mountains around, the whole area was shaped by glacical activity. For geography boffs (maybe Marie, or Dad), Milford Sound is not actually a Sound but a Fiord as it was shaped by a glacier and not a river. It was incorrectly named by the discoverer, who noted the similarity to sounds back home and they've never bothered to change it.

Milford Sound was described by Rudyard Kipling as the eighth wonder of the world and it really is quite an amazing place. The heads of the moutains come down so steeply that the fiord is over 400m deep in the middle and the heads are over 1400m, the tallest have snow on even in the summer. We picked a great day there and got some great pics on the boat cruise that took us past a few waterfalls tumbling off the moutains and out to sea. The entarance from the ocean is hidden and Captain Cook managed to sail past twice when mapping New Zealand.

After returning to Te Anau for the night, we drove along the South Coast for a couple of days. This area has a different landscape again and has a lot of farmland, I think we saw most of New Zealands 40 million sheep! The road took us on and off the coastline, which is is really nice and provides good surfing but is very very cold! We spent a night in Dunedin, which didn't have too much going on for it except for a nice historic railway station!

From there it was on to Christchurch, probably my favourite city in New Zealand, it has a very English feel to it with a pretty river lined with willow trees and the famous cathedral. Whilst we were there it happened to be one of their biggest festivals- the international busking festival, where street entertainers take over the squares for the week. This kept us entertained during the days and we had old friends from Melbourne to see in the evenings.

Milford Sound
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South Coast
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Dunedin Train Station
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Boulders
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Christchurch
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Posted by pullboy 19:35 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

A short update from Queenstown and LOTS of PHOTOS

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After spending a couple of nights in the township of the Franz Joesph glacier and doing a little bit of walking around the area we have driven down to the notorious backpacker hangout of Queenstown to stay for a few nights. Its from here that I'm updating on a very sunny morning. We've got cheap internet so I've had a chance to upload a few of my favourite photos so far.

On tuesday morning we got up and instantly realised we'd made a bit of a mistake. Unlike the day before when we had arrived, it was very cloud and probably going to rain. The day before when we had arrived was perfect to get out to a viewpoint and get agood look at the glacier but we'd been a bit lazy and spent the afternoon in the hostels hot tub (having these luxiourious items in a backpacker hostel in NZ is not uncommon, unlike the poor Asutralian hostels they regularly have saunas, hot tubs and much better tv rooms and facilities. And they're usually cheaper!).

We headed off on a couple of walks anyway, the first was to a lookout up the canyon formed by the glacier through the rainforest, jumping over streams and walking over very wobbly suspension bridges that worringly warned only to have 1 person on them at a time. This, and another walk we did took us nearly all the way to the ice and to the river than runs under the glacier.

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Photos of the misty glacier and one of ther dodgy bridges

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After leaving Franz Joseph we had a great drive past the 'Southern Alps' mountains and past landscapes carved out by glaciers over the past thousands of years including some very deep lakes.

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Lake Matherson; snow caped Mt Cook and Mt Tasan (the two largest mountins on the Australiasian continent) are behind the cloud, on a clear day this is possibly the most famous photograhic location in NZ.

Waterfall_2.jpgAs well as this stop at Lake Matherson the drive bought us close to some nice waterfalls.

We arrived in Queenstown in the early evening and there was only one place to go for dinner- Fergburger! This famous burger place and has a real cult reputation amongst backpackeers. Almost every person that has mentioned Queenstown to me has bought this little burger shop into the conversation. They really are that nice!!

Queenstown is expensive to do any of the big activities though so we'll just enjoy the sun and the nightlife before we head to Milford Sound, which is supposed to be the number 1 place to see in NZ. Great!


Photos from previous entries

Wellington_1.jpgWellington_2.jpgWellington, views from behind the city and the 'beehive' parlimentary buildings

Lake_Taupo.jpg Lake Taupo, which we skydived over

Toragino_view.jpgCloudy_.jpgVolcanoes in Tongariro National Park, with and without cloud!
Waterfall_Toragino.jpgMaybe favourite waterfall in Tongariro National Park, we saw plenty!

Abel_Tasman_1.jpgAbel_Tasman_2.jpg The amazing split apple rock and one of the beaches we kayaked to

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Views from stop offs when driving down the West Coast. The third picture is 'pancake rocks'

Sheep_.jpg There are always hold ups when roadtripping New Zealand!

Posted by pullboy 14:00 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

Kayaking, coastal driving and working mens clubs

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I last updated from just outside the Abel Tasman National Park on the northern coast of the North Island in New Zealand. I spent a couple of days here and then we have been driving south along the West Coast through great coastal scenery and am now at the township next to the Franz Joeseph Glacier, slightly inland.

There are several ways to see the Abel Tasman National Park: by walking, biking, in a boat, flying over it or as we chose, kayaking. This was recommended by several people as the park is right on the coast and its main feature are excellent beaches, caves and coves that has been shaped by the relentless waves coming off the Cook Straight. Gar and I kayaked for two days in a two-man sea kayak (named the divorce boat as there as so many arguments in it!) with our overnight bags and food in water resistant compartments. Although they usually keep everything dry, these probably wouldn't survive if we flipped the kayak so we had to be quite careful about big waves and rocks!

After an hour or so of instruction we were left on the water by ourselves with a map, lifejacket and flares, just incase! We had to paddle about 7km each day which would only take a few hours so it gave us plenty of time to stop off on the beaches and see some extra things. The weather turned amazing as soon as we hit the water and we had non-stop sunshine, not a lot of wind and calm seas for the two days; perfect! The coast is beautiful- I have some pictures that honestly look more like Thai Islands than New Zealand. I'll get them up soon! We also saw seals on an island and a tiny penguin that swam in front of us.

We stayed on 'Aquapackers'; a converted boat that acts as the only backpacker hostel in the park. It spends all its time in one sheltered bay and has a bar etc. to give us something to do at night. Unfortunately it was just myself, Gar and two Northern Irish girls that were under 35 on the boat, not much of a backpackers hostel, but this didn't stop us getting a thorough telling off from the captain the next morning for being too noisy past midnight.

After two days of kayaking we were quite tired and drove back to Nelson, a town that had no accommodation left last time we passed through. Here we went out for a few drinks and rested up for a long drive day.

The West Coast in New Zealand is renowned for its great coastal road, similar to the Great Ocean Road near Melbourne that I drove through with friends last March. The drive has so many places to stop off and take pictures that Gar was getting a little bit annoyed at my constant stopping! A great stop off halfway through the day was at a seal colony and then at 'Pancake Rocks', a set of limestone rocks that have all eroded to resemble a stack of pancakes. It was actually more interesting than it sounds!

When driving we have simply been using our 'Lonely Planet' guidebook to find out the best places to stop, a bit of a lazy way to do it but we are spending so little time here compared to others. We also entertained ourselves by picking up hitchhikers, we ended up with some strange Israeli girls in our car for a few hours. There are plenty of people that hitchhike the islands rather than renting a car; apparently the Kiwi's love picking them up and hearing their stories.

We spent a night in a town called Greymouth where we met a big group of travellers who are with one of the bus companies here. The town is not very big and the only place open past midnight on Saturday was a Working Mens Club, which was surprisingly good fun when 20 backpackers take over it!

We drove most of Sunday to arrive where we are now, at the Franz Joeseph Glacier. There a several glaciers on the island and this is one of the largest. Because of the strange conditions on New Zealand, with large mountains and a lot of rain, it is perfect for glaciers to exist (or so I'm told, I didn't study geography past year 9!). We have spent today doing a few walks with different views of the glacier and mountains behind. It was nice, but very cloudy so the view wasn't always the best.

Tomorrow we head off again past the Southern Alps, the largest mountain range in Australasia. We head south to Queenstown, the bungy jumping capital of the world. I shall NOT be jumping off a bridge with just an elastic band attached to my feet though.

LK

Posted by pullboy 23:48 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

Wellington and the North Island

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My first real update comes from the South island, having already being in New Zealand for 8 days; a lot has happened!

I eventually spent 5 nights in wellington staying with my friends Cheryl and Barry, as it was Barry's birthday it was a nice time to be there and enjoy a barbecue and a short swim in the pool. I really enjoyed the city, even though it only has a population of about 400,000 compared to Auckland;s 1.5 million, it is the cultural hub of New Zealand- much like Melbourne is compared to Sydney.

Te Papo, the national museum of New Zealand was as good as all the reviews I had read about it. It had genuinely interesting sections on the geological history of the island, the influence of immigration and my favourite, Maori culture. Unlike Australia, the native people of these islands have a huge influence on the overall national culture here.

I went to a couple of the smaller museums in Wellington which were also interesting to visit and spent time seeing a few other sights in the city centre.

After becoming such a boring bookworm it was probably a bit overdue that I got out of the city and on the road. I picked up our 1998 Nissean Sunny hire car and drove north to the centre of the North Island, Lake Taupo. Here I met up with my Irish friend from Melbourne, Gar, who I will be travelling with for the next 2 ½ weeks. In the first hour we spent together he managed to convince me into a skydive which i will describe properly in my next blog!

After the skydive we saw some of the sights in the area including Huka Falls, a very powerful waterfall that is used for power generation in the area, and Craters of the Moon, a walk around a geothermal area with a lot of sulphur and steam being released. These were both fun but there was not as much as I thought there was to do around Lake Taupo, especially since I'd had the best view of the huge lake the day before- from 15,000 feet!

Tuesday was a big day of driving for us as we were heading back to Wellington to catch the ferry to South Island the next morning, we also really wanted to see as much of Torragino National Park as possible on the way through. The park is the backdrop to several parts of the Lord of the Rings trilogy and is dominated by three large volcanoes in the middle. They are all still active and most recently erupted (without causing too much devastation) in 2007. Given this, you would probably think we were a bit crazy in our intention to climb to the summit! Unfortunately when we arrived it was very cloudy so there wouldn't have been too much of a view from the top. We changed our plan and spent the day walking through the bush to different waterfalls in the park, despite the cloud it was really nice and gave us a chance to see some great scenery.

Not that you need to go into a National Park to see scenery. My drives to Taupo and back gave me a great chance to see some of North Islands best scenery, everything is even better than you imagine it to be, the country is just so hilly and the roads so windy, its amazing to drive around. Every few minutes you turn into another exciting valley with hills full of wildlife, mountains in the background and the sun shining most of the time!

This morning we took the Wellington to Picton Ferry from the North to the South Island. This is usually a very scenic trip as it enters via the Marlborough Sounds. As it was still quite early there was quite a lot of mist and cloud about so we missed out on the views. We're in a small town, Motueka, tonight as we're off kayaking the coast of the Abel Tasman National Park tomorrow.

Another day and another national park tomorrow, I'm a new person in 2010!

Posted by pullboy 23:18 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Goodbye Australia, Hello New Zealand

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It's been a a while hasn't it? unbelievably for me nearly a whole six months has passed since I sat down and wrote on this blog. Nearly all of my time in the six months was spent in Melbourne, with two trips to Sydney added in to make sure I didn't get too restless in one place. I left Australia on Monday and am in Wellington staying with friends.

A sad note to start, on one of my last days in Melbourne my camera was stolen in the hostel I've been staying at. I've had the best luck there and for the rest of my trip so far but i was unfortunate enough to take my eyes off my bag for a couple of minutes and it disappeared. Due to the amount of people staying for a long time the hostel it was normally very good for these kind of things and I certainly think no less of it because of this incident. I have lost a few of my Australian pictures that I hadn't backed up however, and have now bought a new camera to replace it.

I mentioned last time that I had returned from my trip up the East Coast with the bank account running on empty so I had to restart my savings again. I initially worked one shift on reception in order to cover my rent for the week but this gradually increased, working up to 5 in one week; with some day shifts and some night shifts (I was paid for any more than one shift).

As well as the hostel, I had contacts from when I was last in Melbourne allowing me to get plenty of work doing house removals and also working for a designer rug company unpacking shipments and working in the showroom. All these jobs gave me anything from 50-70 hours per week in total and got the savings started very quickly.

When on my Whitsundays sailing trip myself and paul made friends with two great girls working in Sydney. They came to see Melbourne in September and I returned the favour by visiting them in Syndey in October. This was a fun trip living in their house just 50m up the road from Bondi Beach. I got to the city to see the Opera House and Harbour too, but knew I'd probably be back for New Years so didn't venture too far!

I spent Christmas in Melbourne with a huge group of friend from the hostel. We had a secret santa with presents for all, a fantastic roast cooked by some of the girls and spent some of the day on St Kilda beach. Although it was 24 degrees, the wind was strong so we eventually gave into our stubboness relocated indoors to carry on partying. Christmas is a really special time when travelling, as I found last year everyone makes that little extra effort and everyone is very friendly.

After Christmas, a group of us had plans to go to Sydney for New Years to watch the fireworks around the harbour, we completed the 900km drive in a day and arrived on the 29th. The fireworks were fantastic from what I remember! I also spent a couple of days about 2 hours north of Sydney staying with a family that a friend knew. This was beautiful.

In late November I had a decision to make as my budget would only allow for a few more weeks travel in Australia or a few weeks in New Zealand before two months in South East Asia. When talking to other travellers and looking at pictures of the places there was no contest, New Zealand just looks too beautiful to leave out; particularly at this time of the year.

So, on Monday I repacked my rucksack, threw out a lot of old clothes to get my pack back to its optimum 13kg weight and boarded a flight to Wellington. Here, after a lot of questioning by immigration officals, I was met by Barry and Cheryl- a fantastic couple that were on my overland trip when I first left home some 15 months ago (yes, it has been that long!). Cheryl is Kiwi and Barry South African and they moved over here about 3 months ago into a new place. Its really big as there are hopes of filling it with a family soon, so perfect for me to stay. I didn't realise how much I'd missed a double bed and a good soft towel! I didn't make many plans for Wellington as I knew they'd have it all planned out for me, they whisked me off the plane and straight into a driving tour of the city. Its really beautiful if a little windy! They've given me some great places to visit in the local area and I'm staying an extra couple of days as tommorrow is Barry's birthday and he has a BBQ planned for Saturday.

On Sunday I will leave Wellington in a cheap backpackers hire car to meet up with Gar, an Irish friend that had been in Melbourne for longer than me! We're going to spend the next three weeks travelling together, with a few days to see some of North Island before moving to the South Island. We're hoping to get to a lot of the national parks and really experience what New Zealand is famous for, its natural beauty. I'll keep the blog up to date though this. On the 28th Jan I fly to Kuala Lumpa and spend two months in South East Asia before flying home on the 6th April..

Someone said to me before leaving Melbourne that everywhere in New Zealand looks like a postcard picture. Wellington might be my first stop, but I think they might be right. I love it already and can't wait for the next 3 weeks!

Posted by pullboy 01:29 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

1770, the Whitsundays and returning to Melbourne

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Its been a busy last week and a half for me as I enjoyed 1770, sailed the Whitsundays and snorkelled the Great Barrier Reef, then returned to Melbourne a couple of days ago.

Last week I updated saying I'd arrived in the town of 1770, where Cook landed into Australia in search of food and to perform much needed repairs on his ship. The town was really nice, although very small- we actually stayed in a connecting town but between them they have about 1000 residents, its becoming increasingly popular with backpackers though as it has very cheap activities. We picked a couple of these.

Firstly, we went on an evening off-road rainforest drive to have a bbq and a few drinks whilst watching the sunset from the highest point in the area. This was with a crazy guy who owned the land and so could drive wherever he wanted! Not to disappoint he spent most of the time skidding offroad and almost crashing into trees, he defined his style of driving as 'bush bashing'! A group of us watched a great sunset from the top before more crazy driving on the way down.

The next morning we booked a 'flight tour' of the area. When we arrived there we discovered there was more than just a relaxing plane ride as we'd be up in a small four seater plane, performing some aerobatics and then landing on an empty beach before flying back. On the return leg I'd be in a different plane which I'd be able to take control of. Both journeys were amazing and provided some great views of the towns and the national parks that surround them. When I got into the second plane the pilot told me that i'd actually be taking off, after a couple of minutes of instructions I was handed the controls, scary stuff!! Both rides were equally fun and scary at the same time, going upside down in a plane is just like a rollercoaster but with more of a chance of going wrong, and I was convinced I was going to crash the plane on take off.

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Our aerobatics plane, Co-Pilot Lawrence Kidd and the view from the air of a river in the National Park


Take-off! Note I look very scared!

After a 9 hour night bus that evening, I arrived in Airlie Beach- known as the gateway to the Whitsundays. The Whitsundays are a group of 74 islands lying within sailing distance of the coast and amongst the Great Barrier Reef. The scenery is, as you can probably imagine, amazing. Clear blue waters, white sand and beautiful islands dotted around. We'd booked a 2 night trip on the Atlantic Clipper- one of the largest ships that caters to the backpacker crowd and with a reputation for being a bit of a party boat! We had a great group of all the home nations, Italians and Scandanavians and even a group of Australians from Perth (untill you backpack Australia you can't understand how rare it is to get to know a group of Australians!!).

The trip took us into sight of a lot of the islands and we got off at three of them to snorkel the reef and relax on the beaches. I wish I had an underwater camera as it was even more amazing than I expected it to be, anyone that thinks you have to go diving on an expensive tour to see how amazing the reef is is mistaken. We snorkelled just 20m or so from the shore and the clear water, bright coral and thousands of fish was unbelievable. Didn't see any nemo's but plenty of similarly colourful and interesting reef fish! As well as the snorkelling stops we stopped at Whitehaven Beach, one of the most photographed places in the whole of Australia. Again, it was easy to see why!

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The Clipper in the water and me on the waterslide

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Whitehaven Beach fun!

After leaving the boat and feeling like I was swaying for the next few hours the whole group went out on a big night out in Airlie Beach and gradually drifted off to their next location over the next few days. It was sadly the end of my trip and despite wanting to go on with Paul up to Cairns, my bank balace was certainly saying I needed work and fast. I was planning to pick fruit or work around Queensland but after numerous calls to hostels and agencies I found there was a lack of this work anywhere around. After much though I have decided to return to Melbourne where I have been for the last couple of days; here I know the city well and can find work to keep myself going and eventually begin to save for another trip- I already have a shift on reception at the hostel. Plans are certainly to finish the East Coast by going to Cairns but also to try and get to Alice Springs and Uluru (Ayres Rock) and the Northern Territory by the time I leave.

About the leaving date: I'll be using my full year visa here and will leave just after New Years (which I hope to spend around Sydney harbour). I then have three months before my flight home from Bangkok on April 6th; depending on money I could either visit New Zealand and then Asia or just Asia. This will be my last date change on the flight as they won't let me change it any further without paying full fare!!

Might be the last update for a month or so but remember its my birthday on the 27th (ten days!) and you can always email me: lawrence.kidd@gmail.com. I'd love to hear from more of you!

Posted by pullboy 23:29 Archived in Australia Comments (3)

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