A Travellerspoint blog

Fraser Island

Paradise found!

sunny 22 °C

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So this is what I was missing out on! All my time in Australia I've had it in my ears about coming here and how it was one of the best places I'll ever go... It certainly didn't disappoint! I've spent the last few days on Fraser Island eating sand, getting up very early, trying not to flip a 4x4 and without a toilet or shower; and i've loved it!

Fraser island is located about 4km off the coast of Queensland and is the largest sand island in the world. It is about 115km long and 35km wide. The edges are unsuprisingly beach with great clear blue waters, but the inland has dense forest with a huge variety of vegetation and forty freshwater lakes created by springs. This makes the island very unique and jhas earnt a place on the World Heritage list.

They say Fraser Island combines two of Australia's past-times; the beach and the car. The island has no roads and the only way to get about is to drive on the beach and on the sandy tracks inland. The most popular way for backpackers to see it is to sign up with a tour operator who place you in groups with an eleven seater 4x4, camping and cooking equipment, food and a suggested itinery. All you need to bring is yourself, alcohol and a sense of humour and its a guarenteed good time!

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Our 4x4 on 75-mile beach

Our group consisted of me and Paul, Heidi and Petra (two friends we have been travelling with since Noosa) and six young English travellers who came as a group. We set off on Thursday morning after a very lengthy safety briefing- three backpackers were killed a couple of months ago and several others seriously injured when one of the 4x4 rolled five times after being driven too fast. As most the others were under 21 we were stuck with most the driving, which was not without its scary parts; most noticably stalling on a rock with the car nearly 45 degrees tipped over!

On the first day the tide was coming in early so we camped near a shipwreck on the beach, it was a luxury cruiseliner wrecked in 1935 during a cyclone. A chance for a few pictures and then we set off for a creek for a swim and to relax in the sun. We then returned to camp for dark to party with our truck and those camped near us in the camping zone.
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Me at the shipwreck
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Shipwreck at sunrise

The next day we were up early to go and visit a high rocky point, where we spotted Stringrays and whales in the clear waters of the sea. It is also possible to see sharks hunting close to shore and dolphins but we didn't have much time to stay around. We knew Lake McKenzie was the most popular spot on the island and after a very long and bumpy ride we were just amazed at it. It's Lake Mckenzie in the picture at the top of this entry, but the pictures on my camera really don't capture just how amazing this place is. The sand is white, waters are a clear and refreshing blue and the forest around the lake makes it such a peaceful spot. We could have easily spent the whole day there easily, swimming in the lake and sunbathing on the shore. Apparently there are also other lakes very similar to this on, but we didn't have the time to visit them.

We returned to camp for the evening as the sun was setting and played football and frisbee on the beach. As we were cooking we met one of Fraser Islands famous residents, a Dingo, who came and stole our bread when we weren't looking!

On our last morning on the island we had time to visit a different lake, Lake Wabby which is the deepest lake on the island. It has a very steep sand blow leading into it... great fun for rolling or running down in the morning sunshine! The lake is darker than Lake McKenzie but is still clear enough to see the population of catfish living there.

DSCF1072.jpg Lake Wabby

We reluctently left the island on Saturday morning, amazed at what we'd seen but a little disappointed we couldn't stay for another day, week... or month! As I've travelled, i've learnt to make the most of what I'm seeing as the chances are it will be the last time I'll ever get to see them. Fraser Island is really one of those places I'm going to make ever effort to return to at some point in my life, it really is that unique and special.

Yesterday evening we left Rainbow Beach (the place where you catch the ferry to Fraser Island) and headed to Agnes water, a six hour bus journey north. This is really the end of the surfing of the Sunshine Coast and into the Great Barrier Reef region. The real reason why we've stopped here is because of the Town of 1770, the point where Cook landed in (you guessed it!) 1770. It is a really beautiful town with a really friendly hostel so we're spending a couple of days here waiting for Thursday, when our Whitsundays boat leaves from Airle Beach. This will be the last part of my trip and involves spending three days and two nights on board a ship with 30-50 other travellers, sailing around some of the beautiful islands on the Great Barrier Reef. Should be a chance for more good photos!

Posted by pullboy 17:18 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

Surfers Paradise, Brisbane and Noosa

sunny 26 °C

I've finally had some brilliant weather on this trip! Since last updating we've had just one night of rain and the days have been amazing; excellent timing considering a) I've been on a canoeing and camping trip and b) it's getting hot back home and I don't want to be jealous!

I'll pick up back at Surfers Paradise where Paul and I had spent an afternoon on the beach. In our last evening there we went up Q1, the largest building in the city and the 20th largest in the world, to watch the sunset and see the awesome view of the gold coast over the sea. This was really worth doing, especially since I saved money on the enterance fee by using my expired student card (this has come in handy at a number of places, at the Grand Prix everyone used it and saved over $200 in total!). As I mentioned, Surfers is somewhat of a party place and has a couple of big backpacker bar crawls a week. We missed these when we were there so we could make it to Brisbane on time.

DSCF0805.jpg DSCF0825.jpg Surfers Paradise by day and night.

Myself and Paul had planned the dates of our trip so we could be in Brisbane on the 24th to meet up with two Irish girls (which has since become three Irish girls!), who were staying in our hostel from Janurary to April. With a bit of luck there were other 'faces' from the hostel around Brisbane at the same time. As well as this I also saw Bobby and Eddy, friends of mine from Sixth Form, as they were staying at the same place as us. Quite a hectic couple of days catching up with people! As well as the nights out drinking with old friends, we got to see a bit of the city which is reasonably similar to Melbourne but just smaller. The botanic gardens just outside the city centre were really nice and we spent both afternoons relaxing in here.

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After some further goodbyes to our friends, I moved north to Noosa; a collection of small towns about 200km north of Brisbane. Here we really are subtropical and the scenery has suddenly become amazing. We're surrounded by national parks and wildlife. We didn't see Noosa Heads, the main tourist town, for a few days as we were booked on a 3 day/2 night canoe trip on the Noosa Everglades, subtropical wetlands around the towns. Our first night consisted of staying in a rustic bushcamp getting to know our group of thirteen over a few (too many) drinks. The group was great and included us English and representation from Germany, Belgium, Chile, Sweden and a very very crazy Russian guy!

The actually trip we signed up for started the next day and we were given a briefing showing us where we would be canoeing to and where we were camping. All our equipment, food and valuables were carried in the two and three man canoes with us. Although most were in barrels, we were told these weren't actually watertight so to be careful not to tip over! We canoed about 6-7km each day, a few hours, and then were given walks etc we could go on. Although we planned to do everything on the itenery we had a serious problem with getting lost; a walk to the beach ended in being knee deep in mud at one point! We did get to see the beach eventually, as well as some amazing parts of the rivers and lakes, and some kangeroos on one of our walks which we hanging around one of the resorts! The rivers we were canoeing on contain a lot of tea tree oil which makes the water very dark and relective when still, perfect for photos!

The worst bit of the trip was the last morning, having been drinking heavily in a campsite the night before we were up at 6am to leave at 7am for the final ride home. Cold, wet, hungry and with very tired arms we arrived back safely and were transferred back to Noosa Heads after breakfast.

DSCF0874.jpg Paul and I.
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DSCF0955.jpg Canoes on the Noosa River
DSCF0950.jpg Relections on the river with morning fog.

I've spent the last couple of days just relaxing in Noosa, its a fanstastic holiday town with great beaches, surf and right near the Noosa National Park. Last night we trekked up to a lookout over the town and park with a couple of friends off our trip, it gave some amazing views!

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The last few days have given me a chance to see what I've been missing whilst in Melbourne, that's all the outdoors activities and excitment of group trips. This was my real passion in Africa as I was surrounded by wildlife and great scenery for three months non-stop. Luckily, this is just the beggining of the fun for me as next is Fraser Island, a world heritage site and most backpackers favourite trip of the whole coast. Three days of hiking to and swimming in freshwater lakes, camping, driving over sand beaches, shipwrecks, and dingoes... I can't wait!

Posted by pullboy 21:44 Archived in Australia Tagged backpacking Comments (2)

Back on the road again

sunny 23 °C

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Well it was about time but I've finally left Melbourne. Having been there since the first week of the year; its been a long and fun five and a half months. I'm now spending about four weeks heading up the East Coast of Australia well into Queensland where I'll be stopping to work again.

The past couple of months since I've updated this blog have gone past so quickly, it only seems a few weeks ago that I was on the beach in St. Kilda and not working very much. Since the summer disappeared and the weather in Melbourne actually turned colder than England I've been a little more productive on the work front and managed to save enough for this triop I'm on. Thanks to a friend in the hostel getting me a lot of removals work and a job I picked up with a rug company in the showroom and warehouse; I managed a good block of work.

Compared to the summer with my trip down the Great Ocean Road, Music Festivals etc there isn't a lot to write about about my last few weeks in Melbourne. I did however manage to get to a St. Kilda Aussie Rules game (which they won, to go top of the table). One very fun week was when my cousin Louise was passing through Melbourne, I got her to stay at Coffee Palace and join in the fun with the group I've been living with there. She seemed to enjoy herself!

The last few days in Melbourne made me realised what I'd miss most when I moved on, without a doubt its the huge 'family' of people staying at the hostel. When a crowd decided to get up to wave myself and paul off at 5am when we left, we knew we'd made some very good friends! None more so than Paul, who I'm now travelling with for this trip; I met Paul in my first week at Coffee Palace and we've shared a room ever since- if he wasn't an Arsenal fan he's be a brilliant guy!

So, on Friday morning I caught a flight to Byron Bay... a notorious backpacking town about 200km South of Brisbane, just into New South Wales. It was once famous for a lot of drugs and a lot of surfing but is a lot cleaner now, with more a of young hippy atmosphere and a lot of backpackers up for sun and nights out. We certainly didn't get the first of these as from the moment we arrived in Byron the weather was terrible- with not a lot to do without the beach it was a quiet first few days.

We've now moved north to a town called Surfer's Paradise (where there isn't actually that much surfing!), this is in the heart of the 'gold coast' which is a huge holiday destination. Surfer's itself is very modern with a seaside feel to it. We had non-stop rain yesterday but today has been really nice and I've just got off the beach; which being the East Coast is amazing!

The plan for this trip is to keep heading north. Highlights will include Brisbane, the sandy Fraser Island and a three day sailing trip on the Whitsundays (a group of islands on the Great Barrier Reef). I'll be ending up about where the Whitsundays are. The weather here is nice and there is a lot of work picking fruit which should keep me occupied for a while and hopely earning a bit more money!

Hope everyone is well back home, to those just finishing finals- I hope they went well, enjoy the summer!

LK

Posted by pullboy 22:47 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

Festivals, road trips, loud cars and decision making

semi-overcast 17 °C

Hi guys, its been a while hasn't it?

I'm in disbelief that its nearly April and the summer here in Melbourne is ending already. I've been here for almost three months now and have had an amazing time and I'm just not ready to leave yet! Whilst I'd love to tell you all about everything I've been up to over the past couple of months it would be impossible so I'll just focus on a few of my highlights.

I'm still at the Coffee Palace backpackers in St. Kilda (click the link at the bottom of this post to see where on googlemaps). The backpackers has been full nearly every night for the whole summer so I've met literally hundreds of great people and have become part of the furniture like so many others there. I've found myself in a group of about thirty long-term residents who have also been around for the summer working. The hostel organises social events including a fancy-dress karaoke party every month. These provide some amusing photo opportunities!
n514517968..6833052.jpg Singing at Karaoke!
n514517968..4095869.jpg Lawrence the pimp with pacman!

The summer in Melbourne brings all sorts of music festivals; I've managed to get to a lot of them seeing some really big names. At Future Music Festival I saw Basement Jaxx, N*E*R*D, Paul Oakenfold and some other big dance DJs. We went to Sound Relief at the huge cricket stadium, this was in aid of the bushfire appeal and was the biggest concert ever held in Australia! Here we saw Kings of Leon, Jack Johnson and a lot of Aussies we had no idea about! Next week is V festival and assuming I can still get a ticket I should be seeing more big names like The Killers, Kaiser Chiefs and Razorlight.

One of my favourite weekends of my trip was a couple of weeks ago when myself and fourteen of my best friends from the hostel drove the Great Ocean Road together. The road runs west of Melbourne along the coast and is regarded as the best drive in Australia. You can see why as the entire trip is just amazing with awesome views of the coast and nice seaside towns to stop off in. We left late on a Friday night, hiring out two huge 8-seat Kias and carrying a rented 10-person tent and a couple of smaller ones. I did half the driving for one of the cars and although quite worried about the size of the car, I eventually settled and enjoyed it a lot! We made it about 400km up the coast to Port Campbell where the twelve apostles are; stopping off at plenty of the lookouts to see the views. We even stopped once to spot a Koala Bear in the tree!
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n510008963..8326093.jpg Great weather on the Great Ocean Road!

Last weekend was the Formula One Grand Prix in Melbourne, this happens around the lake in Albert Park which is just across the road from where we are (see on map at bottom). It was just too close to miss! A huge crowd from the backpackers came down to see it with us and we sat on one of the corners with a big tv screen nearby to see what was actually happening; the cars were just too fast to make it out! I went caped in a St. George's cross and was saved humiliation when Button won with Hamilton in third!

The goal of my time in Melbourne wasn't to party at music festivals and on road trips but to get work and save up some more money; this has been a bit of a failure so far as I've managed to eat away at my savings rather than add to them. I haven't found any permanent work which I can get enough hours at so have been relying on one-off days working for local tradesmen that contact the hostel looking for work. I've worked a few days as a removals guy, painting, packing up someones house, unloading a container full of boxes and a few other odd jobs. Whilst this gets me some money in, the work isn't always there. I'm still looking for something permanent on days where I don't have work and I'm hoping it will get a little easier now that some of the backpackers are starting to head north with the sun.

So the plan for now is still to get some permanent work here in Melbourne and save up some good money before hitting the road again, probably around late May/June. This has obviously put my trip back quite a bit, i was planning on coming home at this time! However, I've settled into the thought that I'm only going to be working when I get home anyway and I may as well be out here enjoying myself whilst I can. At the moment I can't see myself seeing out my full year visa in Australia but I just think I'll be regretting it when I'm home if I only use a couple of months of it; I probably won't be able to get another one! After Melbourne the plan is still to travel the east-coast of Australia and go into Asia, hopefully via New Zealand.

This means I'll be away for longer than I said and the earliest I'll be home is August (but it will probably be a little later than this), I hope everyone isn't missing me too much. If you do, just come and visit like the parents are next Monday!

Location of me in Melbourne http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=en&geocode=&q=3182+vic+24+grey+street&sll=-37.86331,144.979084&sspn=0.040183,0.090981&g=3182+vic&ie=UTF8&ll=-37.845308,144.973354&spn=0.080385,0.181961&z=13

Posted by pullboy 15:49 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

The heat wave and other events

sunny 32 °C

As you all know, I'm currently in Melbourne where I'm staying for a few months to attempt to save some money and enjoy the summer. I've now been here for nearly four weeks and have only just got round to updating, its been pretty hectic!

Melbourne is brilliant, it's as simple as that; I love the place, the friendliness of the people and the whole atmosphere around the city. I'm living in a suburb called St. Kilda, formally a bit of a run-down seaside resort but it has improved over the past few years and is now a very young and lively place to live. I'm still at the backpackers I first moved into when arriving here, there is a great crowd of semi-permanent travelers there that have been around for anywhere between a month and a year. The hostel is obviously a great place to live because we're meeting new people all the time that are just passing through for a week or two, I'm sure I could live there full time and not get bored of it! There are a lot of English around but also plenty of Irish, German, Scandinavian and others. We're located about a ten minute walk from the beach, two minutes from a huge park and a minute from the tram lines into the city. The hostel organises social events every week, I'm currently playing football twice and touch rugby once a week; trying to regain some of the fitness I've lost on my travels!

I was not sure when I first read about Melbourne whether I'd like the city centre, it has gridded streets, trams along the main roads and coffee shops on every corner. It didn't take me long to make my mind up though, everywhere you look there are modern and interesting buildings, great little shops to explore and great views. The skyline is dominated by the Eureka tower (which you can climb, but I haven't yet) and a group of other skyscrapers.

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The city centre and docklands

One of my favourite things about Melbourners is their love for sport, they have nearly all the Aussie Rules teams based around the city, I'll be a St. Kilda Saints fan come April. As well as 'footy' they also love cricket and have the most famous cricket stadium in the world, the MCG, here. I went to the Australia vs. South Africa one day international a couple of weeks ago, a great game to pick because the South Africans won in the last over and the Aussies are very bad losers!

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The Melbourne Cricket Ground, looks empty but there were 40,000 people there! The stadium holds around 100,000

As well as the cricket, some of you probably know the Australian Open is currently going on here with the finals this weekend. Unlike Wimbledon you don't have to queue up all night just to get a ground pass so a group of us had a great day last Wednesday at the tennis watching some of the second round matches. We saw mainly lower ranked players, but were lucky enough to see the Williams sisters play a doubles match, which they won easily.

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Venus and Serena Williams

On other days here we've been out exploring different parts of the city and hanging around down the beach. Apart from this week the weather has been amazing, somewhere between 24 and 32 degrees everyday with not a drop of rain. This was untill the start of this week when the heatwave started, the temperature suddenly jumped to 38 degrees Monday, 40 Tuesday, 42 Wednesday, 42 Thursday and then 45.1 degrees (113 F, for you oldies!) yesterday. This means I've pretty much done nothing all week because its too hot, and the hostel doesn't even have air con so the rooms are very sweaty. There was even moments when I actually wished I was at home in the cold!

Australia has been feeling the effects of the slowdown and finding work has been hard here, I'm confident I'll find something in the next week or two though. I had a trial at one place for waitering and know a few other places that are potentially looking for staff, I just need a bit of luck and I should find myself some work so I can get earning and stop spending my savings! What I'd actually like to do is work at the hostel on reception, seems like the perfect work but there's no shifts free at the moment, a few of the guys are leaving soon though so there's a chance I might get something there.

So, the plan for the next week or so is to really get settled. I'm hopefully going to sort out my job situation and then I'll be set. Once I am settled I'm going to find it hard to leave Melbourne, especially since I know that I have a visa for a whole year and I'm only planning on using a few months of it. We'll see how things go though, and if I keep enjoying myself as much as I have been so far, don't expect me home too soon!

Posted by pullboy 19:00 Archived in Australia Comments (3)

Leaving Africa and arriving in Melbourne

overcast 18 °C

I made it to Australia yesterday, leaving Africa three months to the day after arriving. My time there has probably changed me completely and has given me the chance to see parts of the world that many people dream of but few people get to see. The 21 hour journey from my hostel in Jo'burg to my hostel in Melbourne gave me the time to reflect on people I've meet, places I've seen and things I've experienced in the last three months.

I can remember the feeling when I left home for Nairobi, I was nervous but excited to finally be going to Africa. Since then I've experienced so many highs (and a couple of lows) that really has changed me dramatically. I've stood 2 metres from a lion in the Masai Mara in Kenya, watched beautiful sunsets in Zanzibar, been humbled by the experience of visiting a Malawian orphanage, riverboarded the mighty Zambezi, stroked a cheetah, gone headfirst of a huge Namibian sand dune, been amazed by Table Mountain and Cape Town, learned to surf and scuba dive and enjoyed the tranquility and beauty of the Transkei region of South Africa.

These plus hundreds of other experiences have amounted to a fantastic three months, both as part of an overland tour and as an independent traveler in South Africa. It's hard to judge how you have changed yourself as these changes tend to happen slowly, I suppose that is up to others to decide. But in terms of feeling independent, having a hunger to see the rest of the world and actually believing that I can do it, even I can detect changes within myself. I was originally looking forward to one of my friends, Tom, being out here in Melbourne to join me to work and travel but since he has delayed his trip I have become quietly pleased I'm getting the chance to carry on by myself, meeting people as I go.

Traveling has given me a huge energy boost, apart from nights with too much alcohol involved I've found myself getting up early with a desire to accomplish something day to day; if only I had this much motivation through my first couple of years at university! I've never felt healthier; my weight is a couple of pounds lower than when I left and I haven't been ill in the entire trip apart from one or two mornings.

To others thinking about traveling Africa, either in the way I have or differently my advice is simply to go for it! Although joining an overland tour restricts the independence you have at traveling by yourself, includes long days driving and sticks you with the same people for the entire trip, it has some great advantages too. There is no way I would have seen the things I did in seven countries in six weeks without being part of the tour, even if I wanted to do it alone it is very hard to get about, particularly in Eastern Africa. Overlanding was also an 'easy' way for me to start traveling alone as it kept me busy and surrounded by people, a lot of whom I really hope I stay in touch with! Those looking at volunteering in Africa, I would personally chose Malawi as a country that needs and would really appreciate help; the people here were the friendliest and most welcoming of any I have met and I'd love to go back one day.

Backpacking South Africa was a different experience completely and included some days which were quite empty and bad decisions staying longer at places than I should have. This became a problem as I ran out of time towards the end but still had a fantastic time. My advice to anyone traveling South Africa (or even just visiting for the world cup next year) is to spend time in Cape Town and the Wild Coast region, whilst other areas are great, these are just exceptional. Taking all my experiences into account, South Africa is a striking and varied country, although I was aware of its past before arriving, you can still see clearly the impact of the apartheid years, with racial separation still evident. Whilst there are no longer whites-only beaches and whites-only carriages on buses, you still won't find a white person in the townships or a white person pumping your petrol. Most of the poverty in South Africa is around the cities and larger towns, whilst the people around the rural villages are below the 'poverty line' they are proud of their self-sufficient and traditional lifestyle and rarely struggle as long as there is a good harvest.

On Monday I left all of Africa behind and had huge day of traveling over 11,000km, arriving in Melbourne yesterday evening. This begins the next chapter of my gap year. I am hoping to find work and settle here for a few months in order to experience life living in a different country and save up some more money for the remainder of my trip (Africa was a lot more expensive than I'd hoped!). I also want to add a four week trip to New Zealand at some point.

I'll spend the next week or so getting used to Melbourne and getting going at finding work.

LK

Posted by pullboy 18:35 Archived in Australia Comments (2)

They don't call it the Wild Coast for nothing..!

sunny 24 °C

I can't believe how quickly the last weeks have gone, its been almost three weeks since I last updated! I'm sure the time has gone quickly at home too with organising Christmas etc. I hope everyone had a fantastic Christmas, particularly the family in La Santa (who I'm sure missed me immensely!). My Christmas was great; but as I seem to have completed my blog in chronological order so far, I has better start with Port Elizabeth.

I was in PE for a week to complete my open water scuba diving qualification. As the course was just four days long it was intense and meant days of lectures and pool/dive time as well as theory homework in the evenings, which left me very tired! The course was good fun though, I buddied up with a local South African guy, Rob and there were 7 others. We spent our pool time learning to control buoyancy, equalisation techniques, emergency procedures and other skills, we then put these into practice in the ocean for our open water dives. The local area has some great dive spots and we got to explore the reefs, going down to my maximum depth of 18m. I'm pleased I stopped off the complete this as it should come in handy later in the trip.
DSCF0277.jpg Practicing a boat entry via backward roll into the training pool
After a week stuck in PE it was good to move on to East London (named after our fine capital), which has a great backpackers and nice beaches but not a lot else. All except the Lion Park, a kind of African-style zoo, and its star attraction: a white lion cub that they allow you to touch and play with, even I had to be impressed with his cuteness!
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I left East London on the 23rd to head to Coffee Bay on the 'Wild Coast', as I've travelled I've exchanged reccomendations with people travelling the opposite route and nowhere has come more highly reccomended than this place, I can see why! Coffee Bay is on the coast in the Transki region and as soon as you enter the area you see the brilliant scenery, village huts set on endless rolling hills, theres something so simple and relaxing about their way of life out here. This is where Nelson Mandela and the current president grew up, we passed Mandela's house on the Baz Bus on the way in and because it is Christmas time he was actually at home (shown by the SA flag being raised).

The backpackers here is the 'Coffee Shack' and is brilliantly organised with hikes and day trips every day, cheap food, very cheap surf lessons and a very crazy bar at night! Naturally, this was a fantastic place to spend Christmas and met a really great crowd of people I spent a lot of my time with: two Dutch guys, a Belgium guy and an English girl. On Christmas Eve they put on a really nice dinner and live entertainment followed by a late night of partying leaving everyone very hungover on Christmas day, this didn't deter us though and the party continued with an afternoon Braai (SA barbeque) and more entertainment. I think a lot of the younger travellers like myself found spending Christmas away from home a little strange at start, but we certainly made the most of it! I went on two of the day excursions: hikes to some local caves and then a longer hike (10km) to a village called Hole in the Wall.
DSCF0391__71_.jpg Hole in the wall, near Coffee Bay
By the time I was due to leave after four days it seemed like I knew all the staff and guests here and was definately going to miss it, so when the manager offered me a place for (the already fully booked) New Years parties I jumped at the chance!

Instead of staying in Coffee Bay for a week and a half I took a few days out from 27th-30th to go to Port St Johns, another fantastic place on the Wild Coast. This hostel was a little more mellow, even having a crowd of hippies, but was equally as good for hikes and days trips. On my first day there we went out to the local mud caves and covered ourselves in mud, as strange as this sounds its used by locals and is really good for your skin and people probably buy this stuff for a lot of money at home!!
DSCF0403__81_.jpg Covered in mud
I was really looking forward to the huge waterfall day trip organised the next day and it didn't disappoint. Despite leaving at 6am, we went to three fantastic waterfalls around Port St Johns. The first included a long and steep hike to the bottom of a gorge and we got to cliff jump off the rocks into the pool at the bottom, I jumped the full height of the fall, 8 metres, but some crazy guys jumped about 18 metres! The second waterfall (about 30m high) was the best as it overhung some caves meaning you could swim underneath the waterfall to the caves at the back, it really was as good as it sounds! Finally, the third waterfall we just viewed from the top as it was 133m tall, higher than Victoria Falls but just a few metres wide!
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So after a fantastic day there I slept very well and returned to Coffee Bay for a few days for New Years, had a brilliant time again and made even more friends here... I'm due to leave in a few hours but I'm worried they'll convince me to stay again! Its just three days untill I fly out of Jo'burg to Melbourne and its strange to think I'll be on a new continent looking for work very soon. My African adventure is nearly over..!

Posted by pullboy 23:36 Archived in South Africa Comments (4)

J-Bay

sunny 28 °C

Since I last updated I spent a day at Natures Valley and a day at Storms River, both very isolated locations on the garden route. I then moved onto Jeffery's Bay (J-Bay) where I've spent the last four days in one of the most famous surf towns in the world.

In Nature's Valley I took a walk with a South African guy staying there to a waterfall in the valley, it wasn't very far from where we were staying but we would never have found it without some guidance. The waterfall was amazing and made even better by the fact that most people simply take the N2 road straight past Nature's Valley without stopping.

After just a night I rushed onto Storm's River, a village located right near the river which hosts all sorts of adventures activities including the world's highest bungy jump. Despite considering at great length whether I should jump the 212 metres, I decided against it and opted instead for black water tubing. Tubing consists of sitting in a blown up rubber tube and floating through rapids and currents down the river, the group I was with also stopped off to do some rock jumping from the edges of the river. Although it was low water and we had to walk over some of the highest rocks it was still worthwhile doing... and certainly not as scary as the bungy!

Since Tuesday evening I've been at Jeffery's Bay. There was virtually nothing here until someone discovered great waves in the 1960s, and its now a huge surfing town. Everyone here is literally surf crazy. A lot of female travelers stop off here just because of the surfing outlet stores where you can pick up quicksilver, billabong and other clothing for next to nothing, I've replaced a couple of old t-shirts in my backpack for billabong for about £5 each. The presence of the shops mean that 90% of people in the town walk round in board-shorts and branded t shirts, even the older people!

J-Bay is home of one of the world's best surf beaches, super-tubes. At its peak in winter it has the huge tube waves that you see in surfing films and some of the best surfers in the world come to live and practice here. The waves have been poor since I've arrived but the main beach has very safe conditions to learn in so I've taken a surf lesson every morning for the past three days. Despite getting very sunburnt with factor 25 on, it’s been fantastic fun and I'm slowly picking up how to surf, I can actually stand up some of the time now! I'm hoping to carry on learning as I venture further up the coast; the waters also get warmer so I can finally get out of the very uncomfortable wet suits they make you wear!

On a more general note, I'm really enjoying traveling by myself, I've already met some great people and although most of them I won't see again it doesn't stop you having a really good time chatting about travel experiences and exchanging tips on where to go and what to do. The Baz Bus has also been useful for this, and some people that are traveling the same direction as me I keep overlapping with. I've heard quite a few people will be returning home for Christmas but I expect it to still be very busy around the backpackers, even if its more South African's on the road. I'll be spending Christmas at a really popular hostel in Coffee Bay, which is on the Wild Coast between Port Elizabeth and Durban. I'm then planning on rushing to get inland to Swaziland and into Mozambique to spend New Years on Tofu Beach before heading to Johannesburg to fly to Melbourne on the 5th January.

I leave J-Bay tomorrow to go to Port Elizabeth, the fifth largest city in South Africa. I'm staying for five or six days because I've arranged to complete my PADI Scuba Diving qualification there, this takes four days of pool and sea dives and will allow me to dive anywhere in the world up to a depth of 18m. It's really cheap to get the qualification here, especially in comparison to around the Great Barrier Reef where I want to go to in Australia.

Probably won't be a lot to update whilst I'm there, so I'll probably go quiet for a week or so. I'll add some pictures to this post if I get some spare time though. LK

P.S Hi Bunce

Posted by pullboy 04:16 Archived in South Africa Comments (2)

Garden Route, South Africa

sunny 30 °C

Since leaving Cape Town last weekend I've been making my way along the 'garden route', South Africa's most popular backpacking stretch, this runs along the south coast of the Eastern Cape region and is famous for great beaches and nice scenery along the coast.

My first stop following Cape Town was Mossel Bay, a popular holiday town with a couple of places to surf in season.
The waves weren't any good for the serious surfers but okay to learn on so I took a surf lesson one morning with an ex-pro from Mossel Bay (he's competed in some of the major events and came second in the SA National champs once!). It was great fun, but as expected I was pretty terrible... more lessons needed before I can even stand up on the board! I also had another few hours sandboarding, although not as good or dramatic as Namibia, it was still worth it.

Following Mossel Bay I took the Baz Bus inland to Oudtshoorn, an area famous for ostrich farming and obviously very warm. It was strange driving into the town and seeing fields and fields of ostriches, as the last time I saw them we were on a game drive and we were excited about seeing a few of them together! I stayed at a great backpackers and took trip to an ostrich show farm which took us on a tour and gave some of us the chance to ride an ostrich. Unfortunately the weight limit was 75kg (11st 10lb) and apparently I don't look like I weigh less than that!

8Australia_..008_015.jpgAustralia_..008_016.jpg Ostrich show farm, one of the "jockeys"!

I also went to the Congo Caves; one of South Africa's most popular tourist attractions. There are huge chambers with impressive formations created over thousands of years by dripping water reacting with the rocks.

Australia_..008_012.jpgAustralia_..008_013.jpg Cango Caves

I'm now in the stretch which is regarded as the most beautiful part of the Garden Route, the coastline is beautiful and there are forests in a lot of the parts which go right up to the beach. Unfortunately I didn't take any pictures last night of Buffels Bay, which had probably the best beach I've ever seen (and a great Rastafarian band playing in the evening!). Today I'm at a place called Nature's Valley and I'll move on to Storm's River tomorrow, these places are very remote and are literally just a backpackers in the middle of nowhere, which is why everyone loves the garden route!

Australia_..008_019.jpg Nature's Valley

I'm about 600km east of Cape Town now and will be reaching the surfers mecca of Jeffery's Bay in the next few days and then Port Elizabeth. I'll spend a few days at each of these, J-Bay to surf and relax and PE to complete my PADI scuba diving qualification.

I've updated my last entry with a few photos from Cape Town, have got lazy with my camera on the Garden Route and not taken many so far!

Posted by pullboy 12:43 Archived in South Africa Comments (1)

Cape Town

semi-overcast 25 °C

To put it simply Cape Town is just amazing! I've never been to a city and instantly liked it so much. The backdrop of Table Mountain is beautiful, drive just twenty minutes away from the centre and you are into vineyards, the beaches are great and it has everything you'd want from a modern city in terms of shops, restaurants etc. There is also so much to do here, over the past week I've been out doing some of the activities on offer and after a week I'm certainly not bored.

The obvious first activity (after taking a day off to get ripped by South Africans whilst watching the rugby defeat!) was to go up Table Mountain which we did on Sunday morning, we took the cable car up and the views are brilliant. The city is set around the mountain so as you walk around the top of the mountain you can see the different sides. The best view is towards the V+A waterfront where you can see the main part of the city and Robben Island in the distance.

Australia_..008_001.jpg The top of Table Mountain
Australia_..008_002.jpg A long way from home!

Most of the people from our overland truck were still around Cape Town for a few days so we organized a trip to the Cederberg Wine Region on Monday. The trip took us to four different vineyards where we got to sample somewhere between thirty and forty different wines, there's the option to spit the wine out after tasting but of course we weren't going to let it go to waste! I still know next to nothing about wine (and still hate most red wine), but it was good fun!

Cape Town is about 75km from Cape Point, the reason why Cape Town is so large as it was the cape which was most important for Europeans to round when sailing to Asia. There is a brilliant drive you can do to the cape which takes you along the penisula and down to Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope. Barry, one of the guys from the tour, is from Cape Town so gave us a brilliant guided tour of the different beaches and towns on the way down.

Australia_..008_003.jpg The Cape of Good Hope
Australia_..008_004.jpg Cape Point with my overlanding friends

I also toured Robben Island, another must do, which contains the prison where Mandela spent about 16 years of his sentence alongside other political prisoners from the apartheid era. The island acts as a sort of museum to make sure noone forgets what happened. The island tour traces the history of the island as a prison for the Dutch and British and then usage by the Nationalist government. In the prison itself we were given a guided tour by an ex-prisoner who spent 7 years there for recruiting for the military wing of the ANC, this gave it a personal touch when we were shown around the different wings and the actual cell where Mandela was. I was planning on finishing his autobiography by the time I went to the island, but have only managed to get halfway so far, its understandably very long!

Over the past couple of days I've been saying goodbye to the majority of people that I've spent the last 7 weeks which is always difficult but I'm starting to get very exited about seeing the rest of South Africa. I'll leave Cape Town on Sunday and head to Mossel Bay, the start of the Garden Route.

This afternoon though I'll head to the beach and the V+A Waterfront to try and make the most of the time I have left in this city, I'm coming back without a doubt!

Australia_..008_005.jpgAustralia_..008_007.jpg Camps Bay, the nicest part of Cape Town with parts of Table Mountain in the background

Posted by pullboy 00:48 Archived in South Africa Comments (3)

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