A Travellerspoint blog

Australia

We're on the road again!

Wow, where did the last four years go? And just like that, our time has come to an end in Sydney. An initial two years abroad had turned into three and then suddenly four. I won't dwell too much on our time here (given it's our travel blog), but suffice to say life in Australia has been even better than we could have expected, and I couldn't recommend living abroad at least once in a lifetime highly enough. However, as with all major life choices there are trade offs and being so far away from family and friends you've grown up with is not easy. So it's time to slowly make our way back to Dublin for the next chapter.

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We had always intended to travel en route home and we've got some interesting countries lined up over the next four months... Myanmar, India, Nepal (including Everest Base Camp) and Japan. Alberto then spends his last few weeks in Spain with his family while I visit South America for the first time... most likely Peru, Argentina and Brazil. If earlier travels in Thailand and Vietnam felt like backpacking 101 this trip feels a little more like the road less travelled, at least in Asia.

We've had our vaccinations for typhoid, hepatitis A&C, yellow fever and three for rabies. We've got our Visas, insect spray, malaria and diarrhoea (!) tablets packed. We've genuinely been sad to say goodbye to Sydney and our friends here but we're excited to be unemployed again and feeling ready to explore. Hit the subscribe button if you're interested in these countries or would like to see how we get on, the highs and some inevitable lows!

First stop, Myanmar.

Posted by mattld 21:14 Archived in Australia Tagged sydney travel australia asia myanmar backpacking southamerica Comments (0)

Sydney III & Mardi Gras

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It feels like a couple of weeks now since I was last in Bangkok. Leaving that day I can't remember a whole lot, except it was very straightforward. The airport there is huge but funnily enough I ran into Will and Suze who were flying out to Amsterdam for a few days before returning to Dublin. I knew they would be there around that time but didn't expect to run into them so it was great to be able to kill half an hour having a chat while they had lunch. My flight was even more straight forward. I'm now a huge fan of Quantas. Every flight I've ever taken with them has been superb. The service, the comfort factor (for economy), in-flight entertainment and food were all excellent. I watched a couple of films and took one sleeping tablet but unfortunately I only managed to get an hours rest. I got into Sydney at 6am but couldn't check into my room until 2pm so it was a painful wait before I could finally sleep properly.

It was a little bit strange arriving back into Sydney. I was so used to living in Asia for the past two months it was a bit of a novelty when I got there - mind you after half a day it was like I had never left. I was also half thrilled to get a full search when I landed by one of the security guards along with a long series of questions e.g. why are you here, how long are you here for, who are you staying with, when are you going back to Dublin, how much cash do you have, do you have a job, what job is it etc. etc. I'm a big fan of that Australian airport programme back home on tv that exposes people with drugs or illegal goods so for a change I didn't mind it for once! There were no camera crews unfortunately - I would have been waving at it saying 'hi mom!'. After about 15 minutes of probing they let me through. I had forgotten just how good the transport system is. It is just so simple and I'm normally terrible for getting public transport in a foreign country. A five minute walk brings you to the train and from there it goes straight to the station by my hostel. I think it took about 20 minutes. Compare that to London where it feels like you are walking forever and it can take hours to get into the actual city centre. Or Ireland where there is no train system at all!

I didn't do a whole lot of sightseeing given that I had done it before but I did take a tour of the Opera House. This is my favourite building in the world. It's just stunning to look at. It was great seeing the various concert halls and theatres inside as well getting a full background and history of how the building came to be. It's a good story too with a Danish man who had never been to Australia winning an open competition to design the building. His entry was originally eliminated but when one judge arrived late (from Finland *cough*!), he went through all of the entries that had been discarded, picked this one out and declared it the winner. The rest is history. The designer fell out with the Australian government during the building phase as it was taking a lot longer and costing a lot more money. Unfortunately he resigned and returned to Denmark. Despite being re-employed by the Government in the late 1990s to work on the interior of the building, he never got to return due to poor health and died a couple of years ago. It's weird knowing that the designer never got see his finished work which also happens to be one of the well known and respected buildings in the world. Other sights I took in included the Aquarium at Darling Harbour and Sydney Tower - two attractions I had paid for on a multiple entry last year so they were free to do again.

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I had three major nights out over the past week - Friday, Saturday and Tuesday. Saturday was the main event with Mardi Gras taking place. You don't realise how huge this thing actually is until you're at it. There must have been at least 50,000 people lined up and down the streets, all from various walks of life. The parade itself was excellent. It featured everything - weird, wacky, funny, sexy and at times heart moving floats. So many gay specific minority crowds were accounted for: Chinese, Japanese, Indian, European, parents/families, religious, firemen, police and people with disabilities. It was one big party and everyone was invited. There was even a float for fag hags!

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For a country that is so liberal in terms of gay life, it's astonishing that gay marriage has not yet been granted. This is something the LGBT crowd are fighting very hard for and I have no doubt they will get it within the next few years. Walking up and down the city there were gay people everywhere and many couples holding hands. It was nice being in the majority for a change. My friend Tracy who I stayed with in Brisbane flew down for the weekend and along with my gang we watched the parade and then partied late into the night.

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The past week has been brilliant fun. It was great catching up with all my buddies from last year and the few from Ireland that have moved over here. It's such a great life here I really don't blame them. I never thought I would fall in love with a city but it's kind of hard not to. Everything here is just perfect - from the weather to the people, attractions, city itself, nightlife, entertainment etc. I've been quite sad at the thought of leavig the past two days but I'm pretty sure I'll move over and work here for a year or two at some point in my life. In comparison to Ireland, companies are just crying out for skilled staff here - one friend of mine Orla got her flights paid for and put up in a five star hotel for two weeks when she arrived! Hard life eh?

Tomorrow I head to New Zealand. I fly to Auckland in the morning and will spend a few nights there before booking a Kiwi Experience style bus trip that will take me from the top of the Northern Island to the bottom of the Southern Island. I'll spend three weeks doing it so I'm getting ready for lots more bus trips, sightseeing and meeting new people. I'm a bit weary and apprehensive about Christchurch but luckily that is towards the end of my NZ trip so I will see how it goes and take any official advice given. Either way, I know it's going to be a lot of fun.

Posted by mattld 23:01 Archived in Australia Comments (2)

Leaving Oz

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I feel sad writing this last blog entry from my Oz experience. It's 11.10am in the morning and I'm all packed and ready to leave for the airport. I've mixed feeling really. I'm sad that the last two and half months have gone by so quickly. I've met some fantastic people and experienced so many new things. However I'm really looking forward to seeing everyone back in Ireland for Christmas. I'll have one more week in Sydney in March so that makes it a lot easier to be leaving.

The past few days have been spent meeting up with friends - some from Sydney and some from my East Coast travels. Yesterday I finally got to do the Sydney Art Gallery and Botanic Gardens, two things I had intended to do before I flew to Cairns but wasn't able to due to the weather. Speaking of which, the sun has continued on and it's been a great way to finish off my Australian holiday. Had the lashing rain from Surfers/Brisbane continued it would have been a bit of a downer.

I'll have one final blog update when I'm back in Dublin with a top 5 list of my Ozi highlights. Here are some pics from the past few days:

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Posted by mattld 16:19 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Byron Bay

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The contrast between Byron Bay and Surfers Paradise could not have been greater. Goodbye to the lashing rain, high rise buildings and general tackiness. Hello to lots of sun, a small beach town and a general chilled out atmosphere. Love it. I couldn't believe my luck with the weather the past three days, it has been beautiful.

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On Wednesday I checked into my hostel and headed straight to the beach. The thrill of having sun again, how I have missed you (I'll enjoy it now before the snow back in Ireland). That evening I met up with the Danes and Swedes from Fraser. Together with two new additions we enjoyed a long evening of goon and drinking games. The 'everyone get to the chopper!' game was resurrected and it was a drunken fun evening that ended in one of the newbies collapsing, getting sick everywhere and having to be carried home to his hostel where the only choice was to put him to sleep on the bathroom floor next to the toilet. It would have been rude not to get it on camera.

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Thursday morning resulted in a very bad hangover but after some food I was back down to the beach for a spot of sunbathing and a dip in the ocean. The water here is really warm so I was loving it. Unfortunately after about 15 minutes my arm suddenly began to sting. Feck, a jellyfish?! No it was a long blue thing attached to my right arm and I didn't have a clue what it was. But it hurt badly. I pulled it off and quickly got out of the water and over to the lifeguard. Turns out I got stung by a Blue Bottle Fish along with 100 other people that day! Thanks for warning us Mr. Lifeguard, nice! I spent the next hour in agony with an ice bag and eventually under a hot shower as that works best. It has put me right off going back in the ocean. Thank god it wasn't a Jelly Fish.

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Once I was feeling better I took a stroll through the town and ended up in Wicked Travel and booked myself on a sky dive for the following day. I have been thinking about this on and off the past few years but never went through with it. However when in Rome! The Visa was put through and there was no going back. Shitting it already! That night I took it easy as I didn't want to be hungover on the big day.

Friday and it was sky dive time. I was standing outside my hostel at 1.30pm ready for pick-up. Only ten minutes later nobody had showed. A quick phone call later and I was told due to high wind it was being delayed until 3.30pm. Annoyance! I really wanted to get it over and done with. 2 Hours later and another call to tell me it was being delayed until 5.30pm. And then finally by 5pm I was told it was cancelled and I would get a full refund. Noooo! Although I was dreading it I had psyched myself up and just wanted to do it. Unfortunately as this was my last day here my next opportunity won't be until New Zealand in March.

Instead I took a walk with a few of the guys up to the Lighthouse - a 2.5 hour round trip walk. Bit of exercise and some great views on the way.

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By 9pm I was ready for my Greyhound bus - it was a rough night and definitely not as comfortable as the last overnight bus I had taken. 2 hours late and completely packed, we were assigned seating for the first time. Unfortunately I was put on the aisle next to a large Dutch guy and although I had two sleeping tablets to take, I woke up constantly throughout the night as the bus kept stopping for people to hop on/off. I arrived in Sydney at 12pm today so it was straight to the hostel for a few hours kip. I'm feeling refreshed and ready for a good night out.

Posted by mattld 22:51 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Surfers Paradise

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I arrived in Surfers Paradise on Saturday afternoon. I had heard more negativity about this particular location than anywhere else on my East Coast travels. Most people I spoke to didn’t enjoy their experience and recommended as little time as possible. Unfortunately with 3 big theme parks I couldn’t resist and had to book myself in for a few nights. I expected the worst and thankfully it wasn’t all that bad at all. Yes there are sky high apartment blocks that remind you of the ‘2 Key’ apartments from Gran Canaria. The city centre is packed full of restaurants, bars and clubs – for a moment you could almost think you’re back in Lanzerote on a cheap packaged holiday deal with Budget Travel. In comparison to all the previous places I have been to, this was my least favourite destination.

On my first evening I decided to try out a pub crawl organised by my hostel. You pay 30 dollars, get taken to 4 clubs and get 4 free drinks. It was like being back in college. Only I didn’t know anyone. The night was alright – I met a few people and had a few laughs but as there was over 50 from my hostel alone not to mention a number of others in the local area joining in. I was missing my group from the Whitsundays and Fraser. You were very much a number being ushered in and out and each club as quickly as possible. I decided to call it a night just before the last place as I had an early start the next morning.

The weather forecasted when I arrived in Surfers could not have been any worse – torrential rain for the following week. Why did I have to get the Wet Season year? I wasn’t going to let rain stop me so on Sunday morning, out I went in the lashing rain to Seaworld, my first park. I had to laugh walking to the bus stop - only I would be determined enough to do a theme park in the lashing rain. It wasn’t long before I got myself a poncho and a golf umbrella – despite looking incredibly silly, I would have been lost without them. Visiting a theme park in the rain is not very fun – but hey I had little choice so I made the most of it. This Seaworld was nowhere as good as the one in Orlando. It was a lot smaller but had the usual mix of marine wildlife and a couple of average rollercoasters thrown in as well. The only highlight for me was the Dolphin show – it was brilliant. I love Dolphins! That evening I went to see the new Narnia film – I shouldn’t have bothered it was the worst one so far. But I was expecting that as I’ve read the books. Oh well. On a sidenote, it is so humid here - because of the rainfall and clouds everywhere it is boiling hot in my hostel room so it's windows open and the fan on at all times. No air conditioning unfortunately!

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Monday morning and it was time for Dreamworld – I woke up to more torrential rain! I headed out anyway and met up with Christian and Anne, a Danish couple from my Fraser Island trip. It was nice to see some friendly faces again. The park itself was another let down – not a lot of brilliant rides but we still had fun. The highlights for me were The Claw (a swinging pendulum), Alien vs. Predator (think Q-Zar in an Alien/Predator setting, it was really cool) and the Big Drop (the highest I have ever been on, it was freaking scary!). What looked like the best ride i.e. Tower of Terror II was closed due to the rain – booo. That evening we had dinner at Hard Rock Café where I tried guacamole for the first time – yep I’ve never had it before as I thought it looked like baby poo! I really liked it. After dinner I persuaded the Danes to come to Dracula’s House of Terror (a walk through horror attraction) as I didn’t want to do it on my own. This was a lot of fun and we got a few good scares along the way.

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Tuesday morning and my last full day here – the final park left to visit i.e. Warner Brothers Movie World! This was by far the best park of the three and had some great rides e.g. Superman Returns, Lethal Weapon and Batman - quality. The weather also cleared for the day so I didn’t have to walk around in my ridiculous looking poncho, hurray! That evening I went to see the new Harry Potter film – I’m not a big fan but it was the best of the lot by a mile, far darker than any of the others and a lot more action. I've just arrived in Byron Bay this afternoon, my second last stop. The sun is beaming down and I've run into the two Swedish lads from my Fraser jeep group - I just hope the good weather lasts.

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Posted by mattld 20:56 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

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