A pair of flip-flops and walking boots – Australia

A very belated Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Australia!

I left my last post on a not so good view of Australia note and the build up to Christmas didn’t help; it is my favourite holiday because of the decorations, the shopping and the family time. Decorations, here, do not bombard your every sense from the beginning of November, it feels like a surprise or a hidden secret when you stumble across them or the decorators of the city got bored. I understand, I get bored shaving my legs and, thus, do a patchy job) but these people get paid and I do not, so… The beautifully snowy pictures from home were hard hitting too but then I lay on a beautiful beach in 34 degrees and swam in warm bath water labelled ‘The Ocean’. It’s expensive to get here and I spent my money travelling so that’s family time gone. The actual day, however, was a lot of fun. I celebrated on the 24th with some good friends and went out that night. This consequentially led to a lazy 25th. It was fun!

Anyway, since I last wrote to you I have passed my exams, travelled Tasmania, the east coast of Aus, New Zealand and South East Asia as well as entered a new year.

Tasmania, what a beautiful island. Mainland Aussies say Tassie’s 2 heads because the settling families from the UK stayed isolated for generations before more joined, leading to inbreeding. If the 2 head rumours are true, they hide them well. Anyway, both the weather and the landscape of Tassie are comparable to a hormone controlled teenager: unpredictable and conflicting. I had sun, torrential rain, storms and snow all in the week I was there, their ‘summer’. Up the east coast, the beaches are beautiful, pure white sand and clear blue water. Towards the west, I was reminded of the Lake District back home (although that could have been the rain influencing that). In saying that, hiking in Cradle Mountains ended up being my favourite, despite a more complicated route than first anticipated, eg. Scrambling up a hill.

The East Coast, for me, was less spectacular. The beaches are beautiful but they began to look the same (an issue I also had in Tasmania) with the exception of Whitehaven beach in the Whitsunday Islands. I felt a lot of the coast was highly touristic and you travelled the same old route as every traveller, a cow waiting to be herded. Nearly every place has travel agents yelling “Hey, where are you from?” etc to catch you in conversation and ultimately sell you a tour. I met one in Byron Bay who I innocently thought just wanted a chat… his inquiries into my unplanned and spontaneous holiday (the beauty of a hop on hop off bus ticket, no?) quickly turned to “You haven’t booked this tour? Why not! They will all be sold out!” and him showing me photos of Fraser Island. It ended with the price and me telling him there was no way I would pay that. This technique of selling felt belittling and was certainly irritating- does he really think that there would be no tours at all? I got to Airlie beach and booked a Whitsundays tour for the following day, no worries. I learned later that these big companies are connected to these 1 or 2 tour companies so they sell you those only. Turns out agents can get you a lot of discount but it always feels suspicious to me so I try to avoid them.

Aside from the money aspect, there are some beautiful sites up the coast: I went on a tour to Behana Gorge where we abseiled and cliff jumped our way through the Gorge in a small, friendly group with a fantastic guide- I recommend strongly (Behana days). My diving tour was amazing despite spending every second not in the water firmly trying to crawl my way around the boat, heavily seasick (deep sea divers den).

Before Cairns, was Bowen- a small town near the Whitsundays. I stayed 1 week with friends, wakeboarding, tubing, learning I have no fishing skills, relaxing and generally having fun. Because it is near the Whitsunday’s, the views in the distance over the sea are stunning. I even got an insight into small town premiers when I went to Star wars at midnight: usually I book the second I can online or else finding myself seat less but here, we turned up maybe half an hour before, bought a ticket and the cinema wasn’t even full! I loved how things like this felt very old school, a highlight was definitely reliving my childhood with a pizza night and renting a movie- just like good ol’ blockbusters.

Next up, New Zealand!

I really enjoyed this trip, if you imagine the UK on acid, you essentially have New Zealand; everything from the weather to the scenery is greatly dynamic and bursting in colours that seem surreal. In the north island, I felt like I was permanently in Hobbiton. There are so many hills, huge, green and rolling, all over that you expect a little round door to peak out. I did actually go to Hobbiton- I know anyone who knows me will probably think this is stupid as my impatience with Lord of the Rings isn’t a secret but it was surprisingly fun. What started as a trip to take photos for my sister turned into me being a gigantic tourist dancing around the maypole and connecting everything to a vague and distant memories that are the films.

Other memorable things included the Tongariro crossing and the Maori village. The crossing is stunning and well worth the effort, Mt Ngauruhoe/Mt Doom, the red crater and the emerald lakes, all stunning.

It turns out the Maori’s believe in feeding all visitors once they arrive- how cool is that?! They seem to be very kind and patient people who have integrated well with the European settlement. You see it in how the European kiwi’s talk that something of the Maori’s has rubbed off on them, they all seem to have the gentleness of the Maori’s. It’s disappointing to compare this to Aus because the Aboriginals certainly are not integrated well- you don’t need the statistics of drug abuse/homelessness/jail time to tell you that as it is evident on the streets. Seeing an Aboriginal working around town in a normal job is not common like a Maori in New Zealand and I highly doubt it is an ‘inherent part of the people’ that leads the Aboriginals to these sad statistics.

The south island was very different, more dramatic. The fjord lands are beautiful, as are the surrounding areas of Wanaka and Queenstown. I climbed Roy’s peak around Wanaka and was rewarded with sites I will include in picture format and Queenstown is generally awesome. You can buy 20 inch pizzas, steins for $10 (~£5) which are about the size of my head and alcoholic tea pots that are confusingly poured into shot glasses- do I shot the cocktail? Sip it? I don’t remember what I decided on doing…

I travelled New Zealand with the Kiwi Experience due to the ticket being on sale, I couldn’t see transport getting any cheaper for the both islands. It is a great way to meet people because you are constantly with the same people, in the same hostel, the same bus, on the same group activity etc… On the east coast of Aus, I travelled alone and quickly which only allows for a quick hello/goodbye and a difficulty in making friends; on this kind of bus you can travel quickly whilst still meeting new people and without booking any activity beforehand, a definite plus. However, there are other tours that might be better. Kiwi experience felt disorganised and read the print carefully.

 

Now I am back in Sydney, starting work again and surprising myself that I did miss Sydney. After all that homesickness I’m happy to be back. My South East Asia travels are in a different post partially because of how different it was, it just didn’t feel appropriate, and the length of this post, already long, would have been unbearable.

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