Monday, November 13, 2006

Summer 2007 (Part 1)

Well I'm in the process of finalising my travels for this forthcoming summer, and it's something a bit different from Australia and the Pacific this time.

I was going to go over there and spend the summer in Surfer's Paradise with a few of the old friends, but I think I'm going to try Eastern Europe and hopefully something a bit weird and lurid.

My exams are to finish in June, so I'll be setting off at the end of that month (resits pending). I've already booked an open flight to my first destination, which is going to be Athens (not very Eastern I know but I have my reasons). I've got a few friends over there, so I'm looking forward to seeing a few of the islands and maybe continuing my learning of diving.

I'll be backpacking as usual, not flying, so I'll be heading north through Greece and into Bulgaria where I've been told the trade industry is really booming in the past couple of years. It should be something unusual. Bulgaria recently joined the EU so passport control isn't a problem and I don't envisage any border fee's. Man this is going to be cheap compared to last time out :)

From Bulgaria it'll get a little bit more weird. Romania is next on the path, and a visit to Bucharest should be one of the highlight's of the whole trip without a doubt. The Danube Delta, or Delta Dunarii flows right through to the Black Sea and is something I've been told is an amazing sight at nightfall in the summer. Of course Romania is pretty famous for it's Medieval new-Renaissance architecture. They've got some pretty sh*t hot castles and villages, none more so than the Peles Castle which lies amongst the Bucegi Mountain range, which I'll try and get into the tour.

I've not quite worked out the route for Ukraine and Poland yet but I'll be visiting both countries as much next two stops. Kiev is a certainty, however I'm still undecided between Warsaw and Krakow. Tis a tough choice. Lithuania and Estonia are also on the agenda however I'm yet to get information through from the home office there about safety of travel regulations at the moment, so at this point it's still indefinite on whether I'll be able to go, which is a shame.

Inevitably I'll end up Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia. I've got a friend there I met whilst in Australia so I've got a place to say. Dare I say that Eli Roth's rendition of what is becoming a cult horror Hostel isn't enough to put me off going there. Although I've been told that the women are very beautiful, and the hospitality of the locals is unrivalled; I'm looking forward to Bratislava over all other destinations. This aside Slovakia also offer the High Tatras, a mountain range that has incorporated almost secret villages into its myst, picturesque beyond belief. Sadly I won't be there to see the snowfall, however I'm sure it'll still be spectacular.

Other stops on my summers trip will be: Hungary; Austria; Czech Republic; Germany; Netherlands; Switzerland & Italy. My travel plans on those countries to come later this week...

Thursday, March 16, 2006

From the frying pan and into the freezer.

Arrived in New Zealand three nights ago. Wow. Touched down in Christchurch on the South Island, I wanted to avoid all the tourism of the North Island this time of year; I'm told it's quite hectic with Maori Festivals going on. As much as I'd like to see them, apparently the place is overrun with tourists at the moment.

My plan is quite simple really, I've got six weeks here. I'll be doing a complete route around the island, and most of it will no doubt be hitching. I'm told it's relatively safe here though.

Looking forward to seeing the "Southern Alps", of which Mount Cook is supposed to be an amazing view. There are base walks that take three days, and I've already booked one. I'm told it's going to be the most demanding challenge I'm likely to ever take it my life. Reassuring.

Christchurch so far has been pretty laid back. Spent last night at a cruisy little jazz cafe with a couple of german girls from Gladbach. It's been snowing a little for the past week, still can't get over snow in April. It's insane. Then again I can't get over a beach Christmas.

I move onto Mount Cook on Tuesday, and with it a different type of challenge.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Simply Fiji

Despite it's rising popularity amongst tourists, "over 200 [of the islands] are uninhabited" I'm informed by a local as I'm shuffled into the back of his 1960's Ford, sounding like a tourist guide trying to make a quick Fijiian dollar.

And if it's true, I pray it stays this way. After touching down in Nadi, I'm quickly immerved in the colourful Fijiian culture embraced best by they're marketplace. Trading amongst themselves I notice quickly a tendency to group up in two's and three's and try to lure the unknowing tourist towards them, offering them all sorts of goods ranging from fruit, to local jewelry, to local delicassy.

It was a taste of what was to come; no sooner had I headed out of the Nadi area, and had accumulated myself a tourist bus, had the bus driver started flying to flog us goods during the ride south to our ferry port.

My destination at this moment is the wonderful group of island known as Kadavu. A dutch couple I met three night's ago at a hostel in Nadi suggested the island as an ideal place to see some of Fiji's best beaches, without having all the tourism of the main islands.

Coastline near Matana

Apparently however the weather has been quite vigorous in recent days, with a fair amount of rain. I'm told however that it's quite a feeling to be in the nearby Astrolabe Reef (miles and miles of clear lagoons, like something out of the Beach) when it happens though, as all the marine life comes to the top to feed.

Hostel at Matana

When I leave Kadavu I'm due to head back to Nadi, to continue onto Australia, but there's something about the lure of Fiji's capital Suva that makes me think otherwise...

Friday, February 24, 2006

Touchdown Bali!

Limited internet access, so apologies over the abruptness.
Touched down at 4 this morning. Thirty-something hour flight from Heathrow, but worth it already. The locals here are magnificent; this place is thriving from tourism at the moment, however there is a fair amount of political unrest in the country towards foreigners from some factions.
In terms of accomodation, food and ammenities though, wow. The accomodation is often in the form of beach houses, which are generally bamboo huts on the beach, but they are fantastically kept, and the views are amazing. Living costs for a week here amount to around £45, and that is including accomodation, and lunch and dinner each day. Too be fair I'm spending more than I should as well.

street Market & Festival

So far I've only travelled a short journey outside the capital Denpasar, but have seen some magnificent costal lines, and some great scenery. The sun setting here on a full moon is one of the most amazing sight's I will no doubt ever witness.

Penida Island is my next stop, it's the largest of the Bali Islands, and I heard the diving is great there so I'll complete a diving course there before moving on.

I've been warned that internet access, and to a certain extent, communications on the area are limited so I guess I'll see you in Fiji...

Saturday, February 18, 2006

My goodbye's.

Leaving Surfer's in a couple of day's time. Heading off to the Aussie island of Tazmania before I move onto New Zealand, just to see what it's like.

About 90% of the island is a world heritage area so I'm expecting it to be amazing. Hopefully i'll get the chance to see a fair bit in only five days, but at least I can say I've been there.

I've had a great time here, no doubt I'll be back in the future. The night life is amazing, the day's are so cruisy. I could live here without a care in the world.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Spent the day on a yacht...

The weather here's been amazing this past week. Mid 30's, not overly hot, and spent an unusually high amount of time on the beach while the girls have been manning the bar.

Went out on the yacht with Tai and a couple of friends yesterday, spent the day cruising around the harbour and pulled up at a couple of bay's and had a few beers. Had the change to drive it a little. Was very cruisy.

Some nice pictures to come. Keep an eye out.

Friday, February 03, 2006

And it goes on...

Well it lives up to the hype. Since I've been here in Surfer's I've had countless job opportunities, penty of booze and, well, I'll leave that up to your imagination.

Having worked in bars before, I've managed to wrangle myself (somehow) the manager's position in a bar called "Champion's Bar & Grill", which is owned by the guy who runs the hostel I'm staying in. Let's just say it pays more than enough...

On top of that, I've met up with a great friend of mine from Coff's Harbour, a guy called Chris from Reading back in the UK. We had some fun down in Coff's, and it's nice to see the old slaphead again. On top of that I hear my Canadian buddies are coming up in the next couple of days, once they're finished in Byron Bay, with a couple of friend's who have flown in from Canada for the rest of the journey.

Wednesday's and Saturday's are becoming very tough.

I mean, two pubcrawls, each consisting of four bars. Add to that the free drinks tickets the pubcrawl rep's get (that's me and Chris) and you can imagine the magnitude of the work. It's a tough job but somebody has to do it (or so the saying goes). Six hostels are represented, and roughly 100/150 people are out on Wednesday and Saturday, it really is a bit on the wild side.

Kath is coming over from Perth anyday, it'll be wicked to see her. I'll have to behave a little then I guess. Or not, we'll see. I am supposed to be enjoying myself after all...

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Surf, sun, sea and sex...

Okay so something a bit different. We're in the hugely popular, touristy, sensual, call-it-what-you-like Surfer's Paradise.

Surfer's is now (at the time of writing) Australia's 5th biggest city, which is saying something for an area that was a town a decade ago. It's also seen as the sexiest and sassiest of Australia's cities, and lies at the heart of Australia's adequately labelled "Gold Coast" which stretches from the party town of Byron Bay, up north past Brisbane.

Surfer's is quickly becoming the destination to be for holiday tourists in Australia, with companies setting up all over, and apartments going up all over the city.

It's subjected from the east by endless miles of golden beaches, that stretch literally as far as the eye can see, and beyond. Should be an interesting experience...

Thursday, January 19, 2006

A molotiv cocktail of sunburn and goon...

Goon is the Australian slang for cheap wine, that is bought by the box, and is consumed generally in tumblers.

Sunburn is the Australian word for "You okay mate? You're looking a little red there".

Both instil little confidence in me. I spent the day cycling from Bellingen to Coff's Harbour, where I've got some friends here in the hostel. The journey is around 28 kilometres, so as you can expect, not as simple forward especially on hilly terrain.

Took me a couple of hours, but I got here around midday, which wasn't a bad effort. Chris and Kyle are my Canadian friends from Vancouver Island (BC), who I met in Newcastle and have kinda been exchanging phonecalls and rides with along the way.

After settling down in the swimming pool here at Coff's, which has the best butcher's known to the existance of man, we started on the goon and the Canadian Club. $8 (exchange rate is roughly $2.5: £1) generally gets you around 3 litres of the fine red stuff. We don't ask about the white because the best use of it thus far has been getting the bloodied stains out of my clothes - it really is vinegar.

Anyway, it's 8 hours later now - it's gone two in the morning, and some how I'm sobered up slightly, but am in agony with the sunburn, which somebody very kindly applied salted water to in a game of "truth or dare" about four hours ago.

Peace out...

Friday, January 13, 2006

More laid back than a laid back man...lying down

Bellingen. I think it's what most of us dream about.

Picture yourself lying in a hammock, amongst lush green vegetation, contemplating whether you should take a ride down the river in the rubber tube, before of after this afternoon's barbeque; of which there will be a dozen or so young people like yourself cooking up some fantastic food and enjoying good company.

That's Bellingen in a nutshell. It's only 40 minutes west from the coastline, but you wouldn't guess it. Quite isolated (not completely however, there is one bus a day to and from this area), yet you would never forget this place as long as you lived.

I'm working here for a couple of weeks. Myself and a german friend Sebastien have taken over the day-to-day running of the place, and are getting accomodation plus $100 a week, which is liveable on. The owner's were looking for a couple to run the place, but me and Bast persuaded them otherwise! (No funny comments please...)

Greg is the tour guide around this place, because about 10 minutes up the road is Dorrigo National Park, which is a world conservation area, and one of Australia's most diverse rainforests.

Went on a tour there yesterday, and what a fantastic experience. Saw some Guana's, and various other creatures. Swam under the waterfalls, and ate lunch on a skywalk, 200 metres above the forest itself.

Tonight we're having an acoustic night, and I'm due to participate in the singing. Should be fun...

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Au revoire Newcastle

This is my last couple of days in Newcastle. I've loved the place, but it's time to move on now. There's only so much singing, playing pool, guzzling beer, and using the Welsh accent to woo pretty Australian ladies that you can do in one place, but it's been great.

They're throwing me a leaving party tonight, which is very kind of them. I'm told there won't be any strippers involved however I should apparently eat lots of food today because tonight's going to be relentless on the alcohol front (And we all know I'm not a big drinker).

Newcastle is such a chilled out place, the music here is out of this world. Listen out for Wolfmother and The Living End, they could be big over the UK soon. On top of that, I don't think I've ever worked for such a relaxed group of people at the hostel; I'll be sure to visit again when I go back there in future years.

See you in the funny pages...