Australia

Happenings in a land down under!

5 days in the Blue Mountains

We had been to a friend’s wedding and had some time to kill before we saw Eminem so thought we would head up to the Blue Mountains for a few days and do some camping (sleeping in our wagon) while we weren’t to far away from safety. Armed with only a Camp 6 book, an unpaid version of WikiCamps app and a temperamental Navman we were obviously going to have an interesting time we intelligently set off on a rainy day.

After a few hours stocking up at a local mall we made our way up and up and up. I couldn’t make any sense of the Camps6 book (I soon found out there were maps missing), the wikicamps app had a pin dropped in the middle of no where and the NavMan was being an a**e. We decided to check out a Free rest stop/camp area with hot showers as recommended by wikicamps users, there was just one problem…the app had two pins dropped at different locations and we ended up nose down a high hill leading to oblivion. It was terrifying and not what we needed in the dark and on our first night flying solo. Nevertheless we stressed and we moaned and we worried and miraculously we figured it out and found it. We chucked the stuff off the bed and hit the hay, we awoke to a cute little lake and a hot shower.

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You know on movies when something goes right and the person flings up their hands to the sky and a holy voice “AHHHHHHHH” erupts around them … it was kind of like that. We were alive and we would be clean. Great! So we set about making a coffee and sorting our new purchases into easily reachable and safely stored locations. I made a few modifications to the wagon and asked Anita to check the lights. She did and she did a good job. Such a good job that she left the things on and killed the battery. That elated feeling I had earlier was replaced with dread, a bit silly really considering we had bought a jump starter…but do you think either of us knew how to use it?!?

Not a chance! Anita disturbed an Aussie ranger on his lunch, it was something akin to trying to break a lion away from a gazelle. He was not happy. Nor was he happy when Anita refused to pick the jump starter up because she is afraid off batteries. We must have looked like the biggest fools, however, not entirely our fault. We looked at the instructions and they were confusing and the ranger knew what he was doing so we let him (everyone’s got to learn somehow, right?). So angry ranger gone, engine running and stuff packed to headed to our next destination…Jenolan Caves.

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Diving for 2 hours on a road so winding and narrow I couldn’t actually look down at some stage, the scenery of the hazy mountains was idyllic. We kept seeing signs for the caves but didn’t seem to be seeing much of anything else on the Jenolan Road and we were beginning to get a little worried because it was getting to late to turn back. Confused again we were silent then all of a sudden both of our jaws dropped into our laps as we drove through the grand archway of Jenolan Caves, a huge passage worn into the mountain by millions of years of running water. We were so exited to see the beautiful place. We parked up and booked a walking tour through the Temple of Baal cave to see the natural crystal formed in the chambers, the temperature 15.2 degrees was perfect. There is some really amazing crystal to be seen and a beautiful shawl called the Angel’s wing that really is spectacular.

We asked if there was somewhere we could stay overnight to do another tour the following morning, it just so happened they had a 2nd car park located up the hill with BBQ’s and a hot shower. All the tap water is natural cave water and perfect for drinking. Again we had been lucky. So we had a BBQ with a local friendly parrot, who seems to make quite the impression on visitors, and we slept. When we were ready the next morning we decided to move the car closer to the bathroom and do the hillside walk back down to the cave office to book another tour. We booked The Imperial Diamond which was a marvel of tunnels and chambers and the cave river that is stunning.

The moment we booked the tour the heavens opened. It was 11am and our tour was at 4pm and it was a 45 minute hike back to the car with Anita’s new camera. The rain was not letting up so we resided with some other visitors and dossed about the Grand Archway taking pictures (a lot of them) for a while. It wasn’t that bad just cold, we still enjoyed the day regardless and the site staff took pity on us and graciously gave us a lift back in the staff shuttle. We so we decided to stay near the bathroom and we settled down for the night, only to be woken by strange noises. Kangaroos, wombats and an unbelievbly loud thud. We couldn’t figure out what it was but it scared the crap out of us. We found out in the morning that due to the rain a tree had decided to uproot and park itself in our spot from the night before…again lucky.

We packed up and headed out to destination Wentworth Falls. We stopped on the way at Katoomba to do the general tourist shots of the 3 sisters, we went for a lovely hike at Leura Cascades and put Anita’s new camera through its paces. Finally hitting Wentworth Falls late in the afternoon … again. This late in the day arrival stuff just keeps happening to us, I think we are too easily distracted on the road or Anita drives really, REALLY slow. You can be the judge over the next few weeks.

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We headed part way down the falls and marvelled in their beauty and in the difficulty of the trek to the bottom, one that we were not willing to undertake at sundown. It was disappointing as we could have sat in the rock pools and viewed the falls from the bottom and we had to go back to the city the following day. So we walked a few smaller tracks and decided to stay in the carpark (not officially allowed but no one bothered us, because there was no one there). Waking up their early morning was something special, we took a few of the shortcut trails to take in the sights and the fresh air. Just us, before the tourists arrived to get their heads in your perfect view and spoil the silence with their chatter. To stand looking over the mountain range in silence taking it in with every sense was unique and definitely something I will not forget in a hurry.

This trip was fun, there was just one little detail…we had no signal and our favourite Sydney hostel (which we were booked into) had a secret gig there by the one and only GREEN DAY. We only got the text the morning after, the only word said…NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. Beside that we had a blast and we are so excited for the next adventure.

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Buying a car in Australia

We then decided a 4 wheel drive would be better than a camper, in case we get stuck or encounter many of Australia’s “chicken” playing native species.

We found a beauty on a search of good ol’ Gumtree. $xxxx for a 1989 Mitsubishi Pajero including full years rego, surf board, snorkel & fins, DVD player, cooking utensils, gas stove, tarp, solar shower, etc. It even had a double bed in the back because the seats had been ripped out. It was perfect.

We took a day trip to Bondi and asked the guy a few q’s, had a little look around and we were satisfied that aside from needing new wipers and tyres we were set. Anita offered him $500 less than the asking price, he accepted – we thought we were on to a winner. We checked the paper work, we had a vague idea of what we were looking at and we saw that there was a one year safety check – supposedly a pink slip. He kept hold of the rego paperwork to complete the necessary details…until his money went in.

Let’s just say we were a little naive and our research was obviously less than sufficient because we soon realized when we received our part of the paperwork that the car was not registered. More to the point it expired the day we bought it!

So it was time to panic, there’s no where to park where we work or live and we were sure to get a fine. We had 14 days to register the vehicle before we had to have further rigorous tests on it, so off to the RTA we went.

My advice to anyone travelling Australia and wanted to buy their own vehicle to do so is research before you start looking and then make informed decisions.

1 – Check the advertisement and take a screen shot if you can, because as soon as you buy it you can bet your but it will be removed from interwebland.

2 – Ask for the registration number, you can check the validity of any vehicle registration here.

3 – Check what you need to be legal:

  • Green Slip – This is your compulsory insurance to cover 3rd parties in the event of an accident. You can chose the level of cover to suit you, it is a legal requirement to complete re-registration of a vehicle. Be aware it does not cover you or your vehicle for driver caused damage or theft. For more information look here.
  • Vehicle Safety Check / e-safety check (formerly known as a Pink Slip) – This is a standard safety check for vehicles over 5 years old. It can only be completed at a registered station and an e-safety certificate will be issued to the governing authority. Where your vehicle does not pass or needs work on it you will be issued with a Repairs Required Notice (formerly a White Slip). These repairs must be made within 14 days of the notice if the vehicle is to be registered. For more info on Pink Slips look here.
  • Registration – This is similar to UK road tax and requirements and legislation changes between states as does the registering authority. For NSW when you have your Green and Pink slips confirmed  you can register here:

Roads and Maritime Service

My RTA

Requirements differ from state to state as does the documentation. Our vehicle is registered to NSW and the information here is primarily relevant for NSW, however, you must check the requirements if your vehicle is registered in NSW and then will expire in another state you may need a new safety check to register the vehicle in another state. If you need to register a vehicle before you set off on your trip plan ahead to where you expect you will be when your rego expires as you could be hit with unexpected costs to make your vehicle legal again. Don’t learn the hard way.

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Regional Australia and Farm life

I know I am well overdue for a blog post, a lot has happened since my last and a lot has changed. Especially me. It really is a refreshing experience when you learn more about yourself and what you are prepared to do, tolerate and strive for to be a happier person.

For me it started when I left Sydney to complete our regional work, it had its ups and downs and really hit us hard in the face. I knew we would change here and that the experience would be one we would not easily forget , but I wasn’t sure how and I certainly wasn’t sure if I was ready. Committing yourself day in day out to the needs of strangers for 3 months is not an easy choice and all sorts of doubts enter your mind, but if you want that coveted second year working holiday visa you have to make the choice.

Before I start my tale I won’t go into details of the people we worked for, nor will I mention the company name or post any pictures of them and their children. Respecting their privacy is as important to me as it is to all of them.

We left Sydney on the 17th March 2013 and hopped on a train to mid-north NSW, the train ride was filled with trepidation, curiosity and down right fear…I have heard of the movie Wolf Creek and the fact that it was based on true events, also other people delight in telling you how there is nothing in most of the rural areas of Australia and that you are all alone! So obviously I imagined how long it would take my parents to learn of my disappearance. Ok a little melodramatic and I am sure they would notice if I didn’t place any pictures on Facebook or send them a Birthday card, they would wouldn’t they? Right?

So here we begin 3 and a half months of learning, making new friendships, arguing and almost getting seriously injured on a number of occasions. Being collected in a dirty 4 wheel drive by husband, wife and 5 of 8 children I was a little intimidated. Names were being thrown around everywhere and hyperactive faces were gleaming at the two new backpackers. On the way to the land the Husband “Mr P” decided to try to intimidate us a little, I immediately turned into my no-phased cocky teenage self from way back when (just throwing a little attitude out there), he wasn’t happy about that so he wanted to test me. On the way up the drive I had my first encounter with the animals that were to be my enemies, my friends and my lifelines for my time there. Mr P told me to get into the paddock with 3 pregnant mares and retrieve their food buckets, his wife Mrs P told him not to. Again cocky teenager in my brain thought “I’m not afraid, let’s this”. The horses didn’t see me and as soon as they did I had hold of buckets, obviously they thought I had food and came at me. Waaaaaah freak out, buckets in one hand other arm up in the air.

Once I made it out alive and reconnected the electric fence it turned out I did the right thing and I had a natural instinct….to not die!

Our time on the farm was to be spent waking up in our caravan, feeding 30+ horses, cows, pigs, sheep, chickens, dogs, rabbits, cat  and our very own kitten their  breakfast, helping with any job (from babysitting, panel beating, cattle chasing and butchering) then feeding them all dinner again. The diversity of what we did astounded us. Some of these jobs completely altered my perception of certain things and I learned so much from such accomplished people. I appreciated the chance to get close to such beautiful animals and really begin to understand and work with them. Watching Mr P, who actually is the real horse whisperer, work the horses was unbelievable.

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My love lied with one horse, a disabled 9 year old paint horse who had a story to break anyones heart. She won shows and was Mr P’s pride and joy, even taking her into the bedroom of his son one time he was sick. On a trail ride she broke her pelvis and he slept by her side turning her over on old mattresses until she healed. When fixed the mischievous mare got her way into the feed bin and ate so much she developed chronic laminitis. She could hardly walk and had bed sores galore. She was a sorry sight but had an attitude problem to match anyone. She became my best friend. I fed her, cleaned her, nursed her seeping wounds, lay with her, made sure she was warm and dry when I could. She gained weight and begin to stand up straighter, I was winning. So much so she walked around a hell of a lot more and decided she wanted to eat the dog’s food too, it was as if we had to watch a curious toddler. She wasn’t in a paddock she was roaming around the washing line, the garden and our caravan. I even heard her snoring some nights. In this place I discovered more compassion than I knew I had and fell head over heals in love. She was demanding but she was easy.
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The farmer obviously had a family to feed, meaning home kills were a necessity. I was not prepared for this and no matter how much I tried to tell myself I could deal with it I couldn’t. I couldn’t be around it. Anita stepped up to the plate for me and to learn what her Grandad was too old to teach her when he had his own farm many moons ago. After being there for some of it, being around a pregnant cow who came for cuddles when she was in labour and another who loved attention, seeing a calf born and seeing the helplessness of calves from the dairy industry at the markets – who once was a meat eater stopped eating meat. I couldn’t do it anymore. The pain, the guilt and the tears made me not want to do it ever again. I have not eaten meat for 10 months and I do not look back. They understood, Mrs P was a vegetarian and by no means did the family take where their meat came from for granted. The animals were more than well looked after. But I realised my love for animals out weighed my love of meat, so it was an easy decision. I connect with them and we soon discovered Anita is the one who shouldn’t be allowed to work within close proximity to anything that is living.
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I mentioned we nearly got hurt a number of occasions, well the only thing I got hurt with was myself and inanimate objects.I nearly got crushed a few times, I nearly copped my own fingers off with a machete and I nearly fell off a roof. Pretty standard stuff for a clumsy nugget. However,  Anita had some dozy moments to be proud of.
  • Rule number 1:  if you have a horse on a lead, it tries to bolt and you have no lead left – let it go!
Not Anita, she thinks holding onto the rug of a horse is a suitable way to respond resulting in her being dragged from the stable.
  • Rule number 2: if you open a gate of a paddock and there are large living animals in that paddock –  shut the gate.
Not Anita, she lets the entire herd of cattle out into the driveway and house yard so we have to spend the best part of 5 hours on our own chasing them away from the feed shed and the garden.
  • Rule number 3: if you have an animal on a lead (such as a cow) – do not put food into it’s container until the holder of the lead is safely out of harms way.
Not Anita, she thinks the food will keep the cow in one spot so you can control her and not that she will twist and turn and crush my fingers in a lead because she wants dinner.
The only animal she got on with was a cute little harmless kitten, actually she was OK with anything smaller than the Ridgebacks. Magnet became our little pet in our caravan until he could fend for himself a little. We loved him terribly.
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With their family we became family, we became their daughters, their siblings, their aunties and most of all their friends. And did we all argue like it too. Arguing and bickering is unavoidable in such a dangerous environment where the work we do is their life and you are apart of it day in and out, 24/7.

There were fun times like having picnics and fires with the kids and there were hard times like when one of the mares lost her foal due to paralysis tic and I thought I hadn’t treated them correctly. But the hardest part was leaving. Leaving the animals and people that made it such an amazing journey. There’s so much more that happened that I haven’t got the space in this blog post to write and that will all be forever in my journal.

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But backpackers know this, there are many places to do your regional work. Some that pay and some that don’t. You need to complete 3 months in one place or 88 working days in multiple places, some pay and some don’t. Although everyone would love to get paid for the regional work that they do, please do not let that put you off doing work exchange and woofing because these people really need the help too. Probably more.

No matter where you go you will have the experience of a lifetime that most would never get the opportunity to have at home. I know I wouldn’t have and that’s why I’ve already been back and I am going back again. To my new Aussie home.

Resources:

We found our regional work by completing a membership with Travellers At Work, all the adverts are live and the staff are brilliantly helpful.

To find out if an area or job description qualifies for 2YV:

Eligible Postcodes

Specified Work

Visa Application Forms (proof)

You must make sure that the place you are going to has a registered and valid Australian Business Number (ABN), you can check the status of an ABN here.

Take your forms with you, you need proof that you have worked there in case the immigration people check your visa application. Get them here, you can also apply for your visa online.

Remember to agree working hours before you start some farms will take you for granted if you allow them to and some will hardly ask you to do any work, the main priority is to make sure your required days are covered doing a qualifying job in a qualifying location.

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Nostalgic moments…

There comes a point in every travellers trip that there are certain creature comforts that we crave. Personally mine is a good cup of Tetley or PG tea and a packet of gluten free digestives (Tesco’s free from are my personal favourite). I just haven’t managed to achieve the same level of comfort from Australian products although I have found some good alternatives.

I have also had a massive craving for Bourneville, now I know Cadbury’s chocolate is readily available in Australia it just doesn’t taste the same and I couldn’t find Bourneville anywhere. We were walking along King Street in Sydney trying to find Medicare and when we eventually did I nearly dropped to the floor in shock, opposite is a great little shop that has all sorts of British goodies. From Fig Rolls to Hartley’s Jelly and from Oxo to good old Bovril. They even had Fairy and Lenor to take the scent of home with you. It is run by a very helpfull Newcastle lass and the prices are very reasonable considering the products are imported. But sadly no Bournville, she had sold out … it seems I’m not the only one to have a craving!

Treats From Home can be found at 135 King Street inside the Glass House Arcade. There is also a branch in Melbourne at Collins two3four, 234 Collins Street.

Although I missed out on this opportunity all was not lost. A few days later we entered the Pier Shopping Centre on Darling Harbour (look for the Hard Rock Cafe) and there it was … the vision of my wildest dreams!

The British Lolly Shop had shelf upon shelf of my favourites – UNCLE JOE’S MINT BALLS … WATSITS … NOUGAT … GALAXY … PEANUT BRITTLE … BLACK JACKS …POLOS and BOURNEVILLE!!!

They like to welcome each visitor with a sweet to sample and that sure gets the tastebuds going into overdrive, the shop is set up like a real sweetshop at home with the big plastic jars that they weigh out for you…simply, perfect!

I paid $2.80 for my Bourneville and it was worth every single cent.

So, British backpackers if you are looking for an authentic slice of home to satisfy your nostalgic needs on the road, check out one of these little gems.

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Medicare (health care in Australia)

So to begin my short posts on tips for British Backpackers coming to Australia I thought I would start with medical care. As it is something important but no one ever seemed to know the answers to any of my questions.

Most peole believed (as I did) that we are not entitled to any form of free or subsidised health care in Australia….well that would be wrong. In fact we are.

We are, as British Citizens, entitled to some healthcare services via MEDICARE. I had no idea and for two months havent been signed up. Nevertheless, I am going to be. We are entitled to medical treatment and reviews of a necessary nature for the duration of our stay.

All you need to do is go to a Medicare office local to you (I went to 135 King Street, Sydney) with your passport and a PRINTED copy of you visa then fill in the enrollment form, they will not accept electronic versions on smartphones or tablets. I would advise you to go as early as possible to avoid the cues, however, it may be necessary to make an appointment to return.

You can also download the form and call for an appointment if you don’t fancy waiting around. HERE is the information from Medicare I didn’t have, I can now pass it on to you my lovely readers and fellow backpackers.

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Temporary slow down!

To all of my readers, I must appologise for not keeping my posts updated. I have a few waiting to be published, however, I am currently working on a Stud Farm for 3 months to complete my second year visa work in Australia. I have very limited internet capabilities as the signal on the farm is very poor, so please be patient with me and I promise to update you guys as soon as I possibly can.

Until then …

Take it easy!

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Backpackers gluten free vegan lentil burgers

So here is the first of what I hope will be many backpacker recipes and food ideas.

Being a backpacker is hard, food is expensive, you have limited food storage space, the possibility of it getting stolen or used and contaminated by other backpackers and there may very well be limited cooking appliances and utensils.

So far it’s been fairly warm so we have had the ease of eating salads and thanks to my flexible friend…my own little travel chopping board that my amazing mother-in-law bought me, I can chop anywhere safely! Win!

GF Tip: buy your own flexible lightweight chopping board!

So along with salads what else can we have that is cheap, easy and packed with protein …Lentils?? But not just any lentils, how about Mediterranean lentil burgers? They are simple, gluten free and vegan to boot!

Anita made them while I directed and chopped salads so it really was a team effort as it usually is these days, so heres how we did it.

You’ll need (these ingredients are cheap in Australia’s supermarkets; Woolworths, IGA, Coles):

2 cups of your favoured lentils (we used red split);
2 cups water;
1 chopped onion;
1 table spoon of mediteranian herbs (or whatever takes your fancy, I love Cajun Spices too);
1/3 cup of polenta (ground corn meal).

Here’s how they’re done:

Add all ingedients except the polenta to a pan and bring to the boil until the lentils have completely absorbed the water and reached a”mushy” consistency.

Place them on a cold plate to cool and then spread the polenta on a clean chopping board or plate.

When the lentils are cooled, spoon off palm sized portions and shape the burgers (yes you will get messy at this point). Once you have the shape coat them in the ground polenta to make a crispy skin.

Once you have made all the burgers simply fry in a bit of low fat spray oil or olive oil until golden, the burgers can then be served hot or stored and served cold within a couple of days of being refridgerated. I tried both ways and must say I preferred them cold as the cooling down helps them to set.

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We had limited kitchen space and storage but if you are makimg them at home try making them the day before, but do not fry, just store in a container with grease proof paper to set and then fry when you want to eat them….and of course leave comments and let me know how they work for you.

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Organic Produce (Review)

We arrived in Sydney on Friday 1st March and after some time sorting out our hostel booking we decided to scope out the area. We had heard Surrey Hills was a beautifully chic area so we trotted on down. It was raining heavily, I needed caffeine and a toilet. Hard luck … virtually no cafes in Sydney have toilets, the majority are hole in the wall stop-offs or Seven Elevens purely for convenience.

Then we stumbled upon this beautiful little miracle with a friendly gluten free sogn o the door, it really was the best find ever. Inside is small and as you walk in there are shelves upon shelves of organic and allergy friendly produce. There is also a deli counter at the front with an array of gluten free items, there were wraps, cakes, muffins, sandwiches and banana bread. I was literally spoiled for choice.

We sat toward the rear near the open kitchen and we could see the staff frantically preparing the fresh wraps, it was nice to see a venue take pride in their food preparation for a change and not hiding behind closed doors. This was where we realised that the delicious looking wraps up front were not made with tortillas but with wafer thin savoury crepes. The atmosphere was cosy and the free water and table service made a rainy day brighten up a little.

We ordered a flat white and a slice of banana bread each and at a total bill of just under $20 I thought it was slightly expensive, however, I am a backpacker and local prices are high for anything that has a special edge. The coffee was smooth and the banana bread was served warm with butter and it really hit the spot.

For the service received by the friendly and welcoming staff and the choice available to little old celiac me it is worth the price and the effort to find … I could not complain and I will return!

Website Here

Facebook Page Here

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City Rail, an experience! Melbourne to Strathfield (Sydney)

I have to appologise for my lack of posting and I realise it’s somewhere near a week between posts, however, in my defense (and I write this as I have a very bad cold) it is proving rather difficult by phone. Also we have been using all of our free time to look for work…and getting a little tipsy, well we did come here to meet more people even if it is over a box of cheap wine!

So, for a quick update to our family/friends and anyone else who is interested, I’ll tell you what we have been up to (starting with our transportation). We had been in Melbourne for a few days and needed to make our way back to NSW, we had plans arranged for the Sydney Mardi Gras so needed a quick and cheap way to get back. We decided to go by night train, it would take 12 hours and save us some money on accomodation. We used our student cards and paid $136.88 and we had 20kg of checked luggage and 7kg of hand luggage. Now you’re probably thinking the same thing as I did, checked luggage? I thought that kinda rubbish was for planes only…well no it’s not.

Trains that go through different states do this. When we arrived at Melbourne Southern Cross station we went worriedly to check in our bags, hoping we weren’t over weight, then we weighed them and used our old suitcase luggage straps to secure them. Our bags weren’t the most expensive and the secure straps aren’t designed to be used for lifting the full weight of the rucksack. So I used my Magic Marker to write on my luggage strap “please lift using this strap”. The man at the desk was a little impatient but he did pass my bag through using the strap…he should have because he watched me faff about with it for long enough. We were worried where our bags were going to end up as we had to leave the train at Strathfield not Sydney, so when the baggage guy was putting luggage on the train (the same guy who checked them in) we watched him load the luggage. He pointed to a bag and mouthed to Anita “your bag” then launched it onto thw train. Anita turned to me worried and claimed “I’m sure he didn’t use your strap!”

We got on the train and the seats had plenty of room and other than inconsiderate passengers and constant air con it wasn’t such a bad journey. The food car operated throughout the night except for one hour at staff changeover, they even had a range of gluten free cookies, muffins and sandwiches. How awesome!

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The problem arose when we had to switch trains at Strathfield, our bags were thrown onto the platform and true to our suspicions one of my clips had been broken on the secure strap to the front of my backpack. I was so annoyed What made it worse was that there are luggage compartments on in the carriages big enough for backpacks and suitcases. In actual fact we didn’t need to book our bags in at all, we found that out later on from staff.

So travellers who use these train services because they are cheap and convenient, I have two tips:

1- take your luggage into the carriage with you and use the rack;

2- if you must check in your luggage, use a rain cover (if your bag has one) and a luggage strap to remove the option for them to lift any other way.

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4 nights in Melbourne

DAY 1 When we arrived in Melbourne we checked into the Nomads All Nations Hostel (Review Here) it was basic but all that we needed as a base. We stayed in a 12 bed mixed dorm and over the course of our 3 nights there we met a few random and a few lovely people. Our first night we met back up with a nice German girl from the GOR tour and went for a walk to catch our bearings.  Later on we then settled down for the night and agreed to go on the free bus tour of Melbourne the next morning.

DAY 2 and we woke bright eyed and bushy tailed ready to experience Melbourne I did a 5km run along the Yarra river that was perfect and we used a free map from the hostel travel shop to locate the nearest bus stop for the free tour.  There was just one problem… the bus stop had been decommissioned so we had to walk to the Federation Square stop. The bus journey was nice although it was a little hard to see because it was in a standard bus (an open top or double decker would have served it better). It was free and offered a great way to figure out where things are around the city and a free hop on-off mode of transport. The whole journey takes around 1.5 hours to complete.

When we got off the bus at Federation Square and got a lot of tourist information about things to do but the weather was so hot we just wanted to chill out for a while so we spent some time sat under a tree, I put my feet in some mud and stood on my diary. After that we went into the ACMI centre (Australian Centre for the Moving Image – Trip Advisor review here) where they had some exhibitions on the history of the moving image, talking about TV, film, video games, interactive moving image and the ideas behind them and their ability to possibly tell the future of the new kinds of technology to be invented. I really enjoyed the experience and it was free to enter.

After that we slowly wandered back down towards the hostel and found a sushi bar, Sea Salt (blog review here) that pretty much had most of their meals gluten free and provided gluten free soy sauce so I needn’t miss out. There was a busker on the corner of the alley way who really provided the perfect soundtrack to alfresco dining, he displayed a sign saying “smile, life’s too short!” and he really did make me smile. It was such a perfect day.

On our way back to the hostel we found a bottle shop and bought a bottle of Malibu and some Coke to go with it.We were sat in the room when a couple of the other girls came in and the night pretty much  became messy starting with us receiving $100 worth of free drinks for a Ukranian man. The night ended in a park with a bottle of Captain Morgan and a bottle of coke belonging to a young English guy and being consumed by 3 British girls, 2 French Guys, 1 Spanish guy and the English guy whos alcohol it was. We were wearing bottle protector mesh because we thought we were transformers, I was attempting sit ups with a 6kg medicine ball that we found in the park and all in all we had a really good night and met some brilliant people … traveller hostel style.

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Getting creating in Federation Square

DAY 3 in Melbourne started with a hangover and no milk because another traveller had decided they needed it more than we did. So I bought Anita some crumpets and we had a nice big breakfast. We were supposed to be going to the Victoria Market (Trip Advisor review here) at around 9am … we just didn’t get out of bed until 9am so we managed to arrive there at around 12:30pm.

The food market was brilliant and we got some great bargains for our evening meal. It really is the cheapest place to shop for fresh produce and you can’t get more fresh that the market. The rest of the market was made up of clothes stalls, tourist stalls with cheap souvenirs , confectionary stalls, world food stalls and just about anything you could imagine. I bought a 925 sterling silver toe ring for $16 and I was really happy with that purchase. I’ve been finding it hard to find a sterling one so my toe doesn’t turn that nasty shade of green you get with costume jewellery.

The rest of the day we spent walking, and walking and walking with the intention of finding the camera museum I’d seen advertised but we would not have made it before closing which was annoying and we still felt a little tender from the night before so we took home our steak and rice salad ingredients via the free City Circle Tram and ate like queens to the envy of the rest of the hostel.

So far we were really enjoying Melbourne and there was just so much to do we couldn’t possibly have the time to do it all so we decided to stick around for one more day as this was our last night in the hostel. I had just showered and was ready for bed when 2 girls from the tour knocked on our door with promises of a pub quiz at their hostel.

So I left Neet in bed and was ready to go in 10 minutes. We spent that much time talking in the quiz we were losing the rounds so I did what I saw others doing … cheated, only I got caught and scolded like a school child. A few ciders later and I was on my way back to the hostel … loudly!

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Exhibitions at ACMI

DAY 4 We chose some privacy and comfort of the Easystay Motel St Kilda (Trip Advisor review here).we checked out of the hostel and located the Motel, we were early and the room wasn’t ready but we were allowed to store our luggage and off we went back onto the tram to go outlet shopping at Harbour Town. We found some amazing bargains and it really is worth a visit. I got some board shorts for $2.50 from Valley Girl and a $40 bikini reduced to $10 from Factorie. WINNER!

Later we returned to St Kilda and walked along the jetty, we met a very interesting very old Greek man who told us he was from Lesbos and therefore a “Lesbian” he claimed that the birth of the term “Lesbian” for gay women came from the island because many years ago a father left the island to his daughter “Lesbos”. During the night the island became target for thieves and the men decided the only way to protect the island was to sit in boats off the shore with weapons to also prevent invasion from the nearby Turks. During this time the women became lonely and began to seek comfort in the arms of each other. He said he had a book detailing the story as no-one ever believed him, I haven’t read into his theory but I am sure I will at some point.

After this we decided to return to sit on the jetty later in the evening to wait for the fairy penguins to come on shore, so we got a pizza from Domino’s and sat, waited and watched the sunset with our friends from the GOR tour. After this we had $5 house spirits in an awesome bar called 29th Apartment that also had the coolest vibe and décor I have seen. There was a bathtub with cushions, a double bed, TV sets as tables and drinks crates as chairs.

Our final day we didn’t do much before our train to Sydney  wandered along the beach and played cards next to a young guy making a sand sculpture, we also watched the preparations for wedding on the beach. All in all we really enjoyed Melbourne and I think we will go back there later on in our trip and spend a real amount of time there, doing the things we missed out on and look for work.

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the travelling travelator

journeys from middle england

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