Travelling Tales & Tips

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.

Categories: Australia, Travelling Tales & Tips | Leave a comment

16 nights in Sydney

16 nights in Sydney

OK, so I know I am a little bit late with this post but I do hang my head in shame and pray you accept my humble apologies. I have been having the most unbelievable problems getting a signal on my phone to post and it takes a long time to type on a Galaxy S3. I know youre all thinking excuses , excuses but I really am struggling to do much better. Anywho! This post is all about the first and only 16 nights (consecutive nights) I have stayed in Sydney in the 5 months I have been in Australia. I have just completed my 3 months agricultural work and will post all about that soon enough. This post is an update for friends, family and readers alike of what I have been up to.

It started on the 1st March, we arrived early and headed to Alfred Park Budget Accommodation (Trip Advisor review here) and placed our things in the basement before we left to explore the area. This was when we found Organic Produce for a great slice of gluten free banana bread. We were waiting for a friend to arrive from Brisbane to join us for the Mardi Gras, due to her delayed flights we missed the Bondi Beach drag races which I had planned to go to. The hostel over booked and we were moved out, due to the move and needing to check back into the hostel I also missed the 9am fun run on the 2nd March.

However, all was not lost! Some pre-afternoon drinking begun and we soon got into the swing of things. We spent a good amount of time and money in the Columbian Hotel on Oxford Street while waiting for the parade to start, our friends were in the Dykes On Bikes section of the parade so naturally we wanted a good spot on the fence and the pub seemed like a great place to wait out of the rain. When we did go to the fence we looked amazingly stylish in our red, yellow and blue ponchos. We were the envy of the crowd Im almost positive.

The parade was AMAZING and it really does give you a sense of pride to be open minded and be around other open minded people without any prejudice of any kind. People who just want to be themselves and support one another. It sounds cliché I know, but it is true. I got goose bumps when the armed forces paraded and when I saw lots of happy parents and children enjoying the celebrations. After a lot of hours standing we got changed and headed to an after party in Newtown at the Imperial Hotel. Some of the Dykes were members of the band that were playing and we paid the $30 entry, it was worth every penny. I didnt catch their name due to high levels of alcohol in my bloodstream but I will try to research and get back to you.

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The following day consisted of getting in at 6am, up at 1pm, bed at 6pm up at 9pm and back out at 11pm until 6am all over again. Wow that was heavy duty drinking. So know we are on the 4th March and spent the day allowing our friend from home gracious time to quickly see Sydney Harbour, the Botanical Gardens and the State Library of New South Wales where there was an odd exhibition showing hundreds of centuries old photos. It was all taken at a quick glance and it was quick!

Seeing as we were hoping to be in Sydney for a while we decided it wise to be looking for work, we tried the usual backpacker places to look yes this includes Gumtree! We quickly got bored of browsing and had an early night to make up for the late ones, I think I really am getting old. The 5th was a good day for us, we hopped a couple of buses and sat our bikini clad butts on BONDI BEACH, yes I am a massive geek who watched Bondi Rescue on Pick TV when I am at home and yes I was so excited to see the guards and even more excited that they yelled at me because I wasnt near enough to the flagged zone! I do not recommend swimming in unsafe areas, I just didnt realise at the time due to excitement still smiling a little inside.

Between the 6th and the 8th we went back to Bondi twice, I got my nose pierced and we really got into the whole looking for work thing (view my post here). We signed up to TAW (travelers at work), which we thought would be more helpful than Gumtree and at least more genuine than some of the weird folks out there. All the way up to the 8th we had been searching for hostels for the weekend coming, there was one problem none were available and hotels were going for $300 per night. Considering it would cost us that for two of us in the hostel for the week we couldnt afford that. So we were stuck with two nights and no where to stay. We had no idea what to do next and almost half expected to join the backpackers under Eddy Street bridge.

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All was not lost, we managed to secure a room at a show house belonging to someone we knew and all we had to do was make sure all our stuff was out of sight and not use the bedding. Phew! So we loaded our lockers and took a weekend bag ready to hit Future Music Festival 2013 my little early Birthday present to myself.

So we get to Saturday 9th March and we head off to Future Music, we set off early ( as always) to make sure we were at the front of the cue to hit the stages, we really neednt have bothered. It was a very hot day, so hot that Neet burnt her eyeballs from looking at the stages all day WEAR EYE PROTECTION! Go faster stripes arent a good look on eyeballs, trust me! During the day we saw a heap of amazing artists including Ellie Goulding, Rita Ora, PSY, Nervo, Rudimental, Dizzy Rascal, Madeon, Azealia Banks (we kind of heard her when she eventually arrived on stage), Gypsy and the Cat, The Prodigy (yes I was bouncing like a nutter) and Fun. My highlights were doing Gangnam Style with PSY, singing my heart out to Fun. and jumping around to the harsh sounds of the Prodigy! The worst part of my day was poisoning myself with an energy drink, I was so thirsty at 11am and the bars werent open for alcohol so I thought Id have an energy drink. I would usually check the ingredients of most things I consume but for some bizarre reason I didnt, I could blame the excitement but I was simply too idle to read. BIG MISTAKE! The V energy drink contains WHEAT whyyyyyyy??!!! I just wanted a little pick me up, I had no coffee in the morning and knew it would be a long day.. Drinks are beginning to be my enemy and gluten free nightmare! I had to settle for cans of Strongbow pear but the cans were small and the price was large at $9.

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After a hard days singing and dancing my body had had enough, due to gluten my immune system dropped and allowed in the onset of a cold which came with a heavy chest. I felt like my Converse, rough, dirty and done in! Things looked up though, Anita got a call about an interview for the Wilderness Society on the 11th and we decided (due to speaking to some new friends at the hostel) to actually try to sign up to Medicare (see this post for more details). Anita didnt get the job, but we did get Medicare cover sorted which was a weight off our minds.

After a couple of days wondering around and shopping (I was torn with the decision of sticking with my phone or buying an iPad or small netbook), we made plans to meet our new friends in the morning for the coastal walk between Coogee beach and Bondi beach. Its roughly around 7km and at a snails pace of discovery and picture taking with Amy (a lovely girl taking her last chance saloon shot at backpacking) and Rebecca (the hostel resident who is a bit of a hippy that cant seem to leave Sydney but is such a funny and sweet girl).

On the way we found some interesting places, like the concrete beach at Gordons Bay, the beautiful Bronte Beach and the great cemetery. We stopped at Bondi and indulged in one of my average gluten free lunches of carrot sticks and dip, this time I decided on smoked salmon and dill! Yum! We finished the evening off with a well earned box of goon and some stir fry made with gluten free vermicelli noodles.

Following our exertion and minimum walk of 5km per day we decided to hit the shops again on the 14th, this time we stayed around the CBD. The day held a surprise though, in the form of a phone call from a lady offering us our 3 months agricultural work for our second year visas. The only thing was we were to leave Sydney on the 17th.

Our last full day in Sydney had to be something we hadnt done yet, we decided to hop a ferry over to Manly and see the beach. There was just one problem, the beach was closed!! The surf was hectic and the coast was foggy with mist, thats not to say the place was quite, it wasnt. It was so busy! We caught the little market come car boot sale and then had lunch. We wondered through the high street that also had a market containing organic produce, original arts and beautiful jewellery. I had my first baby Thai coconut and almost died with pleasure while drinking it, I seriously have never consumed anything quite so amazing. I have a prediction of my favourite beverage when I hit the shores of Thailand. The main beach was closed the entire day, however, we did manage a dip next to the ferry port before heading home.

17th March 2013 we caught a train to Tarre and hoped for the best!

During these two weeks in Sydney it felt like we didnt do all that much, or see all that much of the city and the surrounding area and I dont doubt there is a lot more to do. You just need a lot of money and time to do it and the trouble with being a backpacker is money spends all too quickly out here. I do like Sydney and I would like to spend a little more time there but what my friends told me back home was true dont spend too much time in Sydney, its overrated . I would like to experience more culturally and slow down instead of always being in a rush, so far I feel like my time is slipping past me quicker than I can blink and I just want to take it in a little more.

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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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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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Adelaide to Melbourne via the Great Ocean Road

So our second week in Adelaide was spent with family, Anita’s family, and I must say I thoroughly enjoyed it. We walked 15km on a few occasions down the coastal path, just for the sake of it and because the view was beautiful. We were lucky enough to catch one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen.

IMG_20130212_233032Sunset Adelaide Coastal Path

We watched the kids at Surf Life Saving training and compete in the carnival on Glenelg beach. I had a go at paddle boarding and Anita had a go at surfing. I also started to develop some real skills with a rip stick. Then it was time to leave, we booked Adelaide Motel & Backpackers (Trip Advisor review here) for $22 for the night. Anita’s niece dropped us off in Adelaide city, we had ditched the suitcases and transferred our gear to our rucksacks (with a lot of effort and standing on stuff). I also did a typical Tanya thing to do and left my bank card on the kitchen counter … great, Tanya, well done! Anita’s niece graciously dropped it off for me thought with two old pillowcases “just in case” … Thanks!

The morning after (DAY 1) we set off for the YHA to be collected by TopDeck Travel for our tour. Our guide PJ was a cheesy and bad joke telling man who kept us happy all the way through, he was actually very knowledgeable on local and world history and appeared to take genuine interest in the topic. He also came equipped with a microphone and asked each of us to introduce and talk about ourselves …. I cracked on (I’m sure I have mentioned I like to talk) but Anita did her big spoon trick and wouldn’t even touch it (this is how she avoids being given a big spoon to eat with). PhotoGrid_1361666764818

Grampians waterfall; 12 Apostles sunset; Grampians hike

We slept through a good chunk of the 600km (and counting) drive to the Grampians National Park. We stopped at Bordertown which was first settled in 1842 but is most known for the way it was used post 1952 for miners to stop over on the route between Melbourne to Adelaide with their police escorts for the gold miners in Vitoria. We also saw the white kangaroos Tatiara Wildlife Park, they were bred using handpicked white kangaroos that had developed due to a genetic shift.

We stopped over for lunch along the way PJ ordered in varieties of wraps, I got a tasty gluten free grilled fish salad which I really enjoyed in the heat. When we first landed at the Grampians we walked down approximately 100 steps to sit at the bottom of the Silverband falls, we could see the rainbow forming in the mist from the rocks and it was one of the most peaceful moments I think I have ever experienced. As we were walking I remember seeing so many lightning scorched trees and their centres cracked open, there had been spot fires due to storms the day before.

We then checked into the Grampians Motel (Trip Advisor review here) and there were so many wild kangaroos just running around, it was really quite something. Their running got more frantic later in the evening when we were sat in the mess kitchen (which happened to be the equivalent of a well fitted tin can) for our gluten free BBQ prepared by PJ, during the longest and most severe lightning storm I have ever seen. The forks of lightening were huge and the thunder was so loud it sounded like a crash of heavy duty trucks. The facilities at the Grampians motel were brilliant (except the free Wi-Fi didn’t want to work), we were placed in a room kitted for a family of 5. There were only 4 of us and I got a nice double bed to myself. There were tea/coffee facilities, refrigerator, dining table, TV and a menu that included gluten free meals…what’s not to like. Let’s just say I had a brilliant night’s sleep. PhotoGrid_1361666893889

Mountain hike; Loch and Gorge

DAY 2 I woke up, showered and went back to the mess kitchen to be greeted by a table sporting 2 loafs of gluten free bread and two boxes of cereals … I was spoiled for choice thanks again to PJ. It was a good job because we were being taken on a mammoth hike up one of the mountains in the park. It was hard and you really needed solid shoes, but it really was worth the effort because the view from the top was breathtaking and the natural environment we walked through was beautiful. We reached the top and I just had to sit at the edge of the cliff and take in the views, everyone else went to the viewing platform but I wanted no restraints … it was only when I looked back at the pictures did I realise actually how scary it was looking down. At the time I had a body full of adrenaline where the fear should have been and I genuinely felt invigorated.

We saw a bit of wildlife along the way like a wallaby and a couple of Crimson Rosellas, PJ slowed the bus when we saw these in case he hit one as he said if he did the other would die of a broken heart. The next port of call was Brambuk National Park where we enjoyed a cultural experience learning about the tale of creation from the Aboriginal history and we painted our own boomerang, it really didn’t take long for us all to start acting like 5 year olds with finger paint and for Anita to get bored and paint her bracelets instead of the boomerang. In truth it really was a lot of fun. I artfully (or so I think) represented a little story using symbols, mine says in Australian waters  I idiotically did the symbol for running water rather than still) there are beautiful seahorses. Then it continues on to say in 2013 we saw kangaroos jumping in the grass under the stars. I am immensely proud of my boomerang so please keep all mocking to a minimum or I may launch it at your heads.

Following the experience we began to hit the Great Ocean Road. On this section of the drive we visited Peterborough beach for a little dip, the Bay of Martyrs, Bay of Islands, London Bridge (which broke away from the mainland with a couple on to, the couple happened to be a man and his mistress who were outed by the news media), the Loch and Gorge where we sat for a while taking in the breathtaking views. Finally before we stopped at the 12 Apostles to watch the sunset we ate a meal of chicken schnitzel, chips and salad for dinner (mine came without the crumbs).

After the sunset we checked into Port Campbell Hostel (Trip Advisor review here), we stayed in a female 6 bed dorm which was really nice and clean, the shower was powerful and the bath tub huge. Also the communal areas and kitchen were huge and well equipped. Again we had trouble with a WIFI connection even though we got provided with an hour free we couldn’t connect which was quite frustrating.

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My boomerang; sleepy Koala; the Great Ocean Road sign; cool hot rod

DAY 3 again we woke up the next morning I packed my bag and tried to put it on…but I failed as the bed I had it balanced on decided to move and ensure I land on my bum with my back practically on my head. At breakfast I was served my gluten free goodies and the rest of the crew were served pancakes. We then drove around 1.5 hours to Otway Fly Treetop Walk, we had admission for walking only but there was a zip line there. We were given around an hour to walk around the park and up the steel structure that took you up into the tree tops. It was a very nice experience and it was mixed with lots of information about current and prehistoric life in the area including some of the oldest trees. Although it was nice I wouldn’t say it was one of my favourite parts of the trip.

From there we drove to Appolo Bay for lunch, I had my ipod in for the 2hour journey and enjoyed viewing the beautiful scenery. The land appeared to be really dry and it resembled a scene from the Lion King. When we got to Apollo Bay we were released to fend for ourselves for a while for some free time I swore blind PJ asked us to return for 1:30pm…but it wasn’t it was 1pm. Ooops! He went driving looking for us for around 20 minutes and I was a little sheepish. I liked Apollo Bay, it was a little touristy but it was relaxed and had a nice atmosphere.

From here we hurried to Kennett River Holiday Park (due to my lateness) to see the wild Koalas sleeping, if I could have one as a pet I would I have never seen a more beautiful creature. Next we set off to the start of the Great Ocean Road (we did the trip in reverse) and took the cliché pictures under the sign (of course we would…who wouldn’t).

During the trip PJ filled us in on various tales of history, animal life, jokes, love stories and much more (mainly because there was no stereo in the leased bus) and I think we all really enjoyed his company. He told us about various things we saw along the road, about a 5kg gold nugget being found as recently as 5 weeks ago in the state of Victoria and about the myths surrounding the great white shark as one of the most vicious sharks.

We arrived in Melbourne around 6:30pm and PJ at bus stop had been decommissioned were given more time at the stop offs and to spread out the amount of driving over maybe an extra day would have been perfect….and I didn’t get poisoned! Bonus!

Categories: Australia, Travelling Tales & Tips | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Planning to get back to Sydney!

Since we arrived in Adelaide we have spent a serious numbers of hours planning our way back out, that’s not to say we haven’t enjoyed ourselves. It just means that in between the fun moments we have also been planning a trip to Melbourne via the Great Ocean Road and back up to Sydney for the upcoming Mardi Gras parade on the 2nd March. We just couldn’t figure out a way to do it that suited us.

Firstly we were going to book a tour through some travel companies, then we were going to hire a car or camper and rough it, then we were going to buy a hundredth hand camper van … it all just got really complicated. Why? Credit Cards or lack thereof. You see Anita and I have been brought up with the outlook that if we couldn’t afford it we couldn’t have it, so we have never had a use for a credit card. This fact has turned out to be a royal pain in the rear for us not having credit cards, we even toyed with the idea before we left the UK but in all honesty debt scares me and I don’t really understand all the T/C’s. I think the companies throw so much unreadable nonsense at you that you leave dazed and confused after having sold them your soul.

So tours…..there were so many companies to choose from and we had brochures coming out of our ears, we were so overwhelmed with information we couldn’t decide. Not only were there many tours for a range of prices, conveniently there were none that went from Adelaide around to Sydney. We would have had to split it over two tours that may or may not have connected in the middle at Melbourne. We would also need to book hostels in Adelaide for pickup, in Melbourne if the next tour didn’t leave in time and at our Sydney destination … it all just seamed like a lot of hassle. We didn’t have a great deal of time to organise and travel and we hadn’t transferred any more money from the UK (usually I am mega organised, not in Australia). The best tour brochures we found were:

STA Travel (this really is packed full of useful information, I wish they had it in PDF)

Topdeck Travel (provide gluten free meals)

Groovy  Grape (provide gluten free meals)

G Adventure

Contact these companies via Twitter for quicker responses, this was how I found out they provide gluten free meals.

So if we wanted to hire a camper/car we had a few options where the liability is concerned, they have a few options but the obvious 2 are:

Pay no daily rate for liability, however, they will charge and freeze  up front an amount of around $3,000 dollars in case you screw up with their vehicle along the way;

Pay a daily rate for liability cover of between $25-50 per day.

Other than this they charge between $200-500 for one way fees $3-5 per day for a second driver, $10 per day for sat nav hire, $10-20 for linen and a host of extras.

The problem for us is that most would not accept debit cards only credit cards.

In terms of hiring a camper on this occasion it did not suit us because we were crossing two states one-way, didn’t have credit cards, did’t want to pay so many added fees for liability and didn’t wan’t them to freeze so much of our money to decide that we had caused x-amount of damage so we were’t getting our money back. We  may hire a camper for other journeys that aren’t so complicated in the future but for now it just wasn’t for us, we did find these cool and cheap sites though:

Mighty Campers

Wicked Campers

Camper Travel

Finally we thought of buying a camper van, so we checked out Gumtree and found quite a few for a good prices and we were really excited that the majority came with all the necessary camping equipment. It was obvious they had been bought and sold by travellers. We then had to consider if our UK licences were sufficient, the registration costs and hassles of moving between states for a period of time (vehicles must be registered within certain timeframes for each state) this Australian Government website gives useful links to relevant information of licensing and registration. We also had no idea how long any of this would take and to be honest didn’t want the hassle, all we wanted was a fun trip with the chance to make our way back to Sydney, see some more of Australia and meet new people. We decided by driving that we were isolating ourselves, making a commitment far too early in our trip and we were pushing our luck time wise. So we decided this wasn’t for us.

So what did we decide???

We decided to go with a Topdeck Southern Cross tour in reverse, we fell lucky that there were only three seats left and at a %10 reduction. This takes us from Adelaide to Melbourne over 3 days via the Great Ocean Road and the Grampians. We have no onward plan … just organising this was a headache (like most couples we just have communication problems). We booked the tour via Escape Travel in Hallet Cove, the agent was really helpful and advised us that she would contact us once Topdeck had confirmed they had sufficient accommodation for us as well as seat on the coach …after they had taken our money. We were expecting to hear from them the day after, we didn’t. We then called and emailed until we had it confirmed two days after booking. By this time we still hadn’t booked hostels in case we couldn’t go on the tour and were given a refund amid the possibility of having to make alternative plans.

After this searching for hostels was also a pain, some places didn’t have the correct availability, some where overpriced with terrible reviews, some were just way out of the way of where we needed to be and some websites WOULD ONLY ACCEPT CREDIT CARDS!

Again with making a backpackers life difficult!

We eventually booked 3 hostels:

Adelaide Motel & Backpackers via Hostel World,  we are being collected from Adelaide for the tour and we paid $22 each for 1 night in a 6 bed mixed dorm.

Nomads All Nations Melbourne via their own website for $26 each per night for 3 nights in a 12 bed mixed dorm. We saw the same hostel on Hostel Bookers for the same price, only they wanted to take the 10% deposit in GBP! Seemed odd!

Alfred Park Budget Accommodation via Hostel World for between $25-26 per night for 3 nights for us 2 and a friend.

When using Hostel World we paid $10 to remove the $2 booking free, this is valid for 12 months and as they are usually the cheapest comparison agent it will be beneficial for us.

Keep tuned for how are trip actually went!

Categories: Australia, Travelling Tales & Tips | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

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