Posts Tagged With: australia

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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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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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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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.

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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!

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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

The Tin Shed (review)

So came lunch time today, blistering hot and stuffy in McLaren Vale. We came to The Tin Shed (facebook page here) because my Auntie suggested it and again I was delighted to find gluten free food on the menu.

The venue had a very shack like appearance and even had old scrubbed tin cans to hold the sugar sachets on the table, it was too hot to site inside so we sat outside. We had to collect our own menus from the bar and take them to our tables to browse and we had to go to the bar and pay first, there really isn’t a great deal of waiter service here but all in all that doesn’t bother me.

Firstly we ordered our drinks and received a complimentary bottle of chilled water for the table, I really do love this practice in Australian eateries so far. The menu was reasonably priced and had a range of brilliant gluten free options such as the substitution of bread rolls and pizza bases (for a surcharge of $3.50) which is less that others I have seen. Those in the world of gluten free know that these luxuries are hard to come by when eating out so imagine my complete and utter surprise when my main of Salt and Pepper Squid came out CRUMBED … I think I was in a state of shock! The squid was beautifully cooked and incredibly fresh and all for $18.90.

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After a mammoth portion of squid and sides we checked out the desserts (again order at the bar), I have not had a dessert here since we made our own polenta cake and I was so pleased when I walked up to the cake counter and saw a covered gluten free fig and orange cake … I mean, really, WOW! It was a large portion of moist tasty cake and wasn’t as heavy as some of the GF cakes I have tried in the past. We were offered another bottle of complimentary water after our meal, but it never came and the heat became too much to bear so we decided to walk to the local bottle shop. 

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Gluten Free Fig and Orange Cake

Overall I liked the place, I loved the menu but I feel that the staff are just a little too laid back because it didn’t really feel like they were interested as we didn’t get asked once while we were eating if we were ok or needed any more to drink.

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Carmel’s Cafe Bar and Grill! (review)

Tonight we ate our “last supper” with Nan before her return to the UK at Carmel’s Cafe Bar and Grill … and WOW what a meal!

Again, before we set off to this restaurant we checked the menu online to see what gluten-free (if any) meals they offered. I was stunned by the choice and my mouth was watering before I even left the house.

Upon arrival I noticed that the layout of the restaurant had a really relaxed vibe, it was warm, cosy and welcoming.  We were greeted by Carmel herself who worked the floor with her staff and were all extremely attentive to our needs throughout our meal.

At the table, the staff brought complimentary bottles of cold water which was just what we needed after a super hot day. The family then ordered some platters to start, they weren’t gluten-free but I had a few cheeky pieces of chorizo and some olives and even that was amazing.

For my main I ordered the Argentinean Grill for (Lamb cutlet, chorizo sausage, scotch fillet, prawn skewer served with Carmel’s own tomato,
onion chilli relish. Comes with gourmet side salad and rustic cut chips)
$29.90, I thought it was more expensive that I am used to being such a frugal girl but for a spiced up version of a mixed grill (something I never get in the UK) I was willing to give it a shot.  I was a little surprised I wasn’t asked how I would like my meat cooked (usually a touchy subject who has their meat very rare), however, when my meal came it didn’t disappoint. The meat was charred beautifully, medium-well done, the chips were chunky, the salad with pumpkin and feta was simply divine. The mixture of flavour on that plate made me melt … literally!

I really recommend this venue, another good reason to go being that they have Koppaberg 🙂

Overall, great venue, great staff, great atmosphere and great mood … simply a great good bye meal to Nan.

Thanks Carmel!

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Argentinean Grill

Check out more the location on my Gluten Free World page.

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From Saratoga to Adelaide

So we landed in Sydney and then spent some amazing time with our friend in Saratoga then caught a flight to Adelaide to see family, so I thought I’d write a post to update those readers who are interested in our actual travels and what we have been up to since our arrival on January 16th.  Posting during this trip so far hasn’t been easy my mobile internet is slow and there are so many “dead zones” in Australia I feel like I’m in the twilight zone, although in truth I don’t mind because technological downtime means I get to take in the things around me without distraction for a while.

Firstly we were picked up from the airport by one of our Aussie gal friend Alana and taken back to the house that her and her partner Mardi are renovating, may I add with as little help as possible. Fair play the girls are doing well. Even with renovations and 2 amazing dogs (Kruse and Calvin) and 6 chickens (except Robin thinks she is a dog and can do what the dogs do) they were still amazingly welcoming and shared their house with us for two weeks and have foolishly said we can return whenever … they may live to regret those words! 😉

While in Saratoga for the first week we pretty much stayed around the house trying to recover from jet lag and sift through all our documentation to sort our bank accounts out, not an easy task in the least I will update my earlier blog posts about things to consider before you travel. We did go in to Sydney a few days but the journey was a bit of a soul destroyer and we will probably spend some time in the city in the coming months, our first day in Sydney we spent most of the day in the banks opening accounts.

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Making friends in Saratoga

The STA opened a Commonwealth bank account for us but we later went to the HSBC bank and opened another joint account (click here to see this post and find out why) but we did see some pretty cool things shortly after and again on our second visit. On the first day we wandered through the Chinese Gardens and after a short trip in the wrong direction we found Darling Harbour, where we met the GIANT rubber duck in celebration of Australia Day … though I’m not quite sure I see the connection. I do keep blaming things on the fact we are upside down, though I’m not sure how long I can keep saying that in some of my dullest moments. The second time we visited Sydney we simply just walked around and took in some of the atmosphere and we actually made it around to the harbour and took the cliché Harbour Bridge and Opera House shots. We saw the busking Aboriginals who looked and sounded amazing with a didgeridoo and some wooden blocks, we saw a street performer who had a striking resemblance for Capt Jack Sparrow squeeze himself through a tennis racquet (not entirely sure why, again) and saw some rather random lunchtime joggers … with no shoes! The inner know it all runner and granny within me was screaming about poor support and joint pain and she was not happy with my decision to shut her up and move on without giving the poor boy a lecture.

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What we saw in Sydney

So that was the short version of Sydney and then it’s back to Saratoga. We have been looking at guided tours, jobs and all other of possibilities of where to go next and the trouble is we are indecisive and still a bit wary of the “just wing it” attitude. I did mention it would be hard in an earlier post (it’s getting easier). We enjoyed Aussie day by the beach with some cider and ginger beer (BOOM – the gluten-free variety is a winner folks) and we frequently competed with the Yahtzee cup and tempers flared. Oh and we got to play and cuddle some absolutely adorable puppy dogs, Anita is now puppy broody!

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Consuming naughties in Saratoga

While staying in Saratoga we took a trips to Newcastle and Cardiff … too confusing for us to have the two so close together in Australia! We also visited Terrigal beach and attempted an 8km walk to Erina only it was really hot and we didn’t really factor in the heat and a really, really, really long empty road! We may think about this when we get silly ideas in the future. Or maybe we wont.

Then the tropical storm hit and completely battered the east coast, it was sad and scary watching the news and hearing how people had died in the storms and we just had no idea what to do next. We had been here in Aus for just short of two weeks and getting itchy about wanting to explore and I realised my Nan was in Adelaide and had a week before she set off back to England, so rather than go east we decided to go south west-ish and catch a flight. The domestic flights are fairly cheap (we paid $139 for flight with checked luggage of 23Kg and 7 hand-held) and I certainly couldn’t complain about the service on the Virgin Australia flight that had free entertainments, headsets and was spot on with take off and landing time … to the minute.

We were met at the airport by my uncle who took us around the vineyard where he lives to spot kangaroos … and we did, it made our day! So we arrived home to see my Nan who I hadn’t seen in a few weeks since just after new year and my Auntie, Uncle and two Cousins who I hadn’t seen for just over 3 years and I cannot believe just how much Australia has changed the kids! They had put up a six berth tent with a queen double air bed and a lush cotton linen set looking out over the vineyard. We had no complaints.

As I write this post we have been in Adelaide 4 days and I have eaten gluten free meals in restaurants (See reviews here), seen Kangaroos, gone fishing, seen a wild seal play with some dolphins, been on a night time penguin watch tour on granite island, been on a dolphin cruise from Port Adelaide and been to the beach … I still have sand on my legs at this moment.

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Sights and goings on in Adelaide

So, what next…

We are going to be spending some time with more family in Adelaide for just over a week and in the meantime we are pricing up tours or campers to get from Adelaide to Sydney in time for the must see Sydney Mardi Gras … it is going to be messy! Now time to actually get off my rear and get that beach body back and I will post as soon as I can with more updates on our travels!

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Gluten Free in New South Wales

So I thought that I would have an absolute nightmare getting gluten free food, either in supermarkets or out and about, but I have to say … the Aussies have it down.

My first day here I got some GF cerial, pasta and some packet meals from Coles supermarkets, a couple of days later I got GF wraps from Woolworths and they even have massive GF frozen section and just today I got GF bread from the IGA. I have literally self catered like a queen and even if the stuff isn’t in the GF area it will often say “contains gluten” or “gluten free”.

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We even got some ingredients to try out a nectarine polenta cake…worked a treat.

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How could I complain about any of that?!

So supermarkets have it sorted, well what about eating out. Truth is a few days ago we went to Newcastle NSW and we got a bit peckish. We were walking along Wharf Road and spotted the Queens Wharf Kitchen, it was still breakfast time so I was thinking I wouldn’t have a chance…how wrong I was! The waitress was fantastic and I got gluten free toast!

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We walked a little further down the wharf and I saw a restaurant menu in the window of Blue Water Pizza, they offered GF pizza for a surcharge of $4.50.

Since then I have craved pizza. So tonight I got one…from The Supreme Pizza in Kincumber and it was TO DIE FOR. There was just one problem, it’s near the Dragon Paradise Chinese takeaway offering GF … it’s only a problem because I’ll end up eating too much and needing new shorts!

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Categories: Australia, Gluten Free, Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Packing … What a nightmare

I’ve not posted in a while due to Christmas/New Year celebrations and spending lots of time with family but I have finally come around to the point where I have less than 10 hours before my flight, I have not showered thus far and I am still thinking to myself “Do I have room for that if I might need it?”

In truth packing is the worst nightmare for me, yes partly because I am a clothes and accessory loving female and partly because I have never been away from my home comforts for such a long period of time and who knows what I may need on my journey?!

I want to be practical, keep fit and be me and wear the things I like, I listened to Anita who said a 65L pack would be fine … really?! As it turns out for the first time she was right. We decided to take our old cases and pack our back packs inside them (we did test what we were taking actually fit in them so give us a little credit before you dismiss us for idiots) for the first leg of the journey, sounds silly but we will be staying with friends for our first couple of weeks and Neet has skin like a ginger and burns badly so we have had to take a few bottles of lotion to start us off.

I have put on a little weight even though I’ve been hitting the gym hard, probably because I’ve been eating hard as well (hanging head in shame and self pity). However, most of my clothes still fit even if a little snug. When packing it really is important to look at the weather, the Aussies are having a real heat wave at the minute and anything respectable we need for Asia can be bought in Aus just before we leave in over a years time. The trouble was Rose (mother in law) had done what she does best in the way of hiding my bikinis when she had washed them after our last family holiday, I have spent the last week hunting in the attic for them only to find them at the last minute and shove them in my case.

So, it’s shorts, tanks and tees. Most of mine fold up really small and with vacuum bags that’s great, or so I thought. My problem is I can’t chose and I hate to be without my favourite items plus I need to fit in footwear, underwear, toiletries, girl items and my miscellaneous items (Kindle, journal, pencils, ipod, phone, etc).

So began the nightmare of “but I need it” and “it’s really small it rolls up tiny” and “I need those for the beach and those for going out” and “but I bought it especially for travelling” and “lets just stop packing and put our niece in the bag instead”… and so on!

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So I have (in vacuum bags):

  • Tanks x 6
  • tees x 4
  • tops x 2
  • body suits x 3
  • shorts x 6
  • convertible pants x 1
  • leggings x 1
  • jeans x 1
  • hoody x 1
  • button downs x 3
  • converse x 2
  • sandles x 1
  • ipanema flip flops x 1
  • running shoes x 1
  • pants x 9
  • socks x 7
  • rash vest
  • bikinis x 3
  • sports bras.

You may think I’ve packed too much, and you may be right but I have taken quite a few items that I don’t mind chucking once they have served their purpose or when I realise I over estimated. As they say you live and learn and I hope I will learn the “tricks of the trade” so to speak of backpacking. You must remember this is completely new for us and no matter how many tips we look at online each person values many different items.

The rest:

  • passport (remember to photocopy too)
  • both parts of driving licence (remember to photocopy too)
  • toiletries
  • sun lotion
  • aloe vera gel (amazing for skin breakouts and sun burn)
  • make up (bare minerals)
  • travel hair dryer & straighteners
  • journals (blank and Keri Smith – Wreck this journal)
  • kindle
  • sketching pencils
  • camera
  • spare memory card loaded with films
  • flash drive with back ups of all important documents
  • money belts and money of course
  • alcohol gel
  • fresh wipes for on the flight
  • spare vacuum bags
  • travel adapters and chargers
  • ipod and running sensor
  • reading light
  • toastie pockets (gluten free saviours for making toast in shared kitchen)
  • ziploc bags

Let’s see how much of it lasts the test of time, and lets see how much I ditch along the way? I think I will repost a packing list when I figure out what are essentials and what isn’t, probably just before I go to Asia so watch out for one retrospectively.

I know I will need other items of clothing to be respectful to other cultures when I leave Australia, but I’m not going to the wilderness, Australia has shops and I have  a working visa.

By 22:00hrs tonight I will be Sydney bound! Bye Bye England, it’s been emotional!

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Categories: Before I go! | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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