Sunday, May 17, 2009

Indian Pacific - Adelaide to Perth

So I bought a ticket a few weeks ago to take the Indian Pacific train from Adelaide to Perth. This was only half the journey of the Indian Pacific as the train originates from Sydney. In total the train takes three days from Sydney to Perth, and for me it was 41hours. I've taken a 36 hour train ride in Africa, so I kinda new what I was getting myself into!
I boarded just after 6pm on May 10th, and was in carriage R, one of the closest to the front and also the furthest from the check in counter!! There are three classes on the train, the Gold, which is quite obvious the fanciest, with nice big beds to sleep in and all food included. Then there is the red kangaroo, smaller beds, but still privacy, and then there was the low class, overnighter kangaroo class. When I was approaching the carriage, I felt like i was in the low class section of the titanic. A bunch of backpackers all trying to get on the train!! I had a seat that reclined about 30 degrees for sleeping, and thats all. (unlike the train i was on in Africa where i had a bed to sleep on and I paid a hell of a lot less!) I was a little worried who I would be sitting beside, but as it turned out it, he was a cute young german who was kind enough to share his sleeping bag with me to keep me warm at night as all I had was my towel!! (And I had a nice cuddle session! heehee) I ended up meeting heaps of people of the train including Marina, an english girl who I ended up going on a 4 day tour of southern western australia which I will tell you more about later, Warwick, an english guy touring australia and asia, and who I am now going to Bali with in June for a week, Gary, also English, Gemma , English as well, Amanda from Canada - Edmonton actually and Andy, the cute German who had his van on the train and moving to Perth to find work. We all chatted tons and before we knew it, it was after 10pm and they where turning off the lights for sleep time. We left Adelaide in the dark and so we didn't see the sun till the morning when we were in the middle of nowhere. On Monday we went through the Nullarbur plains, miles and miles of nothing, literally nothing upon nothing. Kinda reminded me of the nothingness of the north in the winter, except it was brown!
We weren't stuck on the train the entire time, we had a brief stop at Cook - population 5. It is in the middle of the nullarbor plain,s and had trees, but these where planted in the 80's specifically for the town. The next stop was Kalgoorlie-Boulder, which has the oldest working Brothel as well as bars in which the servers are in nothing but bras and undies. Interesting none-the-less!! We had 3 hours here and so headed to a couple of the pubs in town and got nice and drunk before heading back to the train for our last night on the train! I thought there where going to be lots of people snoring on the train and keeping me awake but, surprisingly there where not that many. As for food, I could have purchased food on the train, but decided I would save on money and bring my own food, so I had tuna and bread, cheese and crackers, and a bag of salt and vinager chips for a treat! Good ole' backpacker food! I'm glad I brought my own food as the food that was available was fairly pricey for the amount you got.
We arrived in Perth central just after 9am and Andy was kind enough to take Marina and myself to the YHA in central Perth. All of us except Amanda from Edmonton where staying at the YHA so we all hung around the hostel that evening and played cards. What an awesome experience it was and I met so many great people. All in all it was a great trip and I would take the train again in a heartbeat!!

Carriage R - seated about 60

Me at Cook

My train friends!!

Entering Western Australia - can you see the huge difference in scenery?!!

At one of the 'skimpie' bars in Kargoolie!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Epic Adelaide weekend

So I arrived to Adelaide and made it to my hostel lugging ALL my 'crap', thank goodness it was only a short walk! I ended up meeting up with my friend Blake for dinner who I met on the great ocean road tour. We had some very good seafood - i had Barramundi and some great tasting beer - Coopers!! Blake was then going to a Tribal party and even though I didn't have anything tribal, I still decided to go with him, as I only live there was to be other Canadians at the party. Gotta love it when we represent.
We stopped on the side of the road and picked some twigs to put in my hair to make me look somewhat tribal, and off we went. There was a wide variety of costumes, all very entertaining, and even a DJ with disco lights set up. And I am going to sadly admit something here, it was the first true 'house party' that I have ever been too. Don't get me wrong, I've been to house parties, but nothing like the party I was at, it was a typical house party with randoms stopping by and even the cops popping in to deliver a noise complaint.....So, I met these Canadians, there was 4 of them all together, some where studying, others where just hangin' out and traveling, but they all knew each other. One of the girls, invited me out on Saturday to a 'true' aussie day, a local footy game, then back to one of the 'blokes' houses for a bbq and a bonfire. GREAT, I say, I'd love to long as I'm back to catch the train on Sunday to Perth!!
So I woke up Saturday morning, a little hungover (well, quite hungover :) ) and checked out of the hostel a day early. 2 of the girls came and picked me up in "Gunta" the jeep, and took me to there place. I dropped off all my crap and 10 of us where off to watch the footy game..... after picking up 'Maccers' (McDonals) to cure our hangovers! The day was not the greatest, it was cold, cloudy, and misty out, but we where with fun people and despite the team losing horribly, overall a fun afternoon - with drinking of course! After the game, we stayed for a beer with the team, then headed to one of the players houses for some more fun and games. His house was actually built in the late 1800's and was a flour mill until bought by his folks and converted into a house. And honestly, it was the coolest most amazing beautiful house EVER!! We started up a massive bonfire in the backyard - it was about 4M high at first, then we let it burn down to a nice bonfire where we could actually stand around it and enjoy it without burning our eyebrows off - not that I have to worry about that :)
We had some amazing BBQ - 'nibblers' (chicken wings), sausages, lamb, chicken kabobs, salad and garlic bread - yumm yumm!! A bunch of the players showed up later as well and we had as many as about 16 people around the fire with the tunes on, good times! Later in the night the guitars and digeredoo's came out which I enjoyed even more! I was still pretty hungover from the night before, so didn't drink that much (plus I didn't want to be hungover for the train ride) so I crashed at around 0100 on a comfy couch wrapped in 'duna's' (duvet's). We all woke up the next morning at various times and eventually chowed down on left over bbq. The bonfire was still going so we hung out for a bit before decided that we would visit the oldest german settlement of Australia - Hahndorf. We had a german with us and he was very kind enough to give us a tour of his family history! He was very entertaining and I think many of them where still drunk from the night before. We broke out in song a dance when we saw a guy playing the accordian, as well as making a stop to the local souvenir store. The town was actually a happenen' place and it was also mother's day, so we where quite the spectacle on the streets of Hahndorf! At this point I was starting to freak out a bit as my train left at 1840, and I wanted to leave the house at about 1700, plus I still had to re-pack all my stuff as well as hit the grocery store so I didn't have to buy food on the train. It was pushing 1500 and we where still in Hahndorf and I had no idea how long it took to get back in the city. In the long run, it all worked out well - we got to the house at about 1615, and I also found out that the train station was really close to their house, so we didn't have to leave till about 1730. I made it to the train station at 1810, checked my baggage and on board I went......

The beautful house we had a party at

The whole Adelaide gang

At the house, morning after!

At the footy game, we were cold!! Also not dressed for it :)

Blake, me and Blakes friend at the Tribal Party - all face painted up!!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Bruny Island

So I woke up bright and early in the hopes of stopping just off the highway to get a picture of the sunrise over Hobart, however the weather was not very cooperative that day, and so the sunrise was nothing exciting. SO, I continued on to the town of Kettering where I boarded the ferry at 0745 to go to Bruny Island. The cost was only $25 dollars for the car and passengers were free!! Sweet ass if you ask me!

Once I got the island I headed straight for the penguin rookery and lookout, however it was not penguin season and the weather was so uncooperative, I snapped a few photos at the lookout and off I was to my car. I continued on Adventure Bay where I saw, well, not much really! There was the Captain Cook monument hidden behind some trees, and the most entertaining this was that I had a duck chase me into my car!! I had stepped out to read about doing a walk, and all of a sudden I heard this duck, and he slowly started waddling up to me, and he didn't stop!! I tried 'shooing' him away, but no such luck and he literally chased me into my car!! I'm sure I looked pretty funny from a distance being chased by a duck, and honestly, all I could do was laugh at myself when I got into my car!! haha

After Adventure bay, I headed across the island to Cloudy Bay, and of course took the scenic route which involved twists and turns up a mountain and back down on narrow gravel roads......will it ever end!!! And wouldn't you know, when I got to Cloudy Bay, it was cloudy, actually very cloudy and windy and freakin cold!! I stopped for a pee break and took a couple photos and off I was again. Sadly the weather was so not pleasant for the entire morning and I didn't really do much other then drive around the island, and well, get chased by ducks! But none-the-less, I'm glad I went as it is a very beautiful island and enjoyed driving around it. I headed back to the main island, and headed north to Russell Falls. I had planned on going here the day before after Hastings caves but didn't have time, so figured it was now or never as I flew out the next day. It took me close to two hours to get there and it was short walk to the falls, but it was so worth the drive!! The falls where spectacular, I couldn't stop taking photos!! Once my hands where nearly frozen from taking photos, I decided it was time to head back. I convinced myself to take a 30 minute walk among the 'tall trees', thinking if I walked quick enough I could do it in 20 minutes. I don't know who timed the 30 minutes, but I did it in 10 minutes, and that's with reading the signs and information booths among the trees! Once I finished walking in awe of the amazing forest with incredibly tall trees I got back to my car and headed back into Hobart, just in time to hit rush hour. Lovely!

Photos to be posted later!!

So that pretty much involved my 5 day tour of southern Tasmania and feel like I could have seen more if I had more time. In total I put 1457km's on the car in 5 days and enjoyed every kilometer of it! Now it was to fly to Adelaide for a couple of days and then head to Perth via the Indian-Pacific Train.

Bruny Island

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Day 4 - Tahune airwalk/Hastings Caves

Alright, I've arrived in Perth via the train - 41 hours later, it was truly an epic train ride - will tell more later, for now, here's Day four of Tassie, (I wrote this earlier:)

So today I woke up early and headed south to a place called Tahune airwalk. It was a fair distance away and I wanted to get a head start on the day and beat the rush hour traffic out of Hobart. As I drove out of Hobart up the hill, there was a beautiful turn out spot to watch the sun come up over the hills, however I couldn't get off the highway quick enough to take pictures, so I figured I'd do it the next day.  

I drove to the town of Geeveston and stopped to buy a ticket for the airwalk, however I was so early the visitor center wasn't open and I also found out that the airwalk didn't open till 1000, not 0900 like the internet said.  So basically I had about an hour to kill. I took my time getting to the airwalk stopping at a few small walks and driving to the top of the Hartz mountain. A couple of the walks where ridiculously short, like less then 2 mintues to get to the lookout point, but well worth it. There was also hardly anyone else on the roads, I saw two campers stopped at a rest point, one of which I also saw at the lookout at the top of Hartz mountains. Now this day was not the nicest of days either, it was cloudy, misty and freakin cold at the top of Hartz mountain. However, I really wanted to walk to a suggest waterfall, a 20 minute walk - which I sped walked in like 10 minutes!!  The falls where so beautiful I spend more time taking photo's then I took to walk it! I have posted one of my favorites below.

Once I finished at the waterfalls I figured it was time to go to Tahune Airwalk, which  I should add most of this road was a gravol road - fun, and the drive to the summit of Hartz mountain was very twisty and turny, and of course, narrow. I arrived at the airwalk at around 10am, and when I arrived, the sign was posted as actually a 0900 opening time. Oh well, the hour didn't really make that much of a difference, and I'm glad I saw what I did. So, to the airwalk, which I should explain is a large steel structure/walkway that is built high up in the tree tops. It is a brief walk, but a really cool walk with a completely different view and respect for how tall these trees get. I also did a 45 minute walk in the forest and crossed a couple swing bridges over a river. It was cool outside, but nothing I couldn't handle! I just kept my feet moving and it was all good!

Once I finsihed the airwalk, which I spent over an hour at, I headed further south to Hastings Caves and Thermal Springs. En route I stopped to look at the 'Big Tree', and my was it big. In fact, the tree is 87m high and is figured to weigh 405 tonnes!! Crazy! I made it to Hastings caves just in time for the 1515 tour, and to my advantage, I was the only guest on the tour! So I got a very personal guided tour of the caves where I not only saw cool stalactites and stagmites, but I saw cave crickets, glow worms, and the Tasmania cave spiders. All very cool! I headed to the thermal springs, but the pool was being cleaned and I didn't have my swimming suit, so I walked around the creeks, hoping to see a platypus, but no such luck. It was starting to get late in the day, so I decided to head back to hobart, about a 3 hour drive and end my day with a cold beer and spagetti! Oh life is good!

Creek falls at the top of Hartz mountains

Neat view of the trees from the airwalk

Tahune Airwalk

Me at one of the swinging bridges at the airwalk

Me at Hastings caves

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Day 3 - Mount Wellington

Day three was a bit more of a laid back day, meaning I slept in till 8am, and only drove a couple hundred km's!! It was a fairly nice day, minimal cloud, so it was perfect to drive to the summit of Mount Wellington. Its about 22 km's from town, but the drive up is pretty narrow so it took a while to get there. At 1272M above sea level, it was pretty chilly out with many people all bundled up in scarves, gloves and toques (AKA, beanies as they say here). I saw one small section at the top, a couple feet, that had snow as normally in the winter the peak is covered in snow. I had my capri pants on and didn't get that cold, however I would not spend the whole day up there with them on! I lucked out with the weather as many days the peak is covered in cloud and I got some great shots of Hobart and surrounding areas.
I then decided to drive to the nearby district of Kingston and check out some of the beaches. It was a very windy day though, so I opted to just walk the shore and head back to the car, too cold out to just sit outside. I then headed back into town and drove through Battery Point where I saw some really neat older houses, again with nearly no one else around. Battery Point also has a small section called Arthur's circus, which is basically a small green field with a swing set and houses built in a circle around it. Kinda cool, but mostly pretty as the trees are changing color and you can see Mount Wellington from the east side. I didn't really have much else planned so as I drove by the Australian Antarctic Division, I stopped in for a look around. They had a small section set up for visitors with information about Antarctica, its expeditions, and some of the gear - old and new - that is used in Antarctica. All too familiar for me!  I just like the life-size empire penguins set up!
I then drove into Hobart and found a place to park (always fun in any downtown!) and walked around the pier, and downtown for a bit as I hadn't actually been to downtown Hobart! I walked by a few places that where selling fish and chips and couldn't resist the smell, so I bought some (flathead, yumm, and beer battered, yumm yumm!) and came back to the hostel to inhale my yummy food! I went to bed pretty early as I had a busy day the next which involved a lot of km's again! 

Top of Mount Wellington

Me with one of the penguins at the Antarctica display

Arthur's Circus

Battery Point

Pier in Hobart

Monday, May 4, 2009

Port Arthur and more

So, Day two of Hobart included Port Arthur and tassie devils!!

I headed out around 8:30am ,right during rush hour, and managed to make it almost out of the city without getting lost, then I missed the turn off out of the city and ended up going in the wrong direction! After pulling over and looking at my map, it was my best option to take a slightly longer, but easier to access, route to the town of Richmond which was my first stop. I managed to get on this highway without problems, and off I was! It was a very narrow 2 lane highway - which most seem to be here in Tasmania. It was a nice scenic route and good thing I don't get car sick because it was very windy!! I arrived in the cute small town of Richmond, with old historic buildings, and hardly anyone on the road! I snapped some photos and was on my way to Port Arthur. I had some stops marked on the map that I wanted to check out first, with Tessellated pavement being the first. Tessellated pavement is on the beach, and with the erosion of the rocks, it looks liked tiles carved into the rocks. Very neat, as well as a beautiful coast line. I continued down the highway and took a detour at Eaglehawk Neck to another couple of lookouts, the Tasman's arch and Devils Kitchen, and then to check out The Blowhole. On the way out I took my time driving through Doo Town, where house owners have names all their homes with "doo" names. These include, "Just Doo It", "Much-A-Doo", "Doo Little", "Love Me Doo:, "Doo Drop Inn", "Doodle Doo", my favorite which I've posted a picture below, and many more!
The road down to Port Arthur was very pretty, and being alone, I didn't hesitate to pull over to the side of the road to enjoy the scenery, and well, to take some pictures!! My last stop before Port Arthur was to the Tasmanian Devils Conservation, which was also home to many injured birds, possums, kangaroos and wallabies! The first thing I did was of course, go see the devil's!! The where kinda cute kinda ugly in a cute kinda way!! They where surprisingly active, and could hear you approaching their home, so they'd run over to see you, or should I say smell you, then they'd go off running elsewhere! The first three I saw where young ones, who didn't rest at all, the other three I saw where much more lazy, and as you can tell by the picture below, more laid back! I walked through the entire park, and saw some cockatoos, kookaburra's, goshawk's, an amazing eagle, possum's, quolls, and roamed with the wallabies, geese and the very lazy kangaroos. I missed the feeding of the tassie devils, but time was running short and decided I better head to Port Arthur before time ran out!
Now Port Arthur is quite an amazing place, and very pretty - mainly because there are no bars or gates containing the prison. (No where to run too, either the bush - where the only access to the mainland, was a narrow road guarded by mastiffs, or the water, which by no means, is not an easy paddle!) I took the 'free' harbor cruise which was a very slow ferry ride that took us through the bay and around the isle of the dead, which you can make a pretty good guess is where they buried those that died at the prison. I then headed to the 'free' guided tour of Port Arthur that was very informative of what life was like - and there was some nice eye candy on my tour as well :)
Everything that was built on port Arthur, was built by the convicts, EVERYTHING. That includes 864,000 bricks, as well as any mining/making of materials needed to build the structures. Some of the buildings include the law courts, hospital, church, the separate prison (for confinement), asylum and of course the penitentiary. At any given time there where 2000 convicts, plus guards, soldiers and the soldiers wives and children. Jeremy Bentham, who reformed the prison described the penitentiary as 'a machine for grinding rogues honest'. Quite a powerful statement if you ask me. Many of the convicts arrived to the prison as a criminal, but left with a trade and eduction to get by in life. Unfortunately, many of the men who where released, had to return as they where so institutionalized they didn't know how to function in the real world! Anyways, Port Arthur was a very interesting place, and I could have spent more time wondering the buildings, but time was running short, as was the sun, so I decided to head back into town.
But first I took a quick detour south to the remarkable caves while the sun was still out, and despite the cold weather (mainly the wind chill) it was quite remarkable. I couldn't access the caves as it was high tide and the waves coming in where really strong, but you could see the neat markings on the rocks from erosion of the many years of the southern ocean crashing against its facade. All in all, a spectacular sight!
Next I was to drive back into Hobart, with the last bit of driving in the dark, but I managed to get myself back to the hostel without difficulties! Good thing I have a pretty good memory and sense of direction.....well, most of the time anyway!

Tessellated pavement
Tasman's Arch

The Blowhole

Beautiful coastline enroute to Port Arthur

My fav 'Doo' house!

Lazy Roo's

Really lazy Devil!
Me at Port Arthur, behind the Penitentiary

Remarkable Caves - as you can see, rough seas today

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Wineglass bay and more

YIPEE!!! I'm back on holidays and I can't be more excited about it.  As much as I'm going to miss the friends I made in Launceston, I'm glad to be back traveling again! 
It started last night when I went for dinner with a bunch of girls from work.  We went to an Indian restaraunt and it's the first time I've been to an Indian restaurant, as I'm always so worried about my allergies.  As it turned out the staff where very accomodating and there was only one dish that we ordered that I couldn't eat.  It was awesome food, and I can't wait to go back to an Indian restaurant!  We then proceeded to head out to a bar called the Star Bar where we had 2 for 1 cocktails......deadly!! haha.  I had 2, well, 4 I guess, and cut myself off as I knew I wanted to get up early and hit the road, preferably, not hungover!!  I got home by midnight, however the 7 am wake up call was not the nicest!  But nothing a little powerade couldn't cure.  
I picked up my rental car at 9am, a Nissan ST, and to my surprise, it was manual :)
Ha, I have nothing else to concentrate on, but now a manual!!  So far so good though, well, sort of, reverse was a bit of an issue. I got to my place and could NOT figure out how to put the damn thing in reverse.  According to the stick shift, R was up and to the far right.  I tried my hardest to get it in that position, thinking it was difficult to engage.  After 5 minutes, I got out the manual thinking this is RETARDED, its not like I've never driven manual before?!!   The manual said if having difficulties, to put it in N, take your foot off the clutch, then put the clutch back in, and try again.  Well, that didn't work either.  And each time I tried, I kept going forward (as I was in 1st), and I was slowly approaching a driveway that had a steep decline!!  I then saw this lovely couple walking their dogs, and I embarrasily asked the if they maybe knew?? Sure enough, he got in the car, and there is a release button just below the stick handle, that you pull up on when putting it into 1st, which actually puts it into R.  He said he had the same problem with a car he borrowed and it took him 10 minutes to figure out!!  How annoying!!! haha
So now that I had R figured out, it was time to hit the road! I drove straight to wineglass bay, known as one of the top ten beaches in the world.  Actually, I stopped breifly in Bicheno because they had some amazing picture opportunities that I couldn't resist snapping a few photos.  I took the more scenic route to Coles bay, located just prior to the car park to Wineglass, to as I'd rather drive on the side roads enjoying the countryside then driving on the highway!  I arrived at wineglass at about 1pm and set out for the hour and a bit walk to the beach.  There is no way to drive there which makes it that more awesome!  The day was perfect, sunny with no wind or clouds....couldn't have asked for anything more on an autumn day in Tassie!  The beach was more beautiful then in the pictures, and I spent about 15 minutes just sitting on the beach enjoying the sound of the surf and the scenery!  And trust me, I would have stayed longer, but I had a schedule that I was trying to follow.  I was going to head back to my car via Hazards beach, which would have taken me the long way back along another beach, however I knew I still had quite a drive to hobart, and it was already 1430.  I opted to just go back the way I came and booted back up the hill to the carpark and made it in less the 45 minutes!!  On the way to Hobart I stopped at Spikey bridge and was in Swansea for the sunset, which meant I drove into Hobart.... in the dark.... with no passenger to navigate me to the hostel!!!  Lovely!  I had to turn around a few times in Hobart, but all in all, made it safely and in pretty good time!  I am staying at the YHA (youth hostel accomadation) till Friday when I fly out, and so far I have a 4 bed dorm to myself!  I don't think there are more then 3 or 4 other people staying in the whole hostel!

The beautiful Wineglass Bay

Me on the beach at Wineglass!

Can you guess?  Spikey Bridge!

The sunset in Swansea