Sunday, July 26, 2009

The ride to work

Me and my bicycle - kind of reminds me of the queen song!!

We are slowly getting to know each other very well and by the time I leave Darwin I'm sure we will have connected in a way that I can't imagine! haha Do I love my bicycle, not so much - I think we have more or less of a love/hate relationship!! Everyday I hop on my bike and cycle approximately 12 km's to work. My ride to work isn't so bad, a couple small hills I have to conquer, but the worst is the traffic lights and intersections. Oh how I hate traffic as a cyclist! I mainly stay off the road and stick to the sidewalks unless its a side street and dark out - then I move to the road so I can be seen and also see where I'm going. I actually have to head to the cycling store to get a light for my bike as when I ride at night, there are a few streets that can be fairly dark - plus it makes it easier for other pedestrians to see me coming!

The sidewalks are not that well maintained and my poor ass is pretty sore! The worst, I am working full time so am riding pretty much 5 days a week, which averages 120 km's a week!! (wow, i just surprised myself figuring that number out!) The ride home is the worst, but at least I don't have worry about being home by a certain time. Although I don't usually take my time as I try and think of it as a workout as well. I also try and change up the route I take as well, just to make life interesting! As I don't have a time limit there are about 3 or 4 different ways I can get home, so I don't get too bored doing the same route. However, there are about 2 that I usually alternate between as they are the quickest. The hardest ride home has been after working nights. We work 10 hour night shifts, which is new to me, and my feet are pretty sore by the end of the shift - and then I get to ride home on my bike!! I am working my first lot of nights right now, 4 in a row, and the first morning, and the third morning have been the worst. Yesterday morning it probably took me just over 40 minutes to get home, I was so tired and my legs where aching!! I think there is more of a constant incline on the way home, either that or I am just exhausted from the shift. Could more likely be the latter.

It should be interesting as the weeks go by, and the built up starts. I don't think I have to worry about it all too much for the next while. But into September and October I think I may have to leave home earlier just so I can shower at work before my shift starts. For those of you unaware, here in Darwin, just prior to the wet season, we get what is known as the built-up. And extreme increase in humidity with thunder and lighting storms, but no rain (I am really looking forward to the storms!) From what I hear, 100% humidity is not uncommon, in fact, expect it. It could be interesting riding to work in 100% humidity, do you think I''ll lose weight just from all the sweating? I'm hoping I won't experience the full on build-up as I leave October 7th, but I'm going to expect the worst!
And don't worry.....I wear a helmet :)

Me and my bike!

Some large cane toads we found under our deck the other night. They are actually a pest here in Australia, and if you find them you are meant to kill them! We didn't kill these guys, too hard to get to.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Beer Can Regatta

So last weekend was the annual beer can regatta at Mindil beach - the famous beach with the markets every Sun/Thursday. I ended up working a double shift the night before the regatta, so when I got home I crashed on the couch - Coxy and Kym where home, and slept till about 1pm. I got up, had a quick shower and got dressed for this spectacular event. Basically, anyone can enter a boat in the races, but it had to be made of beer cans, not bottles, just beer cans - for obvious reasons. My friends decided to enter a boat and took about a week to built it, and it still looked awesome! The name: The Bismark - named for a couple different reasons that I can't seem to remember at this moment.

I hoped on my bicycle - this thing is going to be my best friend by the time I leave Darwin, and rode to the beach. It only took me about 15 minutes, could have been shorter but I had to hold me dress so it didn't get caught in the tire!!

I arrived at the beach around 1430 and most of my friends where already trashed! When they dropped the boat off early that morning then decided to head into town and go to the pub for a couple beers to start the day. Well, it didn't stop there. In fact, once the races started, which was pretty lame as there was no horn or anything, all of a sudden the boats (about 7 in total) where entering the water and they where off, but all my friends where up drinking on the beach!! Ciaran realized they where starting and rounded everyone up. It was pretty funny to watch, and the boat didn't go very far, in fact, instead of it going straight into the water, it just drifted sideways - even with paddling. Although, it probably didn't help that they where all very intoxicated and had no rhythm what-so-ever!

There was another 'race' and it was to find a prize sitting on the bottom of the ocean floor (it wasn't very deep), and the Bismark was just trying to stay afloat then searching for the prize! In fact, the life guards where following the boat encouraging them to get themselves and the boat ashore so they didn't sink! I believe the Bismark made the evening news, and it definitely made the morning paper, it even got the longest tribute - mentioning the fact that the owners went to the pub instead of doing a float test!! haha

We drank all afternoon, I sent my bike home with the boat on the back of the truck - I didn't think I was going to be in ANY shape riding it home! A few of us stayed and watched the amazing sunset on the beach - of course my camera battery died within 10 minutes of taking photos of the race. We grabbed some yummy market food - of course I had fish n' chips, then we hoped in the cab to head home. It was pretty early, around 1930, and I was ready to keep partying, remember, I slept till 1300! BUT, when we got home, Ciaran was passed out on the couch and we couldn't get a hold of anyone to find out where the party was. My friends I was with where drunk as well, so I pulled out the Capt'n and made a stiffy, and before I knew, I was ready for bed as well!! haha

Cairan and Kirk playing in the sand!
The crew
The Bismark!

Friday, July 24, 2009


So, I arrived in Darwin a couple of weeks ago now, and have settled in nicely!!

Adam, the cyclist I met in Alice Springs, picked me up the day after I arrived in Darwin and we went bicycle hunting. We went to K-Mart and the Big W (Walmart for those back home) but couldn't find one that was the right height for me or for the right price. So we drove to Toy World (Toys 'r us) and I found a decent bike, a little bit more money then what I wanted to spend, but I only had one day to find a bike and I was running out of options. We brought it back to my place, he raised the seat for me, put my lock on, attached my water bottle holder and gave me some tips on maintaining my new bike. That afternoon I hoped on my bike and rode my way to the hospital. It took me 45 minutes going at a pretty good speed. I met the recruiter, filled out my paperwork to start work, got uniforms and met the manager of my new ward - 3B, acute medical/oncology. All brand new to me, but I was up for a challenge. I started the following morning, but didn't have to start till 8am as it was more of an orientation to the ward and was going to be spending most of the morning with the manager. I rode my bike home, this time it was a bit more the 45 minutes, but hey, I got home in one piece as it has been years since I last rode! I estimated that it would take me 45 minutes, so I was happy with that, and after looking at a map, I realized I was actually going the long way. However, I wasn't about to start testing new routes my first day of work, I would just take the long way until I knew the city a bit better and felt more comfortable trying new routes.

So, my new place. First of all, I was supposed to be staying in staff village housing which is located right across the street, however when I was getting all my work arranged, I was informed that there was no staff housing available. Period. That was it, I was on my own to find accommodation. So I totally lucked out when I met Zoe and had the opportunity to stay with them! I am living in a small duplex about 12km's from the hospital and have 2 full time roommates, Ciaran and Zoe. There are also 2 other roommates, Kym and Coxy (Steven) that stay with us when they are not pearl farming. I am actually staying in Coxy's room, which means I get demoted to the couch when he is home.....but as it turns out, it is more comfortable then what I sleep on when they are not around, which is an air mattress :) The house is pretty cozy, and there is only one bathroom which really really sucks when all of us are home, but we manage. They have 2 hammocks set up in the front porch and the weather is always nice, so we spend most of our time in the hammocks or relaxing outside. They also got a new fridge which means the old one is in the front porch holding all our beer! I remember after the last time I lived with roommates I vowed never to have them again, however, under these circumstances I don't have much choice. And to be honest, I have been kind of enjoying it and I have had a blast hanging out with them and meeting all their friends, and they have lots :)

So, back to that thing called work. My first shift was a very overwhelming one. The whole morning I spent with the unit manager as there was no educator working yet. She went over everything with me and set up anything that needed to be. I spent a couple hours on the floor in the afternoon with one of the nurses just getting a feel for the floor and how things worked. The best way however is to just get thrown in and figure it out on my own. Which is kind of what happened as the next day; I was paired up with a nurse and I was given two patients. Then that afternoon there was an OT shift available, so i stayed for the afternoon shift, had my own patient load of 5 and had 3 discharges and 2 admissions. I worked my ass of that shift, and made some good cash!! Thank goodness Zoe's van was still working and she was kind enough to come and pick me up! My legs where sore from riding my new bicycle, plus I worked 14 hours and had to be back for 7 the next day. That Saturday was my last shift before a couple days off and was I glad about that! I got right into the swing of things at work and the ward is set up so well, they even have computerized med charting - much better then paper charts, and all the patients medication is at the bedside - much nicer then walking back and forth to the med room. My first few days of work was turning out to be much better then I expected. The staff where super nice, the ward itself is great, and we don't get any long term medical/nursing home patients - which I was worried about and I am learning new things about oncology.

The next few days where spent relaxing, reading, spending time on the internet and of course, drinking! I went to a BBQ at one of my new friends houses and met a bunch of new people. They are a range of different ages, some Aussie, some Irish and we all have one thing in common, we like to drink!!

I have a full time roster and have already been able to pick up two OT shifts, the last one was a double shift on nights, which was a Saturday/Sunday, which meant the Sunday portion I was making double time for the premium (all Sundays are double time) plus double time for the OT. $$$$$$$$!!!!!!
I am on a stretch of nights right now, working the weekend as well as a public holiday, so I should be able to make lots of money, which is good as it will allow me to live more freely when I travel down the east coast/New Zealand.

I have also been out with my new friends enjoying life, going to the movies (Bruno and Hangover which are both hilarious movies!) going to the pub for one too many drinks, and of course hangin' out in the lovely hammocks at the house which I have managed to leave an ass imprint in!
So, life is great right now, I'm getting excise by riding my bike to work - which by the way, I have found a shorter route and on average it now takes me 35 minutes to get to work, sometimes longer on the way home depending on how my day goes! Enjoying my new found Darwin friends, and LOVING the weather - you don't need a meteorologist here, guaranteed, 32 degrees every day :)

Gotta love the 'roaches :)

5 days too long in Alice

So, after our tour, and our interesting night out at Bojangles and the casino, I had to check out at 10am as I needed to change dorm rooms and Brid and Gethin where leaving on the train back to Alice Springs. I had full intentions of being on that train, however my terrific non-organizational skills proved to impress me as when I went to book my seat, they where all sold out. Lovely. Now that meant I had to spend an extra 5 days in Alice Springs, all alone. I spent the day with Brid and Gethin as their train didn't leave till 6pm, so we went into town in the morning and got some free didgeridoo lessons from a cool didg player. It was really helpful as I want to learn how to play and I got some very helpful tips. The rest of the day was spent at the hostel trying to soak up as much sun as possible :)
This was a Thursday and my train did not leave till Monday which meant 4 more long days on my awn in a place I didn't really want to be Now, I have to be honest, I was pretty lazy during these 4 days on my own. I went into town a couple days, just wondering around, getting groceries, but as soon as the sun went down, I was in lock down at the hostel. I met a guy from Vancouver who was trying to get work in Alice, however a couple days prior to he was playing soccer and rolled his ankle bad, so he was pretty much just hanging out at the hostel as well. Saturday night I went into town and had bought tickets to see the guy who gave us the didgeridoo lessons who put on a show every weekend. He had a small band with a drummer and a percussionist who where all spectacular. The show was amazing, despite there where 60 some odd 16 year old's at the show and the rest of the guests got shafted having to sitting off the side. Oh well, it was still amazing and he got the crowd involved with the show which was pretty cool as well. After the show, it was dark out of course, so I jumped in a cab and went back to the hostel. The finals of the Wimbledon where on, so I stayed up to watch the women's final, Serena vs. Venus, but I didn't last the whole match as I was pretty tired, and am not a huge fan of women's tennis, so went to bed.
Sunday I became a bit more active and hired a bicycle for a couple hours and toured around Alice. I rode out to telegraph hill, however I did not ride up to Anzac hill, I think I would have had a heart attack. I also figured it would be a good idea to ride a bike as I was pretty sure I was going to be buying a bike when I arrived in Darwin in order to get to/from work. That night was the men's final at Wimbledon, which I stayed up to watch, and am so glad I did. 4 hours and 15 minutes later, the match ended, 0300 my time. It was one of the greatest tennis matches I had seen, apart from Nadal/Verdasco semi's at the Australian open! The final score was Federer/Roddick 5/7; 7/6; 7/6; 3/6; 16/14!!!! I didn't think the match would ever end and it got to the point where if the match didn't end by 3, I was going to have to go to bed! But alas, Federer FINALLY broke Roddick, in a`duece, for the first only time of the whole game. Any non-tennis fans out there will have no idea what I am talking about, but trust me, it was intense!!!!
Oh yeah, and let me emphasize how cold it got. Remember I said all we got was a sheet to sleep with, well, I never got anything warmer and at night time was practically sleeping in all my clothes! While relaxing in the TV room in the evenings I had all my warm clothes (and I didn't have that many, I'm in Australia!!) on as there is no such things as central heating and the fireplace wasn't working. Not much to keep you warm when the temp gets as low as 4 or 5, which is what is was dropping to when I was there. At night time I put a toque on as well as my hoody wrapped tightly around my face, my sweatpants and two pairs of socks. I was smart enough to think on the last night, of course, to use my water bottle and put hot water in it and I kept it at my feet. That night was probably my best night sleep and I wished I had thought of it earlier! Oh well.

I had to get up the next day and check out by 10am, and lets just say, I was a wee bit tired as I couldn't fall asleep right away after the exciting tennis match. I packed up all my stuff and stayed at the hostel that day waiting to catch the train back to Darwin. I met two other girls that where also taking the train that where staying at my hostel, so we split a cab 3 ways, much cheaper then me having to pay for one. I also met a guy, Adam, who had cycled his way from Darwin and was taking the train back. I was talking to him about where a good place to get a bike was as well as accessories. We talked a while about it and he asked if I needed a hand getting a bike as he had a 'yut' (truck) and could assist me if needed. As it turned out my roommate Zoe who had a van was working the next day and wasn't going to be able to help me, so he was kind enough to take me around a get a bike - but that story is for later.

We boarded the train and I luckily had a window seat, a first for me. I didn't take a Benadryl that night as I didn't want to feel like a zombie the next day, and consequently I didn't have the greatest sleep. Tossed and turned, if that is possible in a seat. Most of the night I slept with my head on the table tray that dropped down from the seat in front of me, this was also a first, none of the other trains had this. The next day we arrived in Katherine at about 9am, I opted to take the shuttle into town in this time as when we came through on the tour I found Spiced Rum at the liquor store and wanted to stock up on it! BUT, when we arrived, the liquor store was closed and they didn't open till 12noon, and the last shuttle back to the train was at 1145. What a waste of $13 :(

So I just walked around Katherine with the two girls I took the taxi with - they where actually sitting behind me on the train as well. We had a coffee at the local coffee shop and just chilled in Katherine - trust me, there is not much to do in this town. Apart from watching the drunks fight and argue on the street, which we saw. We boarded back on the train and left at 1300, arriving back in lovely, and warm, Darwin around 1700. The train was interesting, I loved watching the world go by, but I think I am done with trains for a while now. Zoe came and picked me up, I exchanged numbers with Adam, the cyclist, and we where off to my new home for three months in Darwin!!

Sorry, not many photos taken, I wasn't all that impressed with Alice so had to desire to snap away :)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Rock tour

So I opted to join a tour with Brid and Gethin, as I love traveling with them so much, and it just seemed like the right thing to do!! I booked on a three day Rock tour that took us to Uluru, Kata Tjuta and Kings Canyon. We had a 6am pick up on the 29th, which meant, once again, an early morning.... will this ever end!!! haha
We had a full tour with no empty seats. I was in the front behind the driver, my favorite spot!! We had a long drive about 5 hours and our first stop was Kings Canyon. Of course we had a few stops at roadhouses.... toilet breaks, as well as to pick up supplies such as water and of course beer. Once we arrived, we filled up all our water bottles and where off to hike through Kings Canyon. We had a brief walk to the start of the canyon, then hiked up a very steep hill (AKA, heart attack hill) to the top where we walked around. The canyon sort of reminded me of Karijini national park and some of the geographical formations reminded me of the Bungle Bungles. It was a beautiful 3 hour hike with lots of picture taking! Once we finished we headed to our first camp, a bush camp, my favorite! Brid had never been bush camping before and was petrified of having to pee in the bush. She was hilarious, and the first time she had to pee, I went out with her. We where about 50m away from each other and just to make things more entertaining, as she was peeing, I said, "Hey Brid, I can hear you peeeeeeing"!!! And she laughed giving me shit at the same time!! haha For supper that night we had chili, minus the chili, curry veggies and pasta. Interesting mix of food, but good none-the-less. We made a massive fire and all of us slept in our swags around the fire - I was actually hot that night and slept very well (when don't I sleep well in a swag?)

We where up early the next day, 0530, had breakfast and we where off to Kata Tjuta, aka, the Olgas. We stopped briefly to watch the sunrise as we could see uluru from the road - and it was a beautiful sunrise that morning. We arrived at the Olgas and started our hike. We walked the 'Valley of the Winds" walk, and man was it beautiful. I didn't really know what to expect with the Olgas, but they where truly spectacular. Massive rocks, amazing colors, and even more breathtaking views. There is one spot that you walk up, and when you get to the top, you look out between these two massive boulders and see this amazing view of green grass and trees with rocks surrounding it. It looks like the scene from a western movie. We only had about 10-15 minutes to enjoy this view before we continued on to finish our walk. It was about a 2-2 1/2 hour walk, and I loved it!! I Could do it every day the views are so great. We left Kata Tjuta and headed to Uluru to check out the Cultural center at the visitors center. It was very informative, but to be honest, I wasn't all that interested in reading the informative signs - there was so many of them, and I just wanted to chill. I seriously think I was getting tired of the whole tour thing, and just wanted to relax, and do nothing! In fact, I was pretty lazy helping with meals as well, but I was seroiusly sick of cooking, I did help with clean up though, well, my dishes anyways :) After we where finished at the center, we headed to the famous Uluru rock and hiked a small portion of the base walk. We hiked the Mala walk, 2.4 kms, and our guide told us some of the stories about the rock, and the aboriginals beliefs about the rock and what certain things meant to them, ect. It was very interesting and I enjoyed listening to her talking about it, more then me reading about it in the visitors center. After the walk, we headed to a near-by car park where our guide made supper and we watched the colors of the rock change as the sun set behind us. Unfortunately, that night, it was not the best sunset as it was pretty cloudy, so we maybe had about 30 seconds of the rock changing color.....and that was it. Supper that night was sweet chili chicken and rice - I couldn't eat the veggies as they had peanut sauce on them, but the chicken was awesome so I wasn't complaining! After eating and watching the sunset, we headed to our camp for the night. It was in Yulara, and they where strict about how big the fire could we where a bit colder that night compared to the previous night. I had sweat pants on, socks, a long sleeved shirt, a hoody, and a touque! We also went to the grocery store before arriving at camp and our guide purchased Kangaroo tail for us to try. Once we got the fire going, we started the process of cooking 'roo tail. First we had to thaw it out, which took about 30 minutes, then we had to stick the tail in the fire to singe all the hair off and scrape it off with a knife - and depending on the time of year, sometimes there is more hair then not. This tail had a bit of hair as it was starting to grow its winter coat. Once all the hair was gone, you cook the tail in the ground under hot hot coals, which takes about 30 minutes. Once it was cooked, she cut it up and handed pieces out. Gethin and I each tried some - the tail is very bony as well as grissely and fatty, but the meat itself wasn't too bad, it was just a pain in the ass to get to the meat and not much of it when you found it! BUT, I can now check that off my list!! Everyone was in bed pretty early but Brid, Gethin, a couple other people from the tour and I where not ready to go to bed yet. We stayed up fairly late chatting and giggling, then finally went to bed early as we had to get up early the next morning to watch the sunrise at Uluru.

I think we where up at about 5am, packed up our swags and was on the bus in 20 minutes. Our tour guide said in the summer time the sun rises earlier so she is up at 4am in order to get there in time! Thank goodness I came in the winter time. We arrived at Uluru just in time to watch the rock turn this amazing orange color. I had seen anything like it before. Our guide cooked us breakfast while we watched the rock change colors from the sunrise (as well as hundreds of other people.... how annoying) and took way too many photos. She then took us to our drop off spot where we started our 8km walk around the base of Uluru. About 4 people climbed the rock - which I wasn't about to do. I respected the aboriginals who asked us not to climb it for spiritual reasons, and I respected this just as I would respect wearing a sarong going into a temple. We didn't walk around the whole rock as we had done some of it the day before, so we just walked around the part we hadn't walked. I talked with this other Canadian that was on our tour most of the way and before I knew it, we where finished the hike. I was pretty impressed with Uluru, but like I said, I was more impressed with Kata Tjuta. Everyone has heard of the rock, and just as I was expecting it to be big, it was, and I was expecting it to change colors, which it did - although there where more vibrant colors then I could ever imagine. It was pretty neat walking around it knowing that aboriginals had been coming here for hundreds of thousands of years. One of the things that I was unaware of was the difference between 'men's business' and women's business'. In fact, there are spots where they ask you not to take pictures so it doesn't get shown to the opposite sex by accident. Of course, each one of us, by accident of course, took pictures of the forbidden areas, only because we would be chatting and see something that looked cool, took a picture, not realizing that we where in the forbidden area. Oops.....we deleted them though, don't worry!! I was also unaware how big this rock actually is. Thousands of years ago when the rock was formed, it was actually pushed up from the ground at an angle. So the portion of the rock that we can see is actually very small. The rock was pushed up at an 80 degree angle, and it is estimated to be about 6km below the that a BIG rock!

After we finished the walk, we headed back on the bus and where off to drive back to Alice Springs. I had moved spots on the bus - was up front for some of the drive, but got demoted to the back of the bus, but had two seats to myself so I could snooze! We stopped for lunch at a roadhouse and 5 hours later arrived back in Alice Springs.

The difference with this tour from my previous tours was that we hardly had the chance to get to know anyone. Just as we where starting to get to know everyone, and chat, and have a good time, the tour was over :( However, this group I found was not thatfun and I was glad I had Brid and Gethin to chat with and hang out with! We all decided that evening to meet at Toddy's pub (the pub attached to our hostel) for dinner and/or drinks. Brid, Gethin and I didn't feel like spending the dough on supper, so we headed to the supermarket and bought food to make ourselves. We met up with everyone after they ate and had a couple beers with them all. Many of them left early, but there was about 6 of us left and we decided to head into Alice Springs, Bojangles, for some more drinks and dancing. Brid was loving all the cowboys that where there, and I was lovin' the beer!! haha
Once we got kicked out of Bojangles (because it was closing, not because we where being bad!) we decided to head to the casino. I was wearing flip flops, and almost got through security, but I was stopped by the more senior security and was told I couldn't go in. BS if you ask me as I was dressed nicely, and my flip flops where even new! Oh well, we decided it was late enough and we should go back anyways.....but, wait.....I had to pee! I asked security if I could go in and at least use the bathroom, nope, I wasn't allowed. This was even more BS if you ask me, and Gethin suggested I put his shoes on to go in to use the toilet. Eww, I thought, I wasn't going to put on his shoes, but I was convinced, just to prove a point, to put them on and go use the toilet. So I did. I put on his size 12 men's shoes, security let me pass as I met standards, and off I went to use the toilet! I wanted to take a picture of me and the security guard that was going to let me pass the first time, but the other guards even prevented that!!! Bastards, but I did get one quick picture!! heehee
Ahhh, what a tour it was, and no more early mornings for me :)

The Ghan to Alice Springs

So on June 27th, I was up early and off to catch the shuttle bus to take me (as well as Brid and Gethin) to the train station to catch the Ghan to Alice Springs. It was going to be a 26 hour train ride so I had been to the grocery store the day before to grab some grub so I didn't have to pay the ridiculous prices on the train. All three of us where in the same carriage, not too far away from each other, in our 'day/night seaters, the same as when I took the Indian Pacific to Perth. Brid and Gethin had extra leg room, (bastards!) and at night one slept on the floor, the other on the two seats. After we ate our own suppers - I had tuna, they had made egg sandwich's which where so soggy!!! Glad I wasn't eating those! We stayed up playing cards for a bit but the dinner car shut down at 10pm, so we went back to our seats at 9:55pm as to not piss off any of the attendants as they where pretty bitchy (unlike the super nice attendants on the Indian Pacific train) After playing on my computer for a bit, I took a benadryl to help me sleep, which sort of helped. I was able to sleep on and off and whenever I woke up, I just moved positions, and fell right back to sleep, well I guess you could say I passed out. Probably not the best for my muscles as they tensed up cause I was 'passed out' from the benadryl and didn't wake up if I was uncomfortable. I had a bite to eat when I woke up in the morning, and then dozed on and off (the benadryl was still working!) until we arrived in Alice Springs at about 11am. We took the free shuttle bus to our hostel, Toddy's which was about a 10 minute walk from central Alice. We couldn't get into our rooms right away, so we left our stuff and walked into Alice. We had a beer at Bojangles, one of the more popular pubs in Alice, and did some errands getting ready for our tour which started the next day.
The hostel we where staying at wasn't the 'nicest'. It was pretty old, the hostel was also a motel, with the dorms in behind the motel....where there was not much light AT ALL. Kind of scary as I have heard horror stories of people in Alice (one friend had a gun pulled on her.....need I say more) and there was one older gentlemen at the hostel who was saying someone stole his car keys from his room and stole his car. We where also give just one sheet to sleep with, and it got flippin' cold at night, down to 5 degrees and I friggin' froze at night.
Anyways, that evening, where there is a pub attached to our hostel, my friend Collette who I traveled with briefly in January, was at the pub celebrating one of her friends leaving parties. We went in for a couple beers, then headed to bed as we where pretty tired from the train ride and had to get up at 5am the next day for our tour!!

Drinks at Bojangles pub in Alice Springs

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Chillin in Darwin

After arriving in Darwin so bloody early in the morning, Brid Gethin and I hung out at the airport, trying to stay awake, although it wasn't very difficult too.  We caught the morning shuttle into town, arriving at my hostel around 7am.  I could check in, but my room wasn't going to be ready till noon, so I went into Darwin, did some errands, applying for a job to work here in Darwin, applying for my nursing registration, calling home, ect.  I really want to work here in Darwin for a few months, however I found out that there is no accommodation at the staff village.  I was really bummed out as I didn't want to have to live in a hostel and have to bus it or cab it to work as the hospital is about 15km from the city center.  It was a bit of an emotional day as I was tired, excited about the possibility of a new job, but then really disappointed about no accommodation.  That night I went to the Mindil Beach markets and ended up meeting up with Kym, who I met in Adelaide during my 'epic' weekend.  He is working on the pearl farms and was in for the weekend.  I met a few of his friends up here, who have a house, and guess what, one of their roommates Coxy, who also works on the pearl farms, is gone for 2 weeks and back for 5 days.  If I wanted, I could stay in his room while he is away.  I was so excited that I wasn't going to have to stay in a hostel, and my spirits where back up!!  We spend a few hours at the beach, watching an amazing sunset, listening to EmDee, an amazing didg player, and then headed back home - I was gettin' pretty tired from not sleeping the night before :)

I also met up for supper with Jeff and Selina, I had stuff at their place from when I was in Bali, so I had some switching of clothes to do before heading down to Alice Springs.  I told them about my new plans for a place to stay, and they said the community I was going to live in was still a ways from the hospital.  When they drove me home they showed me how far it was, and it was a definite hike!!  BUT, at least I wouldn't be living in a hostel, and I figured I could always catch the bus, or heck, even buy a bicycle!!  

The Mindil beach markets
Amazing sunset!
Zoe, my future new roommate and I at the beach
EmDee playing the Didgeridoo!!

Kuta, take two

So we arrived back in Kuta late afternoon after a long day of traveling.  We had no accommodation booked so had to walk around with our big pack's trying to find a place to stay.  We where in the heart of Kuta and I wanted a pool, which was proving to be a bit difficult, and Warwick was still not feeling great and getting a bit tired walking around.  We came across an 'uppity' hotel, and decided to treat ourselves for the last couple of nights.  The hotel had air conditioning, hot water, and the best, it had a pool, all for $20/night!  By the time we chilled, showered and headed back out, it was pretty late, so we grabbed a quick supper and headed back to the room to watch a bit of TV and crash.  The next day Warwick and I did our own thing after breakfast.  He had a few errands to do then hung out in the air conditioned room trying to get his stomach back in order, and I, well, I went shopping!!!  I knew I wanted a new wardrobe and found a place that had a bunch of things that I wanted, and bought it all there.  I got 3 dresses, a pair of shorts and 2 T-shirts for AUS$40!  I also bought a new pair of shades, Dior of course, and a new bathing suit.  I treated myself to a pedi, mani, massage and a facial.  It wasn't the best that I've had, but I wasn't complaining, it was cheap, and nice and relaxing!!  I also got a taste of what it was like to tour around Bali on my own.  Much different compared to walking around with a guy next to me.  I got harassed much more, had guys whistle at me, ask me if I wanted a taxi?  no, then how bout a kiss?  I also got grabbed more to try and come in their stores, but nothing I couldn't just ignore and walk right by them.  That afternoon after my massage, I headed back to the hotel and chilled by the pool in my new bathing suit, working on my tan!  We went out for our last supper together in Bali, and sadly, it was one of the worse suppers we had, but it still eatable!  The elections where in July and there was a debate on TV, everyone was watching it, getting right into it.  It was quite entertaining as elections are still quite new for Indonesia and everyone was watching it.  We headed back early, again, and we watched a really bad movie and then went to bed.  That night was one of the worst nights we had.  For whatever reason our room was LOADED with mossies and both Warwick and I got eaten alive.  I maybe got 4 hours of sleep, and that was after taking an antihistamine to try and stop the itching and help me sleep.  They where everywhere and would get under the sheets, bit my hands, my face, my neck, or the worst, buzz in my bloody ear......  errrrr!  Warwick had a flight at 1pm and left the hotel at 8am.  I was up early cause of the mossies and after hitting the Internet cafe and eating some breakfast, I spent the entire day at the pool!  I was able to leave my bags locked up at the hotel as my flight wasn't till 11pm.  The second game of the state of origin rugby match between Queensland and New South Wales was on at 6pm, so I found a pub nearby and sat and watched my first rugby game, which, I thoroughly enjoyed !  I ate my first western food since being in Bali that night, pizza, and had a couple beer.  Had to have pizza while watching sports and drinking beer!!  The game ended at 8 and I caught a cab to the airport.  I checked in, and while waiting, Brid and Gethin walked by.  We had the same flight home so I had someone to chat with and we shared our Bali stories!!

What an amazing time I had in Bali, and 10 days wasn't enough!  There is still more of Bali that I would like to see and do, and hey, I could just chill on the beach all day!  I never surfed, nor see any of the volcanoes which if I went back, I would definitely try and do!  Depending on how much money I can save over the next couple of months, I may try and go back for another week....or maybe 10 days again!!!

A few more photo's from Bali:

Gili sunset
In Ubud
Some of the advertising for the election

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Gili Islands continued

Gili Trawangan and Meno

After my birthday day in Gili Air, we woke up the next morning and caught the island hoping boat to Gili Meno. Gili Meno is the smallest of the three islands and the quietest with only a population fo 300 people. There are very few hotels/bungalows and the whole south side is pretty much vacated, even with abandones hotels/bungalows! We arrived and started on our tour around the island, again, making stops along the way to chill, grab a drink, or go for a swim. The days where pretty warm so it was always nice to go for a refreshing swim in the ocean. We had to catch the shuttle bus back at around 4:00, and arrived back at Gili Air about 20 minutes later. We headed back to our bungalow for a shower and headed back to the fabulous restaurante we found the day before......and once again, no electricty for cake! Bummer! The cool thing about the islands was the set up they had for meals. You sat on a raised bamboo platform, sitting on pillows with a low table. Usually set up for two and facing the ocean. Such an amazing feeling eating dinner, sea-side, listening to the water crash against the beach, and gazing at the millions upon millions of stars. You also had the option to watch a movie while you ate dinner. This night, the TV was free, after browsing through the many pirated DVD's, we settled on Slumdog Millionaire. Both of us had seen the movie but enjoyed it so much, we opted to watch it again. We started the movie, ordered our meal, drank some beer (well, I did), ate out meal and with about 30 minutes left of the film, it started to freeze. It started off with about a 5-10 second freeze but it kept getting worse and worse. Finally, we got sick of waiting and restarting the DVD, we called it quits, and headed back to the bungalow. Even though we pretty much did nothing during the day, its always surprising how exhausted you are after a day in the sun! After reading my book for a bit, I hit the sac and crashed listening to the ocean only 20m away.

The next day we where up early again catching the boat again, this time to Gili Trawangan. Gili Trawangan is the more up-beat touristy island, and man was it ever. As soon as you pull up on the beach, you can see how many more people there are, restaurants, dive shops, and even a couple paved roads!! There is also this small 'hill' that you can climb and we had decided on the way over that we would climb it. We headed toward the hill right away as we didn't want to do it in the heat of the day, and after walking and walking, we realized that we could not find the start of the path!! After about an hour, we decided to give up, in fact, we wheren't even going to walk around the whole island as planned, instead, we would find a nice spot on the beach, and chill! So that's what we did, chilled, tanned, swam, read and listened to music. Man life is hard! After eating a small lunch, it was time to head to the waiting area to catch the boat back to Gili Air. Trawangan was the furthest from Air, so we had to be there by 3:30, kind of cutting our day short (and arriving later compared to Gili Meno as we stopped there first), and Warwick had to be there like 30 minutes before the boat left - a little extreme, but I didn't mind. I just set up on the beach and read my book waiting! Again, we arrived at Gili Air, headed to our bungalow and got ready for the evening. It was like we had a routine down! Except this time, we headed to the west side of the island first to watch the sunset. We had yet to see the sunset and I wanted to take pictures of it. We arrived pretty early, but that's ok, it was an excuse to get a beer and watch the world go by. The sun set, quickly, as usual, and I snapped away with my camera, and once I was satisfied, we headed back to our favorite resaurant - Munchies! and guess what?? They had cake!!!! So after eating our fantastic meal, we ordered our a piece of chocolate cake - yumm!! Wasn't the best, but hey, it was chocolate, and it was cake, and I was on a tropical island!! We went to bed early, again, but this time I was OK with it as we had an early morning the next day as we headed back to Kuta. PLUS, I hadn't gotten a picture of the sunrise so decided that i had to get up early anyways, what's an extra 30 minutes to watch the sunrise. And was it a beautiful one!! I could watch the sunrise every morning if I could get my butt out of bed that early, each day! We had to be at the jetty for 7am, and we got a Cidomo at 6:30. I was a little worried i was going to react like the first time, however we seemed to arrive quicker, probably helped that it was light out, and I wasn't wheezy at all or even have swollen eyes. There was only a few of us on the boat and it just took us to Lombok. You see, it was a little more complicated to get back to bali which we where unaware of until we arrived on Gili Air. Once we arrived on the island of Lombok, we had about a 300m walk, which we paid pennies to take a Cidomo as neither of us wanted to walk it. Then from there we caught a bus that took us to Sengigi where we then caught the boat back to bali. We did get breakfast once we arrived on the boat, as well as a small lunch - most of which I couldn't eat, but that was ok. Then we had an hour and a half bus ride into Kuta, and if you can believe it, as we where driving in, I saw my friends Gethin and Brid walking down the street. I stuck my head out and said hi, in disbelief that i managed to see them in the crazy busy city of Kuta.

Gili Meno
The Cimodo's
Sunset on Gili Air
Gili Air
On the Island hopping boat
Sunrise outside our bungalow

Indonesia - Gili Islands

Gili Air

After being in Bali for a few days I decided that this was the life!! I had planned on spending a week in Bali and then was supposed to be in Darwin for 6 days before heading to Alice Springs. I figured that it was cheaper to stay in Bali then expensive Darwin, so I changed my flights so that I had an extra three days! This also meant that we had more time to explore Indonesia and so decided to head to the Gili Islands off Lombok. There are three islands that make up Gili which are Trawangan - the more lively island, Meno, the more laid back island, and then Air - a mixture of the two. We decided to stay on Gili Air, for a total of three nights, and each day we would spend on a different island, going back to Gili Air to sleep. I wasn't in the mood to pack up my stuff on a daily basis and move islands. We had to take a shuttle bus from Ubud to the town of Padangbai where we then caught a boat over to the islands. The boat journey was 5 hours with an hour bus ride to . We left Ubud at 11:30 and arrived on Gili Air, the last one of course, around 6:30 - at which time is was dark out. Warwick wasn't too impressed....I on the other hand, wasn't overly concerned. The boat journey was great, there where two decks, with indoor and outdoor seating, and on the top deck, was a section of sand where you could lay out mats and towels and sun tan. This is where I spent most of my afternoon reading and listening to 'toons on my Ipod! We traveled a bunch of the way up the north coast of Bali and got some beautiful views of the volcano. We also saw a piece of lava rock that was still blowing out smoke, so very cool!

One of the many cool things about these islands is that there are no motorized vehicles on the islands, only bicycles and horse and carriage's, AKA, Cidomo's. Now when we arrived, we knew where we wanted to stay, but it was a fair ways up from the jetty. We decided to catch one of these Cidomo's and get to our and sound. The driver took a short cut, great, however it included going through pitch black sections where we could not see where we were going, I felt like I was in the movie Sleepy Hollow!! We arrived about 10-15 minutes later, and in just that short amount of time, and being in close proximity of the horse, I was wheezy and had swollen and blood shot eyes - lovely. I took a couple puffs of my Ventolin, and reluctantly took a benadryl - only because they knock me out cold, and was feeling better fairly quickly. We had not had supper so we found the closest restaurant and had a bit to eat. The bungalow we stayed at, wasn't the greatest, but it did have two beds and a large bathroom, not necessarily clean, but large. I let Warwick have the double bed as he still wasn't feeling great and I took the single. The beds also had mossie nets - so I set up my 'bug free zone', and am glad I did as I found a roach crawl out of my pack that I left open for no more the 10 minutes while I showered - ewwwwwwww. I actually only saw two roaches the whole three nights, but still, yuck! The room did have a hammock outside which I enjoyed while I reading my book!

So, the first morning, after being woken up by the roosters, and having an omelet, fruit and tea for breakfast, we set off to explore the island of Gili Air. Gili Air is the second smallest of the three islands and has a population of about 1000. We walked around the entire island, making stops of course to swim, sun tan, eat and of course....drink!! If we walked without stopping it would take no more then 90 minutes to circle the entire island! The water was amazing, crystal clear, refreshing and calm. Well, not all of the spots where calm, there can be wicked rips that come in as well as fast current, so you had to be careful where you swam! That day was also my birthday, and it was an awesome one at that. I lazed around and did, well, not much! We had lunch at a reggae bar, and of course I had a beer! We found this amazing restaurant for dinner, which we ended up going back to each night we where there because it was so good. For my birthday dinner we had: popcorn as an appetizer - on the house, and garlic bread, fish, veggies and curry, and for dessert I had fried banana ice cream with chocolate sauce, all for less then $6!! They normally have cake for dessert, again, on the house, but not that day as they had no electricity to cook it! And of course I had a couple beer with my meal, but again, Warwick was still not feeling great and didn't have anything to drink, so we headed back to the room and I was in bed by 10:30pm!! Oh well, it was still an amazing day in paradise

On the boat to Gili Air, Volcano on Bali
Still active!!
On the boat next to the Indonesian flag
Just steps away from our balcony
Stopped here for lunch. 
One of our swimming spots
Real wood fire pizza!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Bali- Kuta and Ubud

So, we arrived in Bali on the evening of the 14th.  We arrived at night time which didn't so much bother me, but my friend Warwick who I was with was a bit up tight.  We had booked a hotel on line (not a hostel anymore, no no, it was soooo cheap for hotels!!) before arriving, so we grabbed a taxi and he took us to our hotel in Kuta.  And man, was that an interesting drive!! lol Reminded me of Mexico in a way, just udder madness, but we made it safely, phew.  We checked in and saw our room - nothing overly special, remember, we are backpackers and are trying to save as much money as possible.  The room was pretty small, a queen size bed, and small bathroom - toilet and shower practically over-top of each other, and well, that was pretty much it. We where both pretty excited about being in another country and headed out for a short stroll around Kuta, even though it was dark out, and found the beach - excellent! and then headed back to the hotel for a celebratory beer - a large beer (1L) for a whole whopping $3!  I could get used to this :)  
We usually where woken up by the roosters at around 7, but that was fine as we where usually in bed fairly early, and it was time to get up anyhow!  Most of the places we stayed at had a free 'continental' breakfast.  This usually included a mix of toast, fruit, jaffles - like toasties filled with egg or banana's and chocolate syrup, which was freakin awesome!
The first couple days where spent in Kuta, just walking around the chaos of the city and chilling at the beach.  Food was dirt cheap, so we ate a lot!  Usually having lunch and supper at a restaurant.  I was a little worried about my allergies, however I didn't have any problems.  There was always something on the menu I could eat, and if push came to shove, there was always some sort of western food on the menu.  Although, I only ate western food once, the rest of the time I ate Indonesian food.  Curries, sweet and sour chicken, and more curries.  All of the food I ate was fantastic, with only a couple of the meals not very great, but still good and fact, too eatable as I almost always finished the food on my plate.  Some of the best food we found was on a dark side street with usually on a few people eating - you'd think it would be a bad thing, but man, the food was delish!  And of course I had a beer, usually Bintang with almost every meal!  The first couple of days Warwick and I would split a couple large Bintang however after a couple days he started to feel like shit, and decided to stay away from the beer in order to get better.  SO, at meals it was just me and my large Bintang, oh darn!
The water at Kuta beach was pretty warm, and not overly 'refreshing' to go in, but it was fun as it is a well know surf beach, and man where there some big waves - some getting the best of me :)  Ubud is located inland so the only water we went in was at the swimming pool, and that was nice and refreshing!
Kuta is a very touristy town/city, with hundreds and hundreds of shops set up all over the city selling anything you could imagine.  The owners where quite aggressive trying to get you into their shop for "the best price for you", or "morning price".  I didn't buy anything in Kuta the first couple of days, just wanted to get a feel for the city plus I didn't feel like bartering and spending all my cash!!  After a couple of days in Kuta, with lots of walking, we caught a bus to Ubud, about an hour ride.  We didn't have any accommodation booked for Ubud, so we just hoped into a cab, pulled out our lonely planet, and asked the driver to take, as we pointed to what seemed like a decent hotel.  We pulled up and one of locals, waved his hand - nope, the driver said, all full.  Now, it wasn't as overly busy time of year, so it seemed a bit dodgy, but I wasn't about to argue.  BUT, guess what???  The taxi driver ALSO has a bungalow, and guess what???  He has rooms available!!  What are our chances!!! haha.  Now, his bungalow didn't have a pool, which kinda sucked.... oh, but wait, just down the street you can use a pool at one of the other hotels for a whole $1!  So, we decided to go check it out.  It was a decent room, much bigger then the hotel in Kuta, and a nice view, and even better, a good price.  So we said yes!!
In Ubud we went to the elephant cave which was about 4km's from town.  We left pretty early in the morning and walked there.  It was an interesting walk as it was down a non-touristy road, lots of wood carving shops and mini convenient store type shops!  I stopped to by a bottle of water and the kids where giddy that 'white' people where buying something from their store!  The cave was neat, it was a small cave, plus lots of temple-like stuff in the park.  There was beautiful landscape in the park and we walked around enjoying the lush greenery!  Everything was SO green which is a nice change from the white north, even though its been a while since I've been up there!!  We started heading back to town and had full intentions of walking the whole way back, and we maybe got about a kilometer (after stopping at a restaurant for a beer!) and had this cab driver insist that we take a cab.  He got to as low as 6000rup, which is about 80 cents, for both of us to go into town - how could we say no!  We got him to take us to the other end of town then where our hostel was, and we cruised around town some more.  That afternoon we went to the pool that we heard about, and as it turned out it was more like $3 to use the pool - whats another $2 for an afternoon of sun and water!  We had the most amazing view from where we sat - rice patties, and it was nice and relaxing - which is why I came to Bali!  We found this amazing restaurant in Ubud as well that was recommended by lonely planet and 2 other people that had been.  It was down a side street of a side street, there where large tables that you shared with other people, and the food was fantastic.  We met these danish people that where cycling around Indonesia!!  Crazy people!  That night I stopped at the local mini mart, bought some snacks and a beer, and read a book on the balcony of our room, enjoying life!  The next day.....Gili Islands!!!
Me at Kuta Beach
Havin' a Bintang by our pool at the first Hotel in Kuta
Our first hotel in Kuta, the doors were just a little small.
I could barely get in with my pack on!!
At elephant cave, everyone had to where a sarong
The sacred monkey sanctuary, they were not scared of us!
Beer with an amazing view!
My friend Warwick in  the swimming pool at Ubud, with an incredible view!