So its taken a few days to get there but finally with some patient blokes at the hostel and a card reader later my piccies are up and running. David Bailey (r.i.p) here comes Dora the explorer.
Left Heathrow laughing out loud as the weather was grim and I was dangerously smug at the chance of some hot sunshine and clear skies. I even splashed out on some Ray-Bans in anticipation- I had been dreaming of the sun whilst being squashed on the tube during weekday rush hour. Alas this is not the case, and as I write this am sitting like a drenched rat with my pack-a-mac and wet white lacoste trainers. As British as possibly could be - no wonder the asians laugh at us.
The hostel itself is as basic as basic can be, we have no bed covers or storage space -Am I too old for this I ask?!! ..but as least I cant see any cockroaches yet.
Yvette is chuffed to bits as the Malaysian flag bears an uncanny resemblance to the Portsmouth Pompey F.C symbol - she`s taking pictures left, right and centre. There is no way I am going to be dragged in front of the tv watching footy whilst travelling..we`ve a wager on it.
Immediately upon arrival we made the mistake of being mega friendly at the hostel. As a result we were tailed by a nutter for the day, this wasn`t needed whilst suffering with extreme jet lag. He even came to the supermarket with us and recommended me the best brand of hair conditioner. Why are the Brits so polite? Even this morning we took it in turns for `look-out` duty and legged it when the coast was clear..it was like escape from alcatraz.
Kuala Lumpar is a strange city, a melting pot of cultures and strange smells! The drains stink from all the floods yet people think nothing of enjoying their lunch sitting right next to them....it reminds me of the raw meat smell you get at a butchers.
After recovering from jet leg this morning and being woken up by the KL local brass band banging their symbols (its festival everywhere) we decided to start exploring. We have had a nightmare trying to change money as everything is completely shut due to numerous religious festivals -its a 4 day holiday.
After dodging the torrential downpours which occur every hour or so we ventured to Chinatown. Its a fantastic place with stalls displaying everything from fake gucci to live chickens, however you get hassled constantly...not that we needed any encouragement for buying some tat.
This was our first `girly` shopping & drinking expedition - Tiger Beer is as cheap as chips so it seems rude not too. Also as its so hot and sticky I am thinking the liquid diet is far more appealing than eating...poor Yvette is a vegetarian - this is a lost cause for her here. `Road Kill de jour` is dished up at every hawker stall and restaurant that I have seen so far. Tiger Beer for breakfast, lunch and dinner it is then.
We are off to Penang tomorrow for a few days and onto Langkawi also-in the hope of acting out a scene from`the beach`..back on the 28th -my birthday so hoping to find some decent boozers by that time.. Hoping the hostels are better than our dive!!! Watch this space
So....our whistle-stop tour of Penang and Langkawi got off to a bad start when the coach was delayed by an hour and a half-no reason. The coach itself was luxurious inside with more room than I imagine 1st class to have.. this aesthetic quality makes up for the fact the engines are quite crap. We didnt pass 40mph the entire way hence a journey time of 6.5 hours.
Hotel Mingood however restored our faith in the hostel world and we were provided with hot showers, bed linen, en-suite and even a TV! The mini-bar was bare much to my dismay. We ate out at a chinese restaurant called `The Ship` which much to our amusement featured all the staff dressed in various ranks of naval wear. We nicked a few hats as per the photos.
Some history now - Penang ` the pearl of the orient` lies off the northwest coast of peninsular Malysia - Langkawi is a further 2.5 hours by ferry away from here ( parallel to Thailand). Penang was colonised in 1786 by Francis Light until 1957 when it gained back its independence from British Colonial rule. This is evident in the architecture and street names around the island, Georgetown being the busiest area and named after King George 3rd who was reigning at this time.
Have to point out that the toilets over here were considerably nicer than the ones in KL (see picture).
One of the many islands of the archipelago - this haunted island was once a haven for pirates. Now its fat western tourists with young oriental brides. We took the ferry from Penang which was a 2.5 hour trip and booked ourselves onto a half day trip.... again the mini-bus was sh@@ged and we broke down for an hour... patience is a virtue? Besides that we took in the sights of the Eagle ( not sure what the significance is yet though-explanation to follow) , the aquarium (which was poor and featured a few skinny penguins) and the beautiful cable ride up the mountains..
Knackering but worth it. Not bad for an old girl eh!
We just about made the ferry back but it worth it as we were serenaded by a pissed welsh bloke who drank the entire way back and fell asleep in a Welsh flag.
Yvette with her generous chest has afforded us many comments & glances, I doubt very much all pleasantries either..but I am hoping that it will gain us a few free beers tonight when we head back to KL to eat at Kenny`s Roasters. Hilarious - gotta love it.
Pictures to follow as internet connection ropey
So the trip back from Penang to KL wasnt how I`d anticipated spending my birthday. I had visions of cold beers at a bar full of ex-pats... you`d have thought that I would have learned that things take a little longer over here. Av.time 7 hours this time, with antartic temperatures within the bus and no reading light...hence the ribena toy thiny which was free with a bottle. This came in very handy to while away the hours.
Further accompanied by a old dude who was extremely tom dick and possibly had TB -he should not have been travelling and was prob better placed in a hospital. He proceeded to cough his guts up for the entire journey and was draped in a white towel saturated with Vicks. His wife was not the compassionate kind- maybe she was enjoying it? Anyway what worries me is that I`ve not been vaccinated for TB- so watch this space!!!!
Arriving back at midnight we quickly went for a mutton curry -in my case, Yvette sticks to the `rice and peas`. No beer and a noisy night at the hostel with the chant `Scarborough, Scarborough` coming through the windows.
Today we`ve been to the Petronas Towers - but we couldnt get in as chock-a-bloc so had to make do with taking photos instead. This was followed by a quick tour of the botanical gardens and mooch around the designer stores as replacement ..... Louise - you are travelling - what possible need do you have for those reduced orange Bally platforms and Maxmara wrap dress. It was a close call and only saved by the 1st caffeine fix of the day.
After being blown out by the Petronas Towers we ventured to the Menara Tower: ref http://www.menarakl.com.my/index.htm - otherwise will get done for copyright.
Amidst the city of Kuala Lumpur stands the Menara Kuala Lumpur at 515m above sea level. Majestically poised at a breathtaking height of 421 metres, the Tower doubles as Kuala Lumpur`s best known ambassador.
Amidst the city of Kuala Lumpur stands the Menara Kuala Lumpur at 515m above sea level. Majestically poised at a breathtaking height of 421 metres, the Tower doubles as Kuala Lumpur`s best known ambassador.
The revolving restaurant was fantastic - the views were great and the photos do not do this justice.
So anyone ever been to a water village before? Neither have I- and I have to say probably the best part of my trip yet. I only ever saw shanti town style villages on prgrammes like Red Nose Day with Lenny Henry- I never imagined that I would get the chance to have a real tour around one.
The problem with staying at the Hyatt is the taxi rank outside- they all think that anyone who comes out of the revolving door is loaded...how wrong they are - but it doesnt stop them trying to rip you off with cab prices. The tactic I use is know offer them half what they ask. you are usually spot on and they never say no.
Our ride to the water village took about 40 mins up to the north of the city of KK as its known to the locals and ex-pats. Luckily for us we were throughouly accompanied throughout by the taxi driver (maybe he was on commision?). I can now understand why situations in rural areas can escalate very quickly when into conflict- I felt very intimidated by the environment I was in.
The tin huts are up on wooden stilts obviously for the ebb and fall of the tides, when we visited the tide was out and the muddy floor exposed for all its glory. Rubbish, human waste, bits of furniture, chickens, roosters, dogs, canoes, bits of tin all etc all exposed and waiting to be covered again when the tide returns....and they sell the fish they catch to the locals?!!
I went past one where a mother was nursing her baby - I cant fathom how they manage to bring kids up in this environment. All that links the huts to each other is a spiralling wooden walkway with no side support which keads to the jetty. I think of how much Maddie fell over when learning to walk... then again she nails and very good at swimming so maybe her destiny lies in catching fish with the water village crew.
For all you historians out there you would have enjoyed visiting the Sandakan Memorial Centre giiven up to the POW`s at the end of the 2nd World War . ref http://www.diggerhistory.info/pages-battles/ww2/sandakan.htm
The Japanese are a brutal race arent they- not only do they severly torture the POWs so only 6 survive out of 2,500.. they also sustain the brutal shark -fin soup industry! On a serious note though whats worrying according to our tour guide is that the japanese nation have only been told that they were slighty involved in the war against the allies. They have no idea what brutalities were bestowed onto the POWs. What history do they teach thier children in schools- is it one of those ` the holocaust never existed` lines?
|After the fall of Singapore and Borneo to the Japanese, a Prisoner of War Camp was established just outside of Sandakan to house approximately 750 British and more than 1650 Australian prisoners who were sent to the camp during the period 1942-43. In 1945, when the Japanese started to realise that the war may have been lost, and the Allies were closing in, the emaciated prisoners were force marched, in three separate marches, to the village of Ranau in the jungle, 250 km away, under the shadows of Mount Kinabalu. |
On 28 January, 1945, 470 prisoners set off, with only 313 arriving in Ranau. On the second march, 570 started from Sandakan, but only 118 reached Ranau.
The third march which comprised the last of the prisoners from the Sandakan camp contained 537 prisoners. Prisoners who were unable to walk were shot. The march route was through virgin jungle infested with crocodiles, snakes and wild pigs, and some of the prisoners had no boots. Rations were less than minimal. The march took nearly a year to complete.
Once the surviving prisoners arrived in Ranau, they were put to work carrying 20 kg sacks of flour over very hilly terrain to Paginatan, over 40 km away. By the end of July, 1945, there were no prisoners left in Ranau.
Only six Australians of the 2400 prisoners survived the "death march"
- they survived because they were able to escape from the camp at Ranau, or escaped during the march from Sandakan. No British prisoners survived.
This part of the war is considered by many to be the worst atrocity ever suffered by Australian soldiers,
and compares to the atrocities of the Burma Railway, where fewer Australian POW`s lost their lives.
Those that survived the ordeal of the march, did so only because they escaped into the jungle where they were cared for by local natives.
An Australian Memorial honouring the survivors, POW`s, local civilians who helped by clandestinely feeding the prisoners, and soldiers who perished at Sandakan and during the death marches into the jungle, has been erected at what was the Prisoner of War Camp in Taman Rimba close to the city of Sandakan. There are just a couple of rusting bits of machinery around, and the place has an eerie air about it.
The Sandakan Prisoner of War Camp has now been transformed into a very beautiful park with a pavilion on site which houses the history of this very tragic period.
Thier are tours over here whereby you can actually walk the `death marches` through the jungle inflicted by the Japs. On a perverse note I think this would be great to do.
So picking up from where we left off- Before leaving KL and its plethora of insects and bugs we visited the famous Batu Caves on the outskirts of KL in the region of Batu. These caves are used by Hindu`s worldwide who take the famous pilgrimage up to the various temples within them to pray for good and the removal of evil. (which later discovered takes the form of bed bugs). reincarnation?
Upon descent up the steps Yvette had on her wrist a `watsons` (local brand of chemists) bag containing sanitary towels... we were not fore-warned of the brazen monekys patrolling the caves. One cheeky one obviously thought he was after some brunch and proceeded to pull the bag from her hands. He ripped them open as per the picture and threw them away in disgust when he saw what they were! I did try and rescue these back but he charged at me and tried to bite me... I havent had my rabies shot so I legged it up the stairs a quickly as I could.
It was during this night that both of us covered up like the Taliban to go to sleep ( re previous mozzie dealings) and left not an ounce of spare flesh available. Deet spray and jungle fever lay like a mist in our room. It wasnt until the next day at the airport that we both started coming up in huge red spots all over our body...very itchy and embarrasing. After some internet searching have found these to be bed bugs- now I have an explanation as to why there were cellophaned mattresses in the hostel.
Kinabalu National Park or Taman Negara Kinabalu in Malay, established as one of the first national parks of Malaysia in 1964, is Malaysia`s first World Heritage Site designated by UNESCO in December 2000 for its "outstanding universal values" and the role as one of the most important biological sites in the world.
Located at west coast of Sabah, east Malaysia on the island of Borneo; it covers an area of 754 square kilometers surrounding the majestic Mount Kinabalu which at 4,095.2 metres, is the highest mountain in south-east Asia. ref - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kinabalu_Park
We, unfortunately time -permitting were not able to climb Mount Kinabalu as I had orignally intended to do, it usually takes 2 nights to scale the summit and back again. We instead visited the National Park at the base of the mountain - it was good but not what I had anticipated. I am coming back to do this ( along with diving in Sipadan). It helps that maybe all travellers have the same interest also!
So this morning was an early one- we were up at 5.30 to catch a flight over to Sandakan on the east coast of Borneo to visit the Orangutan Sanctuary. It was worth it- wow `the wild man of Borneo` is certainly well worth a visit. Its so pleasing to see how the Malaysian government in collaboration with a London based charity are really pushing the conversation and re-habilitation of this species.
We visited the re-habilitation section of the sanctuary where many babies had been orphaned, thier mothers killed ( they cannot surivive without them in the first few years) and kept captive by many of the local villagers. Its now a serious crime over here if reported and caught by the authorities- a lengthy prison sentence can be imposed. This seems to be working.
The feeding platforms were way into the rainforest- and there was guarantee that we would have seen any- but luckily for us they must have been starving ( breakfast feed at 10.00am) so we were treated to about 7 different characters. It was absolutely sweltering- I`ve not experienced heat and humidity like it. Gutted however as I thought I had taken some great video footage of the big male swinging around and knocking the babies off the platform ( he picked them back up) however looks like I still havent managed to get to grips with my camera yet.
Well well well.. I have to say that the 07th was prob on par with being one of the most stressful days of my life.. long story short- STA travel who arranged my Visa didnt change the Visa number to my new passport so when I checked into KK for the flight to KL my passport had no Visa attached to it. Hence she couldnt connect me to the flight to Melbourne even though she had checked my bag through - and I had no way of knowing whether I was on the next flight back to Blighty.
Adter an agonising 2.5 hour flight to KL ( Malaysian Airlines told me they were going to ring through to alert KL and see what they could do- re Aussie Immigration). They didnt of course-quelle surprise and I had 40 mins to get the next flight..After much gesticulating and rude words to the transfer desk they forgmarched me to the ticket office and Malaysian air were able to issue me a new visa.. I made the plane in the nick of time- the gate had closed and they had to re-open to let me on..I must have looked like a terrorist legging through KL airport to catch my flight... Yvette almost started a mexican wave when she saw me board the plane.
Anyway all was good we thought- panick over...until we looked in my passport to see what I had been issued with - indeed it was a 3 month tourist visa. Bugger. Under Aussie immigration rules if you enter on 1 visa it nullifies your old one. What was a girl to do??? I hadnt anticipated coming back so soon.... The last 4 hours of that flight were dreadful to say the least- everywhere I turned they were adverts for customs and immigration everywhere- they are known to be super stringent. Was I going to be deported?!!!!
I was shaking by the time I arrived at customs and in a meek voice informed the stern guard `that I had a problem with my visa` .. out come the rubber gloves- only joking. But Malaysian Air had come up trumps and they had indeed issued the correct one for me- it must have been just a standard spiel that was written on my new visa.
Yay yay yay I skipped out of Tullaramine airport- my jet lag having gone and looking forward to a few drinks. My old mate Dave Graham ( studied architecture at pompey with Magnus - he too thought he was a tool) met us and promptly took us back to his pad he shares with Bro his girlfriend for a few congratulations drinks!!!
Leaving thier house fairly p@@sed and feeling quite mellow Dave drove us to our hostel- we were failry confident that the hostels in Aus were all fairly contemporay... nice trendy bars, nice rooms and lots of internet access etc... On arrival we were taken to our room.. dont forget its Melbourne Cup week so everybody is out to the races dressed in their finest ( think ascot but slighty hotter- just- its bloody freezing) so the bar downstairs is banging.
We had requested all an-girl dorm as too old to share with blokes who I am not in relationships with or who arent mates..the door was answered by a spotty youth in his boxers who had to push all the clothes out of the way to actually open the door. `Excuse me mate- think we are sleeping in here tonight- its all birds isnt it?`
He answered quite sheepishly `er yeah its meant to be- he was quite obs keeping the company of one of the young frauliens in the top -bunk` and we had caught them playing hide the sausage. Bloody hell Rodney this all we need I thought- she then proceeded to explain herself away..it fell on deaf ears.
So armed with lots of goodwill and alcohol we managed to get ourselves into another nicer hostel which fleeced us 4o quid each for the pleasure ( melbourne cup week) and got some much needed shut-eye
Unless we are suffering Malaria( dont tempt it) we found ourselves another hostel called St.Arnauds in South Yarra. Its an old sanitorium and I am waiting for the ghosts to appear at any second...the sooner we leave there ( tues last night ) the better. Its not quite got the character needed to warm us to Australia.. We have bunk beds and spend most nights with the blanckets over us and the radiator on.
Its been rather stressful at the moment. I guess holiday is over for the time being and we have had to concentrate on the practical aspects of strarting up in a new country... bank accounts, medicare, registering CV`s, trying to get phones working etc. So for the time being its heads down for a full house until we establish ourselves a little more.
So holidays over chaps for the next few weeks at least. Having moved to a new hostel ( an old sanitorium) not part nice -bloody freezing ( think mini-radiators, blankets etc) and large cold rooms. We have bunk beds which creak at every turn.
I got flashed -whether intentionally or not by an old man in his 70`s who when we both answered the call of nature at 01.00am the other morning.. came out of the bathroom with only a hand towel covering his bits - I went into cardic arrest and legged it. I hadnt anticpated seeing my first naked Aussie male like this ( sorry mum).
The sooner we leave this hostel ( next tues) the better. Have been offered to stay with Dave and Bro in North Carlton ( another suburb) indefinately on thier blow- up bed so thats great news... We`ve spent quite a lot of time with them -they`ve been fab and are great hosts.
I think having 2 new fresh bloods off the plane to take out and drink with has made thier day (for the time being at least.). On the negative side I had forgotten how much the Irish and architects can drink- and have been ill already this week. I think as soon as I start work the better.. The thought of going back to university days- Leanne who know the capacity of Dave Graham`s drinking is enough to make me run for the bowl again.
To bolster our spirits the guys had organised for us to go to the last day of the races - or the Arab Emirates day. The day before was spent making picnics, cutting sushi ( its huge out here everybody eats it), visiting the deli and devising ways of getting alcohol through the gates.. After much discussion at the bar the night before we emptied ` mini brekkie juice bottles` halfway and topped them up with vodka.
We scounged a cool bag from the hostel and found some cheap fascinators for our hair from Target ( think Primark) and we were set to go. The day was great and I would recommend anyone to go. We all made bets and MAGNUS (see pics) came up trumps for me and made me twenty bucks.
We thought this highly amusing ( Dave did architecture with him) and we proceeded to spend the afternoon relishing old Magnus stories. Suffice to say the rest of the pictures de-generate as the evening goes on..but we lasted till midnight which was a stirling effort all around.
So guys we went to Melbourne Aquarium last week doing the touristy things. We were a little disappointed with the talent- its not a patch on the Goldcoast aquarium...more like Pompey sealife centre. We found Nemo however hiding in a sea anenome, he wasnt giving interviews so the best I could do was a picture!
So this week has been better than last, the weather is finally picking up and my use for scarf and gloves has stopped. Can you believe that!!- didnt think I would be buying mittens as I was soo cold...we had hail stones and snow!! Yvette and I spent the afternoon sheltering in the Museum of Moving Art keeping warm and to avoid the showers!
Luckily have landed temp work at both Westpac and ANZ Bank, which is a relief. Melbourne is expensive and not working and paying out is eating into my savings!! We are still in hostels - ( I move into the guys soon thank god) so pleased to be back earning some wedge. One thing I know however is that I am too old for hostels!!
Today we traversed the Great Ocean Road starting in Geelong just outside Melbourne and down the coast....
as per the http://www.greatoceanroad.org/information/-please see below!
The 10 most frequently asked questions about the Great Ocean Road
1. Where does the Great Ocean Road start and finish?
2. How long does it take to drive the Great Ocean Road and is the drive safe?
3. When was the Great Ocean Road built and by whom?
4. How tall are the Twelve Apostles at Port Campbell and how were they formed?
5. What else can I do on the Great Ocean Road?
6. What can I do and see along the Great Ocean Road in winter?
7. Are the beaches safe to swim all year?
8. Where can I stay along the Great Ocean Road and are there any good restaurants?
9. Where can I view the wildlife and experience the native bush?
10. What about fishing?
1. Where does the Great Ocean Road start and finish?
The Great Ocean Road was originally planned to begin at Barwon Heads and extend to Nirranda. Today the Great Ocean Road officially starts at Torquay and finishes at Allansford where it joins the Princes Highway near Warrnambool.
2. How long does it take to drive the Great Ocean Road and is the drive safe?
It is possible (but not advisable) to drive along the Great Ocean Road and return to Melbourne in a day. By doing this you will only experience a small part of the Great Ocean Road and it will leave you little time to stop and appreciate beautiful spots and attractions along the way. The Great Ocean Road is a sealed carriageway, and it is safe to drive in a car, caravan or even a motor home. Motorcycle enthusiasts find the road a thrilling ride.
3. When was the Great Ocean Road built and by whom?
Work officially started on the Great Ocean Road on 19th September 1919 and the 75 kilometre stretch between Anglesea and Apollo Bay was completed by 1932. Various sections were opened up as toll roads as they were completed. Returned soldiers from the First World War hewed the road from the rock with picks, crowbars and shovels.
4. How tall are the Twelve Apostles at Port Campbell and how were they formed?
The Twelve Apostles rock stacks were formed by the gradual erosion of softer limestone areas, creating caves in the cliffs. These caves eventually wore away through wind and wave erosion to become arches and when they collapsed, rock islands were left detached. The cliffs rise to nearly 70 metres in some places and the highest Apostle is approximately 50 metres from base to tip.
5. What else can I do on the Great Ocean Road?
What do you like to do? Boutique shopping at Lorne, fine dining on the coast, bushwalking, hangliding, abseiling, bird watching or horse riding along the beach. The Great Ocean Road is about the natural outdoors as well as superb food and accommodation.
6. What can I do and see along the Great Ocean Road in winter?
In the winter months the Great Ocean Road is a fantastic place to find some solace or rekindle a romance. Deserted windswept beaches, cosy cabins and open fires, frosty mornings and fresh air. Some interesting attractions can only be enjoyed in the winter months, such as the Southern Right Whales, which frequent our southern coast to bear their young. While the water may be a little chilly to take a dip, in the winter months you can enjoy this scenic coast, unhampered, unhurried and gain a new perspective on a wonderful area.
7. Are the beaches safe to swim all year?
Big swells come in from the Southern Ocean, the same swells that create the world-renowned surf at Bells Beach. Because of this, it is advisable to swim at patrolled beaches. Popular swimming areas, isolated strips of beach, calm estuaries, and excellent surf promise an almost endless list of alternatives. The water is at its warmest in late summer and in early autumn.
8. Where can I stay along the Great Ocean Road and are there any good restaurants?
Accommodation is available all along the Great Ocean Road, from bush campsites and backpackers, to bed and breakfasts, cottages and luxury hotels. Geelong, Queenscliff, Lorne, Apollo Bay, Warrnambool, Port Fairy and Portland offer the widest variety, but for an alternative try a hinterland getaway.
Good food and wine are synonymous with the Great Ocean Road region. Local chefs make the most of the fresh foods produced in the area, including berries, cheeses, herbs, mustards, vegetables, honey, mussels and crayfish. There are many vineyards near Geelong that specialise in cool climate wines such as Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon. Many of these wines are the most sought after on to the wine lists of local restaurants.
9. Where can I view the wildlife and experience the native bush?
The region has many places to experience natural attractions. The rainforests, coastal heath, woodlands and eucalypt forests are generally accessible from the Great Ocean Road and other major highways. Popular spots to view wildlife and native bush include Serendip Sanctuary, Otway Ranges, Angahook-Lorne State Park, The You Yangs, Brisbane Ranges,Melba Gully State Park, Tower Hill Reserve and Lower Glenelg National Park. You can see rare Southern Right Whales at Logans Beach, Warrnambool, from about June to October.
10. What about fishing?
Surf fishing, estuarine fishing, ocean fishing, lake fishing and fishing in mountain streams are all available near the Great Ocean Road. Common catches include trevally, snapper, whiting and trout.
The mighty Twelve Apostles are world-recognised icons of the Great Ocean Road. These giant rock stacks soar from the swirling waters of the Southern Ocean and are a central feature of the spectacular Port Campbell National Park that extends from Princetown to Peterborough. The dramatic and imposing limestone cliffs that are the backdrop to the Apostles tower up to 70 metres, while the tallest of the rock stacks is around 45 metres high.
Located 125km south-east of Melbourne about a 2 hr drive.
The highest point on the island is Cape Woolamai, in the south-eastern corner, reaching 118m in height. The protected northern beaches nestle into Westernport Bay providing safe swimming areas.
Cowes is the largest residential township on the Island, with a good range of shops, restaurants and services. Other popular townships include Rhyll and Newhaven.
Things to see & do
Enjoy the great surf on the southern coastline
Visit the Australias largest timber maze
Watch the amazing Penguin parade each night
Enjoy a helicopter ride around the island with Phillip Island Helicopters.
anway more interestingly the penguins are great - basically you get to the beach and up on decking are viewing platforms where the public sit. Come half 8 in the evening hundreds of tiny penguins coming scuttling out of the water and begin the journey back to their nests! Its hilarious!! They are teeny weeny no more than 55 cm high and keep falling over. I so wanted to take pictures but like any eco-tourism trip we were banned from doing so. I recommend it though!
Oh and the Hurdy Gurdy Vineyard we went to en-route to pick up a penguins. the wine was fantastico.. the italian couple on our trip were mad for it and were half cut by the time we left.
It doesnt take long to start wondering what this work thing is hyped up to be huh! After 2 days of working with a bunch of mincers talking about souffles and thier pet pooches birthday parties I am longing to be on the dole again!
On a positive note I`ve met some really fantastic people in this particular hostel. www.urbancentral.com.au -its new and contemporary bar the late night puking that I`ve encountered in the toilets this week. I alwaya have people pass out and puke up at my feet in bars, shopping arcades and toilets. I must be giving off some kinda of scent....and its not my feet which are suffering in the heat.
On a serious note though I definately believe that there are times when you need a kick up the jacksy to make you realise just how luck you are! I met a truly amazing lady called Anthea who was sharing our dorm... she was in Melbourne to attend a weekend counselling course. When asked as to why this was (she`s only 35) she was trying to come to terms with the fact that her partner of 16 years had left her and the kids 3 months ago when he was diagnosed with cancer of the blood. She was trying to support them, herself, a family home and try to understand the actions of her (ex?) partner..
Anthea- if you are reading this I hope you dont mind me divulging all this detail but I truly truly admire your strength and positive determination to get through it whatever the future holds!! You have been an inspiration to me! See you in Brisbane!! You can tell me more about the Stiener schools and their impact on children! You are in my thoughts!
apologies for the going underground moment I am currently in...back to work and internet cafes bloody expensive in the CBD. So whats been happening with me? Well started temping for ANZ Invmt Bank which is as joyful as sticking pins in my eyes..the birds work is awful.... I hate it - the women are complety highly strung and hard work- there`s me thinking hang about London was never like this- whats so fking special about Melbourne!!!!
I am keeping the end in sight- a few weeks and then I can fire bomb the place... gutting as my temoing for Westpac which was great fun- 3 gays in a 3 metre radius and great fun to work with!!
Maybe its my choice of work attire?? Basically my t-chests ( no thats not a sexual reference) arent due to arrive till end of Dec..these hold all my work wear which is proving a tad troublesome at the moment... I am reluctant to buy more work stuff as hoping come the new year I wont be contsricted to the confines of office wear. So Target and KMart have been stlyed by myself- I have to say its not my proudest moment...
Anyway great to be staying with Dave and Brona who will no doubt be pleasesd to see the back of me come the new year...they`ve been really great, Bro`s a great cook and introduced me to lots of her mates! Dave on the otherhand has no fit mates that I have met so a little disappointed on that note!!
We are starting a 5 week girlie golf course on Saturday which should be fun...I am thinking CZ.JOnes with plus-fours and trendy visar... will prob be more Cathy Burke and scruffy leggings.
Will keep you posted!
Oh and for all you music lovers- hoping to go see Talvin Singh on Thursday for a bit of old skool.
Love to allxxxx
Oh Dear, what a night!! It started off so well and then went terribly wrong...and I was trying my best to stay sober for my 1st golf lesson on the saturday morning. Free bar on ANZ with the traders....and interesting conversation with people from all walks of life and religion. I ended up in a late bar with a young asian chap lookalike to Keanu Reeves - very nice and young discussing the attributes of a good race horse... what on earth do I know about horses.
Anyway my first golf lesson on saturday morning saw me almost puking on the scorched golf course which wasnt the best.. I hadn`t anticipated how difficult it was going to be!! I was too busy concentrating on not being sick as woke up still wrecked from the 3 o clock finish 6 hours earlier.
Its all in the technique (oi-oi) and Ms.Ling is going to work very hard to make it work for her...If you`ve ever played hockey then you are instantly at a handicap as the instinct is to whack the ball with your body stength behind you...alas golf is absolutely nothing like this and requires
1) good balance which since my op last year dont have very well
2) strong hands dont really have these either
3) flexible arms and hips -have these... 1 out of 3 aint bad!!!
Its going to be a mircale to get a good handicap......buts it`s addictive so looking forward to my next lesson on saturday morning..hopefully a clear head and without naseoua will see me right with the best golf swing in melbourne! And the golf tutor looks like Alf Fisher from Home and Away which in itself is almost worth going along for !
So this wkeend has been absolutely roasting!! Sat and Sun both topped 37 degrees, and with the bushfires burning in Victoria the smog & ash in the air is second to none. I have never witnessed anything like it - its what I imagine post-nuclear war to look like.
They have advised those with asthma, allergies and contact lenses wearers to stay in and avoid the smog. I havent been able to wear my lenses for weeks - its like Chernobyl. They predice the worse bush fires ever in history, people in work are worried about their holiday homes and whether they are still going to be there over the xmas holiday:
SOURCE :THE AGE NEWSPAPER.
Total fire ban statewide. Bushfire hotline 1800 240 667
Victorian firefighters have laboured through the night to reinforce containment lines in preparation for extreme bushfire conditions expected today.
More than 420,000 hectares have been burnt out across the state as 11 bushfires continue to rage out of control in Gippsland and the state`s north-east.
The situation is tipped to worsen today with temperatures tipped to climb into the 30s with wind gusts of up to 50kmh.
Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) spokesman Kevin Monk said firefighters had done all they possibly could.
"I think we could always do with more time and even conditions to do backburning but I think we`ve known this day has been coming ... and I think the crucial work has been done," Mr Monk said.
"I think they`re (the conditions) not as extreme as they were on the weekend but the strong winds are always a concern to us, there`ll be spotting embers in a lot of communities right around these fires."
More than 4000 firefighters are working to protect property and stop the fires` spread.
Mr Monk said one of the main priorities was strengthening a 60km control line around the Thompson Dam to protect the state`s water supply from the Mt Terrible blaze.
Two of the biggest fires merged into one on Tuesday night, creating a mega-fire that now stretches at least 120km in length from Whitfield to Dargo.
After joining, the North East Alpine fires and Darling-Cynthia and Blanket Wood, Mount Hump, Scrubby Creek fires have blacked out 372,000 hectares.
The DSE is predicting those fires will merge with other fires at Mt Ligar and Mt Terrible in the state`s east today.
The communities in a big arc from Dargo to Valencia Creek - those to the south and east of the major bushfires - are expected to come under most threat.
These areas include Mt Beauty, in the north east, and Dargo, Waterford, Castleburn, Licola and Glencairn in Gippsland.
A threat warning was lifted for Glencairn yesterday, but residents were being told to remain on high alert with fire still within three kilometres of the town.
The Grampians -
Rising from the ashes of the January fires, the Grampians region reveals a magical ecological kingdom reborn, just waiting to be discovered. Far from being burnt or broken, the Grampians National Park remains one of Australia`s premier tourist destinations displaying a mosaic of verdant new vegetation.
Declared a National Park in 1984, The Grampians National Park is an oasis of diversity, set amongst the agricultural Western District of Victoria. The 167,000 acres house around a third of Victoria`s plant species, and forms a safe haven for many species of marsupial and mammal.
The region has become immensely popular with a wide demographic, and understandably so - the park has something to offer everyone. Outlandish rock architecture is covered with gently undulating native forest . . . wildlife is abundant and viewable . . . the air is crisp . . . and during spring, the park vibrates with colour.
Waterfalls in the Grampians
Discover stunning waterfalls all around the Grampians region. MacKenzie Falls is one of Victorias largest and most spectacular waterfalls
MacKenzie Falls is one of four falls in the MacKenzie River Gorge. It flows all year round, but is best viewed between June and October. After rain, torrents of water cascade over huge cliffs into a deep pool, sending fine sprays of rainbow mist high into the air above a stunning gorge.
Named by explorer Mitchell on the 21st. of July 1836, the MacKenzie River rises in the higher reaches of The Grampians and flows north-westward through Zumsteins towards Mt. Zero
Would recommend this to anyone! It was great fun, albeit the extremely bad hangover that followed last night after the sobering up on the way home.
So I managed to cajole a friend from work Patrick to come with me, his folks own grape and olive vinyards in Swan Hill ( about 4 hours outside Melbourne) and he was none the wiser re wine tasting....and myself I figured I`ve spent half my life drinking it it was high time I became a cnssr ( monsieur with these ferreo rocher you are spzoiling us).
We had our first tasting session at half 11 and I was well on my way then, lunch was a superb winery where Chris Isaac played at last week- great venue. After luncheon and more wine we were taken to Yering Wine Station .....
Yering Station was originally established in 1838 as Victorias first vineyard and today, this family owned Winery Tourism Complex is reaching new heights.
Beyond the manicured gardens lies the contemporary stone edifice, which houses the Wine Bar Restaurant and the winemaking facilities, seen through the viewing platforms. The restaurants cuisine is modern with the emphasis on regional produce. The seasonal menu is designed to compliment Yering Station wines.
The converted old winery building, comprises a Produce Store show casing local produce, a dynamic Art Gallery raising money for the Royal childrens hospital, Matts Bar the perfect place to enjoy a casual glass of wine with a gourmet snack and the Cellar Door. This is where you can taste our full range of the estates award-winning wines, Baraks Bridge, Yering Station and Yarra Edge, along with the critically acclaimed traditional method, Yarrabank.
Anway 4 hours later and copious amounts of red wine, bubbles and a cheese board I staggered onto the minibus and fell asleep on the way back. I was fairly trollied to say the least and my head was banging... I hate that as the golden rule with Leo Sayers is that you push on through. I didnt and paid the price.
I am back in the Urban Central hostel after deciding to give the guys their flat back- Guys your`ve been really kind and polite! Thanks for your hospitality and use of sofa, fridge mattress etc!! You can get the bunting out now and have a street party as the house belongs to you guys again! Its nice to have a bed after a month where I`ve developed a nasty cough worthy of 20 woodbines a day habit.
Am here for the week then off to stay with Andrea Stanley ( mate from London) who`s coming home for a few weeks.
So its been a while since my last diary entry!! Having moved around a lot in the last 10 days I havent been able to get near a pc and download my pics. Christmas Eve saw me mooching around the CBD having a few touristy days before Andrea picked me up and took me to her familys place for the christmas period. Having a few glorious days of work and a week of heavy socialising I was looking forward to chilling out and abstaining from the barmaids apron
I went to Ednaville- Dame Edna`s exhibition which was fun and generally took lots of pictures of the decorations adorning Melbourne. Queen Victoria Market named after the glorious lady herself is a famous landmark of Melbourne- it offers everything from fruit & veg to wooden ducks and camel rides. Its extremely popular with restauranteurs picking up thier produce for the day to everyday people buying thier steaks and prawns for the barbie. I love it there- its almost on par with Borough Market in London Bridge...but without the class! I`ve had some great noodles there on a Wednesday when they host a night market -live bands, bars and restaurants set up stalls there and you can eat for cheap as chips while watching a bad version of Yellow Brick Road!
There were to be 4 of us Poms going to Leongatha ( central gippsland- south victoria) 2 hours from Melbourne - dairy region. Andrea`s ex boyfriend- his mum and sister who had come out for the cricket... all from Bath and extremely great fun to be around! We had all been hoping for sunshine and lots of warmth.......
The coldest one since 1935- black ice on the roads of Melbourne and hailstones the size of tennis balls pelting down on the windows threatening to break the glass...Scarves, gloves, cardigans and hats came out for the day and us Poms were gutted by the lack of hospitality of the Aussie Climate.
We spent xmas day at Wendy & Craigs (andreas big sister) who live on a kinda farm with more rooms than you can shake a stick at, eating xmas dinner in the car port (see pics). It was a great day filled with all the usual eating and drinking too much and boardgames with the occasional car journey out to check the coastline out which is more or less Andreas back garden.
The Poms came in for some derseved ridicule re the cricket and we settled into xmas day night with the anticipation of a pasting come the opening boxing day test match at the MCG in Melbourne.
Having slept for a full 14 hours at Andreas (catching up on much needed zzzz`s) the cricket kicked off and the start of Englands demise.. The afternoon took us to both one of the best wildlife sanctuarys I`ve been too and the evening to Philip Island Penguins where Gillie very very kindly paid for Andrea and I to go with them...it was great as these were VIP the db`s of tickets and we were personally escorted around the bay.
We got to Melbourne at midnight so I was a very tired girl come Wednesday and back to work.
Absolute schocker..ok so hope no-one from work reading this as had to bunk a half day (I was actually ill) to watch the cricket at the MCG. Unfortunately though karma obs had other ideas as my phone didnt charge that day for some reason and therefore couldnt take any decent pictures!
Gutted as the Barmy Army were great entertainment - the aussies would start a mexican wave getting the whole stand involved ( capacity 79,850) and then as soon as it came to the army they would start heckling and stop it from carrying on. Funny to watch, and their chanting was classic..but apparently the top boy who founded it all has a mullet and spray on white jeans which probably belong to his missus so all respect lost really.
It was freezing cold so lots of layers were needed as were plenty of hot drinks, I managed to get there for 12.30 after legging it from work. I got lost getting in and managed to find myself on level 4 which was the hospitality suite - I did try and blag my way in but to no avail. So relegated back to the stands armed with loads of scarves and gloves.
The day was good fun but by 5.45 when it all kicked off I was ready to leave..Just as Warney was being clapped off the pitch work rang which made me laugh. Later that night I went out with the Fishers (Gillie /Lou /Simon) who very kindly shouted me dinner.
To be fair after spending last new years eve in Sydney I wasnt too bothered where I was going to end up this time around, so a few of us from work decided to hire a cottage for the night in the Yarra Valley and generally get the barbie going and kick back.
It was rather nice I have to say to wake up feeling more refreshed rather than pounding head so yesterday New Years Day was spent at the nearby Sanctuary watching a brilliant Birds of Prey demonstration which rather guttlingly I forgot my camera.
So we stopped off on Friday night at a motel in Beechworh (3 hours from Melbourne).
`Beechworth is one of Victoria`s best-preserved gold rush towns. Four million ounces of gold were officially mined in 1852, when thousands of hopefuls rushed to the gold fields in search of their fortunes. The prosperity generated by Beechworth gold has left an admirable legacy for today`s visitors. Dederang nestles in the picturesque Kiewa Valley, about half an hour south of Albury-Wodonga on the Bright route to the Victorian snowfields. `
After a refreshing swim in the unheated swimming pool we set off to Dederang.
`The Kiewa River, which runs through the valley, provides some of the most challenging and rewarding trout fishing in the region. Anglers and scenic sightseers, however, are warned to keep a wary eye out in the early morning and evening for dairy herds making their way to the milking sheds. Hollywood megastar Mel Gibson once used to recharge his batteries in this valley hideaway. Dederang packs the visitors in with its annual New Years Day picnic races which are held on a track where the horses momentarily disappear from the crowds view .Even more popular is the once-a-year competition to decide Australias gumboot-throwing champion. The Falls Creek ski resort lies 35km into the Snowy Mountains from Mount Beauty at the head of the valley which Dederang also shares with the townships of Kergunyah, Gundowring and Tawonga.`
What a laugh this weekend was - its the closest I`ve been yet to RedNecksville in America without actually entering the USA. Everyone was wearing cowboy hats and boots, drinking bottled beer and thowing women over their shoudlers (only joking on that one). But so glad to have been to a `Bush Race` as I dont think I`ve would have encountered anything like that had I not known an horse-racing aussie.
Basically how it works over here is that virtually everyone in the country owns horses so there is no `class ` system as like in the UK. Horsey people arent associated with poshness. Patrick and his mates are in a consortium of 8 guys who randomly buy horses maybe every year which they employ a trainer and a jockey to race at weekly/monthly meets up and down Victoria.
`About Due` was the new hopeful, quickest in the heats and coming in at 17 hands a big boy ready to use his power in the last cup race of the day. The boys were fired up having heard great things about his firey temper having even installed rubber along the metal of the pen to stop him kicking out and injuring himself. They were a little concerned however that he appeared unusally docile before the start of the race and far too calm given his temperament.
Alas `About Due` was about last... They were many theories about this:
1) the fella had been drugged in the morning by the trainer
2) the new female jockey was being romanced by the rival competitors jockey who told her to lose the race.
Who knows! However the boys were gutted especially after the large sums of $$ betted half hour earlier - more drinking and debauchery aided the pain of such a windfall loss.
The best part for me aside from leaving the flies and dreadful heat behind was the annual `dog-jumping` competition. At one point one guy was being led around by the neck by his mate trying to enter the working dog category.
We stayed at the Goonan Boys (4 parts of the consortium) parents farm - 75 of us split up into 15 tents scattered around the land. It was like Carry on Camping. Our tent got nicknamed `The Marquee` due to the size (6 berth special offer), it was the party tent.
After a huge spit-roast BBQ we walked down to the local and only pub in Dederang -a 20 minute walk down the only main road (dirt) to where 1200 pissed race goers where drinking the bar dry and moshing to the pub band called "Toss". Hilarious. Moonee pulling and crowd surfing were de riguer in the Dederang Hotel pub. Got back and passed out to the sights of tall people in small tents with heads and feet sticking out either end.
We had torrential rain that night-which was great for the Level 4 droughts of Victoria but terrible for us camping on a field.
Waking up feeling remarkably fresh-faced from the previous nights performance we breakfasted and were back on the road by midday. Our plan was to take the scenic route back to Melbourne via `The Great Alpine Road`
`The Great Alpine Road is a 308-kilometre route that extends from Wangaratta in the north-east to Bairnsdale in the heart of Gippsland. The road is Australias highest year-round accessible sealed road and winds past lofty mountains, valleys, forests, rivers, vineyards and farms. Sample local food and wine, and fish, cycle, climb or ride along the way.` Hey GUESS WHAT- ITS HOME TO THE BUSH FIRES.BUGGER.
So lesson number 1 - Australias `other roads` ( labelled brown in Melways melbourne`s map & street finder) are offroad dirt tracks with sheer cliff face drops and hair-pin bends which would make formula 1 drivers shake. Earlier in the morning whilst stopping to take pictures at Mount Buffalo the car started to make a funny noise, further inspection under the bonnet found the water was boiling up and overflowing..going with the notion that we werent very far from the nearest town we ventured off in Pat`s ancient car. Forty minutes later we are still driving down this `track`, signs everywhere `DANGER FIRE, ENTER AT OWN RISK, FALLING DEBRIS FROM FIRE, CAUTION SHEER CLIFF DROP`.. We were in the middle of a forest with no phone reception, a dodgy engine and a mass of bare burned trees for company.
So the end to my week of working in ANZ culminated in a nice round of 9-holes at the Royal Park golfclub with the guys whom I had taken lessons with. It took us 2 & 3/4 hours to get around- which wasnt bad considering we were not rushing and taking our time to play shots, but we applied golf etiquette and made sure that other people on the course were playing around us. The only compliant I have were the t@ssers who were impatient with our novice-like behaviour..everyone needs to start somewhere!!
We were all shattered afterwards- but I guess that will get easier the more we play. I intend to keep golf up all the while I am out here at least as a round is sooo cheap.
The afternoon saw me heading down the coast to Mornington Peninsular -check map:
http://www.visitmorningtonpeninsula.org/... its the little pokey out part just south of Melbourne where the majority of Melbournians have holiday homes. Its like the south coast of the UK but hotter, better beaches and nice holiday homes. I visited the various areas of Rye,Sorrento (where I found Spargo`s restaurant!) and Portsea.
We stayed at Cape Shanck, the southern most part of the tip famously reknowned for its spectacular 18 hole golf course. Unfortunately the course was fully booked from 06.30 onwards with hard core Lyle& Scott wearers so we decided to head out to Sorrento and check out the more physical sports it had to offer!! Check Pictures.
Well the last few weeks have been pretty amazing really in terms of the wildlife I see everday both out of the water and in the water. Its so hot here the only time I dont sweat is when I am in the water - nice!!! My diet seems to consist of mostly melon and fruit for most of the day to keep my fluids up till dinner when its cool enough to sweat a little less!! Its breeding season for many bird species here so its the air is full of mating calls, bird shit and baby chicks everywhere,
It amazes me every day how close to nature we are. Every day I snorkel I have to pinch myself that there really are manta rays, loggerhead turtles , reef sharks swimming straight past me..however with that comes the nasties in the form of blue bottle jellyfish. Sods law I have suffered serious reactions to these stings where I bleed immeadiately under the skin developing huge blood blisters so its a full wet suit all the way for me until the things leave the area.
There`s talkabout a bull shark and a tiger shark living in the area which excites me a lot- although we dont tell the guests that!!!!!!! It does annoy me greatly how ignorant people are in general when it comes to shark attack,I am finding its the kids who are happiest in the water!
So guys it was nice to be back on the mainland again and mingling with society....the joy of entering a bar, going shopping, and playing golf again. Melbourne was spent chilling out, having ears syringed, seeing in the Chinese New Year with friends and generally staying out the of the sun.
Its been 38 here for the last few days- stinking heat which with the grime of the city has made it unbearable. Just as I was leaving for Avalon Airport last night the heavens opened, which is good for the Victorians as they are still on level 4 drought alert. Even here in Brisbane today its a damn lot cooler than previous. Am off to Hervey Bay this evening by tilt train from Brisbane ( goes all the way to Cairns) then staying at a hostel before catching my flight back to LEI tomorrow morning.
This stint is only going to be about 2 weeks as off to NZ with my darling mother....Yes I cant wait to see you, you;ve been in my dreams for the last few nights! Remember you wont wear half of what you are intending to bring so capsule packaging perhaps?
Dad Happy 60th for the 25th...Not sure what the post out here is like so keep your eyes peeled to your Dutch address.
So have been spending some time looking into the possibility of working for myself - on a consultancy basis.,it seems the feasbile option for Marine Biologists over here rather than working for someone else..so am looking at short courses which I can distance learn..watch this space.
How you all doing? It`s been a while hasnt it? I am on the roads to getting me a wireless connection so I hook up anywhere!! Lady Elliot is pants for the poor `blogger` and unfortunately NZ has been no better really. So now that I am back down under with the men at work I can tell you a little bit with what I`ve been up too!
So left for Christchurch on the 4th March after an eventful day before travelling back from the island. The long and short is that 1) I made the bus which initially sailed off with my rucksack sans moi 2) I got stuck on the tilt train - yes it tilts but not much use when the power cable has been cut...which alas some b**trd purposely did. We were stranded on the train for 7 - yes 7 hours before Geoffrey the diesel engine helped by Thomas and friends pulled us into the next one.. We had no water, no toilets and we weren`t allowed off the train.. Worse than bloody TFL- if you can believe that. I now have great respect for Indians and thier daily commute to work. However I believe sitting on top of the train is probably a very good option after travelling on the tilt.
My journey was uneventful bar the christian who asked me whether I wanted to read his bible before embarking the plane to Christchurch from Auckland.
Christchurch is a very quaint city- think Oxford / boating lakes and afternoon tea. Miss Marple could easily live here.. and guess what? she was on the Kirra coach tour..nope only joking but there were plenty of those parting with their `grey` pounds on our bus. I was one of the youngest. Great to see mum who coped tremendously well with her jetlag, but after one glass of wine was falling asleep in her dinner so we retired ready for the next days early early early start. Yes there were lots of them.
Mount Cook for those who havent been there- you need to go!! I know everybody raves on about how beautiful the place is but they are correct. NZ is the most amaziing place I`ve been too. Quiet- not a sole anywhere. Had we been in back in Britain there would have been Tesco shopping trollies, condoms, carrier bags and last nights kebab in the water. Due to the small population nobody seems to use the water - no recreational activities, no cars, no litter no anything.
I took many many pictures over both weeks and over time I will download them, but this depends on what PC I am using in terms of memory and connection. I am sitting writing this now trying unsuccessfully to download some so I can bore you all senseless but no joy.. whats that trying to tell me!!
During our week we visited on the east coast Omaramu, Dunedin- think Aberdeen but warmer, and made our way to Te Anau and onto Milford Sounds. Now we are getting into the Alps region my precious where hobbitts hide and Gandalf swings his mighty sword. Easy.. Lord of the Rings terrain is unbelievable, they must have had a ball filming here- the mountains stretch for miles. Sheer rock cliffs fall away into fresh water a mile deep, mist everywhere making the place surreal. A photographers fantasy really, so many different environments alongside each other.
Accomodation varied each night. Often we were greeted by Tubs & Edward from League of Gentlemen in contrast to the opulence of maybe Queenstown Rydges Hotel. But what stayed the same was the dull reminder of breakfast at 7 o`clock accompanied by the deafening tones of Klaus & Derik the token krauts who couldnt speak a word of English yet decided to come on a english-speaking tour.
I fell in love with Queenstown- I am going back..Think Lake Garda in Italy but with snow...The nightlife is amazing not that I managed to stay up past 10.30. It was here though that I did a sky-dive.. photo`s to follow- bring it on- adrenaline junkie all the way. A spur of the moment thing- one of the girls on the tour was doing it and was slightly apprehensive so of course I told her that was nothing to it..Bugger. All I can say is that I prefer under the water than being in the air! No brown pants to report though so all good.
This part of the journey then took us to Fox Glacier through Wanaka..which DG if you are still reding this- what a beautiful place you lived in!! Why did you leave it??? We took a tour up the mouth of the Glacier , all of us in a line running back down from it like the kids in the sound of music.. Its melting very quickly. Which is why the next morning we took a helicopter ride over the top.. Wow!! Tried to push mum over the cliff but no luck-- only joking. You would have done it first!
So as we made our way up to Blenhiem to catch the Interislander over to the North Island we stopped by a winery as you do and did some tastings.
I have to say that as much as I am a townie I prefer the beauty of the `sarf` island to that of the North. Wellington being the political hub of NZ and corporate suits didnt really get my toursim juices flowing. But that said thier musuem `Te Papa` is ace, I hadn`t realised the magnitude of earthquakes and volcanic activity that resided here. The landscape is quite unusual where large hillocks rise from the ground next to completely flat residential areas. Think Devon and little windy streets where houses are built up on high plots of land, large bay windows looking out onto the ocean. The North Island driver Peter gave us a few shocks...this was one of them navigating the sheer hair pin bends getting to Mount Victoria. The other was his obsencely short shorts and long socks- outrageous. It gave us plenty of entertainment throughout the journey. Maybe he harboured a long desire to be an extra for `Carry On Camping`
Rotorua smelt like rotten eggs quite frankly due to the suphur from the famour hot springs. We were lucky/ unlucky enough to have our hotel right on one of the lakes where the pungent smell was stongest. A few Bushmills & Ginger were needed at dinner to combat this.
This part of the trip seemed to disapper very quickly as we were in Auckland before we knew it and back in a big city. This was were the tour ended and it was actually very sad at the Last Supper to say bye to people. I came away with a few address and emails but South Africa is up there come the end of this year.
Mum and I had a few days together by ourself before we headed off our separate ways. In this time we took in the famous Skytower and watched with amusement the poor skyjumpers who were being pushed off the top. To my luck one of my favourite DJ`s Nitin Sawhney was playing in the Auckland Film Festival with the ASOrchestra, having re-written the score of music for the famous Indian film A Throw of Dice. For those who have never listened to this guy- do it!
I couldnt have asked for a nicer ending to our holiday. Unless of course Nigel Harman was sitting next to me watching it. I was dreading the next day and saying adios to mum- it never gets any easier!! I thought I had managed to leg it onto the shuttle bus before making her cry but no such luck. I sat for the remainder of the journey looking like a berk trying to hide my tears under my new ray-bans. The old dear next me gave me a tissue.
Mother thanks for such a fab holiday, it was great seeing you again and I am glad that you made it home one piece! Make sure you combat your jet-lag before trying any ardous chores. See you Christmas x
Hello there everyone
Thought I would write a letter to you all as its been such a long time and many of you I havent spoken with for months. Sorry about that but with one thing and another the last few months have been pretty crazy & often weeks without internet access to update blog page. (www.getjealous.com dora the explorer!) . So I stayed in Melbourne till the New Year working in ANZ bank & earning some cash after we spent out in Malaysia in October.
The New Year saw first job as a marine biologist on Lady Elliot Island off the Great Barrier Reef talk about remote. For such a girl accustomed to internet, telephones, late bars and starbucks it was rather a culture shock! The marine life however was amazing sharks, manta rays, turtles & dolphins. We used to work a 3 week on 8 day off roster so often we felt like Tom Hanks on Castaway ..the bar shut early & the pool table was always busy. I spent 3 months working here and then decided that I couldnt stand the remoteness!!
A much needed holiday was needed in New Zealand so in March met mum in Christchurch for a tour of both islands. Beautiful islands- we had an absolute ball. It was one of the best holidays I have had. I skydived in Queenstown which was a complete adrenaline rush but still prefer the water to the sky.
Just after we had arrived back from holiday I was all ready to leave Lady Elliot Island and return back to Melbourne to work back in finance to raise some funds when I broke my hand on the boat winch. Without going into too much detail they were crap about it, I had to have a wire in my hand for 3 weeks which was not fun & resulted in 3 plaster changes in Bundaberg, Brisbane and Melbourne. I am now out of plaster and in a splint & having physio in Melbourne but its been an absolutely terrible month for homesickness & missed you all.
My brief stint at Lady Elliot was a learning curve, I came away a wiser (if not broken!!) woman. Marine Biology is where I want to head though but over here in Australia they are two a penny which means that you have to raise the stakes a little. I have decided that self-employment is the only way forward in this field so I am currently studying a distance learning course of Small Business Management in the hope that by the end of the year I will be working for myself. The marine biologists I have met here have skills in diving / photography / conservation & consultancy so it you can manage to combine a few of those and sell it to the market then youre laughing. So to some extent LEI has given me plenty food for thought, with the added bonus of meeting some fantastically talented photographers & biologists.
So to pay for this course ANZ Bank calls for a few months temping I know back to where I was so keen to escape from! This time is different as I know what my goals are for the next few months & year. I have been living with a mate who I befriended in ANZ before xmas but am soon to move into a shared place havent decided where yet though & with whom!!!
Its cold here compared to Brisbane and when I shut my eyes long enough I could be back in London!!! I am not particularly happy about that but I guess thats why Melbourne can have 4 seasons in one day. But all the same Poms dont expect to be cold in Australia. This weekend has been great as Jon Roberts whom I went to uni with & lives in Sydney came down with his missus. My god I had forgotten now much Wrexham boys drink especially when the thought of relegation looms over them. Luckily for Jon they won 3-1 so when I met up with him yesterday before they want back he was a jubilant if not hung over chappy.
I hope to go cage diving possibly in July with the white sharks in Adelaide, as a marine biologist as that what I am now!! we get on half price, maybe use us as bait?? Well I am now going to love you all & leave you as the weekend with welsh Jon has destroyed me as has the first day back to ANZ and the awful getting up in the morning. Why doesnt that get any easier?!
Hope you are all well and enjoying the start of the summer! Lots of love to you all & even if I dont speak to you all on a regular basis I think of you all constantly Ive had many laughs that way!
So the plans are to go traveling around august to WA, Northern Territory & SA for the remainder of my months. Hopefully then head over to South Africa the end of the year to play with sharks Those who say they are coming over you know who you are!!!! Time is running out.
see you all soon .maybe xmas for few weeks
So its been a while since I last blogged so lots to talk about. Melbourne is pretty
c-c-cold at the moment -10 degrees and a cold wind so its been a little shock to the system after stifling QLD. I moved to Kew in the posh eastern suburbs about a month ago with an old uni mate of a mate of mine here. Its in a rather salubrious neck of the woods rather like the one back home, with Richmond the next suburb along. Fiona is a financial planner and owns the flat so its a gorgeous wooden floor downstairs flat which is bloody cold at the moment.
Most places over here come unfurnished so I had to get myself a bed or at least a mattress 50 bucks later and Izzy Stradlin (from Guns n Roses) had sold me a lumpy queen mattress advertised over the Gumtree Website. Most disappointed I was to find that when we picked it up Izzy was a bald student in his 20s and indeed not a member of one of the most famous rock bands in the world. We managed to attach it to a mates roof rack and gingerly made our way back over the side of the road. Its the worst $50 I have ever spent!
The last month I have really been studying and getting through these small business modules, which along with work has made me rather dull. The weather has been terrible so huddling inside in the warm has been the only option. My hand is recovering well and I am almost back to normal functionality which is great. However my little finger has gone and my hand is slightly deformed so its highly likely that I will be taking legal action very soon. I am working at ANZ still which is all very stress free and easy, plan to be here till Aug. I am looking to stay in Australia for at least another 6 months to develop my marine stuff so I will need to get sponsorship from one source or another. Work has offered which is a nice gesture but thats not why I came out here so am going to go back to QLD in Aug to try and get a job diving with the focus on sponsorship.
The South African opportunities seem to be extremely hard to come by, and as my South African mate said called affirmative action and I must say that it is generally shit but that is the way it now works. I would still love to go at some point but at the moment its proving quite difficult to get into the place! They are happy to let you inject lots of cash into voluntary projects but they dont last more than a few weeks.
So Ive been to a Mind, Body, Soul exhibition at Melbourne exhibit centre which was interesting, far different from the Erotica one previous at Christmas. I got involved in the Gigglers whereby laughter is indeed the best medicine. A rather large lady held court on the stage and with her enormous lungs proceeded to engage us all in varying bouts of laughter. It was very strange to say the least I was waiting for the Mormons to crawl out from under the woodwork. Ive also been to a few Greens meetings as Ive a friend quite involved in that so thats been rather an eye-opener. Generally everyone is very consummate & professional but there were one or two who were on bail after violent demonstration with the summit held here earlier this year. Nice.
Last week was a sad one whereby a gunman shot 3 people right outside our building and killed one of them. He was a Hells-Angel (Bikey gangs huge problem over here just like US) and high on drugs been to a strip joint and a group of them at 6 in the morning were arguing his bird included who was a stripper. Theres a lot to be said for 24 drinking bars. The row spilled out of the bar and the gunman grabbed the girl by the hair as she was trying to escape into a taxi 2 passers-by ( a young Dutch backpacker & solicitor) came to her aid so the guy opened fire on everyone. We were holed up in our building for hours as police searched the streets looking for him. Many colleagues witnessed it. The guy was on the run for 2 days & hoped to seek shelter from the Hells-Angels (apparently they hide their own from the long arm of the law) but they turned him in due to the terrible publicity it attracted. He is now in custody. Hes a dead man walking as he defected from the Finks (another bikey gang) to go to the Angels so when he hits prison he will be killed at some point by both gangs inside.
On a lighter note I went to my first AFL footy match on Friday night Richmond versus Melbourne, the bottom two teams. The match goes in twenty minute intervals with half time and breaks in-between so often a match can take up to 3 hours. The only way to combat the cold is hit the bar, unfortunately we were in the members area where you cant drink at your seats or cheer. It was fun to watch but a shocking sport, no wonder its only Australian wide - their shorts are too small & tight and they sport curly perms and mullets. On the way back home at 11.30 I prevented a lady being mugged by 3 lads outside the train station which was a little un-nerving as she told me later that they had said they had knives no more than 18/19 years. Shocking.
I am beginning to miss the water and diving. Itchy feet are coming back so watch this space.
Ive an Italian friend coming over to Melbourne on the weekend who is based in Singapore at the moment so it will be fun to have someone to laugh with at the Aussie lack of style, and general uncouth behaviour. Ive told him to leave his gentlemans handbag at home.
Anyway miss you all and enjoy Wimbledon! Ive seen the weather forecast and the shocking storms you are having.
So I am sat in work and its July 4th so the markets are pretty quiet today. An attempt at a double- entry accounting assignment this morning has left me brain-dead. I cant get past the first few questions so have decided to write my blog instead. Its been of those weeks so far as nothing that I want to happen is happening quickly enough! Even Lindt white chocolate isnt helping.
So after a chat with my boss on Friday declining a sponsorship offer I have decided that I am wasting time pen-pushing and really need to leave as promptly as possible. Generally as soon as I make my mind up on the next goal I want to achieve I become extremely impatient that it doesnt happen immediately. I am at that point now. I used to think that scuba instructing increased my patience with people but fundamentally no it doesnt, I am very impatient a trait taken from old grumpy bum Papa Ling himself. So I have to work at least a two week period here to ensure that the role is covered, as soon as that expires I am on my way back to Brisbane.
There are numerous possibilities on the Whitsunday Islands, one as a marine biologist and another as a Diving Instructor. I guess as soon as I am back in Brisbane I will exchange cuff-links for rash vests & thermals and head up to the Whitsundays for interviews. I am getting tired & bored of living two different lives in finance and science and I hope that this is my last stint (ever!) within investment banking ops. Yeah Yeah heard it before you say. My creative juices dry up when I am couped inside an office.
Last night was spent as per normal Tuesday night Pub Trivia we managed to achieve our lowest score ever with the largest group we had ever had Too many cooks spoil the broth? syndrome perhaps. However I always come up trumps on the ole 80s music trivia which makes me want to reach for the leg warmers & dance to Human League & Hot House Flowers. Memories of racing home for the seven o clock edition of Thursday evening Top of the Pops and dancing around the living room.
Broke the news of imminent QlD to them..eyes lit up with the prospect of dicounted PADI courses & trips on a liveaboard.
On a positive note I cant wait to catch up with my mates up there, Laura (Canadian /Italian - chiropractor) has just split with her fella so shes struggling with being in Australia sans mates. Totally understand the missing your mates back home syndrome so will be great to spend some chick time together. Also Jen the marine biologist/photographer from LEI will be hopefully sharing her photography knowledge with me over a few cocktails on the Gold Coast. Also very important Top Gear is back with a new TV series on Monday night which is great, as many a Saturday night Ive forgone a night on the p@ss for a night in with Jeremy Clarkson.
Still slightly shocked with the arrest of the Brisbane Doctor in relation to the attempted bombings in London & Glasgow I do confess to feeling very cut-off from it all out here in Australia, and god forbid they would have absolutely no clue what to do here if something happened. I hope youre all being careful!
On that note I will love you and leave you as going to the bookshop to order some light reading on the Lords Liberation Army in Uganda. Lovely.
Völker des gutenmorgens - Willkommen zu einer neuen Woche.
Dad pleased that you are back in Europa safe & sound. How much longer do you anticipate your Nigerian visits? I get nervous when ex-pats get kidnapped but then trying to get money out of David Ling is no easy feat so I shouldnt be that worried should I !
My weekend wasnt nearly as interesting as oil workers under siege rather fortunately. Friday night was spent watching Wimbledon in the local sports bar with Donna Lancaster the female equivalent of Des Lynham. What that girl doesnt know about sport isnt worth knowing. It`s a rather onerous task trying to find out where she lacks knowledge, managing to engage whole groups of pub regulars with her sporting trivia. Often to the extent that she end`s up hosting debates over the finer attributes of European football.
However Louise after 3 beers & no dinner decided it was time to bail out so demanded a cab to take her home. Donna (6 ft tall with hollow legs) laughed at my pathetic drinking capacity but took pity on me and shared the ride home. I seem to have a strange obsession whereby as soon as I set foot inside a cab, driver willing we talk about politics many a (dangerous?) journey back has been spent chatting with Lebanese & Iraqi cabbies regards current climes. On the way back from hospital a few months ago one driver parked outside my house for half an hour & refused to leave until we finished - my palms were getting sweaty & I knew it was time to leave before I got myself into trouble. Perhaps time to nip this in the bud!
The weather was pretty awful over the weekend, I shouldnt complain as its fantastic for Melbourne, stopped me playing golf though! They are on stage 3a at the moment, where the overall level has increased to 32.5 % and away from the level 4 trigger of 29.3%. On a day trip to Ballarat on Saturday it was great to see that Lake Wendouree which I visited during the summer (see pics) is finally starting to look a little healthier!
Stopped to visit the cheesecake shop on the way back which was worth the visit to Ballarat by itself...and as Depeche Mode say `I just can`t get enough`. If they had these shops in every suburb it would be very dangerous indeed to a lady.
Not sure whether they would be enough water however at Lake Wendouree for the new species discovered over the weekend of half-squid, half-octopus specimen found off Keahole Point on the Big Island in Hawaii. http://starbulletin.com/2007/07/05/news/story03.html
Watched an interesting film on Saturday evening called Jesus Camp .A documentary about a Pentecostal summer camp for children (Its Modus Operandi) who spend their summers learning & practicing their prophetic gifts & indoctrination of taking back America for Christ!! . Hilarious but extremely concerning given that already 25% of Americas population are Evangelical Christians, many of whom hold important jobs within the White House.
There`s an assortment of three & four year olds tottering around with red sticky tape across their mouths the Pro-Life slogan adorned to it, clutching plastic foetus in their chubby hands. Alongside these were rappers chanting lyrics of `JC is in da house...who`s in the house? Jesus Christ is in da house`. Nice.
For me it was a simple re-iteration of the fruit-loops which inhabit the White House.
Interesting though when speaking to Mum last night she tells me that great-gran built a pentecostal church in Barry(south wales) & was an avid Evangelicalist. She spent her childhood amongst happy-clappers.... I do remember as a child visiting the tin-hut roofed church & being mesmerised by the tambourine wielding God`s Army. I blame the Murphy`s!
Nice to see Welshman Geraint Thomas made a great start to the Tour de France yesterday, hes lying 43rd overall go on my son!!
more pics to follow
So the weekend got off to a blinding start with Friday night spent in the pub with Donna & friends.....(is there a pattern developing here?). The AFC Asian Cup is on at the moment so many Aussies are avidly following the football hoping that somehow against all odds the Socceroos (aussie footy side) will do them proud and win the Cup. No chance not after the way they dismally lost 3 -1 to Iraq in Bangkok on Friday night. Both teams were on the floor more than they were playing, with an extra 5 minutes injury time. Suggested explanations to this included Iraq team full of amputees? / Australias coach is youth teams coach & they were just trying to cut costs?. Either way no getting around the fact that Australia were quite frankly pants.
They play Thailand tonight. I hope they have better luck than the aussie`s badly injured in the 8th stage of the Tour De France!
Went to Moonee Valley Horse races on Saturday with a friend of mine who had won fashions on the field at another race day earlier in the year. His prize being a corporate box package of dinner, drinks & lots of betting. Funnily enough sober betting always seems to yield unlucky choices, whilst drunken champagne bets always yield very good winners! By the end we had won back the 100 bucks on the superstar Jennings and then some.yay! We came away floating down the stairs to take some pictures before we left & staggered back home. Needless to say I passed out watching Doctor Who on Saturday evening classy lady eh.
Well then flight is booked back to Brisbane this Saturday 21st so spent remainder of weekend feeling sorry for myself with tremendous hangover & trying to squeeze everything in backpack. Borat & cheesecake eased my suffering in the evening. This is my last week at ANZ so trying to tie up all loose-ends down here I head back up North. Aunty Jen thanks for your email & you are right...you will have to get a grip on your boredom thresholds..... I think it`s a Ling trait unfortunately! . I like to think of it as curious?! But a worrying one all the same. Will I ever settle anywhere?!
After briefly stopping by Uncle Cols I will be heading up to the Whitsunday Islands next week for a few days - few potential job opportunities & a spot of diving. Although the water I fear is going to be bl@@dy freezing. It will be interesting to see how my wonky hand fares in the water. Another option I have is Port Douglas involving more diving & underwater photography which is an area which I am keen to develop. Theres a company up there which does all the photography & videography for Quicksilver so there will be plenty of talented people who can help me!! I guess its a case of, excuse the pun but sink or swim as to how well received my photography will be . but then again I never seem to do things by half measures!
Ive had more ups and downs this week than a hard-core rollercoaster ride! Ok so lets start from the top, left ANZ last Friday in search of waters deep & warm. Had the flu last week so feeling particularly lousy & in need of sleep but the thought of $$ dragged my sorry carcass from my bed into work. I had lots of things to sort out which didnt help my somber mood so was glad when Friday rolled around. My friends in Melbourne had organized a farewell dinner which became all too emotional after a few glasses of red and so I went to bed blotchy faced with a pit of anxiety in my stomach (which hasnt gone). My manager has offered me sponsorship with the bank if all else fails (thanks for the confidence vote!) which is a very kind offer! Armed with a gorgeous array of farewell goodies I departed with my tail between my legs and my uncertain future looming ahead of me!
Brisbane is far warmer I am pleased to say, so have spent the last week skipping around with my sunglasses on with the anticipation of summer in the air. Travelled up to the Whitsundays earlier in the week for a Marine Biol role which although offered to me does not potentially have scope for sponsorship I found out yesterday by email. Quite annoyed as the flights were an unnecessary expense as have plans for some new dive equipment. On top of that were the noisy 21 year old backpackers who didnt go to sleep all night and kept drinking under my balcony in the bars..Or am I getting too old? Either way didn`t help the bags under my eyes the next day.
Feeling rather despondent after that email & pondering my next step five minutes later a guy from Cairns rang offering me photography work with his company Scubapix. I liked him immediately very honest, straight to the point & with a sense of humour-VERY IMPORTANT when snot is hanging down the nose after diving. It seems sponsorship is extremely possible so have bitten the bullet and booked my flight to Cairns this morning. Sometimes you think you are heading down one path then whoosh something else comes along and pushes you in another direction. Story of my life at the moment.
To ease my despair I`ve been shopping and bought myself a 160gb hard-drive for my laptop....whatever happened to the Louise who used to get excited by reduced Bally bags & shoes in Malaysia? I am becoming a geek.
So this weekend was spent chilling out with Kirby ( from LEI) and Laura ( mate in brisbane) - plenty of drinks & gorgeous pad thai. Thank you to 21 year old Bruno Vella Calla with the piercing blue eyes - I am half your age son but thanks for the vote of confidence!
So Ive made it through my first week in Cairns! Hurrah-its been a tough one where my stress levels have been through the roof and more. Arrived in Cairns on Tuesday 31st July where I had booked myself into the newest backpackers called Gilligans- a hybrid mix of 18 year old p@ssheads and 67 year old alcoholic grannies. I was sharing a 4 bed dorm with, amongst others Patricia the latter a widower who had decided to go travelling much against the wishes of her children & grandchildren. I mad her cry twice which was nice, unintentional on my part but once when enquiring to her late husband and her best friend who had died whilst she was travelling. She was certainly a game old girl and liked nothing better than to down her sorrows in a bottle of chardonnay every evening which made her snoring worse than any man Ive ever met!
Along with the MTV-like pool parties the hostel hosted very few evenings immediately below our balcony ear-plugs became my saviour through the first few days. My new boss is an eccentric who I believe to be associated to the finks motorcycle gang (east coast) with friends in many subterranean places. He is an accomplished photographer who has worked with Ron & Valerie Taylor (Great White campaigners) and various other influential underwater photographers and shark specialists. Scubapix logo is indeed a scuba diver holding a camera with a shark swimming through his legs the walls of his shop are covered with photographs of tiger sharks and divers -my god am I in heaven?
However much in awe of him I am I am not being paid at the moment which is a little trite but I am learning that to train with such a person comes at a price until he thinks you are ready to take photographs of a professional standard. There were A4 flyers around the hostel offering $200 for the top prize in the local wet t-shirt competition its tempting! My work entails going out on the day boat with tourists and spending hours in the water trying to capture fab shots of them and fish, quite a difficult job to do it seems. My arms are constantly aching from swimming around with heavy camera housing & chasing after divers. I am using a Nikon D100 with housing & strobes so great for me to take shots. Its mentally & physically exhausting as not only are you trying to locate divers under water you are constantly thinking about the shots & settings on the camera. You are literally on your own in the water so it requires very safe & careful planning regards your dive profiles. Last week was a shock to the system and my body went into carbohydrate craving as my muscles were aching so much- luckily for me the lunch on board consists of crab- rich lasagne which has seen me piling my plate high.. This has to stop soon as my new wetsuit wont look as dashing as it should! I am covered in bruises from the cylinders & falling over during high winds on the boat and all my lovely long nails have all chipped off. Diving is not glamorous. As I was stepping onto the boat the other day from a dive a little girl said Look Mummy that girl has blood & snot hanging from her nose.
It was fate that I bumped into Cara (from Lady Elliot) the first night in a bar that had been holidaying with her boyfriend who had gone back to Thailand a few weeks ago. I have spent every waking minute with her and will miss her when she heads back to him next week. She stopped me getting the first plane back to Melbourne in the early stages and has packed my bag and made my sandwiches every day last week. We have laughed so much at each others misfortune that I am glad that the British sense of humour never fails.
I have now moved into Cairns Girl Hostel which is not full of militant lesbians much as I thought might have been the case. Its quiet and there are no pissed blokes to annoy the hell out of me which is very important in regards to work. Now that I have got through the first week I am now starting to look for shared accommodation which hopefully I will have nailed by next week. Its boiling here and when you are not in the water you realise how hot it is however I cant say goodbye to my long boots or cream mohair cardigan yet!
Ok so its been another eventful week in tropical North Queensland, slighty better than the first few weeks but another steep learning curve filled with unfriendly miserable bastard aussies & more cuts & bruises. Not sure why so miserable but it really really p@sses me off- I am done with rude people. No price for manners and maybe why I love the Japanese so much. Fantastic people, generally beautifully mannered & always attentive. The downside being is that a weak constitution has them throwing up almost as soon as the boat has left the harbour, terribly poor when it comes to gaining thier sea-legs. Someone pass the brown paper bag to Louise again.
It seems that the entire backpacker population have descended on Cairns over the last month, with the average age of all being 25. I am a little over the whole backpacking - 2 for 1 meals which taste like cardboard. I still have yet to be paid so living off sushi & breakfast cereal until cashflow eases up. Gave the wet t-shirt competition a miss as most of the girls here are under 21 so I stand no chance! haha very funny though - maybe grab- a -granny nights might be de rigeur.
Today thank god I am escaping from Alcatraz and moving into a sharehouse for the next 3-6 weeks with 2 german girls ( (from Hamburg) . I have been experiencing cabin fever going back to the hostel in the middle of the city so it will be good to enter suburbia again. I have a stream of blackadder jokes up my sleeve but somehow don`t think I will be telling them just yet. It will be nice to live in a normal house again with a pool & BBQ area so looking forward to some R & R on my days off. The days off I`ve had so far have been chasing up loose ends and sleeping- seem to be doing an awful lot of it, sea-air is great for anyone with insomnia.
There are lots of things I plan to do - visit Port Douglas again, Cape Trib & Mossman Gorge etc..there are more tours than you can shake a stick at...I would like to start sailing as this is probably one of the best places in the world to do it. I love admiring the various yahcts, boats, ships in Cairns harbour every morning - like artforms.
I have been a bit slack on taking photographs lately, probably as I have a camera in my hand for 4 days in a row but promise to step up the scenery shots. My digital compact camera & Ikelite underwater housing I bought at Christmas time is a regret I have now- after using an digital SLR underwater there`s no going back to compact again.
I had forgotten how expensive diving & its accessories are... One of the requirements of a photographer is the carrying of spare air (or pony bottle), this is usually strapped to your BC for easy access. However the pony slipped out during one of my dives and even doing a quick search & recovery I couldn`t & didn`t have time to retrieve it... Another 400 bucks later and my wallet lighter I departed the dive shop with another. Happy days eh!
take care all & lots of love
Look into the camera and smile I gesticulate with one hand whilst holding the camera housing in the other, your knuckles are going white- lessen your grip on the coral .thats it now bend your head in towards nemo snap! Great pose- you look like a hero as I give them the OK signal.
Next person please - yes now watch your fins as now we in the middle of the sand storm & I am having trouble seeing you ten inches away Slow down I signal and relax, try to look as if you want to be here god knows youve paid enough... and your eyes, I can see the whites -that`s not good. calm down".
A day in the life of an underwater photographer in Cairns is coming to the end for Louise. Theres going to be no sponsorship in this city for me Ive decided. I am relieved to leaving this city as its been the hardest six weeks of my travels to date from the moment I arrived here to the day I will leave I have struggled with Cairns. We have a hate-hate relationship- my sense of humour has been sorely tested on many occasion. For a holiday its a great place and in all honesty when I came here the year before last I enjoyed the backpacker life and the attractions in the area but older and wiser (maybe not?!) its not my cup of tea. As The Smiths once sang Heaven Knows Im Miserable Again became quite the fitting anthem during this period. The highlight of this inbreeding mess of a town is the beautiful libray where I spent many an hour dreaming of being somewhere else. No one laughes in this place.
There was a point which really sticks in my mind which epitomises it all - per chance I met through my boss a mate of his who not only owned half of Cairns but was a world record holder game fisherman & highly esteemed in the geology field ( I was out of the water due to a bruised ear drum). After chatting to him and discovering that he had over the last 20 years killed many a tiger shark for no good reason he was eager to put back into the environment what he had taken out. He proposed that maybe with a marine biologist on board his boat we could initiate a shark population study off the Coral Sea.
MY GOD this was it I thought, everything I had been waiting for and working towards was finally coming true, yay, at last a break for me, something positive. I spent days and nights in the library looking at the most recent papers written & research results, rang people up etc . Now this guy must have been in his fifties & not ageing well- massive beer gut & old enough to know better. I could have been his daughter. Anyway the story ends something like dirty old man thinks he can in-inadvertently try it on and really has no intention of initiating this project. I tell him in a very friendly way not on your life - what on earth makes you think youve got a hope in hell mate and leave feeling very very angry and upset. I cried I admit but they were tears of anger, frustration and my dreams going down the drain. I generally dont like men Ive decided- what the f@@k makes them think they have the right to anything they desire? (sorry la famille- can understand you wont like reading this & I do apologise for the swearing)
However in the face of adversity I have realised that I love diving and everything associated with it, bar the miserable bastards in the boat crew whom I had to work on most days. From herein-in purely as a recreational hobby only unless of course for scientific research or conversational purposes. I have learnt a great deal about underwater photography and cant wait to out my recent experiences to test in a more productive environment. Problem here - the equipment being a tad on the expensive side so will have to sing for my supper for a while longer until budget allows!
So not sure whether I told you but as my work had been fairly sporadic due to bad weather, ear problems etc I took another job to supplement the days I couldnt get in the water. Housekeeping at a rather salubrious hotel in Palm Cove (40 mins south of Cairns- luxury resort), Alica my flatmate was working there too. My god - its hideous work!! I now have great respect now for any housekeeping attendant I see in hotels etc, gotta be up there with top 100 worst jobs .the only plus side is being nosey at the guests.
Yesterday I badly burnt my (bad) hand at the resort whilst trying to remove something from the microwave. Feeling sorry for myself went to the internet cafe today to indulge in facebook etc. I am sick of backpacking and backpackers. Today someone has stolen my memory stick, I went to the toilet briefly and came out and it was gone..it had a lot of confidential info on it. Backpackers steal everything they can lay thier dirty theiving hands on. I am ready to leave.
To be completely truthful I am not entirely sure what my next move is watch this space.
Wie gehts? Why am I speaking German? Well as some of you may or may not know I am going to work in the Maldives in two weeks time ( Fesdu Island) to be precise as a Marine Bio / Dive Instructor. I am looking to learn German again which at school I was pretty good so heres my second chance to get it right!!! When did this happen I hear you say? Well after the eventful Cairns trip I was really in a quandary as to what my next move would be.
A few weeks prior to this Id had a really bad day on the water my recently broken hand was playing up & my camera was playing up etc, there were p@ssed aboriginals everywhere I looked and I thought my god how did it come to this?!! Thinking to myself I would love to go to the Maldives I started looking at the chances of realizing this low & behold a resort were looking for someone with my skill set to start in October. Now this is going to sound big-headed I know but I knew it was mine as soon as I had sent my resume off, I had a really good feeling about it. It was there for the taking perfect timing and I had already started planning my travels. So then I fly out on the 12th October with a few days stop-over in Singapore. I celebrate my 30th birthday there. You know those loners which you laugh at when you see them sat at the bar on their lonesome? Well I think thats going to be me!...with a cocktail umbrella behind my ear. Lovely.
After arriving back in Brisbane I toyed with the idea of casual work to earn some money as Cairns broke me financially photography is a fickle business sporadic work and poorly paid unless of course you are Herb Ritz or the late David Bailey. Being poor isnt fun, its like being a student again & not for the faint-hearted But thinking that I would miss the opportunity of travelling through the outback which I hadnt as yet done before I left , I choose the latter.
Wow I think that the outback is my favourite part of Australia, it epitomizes the character of the country. Thousands of hectares of bush land & scrub, no life, no civilization, no water and no cars for hours at a time! Such a huge contrast to the developed east coast and the daily grind of 9 -5.
I flew into Darwin last Friday which I regret not being able to spend more time there, beautiful city- bombed in the war so completely rebuilt so very modern. The airport was a hub of activity where their aviation laws are different and flights are not restricted to normal hours, people fly from midnight through to five in the morning. It was like flying into Heathrow, very strange for a small city. The heat & humidity hit you like a punch in the guts, its 35 degrees and humid as hell, not conducive as I found out for good running conditions. I went for a run early morning and it almost broke me, theres something to be said about acclimatization!
After an early morning 5 oclock start (we had many of these, I aged about ten years due to sleep deprivation) we began our travels to Katherine & Katherine Gorge, where we would embark on an arduous canoeing trip Louise being Louise talks to everyone and makes an effort with those who seem to be loners - so having decided to take the Japanese girl with little English under my wing I offer to share my canoe with her. Bad mistake Asians generally arent the most aquatic of people, having more finesse in land-based activities rather than on the water per say. I was knackered by the time the afternoon was over, doing the work of two people rather than one my comrades were gracefully paddling by sleekly manovering the paddle though the water whilst I was trying to correct every clumsy move my partner was making. Three times we almost ended up on the crocodile infested banks due to her taking picture, picture with a cigarette curled under her lip. Bloody Hell Rodney youre having a laugh! I became nostalgic of that memorable canoeing trip in France, The Vendee with Magnus, Wilf, Richy & Di and the Ling Family.
Katherine is an unusual place full of again (pattern developing here) p@ssed aboriginals laying on the ground hiding from the unbearable heat. We stopped off at the bottle shop and made our way to camp. Am I too old for camping? Were the words running around my mind - I like to think I am a gung-ho kinda of chick get out the leatherman, make a fire & boil some billy tea! But seriously am I? I like quirky hotels, and mini-bars & cocktails and moisturizer, I love London and all the accessories which go with it!
I managed to get through the night and another early morning saw us visit Daly Waters and the oldest pub in Australia. Mick Dundee come out come out wherever you are! - Its hard to believe that people live like this, 2 houses and a population of 15 people. Interesting looking children to say the least. The pub relies on the hordes of backpackers coming though to derive a living, and its like going back in time. After a quick game on the oldest pool table this side of the hemisphere we made our way, yes youve guessed it to the bottle shop on way to our next camp in Tennant Creek a cattle station.
Sleeping in SWAGS I aliken to sleeping in a big artic roll, where you roll yourself in sleeping bags & layers and zip yourself up neatly at the side. Once youre in pray you dont need the bathroom.
We were warned to keep our distance from the camp fire as if the winds pick up during the night its likely that they blow the fire in our direction. After a few beers we became a little care-free and camped pretty close to the fire, settling down we fell asleep pretty quickly..only to be woken up by hot embers cascading onto our swag. Needless to say the wind had picked up and it was a sight for sore ears to see six adults jumping up in their swags rather like a sack race and relocating to a safer area.
Fires seemed to feature quite prominently that day and I witnessed an event which probably has been the most mind-blowing event for me this year. Travelling along the road we could see billows of grey smoke traveling for miles & we had heard that bush fires were extremely common in such dry arid conditions. Wow - we stopped to get out and take photographs typical tourists eh! Literally 3 metres away these fires were demolishing the land - it was the most surreal experience as the sun was setting at the same time. It was what I imagined the end of the world to look like
We visited the Devils Marbles which was pretty amazing how on earth such formations exist puzzle me! (The Devils Marbles are 4 meters high and 13 to 33 wide. The Devils Marbles are massive granite boulders that have been formed over millions of years. The aborigines theory is that the Devils Marbles are Rainbow Serpent eggs).
Once back in Alice Springs we had rather a big night as we were finishing one tour and starting another Too many pitchers of Pure Blonde beer later and armed with ear plugs we passed out in our mixed dorm only to wake up at 5 o clock the next morning for our Uluru trip not so lucky for us our previous tour guide had got it wrong and had assured that that the next day would be easy and peaceful with no long 4 hour hikes through mountain ranges au contraire!
Sods law that the day Louise woke up with a hangover to rival that of an entire rugby team we were scheduled to walk up Kings Canyon in the backing heat. Wonderbar I thought, dehydrated to buggery, lack of sleep and aching from the mini-bus suspension cant wait to do that-highlight of the trip -not!. Anyway the views were astounding and by the time we stopped for our half way break my hangover was pretty much gone and I was feeling quite pleased that I had managed to negotiate the afternoon without any incidents . Until we decided to perch ourselves on the sloping granite floor which led into the lake - as I got up to leave my trainer slipped down the rock and in slow motion I fell into the water. Bugger I thought this wasnt part of the plan - and holding my camera above my head treaded water whilst my comrades rolled around on the floor laughing. At least I got to cool off on the hike back to the minibus!!!
Maybe I am becoming too complacent with my travels but Uluru (Ayers Rock), I felt that I had already seen it many times before! Sunset and Sunrise where good, but with millions of tourists all trying to jostle with the prime position to capture a shot it was all too commercial!
That said the outback is probably one of the best places in the world that Ive been too its great & its hard to imagine that 80% of all Aussies have never visited so maybe their ad campaign should be Where the bloody hell are you?!.
So I cheated with the photo`s this time folks - I didnt have my camera with me so instead they come courteousy of http://www.picturesofplaces.com/Asia/singapore.html.
Singapore – A little bit of trivia for you courteousy of Wikipedia:
The name Singapura is derived from the Malay words singa (lion) and pura (city), which in turn is from the Sanskrit singa सिंह siṃya and पुर புர pura. According to the Malay Annals, this name was given by a 14th century Sumatran Malay prince named Sang Nila Utama, who, landing on the island after a thunderstorm, spotted an auspicious beast on the shore that his chief minister identified as a lion (Asiatic Lion).  Recent studies of Singapore indicate that lions have never lived there, and the beast seen by Sang Nila Utama was likely a tiger.
It’s an island nation located at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula. It lies 137 kilometers (85 miles) north of the Equator, south of the Malaysian state of Johor and north of Indonesia`s Riau Islands. At 704.0 km² (272 square miles), it is one of the few remaining city-states in the world and the smallest country in Southeast Asia.
When the main island was colonized by the British East India Company in 1819, it contained a fishing village sparsely populated by indigenous Malays and Orang Lauts at the mouth of the Singapore River. The British used the position as a strategic trading outpost along the spice route. It became one of the most important commercial and military centres of the British Empire and the site, in 1942, of what Winston Churchill called "Britain`s biggest defeat" at the hands of the Japanese. Occupied by the Japanese Empire during World War II, it reverted to British rule in 1945 and was later part of the merger which established Malaysia in 1963. Less than two years later it left the federation and became an independent republic on 9 August 1965.
I have to say I would fly all the time with Singapore Air if I had the chance, even in cattle class it’s the most enjoyable a flight can be! Leaving Australia was a sad task in hand, I made some really really great mates over the last year and saying goodbye I was gutted. The relationships you form when you are away from home are pretty intense as those people become your friends & family from back home. It was inconceivable to think that I potentially not see them for some time so I just said ‘see you soon’ and legged it beforeI had chance to cry. However on the plane I was totally overwhelmed & needed a constant supply of red wine to knock me out in order to sleep. Luckily for me I had three seats to myself so I laid out and fell into a semi-tipsy sleep which when I woke up had a mouth consisting of an old trainer.
Upon arrival at the airport I was met by a stream of paparazzi with flashing camera’s ‘you shouldn’t have gone to so much trouble’ I bellow to find that they were there to greet the para-olympic team arriving back to Singapore.
My hostel was situated in the Malay area & situated right next to the Sultan Mosque, which the next morning when out for a morning run I had to manover 700 muslims going to pray. Amazing to witness such an event & the social structure around which it’s formed, it was like the film ‘East is East’. A white girl going running was much to their amusement & no matter how conservatively dressed one could be for a run I still felt rather uneasy but that’s the way it is.I felt like Barbara Windsor.
I tried to make the most of my two days there and crammed in as much as I could – sightseeing around the various area’s : China Town, Little India, The Colonial Area, The Financial District, Raffles Hotel etc. I took an open –top bus tour around the island but didn’t manage to make it to the Island Sentosa. Next time I promise. I thought it only proper to help myself to a proper ‘ruby murray’ in Little India so the bus tour dropped me off where I went to eat then picked me back up an hour later. Again I walk into the curry house and I think oh bugger maybe you shouldn’t be here as they stop eating and look in my direction but the lure of food is too much! No idea what I ate but it was lovely - compliments to the chef.
I ran past Raffles Hotel twice but didn’t manage to make it inside for a Singpore Sling, I was on a budget and couldn’t justify their prices….I just pressed my sweaty face against the windows instead and looked in. The Night Safari was great where I saw Rhino’s & White Tigers in close proximity.
I love the fact that so many young Singaporians are married, it seems to be de rigeur. It’s nice to see and my flight to Male consisted of many honeymooner’s. Singapore a great place to be, such diversity in harmony. Could it be zero tolerance & the death penalty works?
More Maldives news to follow in next entry.
stories to follow.
The Maldives- all that is beautiful, exotic, serene, graceful and the list goes on…….Welcome to the world of ‘W’. At the moment as I write this it’s blowing a gale outside as we catch the tail-end of a storm from the Bay of Bengal in India. Pretty miserable for all those honeymooners & holidaymakers here for the Maldivian climate and ambience… I feel sorry for the Korean couple who have come here to get married – all their plans gone to pot as we battle torrential rain and strong winds!
So it’s been ten days since I have arrived from Singapore and wowsers what an unusual place Male is... Lol it took an hour and a half to get through customs! I guess after the recent Male bombing they were being mighty vigilant and the sterner they looked the harder it was not to laugh. Whilst in the queue observing my fellow passengers I notice that many of the honeymooners were wearing his ‘n’ hers outfits identical even to the shoes. Is this passé now? I make a mental note to ensure that when I meet my husband to be we will too endeavour to look like Howard & Hilda. Thank God I didn’t pack that bottle of Bushmills whiskey I say to myself as I pass by the sign detailing punishment of importing alcohol in.
Having been met from the airport by a chap from the visa agency smoking a fag in the arrivals lounge I knew I had left the civilisation of smoke- free airports. After a ride by water-taxi to the other side of the island I checked into ‘Relax Inn’ Hotel where I was to stay the night. Basil Fawlty would have been proud- I was expecting to see Manuel to running around shouting ‘ci ci ‘. After a night’s sleep everything seemed better in the morning and as I went for an early morning run took in the sights and beach front of Male……
Happy xmas and a fab new Year Year guys - hope this finds you all well.
Let’s begin where I left off last time, still on Fesdu Island and on my way back to the UK for a three week break. Well I am back in the Indian Ocean again- a little less tanned, a little more broke & rounder??? (Yes thanks dad) and my alcohol units have increased fifty fold. Was great to leave the island and return back to normality ( as well as that can be for the Ling Family aka `The Griswalds" ), great to be able to go out for coffee, buy a newspaper, catch public transport ( tube as opposed to bus) & mingle with civilization again!
Qatar Airways would not be my first choice of aircraft carriers.. unless you are a single white female looking for an Indian suitor to sweep you off your feet and take you back to Mumbai to share a house with fifty other relatives and twenty goats. Was pleased to have arrived in London where it was cold and raining and I was wearing flip-flops and a summer top.
Mother Griswald greeted me wearing flashing plastic spectacles - I was surprised that she had not been accosted by security. After a champagne fuelled reunion we drove back to Cardiff the next day with one of my mates in tow and here I settled back into life back home. It`s weird how easy it is to fall back into everything, even if you`ve not seen people for a year & a half it`s like you`ve never been apart. We had Christmas dinner early at our house on the Saturday and all the family came up, sat there looking at faces I hadn’t seen in a long while thinking that it was only yesterday that I said goodbye.
The kids have grown up and are no longer babies; Luke Skywalker is Sam Ling`s hero so trying to get him to have his hair cut is no easy mission. Maddie Ling is quite the princess and already has that air of exclusivity, I wasn’t allowed to play with her and she wanted me to leave her house on a few occasions....nice - but she will go far in life! All pink and pretty looking like a little doll but underneath made of nails and very good at headlocks directed at her big brother.
It took about a week to get over the jet-lag and the darkness of early -morning starts, here in the Maldives the sun is out & bright at 06.30 so my melatonin levels are generally well topped up! Visited my old man in the Hague for a few days, great city with fantastic architecture and caught up with a friend whom I travelled through the Australian outback with in Utrecht. Glad I had my drinking hat on in Holland as dad`s ex-pat mates were big drinkers and Friday night produced a spectacular hangover on Sat morning which when at Schipol airport near Christmas I could have done without!...unlike Dad who had a hair of the dog and minced through the KLM lounge with a glass of bubbly in one hand and a fistful of cheese in the other. I passed and fell asleep until I woke up in Heathrow. How does that work then? Half his age and twice the hangover!The remainder of my stay back home went really quickly and was spent doing the usual things like catching up with family & friends, bouncing off the walls to old skool tunes in sweaty clubs and rescuing old ladies who fall down Marks & Spencer’s escalators. This always happens next to me –whether it be puking, fainting or passing out. Nice. Oh and also sampling the exquisitive culinary delights of masterchef supreme Nicky Ling – goujons de jour are his signature dish…blimey bet Jamie Oliver’s crapping himself.
Oh and I did a really stupid thing - having just woken up from the all through the night flight to Male put my mp3 player in the back pocket of my jeans. Whilst waiting to clear customs I decided to go for a quick wee pulling my jeans down my mp3 player fell down the toilet!! gutted -but soo tired just stood there watching it. Its buggered.
BUT I love London, ohh I miss it and 2008 is the year I come back ! I hope to travel to India and Africa at some point and I guess that the Maldives being so near to India I may have to stop on the way back!
Have a great New Years Peeps and I hope all your wishes come true! See you in 2008
Happy New Year 2008 – Hope it goes as well as its started! So now I get to sit down and write my blog as the last few weeks have been absolutely manic. After my well earned rest back in the UK the festive period here has been running at 90% occupancy so we have been working our little socks off. Seems that these days everyone jets off to warmer climes for Christmas & New Year trying to avoid the winter blues? We’ve had famous DJ’s, underwear designers, politicians, TV producers & billionaires staying with us at Fesdu. The dive school has been running at full capacity so the boat has been very busy and Louise has been developing gills & scales. It’s only now as we are getting quieter that I am having a few days off. New Years Eve was fantastic as some one of my divers were the cabaret for the evening.
DJ Rasmus Faber (Swedish) / Thomas Eby (drums / bongo’s) & Melo (vocals) were bought over to play on the island, they were great and I could have almost have been in Ibiza lol! Our resident nightclub ’15 below’ hosted the after hours party and amongst fireworks, wigs & party hats, champagne, chocolate marshmallow fountains & fondue we partied till my legs were sore then carried myself off to bed. Unlucky for me I had drawn the short straw (literally) the previous night and I was the one designated to dive the next day much to the amusements of the others knocking back shots. Yes we all asked ‘who on earth is mad enough to want to dive New Years Day at 9am and more importantly who took the booking?’
Luckily for me they came to their senses and cancelled – I went back to bed for a few hours. You could have heard a pin drop on the resort for the rest of the day. So my new year’s resolution didn’t involve abstinence of alcohol as I continued to party with the Swedes & burning the candle at both ends until they left a few days ago. I should have remembered after years with Magnus that they like to drink - detox is in order I think…. The gods must have been looking down on me as a day later a group of us went down with sickness & diarrhoea….lovely. Reckon that would be a best seller in Boots.
So Louise what are your new year’s resolutions? To get fit again, to develop my photography, to get into shark infested water and to get back to the UK by Autumn - Christmas back in Wales me thinks. There are a few interesting things on the agenda for the summer but I need 100 % confirmation before I divulge them to you guys but watch this space. Hope you’re all well and looking forward to what the New Year Brings bar the credit card bills & biting cold weather!
South Ari Atoll Ahoy there mate sunburnt & shattered I am back on terra firma once more after a lovely 3 day trip on our luxury 23m yacht ‘Escape’ to the South Atoll with the General Manager & his family. What a beauty our vessel is - pure luxury and a pleasure to be onboard. Nothing beats cruising at 15 knots with the sails in full glory & the elements working their magic on your soul. With binoculars in one hand searching for whale sharks in the other life can’t get much better than this…until I see the staff quarters and see that I am supposed to be sharing with 4 blokes in the space which you could not even swing a cat in…with no AC. So I sleep outside under the stars and wrapped up in a blanket which is perfect for the night wind and I only wake up to the sunrise mosque calling.
I love being at sea and often wonder why I was never a fisherman – all else in the world doesn’t seem to matter when you are in the middle of the ocean, the effects on the soul are dramatic. I was there to be marine biologist, dive guide, hostess, drinking companion and female company for the General Manger’s wife..
So we sailed from Fesdu down to the South Ari Atoll (Alifu Dhaalu). Ari Atoll is divided into North Ari (where I live) and South Ari. There are a total of 70 islands in Ari and many are sand banks which get swept away whilst others continously form. The main occupation of the islanders is fishing with a strong lean towards shark fishing, which unfortunately has seen the demise of many species in the Maldives. They use the livers to coat the timbers of their boats.
After five hours of sailing we moored for the first night opposite MandhooIsland in the Thundufushi Region of South Ari. It’s been inhabited for years and Buddhist relics have been found on the island. We visited the island which is always good fun as you get a real insight into how the islanders really live, I can imagine for them it’s another white man interfering with their existence. Populations of these islands generally doesn’t exceed 1000 people. Some things never change and at one end of the island was a tired looking football pitch complete with fencing and spot-lights. Surreal as the sun was setting on the Indian Ocean five- a -side footy is being played on the pitch with the usual shouting & tacking of a game and t-shirts being cast aside near the goal posts etc.
After a late night fishing session on the yacht and drinking Black Bush whiskey with the GM’s father (Irish and complete sea-salt) I slept on the sofa inside the dining area which was actually very comfy! Up at six thirty to a wonderful sunrise wow what a way to wake up we then continued the next morning to our first dive site Angaga Thila near AngagaIsland in the Rangali Region taking in the island housing Hilton Maldives.
It was over bbqing the GM’s steak on an island the same day that the chef casually told me that he was madly in love with me… and that he had been since the first time he saw me… Bugger me you’re clearly the mad one I thought silently as I tried to think of what my next sentence would be. ‘Aren’t these ants huge’ were the words which came out of my mouth as I tried to steer the conversation on to the annoying ones which were crawling up my legs and biting my ankles. “ Louise you stupid girl listen to what I am saying to you …and there you are talking about bloody ants. So what do you think to that?” What could I say? That he’s barking insane? I hardly know the guy and here he is asking me if I feel the same way whilst the GM sits within earshot and his steak gets cremated. ‘Errgh, hmm, ergh well I am flattered by such a strong statement but I don’t know you and well I have a boyfriend …but happy to be your friend.not…”
Long story short I have been trying to give him a wide berth but somehow he has managed to get my mobile number and now is texting me. Am now starting to get pissed off with it as it’s a lot of unnecessary grief. So now I have my own island stalker. Poor sod it’s horrible when you become infatuated with someone, we’ve all been there and it’s no fun one-sided love. BUT as funny as it is I am going to have sort it out as being stalked wasn’t on my Christmas wish list.
Moving on then to the rest of the journey we visited the local island of Dhangethi where the banyan tree in the middle can be seen from afar - some say it’s over 200 years old. Here we moored up again for the second night so we could dive Kudarah Thila a marine protected area early the next morning. Night two wasn’t so comfy as the sea was a litte more bumpy and I fell off the sofa once or twice- life at sea eh! My lack of sleep was made up by the fantastic dive site the next morning and after breakfast on our way back home we decided to give the whale sharks one more shot.
Armed with mask, fins & snorkel at the ready half hour later after intently watching the water for a large black mass one of the boat crew spotted one swimming along the reef. “Jump, Jump Now as we are going to miss him!” so over the ropes we jumped 10 metres off the side of the yacht into the water and swam towards this magnificant creature. They travel fast & something I didn’t anticipate so my little legs were pumping as fast as they could trying to keep up with it. I did manage to get some shots but the quality isn’t very good, however at least you can see the spots!
Amazing experience and a great start to 2008….which could have turned nasty yesterday as (don’t laugh) I was chased by stingrays on a dive yesterday morning…thinking Steve Irwin here guys as two appeared from nowhere and were directly below us with their tails raised ready to strike. Not a good sign and as fast as we were trying to swim away from them they were following. In all my years of diving it’s something I’ve never seen before as they just came from the blue and started harassing us – scary as it could have been very dangerous. Luckily for the young lad diving with me he had no idea what they were so as they were chasing him he remained calm but I had to push & pull him out of the way to avoid them. However the other diver’s eyes knew exactly what was happening and between us we managed to swim up and away with our cylinders facing outwards and out of harms reach. My heart has never beaten so fast! I hope that this isn’t a sign of what’s to come this year!
167 gym sessions, 65 mosquito bites, 37 hangovers, 15 coral cuts, 5 coldsores & 3 ear infections later Louise is has left the Maldives.
How quickly the months have passed since I first landed in Male back in Oct 07. After a quick break back to the UK the end of November this will be the first time again that I set foot out of the Asia-Pacific region back into the realms of the Atlantic, well for a short time anyhow.
The diving has been out of this world, and I know I am going to be hard pushed to find anywhere in the world where the diversity and abundance of fish & coral are as plentiful as in the Indian Ocean. As a marine biologist I have been spoilt here and indeed a reality check will be in-store wherever I don my wetsuit next! Not sure where I am going to find white-tips, black-tips, grey reefs, lemon’s, grey nurse sharks, Napoleon wrasse, huge tuna’s and jackfish, manta, eagle & sting rays, barracuda’s, remora’s, batfish the size of dinner plates, and eels the body diameter of that to rival a tree trunk.
It’s taken me time to adjust to the Maldivian culture where the people are in my humble opinion generally really difficult to work with! Those who’ve worked overseas are more accustomed to discipline but the locals whom 99% of the work force constitute are hard pushed to do anything. They lack the motivation to do anything at all, and rather like me when with a hangover they would rather be lazing in the shade than getting down to the daily grind!
So I left the sunny isles three weeks ago and via Dubai to see a mate where I got searched ( could it be my cleavage hugging top which pissed the conservative young filly`s off – hmm that was yes.London to briefly see my family for one night and the states where I am for the time being I am ready to go to Fiji for the summer / their winter!
Lucky girl I am as I willbe working for a company for the next few months leading some shark study courses....finally coming true.
Feels like I spent the last two years of travel building up to this - my dreams seem to consist of sharks, water and me. Hope there are no omens to be read from this!
almost didn`t make it due to pulling my upper back when lifting a cylinder a few weeks ago - I was bed bound for a week, drugged up on muscle relaxants and needed an MRI from Male hospital. Happy days but fingers crossed -hoping all will be ok next week. As long as the sharks do not move fast she says......
Am currently in NYC as we speak - I love this place, has to be one of my favourite places in the world, from what I have seen so far. It`s been the hottest for 14 years, and our hostel was feeling it under the heat. Accommodation is top dollar here, so my mate unwittingly under STA recommendations booked us into the YMCA. Shocking and just as well we were able to laugh, as two people could not move at the same time in the room - planning was needed to `work` the room, in addition to the plastic covers they put on the beds. Funny how the hostel was only full of naive Europeans, I don`t think much emphasis is placed on the hostel system here - hence the prison cells style rooms. But nothing that a dose of `Mr. Big` from the new Sex in the City film couldn`t cure, along with a few ice cold Peroni`s that lived in our fridge. Thank god for small saviours.
Well thats hello in Fijian! So I`ve been here since mid -June and what a cool country this is. The people are just about the nicest I`ve ever met, extremely hospitable, will welcome you into their home at a drop of a hat, and will give you the coats off their back when it rains...which is often - a lot , every day, talking monsoon like rains. Welcome to the rainy season & now I know why the country is so lush and green. Wales you have nothing on Fiji for annual rainfall - raincoats, hiking boots & DEET a definite must.
So now I have a few days to write my blog and post some photo`s. This is a 3rd world country but with luxurious ex-pat condo`s scattered amongst the dense vegetation. The Fijians live in villages along the roadside, ranging from 100-400 people depending on the size. Each one has a church of some denomination- they are fairly religious where Sunday is church & family day. I had a pleasure of being invited to a church service, talk about `happy clappers` - I came out with a big smile on my face, they were singing & dancing in the aisles. Isn`t that what faith should be?!
I had the pleasure of being invited on a `home stay` to one of the local villages, wow what an experience. They do not have electricity so unless you are wealthy to own a generator its cold showers, no TV or lights for the best part. Kerosene lanterns are the preferred methods for night-time brightness, coupled with bowls of `kava` ( the local `weed` ground down and mixed with water) known for it`s intoxicating effects makes for a mellow night at one of the homes.
They love their food, the Fijians- both men and women are tall, big boned with great bone structures. Rugby-players dream. You will never go hungry with these guys around, they have a carb rich diet so it`s bread, flour-based products, rice, dough nuts, suet and curry all day long. They are no skinny-ninnies in Fiji!
The shark diving has been amazing – bulls, lemon`s, reef sharks and giant groupers on every dive. Awesome. You cant imagine! See the pictures and decide for yourself!
So its without `futher a do` I make my comeback back to blogging again after an intense 8 months of MBA life. The best analogy I can give is that it`s like what I imagine having a baby is like `you get no sleep a year and it requires 24/7 attention` ...but I am not complaining at all as this has been one of the most amazing experiences of my life.
True to form and the old cliche ` I wish I had done it earlier` sounds familiar when I think back to when we embarked as naive students last September.Reverting to type means that as students again we don`t generally see mornings unless we have class, and even then we probably didnt go to bed till 3am. Waking up at 3pm is seen as kinda fashionable now, as is drinking red bull... unhealthy amounts too.
Fast forward to May 2009 and it`s interesting to see how we have adapted to our MBA environment: firstly in dealing with impossible deadlines we have taken on four methods 1) numbing the nerves through some form of alchohol 2) laughing out loud at the prospect of someone else being in a worse situation than you - I know, yes its mean but we have all done it, and yes it makes you feel a whole lot better knowing that someone else is suffering more than you! 3) going out dancing and rolling in at 5am and finalWly 4) developing such a black sense of humour that nothing is really serious anymore.
Financially what we were thinking of changing our professions to students in a state as expensive as Dubai! Lol the UAE has seven star hotels, the most expensive wine lists you will ever see, malls bigger than small countries..... we have resorted to pressing our faces up to the glass of these places so at least we can indirectly experience how the employed live!
However the nightlife is completely worth it as, not kidding I`ve been to some of the best clubs ever - you have to pinch yourself that youre not day dreaming as you dance on gold floors, saunter through the lobby of an amazing hotel as you rock up to the club, and witness the biggest bottles of vodka ever made. Close your eyes on one of the roof-top bars with chilled out Balearic beats floating out and you could be mistaken for thinking you were in Ibiza or Miami.
All that dancing aside still doesnt make you immune from the infamous `Dubai Stone` where if your`e not careful too many Friday brunches, chicken shawarma`s, beer and very edible sweets see you packing on the pounds until one day on the beach you realise how very fat you & your friends have become! Maybe it`s time for the western ladies to start wearing the abaya to hide the flab, where for the gents the dish-dash hides many an imperfection.
So what have I learnt from being an MBA student? Well firstly and most importantly don`t take yourself too seriously -there`s always another 20 people are who just as good or even better than you -showing humility takes you further. Secondly break down all your stereotypes and inhibitions as quickly as possible, because if you don`t you wont learn from yourself & your peers. Thirdly take everything with a pinch of salt initially until you have good evidence to base your decisions on, and finally laugh, laugh, laugh and have fun as much as possible. It will be those memories that you hold onto such as random 80`s themed baradi balcony parties & all the times you rode in the party bus into town after three exams in a week & a heap of coursework.
It pushes your limits and opens up your mind in ways you never thought possible, sleepness nights, floods of tears, computer crashes and endless powerpoint presentations created at 4 in the morning..... would I change it? Nah I love it!