Friday, October 28, 2005

London


London
Originally uploaded by scottydadog.
Not updated the blog for ages - been too busy :-( Started back at Uni at the end of October so don't have much time to go anywhere - but I did manage to find time for an overnight stay in London before I started!



Flew in via Stanstead then took the Express to Liverpool St. Bought a day pass for the underground and managed to navigate my way around using just the Tube map. Saw the main attractions - Buck House, Hyde Park, London Tower, Tower Bridge, Law Courts, V&A Museum, British Museum etc etc. Weather was very pleasant and bright and I was amazed at how easy it was to get around.



Most remarkable thing from the trip was seeing a couple of live bands at The Social on Little Portland St. The second band constantly swapped instruments between themselves (talented bunch eh?) but the first guy managed to come up with a great sound akin to Squarepusher using...wait for it....a pair of Nintendo Gameboys! I'm glad I saw it for myself else I'd never have believed it!

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

On the return...


Well I know I've not updated the blog for a while - that's cos the blues have kicked in after arriving back home again :(

Travelled from Airlie back down to Sydney and met up with an old friend and a few new friends I'd made while in Oz. Didn't actually do anymore sightseeing as such but got to know Sydney a bit more - and I still think it's a wonderful city, the kind of place that would be nice to live in for a while. Revisited Cessnock in the Hunter Valley which is another great place - nice to retire to I guess though not as happening as Sydney!. Went shopping to a few of the malls around Sydney as I'd managed to accumulate enough extra "stuff" to warrant purchasing more luggage :-)

I guess it really was time to chill out and reflect on what had happened for the previous few weeks and prepare myself for the 21 hour return journey to the UK - always the best part of any trip. Needless to say I flew into some nice sunny weather back home - which lasted a few days before the rain started.... All i need to do now is sort out all the photos, print out the best ones and get a couple blown up to A1 size. Oh yeah - and work out how much this whole trip has cost me to! I guess it doesn't matter how much it cost really - it was definately worth it for the experiences and I can't wait to set off again!

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Airlie Beach


Airlie Beach
Originally uploaded by scottydadog.
I'm afraid I need to retract what I said in an earlier post about Oz beaches being so good. It's certainly true of the beaches around Sydney and the Central Coast...but someone was having a laugh when they named Airlie Beach! It does have an inshore lagoon area with some sand but I think it should be renamed Airlie No-Beach in order to comply with trade descriptions...

The major redeeming feature is the fact it *is* the gateway to the Whitsunday Islands. Daytrips abound to the various islands in the group, many of which have resorts developed on them. I decided to visit a few, ranging from the very good (Daydream Island; great meals and hot spas!) to merely good (Hamilton Island; very dated architecture but the most fun place to hire a golf buggy :-D). The highlight of course would be returning to Whitehaven Beach on a beautiful sunny day for a swim, an Oz BBQ and a game of frisbee on that amazing white sand - if only every day was like that!

Further out from the Whitsunday Islands lies the Great Barrier Reef itself. Floating pontoons are moored next to coral reefs, reached by high speed catamarans in about 2hrs from Airlie Beach. From these pontoons you can snorkel in (fairly) unspoiled reef amongst a myriad of colourful tropical fish. In addition glass-bottomed boats and semi-submersibles staffed by marine biologists give excellent insights into the reef and the ecosystems. This was where I decided to try my first scuba dive - and it was phenomenal! Seeing the reef, clams and fish so close, and not having to worry about breathing, was amazing and is recommended to everyone. The dive itself was about 40mins and after this time I felt I was quite ready to return to dry land, where I admit I felt a bit disoriented for a while, but the experience was certainly worth it.

Next will be a return to Sydney before flying home again - bah! :-(

Friday, July 08, 2005

Sailing the Whitsunday Islands

Arr shipmates, thar be booty for tha takin round thar islands, arr! Took a tall ship cruise around the fabulous Whitsunday Islands, setting out from Airlie Beach. Great fun was had by all pretending to be pirates for the 3 day / 2 night onboard trip. The crew soon got fed up with our pirate talk no doubt, and I think they were also fed up with our excessive alcohol consumption from the "bar", such as it was (a locked esky!). Not that *I* was drinking to excess of course - but the large collection of Irish backpackers certainly did, so I felt obliged to prove the staying power of the Scots :-).

The Whitsundays themselves are breathtaking, and the heritage-listed sailing ship we were on was undoubtedly the best way to see them. The first day saw everyone gripping on for dear life as the ship rolled from side to side and waves washed over the decks. Snorkelling on the first day was phenomenal - hitting the water from the boat as opposed to off a beach means you see the reef unspoiled and so much closer. The food onboard was excellent and plentiful, the drink flowed well (amongst the Irish!) and we saw the most amazing sunset over the islands. The view of the night sky stars was unsurpassed, a clear night with no light pollution for miles around.

Day two looked promising at daybreak (a well-positioned porthole above my bunk ensured I was always first awake) but by the time breakfast was finished the rain had set in for the day. We made for Whitsunday Island and arrived at Hill Inlet in a haze of drizzle. The inlet overlooks the famous Whitehaven Beach, which was awesome to see and run along, even in the rain. It's certainly worth a return visit in better weather!

Day three saw the weather break for the better and we trekked across from Dugong Beach to Sawmill Beach, splashed in the Coral Sea and soaked up some rays. After another fab lunch we set the 3 sails and blasted back to the mainland with yours truly at the helm for a while - and yes, we *did* make it back ashore safely!

I'll be relaxing around Airlie (which doesn't have a beach really) and the Whitsundays for about another week before heading down to Hervey Bay and Fraser Island.....

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Cassowary, an Oz icon


Cassowary, an Oz icon
Originally uploaded by scottydadog.
A cassowary is a very large flightless bird found only in a small section of North Queensland. A protected species with an estimated 1500 left in the wild, it contributes to maintaining the rainforest but eating fruit from trees and later excreting the seeds ready for germination. This is the dispersal method nature uses to ensure certain species of plants and trees continue to survive hence if the cassowary becomes extinct then important parts of the rainforest ecological system will begin to fail too...

The cassowary itself sort of resembles an overgrown bush turkey and stands an impressive 1.8 metres high. I managed to see this fine specimen here up close and *very* personal indeed....Whilst heading to the beach and Cape Trib we developed a keen interest in each other. In the spirit of friendship to all God's creatures I was prepared to give it a clap, jump on it's back and shout "Giddy Up" in a Bernie Clifton sort of way, however a warning shout that they bite hard from a local stopped me continuing. Realising I was now well within biting range I thought I'd do well to leg it, only to be informed that turning my back on it was also unwise. Wheeling back round to face it's impressively long reaching neck and sharp beak, I was next advised not to make sudden movements, i.e. running. My slow backpeddaling was no doubt enjoyed by both the locals and the cassowary alike, leaving me a mite unsure if I had just been punk'd, Oz style.....but at least I survived to head off to Airlie Beach and the Whitsunday coast! :-D

Cairns 2


Cairns 2
Originally uploaded by scottydadog.
What a scorcher of a day! After the previous days being very warm but overcast, today was very *very* warm and filled with dazzling sunshine! Cairns unfortunately doesn't really have any beach to speak of, only mudflats which may attract crocodiles according to the very occasional warning signs. Instead there is an inshore lagoon area constructed which has a sandy beach slope into a large pool and loads of well-kept grass all around for lazing about on. So of course I felt obliged to do what any self-respecting Brit abroad would do - getting myself sunburned to a cute shade of bright pink......and thats after a token application of the factor 30 too!

Cape Tribulation


Cape Tribulation
Originally uploaded by scottydadog.
Took a day trip away from Cairns and headed up north to Cape Tribulation, which is a couple of hours drive away. It takes a bit of getting used to for me but Aussies think nothing of a 2 hour drive to get to the beach. I guess if Ayr or Portabello beaches were a bit nicer and the weather in Scotland a bit warmer then perhaps we wouldn't mind driving for hours to reach a beautifully secluded, unspoilt and fairly deserted expanse of clear white sand and gorgeous clear blue sea. Instead we get amusement arcades, fairground rides and masses of pink lobsters in Speedos packed beneath stone promenades...

In addition we went crocodile hunting along the Daintree River (saw 2 adults about 5 metres in size and a couple of smaller ones about 3 years old) but I let them go after catching them Steve Irwin style ;-).

Next we visited Mosman Gorge with a great waterfall and a cool swingbridge going across a section of the falls, very Indiana Jones!

Green Island


Green Island
Originally uploaded by scottydadog.
Took a trip out to the Gt Barrier Reef - a National Park called Green Island. Photo should show the cat used for the 45 min journey out to the Coral Sea island which was a great place to try snorkelling for the first time.

Snorkelling was great - I had been swimming out for ages before I suddenly noticed a few fish, then realised they were all around me! It was such a great feeling to understand how the ocean was teaming with life and yet was still so shallow. Most of the coral around the island appeared to be dead but there were a few really colourful growths that the even more colourful fish would hide inside. Sights like this make the plane journey worthwhile!

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Cairns


Cairns
Originally uploaded by scottydadog.
Cairns at first seems to be the number one Oz party town. For such a small place its got so many bars and nightclubs that stay open till all hours.The hostel is also very busy so I'm glad I'm in a 6 bed dorm, not the 18 or 24 bed! As luck has it my dorm has both aircon and ensuite toilet and shower..



Weather is really warm although it's generally overcast. UV index is high so I'm on factor 30 to prevent burning - unfortunately it seems to prevent tanning too tho :-S



Spent a day white water rafting down the Tully River (rapids to grade 4 if you're interested) and had a great time. I was initially a bit nervous due to my crap swimming abilities but after the raft capsized at the first rapids our crew climbed back aboard and resolved to remain in the boat, which we did (apart from willingly swimming down a few rapids for the experience!)



Still to try some snorkelling at the Reef so that will be next..

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Sydney


Sydney
Originally uploaded by scottydadog.


Sydney
Originally uploaded by scottydadog.
Sydney is a really beautiful city and there is no denying it. The harbour area around Circular Quay, with stunning views of both the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House, is truly a sight that has to be seen as words cannot do it justice. In addition to the sights the people in Sydney are genuinely warm and welcoming and friendly, which I've found to be a rare thing in large cities these days (and Sydney *is* an amazing sprawl, best appreciated at night when the lights go on forever!). Different parts of Sydney will mean more to different people I guess but The Rocks I found to be most charming as it displayed most of Sydney's history. In addition, having Bondi & Manly beaches so close to the sprawling metropolitan mass makes for a highly unique experience.



I couldn't blog Sydney without mentioning the Blue Mountains - stunning scenic views about 1.5 hours drive from the city. Unfortunately I've no phone camera pictures to show but if I can I'll upload some digicam shots of the magnificent tableland views around the 3 sisters and Wentworth Falls.



Next stop is Cairns....seems like its full of backpackers so far....