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9 Hours To Go

Didcot, United Kingdom


I'm still producing enough mucus and coughing up enough germs to worry about potential quarantining on landing but hey, still excited.

Apart from the risk of actual death I love flying. I get a buzz off hurtling through the air at 572mph in a pressurised steel tube but this flight will be the longest I’ve ever spent in a confined area apart from that time I went to see Lord Of The Rings.
Technically though that wasn’t 20 hours. It just felt like it.

Emma, however, is a nervous flyer. She panics so much that all reason leaves with the only parachute causing everyone within earshot to question exactly what they were thinking in getting onto a contraption that is heavier than air in the first place.
Of course an integeral part of flying is drinking. This is for Blood Thinning Medicinal Purposes only of course but I'm fairly sure that half a bottle of Jack Daniels would be sufficient to calm Emma down for a significant portion of the flight. If pouring it down her neck doesn't work I'll just belt her round the head with it.

Anyway, I'm off to work out how much excess baggage I'll be charged on my arse and to find enough sedative to keep Emma settled for the first 12 hours at least.

I'll email everyone from the other side :)

permalink written by  Koala Bear on May 10, 2006 from Didcot, United Kingdom
from the travel blog: Sod Off Great Big Mission Round Oz
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Bris Vegas

Brisbane, Australia


I’ve spent the last week racking my brains, trying to think of something suitably interesting to say about Brisbane (which is where I'm staying with John at the moment) but I’m not that good at fiction.
With its high rise buildings, Big Issue sellers on every corner and throngs of suits it could easily be London if London were to have blue skies and, say, a man-made beach just sarf of the river.

I like this beach on account of the lack of Potential Death you’d get at a normal beach. No fear of sharks or jellyfish, all you have to worry about are the hoards of small children but they’re easily dealt with with sticks.
If we had a man made beach just outside of any major UK city it’d be riddled with hypodermics, dog shit and dead, frozen homeless people within weeks.

Anyway, Emma’s in Perth visiting family at the moment and I’m waiting for Natwest to wire some money over to my Australian bank account so I can afford to do stuff apart from lie on a man-made beach in the middle of the city.
I’ve been spending a lot of time at the gym as well though, having spent 20 hours being fed processed airline food followed by copious amounts of beer and kebabs on arrival in the country I felt compelled to hand over distressing amounts of cash to Fitness First. I may also have signed over a portion of my soul and one or more of my limbs, I didn’t read all the small print so I’m not sure.


Culture Shock (Sort Of)
Woolworths over here isn’t the same as in the UK, over here it’s a supermarket like Asda or the Co-Op. There’s not a plastic cricket set or a cheap sun lounger in sight, just aisles of food which I’ve never heard of.

Kebabs are served to you by attractive young people in shops as opposed to fat, sweaty Greek men in vans. They are rolled and toasted (not badly packed and thrust at you in a polystyrene tray, slightly soggy and limp) and are in fact Food You Would Be Comfortable Consuming Whilst Sober.

You can’t get beer down the local 7-11 (like Spar), you have to go to an offy but no one here knows what an offy is, they call them bottle shops and the ones I’ve been in so far all have a massive chiller unit where you can buy a carton of 24 bottles (and not them tiny little bottles that contain about a thimble of beer either) for about $35 which is about £15.
Its no wonder drinking is a national pastime.

permalink written by  Koala Bear on May 21, 2006 from Brisbane, Australia
from the travel blog: Sod Off Great Big Mission Round Oz
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On The Move

Surfers Paradise, Australia


So this is our home until they forcibly remove me from the country, it’s small (11ft long) but it’s perfect for us. It’s got pretty much everything we need including a TV so we can get hopelessly addicted to the Aussie Big Brother, a gas stove so Emma can cook and I can stand behind her poking stuff and generally getting in the way, a fridge to keep the beer healthy veg and skimmed milk cool and plenty of storage yet still only just enough space to house all my Stuff.

And yes, it has net curtains.

Stop laughing. We need them for privacy.

And no more embarrassing yellow scooters for us, we now have a car.

Whilst it is a Ford Falcon it’s a sedan and therefore not exactly like the one they used in Wolf Creek. So that’s comforting then.

Ford Falcon: $2600
Car Insurance: $476
Caravan: $3000
Feeding The Waste Pipe Into The Tent Of The Scousers Next Door: Priceless*

*No we haven’t, but how tempting?

permalink written by  Koala Bear on June 2, 2006 from Surfers Paradise, Australia
from the travel blog: Sod Off Great Big Mission Round Oz
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Surfers Paradise: Exactly What It Says On The Tin

Surfers Paradise, Australia


Arrived: 31/05/06
Left: 10/06/06

Firstly I discovered that a 90 minute fat burning, arse reducing walk along the beach is about 86% more fun than a 90 minute fat burning workout at Fitness First.
I also discovered that attempting to body board (like a poofy version of surfing where you don’t actually have to stand up) at somewhere that warrants the name "Surfers Paradise" is one of the best forms of resistance training there is.
It’s also a fantastic way to nearly drown and increase your salt intake by up to 230%.

Surfers is pretty much like any seaside resort, overpriced and packed with souvenir shops and tourists. There’s plenty to do if you have the cash such as Dreamworld, Wet N Wild, Movie World and Sea World but entry averages about $60 each and while it’s only roughly £25 it mounts up if you try to do everything and we’re a bit skint now.

We only intended to spend a week here but we’ve had a couple of issues with the caravan so we’ve mostly been waiting around for repair men (ok so we’ve been waiting around on the beach in the sun but hey) on account of the fact the bloke who sold us the caravan sold it us without a Safety Certificate and the brakes don’t work so if anyone knows anyone in the Brisbane/Gold Coast area who will break legs for cash, let me know.

We commemorated our last night in Surfers with a BBQ. In the rain of course, I’m still British after all.

This is me throwing another shrimp on the barbie, mate.

Join me next week when I shall be attempting to tie my kangaroo down, sport.

What else can I say about Surfers? Oh, that’s right;
Hot sunshine… blue skies… sandy, clean beaches… clear, warm sea. I *heart* the Gold Coast.

Hate me?
Meh, I’ll get over it.

permalink written by  Koala Bear on June 9, 2006 from Surfers Paradise, Australia
from the travel blog: Sod Off Great Big Mission Round Oz
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Far North Coast & Hinterland, New South Wales

Byron Bay, Australia


Australia is so huge that when they changed the names of everything into things that the white man could pronounce they ran out of creativity and just got literal.
Minion: What shall we call this bit that is right at the very furthest north of New South Wales?
Captain: Well, we shall call that the Far North Coast.
Minion: But what about this bit here that is still northerly yet not quite as northerly as the far north?
Captain: Let us henceforth refer to this area as the North Coast.
Minion: Captain, there is more. What about this part that which is positioned in the middle of the coast of New South Wales?
Captain: Hmm, this is a difficult one. I feel we should christian this bit… Central Coast…

You get the picture.

Byron Bay – Most Easterly Point Of Mainland Australia
Arrived: 10/06/06
Left: 21/06/06


You know how in Alaska they have about 50 different words for snow? Well in the UK we have 290 different words for rain but only one word can describe the rain we had in Byron Bay; Torrential.
It’s the kind of unrelenting rain that highlights all kinds of exciting things such as the fact that the wipers on the car don’t wipe the water away so much as move it around a bit and the caravan leaks in two places.

Byron Bay is beautiful, it’s a small town on the coast that attracts surfers and hippies from all over the world.
You can watch whales from the lighthouse, go snorkelling round Julian Rocks (about 3km out from the beach) or surf with dolphins.


We stayed here for just over week, I wanted to learn to dive here but not enough people wanted to do the course so I missed out. We stayed for longer than we intended to as we found out that if we wanted to work in licensed premises in New South Wales or Victoria we needed a Responsible Service Of Alcohol certificate so we hung around to do the course.

A trip to Byron Bay isn’t complete without a beer at Cheeky Monkeys, the locals will try and put you off going there but don’t listen to them, they must just have taste and class or something.


Ballina – Has A Big Prawn

Bow down to your crustacean master.


Nimbin – Cannabis Capital Of Australia
Despite the fact the only thing I inhale into my lungs these days is fresh air and occasionally a bit of salt water during my sporadic attempts at snorkelling, Nimbin was still a wicked place to spend a few hours.
It’s small but has huge personality, once the haze of incense and pot smoke clears you’re met with a tiny little village where every other person squints at you through swollen, red eyes and wonders if you would like to purchase one of their "good, strong marijuana cookies."

Anyway, I'm off to resist the urge to grow dreddlocks, wear knitted jumpers and wander round smelling of patchouli with a dog on a piece of string.

permalink written by  Koala Bear on June 21, 2006 from Byron Bay, Australia
from the travel blog: Sod Off Great Big Mission Round Oz
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Twelve Months Of Perpetual Winter

Echuca, Australia


We sat in front of the TV before work, bleary eyed, munching our cereal and watching the news, the bottom right hand corner of the screen flashing up the regional temperatures for Victoria.

Echuca would be 14 degrees today, it informed us.

"Double figures in the middle of winter," I said, "Can't fault that really."

The three other Brits in the room concurred.

Just as I was about to stand up and leave the TV announced;

"NORTHERN HEMISPHERE SWELTERS IN HEATWAVE!" The report was accompanied by footage of shirtless men and small children with ice creams, just to hammer the point brutally home.

A stunned silence ensued, quickly followed by muttered obscenities.

I swore at the TV and walked out to scrape the ice off my car.

permalink written by  Koala Bear on July 20, 2006 from Echuca, Australia
from the travel blog: Sod Off Great Big Mission Round Oz
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Pissing On My Bonfire

Echuca, Australia


Today was exactly halfway through my Three Months Of Hell and we were going to celebrate with cheap wine and BBC comedy but I woke up this morning to find that some kids had gone Norman Bates on my car tyres with a dart.

They'd climbed over the wall into the hostel, poked around in the common room which doesn't lock and nicked a dart to do the tyres with. Debbie (the hostel owner) has started locking the front gate to the car park but there's still some metal railings they can easily jump over round the side. She politely declined my offer to wire them up to the mains.

I'd take it personally if two other cars hadn't had one of their tyres stabbed an all although I did spend all day trying to remember if I spilt anyones pint last weekend.
After kissing $400 for four new tyres goodbye I couldn't be bothered with celebrations but a few people got me chocolate and cake and the slighty sick feeling that ensued after consuming most of it suitably comforted me.

I'm so easily bought with a high sugar content.

permalink written by  Koala Bear on August 16, 2006 from Echuca, Australia
from the travel blog: Sod Off Great Big Mission Round Oz
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The Stuff Of Nightmares

Echuca, Australia


This horrifying beast was on one of the posts at the end of the vines at work and no, I didn't take these photos. I tried, I really did but I couldn't get close enough so the lads took them for me.

For those of you who haven't run screaming from the room yet, its a Huntsman Spider and this one is about 12cm long including its legs but apparently they can get bigger and are really common.
Whilst 12cm isn't that big compared to, say, me and a big stick, nothing with that many legs has any right to be that big especially when it looks at you like it wants to eat your liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti.

Anyway, I've been told that whilst they can give you a nasty bite they aren't in the least bit poisonous and wouldn't even make you ill if it sunk its fangs into your tender flesh.

Hmm... yeah... somehow still not comforted.

permalink written by  Koala Bear on August 27, 2006 from Echuca, Australia
from the travel blog: Sod Off Great Big Mission Round Oz
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Putting Things In Perspective

Echuca, Australia


A couple of people mentioned that the Huntsman spider post didn't give an accurate potrayal of the spiders actual size because there was nothing to compare it with so here's a photo of two Huntsman spiders on an adult sized Akubra hat.

Now stop your bloody whinging and don't come crying to me if you have nightmares.

They're bloody massive, they look like they could be responsible for a small percentage of Australia's missing backpackers but sort of getting used to them now. Not that I could touch one but I can at least control my bowels when one of them wanders across the posts at work.

This photo was taken when the lads at work spent the day putting them on their Akubras and wandering up and down the rows with them. I just kept my distance and took photos, politely declining their kind offer of Huntsman of my very own.

Anyway, tomorrow will be my last day on the vineyard and I have a feeling its going to be the longest Friday in the world.

Please send vodka and cake.

permalink written by  Koala Bear on September 28, 2006 from Echuca, Australia
from the travel blog: Sod Off Great Big Mission Round Oz
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The Part Of Australia I Never Wanted To Visit

Echuca, Australia


Arrived: 02/07/06
Left: 29/09/06

It is advisable whilst in Echuca in the winter to drink a lot of alcohol as this numbs the agonising pain of the aching boredom. I mean, I'm not saying don't visit Echuca, I'm just saying don't go in the winter unless you really really like paddlesteamers.

Like, alot.

If there's one thing Echuca knows how to do its paddlesteamers, there's about eight of them. Apparently they do other things on the Murray River in summer such as water skiing and I noticed a couple of canoe hire places. I asked a local bloke when they usually started the water skiing, he just shrugged and said "When the water gets high enough." It hasn't rained there since 1985 though so I wouldn't hold your breath.

No really, stop it, you're turning blue.

This was my first time staying in a hostel an all and I found loads of stuff out such as; Poms really do whinge, Japanese really do eat noodles for breakfast and purchase rice by the paddy field and the average life span of a packet of Tim Tams when opened in a common room is roughly 0.25 seconds.
Nomads is a cracking hostel though, Debbie who runs it goes out of her way to make sure the place is clean and the backpackers are comfortable. She'll do her utmost to find you work and if you call ahead she won't tell you there's work if there isn't like so many working hostels do.

Nomads is comfortable and friendly enough to make three months in Bum-Fuck Nowhere bearable, if you need to extend your Working Holiday Visa in Oz then I recommend this place.
A word of warning though, if you stay too long in Echuca you start becoming attached to flannelette shirts and the urge to own a dog on a ute becomes harder to resist. You'll find yourself thinking things like "Ooh, that's a nice Akubra, I think I'll get me one of those," you'll start getting excited about stuff like wood chop demos and shotguns and your alcohol tolerance level will increase by approximately 64%.

Apart from the grinding monotony, Echuca is a nice enough place. It's quiet but it has plenty of pubs and a nightclub (OPT) and there are some shops to keep you occupied providing you can get up before 12:30pm on a Saturday and didn't want to shop on the Sunday anyway.
There's a cinema, plenty of restaurants and fast food places and a couple of gyms to work off aforementioned fast food although the gym I used was right opposite a chippy. What the hell kinda sadist does that?

Oh, and before I forget, its also home to the World's Biggest Lollipop.

See, who said Echuca had nothing going for it?

permalink written by  Koala Bear on September 30, 2006 from Echuca, Australia
from the travel blog: Sod Off Great Big Mission Round Oz
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