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And now for something different...

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Cairns, Australia

My last day of my travels! Wow. It's been great. The whole thing. Absolutely great.
Today was my last full day so I did something a bit special - I went hang-gliding. Well, I tried. I met my instructor, Kevin, on the top of a Cliff overlooking the sea, and we got the glider prepared and ran off into the air, but after a few minutes we had to land because the wind conditions weren't right at all! But it was a fun few minutes! It was a cool feeling to be hanging there over the trees and the sea. So once we landed on the beach we packed up and drove back up to the take off point to have another go, btu it was clear this attempt would be just as futile as the first. I was a bit disappointed, but at least I'd got up in the air. But then Kevin said, "well I have a micro-light, do you want to have a go in that instead?" So we drove to the tiny take-off strip where he kept his micro-light and we took a half hour flight along the coast. It was brilliant! We flew down low over the sea and over the mangrove swamps and spotted hundred of turtles and a shark! The scenery was beautiful, and the weather couldn't have been better! When we were finished he drove me to the nearest town so I could catch the bus back to Cairns, and whilst I was waiting I had the best fish and chips I've had in Australia! So it was a pretty amazing last day.

I leave for the airport tomorrow morning at about 9am, so it's goodbye for now, see you back in England for my 'and now for something different' summary!

permalink written by  JillR on September 2, 2010 from Cairns, Australia
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Ships and Dips

Airlie Beach, Austria

I said goodbye to all my new friends in Noosa and hopped back on the Oz Bus to go up to Rainbow Beach, which is only 2 hours north of Noosa. The gang came down to the bus stop to wave me off which was lovely, and provided a great conversation starter with the other people on the bus! We only had a smallish minibus this time so there were only a few people travelling with me. We stayed in one of only 2 hostels in Rainbow Beach (it's a teeny tiny village really), and met quite a few people who were there to go on camping trips to Fraser Island. I left the next day on the same bus (that was one of the compulsory stops so the bus and driver stopped over too) but this time there was only me, 2 other girls that had been in the hostel and the driver! We arrived in Agnes Waters at lunch time and the girls and the driver checked into a very nice hostel. The owners let me use the girls' room to store my luggage as I would be getting on the overnight Greyhound bus later that evening. In the afternoon the girls and I went for a sunbathe and a walk around the beach then we hung out at the hostel til it was time for me to catch my bus. I only knew the girls that one day, but that one day was one of the best of the whole trip! Because it was only us on the bus we all sat up front and chatted and listened to music and joked around with Sonic the driver, and it was like we were on a road trip together as old mates. It kinda helped that Sonic was young and cute and we all had a collective crush on him! I was really disappointed that I had to leave that night and wouldn't be carrying on with my new gang! They would be travelling up to a cattle ranch in the outback for one night and then on to Airlie Beach the next day, but I had already booked a sailing cruise and would miss it if I stayed with them an extra day! For only knowing the girls for 24 hours, it was a very emotional goodbye at the bus stop!
I arrived in Airlie Beach at about 7am and luckily the YHA let me into my room straight away so I had a quick wash and headed out for breakfast. Airlie Beach is quite nice, not very big, and full of people waiting to go on sailing trips. My trip began the next day, on a boat called SV Whitehaven. It usually sleeps 24 people, but only 9 people had booked onto this trip so we had pleanty of space! My trip lasted 2 nights, sailing around the famous Whitsunday Islands and doing some snorkelling and some bushwalking. The weather was pretty horrible - on the first evening there was so much wind and the sea was very rough and there was no sun at all, the next day was a little better, and finally this morning the sun came out for our journey back to the marina! The snorkelling was great, but a little cold. I saw some amazing coral and fishes, and some stingrays! It was lovely to be swimming in the ocean and having something cool to look at! We stopped at Whitehaven Beach which is one of the best beaches in the world - beautiful white sand and really bluey turquoisey water.
In the evenings we would play cards and chat, it was a little subdued because there were so few of us, and quite a lot of them didn't seem to want to socialise, but the 3 crew members were really friendly, so I ended up hanging out with them most of the time! The boat had 4 cabins for sleeping, usually when the boat is full double beds and bunks have to be shared and it must get very cosy, but we all had our own beds this time. Although I never used mine, as both nights I slept out on deck with the crew! They use swags which are like big thick oilskin sleeping bags with a thin matress sewn in. It wasn't cold at all but pretty noisy with the water and the boat creaking and things banging around in the wind. Last night it started raining but we were under cover so we didn't get wet at all. It was a fun experience, but a shame that none of the other guests wanted to joing the swag party! The weather could have been a bit kinder but I had a great time on the boat, I was able to help with the sails and steering, and saw a really gorgeous part of the world!
PS For some reason blogabond thinks Airlie Beach is in Austria for this post - it's got it right on the map though!

permalink written by  JillR on August 31, 2010 from Airlie Beach, Austria
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Pushing through for Summertime

Noosa Heads, Australia

My last day in Noosa! I'm excited about seeing the rest of Australia between here and Cairns albeit at breakneck Speed! The main place I'm stopping is Airlie Beach on Saturday, where all the sailing trips around the Whitsunday Islands leave from. Then it's quickly up to Cairns, only stopping overnight once. It's been cloudy and fairly cool here for the last few days, so hopefully as I get further north I'll get at least a bit more Australian sun! This part of Oz isn't having a good winter, it's usually much warmer - although the average temperature while I've been here has been around 23 degrees, which feels pretty warm to me! The locals are wishing it would hurry up and get hot! So I'm rushing up to make the most of the Oz winter before I get back to the end of the British summer, although goiong by posts I'm reading on facebook it's not too warm over there at the moment anyway! Come on summer!!
I've been pottering around here, there's actually not much to do except go to the beach, especially as there are no waves to surf on at the moment!
I did go on a day trip to Fraser Island, which is the world's largest sand island. There are no slealed roads on the island at all, so it was all 4 wheel driving on bumpy sand tracks through the rainforests and along the beach! We visited Lake Mackensie, which is filled only by rainwater and it's beautifully clear. The water was pretty cold - colder than the sea so I only had a quick swim! We were also taken on a walk along a creek where lots of rare indiginous plants grow.
I've had a brilliant 5 weeks in Noosa at Halse Lodge, it's been great having something to do with my time and having a great bunch of people to live and work with! However, I am really excited about coming home and seeing everyone! My feet are getting itchy for England! Can't wait to see you all soon xxxx

permalink written by  JillR on August 24, 2010 from Noosa Heads, Australia
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Don't say how long.

Noosa Heads, Australia

Well a lot has been going on and I haven't written for ages so this will be a long entry! I left Sydeny early one morning on the Oz Experience bus, which is a hop off-hop on bus that goes up and down the coast and stopped at a place called Spot-X, which gives free surf lessons for customers of the Oz bus. The accomodation was interesting - bunk beds in shipping containers! But it was a lovely spot with a beautiful, and when we went surfing the following morning the sun was shining and the sea was pretty warm. My second surf lesson so far on my trip was pretty successful, I managed to stand up a lot! That afternoon the bus headed up to Byron Bay, where I stayed for 2 nights. The weather was still pretty nice so I walked around the bay and up to the lighthouse and tried to spot some whales (nothing!). It was a very laid back hippie townand I would have liked to stay longer but the bus schedule was pretty restrictive. In the summer months there are departures everyday, but in the winter they only go 3 or 4 times a week, so you have to either stay in one place for a really long time or a really short time! I bumped into a girl who had been volunteering in a different project in Phnom Penh but staying in the same hotel there, and she was also travelling up the coast on the Oz bus. She had been in Byron Bay for almost a week already so she got on the bus I was getting and we travelled up to Brisbane together.
I really liked Brisbane, although again I was only there for 2 nights. They have a similar South Bank area to London, with a big theatre complex and museum and a lovely park/walkway along the river. They have built a really lovely artificial beach on the south bank, with lots of little cafes and restaurants and places to picnic, and the weather was beautiful when I was there, so I spent most of the time reading by the 'beach'. Leanne, the girl from Cambodia, had some friends living there, so the 2nd evening I was there we all went over to her house for Indian and then we went out in the city. It was really nice to be in someone's house having takeaway on the sofa! They were really lovely people, so welcoming and really showed us a good time!
So then we were off up to Noosa, a small upmarket town on the coast, a few hours north of Brisbane. We stopped a couple of times to spot wildlife and go to scenic spots - that's the great thing about the Oz Bus, they don't just take you from A to B, they show you things you'd never know about unless you were travelling with a local.
We arrived in Noosa mid-afternoon and checked into the YHA, a beautiful hostel really close to the beach. It's about 100 years old and the last timber building still used as accomodation in Noosa. The main building has a great big veranda down one side, where you can sit and watch the beautiful sunsets. They were advertising for a volunteer to stay for 3 or 4 weeks working in the kitchen in return for meals and accomodation, so I signed up and here I am! I have to work for about 4 hours a day, either morning or evening, and I get 2 days off a week so it's a pretty sweet life! There are 6 other people volunteering here and we have a small flat on the property with a little kitchen and lounge area so we can get away from the punters.
The hostel is just 1 minute from the beach so we spend most of our free time there, or wandering around Noosa's main street. It's a really great area for watersports, and one of the best surfing spots on this section of the coast. There have only been a couple of days where there have been any decent waves but I've been having a go! Most of the other volunteers surf so we all head down with our boards when we can. We've been really lucky to have access to a car so we've been able to head out of town to explore the area a lot. Last sunday we went to a place called Perigian Beach where there was a market and then live music in the afternoon. It was a great day sitting in the park in the sun listening to local bands and having a few drinks! We also went to a watersports park which had motorised cable wakeboarding which I had a go at. I started off on a knee board and got the hang of that pretty quickly. Going round corners was tricky because your pully starts to go round the corner, you catch up with it so the rope slackens and then yanks you round the corner. You have to steer out from the corner to keep the rope tight, and once I was able to do that you can just go round and round the lake all day! I tried to use a proper standing up wakeboard but failed massivley! I couldn't manage to get off the jetty without falling over, and gave up eventually! Today we did a little sea kayaking because we've finally got bored of lying on the beach!
When I first arrived in Noosa Leanne and I went to Australia Zoo which is about an hour from here. It was amazing! It was a sunday but it was almost empty so we didn't have to queue for anything or peer through hoards of tourists to see the crocodiles!

The weather has been lovely for the past few days, clear blue sky and a very hot sun. There has been some rain, and it gets very chilly once the evening sets in, but on the whole it's nice.
Tonight is didgeridoo night at the hostel! There's a bloke who comes in once a week to teach the didge to the guests. They love it, we don't love having to listening to beginners very week!
I've booked my flight home, which is pretty sad! Most of the other volunteers are also leaving within the next month, some of whom have been here more months and months already so we have a great big countdown chart on our wall. 4 weeks to go! The mood in the flat falls when anyone mentions going home, but everyone is excited as well about moving on. I can't believe I'm so near to the end of my trip, I need more time! I will be so sad to say goodbye to this side of the world, I don't want to think about leaving yet!

permalink written by  JillR on August 7, 2010 from Noosa Heads, Australia
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Long Way Back Home

Sydney, Australia

So I am now as far away from home as I'm going to get!
It's very cold here, and there's been quite a lot of drizzly rain, but when the sun has been shining it's quite pleasant! I'm staying in the biggest YHA in Australia, and it's brilliant! There's a pool, a sauna, 2 fully eqipped, enormous kitchens, a supermarket, bar, cafe, internet, cinema....it's brilliant! Each night they show a film and have a themed dinner - last night was make your own pizza and tonight is Thai night I think. They also arrange trips around town and to local music venues etc so I might do that one evening. I'm sharing a dorm with another English girl and 2 aussie girls - all very nice.
My plane landed at about 5am on tuesday so I got to the hostel, put my bags in storage and crashed out on a sofa in the common room for a few hours before heading to Circular Quay for the Opera House and the bridge. Sydney is lovely, it seems really clean and modern and nicely organised! A lot of the time you could be back in any major city in England, especially when most of the roads are names after English towns!
Yesterday I explored a little more, and took a boat around the harbour as the sun was setting behind the bridge - beautiful (but freezing!). This afternoon I will head to the Museum of Sydney and then try and get a ticket for West Side Story at one of the big theatres here.
For some reason this computor crashes when I try to upload photos, so you'll just have to wait for them!

permalink written by  JillR on July 7, 2010 from Sydney, Australia
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Building castles in the sun and singing 'fun fun fun'.

Kuta, Indonesia

My final week in Indonesia is being spent in Bali. We are staying in the resort town of Kuta, which is full of tourists, bars and restaurants. It's not exactly the white sands and beaches you imagine when you think of Bali (think Blackpool instead!) but we're still having a good time. We went para-sailing which was brilliant, and yesterday I had a surfing lesson. I managed to stand up quite a few times when the instructor was out with me, telling me which waves to go for, but when I had the board on my own afterwards I only managed to catch one wave. Fail. It's hard to know which are the good waves, and which ones you should let go. Mostly though, we've just been relaxing on the beach, building sandcastles and playing hopscotch with Indonesian kids!
Tomorrow we have a car and driver booked, who hopefully will take us to some beaches that are more secluded and beautiful, ending up somewhere we can have a BBQ and watch the sunset.
We are finding it a little strange here, having spent 3 weeks in Java in little villages and non-touristy areas, it's so crowded and noisy, and everything here is more expensive as well - not compared to the UK of course, but compared to Java it certainly is!
Our hotel is very nice, we have yummy breakfasts and a lovely pool - a nice escape from the beach where you get someone trying to sell you something every five minutes! Most of the locals are very friendly, but sometimes when you're walking down the street and everyone is trying to get you into their shop or offer you transport or just shouting at you, it just gets very annoying! But despite all that, Indonesia's been great fun, and I'm looking forward to the next leg - Australia on monday!!

permalink written by  JillR on June 30, 2010 from Kuta, Indonesia
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He's a magician...

Surakarta, Indonesia

I don't have much time again so I'll give you a quick run down of what's been occurring... We spent a few days in Yogjakarta, which is famous for its arts and crafts trades, especially Batik the printed material which they use for everything in these parts - clothes, curtains, tablecloths etc. We visited the palaces and museums in the city, and strolled down the famous Malioboro Street with its hundreds of Batik stalls.
We met a couple of magicians who were staying in our hotel and doing a magic show at the mall up the road from our hotel. We went to see their show (pretty impressive) and then hung out with them by the pool later that evening. It was very random but a lot of fun! They tried to teach us some tricks but we weren't very good pupils!
Then we moved on to Solo (also called Surakarta), another arty place, and here we have been cycling, visited more temples and palaces and waterfalls, had a go at making our own batik designs and visited a water park with lots of slides and wave machines.
Most evenings we've eaten down at a street which turns into a food market at night, with hundreds of people setting up BBQs and soup and noodle stands etc. The food has been absolutely delicious and it's been great eating on the streets with lots of other Insdonesians.
This afternoon we embark on a mammoth bus ride all the way to Bali (about 16 hours)!

permalink written by  JillR on June 24, 2010 from Surakarta, Indonesia
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It's been one week...

Borobudur, Indonesia

...Since I washed my hair. Yep, after two and a half months of having pretty decent washing facilities, I've finally reached the lowest of the lows washing wise. Pouring buckets of ice cold water over my head isn't my idea of fun! Don't worry, it's clean now, I just had to hold my breath and try not to scream or pass out!
W've been pretty busy since I last wrote - wading up rivers and swimming in waterfalls, cooking Indonesian food, climbing mountains at 3am, taking very old rickety buses on looong journeys, and white water rafting this morning! It was brilliant!As well as being in the raft we were also able to swim down the rapids (swim isn't really the right word!) I swallowed so much water and had to be rescued from one very strong current at one point, but I had so much fun!
We are in a town called Borobodur at the moment, in a very nice hotel (not a very nice bathroom though) and we've been eating lots of delicious things! Tomorrow we go to Yogyakarta which a pretty touristy place famous for arts and crafts, so lots of wandering round markets!
Got to go and buy a pair of flip flops now (pair number 3 so far!), so bye bye! xxx

permalink written by  JillR on June 16, 2010 from Borobudur, Indonesia
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If I had 1,000,000rupiah.....I'd be sort of well off, but certainly not rich!

Semarang, Indonesia

Arrived safely in Indonesia! We're on Java, in a little village call Ungaran near the big city of Semarang. It's been a pretty slow start, but today we did some hiking in the nearby mountains, visited some temples and had a tour round Semarang. There are 3 of us here, all girls from England. This is their first stop on their travels, so they are still a little unsure of the food, the toilet situation and all the creepy-crawlies! I keep telling them they'll get used to it, but it's a bit awkward when I'm the only one eating at meal times! We're staying in a really beautiful House with a pond in the courtyard and 2 pools out the back! The owners let the locals use the pool so it gets very noisy in the morning when the kids come down before school! It's not as hot as it was in Phnom Penh, so far we haven't used the pool because the water is too cold! We have no shower (just a couple of buckets and a cold tap) and no flushing toilet. It's not great, but never mind!
Yesterday we were dressed up in traditional Indonesian costume - pictures to come! That was fun, but very hot and itchy!

The money here is so complicated - notes come in denominations of 1000, 2000, 5000, 10000, 20000, 50000 and 10000. 5000rupiah is about 4GBP so it's quite easy to get 1,000,000rupiah!
We leave here on saturday, so I'll try and write again next time I can find internet!

permalink written by  JillR on June 10, 2010 from Semarang, Indonesia
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Hello City... again

Singapore, Singapore

Said good bye to Cambodia and landed in Singapore yesterday. I only have a day and a bit here. Yesterday I went for a bit of an explore in Clarke Quay, which is a trendy area with lots of bars and restuarants by the river. I got talking to an American who is working here for a few weeks so we had dinner and then wandered around Chinatown. Today we went to the zoo. It's pretty big and probably one of the best in the world. A lot of the enclosures have deep but narrow moats and no fences blocking the view, so you feel really close to the animals. It was nice to have someone to wander around with, I was worried Singapre would be a repeat of Beijing where I met no-one and get very bored!
Singapore's really nice - tons of modern buildings and skyscrapers but also lots of parks and greenery. They drive on the left (just as I've got used to looking the opposite way to cross the road!) and drive really safely - hardly any motorbikes and no crazy overtaking! The lanes are marked and the drivers stick to their own! The subway is great too - nicely air conditioned! Everything is really expensive though. I wish I had a few more days here, but I would have spent my entire budget for next month by the time I left!
I fly to Indonesia tomorrow afternoon, I'm not sure what the internet connection will be like - I think I'll be in the middle of no-where, but I will write again as soon as I can!

permalink written by  JillR on June 6, 2010 from Singapore, Singapore
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