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The Smug Adventures Down Under

a travel blog by Murph, Tay, Colly and Erin

This is part two of our one year trip.
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Tribulations and Celebrations

Cairns, Australia

So a few weeks had passed and we felt it was time for our second trip out of Cairns. We booked a few days off work and headed up the coast to Cape Tribulation, the only place in the world where two world heritage sites exist side by side, as the rainforest meets the reef. On the trip up we encountered crocs on the Daintree River...did you know that a croc can survive on as little as one chicken per month and that the biggest croc on record was a lengthy 8m? We saw two baby crocs, but unfortunately it was a little too hot for the big Daddies as they wallowed on the riverbed to escape the heat. Incidentally, they achieve this feat by cutting off the blood circulation to their tails and other limbs and slowing their heart rate to one beat per minute in order to stay under the water for long periods of time. The crocodile is surely a fine example of evolution at its best. Astounding.

We headed on to the Daintree National Park where we wandered among the rainforest and mangrove swamps. Our ecological education continued as we learnt about the resourceful nature of the mangrove trees. When their salt content gets too high (due to proximity to the sea) they filter all the excess salt into one unfortunately leaf which becomes sacraficed for the greater good of the plant. Marvellous.

After a strenuous day of learning we checked into PK's Jungle Village for some R&R. This was only mildly disturbed by the presence of a spider which made Leeroy Gustafer Pickles (of Asian fame) look like a friendly money spider. Alarming.

We spent an afternoon exploring Cape Tribulation and its lookout points, where its possible to stand with one foot in the reef and the other in the rainforest. En route home we began to wade through a creek. Some shouting from a local fisherman alerted us to the presence of a 4.5m croc in the vicinity. After a quick team talk we decided we didn't fancy becoming its next 'chicken' and found an alternative route home. Phew, close shave.

permalink written by  Murph, Tay, Colly and Erin on October 16, 2006 from Cairns, Australia
from the travel blog: The Smug Adventures Down Under
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Granny's Birthday

Cairns, Australia

After a token stop in the 'playground of the rich and famous' Port Douglas, we returned home to Cairns to begin the celebrations for Erin Charlotte Gillham's 23rd birthday (Granny, if you will). This began with a meal courtesy of Mama and Papa Gillham, calzones and ice cream all round. Thank you it was truly delightful! Whilst a quiet night had been planned, we hadn't anticipated the vast quantities of free alcohol that was to come our way. Things were kicked off with a complimentary bottle of vino with dinner, then it was onto the plush casino bar, 'Vertigo' where we were lucky enough to have acquired a voucher for a free bottle of wine. Next stop was our favourite Thursday night haunt, ladies night at Rhinobar for free champagne. Bottoms up. Our last stop of the evening was, as per usual, Gilligan's, where after rescuing a man in thongs (flip-flops) and smuggling him past the bouncers he rewarded us with not one, but two bottles of wine. This is where memories of the night end. The next morning we retraced our steps by following trails of mini baby-bel wax, pretzels and foam teeth to the local Nightowl Convenience store (this is where we believe our night came to an end). Fatties.

After a couple of days back at work, Sunday the 8th October brought Granny's official birthday. Celebrations commenced with the obligatory birthday breakfast of sweets and chocolate. Yummy. Next it was present giving time, she thought the gifts couldn't get any better after unwrapping a souvenir 'Hard Croc Cafe, Cairns' t-shirt, but then out of nowhere she was whisked off to a surprise location...'Fun to bead' (average age of clientelle, 6) where we made necklaces and confirmed our suspicions that it is, in fact, fun to bead. Joyous.

Celebrations continued with our beloved cockney boys Michael and Mark, with a barbie in the 'avo' at the lagoon. Many animals were devoured. Bellies full, we waddled to the Pier Bar for our last ever Sunday afternoon happy hour. Sob. We watched the sunset sipping G&Ts where we were joined by Yordy, Jake, Matt and Kerry. The night took us through Koalas, PJ's and Gilligans and plenty of possom chasing took place. Erin would like to say that she had a lovely time and thanks her wonderful, talented travelling companions for the magical day. Hurrah for us. Hangovers gone, Tuesday came and it was goodbye to our fantastic hostel Koalas, and to Cairns where we've really enjoyed our time. We will look back on the memories with fondness. Au revoir, auf wiedersehn, adios amigos, see ya later alligator and in a while crocodile.

permalink written by  Murph, Tay, Colly and Erin on October 16, 2006 from Cairns, Australia
from the travel blog: The Smug Adventures Down Under
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Hollywood Stars and Hot-tubs

Townsville, Australia

Our high hopes for Mission Beach were dashed due to a relentless downpour leaving our visit there a little washed out. Luckily our stay was mid-week and so the days became a countdown until Home and Away and Neighbours. We took a token stroll along the beach but this was thwarted by the heavens opening and so we had to make a run for cover. And smug Australians complain about English weather, HELLLLLOOOOO!

Townsville was a fairly non-descript place, however, it has a badass kiddie's playground where we had competitions of who could go higher on the swings. This was just a one night stop off for Magnetic Island. Its beauty explains why so many travellers are 'drawn' to it and it certainly 'pulled' us in. Before realising that there was only one road on the island, Murph, Erin and Colly hired a Topless Moke (very small Barbie-esque vehicle). We spent the day cruising round visiting various bays and beaches. At the end of the day we chased the sun and watched it set from a vantage point on some rocks. Meanwhile Tay got in touch with her inner naturist with a trip to the nudey beach. Whilst the experience was 'liberating' the presence of a very naked, very old man hovering a little too close for comfort led her to cut the visit short.

After a chilled out week we arrived in Airlie Beach, the gateway to the Whitsundays, ready to P-A-R-T-Y!!! After a few nights on the go we decided to have a quiet singular drink in our hostel bar. This was before we were accosted by 14 football players from Perth on their end of season trip. They followed our lead and joined us in guzzling large volumes of snakebite in honour of English uni students everywhere.

Normally very few things could distract us from the company of 14 strapping young men, however, a Hollywood star being one of these, the football boys were ditched when Matthew McConaughey strolled into the bar. Before any of you ladies stop reading due to extreme jealousy, we regret to inform you that he did in fact look like an alcoholic tramp. Sporting a Tom Hanks in Castaway beard, yellow trainers and for apparently no reason whatsoever, a Miner's headtorch, he proved that money doesn't buy you style, it does however get you rock hard abs and buns of steel ;-) Watching him dance to a live band in the Irish Bar was particularly special, his favourite moves being the chicken and the squat. Sarcasm was lost on him when Colly told him he was an amazing dancer and he innocently thanked her. Whilst the real Matthew had a no photo rule, luckily for us we had our own lookalike on hand to pose instead. Bradley from Koh Phangan looked more like Matthew McConaughey than Matthew McConaughey and one onlooker even asked us if he was his brother!

We arrived at the pier for our two night Whitsundays cruise and couldn't believe our eyes when we scanned the sea of females. Had we inadvertently booked ourselves onto a lesbian cruise? No, apparently we were just bloody unlucky. Indeed the knowledge that Bradley and 20 men were on the Clipper's sister boat rubbed salt into the wound. We decided to give the lesbians a chance but we soon realised that they were a pretty dull bunch. However, we quickly bonded with Londoners Sash and Naiby and the Aussie deckhands Eddie and Bryce. We formed an exclusive fun clique for the duration of the cruise. Drinking games featured heavily on both nights. When you are stuck in the middle of the ocean without a dance floor or podium in sight the only place to go is the boat's hot-tub, where we bundled in and played with a rubber ducky for hours on end. We were rudely awoken at 8am by the crew banging on saucepans outside our cabins. Our hangovers quickly disappeared when we reached Whitehaven Beach. Our photos can't do it justice but it was by far the best beach we have seen all trip.

The afternoon brought snorkelling and due to it being stinger season we had to wear full body wetsuits. Unfortunately due to us being lazy we were the last ones off the boat and so were left with extra-large wetsuits where saggy crotch-lines caused much amusement. For reasons unbeknown to us we became fairly hysterical in the water and bizarrely broke into a snorkel-voiced rendition of 'God Save the Queen'. It was beautiful, as was the coral, which was much more impressive than we had seen in Cairns. Once on dry land we had an after-party for the boat, we shimmied our way around town, particularly enjoying Eddie's pole-dancing. The night as usual ended up with a food stop. Unfortunately for us Airlie Beach pie-shop is on our route home. The new pie obsession came to a head when Erin and Tay entered the pie-shop at 2am and requested a spinach and feta be put on hold for when they planned to leave the club at 3:10am. Who ate all the pies? We did.

permalink written by  Murph, Tay, Colly and Erin on October 22, 2006 from Townsville, Australia
from the travel blog: The Smug Adventures Down Under
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Dingo Alert

Noosa Heads, Australia

After waiting three hours in a pitch black bus stop at Airlie Beach, we were really pleased that we'd saved ourselves $30 by travelling with Premier buses instead of Greyhound. We eventually got to Rainbow Beach where there is really not a lot going on except vast quantities of sand. Following this theme we visited a sandblow (a massive amount of sand blown up from the beach into the forest) where we watched the sun set and got arty with some photography. Enjoy.
Next day we began 'operation fun boys' to ensure we avoided a repeat of the lesbian cruise on our Fraser Island trip. We recruited Aussie Penny Crocker to our mission and scoured the hostel from top to bottom. Things went well when Murph and Tay bravely approached two lovely English boys, Andy and Paul, and asked them to be in our gang. They readily agreed. By the luck of the draw we were also teamed up with two buff young men from Canada, Kurt and Adrian. There were also two German girls. Our first group bonding experience as the 'A-Team' was a trip to the bottle shop to buy a large supply of alcohol for the weekend. Next morning we were up bright and early for pancakes and packing our 4x4, Frank the Tank. Luckily for us, the boys in our group all had get up and go and so we sat down and did what we would do best for the next three days... spectated/perved (also a major theme of the trip). After a quick lesson on how to drive the truck we hit the road jack and set off with a shrill chorus of 'awhoooooooooooooooo' with everyone enjoying our quite frankly incredible Britpop playlist (Adrian we saw you taking notes). We drove off the ferry and embarked on our first experience of off-roading as we were thrashed around in the back of the truck on the track to Lake McKenzie, which is incredibly beautiful with pure white sands and crystal clear waters, perfect for a game of frisbee. Murph and the boys set off on a swimming adventure across the lake and she put them all to shame by swimming back again while they walked. We got to our camping ground as the sun set and we slipped nicely into our gender stereotypes as the boys put up the tents and the girls (Erin)cooked dinner. Colly would like it to be known that she chopped two whole tomatoes. After being told that fires were illegal, we lit one and our camp quickly became the hotspot. Drinking games commenced as night fell and very soon there were drunken slurs of 'I have never seen such heart-stopping stars in all my life', as we cheesed it up with group star gazing admiring the Southern Cross and shooting stars. We were rudely awoken at silly o'clock by over eager campers ready to embrace the day. We were not. We cruised along the beach up to Indian Head and climbed the rocks for ocean views where we spied stingrays and turtles in the waters below. While Colly and Penny enjoyed a shady nap under the truck, the rest of us embarked on a billion mile hike to the Champagne Pools where we played in the water as the waves crashed around us. Andy had raved to us about how good Eli Creek was to swim in, however when we got there it was only knee deep and seething with eels (one small one was spotted at any rate). On our way to the next camp ground we stopped for a nosey round the Maheno ship wreck. As we set up camp once more, a park ranger soon arrived to warn us that we were residing in a dingo den and therefore not to leave a single scrap of rubbish out overnight. It was not long until the dingos started appearing which resulted in continual screeching of 'Dingo Alert! Dingo Alert! Dingo Alert!' It was after our first sighting that we introduced the 'no solo toilet trip' rule which led to mass group wee-wee breaks. Our efforts to keep the camp clean and tidy went to pot after we had consumed our alcohol supply. This led to Andy waking up in the middle of the night to find a dingo with its head in a Doritos packet inches from our tents. Unfortunately the only way to view Lake Wabby was to hike across a sand dune not unlike the Sahara Desert. Exposed to the elements this quickly became known as the 'Walk of Death', it was touch and go for a while as to whether we were going to make it. We went for a little paddle in the lake whilst observing Paul and Kurt rolling themselves down the dune and plopping into the water. After doing the girls proud and impressing the boys with our driving skills, it was Colly's turn to take the wheel. Initially this led to mass panic in the back as we were thrust over sand dunes like ragdolls and our lives flashed before our eyes. After we managed to get her to slow down, we all thought she was doing pretty well when apparently, out of nowhere, one of the German girls screamed, 'Please can we change the driver, otherwise I'm getting out of this vehicle!' Good effort Colly.
Sadly the trip had to come to an end but just for the record we literally had the best three days ever and would like to thank our amazing group for making it so special. Clicks for the A-Team.

permalink written by  Murph, Tay, Colly and Erin on November 4, 2006 from Noosa Heads, Australia
from the travel blog: The Smug Adventures Down Under
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Koalas, Whatever ball and Tay's 23rd birthday

Brisbane, Australia

As we moved on to Noosa, we were joined by a new smug adventurer in the form of Penelope Jean Crocker. That's right, a girl. We arrived on a busy day in Noosa due to the yearly triathalon. All this activity spurred us on and so we went for a ramble through the national park. Sightings of wild koalas and goannas caused excitement as we scrambled through the undergrowth. A nature sighting of another kind was a pair of naked pensioners strolling hand-in-hand along the nudist beach.

In memory of Steve Irwin, Tay and Murph along with Canadians Kurt and Adrian headed for a day at the Australia Zoo. Our visit coincided with halloween and within minutes of entering we witnessed a tiny child dressed head to toe in a wizard costume chasing a wild goanna. A very bizarre scene. We went to see a bird, snake and croc show in the 'crocoseum' and wandered through the open kangaroo paddy where Tay and Adrian got up close and personal and enjoyed a roo spooning session. Being too cheap to pay the $15 to cuddle a koala, we settled for a little stroke of the lower back. A memorial of Steve Irwin was moving and difficult to look at. Its hard to believe that he's no longer here as pictures of him dominate the park. All in all a lovely day, but we were all worn out and enjoyed a group nap on the bus on the way home.

An exciting evening followed when we realised just how much fun could be had without alcohol as we utilised Penny's extensive 'backpacker' wardrobe to play dress up. Colly, Adrian and Kurt were our victims....don't they look pretty?

After our dress up session, we were all hyper like 3 year olds and so went outside to play volleyball in the dark. However, our skills left a lot to be desired and so 'Whatever Ball' was born. This is basically a rule-less version of hot potato which involves getting the ball under or over the net in any way possible. Boys, we'll see you at the 2012 London Olympics for the Canada/ England final!

Elaborate plans to earn some much needed cash in Brisbane were quickly quashed by our job agency when we were told we had to commit for a month. Being too honest for our own good, we admitted that we wouldn't be hanging around that long and so went shopping instead. Bugger. We met up with Andy and Paul from Fraser, Sash and Niaby Jeanette Cod (yes, another female friend) from the Whitsundays and Laura Tibbles a work colleague of Erin's and fellow featured traveller from the blogabond homepage (Vegtibbles). The day finally came to celebrate the 23rd anniversary of Helen Emily Taylor's birth. She stopped everyone in the street to inform them of this fact and soon found herself alone as the others disowned her. Yet again the day began with a sweet and balloon fest as we woke everyone up in our dorm by singing happy birthday at 7.30am when Tay opened her present of a beautiful new frock. Tay was excited about the prospect of her first hot birthday ever and caused a scene with a childish tantrum when we awoke to complete cloud cover and no sign of sun. Her spirits were lifted with a lunchtime falafel, the only thing that could brighten her mood. The day became a walk-a-thon as we saw the sights of Brisbane. We returned home to gather the troops and everyone drank excessive amounts of goon, apart from the birthday girl who splashed out on a bottle of sparkling rose. We headed to Fortitude Valley where we spent the night podium dancing in Birdie Num Num's. Part two of the celebrations was an amazing Mexican meal where an over indulgence in cheese caused stomach cramps all round. Having passed on Australia Zoo, Erin, Penny and Niaby took a trip to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary to cuddle one of the little marsupials. Koalas sleep 18 hours a day due to the low amount of carbs in their diets of eucalyptus leaves. They poo 80 times a day which Penny experienced 'first hand' when Donatello relieved himself on her.

permalink written by  Murph, Tay, Colly and Erin on November 9, 2006 from Brisbane, Australia
from the travel blog: The Smug Adventures Down Under
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A Day at the Races!

Surfers Paradise, Australia

Surfers Paradise sticks to the formula of most resort towns, but on a bigger, flasher scale. Our arrival coincided with the Melbourne Cup. This is the biggest race day in Australia and we decided to use this as an excuse to get dressed up and spend the day drinking champagne at the Surfers Paradise Turf Club. Goon o'clock came early that day when we whipped it out at 11am. It was at this point that Erin Gillham loftily told two boys in our hostel kitchen, "its a bit early to be eating pizza isn't it?" with cup of dry white in hand. Kettle, pot, black. With our gladrags on we crammed like sardines onto an already over-full bus. There was no hiding the fact that everyone was already shamelessly checking out each other's attire, as would continue throughout the day. Although we looked the part we didn't stray far from our backpacker roots as on arrival we quickly polished off our stash of goon. We then discovered the deal of the century, $16.50 bottles of Angas Brut bubbly, which was to be our drink of choice for the day. We were the last of the big spenders with our bets, as none of us placed more than $5 on a horse, mainly due to the fact that not one of us has a clue about racing. We gathered round a monitor to watch the Melbourne Cup race, eagerly clutching our tickets. Whilst Murph's horse Activation appeared to not even be in the race, Penny's was leading most of the way, but in the end it was neck and neck between Erin and Tay's Pop Rock and Colly's Delta Blues. It came down to a photo finish and Colly found herself with the winning ticket and smugly pocketed 55 bucks. After the race excitement, we headed for the live band and danced like idiots in the afternoon sunshine until it was time to catch our bus outta there. We landed on our feet when our free bus dropped us at Shooters Bar where we were given complimentary champagne and canopes. The most surreal part of the day came when we arrived home to discover it was only 7pm and therefore Home and Away time which we sat and watched whilst roaring drunk, thus perplexing the other hostel guests. The night continued in Melba's but the day caught up with us and we were tucked up in bed by midnight.

Having heard how amazing Byron Bay is from other travellers, we were disappointed when once again the weather let us down. Lifting our spirits was the fact that Adrian and Kurt were there to greet us. The main attraction in Byron is the lighthouse which one can enjoy a pleasant coastal stroll to. Having made it half way across the beach, a huge rainstorm began which left us dashing for cover to a nearby beach shack and opting for a taxi home. We sampled the delights of the well known Cheeky Monkeys nightclub where tables serve as a dancefloor but we spent most of the night arm wrestling for no apparent reason. We bid Byron Bay farewell, but have plans to return on our way back up the coast.

Having passed through Sydney Airport twice, it was finally time to stop there. Arriving at 6.30am after an overnight bus was not an ideal start, especially as we then waited for 4 hours in a hostel lobby only to be told there were no beds. We moved on to the backpacker/ red light district of Kings Cross where the only available hostel was the skanky Mates Place. We spent a considerable amount of time wandering the city streets, saw the major sights and discovered one of the biggest lies of the modern world- the Sydney Opera House is not the sparkling white it appears in photos, but a yellowish baby vomit colour. Darling Harbour did live up to expectations though, and we took the time out to enjoy a drink in a harbourside bar, whilst watching the world go by.

We met up with the cockney boys from Cairns, Michael and Mark along with their Sydney friends. We went for a night out in Oxford Street, and to our unbelievable joy discovered that these boys revel in the 'stand in a circle whilst someone comedy dances in the middle,' as much as we do. Result. The major purpose of our brief stay in Sydney was a desperate search for accommodation over new year. After an initial panic that we'd end up in Mates Place for $70 a night, we stumbled across a guest house with an eccentric landlord. His one condition of stay was that we could, "roll a good spliff." We'd better get practising. Good job done, we're looking forward to returning for new year and partying hard!

permalink written by  Murph, Tay, Colly and Erin on November 25, 2006 from Surfers Paradise, Australia
from the travel blog: The Smug Adventures Down Under
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Everybody Needs Good Neighbours...

Melbourne, Australia

We’re sorry it has been so long since our last entry but due to constant work we’ve been more like the non-smug un-adventurers of late. We arrived in Melbourne on the coldest November day since 1953 after a 17-hour bus marathon, wearing short shorts and vests. As we’ve learnt from our time in Melbourne such freak weather conditions aren’t unusual with one day being freezing cold and the next boiling hot not unlike a hair dryer. The current bushfires have added to the weird weather as the city is enshrouded in a smoky haze. We began our stay in Melbourne in the backpacker district St. Kilda and the first item on our agenda was to book on to the next Neighbour’s night. We may struggle to convey our excitement and unequaled joy as we sat in anticipation of meeting the Neighbour’s stars. The atmosphere was electric with frenzied English backpackers/Neighbours fanatics eagerly awaiting their idols whilst viewing classic Neighbours moments on the big screen featuring Scott and Charlene’s wedding and the passing of Helen Daniels which caused swells of emotion and nostalgia. The room reached fever pitch as the door swung open and in walked Lynette Scully, Boyd Hoyland and Dylan Timmons. We had found our nirvana. The night involved a meet and greet and photo opportunity with each TV legend which caused much hysteria. The night climaxed when we rocked with the Doc, Karl Kennedy, and his band “The Waiting Room”. They wowed us with their musical genius and we were left weak at the knees with Doctor Kennedy oozing sex appeal and flexing his guns of steel.

Overall we could not have had a nicer time, the experience was everything we had hoped it would be and more. However the night was bittersweet and it was to be our last Penelope Jean Crocker, our favourite ever female traveling companion. Penny, you leaving us was a big fat negative, I mean “What the f**k?!, who does that?! Who leaves a full suitcase in a dorm room?!” ;-)

Our Neighbours experience in Melbourne would not have been complete without a trip to Ramsay Street.

After suffering constant jibes about our love of all things “Neighbours” at the hands of our landlord “Twang” he eventually agreed to drive us to the show’s homeland, the legend that is “Ramsay Street” otherwise known as Pin Oak. We arrived in the street with cries of disbelief, “this isn’t it, its too small!” But after surveying the houses and shouting such comments as “That’s the House of Trousers!” we realized that we were in fact in Ramsay Street for real. After being photographed in front of each and every house we enjoyed a quick game of Ramsay Street cricket and now feel that we can leave Melbourne fulfilled.

permalink written by  Murph, Tay, Colly and Erin on December 21, 2006 from Melbourne, Australia
from the travel blog: The Smug Adventures Down Under
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Deck the Halls with Boughs of Holly, Tra La La La La La La La La La La

Melbourne, Australia

Our main aim of our stay in Melbourne was to earn some dollars so we signed up to an agency and due to the pre-Christmas rush have been working non-stop ever since. Due to work commitments in the city center we moved into a share house on Drummond Street. It proved to be basically like a massive student house, full of 26 backpackers and run by a 38 year old landlord “Twang” who from 10am onwards may always be found clutching a red wine bottle in one hand and beer can in the other. Our work has taken us to bars, gentlemen’s clubs, private homes and posh hotels across the city. The monotony of work has been slightly relieved by the meeting of such new friends as Jen from Canada, Daniel from Mexico and Manu from France. Recently we worked at the Telstra Dome for the Robbie Williams concert. Whilst the fans had paid $100+ for the privilege of being there we saw the entire concert for free and despite being sceptical beforehand we found it surprisingly enjoyable. We are now officially over waitressing and never want to serve food and drink again.

Melbourne provided the opportunity to catch up with some old friends as we journeyed out to the RAF base to cheer on Levi and Trej from Sydney in their touch footy final. We met these boys on the legendary trip to Prague celebrating Murph’s 21st birthday and the subsequent weekend in Oxford, and have looked forward to meeting them again in Australia ever since. It was a real treat to catch up with the boys again and we enjoyed reliving the abundance of private jokes from Prague ‘bbbbbbbbbbbbbyyyyyyyyy the way’. The post-footy barbeque bash wasn’t exactly “The Biggest Club in Middle Europe” or “Pleasuredome” but we still had a thoroughly lovely time. We rendezvoused yet again with Sash and Naiby from the Whitsundays and Kurty Wurty Flurty from Fraser Island and enjoyed a couple of nights pre-drinking in new recruit Alex’s swanky flat before heading to trendy Chapel Street and then “Honky Tonks” a renowned Melbourne club.

After having already met (Veg)Tibbles in Brisbane it was time for more Blogabond fusion as we met up with Ollie Johnson of “A Man from Cockshutt” fame who replaced us as the featured traveller on the Blogabond Homepage (not that we’re bitter about it). Hope you have a good Christmas in Canada Ollie. Colly also had the pleasure of enjoying a meal with some old Australian friends of her parents in their Melbourne home.

A bonus of living in Melbourne has been the chance to spend time with Murph’s relatives Uncle Peter, Auntie Lai sie, Sian and the very smelly Rosie. Their hospitality was particularly appreciated by Murph as she recuperated from an operation to extract a troublesome wisdom tooth.

This was followed by a very smug respite from work as we visited their beach house on the Mornington Peninsula. There we enjoyed two lazy days with plenty of wine and a couple of fantastic meals out. Thanks very much again guys!

We’re finding it hard to feel Christmassy here in Australia. The decorations look all wrong and they don’t seem to embrace the carols or the cheesy seasonal TV as much as we do in England. However as work is winding down we’re trying our best to find the Christmas Spirit by playing East 17’s “Stay Another Day” on repeat and hiring Christmas films. We’re going to miss you all lots during the festive season and hope our absence doesn’t leave too big a hole in your Christmas fun! Happy holidays x x x

permalink written by  Murph, Tay, Colly and Erin on December 21, 2006 from Melbourne, Australia
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Baaaawwwwlllllll Shhhaaaaaaaaaaaane!

Melbourne, Australia

After losing our mojo from weeks of work, we were very excited about our big night out to say farewell to our housemates. A vast group of 20 plus left 93 Drummond Street in a convoy of excited revellers. Our venue of choice was Metros and after a raucous night there we left a ledgendary 'house secrets' list in our wake. On Christmas Eve we bid farewell to our house mates as we upgraded to Murphs Aunty and Uncles house, along with Claire, Murph's cousin and her husband Tim. It didn't feel like Christmas Eve without the traditional yearly piss-up at the White Hart/ Cricketers. However, in an attempt to feel more Christmassy we watched 'Love Actually', 'Elf' and sang Christmas carols. A BBQ and plenty of wine followed which kick-started our immense eating and drinking extravaganza in the house of the Murphy feeders.

For our first Australian Christmas we woke to cold, wind and rain - yes, the coldest Christmas day on record in Melbourne. To add to the joyous occasion, Colly and Tay headed off to work. Luckily their shift was brightened up by a visit from (a morbidly obese) Santa.

Meanwhile, back at the house preparations for the most elaborate and eclectic Christmas dinner ever had begun. Not satisfied by a standard roast, Aunty Lai Sie added such delights as roast chicken, ham, red snapper, cray fish and a mountain of prawns. Everyone got involved with the cooking, with particular praise going to Tim Cairns who became head chef for the day. Santa managed to find us in Australia as we opened parcels from home full of wonderous treats. Our sacks were fuller than expected as we recieved some gifts from surrogate parents Peter and Lai Sie.

Thank you for the beautiful necklaces and bracelets, we wear them every day. We managed to spend an impressive ten hours around the dining room table, only moving to retrieve another bottle of wine from the fridge.

Feeling somewhat more rotund and fuzzy-headed the next day, we rose for a day of cricket.

Yes, thats right cricket fans, we attended the Boxing Day test match in Melbourne thanks to the amazing Rosie 'poo' Murphy who managed to buy 8 tickets for the sold out event. England played appallingly, but at least this meant we got to see the entire team bat and watch Freddy get a couple of wickets in the last few minutes.

We suppose we should note that we also viewed Shane 'fat bastard' Warne get his 700th test wicket. This was quite fun as we got to heckle, 'bbbbbaaaaawwwwlllll SSSShhhaaaaaaaaaaane' continuously for the rest of the day, much to the entertainment of the Aussie fans that surrounded us.

We would like to thank the Aussie Murphys once again for their generous hospitality, hope we didn't eat you out of house and home! Hope everyone at home had a very merry Christmas x

permalink written by  Murph, Tay, Colly and Erin on January 6, 2007 from Melbourne, Australia
from the travel blog: The Smug Adventures Down Under
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Rave in the city

Sydney, Australia

We officially love Sydney. We quickly established that getting jobs was out of the question for such a short time, so we were left with a two week window for fun and games. On our first night out in Sydney, we all got a little over-excited, this can be testified by Murph's grown up cousins Claire and Tim who bravely accepted our invitation to backpacker dive on Oxford Street, 'the Gaff'. We blame our incoherence entirely on Tim and those sambucca shots he fed us. We drunkenly slurred at them that they were our 'couple idol' and in return Claire declared us to be 'favourite cousin and friends.' Can you feel the love?

A major reason for our intense love of Sydney was that we had lots of friends there. Rob, Charlie and Adam from home in the village, Niaby, Sash and Rhiannon. Also there were the permanent residents, Pat, Millsy and Dr Dan from Asia days, Trej from Prague and ex-Guildford boy James. We want to thank them all for helping us get truly involved in Sydney life! Everyone in their life time should have a new year in Sydney and we're glad we can tick it off our list of experiences. More important than the fireworks (which we watched from a penthouse room in the Intercontinental, dahling) was the fact that we were escorted by a bunch of international investment bankers to an exclusive party in a swanky beachside apartment in Tamarama. Luckily we were altogether at midnight when there was a comical rendition of Auld Lange Syne, slightly tricky after having had plenty of champers and not a clue of what the words are.

Although new year was great, our main celebrations were to be on January 1st 2007- Field Day. Thanks to Pat and Millsy's hot tip back in Cambodia we had learnt about one of Sydney's most infamous new year day's festivals. It is a 12 hour dance music marathon which we'd bought our tickets for back in September. After waking to pouring rain and with vicious post-new year hangovers, the thought of dancing in a field and drinking warm beer, was not ideal.

However, a 2 hour nap later, we awoke to blue skies and felt much more refreshed. We followed the hoardes to the Domain, a large park in the city centre, where at 3pm we purchased our first drink of the day. We discovered a surprising treat in cans of Smirnoff Black Double. After spending the last four months slagging of Aussie boys for drinking this alco-pop, we weren't shy in admitting that after a mere can and a half we were already feeling the effects. What a marvellous invention. Whilst raving to Mylo in the 4pm sunshine with the city skyline as our backdrop, the comment of the day went to Helen Patricia Murphy, who overwhelmed with pure emotion exclaimed, "we must be the four luckiest girls in the world!" In goofy chorus the other girls agreed. How smug. As night fell, the clouds rolled in and much to our delight, a rain dance ensued. We were four little drowned rats, yet could not have been happier. Our love for the day is indescribable, so we will spare you any more shameless adulation (but just for the record, it was amazing, we loved it and one of the best days ever. Ever. )

New year over, it was time to explore a bit of Sydney and so we saw all the major sights. Our base was King's Cross, which despite its negative image amongst residents of Sydney, we loved dearly. Having now seen the opera house in sunshine we would like to retract a previous comment referring to it as being the colour of baby vomit. Its quite nice actually.

We were driven over the harbour bridge by old friend Trej and explored the Rocks, Sydney's oldest precinct. Sydney beaches provide an escape from the city, Bondi being the most famous, although we preferred the quieter Coogee and especially enjoyed a marvellous coastal walk between the two. A picturesque ferry ride took us to Manly, the busiest beach we've seen our whole trip. This day trip also involved a long-awaited visit to Cold Rock ice creamery. To fill you in on what this amazing delicacy involves, you pick an ice cream, a sauce and your favourite sweets or chocolate bar and watch as they are kneaded into a magical concoction. The results were extraordinary.

We began to have withdrawals from cheesy day trips and so set out on a tour to the nearby Blue Mountains, a mountain range enveloped in a blue haze due to lingering vapours from an abundance of eucalyptus trees. We were driven around the vicinity by a crazy tour guide, with a quick stop off at his Grandma's house to pick up our delicious packed lunches.

We visited Wentworth Falls, the three sisters and descended a giant cliff-side staircase of 1000 steps. Luckily those stairs were a one-way ticket as we boarded the world's steepest railway (featured in the Guiness book of records)to return us to the top. Another of Australia's must-dos which we left until our last week, was the $5 steak. On personal recommendation from Sydney-sider Patrick Hoolahan, we chowed down at Captain Cook Hotel eatery in Surry Hills, and can now testify that we rate Aussie beef 10 out of 10.

For our last night in Sydney we decided to go out with a bang and so joined Pat and Millsy at Chinese Laundry, one of Sydney's top night spots. To sum the night up, we didn't go to bed, and Murph and Colly found themselves dancing in a 'day club' at 11am on a Sunday morning. Goodbye Sydney!

permalink written by  Murph, Tay, Colly and Erin on January 16, 2007 from Sydney, Australia
from the travel blog: The Smug Adventures Down Under
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