A Travellerspoint blog

Australia

Journey to the Red Centre

Roadtrains, Roos and a big red Rock!

We set off from Townsville on the east coast, eagerly anticipating our road-trip across the geographical and cultural heart of the country.
We weren't to be disappointed.

It was one of the best experiences either of us have ever had. In just 2 weeks we covered a distance of 5031 kilometres!

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Driving through the outback is amazing, in terms of the sheer scale and inhospitable nature of the place as well as the sights you see (9 foot anthills, swarms of huge grasshoppers, birds of prey, lizards and kangaroos everywhere!). At times it was so hot that when you stepped out of the car, you could only bear it for 30 seconds before you had to get back in and turn on the air-conditioning!

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When it's almost 40 degrees, what might be a nice cooling breeze elsewhere actually feels like someone has turned on the fan of an industrial heater and aimed it at your face! It actually makes you feel a little nauseous as it's so unpleasantly hot! Couple that with the multitude of flies that instantly attack you (literally - you run around waving your arms like a maniac!) and you can see why we decided to take 20 litres of water and the same amount of fuel with us. Just in case. You don't want to get caught short on anything in this part of the world, in case you get a flat tyre or break down.

We did actually come across 2 Swiss girls who'd crashed and rolled their car about 100 yards into the bush - it looked like it had been there a long time as the car was an absolute wreck and covered in dirt, but the crash had only just happened.

Luckily, some off-duty cops had already stopped and were helping the shocked and bleeding girls away from the wreckage. We were very wary about stopping when first flagged down and kept the car rolling with the window only slightly down (Richard had his foot on the gas!) but it soon became clear as we slowed that there was a genuine problem.

The girls were okay in the end, we helped put their stuff in the back of a pick-up and they were taken to a medical centre a couple of hundred kilometres away.

On the way to Uluru, we stayed at some strange little villages where there was one high street, a couple of residential roads, a petrol station, spit and sawdust (literally) pub and very little else. We kept ourselves to ourselves and moved on early in the morning to avoid the worst of the heat and to just be on our way!

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On average, we drove around 500km a day, setting off around 7am and usually arriving at our destination by 2 or 3pm. Driving in the afternoon in that sort of heat is no fun, air conditioning or not. It can be very tiring and the straight roads can hypnotise you quite easily, so we made a point of swapping drivers every 90 minutes or so.

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Having driven through the ‘interesting’ outback towns of Hughendon, Mount Isa, Tennant Creek and Alice Springs, we covered 2512 kilometres and made it to Yulara, the resort outside of Uluru National Park (Ayers Rock) in less than a week. After all that driving there was only one thing left to do, so we set about making sure we had the best seats in the house for the sunset viewing that evening!

We were not disappointed by the experience, it was breathtaking. It was incredible to see how the colour of the rock seemed to change from second to second, warm pink to orange then cool brown back to earthy red, all in the matter of a few minutes. We sat on the edge of Maggie’s open boot, drank warm coke and enjoyed the magical display for well over an hour and long after darkness had fallen. We both had a feeling that we’d finally experienced a little of what Australia is really about.

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Eager for more we set our alarm for 4.30am the following morning in order to see the sunrise. It was surprising chilly as we watched Uluru, and waited for her colours to come alive. Just after 6am the first rays of sunlight hit the rock and it lit up, we watched intently as the colours intensified, getting warmer with every second.

It appeared almost alive as it pulsated as every new ray of sunlight passed over it’s surface, just as with the sunset Uluru seemed to glow. It was a spectacular display and a very humbling experience, it’s easy to see why people have been inspired by this very spiritual place for tens of thousands of years.

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Everyone is asked NOT to climb Uluru, due to its spiritual and cultural significance, but still many people choose to ignore this request and put their lives in danger, it’s a perilously steep hike. Unfortunately those people who do climb often are ‘caught short’ at the top and thanks to them the watering holes that surround this area have now been poisoned so badly that it will take years of work to undo the damage caused. The traditional owners are hopeful that the climb will be closed in the next 18 months, maybe animals will in time return to this area.

We decided that rather than climb we would walk the 10 kilometres around the base of the rock, starting with a Ranger guided walk along the Mala track. We met our guide at 8am, he was able to share with us some of the stories of how the land was created, how the park was returned to the people and is now jointly managed with the traditional owners.

He also showed us some of the rock art sites and told us about some of the plants and their uses. We finished this part of the walk at the stunning Kantju Gorge and enjoyed a brief moment of cool shade before we continued along the base walk.

As the morning wore on the colours of the rock changed again, from bright orange to almost peach, in places where the rock had weathered away it appeared like rusting metal. Every corner we turned provided another wonderful perspective of this awe-inspiring place, caves, boulders, colours, contours all there for the eye to explore. It really is so much more than just a big red rock once you get up close and personal.

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As the midday sun beat down we were glad to reach the end of the walk and the wonderful air-conditioned sanctuary of Maggie.

Our short time exploring this wonderful part of the country was well worth each and every kilometre driven to get here, next stop Kings Canyon!

The drive to the scenic Kings Canyon area was around 400km, a short journey by this trips standards! Here you could walk through the canyon on various routes and also visit Kathleen Springs.

On our first evening, we took a little picnic to the viewing platform at the back of our accommodation and watched the sunset over Kings Canyon.

It was a more subtle experience than sunset over Uluru, and while the canyon looked great, the evening sky was also impressive. We could see for miles and the subtle changes in the colour of the sky as the sun went down were really lovely - hues of pink, purple and blue over the canyon and orange rays of evening sunshine lighting up huge cloud formations - as the photos below illustrate:

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Early the next morning (to avoid the worst of the heat) we walked through the deep valley of the Kings Canyon. Huge cliffs on either side were decorated with massive red boulders as we stepped through dried-up river beds lined with trees, some flourishing and others burnt-out.

It was good to see that Aboriginals’ beliefs in the area were being well respected with sacred areas being fenced off. Having reached the end of the walk, we came to a huge natural amphitheatre with a fantastic echo and fascinating cliff faces with over-hangs that seemed to defy gravity!

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Later that afternoon, we took a trip to Kathleen Springs, which is a smaller valley than that of Kings Canyon but just as interesting. The end of this trek brought us to a small green oasis at the bottom of a cliff face, the cliffs and trees there offering welcome respite from the unrelenting heat of the sun.

The water hole here is a sacred area, believed to be inhabited by a Rainbow Serpent (a universal Aboriginal figure, regardless of area or tribe, who appears in many ancient stories and is believed to have helped shape the landscape in this area) who must not be disturbed or disrespected, lest he becomes angry and wrathful! Luckily, we did neither!

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Kakadu National Park was also an extraordinary place, we went on a boat trip down the East Alligator River where freshwater crocodiles could be seen in their dozens as we sailed through amazing tropical scenery towards sacred Aboriginal areas.
Our Aboriginal guide steering the boat shared his knowledge of the wildlife and cultural history of the local area as he steered us round the crocs!

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We also visited the Bowali Visitors Centre to find out about walks in the area and watch a video about the wildlife of a nearby billabong.

One of the areas of interest that was recommended to us was the Nourlangie Rock. Here we found amazing lookouts and also ancient cave paintings dating back tens of thousands of years. The rock art really is incredible. Some consist of block colours, others have fine detailing and many are still vibrant in colour, astonishing when you consider the thousands of years that have passed since they were painted.

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The nearby Anbangbang shelter has provided local people with refuge from the elements for the last 20,000 years. Evidence of this can be seen on the rocks, which have been used to grind seeds. Take a look at the picture below - you can clearly see the round indentations carved out over the years.

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Not far from here was the Nawurlandja Lookout, a huge sloping rocky outcrop which seemed to go on forever (we gave up trying to find its summit under the relentless mid-morning sun!) and provided stunning views of the vast bush land wilderness which extends further than the eye can see! Being there made us feel really lucky, and also quite insignificant in the face of such overwhelming and untamed natural beauty.

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So we feel like we've really seen some of the history and heritage of Australia now, especially regarding the Aboriginal people. The injustices, prejudices and crimes committed against these people are hard to believe. It's another story of genocide that's been neatly swept under the carpet but is at least slowly being recognised today.

We'd left ourselves 2 weeks to sell the car in Darwin, and true to form (we sold our car in NZ in double-quick time) we sold it on our first evening here to some likeable European lads, who offered us the right money there and then (well, after 2 test drives and some phone calls back to Dads in Germany!).

So our budget for SE Asia is looking quite healthy, meaning we can afford to stay in reasonable accommodation and avoid the budget buses (where many Westerners have their baggage rifled through and the drivers work 23 hours straight in one shift!).

Darwin is extremely hot and humid (though not quite as hot as Kakadu, where it was in the high 30's/low 40's on some days), meaning that when we've not been in the lovely air-conditioned library using the free wi-fi, we've been sunbathing by the hostel pool or swimming in the outdoor pool near the amusingly named 'Fannie Bay'!

We went to an excellent evening market last week which was on Mindil beach. It had live bands, stalls selling every kind of international food imaginable, arts and craft stalls and cheap clothes too. We bought delicious curry, then ate it on the beach as the sun set over the sea and the band played in the background. It made us feel really privileged just to be there, soaking up the carnival atmosphere! We enjoyed it so much that we went back the following Thursday for the last market of the season, which ended with a bang! We sat on the dark beach with hundreds of others and enjoyed a spectacular firework display.

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We also went to a fantastic open-air cinema on Saturday night, watching Balibo and the Stone Brothers under the stars while sitting on deck chairs and spotting the occasional bat fly across the full moon above (it was Halloween after all!).

We've booked our hotel in Singapore, it's a little more expensive than our daily budget allows for, but we've got a surplus now and wanted to ease our way gently into our Asian experience - it's going to be a little more challenging than the countries we've visited so far (except perhaps Fiji) and so didn't want to start off staying somewhere that wasn't a sanctuary when we need to get away from all the hustle and bustle!

So it's next stop Singapore!

Posted by rioandlucy 17:34 Archived in Australia Comments (2)

East Coast Adventure

Sea, surfers, sand and sea-sickness!

After dropping off Mavis and Gerry at the airport, we drove north and slightly inland to Hunter Valley, famed in these parts for its wine-making (and sampling thereof!).

It was noticably warmer after the distinctly English climate of Melbourne as we strolled down country lanes in search of local wineries, which were very attractively landscaped and beautifully set within rolling hills with horses and tropical birds roaming freely.
Lucy indulged in 2 separate tastings at different wineries and seemed to have a bit of a knack for it as she bought a couple of bottles and giggled her way home in the afternoon sun!

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Driving north again, we arrived in the seaside town of Newcastle to find it a place of contrasts - a rather shabby and superficial beach on one side of the bay in sharp contrast to the newly regenerated and cultured dockland area around the headland.

Here we visited Blackbutt Reserve, 20 KM of bushland in the town's suburbs complete with birds, wombats, emus, bats, wallabies and of course koalas!

Of course we indulged in a koala encounter, Lucy having to be persuaded in the strongest possible terms to take the startled creature out of her rucksack on more than one occasion!

We also took a rainforest walk and came across hundreds of bats nesting and flying around the trees above our heads. It was all very 'otherwordly' - the heat, smell, bat calls and 'whump whump' sounds from their flapping wings all made us feel like part of some strange horror film set somewhere in the deepest parts of an alien wilderness!
Take a look at the video to see for yourselves...

The coastal headland area of Port Stephens is comprised of numerous scenic and charming bays with gorgeous beaches and friendly laid-back charm that other parts of the East Coast now lack in their clamour to capitalise fully on the area's increasingly aggressive commercialisation.

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On our first afternoon there, we took a summit walk near Nelson Bay to admire the area from above. The summit path was a little steep and treachorous, which became all the more apparant when a local Aussie girl (Amy) came running down the hill behind us, only to twist her ankle and then fall on her knee as she tumbled right next to us. Her sister Teegan was with her but couldn't get hold of their parents mobiles, so We did the only decent thing which was to carry her all the way down the path to the base of the hill!

While carrying her down, one of the sisters' teachers (Liz) came along and offered us some help, and so eventually we got Amy back down the hill, where she was put in Liz's car and taken home!
The next evening, Liz and her husband turned up at our hostel and offered to take us out for a meal, as long as we agreed to be quizzed about Europe and the UK as they were doing some travelling themselves in 2010. It sounded like a good deal to us!

Their whole family were actually present at the meal, Amy and Teegan's Mum had sent a card and present along with Liz for us which was a nice touch.

We also indulged in some sand-boarding while in the area, take a look at this video for how NOT to do it!

We took a dolphin and whale watching cruise here. From September to November, whales are migrating south along the coastline, mothers staying with their calves near the coast which makes for good whale-spotting! There are also an abundance of dolphins around Nelson Bay, which can be seen just walking around the marinas in town.

Unfortunately, as soon as the boat left the bay and tuned off its engines on open sea, Richard was sick as a dog and had to lie on the back of the boat for the whole morning. Lucy got a great view of a calf and mother whale though, as well as a pod of dolphins who tagged on our bow wave for a while playfully jumping in and out of the water alongside us before darting off to chase a school of fish at an impressive 20 knots through the water.

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Our next port of call was Bellingen, a quaint and bewitching alternative 'new-age' town with gorgeous cafes, interesting galleries, museums and boutiques and a fascinating national park rainforest just up the road!

The Dorrigo National Park Rainforest was suitably impressive, with accessible walks through its amazing collection of trees and creeping vines leading into a deep valley towards the pretty Tristania Falls.

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While in 'Bello', the huge dustcloud (some of you may remember this being on the news) which had blown in from the outback and covered most of New South Wales and Queensland (a not inconsiderable land mass!) arrived in Bellingen, turning the morning sun a strange light blue colour and the sky an eerie yellow! It was a strange sight to behold, like a thick yellow mist had descended and given the world a creepy duotone tinge!

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Byron Bay was, at one time, a haven for hippies who came to the area for the laid-back vibes and great beaches. Today, bongs have been replaced with Billabong outlets but elements of the old hippy influences remain amongst the backpacker hostels and greyhound buses.

We had a quick look round before driving to Cape Byron, which boasts an impressively maintained lighthouse and its claim of being the most easterly point in Australia!

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Feeling the need for respite from the east coast culture for a while, we headed inland to the strange and sleepy town of Murwillumbah, where our hostel was situated on the banks of a river and had large pet lizards wandering around for company!

We used this as a base to visit the fantastically superficial and unappealing stretch of coastline known as the Gold Coast, which could perhaps be described as a hot Blackpool.
We took one look and decided not to park Maggie, opting instead to drive through Surfer's Paradise and visit 'The Spit', a marina a couple of miles up the coast which comprised of over-priced clothes shops and some of the biggest yachts you're likely to see around these waters!

Brisbane was probably our favourite city in Australia, an opinion perhaps influenced by the fact that neither of us were ill, the weather was great and were staying a great area with plenty of culture and places to relax and watch the world go by.
The South Bank Parklands, near our hostel, was where you could find art galleries, theatres, fairs, markets, beautiful gardens and even an urban beach, complete with sand, palm tress, pools, water fountains and grassy banks for sun-bathing.

Most people who come to Hervey Bay do so to visit Fraser Island, us being no exception to this rule. Fraser Island is extremely expensive to visit due to its inaccessibility and lack of accommodation options, so we decided to take a day-trip there to get a feel for the island by taking a nature walk along a beach and through some woodlands, parts of which were used to train special operations soldiers for WWII (the rusting remnants of an old training camp can still be seen).

Magnetic Island had come highly recommended from friends and so we were looking forward to seeing what it had to offer. Lucy jumped for joy when we were checking into our bush-bungalow accommodation and saw that we could have hold a koala bear in the affiliated wildlife park next to the resort!

The tour at the park the following day didn't disappoint! We handled or were at close quarters with crocodiles, tropical birds, lizards and of course Lucy got to cuddle a koala bear while Richard took plenty of photos to record the occasion!

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We also found out from the park ranger that while on our way up the coast, we'd wandered briefly around coastline that boasted the most concentrated number of aggressive saltwater crocodiles (unlike their freshwater counter-parts, these WILL attack and eat you!) in the entire country! Gulp! We agreed to be a little more aware of our environment moving forward!

While on the island, which we both loved almost straight away, we walked over some steep cliffs and through fire-damaged bushlands to bask in the glorious sunshine of the splendidly named Radical Bay, where the warm sea rolled towards us in huge waves, which made for some good improvised body-surfing fun!

On the way home from Radical Bay, we stopped to watch the sun go down over the ocean and found a local chippy to provide a taste of home as we enjoyed a very scenic end to the day.

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Before Magnetic Island, we'd made the decision to miss out Cairnes and travel inland through the outback to Ayers Rock (Uluru) and Kakadu National Park to get a taste of the 'real' Australia before heading north to Darwin to fly to Singapore!

Posted by rioandlucy 21:18 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Riley Re-union Down Under

Markets, mountains and Maggies maiden trip

Three emotional Riley’s were re-united in Sydney International airport, it seemed that Mavis and Gerry were just happy to find Lucy in one piece after recent events!

The following morning Lucy had to visit her surgeon, and got the all clear much to the relief of everyone!
Over the next few days we hit Sydney, packing in as many of the sights as possible. We took a trip over to Manly on the ferry and got spectacular views of both The Harbour Bridge and The Opera House, which was surprisingly small.

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As shopping is a pastime enjoyed by the Riley contingent we visited numerous markets, we wandered The Rocks Sunday Market, stopping for morning tea and scones. We discovered that the loud and colourful Paddy’s Market, with it’s endless supply of tourist ’tat’ and fantastic fruit and vegetable market, was excellent for bagging a bargain as closing time looms. We also sauntered through the elegant Queen Victoria Building which takes up an entire block and has a fabulous animated Royal Clock hanging from the glass domed ceiling.

We strolled through the botanical gardens, enjoying the warm spring sunshine, and visited Darling Harbour to see the huge cruise ships.

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Lucy and Mavis decided to venture up to the top of the Sky Tower and were rewarded with some incredible views of the city and as it was a clear day also got a glimpse of the Blue Mountains in the distance.

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With our time in Sydney almost up we got the bus back to Bondi where we picked up Maggie the Mitsubishi Magna, as with our trip to New Zealand we decided to buy a car which we’re hoping to sell at the end of our trip in Darwin. We enjoyed lunch by the beach, making the most of the sun before we headed south over the next few days to the cooler climes of Melbourne.

After insuring the car we loaded up our luggage, (it’s a good job we bought a station wagon after all!) and set off towards Melbourne, reaching Wagga Wagga, our half way point by early evening and found a bed for the night. We briefly explored the town the following day before getting back on the road.

It was a good 5 hour drive to Melbourne and Maggie appeared to be coping well with her load, thankfully!
While Mavis and Gerry explored Melbourne we had to register the car with VicRoads, unfortunately some of the paperwork wasn’t quite right, but after a call to the previous owners we had an appointment with a garage the following Monday morning to sort everything out, hopefully!

Unfortunately Melbourne was a tad grey and drizzly while we were there but we managed to see some of what the city has to offer. We saw the house that Captain Cook lived in, which was bought and transported to Australia where it was rebuilt, even the herb garden has been replanted! We also visited the Victoria Art Gallery, to see it’s impressive European collection before indulging in a little more retail therapy at the nearby Victoria Market!

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We left Melbourne and drove to Albury on the New South Wales/Victoria border, where we stayed overnight before our appointment at the garage to finalise our registration of Maggie. It was a team effort but we made good use of what little facilities the hostel kitchen offered and enjoyed a tremendous Sunday roast, what a treat!

With all the correct paperwork finally in hand from the garage we were now able to fully register Maggie, so we headed back north on our way to the Blue Mountains, we had a long drive ahead of us but we eventually got to Katoomba as dusk was falling. Too tired to cook, the unanimous decision was that the Chinese restaurant over the road looked inviting, so we decideed to pay a visit and enjoyed a superb meal!

It was pretty chilly but we enjoyed lovely bright skies as we explored what the area had to offer, Mavis and Gerry caught the scenic train into Sydney to pick up a few last minute presents (there’s no stopping the shopping!) while we put our walking boots on and walked up to Echo Point where we saw the Three Sisters, a terrific rock formation. Richard took the cliff edge rock steps down to the viewing point, while Lucy decided to wait on land a little firmer! We then took the cliff edge walk to see the Katoomba Cascade and waterfalls, both of which were beautiful and well worth the walk.

It really was magnificent, reminiscent of the Grand Canyon but on a much smaller scale, and also much greener, added to this the wonderful blue haze that comes from a fine mist of eucalyptus oil from the thousands of trees that surround it makes this a very beautiful place.

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In the evening we drove back to Echo Point to see the Three Sister illuminated, we also witnessed a terrific lightening storm over Sydney, with sheet and fork lightening lighting up the skies miles away, an excellent reminder of how vast this country is and just how small we really are.

The following day the four of us walked to the Katoomba Cascade and took in the stunning views along the way to the falls and it was just as wonderful as it was the day before! We then drove out to the aptly named Sublime Point, with its 180 degree views of the Jamieson Valley, and the reverse of the Three Sisters. Breathtaking!

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It was a tad chilly so Gerry decided the only way for us to warm up would be with a nice warm cuppa and a slice of cake and who are we to argue?!

As our fortnight together came to an end, we chatted about what a fabulous time we’d all had during the past couple of weeks, and how quickly it had flown by, but we were reminded that in just 6 months we’ll be reunited in another airport - Manchester - not quite as exotic, but definitely something to look forward to!! We packed Maggie up one last time with all our bags and drove Mavis and Gerry to Sydney airport for their mammoth flight home.
We could put it off no longer, and our farewell was just as tearful as expected.

And so ends the Riley’s big adventure down under - all except for one Riley of course.

She and Richard were heading north to pastures new. Byron Bay, Magnetic Island, Brisbane, and even an unexpected outback adventure to Ayers Rock and Kakadu National Park awaited them…

Posted by rioandlucy 21:17 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Beaches, Bugs and Bladders!

Island paradises, reggae buses and emergency operations - this post has got the lot!

So here we are again folks, and sorry it's been so long!

As some of you know, it's been an eventful 6 weeks or so, and so we have a lot to catch up on, so here goes...

We touched (bumped!) down in Fiji to be welcomed by extreme humidity and torrential rain - definitely not what we'd signed up for!

Happily, we awoke the following morning to be greeted by glorious hot sunshine, so like good English citizens we ran down the beach for maximum sun exposure time - however we're sensible when it comes to the factor 30, so worry not!

After a few days relaxing on New Town Beach, we decided on a 7-day trip around the Yasawa Islands -deciding to stay on 3 of them for 2 nights apiece.

On the first day, after a slight soaking on the Yasawa Flyer (a big yellow catamaran which takes you close to your island of choice before a small water-taxi picks you up), we got an even bigger soaking as we approached our first resort - Safe Landing on the island of Nacula, one of the furthest north from the mainland.

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As you can see, these islands really are about as close to paradise as you can get, and our bure was situated right on the beach, complete with a handy hammock attached to a couple of coconut trees for good measure!

One of the highlights was walking around the bay before sunset to sample afternoon tea Fiji-style - check out the local Starbucks:

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As we sipped our tea, we watched the school bus dropping the kids off - they leave for school on Monday morning and come back on Friday afternoon!

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On Sunday morning, we were invited to the village church to join the locals in their weekly prayers. Needless to say we were somewhat taken aback when a pumping house beat erupted from the LOUD pa system, and the preacher started to 'Dad dance' around the open-air church while the congregation ran freely underneath the coconut tress, also getting their groove on! Of course, we stood there like stiffs at the front, clapping politely and looking slightly bewildered!
We all agreed that if the C of E introduced raving into their Sunday sermons, we'd all be on board!!

The 2nd resort we visited was the aptly named 'White Sandy Beach' on Naviti Island.
The snorkelling here was amazing - you only needed to swim 30 metres out before comingacross a deep coral shelf with the most incredible array of multi-coloured fish of all shapes and sizes, as well as the coral itself which was like something off the BBC's Blue Planet!

At this point, we have to mention the lovely cold outdoor shower that came with our bure - we soon realised that middle of the afternoon was the best time to use this - you didn't want any shade or cool breeze to make matters any worse!

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Our third and final resort was Wayalailai on the Waya Island. Here, all the profits from the resort were channelled back into the village, providing better homes and scholarships for the children.

Here, we went on a rather scary and unsafe rock walk (Lucy declined the opportunity to cross a narrow ridge with huge drops on either side, after watching our guide John literally drag a nervous Canadian girl across by her arm..!):

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We also sampled a Kava ceremony (where you clap and smile even though you've just drunk a foul tasting gritty pummelled root!) and did some more snorkelling. Lucy also learnt how to weave on the beach with some of the older women from the village, and made herself a bracelet and ring.

We were quite dejected when we had to leave the Yasawa Islands, but all good things must come to an end! We sailed back into Denarau port on the mainland just as the sun was setting over another gorgeous day in Fiji:

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We then decided to visit the Coral Coast on the south of the main island. To get there, we negotiated 2 local buses, both of which had very basic suspension, deafening engines and erratic drivers who saw traffic ahead as a challenge to overtake on corners and scare the living daylights out of us! Bizzarely, one of the buses was fitted with a nightclub sound-system that any boy racer would be proud of! When we sat off, a UB40 track blasted out which, as if this wasn't bizzare enough, kept skipping and repeating over and over as we hit many a pot-hole along the way. While Lucy and I sat there laughing at this farce, the Fijian passengers sat there looking stoney-faced and bored, which added to the comical scene before us!

Having made it, we spent a couple of days at the Beach House resort, where Richard had a dose of 'Nadi Belly' for a couple of days but nothing too serious. We then moved to the unexpected luxury of the Bedarra Beach Resort, where we were treated to a huge air-conditioned en-suite room, welcome drinks, room service and evening meals on a terrace over-looking the sea.

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Bliss, or it should have been! Unfortunately, it was then Lucy's turn to come down with an illness, which lasted for more than a couple of days. We eventually visited a doctor in Sigatoka, who prescribed her some anti-biotics and lots of plain food!

This seemed to do the trick and we spent a final couple of days in Fiji back in New Town Beach again, nice and handy for the airport up the road. On our final night, we had a meal with an Irish couple we'd met on the Yasawa Islands before once more cramming all our worldly possessions into our rucksacks and getting an early night for the flight in the morning.

After an uneventful flight, we landed in a sunny and warm Sydney and caught a cab to our hostel on Coogee Beach, round the bay from Bondi. Unfortunately, Lucy was starting to feel worse again, and the next day was spent frustratingly trying to navigate the city and get to grips with the local transport system! We also found another hostel in Bondi, as our place in Coogee left a lot to be desired.

By the evening, Lucy was feeling worse still and so we booked her an appointment at a local medical centre for the next morning. On examination, Lucy was advised to go immediately to the A&E department of the hospital, as there seemed to be a serious problem in her abdominal area.

Within a couple of hours, poor Lucy was on a drip, pumped full of morphine and being told that she would be staying on ward for some time while they diagnosed the problem. Meanwhile, Richard was catching cabs, packing bags, moving everything to the new hostel in Bondi, putting together overnight bags for Lucy and speaking to her family while trying to catch a bite to eat!!

The next day, Lucy was informed that she had gall stones and that her inflamed gall bladder would need to be removed. Surgery was scheduled for 2 days later and Lucy bravely looked on the bright side. At least we weren't in Fiji anymore or in a remote part of Cambodia and her folks would see her good as new in a couple of weeks!

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The operation went well, but took a lot longer than expected, so a concerned Richard rushed out from the TV room as Lucy was wheeled back into her room that evening.
After a brief call home to reassure the folks that all went well, it was a case of resting up and letting time and nature do their thing.
3 days later, Lucy was allowed out of hospital and gingerly arrived at the hostel in Bondi, who'd been very good to us - arranging lifts, giving us half-price rent, room upgrades, clean bedding and towels everyday. They even gave us a vase for Lucy's huge bunches of flowers!

The last week or so, which brings us up to date, has mostly been spent relaxing on Bondi Beach and looking for a suitable car to drive the 4,000KM north up the east coast to Darwin.

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Happily, we found such a car today and are picking it up next week once it's been put through it's road-worthy tests. In the meantime, Gerry and Mavis arrive tomorrow, much to Lucy's excitement, and so we'll finally get to see the sights of Sydney that we've been putting off, such as the Sydney Opera House, harbour area, circular quay, Manly and so on.

We hope you're all well back home, do leave us a comment and keep it touch!

Richard and Lucy.

Posted by rioandlucy 04:33 Archived in Australia Comments (6)

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