A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: emmaabroad

Goodbye Australia

A fond farewell to a beloved country

28 °C

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There were tears - more than I expected - as I said goodbye to the place I have called home for the last year.

'Straya has been a real mix of tricks - each location has a different feel, a different story to tell and a different memory for me to treasure.

I've visited six of the seven states, seen all the main animals on the tick list and accomplished something many thought impossible - ditching the 9 to 5 to see more of the world.

I remember in April 2014 I handed in my notice at work and suddenly the realisation of what I was doing finally hit. Before that, the booking the planes and applying for visas hadn't seemed real. But actually telling my boss and "coming out" to my colleagues was a big deal - and it meant it was really happening.

But not a minute has passed where I haven't been reassured that that decision was the best one I'd ever made.

Many times I have put down my camera, stopped talking and just ENJOYED. I just stood there and mentally pinched myself to check it was all really happening.

There are so many memories I will treasure forever .This isn't a definitive list, but it gives you a good idea....

  • seeing Sydney Opera House for the first time. (see pictures of the SOH during Vivid by clicking here)

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  • staying in my very first hostel in Newcastle. There were three other girls in the room and I remember thinking "this isn't so bad".
  • going off the beaten track for the first time in Coffs Harbour. I met a local on the beach and he took me, Fay and his two dogs up to a lookout that wasn't really well-known by travellers. The views were amazing and I learned a lot about Australian kindness and humour from this man.
  • scuba diving in Byron Bay and seeing sharks and turtles. I actually couldn't believe how much wildlife I'd seen in such a short space of time.
  • cuddling a koala at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary. 'Nuf said.
  • totally letting my hair down in Brisbane. I had one of the best nights out here. So many giggles and I was totally carefree.
  • seeing jumping crocs in the Northern Territory. And holding a snake. And standing next to giant termite mounds. And swimming in waterfalls. All of it, just all of it.
  • scuba diving and snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef. And yes, I did find Nemo.

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  • swimming alongside a turtle and seeing the famous Whitehaven Beach in the Whitsundays. (click here to see Whitehaven Beach post)

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  • driving a 4x4 along the beach on Fraser Island. We also camped on the beach, saw shooting stars, tried walking a tightrope, swam in lakes and saw dingos. (click here to see Fraser Island post)
  • touching and navigating all the way around Ayer's Rock aka Uluru. The red centre and the heart of Australia. Truly beautiful. We also rode camels here - ticking off another of the animals on our Australia list. (click here to read more)
  • meeting kangaroos in Perth. Perth was truly amazing and I made friends for a lifetime there. I cannot describe how happy I was there. If I ever return to Australia, that's where I'll start.
  • stroking a quokka on Rottnest Island. And sunbathing, and cycling and seeing lizards and pink lakes. One of my favourite days in Australia.
  • seeing New Year in on a boat in the middle of Sydney Harbour. Champagne, fireworks and two of my best friends who flew across the world to see me. I was touched they journeyed so far for two weeks. It was one of the best fortnights we've spent together. (Sorry Danny, but this picture STILL makes me laugh)

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  • hiking the Blue Mountains and posing by the Three Sisters.

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  • travelling down the Great Ocean Road and seeing the 12 Apostles.
  • meeting Dr Karl Kennedy and visiting the Neighbours' set. He also replied to one of the my Tweets of our picture together. FAME!
  • watching penguins come out to play in St Kilda.
  • paddleboarding at Collaroy. (see this post for pictures and more)
  • Seeing a Tazzie Devil in his native land (ie- Tasmania) and driving to some of the most remote, yet stunning, places on the island. The waterfalls were amazing. (click here to read more about Tasmania)

Of course, I couldn't look back fondly on Australia without remembering my adopted Aussie family. For six months I was honored to live in a lovely part of Manly, look after two little cheeky monkeys and made one of my best travel friends and the most competent au pair I know, Micka.

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It was a job I would never have pictured myself doing a few months beforehand, but it was the most rewarding and most varied role I've ever had.

If anyone is thinking of travelling, I'd strongly recommend this as a job. You get to live in a beautiful area, see Australia from an Aussie point of view and doing a rewarding job while still having plenty of time to explore your surroundings.

I've written 30 blogs about Australia. 31 if you include this. And even now, I know all my words and pictures don't even begin to scratch the surface of this magical, wonderful, welcoming place.

Yes there have been lows, and it wasn't all plain sailing, but I wouldn't have done it any different.

In my last weekend in Oz, I went back to where it all began and celebrated my time there the way I'd celebrated arriving - with a glass of pink fizz at the Sydney Opera House. It was my way of saying "cheers and thank you" to a place which will forever be in my heart.

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I love you Australia. Goodbye xxxx

Posted by emmaabroad 01:38 Archived in Australia Tagged waterfalls mountains beaches people children planes boats sea melbourne sydney turtles snorkelling food fish uluru diving ocean wildlife harbour walking beach friend travel views australia outback mountain tasmania river driving 4x4 scenery bridge friends board house sand fun place christmas great opera rock road swimming pool scuba sightseeing bondi sharks darwin drinking visa au sights travellers dive northern underwater friendship flights fraser sealife traveller shark travelling cairns whitsundays crocodiles reef pictures drinks pair backpackers penguins perth dingo vivid manly ayers videos byron barrier rottnest quokka video koalas neighbours nemo downunder blogs devil photographs termites quokkas territory" clownfish paddleboarding rocktours neighbourstour sydneyoperahouse Comments (1)

Sharks and Chocolate

Two of the greatest things in life....combined in a single day.

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With their scary teeth and staring eyes, some might say that Grey Nurse Sharks are a species you wouldn't want to encounter.

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So voluntarily swimming next to them and watching in wonder as they graze past your head might sound like a strange pastime to some, but it is exactly what I did last week.

My friend Micka and I booked in for the shark dive experience at Manly Sealife Sanctuary in Sydney to do just that - experience the sharks with no cages or bars between us, as you'll see from the short video below.

The two-and-a-half-hour experience included a walk around "Shark Harbour" from the outside, information about the residents there and a thirty minute dive with the sharks, including Striker, Murdoch and Huey. (okay, Striker sounds like a threatening name, but who wouldn't want to meet a shark called Huey?)

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Having seen Grey Nurse Sharks from several feet away while diving at Byron Bay, I really wanted to see them a bit more "up close and personal". And the shark dive was the last thing on our "things to do in Sydney" list for both of us.

We had a walk around the aquarium and saw the sharks in the glass tube, as they swam above and next to our group with a layer of glass between us and them. But neither Micka nor I were nervous about the prospect of getting closer - in fact we were excited to get straight into the water.

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Evo, our lead guide, told us about the cruel career of "shark finning" where sharks have their fins cut off for shark fin soup. Many sharks are dying from this type of fishing, because once the fin is hacked off, they are thrown back into the water and affectively "drown" because they don't have their fin anymore (if they are not constantly moving, their gills can't extract oxygen from the water). Either that, or they sink to the bottom of the ocean, unable to swim, and are eaten by other sea creatures or they starve to death. Whichever way they die, you have to agree it is pretty horrific.

In Australia, any shark which attacks a human instantly has a "kill" order put on it. But sharks can digest their food within a few short hours. So hunting for "a five foot long shark somewhere on the East Coast" is like a racist saying that if a black man holds up a grocery store, all black men within a ten mile radius should be shot. We kill them for our own sense of relief, not because that particular shark was proven to have attacked a human being.

Although I have the deepest sympathy for anyone who loses a loved one to a shark attack, or any other type of sea creature, we have to remember that it is their "turf". We swim in their waters and they are doing what nature intended them to do. Shark attacks are actually relatively rare, and according to the International Shark Attack File (ISAF), in Australia unprovoked shark attack fatalities equate to an average of less than one per year (0.94). In fact, statistically speaking, you're more likely to die from a mosquito bite, a flying champagne cork, a falling coconut or being struck by lightning. So think about that the next time you celebrate an anniversary on a beach at dusk holding a large metal rod.

Knowing the price of our dive and photos was going towards their conservation and preservation did encourage me that I was doing the right thing, despite the fact it was more than a weeks' wages for me. (I heard my wallet scream, but it's done that a lot while travelling and I've learned to ignore it. Haha.)

After walking round the aquarium and watching a safety video about how not to die while scuba diving, we got kitted up in four layers of clothing ready for the chilly shark-infested waters.

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Plunging in head first, we didn't have to wait long until the first shark came to say hello. Then, as we moved around the water and into the larger part of Shark Harbour, we were greeted by more of our new fintastic friends. (Geddit? Fintastic? Never mind).

We stood still and waited for them all to swim over our heads, quietly and peacefully floating in the water and watching as they came up to see who these strange creatures with oxygen tanks and colourful goggles were. (Mine are blue and Micka's are red, just so you know who we are in the pictures).

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When they came close we could clearly see their sharp teeth and staring eyes. But once you get this close, any fear melts away and you realise they are just like a puppy sniffing at your legs - they just want to see who you are and what you're about.

I could have happily bobbed in the water all day, watching them swim over and around us, if it wasn't for the fact the water was FREEZING. (It was winter though and the aquarium's water temperature is the same as the sea. So if you like warm, go in summer).

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So sadly, the swim had to end sooner or later, and it wasn't long before we headed back.

As we were leaving the tank, two friendly turtles swam up to us to say hello.

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Meeting the sharks, turtles, stringrays and other friendly faces of Shark Harbour was an amazing experience and I'm so glad I got to do it.

Afterwards, we watched the Little Penguins show and walked round more of the aquarium before it was time to head to our second destination of the day - the Lindt Cafe in Martin Place, Sydney CBD.

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Sadly the cafe is now more famous for the hostage siege in December than it is for amazing chocolate, but it is great to see so many customers haven't been put off by the terrible events of last year.

We decided to totally indulge and I opted for a hot chocolate followed by a chocolate cake with a side of vanilla ice cream. Lots of "mmmmms" came from our table as we were the quietest we've been for a long time.

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The perfect end to an amazing day - and I can now say I've officially done everything I wanted to do in Australia. Perfect timing, as I leave for New Zealand in just two weeks.

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Where more adventures await....

Posted by emmaabroad 23:53 Archived in Australia Tagged sea sydney turtles fish chocolate diving coast friend travel australia cake friends with place swimming scuba sharks hot dive martin sealife traveller shark travelling aquarium manly bucket Comments (1)

How to do Tasmania in three days - with pictures and video

I went to Tasmania on a weekend in June 2015 and loved it. I visited Hobart, Lake St Clair, Port Arthur and more....

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Tasmania is a beautiful island so easily missed out while backpacking in Australia - but if you ignore it, you're missing a real treat.

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Like anywhere when I'm travelling, I would have loved to have stayed longer, but I think you can cram in all the important things in three days if you're willing to forego any rest time (I'll sleep when I'm dead - my new travel motto).

So thought I'd write a step-by-step guide of how I conquered Tasmania in just three days. You can also check out the video highlights at the bottom of this page.

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DAY ONE

8.30am - Arrive in Hobart Airport, Tasmania. The flight is just under two hours from Sydney and Jetstar do some cheap details.

8.40am - If you only take carry-on luggage you'll be straight out the door and at the shuttle bus. Just $14 (if you have a YHA card - worth getting) will take you to your hotel/hostel front door. Bargain. Don't forget to admire the beautiful Tasman Bridge which you'll cross on your way in.

9.00am - Check-in at Tassie Backpackers on Liverpool Street, Hobart, (bookings@jargroup.com.au) dumped my case in my room, quick re-fresh squirt of deodorant and I was back out the door to begin my adventure.

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9.20am - The Tourist Information Centre is easy to find on the corner of Davey and Elizabeth Streets. The staff are really friendly and helpful and can tell you limited information about some of the stuff they don't even book. I booked a trip to Mount Wellington, or Kunanyi to give it its Aboriginal name, for 10.15am which cost $30.

9.30am - Half an hour to grab a sandwich and have a look round Hobart's beautiful waterfront before it was time to walk back up to the Tourist Information Centre to catch the mini-bus up to Mount Wellington.

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10.15am - Off we go - I've been in Tasmania less than two hours and I'm already on my first adventure. The tour guides are fab and give so much information. If you're travelling solo, the seat next to the bus driver is usually left free. Sit here for the best views and to ask extra questions of your guide.

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11.15am - It takes just under an hour to get to the top, allowing for stops to take beautiful pictures and viewpoints, like this photo (below) which was taken approximately half way up. We also saw St Raphael Church - the only building to survive the 1967 bush fire on the mountain. Unfortunately I didn't get a picture as we didn't stop, but the building is wooden and surrounded by trees - you do wonder how it survived.

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At the top you can take in some amazing views of Hobart and the ocean, as well as scrambling up some rocks to get to the very peak of the mount for a picture. Warning - if you're travelling in winter like I did, it is incredibly cold and windy - our guide said the top of Mount Wellington is often ten degrees cooler than Hobart. I was wearing six layers, a scarf and hat and still felt the need for gloves and another layer. But it was in June. You'll see from the expression on my face, and the fact there was SNOW, that it was pretty damn cold.

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12noon - On the way down your guide may have time to stop at a roadside waterfall. It has clean, fresh water running from it and I took the opportunity to fill up my water bottle. It tasted amazing - you'll never drink cleaner water! Yum! (Warning - you WILL get wet).

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12.10pm - Back at the Tourist Information Centre, I headed up the hill to St David's Cathedral for a quick nose round. After the original wooden building blew down in a gale, the cathedral was built on the site where it is today (on the corner of Murray Street and Macquarie Street) in 1823. It was added to and made larger throughout the decades and is now an impressive cathedral full of special treasures. I took a few shots inside but only stayed for a short while as a small service was underway in the corner.

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12.40pm - Down at Brooke Street Pier I bought my ticket and ferry crossing for the MONA (Museum of Old and New Art) for $45 total. I decided to opt for the 1.30pm ferry so I could sneak to the pub for a cheeky wine first.

12.50pm - At the Telegraph Hotel on the corner of Brooke Street and Morrison Street I had The Drives chardonnay from Victoria. The pub served amazing lunches for between $5 and $10 - bargain if you're on a budget.

1.30pm - Ferry over to the MONA, enjoying a yummy omelette thingy on the way. The ferry is super posh with leather seats and artwork on the walls. If this was just the ferry, I couldn't wait to see the museum itself.

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2pm- I arrived at the MONA and the view from the top of the stairs is just...WOW. These are just a few pictures from the exterior, as I'm not allowed to publish any from inside. (No, I don't know why there was a peacock in the queue to get in).

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Needless to say, it was full of incredible and controversially in-you-face art. For example, a wall of white plaster-cast moulds of vaginas by Greg Taylor entitled "Cunts and other Conversations". This also prompted probably the weirdest text message I've ever sent in my life.....

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5pm - After A long walk around some amazing exhibitions (seriously - promise me you'll go), I headed back on the last ferry to Brooke Street Pier. Here I am with my friend Gabby.

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5.30pm - Crash in the hostel for a snooze and sushi. If you caught the same plane I did, you'll have been up since 4am so will be quite tired at this point. (On the way home, spotted an awesome spot to put my rental car tomorrow - think I can get it in that space?)

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8pm - After food, a shower and rest, it was time to head back out. I met my friend Gabby at the Telegraph Hotel on the waterfront again for cocktails and live music. The locals were all so happy and friendly and everyone kept dragging us onto the dancefloor for a jig. It was the most fun I've had with a bunch of strangers in a long time. So many giggles.

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11pm - We also checked out Grape Bar for a glass of vino. So many nice wines to choose from, you'll not know where to start!

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Midnight - Crash on bed and fall asleep. Staying up 20 hours was awesome, but exhausting.

DAY TWO

8am - I get up a bit early in order to enjoy the famous Salamanca Market, which is held every Saturday in and around Salamanca Place. You can buy anything you want here from toys to clothes, books, furniture, food from around the world, trinkets and souvenirs. If you can name it, you'll probably find it here.

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9am - I picked up my rental car from Avis in Market Place (a short walk from my hostel).

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10.45am - First stop of the day was the beautiful Russell Falls in Mount Field National Park (TAS 7140 on the satnav). The falls are just 25 minutes from the visitor centre, where you have to buy an eyewateringly-expensive car park pass. (Knowing the money was going on conservation and preservation made things slightly easier though.) Russell Falls and Horseshoe Falls (which was about ten minutes of steep steps beyond Russell Falls) were both insanely beautiful. Picturesque in summer or winter. I took lots of photos.....

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11.45am - I headed off to my second destination - Lake Gordon. A little off the beaten track, it was a place I'd wanted to visit ever since I spotted just how large and isolated it was on the map. I drove for about two hours to get there and didn't see a single car or house on my way. But when I got out of the car, the view was STUNNING.....

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12.15pm - After gawping at the view and munching an apple, it was time to drive back towards civilisation again. My favourite fact about South West Tasmania is that between Mount Wellington and the SW Coast, there isn't a single inhabitant. You'll find hikers and the odd driver, like me, but no one lives there so the whole area is protected. It was pretty amazing to think that looking out over the lake, the next person in that direction could well have been in South America. Pretty awesome stuff.

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2pm - I stopped to grab a bite to eat at a small village shop I found back near Russell Falls. I wish I'd bought sandwiches in Hobart as they only had crisps and a Mars Bar. Yum, but not healthy. I strongly advise you take something with you if you plan to do this trip.

3.30pm - I saw lots of stunning views on the drive between Gordon Lake and my next destination of Lake St Clair, like these for example....

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4.30pm - Arrive at Lake St Clair. The drive over was reward in itself as I saw so much unspoiled countryside. But Lake St Clair is equally beautiful. It is captured within a national park made up of protected rainforests, alpine heathlands and untouched mountains. I could have sat on the ferry dock all day watching the world go by.....

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4.45pm - But instead of catching frostbite on the water's edge, or joining the hikers for an eight-day trek to Cradle Mountain (nutters), I instead went to the nearby cafe for a hot chocolate.

5pm- The sun is beginning to set, so I decided to start my 2hr30min drive back to Hobart, on the way stopping to admire some more beautiful lakes and meadows. Seriously - could this island be any more beautiful?

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8pm - The drive took longer than I thought, as I kept stopping to take more pictures. I park up the car and crash into bed for an early night.

DAY THREE

8am- Another day of adventuring = another early start. A quick breakfast and then it was off in the car (I nicknamed her DeeDee) to Port Arthur.

9.15am - My first focal point of the day was driving over the Tasman Bridge for myself, as I'd ridden over it on the shuttle bus when I arrived. If you enjoy driving, Tasmania is ideal as there are so many picturesque places to see. But obviously, because I was driving, I don't have any photographs of it. Instead- here is a picture of the lookout at Dunalley Bay - you'll see a stop for photographs sign on the A9 about an hour into your drive to Port Arthur.

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10.30am - After several stops for photographs, I arrived at Port Arthur. The historic site was so much more than just a prison - it has 30 buildings including a church, asylum, penitentiary, post office, magistrates' house and beautiful gardens and ruins. On arrival, you'll be given a ticket for a ferry ride around the complex.

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My favourite part of the ferry ride was when the tour guide announced we were in the most southerly part of Australasia. So in other words, unless I ever ventured to Antarctica, I was at the most southerly I'll ever be.

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Other highlights of the ferry ride were seeing the Isle of the Dead, where the prisoners and staff were buried. I didn't buy the ticket to go ashore, as my time was limited, but there is a separate tour of the island that you can do.

After the ferry, I made my way around the buildings, keeping an eye on the time so I could leave just after 1pm. First stop was the penitentiary - the largest and most impressive looking building in the entire complex. Cue lots of photos....

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Here are some other pictures from the tour, including the asylum, the guard tower, the church and the gardens....

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Lastly I went back to the visitor centre, to find my prisoner. On entry, everyone is given a playing card that is matched to a prisoner who really did spend time at Port Arthur.
My prisoner was 13-year-old Peter Brannon from London. He was sentenced to seven years transportation for stealing a handkerchief. He was sent to Port Arthur because no use could be found for him in Hobart. Imagine travelling to the other side of the world, torn away from the place and people you know, to serve a seven year sentence for stealing something so small.
While in Port Arthur, Peter was spotted "throwing a stone at an overseer". He was punished by being locked up in a small, dark room for a while week. He tried to cheer himself up by singing a song, but this was against orders. He was made to sit in the dark for two more days as a further punishment. Poor Peter. I did wonder what happened to him when he left Port Arthur. That's if he left, as many died from the poor living conditions and hard work before their sentence was finished.

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1pm - Time to hit the road. I could definitely have stayed longer at Port Arthur, so if you have the time, plan a whole day there.

1.10pm - I stop at Eaglehawk Neck - a pinch in the land where you can see the sea either side of the road. This short detour was off the main road back to Hobart and included a Blowhole and Fossil Bay Lookout, both of which are included in the pictures (below) and the video at the bottom.

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2pm - I stop for oysters and a last chardonnay at Bangor Wine and Oyster Shed. Which is almost directly opposite the Dunalley Bay lookout point I'd stopped at earlier. For $21 I had six dressed oysters and a glass of wine, taking in the most beautiful views over the countryside. I mentioned I was on a tight schedule as I had a plane to catch and they were very accommodating, despite being so full. The oysters were delicious and a treat you MUST indulge in before leaving Tasmania.

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3pm- I arrive at the airport to drop my rental car back off and check-in for my 4.35pm flight back to Sydney.

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Tasmania was such a beautiful place with amazing green countryside. I couldn't believe how open it was - you could drive for miles and miles without seeing a house or car or any sign of life.
Driving at night, I got to see plenty of wildlife too - Tasmanian Devils, wallabies, wombats - you name an Australian animal, it was probably there. They were all eating grass at the side of the road. However, if you do plan to drive at night be extremely careful . Darkness + windy roads + wildlife = a short stopping distance when an animal is crossing the road.
I strongly recommend everyone who visits Australia, especially if you're in Melbourne or Sydney, to take a short trip over to Tasmania. The flights are cheap and short and there is so much to see and do there.
If this blog hasn't already persuaded you, check out the video.....

Posted by emmaabroad 03:56 Archived in Australia Tagged art and wombat mount coast walking hiking beach australia mountain in tasmania of lake hostels scenery new museum three friends countryside old to hobart neck wine 3 drinking do st wellington pictures alcohol video mona oysters devil cradle wallaby Comments (1)

Paddleboarding at Collaroy, Northern Beaches

Trying (and failing) and stand up!

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I've had lots of firsts on my travels and this was another to add to the list. Well, two actually - my first time paddleboarding and my first jellyfish sting.

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My French friend Micka and I decided to hop on a bus to Collaroy in Sydney's Northern Beaches area and we were pretty lucky with the winter weather as the sunshine came out to play. Hurrah! (The L90 goes from Wynyrd, if you fancy this yourself. The same bus also goes to Palm Beach where they film Home and Away).

We went on the Queen's Birthday, which means NOTHING in England, but in Australia it is an excuse for a day off.

So off we went, and arrived to an almost empty beach. Which I was grateful for for two reasons - so I didn't take anyone out while carrying the board and the fewer people to laugh at me, the better.

I went on first while Micka played shoreline photographer.

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The man in the surf shop told me it was easier to kneel - so this was what I did for the first 20 minutes.

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The sea was relatively calm, but even so, getting my balance right was quite difficult.

The next ten minutes were spent standing up and then falling straight into the water. Although my photography assistant managed to make the pictures look like I was doing okay.....

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Eventually, I worked out you can't stand on it like a surfboard, with one foot behind the other. You have to place both feet in the centre facing forward.

Once I figured this out, I managed to stay up for quite a long time. Hurrah!

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Then, when my thighs were starting to ache, I swam inland.

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So next up was paddleboarding-pro Micka!

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I'm not sure whether she was just a natural, or I played the guinea pig, but Micka stood up almost straight away. (I wanted to hate her, but she is actually a really good friend!)

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She went out so far at one point, I genuinely thought she wasn't coming back.

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We then spent the remainder of our time on the board (we rented it for two hours, but I'd suggest just one if you're on your own) taking it in turns to be taxi driver.

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Afterwards, we were very tired and soggy, but we had an amazing time. I'm so happy Micka suggested the idea as it was loads of fun.

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In some ways, it is better than surfing as you get more time to appreciate your surroundings.

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Afterwards, we were treated to beautiful pink and purple skies over the water - a perfect end to our mini-adventure.

Sadly, the only downside to the adventure was getting stung by a jellyfish. I have no idea what sort it was, as I didn't see it, but I felt a definite sharp pain on my wrist.

I knew what it was instantly, but tried to put it to one side.

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However, the swelling when I got out was pretty bad. I still have a scar now - a lasting memory of Australia to keep forever!

Posted by emmaabroad 03:19 Archived in Australia Tagged beaches sea sydney water ocean wildlife england australia queen friends board surfing northern friendship jellyfish bucket list sting firsts paddleboarding collaroy Comments (1)

Vivid Sydney 2015 - Part 4

Final installment I promise - Martin Place, The Rocks and Walsh Bay

sunny 10 °C

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So for my last ever trip to Vivid Sydney 2015 I went to Martin Place, The Rocks and Walsh Bay.

I was a woman on a mission, as this was the last weekend I could see the lights and I wanted to make the most of it.

MARTIN PLACE

After my job at an advertising magazine in Surrey Hills, I frogmarched myself up to Martin Place to start my quest. Martin Place is, unfortunately, most famous in recent months for the hostage situation at Lindt Cafe, which saw two people killed in December 2014. I went there when flowers were being laid the day after the siege finished, but I'm pleased to say this visit was for a much happier reason.

I started at the top end, near the eye hospital and made my way downhill, photographing and videoing away as I went.

First stop was an unusual looking cube, which glowed different colours and looked very pretty - a beacon to start off my night.

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Then I watched as a crowd of children bashing on drums as they turned different colours. The drums were surrounded by fir trees which also had lights on them and this area really reminded me of Christmas. I'll be spending Christmas 2015 in England, as December 2014 was spent in Sydney and Mummy Wright put her foot down!

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The next area is pretty hard to describe, but hopefully the pictures can do more justice than my words.

The street was bookended on two sides by colourful blocks which projected different images. Underneath them were an array of food stalls and the smell was intoxicating. I regretted bringing a pack-up as my mouth was watering from beginning to end.

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At the end of this section was a bar area with lit-up chairs similar to the ones we'd seen at The Star and fancy drinks which looked amazing. Sadly, I didn't indulge. I do like a glass of wine every now and then, but this was a solo visit and my alcoholism ends at gulping on my own. Well, it did tonight anyway!

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At the very end of Martin Place was a collection of vertical wooden xylophones. They glowed reds and blues, but you had to find the right ones to hit to make any noise.

After a little experimentation I hit the right notes (haha) and made a little tune.

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THE ROCKS

I then made my way to The Rocks - the hilly area next to Circular Quay which leads up to the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Here there were several smaller installations, just like at Martin Place, rather than one big giant piece.

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The theme in this area seemed to be mirrors as there were lots of colourful places to view your own mug! I did a few selfies, but mostly I laughed at other people trying to position themselves just right for the perfect shot.

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Once again the area was dotted with food stalls and eventually the smells and sights got the better of me. I had a strawberry kebab dipped in chocolate and convinced myself the fruit counted as one of my five-a-day. It was very yummy and I think I showed a lot of restraint by not buying ten of them.

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I carried on walking towards the bridge and came across a few more installations I loved - including aliens that would wave at you if you went over to greet them and a couple dressed like Salvador Dali-esque clocks.

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There was also a cool projection onto a stone wall. It was quite surreal seeing modern art cast onto such an old building. But I guess that is what Sydney is all about - a contrast of new and old.

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After walking down, round and under the Sydney Harbour Bridge (and taking another quick photograph of the forrest in front of the Opera House) I made my way to Walsh Bay.

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WALSH BAY

Now, I have to say - this is the only bit of Vivid I was disappointed with - the Sydney Harbour Bridge. After so many spectacular sights, it was a shame more wasn't done with the bridge.

The iconic landmark had a small thin strip of lighting on it, which changed colour, but was nothing like the Sydney Opera House or any of the other smaller displays for that matter.

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I realise there is only a certain amount you can do with a bridge, but I thought it definitely looked better in previous events like New Year's Eve and Australia Day.

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Anyway, onto more positive things - after the bridge was a little room where you saw glowing pyramids behind a sheet of glass. The effect was quite stunning, as you'll hopefully appreciate from the pictures below.

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Into Walsh Bay itself, I walked under an archway of blue lights which did some very funny things to my camera. I look rather peculiar in the shot below! (I don't usually look like a Smurf).

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I then walked under a wave thingy (told you the pictures were better than the words) that made a sea-like noise whenever the wind blew. It felt really lovely being underneath - like floating on a lilo in the ocean.

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Next was a harp that, when strummed, changed the image projected onto a wall opposite it. Just like the ferris wheel at Darling Harbour, I could have stayed longer, but there was a queue of eager children.

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I then had the good fortune of meeting some lovely shadow robots and their friends from the zoo.

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Round near the poshest of posh houses (they each have their own berth in the harbour. I doubt I could afford the furniture on the boat, let alone the properties themselves!) there was a beautiful light installation which when you first approach looks like a random set of sticks. However, on closer inspection you realise that standing at different angles means you can see different words. I managed to photograph 'dreams' and 'fear' quite well although I honestly don't know how many words I was supposed to see. Perhaps one says 'wish'?

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The final piece on my journey was a light projection on a wall, which moved when you stood in front of it. I sheltered from the rain as I watched a few children have a go.

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And then that was it - the end of my walk around Vivid Sydney 2015.

I had such an amazing time and saw the city from an entirely different viewpoint. I absolutely loved every minute of it and was so pleased I got to see it.

I think the organisers, artists and volunteers all deserve a massive round of applause as they did a wonderful job.

I'm only sad I won't be around to see the 2016 show. But then again, the world is big and there are plenty more places to explore!

Posted by emmaabroad 03:16 Archived in Australia Tagged sydney food chocolate travel australia lights rocks bridge houses house place opera bay festival sights adventures martin vivid quay sounds solo circular smells 2015 sydneyoperahouse sydneyharbourbridge walsh Comments (1)

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