My thoughts on work and life

Category: Travel

Rhyl to Sydney (Via Budapest, Vienna and Salzburg)

Got back last week from a month long visit to the Old Country.  It’s been 3 years since I last returned to the UK.  It was an opportunity to see my family again and catch up with old friends.

The first weekend was spent recreating the madness of student days at an old friend of mine – Kevin’s wedding.  The old crew was re-assembled in the relative calm of Ross-on-Wye (near Gloucester).  We celebrated Kev and Liz’s wedding Loughborough style!  Plenty of drunken shenanigans I can tell you.

The next few weeks were spent lazing at home in Rhyl (North Wales), eating my Mum’s delicious food and walking down the beautiful beach.  It was so fantastic to spend a bit of time with my parents and sister.

Rhyl doesn’t seemed to have changed all that much since I left.  Curiously and rather sadly many of the favourite drinking haunts seemed to have closed down.  Still, I think Rhyl gets a bit of bad rep, but for me it has just so much potential.  The beach and surrounding area are truly spectacular; it’s close to Chester and Liverpool.  I hope over the next few years the area will be much rejuvenated and gentrified.

North Wales has so much beauty and history it’s a fantastic place to spend some time.  We took a few days out to visit places like Dyserth Falls, Conwy Castle, Llandudno etc.  Captured some of these moment on my photos page.

Whilst being in the Northern Hemisphere, I thought it would make sense to head to Europe for a bit of an odyssey into the classical architecture and countryside of Central Europe.  Followed the route below:

Queensland and NSW

See pictures of the holiday!!

What a holiday… How do I begin to describe the best holiday of my life. A holiday that included snorkelling on the great barrier reef, visiting the 3rd most beautiful beach in the world, the oldest rainforest in the world, the wildest white water rafting in Australia and New Zealand, encountering crocodiles, snakes and some of the most gobsmackingly beautiful scenery you can imagine. Well I suppose it’s always good to start at the beginning.

My flatmate Wayne had just spent 4 weeks in the UK and had decided to spend 10 days exploring the east coast of Australia. He bought over with him 2 friends from the UK, Isabelle and Mike, who are just brilliant. Two more funny and friendly people you couldn’t hope to meet.

They flew in to Brisbane, hired a car and met me a Ballina Byron airport. Jetlagged, but still lively we drove through the surprisingly green countryside (which, like Tasmania, reminded me of home) to our accommodation. The apartment we stayed in was elegantly decorated with a bohemian twist.

Byron Bay is quite a special place; the beach is lovely and has a natural beauty and grace about it which I’ve rarely encountered before. We strolled around, admiring the views and soaking up the warm, tropical air. We stayed in Byron Bay for 3 days, taking time to have a few rounds of golf, sunbathe, read and enjoy the vibe. Feeling suitably relaxed and refreshed we set off for the next stage of our journey – to the Whitsundays.

We stepped off the plane in Prosperine and our senses were immediately assaulted by the incredible heat. The father north we went, the hotter and more tropical the conditions became. We took a taxi from the Airport directly to Airlee Beach. Airlee is a small town, pretty much setup for backpackers and travellers – bars, restaurants and souvenir shops line the main high street. It’s popular because it really is the gateway to one of the last great paradises on Earth – the Whitsundays. This was to be our destination for the next 3 days, to cruise around the Whitsundays on a yacht called Anaconda III.

We boarded the yacht around 630 in the evening where we met a bunch of new people that we be our companions for this journey of wonder. We sat at the rear of the boat and gazed at the moonlight rippling on the water and dark islands that ebbed and flowed past us. We opened up some champagne and chatted idly with our new friends as we silently moved in the dark of night towards our first destination.

As the night wore on we made more and more frequent visits to a place that became very dear to our heart, the sacred beer fridge of delight! Finally around 2am only 4 of us remained; myself, Wayne and two great Irish girls called Edel and Sue. Reluctantly we decided it was time to hit the sack, we had a big day ahead of us.

When we awoke we were already on our way, our destination – Whitehaven beach, voted the 3rd most beautiful beach in the world. It’s only accessible by yacht and has the most incredibly pristine and pure white sand and crystal clear opal and blue water. It’s bordered by tropical forests. The sand is 98% pure silica meaning however hot the sun gets the sand stays cool. It really was something special; we went for a swim, gazed out to the endless horizon and simply soaked in this phenomenal place. We then set off for Luncheon Bay where we snorkelled amongst a shoals of brightly coloured fish. Luncheon bay is flanked by tall cliffs which seemed to stretch up forever. The crew beckoned us to come to the back deck, where Logan (the first mate) was whistling and throwing bits of chicken over the side of the boat. To our astonishment a Sea Eagle left it’s eerie high up on the cliffs and arrowed down to within a couple of meters of the boat, where it swopped and grasped within it’s talons the chicken, before soaring back up. It was an incredible sight seeing this enormous, fearsome bird at close sight. I will never forget that moment. Whilst we moored there we also encountered sea turtles and many large fish that swam around the boat.

The next day we set sail for the Great Barrier Reef. We dived off the boat and into an incredible underwater world, huge reefs spanned as far as the eye can see, thousands of fish surrounded us, and deep below dark shadowy fish navigated through the deep channels on either side of the reef. We swam back to the yacht where Giant Trevelly, 3-4 ft long surrounded us, it was just amazing. For the rest of the holiday we sunbathed, unwound, relaxed on beaches, snorkelled and watched the sunset over the ocean. This trip was incredible and we met many great new friends.

After 3 days of total relaxation and seeing and doing things I never thought I would, it was time to move on. We hired a car and set off for our next port of call, Mission Beach and white water rafting! After stopping for fish and chips in Townsville we arrived at our hostel and went to bed early as a big day awaited us on the rapids awaited us.

We got picked up and arrived at Tully, where we had an incredible and thrilling day riding Grade 4 rapids on the mighty Tully river. It was just amazing as we navigated our way down enchanting scenery with sheer cliffs rising steeply on either side, lush and green and yet the water we rode upon alternated between dead calm and raging hell. Whilst we were there we body surfed through bubbling and churning rapids, jumped off a 10m rock into the rolling river and tried rapid swimming and raft surfing. This was just the thrill we need to rock us back to reality after the tranquillity of the Whitsundays!

So, onto the last part of our trip, our journey to Cairns and the tropical, wet rainforests of Northern Queensland. Cairns is a great little town with some great architecture, and lovely restaurants. We stopped at a place called Red Ochre Grill (one of the top restaurants in Australia), where we tried a Crocodile starter followed by a game platter of Emu and Kangaroo. They were absolutely delicious!

We then struck even further north to the Daintree Rainforest (the oldest rainforest in the world), where we hiked through thick undergrowth encountering dizzying waterfalls, bubbling brooks and witnessed incredibly ancient plants. The forest is so dense and alive with life that struggle and fight each other to reach above the canopy and bathe in the life giving sunlight. From the heart of the rainforest we set off on a cruise of the jungles and forest of the Daintree river. The placed teemed with wildlife, we witnessed 5m crocodiles sliding menacingly through the water, tree snakes hunting frogs and beautifully coloured kingfishers.

So with a heavy heart our big adventure came to a conclusion, I left the guys in Cairns as I set forth home to Melbourne, and they journeyed on to Sydney.

Since I’ve been in Australia I’ve been privileged enough to see and experience things I never thought possible. But this journey really was the experience of a lifetime, it actually does take a while for your mind to absorb all the wonders it has witnessed. As I write this from home and reflect back on what I’ve seen and done, I can barely believe it. Life here continues to surprise and delight me.

Golden Beach

Golden Beach

A few pics can be found on my Golden Beach pics page (more to follow).

Just got back from a truly wonderful weekend away (it was a long weekend here in Victoria due to Labour day). Five friends and I set off for Ninety Mile beach, to a sleepy little hamlet called Golden Beach. A few hours out of Melbourne, it’s is a real find. It has dramatic surf and long golden sands. Upon arrival we cracked open the beer and headed down for the beach, where we paddled and played a great game of cricket! We then headed back for the apartment and sat on the veranda drinking and chatting. As the night wore on we decided to take a moonlight stroll down the beach. The night sky was like nothing else I’ve ever seen. The firmament above was aglow with countless stars, it was a humbling feeling just to look up. I can honestly say, I don’t think I’ve ever seen quite so many stars (the closest I’ve got was high up a mountain in the Pyrenees). We drank a few glasses of wine and watched a blood moon rise over the roaring ocean.

The next day, was one of complete relaxation. We watched a couple of movies and then decided a spot of exercise was in order, so went for a game of golf. It would be fair to say that my team took a bit of a hammering which I must admit to not taking too well. I think the others picked up the subtle vibes I was giving off by the way I was throwing the golf clubs around! Still, it was only the second time that I’d played and I was more frustrated with myself than anything else. Come the evening we had a BBQ, a few more beers and chatted well into the night. A bit tipsy, we decided to have a game of Cranium. This was incredibly good fun but yet again we lost (it was very close).

On our last day, we had a fry up, enjoyed the sunshine and had one last game of golf, where I have to say I improved immeasurably 🙂 As long as I feel that I’m improving at something I enjoy it, so this was quite a different game for me than the day before. My team mates, Erica and Wayne were a great help, they were very patient and taught me a lot.

So, now I’m home and I’m already thinking about the possibility of the next weekend away, and reflecting on the great weekend past. But mostly I’ve been thinking about the those stars. They really were something else….