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All aboard Matador
May 16th, 2009 by Chris · 155 Comments
Aboard Matador for our 2 day 2 night sailing adventure, we were introduced to the members of 4 crew and the boat together with some of it’s racing history in which it won 2 championships which we figure was a fair while ago due to the outside looking fairly new but the inside looking rather tired.
We spent the rest of the day sailing out to our anchoring point for the evening. During the day we got to know our fellow shipmates who were from all over the world and to some features of the boat. One particularly memorable one was the toilet, in which after doing the deed you had to keep the flushing mechanism (a blender to make the contents fit down the narrow pipes and into a holding tank) held down for 15 seconds. We were also shown to our beds, as it was previously a racing yacht head room in the bunk beds was only about 20 inches then you would hit your head on the bunk above. On deck though the views were amazing and we sunned ourselves whilst the crew made us feel very comfortable with drinks and snacks.
Next day we headed to Whitsunday Island which we were sailing around we went to Observation Point giving a view of Whitehaven Beach, a stunning white beach spanning the length of the island (made up of 98% silica apparently) surrounded by green lagoon waters which had been somewhat churned up given the current weather conditions.
A the short walk to observation point we went for a swim in the water, but we were in stinger season so we all had to wear a stinger suit (similar to a wet suit but very thin) which ruined some of the fun and restricted our movement when we began playing frisbee. After frisbee we successfully attempted to build a pyramid with 10 people on the beach.
It was pretty windy today so we were guided through putting up the sails, there were no hydraulics to lift the sail or if there was, it was broken so it took 8 people clambering over one another towards the end in an effort to lift up the main sail weighing several tonnes.
In the afternoon we anchored up in Hazelwood Island where we could do our free dive (the only freebie we got out of the Freight Train debacle), the weather hadn’t been very good over the past few days with lots of rain which had stirred up the sea making the visibility a meagre 2 metres. Due to the visibility we didn’t see very much besides a pretty big stingray and a few jellyfish hanging around. After our dive, we had to wait for the other people snorkelling to come back to the boat so in the meantime we made use of the diving board on the boat to perfect our back and forward flip techniques, as you can see it was well worth it.
After an exhausting day of sightseeing and diving we spent the evening relaxing with the group and crew who got us involved in some rather ingenious drinking games…
We spent most of the journey back on the last day sailing, some other groups had the opportunity of more snorkelling or diving but given the poor visibility we weren’t disappointed we missed out. On the way back there was a fair bit of wind the sails were up again and we were going at a rate of knots back to Abel Point Harbour where we would return to dry land. It was sad to leave the boat with the huge portions of good quality food and enjoyable company of the other people onboard but we will not miss the really smelly toilet/blender which kept Mike awake most nights.
After getting off the boat we head to the lagoon for our daily shower, being back on dry land felt a bit strange at first as though we were still moving side to side on the boat, it was quite disorienting at times and took the rest of the day to overcome. In the evening we met up with all the other people and crew for a drink before heading off for Ayr to do our wreck dive the next day.
Getting to the Whitsundays
May 16th, 2009 by Chris · 22 Comments
Leave Bundaberg at 6PM, Mike to drive the first 350 odd KMs, followed by John and then me the rest; we would arrive in Airlie Beach between 4-5AM have some sleep and then at 12PM head out to sea on Freight Train, part of the the Oz Sail fleet of maxi’s. Enjoy Sun, Sea… Job Done.
The real thing
What we didn’t realise was just how tired we would be after completing our Open water PADI course, Mike had driven around 60 KMs and I decided to go to sleep in the back of the van whilst Mike was driving. We stopped for some dinner at a service station, I went back to bed and Mike carried on driving after our short break. Another hour later Mike was clearly in state unfit to drive, where he and John (his co-driver) seemed to be taking turns falling asleep or should that be keeping each other awake, according to them at least.
I was still sleeping on the bed in the back. John took over driving and I stepped up to co-pilot refreshed after about 2 or 3 hours sleep. Keeping Mike awake had clearly taken it’s toll on John who was also too tired to drive. With Mike sleeping in the bed in the back and john sleeping in the co-pilot seat, I started driving with solo control of the iPod. Conditions driving to Airlie deteriorated greatly with torrential rain in the last stretch of road, 906KMs later we arrived in Airlie beach at 5AM and parked up at the side of the road for some well needed recuperation.
At 6:30AM we had a knock on the window of the van, “Hey, open up I know you’re in there”. We all looked at each other, whispering, “Who could that be”, knowing it would be a warden to fine a us for sleeping in our van on the street. “Come on open up, I’d like to have a chat”, the voice said again. With that John opened the side door and poked his head out and started explaining our situation, just arrived at 5:30, nowhere was open. He started sounding slightly sympathetic, then Mike and I poked our heads around the door. To which the warden exclaimed, “Blimey, there’s 3 of you in there. It must be like a tin of Sardines”, to be fair he wasn’t too far off the mark. After seeing us all, he suggested we go grab a coffee and find somewhere else to stay, what nice man. We had heard from others the fines can be quite huge, in the order of hundreds of dollars. We considered ourselves lucky and would choose our next spot more wisely.
We drove to the Lagoon, an inland open air pool for a dip and a shower. An outdoor shower, so at 7:30 in the morning the life guards and other swimmers were greeted with the sight of 3 guys lathering themselves up, with our swimmers still on I’ll add. We’re not exhibitionists, and we don’t want to get arrested.
All clean, we went for breakfast in McDonalds and hung around that area whilst we waited for the heavy rain to ease off. Later we checked in for Freight train, at this point we were getting pretty excited and went shopping for some more goon to take on board with us. We arrived at the dock to board Freight train at 12:30, we waited a fair while before the director came to speak to us to let us know there was a problem with the boat, it was on it’s way from being pressure tested and to be fitted into the boat. We were told to go away and come back at 5:30. 5.30 came and still no word on the part still being pressure tested, and 7:30 we were told the boat was going nowhere and we would have to get a refund or transfer onto another boat. After todays antics we didn’t want to go with Oz Sail again so opted for a refund, or would have done if their machine would work. Instead we had to go back to the booking office to sort it out the next day.
The next day we got our money back to look for a similar trip with another company, unable to find one at a reasonable price, we had to book again with Oz Sail on Matador, a 85 ft maxi. We were told Matador was a far superior boat but didn’t sail for another day. We wasted the rest of that day and the next day by the lagoon.
On the day of our departure we headed back to the port to board Matador, straight away it seemed more organised. The crew were there to greet us, to let us know some maintenance had overrun (OH KNOW, NOT AGAIN!!!), but in the meantime they would check us in. By the time that was complete we were off and boarding Matador. So good so far.
Crikey, that was Brisbane, Australia Zoo and Noosa
May 12th, 2009 by Chris · 4 Comments
We left Byron Bay the night before and parked in a street near to a hostel we thought we could get a free shower the following day, but we were out of luck. Instead we drove closer to the city centre near a YHA, a guaranteed free shower we thought, but security was good and we couldn’t get in. However, we could in the one next door so we showered there, and Mike bumped into Kev and Anna, we went back to try and find them after our shower but they had checked out heading off to Australia Zoo.
We spent our day wondering around the city, including lunch in McDonalds where we noticed the time had gone backwards an hour, apparently the time zone changed when we got to Brisbane or somewhere before. On our tour of the city we saw Streets Beach, an inland beach in the city sponsored by Streets, the Australian version of Walls Ice Cream.
More botanic gardens and a stroll along the harbour which had been redeveloped to look very posh, which in turn means we couldn’t afford much on our backpacker budget.
Before we left we planned on eating at a free barbecue in a bar we had seen, unfortunately we were suckered in by the thought of free food. We bought 1 beer to find out that only got a 1 hot dog (1 slice of value bread, a value sausage and some really burned onions if we wanted). Still hungry we left on the hunt for more food before heading to the cinema to watch Yes Man. We were very disappointed with the fish and chips we found outside the cinema, the fish was dry and the chips were quite old and covered in chicken salt (chicken salt was our own fault).
After watching the hilarious Yes Man we drove to Beerwah, a town very close to Steve Irwin’s Australia Zoo where we parked up in a rest stop with a number of other campers. The next morning we drove the remaining few KMs to the zoo to be stung by a surprising $53. Crikey we thought.
But, as we wondered around the zoo all the displays and shows made it well worth it. We went to the Crocoseum to see Terri, Steve’s Wife and Wes, his best mate handle some crocs, sometimes they looked like they weren’t following the rehearsed show and got a bit close for comfort, but that made it all the more enjoyable for the crowd.
During the performance there was also a bird show, they had been trained incredibly well as they displayed when they flew into the stands, got very close to our heads and landed on some designated people in the audience.
We only anticipated the Zoo taking half a day, but there was so much to cover we ended up spending most of the day there. We went and saw some Koala’s which as always were sleeping.
As we got deeper into the zoo we reached the elephants, who liked to burst the balls they were supposed to be kicking and some tigers who were being teased with a furry toy. As we headed back to the entrance we went into the kangaroo enclosure, an area where you could get up and close with the roos to feed or stroke them.
We headed off from Australia Zoo bound for Noosa, a short drive away where we would be staying the night. We found our parking spot to sleep and the next day we didn’t hang around for long, only enough to fix the speakers in the back of the van near Bunnings Warehouse, the Aussie B&Q then headed to Hervey Bay, the starting point for our self drive Fraser Island trip.
Wanted: 1 Van with bed and 3 seats
May 10th, 2009 by Chris · No Comments
Having spent Christmas and New Year in Sydney, we didn’t only do alot of drinking, partying and sleeping on the beach - we also did some sightseeing in between as decribed in my earlier post. Most of our days started at a leisurely 12-1pm oweing to the fact we didn’t come in until around 4 or 5 which help us deal with the expense of Australia by missing breakfast and heading straight for lunch.
After alot of searching we finally found the van we would be travelling in, initially named Sooty. It was a Ford EconoMaxi van from 1991 with a new yellow paint job.
Looking over the van took longer than we thought which didn’t leave us with very much beach time in Manly. we jumped on a ferry across to Manly, a recommended route since it gives a stunning view of the opera house on its own or with the city backdrop.
Following that we arrived around 2pm for the afternoon sun, unfortunately the clouds had started to roll in and there was also a strong breeze which didn’t make it a very comfortable experience so instead we played cricket on the beach, a warm up for us to go to the SCG the following day.
On our penultimate day in Sydney we just had to watch a game of cricket in the SCG. It just so happened Australia and South Africa were playing. Getting to the game was really easy and there was very little crowding on the way alot easier than going to watch some of the sporting events in the UK. The stadium was pretty full and we had awesome seats really close to the cricket field and we could even drink during the game.
The whole place had an amazing atmosphere with enterainment on the field and from the crowd.
Towards the end of the day we saw some really long beer snakes, created from all the empty plastic beer cups.
Though security quickly put an end to them by escorting the people involved out of the stadium. After the game we looked at the queue to get back to town and instead grabbed a taxi back to Coogee for about the same price the bus would have cost.
On our last day we packed up our van we all our bags and tried to bring some organisation to the caos we had created with our huge bags. At first it looked like we were going to have problems fitting everything in but after a bit of reorganisation everything was in. Following that we went into town to attempt to go into the Aquarium after the queues put us off the first time.
In the evening we left Kev and Anna in their posh hotel and headed out of Sydney over the Harbour Bridge towards our first stop, Newcastle.
New Years Eve in Sydney
May 10th, 2009 by Chris · No Comments
We woke up at 5am, packed our packs with our french stick sandwiches, various snacks and “orange juice” to catch the 5.30am bus to town. When we arrived we joined the queue of other people waiting to go into the Botanic gardens. Whilst we were waiting alot of people choose to catch up on the sleep they missed by getting up early and Kev and I did a McDonalds run to get a Sausage & Eggs Sandwich for those in our group that wanted one. Whilst we did that John went and grabbed a few throws we could use a blankets, good job otherwise we would have spent the day sitting on grass. Whilst we were waiting the queue grew extremely large with anyone trying to push in getting boo’ed back out of the queue.
We eventually got in around 12pm and head to Mrs Macquaries point, an area we had scoped out earlier in the week, it provided us with a great view of the harbour. Until the fireworks started we lazed around drinking our “Orange juice” and getting the occasion $7 beer from the the bar, playing cards and catching up on the sleep we missed getting up so early (some people really need their sleep).
As the evening went on and the sunlight slowly faded away the grandness of new years eve started to become evermore apparent, with all of the boats crowded in the harbour around the bridge awaiting the fireworks.
The 9pm showing for families was spectcaular; Adam, Dane and I were interviewed for a radio show afterwards asking what we thought of the fireworks so far. Our review unintionally gave the impression we thought they were a bit rubbish, no doubt they would have been put in the drunken rant interview pile.
After this initial showing we decided we needed to get a good position early for the main event, so we packed up our stuff and headed for the fenceline where we could get a much better view of all the fireworks. Come midnight the sky became alight with fireworks on the bridge and from barges along the river and the noise of our party poppers and party horns (there were a few funny looks from the nearby security guards…) filled the air. For the next 11 minutes there was alot of oohs and aahs as the varing and more grandure fireworks went up into the sky. We all took absolutely tones of photos, some are included below and Dane recorded the entire 11 minutes on video, which is also below.
[video removed from youtube, uploading again somewhere else]
After the fireworks were done, we lit up our sparklers and headed for the exit in the hope of finding another drink, unfortunately we weren’t quite dressed up enough to get into alot of the clubs - so we headed home to continue drinking there.
Sightseeing in Sydney
May 10th, 2009 by Chris · No Comments
On boxing day we planned to watch the Sydney Hobart boat race, but we woke up late again so instead spent the day looking around the harbour, including taking one of two photos of us with the Sydney Opera House and picking a spot for New Years Eve. After walking around the botanic gardens seeing many different types of flower, trees and bats we chose Mrs Macquaries Point, an area with an overview of the harbour with a perfect view of the bridge and opera house all in the same shot.
We spent one afternoon walking across the harbour bridge, but the weather was overcast, so we stopped halfway and headed back to walk around darlington harbour after that we met up with Kev in Chinatown at place we had been recommended, Sizzling Pot. Wow, the portions were absolutely huge, the dishes were served still sizzling on a metal tray with a bowl of rice on the side. There was enough food on the table to probably feed us twice over.
Our guide book recommended a walk between Coogee and Bondi beach that follows the coast providing views along the route, at the time we did some parts were being maintained so we were diverted via a graveyard. After walking just over half way we were all really hot and fancied a dip in the sea, so we stopped at Nelson bay and went into the sea. Unfortunately, we didn’t move from the beach and didn’t make it Bondi. The weather took a turn for the worse and the sky began looking like it was going to rain so we headed back to Coogee.
As well as all the sightseeing we began hunting for a van to take Mike, John and I from Sydney up to Cairns, it seemed to be quite hard at first as most of the vans we wanted to buy were over our initial $1500 budget or already sold. So we realised we had to be more realistic with what we wanted to spend and upped our budget to $4500. Once we had done that we started contacting some potentials, one prospect, “Boris” was a real bargain only $2000 but once we had seen it we realised why. The van had certainly had backpacker marked on it. It was a real mess inside and to start required a pair of pliers and 15 attempts at getting it going, it really didn’t like cold starts. On the outside it was very colourful and would certainly help us find it in a busy car park. The search continues….
We began getting all our food/snacks and drinks in order to leave early the following day including our “special orange juice”. The area we wanted to go to was strictly no alcohol and we didn’t want to be paying for the overpriced food and drinks once inside so we took some 1.5 litre fruit juice bottles and über cheap vodka to mix with it. It turned all turned our pretty well and was tasty too. We even took extra measures to ensure the seals weren’t broken on the bottles if they were inspected by the security guards. Next up, New Years Eve.
Christmas in Sydney
May 10th, 2009 by Chris · No Comments
We’re off to see the Wizard, The Wizard of Oz. We arrived from the Blue Mountains to find out we couldn’t check in until after 4PM, we only had an hour to wait, We checked in and was pleased to hear a free BBQ was on on the evening we arrived. We went and grabbed 2 boxes of “goon” (nasty wine filtered through fish, yum!) and met two other people from the UK, Matt (another Essex box) and Emily.
On Christmas eve, we stocked up on all the essentials, beer and food. John and I left to grab some Santa hats whilst Mike and Kev were left to decorate the room with a Christmas tree made from an empty beer box, some duct tape and white paper. The results were quite amazing and we added to the decorations with some fake snow on the tree and windows and most of the room once we had finished. After completing the decorations we wrapped our secret Santa presents and put them under the tree to be opened the following day, Christmas Day.
In evening we headed down to the local bar, the Coogee Bay Hotel donning our Santa hats, the bar was absolutely packed and after an evening of consuming a one or two beverages we all managed to hold on to our Santa hats.
We started the day with a fry up cooked Kev style together with Orange juice and bottle of Moët, yes champagne - even backpackers are allowed a little luxury!
Then we opened our prezzies from our secret Santa’s, he had done well this year as we all got what we wanted. After all the excitement we headed down to Coogee beach to meet a few friends who had already begun drinking, we grabbed our slab of warm beer to join them. Then we hit the sea where we took a few pictures whilst in the water and John got a sting from a jellyfish.
After we exhausted Coogee beach we headed down to see what fun there was to be had in Bondi. Bondi was as busy as Coogee with masses of people crammed onto a field above the beach and you could hear the music coming from the pavilion where we could have gone for christmas dinner and lots of dance music. Instead we choose the free option of sitting on a field with loads of other people, a good choice we decided. Below are pictures from each beach.
We continued our drinking here until we were kicked off the beach by the fuzz at 11pm and tried to find a drink elsewhere - we were out of luck everywhere seemed to be closing. We ended up having a delicious christmas dinner of McDonalds and jumped on to a bus heading to Bondi Junction where we would get a bus back to Coogee. Unfortunately, John, Matt and I got off a bit early, we saw the bus in the distance and tried running for it, but it was too late the bus had already gone - we went back to Bondi Junction to find the next bus wouldn’t be for another 45 minutes, we decided we could walk back in the that time. So we did. We got back 1.5 hours later.
Overall, Christmas in Sydney was a strange affair, no turkey or roast potatoes instead for us, McDonalds. We spent the day drinking a beer/goon on the beach in a 30-40 degree heat beneath the scorching sun instead of a warm house looking at the cold (possibly raining) weather outside. Would I do it again? Absolutely, but I’d need a Christmas back in the cold weather occasionally, unless global warming can help out and then everyone will have christmas under the sun.
Where are we now?
April 13th, 2009 by Chris · No Comments
We have finally managed to get up to date with all of our photos (hoorah!) and we are slowly cracking away at our backlog of posts.
Today we will be leaving Singapore for the Malayasian part of Borneo.
April 12th, 2009 by Chris · No Comments
We arrived in Salta after our journey by private taxi along a lot of twisting and winding roads where we didn’t see another car or another person for a long long time, stopping along the way for some lunch in a roadside cafe in the middle of nowhere. As we headed into Salta we made our way up a two-way single file road on the edge of a cliff before hitting the city centre. We arrived at our destination Terra Oculta, a lovely hostel with plenty of amenities, including a roof top bar with a very British bartender.
Our first night in Salta we went to Don Jose’s restaurant recommended by the owner of our hostel where we ordered Bife de Chorizo with Chips, a fried egg and some jugs of the house red wine. The steaks were huge slabs of meat that left no room for anything else on the plate and they were cooked to perfection, the wine was cheap, but drinkable and the large side helping of chips helped to soak up some of the beef juice and to dip into the still runny yoke of our eggs. Steaks, done.
The following day we booked up a luxury bus to Mendoza and went sightseeing, including a cable car ride on the teleferico to the top of Cerro San Bernardo and a look at the arts and crafts in the local market. We also found a very nice food stall beside the cable car station which sold delicious empanadas, we stocked up and headed up the teleferico.
Today’s weather gave us a stunning view over Salta but it was still slightly hazy which blurred our vision of the mountain ranges in the distance. At this point we had visited a few mountain top viewpoints in South America, this was the first one to have an open air gym at the top, which Kev and John had to have a go on.
In the evening we went to the supermarket and got ourselves a bag of potatoes and a steak each which would be cooking this evening together with several bottles of beer, that were alot cheaper than the ones sold in the bar on the roof. We cooked and ate our steaks in the kitchen whilst watching Andy Murray beat Roger Federer in the tennis, once full we continued drinking on the rooftop bar with an American we had met during dinner and another friend we had met in Potosi. Later in the evening there was a powercut so all the lights and music went off as did the beer fridges!
Kev to the rescue, he grabbed his iPod and speakers to for the music, the barman came and delivered some candles to the table and we got some more beer so they didn’t get warm in the fridge.
The next day we jumped on our Andesmar bus to Mendoza, but not before stocking up on those delicious empanadas for the journey. We had treated ourselves to Semi-Cama seats, which is not quite first class, however the seats almost recline flat and are wide enough you aren’t fighting for the armrest with the person next to you. Plus we had bus bingo, loads of films and a meal that rivals most airline food.
Bye bye Salta, hello Mendoza. Another glass of wine anyone….
Tags: Argentina · South America
A brief visit to San Pedro, Chile
April 12th, 2009 by Chris · No Comments
We ended our Salt Flat tour in San Pedro, we were a little concerned as we approached the border due to our tour company telling us the border could be closed due strikes but they continued taking us towards it anyway. We were able to go through the border albeit after a pretty long wait in a stiflingly hot bus and more stamps in the passport, yay!
We arrived late in the afternoon and started the hunt for accommodation, we found a nice YHA hostel from the guide book, John had his own room whilst we shared another room with 3 story bunk beds of which Mike and Kev were on the top some 5 metres off the ground, it was quite a climb to the top, especially after a few drinks.
After looking around San Pedro we discovered the Geysers and lagoons we could see from San Pedro were already covered with our guide on the Salt Flats, it became apparent we maybe stuck in San Pedro with little/nothing since both the buses out of town were fully booked and we would have to wait for the next ones in 4 days time. Our hostel was advertising Sand boarding along with a tour of some caves and the chance to see the sunset and moonrise from an exclusive location. We had heard it was a fun thing to do and since we missed it in Lima we decided to give it a go here. With our activities sorted we went to find something to eat.
After eating we decided to spend the rest of the evening in a very productive way and went to the bar for one or two drinks, which turned into several more. We spent the evening drinking under the stars alongside an open fire to keep us warm, joined by Barry someone in our room in the hostel who was also trying to get out of San Pedro. To conclude the evening we left the bar after it closed and bought some more of our own beers to drink back at the hostel.
The next day we got up late and went to find out how we could get out of San Pedro, the result was a private minibus costing almost triple the other buses, but after we weighted up the pros and cons of stay in San Pedro it was our only option. With a big hole in our pockets after paying for the bus we headed off Sand boarding. We left in the back (me and Kev) of a pickup truck, everyone else had a nice seat in the front of the pickup.
After a short drive we arrived at a sandy hill with no ski lifts! I tentatively put my hand up when asked whether anyone had snowboarded before which meant I could keep my trainers on and us a board with bindings, everyone else had to do it in their socks and on a board with hoops for their feet.
We began waxing our boards with the supplied candlesticks and started heading down the slopes, head first in some cases. It was harder than it first looked with Mike slowing to a complete stop down the hill and Kev doing one or two face plants into sand.
We all came to the conclusion the hardest part of sand boarding was the climb back to the top of the hill on scorching hot sand and we should also not take cameras because we almost lost another camera, Mikes, when it was dropped into the sand and the lens got stuck out luckily hitting it against a hard surface sorted it out.
The caves we were taken to were not very spectacular and somewhat disappointing to look at, not quite what they had been built up to be. After leaving the caves on the advice of our guide we grabbed a few beers to take with us to drink whilst we watched the sunset.
We headed to our exclusive viewing area for the sunset and full moon experience, it just so happened all the other tour companies must have got wind of this exclusive location as they started arriving too.
As the sun approached it’s final moments before disappearing behind the skyline it started moving very fast, so we had to work fast on our photos and almost as soon as the sun had gone a very fast rising moon on the began to appear which we all had a go at pointing at, with some success.
The following day we left in our very expensive taxi towards the Chilean border enjoying some chilled out music courtesy of the line out cable and iPod once again. We reached the border and got into another 2 cars to reach our first destination in Argentina, Salta.
Bring on the steak and wine, yum!
Tags: Chile · South America