Author Archives: Clarinda

New Zealand with Sarah, November 7 – November 26

I landed in Auckland at about 1am on Nov 7. Earlier on the 6th my American friend Sarah had flown to Auckland to begin her New Zealand Working Holiday Visa. She booked us a room in an airport hotel and I got the free shuttle to it. I think I got to bed at about 3am.

It was so great to see Sarah! She had just spent a little over three months in the States visiting friends and family a well as attending her brother’s wedding. She had flown to the USA about the time I had started my job in Roma. She had a small suitcase FULL of treats from the US – jellybeans, candy corn, peanut butter M&Ms, Cheezits, Cheetos, Fritos, Bottlecaps – a whole suitcase! Awesome!

After our night at the airport hotel we stayed for a few days at a really nice new hostel in downtown Auckland called the Attic. We went to the zoo, I saw a doctor for my throat infection, we wandered the city looking for gardens (flowers are scarce in that city) and we also saw two theatrical productions – Chicago and Wicked. They were loads of fun and we got great seats for a steal. We also discusses what we wanted to see on New Zealand’s North Island so we rented a car.

From Auckland we headed west to Bethell’s Beach, known for its black sand. It wasn’t as black as I was expecting but it was definitely dark.
Next we headed northeast a couple hours to Whangarei, where our friends Katharina and Bjoin (a German couple we befriended while on Phillip Island) were living. We stayed a few nights there to visit and see the sights (Whangarei Falls, mermaid rock pools, coffee shops), then started our assault on the “Northland”.

We drove into Paihia and jumped on a four hour boat cruise around the Bay of Islands. This was an amazing experience and we saw numerous dolphins and native seabirds on our way to the ‘Hole in the Rock’. We stayed one night in Paihia in a hostel and then took a leisurely drive up to Pukenui, stopping at at least five beaches along the way. One of them supposedly has the most amazing white sand beach. I thought it was a bit grey looking. We had purchased groceries and made sandwiches so we could sit and eat our lunches anywhere along the way.

Pukenui is on the way up to Cape Reinga which has the furthest north lighthouse in New Zealand. We stayed at a lovely property in Pukenui, with a separate little house or backpackers.
The next morning we drive up to Cape Reinga, where the Pacific Ocean meets the Tasman Sea. It gets it’s name from the rocky outcrop at the tip, Te ReInga -the place where the spirits enter the Underworld – according to Maori legend.

After exploring the cape we drive down to the Ancient Kauri Kingdom showroom where we walked up a staircase carved inside a Kauri tree trunk. We also drove our rental car onto 90 Mile Beach and Sarah dug us up some clams for dinner. We stayed the night in a holiday park in Ahipara.
The next day we drove down the west coast a tiny bit past beache and farms and forests. We stopped at a tiny natural geothermal hot springs, with pits dug into the ground, full of hot, stinky water. It is called Ngawha Springs. We stopped for lunch between Opononi and Omapere, where they look out to sea. There is a bronze statue if a boy riding a dolphin there, to honour a lonely dolphin that made the inlet her home in I believe the early 50s.

After lunch we made it to another forest, Waipoua Forest, home to Tane Mahuta, New Zealand’s largest tree, a mighty Kauri tree. Tane Mahuta means “Lord of the Forest”. Then we took a small walk to the Four Sisters Kauri trees.

After the Kauri forest we stopped at the Kai Iwi Lakes, three purely rainwater fed freshwater shallow lakes surrounded by sandy beaches. Super spot for camping if we had a rent or caravan. Unfortunately we did not so we ended up spending the night in an old schoolhouse converted into a hostel in Dargaville. That was a really nice place. For dinner we had an impressive omelette and some mussels we had found on a beach earlier that evening.

Sunday we headed back to Whangarei because Sarah was to do a trial at a fish & chips takeaway shop across from the beach. She got the job but she told them we wanted to do a but more traveling together on the North Island still so they decided that she would start working on Wednesday November 27. The next day we said goodbye to Katha and Bjoin and went back to Auckland to exchange our little rental car. The speedometer had stopped working on us a couple of hours after we had got the first car, which seemed to be Asian imported because every morning the dash console system would greet us in a language that used only very complicated symbols. My guess was Mandarin.

We traded the Asian rental car for a Volkswagen Polo and headed east. We drove on highway 2 towards the Bay of Plenty. Stops included Paeroa (where the New Zealand famous L&P – Lemon and Paeroa – soft drink comes from), and the Karangahake Gorge, which was a gold rush town. Onward we drove to our destination if Whakatane for the night. There was a beautiful sunset and I tried to get pictures of White’s Island, and active marine volcano just off shore.

The next day’s destination was Gisborne. This was a gorgeous coastal drive which we should have taken two days to do. We did make plenty of random stops (making four -legged friends at a couple of them) and took walks along beaches and to viewpoints. We didn’t find any seafood to eat though. We did drive out to East Cape, the furthest east you can go in New Zealand. We also walked down a couple historic wharfs and walked in a magnificent carved church as well as say the village that Whale Rider was filmed in. That night in Gisborne we stayed at the Flying Nunnery, a former convent now a hostel.

The next day we made to easy coastal journey to Napier, searching at random beaches for clams or mussels at low tide along the way. No luck. We did see bluebottle jellyfish and got trapped on a back road by a herd of sheep. Then we drove all around Napier trying toed ice where to sleep before choosing the old Stables, now an expensive hostel. Napier experienced a devastating earthquake several decades ago that leveled most of the town. It is well known in NZ now because of all the Art Deco architecture of the rebuild.

Thursday we drove to Wellington on the very boring “wine route” highway. It was dull but we did see a giant kiwi bird sculpture and drove through a mountain pass northeast if Wellington. There are great views if the city on the drive in as well. Our big hurry to get in to Wellington was for a Lord of the Rings film locations and effects studio tour on Friday. That was REALLY fun but can be best portrayed using my pictures. After the tour we headed north of town about 45 minutes and stayed in Paraparumu at the YHA hostel. We ate dinner at a Burger King (not Hungry Jacks in New Zealand!) designed to look like a 50s diner.

The next day (Saturday) was a long drive but a nice one, all the way north to Te Aroha. Before leaving Paraparumu we went to the annual Strawberry Festival…and bought a squash and an avocado. We discovered strawberries are very expensive in NZ. This day we drive past lots of cows and sheep, a giant storm that gave us a free car wash, Lake Taupo, giant corrugated steel building made to look like a giant sheep and a giant sheepdog, and Matamata, our destination for the next day. We stopped and got a bunch of fruit at a farmers stand and saw a beautiful sunset. We stayed at a deluxe holiday park (with its own geothermal hot pool and an obstacle course) in a private trailer.

The next morning we stopped at a cheese factory and then made our way back to Matamata, destination: Hobbiton. We drove to the Shires Rest Cafe, in Hineura, Matamata. They operate the Hobbiton set tours from there, across the road in the farmer’s (I think) 50 000 acres of fields. You can do a bus tour which allows to to hop off for 1.5 hours and wander around Hobbiton and get a drink at the Green Dragon or you can also do a helicopter tour of the area. We did the bus/walking tour and it was absolutely awesome!
Interesting page giving background of the Hobbiton Movie set tour.
It’s amazing how good and real that place looks! I loved the veggie gardens the most. All of the plants are overgrown to make the hobbits look small. We had the best day there! It was also the hottest day of the season so far so we had great weather! We got to go inside a couple of the hobbit holes as well, although there is nothing but rocks and support beams inside. Perfect day!
After that we drove to a hostel on a farm, called Shekinah Farm, in the Tuakau-Pukekawa region south of Auckland. We had a great time there. We were the only guests there that night so we got our own private room/chalet, and we each got a double bed! We used their BBQ and cooked steak with blue cheese sauce and squash for dinner while watching New Zealand’s Got Talent and Castle on TV. Perfect day!

The next morning we packed up and headed back to Auckland to return the rental car and for Sarah to pick up the car that she had purchased online via auction, and for me to be ready to start my Kiwi Experience bus tour!























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Roma, Queensland July 26-November 5, 2013

When I flew back to Australia from South East Asia, I decided to go to Brisbane, the capital of Queensland, on the east coast because I had never been there before. I caught a flight into Perth and then an overnight flight across Australia into Brisbane.
I arrived early on Saturday July 20. I had spent more money in SE Asia than I had budgeted for so I decided to look for a job right away. I also wanted to apply for my Australian tax return because their tax year is July-June instead of the calendar year. I printed off some resumes and then downloaded the government’s free tax return program. I also registered to take a coffee barista training course on the following Tuesday, to develop some coffee making skills in hopes of getting a day job at a cafe in the city. Australia doesn’t really do percolated coffee. Everywhere sells espresso, cappuccinos and lattes. At home they actually use instant coffee or have a cappuccino machine!
When I downloaded the tax return program it wouldn’t work so I called their technical support team and was told that my macbook’s operating system is too old so the program wouldn’t work. I had to go to a tax agent 🙁
On Monday morning I found a backpacker travel agency that also helps foreigners with their tax returns and I got that sorted out. What a relief! I walked out the door and noticed a sign next door advertising help in finding jobs for backpackers. I inquired and walked out with a job starting the following Saturday at a country pub and restaurant in a town six hours inland from Brisbane, called Roma.
Over the next couple of days I saw some of the sights in Brisbane and prepared to go to Roma on the Friday morning bus. I also got to visit with my friend Suzy, whom I worked with in Alberta while she was on a working holiday visa for Canada. I also took that barista course and had a great time!
When I arrived in Roma I was pleasantly surprised that the town was bigger than I was led to believe. Where I was to work, the Commonwealth Hotel, is one of about five properties in town providing a sports bar, pokies (coin slot gambling machines), a lovely restaurant and rooms for rent upstairs.”The Comm” also has a liquor store and TAB machines to place sporting & racing bets. It is quite a popular place! I trained to work the good service till in the bar and to work in the restaurant, and from the on try scheduled me to do food running full-time, delivering the food from the kitchen to the bar and to the restaurant when it was ready. I guess with my previous experience I could carry more than the other girls and I easily became familiar with the menu. In this job I also had to help out in the bar and the restaurant when they became busy. A couple of times each week I would also do morning cleaning of the property -vacuuming and mopping floors, cleaning the windows and counters, cleaning the pokies machines, cleaning rooms upstairs, etc. I was glad if this because food running was generally only about 5 hours or so per day. Some days were very busy and I stayed longer to help out and some days were quiet so I only worked my food running hours.
It was an alright job and I or along with the other girls well enough.
There were a bunch of Irish girls, one Scottish girl, one English one and a German girl besides me. All of us lived upstairs in shared rooms like dorms, with a common bathroom and a “kitchen” (a fridge on its last legs, a microwave, kettle and wok) and lounging area. We also had a balcony and washing machine that we could use for free! I was so happy to have my own bed and wardrobe, to not have to live out of my backpack for the next few months!
I liked Roma – the community, my job – both my coworkers and the clientele, and having a regular pay cheque was nice too! Also our chefs in the kitchen were really good and staff could get meals off the menu for $10 which is a pretty good deal. Time passed and I was having fun. I booked all the flights I would need for my inwards travel, right until flying into Toronto in February 2nd.
I did take a four day vacation in September to the coast to see my friends from Phillip Island, Rachel, Jamiee and Will, when they took a holiday on the East Coast. We went to Warner Brothers MovieWorld theme park as well as SeaWorld.
I end ed up staying in Roma until November. Melbourne Cup, Australia’s largest horse race and practically a national holiday, was November 5 so I told my boss I would stay and work until then. It was a very busy day! We all worked at least 10 hours and then I did a whirlwind job of packing my stuff and off I went to take the overnight bus to Brisbane. My working holiday visa was expiring on November 7 so I had to leave the country. I met with my friend Sothea for a couple of hours in Brisbane before I caught an evening flight to Auckland, New Zealand on November 6.





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Phnom Penh
Wednesday June 12-Saturday June 15

We used the last of our Ringgits at the airport to buy McDonalds, but we still didn’t have enough so the manager came over and gave us a “staff discount” so we could afford it. Then we went through security and met Philipp. We ate our burgers while waiting for our flight to Phnom Penh.
When we arrived we paid $20 for our tourist visas and then attempted to withdraw money from an ATM. The ATMs in Cambodia only dispense US dollars. Sarah and Philipp both were rewarded with 2 crisp $100 bills, while I opted to withdraw $190 in order to receive smaller bills. Therefore dinner was on me, as its not easy to find someone who has change for a $100 bill as a months wages are approximately $70. We took a hazy tuktuk into the city and arrived at our guesthouse, Nomads. The next day, we attempted to visit the Royal Palace but it was closed to the public in preparation for the queen mother’s birthday, which is June 18. So we meandered around orienting ourselves with the CBD of Phnom Penh and also shopped in the huge market. We also met Myrthe (a dutch friend of Sarah’s, whom she met in Australia). She toured Phnom Penh with us over the next couple of days. The next day we hired a tuktuk (with driver) to go to the S-21 museum and the Killing Fields. This was a highly educational day. I did not know much about Cambodia’s violent history until this day…it also rained for most of the day…most of the trip. Rainy season in Cambodia! Yayyy! The next day we walked to Wat Phnom, which is a (buddhist) temple. There are many, many, many Wats in Cambodia. After that we hired a tuktuk to go to the Russian Marketplace and bought some elephant pants! Yay for Philipp! After this, we went to the Royal Palace and it was good that Philipp bought pants because you have to have your shoulder and knees covered while in certain building in the Royal Palace. Then it rained and rained some more, so we ran to Dairy Queen and ate blizzards. The next morning we hopped a bus out of Phnom Penh.      

Kratie (pronounced Kra-chay)

Sunday June 16-Tuesday June 18

Sunday morning Myrthe left us and Philipp, Sarah and I attempted to take the scheduled 8:00am bus to Kratie. When we arrived at the bus station we were told that there was no 8am bus, the next one was at 10:30. Also they raised the price from what we were told, so we decide to try to catch a ‘minibus’ to Kratie. These are usually 12 seater vans. We negotiated/bargained a price with a middle man for a ride headed to Kratie in ten minutes. We were told that the drive would be four hours. We hopped into the minibus, along with 10 other people and a couple burlap sacks of unidentified root vegetables.. We proceeded to sit. For over an hour. Waiting to this ‘minibus leaving in ten minutes’. We waited, discussing whether or not to jump back out of the minibus, to just take the normal bus, until our minibus was actually hit by a big bus. Joyous! The ensuing dispute with everyone who saw the accident on the entire street, helped us make up our minds. We hopped off and ram back to the bus station and booked tickets. Yay for air conditioned buses. We enjoyed the air conditioning and Cambodian karaoke videos shown on the bus very much so we did not mind overly that our 4 hour bus ride ended up taking over 8 hours. We took bets as to what our arrival time would be. Can’t remember who won, but it was the first of our inaccurate but enjoyable days completely used up on a bus. We arrived in Kratie and found a room at Star Guesthouse. Great food here.
Monday we hired a tuktuk and driver (who was amazing and bought us sweet rice stuffed in a bamboo branch and then later fried bananas) and went to see the freshwater dolphins in the morning! I’m so glad we did. It was awesome and apparently they likely won’t be there after a couple of years from now because the Mekong River is scheduled to get dammed up in Laos and the whole river system will likely be totally obliterated.  

 After the dolphin cruise we went to a hilltop Wat, and climbed SEVERAL steps to see it as well as the (obstructed) view of the Mekong River and some ‘mountain people’ who live on the hill. The only (visible) difference between the ‘mountain people’ and the locals, that we could visually determine, was that the mountain people shave their heads. In one of the pagodas there were several murals depicting the hell and damnation that people who don’t receive enlightenment go through. Pretty terrible. Later we went to the edge of the river to see a floating village. Pretty cool! The next morning we hopped a bus to Siem Reap.

Siem Reap

Tuesday, June 18-Saturday June 22

The bus to Siem Reap was supposed to take about 6 hours. That turned into over 12 hours. But it did have aircon, so it wasn’t so bad. Just another entire day day of our holiday spent on a bus. We arrived and hopped off the bus to immediately get mauled by tuktuk drivers trying to get our business. This happens every time a bus arrives anywhere in SE Asia. We thought our guesthouse was close enough to walk to so when Sarah was asked, “Tuktuk?” She immediately replied “no, too expensive.” This did not impress many drivers because they hasn’t yet named a price, but Philipp and I found it highly comical. For most things purchased in Cambodia you have to negotiate a price and foreigners get charged more than locals. The comeback price quoted was $100USD. We did end up taking a tuktuk for $2 because the bus station was not so close to our guesthouse. We liked the driver so much that we hired him for three days to drive us around The Angkor temple complex, for the competitive price of $15 per day. We check into our hotel, which was quite nice actually, with three single beds in our private room, breakfast included and we even had a pool.
The next morning we had breakfast and caught our tuktuk ride at 8:30am to the temples.
The first day we did a circuit around the east side. This was the longest day and we saw the most structures, mostly smaller than on the other two days. We also bought some coconuts to drink and took a long lunch break and rested in hammocks before finishing our day touring. When I upload the photos from the temples I will be able to say which temples we visited on what days. The second day we had an early start. Our tuktuk driver picked us up at 4:45am so we could reach the temple complex in time for the colorful sunrise! That was quite beautiful. Next we saw the Angkor Thom complex and the temple shown in the movie Tomb Raider. Both were spectacular and awe inspiring. We saw the majority of the structure these first two days and were tired out on the second one by about 2pm or so on the second day, so we decided to take a day off before coming back to finish out temple touring. On the road just outside the temple walls we had to stop to see some elephants! Sarah’s favorite animal is the elephant and during the whole trip she was hoping to be able to interact with some Asian Elephants so we were excited when we saw some (even if they were there as a tourist attraction) and got to pet them.
The next day we rested and swam in the guesthouse pool, attempted to avoid the afternoon rainy-season showers, and eventually made our way to some shops and browsed. We ended up having hour long massages and eating dinner in Siem Reap.
The next morning we once again got up early (not quite as early as 4am) and headed to the temple complex to focus on Angkor Wat, with its famous 5 towered silhouette. It was lovely and considerably well preserved but we all agreed that we couple have just toured it on one of the earlier days because it only took a couple of hours. 

               We went back to our guesthouse and swam and got rained on again. We also decided to take an overnight bus to Sihanoukville that night.

For once our bus was only about an hour later than the quote journey length! We arrived in Sihanoukville late Sunday morning and caught a tuktuk to a hostel on Otres Beach. Unfortunately the one we tried to get a room at was closed for renovations so we stayed across the road at another property which I can’t even remember the name of but they used a lot of blue in their decor. It was right on the beach so it couple have been nice in the right season. Unfortunately the weather was not in our favour while in Sihanoukville so we weren’t impressed. We only stay only 24 hours and then booked seats on a minibus to Kampot, a riverside town a couple of hours away.

Monday June 24

This morning we took a minibus to Kampot, which is a nice riverside town with some good outdoor activities. We did a lot if walking around in the town, self guides touring and we also did a day tour on a mountain just outside town. I think it was the Bokor Mountain in the Bokor National Park. We saw the Black Palace, the Bokor Hill Station (an old hotel building uses by Pol Pot as a headquarters), the Old Catholic Church, the new giant resort & casino complex, a lovely huge waterfall, a Buddhist temple, and then to finish it off the tree of us trekked down the lower half of the mountain. It took about three hours and was a bit slippery and spidery in some places but exhilarating! At the bottom we stopped at a farmhouse on a river and Philipp and Sarah went for a swim. At the bottom of the hill we got picked up and taken for a one hour evening river cruise. At this point we were so exhausted from our day (and I kind of found the boat trip dull) that I think I took a small nap on the boat. It was neat to see orange hanging from trees and flowers floating by us in the water.
In Kampot we stayed at a place called the Magic Sponge (no idea why it has that name) which is owned by a former American, and we ate a few times at a Lonely Planet recommended place called the Rusty Keyhole. Very good slow cooked pork short ribs and also a huge portion of muesli and yoghurt with fresh fruit. On Wednesday we pretty much just walked all over Kampot. Kind of did laps around it. We had a tourist map and just visited whatever points of interest we wanted 🙂


Phnom Penh

Thursday June 27-Saturday June 29

Thursday we caught a bus back to Phnom Penh and walked all the way back to Nomads backpackers and checked in (not terribly far from the bus stop but we were carrying our big backpacks). This time we got a room with no windows but it did have (wonderful) air conditioning!
Friday June 28
Philipp flew back to Australia. Sarah and I sent off our passports for Vietnamese tourist visas. We watched a movie in the local theatre: Monsters University.
Saturday June 29
Today we visited some pharmacies and shopped. Later in the day we picked up our passports/visas, then watched a movie: Superman Man of Steel. That night we took the overnight bus to Vietnam.

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First month in SE Asia – Singapore and Malaysia


May 12
Arrived in Singapore and got to my hostel safely. Hopped in bed at 5am. Sarah and I went to the night safari that (Sunday) night.

Monday May 13
We went to the Singapore Zoo before taking our stuff to Michelle’s and then walking around the waterfront.

Singapore to Malaysia
Tuesday May 14
Did laundry and took the bus to Melaka, crossing the border into Malaysia. Had to hop off the bus twice to go through customs on both sides of the border.

Wednesday May 15
Wandered around Melaka, gazing at historic monuments. Domestic disturbance night

Thursday May 16
Locked into the guesthouse until after lunch. We took the bus with Dutch Michael to Kuala Lumpur. Next we caught another bus to Penang, arriving at 2:25am. Took a taxi and found a guesthouse. Crawled in bed at 3:20am.

Friday May 17
Wandered around Georgetown gazing at the sights. We did two historic walks, also stopping at the Malaysia Tourism office and Fort Cornwallis.

Saturday May 18
Today we ate breakfast at the neighbouring cafe and then walked to the bus station. After finding it we caught a bus to Penang Hill and took the train up. Very interesting train. We went in a Taoist temple and then walked around on top the hill. We went back down and went to Lok —-Temple. Went to the Red Garden hawker area for dinner.

Sunday May 19
Today we took a bus to the butterfly farm and later went to Batuh Ferrenghi for a nice warm swim. I had the hiccups while swimming but promptly got stung by a tiny jellyfish that startled my hiccups away! Glad jellyfish don’t seem harmful here!

Monday May 20
Today we took a bus to the Penang Botanical Gardens and wandered around there. When we exited there was a man tossing apple slice to the local wild Macaques. They were really cute. One had a baby hanging on. Next we walked to Wat Chayamangkalaram. Very big large Buddhist temple with a giant reclining Buddha. We also checked out the temple across the road. Both were closed so we just walked around the grounds, not inside the temples. Then we had Pizza Hut pizza for dinner.

Tuesday May 21
Today we took the 8:15am ferry to Pulau Langkawi. It was approximately 2.5 by the ferry. We disembarked at Kuah Jetty and meandered to the other end of the town before taking a taxi to Pantai Cenang because there aren’t buses on this island. We checked into the Gecko Guesthouse.

Wednesday May 22
Today we went to the local beach. Very nice beach for swimming! Then we got a smoothie at the nearest cafe (Babylon) and met a Dutch girl who we went window shopping with for a couple hours. We ended up at Babylon again for dinner and live music entertainment. Apparently there was a conga line while I was in the bathroom.

Thursday May 23
Today Sarah and I got picked up and went on and organized boat tour around the northern part of the island and along a mangrove river. There was zebra fish feeding, fruit bat viewing, insect bats in a cave, swimming monitor lizards, a fish farm, where Sarah held a puffer fish, eagle viewing and finally lunch and swimming. When we got back to Pantai Cenang we went to McDonald’s for ice cream and meandered back to Gecko Guesthouse.

Friday May 24
Today we planned to go to the beach but it was rainy for most of the day. We did end up going later in the afternoon.

Saturday May 25
Today we decided to walk on the beach a ways, to find a different spot to swim. We did at a resort a few minutes north of us. Then we decided to keep walking, trying to reach the airport, but we were unsuccessful and just ended up doing a four hour walk around the area. Then we met Anouk at Babylon and ate dinner

Sunday May 26
Today we had a lazy day and hung around the guesthouse watching movies and using the Internet for a while. We did end up going to the beach for a swim, and just after sunset we went to find the atm to get out Ringgits to pay for our room. Then dinner.

Monday May 27
This morning we got a taxi at 11:30am and took the 12:30 ferry to Kuala Perlis before catching a bus to Ipoh. We shared paid for the taxi and shared it with an elderly man named TK Than. TK Tan offered to drive us somewhere the next day as thanks for paying for the taxi.

Tuesday May 28
This morning we had noodle soups for breakfast and then called TK. He came and drove us to a several cave temples around Ipoh. This took a couple of hours. Then he dropped us off at the main bus station and we caught buses (had to transfer) to Kellie’s Castle. When we got back to out hotel for the night we met a guy who was also planning to travel to the Cameron Highlands the next day (just like us). His name was Daniel.

Wednesday May 29
Today we got ready and caught a bus from Ipoh to the Cameron Highlands. We arrived just before 2pm so we were able to quickly book a sightseeing tour around the area, stopping at a “bee aviary”, tea leaf plantation, huge rose greenhouse, butterfly greenhouse, a strawberry farm (with great strawberry & tea cheesecake) and a Buddhist temple. Daniel ended up being on the same tour as us and he was staying at our guesthouse, so Sarah, Daniel, a Dutch girl Aline and I all went for dinner after that. Later Sarah and I sat outside the hostel, on the porch talking to a couple of Korean guys biking around Southeast Asia.

Thursday May 30
Today we ended up dropping laundry off to be done before heading on a small trek to a waterfall and then on to a town Closeby, called Brinchang, for market browsing and strawberry farm dessert eating. We also tried a drink called sea coconut juice but neither of us liked it because there was so much sugary syrup added to sweeten it. We walked back from Brinchang in the late afternoon but ended up getting overtaken by an intense rainstorm. Luckily we had rain jackets with us and reached cover before it rained too heavily. We were stuck for a couple hours waiting for the rain to lighten up. Luckily Sarah had brought a deck of cards in her day pack.

Friday May 31
Today we got up early and has breakfast before we got picked up by a shuttle to go to the Perhentian Islands off the east coast of Malaysia. The bus from Cameron Highlands took about 5 hours. Then we hopped onto a tiny passenger ferry and headed out to “The Little Island” or Pulau Kecil, the smaller Pulau Perhentian. The ride took about 45min to the island. Once we got ashore we began the process of looking for a place to spend the night. Unfortunately, because it was a Friday afternoon and school holidays were going on, we had trouble finding a room. Actually all of the budget accommodations were sold out for the night we discovered, after trudging from one business to the next. We finally decided to stay in a tent at Maya Chalets, on Coral Bay. I think we had a pretty good deal all things considered. We had mattresses and pillows in the tent, and a second tent right beside us, to throw our bags in overnight. Also we had a clothesline and our tent was under a shelter and was actually on a wooden floor so we had relatively few ants. We ended up staying there for a very lazy week, Friday-Friday.

Friday May 31-Thursday June 6
This whole week was spent on Pulau Kecil, in the Perhentians. It was a bit more expensive than other places (partly because its an island and most things need to be brought over by boat). On Wednesday we went snorkeling and it was so great! My first time on a snorkeling trip and the water was so clear! We saw lots of colorful rainbow fish, clownfish, sea slugs, turtles and sharks, beautiful bright coral, etc!

Friday June 7-Sunday June 9
Friday we took the mini ferry back to the mainland, to Kuala Besut, then took a bus north the Kota Bharu. We stayed two nights. While there we went to the night market a couple of times. We also bumped into a Dutch girl that we met in the Cameron Highlands, and spent some time with other travelers staying at our backpackers, Zecks. We also went to the famous indoor food market and tried a few new-to-me fruits, all very good! We also went to a Cultural Centre and watched dance and drum demonstrations, top throwing and batik decorating.
Sunday night we took an overnight bus to Kuala Lumpur; not a comfy ride. First day of malaria tablets. No fun.

Monday June 10
We decided to go to the Lake Gardens today. On the way there we stopped and visited the National Museum. Then we walked all around the Lake Gardens and then into the Botanical Gardens. Everything in KL is closed on Mondays.

Tuesday June 11
Today we invited a young French guy, Basil, to join us on our journey to the Batu Caves. Many steps lead into these caves. 272 steps. Afterwards we tried to walk to the Kuala Lumpur Tower and then to the Petronas Towers. There was a water & light shower outside the towers after dark.

Wednesday June 12
Today we flew to Cambodia.

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4 Days Perth to Monkey Mia Return Tour

Four days Monkey Mia

Tuesday May 7
Nathalie and I got picked up a little past 7am. We headed out of Perth and eventually stopped at the Pinnacles in Nambung National Park. After that we drove a little more to Port Denison to have lunch. After lunch we kept driving to Geraldton, a good sized city with lots of money because of all the mines in the area, and it is a port city so a lot of exports are loaded there. Cindy got a ticket for passing someone before the dotted line started. We drove to Kilbarra, where we stayed at a horse ranch for the night. It poured rain all night.

Wednesday May 8
I got up at 5:45am and had some breakfast. It rained a little again while we were packing up the minibus. We drove about a half hour to Z Bend and Nature’s Window. They are down 26km of sandy road, which had lots of big puddles due to the thunderstorm of the previous night. The rain continued to hound us for the early part of the day, giving us bright clear sunshine and then abruptly down pouring, soaking us to the bone. I guess I’m glad I didn’t have a shower before we left this morning! Z Bend is beautiful, and the Murchison River actually had water in it, which is very rare. Nature’s Window is beautiful as well, a hole in a big rock, that you can look through and see the gorge beyond. After that we left Kalbarri NP and drove for a couple of hours to Billabong Roadhouse for lunch. Wraps. Then we drove on to Shark Bay, also called (which means two bays in the local Aborigine language, because it is a finger of land that just into the sea, with a bay on either side). We stopped at Shell Beach and some people took a quick dip but it started to rain again so we drove on a few minutes to a big hot tub, fed by very hot water pumped up to the surface from below. Next we drove on to Monkey Mia, the resort community we spent the night at. We made a BBQ dinner with salad grilled eggplant, homemade fries, chicken schnitzel and marinated beef steaks. There was a really good live band at the pub – singer called Toby.

Thursday May 9
Today we stayed at Monkey Mia until 11am, but I got up at 6:40am and walked down the beach a ways to some dunes to watch the sunrise. I wasn’t expecting much of a view because of the heavy cloud cover and rain in the area but it was quite spectacular anyways. Then I went back to the room and got ready with my group, and we walked to the beach to see the dolphin feeding at 7:45am. There are a couple of rangers that talk about the dolphins lives and families and the individual dolphins, before it is time to feed them. The talking is called the “dolphin interaction time” during which they have started swimming in close to shore in anticipation of free fishes for breakfast. During this time the crowd of onlookers is allowed to take a couple of steps into the water to get a better view. When the buckets of fish are brought do the the water then people have to step back to the shore and that is the signal to the dolphins that food has arrived. There are many dolphins in the area but regulations only allow that a specific five females get fed, and it is only about 10% of their daily intake that they are fed, so that they still have to go out and hunt an catch most of their food, ensuring their young learn how to fend for themselves. After the feeding Isabelle, Nathalie and I went for a big buffet breakfast at the resort’s restaurant. Then Patrick showed up in the restaurant so we decided to try to go for a swim at the beach (far down from where the dolphins get fed). At 11am we headed out and stopped in Denham for Diesel. Denham is the most westerly town in Australia. After this we started heading back south and stopped at a lookout on the opposite doe if the road of Monkey Mia, overlooking the other bay. This side has more seagrass and plants and is frequented by dugongs and most of the local shark species. We had high hopes of seeing these creatures but we were disappointed. Only birds were visible in the bay today, so we drove on to the Stromatolites and had lunch there. Then it was time to turn around and start heading back south. We drove back to the Billabong Roadhouse and stopped for Diesel again. Then drove on to Kalbarri, where we stayed at the YHA backpackers for the night. After spaghetti bolognese we played Pictionary.

Friday May 10
This morning we got up and packed up and had pancakes for breakfast. We left just before 8am and headed down to Greenough Wildlife and Bird Park. I got to cuddle a kangaroo Joey – Francis. After we drove on to Jurien Bay for lunch. Next we drove to Lancelin and tried sandboarding before driving back to Perth.


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6 day/5 night ROCK PATROL tour from Adelaide to Alice Springs

Saturday, April 27
I got picked up in a minibus (large van seating 12 people including the driver)by Julian, our tour guide from Groovy Grape Getaways, just before 7am. We continued to pick up other people around Adelaide until the bus was full. Drove through Adelaide, through to the Clare Valley, stopping to look at a couple wineries. Stopped in Clare for groceries. Drove through Georgetown to the Southern Flinders Ranges. Drove through Georgetown and Melrose (where Goider’s line is), past Mt. Remarkable to the lunch stop/caravan park/our camp in Wilmington, SA. Stoney Creek Bush Camp and Caravan Park. We had a BBQ burger lunch then went for a walk through a gorge to see very rare Yellow-Footed Rock-Wallabies. Watched the beautiful sunset while eating cheeses. Had a BBQ dinner and used a swag for camping (a big, heavy canvas bag with a built in mattress that a sleeping bag fits into). They allow a great view of the stars because your head is in the open. No tent.

Sunday, April 28
Left camp at 7am. Drove to Port Augusta for petrol. 550 more km to go to Coober Pedy! Saw a Wedge-Tailed Eagle and some Emus! Made a few pit stops, also stopped at Lake Hart, an inland salt lake. Arrived at Coober Pedy. Had an underground mine video and tour. Saw an opal shop. Had take out pizza watching the sunset then walked to a kangaroo rescue shelter to meet some roos. They also had a joey who’s mom got hit by a car. She was really cute, drinking from a bottle, and just starting to hop around. kangaroos can not hop backwards but baby ones can. Debbie was still rather uncoordinated and occasionally fell over or hopped backwards. She loved to spend time in her makeshift pouch, which is a cut up cotton tshirt put into a soft wicker shoulder bag which someone carries around while she peeks out. We slept in bunks in a “cave” (bunkhouses carved into a small hillside).

Monday, April 29
Had breakfast, left at 6:30am. Watched the sunrise @ the Breakaways, 7am. Had a couple pit stops. Watched two movies: The Adventures of Priscilla Desert Queen and Rabbit-Proof Fence. Crossed the border into the Northern Territory; 11:30am. Julian talked an awful lot, about European settlers and other history of the area, we took pictures. Had more pit stops. Stopped at a gas station/roadhouse called Erldunda. Drove to King’s Creek Station camp. Watched the sunset, had spaghetti bolognese with minced kangaroo. Swagged it, listening to Valery play the guitar.

Tuesday, April 30
Tried to drive to see the sunrise at the same spot as the sunset on the previous night, but hit a big rock that tore into the coolant tank and put the minibus out of commission. Julian, our tour guide arranged for us to travel with a Rotary exchange group of students from the neighboring campsite to hike King’s Canyon. It was Marvelous! We had a bit of free time after that, while waiting for a new minibus to be delivered from Alice Springs. It arrived and then we drove to Yulara, stopping at Curtin Springs briefly (saw some nice birds in cages there). Got to Yulara in time to get to Uluru for sunset!

Wednesday, May 1
Got up at 5am to drive to a viewpoint that allows you to see Uluru and Kata Tjuta for sunrise. Continued on to Kata Tjuta for a hike to “Viewpoint 2”. Lovely. Came back to camp for a taco lunch. We relaxed and I got a couple of photos developed and mailed a couple postcards. Got dinner ready to simmer – Hungarian Goulash. Went to the Cultural Centre and the same viewpoint for sunset. We walked on a trail to see both Uluru and Kata Tjuta sunsets, taking lots of photos.

Thursday, May 2
Got up early to see the sunrise hit Uluru from a different parking spot. Walked around Uluru reading the Aborigine stories explaining tjukurpa and explaining how various marks on the rock formed. After this walk we did another one, the Mala Walk. This one went around a small part of Uluru, showing different areas used for cooking, teaching, childbirth, ceremonies, hunting, etc. Very interesting that the Anangu people had a community type setting around the rock. Then we finished looking at the Cultural Centre and had lunch before heading out (at about 12:45pm) to Alice Springs. We arrived in Alice Springs at about 6:30pm. Everyone checked into their accommodations and then we all went out for a goodbye dinner.


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The Toy Factory and Giant Rocking Horse

Gumeracha, South Australia




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The Overland


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This is my train to Adelaide!


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Saying goodbye to Phillip Island

Well today was officially my last day of work at Silverwater Resort in San Remo. I will be leaving here in a few days, doing a day trip to Wilson’s Promontory in the east, and then next Saturday April 20th I’ll be taking the train to Adelaide. I’ve booked a winery day trip tour in the Barossa Valley for Sunday the 21st and a trip to Kangaroo Island on the 22nd, staying there two nights before coming back to Adelaide Wednesday on the ferry. Thursday April 25th is ANZAC day, Australia and New Zealand’s veteran’s day. So Friday I booked a swim with dolphins day cruise. Then the morning of Saturday April 27th I get picked up to start a 6 day/5 night “Rock Patrol” group tour up to Alice Springs and Uluru, ending on Thursday May 2nd, with a company called Groovy Grapes Tours.


Barossa Valley wineries tour

Kangaroo Island 3-day trip

Swim with the Dolphins morning cruise

Rock Patrol 6 day/5 night tour

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