A Travellerspoint blog

Lovely Malaysia

Hello again! Hope you're all having a fab May Day weekend. Can't believe I'm missing the
snooker world championship this year! Come on Ronnie!!

I have to apologise for the length of this next blog. I've found it difficult to narrow down what
to tell you, as my three weeks in Malaysian Borneo (or East Malaysia as it's also known), were
packed full of truly fantastic stuff. You might want to read it in stages!!

Right, back to Borneo then. I arrived in a town called Kuching in the south state of Sarawak, after
spending the flight with a Spanish Borneo tour company manager, I met by chance in the airport.
He helped me plan my trip which was handy. I faffed about and had a wander around in the afternoon,
to get a feel for Kuching, a pleasant little town.

On my first day proper day I rented a moped. Sorry to anyone who worries but I couldn't resist it!
It's years since I'd done this and it wasn't long before I remembered how much fun it is!
I rode to Semengoh, the Orang Utan rehabilitation centre. Well, I tried. The map the guy at the
rental centre had given me was terrible. It had been photocopied about a hundred times, and he
didn't even seem to know where he was on it! So I ended up being late for the morning feed and
all the Orang Utan had already gone back into the forest.
There was an afternoon feed too, so I headed off to Anna Rais longhouse village in the mean
time. This is a 200 year old village of the Bidayuh tribe. Longhouses are exactly what they
sound like. It's a traditional Bornean community living under one long roof. There aren't many
left now and some are open to the public even though the people still live there.
As I rode there, I quickly left civilisation and headed into the mountains on pretty much deserted
roads. It was fantastic flying along with the wind cooling me down and the mountains getting
bigger and more wild looking. Not realising quite how far it would be, I was getting low on fuel.
I stopped and asked someone where the next petrol station was and they pointed across the road.
I was delighted to have found somewhere to refuel but couldn't really see where he meant.
Anyway, after a bit of searching and this lovely Malaysian guy guiding me, I realised the 'petrol
station' was just a hut with a couple of blokes sitting around and loads of emptied plastic water
bottles filled with fuel!
When I arrived at Anna Rais, I was offered rice wine which was delicious, and a tiny old chap
came and showed me round. It was only slightly touristy, with a lady on a small stall selling
traditional beaded wares, and sadly, some tacky plastic crap probably made in Taiwan.
She gave me some tree bark tea to try which was also yummy, and I stayed and chatted to her
for a while. She was elderley and had been born in the village, and so had stories of old to tell.

After my tour I was glad to get back on the moped as the sun was meltingly hot. I arrived in
good time on this occasion and headed down to the viewing area to wait for feeding time.
Twice a day, fruit and veg (and some sneaky medication) is put out for Orang Utan to help
themselves to. Generally these apes have been rescued from nasty human hands, or have
been found abandoned as babies. They don't live in cages, but close-by in the open forest,
where they can still be semi-wild but can return for food where the ranges can keep an eye on
them. As me and a handful of others were waiting, the ranger near us got a message on his
walkie talkie to say that one of the tourists just up the hill from where we were had just been
bitten by an Orang Utan and had to go to hospital! I didn't like the sound of that so stayed
close to the ranger as the ape in question arrived to where we were. I'm not sure how the
incident occurred, but you are supposed to stay at least 5 metres away from these creatures,
so I made sure I did. The only thing was, you were constantly looking behind you all the time
to check that one hadn't popped out from the forest and joined the growing crowd of humans!
Anyway, it was amazing to see the 'Man of the Forest' for real, and we stood and watched as
the female they've called Hot Mama, arrived for a feast, with her baby clinging to her back.
Quite something.

The following day I went with some of the people from the hostel, to Bako National Park.
It involved a bus journey, and then a small boat down to a beach at the start of some treks.
It was great, I really enjoyed the day doing some interesting walking through jungle,
up a steep hill and along strange ground level sandstone formations. We saw Proboscis
monkeys which are endemic to Borneo, and a very cool Horned Spider! Wild boar, and
long-tailed macaques were also aplenty, one of the latter nicked my friends' lunch. And there
were also little colourful Fiddler crabs waving their huge (in comparison to the rest of their
bodies) pincer claws in the air to attract a mate.

Early the next morning I left for a flight north, to Mulu, a rainforest destination, via Miri, an
unimpressive small town. I met my guide and we immediately walked to the vast caves.
Wow, these are spectacular! Amazing rock formations, and an even better spectacle in the
Deer Cave. I'm guessing most of you have seen Planet Earth, presented by the god, David
Attenborough? Do you remember the one where he was stood on a huge pile of bat guano
which was teeming with cockroaches, watching millions of bats leaving the cave at dusk?
Well, that was the cave I was in. A huge cathedral of a cave, impressive on it's own, but
as the bats started exiting the cave that day, I was transfixed. It sounded like a huge
applause, as millions of bat wings flapped in the cave entrance. They appear in steady groups
of consistent size, circle in a huge donut shape, and then flying off in a trail, like a swarm of
bees. You can watch this repeating cycle for up to an hour, but your neck aches after about
15 minutes of looking up, and you have to watch out for raining bat poo!
Not long after that the rains came, and we tramped back to the dormitory accommodation.
Night was coming and the sound of the cicadas was so loud, I had to put my fingers in my
ears at one point! In fact that night, I've never had such an unusual and exciting nights' sleep!
There was no glass in the windows of the dorm, only mozzy screens, and the jungle was right
outside. I've never heard such a racket! I think it was mainly cicadas and frogs. I ended up
recording it on my mobile phone at 4 in the morning because I just couldn't believe my ears!
The noises the frogs were making became really funny, and as I laid in the dark watching
the continuous bursts of lightening brighten the room, the rain descended from the sky in
gallons. Earplugs were no defence, so I just took them out and enjoyed the show.

The next day we were joined by a lovely Japanese guy called Tetsuya, and a couple from
Poland. We spent the day trekking through the jungle to another area called Camp 5,
where we were to stay for two nights. Irena and Tomas were going to climb the Pinnacles
the following day, while Tetsuya and myself would walk the Headhunters Trail with our
guide. I decided against the Pinnacles climb early on, as it sounded like sheer torture.
You do get to see a rare Karsk rock formation, but to get there you have to climb ladders
screwed into sheer cliff faces in blazing heat, after a steep 8 hour trek. Looking back, now
I've climbed Kinabalu, I might have had a go, but by all accounts the Pinnacles is a lot harder.
Maybe next time.
Anyway, I wouldn't have wanted to miss the Headhunters Trail as it totally blew me away.
For centuries, until not that long ago, Bornean tribes used to decapitate unsuspecting
folk, as a show of their rank and force. They would put the heads on sticks around their villages,
to show people who might approach what they were capable of. Shockingly, women and
children were the best trophies. We trekked through the jungle, picking leeches off our
clothes and looking out for the legendary huge python that supposedly lives in the pond.
Willie, our guide, also showed us loads of Pitcher Plants. They are the carnivorous type that
grow pots of acidic fluid, which digest unfortunate insects, and sometimes even mice,
that have fallen in. They are fascinating, some of them have even evolved a little lid to
keep out the rain. Brilliant! After spotting miles of marching ants, and rare orchids, we
ended up at some rocks. I couldn't believe it, after we'd negotiatied a small but slippery
climb, that right there in front of us was a pile of human skulls! It took my breath away,
Willie hadn't told us anything about what we were going to see. There were also piles
of limb bones and broken pots which if I'm to believe Willie, were Ming Dynasty! The
whole lot was, according to him, 300 years old! We just sat and looked at it all, shaded from
the elements in this raised cave. I think we struck lucky with Willie, because he had
lived in the area all his life. He told us how he used to hunt deer with his father as a child
and drag them to the now called, Deer Cave for stashing. His grandfather had discovered
the original routes up the nearby mountain, and he told us that him and his brother had
discovered other caves with completely untouched Ming vases inside! He said he won't
tell anyone where they are for fear of the government finding out and tourism wrecking
them. He is an activist, and has been protesting against development of the site (a cable car
and golf course!) for many years. He is rightly angry, about the way Borneo
is being treated, with regards to logging and palm oil plantations, with which sadly almost
half of Borneo is now covered. It was an interesting few days to say the least!
By the way, palm oil is disgusting stuff, and is being used more and more in the production
of many things, including the foods we eat. So if you do anything, don't buy foods with
palm oil on the ingredients list. Not only is it bad for you, but I'm sure you will have heard in
the press, that the plantations are wrecking the 23 million year old rainforest, the oldest in
the world.

After Mulu, I flew up to Kota Kinabalu, the East Malaysian capital. I went for dinner at the fish
market with a Dutch guy called Luke, who I'd met whilst we were frustratingly trying to find
out where to get the bus from the airport. If anyone has ever been to Asia, you will know
just how vague Asians are when giving directions, or information of any type for that matter!
At the hostel I met Carole, a French woman also travelling on her own, and after some
discussion we realised we wanted to do the same things in Sabah (the northern state).
After a day off, we got a 7 hour bus to Sandakan on the opposite coast, from where we
were able to travel to the Sepilok Orang Utan Rehab Centre, the Rainforest Discovery Centre,
and the amazing Kinabatangan River. Sepilok was more touristy than Semengoh, but still
good, and we saw some more of the red apes. Unfortunately it rained without stopping
for hours during that day so we missed out on the canopy walkway in the RDC. All the birds we
could have spotted were quite obviously hiding from the rain when we walked with our umbrellas
to the lookout towers! It was a good day regardless, as the monkeys still appeared, and we
ate gorgeous Malaysian food for next to nothing, in a scruffy cafe back in town.
The next day we travelled by another bus to the Kinabatangan River. Here it's relatively easy
to spot wildlife on the banks, from a boat on the river (ironically because of the shrinking rainforest).
Over the course of two days, and with the help of our lovely and hilariously camp guide, we saw
four types of snake, monitor lizards, crocodiles, Proboscis Monkeys, Red and Silver Leaf Langurs,
Long and Pig-tailed Macaques and four species of beautiful Hornbills, among other birds.
There had been pygmy elephants a few days before, and we saw how they had flattened the
grass where they'd been drinking, but sadly we didn't see the actual animal.
The highlight came on the final night when we took a night walk into the jungle with another
guide. I'd already done a night trek in Mulu, where we saw lizards, geckos, brightly-coloured
roosting birds, insects (including fab fireflies), spiders and glow-in-the-dark mushrooms (!).
It had been a flat trek on a well made path, with not too many obstacles, but this next one
was crazy! We fought through dense jungle, slipping about in the muddy earth, dodging horrible
poisonous centipedes and trying not to be scared of any impending snake doom! Well, the
reward came in the form of the smallest primate on earth, the Western Tarsier! Our guide
had known where to look, and found us one of these wonderful creatures. We couldn't
believe it. We were hopping with excitement, whilst trying to be quiet and still obviously!
The little thing didn't move when we approached with torches, and we managed to get some
fantastic photos. It was simply the funniest, cutest and most engaging little animal I've ever
had the pleasure and good fortune to see. We wandered back to camp on a pure wildlife high.

In the morning, Carole and myself, and the Spanish couple we had met, went to the nearby
Gomantong Caves. This is the main hub for bird's nest collection, which sell for a small
fortune in China. The Swift makes it's nest using it's own saliva, and people collect these nests
to use for making soup and jelly desert. Nice! Well, it appears to be big business as there was
a collection headquarters outside the mouth of the cave. Inside, there is a web of ropes that
the men climb to get to the roof, where the majority of the nests are. There are apparently
many deaths due to this occupation, and that didn't surprise me at all, looking at their
rudimentary equipment and non-existent safety harnesses. Now, this cave was also huge
and impressive, with masses of bat guano, which stank. But the main horror of this cave was
the Scutigera centipedes. You might have seen them on the kids program, Deadly 60. They
are horrible, just horrible. I'm usually ok with insects and spiders, but I've never seen
anything so grim (check out my pic). They are a couple or three inches long, and have 12
pairs of spikey legs on which they move like lightening! They were all over the walls of
Gomantong cave, and my poor friend Carole has a phobia of them (apparently you get them
in France). She screamed, practically hyperventilated and burst into tears. But I could see
why she hated them so much, so I gave her a reassuring hug, took some pictures and moved
swiftly on! I had to pretend they weren't there to get out of the cave! I was impressed that
Carole walked around the whole cave to try to overcome her fear. Yuk, yuk, yuk, yuk, yuk!
We were also told that they are poisonous and can make you ill for a week, which only worsened
our fear, although from reading on t'internet, I'm sure someone was winding us up!

So, onward to our last destination. The mountain. Some of you will have seen on Facebook.
that a week ago, I climbed the highest mountain in South East Asia, Mt. Kinabalu. It's true,
I did! And it turned out to be one of the best things I've ever done (and one week on, today is the
first day I don't ache!).
Mt. Kinabalu reaches to 4095m above sea level (not 5000m as I mistakenly told Rach and Debs!).
This is how it works. You stay at the base of the mountain overnight in a hostel. This is
already 1500m above sea level. At 9am the following morning, you collect your guide and packed
lunch from the Kinabalu National Park headquarters, and hike 6km up steep, difficult rocky paths
and steps to the Laban Rata resthouse, at 3323m. Then, at 1.30am the next day, you arise for a
pre-breakfast at 2am, and start the ascent to the summit at 2.30, to supposedly arrive at the
summit for sunrise. Well, we knew we weren't gonna be fast at this. I'm not as fit as I used to
be, and Carole is a party animal who never does any exercise! We didn't want to wreck our
legs for the Day Two climb, so we took Day One slowly and steadily, using walking sticks to
help (saving my dodgy left knee thankfullyl). We were lucky to spot wild Orang Utan in the
trees almost as soon as we had set off, which was cool. Then it was a 7 hour hike to the
rest point through the clouds. We were elated to arrive and queue up for dinner, as it had been
a tough walk, and the views were already great, especially at sunset. We didn't get much
sleep before getting up for our first brekky and then on we went, in a long torch-lit procession,
up the mountain side. I have to say, what a brilliant time to climb a mountain. The air was cool
and as the sky was clear, the stars were superb. Lightening continuously flashed on the horizon
each time you turned around, lighting up the clouds in the distance. And it was sooo peaceful.
Just the sound of our feet trudging up the mighty hill, and the odd chatter and breathless wheeze!
I could tell the altitude was affecting me almost straight away, as I felt dizzy and slightly sick.
We had been told just to keep stopping and taking breathers so that's what we did, eventually
every few steps, as we climbed higher and higher. We could see most people were struggling
so we didn't feel alone, and Carole and I constantly overtook each other as we in turn stopped
for breath. The rock faces were smooth and sheer and there were ropes attached to the rock
which you often had to use to pull yourself up. I did have a moment where I thought I wasn't going
to make it to the top, but I was determined to see the view so plodded on slowly but surely.
After climbing for what felt like ages, we stopped to have a rekky on the situation. It turned
out we'd been climbing for two hours already, and our guide carefuly informed us that we had
only covered 700 metres!! We just laughed in disbelief. It was at that point that we knew we
weren't going to make it for sunrise, and as it was so hard, we decided we were going to be
happy just to get there!
As the sun started to come up, the light cast on the mountain and the valley below looked
magical. I couldn't believe how lucky I was to be seeing the world from this amazing place.
Regardless of the sun's first rays, it was getting colder as we climbed higher, and we donned
all our layers for the last part. At 8km I had been walking with a nice chap from KL, when we
spotted the summit, already with people on top! In fact, not long after that, people were passing
us coming down, and we had ages to go yet! There is a yearly race up this mountain where
nutty marathon runners literally peg it up the mountain. The record for men is 2hrs up and down,
and for women it's 3hrs. Mad.
Anyway, at 7.15am on May 1st 2012, we reached the summit of Mount Kinabalu. The last
20 metres were really hard, and on seeing the view I promptly burst into tears! It was
unbelievable, and I was so proud of myself for doing it. I feel like crying just telling you about it!
Soppy git.

So, have a look at the pics, I've uploaded right up to the end of Borneo. I'm in Kuala Lumpur
from now until Wednesday, when after a few changes of plan, I'm flying to Cambodia, not Vietnam
as previously scheduled. I had only planned to spend two weeks in Borneo but extended it by a
week because I was loving it so much. That only left me with 5 weeks to see KL, Vietnam,
Cambodia and Thailand. I had already tried to cram that into 6 weeks, which was never gonna
happen either. So, am gonna fly to Phnom Pen for a few days, head down to Koh Rong, a
a little beachey island, for a well-earned week-long rest from travelling, and then up to
Angkor Wat. I'll spend a bit of time in Thailand after that, before flying from Bankok to Kong
Hong, for the last leg of my magical mystery tour! 9 weeks left now!

If you've managed to get to the end of this entry, congratulations and thanks for reading!

Take care all, love Mel xxx

Posted by ExplorerMel 02:38 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

Oz, Singapore, Malaysian Borneo

Lots to tell!

Hello everyone! Nomad Wall here, sorry for the time it's taken to write this entry.
It's been almost 5 weeks since my last post, but it seems like longer to me, I've
done so much, a lot of it in internetless areas, hence the lack of contact.

As it's been a while, this is gonna be another long one so you might wanna go
and make a cuppa! I'm going to split it into three parts: the last section of Oz,
Singapore, and Malaysian Borneo. Oh yeah, I've uploaded more pics, but as
it was so slow as always, I've only managed up to the end of Oz. Will try again
in Kuala Lumpur as I'm going there for 5 days from tomorrow.

So, after I posted last I spent three days on a catamaran on the Whit Sunday
Islands in Australia. It was good, but due to various hitches, not as good as it
could've been. There was a large group of annoying cliquey business students,
who really should've had their own boat as they weren't really interested in
anyone else. And the other people were two German couples, nice enough
people but on the whole not a great dynamic, which was a shame. Also, due to
an engine failure we didn't make it to Whitehaven Beach, the idyllic place that's
always on the postcards. The snorkelling wasn't amazing, and I left my only
jumper and torch on the boat, never to be seen again. I didn't sleep well either
as the boat was constantly rocking through the night. So, all in all, not one of
the best bits of my adventure, but I still enjoyed it anyway. The food was
excellent, and the staff were lovely, especially the skipper who looked like a
cross between Johnny Depp and Kurt Cobain, that helped!

After returning to Airlie Beach, I made my way further up the coast to Cairns.
I stayed in a lovely artsy hostel called Dreamtime and enrolled on a PADI scuba
diving course. I was nervous about diving but was determined to give it a go.
The first day was hard, but I managed it, just pool and classroom work.
But on the second day I freaked out a bit and really struggled to go deep in the
pool. I couldn't shake the feeling of panic, and decided to drop the diving and
change to a snorkelling trip. On the third day we were to go on a live aboard boat
and continue our course, but I just didn't feel I'd had time to get used to the
feeling of breathing underwater and to become confident with all the equipment.
I got a part refund and was still able to go on the trip to the Great Barrier Reef,
just with a snorkel instead! So the following morning we left Cairns for three
days on the reef. I was so excited to see the wildlife (after I'd got over the
disappointment of not diving), and it was my birthday so I was determined to
celebrate! Some of the girls on the boat gave me presents which was lovely,
and I had a fab day snorkelling. It turned out there was three other people
who didn't want to dive, and so team snorkel was born! In between
the dips in the sea, we ate lovely food and I sat like a right anorak, identifying
and listing all the species I'd seen. I had made the right decision and loved
every minute of all nine snorkelling sessions, well, except for when I got stung
by Cone Jellyfish one morning. We wore stinger suits with hoods and gloves
to protect us from the deadly jellies, but our faces were still showing. I swam
through a massive soup of Cone jellies, which aren't deadly but when you've
been stung right acros half your face by them, it really hurts. I got the guys
on board to check me out. They were satisfied it was nothing serious and
kindly sprayed me in the face with white vinegar to ease the sting! Eugh!

Anyway, we saw huge amounts of beautiful fish, coral and other wierd sea
creatures, but the highlight was the gorgeous turtles and white-tip reef sharks!
On the last night, there were loads of sharks swimming in the flood lights
off the boat. The divers were going in for their night dive and us snorkellers
hadn't been allowed in at night before. I really fancied getting in with the
sharks, just for the buzz, so I asked the skipper and he said I could as long
as I didn't go out of the lit area. The rest of team snorkel were chicken so I
went in on my own! The boat staff put the Jaws theme tune on really loud
as we were getting into our stinger suits, just to get the adrenaline going.
Ha ha, brilliant! It was scary, but reef sharks aren't known to attack humans
so I wasn't too worried. Having said that, after I'd been in a while, I
commented to the skipper that I seemed to have scared off all the fish,
including the sharks. He said I should get out as it might be something bigger
than me that scared them off! I did as I was told!
It was a fantastic trip, I totally loved it.

Back on land, I decided to go to Cairns Zoo. I hadn't seen koalas in the wild
and I wasn't likely to. I'm not usually a fan of zoos but this one seemed ok.
I met a lovely Indian guy called Sri there, so we went round the zoo together.
We also saw Cassowary, Wombats, Kangaroos and Wallabies and other Ozzy
animals. The educational value of it was great, as I knew little of the koalas
plight as an endangered animal.

After that, I flew up to Darwin in the Northern Territory, for a three-day tour
of Kakadu and Litchfield National Parks. This was fantastic, and despite the
36 degree heat I really enjoyed everything: 4x4 rides down deserted roads,
walks through the bush to deliciously cool swimming holes, Aboriginal art,
cruising down the Adelaide River to watch the huge crocs being fed, camping
in mesh tents and watching the incredible skies from our beds, loads of
wildlife and a really good guide to talk us through it all. The rest of the group
were really nice too, and we all got on great, so fun was had.

When I got back to Darwin I had a day to look around, which was definitely
all that was needed. It's not the prettiest of towns and there isn't much going
on, so I wasn't sad to fly off to Singapore later that night.

Singapore was interesting. It had a bit of everything. On the first day I went
to Changi museum and chapel with a couple of girls from the hostel. This was
a hearbreaking journey through stories of the Japanese occupation of
Singapore in WW2, and how barbaric they were to the captive servicemen.
many of whom were from England. It was unbelievable and I had all on not to
cry.
Later I walked down to East Coast Park and ate stingray for dinner at a
hawker stall. On the second day I had a city day. I walked around
Chinatown, looked at an excellent modern museum about Singapore, and went
in an horrific shopping centre (out of need not want - I will never call Meadowhall,
Meadowhell again, Suntec was pure shopping evil!).
Luckily, as I was coming out of the hell hole, I came across Marina Bay Sands
just before dusk. This is a huge, bizzarely-shaped casino hotel which looks like
three massive towers with a boat-like structure across the top. I had seen the
sillouette of this wierd building from the beach in East Coast Park, and had
wondered what on earth it was. I looked up at it as the daylight faded and the
electric lights came on and was dazzled by the harbour it sits on. It really is
impressive, and I had a couple of hours just wandering about the place, with a
rock band playing on the waterfront stage as my soundtrack. Awesome.
On my last day in Singapore, I got an early bus to the Botanical Gardens.
Someone had told me they were huge, and as I love gardens I decided to
allocate the whole day to it. Woah, it was enormous! I got there at 9.30am
and didn't leave until 5pm, and I only had half an hour for lunch! It is utterly
spectacular. It was fantastic, my favourite bit of Singapore, and I was lucky to
have wonderful sunny weather all day. If you ever go to Singapore, and you
like interesting gardens, you mustn't miss it. Superb.
After walking almost all day, I didn't go back, but decided to see the Night Zoo!
This is a clever set up for seeing nocturnal animals walking around and going
about their nightly business! I loved the Mousedeer, really tiny deer that are
only 25cm high, soooo cute! The zoo itself was actually, in the end just
another zoo, and I left feeling as usual, a bit sorry for the animals. Don't
think I'll go to another zoo again but it was an interesting experience.
The following morning I flew to Borneo, and that's where the real wildlife fun
started!
But am gonna have to leave you there on a bit of a cliffhanger, as I've run out
of time!

I promise to get you up to date over the weekend, but for now my new French
friend (and fellow mountaineer - for those who are on Facebook!), Carole is
waiting for me, for goodbye dinner and drinks on our last night in amazing Borneo.

Hope you're all well and happy, and I'll be in touch again soon.

Smiles,
Mel xxx

Posted by ExplorerMel 02:58 Comments (0)

Maps

Hi all, I have discovered how to add maps to my blogs. So, I've added one for the whole
trip schedule, and one for each country I've been in up to date.
I've added them in the final blog entry for each corresponding country, and the whole trip schedule
is in the second entry I made just before I left the UK.

Blimey, sorry, that's a bit confusing, just wanted them to match up. Hope you can make heads or
tails if it! I'll put the current one in each blog entry from now on.

I've just done my first day in the classroom and the pool for learning how to scuba dive. It was tough
but I battled through and managed to do all the tasks so was right proud of myself! One more day
there then it's off to dive the Great Barrier Reef for three days from a live aboard boat! It was pretty
scary diving to the bottom of a four metre deep pool so hope I can do it! Eeek!

Hope you're all ok over there,
Love Me xx

Posted by ExplorerMel 01:25 Comments (0)

Oz pics

Hello again,

Just a quick one to let you know I've uploaded some Oz pics, up to Byron Bay.

Will look into why you can't see the maps I've made on here and try and get that fixed.

Laters all!
Mel x

Posted by ExplorerMel 23:08 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Byron Bay, Sunshine Coast and fab family time

And the iffy Aussie summer...

26 °C

Hi everyone! How's it going? Hope you're all well. Before I forget, could
someone let me know if you can see my maps on here? Thanks a lot.

Well, since you last heard from me there has been more rain, continuing
Australia's poor wet summer into what looks like a soggy autumn. All the
Aussie's are complaining about it and saying they haven't had anything
like this for years - great! Ha ha, it's not all bad, it's warm and we haven't
been without lovely sunny days either. In fact often the rain is a heavy
blast which lasts a few minutes and then clears, totally tropical styley.
It's generally around 26-28 degrees C, and bizarrely the water temperature
in the sea doesn't drop much below that either, which is nice. :o)

So, after I typed my last blog I had a message from my distant cousin
twice removed or summat, Natalie. To cut a long story short (I can hear
gasps of relief!), I delayed my night bus to Byron and stayed in Sydney
for one more night. I had never met Natalie before, she's another member
of that leg of family on my Mum's side that I told you about before, actually
Julie's (from Auckland) daughter. Anyway, she took me out for dinner and
she was so lovely. I stayed at hers, she let me do my washing and I
met her bloke Tom. An excellent night. So I had an extra day in Sydney
which I certainly wasn't complaining about. The weather was good again
so I went down to the Chinese Gardens for lunch and then checked out the
rest of Darling Harbour. It's mainly restaurants and kids attractions but was
definately worth a look. I went back up to the shops to get myself a book
for the beach (Room by Emma Donoghue - amazing read, read it in two days,
heartbreaking but recommended). The night bus was ok, just like trying to
sleep on a flight really. So I didn't, much. Yuk. Slept the most of the next day
after a mooch around Byron Bay, a sleepy hippy town.
I had three nights here but wasn't overly impressed. The hostel staff were
rude, the rain continued and the hostel itself was dark and dingy. There was
a cute little cafe bar next door though which had live bands on every night so
that cheered things up a bit. There was free cycle hire so I took advantage of
a gap in the rain and cycled up to Cape Byron for a look at the surfers on
the next day, and made it back just in time for more torrential downpours.
Perfect weather to read my book in an undercover hammock for the rest of
the day! It was meant for the beach, oh well!
The next day the sun came out and I had a surfing lesson. Now, I apologise in
advance to all my surf-loving friends, but I hated it. (I love it, I hate it, I love it,
I hate it - sorry only Marcus and Peggy will understand that one, 'mmm the stench
of adventure'! For everyone else check out Ewan and Thingy on You Tube, a
brilliant piss-take of The Long Way Round doc - Hannah you'll weep).
Anyway, wasn't sure I'd like it coz I tried it with Dunc's board a couple of years
ago and was terrified of the board clonking me over the head when I wiped out.
Anyway, as I'm in Oz I thought I'd give it one last go with a professional teacher
and a softer board. But I was rubbish at it. I'm sure it takes time to get the knack,
but I tired so quickly, and I was still scared of the board, and other peoples.
Two girls got smacked in the face by someone else's board (not mine I should
add!) and one of them was bleeding from her chin. Hmmm, give me a body board
or even better, a water-ski anyday!
That night, I awoke to sirens at 2am, only to find the little cafe, the only good
bit about the hostel, apart from it's proximity to Belongil Beach, on fire. Such a
shame. Anyway, we weren't evacuated as it was dealt with pretty quickly and
it wasn't close enough to be a problem to us.

The following morning I got the Greyhound up to Maroochydore, a little town
on the Sunshine Coast, to stay with some more of my family, Suzanne and her
partner Garth. Well, I was looked after like a princess again! Couldn't believe
the house. A huge brand new, single level house with a pool, backing onto a
canal. Gorgeous, and so was Suzanne. She took me into the hinterland hills
and bought me lunch and drinks and cakes, showed me some very European
villages and a little hippy place called Maleny. Her grandson Taj who is five
joined us, so I had fun playing with him. The next day we drove up the coast
to Noosa, I had a swim in the sea and we had a look around the shops. Very
posh and expensive, not my cup of tea but the beach was fab. On the way
back we called in at Marcus Beach (for those who don't know my brother is
called Marcus so I had to go there!). It was stunning, a huge stretch of
sand and grassy dunes, and it was blowing a (warm) gale so was a really
exhilarating walk.
The next day was ace, I went on a day tour to Fraser Island, the biggest
sand island in the world. There were 16 of us in a 4WD Canter vehicle. We
got a little ferry across and then literally drove down the beach! Well, not the
whole beach, it's 75 miles long! Now, Helen, you might think this would be
paradise for you, but it's wild beach where dingos roam and there's not a
sunbed in sight! There are lots of interesting trees, one of which is the
Satinay. This is a huge hardwood tree which was originally logged and used
for building, especially in salt water as it has an oil in it which means it doesn't
rot. Apparently some of the London docks were built from Fraser Island Satinay.
We had a walk in the rainforest, a swim in the gorgeously clear Lake MacKenzie,
and then a delicious barbie in an enclosed area to keep out the dingos, which
can be fierce, but generally just like to nick stuff if it smells nice! It was there
we saw a huge lizard, the resident Goanna. About 2 and a half feet long with
fab yellow and black markings. We also saw Cookaburra and a dingo.
On the way back they took us to Rainbow Beach, tentaively named for it's
coloured sand. In reality the sand ranges through shades of red, yellow and grey,
however right on cue as we arrived, a huge rainbow formed over the sea as
rain clouds formed! A few minutes later it poured down, but we didn't mind
because the rest of the day had been glorious.
My last day in Maroochydore was sweet. Spent the day with my Grandad's
cousin Joyce (who lives nearby in Mooloolaba but was visiting Auckland when
I met her last time), and Jan, a friend of hers, both lovely women. We did a bit of
shopping and had tea and cake and then Joyce showed me some family
photos before I got my next night bus up to Airlie Beach. Was sad to say bye,
had a fab time with them.

Flippin eck, 16 hours on the bus this time! Was horrible, but managed to sleep
a bit more this time. Airlie Beach, from where I'm currently typing, is great. It's
a seaside town with nothing much other than one street of shops, bars and
restaurants, and a marina from where I'll be sailing from today on a catamaran
to the Whit Sunday Islands for three days. Can't wait! Loads of snorkeling and
no seasickness I hope!!

Well, I've uploaded photos but it takes so long I haven't managed to get
any further than the remaining New Zealand stuff, so sorry about that.
Will try again before I leave Oz. I have booked a 5 day PADI diving course in
Cairns for when I move up from Airlie Beach, and then a 3 day tour around
Kakadu National Park to finish the Oz leg of my travels, so will check in again
sometime around then.

Take care all, lots of love...

Mel xxx

Posted by ExplorerMel 19:48 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

(Entries 6 - 10 of 18) « Page 1 [2] 3 4 »