The End of Our Australian Adventure

After an amazing 12 months of travelling around Australia, sadly it had to come to an end. We started our adventure in Perth, from there we went up the west coast to Monkey Mia and down to Margaret River. We flew to Melbourne, did the Great Ocean road and travelled through to Adelaide and Port Lincoln. From there we drove to Sydney passing through Mildura and Canberra before embarking on a trip up the east coast stopping at Coffs Harbour, Byron Bay, Surfers Paradise, Brisbane, Noosa, Rainbow Beach, Hervey Bay, Fraser Island, 1770 Agnes Water, Rockahampton, Airlie Beach, Whitsunday Islands, Townsville, Magnetic Island and finishing in Cairns diving the Great Barrier Reef.

Now we are settling back to normal life in Birmingham, England and miss Australia in so many ways. Our next step is to find work and then plan some more exciting adventures.

Due to the amount of fun we were having our blog sort of fizzled out but we are hoping to reignite it and maybe even give it a makeover. Some content will be deleted and other bits shall be edited. On top of that hopefully they’ll be a lot of new additions. The blog will no longer become an update for friends and family but a form of help and advice for any people hoping to embark on an adventure similar to ours. We’ll point out the Dos and Don’ts of travelling and the mistakes we made. Reviews of travel agencies, hostels and more.

Let us know if you have any ideas for the blog? What would you like to know?

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Tourists see things, travellers experience them!

Road trip – Warrnambool to Grampians

Our adventure along The Great Ocean Road had come to an end but we still had a lot more driving to do. Our first stop of the day was an unplanned one, but seeing a sign for Hopkins Falls we decided to follow it. Turned out to be a great little stop with a nice view of a waterfall. At the lookout we discovered a ‘Fotopol’ a brilliant invention! It was basically a permanent tripod for people to attach their cameras. It allowed me to take some really nice photos of the waterfall using a long shutter speed to make the movement of the water look silky smooth. The sturdiness of the Fotopol and the use of my wireless remote combined to create some great snaps.
Tower Hill Reserve was next on the agenda. The reserve was home to an extinct volcano believed to have erupted 30,000 years ago, but now a new habitat for many animals. We walked some of the many trails. The peak climb took us 30 minutes and led us to the highest point of the reserve with views of the surrounding area. The lava tongue boardwalk took us 30 minutes which led us through swamp areas and we spotted lizards, a snake and emus along the way. Journey to the last volcano took us one hour and lead us to the centre of the volcano but to be honest there was not much to see. We spotted a koala sitting in a eucalyptus tree near the picnic area and ash had a brief encounter with a snake near the information centre.
On returning to our vehicle I unlocked the doors and the key broke in the lock! I couldn’t believe our luck, stuck in a national park in the heat. We called Jucy who told us that even though we paid for the full insurance cover the key wasn’t covered. They gave us a number for a mobile locksmith and informed us that we would have to pay. How very helpful of Jucy rentals! We had to wait 2 hours for the locksmith to turn up so we went into the back of the van and cooked up some soup. There we were sitting in the national park carpark enjoying our soup and an Asian tourist took this opportunity to take a photo of us. Eventually the locksmith turned up and managed to cut us a new key for the hefty price of $100. But don’t worry, we did what we do best and complained to Jucy who later reimbursed us. After this setback we quickly got on the road again and headed for Grampians but a bigger obstacle was about to come into play.
The roads were straight and long heading towards the Grampians and we could see the mountainous landscape in the distance. We spotted smoke ahead and soon realised we were heading straight for it. We passed a Fire Marshall who informed us that it was a controlled fire and we had nothing to worry about. He advised us to slow down from 110kmh to 50kmh, to put our headlights on and he’d radio the other Marshall’s to let them know we were heading in their direction. Smoke was everywhere and even though we shut all the windows and vents we could feel the smoke filling our lungs. We carried on down the road only for the smoke to get thicker and all of a sudden we were in a thick blanket of smoke and could not see a thing. I couldn’t see the bonnet of our own car never mind the road ahead of us. The smoke was making us cough and the heat was unreal, even though visibility was zero, it was safer to keep on going. I was driving at walking pace when all of a sudden I had to hit the brakes hard and we stopped inches away from hitting a bollard. It was a bit of a panic but the car was becoming very hot so all I could do is keep moving and Ash suggested beeping the horn as we crawled along the road. Eventually visibility started to improve and there were flames near the side of the road. We could just make out the shadows of some of the marshalls fighting the fire. As soon as we cleared the smoke I put my foot down and wound down the windows, air never tasted so good. It was a very scary experience and one we will not forget. We were very lucky nothing was coming the other way. Ash did manage to film some of it, so we will try and upload some footage at a later date.
We stopped at Lake Bellfield before spending the night at Lake Fyans holiday park in the Grampians. It was a very eventful day and we enjoyed a relaxed evening star gazing with views of the Milky Way.

The Great Ocean Road – Port Campbell-Warrnambool

Day Three:

We saw the Twelve Apostles yesterday but we just wanted to see them again and go quite early to spend a bit longer and enjoy the sunrise peeking over the rock formations. We were so tired that we just missed sunrise but we still got a beautiful view of the Sun pointing west towards the Apostles which saw shadows of the cliffs loom over them and made for some nice photographs.

We had decided the night before we would have to back track towards Cape Otway to check out the Otway Fly Treetop Adventures as it was too late to go when originally planned – no thanks to Jucy. We drove towards the park looking forward to doing some zip line activities as well as the treetops walk and since we had Merlin annual passes it would cost us nothing….wrongo!! We got there and found out it was free for us to do the treetop walk & nature trail but it was around $100 to do the zip line although maybe 25% off, still very pricey so we gave that a miss. The nature trail was ok, a lot of ferns and trees but a few dinosaurs in between, all very old and in need of repair (the raptors had legs missing). We joined the treetops walk which wasn’t amazing but I liked making it move – the older generation did not. Overall we are glad we didn’t have to pay but it we enjoyed being outdoors taking in the natural beauty.

We found a national park close to Otway Fly Treetop Adventures which has a waterfall – Triplet Falls, named apply for its gradient fall. We had a slight incline to walk but we had fun, especially being rewarded with a picturesque view of the waterfall. Some people had took an unofficial detour to get the bottom of the water to have a swim maybe, Sean tried but felt it was a bit steep for me to be comfortable with. However we had some great views from the three levels, it took us about an hour return and was not too strenuous.

We headed forward on the Great Ocean Road, stopping off at a few more monuments near the Twelve Apostles. The coastline between Cape Otway and Port Fairy is a notoriously dangerous stretch of water. In the days of sailing ships more than 80 vessels came to grief on this 120km stretch in just 40 years. The most famous wreck was that of Loch Ard, hence the lookout name; Loch Ard Gorge. This was our favourite lookout on the GOR, it had a beautiful but small beach which was like a cove surrounded by two huge cliffs. These cliffs created some monstrous waves and you could see why people are not allowed to swim these waters, It did not stop some silly women frolicking around like a beached whale though – a local however pulled her out un-amused. I could have stayed here all day but as the tide came in and started washing people’s belongings out to sea (someone lost there iPhone here) we decide to make hast and drive onwards to some more lookout points.

We saw many more along the way, Including Thunder Cave – a name referred to by the noise made by the waves crashing inside the cave, London Bridge – a famous rock formation named recently due to two tourists in the 90s being stranded when rocks collapsed separating the stack to the mainland.  Bay of Islands and Bay of Martyrs were pretty amazing too with a vast sight into the distance of yet more rock stacks. We realised that in years to come the very spot we were standing would one day be another apostle, this was a crazy thought.

As the sun started to decent beyond sight we got back in our van and drove to Warrnambool, the last destination on the Great Ocean Road. We found a campsite to stay overnight which was quite small and Sean thought, very Bogeny (Aussie term for redneck). We cooked some camel burgers, which just tasted like beef, and enjoyed the starry skies.

We loved the GOR and would miss the beauty of the coastal drive especially the fun windy roads and the lookout after lookout, but we were only a quarter of the way into our roadtrip as we had plenty more to see towards Port Lincoln and then inland towards Sydney. For now though we had to catch some zzz’s after a long adventure filled day. Night John boy.

The Great Ocean Road – Melbourne – Anglesea

Day one:

Our destination: Port Lincoln Shark Diving!!
Vehicle of choice: Jucy Rentals
Booked through Peterpans Travel
Duration: Booked for 13 days
Cost: $57 + $25 (insurance) a day

Ever since we started talking about travelling Australia we have always had two things on our bucket lists, dive the Great Barrier Reef and Cage Shark diving. It’s something we would never get the chance to do again and we just love marine life especially the mysterious Great White Shark (white shark). We went straight to Peterpans in Melbourne and knew exactly what we wanted and booked! So we decided to do the Great Ocean Road along the way and check out Adelaide, yes it would be cheaper to just fly over but we would miss out on all the glorious views, locations and memories of doing this journey.

Our day started…..no wait….3 hours later our day started. We woke early aiming to get our car around collection time at 10am and arrived not long after to find a bit of a queue but not much, about 5 people. An hour of waiting on the queue we start getting annoyed as we really should be on the road heading straight for The Twelve Apostles not in some stark collection office. We realise that a few of the people haven’t even com  to collect cars but enquire about booking one so the people waiting to collect can’t because Jucy haven’t got a proper queuing system and not only that the only 2 Jucy staff that seem to be working then take each person outside to see the vehicle, which take another 20 minutes and at this point we’re tapping our feet, shaking our heads and watching the clock. The staff were slow, to busy having conversations about “how sweet your trips going to be” and less time organising and handling the customers that want to be on that sweet trip!

We finally get to the front of the queue and its been 3 hours and our plans for going straight to the apostles is not happening, it would be after sunset by the time we got there and we did not want to miss out on seeing places on the way. The assistant smiles and says “sorry about the wait is everything ok?” We remind her how long we have waited and how we are a day behind now which we are paying for as we speak only to then be told ” sorry about that, it does work out that most out that most of the time people do loose a day but that’s just what happens” she wrote it in the notes for us to mention to HR but that was it. Thanks Jucy for your amazing customer service. NOT.

So day one finally starts after getting supplies for the van. The plan today is to aim for Anglesea where we would find accommodation before starting the Great Ocean Road in the morning. We decide to stop off in Torquay home of Rip Curl and Bells beach where surf competitions take place annually. There wasn’t much in terms of surf for us to watch as it was getting late and the weather quite cold and I’m guessing the sea is even colder. The area was beautiful though and coastline amazing to see, I always find staring out in to the ocean very hypnotic and calming.

We moved on towards Anglesea where we found a camp site for the night, it was quite dark at this point but it was a nice, quiet location and there was loads of space. We parked our van and took a little look around. We were close to all facilities and we had privacy with help of the trees surrounding our space and we were right by the beach too.
The walk to and from the toilets was fun, my feet were black and I creeped myself out walking back in the dark but the showers were great, clean and the cost of $– a night per van was good.

We headed 5 minutes away from reception to grab some food as we weren’t allowed to use our stove on the camp site. We found a pub that served food and went with the kangaroo roast dinner which was delicious although the cook thought he only had to make one dish, I waited and asked the waitress who had to tell him to make mine but it meant Sean had to eat without me. After the meal we called it a night and walked back to the van to plan day two when we heard something in the shadows. We freaked when we saw a massive kangaroo a few meters away from us, it bounced off eventually into the darkness and we were left aware but delighted. After a bad start to the day it ended pleasant and we hoped nothing else would get in our way that would change this.

Music Video Frenzy in Melbourne

ACMI Exhibition Centre

Whilst walking around enjoying the city life in Melbourne we both stumbled upon an exhibition center in Federation Square, ACMI (Australian Centre for the Moving Image), it looked pretty interesting as they were having an exhibition on called ‘The Spectacle – the music video exhibition’ and I have such a huge love for the imagination that goes in to making a music video.

They have a general section that is open to the public for FREE open everyday, that explores moving image, its history and the impact it has had on the world. There was so much to interact with from making your own sound effects to a video to creating visual effects using your body and anyone from children to adults would find themselves engaged for hours. Sean was excited about two things, the fact they had games consoles for the public to play (ps3 withdrawal) and the chance to recreate your own matrix bullet time moment – click here to see ours Video 1 and Video Two.

The most interesting thing we saw out of it all though had to be the frame by frame animation which if you can picture about 5 rows of plastic models and each model was lined up in a circle (30 replicas)but each model was positioned slightly different. Music plays and the whole piece spins around and it gets faster, at this point it’s all a blur until a strobe light comes on making everything appear slightly slower which gives the effect of the models jumping/running/dancing. It was really awesome to see it all come together.

Spectacle – the music video exhibition 26/09 – 23/02/14

I was really looking forward to this exhibition as this is what I enjoyed whilst studying media. The exhibition which is open daily cost us $15/$10 concession. We could take photos but weren’t allowed to film as the videos were copyrighted.

There were screens with headphones at every turn and each screen had a selection of videos although annoyingly enough you couldn’t choose a video you had to just watch in the order. First few videos were historical, first music videos recorded, animated films with music and innovative artists such as Bob Dylan, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.

Music videos today are an art form of there own, they create a story that makes them like miniature movies and the cinematography creates beautiful effects that make videos just as or more enjoyable then the music itself. We saw how video artists used lights and shadows to create effects, how digital design and animation has become a style favoured by the likes of The White Stripes and Junior Senior to emote a fun, childlike feeling in us all.

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The future for music videos is bright and so many new ideas are becoming influential, artist such as Radiohead are jumping on board making videos that are interactive so the line between video director and the viewer is becoming blurred. Also with social media we saw a lot of parody videos in the exhibition that recreated an artist’s video but using own footage with a comical twist – watch ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic – Smells like Nirvana.

I was so excited to see some of Michel Gondrys work (The White Stripes, The Chemical Brothers and Daft Punk) as well as Spike Jonzes work (Bjork and Fatboy Slim). We also saw music videos we had not seen from artists we knew or didn’t know that made an impression such as Royksopp/The Knife‘s ‘What else is there?‘ and INXS ‘What you need‘ and some home grown talent from Australian artists – Gotye, INXS, The Temper Trap and Nick Cave..

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There was plenty of set designs around the exhibition – The Chemical Brothers – ‘Let Forever Be‘ featuring a repetitive mirror sequence (genius), The White Stripes Lego blocks as seating and A-has ‘Take On Me‘ animation inspired area which meant that visitors could impress their friends with their new Facebook profile pic…I did. Overall the exhibition was a real pleaser, we recommend it for not only music lovers but for something to do when you are bored due to the amount of fun you can have and we enjoyed every minute just a shame we couldn’t see all the videos we loved.

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Meeting the icons of Sydney

So we were in Sydney, it hardly seemed real as one minute we were in Perth The next in Melbourne and then boom…straight to Sydney with only a second thought.
This city is busy, streets filled with every culture you could imagine. It’s the first port of call for most travellers so expect a lot of backpackers which means expect hostels to be $$$ and fully booked. New year’s was pretty much impossible to get accommodation and we were concerned, had we made the right choice to come to Sydney at such a busy time?

To take the stress off that question we gathered ourselves and decided to jump headfirst in to Sydney life by checking out the harbours. We approached the busy metropolitan and squeezed through the crowds, of which were many.

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We had arrived and what we saw can only be described in one word, wow. The harbour bridge is only a bridge I know but we were taken aback by its sheer size and structure, it is such an icon of Sydney’s skyline and to be stood in front looking up at it was such a great feeling and I think it was then that I realised how far we had come and now we were here together.

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I couldn’t wait to get up close to her and take a zillion photographs although we had both decided I needed my own camera as Sean had his SLR and I only had my phone I really wanted this bridge all to myself and my HTC just wasn’t going to do the job.

Camera shopping = stressful

I had a few cameras to compare, Nikon, Canon and Lumix.

I looked around at a few shops in sydney and online, ending up at Ted’s Camera’s. To cut to the chase I ended up buying the Canon IXUS as it had WiFi, had a great range of effects for photography creativity, the picture quality and my mother who is a keen photographer uses Canon so like mother like daughter. The lumix apparently does not ha great results I was told and if your travelling you do not want to risk all these great memories. I ended up getting a good deal on my camera too paying $140 with a camera by thrown in.

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I now was snappy happy, taking photos of the bridge and of course the opera house. She was quite an impressive building and it looks quite different up close, from tv she just looks a plain white colour but up close you see her thousands of tiles and the iridescent/pearly colouring which was great to see. Her peculiar shape meant photographs came out very nicely with the sharp lines and arches. I couldn’t wait to see her at night and all lit up for new year.

Settling into Melbourne life

So now we were in Melbourne it was time to try getting a job until we were ready to move on to Sydney. We were finding lots of jobs were going and lots were looking for casual Christmas staff so it was just a case of printing a tonne of resumes out and scattering them throughout the city like mad men.

Printing isn’t really that cheap but we found the library in Melbourne to be an easy place to do it and 15¢ wasn’t too bad but later we found a cheaper alternative was office works at 8¢ a page. We planned out where we were going to hand our resumes, like a strategic plan of attack. We tried the obvious shopping centers due to amount of stores they have inside. Westfield is a good one and Melbourne central, a glass dome building built in the 90s which has encased an old shot tower from the 1800s we got a few great pictures of this unique contrast in construction (to be added). Check out Melbourne central

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With our resumes we stuck to retail areas but I did try a few cafes and bars due to my experience in hospitality but a lot of the time they want minimum experience of 2-3 years and if the company sells alcohol or has any gambling machines then you need an RSA/RCG (responsible service of alcohol/responsible conduct of gambling) license and for this you have to have it within the state you work so if you had an RSA in WA you would need to get a new license in NSW and they vary in price but aren’t cheap being around the $80-100+ mark.

A lot of employer’s seemed ok with working holiday visa travellers but you should ways check before handing your CV in as it’s just a waste, we did bend the truth slightly to help us get more of a chance by saying we were staying for the 6 months but we really needed work for 2 months and then it’s Sydney for Christmas and New Year. This isn’t great and it probably does effect travellers reputations when looking for work as they are more likely to not hire but we were in need of work.

Enough of the job stress we took a break and headed over to Carlton Park where we went to Melbourne museum, they had outdoor rain forest area which was cool but very humid and a Skeleton of a blue whale – standing next to that made me realise just how small we are and especially me. I got in free for concession which was great as it wasn’t really worth the money Sean paid ($10) however they do have exhibitions on regular and I think they are (or have done by the time I write this) having a James Bond exhibition. Check out Melbourne museum.

After a long depressing day of job hunting we packed it in and snapped back in to holiday mode, we booked another 3 nights at space hotel since it was so good and we didn’t want to be moving just yet. We checked out the blue moon bar connected and they had a good vibe, cheap drinks and good food so we chilled out watching surfing on the big screen to further our taste for Australian life before heading back upstairs to our dorm to enjoy a great nights sleep..zzzzzzz