Adventures of Frangipan

Wednesday, 28 February 2007

I'm Bored


There is a new guy in the dorm who woke up everyone with his snoring last night. In the end, two guys from the opposite end of the room got out of bed and rolled him into a different position to stop the noise. It was horrendous. So I warned the four new people about it earlier.

I'm about half way through my last day in Auckland. I was going to go to Rangitoto Island today, but the weather is crap. So instead I've looked around bookshops, had a couple of coffees, and spent a couple of hours on the internet.

My job starts in National Park Village on 5th March. I'm trying to organise a hostel and activities in and around Hamilton until then. Hobbiton is only an hour away, so hopefully I'll visit there, and Cambridge, half an hour away, is the horse capital.

And if I can't arrange that, I guess I'll just show up early and chill for a few days. The village has a population of about 500, and is pretty isolated. There are loads of hiking routes nearby, so that should keep me fit. I've stocked up on puzzle books and novels, so they should keep me occupied. And I'll have Sky TV too. There is internet access, but I'm going to try to cut down in an attempt to save money.

So with the rest of my day, I'll phone some places to organise things for Hamilton, wash and straighten my hair, pack my bags, and probably read and have some more coffee. And not get any sleep because of the snoring guy.

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Tuesday, 27 February 2007

Kelly Tarlton's/Mission Bay/Ponsonby


I managed to break my razor by dropping it in the shower this morning, so first job of the day was to replace that. Then I went to the post office and mailed my IRD number application. The whole process seems incredibly complicated. I don't know why they can't just issue you an IRD number with the working visa, or when you reach customs. And you can't open a bank account without an IRD either.

I didn't realise it was raining when I got dressed this morning, so I thought it best to change out of my shorts and vest into something more suitable. Then I caught the bus over to Kelly Tarlton's Underwater World, which is in fact, under the road. They have a big exhibit about the Antarctic exploration and a model of Scott's hut, and a bit of information on five journeys to the south pole, including Scott and Amundsen's battle to get there first.

They also have four giant stingrays in an open-top pool, the biggest named Pheobe, and they get fed as part of the daily shows. They seem to enjoy the attention too. Then you can get onto a Snow Cat ride where you go into the penguins Antarctic enclosure. They've simulated Antarctic conditions, including night and day and seasonal cycles, and the temperature is obviously freezing, hence why people have to go round in the Snow Cat. The penguins also loved the attention, and were right up near you, watching you as much as you were watching them. After that there was a moving walkway around the sharks, stingrays, turtles and other fish. I spent ages trying to get decent photos of the two turtles. Then they have some other tanks, with seahorses, a blowfish, sea dragons, piranhas, eels, stone fish (the most venemous creature known to man), and a selection of coral reef life.

I don't think the place totally justified the price. The penguins were ace, but the ride only lasts eight minutes. I guess you could a few times to get your money's worth! But then, it converts to just over 10 pounds, so maybe not that bad. However, the aquarium in Syndey was a similar price, and there was much more to see there. Also, I purposefully went on a weekday to avoid families. I forgot about school trips.

When I got out, the weather had improved so I walked around to Mission Bay, one of the beaches of Auckland. Not a very busy beach today. I had lunch and then sat by the beach reading for a while. Then I got an ice cream and caught the bus back to town.

Once back into town I jumped on another bus to Ponsonby, the fashionable district. If thats what you say, Lonely Planet. In my opinion, it was unimpressive. I walked along Ponsonby Road, then K Road, and then joined Queen Street to get back to Downtown, stopping at Borders bookshop on the way.

Later, I was trying to compare NZ tour companies and packages, as the car idea has gone out the window in the vain attempt of saving some money. I went to a different internet place, which was cheaper, but all the Windows menus and messages were in Chinese, and you couldn't download anything. After that I went up to the library in the hostel, still trying to organise it, and got chatting to a guy called Joe and another girl. Around 1am, I decided it was about time for bed.

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Monday, 26 February 2007

Bloody Thieving Bastards, Get a Job, Earn Your Own Money Instead of Stealing!!!!!!!!


Today didn't start as early as I'd planned, due to me being lazy. But then finding out I'd been robbed made it even later. Over $150 was taken from my purse, in my bag, in my room; while I was in the bathroom. The CCTV is in the hallway, and too many people were coming and going to have a suspect. The police station is across the road, so I went over and filed a police report, but don't know if my insurance covers cash (later found out it doens't).

So after withdrawing more cash I got a coffee and muffin in Starbucks, while I tried to put some perspective on it. I've still got my camera, Zen, phone, credit cards and passport. All the really important stuff. I feel kinda pathetic for crying about this, but it's still my hard-earned money. And it's still some dickhead profitting from my lax security/trust in people. And to take the coins too. How petty?! But I'm glad they did, otherwise I wouldn't have noticed so soon. It's just not a nice thing to happen anyway, and even worse when you realise the night before how little moeny you've got. I want to be angry about it, really angry. But instead I'm upset, and that's annoying me.

Decided to carry on my day, and try to get some sightseeing done, albeit a few hours late. I got a bus over to Mt Eden around 1pm and walked to the top. They really are great views from up there. There is a 50metre volcanic cone right next to the summit, and some guy was running straight up it. Collapsed, out of breath near the top though! My camera batteries died while I was trying to get panoramas, so I may have to go back.

I bought some disposeable batteries and waited for the bus back into town. Plenty were going out of town, but they all seemed to get lost on their way back. I waited for about forty minutes. Decided I didn't have enough time to get over to the aquarium, so I took the ferry over to Devonport instead, to walk up Mt Victoria.

There were good views from up there too, hence why it used to be a fort. On my way back down, I got an early supper in one of the many cafes. Devonport is another pleasant suburb, but doesn't look like there's much to do except browse through a few shops and stop at the street cafes.

I got the ferry back to the city, then walked to the hostel. Found out a guy in my dorm had his iPod stolen a few days ago. I'm going to speak to him to see if he told the staff and filed a police report - maybe the same person as stole my money?

After that I sat on the roof terrace, writing my diary and chatting to some girl. Then back to the internet, to copy photos to a CD and update the blog.

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Sunday, 25 February 2007

Auckland: Day 1



I didn't start my day until around 12noon. I'm still on Oz-time, three hours behind. I went to a coffee shop on High Street which was much cheaper than Starbucks, although High Street seems to be mostly designer shops. Then I went to Whitcoull's, the big bookshop, and got myself some half price books.

After that I wandered over to Sky City, home of Auckland tourist information, Sky Tower, restaurants, casinos and hotels. I went to tourist information and then got a coffee and muffin. Then I walked to Princes Wharf, visited the NZ tourist information, and got some photos of the harbour bridge and piers. I got another coffee at Esquires, even more expensive than Starbucks, then took The Link bus up to Parnell.

I walked up Parnell Road, which is lined with little boutiques and cafes. Auckland city centre isn't that pleasant to be honest, but this is a very attractive suburb. Expensive too I imagine. From Parnell Road I went to Auckland Domain, a huge green area, and home to Auckland Museum. By now it was about 4.30pm though, so I wasn't going to bother with the museum. Got lots of great photos of flowers and the ducks and geese in the duck ponds.

From there I walked through the university city campus. Saw the Archaeology building, where I assume Kris will be based. Then I reached Albert Park, between the university and city centre. As I sat there I realised the clouds were clearing, so maybe it would be a good time to go up Sky Tower. So I dropped my bag of books and tourist information off at the hostel, changed and headed over to Sky Tower.

They were good views from up there, spoiled only by people's dirty hand prints on the glass. Unlike Sydney, Auckland doesn't have that many really tall buildings, so landmarks don't get hidden as easily. I could see Devonport, Rangitoto, Mt Eden, One Tree Hill, and lots more I can't name! And they have glass floor panels, which can be a little disconcerting!

After coming back to the hostel, I headed out to the nearest internet for a couple of hours, looking up cars, banks, and Lord of the Rings tours.

I spent the first half of the afternoon feeling a bit crap because Auckland ain't that exciting. But then, after going to Parnell and the Domain, I felt much better. Then, I went to the internet, saw I'd spent over 1600 quid in Oz, and felt crap again. I'm thinking I will have to get a second job here, and maybe even cut my time in US and Canada even further.

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Saturday, 24 February 2007

Arriving in New Zealand

I spent most of the night waking up every hour, worrying I'd miss my alarm. Eventually it went off at 3.30am, and I was ready in five minutes. So I had to pad it out since my taxi wasn't coming until 4am.

Luckily there is a cafe open in the airport at 4am, so I got my caffiene and muffin fix before going through security. Randomly searched again. I'm really going to ask what I have to do to stop getting searched. Do I look like a terrorist? Or like I'm smuggling something?

So there were two fairly uneventful flights, the first to Brisbane and the second to Auckland. brisbane airport has rubbish signs. Duty Free is cramped and busy, and you have to find your way to the outside to see what gates you're near. They also seemed to ignore my veggie meal when they brought out all the others on the second flight. I did get it though. Our film for the second flight was Flushed Away, about an upper class pet rat who gets flushed down the toilet and has to find his way home. It was pretty funny, and had an allstar voice-cast, most of which I didn't recognise.

Same questions on the NZ customs forms as the OZ ones, so I had my boots inspected briefly. Also had to mention that I'd been around kangaroos in the last 30 days, but apparently thats OK. Got some money from my traveller's cheques and then got the Air Bus into town. I checked in at the hostel, and while looking at the noticeboard, I got offered a car to buy. Unfortunately, they wanted $1500, and thats a lot more than I was thinking!

I showered and used the hairdryers, then headed out and got some food at Starbucks. Straightened my hair when I got back. Didn't go to sleep until around 1am.

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Friday, 23 February 2007

Last Day in Cairns and Australia


So, my last day in Cairns. As I'm leaving so early tomorrow, I got my key deposit back, and they phoned me a taxi for 4am. Yippee. I had breakfast at a Turkish street cafe - humous, falafel, toast, and salad. Then I went to a different internet place and managed to charge my Zen, so stayed for a while. I downloaded my IRD number form so I can work in NZ, replied to Plateau Lodge accepting the job, and did some research into mine and Dad'd Rockies trip next year.

After that I wandered back down to the Esplanade. I got a coffee and then wandered over to the Marina and around the park area. I got an ice cream, and as I was walking along the boardwalk back to the hostel, someone was calling my name. It was Yvonne, who I spent four days having coffee and breakfast with in Scotty's.

So Yvonne, Dave and I sat on the boardwalk chatting and watching the life in the mudflats. Quite a few birds, and those fish that look like lizards. Quite some time later, they made their way to their apartment for supper, and I made my way back to the hostel.

I packed most of my stuff up. Had to do a few unpack and re-packs until I was totally happy with it. It was raining, so I decided to shower now rather than later tonight. It was still raining when I got out, so I just had to wear a hat and my fleece and put up with it.

My ankles have been quite swollen for a few days - not good before I'm about to get on a plane, so I decided to have a Chinese leg and foot massage in the night market. The guy doing my massage my Korean and a Man Utd supporter. I don't recommend Chinese massages. I don't care how much good they might do, they're bloody painful!

After that I had pancakes for supper (yum) at Coffee Club, and sat there reading for a while, waiting for a break in the rain.

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Thursday, 22 February 2007

Chilling in Cairns


Finally, I chance for a lie in! Didn't wake up until 9am! Cairns is apparently not that interesting in itself, so I wasn't in any hurry to get out and about. Sod's law that it's good weather today! So I did my laundry, and had breakfast at the cafe out front while I waited for it. Hung it on the line, had a shower and got ready to go out for the day. I'm wearing my hair curly today.

My clothes weren't dry by the time I wanted to go so I had to leave them out. I got a milkshake in the New Zealand ice cream place and sat in the park near the lagoon. The sun is out, it's hot, and people are making the most of it.

I went shopping and bought a couple of long sleeve tops (because it'll be cold in NZ), some cropped trousers and a pair of very cheap trainers. My feet are size 8 in Oz. That's just wrong.

After shopping I went on the internet, updating my blog and photos. Then I realised I'd been there three hours and thought best to leave! I went to a cafe for a sandwich and smoothie, then to the art gallery. The first I've had to pay to get into. Not really worth it, although there was some interesting stuff in there. Then I went to the Peter Lik gallery. Its free. I browsed through the display copies of his Australia and North America photo books. It would be nice to be as good a photographer as he is!

I went for a coffee, then back to the hostel and straightened my hair. The curls were getting a bit big. Then I went back out around 8pm. Bought two rings and a mobile phone charm from the night market, then went to Coffee Club and got a hot chocolate and baked cheesecake. Not as good as my cheesecake.

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Wednesday, 21 February 2007

Rainforest Trip


I got picked up outside the hostel around 8am for my rainforest trip today. And it is raining a fair bit too. The drive took us through World Heritage Rainforest and along World Heritage Coastline. We passed Ellis Beach, but didn't stop so I couldn't get a photo of the sign.

Our first stop was Port Douglas. We didn't stop in town, but it is apparently a very expensive place, and you must be pretty rich to own a house there. We visited the Rainforest Habitat just outside. We saw cassowaries, lots of birds, all the ducks were out too, swimming in their little ponds. We also got to feed kangaroos and wallabies, and see crocodiles.

After that we headed up to Mossman Gorge and went for a walk through the rainforest. We also stopped by the river which we would've gone swimming in if the weather was better. After Mossman, we headed up to Daintree. We had a picnic lunch and someone Daintree-grown organic tea. Then we took a cruise down the Daintree River. We didn't see any crocodiles, but we did see a tree snake, and the skipper/guide was pretty funny and informative.

Shane, our guide/bus driver took the bus across the driver on the ferry while we were on the cruise. There is no bridge to cross the river. So we got back in a drove up to Cape Tribulation. We only had about twenty minutes free time when we got up there, but that was enough to walk to the beach and back.

It's great up there - you're surrounded by rainforest. The local politician used to be a green activist. There are hardly any roads, and they become quite impassable in bad weather. And all electric, water and sewerage is your own responsibility if you choose to live up there. So you've got to really want it!

On the return journey, we saw six wild cassowaries, taking their time crossing the roads. There was a dad and a baby, and a dad and three small babies. The mothers have nothing to do with them after laying eggs - it's the dads who incubate them and raise them.

I got back to the hostel by 7pm, showered and changed, and went to The Woolshed for my dinner. I put up with the queue tonight. On the way back I got a milkshake from the New Zealand ice cream place, and had a look around the night market.

It's been a very wet day, and I'm very tired.

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Tuesday, 20 February 2007

Reef Trip


I was up and out by 7am, wlaking to the marina for my reef trip. Half way there I realised I'd forgotten my towel, but decided it was OK because I had my sarong. Checked in at the counter, boarded, got my coffee and muffins, and we were off by 8am.

It's a pretty small boat (by comparison), and there were only about 40 of us. I sat in on the scuba diving talk on the journey out, then, as it was very choppy, I went out onto deck. Both a good idea and a bad idea. The fresh air was great, but we got soaked by the occasional wave that crashed into the boat, and then it started raining really hard.

We all moved round to the back of the boat, where it was sheltered, and then they decided to offer us wetsuits to keep us warm. So we suited up, and it really made a difference, and then went back to the front of the boat.

We reached Michaelmas cay by about 10.30am, suited up with flippers, smorkels and floatation belts, and they took us to shore in smaller groups on a smaller boat. Then water was calmer, but still not calm, and I didn't feel confident swimming out to the coral, so I joined a "guided reef trip". This basically involved a crew member pulling an orange lifesaver around, as a few of us grabbed on. It was nice because it meant we only had to concentrate on kicking our feet and looking at the coral, and not worry about what direction we were going in. So I went twice, and saw a lot more on the second go.

I got back on board at 11.30am, got the wetsuit off and mostly dried off in the wind. Then I had lunch. There was loads, and I had loads. Too much in fact. Then the crew fed the fish off the boat, so we saw some sharks and big fish that look a bit like sharks. We were supposed to go to another location, but because of the conditions, they decided we were better off staying at Michaelmas cay, where it was sheltered. So they did guided trips off the boat.

We had to jump into the water right off the boat, and we could hold onto the lifesaver, or just swim around the group. We were in about four or five metres of water, and we could see loads more - lots of fish and coral, much more than close to shore. I decided against the dive - figured I should get the hang of snorkelling first. I did manage to swim without holding on, and keep up with everyone though. My only problem was that I tried looking at things that were travelling the other way, and kept getting my snorkel under the water.

One of the crew take photos of you on the cay and in the water, and of the fish, so I got those on the way back, and fell asleep for about an hour. We were back in Cairns by 5pm, where it was raining. I walked back to the hostel, showered and changed, got the shuttle bus into town and went on the internet. I was going to go for my free dinner at The Woolshed, but the queue was coming out the door, so got something at Coffee Club instead.

Started my new book today - The Lizard's Bite by David Hewson. Supposedly better than Da Vinci Code.

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Monday, 19 February 2007

Cairns

I've had a headache since I went to bed last night, and woken up this morning feelinhg really ill. It seemed to subside when I was eating, hence four slices of toast and a Milkybar. And lots of tea - that seemed to help too.

Packed the last of my stuff, checked out, and generally sat around waiting until the 10.30am bus to the coach stop. The bus journey to Cairns passed quickly - two hours is nothing to me now! I was met at the bus terminal by Ben from Caravella. I checked in and was given the receipts from the day trips I booked. I then headed out to find the post office to send a box of stuff home, and top get food, and find internet places.

It cost me $111 to send my stuff home! Didn't expect it to be quite that much. But then I suppose it's only about 45 quid, so not so bad when you convert the currency.

Got back to the hostel and met Charlie and Kim (both male) who I'm sharing the room with. Then went to the internet for an hour, but deleted an email I wanted to send right as they were closing. Then went to The Woolshed for a beer and my free hostel meal. It's kinda like school dinners - you order and hand over your voucher, then hand your receipt in through a window, and your food is ready straight away. You can upgrade, but I found the spagetti napolitana and a slice of garlic bread for $2.50 is enough, and leaves room for an ice cream or dessert.

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Sunday, 18 February 2007

Rainy Day


It was the rain pounding on the roof that woke me up last night. Can't really blame anyone for that. Most people's favourite activity of the day has been sitting on the veranda watching the rain. A couple of people have been in the pool.

I phoned Dad after breakfast, as it was still his birthday back home, and he was in the pub. After that, Boyd was having some problems with his computer, so I attempted to fix it. Didn't really do much - it seemed to right itself after being switched off and back on again. But I was amazed it was still running at all with only 1 GB hard disk space left!

Since it was raining, I spent most of the day trying to arrange New Zealand - 25 days just isn't enough to see everything I want to see! Getting frustrated.

It's pizza and DVD night, so I ordered my pizza, went for a shower, packed most of my stuff, went on the internet for an hour, and read quite a bit. Pizzas arrived around 7.30pm. Thinner and smaller than I imagined - not worth $11. Then time for the films. The first was My Super Ex-Girlfriend. Some good jokes, but overall a bad film, and very corny. Eurotrip was the second film. Better than I expected. Some very funny moments in it (if your in the right mood), but a film you're going to forget all about once it's over.

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Saturday, 17 February 2007

Dunk Island


I was woken up around 1am by two guys in the next room, one threatening to kill the other. At one point, I thought one of the bunk beds was going to come through the wall. The rain thundered down during the night too. Then, around 3am, I was woken again by some guy squealing. Not a fun night's sleep.

A few of us planned a trip over to Dunk Island today, so we were going to catch the 9.30am water taxi. I was up and about by 7.30am, having breakfast and lots of coffee until we were all ready to go. You have to wade out to the boat, as there is no jetty, so they provide you with stinger trousers. Between the six of us, we had five giant pairs and one child's pair. I ended up with the child's pair, which came up to my knees. Good thing I didn't get stung!

It's a 10 minute ride over to Dunk Island, and there we were met and told what we could do and were to find everything. You can buy a permit for the resort for $40, for which you can use the pool and facilities and have lunch. We, however, went for a walk. We didn't really have time for the full island circuit, so we decided to go for Mount Kootaloo, the highest point on the island.

The guide says it takes three hours return. Fairly certain that's because you can't find your way through the resort to the starting point. All the signs seem to be contradictory. Luckily, we found someone who works there, and she pointed us the right direction. It was a fairly gentle, easy climb, only made difficult by the sun and heat. Nice lookout at the top, but no-one really wanted to stay because of the bugs at the top.

It probably took about two and a half hours round trip, and we had about an hour until the return water taxi, so we had some lunch and drinks at the cafe by the jetty. Expensive though, so we ordered a jug of water too. When we got to Mission Beach, we had to get off the boat into about three feet of water, and wade about thirty yards to shore. We all ended up with wet shorts!

Had a shower when we got back, then got the 5pm bus into town to use the fast internet. Also bought a new watch as mine died after Moreton Island. Spent about two hours at the internet, then bought an ice cream and walked back. Straightening my hair was the big activity of the night.

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Friday, 16 February 2007

Rainforest Walk


Anyone who was asleep before midnight got rudely awoken at 12.30am by screaming girls, shouty boys, people jumping into the pool. Boyd spent most of the morning apologising to everyone, even though he employs a nightwatchman to control these situations.

I spent the morning chatting to Yvonne and Dave, who are about six months into an eight month trip. It's a lot hotter today than yesterday, and I eventually decided that I'd have to cool off in the pool. A few of us had been trying to book a trip to a couple of islands south of here, but we got word today that the winds were too strong so we wouldn't be going.

I went on the rainforest walk in the afternoon with Julie and Annette. We extended it be going across to the beach and walking up from South Mission Beach to Wongaling Beach (where Scotty's is). It took about three and a half hours altogether. Very achy legs after, but I'm feeling less guilty about all the chocolate now!

I decided to treat myself to a proper meal at Scotty's bar rather than a pack of super noodles, so ended up eating and having a couple of drinks with Julie. We then came back, checked emails, and got chatting to Yvonne, Dave, Tracy and Hannah.

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Thursday, 15 February 2007

Rain

It rained this morning. Kinda expecting it since it is the rainy season. So I had breakfast and chatted to a few people who were checking out today, while we sat around out of the rain.

I made a start trying to organise New Zealand, since I couldn't do much else in this weather. I've still got too much information and no decisions though!

The rain cleared up in the afternoon and at around 3pm I headed over to the fast internet. Finally managed to watch my skydive DVD (without sound). The interview part at the beginning is so embarrassing - I have really bad hat hair! The bad side of doing it on impulse - no time to get ready! I managed to get loads of good photos off it though, and I can always make my own less embarrassing copy of the DVD when I get home. And I finally managed to recharge my Zen, so I can listen to my music again!

Didn't do anything worth noting after walking back to the hostel along the beach.

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Wednesday, 14 February 2007

Lazy Day


I've done so little today. Boyd (who owns the hostel) keeps bugging me about showing my skydiving DVD, but I want to proof-watch it first - check it's not too embarrassing!

I tried to watch it on one of the internet computers after breakfast, but there is no CD/DVD drive. I have no cash left either, so I went into 'town' on the 10.30am bus to go to the ATM and the internet in town. It's quicker and cheaper - managed to upload lots of photos, but still couldn't watch my DVD.

I got myself a town map and some food supplies from the supermarket while I was there, then came back to the hostel. Had a dip in the pool, read a bit, pool again, more reading and lounging around.

I sat on the beach around dusk, even though it was cloudy and the sun sets behind me over the trees. Still nice to be there, hearing nothing but the cicadas and the ocean.

A few people went off to a Valentines night at a local bar, but I didn't really fancy it. Stayed at the hostel and chatted to others who stayed and ones who came back early.

Think I need to do more tomorrow!

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Tuesday, 13 February 2007

What Did You Do Today?


Scotty's has a small shop to buy food and drinks from, so I got coffee and cereal for breakfast after waking up. I chatted to Clare, a Scottich girl who was checking out today, but had a few hours waiting in Scotty's. She came here just to skydive. Apparently this is one of the best skydiving locations in Australia if not the world.

Around 11am I chatted to Emma, who works here, about what I could do while I'm here. She suggested a few ideas which sounded good - lots of nature stuff. I asked about skydiving. She phoned to find out if there would be room on the next trip. They should've picked us up at 11.30am but they were running late, so by 12.15pm we were on our way to an airfield. Me and three Swedish people were about to (almost) voluntarily throw ourselves out of a plane.

You can photos and a DVD, so I opted for a third cameraman. I was jumping with Rob and Corey was filming it. You get a crash course in the airfield about what you have to do, and this interview for the DVD (which is rubbish). Then you go up. In a tiny little plane, you climb to 14,000 ft. The views were amazing because it was so clear. We could see the beach (where we were landing), the river, the rainforest, and the sea all the way to the Outer Barrier Reef.

The worst part is watching other people leave the plane first. One second they're in the doorway, next they've disappeared. You don't really have time to think about it because you're being scooted towards the door at the same time. And you're busy trying to remember everything you've just been taught, so you don't mess it up.

I was third out. Corey left first and was gripping the outside of the plane for us all to jump together. I had to sit with my feet tucked under and arms crossed, then Rob threw us out and I had to throw my arms and legs back, so I was in a big arch.

From 14,000 ft you do a 60 second freefall. You plummet two miles towards the ground. It's the longest 60 seconds ever! Then, Rob let the parachute out and we were drifting slowly through the sky. Corey kept going though so he get the shots of me landing. I wonder if he captured my "Oh my God" expression as he kept falling.

It was so beautiful. Floating from 4,000 ft down towards the beach. There wasn't a cloud in the sky and we could still see all the way to the reef. If only it was possible to stay up there all day. Rob did a few turns too so we could both north and south. And then we landed, right outside Scotty's.

After I got back I spent the afternoon chatting to Clare until she left, paddling in the pool, and loungin beside it, reading. It's so hot here that it's not really a good idea to do much else! But later, when I got bored of that, I took a stroll along the beach, carefully looking out for any stingers I might stand on, but there were none. A few people were coming in to land from their skydive as I was sat there, but the sky had clouded over a lot by then. Then I had supper in Scotty's bar out the front of the hostel. Then I went on the internet for a while. Read a bit more.

Couldn't get to sleep for ages because most of the people staying were in the party mood.

So a long, lazy day in the sun, with a skydive in the middle.

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"If you want to look your best, to flourish and to thrive,

If you want to have good health, to live and stay alive,

Remember that your outlook has a lot to do with it.

Happy thoughts will tend to keep you young and make you fit.

Give the day a sparkle, full of cheerfulness and hope,

Whatever looms ahead refuse to grumble or to mope.

Make a pleasure of your work, enjoying what you do,

It can be a bore, or it can be fun, it all depends on you.

In your mind you have the power, to choose what you will be,

You can change yourself, your world, your personality.

Everyday you get the chance to take a different line,

You can sink, or, like a fountain,

You can rise and shine."



Inscribed on a bench in Mission Beach dedicated to John Wayne Curtis, who died on the Tully River, aged 32 years

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Monday, 12 February 2007

Wet Season?


Still another 15 hours of the coach journey after the stroke of midnight, but I did manage to sleep a fair bit. We had a breakfast stop, then went for about four hours until Townsville, where we switched coaches and drivers. After Townsville we had another film - Kinky Boots. Good British film instead of all the American teen and rom com films. We had a lunch stop in Cardwell, only an hour from Mission Beach. The driver warned us it was hot outside, but I still wasn't prepared! Got some lunch and sat by the beach to eat to it. Not on the beach, because of the stingers and because crocodiles have been spotted recently!

We got to Mission Beach by 3.15pm, and Martin the bus driver picked us up. After checking in I showered for ages. And I finally got round to doing my laundry. My sunscreen opened in my bag and went all over my other toiletries. And it's the waterproof stuff so it's really hard to get off.

I didn't really do a lot after my shower. Scotty cooks steak or fish for everyone, but obviously I didn't have any. It's really nice here. The staff at the hostel are really nice, and most of the boys here spend their days jumping and bombing into the pool. It's supposed to be wet season, and I missed a big storm by a week, but the weather is great at the moment - although the humidity is a bit much for me!

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Sunday, 11 February 2007

Mammoth Coach Trip

I checked out of the hostel at 9am, walked to the coach station with all my luggage (I'm so tough!), and then headed over to Coffee Club for the same yummy breakfast as yesterday. I managed to waste some time there, and got back to the coach station by 11am.

At 12noon, I started my mammoth 27-hour coach trip up to Mission Beach. Not too much to tell of the trip really. Passed through some nice looking places and boring looking places. A lot of middle-of-nowhere. Watched a couple of films. "Step Up", yet another rubbish teen movie about dance bringing together people from different sides of the track. And "Two Weeks Notice" with Sandra Bullock and Hugh Grant. I never really understood the idea of this film except that it was a rom-com. It was as though they'd editted too much out so the film finished before it really got started.

There was some great thunder and lightning before we reached Rockhampton. And then a little later, the sky was totally clear above us and you could see loads of stars, but you still see the lightning over to the west.

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Saturday, 10 February 2007

I'm So Bored


I woke up early this morning. Those three beers last night really took their toll. I'm such a lightweight! Anyways, luckily not many people want to go on the internet at 7am, so you can stay on for a long time. Managed to update my blog, but you can't access the CPU of the computers, so I couldn't put photos on or charge my Zen.

Got myself ready afterwards and headed to Coffee Club for breakfast. I had eggs, tomatoes, toast and mushrooms, which was delicious. After that I wandered around the shops for a bit. I bought a hat and a holder for my Zen. Then I got a juice and headed over to South Bank. I visited the museum first. I wasn't too bothered about most of the displays, but they had a bit "museum zoo" which consisted of fake or stuffed animals, and a wall chart with lots of facts. Most of which I can't remember. Except that the longest recorded anaconda or python is nine metres. And they have measurements along the wall so you know how far that is. They had stuff about big whales and sharks too, but I can't remember that stuff.

After the museum I headed to the Gallery of Modern Art. There was an interesting display in the foyer. It was babies clothing and toys, but for siamese twins. It was like a warped Mothercare. There were some sculptures by some Indian guy which were quite interesting. He had one called 'Void' which was like a blue beaker stuck to the wall, with the open end facing you. And from different angles it looked like the middle was protruding, or black, or flat. And there was another (called 'Untitled', I hate that), which was a red cirle on the wall, with a vortex in the middle. You couldn't tell if it was hung in front of the wall, if it was just painted flat onto the wall, or if there was a hole in the wall. I'm still not sure! There was a Jackie Chan exhibit which seemed to be attracting a lot of people. Some interesting paintings about war by a Sri Lankan artist. And this exhibit where you walked into a small room and the door closed behind you. The walls and ceiling were covered in mirrors, and there was water on the floor around the central piece you were stood on. And there were all these neon balls hung from the ceiling. There was UV light, so they all glowed. And because of the mirrors and water, they went on and on and on in every direction.

Anyway, after that I wandered through Stanley Street Plaza and then went to Streets Beach and sat and read for a while. I went back to Coffee Club for a late lunch, then headed over to Global Gossip hoping to charge my Zen and move photos onto my USB pen. But I couldn't. Total waste of time and money. After that I was in a bad mood. So it seemed fitting that it should then start raining, and that I should take a wrong turning trying to get back to the hostel, because of all the stupid diversions in this city. They seem to be digging up half of the roads and pavements.

Later on I was chatting to one of the Canadians and a new german girl in the dorm, and found out that this is the wet season up north in Mission Beach and Cairns. And you can't swim because of the possibility of crocodiles, and you can't go on the beach because of the jellyfish. Put me on a downer.

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Friday, 9 February 2007

Moreton Island


I woke up before my 6am alarm, then I woke up to it, then fell back to sleep until 6.45am. I was outside waiting for the lift by 7am. Moreton Island is the world's third largest sand island, so you really need a 4WD to get around. This means tour groups are limited to 10 people. Ally was our tour guide. Really nice lady, and reminds me of Sonia from South Africa, in a 'save the planet' kinda way. So there was me, Arek the Polish guy who can speak six languages, Hiro the Japanese guy from the same university as Arek, four Taiwanese student doctors, and three older Japanese people. It was a very sociable group - lots of chatting and laughing.

We got to the ferry and started the crossing at 8.30am. It takes about and hour and a half to get there. My main thought as we approached the island was, "I don't see much sand". It's amazing how much vegetation grows here.

Our first stop was The Desert for sandboarding. Exactly how it sounds. You have a board and a big sand dune, you lie on the board, and go sliding down. Lots of fun, but you get sand everywhere. I had a handful in my pocket, and my camera got loads in it too! You have to keep the front of the board and your elbows up, otherwise you get slowed down and spray even more sand in your face. I had three tries and was pretty good at it. Didn't try the standing up version though (basically sand surfing).

After that we drove along East Beach up to North Point. We had a quick dip in the ocean here, mostly to wash the sand off. There is one spot called Champagne Rocks, where the waves crash over a few rocks that stick out, and the water looks like champagne fizz. We had some really big waves while we were paddling round there. Me, Arek and Hiro then took a five minute walk round to a little cove, then back to the 4WD for lunch.

We got back in and headed up to the lighthouse. You could see the whole of East Beach from up there. And there were turtles swimming by the rocks just beneath us. It took a bit of looking to find them though! On the way back to the car park, you could see North Point where we had lunch, and all the way to the Glass House Mountains on the mainland.

Back into the 4WD and over to Blue Lagoon. This was a freshwater swimming hole. Not as beautiful as the ocean, but it was freshwater so you don't get mouthfuls of salt all the time!

After that we were back in the 4WD and to the ferry for the 3.30pm crossing. I spent most of the journey outside, making the most of the view, and also trying to dry out my clothes. I got back inside to watch a few minutes of cricket though, and try to explain to Arek the difference between cricket and baseball.

Moreton Island was good fun, but five hours really isn't long enough. Because all the "roads" are just sand tracks, driving is slow, so it takes a while to reach each destination.

I was back in the hostel by 6ish. Had a quick chat with the Canadian boys, then had a shower to make sure all the sand was gone. My camera must still have a few grains stuck in there because it isn't totally happy with me.

Then I had a few drinks with a new guy in the room. He's from Perth, and decided yesterday that he was sick of Perth, packed up all his clothes, sold his possessions, and bought the first plane ticket out. Also managed to watch some more cricket. England won. Again. Shocking.

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Thursday, 8 February 2007

Brisbane Tour


It took forever to get to sleep last night. The pub in the hostel makes it difficult because it's loud. Then the air-con makes the room freezing at night, and your only given sheets. And I had a headache. Eventually I took an aspirin and got my sleeping bag out, and the noise from the pub didn't bother me so much.

I didn't get out until around 11am. Started by going back to the travel agency/internet centre and booked a Moreton Island tour with them for tomorrow. Then I headed over to a stall on Queen Street Mall that I saw yesterday - juices, smoothies, fruit salad - very healthy. Got myself a non-dairy smoothie and fruit salad for breakfast.

Then I took myself on the Lonely Planet walking tour. Started at Central Station, walked through Anzac Park and saw the memorial, then through Post Office Square, saw the General Post Office, then through to St Stephen's Cathedral and Chapel, then along to the Riverside Centre and Customs House. I treated myself to an expensive lunch at the Riverside Centre, then walked along the boardwalk to the City Botanic Gardens. Nothing to write home about, but at least it's a quiet, green area away from the noise of the city. Parliament House and the Old Government House border the gardens, as does the QUT Art Gallery, so I had a quick look in there. Then I walked over the Goodwill Bridge into South Bank, and walked through some of the parklands. I got a smoothie on Stanley Street Plaza, then sat at Streets Beach Lagoon, reading. It's not a huge artificial beach, but I suppose it's nice to have it there. Closer than the real beaches at any rate.

The queue for the internet at the hostel wasn't huge so I managed to get on relatively quickly. But we're limited to 30 minutes at busy times, so not really enough time to do anything except check emails. After that, time didn't pass particularly quickly, so I hung out in the TV room, reading and listening to my Zen. I also had coffee (not good) and a Twix (good). Then I decided to queue for the internet again and just arsed around on it for the 30 minutes. Found out I can pre-order the new Harry Potter. Then went back to my room, sorted out my stuff for the trip tomorrow, read, and went to sleep.

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Wednesday, 7 February 2007

Hello Brisbane


I didn't see a hell of a lot on the coach trip as I managed to sleep loads, thanks to the pillow Nesta gave me. And I had a seat all to myself. I did manage to see the lakes of Ku-run-gai National Park before I went to sleep, and the ocean at Lennox Head after I woke up. I think I'll have to add them to my next Australia itinerary! Surfers Paradise looked too big and touristy for me, but Byron Bay looked pleasant.

Anyway, we got to Brisbane 17 hours later, at 11am. These guys are on standard time, so we had to put our watches back an hour. The hostel was only 400 metres from the coach station, so I decided to walk. 400 metres has never felt so far. Or they're lying. Got checked in by a very pleasant Brit. I booked the cheapest bed which was in a 30-bed dorm, but I've been upgraded to an 8-bed with air-con.

Had a shower because I was very sweaty and smelly bu this point. I went up to the rooftop lookout and enjoyed the view, then headed into town. Tourist Information first, as always. Then I went to a street cafe in the middle of Queen Street Mall, but was basically given the menu and then ignored. So I went to a cafe around the corner and had much better service. By then it was 3pm and I didn't really have a plan, so I got my hair cut at the training salon.

After that I got a coffee and then checked my emails at a travel agency/internet centre on my way back to the hostel.

I'm not overly impressed so far, but then I haven't seen that much. It's incredibly warm here though! This hostel is huge. And very social/party oriented.

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Tuesday, 6 February 2007

Goodbye Sydney


I checked out just in time this morning, but stayed a little longer for a coffee to use up some of my milk. I left a note for Martina saying goodbye, then got a taxi to the station. The driver seemed very grateful to get a tip. In the train station (above the coach station), I was given an address about 600 metres away, where there was a left luggage. I decided to try in the coach terminal first, and they had left luggage too, which everyone else is apparently oblivious to.

I started walking into town afterwards, and it took me a good ten minutes to realise I was going in the wrong direction! Should've occurred to me the street names I recognised started disappearing! Anyway, when I finally did start going in the right direction, I got into the city centre, got a coffee, wandered around the Queen Victoria Building a bit, then headed over to The Rocks.

Lots of sitting on grass and reading today. Had lunch in a cafe. I'm sure I would've stopped for another coffee too. Finished Fleshmarket Close.

I got up and started walking back to the station around 5pm. I said "goodbye" to Sydney (while no-one else was in earshot!) and felt quite sad, since I won't be back for quite some time.

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Monday, 5 February 2007

Comments

By the way guys, when you're leaving a comment, you can select "other" and type your name in, rather than leaving it under "anonymous".

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Sydney From The Sky


I woke up late this morning and missed breakfast. I was fine with a coffee and juice though. I started my day at Sky Tower. The second tallest building in the southern hemisphere, and the same height as the Eiffel Tower. I met a really nice Scouse couple on the way up in the lift. You can always rely on them to be chatty!

It's been really clear today, so the views were great. You could see all of Sydney. And the windows are angled, so you can look right down to the streets below. Unfortunately there is a skyscraper partly obscuring the view of the Harbour Bridge, and you only see some of the Opera House; but you do still them. My ticket also covered something called OzTrek, but I couldn't be bothered sticking around for that.

My second lookout was the Pylon Lookout at the Harbour Bridge. That was much cheaper and just as worthwhile. You have to climb quite a lot of stairs to get up there, after walking quite far too. There is a museum about the construction of the bridge and various facts about it. It's the largest and heaviest bridge in the world, but one in the US is 63cm longer. There's also a video, but I didn't watch that. The views from the top are great. And there are markers facing various directions, telling you what landmarks or places are that way. And I could just about make out the Blue Mountains in the distance.

I had planned to go to the soouthern beaches today, but time seemed to escape me. I started late, and stopped for coffee a few times. Hopefully I'll make it tomorrow: would hate to come to Sydney and not make it to Bondi!

It was around 4pm when I was leaving The Rocks, so I went into the Queen Victoria Building to have a quick look around. "Opulent" is probably the best word I can think of to describe it. And if ever you come here, make sure you use the toilets on the top floor!

And then I came to the internet cafe to update my blog and upload as many photos as I could before I left Sydney.

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Sunday, 4 February 2007

Museums and Galleries


I didn't realise just how long it takes to get from the hostel to Circular Quay until this morning. I had my Opera House tour booked for 10am, but it said to get there by 9.45am. I set out a little after 9am, expecting time to get a coffee beforehand, but I only got there by 9.50am.

The tour was quite interesting. Did you know it took over one million tiles to cover the shells of the building? And all the screws that are (pointlessly) screwed into the floor slabs are perpendicular? And that the organ pipes in the concert hall go eight metres back? Unfortunately, you're not allowed to take any photos inside the halls, only in the corridors and the exterior. So I bought a postcard of the concert hall as that was the most spectacular. There was also a display of the other shortlisted design entries, including one that has been kept under a bed for 30 years!

Anyway, after that I went for a coffee and read a couple of chapters of my book, then headed to the Museum of Contemporary Art. Most of the exhibitions were quite boring, but I saw some interesting print pieces, and a video piece about Dog Day Afternoon, which made it worthwhile.

After that I wandered around The Rocks Market for a little while, which is all up-market and tourist-oriented gifts. I decided I didn't really want anything so got some lunch in a nearby cafe, followed by chocolate covered strawberries on a stick. I dropped my last strawberry though.

After that I headed over to the Australian Museum. It was already 3.30pm, and I think that's why I got a concession. It too was quite boring. Don't think I was really in the right mood for looking around museums. There was a really big mineral and gem display though. The Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition was brilliant. Well worth the admission price of the museum.

So, after that I headed up to the internet cafe. Unfortunately, Flickr was undergoing maintenance so i couldn't upload any photos. I still managed to spend three hours there, getting my $3 worth!

I got back to the hostel around 8.30pm and had some supper before the kitchen was locked up. Then I hung out in my room chatting to Martina, the Swedish girl I'm in with. Read a few chapters and went to sleep around 11.30pm.

Apparently Sundays are the day for domestics on the street around here. We were woken by two people screaming at each other around 6am, and there was a girl screaming at someone before we went to bed too. Fairly certain the woman from this morning was taken away by the police!

Reading: Fleshmarket Close - Ian Rankin

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Saturday, 3 February 2007

Blue Mountains


"Who spotted the snake? Good going Fran, we'll make a tour guide of you yet."

I'd booked a tour to go up to the Blue Mountains today. Picking up at 7:50am. Ugh. I coped fine though, ready outside the door as told. There were two buses going, and I had to swap before we left the city, but that was fine because I ended up with the lovely Diego as my tour guide. Very cute Aussie of Spanish descent.

We visited the Olympic Park first, as it's on the way out of the city. We didn't go inside the stadium, but we were right outside, and we saw the torch, which had the names of all the medal winners on small plaques in the ground around it.

Then we headed up into the Blue Mountains National Park, and our first stop was Glenbrook. We visited a nice clearing in the middle of the eucalyptus trees, where there were quite a few kangaroos hanging around. We stopped in the village for a drink and bite to eat, and then headed further into the mountains.

We stopped at a lookout where we could see the Three Sisters rock formation, Mount Solitary, and a lot of the canyon. We then went to Scenic World, just outside Katoomba, the unofficial capital of the Blue Mountains. We took a walk down into the canyon, about 250 metres, passing the Witches Leap and Katoomba Falls. While still near the top, we saw a tiger snake. Highly poisonous. And I didn't run away screaming. I was actually following where he was going so that everyone else got a chance to see him. Made sure I was well out of the way before everyone started taking photos and pissing him off though!

To get back up, you can either walk or take the steepest railway in the world. Had Diego told me the railway goes into the rock and it goes pitch black for a few seconds, I might've considered walking. It was pretty scary. You don't go fast, and you don't go that far, but it is a 52-degree incline, and there are thoughts of plummeting into the canyon running through your mind.

Anyways, when that was all over, we went over to Echo Point Lookout, which is really popular for seeing the Three Sisters as it's the closest. I got some photos, then had a muffin and coffee while I enjoyed the view.

We left around 4pm and I was back at the hostel by 6:30pm. Then had supper and updated my blog.

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Friday, 2 February 2007

Busy Busy Busy


Today is my 18th day away from home. Feels longer.

So today, the weather still wasn't great, but I'd decided I was going to Manly this afternoon no matter what. I started the day by going to the used bookshop up the road and buying two books. I then took a wander through the main strip of Kings Cross (I'm actually on the outskirts). This is the seedy suburb by the way. So I wandered up Darlinghurst Road, past the train station, and then all the hostels and tour booking companies, mixed in with strip clubs and sex shops. And I walked into the Golden Arches for a milkshake. You can always count on McDonalds to be everywhere can't you?

Then I went up to El Alamein Fountain which is pretty cool. It's in the shape of a dandelion seed head. Then I wandered down a couple of streets to get to Harry's Cafe de Wheels. This is a Sydney Institution. It's a pie shop that's by Finger Wharf and has been there since 1945. I got a pie and coffee, and then remembered I had also planned to go to the Art Gallery and Botanic Gardens before Manly. So I got going.

Whizzed around the Art Gallery of New South Wales. Managed to see most of the free exhibits. Walked directly through the Botanic Gardens - they'll have to wait until another day- and straight up to Mrs Macquarie's Point. I took a couple of photos of the city en route, but the point is supposed to be the best place for photos. I got half way through my panorama and my camera batteries died.

Anyway, while I was out there I noticed the weather was improving, so I quickly walked over to Circular Quay and got the next ferry to Manly. Manly is about 7 miles from Sydney and takes 30 minutes on the regular ferry, which is perfectly fine, but you really feel the waves when you reach the ocean inlet.

Manly Wharf is on the sheltered, river side; and it's main beach is on the ocean side. When we reached Manly, I went to Tourist Info and "Boost" for a juice and stamp in my loyalty card. Then I walked to the beach, which takes about five minutes. I enjoyed a couple of hours on the beach, reading my book, until I started getting pestered. So, what is it about me that says "Freaks, please come talk to me!". Surely it's not asking too much to just be left alone?!

I was going to walk along the Scenic Walkway, but feared I might end up with some unwanted company, so I made my excuses and headed back to the wharf. I got a coffee and muffin,and bought a ticket for the JetCat ferry - only takes 15 minutes. Then I paddled around on the beach next the the wharf, and got the 6:15pm JetCat.

When I got back to Circular Quay, I walked up to the Opera House for some photos since it was such good weather. Then I got an ice cream and milkshake, and sat and read for quite a while. I left the quay just as a big cruise ship was leaving. It was still reversing as I left, and didn't look like it had much room to turn around.

Listening to: Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Fever to Tell

Reading: Ian Rankin - Fleshmarket Close (I haven't finished Paulo Coelho, I just forgot to take it to the beach today)

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Thursday, 1 February 2007

Taronga Zoo


"Are you a tourist?"
"Yes."
"I can tell cuz you're smiling - no-one smiles around here."
Must be that weird smile I don't know I'm doing, like when I'm counting cutlery!

I was hoping to go to the beach today, but the weather was rubbish, so instead I went to Taronga Zoo, on the north shore. It's about 10mins by ferry, and you can buy a ticket which gets you there and back, into the zoo, and includes your skyride up.

I wasn't sure what I was letting myself in for on the way over. Children. Everywhere. Stepping on your feet. Climbing on stuff right in front of you. Bloody kids. Luckily, they seemed to disappear once I got there.

I had a really good time. There was loads to see. I even went in the reptile house alone and didn't run out screaming. Although I did start to feel quite ill after a while and was glad I was near the end. There were koalas, kangaroos, giraffes, zebras, elephants, chimpanzees, a rhino, tigers, lions, a red panda, meerkats, a platypus, wombats, gorillas, bears, dingoes, a tasmanian devil, Himalayan goats, weird-looking sheep, emus, ostriches, a giant tortoise, taipurs, otters, river cats, and loads of birds and ducks. I got about 3ft away from a wallaby, but some other people came along and scared him off. I watched the free-flight bird show, which was really good. Very well trained birds, and made me sorry I missed the other shows, like the sealions. The only problems were that it was a little difficult to navigate around, and the snow leopards weren't visible, and I really wanted to see them.

The skyride up and down was good. Great view of Circular Quay and the Harbour Bridge, and you travel over a lot of the enclosures, so you're looking down on the elephants and giraffes and stuff.

I had supper when I got back to the hostel, then went up the road to the convenience store where they have unlimited internet for $3. I was there for a couple of hours, updating my blog and booking tours. I also had to move all my photos onto my USB pen - 470 photos and 7 videos already!

I walked back to the hostel (about 300 yards away) at around 11pm. Kings Cross is not the place to be walking around at night by yourself. Personally, I was more bothered on my way up at 9pm. But then my key for the front door of the hostel didn't seem to work. I was so scared! I couldn't get in and there was no intercom or doorbell. I thought I'd have to phone, but then realised it wouldn't do any good because there was no-one at reception anyway. Very scared. But then a girl staying there too walked past, and showed me the trick to it. I was so very grateful!

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