Pretty pictures

I am coming to the end of my trip, and on reflection, I have seen some brilliant things, been to some beautiful places and met some right funny bastards.
Here are some of the beautiful places…
Go to them because they are good and I think you should.

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Look at new Zealand, isn’t she naughty? I was feeling pretty awestruck at this moment, and pretty tanned too.

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I got sunburnt on a walk to see an iceberg. This confuses my brain. New Zealand again.

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Lake tekapo, new Zealand. A lake that runs down from the glaciers, and is absolutely FREEZING. A beautiful, if not absolutely numb moment. The water is so clean you can drink it as you swim along.

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Monkey Mia, 11 hours drive from Perth.  In the middle of nowhere but absolutely stunning. Crystal clear water where you can see big old stingrays glide underneath you, and dolphins are curious enough to come swim straight up to your paddle board and politely  ask what exactly you think you are doing in their house.

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The pinnacles, Perth. Eerie looking statues stand here in numbers. There are literally a shit ton.

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Luna park in St. Kilda, Melbourne. It’s a tourist must see! One of the rare old things in Australia. If you’re British like myself it’s probably not even older than your mams house.

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Wilsons Promontory, near Melbourne. A beautiful national park with loads of different hikes. The first place I saw an echidna. So worth hiking hard to see the amazing views. Also there is squeaky beach here. Guess what the sand does when you walk on it?

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Cutie patootie. Habitates in the woodland or on a 50c coin.

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One of the many beautiful waterfalls found on walks around the blue mountains.

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Another one!

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The Chinese garden of friendship in Sydney. A lush garden in the middle of a skyscraper metropolis.

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Any chance for me to dress up is taken gratefully. There’s a little shed in the Chinese garden where they dress you up, it is grand.

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One of the Whitsunday islands, absolutely surreal scenery here! But the sea smells like eggs, do not be deceived by its pretty looks.

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Snorkeling off the Whitsunday islands, my favourite pretty rainbow fish! No photos can do the coral reef justice.

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Magnetic island, a ferry away from Townsville. Pretty place, you should hire a funny little barbie car for the day to drive around the island. Home of the cutest little fluffballs in the world…

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Don’t look at me, I’m shy.

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Patronella park, near cairns. A beautiful park, full of old crumbling buildings created by a romantic Spanish fellow many years ago.

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Huge trees forge a walkway  through the rainforest in Patronella park.

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Whitsundays beach again, it’s pretty though, no?

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A beach at Cape tribulation, don’t get too close to the sea or a crocodile might proposition you for a date. Or something.

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Daintree rainforest in Cape tribulation. Amazing rainforest, however, hundreds of mosquitos will feast on your flesh.

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The world’s steepest railway in the blue mountains. Prepare to die. Alright, it’s not that bad.

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Melbournes botanical gardens. This is a garden dedicated to inspirational Melbournian women. I am also a female, but not inspirational, nor from Melbourne.

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Byron bay beach. Hippies in abundance!

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Gollum.

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So Many Books, So Much Bloody Time…

Since I began my travels in Australia I have read almost 30 books. Some have been hilarious (Caitlin Moran- Moranthology  and How to build a Girl), some disturbing (The girl on the train– Paula Hawkins), and some thought provoking and sad (Still Alice- Lisa Genova).

I have read my share of empowering, inspirational for all women books! Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg was brilliant, and filled meticulously with studies to reiterate her points. Sandberg is the COO of Facebook and urges women in this book to reach for the stars, do not be put off by the ways society tries to keep women ‘in their place’. She wrote this book because she realised things need to change in business and in society as a whole, we need more women in power and Sheryl explains this beautifully. You will finish this book with a fresh burst of motivation to be great at whatever it is you do, and a fresh realisation that you can ‘have it all’.

I’ve read some very funny autobiographies too. Tina Fey’s Bossypants is hilarious. One of my favourite quotes that made me laugh out loud is, when discussing fighting your body to look perfect, she says ‘Not that this has happened to me, of course, because every six months I get a very expensive Japanese treatment that turns my public hair clear like rice noodles.’ I love how her book moves effortlessly from serious anecdotes to the absolute ridiculous.

The shock of the fall by Nathan Filer is a Costa first award winner, about a man who slowly descends into mental illness. It is a poignant story about death, mental health and dysfunctional families, that also manages to be cutting and witty. You fall in love with the character, who is written believingly and with brutal honesty. There is such a dark humour in this book, although it’s heavy at times, I really recommend it.

Consider the Lily by Elizabeth Buchan is a book I really enjoyed and have just finished. After reading a few books that were dark, I needed a light-hearted love story to restore my faith in humanity. This book surpassed my expectations. It was on sale for 99p on Kindle stores, I bought it thinking it wouldn’t be the kind of thing I was into, but I was proved wrong. It’s set in 1930’s England, around the aristocratic Dysart family, who like many of that generation, are living in moneyless splendour. A rushed marriage changes the lives of everyone in the book, and i really grew to love the characters. A very easy read that you’ll be sad to finish. It gratified my need for Englishness whilst being as far away as I can possibly be.

Most of all I recommend Caitlin Moran so highly, she is brilliant, intelligent, honest and absoloutely hilarious. How to Build a Girl is the first book of a planned trilogy that tells the story of a young woman in Wolverhampton who struggles to get out of her overcrowded house and find herself. It is written with such honesty, about the nature of a teenage girl, and is so funny and relatable. Moran does not care if you find the truths distasteful, she is on a mission to normalise the experience of women and get it all out in the open in a way it never has been before. I can’t wait for the second book to come out.

A Short History Of Australia So Far…

I have been travelling Australia now for almost seven months. It’s safe to say I’m pretty leathery by now, it’s true what they tell you. The Australian sun will fry you, leaving you looking like an astoundingly, pink English lobster. The locals will spot you as a Pom from a mile away. Even if you’re like me, someone who never wears sun cream in the English summer, ‘No factor 30 for me thanks, I’m an eighth Italian! I’ve got this under control!’ Don’t let it fool you! The sun in Australia is a whole different ball game, thanks to a pesky little hole in the ozone that we can thank our ancestors for. You will burn.

I’ve been to Perth, Melbourne, New Zealand and Sydney so far. All have been beautiful and breath-taking in their own ways.

Perth has a multitude of beautiful beaches, a sprawling city and a complete juxtaposition between suburbia and bushland. And you can always rely on hot weather!

Monkey Mia is a beautiful little place about 9 hours from Perth that I absolutely loved. There’s one hostel, in the middle of nowhere, gorgeous untouched beaches with dolphin feedings in the morning, a red sand bush walk that has breath taking views of the ocean on each side and a beautiful restaurant where I had my first taste of kangaroo (absolutely delicious!!! It’s like steak but even better) with a romantic view of the sun setting over the sea. It’s a trek, but so worth it in my eyes. There’s also an aquarium (Ocean Park Aquarium, Shark Bay) a short drive away where they have a whole host of creatures, some astoundingly beautiful, some just plain creepy, including their own sharks that they feed in front of you during the tour. The creepiest critter I met was a Moray eel. They don’t have the ability to swallow, so they evolved a handy little feature- a little second mouth inside the outer mouth that reaches up when the eel has caught it’s prey, and shreds the poor object with it’s many teeth, moving up and down from the exterior mouth the the stomach like an efficiently disturbing little shredder. A few divers have lost their thumbs to these friendly sea dwellers whilst trying to feed them. The creature I liked the most was the sea snake, they are friendly and curious and love the reflection of divers goggles, so they swim straight at your face! What fun that would be, a venomous snake bee-lining for your eyeballs.They apparently like to wrap themselves around divers legs, and are unlikely to bite you because they just can’t be arsed to waste their venom on you, they’d rather use it for something they can actually ingest. You’ll never meet a more thoughtful snake.

Melbourne was more European in it’s style, I found the city more interesting than Perth city, and a hundred times easier to get around, with a tram line reaching the outermost corners of Melbourne. I loved the Natural and Cultural History Museum and literally spent a whole day in there. It seems to go on forever, and even has an exhibit dedicated to psychology which I found very interesting. There was a part where you can peer in through holes and look into scenes from dreams that are commonly experienced by many people at least once in their lives. I love that little insight into the workings of the human mind. We think we are all so different but at the end of the day our experience of the world can be startlingly similar. They even had the old classic, protagonist of the dream standing naked infront of a group of people pointing and laughing. We’ve all been there, thanks to the paranoid old subconscious.

St.Kilda is a lovely hippy town to visit, accessible by tram line about twenty minutes from Melbourne city, go to the old Luna park if you fancy a little adrenaline kick (not for me because I am a boring bastard and hate rides). There is a famous restaurant called ‘Lentil as Anything’ where you order anything from the menu and pay simply what you think it’s worth or what you can afford. They generously feed many homeless people and apparently have absolutely delicious food. I didn’t get round to it but it’s been recommended to me by many people. St.Kilda also has lots of lovely little shops and a market on Sunday where you will undoubtedly find some treasures.

The beaches in Melbourne perhaps aren’t the most impressive in Australia, but there’s plenty more to distract yourself with there. Just beware of the infamous Melbourne weather! A day may start off scorching hot, but by midday it could be torrential rain, so watch out.

We did farm work for a month, about an hour away from Melbourne, in a place called Seville. I don’t need my second year visa, so we were literally just working there to save money (Australia drained our bank accounts before we knew what hit us) after being promised by a friend that the pay was great although the work was hard. She got the last part right. The pay had been altered from the last years good rate, so we actually ended up picking cherries for almost nothing! In the end I got a job in the packing shed where they have to pay you a fixed rate so the money eventually got better. Although the farmers were horrendous, racist and just plain mean, I made some great friends from all over the world and learned some valuable lessons (along with some great recipes I’ll take home with me), as you often do in horrible circumstances. As they say, if you don’t laugh you’ll cry! And my god did we laugh, with a little help of 4 litre boxes of ‘Goon’, a cheap imitation of wine that is drunk like water in all Australian hostels.

We left the farm after what felt like a lifetime, but was only a month. First world problems, aye! Then onto Sydney we went.

We started the long, boring drive in our camper-van (called Peggy), whom sometimes likes to turn her accelerator off, leaving me frantically stamping on the flaccid pedal and squealing until I have the presence of mind to turn the A/C off. Our Peggy is temperamental beast at times. I see a bit of myself in her. If she has too much to do (electrically which I suppose I can’t really relate to) she simply turns off her pedals and ignores it. Not the best quality in a car, but we coax her back into working order and make do!

To break the monotonous drive, we stopped at a beautiful camping ground called Cotter Camping, about half an hour from Canberra (Australia’s hilariously anti-climactic Capital city). Cotter camping was amazing, beautifully secluded and quiet, between rolling hills and greenery, I felt like I was in south wales- except it wasn’t raining and there weren’t any signs with words like:

‘Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch’

A fantastic example of the ridiculous yet wonderful welsh language; this word refers to a large village on the island of Anglesey.

If you got up early enough you could walk down to the river that’s literally a stones throw from the parking lot, and you can watch platypus take their early morning swim. As they are very shy creatures it’s very unlikely you will ever see them in the daylight. There were walking tracks across the river and up a hill where you could find caves, some barred up for restoration while we were there. I loved this campsite, it was close enough to Canberra to go and visit but far enough to be in a beautiful, tranquil setting that feels like the real Australia. Canberra was a nice little city, unusually crammed full of roundabouts (Roundabouts confuse Australians, but not as much as they enrage Americans). There’s a nice big shopping centre which was decorated beautifully for Christmas, so odd for us to be in the height of their summer surrounded by tinsel and Christmas trees. There was also an extremely random group of camels in the city centre that tourists were probably paying an arm and a leg to ride around the square. They are unusually huge creatures, bigger than you’d think! Did you know there are more camels sauntering around the Australian outback than there are in the middle East? Well there you go.