After a lovely weekend in the Blue Mountains, I am again in Sydney.
I've had a chance to catch up with another of my favourite aussies, Chris, who's now relocated to Sydney and has been able to show me around a bit.
I'm headed to Darwin tomorrow for about five days, then it's about a 50 hour journey to Toronto.
I am now back in Sydney for a few days after drinking my way up the east coast of Australia. I took a backpacker-oriented organized bus trip (Oz Experience), which turned out to be a good idea as the bus was quite social, unlike a regular public bus, and also went off the main roads to some alternative destinations from just the usual hot spots. As a result, I think I was able to meet more people and see more places than I would have otherwise. I'd recommend such a trip if you are alone and/or don't have too much time; if you are travelling with someone else and are't in a rush, you'll probably be fine just meeting people at hostels and side trips as there are a ton of backpackers on this route. Some highlights:
Byron Bay: An excellent time as recommended by several friends. Basically a relaxed little beach resort town, the beach is great, the views are pretty, the nightlife includes dancing on the tables with cheap beer at the backpacker bar Cheeky Monkeys. The hostel I stayed at was staffed almost entirely by Canadian guys in playoff beards. In fact the town seemed to me to be partly overrun with Canadians - felt a bit silly at Subway after I'd asked for "capsicums" from a girl who was even wearing a Canadian flag pin. If I had it all to do over again, I would spend more time here.
Surfer's Paradise: I just missed Paris Hilton here; one of my roommates (they were all English - I spent most of my time on this coast trip surrounded by English) had nearly bumped into her the night before at the bar before he was shoved away by one of her many body guards. This is a glitzy beach resort town (it has a Planet Hollywood) where I couldn't do much swimming as the beach was exposed and the currents very strong.
Brisbane: Good nightlife, and I even liked the city. Caught the ANZAC Day parade here. I also had an opportunity for some industrial espionage at an emu oil booth in one of the markets along the river.
Fraser Island: Driving a top-heavy 4WD and camping for two nights on this rainforested sand island. Everybody who has been there emphasizes the need to get a good group to camp with. I would agree that this could play a big part, but it did rain half the time, which did not help our already fractured group to gel. Ever the charmer, I of course got a long well with everyone, plus people in other groups, and met people I'd be seeing up the rest of the coast (including the Scottish lads Richard, Nick and Euan).
Dingo: Actually a 40,000 acre cattle station near this sub-100 population town in Queensland. This is one of those places that has a deal with the bus tour people to bring in loads of backpackers every night for line dancing and all kinds of drinking. Apparently the cowboys that work there get a lot of ass.
Whitsunday Islands: I went for a nice boat with not too many people on it. Great people, unfortunate weather. I'll post a contrast of Whitehaven beach (one of the best in the world) in brochure pictures and on the day I visited. Still, a good time, with some great snorkling and a beautiful sail back on the third day.
Townsville and Magnetic Island: Magnetic Island made for a nice day trip, though perhaps a night or two there would have been better. Mind you, I did have excellent company back in Townsville, which is less of a backpacker place and moreso a small city with a pretty decent bar strip. It was here that I realized I will be needing money for the next few weeks and decided I will have to cut down a bit on indulging myself.
Cairns: I managed a good time in Cairns, though my funds continued to be at an ebb. Everyone there ends up at the Woolshed, basically like Byron's Cheeky Monkeys but with a balcony. If you go, stay at Gilligan's, more of a hotel than a hostel; it is well-located and worth the extra money.
There's more, but that's a little summary for you. I'll have pictures up soon enough (should get to that at the start of June).
Well, hello there from Canberra, Australia. I've had an excellent Easter weekend here with my buddy Daz. Maybe I'll squeeze in a summary, but not tonight.
So I've landed safely in Australia, my last stop on this trip. I'll be back in Canada in a little over a month now. Hard to believe, but I've got lots to do before then anyway.
In the news, I've decided to return to UBC to pursue a PhD. The money situation didn't work out for England, which made the decision easy, but in any case, I'm excited for my return to Vancouver. Obviously there will be more about this in the coming months.
Oh, and I've added a few updates from the last month (retro-dated for Ben's continued irritation - cheers, mate) in Asia.