Looking Back

As my time in Australia comes to a slow and somewhat painstaking end I find myself reflecting on the last 9 or so months here. Have I enjoyed it? Yes. Will I return? Yes. Has it been as amazing as I had hoped? Well no, not exactly. Most of you will gasp at this and I am sure that this would annoy a lot of people too but in all honesty Australia has been a whirlwind of ups and downs and highs and lows I have almost forgotten which way round I go. Sounds a little crazy and probably is but it is so true. Ultimately I came here to catch up with my brother, get to know his in-laws and watch him get married which I did in true Ollie fashion. There were fights a plenty, many a drunken nights and one hell of a lot of what am I doing here moments. Days of laughter, weeks of tears and moments of brilliance although not so many of these I must add. All in all, it’s been a tough nine months.

I probably should have left Middlemount a long time ago and I definitely should have travelled Australia more. There is always hind site to everything and you can always do something better. I possibly should have made much more of a conscious effort to get stuck in to life here but found myself more just stuck than getting stuck in. Firstly and these may seem like excuses but life here is expensive. Leaving Middlemount alone felt as though selling a kidney would be a viable option and doing anything even remotely expensive was totally out of the question. I have had expensive moments because sometimes you just have to but believe me I am paying for it now. Being a little more money savvy should have been my first priority but I came all this way I was hardly going to be a penny pincher everyday. Secondly getting anywhere took twice as long as normal thanks to the endless amounts of outback you need to get through to go anywhere. Can’t really do much about this, Australia is big and short of slicing the edges off nothing is going to change this. Living in central middle of nowhere also made things tough, it just took so long to get to anywhere worth seeing and not enjoying the luxury of much time off I couldn’t really escape for too long either making even the quick trips to the beach seem rushed and unworthy, looking back now they were not rushed an unworthy in the slightest. Even though I have only seen the smallest fraction of Australia I have done a lot of what was on my bucket list. Surprisingly. Besides, now that my brother has become a true Australian and settled down here I will always have a reason or many reasons rather to come back and reasons that I plan to use as much as possible. So for everything I have missed off my bucket list there will be plenty of time to catch up soon I am sure.

Will I ever be going back to Middlemount? Yes. To live? No. For as long as the Matheson’s are making sandwiches and selling bed nights I will have a reason to return and unless they are strapped for people for work I will only be going for a short but sweet holiday. Middlemount as a town could be worse, I have to be realistic. As towns go it has everything you could need, a library, post office, pharmacy, a bank, a teeny tiny supermarket, a couple of bars and now a Subway. So really why would you want to go anywhere else? What Middlemount makes up for in amenities it lacks in things to do. You don’t really have much of a life there, well at least I didn’t. I worked most of my time and spent the rest of my days catching up with the sibling or watching ridiculous amounts of Leonardo DiCaprio movies. Up until my brother left I think I had been to the pub twice, golfie once and out with friends less than a handful of times. Being somewhat of a social butterfly this really was a less than social life. After my brother left for adventures in the real outback, I found myself getting more stuck in with life; outings to the pub were more frequent and more alcoholic, I renewed my membership at the golf club and I even enjoyed a farewell party there on my last night. I had even managed to make it out for the ANZAC day two up festivities and an after party for the footie, things were looking up. I had more friends and coffee mornings became something of a tradition I guess. That always happen when you leave somewhere though, people start to squeeze in as much time as possible with you before your departure and you generally let your hair down and go all out crazy subconsciously knowing that no matter what happens the likelihood of seeing these folk again are minimal so does it really matter how much of a fool you make of yourself? For a moment I found myself thinking that if I stayed it wouldn’t be so bad. The truth was I think I was looking at Middlemount through beer goggles. As much as I have appreciated all that the Matheson’s have done for me and what Middlemount has provided for the last few months I just wasn’t enjoying myself. I had done and seen all I could and the adventure had ended long before I had even started my countdown.

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For what it is worth, Middlemount did provide me with a few moments of brilliance. There were few and far between but one specific moment of brilliance will hopefully lead to more exciting adventures and a career of travels and writing. In December last year I had hit a massive low point, I no longer felt love for the hospitality industry and the prospect of living my life working day and night stuck in hotel prison really was not something I was willing to sign up for. I felt a little bit sad, for the majority of my career thus far I have been jumping from one hotel to the next getting all the experience I could in the hopes that one day I would be living the life I had always imagined and following in the footsteps of my family members and now suddenly I didn’t want another moment of it. I was done and done for good. This rut got me thinking, I wasn’t sure what else I was good at or how I would even get myself away from the hospitality but I had to do something and fast. Since I had started writing this blog many people have contacted me to tell me that I write well, and even long before this family and friends used to say that even my emails and letters were always a treat and something they continually look forward to. So I thought I would give it a bash. Realistically you can’t go too far these days without a degree or at least some qualification and seeing as my CV outlined one hotel job after another I figured a degree was the best way to start. So I got applying and even got accepted in to a couple of Universities. With my student loan now being paid in to my account I find myself looking forward to a life of writing and travelling and even see the idea of a novel or two. My father had written a book, never published and sadly never finished and my sister has this dream of writing too, perhaps my bloodline isn’t of extraordinary hotel managers and hospitality people but of novelists and writers? I have recently been wondering if I had been following the wrong footsteps for all these years which is why I have never felt truly happy in any job and why up until now I haven’t 100% enjoyed a days work. Funny how things can turn completely upside down and feel much better than being the right way up. With new career prospects on the horizon and a lot of student debt too I can’t wait to get going in all honesty, I haven’t been this excited about something for so long and for people to finally be telling me that I may even rock it has got me feeling even more happy and excited. My Middlemount rut wasn’t all for nothing, this could quite possibly be the best moment of brilliance to date. Many of you can understand the feeling of finally having things sorted. Many of us jump from one thing to another in the hopes that it will work out or that something great will come of it and for years I have been doing just that. Dr Seuss calls it’s the Waiting Place. I often say that the last couple of years have been the hardest for me, nothing seemed to work out and I was just going round and round in circles thinking that things would never change but now they have everything is ok. A little philosophical moment for you all: as sh*t as things seem it never lasts for ever. Everything works out in the end and if it’s not ok it is not the end. Not my words but I couldn’t have said it better myself. Hang in there, moments of brilliance are just around the corner. And if anyone needs a little more inspiration may I suggest reading “Oh The Places You’ll Go” by Dr Seuss. It’s a great book meant for children but like every child’s book there is a lot of truth in them that even as an adult we should be able to appreciate. This book specifically explains the last couple of years for me and actually reminds me that everything does work out. It’s a must read.

I find myself digressing, as always. This is supposed to be about leaving Australia and my final weeks before I head out on the journey of a lifetime not about how I got to the beginning to the rest of my life or whatever.

So it is thanks once again to the Matheson’s I had finally been given the out from Middlemount I have been waiting for. They knew someone who knew someone who needed a relief manager and they suggested me. Not sure if I should be thanking them as I find myself stuck in what I like to call motel jail but I know that no matter how long my day is and how many times I swear at the phone ringing I am happy to be here. Where is here I hear you think. I am currently sitting in a beautiful little motel in the bizarre town of Bairnsdale in Victoria. And I am freezing my butt off. Currently clocking up close to 112 hours a week but learning what it is like living and breathing motel life. I call it Motel Jail as I am not allowed to leave the premises and sods law is that when I even think of walking down the road for my KFC fix someone else walks through the door and the phone starts to ring with someone wanting to know the price for a romantic weekend away. I am doing a two person job in one which can get tough. I’m on week 3 and starting to see cracks. Sleep is a luxury and anytime to myself is non-existent. It may sound like I am complaining but to be honest the money is pretty good and I do have a well stocked kitchen and bar at my service. Pretty luxury jail if you ask me! It has also cemented my decision to leave hospitality, the two owners have given up their life for these walls and have dedicated and sacrificed plenty to be where they are. Something they wouldn’t change for the world, but something I couldn’t even fathom doing. I have much more to do and in no way shape or form want to be living this life anymore. It’s a tough life and seriously hard work with very little reward. I don’t mind the hard work bit but at the moment it feels just that. I have no joy for it anymore and I have a great belief that if you are not passionate about something then you shouldn’t be forcing yourself to keep doing it. It’s a massive pipe dream but one day I hope to be making a career out of my passion, it may not make me rich but at least I will be happy. The long days are nightmarish though and the hardest think I am dealing with plus the fact that it’s been non stop since March this year.

Firstly my brother getting married was 2 weeks of constant drinking and celebrating and having my sister and her family over was the best. Such a good time for family and some shenanigans. We did manage to squeeze in a trip to the Yarra Valley which was wine fuelled and full of Cider. Then it was 3 weeks of work everyday most of the day and then two days of travelling and packing and now I am here. Bairnsdale, working my butt off.

Bairnsdale is a strange little town, nothing much happening actually in town but it seems to be the central point for a lot of stuff around here. The motel is busy most nights not with holiday makers but reps for businesses and stuff which I find even stranger but it’s a happening place and I am enjoying it. I wish I wasn’t stuck in a motel unable to leave for even a stroll down the street but I did manage to sneak away on my second day with Madlen who took me for a jaunt down to the beach and a visit to the church. The church itself is incredible. Architecture at it’s finest for sure and Australia’s answer to the Sistine Chapel, just incredible from the floor to the ceiling. My photos do not do it justice as I only had my trusty iPhone with me but I think even with a good camera you kind of have to be in there to fully appreciate it.

IMG_0293Victoria is a beautiful part of Australia, the bush fires have done some damage and you can still see the effects but rolling hills and Emerald green grass do provide some wonderful driving. Lakes Entrance or Australia’s Lake District as I like to call it is a little fishing port and a huge tourist destination. I can see why, it really is beautiful and the beach is a real genuine beach with sand and sea. I didn’t brave the waters as in this country you never know what is going to get you and also because the temperature was below anything I could tolerate. Icy cold with the hint of danger was not something I was prepared to suffer through. I did dip my toes in but that was enough, they nearly turned black from frostbite so I wasn’t going to see what other damage could be done.

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There is just something about being on the beach with the sand between your toes and the fresh sea air. It’s so refreshing and replenishing to the soul or something who really knows but wondering a long in the sand I realised that Australia hadn’t been so bad and even though I feel like I have been upside down for a while I was slowly beginning to turn back the right way round. Maybe because I could finally see the end zone and my flights had been confirmed I can’t really say. I’m not sure what brought about the moment of contemplation but I recall a saying that goes something a long the lines of: The cure for anything is salt water. Tears, sweat or the sea. I think Isak Dinesen was on to something things seemed better at the beach, even the prospect of running a motel all by my lonesome was less daunting. I don’t think the trip to the beach really had that much of an effect but the last 3 weeks hasn’t been too bad. There have been some really really long days with very little sleep but I have snuck in a cider or two on the odd occasion and have even managed to sneak in a film as well. The Bairnsdale International isn’t a bad place to be and it sure is a good place to stay too. I am sorry I can’t comment much on what to do around here though, I think I will have to add this on to my list as a revisit. I hear there is a lot around here and somethings that are really a must see. If anything I need to go back to the beach, perhaps in summer when things are not so freezing! It was really beautiful down there and the views are definitely needing to be enjoyed again for sure.

So with 11 more days left to go on my first Australian adventure I am sitting behind a desk waiting for the phone to ring and the emails to come through on what will hopefully be my last job in a hotel. I say hopefully because as I student I plan to be working behind a bar or even a cafe rather than a reception desk but with 7 years worth of this work on my CV it is always a good one to fall back on so who knows. What I do know is that the last 9 months have been some of the most emotional ones for me and at times I have wanted to pack up and go but with some new directions and yet more wild adventures ahead I can say with 100% certainty that I will be back to explore more of this fascinating country and to finally cross off everything on my Australia bucket list.

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Wedding Festivities And Wine Weeks

I can honestly say that my liver is glad these two weeks are up. They have been some of the most wine and champagne fuelled ever. A Magnum of Champagne and a week of wine tours was definitely detrimental to my health, for my sanity though this was exactly what the doctor ordered.
For weeks all we could talk about was the wedding and my brother and his lovely wife spent months and months planning it and it couldn’t have been more perfect. Ok so many important family members and close friends were missing mainly due to lack of funds and unavailability but that didn’t stop us. The Matheson’s are bad enough, terrible influences with extreme amounts of bulk stocked wine but add that to the Keith’s/Goldson’s who all have rubber arms you are bound to have days filled with much drunken shenanigans and alcoholic parties.

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As you can all imagine I was looking forward to the few weeks away from Middlemount, you really start to go crazy if you stay there too long. What made the two weeks even better was that my family was going to be together again. Australia is the furthest from Home my sister has ever been so we all thought that she needed to experience the true Australian life. Travelling with a one year old not being the easiest thing they spent the first couple of days catching up on some much-needed shut-eye and passing Ewan on to the various aunties and uncles more than willing to babysit. I don’t think the two of them could have been happier! Unfortunately for them they just so happened to be staying in a room that may as well have been full of birds. The aviary right outside their window provided some not so needed noise and entertainment for some weary travellers. Once the sleep was caught up on it was packing up and off again, just down the road so it’s not like it was too stressful but with so many people to keep track of and all the wedding stuff to not forget things were hectic and crazy and the only cure for this is more champagne. Sanctuary Cove on the Gold Coast was a beautiful setting, the fake beach and fully stocked beer kept us well entertained and out of everyone’s way. My brother and his wife had many last-minute arrangements to do, most of which involved ordering yet more champagne!

If you fancy something close by to a big city and it’s bright lights but also something quiet and tranquil then Sanctuary Cove is a place you have got to see. We may not have made it much of a quiet weekend but the venue itself does allow for that. There is also a cute village just down the road right on the harbour. A good day can be spent there sitting in the cafe watching the sea life go by. We managed to sneak in a breakfast down in the village on the wedding day. My sister and I had been up for a while and were already made up for the big day. We thought what better way to start a long day than a relaxing coffee and quick shop. With much rescue remedy in tow we headed back to get started on the champagne and put the final touches to our outfits. From here on in all I can remember is champagne, champagne, more champagne, a wedding, a reading, the vows, whiskey, wedding photos, more champagne, yet more wedding photos, yet more champagne, possibly some food and yet some champagne! I could go in to a lot more detail but in all honesty some of them are pretty blurry. The champagne may have had something to do with this but I can assure you that it was a beautiful ceremony filled with many tears and some laughter and a few high fives to boot. A perfect day to watch my big brother say his I dos to someone who will make a great sister-in-law and wife. After the ceremony and pre dinner drinks I was starting to get a little concerned about the alcohol levels in everyone’s blood stream. We still had more champagne to go, thankfully dinner squeezed in there and the speeches! Looking back now I was definitely much more intoxicated than I thought. I remember the first and possibly the second course and I do recall saying a speech but the dessert and dancing is all a blur. Looking back at all the photos I know that I had a good time because not one person wasn’t smiling. I just wish that I was a lot more sober to remember the details. I think when the night got to a point where my brother-in-law was bear hugging the priest I thought I should call it quits. This must have been around 10:30pm! Such a poor effort but I am surprised I even lasted that long considering!!

The next day we all headed back to the Gold Coast to watch the Suns play their home game against Richmond. Now a live AFL match is something I have dreamed about ever since first getting involved in the sport back in South Sudan. And this game did not disappoint. Thanks again to the Matheson’s we were up in the lounge and hanging out with the players and big wigs and enjoying yet more champagne! I am a big fan of sports and do enjoy watching game after game but nothing quite beats the excitement of a live match. Even my nephew was loving the show and the beer. Another major high crossed off my bucket list and definite memorable moment for sure.

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Our next destination was the Yarra Valley. Everyone was looking forward to this, and this had been my sisters specific request. Victoria is a beautiful part of this country, wineries galore and green fields. Well not so green fields as it was the dry season but still beautiful. I am definitely recommending it for anyone coming to Australia. There is a lot to do in this part of the continent and I hear Melbourne is one of the best cities to live in. I can’t comment much on Melbourne itself because both times I have just driven through and only had the skyline to enjoy but with so many stories about the things to do I will definitely be coming back to find my own adventures.

Driving through this area you really get a taste of what Australia is like. You have gum trees galore and wide open spaces. It is simply just beautiful. Healesville as a town is cute too and has more in it than you could ever wish for. Not to mention it is surrounded by breweries and wineries 🙂
The first point of call was the Giant Steps and Innocent Bystanders winery. The food here is more than delicious and the wine goes down easily. The building is awesome too, you get a sneak peek at some of the wine making process and can even enjoy a wine tasting session if deciding on what to drink becomes too much for you. If wine isn’t your poison you can always walk across the car park to the White Rabbit breweries and drink cider to your heart’s content. Pipsqueak Cider has become a favourite of mine but the various brews and beers that come from their taps are all delicious in equal measures. These two places are somewhere were you can spend a whole day, they feel more like your living room than a bar and the locals are some of the friendliest. We revisited here on a couple of occasions and even made some friends with two American gentlemen who were busking their way round Australia. My nephew was more interested in their money than their music but with good tunes and a good drink as well as some of the best company you really couldn’t ask for more.

The next day or two were spent going round to each and every winery possible. By the end of it I was so confused as to which one was my favourite and we were all loaded up with bottles to take home with us. Not that any of us needed any. The Matheson’s cellar would last all of us many many years! Chandon was perhaps my favourite by far. The views from here are incredible. Grapevines for miles and the backdrop of Victorias rolling hills behind. I could definitely have spent much of my time there soaking it all in and sipping away on some of Australia’s finest. Having entertained ourselves for days we thought it would only be fair to visit the wildlife sanctuary for Ewan’s sake. Not sure who enjoyed it more, in fact as I remember Ewan was asleep for most of it but the Koalas, Tasmanian Devils and Wombats were a highlight for us all. We come from a place with some pretty cool wildlife it has to be said but it is so awesome seeing the weird Australian wildlife up close.

All in all it was a hectic two weeks and it went by so so fast! I think we would all like to come back and do this again but perhaps with a little less hectic and a little more time to enjoy the wine to its full extent. Champagne and family really do work well together especially when two families are celebrating becoming one. I hope that one day we all come back with the rest of my family in tow but with my brother now living over here I know this will definitely happen. It was such an amazing time with all my favourite people in one place I didn’t want it to end. Sadly though my money was running out so work was calling not to mention my sister had to go back home. Looking back it was probably a good thing it was only two weeks because all of our livers needed some RnR and we definitely needed to give ourselves a chance to recover from the hangovers! There really is no better way to spend time sipping on champagne surrounded by family. Happy Days and Big Love always they say 🙂

Yatching In Yeppoon

Sun, sea and goggling. Three words that pretty much sum up my two days spent in Yeppoon. A quick pre-crimbo trip with my brothers future in-laws and actually just what I needed. Yeppoon itself is a cute little town, built a little backwards I am not going to lie but it has everything you need and the best thing about it is that it is bang smack on the beach. Not quite a white sand pristine beach like the ones I am so used to back home but you can actually go in to the sea and squish your toes in the sand. A real genuine Australian beach.

There isn’t much to do in Yeppoon itself, there are a few shops and bars as well as coffee shops that you can wonder in and out of. Sip on tea here enjoy a pint there not to mention some good restaurants. The standard issue with every town you find. So why Yeppoon? Well we only had a couple of days before Christmas so somewhere not far and somewhere neither of us had been. My sister-in-law had been there so we broke one rule but the rest of us hadn’t. The convenience factor was the main selling point for us, being not far from Middlemount it seemed the logical destination.

To be completely truthful I honestly don’t remember a whole bunch from my holiday there. No I had not been drinking and no I do not have amnesia but I literally struggle to piece the activities together. I know there was dinner, and pool side sun bathing and I also know we squeezed in some shopping other than that I am pretty sure it was the standard eat, sleep, repeat routine. One particular thing does come to mind though when I think Yeppoon. My brothers mother in law shouted us a trip on a boat out to Keppel Island. Due to hard wind or some other factor out of our control we couldn’t get to Keppel Island itself. We ended up diverting to North Keppel Island and thank goodness we did.

Keppel Island is normally where the ferry stops off an unloads the vast amount of tourists of locals wanting a day away and a chance to sit back and relax. It is usually hectic from what I hear and a very touristy thing to do. We ended up actually going on a private sail boat. Instead of dropping us off on the busy shores of Keppel Island they actually anchored off the shores of somewhere close to paradise. Kenyan beaches aren’t exactly crowded but they are not desolate either, on north Keppel beach there was not a soul in sight. There are not many places that you can go to where you have a whole beach to yourself so as you can imagine this was complete luxury.

And enjoy it i did. The weather was perfect and the sea was beautiful. Other than the added danger of jellyfish and stingrays it was the most amazing day. All of my favourite things combined in to one. Would I go back? For sure simply because it is a beautiful spot and what more could you want than sun, sea, sand and goggling.

Sightseeing In Sydney

As a city, Sydney is one of the best that I have visited. Not as hectic as London or as laid back as Budapest but with enough energy and things happening there was always some place to be, a view to look at and a bar to visit. Luckily I know a few people who have decided to move there so my main priority was to catch up with them first, after all what better way to get around than with the knowledge of a local to point you in the right direction. There is the standard list of things to do: a visit to the Opera House, a quick peak at the Harbour Bridge, a walk around Darling Harbour, a pop over to The Gap and of course a session in the sea on Bondi Beach. As I was only there for a couple of days fitting it all in would be near impossible, I tried my best but I have left a couple of “excuses” so that when I go back I have something new to look forward to.

My first stop was Darling Harbour, an easy one as it was close by to where I was staying and there were endless amounts of restaurants and bars to choose from so that a friend and I could sit down and plan out my next few hours. It was looking hectic but I was excited to be there absorbing it all and channeling my inner city slicker. Darling Harbour looks beautiful at night, the lights of the city provided a beautiful scene for some night-time photography and being surrounded by so much energy was great. Living in Middlemount you don’t often get that, if ever so the city buzz and bustle was actually exciting, call me sad but I’m a country bumpkin and I love the bush so being in a city is so different to my normal and genuinely thrilling for a couple of days or so until I start getting city fever and have cravings for the country again. With Christmas just round the corner too, the added bonus of Christmas lights and floating Santa’s was enough to get me in the spirit and in the mood for a drink.

A few drinks later and a private drive round the whole city I had seen it all, I had done Sydney. Well what I wanted to do anyway. The Harbour Bridge and Opera House again look beautiful all lit up and I can definitely see why people would enjoy living there. Being shown around by two locals you really do get a taste of what local life is like. I was almost tempted to pack up and move straight away, it all sounded fun and vibrant but very expensive.

The next day was spent doing all things touristy. A casual stroll in to town to soak up all that Sydney has to offer again only this time in daylight. The Opera House (no offense to the architect, designers, builders and lovers of this piece of art) is less impressive during the day, somewhat over rated in my opinion. Many of you will gasp at this and by all means carry on. I expect this to be met with shock and horror but in my opinion it is a tad on the ugly side. Structurally its impressive, the lotus flower petals are a great design and the concept is beautiful but it could have been made slightly prettier. The brown glass and brown cladding makes it look a little dirty and boring. I am glad that I saw it as it is an iconic structure but as structures go, it is far more glamorous lit up at night. The Harbour Bridge is as bridges go, well made and a good piece of engineering, it frames the harbour well. In fact from afar these two pieces of art do work well together and encompasses Sydney as a city and they actually look beautiful. It saddens me a little that up close I felt a disappointment. I took some photos obviously but got bored. The cruise ships coming in and out of the harbour were to me far more exciting to look at. So for the majority of the morning I wondered up and down the various streets, in and out of the galleries and decided that I had had enough of this side of the water. I wanted to go to the other side to see Sydney from another perspective in the hopes that I could begin to like this city a little more.

From the middle of the water it becomes more apparent how impressive Sydney really is and to try to grasp how a city was built around this water way was intriguing. I wanted to peel back the layers and have a look at it from ground zero. That evening I watched a program called Strip The City and it just so happened to be based on Sydney. After watching that I had a different appreciation for the skyscrapers and monuments that lined the shores. Impressive structurally and a mean feat of engineering, if only they could make it seem a little less bland up close. The majority of my photos were taken through Instagram as the filters to me added a little something extra and actually brightened the city quite significantly. I enjoyed it a lot more through a camera lens than I did on eye level. I felt somewhat cheated but you can’t love everywhere and not everything is perfect. Whilst I am blabbering on and on about how much I was disappointed by this place let me remind you all that this is solely my opinion. I understand that not everyone will agree and I sure as hell hope that not everyone does. If at this point in time you want to shake me silly and open my eyes a little I would stop reading if I were you or just skim over the next few lines. It isn’t going to get better. You win some and you lose some, I can deal with that. This blog is meant to be enjoyed and if you only feel anger and irritation save yourself. Come back another day and read something else, I am not always so negative I promise!

From the other side of the water the view was more to my liking. Sydney did look magnificent as a bigger picture. With all that it encompasses fitted in to one very neat but giant package, I could like Sydney but from the other side. My plan was to head to Bondi Beach as I hear this is a must do for everyone that comes to the harbour but in all honesty I had enough of being a tourist and I didn’t feel like spending a day soaking up the sun rays. After all it looked like rain and I was getting thirsty! I jumped back on the ferry and headed back for an afternoon of shopping.

Now the shopping is impressive, it has everything you need down one road and all in one place. Very convenient. I am no shopper by any stretch of the imagination but when you need some new clothing you don’t want to spend too long or have to go very far. Unfortunately I missed a random busking session by Passenger (if you don’t know them listen to them) but I enjoyed the thought that people could stop and be entertained by some good tunes whilst on their lunch break. It is the best excuse to get out of the cubicles in the skyscrapers and to get some sun. I heard from a group of people that this often happens and it actually improved my first impressions. How cool would it be to casually stroll round town and possibly bump in to a favourite band or just a good group of people playing awesome music. The other buskers around were not to be out done either, a guy with a very broken guitar and another one on some empty buckets made for a spontaneous street dance party. My spirits were lifted and I thought I should end of a high note (pun intended). I took myself and my shopping back for a shower and then I was hitting the bars again, friends in tow and with a list of places I needed to go. I started off at the O Bar. A cute but slightly chaotic bar at the base of the Opera House and a view to the bridge. The cider was good and the food there was great too. I thought that it was perfect, I had everything I could need from a bar and then the live music started. Nothing beats more good music to keep the high notes going (pun intended). From the Opera Bar To the O Bar we went and what a treat. A bar and restaurant right up at the top of a very tall building. The view was to die for and thanks to awesome engineering the revolving 360 degrees provided the best backdrop. Sydney is stunning at night, I will stand by this. A glittering array of expensive living and I was loving it. After a full revolution it was off to Grandmas bar and my personal favourite of all places. I had been told by a friend from South Sudan that I must go here so I did. It was slightly hard to find but with some map reading and a good sense of direction we were outside a building that really didn’t look like much. I instantly recognized the wallpaper and there was no mistaking it, we were indeed paying a visit to Grandmother. The quirky interior didn’t stop there; the chairs were old school and covered in crochet, drinks were served on doilies and bar bitings came in nana’s finest china. I was in love with everything. At that point I immediately wanted to pack by bags and hand in my resume to the owner. I wanted to be part of the charm and the character and even though it wasn’t busy you could tell that if the furniture and fittings could talk they would share epic tales of drunken debauchery and good times with great people.The staff were lovely and made a delicious cocktail or two and the billtong was the best yet. I was hooked. This bar alone made up for every disappointed moment and I was finally liking Sydney. If you have never been check it out, it has everything you want in a bar and more. It’s like visiting your boozy nana, and everyone knows that trips to nana’s are the best kind.

As much as I could have stayed at Grandmas all night it was time to hit the hay. It had been a long day… life as a tourist really is tiring plus I was up before dawn and on a flight back to the Mount. Sydney was cool, it is up there with places to revisit. The next time I will do things a little differently. Less like a tourist and more like a local, I think that is the key to really enjoying what this impressive yet equally unimpressive city has to offer.

Home Away From Home

New Zealand has been my favourite place (aside from Kenya) where I have been privileged enough to live. Simply put it is a beautiful and very magical country. If you haven’t been yet book a flight immediately and go and see what I am talking about, you wont be disappointed. This country has so much to offer. Every where you look there are mountains galore and bright blue waters a plenty, an untouched land and soul food to any weary traveler. Not to mention the endless amounts of adrenaline junkie activities if that is what you are in to and more than enough quiet serene places for those who want to escape the hustle and bustle of life, to de stress and recharge the batteries. There is something for everyone and I can guarantee that you too will feel the love that I feel. New Zealand does come with a warning, once you visit you will want to return time and time again, be prepared for this, some people may find this too much to cope with.

Since I left in 2009 I have been dying to get back there, and always secretly planning a holiday or trying to find an excuse to get myself back to my second home. And at the beginning of last year it came in the shape of a wedding invitation. I was sold and immediately got down to looking at flights and mentally packing my bags. With much umming and ahhing it turned out that at the time I couldn’t get myself there with sadness in my heart I had to decline the wedding invite. Not something I enjoyed but something I could not avoid, there was too much up in the air and it just wouldn’t work out. A few jam-packed months later I found myself in Australia and right next door. The plan was back on and the plane ticket was finally booked. For weeks and weeks all I could talk about was my trip, I think everyone was sick of hearing about it after a day or two but I didn’t care, I was excited and I wanted everyone to feel jealous! I think the feeling was more annoyed than jealous but it was enough for me. I was going to New Zealand and they were missing out big time! Even though Australia is just next door my ticket didn’t come cheap and time off from work was hard to come by, unfortunately this meant that I could only go for four days. A very short visit but I planned on making it as sweet as possible. Four days wasn’t long enough in hindsight but it did subside the cravings for the time being and it definitely reminded me why I love the place so much. From the people to the cider in the pub to the beautiful landscape and sunsets I was back in my happy place and enjoying every minute of being there. I was finally back home.

A few years ago Christchurch was hit with a massive earthquake that shattered the lives of many and destroyed life as they knew it. Driving through Christchurch you could still feel the effects and see the rubble of a place that was once a great city. New Zealanders have a way of working through the hard times, mainly by sticking together and just getting on with life but I couldn’t help but feel the devastation and sorrow. Somewhere that was once so familiar is completely unrecognizable and in massive disrepair. Only then did I appreciate the full extent of the damage and just how hard those time must have been. I personally knew people affected by the earthquake and did my best to support them from afar so to see the aftermath was a shock to my system and I sat in the back of the car in silence and awe at the devastation. This was a time for celebration and happiness I was after all attending a wedding but I couldn’t help but feel a sadness, not only for the city that has been reduced to temporary structures and scaffolding poles but for the people who now live with the loss. Everywhere I looked I could still see the people of Christchurch hard at work trying to rebuild their lives so many years on, a heartbreaking moment and a rude awakening of just how dangerous life in New Zealand can be. Unfortunately living along a fault line these natural disasters are expected and there will be many more to come, I have no doubt that no matter what happens the magic will still remain and New Zealand will still be the amazing place that I know and love.

Everyone in Christchurch was moving on and I decided I must too. I was here to celebrate the lives of two great friends coming together and celebrate we did. The wedding was a small affair but every minute was special, from the bride walking down the aisle to the speeches and first dance there was not a dry eye in the house, a true testament to how amazing and made for each other my two friends are. I was glad that I had made it, I wouldn’t have missed it for the world and even though it came close I knew that no matter what I would get myself there somehow. It is funny how things always work out in the end. After waving the couple off on their honeymoon and saying my goodbyes and see you laters I was back on a plane and heading over the water. I hate saying goodbye but this time I knew in my heart of hearts that this goodbye was definitely not for forever. I will always return to New Zealand. It is my home away from home and no matter how hard they try they can’t keep me away for too long! It is with love and sadness that I leave again but with a couple of days in Sydney before I head back to the Middle of nowhere the excitement was back on and I was looking forward to catching up with yet more familiar faces and soaking up the sights of another great city. See you again soon New Zealand, Hello Sydney… time for some real tourist sightseeing and more cider 🙂

Boogying With Backpackers

Airlie Beach, Queensland, Australia,  somewhere a long the coast.

People watching: everyone indulges in a little of this innocent activity, well for those lovers of this past time Airlie Beach is the place to go. I’m not saying that it is better than any Airport Terminal or Shopping Mall but it is up there. Luckily I went at the best time. Schoolies. What is this schoolies I speak of? It’s a week when all the school seniors head somewhere to blow off some steam and lose their V plates (if they hadn’t already done so) as they have finished school and are heading in to the big wide world. To me it’s when High School spills on to the street. Airlie Beach is one of the main destinations where these high schoolers go in Queensland. Or more specifically those who can’t face the big city of Brisbane or the intense life of the Gold Coast, basically those from small towns who want to go somewhere close to home and not so hectic. Luckily, for those of you who are finding this a little daunting, schoolies isn’t always on but Airlie isn’t a relaxing beach weekend away in paradise kind of destination either. It’s not really a beach if I am being totally honest. There is a beach and you can see the sea but it’s nowhere I would want to take a stroll or have a soak in the salt water. It’s grim. I grew up in Kenya with pristine white beaches and delicious Indian Ocean water. When I hear the word beach I automatically think white sands and aqua marine blue waters. Airlie does not provide this. I never actually made it on to the sand not because I didn’t want to but because it looked like I may run the risk of standing on broken glass or some other rubbish left over from a weekends worth of binge drinking. And the sea, the lovely shade of dirt brown surf is enough to put even the bravest of fish off!

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Please note that all landscapes look better in photos!

It isn’t all bad though. Thanks to Airlie I now have yet another tattoo to add to my collection and a knee injury from too much dancing so there has to have been some great times too. I am not going to lie, I was looking forward to some time on the sand soaking up the sun rays and breathing in the sea air but unfortunately my weekend away didn’t actually lead to any of that. The grim beach may have had something to do with it but I was mainly recovering from a stinking hangover the rest of the trip. I may have gotten in to a little too much of the partying scene but at the time it was all worth it.

A beach getaway it may not be but a partying scene it is. Known for it’s backpacker vibe you are bound to be enjoying some wet t-shirt competition or jelly wrestling in no time and that I did. For me jelly wrestling was the sport and Magnums was the establishment of choice. No I did not don the traditional white Magnum branded shirt and join in with the KY festivities but I did get Ridiculous with Red Foo and indeed danced the night away. It was a night of pure fun. I hadn’t had a care in the world and everyone definitely thought that I was off my face on some white powder but in fact it was tequila and I was just high off the music!

The morning after the night before it’s a MacDonald’s kind of a day. Their Chicken McNuggets or not quite chicken anythings are a good way to soak up some of the tequila and their seating outside, well it turned out that they just so happen to be in a prime viewing location. The people of Airlie are some of the finest characters. And not in a good way. I wish I could describe in depth what I saw but there are no words! Just imagine some of the most sex hungry girls wearing the shortest of skirts mixed with the most desperate of men who think singlets are the way to show off their non existent guns but it doesn’t stop there. We have tattoo and stud decorated-stretched ear-lobed-rock star wannabes and then the innocent types trying to pop their cherries all thrown in to one small town, mixing and matching with each other creating some of the oddest of couples that no parent would approve of. Like I said it’s high school in the streets, the same drama and violence, the never ending love triangles and the unavoidable ins and outs of becoming an adult only this time out in the publics eyes and on display for everyone to see. Only this time if you found yourself in a spot of trouble, it wouldn’t be a trip to the school head for a slap on the wrist and a possible detention instead you would find yourself arrested for indecent exposure and possibly behind bars for a night if your are one of the really unlucky ones or just really good at getting caught. Nothing says welcome to the big world like a criminal record and a mug shot! It was a joy to watch. I could have stayed there for ages taking it all in; I laughed at all the stupidity, cringed at all the mistakes and took in the lives of those fresh out of school types and thought to myself thankfully my time for that had long gone. Or so I thought. My hangover really did feel like I was back in those days and the flash backs of the night, well they weren’t all pretty. The only difference is that my hangover lasted days and it forced me to spend the second night in with the telly on and my friend Neurofen by my side. Not something my 16 year old self would be proud of but in some way I actually looked forward to an early night in and the prospect of a nutritious breakfast that wasn’t going to be deep fried and fake. Saying this though, it was good craic to indulge in just a little high school activity for a night and a good way to spend time away from the hectic hustle and bustle of Middlemount life. Sarcasm of course, Middlemount hasn’t exactly turned in to a booming metropolis in the last few weeks since my last post.

To summarise Airlie: if it is a quiet destination you are after then do not head in this direction. It’s somewhere where you feel the need to get involved in the shenanigans and head in to town to check out the competition. It’s a party place but not a bad one at that. We had also better not forget the people watching opportunities either, it was after all an entertaining hour. So if you are looking to watch the world go by whilst you recover from too many jaeger bombs then Airlie is a place to consider. It’s the Australian equivalent of budget Ibiza so if you can handle the tackiness and feel you can brave the beach then get booking. However, if you are looking to feel the sand between your toes and find the perfect opportunity to ogle at some fish swimming by then avoid this at all cost. There are far superior beach destinations all a long the Australian coast and a few of them I hope to frequent while I am here.

Will I ever go back? Probably not, unless of course I am invited by a crowd of equally as crazy people for some more drunken dancing. It isn’t too far from Middlemount either so the convenience factor may also come in to play; but why would I want to spend time in a place that is only really good for people watching, alcohol induced debauchery and sneaky tattoo opportunities when I could be sunning myself on the sands of Bondi Beach or goggling with the sharks and sting rays of the Great Barrier Reef?This is Australia, a whole world of adventure awaits, and I don’t think sticking around these small towns will help me find it! So with my Airlie memories locked away and the postcard stuck in my travel journal it’s back to the drawing board and back to some more holiday planning.

My Next stop: New Zealand, I am extremely excited to be returning to this place I once called home. Let’s hope my love of this country hasn’t been a figment of my imagination for the last 5 years. Fingers crossed because I am now Kiwi Land bound.

Middle Of Nowhere Middlemount

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Still on the adventure of 2013, ok so this one was a little accidental but I am still traveling somewhat never the less. I am now on to country 13 of 50 before 30, so a while to go yet but making the most of this year of being an intrepid.

Quite a few jobs later, a lot of down time and very little money I found myself borrowing some and jumping on a plane to Australia. I have always wanted to come here, it has been somewhere of interest to me for a while from the odd wildlife to endless amounts of back country. I always thought that the photography opportunities would be incredible and something that I would have to experience for myself, not just from other travelers stories or NatGeo documentaries. The only problem was, the timing just wasn’t on my terms. Ok to be fair, I got myself in to this situation in the first place and could have been a little more money savvy but I had other plans for this year and coming to Australia just wasn’t one of them.

I had a great job at the beginning of the year working in South Sudan but sadly this came to a rather dramatic end which led to me working on an overland truck traveling round Africa. I am using ‘round’ in the loosest sense of the word. I made it as far down as Zambia and then back up again. I am no expert in Geography but even I know there is nothing round about that journey, more like up and down. And many ups and downs there were. This epic journey which inspired this travel blog in the first place as well as fueled my thoughts for many more adventures to come actually led me back home to the familiar and some new feathered friends. I landed a job at home! (Thanks again to the most well-connected person I know and to someone who I owe so much for as if it wasn’t for them I probably would have spent the last two years living in the UK burning unpaid bills in a bonfire in the living room of a building not belonging to me to try to keep out the winter snow and chill.) The job was the assistant manager position running a resort attached on to an ostrich farm. My new work mates were quite interesting and working in Kenya which revolves around their own axis and runs on a completely different time zone to the rest of the world was quite an eye opener at the best of times, not to mention infinitely frustrating and full of all the usual politics. As like most of the jobs of this year it sadly didn’t last too long either, very unsurprisingly. Not being a Kenyan and all that forced me yet again to pack my bags and leave the one place that I continue to call home but seem to spend less and less of my time there!

With very little money to my name, no job and no idea what to I borrowed some money packed my bags, had a rather large goodbye party, shed many a tear and left. Ok so it was slightly less glamorous than it sounds. Flights were very last-minute, packing took days, there was more than one goodbye party including a music festival and there were many second thoughts on my part. I think the word I am looking for here is procrastination. Part of me thought that if I never booked my flight or packed then I wouldn’t have to go. You must be thinking I am crazy right, why wouldn’t I want to go, I mean it’s Australia!! Well the truth is, I found my place. I had my friends, a crazy social life (something that is massively important to me), a lot of things to do and finally but most importantly my family near by. Everything I could ever want and more all in one place. For those of you who are lucky enough to know me you will know that this is all I have ever wanted, as cheesy as it sounds, I have to admit that it is true. Anyway this was the situation and I had to realise it so I finally packed, booked everything and made my way to the airport.

 Many many hours of traveling later I was back to receiving abuse (the loving kind) from my older brother. For those who have travelled you will all know how great it is to see a familiar face in a foreign place so you can imagine how happy I was to be back with family once again. Not sure how great it was to be heading to Middlemount however but I was here and I was determined to throw myself fully in to living life down under. I think that lasted all of one month. Recently I have found myself liking Middlemount less and less. If any of you have been here you will hopefully understand but for those of you who haven’t I will attempt to paint a picture for you. Or just post a picture.

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This is Middlemount. Not much there and it feels even smaller once you are here this would also hopefully explain the middle of nowhere bit too. When people ask me how Middlemount is. My answer is always the same. I relate it to being much like Rumbek, South Sudan. Only less fighting and guns, more people but far more weirdos and with even less to do. Doesn’t sound like somewhere to spend a great deal of time. While I can complain about the small town living I do have to admit that it does have some perks too. Being in the middle of nowhere with nothing to do there is an opportunity to save some money. Your life outside of Middlemount can be adventurous and exciting and this is what makes staying here not so bad. There are also a couple of great people in and amongst the weirdos and the crazies will always make for good stories. I don’t think I could stay here as long as my brother has, but for now at least I have somewhere. My advice is that if you ever want to come here, then plan to not stay for too long and to leave often.

As for Australia, well so far so good. I have been lucky enough to witness a few things in true Aussie style. On my way to Middlemount there were cattle drovers moving their livestock to better pastures, loads of kangaroos (dead ones too sadly), endless amounts of Australian countryside and the odd passing joy of heavy mining machinery. I say passing joy because I have literally never seen anything quite like it. These machines are out of this world, their size just seems abnormal and out of perspective. I will try to get some close up shots when I next see some more just so you can get the real picture of what I am talking about. I look forward to being able to get out there and see more of this endless country but I feel that in a year I will only a see a small fraction. Not to worry, the things I will miss will become the reasons to return.

The rest of this year will see me returning back to New Zealand (couldn’t help it, it’s right next door) and visiting some other local places not far from Middlemount with a couple of days catching up with old friends in Sydney. Even though the timing was all wrong and Middlemount wasn’t the 1st destination of choice I am enjoying Australia. Trying very hard not to pick up the accent and taking the Aussie humor with a pinch of salt. Missing home very much and my bunch of crazies from back there but looking forward to the rest of the adventures of this year and planning yet another exciting, reckless and epic 2014.