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.

SONY DSC

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.

IMG_20140421_151555

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.

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!

ImageImage

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

Image

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.

SONY DSC

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.