A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: x-raygirl

East Coast Highlights

Sydney to Cairns

sunny 30 °C

First stop Bellingen, alternative town with a wild west feel to it. Two days bumming lifts with fellow travellers Patrick and Mark. Sub-tropical rainforest gallore, swam through a waterfall, went on the best rope swing ever and visited never never creek. Great place and great people
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Second stop Coffs Harbour. Should have gone to see the big banana but somehow it split past me. Did go kayaking on the river but due to inabilities to steer saw most of it about three times. Climbed to mutton bird island. Watched the worst film ever (step brothers), clebrated St Patricks day drinking an odd green cocktail.Onwards and upwards to Byron Bay. Too many bars to cope with, escaped to Nimbin, weed smoking capital of Australia and all round hippie town. Very chilled and happy place plenty of cookies for sale, also candles and tie died trousers! Great vibe and great fresh prawns. Chris and I bought a kilo and that was dinner sorted for the next two days.

Back to Byron and north to Brissy. Small city with good running routes by the river but waaaaay too hot to use them. Quick visit to the Gabba, a longer visit to the modern art museum and an evening playing on the wwii. Next to Maroocydore and Australia zoo. Fed an elephant, stroked a koala and saw the croc show, i missed out having the white python on me though. Beerwa was next and 10 eventful days of farming. My escape took me to rainbow beach and Fraser island. IMG_5098.jpg
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Fraser Island, three days of 4 wheel driving, camping, swimming, drinking and breaking down! Swam everywhere but the sea, Lake Mackenzie, Champagne pools Eli creek. Nearly got caught by the tide, got investigated by a dingo and saw the most massive golden orb spider ever.
Airlie Beach home of the Whitsundays getaways galore. Beauty in spades, tropical islands, feeling like i was on set of pirates of the caribean. My first backwards roll off the boat into the sea. Lying on Whitehaven beach, making funny photos with Ferique and Eva. Running by the sea as the sun went down.
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Meeting Jez at the night bus. Stumbling off in Cairns in the wrong direction.Prodive - eat, sleep and Dive. The great barrier reef; like swimming in a massive tropical tank, so many fish, my favourite yellow tailed fusiliers, reef sharks, hawks bill turtles, green turtles , oodles of clown fish (nemos), eels, sea stars the list is endless.

Cable cars, trains, markets in Kuranda. Drunken bbq, hung over drive to tropical Cape Trib. Walking and paddling at Mossman gorge. Meeting Deb and Chloe , writing a formal letter in german/english. Shopping in the night markets, eating cheap ice-cream, finding my favourete authors new book. Exausted but happy, getting a flight back to Sydney. Bring on the next adventure.
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Posted by x-raygirl 18:45 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Welcome to the Penal Colony

My farm life

all seasons in one day 27 °C

Welcome to the penal colony

These were some of the words spoken to me on my first day of WWOOFing. "We've moved on since then", i thought naively. I was right and I was wrong. The work its self isn't that bad but you can't escape from the farm. The farm is surrounded by hills so its an hours walk to anywhere. The convicts at port Arthur had the same problem escaping from Van Deimens land, you just can't get out!
This means when you get an offer of an afternoon in a town you jump at it. Annie and I were walking round the town of Buderin open mouthed like we hadn't shops in months ( its only been 3 days!) They had clothes shops, jewellery shops and a supermarket, it was fantastic. We did manage to limit ourselves to buying socks, hot chocolate and batteries but we got to go shopping!

I live in a caravan which is something of an antique otherwise known as old. I share with Annie who's sentence is 3 months rather than my 10 days. The caravan is the sort that you can't swing a cat in and you would go away for the weekend in once then abandon round the back of the house on a pile of rocks. Which funnily enough is exactly what the family has done, except they house displaced backpackers in it. The toilet is in a corrigated shed and the shower a bit bigger shed!
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The work on farm is varied but uninteresting. You work 6 hours a day usually 7:30am to 1:30pm. Day one was dropping strawberry plants, which is exactly what it says on the tin. You drop it over the slit and someone follows behind you planting the plants. I'm not senior enough to wield the planting tool, which was just fine by me as planting means being bent double the whole day and thats not a good look after 6 hours! Day two was finishing the dropping, planting a few sping onions and nut grass removal...... otherwise known as weeding.
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Weeding, as I soon discovered is the most boring activity on planet earth! The weed manages to grow through the plastic covering and you have to pull it out, hopefully with the nut still attached to the other end. After bending over, crouching down and squatting for 6 hours there really is no comfortable way to do it. Then at about 12:30 it started to rain and rain and rain. After 40 minutes of rain I was ready to mutiny. I was cold, soaked to the skin and knew drowned rats that looked better than me. Then just as I was about to squelch off the field Abe turned up gave us a wistle like we're a couple of sheep dogs and we were allowed to come in. To hell with doing this to save money I want a spa weekend and manicure when i leave!
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Posted by x-raygirl 00:01 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Tasmanian convicts

Tasmania was one of the main places convicts were sent. It had the name Van Diemens land which sounds really devilish and scary, as if you were about to be sent into the fiery pits of hell. Actually Abel Tasman (who was Dutch) the first explorer to land there named it after his sponsor Anthony Van Diemen. It was the British who wanted to spice it up a bit and so they shortened it Van Diemen’s Land!
They seem to have quite a history of being indecisive and renaming things in Tasmania. After a while of living in Van Diemen’s land they decided it wasn’t the most inviting name after all and changed it to Tasmania after good old Abel Tasman. Later on they tried to wipe away the ‘convict stain’ by renaming Port Arthur to Carnavon. Which sounds to me a bit like a British seaside holiday resort in which you’d find cheerful red coats trying to get you to try archery or abseiling! Carnavon however didn’t stick because once the government realised that there was money to be made by taking people on tours they changed it back to Port Arthur. They had quite a challenge getting the land back thought because in their short sightedness they had sold it all off at auction thinking no one would be interested in the place!
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Port Arthurs great attraction as a penal colony was that it was very hard to escape from. It is shaped a bit like a wine bottle and the only way off is through the neck. The largest building in the colony was the grain store and flour mill. They built this great wheel to grind the corn into flour, they even made a series of pipes to bring the water down to the wheel. This work great until summer came, and the water dried up, so some bright spark decided they used the next best thing, the prisoners! At this point I have an image of the prisoners running round in a large hamster wheel, growing wiskers and hording food in their cheeks! That idea wasn’t very successful either so they gave up with it and made the place into cells instead.
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Port Arthur was one of the first places in the world where they actually tried to rehabilitate prisoners instead of just thinking they were born bad. They were given skills to use once they were released. This makes the place sound all warm and fuzzy, but it was also the site of one of the worst psychological traumas humankind has come up with to use on each other. Known in Port Arthur as the Separate prison they put you in a padded cell for 23 hours a day. To make it worse you heard no sounds at all, even the guards wore slippers so you couldn’t hear them. There were no clocks and even when you went to church you were put in a coffin like device so you could only see forwards , meaning the only person you ever saw was the preacher! The separate prison idea came from Philadelphia , where they still use it!
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Port Arthur stopped working as a prison when they ran out of prisoners. Then they started taking in backpackers and all their problems were solved! Not really, but with the decline of prisoner transportation there was no one to undertake the jobs in the colony and the only people left were the ones in the lunatic asylum, and the prisoners too old to undertake work. So the place fell into decline and the governors house was used as a hotel for a while. I’m not sure I would have wanted to stay there, they had a hidden bar which you had to find if you wanted to get a drink, too much like hard work if you ask me!

Posted by x-raygirl 16:23 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

West coast convicts

sunny 28 °C

On this trip I seem to developed a surprising interest in the deportation of convicts to Australia. It would be quite easy to come from to Australia and ignore the convict past but I found myself really fascinated. As well as it being the starting point for most of the white settlers in Australia it is also in interesting time in British history, starting with what made them think it was a good idea to send people half way around the world anyway. The answer to that is quite easy, the prisons were so overcrowded they thought it was a humane alternative to hanging. In my opinion pretty much anything is a humane alternative to hanging! To get yourself on a convict ship bound for Australia it turns out all you had to do was steal a silk handkerchief or a few loaves of bread. In today’s society that is the equivalent of stealing a dvd player, not much you may think; then I think of my purse that stolen out of my locker last year and maybe it’s wasn’t such a bad idea after all!
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The main places convicts got sent to were Sydney or Hobart but not being a convict I started my journey in Perth. Deportation was stopped in 1864 on humanitarian grounds but Perth and the swan river colony were still crying out for convicts to help build up the settlement, as they hadn’t got enough labourers. They were told they could have one ship a year and the last convict ship landed in Perth on the 10th of Jan 1868 (now Australia day). The first job they got the convicts to do was to build their own prison! As if it wasn’t bad enough you had just stumbled off a convict ship in to the heat of the west coast you are expected to build the one building that is going to stop you from joining everyone else. But boy did they build it well. I had a tour round it and I wouldn’t have wanted to try and get out of it.
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I did however go in the Chapel and although I am not one for visiting churches this chapel was remarkable. There was so much natural light coming in you just got a sense that it was a really calming and beautiful place to be. Propably not a feeling the prisons got very often. The guide did say that they did a lot of weddings in that chapel, I could see why but I don't think i'd want to walk in my wedding gown past a load of cells where the prisoners did who knows what during the night!
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The fremantle prison, Perth was still in use in 1990. Let s take a moment to consider that. Something that was built in the 1860s by convicts was still in use when I was age 8. That alone is quite remarkable but as I learnt on the tour that it hadn’t changed much. The cells had to be widened as they were so small the prisoner s were suffocating, (the local government covered up this fact and pretended it was unknown disease that had killed them). Electricity was installed but there were still no toilets (it was a bucket in the corner) and there was no air-conditioning, think of the smell!!! Personally I think air conditioning is a main stay of civilised society and all countries that are hotter than the UK should have it as standard. The prisoners if they were in the top row of cells were in 50o heat. I’ve experienced 45o and even the Australians were complaining!
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Posted by x-raygirl 04:02 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Australia’s not quite so ferocious animals

sunny 35 °C

Cossing the Nullabor plain from Perth to Adelaide is quite a journey but the amount of different wild life you can see on the trip is staggering.
Our first wild life encounter took place when Tim (our driver) pulled a u turn and we were left staring at each other wondering what was going on. It turned out he had seen something at the side of road, a horny little devil, which altough they are a bit spiky won't kill you.
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Next we arrived at Mary's farm spent our first night in swags (like a bed roll with a sleeping bag inside and no tent) and there were frogs everywhere. One even landed on Ciril's head in the middle of the night. Before bed Susie (one of the woofers) took us down to the field and we met Bear. Not a bear but a kangaroo, which had been brought up as an orphan and was supposed to be going back into the wild but didn't seem to want too.
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The next day we actively avoided seeing tree adders as they are deadly and kill you in a painful agony. Instead we watched the wedge tailed eagles circling above and managed not to run over a guana.
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Another night we spent at the abandoned homestead. The family that lived there decided that it just wasn't making a profit and packed up and walked off the property returning it to the west Australian government. The place had the main house, a sheep shearing shed, the shearers kitchen and the old petrol pump. It was quite eerie as much of the furniture and equipment was still there. As we left we saw dingos living in the bush. One was quite curious about the bus but another was going like a bat out of hell to get away from us.
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The next night was the night safari when we were hoping to see wombats but all I saw was the rear end of one as it disappeared down its burrow. The night after was the night of the tents. We arrived and there were already three tents set up from another tour. Great I thought I can use one to get changed in. As soon as the others saw that they had camp beds in and you could stand up I lost my changing room pretty quickly! So it just ended up being Miriam and I being the only non pussys and sleeping under the stars. It was worth it as the stars when you sleeping out in the bush are incredible. I had never seen the milky way or a shooting star and all of a sudden I was seeing them every night and so many stars it just looks like a blanket.
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Around the campsite were loads of eucalyptus trees which is the favourite dish of the koala. We didn’t have to look very far to find them and they are sooo cute and cuddly looking. We were meant to stay at that campsite of 2 nights but the next day was 42o with a 30kph wind a dangerous recipe for bush fires so we left pretty quickly and went to a caravan park where I found the deadliest animal of all the: australian mozzie, they just love english blood!Nevermind spiders, snakes, jelly fish and sting rays the humble mosquito should be added to the list of australia worst creatures.
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Posted by x-raygirl 03:44 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

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