A Travellerspoint blog

This blog is published chronologically. Go straight to the most recent post.

Introduction

In the beggining

It all started because Perth rental prices are just so damn high! and not to mention the city itself, boring and expensive. I worked on the mines, working 17 days on 11 off and was not prepared to pay $150 a week for a room in a house when I was only going to be there a week and a bit each month. So instead I hired a storage unit, moved my stuff in and proceeded to live out of that and backpacker hostels in between travelling the world. A typical fly home day consisted of arriving into Perth domestic airport, jumping into a taxi and heading straight to my lockup, switching bags, jumping back into the taxi and head back out to the international.

My spare time at work saw me signing up to every single news letter about travel that I could and soon I was receiving insanely cheap flight details to my inbox daily, not to mention discounted tour options, hotels, car rentals etc. Anything to do with travelling, I received it, booked it and travelled it.

In April 2010 I started working on the oil rigs 4 weeks on 4 weeks off and with so much spare time I decided to do travel writing by correspondence. I found I am in a unique situation. I am young and therefore I don't mind the party atmosphere of a backpacker hostel, but I also have money and enjoy splurging on fancy things, therefore it is not uncommon for me to spend one night in a backpackers downing goon by the cartonful with a bunch of rowdy Irishman, and the next be staying at a 5 star hotel in the city central. As a chef I like to experience the different foods of the region, whether this be sitting in a hawker stall in Singapore, or a nice restaurant floating on the Danube river in Budapest. The best example of this melting pot or travel I adore, is when I rocked up to my hostel in Queenstown with a fresh fillet of salmon bought from the salmon farm along the way. I promply cut two steaks of it and turned the rest into gravlax. There I was sitting amongst backpackers on their last straws working 2 jobs just to pay for their alcohol intake and I was munching fresh homemade marrinated salmon, I felt like a king. I also like to get as cultural as possible and see the real country, even in somewhere as touristy as Bali I have dug deep and experienced things your average tourist will never see.

I am now half way through that travelogue course and have set up this blog as more of a practice for that. I plan to make my writing as professional as possible, though my target audience is my friends and family and thus the writing style will reflect it. I am open to constructive critisism and ideas on what to write about.

I hope you all enjoy reading these as much as I enjoy writing about it and most of all I hope it inspires you all to go start planning your own adventures.

Posted by roadhog260 01:11 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Ipipiri

Jewel of the Bay

sunny 28 °C

The sun sets slowly, dropping down behind one of the many islands in the bay, turning the New Zealand sky a radiant crimson before succumbing to darkness. I kick back on the sun bed under a blanket of stars, sipping on a glass of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc and think to myself ‘I could get used to this.’

Departing from the Paihia maritime building our coach ferries us to Opua wharf where the awaiting Ipipiri dominates the harbour. At 46 meters long it is the largest cruising ship permanently based in New Zealand, yet with a sleeping capacity of only 60 people it provides a cosy ambience in which one can socialise with like-minded guests or relax content with one’s own company.

Our skipper cruises out of the dull green waters of the harbour and into the vibrant turquoise waters of the bay. The expanse of our king deluxe cabin is pleasantly surprising and the personal en-suite comes with complimentary Living Nature toiletries. The room’s main feature, however, is the panoramic window offering million dollar views from the comfort of your bed.

Ipipiri leisurely glides through the channels and into pristine coves. With detailed commentary we are engrossed with Maori legends and myths as well as historical events, justifying Northland’s claim to be the “birth place of a nation.” Ipipiri’s top deck is an open air sundeck where guests can relax in the warm summer sun, yet still feel the cool ocean breeze on their faces. Providing 360 degree views, it is the premium spot for the abundant photo opportunities.
Ipipiri couple on beach 3

Ipipiri couple on beach 3


We drop anchor in a secluded bay on the picturesque Waewaetoria Island. Named after the native oyster catcher, these little orange beaked, black birds are easy to spot scurrying along the beach. A range of afternoon activities are on offer, including kayaking, snorkelling, island exploring, swimming or just relaxing on the beach. While some passengers beeline to the bar, I don my mask and snorkel and dive into the pristine ocean. The temperate waters of Northland offer sightings of schooling fish, stingrays, octopi, and those with an eagle eye may even find a dazzling paua shell to keep as a souvenir.

An island hike allows one to get back to nature; with the majority of these islands being public reserves they are preserved in their original character. A hike up the steep grass hill is rewarded with views right across the bay and all the way out to the famous ‘Hole in the Rock.’(The must see attraction when in Paihia, while Ipipiri doesn’t cruise here, Fullers do additional tours there). Native birds such as Tuis and Wood Pigeons can be seen fluttering about in the Pohutukawa trees, which, when in bloom turn the whole coast ruby red.

After raising anchor and continuing on our way, we indulge in one of the many local wines available. A selection of New Zealand’s award winning Kapiti cheese is served and I splurge on another bottle to complement it. While the skipper finds a bay in which to anchor for the night, I retreat back to my room to change into my dinner clothes.

As the saloon is set in a convivial style the dining room is quickly filled with cheerful voices making polite dinner conversation, while admiring the panoramic landscape that surrounds us. I am served a sumptuous shrimp cocktail entree then invited to the dinner buffet where I fill my plate with traditional Kiwi favourites like roast lamb in minted gravy, New Zealand Dory and a selection of salads. Helping himself to a bowl of Pavlova from the dessert bar, skipper Robbie Blake joins us at our table, keeping us entertained with stories from his fishing days.
Ipipiri tender at island 2

Ipipiri tender at island 2


The rest of the evening is spent immersed in conversation with fellow guests, the juke box plays our chosen melodies in the background and those with more courage, (or perhaps wine) than I, take to the dance floor to boogie in the light of the moon. A keen astronomer amongst the staff leads us upstairs for a spot of stargazing pointing out the Southern Cross among other constellations, many involved in Maori legends.

Next morning, I watch the world wake up around me, sitting on the top deck enjoying my full cooked breakfast in the radiance of the morning sun. Ipipiri starts her engines and motors back out into the bay, marking the beginning of the slow journey back to the jetty. Passing around the back of Roberton Island we are delighted to be joined by a pod of bottlenose dolphins, ducking and diving in the Ship’s wake to the applause and cheers from all on board.

Rounding Tapeka point we venture back into the harbour and with one last tale on the ‘Battle of Kororareka’ (a war which destroyed Russel town and started the national land wars.) Disembarking at Opua wharf, I feel that Ipipiri has exceeded all expectations, it is, as Fullers Great Sights so rightly describe it, a cruise in which you will be “surrounded by nature, immersed in history.”

Ipipiri kayakers on sternplate

Ipipiri kayakers on sternplate

Photos courtesy of Fullers Great Sights

Posted by roadhog260 12:58 Archived in New Zealand Tagged islands of new cruise bay zealand paihia northland russel fullers roberton Comments (0)

Khao Sok National Park

Jungle days and nature nights

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If you enjoy lounging around on sun soaked beaches, bargaining at the local markets, snorkelling on coral reefs and partying hard; then this is definitely not for you. Khao Sok is for the hardened adventurer! Those that don’t mind getting a bit dirty, those that don’t mind the odd bug or two, those that don’t mind the fact that there’s no electricity and the bed is simply a mattress on the floor. After all it’s a small price to pay to visit what is possibly the most beautiful place on earth; Chieow Laan Lake and the Khao Sok national park.

Departing Hualampang station in Bangkok, our train chugs slowly down the track, while the wagon attendant makes his way down the carriage converting our seats into bunks, I tuck myself into bed and let the train softly rock me to sleep. When I awaken, the scenery out the window has changed from the busy, traffic clogged, dirty streets of Bangkok to lush rain forests, palms and rice paddies. I watch as villagers go about their daily lives; monks return home from their morning prayers at the temple and children ride three to a bike towards the local school.
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The train decelerates pulling into Surat Thani station, “the land of the good people,” a rough translation, which will later prove to be true. Pushing our way through the swarm of touts crowding the exit, we head to Oums Restaurant, our meeting point for the Treetops Jungle Safari. After a filling breakfast, we climb into the back of a Sorng Tau oo and begin the hour or so ride to the national park. Like a Ute but with bench seats on the tray and a roof over head, it is not the most comfortable ride but definitely not the worst I have endured.

Upon entering Treetops we are greeted by an impressive water feature and a dozen trees growing from the floor right through the ceiling. Our room is as you would expect, except the whole unit is elevated 10 meters into the forest canopy. Furnished, showcasing traditional Thai mixed with the western comforts we are accustomed to, it has a cute balcony opening out off the room, adding to the ambience. The hotel includes a host of activities, included in the price and first on the agenda is tubing on the crystal waters of the local river.
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Our guide tells us his name is God. If he is God then this must be the legendary Garden of Eden. On one side, cliffs erupt from the rivers banks, towering hundreds of meters above us, trees and vines cling desperately to the sheer face. On the other side a concoction of trees and plants reach for the sun, intertwining and fighting one another for the premium position. The swift current carries us effortlessly down the fast flowing rapids, enabling us to lie back and soak in the radiance of our environment. A hornbill flutters out of some nearby branches, God points and smiles.

Back in the Sorng tau oo and only minutes up the road, we arrive at a waterfall, where we join the local children laughing and playing amongst its crisp cool water. Then on to a small Buddhist shrine to feed peanuts to mischievious Long Tailed Monkeys, although my favourite is the creamy blond Gibbon, resembling a little teddy bear, I long to cuddle him.
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After spending the night in the canopy we bid God farewell and are taken to Ratchaprapa dam. Boarding a long tail boat we embark on a captivating voyage, weaving in and out of stunning islands and eerie skeleton trees of long deceased forests, arriving at the floating raft houses an hour later. Our ‘hotel’ is basic but charming, built from trees and bamboo, it floats two meters from the shore line. A long walkway connects individual bungalows, complete with a small veranda protruding out onto the lake, allowing me to step out my door and plunge into the welcoming waters.
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After a homemade lunch of green chicken curry, we cruise out onto the lake for our afternoons’ activity. Arriving at a distant shoreline we remove our shoes and clamber up a waterfall and through hanging vines as we hike through part of the oldest rainforest in the world, stopping for the many photo opportunities along the way.

Motoring to the other side of the lake we don life jackets and throw ourselves into its waters delighted at its warmth. Following Otto single file like a mother duck and her ducklings, we swim into a bat cave and huddle together in the darkness with our imaginations running wild. Otto doesn’t help by choosing this time to tell us that the cat fish in the lake can grow up to two and a half meters. Flicking on his torch, Otto sends the bats peacefully sleeping on the ceiling into frenzy, trying to escape the abrupt light. Floating out of the cave, we relax in the warm waters enjoying the sereneness of our isolated location and scanning the nearby cliff faces for any signs of wildlife, before heading back to the raft house for an early night.
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As the sun rises, we do too, kayaking out onto the lake to experience the jungle waking up, we glide silently through the tranquil water and observe monkeys and wild boar in their natural habitat. We even come across elephant foot prints leading down from the jungle to the lake.
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Later that day we endure a three hour marathon hike through the humid rainforest, fighting leeches and scrambling up rocks but we are rewarded as we reach the view point. The scene is incredible with dramatic views of the picturesque lake, while the rugged mountains in the backdrop take our breath away. Every litre of sweat that coats our bodies is a price well paid for such a spectacular vista. Even Otto sits there amazed, despite the fact he has done the same hike nearly 300 times.
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At night the jungle comes alive. We sit silently on the lake under the light of the nearly full moon, dry lightning flashes across the sky, eerily illuminating the mountains and lake giving it a ghostly glow while a chorus of cicadas, frogs, gibbons and geckos bellow at the top of their lungs. Much to our delight, we hear an elephant crashing through the bamboo, though we wait for an hour he refuses to show himself. Otto tells us however, that the group before us were lucky enough to see an elephant with her calf.

Starting the motor to return to our raft house, the engine splutters; coughs a large cloud of smoke; turns over once and dies. With our spirits intact, we lift out the bench seats and paddle back laughing our hearts out. Arriving home, we collapse in a fit of giggles before raising our beers and toasting to the uncanny events that had unfolded during the night.

The next morning as the sun pokes its head above the mountains, we load into the fully repaired boat and make the most of our cruise back to the jetty, having enjoyed every moment of our back to nature experience in the majestic Khao Sok National Park.
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Posted by roadhog260 13:48 Archived in Thailand Tagged thailand lake tree jungle houses khao sok surat thani tops Comments (0)

A jungle trek to remember

When Koh Phi Phi attacks

I stumbled across Phi Phi Relax Beach Resort on the internet, with its own private beach located on the other side of Koh Phi Phi, away from the crowds and tourists, with our own private little bungalow overlooking the sparkling waters of the Andaman Sea

I knew my girlfriend would love it and being a hopeless romantic I instantly booked it. Only problem was we are both social and curious people and wanted to experience the main town of Tonsai as well. (If for nothing else but the fact that everything at the resort was twice the price of that in town) Luckily there was a mountain path through the rainforest which lead up to the look out and then down into Tonsai. Both of us being sporty people completed the steep climb in 45 minutes and before long we were strolling along the bustling streets, packed full of backpackers and scuba divers alike.
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Deciding on a good restaurant for dinner we had no sooner sat down at a table than the heavens opened and it teemed. I’m not talking a little bit of rain, I’m talking water volumes equivalent to that of Niagara Falls. Figuring it would pass quickly we remained at the restaurant until it was nearly dark and when it failed to ease we decided we would just have to get wet.

The busy streets of Tonsai had become a fast flowing river due to poor drainage systems and soon we were walking ankle deep (and even knee deep in some places) down the main road. Stopping at a convenience store we picked up ponchos and umbrellas (for the electronics in the bag as we were already soaked), and began the hike back up to the view point. The stairs had literally become raging rapids but we just took our time holding the handrails for dear life and eventually we made it to the shop at the view point, we walked in to the applause from a dozen adventurers who were holed up on the floor playing cards waiting for the rain to ease.

Unfortunately for us this was merely the halfway point. Luckily I had taken the Boy Scout motto of “Be Prepared” into consideration and packed torches. I pulled these out of my bag and found a walking stick and then we entered into the dark, gloomy jungle once more. The thick canopy stopped the majority of the rain and my main worry was slipping so we moved at a careful pace, avoiding slippery stones and patches of mud. I wasn’t all that worried until
“STOP” I commanded my girlfriend behind me, who froze mid step.
There in the middle of the path barely 10cm from where I had stepped lay a small black snake illuminated in my torchlight. The last thing I wanted was to be stuck in the Thai jungle nursing a snake wound, sopping wet in the middle of the night and hours from the nearest hospital. We waited patiently for the snake to slither from the path and only once it was well and truly in the bush did we continue on our way.
Our once brisk, careful pace had slowed down to a gruelling crawl as every stick was double checked for fangs and I fought every instinct to make my girlfriend lead the way. With my masculinity intact, we poked and prodded the rest of the way down the forest track and on more than one occasion we came across another scaly black serpent slithering on its yellow belly.

A 45 minute walk had turned into a one and a half hour mission by the time we eventually made it back to the resort where we made a bee line straight to the bar for a stiff drink to calm our nerves. We had gone out looking for an adventure and bitten off much more than we could chew. I think next time I will just stick to the hammock.

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(Submitted to TNT magazine competition 11/1/11)

Posted by roadhog260 01:25 Archived in Thailand Tagged jungle phi koh snakes Comments (0)

Trueblood fan tastes True Blood

Bloody Bizarre Bali


I have always been a bit of a daredevil when it comes to trying some of the more extreme delicacies that cultures of the world have to offer. What could be weirder than forking over my hard earned cash for a small shot of blood from a recently decapitated cobra, python, viper, or better yet, why not just get a mix of all three.

While spending a week in Bali, my driver Bob introduced us to Istana Raja Kobra (King Cobra Palace) after I inquired about eating somewhere a little less touristy than the likes of Jimbaran bay and Legian streets’ over crowded, tedious restaurants all serving from the same menu . One thing is for sure, there is no Nasi Goreng available here.
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I flick through the menu passing pages containing bizarre dishes of crocodile soup, flying fox sate sticks and even fried monkey meat until I come across the reason we were here “The fresh cocktail of snakes” a mix of snake blood, gall and special Chinese medical wine. This special cocktail is said to be able to cure everything from eczema to hair loss, far sightedness to liver problems and it is even rumoured to increase sexual performance.

Requesting the combination of three snakes we are ushered into a back room where another small room is filled with a menagerie of serpents, all intertwined and slithering amongst each other. Whilst we are protected, having been separated by a large viewing window, two crazy Balinese men, completely unprotected and who must not get paid nearly enough for their job, are smack bang in the middle of the fiasco.
With no gloves to protect against a bite and relying on reflexes alone, our ‘chef/barman’ casually picks up a cobra, holds its head to the chopping block and with a swift flick of his wrist removes its head with a cleaver. Draining it of blood he begins to milk the limp body of every last drop. He peels the skin off and removes the gall, (said to get rid of toxins and improve circulation) stirs in some Chinese medical wine and Bon Appetite.
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Raising our glasses, we toast the heavens, I gather my wits about me and shoot back indulging in my Trueblood vampirish fantasies. BLAH! It was disgusting to say the least. My tongue numb, I wash away the foul taste with a swig of Bintang.

To be fair it was the wine and gall that ruined the taste, so feeling brave (or stupid) we order again this time just plain blood with no wine or gall. The looks we get are priceless. Even the guy in the room full of Cobras thinks we are crazy.
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Once more a snake loses its life for the curiosity of our tastebuds. I lift my glass to my lips and chuck back a dose of fresh cobra blood. It wasn’t as warm as I was expecting it to be, or as salty, there was no coppery taste associated with blood and it wasn’t horrible like the first shot, in fact it was even bordering on the tasty side.

Posted by roadhog260 02:06 Archived in Indonesia Tagged bali drink chinese snakes blood medicine health Comments (0)

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