Mid July 2018: The GBR & Kakadu/Litchfield

July was a pretty difficult time for me. I was getting closer to the end of one of the best experiences I’ve had in my life so far (e.g., living in Australia) and I wasn’t ready for it to be over yet. Taking a minute to self reflect – having to write about the end of my experience – might contribute to why I have procrastinated in finishing this blog. But unfortunately, the clock doesn’t stop and you can only move forward. So here goes.

While this entry will focus on The Great Barrier Reef and Kakadu and Litchfield, before I get to Queensland and the Northern Territory, I’m going to plug one of my favourite restaurants in Melbourne – the Moroccan Soup Kitchen. It is this great vegetarian restaurant that does family style shared Moroccan food. It was established by a woman was who a victim of domestic violence. It is a positive place that empowers women and that makes a real difference in the community. Also the food is amazing. This is a definite must go.

Switching gears, my gateway to the Great Barrier Reef was Cairns. I’ve been to Cairns before, it is a small humid city (almost like a town) that is focused on getting tourists out onto the reef. There are other things to do in the area – like visiting the Daintree forest – but I skipped all those things. The reason was because last time I was in Cairns – I really wanted to do a reef tour but if you don’t book a week or so in advance – you are SOL. So this time – I booked 2 or 3 weeks in advance and was excited for the big day! What was the weather like when the day finally arrived? A downpour. But – the reality is, when you’re head is under the water, the weather really doesn’t make a difference.

I booked a tour which made 3 stops on the outer reef. I was flip-flopping between snorkelling and scuba diving but decided the day before my tour, snorkelling was the way to go. Then what happened? I got on the boat and suddenly became a scuba diver. I thought to myself – “it’s okay, I’ll do 1 dive and then snorkel the other 2 sites.” That plan also changed quickly. This was my first scuba dive and man oh man was I terrified when I plunged my head under the water for the first time. I was having trouble breathing above the waves. How did they expect me to breathe underwater?!!! It was insane. When I finally gathered my courage and managed to get my head under water and down the dive line it was amazing. But, I was so focused on breathing slowly and trying not to die that I pretty much missed seeing everything around me. Hence, dive number 2. My second dive was a much more enjoyable experience and I’ve go to say – seeing the great barrier reef so up close was incredible. Sea turtles, little nemos, sea cucumbers, many many schools of fish and apparently a shark although I was too slow to see it. If this is something you have the chance to do – go for it!

The next afternoon, after sufficiently decompressing, I hopped on a plane and headed to Darwin in the Northern Territory. Almost immediately I got onto a bus and headed in the direction of Kakadu.

Our first stop was Fogg Dam Conservation Reserve. I was shocked to see how green and luscious the environment was. I definitely imagined the conservation areas outside of Darwin as being similar to the red centre. It could not have been more opposite. While driving along I saw a croc swimming in the waters (Kakadu and NT is famous for crocs – WATCH OUT).

We then headed to Marraki for a boat tour along the estuaries. Along the way we saw some  huge birds and obviously more crocs and alligators. Did you know that crocs and alligators can swim in both fresh and salt water but they are “categorized” so to speak as fresh or salt water because that’s the type of water where they are most frequently found? No. I also wasn’t aware of that fun fact.

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We then continued our drive to Kakadu National Park. Our first stop was at the Aboriginal Cultural Centre which was very interesting. We then walked into the park to look at some Aboriginal cave paintings. Often the cave paintings were created to teach a lesson – for instance about hunting – or to tell a creation story.

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Like the Fogg Dam Conservation Area, Kakadu was also surprisingly green. The perspective from Nadab Lookout is incredible. It is definitely worth your time to make the trip out here.

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The next day we went to Jim Jim Falls (Twin Falls was closed as it hadn’t been cleared for crocs yet. For real.). The pictures that you often see of Jim Jim with water gushing down the cliff is not what you can see when Jim Jim is accessible to tourists. Those photos are from the wet season. In the dry season, the falls are barely a trickle but it was still an awesome hike (even though I was keeping an eye out for crocs at all turns).

       

That night we stayed at Mount Bundy Cattle Ranch in little ritzy tents! The cattle ranch was gorgeous and so much fun. I will include a comparison photo from our tent the first night so you can see the improvement.

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The cattle ranch had cattle (duh), horses, donkeys, and wallabies. SO MANY WALLABIES. I woke up at 4 am to use the facilities and was terrified that the wallabies would eat me (yes I know they are herbivores) but there were so many of them and it was sooo dark. Terrifying but I survived.

   

The next day we headed into Litchfield National Park. We started off the day by seeing the termite mounds. Litchfield has primarily 2 types of termite mounds – magnetic termites and cathedral termites. The cathedral termites obviously build termite mounds that look like cathedrals. They are these huge stunning (and surprisingly hard – you’re allowed to touch an old mound no longer used) formations that rise out of the ground.

  

The magnetic mounds are much thinner and are all oriented north south.

   

Later that afternoon we cooled off by stopping at Buley Rockholes and Florence Falls. The Buley Rockholes are so much fun and surprisingly deep in places. Where the water is shallow you can sun on the rocks while cool water flows around you.

      

On my last night in Darwin and the NT, I checked out the sunset at Mindil Beach and the Sunset Market. The Market is every Thursday Saturday and Sunday (? I think. I’ve always lucked out and it is always open on the days that I happen to be in Darwin). It is definitely worth checking out. There are some great crafts, eats and music. When I was arrived there was a musician playing the didgeridoo.

Early July 2018: The Blue Mountains

So, I was obviously unsuccessful at finishing my blog before the end of 2018, but here’s to having a productive 2019 and especially a productive January 1st 2019 morning. After this post, I think I have 4 or 5 more to go: mid-July 2018, the end of July 2018, and 2 or 3 about New Zealand – August 2018 (which was jammed packed with adventure).

So here we go! Exactly six months earlier, July 1, 2018, I had been celebrating Canada Day in Melbourne on the South Wharf. This was the first time I hung out with so many Canadians in Australia at one time. The Canada day celebrations were full of fun and there were lots of little reminders of home.

A few days later, I hopped on a plane and made my way to the Blue Mountains via Sydney. During my Sydney stopover, I stayed at the Sydney YHA Central Station hostel. I wanted to stay here because I really wanted to sleep in a converted rail car. The rail car is on the tracks of Sydney’s actual central station, so there were a ton of bright lights and a lot of noise. While I didn’t exactly sleep well, it was totally worth the experience.

The next morning, I hopped on a second train car (this time a moving car) and made my way to the Blue Mountains! I arrived in Katoomba/Leura, two towns around the Blue Mountains. They are very cute but unfortunately I did not have time to explore the towns, because as soon as the train arrived, I dropped off my bag and headed to the walking trails.

There are a ton of stunning hikes and views in the Blue Mountains and I wish I had way more time to explore. The trails along the cliffside are fairly well marked. My first adventure, started at the Katoomba Falls Round Walk. While Katoomba Falls are not the most spectacular falls I’ve seen, it is a good place to start as you can walk to Echo Point and the Famous Three Sisters. Along the way you get a great view of the valley.

The Three Sisters rock formation is spectacular to see and according to Aboriginal legends the Three Sisters were turned to stone.

 

  

Continuing along the Prince Henry Cliff Walk, it is a short walk to Honeymoon Bridge lookout. There are some steep steps down to Honeymoon Bridge but the view at the end is worth it! Around Honeymoon Bridge there are also A LOT of stairs on a track that leads to the valley floor. While I started descending, given the late hour of the day, my lack of light, and the fact that I was by myself, I thought it best to turn around and make it back to the Cliff Walk and my hostel via Leura Cascades.

   

The next morning, myself and a new found friend decided to go to the Grand Canyon Walking Track. The path into the Grand Canyon is well marked and is not steep. The walk is really a slow descent to the valley floor. It took us about 2 hours and 20 minutes at a leisurely pace, enjoying the scenery and taking lots of photos. Make sure to bring snacks and water though – as (for obvious reasons) there is nowhere to stop along the way.

The climb up and out of the valley to Evans Lookout is not fun but is the only way out of the valley and  totally worth it.

We then proceeded along the Cliff Top Walking Track between Evans Lookout and Govett’s Leap. We were a bit unlucky with the weather as the day started to cloud over with a light rain but given that we had fantastic weather during the entire Grand Canyon Walk  – I can’t complain and the cloudy weather provides a different perspective of the Blue Mountains.

The next morning, I went to the Wentworth Falls track. Wentworth Falls is a large waterfall in the Blue Mountains. The track is a windy and makes you feel like an explorer as you walk along the cliffside and right over the top of the Falls.

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I then decided to head down to the base of the Falls (which of course involved many many stairs). The view from the bottom is not as good as the view from the top but the views – along the way – are great.

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I ended my day at Wentworth Falls by taking the Charles Darwin walk from Wentworth Falls to the Wentworth Falls Village. The track is very easy and beautiful, following the Jamison Creek.

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June 2018: Road Trips

Unfortunately (or fortunately) I didn’t keep as detailed notes for June/July and August so these blog entries will be really short.

June started with an adventure down the coast to see Little Penguins (formerly known as fairy penguins). Little Penguins are in St. Kilda but they are also on Phillips Island (which is where I went to see them). They come in at night on the tides and are amazingly camouflaged. They then waddle up the beach to their little dens. They are so cute! Penguin Parade!

In about mid-June, I went on a road trip to Mount Gambier which is the second largest city in South Australia. Spoiler: it is actually not that big. There’s not heaps do in Mount Gambier, but there are some cool sinkholes that you can check out and the City’s library is very very nice.

On the way back from Mount Gambier, we detoured to the Grampians mountain range which were incredible. I wish we had more time there but c’est la vie!

At the end of the month I went on a 2 day tour of Fraser Island. Fraser Island is INCREDIBLE. It is an island made entirely of sand which is highly unusual. I was hoping to do a 3 day small 4WD jeep tour but it was cancelled and so I ended up on a 2 day 4WD bus tour. You have to drive a 4WD on Fraser Island or you will get stuck in the sand. There are no paved roads whatsoever.

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Our first big stop of the tour was Rainbow Beach. It is on the mainland and just before the crossing to Fraser Island. The sand on the beach is amazing. A variety of yellows and reds.

We also stopped at Red Canyon which also has some incredible coloured sands.  

 

We then caught the ferry from Inskip Point to 75 mile beach on Fraser Island. 75 mile beach is actually 74 miles but given that it was measured around 1770 using geometry – not so bad. While we were on the beach, a dingo crossed our paths. Fun fact: the dingo was introduced to Australia by Asian seafarers.

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We then drove inland to Wangoolba Creek. Wangoolba Creek is near Central Station on Fraser Island. This is an awesome spot and the water is so clear it is almost invisible.

After this we went to one of the freshwater lakes on the island. Fraser Island has some of the cleanest water in the world and the bottoms of the lakes are almost pure silica. The freshwater lakes are totallys safe to swim in (no crocodiles — unlike other places on Queensland). I didn’t see or visit Lake Mackenzie but I imagine it is very similar.  

We stayed overnight at the Eurong resort. The next morning we headed north along 75 mile beach. While we were waiting for the tide to go out we drove inland to the sand dunes lookout. It was a very special view.

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After the sand dunes, we headed back up the coast to the Maheno Shipwreck. You can’t touch anything because you don’t want the rusted bits to cut you and infect a limb but it was still cool to see! The SS Maheno was being towed to Japan when there was a cyclone that beached the ship on Fraser Island. I read that while there were attempts to re-float the boat and get it off the beach – all attempts were unsuccessful.

The last sight I saw on Fraser Island was Eli Creek! Eli Creek is a constantly moving, changing and a surprisingly deep water channel. Be careful of the depth of the Creek because it is way deeper than it looks!

May 2018: The Rundown

So this is a pretty short blog entry. Finally right?! I promised short entries and now I’m finally delivering. Well, given all the excitement of the previous month, May was pretty quiet on the adventure front.

At the start of the month, I participated in a 15k and 10k race in and around Melbourne. The first run was not particularly special, although it ended with a pancake breakfast which was fun. The second race was a trail run and was incredible. It was probably one of the most spectacular races that I’ve ever done. The trail run was at Wilsons Promontory. It was a beautiful day with some beautiful scenery. I think spent less time focused on speed and more time focusing on trying not to die up a giant hill and stopping to take photos of the stunning views around the Promontory.

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Around the middle of the month I flew up to Brisbane. While in Bissy, I took another trip to the Eat Street Markets which was awesome. The food here is so good. Did I mention this as a worthy pit stop to anyone who is in the area? A must do!

   

After flying from Queensland back to Victoria, I ran my third race of the month – the Great Ocean Road Half-Marathon. The number of people at the race was insane! I also had to get up insanely early to drive to the starting line. From the starting line, we than bused to the half marathon starting line in Kennett River. It was a cold and windy day and there were a million hills. While it wasn’t my best or favourite race of the series, it was a special experience (not to be repeated, I think).

     

At some point near the end of the month, I visited the Mornington Peninsula which is a special wine region in Victoria. In the Mornington Peninsula region is London’s Bridge. It is a cool rock formation that juts out into the sea. The next day, I visited the Mornington Peninsula Hot Springs. The Hot Springs are kind of like Spa Nordik in Ottawa (if you’ve never been it’s a must do) but it’s a less cool version of Spa Nordik. Canada definitely wins on the Hot Spring score. That said, the geothermal pools were still great, relaxing and fun!

              

April 2018: WA and the Red Centre (Part 2)

The second part of my adventure began at 3 am on Saturday morning with a flight from Perth to Alice Springs. The flight took about 4 hours which seems like a long time until you really think about just how big Australia is.

Getting off the plane and walking into the heat of Alice Springs, I found the temperature oppressive. I was there at the beginning of fall and it was incredibly hot. 32 degrees during the day.

 

Alice Springs is a very very small town. I hear that if you actually live there, you find the charm and character of the town. Unfortunately, as someone passing through quickly, I didn’t think there was not much to do. The hostel suggested going to the botanic gardens and the kangaroo paddock but given that my previous couple of days had been very long, I decided to skip any long excursions. 

I ended up doing some “accidental” exploring of the town by virtue of walking across town to check-in for my tour to Uluru. On the recommendation of the guide, I ended up purchasing a fly net hat for the tour (LIVE SAVER) and 3L of water (a tour requirement). In trying to be thrifty on the price of water, I ended up purchasing the most expensive water available. Lesson learned. I finished my afternoon in Alice Springs by walking to the top of ANZAC hill for sunset. The view was great. 

The next morning I woke up at 4 am, ready and eager to start my tour to the red centre. It was totally dark when I left the hostel. The bus arrived at 5:30 am – and the guide Damo introduced himself to the group. Given the ungodly hour, as soon as the bus started driving, most of us promptly fell asleep on the bus. Around 8 am, we were woken up to the tune of – The Circle of Life – which myself and my soon to be new friends G and R – thought was amazing. It it about a 5 hour drive from Alice Springs to the red centre, so we all got to know each other pretty quickly.  As you drive along the road, the scenery is largely a lot of red and short scrub trees. I was actually shocked at how much scrub there is given that it is the desert. As I said, I was there at the start of fall and it was 32 degrees during the day.

Along the way to Alice Springs we stopped in the “Centre of Australia” – Erldunda. There are various ways to define “centre” but Damo explained that  Erldunda was the middle point of these various measurements – making it the Centre of the Centre.

Around 2 pm we entered Uluru National Park. We then walked to the Aboriginal Cultural Centre where we learned a little bit about why Uluru is a sacred place to the Aboriginal peoples of that area and I watched a video describing how the Aboriginal peoples initiated a legal and political battle for the return of Uluru which was at that time named “Ayers Rock.”

After the cultural centre, we then walked to the base of the rock. It is incredible. This is one of those times where you want a better camera but even then it would be impossible to capture – the enormity of Uluru. The first part of the base walk was guided and Damo told us a little bit about how certain portions of the base were used as kitchen areas or sacred spaces for young men. Damo also explained why the climb to the top of Uluru was closing and the Aboriginal perspective on people climbing Uluru. After this, we had a few minutes to wander around by ourselves and it was back on to the bus to drive to another part of the base. I was a little bit disappointed because I thought we were going to have 2 hours to walk around the base and I we only ended up having about an hour. But oh well. What are you going to do.

 

After a quick stop at a small creek at another part of the base, we were off to the sunset view of Uluru. This was spectacular. The setting sun illuminates Uluru and it is the image that everyone imagines. Except for the other tourists it is very quiet and there is really nothing except for Uluru on the horizon.

After an outback dinner in front of Uluru, we headed back to our “campsite.” I use the term campsite loosely as you can see from the photo below. It was serious roughing it (maybe pay for the slightly more expensive tour next time…). On the other hand, I was so tired after a long day, that the swag, sleeping bag and stars were the perfect backdrop for a dreamless sleep. Note to any future Uluru adventurers, everyone told me that the red soil (the iron in the soil) gets into all of your clothes, shoes and bags and stains them. This is true.

The next day, Monday, we were woken up at 4:45 am to a military horn.  We were up early to see the sunrise. In my opinion the sunrise illuminating the sky behind Uluru was even more magical than the sunset but they are both different and incredible experiences. The sunrise was like a watercolour painting.

After sunrise we were off to Kata Tjuta. You need to arrive at Kata Tjuta  fairly early in order to complete the Valley of the Winds walk because it gets really hot and windy as the day progresses. The walk closes at about 11 am. Before we started the walk, Damo gave us a short geology lesson on Uluru and Kata Tjuta. Did you realise that Uluru is one single rock? And that only 10% of it is showing? And the reason it looks like a bread loaf (e.g.,the striations) is because at one point it was vertical and then it tipped over? On the other hand Kata Tjuta is made of several rock formations.

The Valley of the Winds walk was another highlight of the trip. It is not an easy walk per se but our entire group made it. The view from the top of the Valley of the Winds hike is another must do. It is well worth the effort of turning yourself into a pile of sweat.

  

A short break and then we loaded ourselves onto the bus and drove the approximately 4 hours to Kings Canyon. Along the way we stopped by a salt lake. Salt lakes are insane. From a distance it really looks like there is water. Trickery.

At some point along the way to our second campsite,  we stopped to pick up firewood. Let me tell you, it is really hard to get firewood in the middle of a desert. In fact, I will always have a scar on my leg as a reminder of my battle with the trees from the red centre. While a particular tree may have won the battle, we eventually won the war and had a beautiful bonfire at our campsite that night. For the second night in a row, I slept under the stars with my swag and sleeping bag and it was fantastic. A swag for those of you who don’t know (I didn’t know) – is like a canvas sleeping bag shell with a small mattress for added comfort.  It’s not very warm though, hence the sleeping bag. While it is 32 degrees during the day, at night the temperature dramatically drops to about 10 degrees and during winter it can get below zero.

The next morning, we had yet another early start. This time to see the sunrise at Kings Canyon. To get to the sunrise viewing point, you have to climb this hill called Heart Attack Hill. Heart Attack Hill is not a misnomer. It is very steep. While the sunrise was nice – and I’m not sure if it was the clouds, or the angle, or simply the view – it was nothing compared to the day before. There is a little oasis deep in one of the valleys of Kings Canyon that only exists during the fall/winter. It is very beautiful but there were heaps and heaps of people there so I didn’t spend too much time there.

As we were at a base of the Canyon, it was only up from there. Up and up and up until we hit the ridge line of the canyon again. The Kings Canyon hikes are awesome. I highly recommend going to visit it.

  

After the Canyon, it was time to head back to Alice Springs to catch a plane to Melbourne. But before that, I obviously had to stop and get a camel ride. Did you know that Australia has wild camels? That’s right. WILD CAMELS. How weird is that?

April 2018: Western Australia and the Red Centre (Part 1 – WA)

After my relaxing  Bali holiday, I got back to the business of Melbourne life. Work, salsa and bachata. I know, stressful right? But all too quickly, I was getting ready for my next adventure to Western Australia and the Red Centre. 

There were definitely some bumps in the road before taking off. Actually, if you know me, this trip would be the first in a series of troubles that I had with cancelled/delayed flights and cancelled tours. But c’est la vie… I suppose. My flight to Perth was scheduled for early afternoon on a Sunday. Just as I was about to order my Uber and I got a text from TigerAir informing me that my flight had been cancelled. After being on hold for about an hour, I finally spoke to a human being and was told that the next earliest flight was Monday evening. As I had a tour scheduled for Monday at noon in Margaret River, TigerAir’s next “earliest” flight was just way too late. I ended up booking with a different airline and arrived in Perth at 3 am Monday morning – WA time. But focusing on the positives, I made it!

Later that morning, I picked up my rental car (free upgrade and GPS) and hit the road! With my accidental detours, I made it just in time for my tour of the wine region. What a great day! The weather was warm and fantastic. The tour stops were all unique and delicious! My favourite was probably Knotting Hill Winery (no, the name is  not based off of the movie). At the end of the tour, I headed back to the town of Margaret River. The town itself is pretty quiet, so if you’re there by yourself at night, there’s not much happening.

      

On Tuesday morning, I woke up reasonably early, picked up some postcards and headed to the Busselton Jetty. The Busselton Jetty is the longest jetty in the southern hemisphere going 1.8 meters into the ocean. If I had more time or better planning, I would have stopped by the jetty before going to the town of Margaret River because I ended up back tracking a bit but it was totally worth it.

     

After, I walked the jetty I went to the Visitor Center to get a Cave Lighthouse pass (discount!). I then hit the road, making it just in time for my tour of the Jewel Cave. Along the way I stopped at Hamelin’s Bay to try and see some stingrays but as it was windy and starting to cloud over, I didn’t have any luck at spotting stingrays.

Jewel Cave is incredible. This is one of those times that I wish I had more than my iphone to capture photos. The cave is enormous. Just huge. The stalagmite and stalactite formations are just beautiful. If I had written this entry sooner, I would remember if it was a sandstone or limestone cave but regardless, it was a fantastic experience.

  

Once the Jewel Cave tour was over, I rushed off to my Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse Tour. I was able to walk to the top of the lighthouse and snap some incredible photos. The lighthouse is really interesting because it sits on the point where 2 oceans meet. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to explore the rest of the lighthouse grounds because a storm blew in and the skies literally opened up.

    

At the time, this was a bit upsetting but it probably worked out for the best because it was already 2:30/3 pm and I still had a 4 hour drive to Albany ahead of me. Google maps, oh google maps, took me on some intense, curvy back roads and with the torrential downpours slowing me down, I ended up driving at dusk – which is something that I’d been trying to avoid.  Dawn and dusk means kangaroos. Kangaroos on the road are dangerous. I saw a few on the side of the road and one jumped in front of me but luckily I was going slow enough to stop. I made it to Albany around 7:30/8 and collapsed into bed.

Western Australia has a lot of natural beauty and Wednesday was jam packed with it. I started the day by driving to the top of Mount Melville. At the top of Mount Melville you can get a fantastic view of Albany. I then drove to Torrindup National Park and to the Gap and Natural Bridge. Standing above the Gap is terrifying. The waves are resounding and crushing. About 2 minutes away from the Gap is the Natural Bridge. It is awesome. While you can’t actually walk on it, it is cool to see it from afar. A short drive away, is Jimmy Newell’s Harbour Lookout. The lookout is gorgeous and actually reminded me a lot of a much smaller Wineglass Bay.

       

I then drove an hour or so to Greens Pools and the Elephant Bay Rocks (again a bit of backtracking. If I had more time, I could have planned this better). The Greens Pool is incredible and I’m sure it would have been even better on a sunny day. The Elephant Rocks totally look like elephants. I felt like I was standing in front of a herd of elephants. Definitely one of my favourite things.

    

It was continuing to storm down, so with some trepidation I decided to drive to the Valley of the Giants to do the skywalk. Luckily, at the exact moment I arrived there was a break in the rain. The skywalk was incredible. The trees are really giants – towering high into the sky. Because the weather was miserable, there were very few people doing the walk, which contributed to peacefulness of the overall experience. After the skywalk I walked around the base of the trees in the Ancient Empire and then it was time to hop into the car – and head back to Perth.

  

The next day, was my only full day in Perth. I walked around the CBD, which is not that big, and headed to Kings Park and Botanic Gardens (which sit at the top of the hill). The skybridge at Kings Park is very cool. Nothing compared to the Valley of the Giants but for the city, it is pretty impressive. I spent some time wandering the Botanic Gardens before heading to the Art Gallery of WA. 

      

One of my favourite things about Australia, is that the galleries are free. I think I’ve been to 3 or 4 galleries since starting my trip and they always have an interesting perspective. The WA gallery had 3 things going for it – (1) part of it was an old courthouse and jail that they transformed; (2) they had a very interesting wing on aboriginal art; and (3) their special exhibition was of student artwork from high schools around the state. Numbers 2 and 3 were incredible.  

    

After the art gallery I hopped on a train to explore Freemantle. Fremantle is like the Brunswick or north side of Melbourne. It is awesome and there’s so much happening there. I would definitely recommend staying in Fremantle over Perth City.

Friday was my last day in WA and so I headed to Rottnest Island! I got up (reasonably early) and took the train to Fremantle to catch the Ferry to Rottnest (again poor planning – should have just stayed overnight in Freyo the night before). The Ferry is a bit of scam. It is so expensive but given it’s the only way to get there, what are you going to do. I rented a bike to get around the Island. Totally worth it! I would suggest bringing snacks, water and a towel. I spent the day solo biking around the Island and it was awesome. The weather was perfect. Not too hot. Not too cold. The Island is full of animals called Quokkas, which will come up to you and try and befriend you. Quokkas  look like giant rats and I may or may not have run away a few times, utterly terrified. Again, a bit of planning and research would have helped me here – as I later learned that they are quite friendly and are actually giant marsupial cats. After returning to Freyo on the Ferry and catching the train back to Perth, it was time to to hit the hay. 

         

Early April 2018: Bali!

As usual I am woefully behind in writing updates. In fact, as I am writing this entry, I am currently waiting at the airport for a flight to Canada, so I am EXTREMELY behind. As such, all of the upcoming entries will be bare bones and short!

At the start of April 2018, I decided to make a quick trip to Bali! My flight landed in Denpasar and I immediately hopped into a taxi and headed to Ubud (which is what I would soon find out – the yoga and vegan capital of the world).

While in Bali, I stayed at a little villa near the rice paddies that was about a 20-minute walk to the centre of Ubud. The villa (found on airbnb) was fantastic. During the first day and after a long flight, I decided to explore the area around the villa. Quite close to the villa was a restaurant called Alchemy that had a raw vegan food. As I would soon find out, vegan food is not a rare thing in Ubud.

After grabbing a bite to eat, I returned to the villa. Prior to landing, I had pre-arranged for a massage at the villa. What a relaxing experience! After a long flight and a massage, I fell asleep to the sounds of a torrential downpour.

The next day I headed to the Yoga Barn, which is famous for its various yoga spaces and different styles of yoga.  Yoga Barn typically runs about 130 classes a week. Unbeknownst to me, it was the Bali Spirit Festival that week. This meant that Yoga Barn classes were reduced from the usual 130 to 4 classes a day (the same classes repeating every day). While I briefly considered attending the Bali Spirit Festival, after looking at the price I nixed that idea because it was very expensive. Anywho, lucky for me, this was the last day of the regular Yoga Barn schedule, which meant that I got to try a Vinyasa Flow class and a Thai Yoga Massage class. Both were great.

The following day I returned to Yoga Barn for their modified schedule. The instructor was let’s say…interesting. There was a lot of talking at the class. Not a lot of movement or postures. Multiple off the cuff comments about his book, audiobook and going to check out his app…

Later that night I caught up with my former boss who happened to be in Indonesia at the same time. We went out for dinner and then went to a traditional fire dance which was incredible! K tells me that each village puts on a performance and all of the villagers take turns participating. The profits of each performance go to the villages.

The next day, Tuesday, I got up very early so I could run to the Yoga Barn. However, because of the modified schedule, by the time I got to the class it was packed out. This ended up being a great result though because I got to try out a different yoga studio – Radiantly Alive. The class I attended was an awesome class but it involved a lot of power, strength and core power (that I just don’t have). My former boss and I then met up for lunch and pedicures (one must do a little bit of pampering in Ubud).

On Wednesday, Yoga Barn was closed so I decided to go on a bike tour. The tour was awesome. You start the tour by driving to the highest point of Ubud. It is all pretty much biking downhill from there. The tour ended up being private as there was a large family group with young children and the guide was concerned that the kids needed to go at a slower pace. As part of the tour, we stopped at Luwak coffee which is wild cat poop coffee. The wild cats did not look like any cat that I’ve ever seen before. Apparently, Luwak coffee is some of the most expensive coffee in the world but I still couldn’t be convinced to taste the cat poop coffee. The coffee plantation also grows a number of different herbs like lemongrass, citronella and tin pineapples and banana plants. After the coffee stop, we biked past rice paddies and villages. As part of the stop, the guide showed us a golden orb spider up close and personal, putting it on his face. It was terrifying. Succumbing to peer pressure, I ended up putting the golden orb on my arm. It was less horrifying then I imagined! We then had lunch at the home of our guide which was amazing. The food was delicious!

 

The next day, was an early start (1:30 am wake up!). Why? Because 2:30 am is is the perfect time to catch a lift to the base of Mount Batur to hike and see the sunrise. It was about an hour drive from Ubud to the base of volcano. It was then an hour and a half hike up to the top of the volcano! We made it to the top of the volcano around 5:30 am. It was pitch dark except for our flashlights and surprisingly warm. However, as soon as I stopped walking, I cooled down very quickly. The guide then took me to the side of the volcano to show me the steam rising from it! We then watched the sun rise which was absolutely incredible. The colours of the sky were fantastic.

After an insanely early morning, it was time for a short nap! The nap was followed by afternoon yoga at the Yoga Barn with Chocolat (sp?). She’s from the Southern United States and had opened up a yoga studio in Uganda which is really cool. Her class was an Introduction to Yoga but was very intense and felt the burn. After yoga, I dropped by one of the local places for a quick massage. Why not, right?!

Unfortunately, Bali ended all too quickly! Before heading to the airport on Friday morning, I went to one final yoga class at the Yoga Barn (the guest instructor was another American). Again, the class was quite intense and I thought I was very lucky that I had to leave early to catch my flight. Lol.