A Travellerspoint blog

Hervey Bay and Fraser Island

semi-overcast

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Having spent 14 and half hours on the greyhound bus, we were relieved to finally arrive at Hervey Bay. Sam's highlight was helping the bus driver change a flat tyre. E-J was just extremely pleased to have survived the crazy journey having experienced some hairy moments, including having her head smashed against the window when the bus driver (who looked uncannily like Frank Butcher) accelerated a little too fast around a bend.

However, when we did finally arrive, we hadn't expected to find the place quite so spread out, so we quickly jumped in one of the backpacker transfer buses and headed to the cheapest hostel we could find, to make up for the loses we had made over the last few days. The hostel we stayed in was very basic, but the one thing it had was the kindest and most helpful lady on the reception, which made all the difference.

Having organised with her for the Fraser Island tour company to pick us up from the hostel the next day, we set about exploring the place.

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The beach itself was very pretty and deserted, but the town only seemed to have one main strip of extremely depressing shops and cafes. Spending all of two hours wandering around the beach and the streets, we realised there really wasn't that much more to do here, so set about spending a bit of time on the net trying to plan our next part of the trip.

The rest of the day was pretty uneventful, but we found an amazing Thai restaurant for supper, which really was the highlight of the day.

We were up early the following day, excited to be visiting the largest sand island in the world. It stretches over 123 kilometers in length and 22 kilometers at its widest point. We were greeted by a friendly coach driver who took us to the harbour, then after a pleasant but cold boat crossing we found ourselves on Fraser Island and started to make our way to the tour coach, which would be taking us around the island for the day. E-J had hoped to spend a few days camping on the island with a group, driving around in a 4WD, but Sam had put his foot down, saying he was not in the mood for camping with a pack of nineteen year olds, so we had comprised on the one day guided tour.

When we entered the coach and found the average age of people on the bus to be in the 60-70 year old mark, we realised we may have made a slight error with the type of tour. This was then confirmed when the bus driver proceeded to sing poems and rhymes about his entire life story to us.

This sent E-J into an emotional downturn or what is commonly known as a tantrum! She really didn't want to hear about how the bus driver's fat mother-in-law had been mistaken for a whale and pushed into the sea, or how ever the silly story went. Sam on the other hand wanted to stay positive. Our first stop was the Coloured Sands (The Coloured Pinnacles), which were made up of 72 different colours of sand. On arriving, there was the usual rush of everyone trying to push their way to the look out point and take a photo without any other tourist managing to walk into view. Although we were not mesmerised by this first attraction, we found light relief in having a few minutes away from our Sean Connery look-alike tour guide.

As you can see, our moods were of similar variety to the contrast of Coloured Sands:

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After a brief photo session, we got back on the old pensioners bus and headed for Eli Creek. During the warmer time of year, many people like to wade up the crystal clear waters and then let the light rapids take them back down again, which leads onto the seventy five mile beach, but with the weather being slightly blustery, Sam decided only to walk down whilst E-J took in the views.

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With Sam's shorts now soaked at the bottom and E-J's mood not improving, our next stop was the Mahemo Shipwreck along 75-mile beach. This ship was originally built in Scotland in 1905 and had been a luxury cruise ship sailing between Sydney and Auckland. She had also been the fastest turbine steamer of her time. However when she crashed in 1935, she then became target practise for the airforce during the Second World War as well as practise for the Z force, in planting limpet mines to her and blowing them up, which meant there really wasn't that much left of her to see.

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The Seventy Five Mile beach was beautiful, but it was windy and cold that day, which meant we couldn't stand out there for too long. Also it is a highway, which means you have to be careful of all the coaches and 4WD, which are constantly zooming by.

Aware that the tide was quickly coming in, the tour guide hurried us all to take our photos and jump back on the bus. The journey back to the island resort for lunch didn't help morale when a huge wave hit the side of the bus and a blast of water sprayed through the bottom or side of the coach, drenching Sam and the man in front! It was the only moment of the day when E-J was in uncontrollable laughter! Sam just tried to dry off from this unexpected car wash!

Our half hour break for lunch was light relief from the rest of the group, although the disappointing food was little comfort for either of us.

With mild indigestion and the bus driver hurrying us all up, the Saga group and ourselves boarded the bus bound for a nature walk around the island. Taking in the walk, we were told how the Australian's had invented camouflage, which was due to them noticing how trees found on Fraser Island had camouflaged bark.

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We were also told of all the deadly snakes and insects which also lived here and E-J was rather relieved not to be spending the night there after all.

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Our last part of the trip took us to Lake Mackenzie. This clear blue water lake is ringed with the whitest and finest sand ever. we were told that if we were wearing any gold or silver to rub this sand into it, as it would bring out the shine. We enjoyed the fine sight until two minutes into arriving, a few drops of rain started to pour down.

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After a quick photo or two we boarded the bus one final time and suffered some further painful poems from our driver. We couldn't wait to get on the ferry! Just when we thought things couldn't get any worst, the passengers at the front of the bus broke into jovial song, "for he's a jolly good driver, for he's a jolly good driver". This was the final straw to our disastrous tour and we just wanted out!

We sat on the ferry reflecting on our trip with relief and slight disappointment. We both knew that the only way to salvage the rest of the day was to enjoy another fine Thai meal!!

Sam's Comments: The Thai meal was the only high point on a disappointing part of the trip.

E-J's Comments: I was really sad to be so disappointed by Fraser Island, as I had heard so many good things about it. I found it to be so commercialised now, like some kind of Disney ride - here is this, here is that, snap snap of the photos and onto the next sight. I think I would have got more out of it had I either been a 70 year old pensioner or an 18 year just wanting to get drunk on the beach.

Posted by E-J 23:53 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

Airlie Beach & The Whitsundays

overcast 20 °C

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The reason for coming to here was to explore the Whitsunday Islands. They where discovered on June 4th, 1770, when Captain James Cook sailed through the islands on his voyage up Australia’s East Coast. Previously he named the Island chain collectively as the Cumberland Islands. Sam noticed this Cumbrian connection as many names of the Islands were places familiar to him, naturally Sam was very proud!

The greyhound bus trip from Cairns to Arilie beach wasn't too bad apart from the last 5 hours. This was due to two drunks shouting and spilling beer on the isle next to Sam. He therefore thought the name “grog hound” was more appropriate. On arriving, we had a coffee by the beach to try and stay awake, but realised that our great idea of putting the savings made by using a bus rather than a plane to arrive may have been a bit of an error. This was due to the fact that we didn't realise we had booked into a resort on one of the Islands, which was a ferry ride away from where our tour started the next day. In hindsight we should have looked more into this and not at the pictures of the resort called “Daydream Island Resort and Spa”!

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We explored our secluded Island Resort and then settled down to what E-J described as “much needed sunbathing”although this was more suitable to one than the other!

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Sam, tired of sunbathing after all of 5 minutes decided to play the resorts 19 hole crazy golf course, whilst E-J enjoy some quiet time in the Sun. The evening passed with an unimpressive cocktail for E-J and a disappointing meal for Sam before an early night in anticipation of our boat trip the following morning.

After a ferry and a taxi we arrived at Abel Point Marina in time to start our 3 day, 2 night tour. As we have now done plenty of tours Sam was rather cautious of spending so much time on a boat with 16 unknowns. Although the optimistic E-J kept telling him it would be fine. Sam's confidence didn't improve on hearing a German girl shout out “I love sailing!”.

After the usual safety debrief and details on how not to block the loo we set off on our 67ft ocean racing trimaran in good strong winds.

The freedom of the trimaran (catamaran to E-J) ensured that we could spread out across various parts of the boat, this was particularly appealing to Sam who was his usual "tour sociable self"!

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After lunch at Cataran Bay it was a smooth sail down wind to Tongue Bay. The evening was spent chatting with fellow crew members before going to sleep in the hull.

The morning wake call of the Anchor being winched up sounded far worse than any alarm clock and ensured that we were out of bed first and looking at the approach to one of the premier icons of the Whitsundays, Whitehaven beach. Sadly the overcast conditions meant that we didn't enjoy it in its full glory.

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After two hours relaxing on the beach it was all aboard for Narra Inlet. We enjoyed scuba diving, appreciating the reef and fish, although we both felt spoilt from our previous experience in Port Douglas.

We moured just around the corner from here to take in the sunset and made sure that all the alcohol that everyone had brought on board was finished.

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Our final morning saw us wake up to clouds and no wind, which meant we where disappointedly unable to sail back to Airlie Beach. After breakfast and a few cups of coffee we headed over to Langford Beach. With us arriving at low tide it meant that we could walk along the full beach and taking the various stones and shells that lied beautifully on the beach.

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Although we where reluctant to snorkel here, shouts from our Yorkshire crew members of "Turtle, turtle" had us both rushing into our wet suits and grabbing our gear quicker than you can say Yorkshire pudding! Not realising the coldness of the water we spent ten minutes chasing this little creature around the bay, before the little turtle got fed up of people swimming after him and laid to rest under a piece of coral.

We climbed on board and after lunch Sam enjoyed one final snorkel at Horse-shoe bay before we motored back to Abel Point Marina.

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As we came in to the Marina we both felt very relaxed and refreshed. The thought of a nice cold beer was very appealing to us both and with the tour company providing us with a few free jugs of beer we were keen not to miss out.

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However we failed to realise that the last ferry back to our accommodation was already leaving as we arrived back from the tour! We where stuck with 3 days dirty clothes and no where to stay. With our bus tickets non-refundable for the next day, Daydream Island had quickly turned to Nightmare Island!

We booked into a hostel in Airlie beach and took consolidation with the complimentary beers that we shared with three entertaining Irish lads, after a trip to the local night club along with a few more beers we fell straight to sleep.

With sore heads, the next day was not a particularly memorable one. We met up with our Irish friend for a much needed fry up breakfast before saying our goodbyes.

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Then, as E-J relaxed on the beach with a magazine and a smoothie, Sam had the task of catching a ferry and picking up the bags from Nightmare Island without any refund. Reunited at 4pm, E-J having had a rather pleasant day and Sam struggling with all the bags, we prepared as well as we could for the 14 hour bus journey which would take us down to Hervey Bay.

Sam's comments: I really enjoyed my time on the boat, I suppose our travel organising skills are a bit rusty!

E-J's Comments: Too bad about our idea of spending the money wisely... We were lucky to have a good group of people on the boat, just shame about the weather. I guess it means we'll just have to return another time. The night out in Airlie Beach was a good laugh though.

Posted by E-J 01:19 Archived in Australia Comments (2)

Port Douglas and The Great Barrier Reef

sunny 25 °C

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At 7am on Thursday we were back to being backpacker again. Well, without the backpacks (instead a massive bag for E-J and reasonably small bag for Sam). Also, having saved a bit and E-J getting a nice bonus at the end of her job, we decided to see the rest of Australia in style!

First stop was Cairns, actually Port Douglas, as we'd heard better reports about that place. So after a flight into Cairns we caught a bus up to Port Douglas. By the time we got there it was almost 4pm, so we quickly organised a Great Barrier Reef tour for Saturday and explored the town, which consisted mainly of a busy strip of shops, bars and restaurants, a four mile beach on one side and a mariner the other.

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Port Douglas is also very pretty as the streets are stripped with palm trees.

The beach was quite lovely, but a little windy. Sadly we have been so spoiled by the Brazilian beaches that our expectations are incredibly high now, but generally we were very happy with the place.

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The next day, we headed to Habitat, which is an animal Sanctuary, that E-J insisted on seeing. The morning was spent having an amazing breakfast of everything you could eat while birds wondered and flew around. Also if you were unfortunate you'd end up having to fight for your breakfast with the birds.

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Next, E-J insisted on having a cheesy picture with a koala. The Koala was both heavy and smelly and typically was a lot more photogenic than E-J!

Sam also thought Koala's reminded him a lot of his twin brother, as they sleep for 19 hours of a day and eat for up to 3 hours!

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We then continued to walk around the sanctuary, stroking the kangaroos and interacting with other birds and little crocs. It was a very enjoyable morning and we both made sure we took full advantage of the eat as much as you like breakfast to the point where we found ourselves practically rolling out of the place!

Next, back in Port Douglas, we made plans to hire a car for Sunday and travel up to Cape Tribulation for the day. The evening we indulged in some amazing seafood and then enjoyed a bit of the Olympics back in our room.

Saturday, we were up early and excited to start our tour of The Great Barrier Reef. We were promptly collected by our coach and then driven about 100m to the mariner, it hardly seemed worth it, but we found the ride rather amusing.

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Having got a few seats at the back of the boat, we basked in the sunshine on the way to the reef. We were lucky with the day as it was a clear blue sky and not too windy. The place that we were heading to on the reef was Agincourt and it was about an hour and half to get there. The day involved three different sights around there.

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The reef is the world's biggest single structure made by living organisms and we immediately became mesmerised by its sight, with the incredibly turquoise water against the sandy looking coral.

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When we jumped into the water, we were amazed by the colours of the reef and fish. The reef is full of stunning, blues, purples, yellows, reds and the fishes are equally beautiful.

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What is also amazing to see is just how tame the fish have become to humans. They seem to accept them as part of the reef and are quite happy to swim straight past your nose! We really thought we where trapped in another world.

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On the second sight we were able to come across a few little nemo (clown) fish hanging out in the reef.

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Also, it was so special to see the fish playing and chasing each other and nibbling away on the reef. There were so many shapes and sizes. Apparently there are over 1500 types of fish in The Great Barrier Reef.

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The third sight was the largest sight and is known as turtle bay. We became slightly nervous when the first turtle to be spotted has a massive chunk out of him and when asked what had happened, we were told a tiger shark had got him!

This sight had huge fish in it, the size of about half a metre, swimming in a shoal together, which was slightly intimidating! There was also a famous fish there called Mari, who was literally the biggest fish around that would follow us around hoping to be fed.

The best part was when we spotted a lone turtle cruising along, over the reef by himself.

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After the final spot we had a good cup of tea to warm ourselves up and then headed back to Port Douglas.

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Thoroughly impressed by our tour and the incredible sights we had seen, we ended the night with a hefty pizza back at our accommodation, washed down with a bottle of wine - bliss.

The next day we picked up the hire car at 9am and hit the road for Cape Tribulation. On driving there it was incredible to see all these huge mountains covered in thick, green, lush rainforest.

When we got there, we decided to do a canopy, elevated walk around a place, which ended up being rather expensive for what it was, but it was great to walk in between all the rainforest and see the views from above all the trees. The place also had overflow of information, so that by the end we were exhausted from everything that we had heard and read during the walk.

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By 12:00 we were at the pick up location for the jungle surfing, which basically involved being swung through the trees of ropes, similar to a pulley system, but with a harness around you.

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We found this tour to be reasonably good, although our expectations had hoped for more of a thrill. We did enjoy the few jokey things we did, such as E-J pretending to run through the sky and Sam giving a good high five with the guide at the end!

After this tour we headed up to Cape Tribulation beach were we had a little picnic and soaked in the views. It was incredible to be in the heart of the heritage rain forest, with The Great Barrier Reef so close by.

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After an hour on the beach we headed to the famous Daintree ice cream shop were they make their ice cream out of the natural fruits of their farm. It was delicious!

After this we had a quick peep at Alexander's Range and then headed to Mossman Gorge. By the time we reached Mossman, it was 5:45 pm and beginning to get dark. We would have liked to have walked around there, but with the light fading we decided not to push our luck!

That evening we enjoyed a few more victories for the British in the Olympics and headed out for a good meal and a few drinks. By 10:30 pm we were exhausted, so decided to call it a day.

The following day we checked out of our apartment and had hoped to spend the day on the beach, but sadly it was rather cloudy and windy and after an hour on the beach, getting covered in sand and shivering with cold, we decided to call the sunbathing a day!

The rest of the day was spent sorting out the rest of our trip and wandering around the Port Douglas until we caught to bus to Cairns to catch the dreaded Greyhound down to Airlie beach.

Sam's Comments: The reef was one of the best experiences I have had, it was good to see that even underwater E-J loved posing for the camera!

E-J's comments: It has been a great start to the trip. I have been really blown away by The Great Barrier Reef, it really was a lot better than I expected.

Posted by E-J 22:25 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

3 and 1/2 Months Working in Sydney

sunny 30 °C

Having enjoyed the good times of no work for so long, we set about
saving the pennies by both getting jobs and staying in E-J's ever so
generous aunt and uncle's flat in Sydney.

The week days were spent. pretty much like those in England, we'd both
drag ourselves out of bed by 7:00 and return to the flat around 7/8pm.
Occasionally we'd meet up with a few friends, but we tended to keep
ourselves to ourselves, saving to get the opportunity to explore the
rest of Australia for the end of the trip.

Sam took full advantage of the overtime of his job working six days a
week and clocking up a total of 64 hours a week. E-J on the other hand
was initially having doubts about the job as it took a while for the
commercial she was suppose to be working on to finally confirm. Until
then she just did random things around the office, questioning whether
it was really worth it.

We had a few fun events over the weekends, such as Liz Richardson's
birthday party at an interesting German restaurant along with a visit
to Taronga Zoo.

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We also over indulged in a few beers with our fellow Inca Trail friend
Mark and reuniting with another Inca Trail friend, Brie, when she came
to Sydney for her birthday.

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It was also great to see Helen Brain along with Sam's old flatmate
Stuart, we met up with them on several occasions.

Then mid June Sam returned to the UK for Bubba and Erica's wedding and
was able to catch up with family and friends.

During the two weeks of Sam's departure E-J's job really started to
kick into gear and she found herself back to working the crazy hours
that production demands.

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The job had a few perks too, the best being the last part of the
twelve day shoot, which took E-J to Kununurra in Western Australia.

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This was the same part of Australia where some of the latest Baz
Luhrmann film, "Australia" was filmed.

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The landscape was utterly stunning and words simply cannot justify its
beauty to I hope these pictures can.

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The second location for filming. was reached by helicopter, so E-J
again got the opportunity to see the magnificent landscape from above.

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She also ended up having to sleep out in the wilderness with all the
crew in order to be able to catch first light the next day.

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(Helicopter arriving at first light)

Everyone had to sleep in swags, which are basically a cover for a
sleeping bag. It was pretty unbelievable and special experience to
stay and sleep in a spiritual, Aboriginal site, looking up at the
thousands of stars in the sky before falling asleep.

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E-J also found herself the stand in, which meant standing in cold
water for an hour while they lit the area and found the right camera
angle and lens. She was then put in a plastic bin liner to warm up.

After this epic journey, not only in destination, but also from the
sheer magnitude of the job, E-J said goodbye to her fellow work
friends and we embarked on our travels once more.

Sam's comments: Sydney was an interesting place to work and get to
know. Glad to see my old friend Stuart who was a great mate to have in
an unknown city. I look forward to hosting him when he comes to England.

E-J's comments: Initially I found it quite hard living in Sydney,
particular since we didn't do much during the weekends as we were
trying to save. Also going back to work with the chaotic last minute
changes that constantly happen in a commercial production company was
a lot more than I expected. However, it turned out to be the best
opportunity ever, it was an incredible shoot to work on and fabulous
to be a part of such a talented and diverse crew. It also really made
me enjoy my time off again!

Posted by E-J 22:07 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

Working Life in Sydney!

overcast

After Nettie and Tiff left, it was time to start looking for jobs, so that we could earn a bit more cash before we continued our travels around Australia, but before then we decided to do a few more tours of the City.

Although there where a few distractions, Sam enjoyed his tour of the famous Sydney Cricket ground, he still struggles to understand why E-J wasn't keen to see the Don Bradman pavillion.

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On Wednesday, we did a walk from Coogee beach all the way to Bondi beach, stopping first at Coogee and then at Bronte to soak up the sun, before finally finishing after a 3km hike with a delicious mango and passionfruit boost juice.

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The evening was spent with E-J's great friend's Liz and Dave where wine and lovely food was enjoyed.

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Friday arrived with confirmation that Sam had a job, so we had to deal with admin, like setting up bank accounts and buying appropriate clothes to work in. As the day wore on, Sam realised that his short lived retirement was over!

The weekend was spent exploring the various areas of Sydney with Liz and Dave. Although the number one priority was trying to find a proper pub, which we were struggling to locate, much to the annoyance of both of us.

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Sunday, E-J met Kathy and her cousins in Manly, while Sam prepared himself for his first day of work since over six months ago.

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Monday was a strange day as Sam prepared himself for an interesting day in the office. E-J spent the day in Bondi Junction, waiting for an interview with a production company, which then got cancelled at the last minute.

Tuesday, Sam went off to work as normal and E-J went off for a recruitment meeting. It all seemed a bit strange, having travelled for so long and seen so many incredible sights, to suddenly start to build up a routine again and get back to the mundane way of life. However that was short lived when Sam returned home early on Tuesday having being told on day two, that there was not enough work to keep him there!

Wednesday, E-J had her production interview, which looked like a potentially interesting job that could lead into September. This however, would change all our plans, so we had to make a big decision as to whether we were both prepared to go with this. That afternoon, Sam contacted more recruitment companies and managed to find another job, starting the following Wednesday. E-J went off to the Australian Museum, to clear her head and check out all the scary and most dangerous insects and animals that can be found in Australia. after this. She continued to escape the city by walking around the incredible botanical gardens. Stopping for a coffee, she managed to share her table with two beautiful birds.

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These birds can be seen quite commonly around parts of Sydney, although they do get very hyperactive if they eat too much sugar!

The next few days were filled with pretty miserable weather, so we amused ourselves by going to museums. E-J, also dragged Sam around endless shops trying to find the right style sunglasses. Sam lost interest and his recommendations were slightly concerning?!

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Saturday, Sam was invited to the horse races by his old housemate from London, who has been living in Australia for the last five years. Not only did Sam find himself in the VIP section with free drinks on tap, but was also surrounded by the most beautiful models and a few Australian soap stars. While Sam was mixing with the rich and glamorous, E-J and her great friend Liz, went to Balmoral and had a lazy lunch in the gorgeous little restaurant called Bathers, where they could look out onto the beach as the ate. Then after this they walked along a beautiful coastal walk, from Balmoral, all the way to Taronga Zoo. Sunday was spent catching up with EJ's family, Michael, Kathy and the Cousins.

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The next few days we did some more touristy things until Sam started his second job on the Wednesday. The rest of the week seemed to drift slowly for E-J as she patiently waited to hear about the potential job at the production company she had the interview with. After many left messages, she was told to come into the office the following Monday to help out with office admin and get a feel for the place, before the specific job she was hoping to work on, was confirmed.

Monday was a strange day for Sam and E-J as they both woke around 6:30am and prepared themselves for their working day. It just seemed so strange to be the other side of the world and back into the routine of going to work. The week went quickly and before we knew it, it was Friday, ANZAC day and a National holiday. Sadly, the weather wasn't too good, but we did manage to make a trip to Balmain.

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On Saturday, it was sunny for the first time in two weeks so we decided to make the most of it and rewalked the Coogee to Bondi walk, which we had enjoyed so much in the past. In the evening, Sam went off to watch the rugby with his friend, Stuart. E-J's great friend Emily Smith had also arrived in Sydney that day with her friend Lucy, so Emily, Lucy and Liz joined E-J for drinks and a late meal. Sunday, was spent having a lovely lunch with Liz and Dave in the only proper pub we have found in the whole of Sydney called, The Lord Nelson. We finished our weekend by catching the ferry across to Manly to catch up with Emily and Lucy. After a walk on the beach and a drink at the port, the weekend drew to an end.

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This is where our blog must temporarily hold until we begin travelling again. The mundane life of work starts for us both but are travels aren't over.

Sam's Comments: Work, strange to be back. Although definitely feel like I am blending in to life in Australia as I have a great aussie Mullet!

E-J's Comments: It is so strange to think that we have been in Australia for over a month now and in one place for over a month too. It seems so strange to get back into a routine of life and not have to think about packing the backpack up and where to head to next. Also, we are living an incredibly spoilt life, in a most gorgeous flat, which is all the more appealing after a long day at work. I have to say, work is work, no matter where you are, it just makes it a little harder when your friends and family are the other side of the world. Let the work finish and the travels continue!

Posted by E-J 04:20 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

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