Tuesday, 30 December 2014

When I Became A 'Travel Writer'

The Daintree, Queensland

I am now a ‘travel writer’, in the sense that I go somewhere so that I might write about it. Am I all right with it, I believe yes is the correct answer, and so here we go. I went to the Daintree back in 2011 when I was on the move but only for a limited time, in which I didn’t get to see a wild cassowary, so it was my intention to give it another shot when the opportunity arose. So in this year of 2014 I booked a ticket and went back north for a week; my timing was pretty good because I was avoiding some of Melbourne’s beloved wet spring weather and the hot tropics would do my sickness at the time a good paddling.

The Daintree, Queensland (taken 2014)                                                                                                                                                             
To say the Daintree rainforest is a nice place is a severely insulting understatement. Bordering with the Great Barrier Reef (making them two UNESCO listed sites to do so); this is a beautiful place that can’t get more natural and adventurer friendly. I spent three nights here and got a huge dose of everything they have on offer, except for a wild cassowary which was one of my reasons for returning. Most will say that wanting to see a large bird with ‘knife-like’ toes is the thing of insanity, but I say that life needs its share of thrills. The scrub fowls were a plenty though.                               

The trip from Cairns runs for about 124km and there are tour groups that’ll give you a ride (I went with Cape Trib Connections because they were able to book in advance). On the other hand, if you’ve got a car take full advantage of that bad boy because then you can very easily go at your own pace.                                                                                                                                                                                  
On your travels be sure to stop at Alexandra Lookout where the view is fine and then take a boat ride on the Daintree River where you’re more than like to find some saltwater crocs soaking up the sun like party girls in Ibiza (if you’re hitching a ride with a tour group a boat ride will most likely be included). In addition, if the locals should tell you not to get close to the water’s edge, take their advice on board!



The Daintree, Queensland (taken 2011 and 2014)

The eco lodge Crocodylus is a place you should consider staying when coming to these parts; set away from commercial annoyances but only two kilometres away from the Floravilla Ice Creamery (go there and ask for black sabote) and not that far from the Daintree Discovery Centre (spend one of your mornings walking up here), I found this place to be exactly what it was hyped about. The trees were what I enjoyed the most, being nothing like I’m used to back home in Melbs. The friendly staff were extremely helpful in making my stay what I wanted it to be (they’ll jump over anything to get the job done) and they even shouted me a Coke on my last day there.                                      

The Daintree, Queensland (taken 2014)

Crocodylus does provide in house activities, one of which was a night time nature walk not far from the front door but make sure you have good shoes. Each trip provides something different; I took from mine some talk of bats, lizards and insects I was happy to get a few shots of. Remember, nature goes at its own pace so take this experience expecting to see anything and you should be fine.                                                  

The Daintree, Queensland (taken 2014)

That all said, a few select places I enjoyed immensely were pretty far up the road at Cape Tribulation. This beach is big, postcard worthy and more importantly (in my opinion), quiet. Just find a shady spot at the tree line, open your book and enjoy the peace. From the lodge you could easily make this a day trip when plenty can happen; on my day there I got into some snorkelling and Jungle Surfing which anyone, regardless of age, can take a crack at.                                                     

Cape Tribulation, Queensland (taken 2011)

Ocean Safari will give you a great half day out on the reef, providing excellent conditions for the experienced or novice snorkeler. Riding a jet boat so little time is wasted, you’re out in the crystal blue water in no time. The visibility and colour is something to appreciate and the marine life comes in its many forms; I came close to turtles, blue-spotted stingrays and giant clams which I valued, and on other days you’re like to see sharks. 

Great Barrier Reed, Queensland (taken 2014)

Seeing the reef from a secluded spot like Cape Tribulation comes with advantages that Cairns can’t possibly provide. This was the trip that made me value the Great Barrier Reef like so many others. I’d like to add that the tour operators will look after you (they’ll give out jelly suits) and keep things interesting; I’d already met one of the guides in Airlie Beach back in 2011 and he remembered me also which isn’t bad.                                                                 

After my snorkelling was complete and a good burger at PK’s for lunch, I set off to enjoy some Jungle Surfing (zip lining to be exact) in the tree tops which included operating a human hamster wheel, complimentary Crocs and helmets with the names of famous individuals on them, such as Cookie Monster, Barbie and Pippy Longstockings; I scored the Hulk, which is a recurring thing with me for some reason. Once we were up in the tree tops where my nerves started playing with me, everything took on an extra level of awesome.                                                                                                             

The Daintree, Queensland (taken 2014)

With your physical well-being their number one priority, Jungle Surfing will take you from tree to tree with the sun on your skin and some steady humour echoing in your ear. The views come with the all important jaw dropping effect in some places. They offer their tours to people aged from 3 to 103 and on some days they’ll have a cameraman getting all the best shots for you (didn’t happen for me but I’m not arguing). One thing you should consider is to take the course upside down: it was the good type of trippy which I want to try again when the opportunity presents itself.        

Now, judging from what’s been written it’s safe to say that my time in the Daintree couldn’t possibly be regrettable, but I’m still disappointed that I didn’t get to see a wild cassowary on its own turf. So in saying that, I’ve chosen to complete this post with a product of my failed mini endeavour.              
Drawn by the Sheep, 2014
The bird will be drawn in when I see it in the flesh.
And a good day to you.            

Links: www.daintreecrocodylus.com.auwww.capetribconnections.comwww.oceansafari.com.aujunglesurfing.com.auwww.daintree-rec.com.au

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Take A Seat And Watch The Sky Change Colour

Keep River, Northern Territory

Now I know this’ll be a short post but it’s one I’ll hope you, the good reader, will like. Wanting to try something a little different, I’ve brought you back to the Northern Territory where I’ll be talking about a nice place named Keep River, a national park that borders with Western Australia. I came here on the Kimberley tour of 2011 at the point where we were still making things up as we moved along, and in doing so we took a side trip outside of the west for the night. We were somewhere between the towns of Kununurra (46.4km) and Katherine (467 km). Keep River has been recognised as the traditional lands of the Miriwoong and Kadjerong people.                                            

Keep River, Northern Territory (taken 2011)

Much like Purnululu, Keep River is known for the large sandstone formations that cover the area. Whilst not as large, these rocks are something you’ll want to take a walk through once you’ve arrived (the camping grounds are right near them). During the day it’ll no doubt be hot but hitting the area in the morning is good and it’s even better at sunset. Just take a seat and watch the sky change colour, and don’t forget your camera. The shots are worthy of your SD card, a lesson I learnt halfway through my first lap of the area. My tour guide let me go back for some more but he was a little vocal that I get back to camp before everything went dark and the cane toads came out; couldn’t be more understanding of the man’s concern, plus toads happen to be horrid.                                               
Still, the setting sun is an acceptable drawcard for the free spirited 4WD nut. I’m going so far to say it has all the energy of a scene from the film Cloud Atlas (i.e. Tom Hanks and Halle Berry sitting on the mountain of a future Hawaii feels like it has some relevance). The trip there wasn’t an ordeal but if you’ve got fruit, vegetables or honey and you’re going back west, either scoff it or donate it to campers heading in the opposite direction, which is what we did. Western Australia won’t allow any of the above mentioned across its border.            

Keep River, Northern Territory (taken 2011)

When coming to Keep River, there is a place that deserves a special mention; Cockatoo Lagoon, which is also where you’ll find the information centre. Small and out of the way, we came here to see the picturesque body of water and the colourful lilies (good bush tucker they’ve been called) that float atop it; the birds are something to smile about also. Standing nearby is a gallery featuring the works of local Indigenous artists and it was here (where I read the story of a woman who used to hide in the lagoon from an abusive station manager) that I received a little inspiration for a prose I’ve been working on ever since.                                                                                         

Cockatoo Lagoon, Northern Territory (taken 2011)

People will travel for many reasons (to see places, discover who they are, mule contraband etc.) but I’m all for going somewhere to be inspired, which has happened more than once. In saying that, I wanted to do something different with this post and include the fruits of my travels.           

Note: this piece contains adult content.

Lilies on Water

She ran through the trees, over rocks, under the bright sun. Snapping sticks under her bare feet. She held her bulging belly just to feel pain, to know it was still there; the seed wanting out. Screamed! Worse the pains got. Behind her they were. Drovers with their whips and knives. She'd be found, beaten, stabbed. Dead. She’d be found. The baby wouldn't last long. One of them drovers might be the pa. Who knows it? He might make the last blow.               

She screamed. The sun filled the sky with the feel of fire; there were no clouds. Only blue that felt of the flame. Breathe, pant, feel the pain, wipe some sweat from her forehead and scream some more. Scream again; send some birds into the air. Her ending would be a slow walk she couldn’t see.                                 

'I heard somethin!' a voice shouted not far away. 'She's

She looked over her shoulder at the untamed scrub. Grass growing wild and dry. Hiding behind a tree, her dark skin touching rough gum bark as leaves swayed above. Greens and browns and maybe a little red, like in those Scottish bricks she saw at the station. That wicked place she’d got taken to. Shadows danced around her. Pain!

Seed wanting out. She want out too!                       

Out of the station where the men beat her in packs. Out of her cotton dress, stained with sweat and dirt and the water from inside her.                                     

Out of the bleeding situation would be nice too!          

'Help me!' she screamed. Her mistake.                      

A dog barked somewhere. They were close, she was doomed. Doomed! They were closer; she was all sorts of dead! She shouldn’t stabbed that station manager with the broken bottle. He was hurting her; hurting the seed. She didn’t want the bed beatings no more.      

Her big round eyes opened and she looked at all around. She knew where those trees would take her. Hadn’t been for a while but she knew it.                                   

Running for both lives, clutching her belly and thinking she knew a good hiding spot; them drovers might get lost. What will I do tomorrow? She thought about a tomorrow, knowing it would happen, and then she found it.                          

The lagoon ripples glinting in the sunlight; the lilies floating on its top. Creatures flew everywhere, ducks, dragonflies, great jabiru. An ibis perched on a branch. Looked down at her with knowing eyes as tree shadow covered all. She watched from her hiding spot. Safe from the monsters. A breath. She smelt the air, the scent of flowers, felt the grass under her toes. The pains weren’t so painful now. A laugh there was, and a smile. She pulled off that cotton dress and stepped into the cool water where the fish swam around her bare legs and belly.                                          

Blood cooled, like streams running through her. Fish scales moved against her skin. A bird called as the day and everything of it turned to something else. The sun felt like a warm hand giving her love; there was no fire in the air. The look of a new path to be walked; she smiled.                       

A baby rose to the lagoon’s top, covered with water lilies.                                                       
The ibis left its branch, flapping wings.
I kind of feel like that ibis ending everything on a moment, a thing I picked up from reading too much by Tim Winton, but it keeps things fixed in reality. Here’s hoping you enjoyed this little change, for you’ll be coming across it again in the near future.

Link: www.parksandwildlife.nt.gov.au 


Saturday, 22 November 2014

The Big Thanking of You!!!

Not a travel post but I think this is due. I was semi off the grid last week when The Sheep Was Here reached its thousandth view. I made a mention about this on the infamous Facebook but I only just thought that this might be more appropriate.

So, to all the people from around the world who have followed me, whether ye be friends, family, acquaintances, people I traveled with, people I met once and didn't realise it, nomads who're looking for their next big destination, people who's laptops I commandeered and bookmarked this blog or insomniacs hitting cyberspace because they're out of vodka, I thank you all for making this thing grow into what it is. 

Here's to the next thousand views, and of course, happy travels!

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Which A Lot Of Us Like To Have Fun With

Sydney, New South Wales

Being reminded of the works of Melina Marchetta and the late Bryce Courtenay can definitely get one started on a second draft of a Sydney post… or even visit the place itself, which was a friend’s reason for going not long ago. Definitely a place that leaves an impression on the memory, there’s a lot of animosity shared between Sydney and my home of Melbourne (which a lot of us like to have fun with) but that doesn’t stop us from making a few trips.

Sydney, New South Wales (taken 2011)

My first was a drive-through back in 1999 in which I’d hoped to see the Harbour Bridge, but I was left feeling disappointed afterwards.                                
Me: When are we seeing the bridge?
Mum: We just crossed it.
That moment was annoying me for a time.                                                                           

So, in 2011 (long gap, I know) I made the decision to stay in Australia’s biggest city (established on the 26th of January, 1788 and still not its capital) for a few inexpensive days when I was coming down from Queensland. When having my first real look at the skyline I felt a bit overwhelmed by the size and had a flashback to ‘the city on the water’ in Inception; that being said, I felt like I should’ve spent less time here, but that shouldn’t suggest I didn’t find something to enjoy. Everything I did can easily be fitted into a single day if you’re on the go.                                                                       
Should the weather be behaving itself, take a walk and see Darling Harbour (where I was to meet up with a friend I’d met on my travels); being from Melbourne my tolerance for the cold is pretty high so I was walking around in my thongs (flip flops) to the ‘concerned’ stares of the natives, but if the sun’s out it really adds a lot to the setting.                                                

Sydney, New South Wales (taken 2011)

It’s in Darling Harbour; hated by locals apparently, where you’re awarded all the best shots of the city skyline you could ask for. You’ve got ready access to eateries, shopping locales and the Sydney Sealife Aquarium (the highlight for me was the dugong and the Lego displays) and Wild Life Sydney Zoo which I enjoyed, but by that point of my travels I’d seen plenty of the animals on their own turf; visitors are able to see both in a ‘package deal’ which should save a few dollars. 

Sydney, New South Wales (taken 2011)

It was at Darling Harbour where I hopped on the monorail also, but it’s since been shut down. Annoyed grunt! Once you’re done here, keep walking and you’ll be looking up at two of Australia’s biggest eyesores.
Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House, both exclusive enough to be taken over by Oprah and her goons, are certainly worthy of your camera’s SD card. Tourists are able to climb the bridge but a girl at the hostel told me the cost was too much, so I’d plan for this in advance. Speaking honestly, I wasn’t completely overwhelmed, unlike when I’d just swam with the world’s biggest fish or seen Joss Whedon speak, but it was still rewarding to stand in sight of two of my country’s most renown structural icons. It was cloudy when I was there but it wasn’t a let down whatsoever.

Sydney, New South Wales (taken 2011)

Now, like other destinations I’ve visited I had an objective in coming to Sydney; I wanted to go out on the water. Speed boat rides are a plenty, but I wanted to go traditional and ride a ferry. My reasons stem from a picture book I read as a child where a group of ducks waddled around the wonders of the city, and one of said wonders happened to be the ferries.

Sydney, New South Wales (taken 2011)

So, I found one that was going out and managed to get the top deck to myself for most of the time. People below me were eating a buffet lunch or something but I didn’t care if I was missing out on the luxuries. Looking out at the water, going under the bridge, passing Luna Park and so on were my rewards. It was something good to end my travels with.
By the time all of the above is done, you’ll probably want to finish up. If you can manage it, and I recommend you do, walk back to your accommodation through Hyde Park. The place is quite pleasant and offers a balance of urban nature and art; I was drawn to the statues depicting Greek mythology which is always a winner for me. The bats were out also but they didn’t bother anyone.

Sydney, New South Wales (taken 2011)

Much like my wanting to ride a traditional ferry, my favour for Hyde Park stems from a ‘book related’ reason also. As I walked through the overhanging trees I was looking up at the buildings in the hope of seeing a statue of Trim, the pet cat that belonged to Matthew Flinders, looking out of the window of the state library. It’s a small excuse but these have taken a many wanderers so far. Bryce Courtenay wrote about the fledgling and contemporary Sydney in Matthew Flinders’ Cat and the idea to look for the statue myself was the plan, which didn’t succeed unfortunately. All in all, the walk wasn’t a bad decision. You’re even taken out of the city landscape at several turns.
For those coming from overseas, Sydney is usually the first place backpackers will start with, so, on the advice of a Londoner I travelled with in Thailand, I recommend the group OzIntro. They’ll show you a first great week in Australia and help get your living situation sorted out i.e. sim card, bank account, job interviews and so on. Some of the places you see include Bondi Beach and the Blue Mountains if I’m not mistaken.                               
Sydney, New South Wales (taken 2011)

And with that all said, I think I’m done.                                                                                  
Sydney wasn’t my number one stop, but it wasn’t the worst so give it a try.   

Links: www.sydney.comwww.wildlifesydney.com.auwww.sydneyaquarium.com.auozintro.com