Sunday, 25 October 2015

Home Found

Cairns, Queensland

There will always be a few stops on our roads travelled that we’ll want to return to, some of which I’ve highlighted in previous posts, but there comes a point where us nomads will stumble across a rest that’ll make us think, I want to call this place home. Having asked years ago where I should snorkel the Great Barrier Reef, a German friendly suggested the gateway to Far North Queensland, Cairns. This was a fine decision made; I’ve been up there twice, in 2011 when I was playing mega nomad, and 2014 when I wanted to be one of those people who do three trips in the one year.

Cairns, Queensland (taken 2014)

Much like with other destinations visited, what I appreciate most about Cairns is how it inspires me. Because of this, I want to make the move up there, a decision which ‘lightbulbed’ itself during a friendly and hilarious chat with two receptionists at the local YHA. After a few laughs and realising that I wanted in, and because I liked the hammock chairs on the second floor balcony, I asked for an application form. Nothing’s happened yet, obviously, but the seed’s been planted. 

YHA Hostel, Cairns, Queensland (taken 2011)

With that out in the open, Cairns also had a positive effect on my creative side. The gods willing there’ll be some books published in the future, one featuring an ‘aquakinetic’ local and another where the place will go by ‘Treecircle’ after some social collapse, for which I can call my own little creations. My artistic ability has also fallen victim, for which I’m more than grateful; the left hand has been getting a bit lazy. This display of inked up madness started with a black spot which turned into something many from five other continents were awing about.
Drawn by the Sheep, 2011

This is what I find myself cherishing most, what I could create, as well as the memories of some amazing people I will never forget. A few oh so unique hostel receptionists (one of which remembered me on my second stint), some Americans and a Norwegian who showed me some kindnesses (had a vicious headache, which felt like a bullet in the brain, following a live aboard and the latter was there for me) as well as plenty of others. If I haven’t made it clear already, I’ll say it again, ‘Thank you.’

Moving onto the more touristy side of things, this is what I can gladly share with you good people who read this blog of your own volition. Cairns’ for those who want the outdoors, sun on your shoulders, and most especially the opportunity to swim out on the Great Barrier Reef. It is beautiful, there can be no doubt, and there were spots I enjoyed more than others but after snorkelling near Cape Tribulation I’ve realised that there’s something lacking when taking a tour from the gateway’s shores.

The Great Barrier Reef, Queensland (taken 2014) 

This is just a personal opinion though; I don’t care much for diving and for both ‘Cairns originating’ tours I had to share the water with divers. The tours, with Cairns Dive Centre, were of good quality and I’m happy to recommend (the crew were really positive and friendly), but experiences have taught me that these companies will put the divers ahead of the snorkelers; we’ll get the icing whilst they get the cake, so to speak.

I did an intro dive which got me time with a white pointer and a stingray I mistook for a giant underwater mushroom, but unfortunately it resulted in the pre-mentioned headache above. This is why I won’t dive anymore. For those wondering, I only went with the company on my second stay because a third party failed to provide what I’d originally wanted and I didn’t want to waste a day sitting around. When I make my third visit though I’ll look into one of the many pontoons out on the water; I’ve heard good things.

Back on dry land there’s just as much to keep you busy. What many hold out for are the trips to Port Douglas, the Daintree and Cape York up north (there are already posts about these bad boys) and the numerous animal parks abundant where the kangaroos will eat out of your hand.

Port Douglas, Queensland (taken 2011)
Animal Park, Queensland (taken 2011)

Mossman Gorge is a place to keep in mind also. An hour and ten (76km) north of town, I learnt about the gorge on my second return trip from the Daintree and it’s since become another happy accident, and those are good things I will preach. I urge you to give Mossman a shot, for it is some tranquil turf indeed. You’ll find in the water massive rocks to swim around and climb on, a positive atmosphere and some friendly fish; NO CROCS WERE ON SITE... but still, be careful.    

Mossman Gorge, Queensland (taken 2014)

On a far less flashy note, it was some of the simple things that had me smiling. Safe to say, by my second visit I’d mustered up some balls to go out and act like a proper tourist. The Esplanade brings to light good memories of walking by the water and amongst the locals and other out-of-towners (there’s a free outdoor swimming pool for those interested) as well as seeing the fruit bats swinging from the tree branches. I know some have bat phobias (*cough a Glaswegian I know cough*) and there are those who’re convinced Australian fauna has a taste for human blood, but these guys are perfectly harmless.

Esplanade, Cairns, Queensland (taken 2014)

Walking about at night, you should suss out the Night Market which is open from 4PM onwards. You can find plenty here, such as souvenirs, tea and massages, and the food is good. They’ve got some Asian and seafood on offer and it’ll most certainly be fresh; just one benefit of a city being by the sea. However, if it’s a mellow pace you’re seeking, take your book to the park by the Esplanade, find a spot under a tree and start turning pages.

Night Market, Cairns, Queensland (taken 2014)

These are just a retelling of things I’ve enjoyed, not-so-enjoyed, but overall appreciated about Cairns. If your interest’s been seized, make the trip and decide what the far north is to you. For me it’s inspiration and a home found. We all settle on one when making our journey.
Cairns, Queensland (taken 2011)


Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Dai Gum San

Bendigo, Victoria

These words have been a long time coming, and speaking quite frankly, they’ve been the hardest to get down. For reasons that I can only describe as ‘spiritual intervention’, Bendigo was meant to be written about back in the beginning but I just couldn’t get the job done. After the third or fourth draft I decided to wait it out, thinking it best; it’s kinda like how Rowling chose to save Skeeter for Goblet of Fire instead of Philosopher’s Stone.

Bendigo, Victoria (taken 2014)

No more than two hours north of Melbourne (along the Calder Highway which is quickest, but the V/Line is also good), the city town of Bendigo is a stop any weekender or long stint traveller should make. Long ago this was the case for the family and myself (on my earliest trip I was very young, back in the ‘lamb years’, and thought we were going to either Mexico or Indigo). However, in recent years it’s now become the only place in Australia where I can be assured of free accommodation. For those lacking this advantage, the caravan parks and motels aren’t too bad; there’s also a hostel somewhere in the mix.

Rosalind Park, Bendigo, Victoria (taken 2014)

What you’re more than like to find around these parts is a relaxed country atmosphere which isn’t too fast or too slow. Yes, a pub culture does exist and it can be really good. If the consumption of sustenance is your agenda, suss out The Hotel Shamrock or the Golden Square Hotel; some worthy food babies were conceived at their tables.

Rosalind Park, Bendigo, Victoria (taken 2014)

With many sights in close proximity, wandering time is a given for your visit. Rosalind Park has some premium turf I’d happily recommend you look into. When the conditions are right (stable weather is one advantage Bendigo will always have over Melbourne) you can easily find a spot on the grass, explore the gardens some bats call home or climb the old tower for a view of the entire town. It’s not too bad.

Bendigo, Victoria (taken 2014)

Another stop to think about is Lake Weeroona, about a kilometre’s walk from Rosalind Park, which the younger people are like to appreciate very much. The playground can keep the kids busy and there’s the hotdog man who is most worthy of your time. Buns can be dry but the flavours are there. 

Lake Weeroona, Bendigo, Victoria (taken 2014)

Fun fact, an article was printed earlier this year about a freshwater crocodile being spotted in the lake. Said article brought out a crowd and its writer, April Wun, became a recognised individual.        

Whilst being a modern setting, Bendigo has maintained a lot of its past image. Where you’ll find something contemporary (the Bendigo Bank for example) a couple of extra remnants stating they’ve been around during the gold rush won’t be far away, such as the fountain and the gallery up the hill. Most of the footpaths have remained untainted by the new age. These are a few aspects I’ve always appreciated.  

Bendigo, Victoria (taken 2014)

History still holds a prominent place to this day. The Visitor Centre has plenty to share about the gold era, there’s the Central Deborah Goldmine to look into and the Vintage Talking Tram Tours will keep many informed and provide some sightseeing opportunities (my localised niece and nephew love riding them), but it’s the oriental element that has always remained fresh in my mind. Should you come across a large magenta flower, this is where you’ll find these tourist favourites.

Golden Dragon Museum, Bendigo, Victoria (taken 2014 and 2015)

During the gold rush Bendigo attracted a large population of Chinese miners (many of which originated from Canton Province), all of whom came in search of a fortune; this obviously worked out for the better since they called the place Dai Gum San; ‘the big gold mountain’. To this day Bendigo maintains a strong Chinese presence and that’s reflected by the Golden Dragon Museum, Yi Yuan Gardens and Guan Yin Temple. 

Yi Yuan Gardens, Bendigo, Victoria (taken 2015)

I first came here during the lamb years and I say confidently that the kids of today will enjoy. The temple and gardens are both tranquil and the fresh air adds to the settings, as do the incense by the Buddha, but the museum itself is where a few bits and pieces will keep you informed and even entertained.

Guan Yin Temple, Bendigo, Victoria (taken 2015)

I have a bad habit of mistaking mannequins for living people and said habit was taking off within these four walls.

Golden Dragon Museum, Bendigo, Victoria (taken 2015)

Every year during the Easter Parade, the museum displays its most recognised piece, the dragon Sun Loong. Amongst the displays of history, more mannequins and a few other dragons and lions, Sun Loong ‘coils’ around all others dominantly. The objective for my last quick visit was for the many photo opportunities, but I was disappointed to find the light obstructing my images of the dragon’s head; it was still rewarding.
Golden Dragon Museum, Bendigo, Victoria (taken 2015)

And so this is where I bring things to an end. This can be a weekend adventure or a pit stop in or on your way out of Melbourne; regardless, make the most of Bendigo. It knows how to leave an impression.