Koh Tao & Travelling – day 384

Up and sprightly, I convinced Katherine it was a good idea to come with me to get the ferry tickets early before the queues. We were the first to register for that scheduled ferry, and while we were earlier than the lady at the counter would probably have liked, we at least had our tickets and stickers to get us on board. That was the main thing. Over at 7 Eleven we got some plain yogurt to go with the last of our muesli and we strolled past a selection of the multitude of dive centres for the last jaunt up the hill and home. The ‘garden’ resort was still a bit dead despite the recent rain storm and maintenance, but we enjoyed having our brekkie out on the deck one last time. img_0639img_0640
Shoals of tiny silver fish rotated in a hypnotic tornado fashion, becoming greater and smaller bait balls in a graceful fluid motion. The people on the jetty throwing bread in to the water, 90% of the time not reaching the fish, didn’t realise the harm they were causing. The jerky movements of the fish attracted larger fish to their whereabouts and a few of them were picked off for an early breakfast.
img_0642On the ferry, we found seats near the front left (i.e. towards the bow on the port side), remembering what it was like to sit downwind of someone who hadn’t wash in a month and the door to the deck slamming constantly on the last trip. So, it was an easy cruise to the mainland with rock formations and small islands becoming more frequent as we got closer to our destination.
Queueing up for the bus tickets, the company had the whole thing well organised. If only they would enforce the rules about where people could and couldn’t smoke – moving twice to escape the clouds engulfing us. The seats on the bus got muddled up. Youngsters sitting wherever they wanted confused the ticket lady whom was ensuring we were in our allocated spots. It backfired on the girl behind me as the seat was broken and stuck in a reclining position. Ha!img_0644Stopping at a sizeable bus stop/restaurant, we were the only tourists who braved the local noodle soup. Everyone else opted for meat on a stick and/or Pringles. We did get an ice cream as a treat as well – more expensive than the meal. img_0646
We eventually got back to the capital, the iPad battery had just about managed to last (with the help of a battery pack) and we were deposited just north of the infamous Koh San Road. We hoped that the ferry would be running at this time of night and headed in that direction. Alas, a quick chat with a police officer and he told us it was closed at this time. So, we decided that the best thing to do was get a taxi. But, with traffic being a nightmare so close to the palace grounds and touristy area, we walked for about half an hour southwards, towards the bend in the river and flagged down a taxi from there. Got back to our trusty hostel, to have to argue with them about the room and price. The usual girl had gone on holiday and the Ines left behind, although they knew us and could see the frequency of our stays on the system, decided they wanted to be arsy about the whole thing. It got sorted, we had dinner with our favourite restaurant of all time and called it a night. img_0648Tuesday 25th October 2016

Battambang – day 371

We woke up early and transferred to our original hotel. We both felt much better after some sleep and as the guesthouse owner himself came to meet us at our replacement lodgings and walked us back to the guesthouse, apologising en route. Dropping our bags in the room, we rented a scooter and headed out for the day. First stop – the travel agents to buy bus tickets to Bangkok. Having learnt our lesson from Kratie, we went to four different places before making a purchase! Turns out that only 2 places sell tickets to Bangkok so we chose the cheapest! Got back onto the scooter and, I’m blaming the tiredness, I drove atrociously! So much so that Jayne told me off!!! Deciding it was going to be one of those days, I drove us straight to Gloria Jeans for a cup of coffee and a danish – or, as it turns out, a fruit smoothie, a coffee frappuchino, an almond croissant and an piece of Oreo cheesecake. Feeling more human (and less likely to kill each other), we jumped back on the bike and made our way to the bamboo train when it started raining. It rained so hard that we had to take shelter in the petrol station. The attendants brought us chairs to sit on as we watched the rain pound down, frogs frolick in the puddles and drivers swerve to dodge the water filled potholes. When the rain slowed down enough, we waved goodbye to our new friends and kept driving down the road to one of the world’s all-time unique rail journeys!The 7km bumpy train journey goes from Battambang’s old French bridge (Wat Kor Bridge) to O Sra Lav along warped, misaligned rails and vertiginous bridges left by the French. The journey takes 20 minutes each way, with a 20-minute stop at O Sra Lav in between (for the obligatory gaggle of souvenir shops!).

Each bamboo train – known in Khmer as a norry (nori) – consists of a 3m-long wooden frame, covered lengthwise with slats made of ultralight bamboo, that rest on two barbell-like bogies, the one at the rear is connected by fan belts to a 6HP gasoline engine. Pile on 10 or 15 people, or up to three tonnes of rice, crank it up and you can cruise along at about 15km/h.Sitting on straw mats that have been laid over the bamboo platform, we held onto whatever we could and the contraption quickly began to pick up speed!! Peeking down through the cracks at the rail tracks below was simply a blur and the long grass kept whipping our arms as the scenery shot past. We tried to talk to each other but we had to yell to be heard and, even then, the wind carried half our conversation away. The genius of the bamboo railway system is that it offers a brilliant solution to the most ineluctable problem faced on any single-track line: what to do when two trains going in opposite directions meet. In the case of bamboo trains, the answer is simple: one car is quickly disassembled and set on the ground beside the tracks so that the other can pass. The rule is that the car with the fewest passengers has to cede priority. We got to see this in action as the oncoming train was dismantled, removed and reassembled in front of our eyes in less than a couple of minutes. With the wind blowing in our hair, it was impossible not to smile (mainly because the speed was forcing my mouth apart) as we chugged past fields, across rickety bridges, and through stretches of bush. Locals walked on the tracks and only hopped off when the train was almost upon them. We also picked up a little girl and her mum halfway down the track. 

Arriving at the souvenir station, we did the rounds of each stall to pass the time but found the begging to buy something a little bit intense. Fortunately, by the time we got back to our train it was ready to go so we headed back to the start. Got about a minute down the track when it started raining again and we were completely soaked within 10 seconds. We were asked to tip the driver when we had finished, which always annoys me. If you ask for a tip then it is no longer a tip! One of the only times we have done it because the poor boy looked as much of a drowned rat as we did!! Jumping on our bike again before we got more demands to part with money, we had to take shelter in another petrol station as the rain made it difficult to see the road. 

Used the time to work out our route to the winery (yes, a winery!) while we waited for the rain to subside. Ended up driving down a little road where we got stuck in the mud. It was slightly tough dragging the scooter out of the mud without falling over ourselves – I ended up taking off my shoes and Jayne got covered head to toe in mud after I revved the engine at the wrong time… Emerging from the mud bath onto the main road, we spent some time declogging the tyre of mud to make it safe for us to drive again as locals watched us (and were laughing, I’m sure!). 14 kilometres out of town is Cambodia’s first and only winery, the Chan Thai Choeung (or Banan) Winery, which is open for visits and tastings. Known for its production of chilli peppers (harvested from October to January), Cambodia’s only winery grows shiraz and cabernet sauvignon grapes to make reds, and tropics-resistant Black Queen and Black Opal grapes to make rosés. Both taste completely unlike anything you’ve ever encountered in a bottle with the word ‘wine’ on the label. Putting it politely, the wine is not exactly to Western tastes – it tasted like vinegar!!! We also tasted their ‘cognac’ which isn’t as bad as the wine, and their juices — grape and ginger — are pretty good. Chatting to a French couple, who we had convinced not to try the wine, we organised to meet up with them for dinner before heading back into town. Dropped off our bike and headed up to our room to remove our slightly damp clothes! Chilled out for a while before going for a walk around the night market. A slightly odd experience as the market was a mixture between food stalls and shops selling random assortments of products, all with music blaring out and drowning out its neighbour. It was intense. The fairground section was also fun with its rides hanging halfway off the pavement or being run by fans!Met Francois and Veronica (I hope I’ve spelt their names right!) at the White Rose for dinner. It was a really nice evening, chatting about our respective travels. They had started with the Trans-Siberian railway and spent time in Mongolia – it sounds incredible and is now on my list (as is a million different other places!). We all went back to the night market for ice cream before heading back to our guesthouses. 

Wednesday 12th October 2016

Siem Reap – day 358

The early morning yesterday clearly affected us more than we had thought… Neither of use surfaced from deep slumber until after 9am! The perils of travelling long term are that neither of us are used to getting up early anymore, let alone on a regular basis – goodness knows how we are going to survive when we return to work!
Pottering around the room, slowly getting ready, clearly was for a reason! Just as we were discussing what to do for the day, I got an email alert from TES jobs… There is a brand new SEN school looking for teachers for January 2017, not far from where we live. A few emails back and forth between me and the school about the role and school meant that any plans for today were out the window as I was going to apply for this job instead! Sorry Jayne.
Knowing that applying for this job on the iPad was not going to be easy and was going to be incredibly frustrating, we headed into town to find an internet cafe. We walked through the gardens just outside of town, enjoying the peace, quiet and beautiful space before we arrived in the manic Main Street. Stopping at our new favourite Pho restaurant, we slurped away on noodle soup – Jayne adding enough chilli in hers to feed an army! – before we found an internet cafe so I could get started. Jayne popped out into town to sort out booking a taxi for tomorrow so that we can visit the second UNESCO site in Cambodia – Preah Vihear – meaning that we have visited the only two sites in Cambodia and it will possibly the last one that we will be able to visit before our one-year travelling anniversary. 

Tucked in a little cubical in a darkened room with Cambodian men, I had vivid memories of the man watching porn all the way back in India so I was delighted when Jayne came back! Three hours later, I was done and Jayne was bored! There is only so much research and Facebook you can do in a room that stinks of cigarette smoke, despite the no smoking (and no guns!) signs everywhere! Leaving the cafe, I was surprised to see that it was getting dark – apologetic for ruining our day, I treated Jayne to a drink as we walked back to our hotel. I had a ginger bear and Jayne continued her trial of new drinks. This time she chose a weird drink that was a mix between cherry coke and cough medicine!
Got back to the hotel and got a message from Hoai asking us out for dinner. Had about an hour at the hotel before we needed to head back into town. Went to a traditional Khmer restaurant in The Lane. I had a really nice spicy curry whilst Jayne had beef with ginger. Hoai had a soup which he let us try – the overpowering smell and taste of stinky fish was unforgettable. So glad that he had ordered it! Finished our meal at the Blue Pumpkin cafe for some ice cream before catching a tuktuk back to our hotel. Thursday 29th September 2016

Sukhothai – day 346

Sukhothai is typically regarded as the first capital of Siam, although this is not entirely accurate. (The kingdom of Chiang Saen had already been established 500 years earlier). The area was previously the site of a Khmer empire until 1138, when two Thai rulers decided to unite and form a new Thai kingdom. Sukhothai’s dynasty lasted 200 years and spanned nine kings. The most famous was King Ramkhamhaeng, who reigned from c. 1275 to 1317 (Lonely Planet say 1275-1317, UNESCO say 1280- 1318) and is credited with developing the first Thai script – his inscriptions are also considered the first Thai literature. Ramkhamhaeng was one of the most important Thai sovereigns, as he brought Sukhothai extensive territory through his military victories. He invented the Siamese alphabet (Khmer script), as mentioned already, imposed strict observance of the Buddhist religion and instituted a military and social organization copied from his vanquished neighbours, the Khmers. But, before we saw the bronze statue of this legendary King we did the usual morning routine and grabbed a bus to the historical parks. 
The ‘night’ market was busier this morning than it had ever been and they were selling bags full of chillies and trucks full of pumpkins. An assortment of green veg, that would have made for an incredible jigsaw puzzle photo, was piled up a few stalls down from some slivers of very smelly fish. The patrons waiting for the doctor joined in the prayers led by the monks already inside the surgery and we took shelter in our little bus station until the joining others for the trip down the main road. Some jumped off at random places, but the monk, in his crisp saffron robes, and the three girls all got out at the big supermarket. We went all the way with a lady that must have been from France based on the text on her guide book. All three of us rented a bicycle to zip us around the grounds and between the various significant sites. Starting at the main temple of the central historical park, Wat Mahathat, we were starting our day at UNESCO World Heritage Site #55. We were looking for the atypical characteristics of the area with classic lotus-bud chedi, featuring a conical spire topping a square-sided structure on a three-tiered base. Obviously! Of course, I for one didn’t notice any of this. It was hot. At almost 28*C before 10:00 and the humidity to kill, we just wandered casually. This temple, completed in the 13th century, is surrounded by brick walls (206m long and 200m wide) (clearly the architect didn’t have OCD!) and a moat that is believed to represent the outer wall of the universe and the cosmic ocean. The original Buddha figures still sit among the the ruined columns of the old wí•hâhn (sanctuary) and the base of the main chedi is decorated with the relief-stuccoes of 168 Buddhist disciples. Just south of this impressive complex is Wat Si Sawai, dating from the 12th and 13th century, this ancient temple still retains it three Khmer-style towers and a picturesque moat. It was originally built as a Hindu temple but the sign describing all the evidence of it being such, with lingas, carved lintel depicting Vishnu and other designs were not obvious or no longer present. They were very nice and worth a visit before heading over to Wat Traphang Ngoen. Not mentioned in the guidebook, but recommended on our free map from the kind bike shop lady, the sign on the road describes its uniqueness as one without a boundary wall, with a main chedi, assembly hall (vihãra) and ordination hall (Ubosatha) in the middle of a reservoir. Continuing our culture tour of the park, we visited Wat Sa Si. The prevalence (and finally very obvious) Sri-Lankan style bell-style stupa – sometimes referred to as a chedi as well – is evidence of Sinhalese Buddhism in the area. The temple had a road going through it until 1978 and we sat away from the tree with dozens of smelly herons, looking at the new road next to the reservoir, as we had a break in the shade. We then carried on a bit and walked around the bronze statue of the King before thinking about lunch. A small distance from the main gate was the ever reliable 7-Eleven. A new big bottle of water, an isotonic drink and two ice lollies were in order to help cool down. The heat had probably reached it’s zenith of 33*C and we were feeling it. We cycled towards the North Historical park and got distracted by the Wat Sorasan/Sorasak (it’s hard to get reliable info these days). The main bell-shaped chedi sits on a base of elelephant structures. This concept is based on a belief that the elephant is regarded as a beast of burden for the emperor, and is a suitable animal to firmly uphold Buddhism through a period of 5,000 years. We took shade under a tree at Wat Mae Chon and took a breather and lunch. It can’t be said it was enjoyable as it can’t be said what it was we ate. We bought little tuna snack packs, but I don’t think there was any fish in it and the ingredients list was only for the crackers and a chilli mayo sauce. With limited time left to us before we turned into puddles we visited Wat Si Chum. An impressive mon•dòp with a 15m, brick-and-stucco seated Buddha. This Buddha’s elegant tapered fingers are coated with gold leaf from visitors and the effect was quite beautiful. No longer able to visit the tunnels of the structure to see the jataka inscriptions we made our way to Wat Phra Phai Luang. This 12th century temple is quite isolated to other sites in the area. It didn’t stop the Thai lady charging us an additional small fee to enter with our bikes. The Khmer-style towers are much bigger than Wat Si Sawai, but here only one of them looked to be in a good condition. It is thought to be the centre of Sukhothai when it was ruled by the Khmers of Angkor prior to the 13th century. The large site was the last we visited before throwing the towel in. Back we went!Dropping off the bikes we managed to get a bus immediately and the half hour in to town seemed much quicker than that morning. We probably should have rested inside and cooled down with several showers. Even though we weren’t burned we knew we had been in the sun far too long. We went to the pool to splash about. The idea was sound, except retrospectively it probably drained and dehydrated us more – we should have been drinking more and lying down. So it was that Katherine lay down with a headache and paracetamol and I stayed awake to keep track of time. Waking sleeping beauty we bought more isotonic drinks, collected our washing and had an early dinner/feast. Back to the guesthouse to pack we finally rested with some tv series on the iPad and sleep. 

Saturday 17th September 2016

Kangaroo Island – day 325/15

All woke up toasty warm from leaving the little heater on all night. On the plus side, our feet weren’t freezing lumps of ice. On the negative side, the aroma of three women slowing cooking in their own body juices in what can only be described as a miniature oven was an experience that none of us are keen to experience anytime soon. We tucked into our free hostel breakfast before packing up the car and heading out for the day. 
Driving to the north coast of Kangaroo Island, we headed for the ‘secret beach’ that was recommended to us by Lyndi and Sarah. Apparently a bit of a challenge to find unless you have inside information, we headed for the RockPool Café and went to explore. Stokes Bay was absolutely stunning in its own right, with beautifully clear turquoise waters which were captivating in even the cold. However, to the very right end of the beach there was a secret sign directing us behind some rocks. At some point in time someone was clever/crazy enough to blast through the cliffs and create access to a secret beach. It took some ducking and weaving through the narrow caves, which was particularly difficult for Jayne and I as we are so tall – Tracey hopped, skipped and jumped through like a sure footed mountain goat, to reach this mysterious piece of paradise.Wandered along the shore for a while, enjoying the tranquility of the completely deserted beach. The rapidly incoming tide cut our time short on the beach especially as waves started lapping into the entrance of the caves. 

Next stop was only just down the road at Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park. Opened in January 1992 and sold to the current owners in 2013, the wildlife park is home to over 150 species of Native Australian wildlife and houses over 600 animals! We were fortunate enough to arrive in time for the koala talk, where we got to enter the enclosure with these cuddly bundles of fur, stroking them and posing for photos. Learning loads about my new favourite animal, I was delighted to find out that Jayne had paid for me to have a koala holding experience. Standing over to a quiet corner of the park, I was given Alfie to hold. 10kg of gorgeousness, as I was the only one with a koala experience, I got to hold him for ages!As you can see from the photos, this was definitely one of the best experiences of my life and thanks so much to Jayne and Tracey who happily stood around as I cuddled and stroked that koala. Slightly concerning moment when he started sniffing my neck. Thinking it was just a cute snugly thing, the keeper seemed a little worried. Apparently it is the start of their mating ritual, just before they start biting your neck and humping you – clearly I smell like a horny koala…

Reluctantly giving him back, we headed out to the rest of the park – small birds, nesting cassowaries, kangaroos, wallabies, wombats, penguins, farm animals, snakes, crocodiles and reptiles. They are currently building a new enclosure for dingoes (which was currently closed to the public but we spotted the dingo puppies being walked around the grounds and got to have a quick cuddle with them too!). Found a quiet picnic bench to eat some lunch whilst we watched the world go by and got to watch the next group of people do the koala experience. A much larger group, they only got to hold the koala for a couple of minutes each before he went back into the enclosure – I was definitely lucky! Treating ourselves to an ice cream from the shop, we were delighted to discover that a major ice cream brand was using local ingredients to make the different flavours. Tracey and Jayne both chose the Kangaroo Island honey with pistachio flavour while I played it safe with a cookies and cream. 

Back in the road again, we headed for Island Pure sheep dairy which is a 260 hectare grazing property situated on the banks of the Cygnet River and Gum Creek. Opened in 1992, twice a day the ewes wander in to a purpose-built dairy to be milked before heading back into the paddock. The dairy makes a range of cheese and yoghurt products which are entirely homemade on site. We began with a tasting season where we got to sample all of the products that they have available to buy. My favourite was the Cygnet cheese (a semi-matured manchego) whereas Jayne preferred La Casuarinas (a feta) and Tracey loved the Ravine Des Casoars (halloumi). We then watched an informative DVD which explained about cheese making before getting a visit of the factory and watched the sheep being milked. A truly fascinating experience, especially as I used to be a ‘young farmer’. The milking process we saw for these sheep is similar to that when milking cows, except, that they only milk half of the sheep at each time and then swap the milking teats over. 

Having watched Tracey stock up on cheese products (mostly halloumi), we headed off to our next stop of KI Spirits. Walking past the 80 litre copper pot which is still used to hand make their entire premium range, we sampled several different gins, spirits and liqueurs. Tracey treated herself to a coffee whilst I bought a drink of the ‘Old Tom Gin’. It was incredible and clearly I have expensive taste. It is the award winning drink of Oz and cost a small fortune per bottle – however, it slid down my throat like liquid gold! It didn’t need any form of chaser and I would have been quite happy drinking it as a digestif most evenings!Last stop on our quick tour of the island was the pelicans. These massive birds have become accustomed to a daily feeding frenzy from a local man, who regularly gets into trouble for feeding the wildlife. Not entirely sure how we felt about it, we were delighted to hear that these birds are often present at this site an hour before the feeding time begins. As we made our way to a small, wooden amphitheatre set above the rocks that lined the harbour there were half-a-dozen of the birds perched on the rocks, along with a similar number of silver gulls. We watched the birds fly around and land nearby, waving their voraciously snapping beaks as they premed their feathers and waited for an easy meal.  Driving back towards the ferry, we kept our eyes open for any last sighting of kangaroos before catching the ferry. We filled up with fuel, having a slightly bizarre moment when the pump wouldn’t let us fill up the tank anymore but the gauge said the tank was only half full. A quick call to Hertz to explain the issue and we were reassured that sometimes the gauge takes a while to move. Sounded slightly fishy, we weren’t in a position to argue as we couldn’t put in any more fuel from the only petrol station in town and the office was closed. Had a pub meal as our last night together as a threesome on this holiday – I, unfortunately, had major food envy of Jaynes beef schnitzel but she gave me some in exchange for my salt & pepper squid so it all worked out (she is so good to me!).Catching the ferry across the bay, we boarded the Sealink bus to take us back to Adelaide. The bus driver seemed to double up as the local postman as he stopped several times along he route to check the post boxes for letters and putting them in the bus (or we had just witnessed some very unstealthy post thief!). One of the passengers had a very loud and irritating laugh so Jayne and I fell asleep to block him out. Tracey took this opportunity to take unflattering photos of the two of us as we snored gently in the seats behind her. Arrived in Adelaide and made our way to the YHA. Clearly during the two weeks together, we still haven’t realised that Tracey can’t walk as quickly as we can… Sorry Tracey for walking too fast and that you had to remind us for the umpteen time! Fortunately, we were able to make our beds without worrying about waking anyone up, as all our roommates where out and we quickly fell into bed and passed out. 

Saturday 27th August 2016

Magnetic Island – Day 306

I slept soundly except for needing to use the toilet at 3.30am however Jayne said it was a particularly noisy night with the previously mentioned larger gentleman snoring all night and coughing so profusely at one point that the Italian girl in the bed opposite shouted at him to ‘shut the fuck up’… Of the joys of sharing a dorm with 7 strangers!!

We both woke up as the light poured through the open vents masquerading as windows but, with a long wait to use the shower, we both stayed in bed – Jayne continued watching her film and I read some more of my book. Having both managed to finally get a shower and steal the bottom bed in my bunk as the girl checked out, we headed over to the campers kitchen for breakfast of fruit toast and cashew nut spread – it is, hands down, my new favourite breakfast spread! It may even be better than Nutella…
We missed the hourly bus by 10 minutes, so we decided to walk into Horseshoe Bay. Having been reassured that there are no box jellyfish in the water (or any other marine stingers) at this time of year, we decided to pick up the snorkel trail cards for the two routes on the island. Unfortunately, the shop didn’t have any left so we just bought some carrots to feed the rock wallabies and caught the bus to Acardia. Fortunately, the newsagents there had the snorkel trail cards so we walked down the road at Bremnar Point (between Geoffrey Bay and Alma Bay) and got ready for our first ever underwater nature trail. Australia’s first (legal) snorkel trail was developed on Magnetic Island. There are two trails – Nelly Bay and Geoffrey Bay. We decided to go for the latter one as it, supposedly, offers a good selection of fish to see around the Moltke wreck and we would be able to swim out further to the WWII aeropane propeller and engine block (from a CW-22B Curtiss Falcon). 

Having brought all our stuff with us ready for a days exploring on the island, we didn’t really want to leave it by the side of the road so we packed up Jayne’s SLR camera and our iPhones into two dry bags and brought it along with us. Getting into the water off the old pier was easier than we had both anticipated and the water was certainly warmer too. We made our way over 100 metres to the first buoy, consulted our card so we knew we were supposed to be looking for algae and coral and stuck our heads under the water…. Nothing! The water was so silty that we could barely see a thing so we began snorkelling over to the second buoy, catching glimpses of coral which Jayne ducked down to get a closer look as I watched from the surface. Again, there was nothing much to see through the silt so we continued to the third buoy which had a bat fish hanging around on the buoy rope. Having not seen very much at any of these surface markers, we decided to call it a day and head back into shore.Again, getting out at the pier with waves crashing against the concrete was surprisingly easy and neither of us ended up blooded and bruised like we had anticipated. Despite the poor water visibility, we both thought it was a fabulous idea and we’d both had a great time until we discovered that one of our dry bags had leaked and ruined Jayne’s camera… I felt incredibly guilty since it was my idea to take them with us. Not sure whether it will work again with a bit of TLC and a visit to the camera doctors but the prognosis doesn’t look great… Having run out of battery on my underwater camera we were left with our iPhones to capture photos for the rest of the day. 

We got dressed by the side of the road, Jayne unusually quiet and me apologising profusely before we headed over to feed the ‘wild’ rock wallabies. Having been accustomed to being fed, they literally eat out of your hand and the cuteness of it certainly raised both our spirits, especially the wallaby with the little joey sticking his head out of the pouch. Jumped back on the bus we headed to the other side of the island, Picnic Bay, which was once the home of the ferry terminal. Nowadays, it is a low key spot with nothing really there apart from a handful of shops and cafes. We found a shady spot to have some lunch before walking along the pier to watch the local fisherman try to catch something whilst a tourist did a couple of jetty jumps nearby. We decided to follow the rocky coastal walking trail back to Nelly Bay and enjoyed walking through the granite boulders, hoop pines and eucalyptus trees. We came across several gorgeous look outs to deserted bays along the route which we would have certainly never knew existed had we caught the bus. Treating ourselves to an ice cream when we reached Nelly Bay we jumped on a bus and headed to the area known as ‘The Forts’. Townsville was a supply base for the Pacific during WWII, and the forts were designed to protect the town from naval attack. The 4km round trip walk passes lots of ex-military sites, gun emplacements and false ‘rocks’. At the top of the walk is the observation tower and command post which both have spectacular coastal views. The path is also well known for being able to spot koalas lazing about in the treetops… We saw four! They were so beautiful with much shorter hair than the ones we had seen further south in Australia. One had moved by the time we came back down from the 800m loop at the end of the walk and we couldn’t find him anywhere – just goes to show how fast they can move when they want to!– …. . …- .. . .– ..-. .-. — — -.-. — — — .- -. -.. .–. — … – .– .- … .- — .- –.. !

.- .-.. .-.. – …. .- – .– .- … — .. … … .. -. –. .– .- … .- ..-. . .– …. ..- — .–. -… .- -.-. -.- .– …. .- .-.. . … -… .-. . .- -.-. …. .. -. –. .. -. – …. . … . .- -… . .-.. — .– – — — .- -.- . .. .–. . .-. ..-. -.-. – ! Having just missed the bus (again for the second time today!), we decided to wait at the bus stop rather than navigate the roads that go through the national park in the dark. As we watched the night close in, even with the light from the solitary street lamp, we were glad with our decision knowing that neither of us wanted to stumble around in the dark – me ’cause I’m scared of the dark and Jayne ’cause of what could be lurking in the dark (deadly snakes and spiders etc. – it is Australia!!). The bus took us to the end of the line where we treated ourselves to a fish and chip dinner. Jayne got hers battered and I got mine crumbed (not sure what that really means) but they were both delicious and the fish was incredibly fresh – it almost tasted like meat! Back at the room to shower off the salt water from our snorkel and the dirt from my feet since I did ‘The Forts’ walk in flip flops, we then climbed into my bottom bunk and watched a film whilst munching on some Oreo Mint Dairy Milk Chocolate. 

Monday 8th August 2016

Travelling & Magnetic Island – Day 305

A very disturbed nights sleep with noisy roommates, or maybe it was just one noisy roommate on several different occasions!! We were woken up around 2am by some one who had forgotten his room key and Jayne was sure she heard someone trying to ‘cook crack’ in the bathroom with the sound of spoons clicking together around 3.30am (I am so naive… I have no idea what that really means!!). Anyway, we woke up with our alarms and got up showered and dressed before heading downstairs for breakfast. We had found cashew nut spread in Woolworths yesterday and we had it with some hot crumpets and pears – it is divine!! There are no words to describe how amazing it is but I could simply devour the entire pot using just my fingers!Went back upstairs to pack up our bags with all our freshly laundered (and dry!) clothes before walking down through the marina to the coach terminal. A really dull five hour coach journey with our highlight being the stop at the service station where we saw a woman being confronted for shoplifting (she refused to let them search her), a gorgeously cute golden Labrador puppy who, judging by the size of his paws, is going to become one huge beast soon and our ice creams.Arriving in Townsville, we had just under an hour to wait for our ferry to Magnetic Island. We used the super fast internet in the ferry terminal to upload some of the photos to blogs that we have neglected to do over the past few days, hoping to make it easier to upload everything once we get them written… Oops – we have been too busy having fun (and too lazy to sit down and write them!!). The SeaLink ferry to Magnetic Island was easy and efficient with the turn around for loading and unloading passengers being surprisingly quick. Before long, we were powering through the surrounding bright turquoise seas towards the coastal rocky and mountainous national park. Arriving at the ferry terminal in Nelly Bay, we jumped straight on a local bus (whose timetable revolves around the ferries) to take us to our YHA accommodation – the Bungalow Bay Koala Village. It only took about 15 minutes to drive in and out and all around the streets of the island to get us to Horseshoe Bay, dropping us right outside the door of the ‘resort’. We checked in, dropped our bags in the cabin and headed to the beach. Popped into the local convenience store to get some fruit bread for tomorrow’s breakfast and spotted some marine stingers and poisonous snakes in jars on the shop counter. Apparently they’re just for show, Jayne freaked out even more when we saw a sign on the beach identifying the six different types of stinging jellyfish in the area and the netted swimming area in the bay…Walked along the beach to the end, perching ourselves on a set of rocks to watch the sunset. Unfortunately, it was too cloudy to see it clearly but we did get to see the sky and clouds changing colour as the sun dipped lower behind them.Back at the ‘resort’, we quickly checked emails before heading towards the campers kitchen. En route, we got distracted by a possum in a tree – our first wild possum in Australia! Had to drag ourselves away from the little bundle of cuteness so Jayne could start cooking dinner. However, this YHA doesn’t provide any cutlery or crockery… Slightly surreal moment looking around the kitchen (and then double checking) to find that here was nothing there to use to eat our food. Fortunately, we have our ‘SeatoSummit’ collapsible bowls and sporks so I headed off to the room to retrieve these as Jayne got busy cooking pasta. It only has an outdoor eating area so we had dinner with a multitude of wildlife – wallabies, possums and insects. One extra large cricket decided Jayne’s back was the perfect place to rest…Headed back to the room and, since we are both in top bunks tonight, we couldn’t snuggle up to watch some TV or a film. So, with the large gentleman fully clothed in his high vis safety gear snoring loudly in his bunk to the giggles of the girls opposite him, I climbed into my bunk to read some of my book as Jayne got into hers to watch a film that I didn’t want to watch. 

Sunday 7th August 2016

London – day 259 (J)

With the fiasco at the medical centre yesterday, I had the enviable task of stabbing myself in the ass and doing my own injection. I had Katherine on FaceTime for a bit of moral support and it went alright. I brought the last few bits to the storage locker and doubled back down the corridors to check the lock, the haze and emotions clouding my judgement and I wasn’t sure if I had locked the place up properly. 

A few hours flew past working on the websites at the clinic. Basically, the whole site was getting a Botox and I had Azra sitting on the arm rest of the chair conducting the symphony with an elegant eye. What better way to chill out and give the eyes a rest… a nice lunch across the road, followed by warm chocolate muffins. A quick nip across the road and a tub of clotted cream ice cream made the desert orgasmic. Another few hours ploughing through text formats, button styles, borders and images had the site finally resembling something worth publishing. Serj was on hand to give some artistic flair to the seldom used (now decommissioned) .com, online shop website. I even managed to experience first hand the zero, pain free IPL machine that I had just written about – a nice new machine that I only wish was around years ago.  I had a text from Ed with tonight’s dinner requests and I went up to the Raynes Park Kebab House – probably the single best kebabs this side of Istanbul. I ordered far too much, as per the usual, and the aroma was intoxicating on the train home. But, there was very little left to show of the mammoth feast being washed down nicely with fruit cider before bed. Wednesday 22nd June 2016