A Travellerspoint blog

Stalling.....

Well I'm stalling in Melbourne for a little bit. It's a big city (3.5 million people) but it feels smaller and less busy than Sydney (4 million people). I'm going to be working for Cornucopia which fundraises for different charities. I haven't started yet but I will let all of you know how it is. I have less than three weeks before I go to Sydney to meet my man and then I'm doing the east coast! I'm so excited.

Talk to you all soon.

Posted by Jaders 17:36 Comments (0)

Ghosts and Shady Characters

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Tasmania was once called Van Dieman's Land. It housed troublesome convicts in the 19th century coming from Europe, mainly Britain. It was a way of getting rid of the unwanted characters because going to Australia was usually a one way ticket.

For a couple of days we decided to go stay in Port Arthur. Port Arthur used to be a very famous prison in the 1800's. It opened in 1836 and finally closed in 1876. It was famous for containing the most dismal of convicts. It is also famous for ghost hauntings.

When we arrived at the caravan park where we were staying, the lady at the front desk informed us that we needed to walk through the bush and along a beach, to go across a bridge and not up the stairs to the historic area where our ghost tour would commence. This would have been alright, except that it was pitch dark outside and there was a full moon peering out of a misty night sky. It was a very scary thought to be walking through this area at night by ourselves. But we did it. It was supposed to take 45 minutes but it only took us 25 minutes. Impressive.

On our ghost tour we stopped at the famous church. It had never been blessed because so many religions were using it. Our awesome guide told us a couple of dreary stories to get our adrenaline running. Apparently, as the church was being built by the convicts, one man building one wall of the church was spotted falling off the side of the wall. As he fell he smashed his head against the side and landed at the bottom dead. It is uncertain as to whether it was an accident or intentional. Twenty years ago the ground staff used to let ivy grow all over the church and the ivy would not grow where any of the mans blood had spilled. In the other corner of the church a man had been bludgened to death by another convict with the head of an axe. It is unknown why this man had killed the other but several accounts of him saying 'I am satisfied now' were heard.

The next stop was the parson's house right next door. His name was George Eastman and he lived in the house with his wife, children and servents. This place is known as the most haunted area of the historic grounds. Many ghost sightings have been observed over the years. We all went into the building and stood in a circle in one of the rooms. I immediately felt uncomfortable and felt as though someone was standing behind me. I also felt a tight sensation in my chest. I thought it was just claustrophobia because of the twenty people in the small space. But as I exited the building the sensation disappeared and other people on the tour described the same feeling.

The house was considered haunted even in Eastman's day. His wife thought that strange things were happening because the servents were playing tricks on one another. One day she was very angry so she set a trap. She placed string back and forth up the stairs and shut off the light and waited at the top of the stairs with her husband (of course!). At the first sound of footsteps coming up the stairs she lit her lantern only to discover that the string was being snapped but no one was to be seen coming up the stairs. Her and her husband were very calm to have just witnessed a ghost. A few days later a servent had walked into one of the rooms downstairs and everyone heard her fall to the ground as she fainted. When she awoke she said that as she opened the door she saw a dark sinister figure in the corner. But nobody was found.

Other mysterious happenings also occurred in the house. It was witnessed in the upstairs rooms a brilliant white light whenever the doors were closed. Each time someone would open the door, the white light would disappear and no one was to be found inside. They could not figure out what was inside. Soon after all of these occurrances, the Eastman family moved.

After we had our 'fun' in that house we set off to the house next door. Our guide told us the story of a woman in a blue dress, originally named the Lady in Blue, who could be seen walking along the fence crying. She is known as the accountants wife. She gave birth to a still-born baby and died a few days later herself. It was known back then that a still-born baby had no soul and therefore wasn't baptised. It is believed that this woman is searching the grounds for her baby.

We then headed over to the Senior Medical Officers house, more specifically to his basement. There he had a dissection table for his inquisitive mind. There was a hole in the wall that was used to clean the fireplace upstairs and he used the ashes from this hole to sprinkle on the floor to soak up the blood for an easier cleaning. When we looked down on the floor, the ashes from the fire, possibly still mixed with blood, could still be seen.

Our last and final stop was the Separate Prison. This was separate from the original barracks and was used to house convicts who had misbehaved in the barracks or who were just plain crazy. It was also a scary place. Each convict had his own room and was not allowed to speak. He was not even allowed to be seen outside of his room either. When we went outside for only an hour a day for exercise he had to wear a mask. If he misbehaved even further in this area he was sent to the punishment cell. In here, the meter thick walls prevented any sound or light from coming in. I stepped inside here and did not know how you could stay sane within its walls for more than a moment. It would have been pretty scary.

The next day was filled with wandering the historic site in the day light! The grounds were very beautiful. We also went on a Isle of the Dead cruise and tour. The Isle of the Dead is an island they used as the cemetary. It is 2 acres and contains at least 1100 bodies. Most of the bodies were not marked with proper gravestones because they were convicts, so most of the old gravestones were from the soldiers or other important figures in the village. We passed a peninsula called Point Puer which housed troublesome boys between the ages of 14 and 17. Here they were treated a little less harsh and were taught skills and trades to help them in life if and when they were released. There was one boy in the prison who was 8 years old. He was apparently brought there for stealing toys in Britain. It sounds very harsh but this was not the only reason for being brought to Port Arthur. He had the longest record of crime than anyone at the prison. He had a hard time getting out of the penal system and stayed at the prison for over 40 years.

Even though the story behind this place is very dark it was a starting point for the current penal systems. Instead of using cat-whips and brute force, this penal colony used a new method of punishment which included education.

Posted by Jaders 16:39 Comments (0)

Tassie!

I took a ferry (but it was more like a cruise ship!) over to Tasmania from Melbourne. I noticed that on my ticket it said I was in business class. How exciting! Not really. When I finally got seated it was only a reclining chair amongst many other reclining chairs in a little room at the back of the boat. This was going to be an 11 hour ride and it didn't look like fun.

We weren't on the boat for more than 10 minutes when the creepiest dude on the planet found us. He offerred to buy us beer after from the lounge if we were bored. I think he just assumed that we would be bored because he came back to our seats not long after and informed us that he smuggled beer onto the ferry so he could get drunk for cheap! Oh hurray. I declined the offer but he still stuck around to babble on about nothing. He was sure a strange character. Finally after pretending to doze off in my chair he finally took the hint and went back to his seat.

It was a very long and uncomfortable sleep in my reclining chair. When we arrived in Devonport at 7 in the morning we caught the Tassie Link bus over to Launceston. As luck would have it, the YHA staff member that we got to book our stay in the hostel here screwed up somehow and so we had no booking anywhere in town. The first hostel that we stopped at is what I chose because I was walking any distance with my pack looking for a hostel. It turned out to be a bad choice though. It was situated right beside a bar and of course we got the room right next to it. The room also had a window that would not close either. Tasmania, as I have discovered, has the same climate as Canada and therefore is kind of cold, especially after you have been acclimatized to temperatures above 30 degrees celcius. I froze my butt off all night.

Out of Launceston we tried to get a day tour out to Cradle Mountain. But it seemed impossible. There weren't enough people interested in a day tour out there so one company wasn't running it. The only other company running said they were all booked up. So what was I to do? Pack my things and move to Hobart. But before that we hiked up the Cataract Gorge in central Launceston and observed the beautiful river gorge. It was very beautiful with all of the fall colours from the trees.

The next day I caught the Tassie Link bus again to travel the 2.5 hours to Hobart. Hobart is a great place. I chose a hostel that was a little out of the way so that it would be quiet. It was only a 25 minute walk into the central city, but my travel buddy thought it was going to be way out of the way. The hostel, Allports, has been the best place that I have stayed since I left home. It was full of friendly people and it was very clean and homey. I felt quite comfortable there. Good thing, because we were staying quite a few days there.

Hobart is famous for its Salamanca Market. It runs every Saturday and has at over 300 stalls selling arts and crafts, fresh produce and souvenirs of all sorts. It was very cool. There was a busker on the street playing a guitar, the drums and a didgeridoo all at the same time. I thought he was very talented so I bought his CD.

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One of the days that we were there we went to Mount Field National Park on a day trip. It was raining and cold so the trip had to be adjusted accordingly. Our first stop was the Something Wild Wildlife Park. This place contained Tasmanian Devils, wombats, platypuses, polka dotted quolls, grey kangaroos, wallabies and of course cockatoos. The Tasmanian Devils were not as I expected. They looked very cute and cuddly but the guide informed us that this is very false. He told us of a story of a man who was walking home from the bar drunk and passed out along the way. When we woke up he discovered a Tasmanian Devil chewing on his fingers and then he noticed that he was missing two fingers already! Gross. The wombat was very interesting too. His name was Benny and he had been hand raised by the guide there. Wombats are very aggressive when they mature and when the guide got into the pen with Benny, he had to be very careful not to get caught by this little monster. The whole time the guide was telling us about wombats Benny was trying to attack him and bite him. He made a really wierd noise too as his aggressive noise that sounded like a farting noise. Not very scary at all, but I definitely didn't want to get in the pen with him.

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We drove up Mt Field but it started raining even harder. We walked around Lake Dobson at the top anyway. It was a very dismal looking place because of the mist within all of the trees surrounding you. We drove further down the mountain and walked through a rainforest to Russell Falls.

We also went up to Freycinet National Park for a day tour as well. Here we stopped at many white sand beaches. But they are really cold so there was no swimming involved. The Tasmanians think that the water is quite cold, but they obviously haven't been swimming in glacial water back in Canada. The main beach that we went to see was the famous Wineglass Bay. It was a steep hike up to the lookout but it was definitely worth it. It was beautiful.

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Back in Hobart we went on a Cadbury Chocolate Factory tour. We learned how the chocolate is made and how it is packaged. The rooms in the factory were so sweet smelling it almost made you sick to your stomach. It was very hot in there too. I can't imagine working in that room for 12 hours. At the end of the tour we got a little goody bag full of chocolate and then an opportunity to buy cheap chocolate at their gift shop. Of course I loaded up with chocolate but I mailed most of it home for the family.

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Posted by Jaders 16:12 Comments (0)

'Roo Island to Footy Central

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I've been all over the map the last little while. Arriving in Adelaide after a tour through the outback was kind of nice. I could not be covered in dust and actually have a shower. I was kind of stinky for a couple of days.

There wasn't too much to do in Adelaide. It is a quiet little city. I did two tours around the area while I was staying there. The first tour I went to Kangaroo Island for two days. Even though the temperature was 29 degrees celcius it felt a lot cooler because of the wind coming from the coldest and driest landmass in the world: Antarctica. Brrrrr! The first day we stopped at a few beaches but no swimming was involved. We stopped at Seal Bay for a guided tour along the beach where a colony of sea lions were nesting. I got to come within 10m of the lazy creatures. Sea lions seem lazy but they are not. For three whole days without stopping they go out into the ocean and hunt for food. After eating 3/4's of their body weight in food they come back to their nesting grounds and sleep for three more days. Later that night we all piled into the bus and went down to Vivonne Bay and hunted for sneaky little Fairy Penguins, the smallest penguins in the world. On our way back to our cabin we chased kangaroos and wallabies through a field. They are not very smart animals.

The next morning was amazing. For breakfast we watched the sunrise through the mist of the field with just a few kangaroos still feeding in the background. We headed out early through Flinders Chase National Park, where the vegetation is more dense than it is in the Amazon. We stopped at the Remarkable Rocks which were just huge limestone rocks on the south coast of the island. We set off along the coast again and stopped at a fur seal colony at Cape de Coueric. We watched the more playful creatures through the Admirals Arch, an arch with stalactites hanging from it. Our last stop was a hike up to Snake Lagoon. I didn't see snakes, but we stopped at a creek along the way and waited quietly and patiently for platypuses. And indeed we saw one for a brief moment. We had to climb through a cave to get to the breezy beach. The ride home was not so successful. We managed to blow the tire right off of the bus. We managed to survive that as well as the swerving down across to a side street before coming to a halt in perfect park in a quiet little neighbourhood. Definitely exciting.

A couple of days later I went on a wine tour through the famous Barossa Valley. They are famous for their Shiraz's. I'm not a huge wine fan but I certainly did like the rose shiraz that I tried at Peter Leehman Cellar. On the way to a bunch of winery stops, we stopped at Gumeracha, home of he largest rocking horse. Her name is Rhonda and she has a little baby sitting out right next to her, Rodney. We stopped briefly at the Whispering Wall at the Barossa Reservoir which has spectacular acoustic abilities. A person can talk to another on the other side of the dam and still here them clear as day. You can even whisper, hence the name, and still hear one another.

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There wasn't too much else to do in Adelaide but we needed to wait for a few days before our Great Ocean Road tour began. So we decided to take an old tram down to a town called Glenelg. It didn't have much going for it either, other than famous ice cream, a jetty and the Rodney Fox Discovery Center. Rodney Fox was attacked by a great white shark 30 years ago, had over 500 stitches and managed to live through it. Now he is a shark advocate and helps try to protect them. Crazy man.

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The Great Ocean Road tour, from Adelaide to Melbourne finally began at last! The first day was mainly driving (as it always is to get anywhere in Australia) but we managed to make it through the Adelaide Hills and into the Grampian Mountain National Park. We hiked down a series of steps to the bottom of Mackenzie Falls and then drove further down the road to the Balconies. The Balconies are a series of lookouts towards the Grampian Mountains. We were there for dusk and got to see the spectacular sunset over the misty mountains. I loved it. It was so amazing!

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In the morning, bright and early, we hiked up the Boronia Peak. It was a fairly steep 3.3 km to the peak and we had to scramble at the top but it was definitely worth it. I love the feeling of being on the top of a mountain, high above everything else. Before lunch we headed to the Brambuk Aboriginal Cultural Center to watch a series of videos about aboriginal culture and then finally entered the Great Ocean Road.

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Our first stop was the Bay of Islands, which consisted of a bunch of limestone rocks sticking out of the water. Then we moved on to the Bay of Martyrs, which was similar. The London Bridge was a huge limestone rock with a hole in the center. It used to be attached to land but a couple who had been cheating on their partners were crossing it one day and karma kicked them in pants. The bridge fell and they had to be rescued and were filmed on live television. For sunset we stopped at the 12 Apostles, which were originally called the Sow and Pigs. There are actually not even 12 of the Apostles. I only counted 8 and I was told that some have disintegrated by weathering from the water over the years and have collapsed into the sea.

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The last day on the Great Ocean Road was a series of stops that looked out into the Southern Ocean. Our first stop was Loch Ard Gorge, where a couple were shipwrecked and stuck at the bottom of the cliffs for weeks before finally escaping. Tom and Eva survived by taking refuge in a small cave nearby. We stopped at Maits Rest Rainforest Walk to hike through a cold temperate forest before we came upon Split Point Lighthouse at Airey's Inlet. As we got closer and closer to Melbourne the stops mainly consisted of general lookouts over the ocean, so I was getting a little bored. Finally we stopped at a place called Torquay, which is the home of Rip Curl. It is where it all began and all the girls were giddy with excitement to stop to shop at the Rip Curl Outlet. I bought a wallet because I need to be a millionaire to shop there.

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But now finally in Melbourne I feel like I am at home away from home. It is a large city but it doesn't feel like it at all. It is very easy to get around on the trams and I managed to find a job for when I return here after an adventure in Tasmania for 12 days.

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One day I went to an amusement park called Luna Park and rode the carousel! I haven't done that for years. I also bought some fairy floss. Fairy floss is cotton candy for all you sugar lovers out there. I love the stuff. There was also a comedy festival in town and I went along with a skit that my travel buddy picked out. I am not going into detail about this because it is slightly embarrassing (as well as a family show here) and I should have been paying attention when she was talking about it. I also went to my first 'footy' game. A footy game is a rugby game or Australia's version of football. It is a crazy game in which players practically beat on one another for possession of the ball just to kick it through a net. It looked like some guys got the crap kicked out of them and should have been rushed to the hospital, but they got right back up and continued to play until the end of the two hour game. It was amazing! Very exciting!

Now I am in Tasmania for close to two weeks to embrace the cold (ok colder) weather and the mountains!

Posted by Jaders 23:22 Comments (1)

The Outback

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I flew to Alice Springs, ready to embark on a tour through the famous Australian Outback. I had a full evening and a full morning to explore Alice Springs before my tour started. I wandered around the small town but there wasn't much there. However, I did purchase a beautiful opal necklace. Australia is the opal capital of the world! My necklace is a beautiful piece that looks like a crystal ball with a flower or a sun around it and has lots of red, green and blue tones within it. I love it!

My tour started early afternoon, and we pretty much just drove to Kings Creek Station where we were going to spend the night. On the way, our tour guide Joe, stopped on the side of the road to pick up a thorny devil. We got to hold him and pet him before Joe set him back in the bushes, at a safe distance from the road where we found him. We also saw wild horses and camels.

We continued on our way until we reached Kings Creek Station, which is just a campground in the middle of nowhere, close to Kings Canyon, just outside of Watarrka National Park. After supper, we pulled out our swags and slept underneath the stars! It was very awesome, except I was quite scared that something creepy and crawly was going to join me in my slumber. As far as I know nothing spent the night curled up in my sleeping bag. The bathroom, however, was covered in giant beetles, spiders, ants, moths and I even spotted a scorpion and a frog.

The next morning we were informed to be up by 5:30 am and ready to go at 6:00 am. However, tour guide Joe was missing in action (MIA). We waited for a while, decided to have breakfast without him and even packed up the trailer before he showed his face. He decided at the last minute to sleep in. A lot of us were pretty cranky because of this but we let it pass.

The plan for the day was a 6 km hike through the 270 m high Kings Canyon. We passed the Gill Ranges and by the time we got there it was getting very hot outside. At the beginning of the canyon walk, we had to climb a steep ridge, appropriately named Heart-Attack Hill. After some exhaustion in the mid-day heat, we lazily meandered along the rim of the canyon where we saw a fantastic view of the red geology from above. We were promised a beautiful spot called the Garden of Eden, where a little pool of water was located and was very popular for swimming, especially on a hot day. When we got there, it was far from paradise. It looked like a little swamp and you couldn't see through the water. No one swam.

Past the Garden of Eden, we saw beehive rock formations called the Lost City. It reminded me of what I think Atlantis would look like. We continued along the top of the canyon for a while, looking at native plants and also some fossils that were clearly visible. The fossils were from ancient arthropods that once lived in the area when water was present.

We drove to Yulara, where our next port of call was located. Yulara is a popular place since it is the closest town to Uluru or Ayers Rock and The Olgas. It was the second night of the tour and we got to know everyone a little better. There were three fellow Canadians on the tour and we got along great. Canadians must stick together because we are usually outnumbered by British people on tours like this. This time, we outnumbered them. Brookes and Tracey were from New Brunswick and Kyle was from Manitoba. We had a lot of fun with them. Before bedtime, again in swags under the stars, we sat around the fire getting to know one another.

The next morning, Joe was MIA again, but this time for longer. He also left the bus keys in the ignition, so we all planned to steal the bus, or at least drive around the campground honking the horn until he showed his face. After being up at 5:30 am again, Joe didn't show up until 8:15 am. We were extremely angry and he was definitley outnumbered. He didn't even know he had done anything wrong until the American, Katherine, asked him to appologize. But the damage was done. We were going to be doing a 7.4 km hike through the Valley of the Winds at the Olga's during mid-day, when temperatures are at the extreme in the desert.

Joe was too hungover to accompany us on the walk, so he stayed behind and slept it off while we tried to find our way through the not very well marked trail. The Olgas are also called Kata Tjuta by the Pitjantjajara tribe of aboriginals. They consist of 36 dome rock formations, made from a mixture of mudstone and conglomerate rock that contains granite and basalt. The tallest dome is Mount Olga, which stands at a height of 545 m. Mt Olga was named after Queen Olga of Wurttemberg by Ernest Giles, who discovered the Olgas as well as Kings Canyon and Uluru.

For the following morning, Joe promised us a bacon and egg breakfast because he had slept in both mornings so far. None of us believed him and we didn't wake up until we heard his voice coming towards us from the bushes. We all rubbed our eyes and disbelief and were very happy when he started up the BBQ. It was really early too! After our hearty breakfast, we made our way down to Ayers Rock, more commonly known as Uluru. It is the famous red rock of the outback.

Ernest Giles described it as 'the remarkable pebble.' It is far from being just a pebble. It stands 348 m high, however, most of it is located below ground. It is recognized as a World Heritage Site. It has great sacred and cultural significance to the Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara people and has been recently given back to the indigenous people. However, they still let visitors in the area to view the magnificent monolith. In the past, people could climb Uluru, but the aboriginals have requested that you do not because of it's sacred significance and also because of the dangers. It is a pretty steep climb and the weather can be pretty fierce up at that level. Most of the time there is a considerable wind factor as well as high temperatures. A few people have died climbing it and many have been injured. Instead of climbing it, we hiked the base walk around Uluru, 9 km. It was a fairly easy walk and you could see the rock up close. However, there were fences in certain areas and you could not take pictures of certain sacred places. I still got some beautiful photos of other areas. Most of the stories and reasons for sacred spots on the rock cannot be told to the general public for fear of upsetting spirits. So it is left to be a mystery to us. Even aboriginal women from other tribes are not allowed to know what the spiritual significance is. We visited the cultural center back at Yulara but didn't learn very much about their culture, other than how they hunted.

The rest of the day was dedicated to driving. We travelled a fair distance only to find a little campground in the middle of nowhere. Apparently it is also a town, named Kulgera. There was a gas station, pub and a campground there. I am uncertain as to the population, but I'm guessing it's not many. A few people from the group skipped supper and went straight to the pub. I had supper, a shower and then bed, until I was rudely awoken to 4 naked Aussie's dancing around our campfire. I thought I was dreaming but when I rubbed my eyes a few times, they were still there. I have no idea where they came from but I'm glad it was dark.

The next morning also consisted of a long distance drive to Coober Pedy, the opal capital of Australia. The name Coober Pedy comes from the local aboriginal term kupa piti, which means 'white man in a hole.' This is accurate because 70% of the town constructs buildings out of the side of the hills in the area. The area contains no timber and has high temperatures, so living in caves is an excellent option. The temperature is controlled between 22 - 26 degrees celcius even when the climate is considerably higher outside. We had a tour of the town and then a tour of the opal mine. Living in caves seems really surreal. I don't think I could live in a house so dark and without windows. We stayed in a 40 person bunkhouse right next to the mine which was also constructed into the side of a hill. I found it actually quite warm inside. But that may be because I was used to sleeping outside for the last 4 days.

The last day of the tour just consisted of driving over 1300 km to Adelaide. I was kind of glad it was over, except the fact that we were leaving all of our friends. I was kind of disappointed, though, because I felt like I didn't learn anything about the area because our guide was very uneducated about the area.

  • More pictures soon people. I'm working on it. Computers don't like me.

Posted by Jaders 23:10 Comments (0)

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