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last day in Melbourne..

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

Today is my last in Melbourne, tomorrow I fly to Perth and begin the rest of my trip.  I’ve had a fantastic time in Melbourne, I love this city, but I’m ready for more adventure and to be on the road again.  I have 6 weeks left in Australia and I’ve decided to split it evenly between the West coast and the East coast/Queensland.  I don’t know exactly what I’ll be doing out West, I still need to figure that out but all the options look good, starting in Perth.  The weather in Melbourne the last week has been perfect, every day, and it’s looks to be even better in Perth.

Another month finished today, I have about 6 of them left on the road now and still 3 continents after Australia to see.  This is also my 100th blog post, I hope everyone’s enjoyed reading them..  I may get to 200 entries before I’m finished!

back in Melbourne

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

Well I’m back in my hostel in Melbourne now, it practically feels like home.  I’ve spent the last 4 days in Hobart, not finding much to do except belatedly celebrating St Patricks day Saturday night with my 2 Irish travel partners, drinking exclusively Guinness for the night.

After that I didn’t get up to much of anything, I saw pretty much what there was to see in Hobart on my first couple days there when I flew in.  So I’ve basically been sitting around the hostel the last couple days, avoiding spending money unnecessarily.  The hostels in Tasmania we had been staying in have largely been good, but the one in Hobart was the exception.  I had to move rooms because the staff didn’t know what’s going on, the kitchen sucked and the whole place was full of the strangest sorts of people…  Today when I got to my hostel in Melbourne I was welcomed back by the owner and given a free beer, that’s more like it!

I’m back here for a week, F1 grand prix on Sunday followed by the Who in concert, and then I’m flying to Perth next week.  As of today I have exactly 7 weeks left in Australia and after Melbourne it is split 50/50 between West and East coasts with a couple days in Adelaide in between.  I really can’t wait to see the coasts after hearing people talk about them for the last 3 months here, but I’m not really looking forward to the travel scene to come, especially on the East coast.  The stuff to see sounds amazing but it seems like such an over backpacked route that I’m not looking forward to the madness of just traveling up the coast there.  I’m sure everything is still great to see up in Queensland though, it’s over traveled for a reason.

That’s enough for now, I have one week here to chill out in Melbourne and party it up at the grand prix on Sunday before hitting the road again.  This will pretty much be the last week I’m not ‘traveling’ for the rest of this trip (except a week back in the UK in June).  The 6 months I have left will be the longest stretch of continually being ‘on the road’ of the trip and I keep on anticipating the places I have left to see more and more.

waterfalls, rainforest, beaches and a swimming pool

Monday, March 23rd, 2009

We were going to hike up to one of the peaks around lake st clair but there was low cloud covering the area, even more annoying to me since I had gotten up to see the sunrise. Instead of hiking, we drove to Mt Field nat’l park home of the spectacular russell falls.

russell falls

The valley at the base of the falls is dense rainforest and the hilltops nearby are home to the second tallest trees on earth (behind the californian redwoods). The clouds had lifted by this point and it was a lovely day for walking around the park. We also stopped at a nearby wildlife park to see Platypus (strangest animal I’ve seen) and the ever popular Tasmanian devil…

tasmanian devil

After this stop it was back to Hobart for the night, we still had the car for another full day, but there’s nothing really between Mt Field and Hobart except some small, quaint, villages and farms. We drove by quite a few hop fields ready for harvesting.

Last day we had the car for we headed South of Hobart through another wine & farming region down towards the South coast, a very nice drive. We got as far as the paved road can take you and stopped at a great beach in Southport. It was too nice of a day and setting not to swim, despite the cold temperature of the water.

After that we stopped at Hastings for a so-called thermal pool where you can swim. All it ended up being (of course you don’t know this until you have already paid to get in) was a small, shallow very typical looking swimming pool with barely warm water in it. Not remotely hot like all the signs saying hot springs would lead you to believe. Pathetic! We soon left there and found another beach to chill on, more tough life…

So we completed our loop of Tassie in 10 days. I could’ve stayed longer in the Western regions and found parts of the East over rated. Much like anywhere, some stuff exceeds expectations and other stuff falls short. All in all it’s been a great road trip, 1900km in total, seeing the sites on this small island that is definitely very unique from mainland Australia. I also can’t believe how great the weather has been, in the 12 days I’ve been here I’ve only had 1 1/2 days of rain and the rest has mostly been sunny and warm!

the West

Monday, March 23rd, 2009

Leaving Cradle mountain, we drove West to the coast through some mountains, lovely viewing most of the way. What few towns (if you can call them that) there are in this area are mostly small mining settlements with nothing much in them. Strahan, on the West coast is the exception to this since it’s the base of West coast tourism apparently. Holiday parks, motels, hotels and restaurants here but no accommodation available for our budget, after looking all over for somewhere affordable we gave up on Strahan and found something in the not so far away town of Queenstown. Much less touristed, and still a mining town but they had a cheap backpackers place there and let us never speak again of the greedy bastards in the tourist trap of Strahan.

Good weather again, 3rd day in a row in the west country is amazing, we drove to the South end of Cradle Mtn/Lake St Clair national park to Lake St Clair. This is the other end of the 80km overland trek that starts at Cradle Mtn and the deepest glacial lake in Australia. The Tasmanian glaciers are long gone but the mountains they carved up are still around.

view from lake st clair

view from lake st clair

I like the Western half of Tassie better than the East, which was still nice and worth seeing but over rated in my opinion. The West is remote, and in the areas that aren’t scared by the logging or mining industries, beautiful. Of all the comparisons to New Zealand, there are similarities but New Zealand’s geography is more dramatic and has more diversity in it too. All that said it is nice down here, as you can hopefully see from my pictures…

Cradle Mountain

Saturday, March 21st, 2009

After stocking up on food, we left Burnie, and headed South to Cradle mountain national park. The majority of the 2 1/2 hours driving was by farm fields reminding me of England or, unfortunately, tree farms and clear cut logging. This changes dramatically once you get near the park, far fewer trees, lots of scrubby growths and it looks like something out of middle earth. Apparently you can only see Cradle mountain 60 days a year due to the weather here, we seem to have timed it very well, arriving to bright sunshine and clear skies.

Hiked to a lookout in the afternoon, nice panoramic views over the glacial lakes of the area. This is the nicest part of Australia I’ve seen yet as far as natural beauty goes.

view from marians lookout

along the hike to cradle mtn summit

That night, being St Patrick’s day we went to the park lodge and had some Guinness to celebrate that fact, I’m still amazed that we found Guinness in such a remote location. Next morning we got up early and hiked up to the summit of Cradle mountain, 6 1/2 hours round trip. Beautiful weather for this hike, 2nd day of good weather in a row for this area, lucky me. The hike is always pretty exposed so there’s great views the whole way.


The last hour of the hike is climbing over large boulders to reach the top, loads of fun for me, not so sure the other people doing it thought so though. I’m not going to try and describe the whole thing so here’s photos from it.

along the hike to cradle mtn summit

view from the peak

along the hike to cradle mtn summit

view from the peak

Launceston and the Tamar valley

Friday, March 20th, 2009

Launceston is not a city. Enough said.
There’s a really scenic gorge through town and it is the gateway to the Tamar valley however. We stayed here for a couple nights basically because it was rainy, we found a nice hostel and there wasn’t much else to do.

Cataract gorge

Leaving Launceston, we drove through the Tamar valley and up to the North coast. This area is home to vineyards as well as cheese and chocolate factories. The day was one of the harder ones on the trip so far, spent sampling wine, cheese and chocolate with good success on all fronts. Backpacking is really tough sometimes, the Pinot Noir and pepper cheese I bought were a killer combination later on…

Tamar valley winery

We ended up in the town of Burnie for the night on the North coast, the 4th largest town in Tasmania and found a choice of 4 dinner options in the whole place, arriving after 6pm the town centre was practically deserted. It reminds me of towns in New Zealand a lot. It’s going to get even more remote after this as we’re heading back to Hobart down the West country, mountains, wilderness and not much else there.

road trippin’ in Tassie, East coast

Friday, March 20th, 2009

The next few posts are going to be what I’ve done the last week and a half with no access to internet…

What started as me meeting up with one guy looking to share a car ended up with 5 of us in total setting out from Hobart in a car we got a great rate on for 10 days. None of us had met any of the others before Wednesday… Thursday morning we got the car and since it was a gorgeous day we drove up to Mt Wellington, overlooking Hobart for some fantastic views.


The Destination for day one was the tasman peninsula and Port Arthur, one of the original infamous prisons here from the transportation era (convicts sent here from the Britain). What’s left now is about 1/3 of buildings that were part of the complex in ruin. The ghost tour is apparently the thing to do and we got there in time for it (at dusk). Good tour, walking around the buildings under the stars and a full moon with the guide telling stories of the prison creates a nice aura, didn’t see any ghosts though…

church at port arthur

Next morning we went back to see the place in daylight. Apparently this site is a major cash cow for the Tasmanian tourist industry, the admission fees were ridiculous especially since we had paid to go on the tour the night before. An alternate/side way in away from the ticket booth was discovered, utilized and we wandered around for a good couple hours.


From Port Arthur we drove North, along the East coast. The Southern section of this coast has cliffs and rock formations and once you get farther North there’s lots of nice beaches. The weather was another beautiful sunny day and despite the fact that it wasn’t that warm out (and the ocean definitely wasn’t warm) this beach looked too good not to swim in..


It rained that night, but the next morning had cleared off quite a bit in time for visiting Wineglass bay in the Freycinet national park.

Wineglass bay

The hike into the bay is nice, through some cool rock formations, the bay and beach are stunning. More swimming was done here, despite the water being even colder than the day before. A lot of the rocks in this area have a very vivid orange lichen growing on them making for some great colour contrasts with the water.

orange lichen rocks

After we left wineglass bay the weather changed, ala New Zealand and pissed down rain for the rest of the day. We didn’t bother trying to continue North along the coast to see more beaches in that weather so we just headed for Launceston, Tasmanias 2nd “city”. Overall I can’t complain about the weather down here at all, it’s supposed to suck but my first 5 days were sunny and warm (ish). Good enough weather to go swimming the last 2 days!

My rtw ticket

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

/begin rant

Well I went back to the Qantas office this morning, I thought I would just be picking up my newly reissued ticket… hahaha, right.

They had already called American about reissuing my ticket because all the information they needed wasn’t on the original ticket. (???)
So once I got there they tried to reissue it several ways, failing each time. Eventually they figured out how to reissue it (half of the staff there ended working on it). Apparently the problem was, since my ticket type is no longer offered (current rtw tickets available have a lower total number of flights on them) their system wouldn’t let them reissue a ticket that exceeded the current requirements. Essentially the problem was that the new tickets issued aren’t big enough for all the information the old tickets had, great changeover system they have in place eh?

I also discovered a couple more things I was misinformed about by American airlines personal during this process too, very unimpressed with their service… The last person I talked to there (wish I remembered her name…) gave me blatantly wrong information about:
a. where I could have the ticket reissued
b. the amount I would have to pay extra in destination taxes (due to my change of destination)
Also when I originally booked the ticket with them it took 3 phone calls over a week or so to actually get it booked properly.

Qantas service on the other hand, in the Hobart, Tasmania office I may add, hardly somewhere this sort of issue is going to come up very often and despite the fact that the ticket reissuing was very complicated and took some considerable time, was good.
AA are moving themselves into my black list to join NWA. I still do have 3 flights with them at the end of my trip, unfortunately, though I’ve never had any real problems with them in-flight, I am just angry with them now.

/end rant

The end result was positive though, since it was reissued as an e-ticket, not another paper ticket. Now it wont confuse every checkin desk attendant for the rest of my trip. Since it was reissued it is a totally new ticket. New booking number and everything, and this time it is a Qantas booking, not AA so I no longer need to deal with American for anything. I’m very happy about that fact. Technically I can (and always could have) called any of the Oneworld alliance airlines I’m flying with to changes dates or seats or anything to do with my ticket, but it’s much easier to deal with the people where you have a booking reference number.

On the other issue of the day, I also got somewhere on car sharing. It started with me and one other guy and now we have 4 people all together. Sharing a car for the next 10 days, we’re leaving Hobart tomorrow. Split 4 ways rental cars are very cheap, now I can actually afford to travel around down here.

and just cos I can, while I’m getting free internet while sitting in the road.  Here’s a picture from Hobart…

Van Diemens land

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

I had my whole day all planned out leaving Melbourne, got to the airport really early in case reissuing my ticket took a while… Turns out, Qantas wouldn’t reissue it there at all, they only deal with current day or emergency ticketing there and apparently I had to go to one of their city offices to have the changes made. The exact opposite of what the American airlines representative told me on the phone the other day. Net result, hours of time spent doing nothing at Melbourne airport. Thanks for that American airlines!

My flight to Hobart was fine, saw the end of a great sunset once we took-off. Fantastic colours as far as I could see in either direction…

Upon arrival in Hobart we left the plane via steps onto the tarmac. Haven’t done that in a few years. I arrived at my hostel in Hobart just before 10pm, checked in and then looked for somewhere to get some food. Apparently this is not possible at this time of night. At least I found nothing open in a good half hour of walking around. It’s a good thing Qantas served (albeit small) sandwiches on the flight!

I spent my first day in Hobart walking all over the place. First order of the day was food since I hadn’t had any in a while. Next was the Qantas office in town, where they can reissue my ticket but it will take them a day (hopefully no more). I really don’t understand why after they have already gathered all the information from me and have my current ticket in front of them I have to leave it with them and go back tomorrow for my new one. I don’t think any airline employees actually fully understand round the world tickets.

Once that was taken care of I explored the city centre and harbour front (in the daylight this time), had some great fish and chips for lunch on the wharf served from a boat. The city centre is full of old stone buildings and there’s pockets of them all over town it seems. Great ambience here. Hobart despite being the capital of Tasmania (population is 200k+) doesn’t feel like a city at all, just like a moderately sized town. The weather was clearing off and warming up throughout the day here too, very nice afternoon and more of the same is forecast. I’ll take all of that I can get down here!

After this exploring I started to walk back to my hostel, almost getting there until I see the block of the road my hostel is on is blocked off by police and there’s 4 fire engines parked in the middle of the road. I paid attention long enough to figure out that it was not my hostel that had any problem but the bldg 2 doors down. Never saw any smoke either but they had all the water hoses and smoke gear out. Pubs are a good way to kill time, but when after I’d visited a couple of those and my hostel was still blocked off to me I headed to the Tasmanian museum across the road. Pretty small place but good information on the deportation of convicts here from England back in the day and a fantastic Antarctic exhibit. Apparently, Tasmania was the last piece of land to break apart from the Antarctic continent, long after Australia etc. So the geological elements here are closer related to parts of Antarctica than they are to the nearby mainland Australia.

After feeding my brain something to go with the beer from earlier on, I headed back to the hostel which was finally accessible again. The idea was to fix dinner, but the kitchen here is woefully inadequate for the number of guests so I gave up on that idea and went back out again. The sun was just setting, so I tried to find some good views of different areas of town with a little success.

Today will be spent putting together a car rental share with some other backpackers here. Making the next week of two affordable for all concerned. I should also let some of you who check this blog a lot know, Tasmanian internet access is not cheap nor is it readily available outside of the major towns (of which I think there’s 3) so once I leave Hobart I will probably not be updating this until I get back here in a couple weeks. If it’s more than a couple weeks without a post, a tasmanian devil got me.

halfway point, still figuring out the 2nd half…

Saturday, March 7th, 2009

I’m back in Melbourne now, a couple days left here, I’m flying to Tasmania on Monday. I am about half way through my trip now, I saw about because I don’t know exactly what day I will finish traveling. My flight ticket expires on Sept 12th, so that’s when I have to have taken my last flight (to San Francisco) by. I don’t know how long I will be on the road after that flight.

This weekend I am trying to get as much of the rest of my trip, transport wise at least, figured out so I have less to do while I am traveling around. After I leave my (usually) constant free wireless internet at the hostel here in Melbourne my internet access will diminish in availability and increase in price, I’ll also be much busier doing/seeing stuff. I already had a pretty good idea for South Africa, and so far I’ve figured out pretty much everything for the rest of Australia, the few weeks I’ll in the UK and Europe in June and I’ve got a somewhat reasonable idea about South America now.

I changed the last country on the trip to Colombia, instead of Ecuador, essentially due to entry requirements and not wanting a hassle. Unfortunately since I have a paper ticket this means I have to have my whole ticket reissued, I envision a long time at the Qantas ticketing desk at the airport possibly even longer than I was on hold at American Airlines for…

A side note, I am just thinking about this because I’m overhearing some people right now. The conversations in a hostel range so incredibly, last night there were several people discussing physics, atoms and the universe in a relatively in depth manor and right now there’s a couple people comparing asian countries on how easy to get and cheap the uh, hash was.  Never a dull moment!