A Travellerspoint blog

Australia

The Rainbow Coast, Western Australia.

And who was it that said Seattle was rainy? Try the Great Southwest of Australia. It's called the Rainbow coast for a reason. Our 5 months in Albany, Western Australia.

Okay. First of all, I will apologize. Forgive me for forsaking my blog entries for the last 3 months. It may not be a decent excuse though, but I have been working my - now very much in shape - butt off, thanks to biking several kilometers in and out of town everyday for work.

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What can I say about Albany? The first words that pop in my head are grey, rainy.. and windy. But I'm not doing this town any justice at all. It has a stunning coastline and after all it is winter here. And what a mild winter it is in comparison to what I'm usually used to. I can hardly complain. It just makes me miss home more. That's all.

We lucked out basically. Five months in a wonderful house, stocked with all the herbs and spices and basic cooking supplies that I could ever need. With a magical veggie garden in the back, where all our daily needs for fresh greens are met. The two chooks, who don't really need looking after at all. They already realize, they are living in paradise. They've stopped laying eggs for a months or so, but now one of them is getting back on track so who could blame them for anything? And then there's the orange tree... even if there's no sunshine most days, the tree is making us feel loved at least. Never tasted such fantastic freshly squeezed orange juice in my life! But the best perk about this gig is.. the three boxes in the back room filled with VHS's from the nineties. What better way to spend your dark, cold, lonely nights?

So this house-sitting thing is working quite well for us actually... probably better then we could ever have hoped. We knew when we arrived in Australia, running out of money was going to happen at one point (it being so expensive here and all). When we figured out this overly expensive country came along with equally high wages, we knew we were going to take advantage and soon. But how to go about all of this you ask? No worries. Working Holiday Visa? Check. And that's all you need. The rest just takes a bit of smarts and effort and maybe some persisting as well. We were initially worried about a place to stay while we would be working. Rent prices were scaring us quite a bit to be honest. So we came up with two options. One: Find work that would include accommodation and maybe also food or.. Two: find a house-sitting gig in a place where finding jobs would be easy - easier. Both are equally as hard to find. So when we found this ad online for a 5 months long house-sitting job in a reasonably sized town along our planned travel route, we jumped on it immediately. We managed (somehow) to convince a 70 plus year old couple, who spend the winter up north every year, to let us take care of their house while they were gone for 5 consecutive months. Needless to say we will be eternally grateful to Harry and Val. They are the ones responsible for us putting away large amounts of money on our bank accounts at an extremely fast rate.

So work, work, work.... What does it feel like? After a couple of years of indulging ourselves in a rather relaxed way of living - traveling the world and not having to worry much about money. It feels a bit numb to be honest. People might think of us as the escapist kind. Not wanting to settle down, not wanting to tie ourselves down to certain responsibilities. Some of you out there would call us cowards for not wanting to deal with the real world (as they would call it). Which I understand. Completely. But see it from our point of view. Why not take advantage of the limitless possibilities out there? Why not get to know this planet for real before it's too late? We just want to have fun and experience all what is out there as much as possible. What's so wrong with that? We'll get tired of it at one point. We'll settle down. Just not yet though... It's way too much fun being a global nomad..

One place where I work at is the Royal George Hotel. A bartending job will stay the same wherever in the world you may find yourself. So it's a good skill to fall back on. This bar in particular has an immense amount of history. This whole town does by the way. What makes the George a different kind of pub to work at is the old fellas. It's a good old local kind of pub. Nothing fancy. I've got my regulars that come in everyday and they are amazingly entertaining and splendid company. The times they have made me giggle with their wild stories from the good old days. I've heard Robert Plant and Neil Young anecdotes from a former musician suffering from severe tinnitus. Or how about this other fella that one day decided to fill me in on a certain part of his past. "That time I almost went to the slammer for nearly killin me own brotha." That was one of the more heartfelt ones. There was still sadness and pain to be read on his face while he tried to explain. In his defense, his brother did take off with his fiancee while he was at sea. Most of these guys once used to be fishermen or working on the rigs or for the Navy. Now most of them are retired and meet up with each other in the pub almost every day. Every single one of them is adorned with plenty of visible tattoos and even though they might look like rough oldies not to be messed with to an outsider, to me they all are cuddly bears with a heart of gold. To see them all lined up sitting at the bar next to one another, mumbling and cursing a lot (ooh yeah... they curse a lot) with their free hand (the one not holding the beer) cupping their ears trying to catch what their neighbor just had said, because the batteries in their hearing aid might have run low again. You just have to see it for yourself, it's very endearing.

Albany was the right choice to make. Even though I did run into some trouble with a local business owner thinking, because I was a backpacker, that must mean he had a freebie to take advantage of me. Well guess what? I might be a backpacker but I'm not a stupid one. Shame on those who try to scam us out of our hard earned money. Luckily I caught on to it from week number one and made my way out of their as fast and confrontational-free as possible. Karma will have it's way.

So yes. I would recommend to every young backpacker looking for another adventure to come to Australia on a Working Holiday Visa and to work their butts off. If they are smart about it, they will walk away with a huge sum of aussie dollars to spend nice and slow in less "dearer" countries.

3 months down. 2 to go.... then it's back to singing my favorite tune. "On the road again..."

Love and Peace,

A Flemish Girl Down Under.

Posted by flemishgirl 09:41 Archived in Australia Tagged winter australia work north money western_australia orange orange_tree working oranges aud albany exmouth couchsurfing cira's royal_george_hotel housesit housesitting chooks veggie_garden mild_winter working_holiday_visa whv

Mining for Opal in Coober Pedy, Australia!

Frontier life in the Opal Mining capital of the world.

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Our first venture into Central Australia. Where copious amounts of flies and mosquitoes are your worst nightmare and water is scarce. Coober Pedy, situated a 1000 km north of Adelaide along the Stuart highway is a place literally surrounded by hundreds of miles of nothing in every direction. It’s a place for outcasts and adventurers. A place where real rebels can feel at home. After crowded coastlines and busy, polluted cities, our true outback adventure starts here.

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Coober Pedy is known for its opals and dug-out houses and thus has placed itself on the tourist map. Opalized fossils of dinosaurs are world famous finds in this territory. Opals are basically gems from a long gone desert sea. As most of Australia was underwater up until 120 million years ago. Pieces of opal show a brilliant spectrum of colors which is quite unusual in a stone. It has the unique ability to split white light or ordinary sunlight into beautiful colors and is therefore extremely rare and valuable. So can you blame all these opportunists still trying to live the dream?

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Coober Pedy supplies about 80percent of the world’s requirement for opal. It all started with this young fellow about a hundred years ago, looking for some water for his family’s exhausted form of transportation, their camels. He stumbled upon something shiny and precious looking. Not long after, people starting digging and holes, that seemed no longer useful for finding opal, were used as housing..
We stayed with an Austrian Opal Miner in his large and very comfortable dug-out. We helped renovate an extension to the house in return. It was a true Coober Pedy experience, which people usually pay big bucks for.
The Aborigines didn’t name it ”White man in a hole” for nothing. ( Kupa = white fella / Pedi = hole in the ground).

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Thursday night, everybody goes to the local pub, including us, and the locals are extraordinarily friendly. This is where we got asked to sign “The Petition”. The company in charge of the electricity and water supply in the area had just announced that it would raise its prices about 300 percent…We had just read about it in the local newspaper and thought it was an outrage. How dare the government not do anything about this! These folks, who obviously don’t have a choice, are already paying unaffordable bills. Coober Pedy is one of those places where buying a simple thing such as a bottle of water will set your travel budget seriously back. Have a look at these beer prices.

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Even though all of the folks we met and had conversations with, were all very genuine and warm hearted, there was one thing that struck us as unusual. Here in the middle of nowhere, far into the outback, nobody seemed to speak highly of the ”Black Fellas”. We had encountered the Aborigine culture in the cities, seen the art work in the museums, heard their story over and over again and agreed that it was very sad indeed. So when we arrived into this part of the country where their numbers were far greater and the chances of seeing and experiencing their lifestyle were very real indeed, it turned out to be a bit different than we had expected. The first thing you see when you enter Coober Pedy is an abandoned city where aborigines aimlessly walk along the streets, sometimes sitting in groups gathered in the little shade a tree in the parking lot could offer. People usually try to avoid being outside for about 8 or 9 months out of the year during the hotter part of the day. The indigenous people though don’t really seem to mind and they don’t seem to care about their appearance either. There’s a certain sense of entitlement hanging in the air and I can surely understand why. It’s a complicated situation with a probably equally as complicated solution, but so far all the Australian government has been doing is throwing a fair large amount of money at the Aboriginal community. Some of them certainly didn’t mind coming up to us, to ask for a few dollars as if they were homeless and then immediately afterwards went inside a bottle shop (liquor store) to buy a cheap cask of wine. Alcoholism, certainly seems to be the major issue within all communities across the country. We were told that what you see on the streets are the outcasts. They have been kicked out of their communities because of bad behavior. These communities seem to keep to themselves though and we have yet to go visit one of the many found scattered around the outback . We heard nothing but good things and are certainly looking forward to finally meeting some of these exceptional people. There were many stories told to us by different locals about the many incidents that had occurred involving that one kind of Black Fella. I guess it’s the same anywhere right? Us, White Fellas try and stay clear from the troubled ones as well now, don't we? It’s all relative in the end.

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All in all, I’d say our Coober Pedy excursion was a major success. We found some opals… I’ll admit it was in our hosts backyard, though. They were the chunks he didn’t value much and had thrown away. They still looked like little treasures to us!!

Cheers!

Flemish Girl.

Posted by flemishgirl 22:56 Archived in Australia Tagged desert outback hot flies mining backpacking dust nothing opal mosquitos helpexchange.net coober_pedy opal_mining dug-outs opals black_fellas white_fellas renovate renovation petition

The Great Ocean Road.

South-west Victoria, Australia. Hitchhiking, camping and hiking.

It must certainly ring a bell when you hear someone mention "The Great Ocean Road". If it doesn't.. What if I mention the Twelve Apostles? Does that sound familiar? Well, as we’ve experienced last week, pretty much the whole world knows about it and it is THE major tourist attraction in Victoria, Australia. Tour buses of every size cramped full with little Asians passing us by every minute, while we are standing on the side, of what for the most part is a one lane windy 243 kilometers (150 miles) long coastal road, with our thumbs up in the air. It stretches from the cities, Torquay and all the way west up to Warrnambool. The road was built by returned soldiers and is the world's largest war memorial, dedicated to casualties of World War I. Honestly, nobody really talks about this important historical detail. What the GOR is famous for is the limestone rock formations, which are slowly crumbling into the ocean. There aren't really twelve apostles, it’s more like 8. In recent years, a couple of these important landmarks collapsed, one actually with tourists still one them. The London Bridge incident anecdote was told to us by a friendly local giving us a ride. Now called the London Arch, cause there’s no longer a connection with the mainland, that’s the part that gave way in 1990. No one was injured, but it left two tourists stranded until a helicopter came to rescue them.

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Originally we would have liked to walk the Great Ocean Walk. A 104 km walk starting in Apollo’s Bay almost all the way up to the Twelve Apostles. Instead we chose for a combination of hiking and hitchhiking. It turned out to be a very eventful 3 days, filled with amazing sights along the way and unexpected experiences. The first day was spent trying to get out of Melbourne as quickly as possible. We used public transport to get to Torquay, the start of the Great Ocean Road. Bell’s beach, a world famous surf beach was the first thing to check out. The weather was perfect for surfing and we did get to see locals have a try at some nice tricks. Our first ride was with a surf dude, with his over-friendly pup in the back of his 20 year old van, just making his way back home from Bell’s Beach. I thought that suited the start of our trip. There are a couple of free camp sites along the way but they were mostly located of the road for quite some kilometers. Finding camp spots wasn’t an issue. Rides on the other hand proved to be a bit more difficult. Lots of tour buses and tourists in rentals. We basically relied on locals to give us rides and they did, only our waiting times were a bit longer than what we were used to.

One goal I had set out for myself was to spot some koalas in the wild. There are heaps of them to be found around the Kenneth and Wye river area and the Otway National park. So we got a ride into Wye river with a local delivery guy and he told us to go to the back of the camp grounds and look up in the trees. And there they were. My first koalas! They’re usually found hanging around or dozing off in the bigger eucalyptus trees.

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We had to do at least a part of the Great Ocean Walk and decided to tackle the last bit towards to Twelve Apostles. We started at the beginning of Port Campbell National park, where all the good stuff is to be found. The sky finally cleared up and it was the perfect day for a much needed photo shoot of the most important part of the GOR.

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After about 7 kilometres of walking along the magnificent cliffs (with all of our stuff on our backs going up and down the whole time may I add) overlooking the Great Southern Ocean, the Twelve Apostles came in sight. Unfortunately the Great Ocean Walk doesn’t go all the way up to them, so we had to hike a bit along the highway. The first big sightseeing stop of significance was the Gibson Steps. They take you down to the beach, so you can really admire the height of those cliffs and some Apostles in the distance. If the tide is out enough you can walk along to the rest of them, keeping in mind you have to get back in time, there’s no way back up on the other side of the ridge. (I actually think there were signs and it wasn’t really allowed, but we saw folks doing it.) Hitchhiking from one point of interest to another (as they are quite close to one another) wasn’t that hard. It has to be said though the place was over-run by tourists so we didn’t get rides that fast.

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Finally we made it to The Twelve Apostles! They are pretty impressive to see from close by and it was all definitely worth it. Even though we still think it has nothing on the Washington coast though. We should start calling it the Ten Thousand Apostles and rename the 101, The Great Wild Ocean Road.

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The next amazing place was The Loch Ard Gorge. The gorge is named after the ship "The Loch Ard", which shipwrecked at this location. There still is a cemetery you can go visit there. An extensive walk all around the place is highly recommended. Some incredible formations make for some very interesting views.

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The Great Ocean Road and all of it’s wonders ends officially in Warrnambool. There is still much more along the way to see only we didn’t have a vehicle at our disposal, so we had to be content with what was accessible to us and take the rides that were offered to us.
In conclusion, everybody knows what The Twelve Apostles are and would recognize them in photographs. Well having seen them with my own eyes (and we worked hard to get there by hiking the last part of the Great Ocean walk), I can honestly state that the whole area is damn spectacular and they are truly one of a kind. Another great little adventure completed successfully.

Signed,

A Flemish Girl Down under.

Posted by flemishgirl 01:25 Archived in Australia Tagged twelve_apostles melbourne victoria great_ocean_road hiking surf locals wild surfing geelong loch_ard_gorge camping backpacking backpackers surfer hitchhiking torquay koala's kenneth_river wye_river great_ocean_walk warnambool bell's_beach

Tasmania Unscripted.

Hitchhiking around Tassie. Using alternative, sustainable methods of traveling. Hiking, camping, hitching, couchsurfing and Helpxing around the beautiful Isle of Tasmania. When they say Tassie’s got it all, they really mean it when they say All…

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Until about 15 years ago, before an opportunist real estate agent made a documentary about Tasmania, this particular state of Australia was almost forgotten. When talked about, it was more commonly known as a joke. Nowadays mainlanders and your odd foreigner are buying up land like their life is depending on it. Granted, it is a good investment. It makes prices skyrocket and it’s no longer affordable for the average person with a serious interest in the country lifestyle. Cause that’s what Tassie is all about. It’s still a place where small villages rule and the local communities are going strong. Front doors do not need to be closed and neighbors help each other out without being asked. This could all be gone in the nearby future.

Anyways, the diversity of this island called for some serious exploration, so that’s exactly what we did. After our initial two weeks in Hobart (See previous blog entry Life in Hobart, Tasmania), we started our hitchhiking adventure around the island. We didn’t really have a plan, but we did pinpoint a couple of destinations along the way. The first was the Freycinet National Park and Wineglass Bay. Which turned out to be a magnificent little adventure. (See previous blog entry called Camping at Wineglass Bay.)
Next we were heading more north up along the east coast towards the Bay of Fires. Critically acclaimed by Lonely Planet (I’d never heard of it.), thus worth checking out in my book. Hitching to St. Helens was interesting. We almost got stuck in the middle of nowhere until a car stopped way ahead of us with screeching tires, putting himself in reverse and speeding backwards coming to a halt right in front of us. This is going to be interesting we though to ourselves. Turns out they were a lovely couple, providing us with a ride all the way up where we needed to be. After some much needed fish and chips in town, we got to know a kiwi couple living out their campervan. They took us up to the Bay of Fires and we camped in a pretty fantastic spot right next to the beach together. It’s exactly what we expected it to be. Endless perfect white sand beaches, red rocks and clear blue water all the way for miles and miles.

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Sometimes these HelpX hosts fall through and you are put in, what we thought at the time, a rather luxurious position. Extra free time to go scout the island. We reconnected with another host, who took us in last minute for a couple of days. Just because he could and wanted some extra company around. Andre has this little paradise tucked away in the middle of nowhere and we would have wanted to stick around for a lot longer, but as you can guess, there was still plenty to see in a limited amount of time, so we had to say our goodbyes way too early. Tassie seems to be a lot of firsts for me. Catching my first fish and shooting my first riffle! Target practice was awesome and a good skill to have in case the world goes apocalyptic on us and I’d have to survive by killing some scary zombies.

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Next was Launceston (aka Launie by locals)! Nothing much to do or see there. Another big city, I mean oversized village, but this time on the northern part of the island.

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Some lovely couchsurfing and a visit to the gorge later and we were on our way to Deloraine. This was where we were going to base our visit to Cradle Mountain out of. We thought we were pretty lucky to have found these awesome hosts. They were tremendously accommodating and we owe much to Graeme and Geraldine. Without their help we wouldn’t have been able to experience how beautiful this region actually was. Not to mention their house! Perfect example of using recycled and readily available materials.

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Cradle Mountain was gorgeous, we saw our first wombats (alive and not as road kill, very important detail). An initial 20 minutes of blue skies was the start of our 3 day planned hike. Then trouble began to rise to the surface or rather come down on us. Icy winds, snow storms and pathways turning into rivers wasn’t exactly what we were prepared for. We do have some warm clothes in our backpacks but no mountaineering gear though. So after drying out all of our stuff in one of the shelters, we decided to cut the hike short and make our way down to the sunny valley of Sheffield, a town famous for its murals.

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We followed the Tasmanian trail (Devonport to Hobart, north to south, straight across) for a bit and camped out in a forest nearby town. And what a fabulous alternative that was. The pine trees very much reminded us of home. The distinctive Eucalyptus trees are basically the only vegetation we’ve been seeing here so far in Australia.

Hitchhiking is definitely more easy in Tassie because of the small island mentality. We thought it was never going to be as easy as Hawaii again (Where hitchhiking is a very common way and very much accepted to get around the island. See previous blog entry The Big Island of Hawai'i), but Tasmania has proven to be the most helpful and trusting place. We stuck our thumps up once again and crossed the state in less than four hours making it all the way down to Woodbridge, to our last HelpX place. Another hidden little piece of paradise with a gorgeous view of the D’Entrecasteaux Channel and Bruny Island.

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Dagmar, our host made us feel at home instantly and I know, I didn’t really feel like leaving at all. We meet many folks the way we are traveling and a lot of them we won’t remember, but once in a while there’s someone you will want to keep in contact with and maybe one day visit again. Dagmar is definitely one of those. We’ll miss her and her crazy nonetheless extremely lovable pups. Because we are traveling, there’s no time to get a dog ourselves any time soon. So it expresses itself into a lot of love for all these puppies we meet along the way. Bonnie especially, she kept us busy taking us along for her extensive swims. She could be a little neurotic but such a beautiful Stafford terrier. She definitely did a good job at keeping us entertained. You had to watch out though or she would have taken off by herself and swam all the way to Bruny Island.

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One other animal we encountered for the first time in Tasmania was the black Tiger snake. They seemed quite scary to me and I didn't realize Tasmania is much populated with all kinds of Tiger snakes. They are extremely venomous, but locals succeeded at making me less nervous with stories of their encounters and bites that they knew of. When they hear or see a human, they will make their way out of there, as they are not big fans. Only when you step on one they’ll bite and the chances of the venom actually making it into the wound are small. So when I actually saw a few over the next couple of days in the backyard and surrounding areas, I remained calm and couldn’t be bothered less. (That last part is a lie.. I still freak out of course. What do you want? I'm from Belgium. Last time I checked no venomous creatures to be found there.) Though I will admit I banged a couple of pots together to chase the first one I saw away…

Our last night in Tassie was spent camping on the waterfront in Devonport, waiting to leave on the ferry the next morning back to the mainland. A beautiful sunset was our goodbye gift.

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So in conclusion, Tasmania is ranked high on my favorite places in the world list. It still has it all. Cozy little villages, beautiful beaches, mountains, an abundance of lakes and part of it, the west is still wild and uninhabited. But most of all, I liked the friendly islanders.

Dear Tasmania,

Please don’t ever change.

Sincerely,
Flemish Girl.

Posted by flemishgirl 23:53 Archived in Australia Tagged sunset hiking mountain tasmania gear camping hobart snake ferry recycle hitchhiking devonport helpexchange helpx tassie deloraine cradle_mountain hitching woodbridge tiger_snake stafford terrier bonnie recycled_materials

Camping at Wineglass Bay.

The Freycinet peninsula - National Park, East Coast Tasmania.

Stunningly beautiful Wineglass Bay is probably the most populated tourist attraction in the whole of Tasmania. Hoards of colorful campervans and tour buses unloading visitors of many different origins and ages, indicate that you’ve arrived at a pretty special place. We hitchhiked our way up the east coast all the way from Hobart to this overcrowded, yet still amazing destination in about 2 hours and a half. Which for us was probably a personal record. Several times along the way, we barely had our thumbs sticking out in the air or a car had already stopped to offer us a ride. To make sure you understand exactly how smoothly this hitchhiking trip was, we beat the same campervan three times. Every time after we got dropped off and they had spotted us yet again, they waved at us. But still no ride from them though. I thought they would have gotten the message, but then again we could have been sending out the wrong one. Obviously we had gotten there without their help and pretty damn fast.

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There’s a moderate hike involved to get to the lookout point, which gives you a massive overview of the area and the Bay. To actually get there, there’s another hour or so, depends how fit you are, down the hillside. By then you don’t really need to worry anymore about being overrun by other day hikers. Only about 30 percent makes the effort to hike down to the beach, which is a shame. We planned on camping 2 nights on the peninsula. Unfortunately we had to stick to one campsite, on Wineglass beach, as we didn’t have a place to leave all of our stuff we didn’t need behind. So we hiked in with all that we own on our backs.

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Pretty heavy, let me tell you that but we made it without panting too much. First thing we encountered, when we arrived down at Wineglass, was the wallabies. Uninformed selfish tourists (screw the rules for a picture, right?) have been hand feeding them. In return creating these tame daring little wallabies. One cheeky big one, probably that huge because of the easy food access, just carelessly hopped over to where I was sitting next to the tent with the open daypack containing our lunch in between my legs. The mischievously cute daredevil had his nose down the backpack before I even knew it. Now, you have to realize this was my first close encounter with a wild marsupial and I noticed the size of his claws. Especially the sharpness of them. So naturally, not knowing if it potentially could act up and decide to scratch my face, I didn’t dare to push it away. I got up and yelled no at it, like it was a dog. Hilarious to onlookers, but I did the trick.

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The whole peninsula is a not to miss destination on your maybe future Tassie trip. Plentiful of wondrous hikes, beautiful camp spots and an abundance of local wildlife. One hike we did easily, was to walk across the thin part of the peninsula to Hazards Beach on the Great Oyster bay side. At once, after your arrival on the beach, you understand why the naming of the place involved oysters. Thousands of oyster shells, some very pretty and shiny, some almost fossilized, cover the entire length of the beach. It’s hard when you’re backpacking around and have to resist taking some extremely glittery ones home with you to show to your family or just as a remembrance of an amazing time spent on the Freycinet Peninsula.

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There’s a steady flow of young backpackers and old and wise local hikers, passing though Wineglass bay’s camp site every day. (Certainly during peak season) It’s from one of those locals, we heard why precisely this gorgeous bay is called Wineglass. Back in the day, they used to trap whales into it, to slaughter them more easily. Therefore the bay, shaped like a wineglass, colored blood red during these events. Like a glass of red wine. Sad story, yet it is part of the local history. It’s just not so fun to hear when you have an imaginative mind like I have. Anyways.. Hooray for the Sea Sheppard, who actually just anchored in Hobart. Alas even though we are in the area (very, very close), we won’t be able to go pay them a visit and give them a pat on the shoulder. The local ‘FBI’ has closed the area off and is continuing to investigate the ships. Anyways.. Well done, boys! I heard there was a party in one of the local Salamanca bars. I bet they have lots of groupies by now…

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The last morning, we woke up relatively early and started to hike out before the sun got too high. It was a very special feeling to turn around, glance one last time over Wineglass Bay and see that the only footsteps you could see, were yours. It was an unusually quiet morning. You could hear merely hear anything but the sound of the calm small waves rolling in. It probably only lasted for another hour before another day of being overrun by tourists began. I put my faith in the Tasmanian park rangers, to keep this wonderful place safe.

A Flemish Girl Down Under.

Posted by flemishgirl 23:24 Archived in Australia Tagged beach camping national_park wineglass_bay freycinet_peninsula wallaby

Life in Hobart, Tasmania.

One week in a full sized town house and one week on a boat in the marina. How's that for a taste of the Hobart Lifestyle.

Imagine living the good life on an small island just south off of the coast of Australia. And all the way, almost on the south end of that island, there is a town. Big enough to call a city, but lets be honest and call it a supersized village. It goes by the name of Hobart. The island was originally named Van Diemen's island, but these days people called it "Tassie", short for Tasmania. I'm quoting a television advertisement now, that airs frequently here in Australia; "Hobart, the way life should be."

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It doesn't necessarily have a proud history, especially if you look back to what happened to the indigenous people, the Tasmanian Aborigines, but it does have lots of character. I can tell you that much. As almost every other town in this country, Hobart started off as a penal colony and got to where it is nowadays without too many hick ups. A beautiful town set smack in the middle of magnificent surroundings... Tassie is not a bad place.. No, no.

Thanks to Helpexchange, the organization we use to travel around the world, we got to be introduced to Lynne and James (plus family). They needed some help with fixing up a town house, they were planning on renting out soon again. They got us set up very nicely, so we could do the work while living in the house by ourselves. Their generosity and trust in us, made this definitely an authentic "How is town life in Hobart like?" experience for us. So after a week of exploring Hobart and finishing the work, we moved on to their not so shabby boat named Intuition, located in Sandy bay marina.

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Same story here, we got very nicely set up and spent time sanding the wooden railing. It was a majorly fun yet different experience. Usually we get a separate bedroom or something similar, to see as our temporary home away from home, while staying at these HelpX places. This time it was a bit grander and worth writing home about for sure. I found out I don't really get seasick, but I do got a bit of a case of land sickness. Every time I would get on the mainland, I'd feel a bit unsteady on my feet and woozy in the head. As long as I kept moving, everything was fine though.

Hobart is the friendliest town we've been to so far in Oz and the fact it's surrounded by lots of water, doesn't make it a terrible destination either. On Valentine's day we spent an extremely sunny, afternoon boating around. I got to catch my first fish EVER.

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Simply awesome.
That's all I have left to say.

Sincerely,

a Tassie lovin' Flemish Girl.

Posted by flemishgirl 13:51 Archived in Australia Tagged water boat tasmania sun hobart harbor sunny townhouse colony intuition tassie wooden_boat_festival north_hobart penal

A tale of Tipi's and kangaroos.

Learning all about Sustainable living. Straw bale buildings, compost toilets and rainwater catchment system.

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When I arrived at Sue and Don’s, I was ecstatic. Located just outside of Daylesford, Victoria. A charming small town, where tourism is it’s only big income. Property value is skyrocketing and sadly enough, unaffordable for the normal working class. The springs are what’s making this town renowned for its spa’s and health centers.

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I was finally out of the city, completely surrounded by nature. The best part was I’d be camping on their magical property in one of their majestic tipi’s. Tipi’s or teepees, the verdict is still out, but both are considered correct spelling. So I’m going ahead with what I think reads better. Already during the first night, I realized their knowledge of sustainable living was vast and they were all about sharing and providing us with even more reading material. An open fireplace in the middle of your tipi, smoldering while you doze off is a very relaxing, authentic experience. Sue and Don have a significant affinity for native American spirituality. They host spiritual unity gatherings on their property and attended them in The States as well. They also do work with local aboriginal cultures and are very much in tune with their Australian heritage. Truly beautiful people.

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Their property, a whopping 40 acres, has a river running through it. Which makes it a very inviting place for all the local wildlife. A family of kangaroos is to be spotted often and the occasional wallaby at dusk. The indigenous birds will sing you awake, especially the over eager Kookaburras and many colorful varieties of the cockatoo family. There is something to be said about being woken up by the thumping sound of kangaroos passing right outside your tipi. Other wildlife, I was not so keen on meeting for the first time, were the spiders. I do not recommend trying to go to sleep in a bed where a huntsman was lurking around just 5 minutes before. I’m still get the creeps just thinking about it. I saw a bunch of big spiders and okay, they were all harmless. They are so big and ugly and fury though.. So when in Australia, always check under the blankets, clothes and shake out your shoes in the morning. The famous poisonous red back can be found everywhere but apparently he’s slow and never comes out of his dark little hiding spot.

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Back to their awesome straw bale house built about 11 years ago. The front part has two stories, the upper one is their bedroom apartment and the ground floor is the open kitchen living room area. Attached in the back is a large room, work and storage area, where they make their fabulous tipi’s. Everything works on solar energy and rain water catchment. All toilets are compost toilets and the shower was definitely something else. Beautifully decorated with some recycled tiles and other broken porcelain pieces. I gave it a shot as well, trying to make the second outdoor compost toilet in the back of the property look nice. I think the shower still rocks more though!

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There are many unfinished projects scattered around the property. As they hold workshops for learning how to strawbale, many are left that way. That’s where we came in. We finished rendering the greenhouse and energy storage shed. There’s nothing more fun than mixing the cob render and splashing it on the walls with your bare hands! I can’t get enough of it. So what if I am still five on the inside, dying to play in the mud at all times? When we moved the chicken coop to the opposite wall of what could be considered their inner courtyard next to the main house, the chooks seemed a bit confused. At first they loudly made their way into their new home, having a look around, discussing whether they were content with the new arrangement or not, promptly laying their eggs. Though later at dusk they didn’t seem to realize that was their new sleeping place as well. So we had to gently carry them inside and put them to bed for a couple of nights before they seemed to finally understand what had happened. For some unknown reason these chooks loved picking at styrofoam. We made jokes about it all the time. For example if there would ever be a radio show contest of "Guess what this sound is?" and it would be chooks picking at styrofoam, we'd immediately all recognize it and win the first prize! Please let it be a trip to Hawaii... I miss that place..

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Don is also the timber bending expert and runs a wood bending factory in Creswick. As this is a very rare yet extremely skillful profession, people come on tours to check his mad skills out. The Veggie garden was in need of some lovin’, bursting with lots of artichokes almost ready for consummation. They told us artichokes grew particularly well here, so once they found out it was good for pretty much everything, they started growing lots and lots.

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Right before we got there, this particular region in Victoria had suffered from severe rains and floods, leaving the really cute little cottage at the end of the property damaged. The two other helpers decided to stick around for a while and clean it up. Sue and Don gave them permission to do so and stay for as long as they wanted. This was indeed one of those places you’d consider staying at for a bit longer. I know we seriously thought about it. Good times on the gorgeous Victorian countryside. Good times spent with wonderful people.

Love and peace,

Flemish Girl Down Under.

Posted by flemishgirl 02:08 Archived in Australia Tagged victoria green house cottage kangaroos native_americans cockatoos cob wallabies rendering tipi's teepees

The monster that is Cyclone Yasi.

It seems the apocalypse decided to start off in Australia.

Update:

Everything's fine!! Yasi lost most of his feared force, hitting the coastline. It stayed a category 3. Everybody's safe and that's the most important part! Only material damage, like we all hoped for.

The largest deadliest Tropical Cyclone ever known to living generations in Australia, is heading for North Queensland as I’m typing this entry. Nothing but warnings, details about the storm coming and safety guidelines for the people staying behind in the cyclone’s target area, are non-stop repeating on the news channels. Next to the cyclone, Australia is suffering from more than a dozen large bushfires and the water of the previous floods are still moving and flooding new areas. What the heck is going on?? Should we all start kneeling down and praying? Or like the 90 year old lady who just answered that question by a reporter on the news.. What can you do? Nothing. At least she’s realistic?

My question is to those backpackers trying to stick out the category 5 cyclone in the only hostel still open in Cairns. What the hell are you guys thinking? Maybe it’s hard to find a bus or a train out, but why aren’t you hitchhiking your way out of there? You think an overcrowded hostel is going to keep you safe? You think this is going to be a good travel story for back home? Come on.. I’m dreading to hear the news tomorrow morning. It’s projected to start hitting hard around 10pm and supposed to have a category 3 effect for the following 12 hours. They are saying it will go inland after hitting the coastline for another 450 km. All with winds going about 200-300km/h. Anything could turn into a deadly missile. Are you kidding me? That sounds dead serious and terrifying. Remember those images on the television of hurricane Katrina. All those folks stuck on their roofs, trying to get out? How about those evacuation centers, that are cramped full and turning people away. What are they supposed to do? Are those centers even safe? I got to stop thinking this way.

Let’s all send out positive thoughts towards the soon to be disaster area. Let it only by material damage and nothing else. Pray to the weather gods, things will calm down rather sooner than later. Luckily we have a good head on our shoulders and went south as soon as we realized what an extreme summer it was going to be up in Queensland. This could be the most significant storm in modern history and I’m certainly not looking forward to it.

Good luck Queensland!

Flemish Girl Down Under.

Posted by flemishgirl 23:55 Archived in Australia Tagged north hostel queensland cairns backpackers wind cyclone yassi category

A very rainy hitchhiking adventure from Sydney to Melbourne.

Princes Highway A1 - approximately one thousand kilometers. Goal is to reach Melbourne in 6 days with some decent sightseeing along the way.

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As a rule, Australia is split up in 2 main regions, north and south. The north has a tropical climate. Season are pretty much non-existing. You have “The Dry” followed by “The Wet”. If you’ve seen the news recently you would know Queensland, northeast Australia has suffered tremendously from “The Wet”. Floods are not unusual there and ‘La Nina’ is causing a extremely wet season. Even New South Wales and Victoria, states with a more temperate climate, are getting doused. Our planned hitchhiking adventure would have been a lot more exciting and not cut so short if it wasn’t for the never ending rain fall.

We did manage to hitchhike and see somewhat of the beautiful southeast coast. The plan was to randomly make our way south from Sydney depending on the rides we got along the coastal Highway #1, also known as the Princes Highway and look for spots to poach camping. First we had to get past Sydney. We got on the train in Medlow Bath in the Blue Mountains where we had been HelpXing for the last three weeks.

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Bye to Aurelie, our fellow master cob renderer slash helpXer and the most recognized view of the Blue Mountains. One we actually never got to see because of the low hanging clouds that last day. So we settled for capturing a postcard. Hey, you have to be creative once in a while, right?

This particular train station and town is tiny, so the machine issuing tickets had a limited number of destinations. We quickly realized we were going to get away with only paying 3 dollars each for an open end – pay at your destination ticket. Basically we traveled an equivalent of almost 250 kilometers for that price. So we were off on a kick-ass start!

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Jervis bay is supposed to be one of those elusively beautiful areas and I’m sure it is, but our experience of it was immensely grey and wet. Either way we did have a dry night camping out on the beach of Currarong though and the chips from the local fish and chips shop weren’t half bad either.

All these magnificent places were not really worth stopping for in the pouring rain, but I’ll tell you which ones we thought are not to be missed if blue skies are present.
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Jervis bay (1st picture), Batesman bay, Narooma, Eden, Mallacoota (2nd picture), Lakes entrance (Pelicans) and last but not least definitely go camping in Wilson Promontory National park, an enormous coastal wilderness area with lovely lakes, beaches, wildlife and hikes! You do not want to miss out on that one..
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So because of the wet conditions we had to settle for 3 days of speedy hitchhiking and exploring, instead of a week of sunny activities. Hitchhiking while it’s pouring, is good for one thing though. We met Andrew. He picked us up right when we were ready to throw in the towel. While chatting away during the drive, we mentioned our passion for eco-building and especially building with cob. Once he realized our interests were similar to his, he invited us to spend the night at his place with his family. He couldn’t just let us camp in the rain now, could he? Their house, located on top of a hill overlooking the beautiful valley village of Candelo and filled with all different kinds of cockatoos, was made out of compressed earth bricks and cob. We talked the whole evening exchanging ideas and building experiences.

Another unique moment during our rainy adventure was hitching a ride with a local truckie. He was moving milk from point A to B and back daily. It gets lonely sometimes, he said. So we gladly hitched about 3 hours with this hilariously authentic fella, who couldn’t stop cracking slightly racist jokes.
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All in all, this was a very successful trip. We got were we wanted to be with plenty of time to spare. Too bad about the beautiful places we had to miss. Like they say, tomorrow’s going to be a brighter day, with the emphasis on brighter..

Flemish Girl.

Posted by flemishgirl 23:19 Archived in Australia Tagged melbourne rain pelicans milk blue_mountains eden lakes_entrance hitchhiking mallacoota sydey princes_highway truckie jervis_bay nowra

The Blue Gum Forest

Hiking and camping in the Blue Mountains, New South Wales, Australia. Katoomba - Blackheath area. The Grose Valley.

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"You guys have plans for New Year’s yet?” Our French friends and fellow helpXers asked us this question and we shrugged our shoulders. “We are going to see the massive fireworks show in Sydney. Do you want to come?” We didn’t really care much about going back to the congested city to see some pretty lights. We kind of just wanted to enjoy the sunny weather and our days off. I find New Year’s celebrations to be highly overrated. You are in the Blue Mountains only once so we preferred to rather be hiking and camping in nature than be spending heaps of money on costly drinks . And that’s exactly what we did..

We were going to hike from Perry’s Lookout on one edge of the Grose Valley to Govett’s leap Lookout on the other side. We decided to split the hike up in two parts and camp overnight in the illustrious Blue Gum Forest. The hike itself actually only takes about 6 hours. But it’s an awfully steep descent from Perry’s Lookout and there’s only one site, Acacia Flats, for camping allowed along our planned route. It was also very grueling to hike back up. I got in trouble trying to achieve that last part. In my defense it was almost 35 Celsius outside and immensely sunny.

Once you get to one of the famous and very crowded, especially on sunny days, lookouts, you'll immediately understand why they call it the "Blue Mountains". The gum trees (different kinds of eucalyptus) show this characteristic blue haze that is not only to be found here in Australia of course. There’s lots of Blue Mountains throughout this world. I think that the blue haze probably has a scientific explanation that has nothing to do with gum trees in particular. But seriously.. how magnificently blue these mountains look.

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So we started the hike at Perry's Lookout after our lovely Helpx host dropped us off. Margaret really enjoyed showing us around and always offered to drop us off and pick us up anywhere in the area so we could go explore. This amazingly steeper than I thought downhill part had many astonishing views but my knees were starting to tremble a bit.

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Finally after about a full hour or two we got to The Blue Gum Forest. These towering eucalypti seemed to exude mystic vibrations. It is quite the spiritual hike through these magical trees.

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So after much admiration from us both we set up camp. There was an abundance of wildlife present. Especially the birds blew us away. We explored the area and found ourselves a giant flat rock in the middle of the Grose river to hang out on.

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Another animal that we encountered for the first time was the Mountain Dragon. They were everywhere and not shy at all. After snoozing on our rock, my husband woke me up and signaled me to keep still. Right there on an adjacent rock there was a Mountain Dragon, silently snoozing himself. He was quite huge and didn’t seem to mind us. By sunset time the forest really seemed to come alive. The most extraordinary colored birds came to take a dip or sip from the river, while singing their equally colorful songs. The only disappointment of the whole hike was the five lane wide ant highway that had formed itself across our tent diagonally. We had to fight some of those flying big ones off and moved the tent a bit further down. Problem solved. It did freak me out a bit though to be honest.

The next morning we woke up bright and early and hiked further up the tracks to have breakfast at yet another beautiful spot on the river. Don’t forget to bring a water purifier or tablets, people! Fresh water is not always healthy to drink for us humans. The water in the valley for example was contaminated and we would have gotten sick if we didn’t have those tablets with us.
After about 4 hours off climbing up, first gradually then the irregular sometimes steep steps of Rodriguez Pass and eventually the steps up from Bridal Veil Falls to Govett’s Leap Lookout, we finally arrived at our destination. But not before we spotted two very rare Black Yellowtail Cockatoos. That made our day!! We’d heard so much about them. They’re supposedly worth 50.000 dollars each on the black market.

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I had to catch my breath for a while. It was after all extremely hot outside. Not a cloud in the sky. We made it up there by noon. Now, I blame it on the weather but all we could think about was to walk to downtown Blackheath and grab a pint in the local pub. And that’s exactly what we did.

The End.

Flemish Girl.

Posted by flemishgirl 03:05 Archived in Australia Tagged mountains trees birds water hiking australia mountain river blue valley steps falls gum forest katoomba dragon pass color dragons lookout ants steep rodriguez campervans leap eucalyptus blackheath grose govetts wicked

Meeting Oscar.

No animals were harmed writing this entry.

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While I’m writing this blog I’m overlooking the whole of Melbourne ‘s distant horizon being set on fire by a very exquisite sunset. Currently I’m staying at a HelpX place that is a B&B located on top of Mount Dandenong. It is the highest point of Dandenong Ranges National Park and located 40 odd kilometers east of downtown Melbourne.

Choosing not to stay in the city any longer was probably the best decision I could have made this time of the year. Since the Australian Open 2011 is taking place right now at this exact spot. Not to mention the floods and shitty weather who have driven all the tourists and backpackers into the city. I was there the day before yesterday and let me tell you that the sight and experience of it made me fear for Australia Day , 26th of January. My Goodness.. I’m going to the countryside for sure before that comes along.

As there are no guests staying in room number one, I have the opportunity to hang out by myself in the room for a couple of hours whilst enjoying the view. I can see downtown and the bay perfectly and all that is considered greater Melbourne area. Right now the sky’s turning an extremely intense color of red, but in 20 minutes or so from now when the lights will start to come on, this view will blow your mind just as much as during the daytime. You’d probably think you’re in LA honestly. That’s exactly what it looks like.

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Excuse me for not even having mentioned my friend Mister Cockatoo yet. He’s hanging out on the balcony. You are not supposed to feed wild birds cause it makes them dependent, I know. But he’s the house cockatoo. I don’t think he’s got a name but I named him Oscar, after Oscar Wilde.

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Mister Cockatoo likes to just prance around with his yellow Mohawk fiercely sticking up. He keeps on looking at me with such curiosity. Cocking his head in all directions just like a real cock-atoo is supposed to do. In my imagination he lit up a cigar and shook his feathers and asked me: “How about a glass of cognac, dear.” So immediately I realized he was reminding me of Oscar Wilde for some inexplicable reason.

I almost completely forgot to mention the sustainable part of this entry. My, my..
This B&B who charges 250 AUD per night has compost toilets in all of the rooms. The guests might sometimes react a bit baffled. But they get their water from a rain catchment system so they opted for saving some extra water. Smart, very smart and very sustainable.

Anyways nighttime has fallen over Melbourne and I feel like I’m high up in the air, seated on a plane, slowly circling over the city. As this vista is making me remember many landings during the night in numerous large American cities.
Oscar has gone to bed.
And I’m thinking about doing the same.

Goodnight,
Flemish Girl.

Posted by flemishgirl 02:59 Archived in Australia Tagged cockatoo sunset mount park australia city day national balcony b&b oscar dandenong helpexchange.net wilde

A little something called a hostel.

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One thing you might not have known about Australia but you definitely need to is the standard of living here is quite high. Think Scandinavia. A month’s wage for an average nine to fiver down under will be triple yours. So automatically everything becomes more costly. Backpackers will return home having had to cut their trip short or having spent a whole lot more than originally anticipated. That’s where the extremely popular Working Holiday Visa comes in. Australia has it down!

Bring in young travelers from all over the world and allow them to stay in the country for a whole year. You can even earn points by working some time in agriculture and get an extension for a second year. So Oz has all these foreign youngsters running around spending their hard earned cash at a faster rate than they would have if they didn’t have the opportunity to just get a job whenever they were running out. Plus they will go for all the shitty jobs Australians don’t want to do anyways. Make them pay taxes like anybody else and voila… they can go spend again.

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And Australia scores! This could only be considered as a win-win situation, wouldn’t you agree? Now, where are all these backpackers going to go. Who’s going to help them find a job? Where are they all hanging out while looking for employment? Where do they go to make friends and have a good time? The answer is very simple. It’s a little something called a hostel. Hostels are the gateway to anything you could need. Even more so here in Australia because of the huge backpacking culture. Hostels in the major cities for example are thriving and therefoe an extremely lucrative business. Enormous buildings with endless hallways filled with one muggy dorm room after another. Grubby carpets and slow rotating fans. Buzzing vending machines in lonely corners. How much for one night you ask? Let’s say about 25 AUD per night and there’d be a minimum of about 100 beds in your standard hostel. You do the math! You can be sure to be booked full during summer as the northern hemisphere is trying to escape the cold of another icy winter.

There’s a reason why I, personally try to avoid staying in hostels. For one, I’m getting older and I do not wish to be kept up during half the night because this 18 year old can’t hold his liquor and is puking his guts out right outside my door. When I was still single and traveling by myself I got my use out of hostels but nowadays I’ve got everything I need right by my side. So when I do stay in a hostel, it feels without a doubt more like an inconvenience. This time around the necessity of finding one of these impersonal crowded places was because of the rain. It’s has been coming down non-stop for about a week now. We were supposed to go camping in one of these gorgeous national parks, but let’s be honest. That’s not exactly a whole lot of fun in the rain. We decided to cut our hitchhiking slash camping trip short. Being miserable and drenched was not on our list. We could have gone couch surfing but that requires a couple of days of emailing back and forth. Especially for big cities like Melbourne. So here we are..

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If I was asked to write a review for this particular hostel, it wouldn’t be a very positive one. It obviously has grown out of proportion and has become exactly what every hostel should try and strive not to become. There’s nothing welcoming or pleasant about a place like this. A lobby crammed full with cute little Asian girls chatting away on their laptops. A kitchen lounge area where packs of single young males are loudly displaying their testosterone levels. A bar and restaurant with so called cheap prices, but in reality they charge more than the pub next door. Staff that moves around like zombies. Wireless internet access should be free, but this one charges 10 dollars a day. Towels should be free as well, but here they charge 2 dollars and a 5 dollar security deposit. The kitchen area should be accessible to anyone, should they ever need to use it at any given time. It closes between 10pm and 7am. And the list goes on. Every aspiring hostel should do their utmost to not become such a soulless place.

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I must admit that the thought of starting a business like this crossed my mind a few times by now though. I would envision a more secluded place like the Big Island of Hawaii where we just were or maybe an elusive, beautiful country like New Zealand. It would have the maximum capacity of 20 guests. Five rooms with 4 beds. Each room would be decorated differently with memories of all of our travels in mind. There’ll be no MTV playing on a flat screen in the back ground, but there will be a extensive library and tremendously comfy couches. There’ll be colorful inviting hammocks in the backyard hanging in between our fruit trees. A wide porch surrounding the building for socializing over drinks during the most gorgeous sunsets. No curfew and no extra charges. I could daydream all day, every day about a potential little paradise like that…

Signed,
A Flemish girl down under.

Posted by flemishgirl 16:26 Archived in Australia Tagged melbourne city hostel dorm backpackers beds aud

The Blue Mountains Zoo

Helpexchange in Blackheath

With being from a flat, boring, grey country like Belgium and all, I'm sure you'll understand when I say that I feel like I've been living in a zoo for the last week. Up here in the Blue Mountains instead of your everyday Pigeons you have Kookaburras who's call sounds like drunken monkeys laughing at an extraordinary volume. I saw one diving down right in front of me the other day catching something in his large beak thrashing his head repeatedly from left to right. It took me the full minute gawking at the action going on about 2 meters away from me to realize that he was trying to kill a 30 cm long yellowish snake. I had to step back and had to stop myself from letting the word murderer escape from my lips. He was actually doing me a favor. I certainly didn't want to step on a snake in my backyard. So I let him swallow it in peace. There's plenty more of these weird sounding colorful birds that you can spot everyday just flying about. It seems so unreal to me. Almost as if they all just escaped from their cages. There are crimson Rozella's and plenty more other kinds of Rozella's, they look like big colorful parrots. Then there are Lorrikeets. Also similar to a small parrot. My first rainbow Lorrikeet I spotted in Sydney Harbor (our first Aussie HelpX). I was in awe of seeing this beautifully rainbow colored thing flying around in our garden. I'd never seen such a thing in the wild.. Certainly didn't expect to see it in a big city like Sydney. Just the other day we saw Kangaroos jumping around on the road. They have signs here. Watch out for Kangaroos crossing. You get it.. like deer?
So I'm new to this part of the world. My understanding after 3 weeks of being here of how this country is divided up, goes a little something like this. Australia is a big island right? Well you can divide it up in 3 parts. The first is the coastline, that consist of big cities and suburbs. Next is the bush. Now the bush is a second wide circle, filled with National parks, beautiful woods and wildlife with smaller cities and villages, very much all spread out. Then last but not least there is the outback. What they call No mans land. It's all desert and wilderness containing heaps (Australians use the word heaps a lot to describe a unknown large quantity) of deadly creatures.
Well that's my description of it.

So now we're in Blackheath. A small town in the Blue Mountains. Beautiful place and definitely a lot cheaper then Sydney.
Our host is building a cob house close to town and we're helping her out. We got some previous experience and were welcomed with open arms. In other words, she takes good care of us. This time around we're using some different building techniques.

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The outside walls of the house for example are much thinner then the cob walls we've helped made before. Our job right now is mixing a clay mixture with straw to fill up the walls with. This is called the light clay/straw method. It is an infill system.

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The insulation aspect of it works perfectly fine for you doubters out there. These methods have been around for a looooo-oong time. So if you think modern building techniques will do a better job, you're wrong. A lot of the modern building materials used are industrial and filled with chemicals you are living and breathing every day. I wouldn't want my kids to grow up in a death trap, do you?
These days green building techniques are being combined with conventional ones and people are starting to see the benefits.
We're not completely there though, but it's a start. If you're interested there is an abundance of websites and books out there for you to read up on. I'll give you a popular one for amateur builders right now, www.greenhomebuilding.com. Just so you can browse and get an idea.
Light clay/straw keeps your house cool in summer and hot in winter. It is incredibly stable in temperature and changing slowly as temperatures change to extremes outside.
So basically we are playing with mud all day and guess what? It's extremely fun!

More updates on the cobbing soon.

Love and Peace,

Flemish Girl

Posted by flemishgirl 20:32 Archived in Australia Tagged mountains birds home nature green blue building wild kangaroo cob cobbing

Looking for my paradise...

Stories from a Flemish girl traveling the world with her soul mate. They are in search of the perfect piece of land to start building their dream house. But while doing so they are learning all about being self-sufficiency and sustainability.

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"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." -- Mark Twain

Now that, ladies and gentlemen, is the gods honest truth!
Think about it. How many of us dream of traveling around the world?
How many of us have envied others who have taken off one day and done it?
How many sat back while mumbling if only they weren't so busy at work?
If only they had the time or money?
If only this.. if only that... BE REAL, folks!
To travel the world is not a question of money or enough time off. It's all about your willingness to just go ahead with it all and take the plunge into the unknown!
Okay. Okay. I will admit this. It has to be kind of in your blood. You got to have an adventurous personality and not be too attached to something back home. Or you can do it like me. Meet your husband while traveling and take him along for the ride.
Long term travel does not have to be expensive. The way we are doing it, doesn't really cost us a whole lot. Granted you have to make money somehow at some points during your travels (which we'll talk about later) to fill up the never ending hole in your wallet. But there are ways to make those well earned dollars (or euros) last for a very long time.
These ways will also make your experiences a hell of a lot more interesting and more real.
Maybe you just like to pay big bucks for some relaxed "reading by the pool with a cocktail in your hand - never really leaving your hotel" kind of holiday. That's perfectly okay. Really. Once in a while we all like to just do nothing and enjoy the relaxy-taxi (as I call it).
But what I am talking about is long term exploration. Leaving everything on hold back home. Wondering what is out there. Wanting to meet these strange but wonderful cultures in person.
It's not easy for an individual with these dreams who doesn't have the know-how to just get up and leave.
And that is why I'm writing this blog.
We want to share.
We want YOU to know OUR secrets.
We want you to gather the knowledge we have gathered.
So you can enjoy it as well.
So you can explore the world and open your eyes.
To be happy and free, just like us.

Love and peace,

Flemish girl.

PS please note my first language isn't English, actually English is not even my second language :)
This blog for me is about spreading some love.

Posted by flemishgirl 20:55 Archived in Australia Tagged travel backpacking dreams cheap_living

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