A Travellerspoint blog

Midnight at the Oasis

New Years Eve 2008 - Sydney Botanical Gardens

sunny 30 °C
View Mark and Kate's 12 month holiday on MarknKate's travel map.

The options of where to watch the Sydney NYE fireworks are almost overwhelming - from the astonomically expensive meals at swanky hotels overlooking the harbor to party boat cruises on the harbor or a simple free picnic on the north shore (if you don't mind arriving 12 hours early to bagsy a good spot, queuing for grotty portaloos, and the potential for suffering sunstroke!!).

After much tooing and froing and even a little reccy to scout out the best spots we decided on forking out a reasonable amount of our hard earned Aussie dollars on an organised event in the botanical gardens - Midnight at the Oasis.

For our money we were promised a prime position, copious amounts of food and a bar and DJ till the early hours - on most fronts it didn't disappoint!

The views across the harbor were stunning, with the Oprea house in the foreground and the Harbor Bridge behind, I don't think there were many better positions to be had. The weather all day had been brilliant, bright and sunny and very warm. It made the evening perfect for sitting outside waiting to view some of the worlds best fireworks.

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They have two fireworks displays, a 9pm show for the families and the main event at midnight. It's fair to say that after the 9pm ones we were a little underwhelmed and slightly worried that maybe they weren't such a big deal after all, but once midnight came we were blown away.

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The pictures and video really don't do them justice they were simply amazing - best fireworks EVER!

Posted by MarknKate 22:08 Archived in Australia Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

Christmas down under!

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So finally the big day finally arrived and in no way did it feel like Christmas!! Where were the log fires, the drizzling rain and the copious amounts of snacks and pickles that form our normal Christmas celebrations??!! Instead we had warmth, sun and hords of people wandering around Manly beach fighting for a spot on the sand for some serious holiday sunbaking. Thankfully the sun decided to break through the early morning cloud cover and after we'd had a lunch of shrimps (but of course) we decided to head for the beach to join the Aussies in their Christmas day sunbake.

Somehow cooking a roast in the evening while the sun was going down but the temperature was still high felt wrong but we just had to do it. We got pretty close to what I'm sure our families on the other side of the planet were sitting down to but the strange look I got when asking the supermarket attendant if they had any Bread Sauce confirms that they definitly do things differently out here. (Mum, I promise not to moan next year when you buy every type of condiment Marks and Spencers's sells and a stupidly large turkey that would quite easily feed the 5000!!)

Boxing day followed in much the same way of lounging at the beach in the beautiful sunshine. A different way to spend our Christmas and the feelings of homesickness were definitly at their strongest but a nice Christmas none the less!! Next year however we will be looking forward to lounging in front of the log fire and getting our warmth from that source instead!

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Posted by MarknKate 22:06 Archived in Australia Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

Mum's final few days....... : (

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On the final few days we used up our passes and went to the Sydney Aquarium and oz trek. If anyone is in Sydney and finds themselves with their Oz Trek Skytower ticket not used then you're not missing out on anything. If anyone remembers Black Gang Chine on the isle of wight then oz trek was like stepping back into the Chine in the 80's! Miniture models and dubious holograms culminated with the Disney reject 'imax' ride through Australia's history. I think the only thing I learned is how to not get whip lash from an antiquated park ride!

Mum's last day in Oz.....
Mum and I spent the last morning walking along the beach and having coffee and a muffin on the beach front before making the journey to the airport to say our goodbyes. I have to say that this time round was even harder than back in June. I had a fantastic time showing mum round the area, spending time with her and sharing some of this amazing experience with her. Thanks mum for coming over, it was brilliant! Love you and we will see you back home soon enough.

Posted by MarknKate 11:55 Archived in Australia Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Hunter Valley take 2!!

30th Oct - 1st Nov 2008

sunny 29 °C
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Our second visit to the Hunter and mum's first. With all of us packed into Betsy we headed off on the journey to the Hunter Valley, we went via the tourist route which is just a slightly nicer road through the country rather than the main highway. I'm sure we said it before and I'll say it again, the Hunter Valley roads are quite possibly the worst roads we have driven on so far!! No idea what it is doing to the suspension on poor old Betsy but we were bouncing down those roads for hours!

The place we had booked was on a quiet road and set in the most beautiful location. Each night we walked out along the dirt track to watch the sun set behind the mountains, it was truely beautiful and very peaceful. Also mum got to see her first live wild Kangeroo, there are loads of them that just sit around in the fields as the sun starts to set each evening.

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Friday was a full day so we had plenty scheduled in. We started with the Olive factory where you can taste loads of different oils, pickles, marinades and chutneys etc, after we had got our fill and mum had bought some souvenirs we headed off to the Cheese Factory where they give a talk on how they make all the different cheeses. We tried a few and decided on a washed rind soft cheese which was absolutely delicious, they are all made on site and have no preservatives so the shelf life is only a few weeks but needless to say it didn't last that long as it was so nice. Although we had pretty much stuffed ourselves with all the freebies we still managed lunch of cheese and biscuits sat in the van whilst the wind blew around us and the temperature topped a massive 35 degrees!! Thank goodness for the wind otherwise it would have been unbearable. That afternoon we went to Tyralls Winery for a tour, very interesting and afterwards lots of lovely tastings which mum and Mark seemed to enjoy the most and I was somehow volunteered as designated driver.

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We left the Hunter on Saturday to head back to Manly. On the way we stopped at the town of Woolombi where we found that the weekends 'entertainment' was a log chopping competition!! We stood and watched while about six men competed to see who could chop wood of varying sizes the quickest! Now that's entertainment right there folks.

Still buzzing from the excitement of the log competition we decided to hit the casino in Star City, Sydney. On the first pokie (fruit machine) I won $110 then another $60 however the money doesn't come out in change it prints out a little slip that you have to go and cash so whilst going to cash in my winnings, my own mother decides to jump on my machine and I come back to find she has won $160!!! Still, I wasn't bitter as I went on to win another
$177, not bad for an initial stake of only $20!!

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Posted by MarknKate 11:47 Archived in Australia Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Odds and sods

A mish-mash update...

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Yes we realise blog posts have been lacking of late, but other than Jane's recent visits (see two previous posts and one still to come) we're been spending most of our time working whilst keeping our heads down trying to save as much as we can for the next batch of travels starting early Jan.

We did have a great time catching up with fellow travelers Clare and Alex as they landed in Sydney for a few weeks as part of their Australian leg:


Was quite surreal seeing familiar faces from back in Southampton all the way out here and did tug on the homesickness strings a little... that said our discussions about our past and forthcoming adventures soon got us geared up for the next leg...

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An hour or so north of Sydney is the Kuringai National Park, on a drizzly Sunday Kate and I took Betsy out for a run and headed up to the park.

As well as some Aboriginal hand paintings we also caught a glimpse of this fella scurrying around in the leaves:

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Haven't been able to identify what it is, but my damn did it put the fear of god into us...the things was big...size of my hand big!

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And whilst we're at it, here are a couple of shots of Manly

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Posted by MarknKate 10:16 Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Blue Mountains

sunny 26 °C
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We headed off to the Blue Mountains early Friday morning. We got to Katoomba and went straight to Echo point where there is the famous Three Sisters rock formation. It was a beautiful view and seemed the main stop for people as it was pretty busy! We stopped at various other points along the way and took quite a few walks down to either an outlook or waterfall. An incredible amount of steps were stomped upon the whole weekend, I think mum will be glad to not see another step for quite sometime.

Our accommodation for this stay was fantastic, the most beautiful holiday rental I have ever seen. It was called Teddy's in Katoomba and I can thoroughly recommend it to anyone who is traveling that way. The location, the building and all the small touches made it a great stay. They had a beautiful log burning stove, which may seem strange for this time of year in Oz but we used it both nights as the temperature did drop somewhat when the sun had gone down.

On our second day we made the hour and a half journey to the Jenolan caves, a site that was discovered in the 1800's and has been a protected park since around 1866. The caves are reached by going down a very twisty narrow road, thankfully we didn't meet any traffic coming the other way and the coaches had been and gone by the time we traversed down to the village. The caves themselves are amazing, you can choose to explore any of the eleven all of varying difficulty on a guided walk through. We chose the Imperial cave which was a nice easy level and booked in on the tour. The pictures don't really do it justice as the rock formations are beautiful and many are still forming today, many times I got a drop of water on my head. It wasn't until we had got to the furthest point inside the cave that our guide decided to tell us the ghost story!!

Sunday morning I convinced Mark to get up for the sunrise over the mountains, we once again headed to Echo Point where there were decidedly less people, in fact only two others had made the effort to rise that early on a Sunday. Was definitely worth it though as the colours and fresh air were wonderful and well worth the effort.

Sunday saw us going to Scenic World where you go down into the Jamison Valley and wander around the valley floor. There are three ways down to the valley itself, you can walk, take the train or go via the cable car. The train is apparently the steepest incline railway in the world so obviously we had to have a go on that one. The valley is a nice walk around and has various species of plants to look at and they have an old coal mine with lots of history surrounding it. [Perhaps a bit of a philistine thing to say, but it's getting to the point of you've seen one Rain Forest, you've seen 'em all! (Mark)]

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Posted by MarknKate 09:53 Archived in Australia Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Mum's trip down Under!!

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Mum arrived nice and early on 15th October after a very long flight via Hong Kong, my plan to be stood there waiting as she walked through the gate was somewhat ruined by Sydney traffic, what should have taken about 30 mins to get to the airport actually took 1hr and 20 mins!! After a few tears from both sides we introduced mum to Betsy for the ride home!

Mum was remarkably alert for someone who had just spent a day and a half travelling to the other side of the world so we started on the sights straight away. Manly was first which has some beautiful views from either end of the beach. We brought a weekly ferry pass so spent the next few days going in and out of the city. Some of the places we visited included the Opera House, Paddy's Market, Queen Victoria Building shopping centre, Botanical Gardens, Government House, The Rocks Market, NSW Art Gallery, Museum of Sydney, the Skytower and a boat trip to Parramatta to name but a few!! Phew!! Soon enough it was the weekend and time to head off to the Blue Mountains....

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Posted by MarknKate 09:28 Archived in Australia Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

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