Archive | October, 2004

I’m turning Taiwanese, I really think so

31 Oct

Greetings from Taiwan !

Two days into my Taiwanese tour and I am reasonably well settled in. This is mainly due to staying with my friends John and Karri who have been very good travel guides during this time. I’ve seen a lot of local temples and night markets, as well as just soaking in the general culture. I’ve also been nibbling and samping a lot of the local food – when it is only 20-30p for a “snack on a stick” style thing, you tend to spend the whole day eating wonderful nibbly things. I have also had a chance to try the local brew, “Taiwan beer”, not too bad at all.

Tomorrow I will be heading out of Taipei and embraking on my two week tour of the island. I expect the culture shock will kick in once I am out in the country with no-one to explain what is what and where things are. Quite looking forward to it, but also quite looking to getting through it and getting home for some rest, relaxation and reflection. And beer.


Kakadu dreamin’

27 Oct

Having spent a couple of days relaxing in Darwin, it was time to brave the heat and get out into the “real” Australia. So I signed myself up for a full-on five day tour of kakadu with Kakadu Dreams. I packed myself an optomistic change of clothes and a lot of sun / insect repellant and five days later was burnt and bitten all over.

The tour consisted of three days in Kakadu park, seeing saltwater crocs (salties) jumping for meat, gorges, waterfalls, billabongs and aboriginal art sites. Then we had a full day of canoeing in Katherine gorge, and another day visiting the popular watering holes in Litchfield, which became more like a wet’n’wild theme park than a wilderness adventure. Overall the tour was alright and went to some great spots. I think I had hoped to see more dangerous creatures than just the crocs, although maybe it was safer this way ! It was also very hot and humid, some days I was drinking 5+ liters of water and still dehydrating quite badly. Pictures of the adventure are all in the new Northern Territory photo album.

So on our final day we headed down a backpacker bar and got rather hammered. A little bit too hammered in my case as I stumbled down to the airport shuttle, somehow stayed awake in the airport departure lounge and then passed out for a deep but short sleep on my flight to Sydney. This mornings high-altitude hangover was a reminder of the perils of drink-flying. Thank god the nice trolley girls came round about two minutes later with fresh juice for everyone !

I am spending the next two days seeing old friends and sights in Sydney. Today I visted the old backpackers I was staying in and was suprised to see a few familiar faces still working and living there. Tomorrow I need to sort out stuff in the city in time for my trip to Taiwan, little things like Visa stamps and so on 🙂

So close, but I still can’t see a hat…

20 Oct

Finally I am in Darwin and it is hot, humid, hot, sticky and hot. My four day epic drive up here got a little bit too much like an endurance test, and I am glad to have a couple of days to chill out and enjoy some metropolitan living, before hopefully heading off on a tour of some croc infested swamp 🙂

Whilst organising some stuff online, I came across an annual novel writing contest, NaNoWriMo, which I have signed up for. The idea is not to write a great novel, but just to write 50K words in a month. Unfortunatley this contest kicks off on Nov 1st, when I shall be busy travelling, but I have bravely setup a blog to make progress on the novel incase I get time.

It’s getting hot up here

17 Oct

Just got a few minutes before I leave with my lift up to Darwin. I have spent the last 2-3 days in Broome, just a little bit North East of Exmouth, where the heat and humidity have shot up to tropical levels. It’s hot. And sweaty. I coped with this by sitting by the pool, drinking beer and playing lots of travel scrabble. I think the beer helped most. Either way, it’s time to press on North now, with the next few days hearlding 8-10 hour drives through high 30’s / low 40’s heat in a car with little or no air-con. I’m thinking of it as a 4-day health spa which really focuses on saunas – hopefully I’ll come out of this week a few pounds lighter 🙂

More news when I get to Darwin…

West Side ! (had to be done…)

12 Oct

So with a brand new super-sized and super-stable van, our team of 5 finally started out up the West Coast. By midday, almost 48 hours after the crash, we were back in Moora, loaded up and up for some fun. Over the next two days I saw cool geological stuff such as the pinnacles and gorges around Kalbarri and lots of nice coastal spots.

Unfortunatly, after a couple of days, it was clear that our French companion, Mags, was not a happy bunny about the speed of the van. Or sleeping rough. Or anything what-so-ever. Ok, we’d had a nasty crash, but we were on our way and in a better van – things had worked out – and we were now trying harder than ever to have a good time. So upon arriving in Monkey Mia (wonderful name, no monkeys though) we gently suggested that she might be better off in a backpackers, taking tour buses up the coast. When she didn’t go with that, we essentially booted her off the bus…

So much guilt all round (and much credit to Kirri for essentially doing the booting) but in the end it was the only way we were going to make it to Exmouth without a homicide on our hands. As some form of extra karmic punishment, we drove our van out of town that evening and promptly got bogged in a sand track we shouldn’t of gone down ! So we gave up trying to get out, sat down for drinks and cards, and had a fun night together – which is exactly the sort of optimism that simply wasn’t there with Mags in the group.

Some ocker blokes released us from our sandy trench the next day with a 4WD and much blokey cunning. Then we continued on to see the dolphins and dugongs in Monkey Mia on a Catermaran tour. Here we saw Mags again (more guilt) but had a great time out at sea, and the girls attracted a small swarm of guys as we lay back sunbathing. Ww then carried on past Shell beach and onto a loverly coastal apot called Gladstone, where we had a great night ruond a campfire, followed by a wonderful morning of wading around the stomatalite covered bay.

This put us in great spirits for the last couple of days of our tour, where we stopped off in Coral bay for snorkelling off a glass bottomed boat (for the guilty two of us without broken arms) and then up to Exmouth for a proper night out of beer, pool and mouhting off the locals. It was one of the best weeks I’ve had out in Oz and it was cool to be off the backpacker circuit.

So onto the last five days, where I have been learning to scuba dive ! I have just finished the course, and I am now a PADI open water certified diver. The course aws three days of theory and pool practice (very nice on a hot day) followed by 4 dives over the last two days. During these dives we praticsed emergency skills underwater, as well as seeing lots of amazingly coloured fish, turtles, rays and even one reef shark (all 2-3 foot of it)! It was really good fun, and I would love to get some underwater photography kit down there sometime and get some nice shots.

As always, photos to come 🙂

Everyone is OK, everything is fine

2 Oct

It has always been the intention of this blog, “exit turner”, to be a light hearted summary of my travels, designed to inform, lightly amuse and occasionally lightly shock. To avoid undue levels of stress however, I am starting this post with the message that EVERYONE and EVERYTHING IS OK now. Worth bearing in mind, the “everyone being ok” part, alright ?

Anyhow, five of us began our road trip yesterday in a campervan – Kirri and Zibby (mother and daughter), Sayaka, a japenese exchange student, Mag, a French Backpacker and I. We started off heading North on a trip towards Exmouth, where I hope to learn to scuba dive. This plan was slightly altered by… oh, and remember, everyone IS ok… us crashing the camper van. Not just crashing infact, but as we were moving over a bit on a bend to keep away from a road train, then catching the soft shoulder, which started our van swaying from side to side. It was so top heavy and badly designed that the van osciallted more and more until it tipped to the right, at which point we were down to about 40-50km/h, and then we slid round to a halt, fortunatley hitting nothing. Lots of people came straight to our aid, and a shout of “fire” got us moving quickly out the vehicle. We quickly put out a small fire with sand from the road, and then the police arrive and sorted everything out.

A whole day and a half of sorting stuff out followed, during which the girls were diagnosed with a broken wrist (Zibby), broken elbow (Sayaka) and a few stiches (Mags). Being in the front seats myself and Kirri were unhurt, and are now back in Perth sorting paperwork out and getting a new SAFER van to drive back to the others (currently in a motel in Moora – the middle of nowhere) tomorrow and try and restart our journey. Not only was our old van really unsafe in retrospect (and a write off now), but I think we loaded it very top heavy and we could of put a lot more heavy stuff lower down. Either way, rest assured the next vehicle will have a wider wheel base, be much safer and be loaded a lot better – no more accidents I promise ! The girls won’t be able to swim with there casts though, so probably not many stops for snorkelling on the cards, but everyone, as I believe I mentioned at the start of this, is OK.