Thursday, April 02, 2009

Sorry To All ...

well there have been a number of factors which have meant that i have been un able to keep my blog updated. i guess initially the limited time i have on the internet while i have been travelling around and also the amount of time it takes to upload my films and photos.

Most significantly my camera broke while i was in Australia - it was a write off. Thank god I salvaged the photos and videos I has of it up to that date, even though it was full of water!

I will be updating the blog upon my return, better late than never!

I’m on my final leg of New Zealand, heading back to Auckland, then flying to the UK via a lil stop in LA…

Friday, January 23, 2009

AUSTRALIA - Sydney: What a first week, what a city !


Well I sit here and still can’t quite believe I’m here in Sydney. For a few reasons ive been particularly looking forward to this leg of the trip, it was the original and only destination on my travels until I added a few extra stops to my itinerary and secondly my mate John from Uni has been here a year already so I’ve been looking forward to catching up with him and getting back into the old uni partying ways!

It was great to see a friendly face and know things are sorted for when I arrived but if you are on your own it really wouldn’t be hard to sort things out and start getting to know people. Right away I met so many people.

I’ve been staying in the Kings Cross area in Sydney which is not just the party and backpackers area but also funny enough the red light district! Which made me laugh the first night I walked along the main street. There are strip clubs, sex shops and a few prostitutes but its all taken in every ones stride, it’s a little seedy but there are no problems. There are tons of hostels in the area and subsequently tons of bars and clubs so its all good and definitely the place to be!

I’ve been staying in the Globe Hostel which on first impressions I wasn’t too keen on after coming from the meticulously neat and clean hostels in Singapore. However, I soon realized it was a damn good hostel with lots of social areas and a fantastic friendly atmosphere. A few people I spoke to had been in Sydney for months moving around and all said that although not the most luxurious hostel, it was by far the best they have stayed in and it costs 10 pounds a night!

John (my mate I met up with) ‘wasn’t feeling well’ the first couple of days i arrived so he took off work to get better and so we headed straight for the main areas of the city which Im sure you have seen plenty of times before.



Beaches, Sydney

There are a lot of beaches around Sydney, the most famous being Bondi. We went to Bondi soon after I arrived to chill out for a while. It’s a big, popular but good beach and well worth a visit to get some sun!


I didn’t really get to see many beaches during my time in Sydney, we went to Collaroy which is on the way to Palm beach (where Home and Away is filmed) but there pretty far out from the city and weren’t really worth going too, i knew I’ll be heading to tons of beaches going up the coast so I wanted to spend more time in and around the city and it worked out great.

The Full Moon Harbor Cruise, Sydney – Messy!

The full moon party was a pretty big event with loads of hostels getting involved, there were only 200 tickets all together and for that you got a 3 hour cruise around Sydney, a t shirt, a drink and entry to the club after. Your given a white t shirt which you have to decorate with UV paint which will come into effect in the club later on. There was a lot of paint flying about in that time, it was pretty funny. Then everyone on the trip headed in a big hoard through the city towards the harbor and there were plenty of laughs and stares coming our way due to the crazy designs and bodies covered in paint. But we got there and it was good to see a few hundred other people doing exactly the same thing, drinking makes the situation all the funnier, it was setting up for a great night and im afraid to say I didn’t take my camera which I am gutted about so I have had to steal a few photos.

The atmosphere on the boat was great, people painted head to toe in UV paint, it was so funny. The music and club on the boat was real good too. I met a lot of new people on the boat and had a good laugh. The club was even better and it was the most amazing first big night out in Sydney!

Botanical Gardens & Huge Bats, Sydney

I’ve spent a little time roaming around the botanical gardens, mainly because its pretty fascinating to see so many HUGE fruit bats in the trees especially so close to the city. The area is great to chill out in, not at all far from the opera house. A little way in you will begin to see the trees lined with bats, what seemed like thousands of them; it was quite a surreal sight!


There are a whole host of wild birds in the gardens, including cockatoos which are more than happy to fly onto you if you have some food, and they tend to bite too which should be evident in the video!

[1466 wild cockatoos]

The Sydney Festival, Sydney

Just before I arrived, the Sydney arts festival had started with concerts, exhibitions and shows all over the city, some of which were free. A group of us from the Globe Hostel decided to head over to one of the free Jazz concerts in the park and it seemed like the whole of Sydney had turned up for it, it was crazy busy! But we got a spot and enjoyed the evening show over a few drinks and conversations.

[1071 – video]

The Sky Tower, Sydney

Don’t really need to say too much about what this is but I’d say its definitely worth a visit, some fantastic views of the city from the top and it’s a load cheaper than climbing the bridge!


The Blue Mountains, Sydney

The Blue mountains were a couple of hours from the centre of Sydney, I was really keen to see the blue mountains and I tell you what, they don’t disappoint! We were pretty lucky with the weather, and the scenery was incredible. We decided not to take an organized tour and do it ourselves which actually worked out great. We just took the train to the right stop and the blue mountains were about half an hour walk from there, ideal.

The most famous part of the Blue Mountains is probably the 3 Sisters rock formation which you can go up to and inside of.



We did a couple of treks through the Blue Mountains, sometimes detouring to check out the odd waterfall we could see off the path.


From there we took a track down into the valley and made our way to the worlds steepest train which took us back out, it was a great day and I wish we was able to stay there for longer!

[1475 - Rail way vid - up]

Monday, January 12, 2009

8th - 12th Jan - The Singapore Experience

8th Jan - The Arrival

I had a pretty tight and rigorous immigration check as soon as I arrived, in fact a number of people in front of me were not allowed through and were taken somewhere to be checked out further. I heard Singapore was a very safe and clean city with a no tolerance policy to crime of any kind, well that was pretty clear when reading the immigration form which says in big red capitals ‘ if you are caught bringing drugs into the country the penalty can be death’ that’ll deter you!

Getting to the hostel from the airport was really easy, the transport network is simple clear and easy to use. I was booked into ‘The Hangout @ Mount Emily’ hostel. First impressions - this place didn’t disappoint, It was basically a 5 star hostel, It was a little expensive though at 20 Pounds per night but you get a lot for your money.

Only in the initial few hours of being there it was clear this place is well oiled and organized machine, from the transport network to its cleanliness. Everything was so far ahead of the UK. After a little while it became clearer why Singapore has been able to invest so much money into developing the country; basically its because they put so much bloody tax on EVERYTHING, its crazy expensive!

There were quite a few people floating about in the hostel and my dorm, I soon got to meet a few guys, all been to different places and with lots of stories to tell.


9th – Lots of beer and a reverse bungee!

After breakfast I set off into town to see as much of the city as possible, I wondered around for about 4 hours before bumping into a couple of German girls who had just been in Oz for a couple of months. The girls filled me in on their trip and gave me some good advice and I have to say the German girls certainly like to drink!

After a few ‘Jugs’ (pitchers) of beer which were stupidly expensive, we wondered off to get some food and didn’t get very far before a reverse bunjee ride caught our eye which we just had to do. It was over far too quickly but was pretty good fun, I’m looking forward to the big one in NZ !


We didn’t have a hugely late one as we were drinking pretty early in the day and were pretty tired, it was a good day!

10th - The quest to find a beach in Singapore

Well off to a good start tody, I went down to book up another night in the hostel before breakfast but a few of us were a little surprised to find the hostel was fully booked up which sucked as we just met everyone. So we headed down the road to another recommended hostel (G4) and booked in there. It wasn’t quite as good as The Hangout but it was still pretty good – so I’ll make sure I book ahead of time in future! I headed back to meet up with the guys in the other hostel and we headed off to try and find a beach.

Sentosa island was at the top of everyones list and was described as a bit of a fake Disney land resort (fully man made – beach and all) but a beach man made or not sounded appealing and so it was well worth a bit of an adventure.


[992 – sentosa beach vid]

Sentosa Island harbour was one of the stops to the Volvo ocean tall ship race which were docked while we were there, unfortunately they were out on a day race at the time but there was a huge event going on around the main race and it was a day out in its self.
We trekked off around the island a little and decided it’d be a good idea to climb for a coconut which turned out to be a good free drink!

[1459 – climbing for coconuts vid]

there are a few different areas within Singapore, Malaysian, Chinese, Indian and a couple of others. We headed to china town to get some food and then went to town to have a world famous Singapore Sling Cocktail which, surprise surprise was crazy expensive.


11th & 12th of Jan – Sight seeing, Saving the penny's and updating the old blog

The last couple of days in Singapore constited of sight seeing and saving a little money (in this stupidly expensive country) by chilling out in an internet café and updating my Sri Lankan leg of my blog. The videos are proving to be pretty time consuming to upload but so far so good, I have most of what I wanted to put up.

Singapore has been close to what I expected – a large, clean and modern city with not a great deal to see or do. I have spent a lot of money here but ive met a number of good and interesting people, that was worth it in its self. Ive enjoyed the short time I have spent here but I wouldn’t stay any longer and I wouldn’t come back to visit unless it was another stop over destination. It seems that Singapore is a key stepping stone for many people traveling around the world from NZ to Norway, from Thailand to India, from Germany to Bornio and from the people I have met the list goes on. There are so many people doing and seeing so many amazing things its great to hear about.
Singapore Done 6.5/10 ... Off to Sydney!

Thursday, January 08, 2009

8th Jan - Sri Lanka - The End

Sri Lanka has been the most diverse, beautiful and fascinating place i have ever been to and has far exceeded any expectations i had of the country. I had no idea what to expect, only what i had read and seen on the internet. I can’t begin to put my experience and feelings into words, i can only say it needs to be seen to be believed. Sometimes life seems to be one big game of chance, i just happened to be stopping in Sri Lanka for fuel on the way over to Oz and i end up travelling there for 10 days having some of the best experiences of my life.

I have learned a lot during my stay here, particularly about the difficulties and problems the country is facing right now. I cant believe its really happening; there's a full blown out war in the north yet its the most relaxed, serene and friendly place I’ve been to.

without going into too much detail (and correct me if I’m wrong) the conflict is over territory, the Tamil people in the north (originally from India, bought over by the British to work) want their own country after the few hundred years they have been there. The Sri Lankan government clearly doesn’t want that and so the conflict has been going on for the last 25 years. it is said that many of the key Tamil Tigers leaders are now dead and so the war is hoped to be over within the year. However this may not put a stop to the Tamil people doing suicide attacks on the Sri Lankans and key public/ military places. The Tamils apparently try to ensure no foreign people are caught up in the attacks, they done want that because if they do eventually claim independence from Sri Lanka, they will then need trade and tourism which they won’t get if there seen to be attacking everyone.

Only on my last day, on the way to the airport has the situation hit home a little more. This is because a large suicide bomb went off on a train in Mount Lavinia station (which is where i was on my first day) in fact its the one in my photos and videos. So hearing its happened where i have stepped and many people have lost their lives makes it a little more real to me.

But the simple truth is i would definitely come back. the problems are only within a tiny part of the country - the far north and the capital, Colombo. As soon as you venture out everything is fine and that is where everything worth seeing is. It’s a tragic story for a country that has so much going for it, I hope it has a good future and I’m glad i got to see it while its relatively un known to the rest of the world.

Sri Lanka Done 10/10 … Off to Singapore!

Monday, January 05, 2009

5th, 6th + 7th Jan – Beach Hopping, Relaxing and Tanning up before i head to Singapore

5th Jan – The Journey up the western coast of Sri Lanka

When i was doing a little research on Sri Lanka i came across a number of key places, images and traditions; one being the Sri Lankan stilt fisherman. They sit out in the shallows just past the breaking waves and fish from flimsy stilts sticking out of the water. It was another thing I wanted to see in real life and another tick in the box. There are children waiting near the shore line as they know the stilt fisherman are a popular tourist attraction and so wait to get some money ‘money photo, money photo’ they repeat; somehow I doubt the fisherman will be getting any of that!


As we travelled along the coast line from Yala in the south it started to become really clear how much devastation the Tsunami caused in 2004. Even 4 years on there are still so many broken relics of what was once peoples homes and even their livelihoods. In some areas newer settlements have been built further inland but many still choose to live in half broken buildings which was once their homes.


Dickwella Beach: A Hidden Gem

So this was the first of three beach stops on the way back to the capital before I leave this tropical island. My driver told me about this place and said it would be a good secluded beach to start with. He wasn't wrong, the beach its self was enormous and there was no one about except a few people looking for shells and a few dogs roaming around. After the last few hectic days i was more than happy just to chill out and relax from my villa which overlooks the ocean, it gave me time to catch up on a little blogging (written of course). While i was mid flow i spotted something run accross my table which looked like a spider but i had never seen anything like it, it was so colourful and fairly small, so i got a snap as you can see.


6th – Unawatuna: The surfers beach

Unawatuna was a much livelier and busier beach town, but I guess that wasn’t hard coming from the empty tranquil beach of Dickwella! There were far more guest houses, bars and restaurants along the sea edge but it seemed people were keeping to the vicinity of their own accommodation and not venturing too far. I met a few people there including a group of Romanians who were on a fairly long beach break. They were a great bunch and we had a lot to talk about late into the night. They have sold their country to me, it sounds great and it is yet another one to add to my list, I don’t know when I’m gonna fit it all in!



7th – Hikkaduwa Beach: The final stop and swimming with turtles!

Hikkaduwa is well known for its snorkeling and that it the main reason I wanted to finish here. There were many glass bottom boats doing tours of the reefs and corals and numerous places to rent snorkeling equipment. You didn’t have to venture far out to see the corals and fish so getting a snorkel and some flippers did the same job as the boat and I jumped in soon after I arrived! The water was so much clearer than Mount Lavinia where I went snorkeling on my first day, plus there was a vast amount of corals beds to roam over; it was fascinating floating just inches over all the corals and fish.

I was told to do a trip further out of the shore line as I would stand a good chance of seeing turtles and other fish, but I didn’t think it was worth it at the time. So I took to my snorkeling and spent a few hours aimlessly swimming around fascinated by all the marine life and corals, it really was like swimming in a giant version of my marine tank back home! After a while I was paddling along and I saw a huge dark figure below me, it was a Turtle! It was huge and just like I had seen on any of the nature documentaries, I couldn’t believe it, and I was only about fifty feet from the shore – so much for needing a boat to see them!




Sunday, January 04, 2009

4th Jan - On Route to Yala National Park and a Jungle Safari Adventure!

After leaving Ella we made our descent through the mountains heading to flatter ground in the south. The goal is to do a half day Safari later today. The only way to get around the park is by Jeep and unlike a zoo your not guaranteed to see anything, bt if I do get to see the animals in their natural environment it’ll be pretty amazing.

The Park has many dirt tracks cut into it and the Jeeps have to stay on the paths.


Within my 4 hour Safari I got to see so many animals, my guide who does the safari day in day out has not seen a leopard for about a week and the black bear for over 2 weeks. Well guess what – I saw them both one after the other, they were a little way away bt I got to see a Leopard and Black Bear in their natural environment and it was pretty amazing. I’m so glad I got to do it.

The place I was staying in was pretty good, and it even had a swimming pool. It is my drivers birthday today so there are a fair few people celebrating and it was a good end to a good day.


*Here’s the current advice from the British Foreign and Commonwealth office:

We advise against all travel to the north and east of Sri Lanka, and to Yala National Park and the areas around it.’

I didnt read this until after my trip to Yala and hearing about it from other travellers. There never seemed to be any problems or dangers during my time in Yala, the tourism has been hugely effected by the situation out here. The reality of the situation seems distant to me, all I see is friendly people and a beautiful country far from the war zone it currently is. They hope it will be resolved within the next year.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

3rd Jan – Sticking around in Ella with a Waterfall Swimming Adventure!

We were pretty excited about swimming in the pool below the falls, the falls are called Rowana Falls, the largest in the area and the 3rd largest in Sri Lanka. We got up pretty early to meet our guide to take us to the falls and pool.


To cut a long story and journey short we trekked for about 45 minutes along a railway line and through tea plantations to find it was the wrong waterfall and it was pretty lame. So basically we went straight back to where we started and headed for the one we saw from Little Adams Peak and it was definitely the right decision.


After we did some swimming and sun bathing the pool area got pretty busy with locals, so we timed it just right. It was a great little trip and experience!


I’ve done enough Trekking and climbing over the last few days to last me a lifetime so it was great to get back and chill out before we parted ways tomorrow. I’ll be heading south to Yala National Park, with the intention to hopefully do a Safari. I didn’t realize how much and how diverse the wildlife is in Sri Lanka. Yala National Park is home to Leopards, Black Bears, Sloth Bears, Crocodiles, Buffalo, Elephants and countless others. Even so, most are said to be very rare to see in the and around the park, especially the Leopard and Black Bear; so lets hope I get lucky.

The evening meal was great – yet another curry and rice buffet, and its custom to eat with your hand, so of course we gave it a go – Joss in action.


Friday, January 02, 2009

2nd Jan – On route to Ella with a quick climb before departure

Today were off to Ella which is about 3 hours away. Jocelyne has a few days left of her trip so instead of heading straight back to the capital she is going to tag along with me and my driver for a little adventure in Ella. My driver has sold the place to us saying it’s not to be missed.

The time in Nuwara Eliya was great but largely consisted of a heavy drinking night and a little wondering around the town. So we wanted to something a little more meaningful before we set off for Ella, so we got a guide to take us up a famous view point called One Tree Mountain.


The views from the top were fantastic, the only problem our legs were still hurting from the climb up Adams Peak the night before. Unknown to me at the time Jocelyne had also clambered onto the ledge I found at the top of Adams Peak and was one person away from me watching the sunrise from almost the same spot, it’s a small world!

So aching and hurting we hurried back to the hotel to check out and then headed for Ella; pleased we got the hike in before we left! Ella is situated in a beautiful valley surrounded by vast peaks either side, the temperature is a lot cooler in the evenings too.


After sorting out our rooms we got some lunch and set off on yet another trek, this time up a peak called ‘Little Adams Peak’ – a smaller version of what we climbed for New Years. It still took ages and was really steep, yet all the same, the views from the top were well worth the effort getting there.



We saw a waterfall over the other side of the valley and decided it would be well worth checking out and hopefully swim in the pool below it. We got back, had even more rice and curry, a load more Arrack and got some kip ready for the little adventure to the waterfall tomorrow.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

1st Jan – On route to Nuwara Eliya, feeling exhausted but chuffed I conquered Adams Peak for the New Year!

The trip from Adams Peak to Nuwara Eliya takes about 3 hours. Sri Lanka is world famous for its tea and much of that is produced in Nuwara Eliya.

There are still so many relics of the British colonial era in many parts of Sri Lanka. From the Railways and their stations which look like they date back to the 1800’s (which is when they were first built) through to typical English buildings and even a race course because the British wanted something a little more familiar.

I’m staying in what was the British Governors mansion and is about as British as you will get with log fires and old English furniture everywhere. Just learning about the history of Sri Lanka has been an experience in its self; its history is vast from recent colonization’s over the last few hundred years’ right back to its ancient history over many thousands.


From just about knowing where Sri Lanka was on the map to being submerged in its history, culture and natural beauty it’s been one of the most fascination experiences I have had and continue to have.

Here I met a Swiss girl called Jocelyne (from the french part of Switzerland) staying in the same place who was also traveling alone. We had a lot to chat about and it was good to meet someone of a similar same age. A few of us got drinking quite a bit that evening, including the Japanese guy I met in Sigiriya – it’s a small world! We were drinking Arrack which is the staple spirit drink of Sri Lanka, I had a fair bit in Sigiriya so know you get pretty drunk off it and i didn’t even get a hang over – I’m currently looking into how I can ship a load of this back to the UK! We all had a really funny drunken night getting to know each other.