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Posts Tagged ‘australia’

So it’s our last day in Australia! TEAR! In true backpacker fashion, I’ve had far too little sleep, may still be a little drunk and I’m heading to the airport in about 3 hours.

Yesterday I spent most of the day hanging out with my good (Australian!) friend, Ben. It was great to see him again but very sad. Hopefully he and I will cross paths in Europe in 2010 when I hopefully head out to Amsterdam and either Dublin, Norway, or London. Already planning the next trip, ay? Sounds like a traveler has been born.

Here is a video we made while waiting for my train to take me back into the city from Bondi Junction.

Next stop: Fiji! We will be staying there for 5 days, then heading to San Francisco (via LA). I’m looking forward to both! From there, Kelly and I split up! I head off to Vancouver to visit some friends and family while she heads to Calgary to go skiing in Fernie.

Our grand adventure is coming to an end however, I am most likely going to continue to update this blog for some time with pictures and the mass amount of videos I have. I can’t decide if that makes me pathetic or just normal? Readers?

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So this post may be a little loopy. Sorry about it but I haven’t slept since 6am yesterday morning, Thailand time. So that would make it…. more than 26 hours since I’ve slept. Oh boy. Brace yourselves.

Yesterday, we woke up early and Kelly’s aunt, Kim (who is lovely and it’s a shame we only met her the last couple days of our Thailand trip – even though we were staying in her condo every time we were in Bangkok) took us to the Jim Thompson Teak House in Bangkok. It was one of the things on the list I hadn’t yet done so that was really nice. Aunt Jan, you were right – the place was like an oasis admists the bustle, noise and pollution of Bangkok. It was nice to step away from that for just a little bit.

Then we got some food on the street (so good!) and went back to pack and head out. Poor Kelly got food poisoning in Koh Chang (I got to watch some pretty spectacular projectile vomiting, let me tell you!) and so she hasn’t been 100% since. So I don’t think the flight was too kind on her – though at least she managed to get a couple hours of sleep. I didn’t get any, sadly but I did watch a lot of good TV shows and films! Woo! (Love British Airways, by the way. Good food, good entertainment. I think Kelly and I’s favourite part though is the man who says, “Cheerio!” as we leave the plane. I realize that may seem silly but then again, what do you expect from us? Cheerio!)

So now we’re back in Sydney. Kelly is off on her last sail around Sydney Harbour and I am valiantly fighting my body’s rebellion due to lack of sleep. We’ll see how long I last. (I’m betting on out by 3pm, right on the dot!)

So, we fly out on Monday for Fiji. Should be most excellent! I enjoyed my trip to Thailand and it was good for me to stretch my comfort zone to include countries that don’t speak English, French or Spanish. It was a lot of fun and I enjoyed trying to use my minimal Thai wherever I could. (Sa-wah-dii kha, khap kun kha, chai!, mai chai … that’s really all I have… haha.)

While we were there, we (in no specific order):

– Went to a lady boy show

– Went to the weekend market

– Did a LOT of shopping (got pretty good at haggling over a price on the calculator hehe)

– Saw the Jim Thompson house

– Did a 3 day/2 night jungle trek (our guide was SHORTER than me, which I know is hard to believe but it’s true! We followed a Thai midget around the jungle for 3 days ahaaaaa) which included elephant riding and bamboo rafting

– Went and did the beach/island scene at Koh Chang

– Saw Grand Palace and Wat Pho

– Did a Thai cooking class

– Learned that Thai men? Are the most awkward flirts ever! Seriously

– And basically had a good time! Ate a LOT of delicious, delicious food!

It was nice but I am glad to be back in Australia with normal toilets and English and that feeling of “home” – because Sydney definitely feels a little like home now. It’s nice. I will be very sad to leave.

I should probably go make sure I don’t die. Sa-Wah-Dii Kha for now!

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Dear Parents:

It is here I lay to you Exhibit A: Proof that Emma has been using sunscreen, not only regularly but all the freakin’ time.

I AM WHITE OH LORD

I think this picture speaks for itself. No need to continuously ask me if I’ve been using sunscreen because I am sure you can tell from this, that I most definitely have been. I appreciate the concern, nevertheless, and kindly request you turn your concerns towards my friend, the elusive Kelly, who has taken a moral stance against sunscreen and all sun-care related products. Use your parental powers on her; she definitely needs them because she is going to return with LOTS AND LOTS OF CANCER.

XOXO

Your ever-reliable, responsible and intelligent daughter,

Emma

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So after my trip to Uluru I flew to Melbourne to meet up with Kelly on Christmas Eve. We stayed at a great hostel in St. Kilda called Cooee. I really liked it, it was super clean!

On Christmas day, Kelly and I got up and wandered around until we found a place to grab breakfast. It was this great European style cafe and while the service was slow, the food was great. We talked to some Aussies at the table next to us and they were very friendly. They even identified us correctly as Canadian which immediately won us over! As we sat there eating breakfast, a bunch of 20-something guys , drunk and dressed up in drag ran by. …Christmas is weird in Australia! The number of drunk people we saw on Christmas eve and Christmas day was not something I expected, to be honest. Oh well, different traditions, I guess!

After our breakfast we went to the beach, where I called my parents to let them know what a smart, smart daughter they have! The day was perfect beach weather and we enjoyed ourselves until it was time to make our way to Kelly’s cousin’s girlfriend’s mother’s house. Mouthful! It was awfully sweet of Julie to take us wayward Canadian girls in and we really appreciated it! The food was delicious, the company entertaining and we drank many bottles of wine, champagne and beer. They cooked the turkey on the BBQ which I thought was fantastic.

The next day, Kelly and I met up with my friend Jill from school. We went to the Old Melbourne Goal which was really neat to see. It’s the place where Ned Kelly was hung and we actually got to see the place where they hung them. Most cells were open to walk through and each open cell had a story about a victim and their death mask. That was really quite interesting, if not a little morbid!

That night we went out with Jill and her friend. It was a lot of fun and we ended up at Hungry Jack’s – a poor substitute for Burger King. I’m not sure if they’re owned by the same company or not but they also sell the Whopper (?).

After that, we did a lot of shopping for a couple days at outlet stores, saw Wicked (which was… dare I say it? Wicked. YESSSS.) and headed to Sorrento, to meet up with Kelly’s cousin again. He actaually lives in Sorrento, which is about an hour’s drive outside Melbourne down on the coast. It was absolutely gorgeous there! The spit was only a mile in length and dependent on the weather, you could chose which beach (and which side) you wanted to go to that day. We did a bike tour the morning we were leaving on the bike trails and it was awesome to see the gorgeous beaches, surf and towns. I absolutely loved my stay in Sorrento and want to thank our wonderful hosts for putting us up and feeding us so well! Playing with baby Finn, Jer’s 10 month old baby, was also a bonus. He was so well-behaved and SO cute. I’m not a huge baby person but Finn is definitely adorable.

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So we’re finally on the last day of my Uluru trip. Phew! I apologize for the sheer amount of photos in this post. But it had to be done. Hopefully you’ll forgive me.

So day three!

We woke up again super early, somewhere around 4.30am. The sunrise from our camp was absolutely stunning and is now proudly displayed as our header. After a quick breakfast and pack-up of the camp, we headed to do the King’s Canyon walk, which was approximately a 7km return hike (including a stop over at the “Garden of Eden”). As you’ll see from the pictures, temperatures were predicted to hit upwards of 40*C! Yikes. My 1.5L water bottle came in handy many times during the trip but by the end of this morning I was horribly tired of warm, even hot, water.

After our beautiful hike around the top of the canyon, we went and had a BBQ lunch back at King’s Creek Cattle Station and I sat by the pool for a bit. Then it was off on the road, to slowly make our way back to Alice Springs. On our way back, we cut across the land on outback road and that was about an hour’s drive. Very fun though, like a really long, slow rollercoaster, haha. After that, we stopped in to see Dinky the Singing Dingo and the Dodge truck that opened up the outback dirt roads and then home to Alice Springs.

That night in Alice Springs we all went out for dinner and I ordered a Camel & Stout Pie. And let me tell you… camel taste like, well, camel. It tasted dusty? It was very tender but not very good. I ate about half the pie before I gave up. Worth a shot. Funny how I got food poisoning not from the camel, but from my work holiday party. You’d think it would be the other way around!

In any case, here are my pictures from Day 3. Enjoy.

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So yesterday Kelly and I met up to go buy our tickets to Thailand. I’m not sure if I’ve said it before but I’m not terribly interested in going to that part of the world. I don’t know why. However, while waiting at Student Flights for Kelly I was staring at all the brochures and the ones for Thailand looked unbelievably gorgeous! So now I’m all excited. Ah ha ha. I am lame.

So before our meet-up, I loaded up my pre-pay credit card that I bought online (called the Canvas Pre-Paid Visa – it looked legit so I paid the $20 for this card) with $1200 AUD. I realize now I probably could have just paid debit but… I’m dumb, clearly. I’ve used this credit card for online purchases before with no problems. I got it because I figured it would be cheaper in the long-run to use this for all my ticket purchases from Australia instead of emailing myself money from my Australia to my Canadian bank account and then using my Canadian Visa card. I’d get doubly charged for conversion rates if I did it that way.

So we get there and lo! and behold! my Visa will not work on their credit card machine. And the problem with this is? You can’t take your money off that card once you load it. So I had $1200 on that Visa. There’s no way I will be able to spend that much money in my remaining time in Australia. I call the number on the back of the card.

So it costs $1 to access my information. I grumble but accept only to get a list of options I don’t want. No option of talking to a representative. I press 0 just in case. Ah, suddenly I’m in line to talk to someone. I wait. And wait. And wait. Finally, they tell me it is $3 to talk to a representative. Do I want to do so? Yes. By this point I’m already unimpressed with the service.

So I get some woman. She tells me there’s nothing wrong with my card. I insist there is. She tells me I’m wrong. She tells me she can’t help me. She tells me to go buy somewhere else. Uh, no. I have a deposit on this flight. I’m not going anywhere else.

During this exchange, the lovely travel agent, Lenka, was calling up their bank and found out their terminals wouldn’t accept these kinds of cards, as they aren’t as secure as regular credit cards. So I tell the woman on the phone, “Oh, she says their terminals doesn’t accept this credit card.”

“That’s what I told you before! It is the terminal’s fault.” So. Rude.

“So can I get my money back then? I want my money refunded.”

“I am not sure if we can help you, m’am. I will put an enquiry into the concerns desk but you will have to call back in 2-3 business days to see if the request will be approved.” Another $4 phone call. Great.

“So what are the chances I will get my money back?” There is no way in hell I am paying for this ticket without knowing for sure that I will get this money back.

“I cannot comment on this situation at present, m’am. You will have to call back in 2-3 business days to find out if you will receive a refund. I cannot help you at this point.”

At this point, I hang up on her. I don’t know if I’ve ever had someone so rude on the phone before. It wasn’t just what she said but the tone of her voice. I am so frustrated. It hasn’t been the best week and I am tired and emotionally exhausted. I start crying outside the travel office. How embarrassing. I cry more because I don’t want to cry and this is awkward. There are people walking around me as I stand there trying to get my act together. Kelly comes out. She’s being sweet but I feel even more embarrassed that she’s trying to calm me down.

A man in the take-out restaurant next door sees me and insists I get some free gelato. I refuse and try to wipe away my tears. He insists and Kelly pushes me over. I get mango and chocolate. Well, that’s nice. At least Australians are nice.

I go back into the travel office, feeling awkward and embarrassed. The agents at Student Flights are super nice to me. They ask if my card has a pin number and I realize that I can treat my pre-pay Visa card like an ATM card. I had forgotten about that. So I whip out my tried and true Scotiabank Visa, charge it and pay for my trip. I’ll have to send myself the money in Canada but at least I get Money-Back Rewards on my Canadian Visa.

I’m withdrawing all my money from that stupid Canvas card and CUTTING IT UP into a tiny million little pieces. I get bad service, bad service I PAID FOR, and you will never get my business again. And I will tell whomever I can that Canvas pre-pay credit card is so not worth their time or money!

The funny thing is, I had Googled “canvas prepaid visa card scam” before to see if it was a legit card and wish I had come across a blog post like this before I bought it. I hope I save someone from this mistake by publishing it here.

Ugh!

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This post is about my second day of the Uluru (Ayer’s Rock) tour I did with Wayoutback Tours. Again, a fantastic time!

Started the day off with a 4.30am wakeup call! So early. We had slept on the ground under a tin roof the night before. Those that decided to be a little more “cool” had slept out under the stars. They quickly moved when it began raining sometime in the night. It was actually a pretty good sleep, despite sleeping on the ground surrounded by strangers.

We headed to a sunrise lookout point where we got to take some fantastic pictures of the sunrise and have our breakfast. Shortly after that, we headed to Kata Tjuta, or the Valley of the Winds for our hike. Those that chose to do that whole hike (like me) walked about 7km in a big loop that day. We finished around 10.30am and boy, it certainly felt like it was 2 or 3pm in the afternoon thanks to the early wake up.

I had a hiking buddy with me for the second part of the hike (after the point when those that decided to take the shorter route turned around). We didn’t talk much but we both kept at the same pace. I decided that by the end of the hike, either he had the fitness level of a 23-year old or I had the fitness level of a 58-year old. I was really hoping it was the first one! Considering we were the 2nd and 3rd person back (yes, even beating those that took the shorter route), I am going to say it’s safe to assume he was in great shape.

After that, we went to the Uluru Camping Ground and hung out at the pool. There’s no words to describe how it feels to immerse yourself in a refreshing water after a long, 37 degree hike. It was amazing. After a lazy lunch, we headed to our next campground and set up. I got to take a shower in a tin shower stall (see pictures) and I think that was a pretty fantastic experience. There was no curtain or door on the shower and I got to watch the sun set in the outback as I showered away the grime and sweat from the day.

That night our tour guide, Adam, cooked us Green Curry on the open fire AND bread made with beer. I was highly impressed and it was delicious! We then settled down around the fire for a sleep under the stars. Absolutely gorgeous, lying there and gazing into the universe. I could have done without the flies or mosquitos, though! I think I woke up pretty much every hour and was covered in bites by the morning but the night-time sky and sunrise that following morning more than made up for it.

Here are some pictures from Day 2:

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