Tuesday, 22 December 2009
Unfortunately the rest of the day involved driving, driving and more driving... about 6 hours in total. So when we arrived at Woodgate Beach campsite we pretty much had some food (sausages kindly donated by the couple next door!) and went to bed.
Once everyone had eaten, a load of us went to muster the goats for the afternoons goat rodeo which was probably the highlight of the day for me... or was it the ‘ring-of-fire’? (which involved an 11,000Vcattle prod!!). To enter the goat rodeo you needed a team of two; one to be the catcher/brander and the other to be the tipper. And you need a team name. Ant and I were the Hairy Chins (don’t ask... I haven’t found out yet either.) The team enters the ring with all the goats and stands in a small semi-circle to one side whilst the rodeo leader nominates a goat for the team to brand. The clock starts when the audience yells the question, “Hairy Chins, are you ready?” and the Hairy Chins reply... “F**k yeah”. The tipper must remain in his spot whilst the catcher (that’s me) catches (by the leg) and drags over (by the horns) the nominated goat, the tipper then ‘tips’ the goat onto it’s back and holds it steady whilst I rush over to get the brander and press it firmly onto the goats butt for 3 seconds, at which point the clock stops. All sounds very simple. There are 5sec time penalties for various faults such as body slamming the goat instead of tipping it, branding in the wrong place and the tipper leaving his post. I have to say it was the most hilarious thing I have seen in a long time. We watched a few teams go first... lots of running round in endless circles, goats kicking, goats peeing everywhere, goats wrestling the tippers and at least one goat being body-slammed into the ground! But we were outstanding and as the only team with no time penalties we took first place! Yeeee-Haaaa!!!
The day just didn’t stop there though; we learnt how to crack whips, to lasso and to shoot rifles. We watched Boss fall out of the tree, drank ‘giggle juice’ and laughed at everyone on the mechanical bull. We tasted goat meat, we drank local Rum, we won tug-of-war and we listened to Al’s talk about the history of the Kroombit area. We finally gave up and went to bed in the early hours after watching many rounds of a very lively outback drinking game and helping a slightly homesick Danish girl make drunken decisions about her love life. A truly awesome day. I want to be a cowgirl.
Sunday, 20 December 2009
Because all the backpacker coaches had left in the morning we were the only guests, so we joined the weekly ‘staff dinner’ and discovered that half of them are Danish and the other half come from Steyning in West Sussex!
We arrived just as the cowboys and guests were having lunch – steak cooked on the open fire Barbie and plenty of salad. We were given keys to a double, air-conditioned room, but decided to park the van up and camp in Betsy instead. Spent the afternoon chilling out, sleeping and reading, all the while being entertained by families of Indian Peahens; I never knew they spent the night high up in the trees, or fought with Roosters come to that.
Went into town and spent far too much money in the surf shop – shorts, top, hippie beads and such.
Then did a bit of Christmas shopping before rewarding ourselves with lunch and coffee before going back to the campsite for a swim.
The site has a games room with wireless internet access, so we ventured up there to check email etc. The seating arrangements were a little unique in that they were very old seventies aeroplane seats bolted to the floor in rows facing the TV set. I spent the afternoon either behind my bins or looking through my lens at a group of grey butcherbirds eating the remains of my lychees on the floor in front of us.
Then we eventually reached Rockhampton, we pulled into a campsite beside the tidal Fitzroy River, and watched a guy fishing the mudflats with a throwing net, had a swim in the pool and wandered down to Dominoes for a pizza – our first since leaving the UK back in May! Oh and we found a wicked sombrero sun hat for Ant down the riverbank which he fished out and cleaned up. Looks perfect.
Galahs, Minor Birds, Butcherbirds, Royal Spoonbills, Jellyfish, Ibis, Egrets..... all in abundance along the riverbanks and mudflats that we could see from our pitch. A fantastic place to stop, although due to the streetlights on the opposite bank of the river, the Rainbow Lorikeets did not settle down ALL NIGHT!
Monday, 14 December 2009
We spent the evening back at Pete’s van feeding apples by hand to the local possums and learning about Australian politics, the rights and wrongs of Steve Irwin’s actions and sinking yet more beers.
We nipped out to the general store in the morning and still can’t quite believe the friendliness of the people here. Everyone talks to everyone and everyone seems genuinely interested in how you are and what you’re up to.
As soon as a mild breeze picked up, I ventured out with the camera and watched the new Cicadas emerging from the ground, climbing up the trees trunks and shedding their larvae jackets. They are the most annoying insects around, but considering they have spent 17 years underground, it seems unfair not to let them sing as loud as they like when they finally do emerge and grow wings. I just wish there weren’t so many of them!
The forest floor came alive just after dark with huge cane toads and curlew, a couple of wallabies and a possum. But the prize for the most noise went to a huge collection of Rainbow Lorikeets in the tree above us and five or six laughing Kookaburras.
Must have driven over 300kms, through mainly bush, flat plains and Eucalyptus trees, the odd collection of houses which we notice now seem to be made more of brick than the wooden ones on stilts that we saw in the North.
Although there were still flood warning signs along the road, everything is much much dryer and lots of bush fire damage.
We found a campsite just off the Bruce Highway near Townsville and camped yards from a creek under mango trees laden with enormous Geese.
Wednesday, 9 December 2009
The reef itself was incredible. Pristine, colourful and teaming with life; fish of all colours shapes and sizes. A few small jellyfish, a stingray, starfish and some weird sea slug things. We held one that was about two feet long, looked like Doogle from the magic roundabout and stuck to our hands even underwater.
After a buffet lunch on the boat, Ant went down for another dive, whilst I took the underwater camera out with my snorkelling gear. I really can’t find fault with any part of the day (astounding for me I know!), the reef simply has to be seen to be believed. It really is one of the natural wonders of the world.
The heat and humidity is stifling, so a welcome dip in the pool and a few cold tinnies whiled away the afternoon. Such a hard life!
The knowledge that these people have is truly awesome, if only everyone on this planet took a fraction of the time to learn, understand and care for our environment in the way that they do, then maybe we could all be as proud of our heritage and culture as they are.
We drove much of the morning south, stopping at Mission Beach at a site on the edge of the forest. A family of Curlews came through in the afternoon, closely followed by two Kookaburras and as the sun went down the jungle came alive again with strange noises and plenty of bugs to zap in the van.
When we reached the tree, no-one was around, but there was a sign warning of the saltwater crocodiles and telling us not to go near the water, let alone in it... little did we know in a couple of hours we would be spear fishing in it and wading for mud crabs!
Linc Walker, an aboriginal from the Port Douglas area, showed up, and took us on a mind-blowing walk through the beach forest showing us what medicines, tools and creatures the forest was home to and how his family have inhabited the area and lived off it for generations. He then took us to his home for Mangos and freshly made bread with golden syrup whilst he showed us his collection of artifacts; which included burnie-beans, turtle shells, swordfish teeth and whale bones.
We set off again, armed with a spear each, and followed Linc into the saltwater Mangrove swamps (metres from the warning signs) in search of mud crabs. Along the way we ate Green Ants (supposedly good for flu and taste like very strong lemons), Hibiscus leaves, Beach Almonds and some very weird tasting plum/apricots growing along the shore. Once inside the swamps the temperature was intense and I was pretty quickly being eaten by mosquitoes, so we ventured out into the shallows of the sea where there was a fairly strong breeze. Linc told us to keep stabbing the sand in front of us as we waded to ensure no stingrays were basking in our path...wasn’t Steve Irwin killed by one of those??!!!....we stabbed at the murky water like mad, particularly as we had nothing on our feet. We found only one mud crab, some giant winkles, mud skippers and plenty of cone snails. So with my back ablaze with bites, we returned to Linc’s place and he produced a jar of Dugong fat to smear on and ease the itching. (We later looked up Dugong in our book – it’s like a cross between a whale and a manatee.)
Hot, educated, stinking of whale fat and in awe of the Aboriginal way of life, we headed back along the coast road to Cairns to prepare for a night with the Tjapukai.
Saturday, 5 December 2009
The moon was full and hovering above the clearing in the forest where we were camped. Spectacled flying foxes hung in the trees above our heads and bandicoots dashed around the undergrowth. Lots of very unfamiliar noises (and spiders inside the van!) didn’t deter us from sleeping with the van doors wide open... the heat is immense.
We got up early and Ant made a fry up. Our jungle clearing was visited by Orange-footed Scrubfowl, (very noisy and boring to look at), Ulysses butterflies (Enormous, electric blue, and gorgeous to look at) and all manner of flying and crawling things as well as the fruit bats which returned to roost about 10am. Still seems really odd to see them flying around in broad daylight.
A short taxi ride later and we were standing outside the wrong camper-hire place... oops. So we lugged our holdalls up the road to the right place and paid yet more money to ensure our new transport had all the bits we needed for the trip; an awning, table and 2 chairs, GPS, a full gas bottle and of course a stuffed toy gecko with sucker pads, (a gift for Bee from her overworked and rundown Aussie cousin whom we have named ‘Betsy’). Betsy already has 303,000kms on the clock, small rust holes all over and I suspect colonies of bugs living in the upholstery, but on a positive note, she has 2 new front tyres, air conditioning and can at least reach the national speed limit of 80kms per hour. So all is set for the 3 months ahead.
We drove out of the camper place and joined the Captain Cook Highway north, heading for the Daintree rainforest – the tropical wetlands and celebrity jungle area. Shortly after stocking up at the local supermarket, Ant fell asleep, waking briefly to cross the river on a small flatbed ferry. We arrived at Lync Haven rainforest retreat early afternoon and crashed – totally exhausted. (mosquito bite counter already reading 4!)
Friday, 27 November 2009
Thursday, 19 November 2009
The evening was fantastic, catching up with everyone’s news and recounting stories from the trip so far. It really did remind me of all the adventures we have experienced. Thanks for sharing everyone. X
Giggled the afternoon away shopping in Crawley and made the depressing discovery that the 80’s fashion revival is still lingering like a bad smell, (I did buy some ski pants, but no amount of money would make me wear a batwing again!). I was also forced to accept the horrific truth that I am rapidly approaching middle-age when I came home with not one, but two pairs, of magic pants!!!! Argh. Chinese finger food and a bottle of Fleurie in front of the telly helped ease the pain.
Tuesday, 17 November 2009
Finished packing and decided the suitcase was way overweight so had to remove it all again and take all the books out. Went for Sunday roast at The Old Mill and said goodbye to the dogs. We all decided to go to the airport and crossed the border without hassle or being searched - result.
The plane left 15 minutes early which was a pleasant surprise, but then the captain announced the reason for it.... a 150mph head wind, which would make the journey 1½ hours longer than normal. Grrrr. We took off at 930pm Cypriot time and I touched down at 1am UK time.
Disappeared into town to get new phone, replacement fridge key cut (oops another UDI), a guide book to Hong Kong and a new fountain pen – all this journaling has finally taken its toll on my beloved Parker.
So, wearing flip-flops in mid November and still a little sleep-deprived, I managed to complete all tasks, have coffee with Janet (wonderful surprise), and be back in time to collect my temporary car, generously donated by my brother, whom I have named ‘Kerplunk’. She’s a true gem, despite costing me more to insure for 12 days than she is probably worth, she still saves me the cost of a hire car or lots of taxi fares. So thanks Lee, I’ll take it off your bill. xx
Went out to Rafters restaurant in the evening for a meal with Derek, Cathy, Malcolm and Anita and had a gorgeous Indian meal and a sing-a-long (and bit of a dance) to live music from Katie B.
Saturday, 14 November 2009
We had wanted to take the coast road all the way back to Girne, but discovered that the coastal border point wasn’t actually a permitted crossing point at all, but a closed barrier, guarded by what looked like an armed 15 year old. So we were forced to take the very long, very windy and totally deserted mountain road. Beautiful scenery and lovely rugged coast, but very hard to tell whose land you were in at any point, as army stations and look out posts outnumbered houses and the flags alternated from Turkish Cypriot to Greek for more than 50kms. Two hours later, feeling carsick and losing count of the number of live and dead snakes we passed, we crossed the border at Guzelyurt, hassle-free, and rejoined the coast road back to Girne.
Thursday, 12 November 2009
At close to sun down we drove out onto the Akamas game reserve and wildlife conservation area passing countless game shooters in their 4x4s returning home from a day on the peninsula. The area has no roads, only deeply potholed gravel tracks for miles and miles. We drove until we could no longer see properly and backed Bee into a side track to watch shooting stars and get some sleep.
We continued passed the new Larnaca airport, through the port town of Limassol and double backed at the Kolossi Castle until eventually we reached the Rock of Aphrodite; A huge rock in the sea which is said to be where the Greek Goddess of Love rose from the water. Now many people come here to pledge undying love for each other (or propose of course – congrats Nick and Sam. Xx), they make hearts in the sand out of pebbles, they watch the sun set and drink champagne. Not Ant. Let’s just say Ant’s cynicism hasn’t waned at all since we have been travelling and there is more fluff in his belly button than there is romance in his soul. So imagine his delight when we rounded the beach to discover a huge pebble heart with my initials in it that he could claim ‘here’s one I made earlier’!!!
We left the rock before sundown which happens at 4:30pm around here and headed North along the old Paphos Road, finding a quiet spot on the beach to sleep.
The evening was a brilliant laugh and instead of the 3 litres of wine Angie and I consumed on our last visit, we went for Sambuca shots and a fair amount of Vodka before hitting the dance-floor for the second time. Ant replaced his break-dancing with a Turkish Bull-fight dance and I managed to stay upright the entire evening. Hurrah! And the best part was that I managed to ‘forget’ to take my camera with me!! Oops, sorry.
Saturday we went totally Turkish; starting with a wander around the ruins at Salamis, followed by a walk around the old lost city of Famagusta, where Ant and I fell in love with a hand-made Oud embedded with mother-of-pearl shells (a very old 11-stringed folk instrument of the Arab world and, as we later discovered, favoured by a true God of the comedy world - Bill Bailey). We disappeared for lunch to ponder the price and I ate a traditional Turkish ‘Kuru Fasulye’ (beans and rice with pickled cabbage and olives) whilst everyone else had the ultimate hangover cure of double egg and chips! We returned to iHan’s shop and bartered £100 sterling off the price of the Oud and got a packet of Turkish pomegranate tea thrown in. What a lovely-but-loopy man.
Sunday saw us back at the Moon-on-the-Water restaurant for a traditional and gorgeous roast dinner, with extra spuds. We stayed all afternoon waiting for our dinner to go down so we could fit pudding in – Apple Crumble with cream. It doesn’t get any better.
Monday we all set off for the border and a rummage through the racks of second hand bargains at the thrift shop on the edge of the border army camp. Definitely be going back there again. We said our goodbyes and continued on into the Greek side of the island; With the formal name of - The Republic of Cyprus.
We passed Dhekelia army camp and reached the beach north of Larnaca just as it was approaching dark, so we made some food and got our heads down for an early night.
Saturday, 31 October 2009
On Saturday Cathy and Derek took us to the theatre to see three comedy plays by a local dramatics group – highly amusing, particularly the sketch about the Medieval Technical Help Desk; reminded me of a distant memory….. oh yeah.. .that was it... when I had a job!
Mon and Tues the weather finally turned and we watched electrical storms out to sea, followed by the first of the rains, and come Wednesday, the roads were covered in water and the potholes in the pavements no longer visible. Wednesday night we went down to China Garden for another pub quiz, and came in at a respectably average position – which was quite some achievement given the amount of alcohol consumed.
Our team members, Malcolm and Anita, came over the next day for something to eat and the use of the furniture... (since they moved here 5 weeks ago, their belongings still have not arrived. They are told their container is on the docks in Mersin, Turkey, where the handlers have gone on strike! Not good for them, but the locals here are not surprised.. Unfortunately it sounds typical of Northern Cyprus, so who knows how long they will be squatting in their own home).
Friday, 23 October 2009
Went for a meal at the China Garden and met the couple that bought Cath and Derek’s old house here on the island (Anita and Malcolm). The owner, Tariq, runs a quiz night once a month and so Malcolm, Anita, Me, Ant, Derek and Cath have now formed a new team and will be returning next week for our first crack at Tariq’s prize bottle of wine.
Went to Aligadi beach (another Turtle protection zone) and got bashed about in the waves for a while before sinking a few beers in the beach bar. Then yesterday, Cathy and Derek drove us up the mountains and along the ridge where we saw an abandoned T42 army tank concreted into the mountainside by the Turkish. We lunched at the Kozan restaurant and picnic area almost half way down the mountain and confirmed with the owner that he is more than happy for us to return with Bee and stay over for a couple of nights – very peaceful place, set in pine forests, with great local food (mainly meses and chicken). Then we went on to ‘Mavi Kosk’ (Blue House), which is a lavish summerhouse inside a Turkish Army camp and steeped in rumours. Our guide told us that Paulo Paolides, (a Greek-Italian gun smuggler, mafia colleague and lawyer to the Archbishop) lived there and was responsible for the massacre of 150 Turkish Cypriots during the divides. How true the guide’s tales were about items in the house was debatable, but the tour was interesting and the decor remained as it was in the 1950’s, right down to the pink bathroom suite and psychedelic tiling!
Wednesday, 14 October 2009
We set off Sunday lunchtime, with pub-quiz hangovers and two maps of the island (one with town names written in Turkish and one in Greek). We reached the military base border crossing at Pyla shortly after 2pm and had absolutely no trouble in passing through. In fact the officer at the Greek crossing was surprisingly friendly and very impressed with Bee’s zero-breakdown record.
We spent a very entertaining afternoon and evening chatting and giggling with Martin and Bernice (friends of Ant’s) who were visiting the island on holiday and staying not far from Larnaca.
After a noisy night spent in the van outside their apartment, Bernice kindly made us breakfast and gave us a map and directions to the tourist beach. Two heavy nights of vino and not a lot of sleep were talking their toll, so when we pulled up at the beach and watched a cat crapping in the sand, we both looked at each other and agreed to head back north and explore the South at a later date.
We reached the same Pyla border crossing around 930am and breezed through the Greek barriers. We pulled up at the Turkish gates to get our passport slips stamped again, and expected to have Bee checked over and our belongings riffled through, but to our surprise this didn’t happen. They simply asked for her insurance papers. No problem. We handed over the expensive insurance we had been forced to purchase at the Girne port on entry to Northern Cyprus and waited. Something wasn’t right. I stepped out of the van and asked the customs girl what the problem was. A man took the paperwork from her and started questioning his colleagues. He returned and said that we had to buy more insurance. He said that this cover note wasn’t valid because it was hand written and not printed by a computer! I explained where we had got it from and that it was the Girne port customs team who had sold it to us and therefore his colleagues. He disappeared with the paper to make some enquiries, whilst the girl telephoned her boss. We were asked to pull over to allow other traffic through and told to wait until her boss had returned her call. It seemed to us to simply be a rouse to get us to line their pockets with more money for yet another worthless bit of paper. So we waited. After about half an hour, Ant strode back to the kiosk with a determined look on his face and came back with the passports, the cover note and a nod from the officer to proceed; Hurrah! Bloody Turkish time wasters. Grrrrrr. Maybe we won’t be going south again for a while. We rewarded ourselves that evening with a roast chicken and all the trimmings. Our first since leaving England.
1) A man and wife had 5 children, half of them were boys, how is this possible?
2) and also, how is it possible to get a cold in 30 degree heat?
Thursday, 8 October 2009
Spent the evening swatting up for Saturday’s pub quiz with a couple of games of Trivial Pursuit.
Cathy was off out to line dancing rehearsals (big performance at a village festival on Tuesday) so, Ant, Derek and I had a couple of beers in the China Garden waiting for our takeaway. Which incidentally is way more expensive than in the UK – particularly as Pork is not common in a Muslim country.
Mehmet came round in the evening with a pizza to invite us all to a party at his house on Monday night. The way I felt all day, there’s no way I could go through it all again!
I can recall Ange’s gorgeous spag bol, swimming in the dark, going to the harbour for a drink and then moving on and having a few more drinks, a boogie and watching Ant doing the caterpillar (impressively forwards and backwards I hasten to add) on the floor of Hassan’s bar in the village! Then the Raki was drunk and after that it all gets a bit hazy. Pictured - Me, Hassan and the lethal glass of Raki!!!
Sunday, 4 October 2009
We continued driving east along the ‘pan-handle’ and reached the Balci Plaza by late afternoon (pictured). A lovely apartment looking out to sea, owned by a very hospitable guy who had spent many years living in the UK, but had returned to Cyprus some years ago.We had our first true Turkish meal in his restaurant that evening, sampling many hot and cold dishes including octopus and fried liver. Suitably stuffed, we waddled back to our balcony and watched the geckos fighting and feeding around us. Fantastic.