Monday, October 23, 2006

Sweeping out of Broome

As promised, here are the final set of entries from Broome, before I sweep down the coast...

Saturday 21st October 2006

The morning was spent doing various chores (shopping, washing, internet, etc.) - this travelling lark isn't all fun, fun, fun, you know! Made up for it in the afternoon, though, by taking the free bus over to Cable Beach again. Met Vele, a Finnish chap from my hostel (very nice bloke - 30, but looks much younger), and we decided to walk together to Gantheaume Point. It was a 4-hour round trip (about 10 miles), and well worth while. The different shades of red/orange/pink/purple in the rocks was incredible and there were some beautiful rock formations. We were also able to see the (much trumpeted) dinosaur footprints in the rocks (so the similarities between Broome and the Jurassic Coast are now complete - I should have gone to Lyme Regis instead). Surprisingly it wasn't too hot for walking, with a constant sea breeze, and we got back just before dark. It was nice to have a proper walk, which I didn't think I'd do given the heat earlier in the day (it seems to be hottest at around 11 in the morning - before the sea breeze kicks in)...

In the evening we cooked together again, with a greater Japanese input this time (including a gift of chopsticks from Hidenori [nice Japanese chap], with free lessons in using them, to boot!). I'm still really enjoying what has been a very sociable hostel. There are naturally a few weird people about, but enough nice ones to make for a really good atmosphere. Also some cute geckos in the kitchen (as well as cockroaches) - it's not a holiday for me without experiencing the local wildlife.

It rained torrentially during the evening/night - people in the Disco next door got soaked in the rain, but carried on dancing regardless (heath and safety would have something to say about that in the UK). I hope the DJ has his rain-themed box of records at hand! You could see the clouds building up inland during the day (which in itself was quite an impressive sight). I guess they get solid weeks of it during the wet season, but luckily it had cleared up by the following morning.

Sunday 22nd October 2006

I went to Broome weekend market in the morning. Usual tat, and small at that, with a pathetic selection of comestibles. I got my shopping from the supermarket instead (which is surprisingly well stocked here - although a bit on the dear side, especially the fresh produce). Only meat seems cheaper than the UK, otherwise it is on a par or more expensive. I have heard that the West Coast is a particularly expensive part of Australia, which I suppose is understandable if most of the producers are in the East.

There was no free hostel bus today (apparently they have just discovered that the new driver they appointed doesn't have a driving licence!), so I decided to walk there, via the Japanese Cemetery, instead. It turned out to be quite an interesting walk (about an hour and a half), through the different neighbourhoods of Broome (or should that be Neighbours-hoods?) - all low-density bungalows, of course - and then a patch of wild bush (lots of rustling in the undergrowth - but still no actual snake sightings) and sand dunes before reaching the beach. Saw loads of different tropical plants (mostly in people's gardens, admittedly) and several interesting birds. One in particular caught my attention with an unusual, pretty song, but when I saw it, it was the ugliest thing imaginable (like a cross between a vulture and a mangy pigeon - most peculiar). I then caught my third (and best) Cable Beach sunset before getting the (paying) bus back to town.

Another evening of cooking and eating together - I might turn into a social animal yet (although I still prefer to do my own thing during the day).

Monday 23rd October 2006

And here were are. It is now today. I have finally got this blog up-to-date. Best make the most of it as it might be the only time I actually write this as it happens. A veritable rolling blog. Unfortunately (or fortunately if you are finding this all far too long-winded - not mentioning any names, Checco!), there's not a lot to report today (most of it has been spent on various chores, in readiness for my departure at 6:45am tomorrow). It's still very hot and sticky. I actually felt really hot (dripping in sweat - nice) a time or two in bed last night (no air-con here) and you can feel it weighing down on you every time you go outside. Going out for a drink this evening (my first visit to the great Ozzie pub - quelle extravagance!), to celebrate the birthday of a girl in my dorm. It will be quite sad to say goodbye to everybody I have met, as I have go to know some really nice people here (although it turns out that two of them are getting the same bus as me down the coast, and I wouldn't be surprised if I bumped into some of the others along the way - there are only two real directions to go from here: north or south).

The next few days will be spent working my way through the desert and the Karijini National Park, before arriving in Exmouth on Thursday evening (I'm still rather hoping that there might be a little Sidmouth a short way along the coast from there) . So, that's it from Broome. Until the next time, goodbye and goodnight.

Photos from Broome

Overlooking the mangroves, not far from the town centre:
Cable Beach:
View from Gantheaume Point - you can see the storm-clouds building which would later dump their load over Broome:
Dunes at Cable Beach
Millions of little sand balls, excavated by millions of little crabs:
And let's end with a cliched sunset:

Latest Diary Entries

Today is my last day in Broome, so I am making the most of the easy internet access and trying to get up-to-date with both photos and diary entries (my use of Blogger isn't sufficiently sophisticated to combine the two without messing it up and losing everything - I've already tried that).

I have really enjoyed my time in Broome (as the diary entries should convey), but it will be good to move on and see some other places on the way back down to Perth. Entries might be somewhat fitful en route as there isn't a great deal (of anything - and I imagine that includes internet cafes) for hundreds of miles...

Right, let's get back to where I last left off, somewhere in Perth:

Wednesday 18th October 2006

*the aforementioned incident involving the Mad Irish man woke me up (through ear plugs) some time between 5 and 6 in the morning. From what I could gather the Irish bloke was accusing one of the Oz contingent of stinking and there was a quite a ruckus about it. Luckily the Australians left soon after, but the Irish bloke was ranting to me about it (and about everything else he could think of - he hated Perth and couldn't wait to leave, apparently). I tried to pretend to fall back to sleep and luckily, when he did the same, I was able to make a swift exit (I had to check out early anyway and was able to leave my bag in a left-luggage locker).

After that excitement it was nice to go over to the Botanical Gardens, which were absolutely beautiful. I took the free city bus there and back and had a good wander round. The views back over the city and the Swan River were absolutely amazing. It was such a clear blue day, everything looked wonderful - beautiful flowers, beautiful birds (several different parrots and loads of other species). The Bottlebrushes certainly give their Sidmouth relatives something to aspire to! It was really quiet to boot, so made for a perfect relaxing morning before going to get my flight.

I took the local bus to the airport, through Perth's sprawling suburbia. Talk about bungalow land (it puts Sidmouth to shame in that department - I don't think I saw a single building of more than a single storey outside of the centre).

Had a smooth flight, which was perfectly on-time. There were really good views to start with, although the flight path was somewhat inland (I was able to see Rottnest Island and the Swan River in the distance though. It was amazing once it got dark. So much nothingness - just the occasional bush fire breaking the complete darkness below.

Oddly, Broome Airport is right in the middle of town, so it was only 10 minutes walk to the hostel (Roebuck Bay Backpackers). The place looks a bit of a dump, but luckily I'm sharing with a really friendly bunch of people, which makes all the difference. The tropical heat is quite intense (reminiscent of Singapore), but it makes for really balmy evenings, which are great.

Thursday 19th October 2006

Today was my first full day in the tropical north and it's certainly very hot and tropical. It's a really unusual place and has a feel unlike anywhere I have ever been. Not sure I can describe it in words at the moment, but might be able to make a better stab at it after a few days here.

I spent the morning around town - going to the visitor centre, inquiring about the possibility of a trip to Cape Leveque and my options for going down the coast. I think I'm going to go for a Easyrider hop-on-hop-off tour bus, which combines the sightseeing of a tour with the flexibility of a normal bus service. There is plenty of space at the moment. I think I will go on Tuesday, which will take me down the coast, popping - well, driving for several hundred miles - into the Karijini National Park en route. I'm really looking forward to it.

Unfortunately, I have had to scrap the wilderness camp plan. After spending the morning asking around Broome about options to get there, it seems that they are all really expensive. Apparently the postal run is only done at the discretion of the postwoman, and according to the people at the post office, she has stopped taking passengers. So, given that the cheapest alternative would be over 100 pounds (200 to fly!), I have decided to give it a miss and spend a few days in Broome itself instead. Plus, camping in this heat would be pretty suffocating, and I'm not sure what I would have done about food while I was there. So I'm not too disappointed. It will also give me chance to relax a bit before covering the huge distances down the coast.

The hostel here has turned out to be a bit of a gem. It looks very rough around the edges, but the people in my dorm are very friendly (offering me food at every opportunity) and it will be nice to spend some time with them before moving on. It makes such a difference sharing with nice people, as in Perth I was subject to the Mad Irish Man in my dorm (and a general lack of atmosphere otherwise), which meant I was glad to only stay there a couple of nights. Here in Broome I am sharing with a German, Australian and Japanese bloke, a Swedish girl and a girl from Birmingham (of Bangladeshi origin). Quite a mix!

I had a nice restful afternoon lazing around the pool (we can use the pool of the neighbouring hotel, which is a major bonus). Everything in Broome seems to happen very slowly (they're on "Broometime", apparently), which might just have something to do with the heat and humidity. In the evening it so was nice to sit around the patio area outside the dorm, chatting with my roomies and enjoying being out in the balmy evening air.

Firday 20th October 2006

I went for a walk in a different part of town this morning. Over to the town beach and mangrove swamps. The sea is an amazing shade of turquoise - it really is incredible - I'm not sure that the photos will do it justice. The contrast with the green of the mangroves and the reds of the soil/rocks is astonishing (it's the same as East Devon in the palette of colours, but rather more intense under the tropical sun).

There are loads of mango trees around town, but unfortunately they won't be ripe for another month or so. There are also Baobabs and other interesting tropical plants (several are similar to the ones we saw in Grenada). It was very hot indeed and the sun was almost directly overhead by 11am (it gets light really early here and is dark by 6pm). Lots of Aboriginies about - mainly sitting around in groups in the shade of trees.

Booked myself on the Easyrider tour I mentioned and will be leaving on Tuesday...

In the afternoon I got the hostel's free shuttle bus to Cable Beach. Again, the shades of blue are amazing. The beach is enormous and the tidal range huge (it was on it's way out during the afternoon). I think am already beginning to get some insight into the sheer scale of Australia. The water is incredibly warm (31C), although it is shallow for a long way out and full of jellyfish (not Box ones yet, I don't think), so I just made do with sploshing about on the edge. It was quite windy, so made a refreshing change from the stifling heat of town. It was lovely just sitting on the grass on a bluff overlooking the Indian Ocean.

3 of my dorm-mates came over in the evening to watch the sun set over a bottle of wine and some cheese and biscuits - very civilised! Got the bus back and cooked together in the evening (a proper three course meal!), which made a nice change from the usual meal-for-one.

Right I'll publish this and attempt to upload a few photos of Broome before entering the final written entries for Broome.

Photos from Perth

Here are some photos from Perth and Fremantle.

Flower in Perth Botanical Gardens:
View over Swan River from Kings Park/Perth Botanical Gardens
View from Kings Park to Perth CBD:
Architecture in Fremantle:
Bathers' Beach in Fremantle:

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Attempt at More Photos (Final Lot from Singapore)

Inside one of the many temples: Rather distant and out of focus, but that is a monitor lizard, I think:
Colours in the Market in Little India (Matt will now be able to say that I dress like an Indian Market, rather than a European Student!):

People eating Chinese outside of my Hostel:
Sorrel (i.e. the stuff we made into a drink in Grenada) - for Mum and Dad:
Singapore Art Gallery by Night:

Photo Problems

For some reason, the system is not wanting to upload photos at the moment, so here is the last one for now. I will try again this evening...

This is the beach on Sentosa Island (which probably makes it look nicer than it actually is):

Singapore Photos

Tropical Rainforest in the Botanical Gardens:
There were loads of terrapins at the lake in the Botanical Gardens:
This is how hazy the sun was (at about 2 hours before sundown):
Insides of a Dragon Fruit:
And Outside:
Antics in a Chinese Temple (I was told off for taking a photo!):
This is Singapore CBD from the Padang (on the first day, which was least hazy of all):
And this is my hostel in Singapore (my room was out the other side):

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Getting a Handle on Broome

Hello. I'm now in Broome and it's hot, hot, hot here (and I like it a lot - both the heat and the place). Have just discovered that this internet cafe has USB ports, so will try to come back tomorrow and upload some photos (I initially thought the card reader would take XD cards, but it seems to take everything else but). Soundtrack courtesy of INXS, for that genuine Oz feel.

Right, I'll cut to the chase, resuming from where I left off last time, running for the plane at Changi Airport...

Monday 16th October 2006 (part deux)

I had to walk very briskly to the gate so as not to miss my flight (I got the wind up a bit when I saw a sign saying "gate closing", but luckily it hadn't changed to "gate closed" by the time I got there [I has several minutes to spare, as it turned out]).

The flight passed very quickly with the aid of the few glasses of vino and some old episodes of classic (and not-so-classic) sitcoms. A couple of inscrutable Asians were sat next to me and didn't say a word beyond hello. Not like yer friendly Northern farmers! One of them was notable, however, for her enormously bouffant hair. Talk about a Barnet (should that have a capital B? Carolyn, can you advise please)... I wouldn't be surprised if there is a now a serious hairspray shortage in Singapore.

We arrived about half an hour early in Perth (11:30pm) and I had to wait ages for a shuttle bus into town (as it waited for about 4 other flights to arrive). I managed to get money out okay, which was lucky as the German girl in front of me put her card into the wrong slot (admittedly, it was an odd arrangement with a swipe instead of a hole) and was informed by the neighbouring bureau de change that the card would be destroyed. She only had the one card (which was a bit silly) so I'm not sure what she ended up doing. Poor girl.

The shuttle journey was characterised by a bloke swigging from a duty free bottle of Southern Comfort (and seeming fairly desperate to get the damn bottle open), and listening to The World Service on the radio, which made me feel that I could be in England (which was further helped by the chilly 12C night-air).

I eventually arrived at the Perth City YHA Hostel at 2.14am. Impressive art deco building, which until fairly recently housed the city fire station, and a very friendly welcome from the guy on reception (I was clearly the only person arriving that late at night, because he was expecting me and knew my name). I was upgraded to a smaller (which should have been more expensive) 4-bed dorm, although that would turn out to be a mixed blessing...

Tuesday 17th October 2006

After a short, but fairly decent, night's sleep, I spent the morning getting my bearings around central Perth and down by the Swan River. Spotted a very pretty parrot-type bird (possibly a rainbow loriqueet, if such a thing exists). My first impressions were how English everything feels (well, English, crossed with a big [make that massive] chunk of Southern California).

I got the train to Fremantle in the afternoon and booked 5 nights camping on Rottnest Island for mid-November. It should make for a nice rest after the vast distances which precede it. Fremantle is lovely. Nice old buildings (turn of the century, so old for Australia) and interesting beach/harbour areas. All very quiet and relaxing, with a distinctly small-town feel. It was a beautiful sunny afternoon, and only about 21C, so ideal for wandering around. I had a paddle in the sea at Bathers' Beach (my first taste of the Indian Ocean - and I think I'm going to like it). I reckon it was about 20C, but the brisk on-shore breeze meant that swimming would've been a bit on the chilly side (and a bit on the naked side as well, as I'd left my trunks back at the hostel). It was lovely to be beside the sea (in Singapore it didn't really feel like the proper sea) and there wasn't a soul about.

It was dark when I got back to the hostel, after visiting the supermarket en route and noting how ridiculously expensive bananas are - $14 a kilo - which I assume must be a result of last year's cyclone(s). I can't help but think that it would be better to import them from somewhere else (although there is a lot of stuff marked with "made in Australia", so I guess they are rather proud of their own produce). The factilities at the hostel were pretty good (modern and clean-ish) so I was able to rustle up some pasta, with which I shared a bottle of wine (half in the sauce, half in my mouth). I went out like a light (must have been the wine), only to be woken by an incident between a mad Irish man and an (allegedly) stinking Australian. But more on that tomorrow...*

Well, with me being me, I am going to have to leave it there for now as I am desperate for the toilet. I might be on the other side of the world, but some things never change. Cheerio.

Monday, October 16, 2006

First Trip Report: Singapore

Hello all. I'm using the free internet at Singapore's Changi Airport, which puts BAA's sad efforts to shame (and I doubt that Heathrow Terminal 5 will be that much better, either - although I'm sure the Landscaping will be grid-tastic!).

As I'm unable to come up with an interesting narrative style for my reports, I'm going to do it on a day-by-day basis. Photos will have to wait until I find a computer in Australia with the necessary. So, from day one, here goes...

Wednesday 11th October 2006

Flight was delayed slightly as a result of the air crew being involved in a road traffic accident in Central London (or so they said... I wonder if they are issued with a book of excuses). Found myself sat next to a sheep-farming couple from North Yorkshire, and boy could you tell it! The man was dressed in a reasonably smart linen suit, complete with socks and sandals and they both had goodly broad accents. At least they weren't dairy or pig farmers... I'm not sure my nostrils could have coped for 12 hours! Still they were most pleasant and we chit-chatted a bit. Apparently it was their first long-haul flight for 32 years (they were on their way to NZ), so they were a bit unsure about how things worked on the plane. And it didn't help that they couldn't understand a word the air hostesses said (in pretty good Engrish, I thought)... I had to stiffle my chuckles as I had visions of Little Britain and Marjorie Dawes. "Say it again..."

Other than that the flight was pretty uneventful. Made good use of the free bar with a Singapore Sling, some half-decent red wine and a nice large cognac. There was no choice left when the food arrived, so it as beef and noodles or nothing. Welcome to Singapore.

Thursday 12th October 2006

Managed to sleep a bit on the plane (most unlike me - must have been the Cognac), so didn't feel too bad when I arrived (on time - the delay had been made up for). It was 31C and humid, with some sunshine and a bit of cloud. Not bad at all.

Got to the Hostel (New 7th Storey Hostel - google it) about 3pm and was pleasantly surprised. Dorm for 4 was clean and tidy, and not on the road side, which was lucky as it was a 4-lane highway, US-style (like the whole of Singapore).

Spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around the Colonial Core (resisting the temptation of a Singapore Sling at Raffles - 21 Singapore Dollars!) and Fort Canning Park (1 n or 2?), which was a nice gentle introduction as both were quite quiet and well-manicured. Everything seemed very clean and orderly, much as I expected from a pseudo-democratic capitalist dictatorship.

Got back to hostel and met nice Canadian couple in my dorm, who had just arrived from Malaysia. Pleased that I wasn't sharing with anyone too odd. Wandered over to the nearest food hall for dinner, which was a cheap and delicious Thai Green Curry and a Mango Salad (rather heavy on the fish sauce - my own fault as it was in a separate dish). Was joined at my table by a bloke from Oz who was over in Singapore for business. He gave me several tips about W.A., but was actually from Melbourne. Wandered around the market and bought an odd-looking fruit(which upon further inspection turned out to be a very elongated mango) . Happy days. In bed at 9.

Friday 13th October 2006

Wandered round Chinatown in the morning, full of the (slightly sanitised) sights and sounds of China. Found a great place for lunch, and had wonton (sp?) and noodles for $3. Starfruit juice was less of a success (bit watery, despite asking for no ice).

Got the cable car over to Sentosa Island in the afternoon and wandered around the Singapore Disney, without paying to go into any of the attractions. Lounged on the beach for a while, but resisted a swim as the water looked a bit murky (has a paddle though, which was nice after walking all morning). Sentosa is a weird place, it is like the jungle is trying to take back over and some of the paths are in a rather poor state of repair for Singapore. I quite liked that, though, and the fact that away from the attractions themselves there wasn't a soul. I saw my first wildlife in the form of a huge Monitor Lizard and several butterflies (one was huge). Got the cable car up to Mount Faber and had a wander around the park up there. The haze was thickening all the time, though, and so the views weren't as good as they could have been. Still, it hadn't rained and (naturally) was very warm.

Duck and more noodles for dinner and then went to the Art Gallery, as it is free entry on a Friday night. Nice building, shame about the art. Bought some mini-bananas and Chinese Lychees from the market on way back (they look like little brown apples but tastle like a cross between grapefruit and "our" lychees - 'tis a great place for a fruit-lover like me).

Got back to find the Canadian couple had been replaced by another Canadian couple. I mistook them for yanks at first due to a preponderance of the word dude and general loudness, but they turned out to be quite nice and decidedly un-freaklike. Phew.

General thoughts after two days: Enjoying things so far - still amazed by how the heat hits you when you leave the air-conditioned buildings (which everything is round here). And it is quite typical of any city in that the shoppings streets are heaving whereas the parks and gardens are almost empty (which is good as it provides a refuge from the bustle). I think I like the tropical lushness (and fruit therefrom) best so far...

Hmm... this is taking longer than I thought (I'm probably waffling), so I might have to leave it in a minute and go to the gate. Probably time for one more day...

Saturday 14th October 2006

Spent the day in the Botanical Gardens (walked there and back along Orchard Road - Singapore's shopping Mecca and general hell-hole equivalent of Oxford Street). It was a lovely peaceful contrast to the city and there were plenty of butterflies and tropical birdsong (especially in the area of rainforest - although still no rain, just haze - so much so that you could hardly see from one end of the gardens to the other). Bought some picnic stuff en route, including Dragon Fruit, which looks amazing, but tastes like a bland Kiwi Fruit. Carrefour Singapore-style was an interesting experiences. The rows of Chinese produce are amazing! It would be quite cheap to buy local (Asian) stuff, but Western goods are pretty expensive, which is to be expected. Asian food all the way for me then!

Absolutely knackered after walking there and back (and miles around the gardens themselves), so after a quick Katong Lahka (Fishy noodle soup - lots of seafood - v. spicy and delicious) and fresh lime juice (like those sweet Grenadian limes, I imagine, M&D). Back at hostel at 8:45pm, ready to drop, which, as luck would have it, so were the Canadians. Slept like a log.

Sunday 15th October 2006

Think I overdid it yesterday, so decided to take it relatively easy on my last full day. Did some washing in the morning and lounged around the hostel... watched a bit of TV, including a news article about Japanese Melons which sell for $120US. Bargain.

Walked around the Islamic and Indian quarters in the afternoon. Both were heaving with people - interesting but not exactly my ideal location for a Sunday afternoon stroll.

Went back to Little India in the evening, with the Canadian couple, as it was the last day for all of us. Had a nice Indian meal and the first beer of the trip. Went into a Hindu temple during a service (we asked if we were allowed, but still felt uncomfortable). Fascinating, though, but mind boggling to see people with such devotion. After all that excitement it was a late night. Wasn't in bed until 10pm!

Monday 16th October 2006

Had a final wander around the locality of the hotel this morning and then got back to pack things up. Checked out at noon and made my way to the airport. Glad I did as there is plenty to do (including a nice [cheap - UK airports take note] lunch of more duck and pak choi and noodles and other random stuff). And now here I am writing up my diary from the last few days.

Thoughts about Singapore: Busy, built-up, commercial, but also good food, clean and tidy
and lovely parks and gardens. The worst thing was the haze, which got steadily worse during my stay. You can hardly see the aeroplanes outside now! The haze rather muted the colours (which would have been splendid around Chinatown and Little India and in the gardens, I imagine). Everything was just a bit grey (including the sun). Still, it is an excellent place for a stopover and a fine introduction to Asia (especially for a first-time solo-traveller). I wouldn't necessarily recommend it for a longer stay. In fact, the bloke on the front desk of the hostel said to me yesterday, "You still here? You stay a long time!" Says it all really. People passing through, only stopping long enough to shop and eat.

Well, I think I'm just about up-to-date. No time to check it, though, and I'm typing this quite quickly, so please excuse the mistakes (especially the pedants amongst you). Let me know if there are any horrendous things and I will go back and edit them.

Must dash... don't know how far away the gate is (although judging by the rest of the airport, probably only a well-laid-out stroll away...)

Bye for now,

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


Using the free (!) internet at Heathrow, to write my first piece on travelling. Only problem is that I can only get a couple of minutes for free. Which is almost up. I fly in under 2 hours, so Singapore here I come...

Saturday, October 07, 2006


Before, bewigged:
And after, in the style of a Romanian orphan:

Remember, I can delete the comments... so please don't be too cruel (and keep it clean).

Monday, October 02, 2006

A Pig in a Poke

Porco Mio! In the absence of anything interesting to report during my last full week of employment, here is a picture of a toy pig sporting a red cap*.
Hat courtesy of Mario @ Mangimi Sila, probably the best agricultural feed company in Italy. If Mangimi Sila would like to sponsor my travels, I will happily wear this (so-naff-it's-cool?) hat around the world (watcha say Mario?).