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Archive for December, 2008

So we finally did something we’ve wanted to do since being kids – a Christmas (or Chrissy as they call it here) in Oz!  It was a scorcher for the big day and we started off by stumbling out of bed and going down to Pippie beach for a surf.  I was knackered as I was working up at the pub for Chrissy Eve (which is the biggest night out in Yamba) and the punters didn’t leave ’til 2am, but I was still keen to get in the water.  About 15 of us went down and the surf was pretty good and I managed to get a few good waves in but got rolled by some of the big ones.  It was great to have such a big group of us chilling out the back together and I was stoked to do my first surf on Christmas day.

When we got back to the hostel the owners started getting lunch ready whilst everyone got themselves sorted.  Ruth and I opened our cards and pressies (a big thanks to our families for all the stuff you sent) and then went and chilled out in the lounge.  It wasn’t long before the guys brought the beers and the prawns out.  I’ve never seen so many prawns in my life and tried my first one.  I’m not a big seafood fan so wasn’t blown away but it was quite nice.  Apparently Yamba prawns are amongst the best in Oz but I’ll have to take the guidebook’s (and the local’s) word for that.

Chrissy lunch- yum yum

Chrissy lunch- yum yum

Lunch was a HUGE buffet style spread that had everything from loads of different meats to roast potatoes, various bakes and salads/ veggies.  I had a bit of pretty much everything and was absolutlely stuffed.

They had a huge range of puddings too with trifle being the most popular with the Aussies.  I tucked into a rather large slice of homemade Mars bar cheesecake which was amazing.  We had crackers that had paper hats, crap toys and bad jokes – just like home.

Post-lunch Snooze

Post-lunch Snooze

As is my Christmas tradition I then enjoyed a post-lunch snooze.  Ruth kindly took a picture (which is on Facebook) and Justin, one of the hostel owners, woke me up by trying to put wine gums up my nose and yelling at me to join him for another beer.

After more drinking we all decided to go back down to the beach to play games.  We got all the games together as well as a giant esky (cool box) for all our drinks and off we went.  We taught everyone how to play quick cricket but Justin (one of the hostel owners) got knackered and started moaning so we played rounders instead.  After this everyone felt they deserved a few drinks!

Beach Cricket

Beach Cricket

Ruth and I went for a stroll by the water, it was nice to see loads of families out on the beach.  With one of our friends from the hostel Ruth and I decided to build a snowman – out of sand!

Pippie the Sandman and Us

Pippie the Sandman and Us

The snow/sand man nearly didn’t make it as Justin’s little girl nearly knocked him down, luckily we just about quick enough to stop her.

After more drinking on the beach we returned to the hostel where the merryment continued into the night.  Ruth and I went up to the roof of the hostel to enjoy a quiet drink under the stars before we video called our families over the Internet to wish them a Merry Christmas and see them open their pressies from us which we had bought before we left the UK and hidden.

After that we had a nightcap and passed out!

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Working 9 to 5…

After some discussions with the owners our duties at the hostel to pay for our stay were decided. Jo was to work on the bar and I was to work on reception and do house keeping.

Bar at Yamba YHA

Bar at Yamba YHA

Each week we have a discussion about which hours we are doing and we never quite know what is going on. As a rule we are supposed to work 2 hours a day each and in return we got to stay. Some weeks we’ve worked 2 hours per day other weeks we worked the weeks’ hours in just two days and had the rest of the week off! One week Jo even worked my hours as I was working extra hours elsewhere (my hero). The work has been fun and simple so far and the hostel owners are great fun to work with.

After dropping off lots of  résumés (as they don’t call them CVs!) I managed to get a job as a waitress in a little cafe overlooking the beach called Pippi Cafe. The staff are friendly and one of the owners was an ex-pom called Mick which amused me no end whenever anyone says G’Day Mick! The work is hard on my feet and has very few breaks but is good fun. It is a small cafe and I mainly work the breakfast shift (8-3 or 6.30-2).

Pippi Cafe, Yamba

Pippi Cafe, Yamba

I’m having to learn how to make coffee and what all the different types of coffee are. I’ll probably just about get the hang of it when I leave! The cafe is located above main beach in Yamba on the hill and had a fantastic view when walking towards it.

I love the walk to and from work at the cafe especially early in the morning as the birds are singing, the sun is shinning and the views are supurb. Jo and Charlie (the hostel dog) would often come up at the end of my shift and wait for me.  When I finish, Jo and I have iced chocolates and Charlie gets a nice bowl of water.

Jo has got a job as a glassy at the local pub, the Pacific Hotel.  He’s got some nasty late shifts coming up but he’s enjoying meeting all the locals up there.  The pub has stunning views of the ocean and so Jo enjoys the day shifts a bit more when the punters are a bit more sober and he can take in the view.

The owner off the pub also owns the “Bottlo” (off licence). Alcohol in Oz can only be purchased from a bar or a Bottlo and so it was a popular little spot.  Jo will be picking up some shifts in there too which means he can work slightly better hours.

We are both loving being back in Yamba and its good knowing that we are saving up a bit more money for later on in the trip whilst keeping the costs low.  Our hours mean we’re not spending as much time together at the moment but it is only for a month or two.  Jo seems quite happy passing his time without me by going surfing with the hostel owners and playing with Charlie.

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Charlie Henwood

The Yamba hostel family live in the hostel as does their dog Charlie. When we first arrived we were surprised to see a dog running around the hostel and such a small one at that. After about a day we loved Charlie and he loved us. He is one the friendliest, cuddliest dogs that we have ever met.

Charlie and Jo on the beach

Charlie and Jo on the beach

Apparently he is a cross between a king Charles spaniel and a poodle – a cockadoodle and he is a non-allergenic dog. His temperament is amazing he mirrors whatever mood you are in so if you are energetic he will run around and want to play but if your hung over or tired he will come and cuddle up to you. We love taking Charlie for walks and have taught him how to fetch a stick. Charlie has now discovered where our room is and anytime the hostel door is left open he comes running down the stairs and bolts straight to our room. He gets soooo excited when he sees his lead its great. It is lovely having him around.

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Back in Yamba

Going to Coffs made us realise just how nice Yamba was and so when we were in Bellingen we got back in touch with the Yamba backpacker family and offered to work for them to cover our rent over Chrissy & New Year.  Luckily for us they said yes and so we headed back to our favourite spot so far in the hopes of getting a bit of extra work and avoiding the mossies.

Pippie beach

Pippie beach

On the way back to Yamba we saw loads and loads of ‘roos.  I don’t know how it took us so long to see them!  Ruth then did her normal trick of falling asleep on the coach, leaving me to my own devices. I know this sounds odd (especially for people that share my hate of coaches) but the coach journeys in Oz are brilliant!  The coaches are far more comfy and have enough leg room – even for me!  Looking out the window treats you to some stunning landscapes and amazing wildlife. Just on this journey alone I saw a bird of prey make a kill, some alpacas and all sorts of strange looking mammals and tropical birds.

When Shane came to pick us up, we had to wait for another coach with some backpackers on it.  We sat under a shelter but quickly had to move as there had been a storm building and it suddenly started hailing hard.  The hail was huge – bigger than I’d ever seen before and the noise was immense.  This went on for half an hour and then just stopped, leaving us with a beautiful sunset to enjoy from the Yamba hills.

Main Beach, Pacific Hotel and Lighthouse from Lovers Point

Main Beach, Pacific Hotel and Lighthouse from Lovers Point

Being back is great.  The beaches are stunning, the surf is good and the locals are all friendly.  Time to sort out a job now.

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The Bat Island

As we have already mentioned, Bellingen is home to a large fruit bat/ flying fox colony that can be seen at dawn and dusk flying around. We could see the island where the bats live from the hostel and on speaking with the hostel staff discovered that you could walk around onto the bat island on the Bellinger river during the day and see them all flying around, arguing and sleeping.

We decided to check it out. About 20 seconds walk from the main road you can hear and see them. There were thousands of them. They were all sitting in the tree or flying around. The noise was very loud and it was amazing to hear them all chatting. They were very close above our heads and some of them would watch you as you walked along.

Flying Foxes

Flying Foxes

We spent about 2 hours on the island before deciding that the bats may of had enough of us. The educational boards next the road informed us that flying foxes and fruit bats are the same things and that there were three different types of bat on the island (red headed, black headed and one we can’t remember!). All three types of bat co-exisist happily on the island as there is enough food in the area.  Each type lives at different heights in the trees, so they don’t compete for space too much.

The other thing that was unmistakably batty about the island was the smell! The ground was covered in bat poop and was very stinky, another reason we only stayed 2 hours.

Every night we were in Bellingen we watched the bats at dusk leave the island and fly over the river in search of food. Apparently they fly up to 30 miles away to eat.  The sheer numbers of them was astounding. The sky would go darker and there were bats everywhere you looked. It was brilliant.

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G’day Skip!

During our Dorrigo National Park trip we got chatting to Graham about wildlife and specifically the Aussie wildlife that we’d seen so far and what we still want to see. It didn’t take long for Kangaroos to come up and our disappointment that we hadn’t seen any yet. As Graham has to pickup another backpacker from Urunga (the nearby town where the train comes in) that evening he took us along and we took the scenic route so that we could see the ‘roos in town.

Kangaroo in Urunga

Kangaroo in Urunga

Sure enough there were loads feeding in the woodland areas around town, hopping across the road and feeding on people’s lawns. We were stoked to see them as we’d both wanted to see them (outside of a zoo) since we were kids. We went back to the hostel very happy people and got back in time for another fine display by the flying foxes.

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Whilst we were staying at Bellingen we took advantage of one of their day trips. It was a trip along Waterfall Way into the Dorrigo National Park. We had read about the rainforest but you really need a car to get there so we thought we would have to miss it out. We were delighted when we discovered we could go with the hostel. On the day we went we were the only people who wanted to go so it was just us and our personal guide Graham.

Tristania Falls

Tristania Falls

The tour was about 4 hours long and encompassed looking at the stunning views, the flora and fauna and absorbing the sounds of the rainforest. Our guide was great and told us all about the different noises we were hearing and the sights we were seeing. He had visited England previously and so was also very interested to find out about where we’re from.

About 10 mins into the tour we spotted our first wallaby jumping through the bush which was awesome. It sat and looked at us for about a minute but we could only get a fuzzy photo because it was too dark and we didn’t want to use the flash. Then he was off.

We were then shown a strangling fig.  These grow around large trees, taking all the nutrients in the soil and eventually kill the tree, leaving a hollow where the tree once was. They reckon this process takes over 100 years.We were able to stand inside what would have been the tree whilst surrounded by the strangling fig. It was cool to see the insides of the fig.

We could hear a few birds in the forest. A whip bird, where the male calls and then it is answered by the female and sounds like a whip cracking! The whompoo pigeon as this is the noise it makes and some very load yellow tailed black cockatoos. We also heard the infamous lyre bird which is great at copying any sound it hears.

Our tour took us to a couple of beautiful waterfalls, Crystal Showers waterfall and Tristiana falls. At Tristiana falls you are able to walk right up to and stand at the bottom and get sprayed by the water. The sound was phenomenal and you could see the birds flying in and out.

The next waterfall was Crystal Showers Waterfall which is normally the lunch spot however it was raining and so we couldn’t stop there. The walk took you under a ledge which the waterfall was falling over. There was a small tunnel you could stand in and see the water pouring down in front of you. In the roof of the ledge there were stalactites hanging down and holes where the birds were living. In the picture below you can see where we walked as there is a gap in the foliage. This pool is apparently nice to swim in but it was raining and there would have been too many bugs/ leaches around.

Crystal Shower Waterfall

Crystal Shower Waterfall

About half way through it started raining hard and we needed to find shelter. The leeches came out and started to have a good feed. We both got eaten but as usual Jo’s was worse than mine! When he finally got it off the blood was pouring out. Apparently they inject you with anti-coagulation so that your blood is easier to get out. This also means that when you get the buggers off it takes ages to stop the bleeding.

The rain developed into a terrific thunderstorm just as we stopped in a sheltered spot for lunch, which was handy. We were able to stay there and sit it out until the rain calmed down. Whilst there some other tourists from China joined us who did not like the leeches and were screaming and crying. To pass the time we got chatting about all sort of things and our guide told us the true stories that the horror film Wolf Creek is based on – not nice! After about 45 mins the thunderstorm stopped and we were able to carry on. We went to do the skywalk which is a beautiful walk over the forest canopy and has stunning views however it was cloudy!

After the rainforest we drove a short distance to see Dangar falls which are large waterfalls. They were beautiful and very loud. Some people reportedly jump off this but there was no way I was gonna do this, it was 50 foot plus.

Dangar Falls

Us at Dangar Falls

It was a great day, but we were pleased to get back to the hostel to get dry again.

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