A Travellerspoint blog

Sleeping In My Car

Spending Nights At Beaches

As a backpacker, I always look for ways how I can save money. I haven't worked here yet, so I need to save wherever I can. During my trips I do that by sleeping in my car. It is not the most comfortable thing, but it saves me about 30$ a night. Obviously, a real camper van would be the better choice when you want to sleep in a car. The higher price for the car (easily more than a couple thousand bucks), higher fuel prices and higher insurance quotes made me decide against it though. I am quite happy with the car I have and what was included in the price of 800$: two tents, two air mattresses, a sleeping bag, a pillow, cooking equipment like a small gas stove, as well as a few pots and pans.
Having all these items, I can pretty much sleep wherever I want. Like the couple of times I slept in my tent in a rain forest. Another option which I used for the nights after I left Sydney was, I put an air mattress inside of the car and used the sleeping bag and pillow to make a little bed. It wasn't too bad actually. The easiest way but also the one I don't really like is, sleeping in the drivers seat. I rather sleep on the air mattress. To show you how it looks like, I took a couple of pictures at one of the beaches I stayed for two nights.

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The beach was beautiful and some locals said you can spot whales right off the shore if you're lucky. The place was apparently very popular among backpackers, as I was not the only one staying there for the night. Everyone had their space and we even played some volleyball on the beach. Also, the place had showers at the surf club near by - cold showers but at least they were free. :D

Cheers

Posted by jan.wegener 17:20 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

My Way Up North

It was early morning when I left Sydney. Before, I checked where I should definitely stop on my way up north. I had no real destination but headed towards Byron Bay, close to Brisbane. It was a drive of about 950km and I decided to take at least 3 to 4 days for it.

Right out of Sydney, there was a big column of smoke. My first thought was: bush fire. Shit, I have to turn around. I got closer and saw that a huge industrial truck, loaded up with machinery on the trailer, bursting in flames. It seemed like the load was a bit too much to carry up the hills. What a great start to my tour.

The rest of my drive was without any problems. I stopped at multiple small town, beaches and parks for a little bit. One town had a stream making its way through the beach to the ocean. The current was really strong and lots of fish was visible in the water.

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Local fishers were standing all the way along the stream to catch some fish. There were also some pelicans hoping for the one or other fish.

Another really cool stop I can highly recommend is the OZ Shark and Ray Center near Port Stephens. The sign is very small and easily to miss, but I had no real plan on what to do and where to go so I followed the signs. The center is not too big and there are about 5 water tanks inside.

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For only a small amount of money (way less than you would have to pay to swim with dolphins) I was allowed to go in the water with the sharks and rays of the cente.

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I also had the chance to sit in between dozens of different species pf rays. They were very curious about me and I could feed and touch them. My camera was also an interesting new object to explore. Unfortunately, I can't upload the video here, but I hope it works on Facebook at least.

Raspy, an 18-year old and 300kg female stingray, and two male stingrays were so polite and let me walk around their tank. The female rays grow way bigger compared to the males as you can see in the pictures. Both Raspy and the males are 18 but she is more than twice their size. Because of her size she also gets most of the attention and I was told the males get very jealous and try to get the attention of the visitors. One really cool trick by Raspy is that you sit down and she comes on your lap (remember, she weighs 300kg and is more than 3m x 3m big!) and gives you a massage. What an experience!

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In one of the tanks are four Tawny Nurse sharks. The mother was really friendly and didn't mind me touching her. The three baby sharks weren't as nice and tried to bite my finger the one or other time. Overall it was an amazing experience to be in the same water with these animals.

Cheers

Posted by jan.wegener 20:19 Archived in Australia Tagged ozsharkandray Comments (0)

Blue Mountain Day Trip

Meeting familiar faces from back home

I almost decided to leave Sydney, when I received a message from a friend from back home. Christin was also in Sydney at the time and in a few days another old classmate, Geritt, would come as well. It was a little class reunion and even though we were at the end of the world, it felt like we were back home.
Christin and I met up and went out for some drinks. Coming from Germany we weren't used to bars starting to close at 11 though. So our first night ended pretty early. Once Geritt arrived in Sydney, we joined a backpacker party in another hostel with free goon and pizza. The problem: only one free drink and one free slice of pizza. We walked out, looked for the next liquor store, bought 4L goon, walked back to the party and kept drinking - easy.

Before I wanted to leave Sydney, there was one more thing to see, the Blue Mountains National Park. The three of us therefore decided to do a road trip on my last day. Matthias, another German from their hostel joined us. We couldn't be unnoticed by anyone with our German music blasting the speakers :D

The Blue Mountains National Park is one of the most popular national parks in Australia and the views from the park’s lookouts are magnificent; you’ll look out over hazy blue forests, waterfalls and interesting rock formations. Despite the name "mountains", the area is an uplifted plateau, dissected by a number of larger rivers.

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We stopped on the way for a group picture: I, Geritt, Matthias and Christin.

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We walked down the path to Wentworth Falls and made our way through lots of rain forest, caves and climbed many, many, many steps.

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A short break was welcomed by everyone. On our way down, many people came up, sweating and breathing heavily from climbing up the steep stairs.
One thought Geritt and I had while walking through the trees, seeing many smaller and bigger waterfalls and looking over the rain forest - We're in Pandora (AVATAR). There was so much that reminded us of the movie, like exotic birds flying out of the trees and so many different noises from animals. Once we made it down to Wentworth Falls, our thought proved true... it was breathtaking standing underneath such a beautiful waterfall and see the light playing with the water.

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A little down, there was a smaller waterfall and we decided we had to get in the water and stand underneath the waterfall. We didn't know that that is actually possible so we didn't bring any bathing shorts with us... Therefore we all went in boxers. Everyone but Christin obviously.

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After making it all the way back up to the top (we were also sweating and heavily breathing), we drove to the Three Sisters. They are an interesting rock formation near the city of Katoomba. It was the "take a photo and leave"-stop. The woman at the information center recommended to stop at the Hanging Swamps. so we did. It was only a short walk compared to the Wentworth hike. The Hanging Swamps are created by a waterfall close by. When the wind is strong enough, it blows the water upwards and makes the rock wall wet, allowing plants to grow. We were lucky and saw the waterfall going "upwards".

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We had a long and tiring day at the Blue Mountains and I wouldn't have minded to take a little nap like the three others. But someone had to drive us all back to Sydney. The next day, I wanted to be on the road again.

Cheers

Posted by jan.wegener 20:18 Archived in Australia Tagged bluemountains Comments (0)

Sydney

Opera House, Harbor Bridge and an unexpected guest

Finding a place to stay in Sydney is easy - with more than 90 hostels in the 4.5 million people city that shouldn't be a problem. However, when you have a car and look for free parking close to the hostel the whole situation changes. For the time I was in Sydney I found exactly 1(!) hostel with free parking around. Located in the suburb Stanmore, it took me about 30 minutes by bus to get downtown. The hostel was more like a very laid-back community with a chill atmosphere. Of course there was also a guitar player (who you find in every hostel). With me in my room were two German girls who worked in a bakery and a local from Sydney who was moving houses and needed a place to stay. We talked and he told me about his wood crafting business. He and his coworker look for old, unused wood and turn it into furniture. For reasons I don't remember, we talked about German roofed beach chairs (Strandkörbe) and he said he could actually build one. He gave me his email and when he'll finish his first one he will send me a picture he said.

I didn't plan on staying too long in Sydney as I'm not here in Australia to experience the city life. I already had that back home in Hamburg. Nevertheless, I went out to see the Harbor Bridge, the Opera House, the Botanic Gardens, the Rocks and all the other attractions. I was like every other typical tourist. :D

Here are some impressions:

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After having seen most of all the tourist attractions in less than a day, I decided to do a free walking tour around the Rocks to get to know it better. The Rocks are located north-west of Sydney's CBD and became established shortly after the colony's formation in 1788. The ground was mainly covered with rocks from which the area derives its name. From the earliest history of the settlement, the area had a reputation as a slum, often frequented by visiting sailors and prostitutes. It was also home to most of the convicts sent to Sydney. We walked around the small alleys and houses and really got a good feeling of how it might have been to live here earlier in the days.

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One place to go while in Sydney is definitely Bondi Beach. So a couple of people and I drove with my car for about an hour through Sydney's traffic to get there. Before we checked where free parking is available, because a parking spot close to Bondi can cost up to 50$ for a day! A 20 minute walk saved us then money. The day we went it felt like two thousand other people had the same idea. It was still very nice to relax at the beach for a day and enjoy the sun.

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Right before I moved to different hostel at Kings Cross in Sydney another German moved in our room. I was packing all my stuff in my bag and he was about to get his stuff out of his, when all of the sudden he screamed and jumped to the ceiling... The two German girls and I were just starring at him like whats going on? He said, something hairy touched his hand... We moved some of his clothes out of his bag and we saw a long leg. He brought in another unexpected guest from his last hostel.

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The new hostel I was staying at was directly located on the party area and red light district of Kings Cross. The hostel is owned by a man who sleeps in the reception and wakes up when someone rings the bell. I only stayed for a few days, the view from the window was definitely worth it though.

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Sydney is a beautiful city, but you can see most if it within a few days. I found Melbourne was a more attractive and vibrant. The music artists who were just playing their music on the street, green areas at every corner and the beach right next to city makes me like Melbourne more. Sydney is must-see though and is definitely to recommend for a couple of days.

Cheers

Posted by jan.wegener 17:56 Archived in Australia Tagged sydney Comments (0)

Melbourne to Sydney

Through rain forests and high plains

sunny

Melbourne to Philip Island

Only 1,5 hours south of Melbourne lays Philip Island. My only point of interest was just the famous penguin parade though. Philip Island offers a couple of nice beaches and hosts one of the largest fur seal colony, but due to my late departure from Melbourne I only had time for the penguins. I knew it would be a big tourist spot, because where else would you get the chance to see little tiny penguins waddling from the ocean to their nests? Sitting only a couple of meters away! However, I didn't expect to see a dozen coach buses and about hundreds of cars. The whole had a little theme park flair - everything was about the penguins. One strict rule they have is no pictures or videos. It doesn't matter whether with or without flash. I still wanted to take a picture for my blog though and tried to secretly take one with my phone... a second later I was asked to put it away or leave.
So I had to take a picture out of google to get you a small feeling of what it was like.

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I met a young Canadian couple sitting next to me on the beach waiting for the penguins to arrive. We talked and all of the sudden we heard everyone shouting "aww" and "oh" and "over there!". We looked up and saw the first penguin coming out of the water. He wasn't bigger than a sea gull and fought his way to the shore. Every wave that hit him took his feet and made him fall, it was a little fight - penguins vs. waves. After a few minutes he made it. Understandably, he was kind of shocked seeing about two hundred people starring at him. Carefully making his way towards his nest and always checking for threats, he walked by us only three meters away. We could almost touch him. And then we saw a group of four penguins. All fighting the same fight against the waves, Withing the next hour or so there were about 600-700 penguins coming out of the water. Some came alone, some as a couple, others in a big group. When the waddling was over, we all walked back to the entrance. Along the way we could see the nests which the penguins built all over the island. The smell of feathers, fish and penguin poo was in the air and they were calling each other making a loud noise. The night I stayed at a carpark a little bit remote of the street just sleeping in my new car.

Philip Island to Wilson's Promontory

My next stop on my way to Sydney was Wilson's Promontory National Park. My plan was to hike to one of the beaches and put up my tent on the campground located there, but it started to rain. So after hiking up Mt. Oberon with an incredible 360-degree view over the island

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A little hiking friend.

(t was cloudy and rainy so I use a google image) I drove to another campground about one hour towards Sydney where I stayed the night. It was surrounded by rain forest and the noise the birds made was almost too loud to fall asleep.

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The tent was just big enough for me, I could not stretch out though. It was still an amazing night, seeing probably a million stars and the milky way, having a rain forest around and listing to the quiet drops of rain hitting my tent.

Rain forest to Sydney

The last part of my trip to Sydney was 985 kilometers long and would take about 12 hours of straight driving. First, I drove through the rain forest I just camped in.

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I stopped in Lakes Entrance, a small tourist town at the beach which reminded me a little of Miami Beach for some reason.

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Due to the long drive I decided to take as few stops as possible. That wasn't too smart :D At some point I felt really tired and had to stop to avoid falling asleep. Three coffees later I was back on the road. Next stop was Cooma or as Aboriginal people say "open country". And it truly was an open country. It was a mix of driving on a highway in the middle of the USA and the green fields of the Alps in Europe. In Cooma I had my dinner, half a roasted chicken and another couple of coffees. I also called my parents back in Germany with this sweet app which allows me to call internationally for minimum cost. They were happy to hear me even though it was 630 in the morning over there - stupid time difference.

After Cooma it was only another 4 hours drive which I decided to do without a break. I am now in Sydney for a couple of days and will be exploring the city and the Blue Mountains. The weather forecast says it's going to be 45 degrees celsius on sunday... not sure whether I like that or not.

Cheers

Posted by jan.wegener 18:20 Archived in Australia Tagged australia Comments (0)

Australia

In the land of kangaroos, snakes and "the little man who walks"

sunny

The long flight of almost 14 hours from Dubai to Melbourne was quite enjoyable for me. Seated in one of the last rows I was lucky enough to have a three seat row all by myself. Therefore, I slept really good laying on all three of the seats. At the airport there was no problem whatsoever with entering Australia. My couchsurfing friend Joseph lives in St. Kilda where I now had to get somehow. A taxi was too expensive so I started walking. After one hour I realized it is way too far to get there before sunrise. So a taxi it was. Joseph greeted me around 3am with a welcome beer and we talked for a while until we had to get some sleep. So there I was - my adventure in Australia could begin.

Withing the next days I mostly explored the city and got the important stuff done, like getting my Australian Visa card, getting a local phone number and so on. St. Kilda is a beautiful suburb of Melbourne and a former red light district. Now it is the hippie center around here.

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I managed to get my bank account all done pretty easy and was just waiting for my TFN (tax file number) so I could work here legally. Meanwhile, I went too the beautiful beach of St. Kilda, walked around in the green parks of Melbourne and wondered around the city seeing lots of interesting architecture and art. Melbourne is famous for the art here and also for the many amateur music artists who play their songs around the city almost everyday. On my second day here , I found myself quite lucky: I haven't done any sports yet so I walked around, asking gyms for a free trial workout. At one gym, not too far away from Josephs apartment, I talked to the gym owner and she offered a deal to me after I told her where I'm from. For a few German lessons I could workout a couple of time for free - deal!

Four days and three nights later, I moved to a hostel in the CBD of Melbourne. It is close to an Aldi which is one of the cheapest supermarkets here and going out is way easier being so close to many of the pubs and clubs. In my room were three other Germans, two Britons and two Dutch. We had some good times here and got along pretty well. To improve my chances for a job later, I took a RSA class (responsible service of alcohol), which is required to have at any restaurant, hotel, bar, etc. During dinner time the shared kitchen looks like a battlefield and that's exactly how you need to act when you want to get your meal done. Everyone is fighting about the only five forks, the one certain pan or even steal from others to get ingredients they don't have. And as far as I can tell, the only ones who washed their dishes where Germans and Dutch. My dinner always included some sort of meat, some veggies and rice. For my first night here at the hostel, I treated myself with a 800g rump steak.
Here it was that I did some laundry for the first time since I left Germany. After dinner we usually chilled at the giant been bag cinema in the hostel, went down to the hostel-owned bar or went out in a pub. A really interesting place to see around here is the Victorian Market. There you can get anything you need and don't need.

On Saturday, I started a two day trip along the Great Ocean Road and into the Grampians National Park located a couple of hours north west of Melbourne. I had to get up really early for the pick up and surprisingly my tour guide was German as well. His name is Henning. Among the group were a Norwegian family of three, one French and a Russian guy, a Dutch and a Danish woman, three German girls and a Japanese couple. It was a small, private group. We left Melbourne driving of the harbor bridge. Henning told us that Sydney and Melbourne are always competing about which city looks better. That's why Melbourne built this bridge just a few meters higher than the Sydney Harbor Bridge. A tunnel would have been cheaper though.

Our first stop was a long beach about 90min north west of Melbourne.

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It is a popular surfer beach for the locals and we spotted two even though it was still really early.

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We kept driving along the Great Ocean Road which was built by veterans of WWI to create jobs and help get country out of a depression.

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The view we had was absolutely amazing.

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Long winding roads directly next to the ocean were leading us to our next stop; a small village where we had the chance to spot some koalas and parrots. Koalas sleep about 20 hours a day so we only saw them chilling up in their trees resting. Another thing Henning told us is that in the Aborigines language koala "the little man who walks" means. The parrots on the other hand were all excited to see us with bread crumbs in our hands and weren't shy at all.

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What I didn't know before was, the oil of eucalyptus is poisonous and therefore koala meat is as well - just in case anyone is starving and the only food around is a koala ;)
The next stop was Apollo Bay, a beautiful village further up the Great Ocean Road. It is a famous tourist city so there were many coach buses with lots of people. I really enjoyed our next stop - the 12 Apostles.

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These are rock formations which were created by the ocean. Another stop was at the London Bridge, or as Henning said the now London Island since its collapse a few years ago. The funny story behind it, he told us, was that five individual people reported the collapse of the London Bridge to the local police officer because there were still people on it. He didn't believe any of them so a rescue helicopter all the way down from Melbourne had to come and rescue them - he isn't in charge of anything anymore, said Henning.

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A beautiful beach along Great Ocean Road.

A rain forest was next on our list. Due to the different landscape here in the state of Victoria, there are many different zones of different climates. We stopped and hiked through the rain forest with its unique plants which only happen to exist here.

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It got dark soon, so we headed to our cabins for the night which were in the remote little town Halls Gap, located in the Grampians National Park. We stayed in small wooden cabins, had two showers for all of us and a shared kitchen. I stayed with the Russian and French guy in a room. Before we went to sleep, we decided to go on a night hike around the area to look for some kangaroos. Most animal here in Australia are nocturnal, so is the kangaroos (it usually stays up until noon and only sleeps a little in the afternoon, so you can't really call it nocturnal). We actually found a big group of about twenty of them not too far from us.

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They looked up, starred at us and kept eating their grass. That was the first day of the tour.

On our second day we had to get up really early again. Breakfast was at 530am and we were all really tired but excited for our upcoming adventures. Henning told us to be ready in the bus at 630am so we were in the bus at 630am. It was just a trick tho. He wanted us all together so we can talk about the day. He sent us off to a "photo shooting" with the kangaroos he saw pretty close to us. They were actually the same group which the French, the Russian and I saw the night before. While we ran around the kangaroos with our cameras like paparazzi, Henning cleaned the cabins.

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Afterwards we drove to the so called Grand Canyon of the Grampians, even though there is no actual canyon. We hiked up to the Pinnacle and enjoyed a very windy but really stunning view over the whole area.

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Hiking up the mountains, it reminded me a bit of Acadia National Park. They looked not too different at some spots. Probably halfway to the top, I spotted a black tail in the bushes. I asked Henning later what kind of animal that might have been and he said the only animal which fits the description would be a brush-tailed rock-wallaby. This species is actually endangered and Henning said I can find myself really lucky that I saw one.

After the hike we stopped back in Halls Gap for lunch at an Aboriginal Information Center. The Danish woman and I shared an emu pie and crocodile pie. It was definitely a new taste :D Henning drove with us to our next stop, McKenzie Falls. The Grampians had two terrible bush fires within the last years, one actually in the beginning of 2014. Most of the trees are still burned, but Australia's nature bounces back pretty quickly. So most of the plants growing up burned trees are some kind of eucalyptus.
Down at McKenzie Falls we took a photo of our amazing group. We got along really well and laughed almost the entire time because someone always had something funny on their mind.

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Another hike was on our agenda and this time we hiked up to a spot called "Jaw of Death". Well, it used to be that, but now it is just called "Balconies" after someone actually fell and died. Sandra, the Dutch woman, and I climbed down there nevertheless and posed in the Jaw of Death for photos.

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We had two more stops before we had to head back to Melbourne, an Aboriginal culture area and a vineyard. At the Aboriginal place, we saw a 20.000 year old painting of Bunjil, the creator. Aboriginals were giving the task to keep the earth and nature strong, so they have no desire to improve their culture like others did in Europe or somewhere else.

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Alan, the manager of the vineyard invited us to taste many of his tasty wines and we all felt a little tipsy afterwards due to only having little to eat lately. The vineyard is the first one in Australia to produce sparkling wine (would be called Champagne but the French didn't approve).

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All in all it was one of the best tours I have done, the group was fantastic, we laughed and talked the whole time, made jokes about the stupidest stuff and Henning was such a great tour guide. Back at the hostel the dinner-war had to be fought again.

The following days were pretty chilled. I found a couple of gyms where I can workout for free, hung out with friends from the hostel and enjoyed the sunny and warm weather of Melbourne.

Today, I'll pick up my car I bought yesterday and take off towards Sydney.

Cheers

Posted by jan.wegener 17:23 Archived in Australia Tagged melbourne australia firstdays Comments (0)

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