Featherdale Wildlife Park

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One of the first things that comes to my mind when I think of Australia is the crazy and scary wildlife. I once had a conversation with an old Aussie dude who genuinely told me that it was a load of rubbish that Australian wildlife wanted to kill you, because “we’ve only got 8 out of the 10 deadliest snakes in the world”. I have no idea if that’s true, but he was insistent it was.

Anyway, the more famous of Australia’s wildlife are definitely the cuter species. As you can see from our  visit to the sloth sanctuary in Costa Rica, I love any excuse to get up close to animals. So I was excited at the prospect of cuddling koalas and kangaroos.

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Snapshot: Traditional Reed Boats at Uros Floating Islands


Looking through my photos, I have so many which haven’t found their way into posts of their own. This one is from the Uros Floating Islands, Lake Titicaca, Peru.

Located on the border between Peru and Bolivia, Lake Titicaca is a sight to be seen. With a surface elevation of 3,800m it is the highest navigable lake in the world, and the largest in South America. The sky and the lake itself are the brightest, deepest blue I have ever seen in my life. The blue is almost overwhelming in its depth and its brightness, broken up only by the yellowish green reeds scattered sporadically across the lake’s surface. Often my photos need slight tweaking to capture the true colours my camera can’t. That wasn’t the case at Lake Titicaca, where my entire album looks unreal, yet completely accurate.

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I did love some of Australia, honest…


Since I’ve already made it quite clear that I didn’t fall in love with Australia, I thought today I’d share some of the things that I did love about the place. The iconic landmarks of Sydney are obviously pretty high on the list, with the Sydney Opera House and the view from Mrs Macquarie’s Chair being well worth the trip around the planet.

But here’s 5 more things that I adored about Australia…

The Aussie Attitude 

We Brits have a reputation for being cold and overly polite, but I’d thought that was hyperbole until I arrived in Australia. I love how laid back and casual everyone is when talking to each other, even in relatively ‘formal’ settings. Working in the call centre, I found it really hard at first to adapt to saying things like “Hey, how’s it going, Bruce?” “No worries, mate” or “Too easy”. I spent seven months working in customer service for a UK bank, and I’d have been shot for saying anything less formal than ‘Hi’.

I loved how willing everyone was to talk to each other! Almost constantly I’d be bumping into people I’d barely spoken to before, and they’d stop to chat to me for ages, asking me about why I was in Australia and giving me tips and advice. In England, we’d likely have pretended not to see each other, or simply exchanged a smile or wave. It might sound like nothing to some people, but I found it so lovely.

While sometimes I found the irreverent sense of humour a little eyebrow-raising (see the photo of the rubbish/garbage truck below), it never failed to make me smile. The stereotype of the laid-back “she’ll be right”, “no worries” Australian is real and I loved it!

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The architecture!

One of my favourite things in Australia was definitely seeing how varied the buildings were.

In the UK, land is at such a premium that most suburban homes occupy as little land as possible. Secretly, whenever I see the average Australian suburban home, they remind me of The Sims. The amount of land per plot seems incredible. For some perspective on what I mean, the average floorspace in a new UK home is 77 square metres, compared to 201 in the US and a whopping 214 in Australia (Source).

As well as having so much more land to build on, Australia also has the advantage of being such a young country in terms of construction. Like a younger sister who learns from her siblings’ cringe-worthy fashion choices, Australia has been able to cherry-pick which architecture styles it likes. This makes it fascinating to explore the cities, as different neighbourhoods can have completely different styles. Sometimes there’s even a huge variety within the same street. I adored walking near Brighton Beach in Victoria, seeing the completely contrasting architectural styles below, all right next door to each other.

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Blue Skies and Beaches!

I confess that I don’t cope well with the heat in general. Now that my travel will be limited to July and August- ooh, mystery, am I hinting at future plans?- I’ve been researching places that aren’t a sweltering sauna when I’d be able to visit. Essentially, the Southern Hemisphere is my oyster. But surprisingly, I actually loved the Australian weather!

Several times the weather reports claimed over 35C – which is a scorcher to me with my Factor 50 habit – but the heat was much drier than Asia or the Caribbean. It was incredibly hot when walking directly in the sun, but in the shade it was cool and refreshing. Such a change from Asia where even out of the sun you’re still strangled by the oppressive humidity.

I was there in the Spring (October, November), which probably made a huge difference. I’d really recommend this time of year for anyone who wants glorious sunshine and a tan, without suffering. Especially if you plan to spend time on Australia’s gorgeous beaches. Bondi is a classic, but I was a fan of Brighton Beach, just outside Melbourne.

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Strathfield!

Although I had issues with Sydney’s urban sprawl, I have to admit that I lived in a lovely suburb. Strathfield is about 20-30 minutes from the city centre by train, about the same as my tube journey to Central when I lived in London. Yet the difference between 20 minutes out of the CBD and 20 minutes out of Oxford Street is astounding.

As far as I could tell, Strathfield is a particularly affluent suburb with multimillion dollar mansions and expensive cars on the roads. There are tree- and flower-lined streets, pleasant and shady parks and squares for people-watching, and amenities close to hand. It had the peace and feeling of safety of American suburbia, with good public transport links to the main city and beyond. I also liked Strathfield’s diversity, which I’ve heard described as ‘Little Korea’.  I love Korean food, and had some of the best I’ve ever tried in Strathfield.

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I’d be much happier to leave my house in the morning if this was the view that waved me off…

Jacaranda trees!

Oh God, I totally fell in love with these crazy purple trees. I know they grow in many places around the world, but Sydney was the first place I’d met them. Since I’d never heard the word said with an English accent, I found myself saying it with an awful Australian twang. Major cringe, when the rest of the sentence is in my very British accent. Disappointingly, they aren’t suited to the British climate so I’ll never have one of my own if ever I buy a house, but I can dream. Seeing that dash of colour around the city always made me grin, and walking in the sunshine along pavements carpeted in petals was one of my favourite things to do in Sydney.

There’s a town in New South Wales called Grafton, which holds an annual Jacaranda Festival. I was really tempted to go along, but then I did a quick google search and found out that it would take over eight hours to get there. Yet another case of Australia being surprisingly huge.

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So there you have it- I managed to find 5 things I could tolerate about Australia. Just kidding- there were actually plenty of things I found perfectly pleasant about the place, these were just my 5 favourites. Have you ever been to Australia, and did you love it?

 

Musings about Melbourne…

Source: here

I had four days in Melbourne, and to be honest I was struggling to think of things to do. People rave about Melbourne, but I have to say I didn’t fall in love. When I told people I was planning to move to Australia, people told me that I’d either be a Sydney person or a Melbourne fan- no middle ground.

It turns out I was neither, but I can see what people mean- for me, the two cities were complete opposites. Sydney was amazing for sightseeing and tourist things, but I found living there didn’t suit me due to the urban sprawl. Whereas Melbourne struck me as a city that would be pleasant to live in, but not particularly interesting in terms of tourist sites…

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The Sydney Opera House Experience

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The Opera House

The Sydney Opera House is perhaps one of the most famous buildings in the world.

When you think about it, how many buildings can you look at and categorically know what and where they are? Perhaps I’m just blind, but the CN Tower, Beijing Tower, Sky Tower and Fernsehturm all look the same to me without context. Show me a city skyline and unless it has some really distinctive buildings, I’ll be baffled.

I hazard a guess that at least the architects redesigning the London skyline secretly feel the same as me- why else would you build a 600ft Gherkin or a Walkie Talkie?

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Why Australia wasn’t for me (and that’s OK)


I’ve been back from Australia now for four months (to the day, as it happens, although I didn’t plan this post deliberately). I’ll post soon about what I’ve been up to since I’ve been back, and what this means for my blog, but I thought I’d do some Australia posts first.

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It’s hard to admit when you just don’t click with a country. It’s rare to see major bloggers admit they didn’t like somewhere, and even smaller blogs shy away from it. But the truth is that I decided to come home because I simply wasn’t enjoying Australia as much as I’d hoped. The Opera House was everything I’d hoped it would be. I was underwhelmed by tourist Melbourne, but I can see it would be a really nice place to live.

I’m not sure if I was expecting too much. Australia is the quintessential gap year destination for young British people. It’s the country that nearly everyone talks about emigrating to, even if they’ll never do it. We’re flooded with photos of fireworks over Sydney Harbour every New Year, and barbecues on Bondi every Christmas. And it seems like every blogger and their mates started blogging while on a WHV. So it’s no wonder my expectations were high.

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