Monday, 5 August 2013

Weeks 19-20 – Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia

Fred's world tour

Weeks 19-20 – Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia

29th of January until the 15th of February 2013

In brief:

  1. Arrive at Kota Kinabalu and meet the rest of the Raleigh international Project Managers.

  2. Settle into the Raleigh Borneo Fieldbase house where all the training will happen.

  3. Plenty of intro lecture, team games, induction sessions and a swim test.

  4. Take our new skills out for a demo trek into the jungle and back.

  5. Plan and carry out our project planning visits getting things ready for the venturers.

  6. Fancy dress evening and Raleigh Olympics games at Raleigh house.

  7. Explore Kota Kinabalu city centre for the food, music and culture.

Hello and welcome to my blog. For those that are wondering what is Raleigh international? ( Well … Raleigh International is a well established organisation that takes 17yr to 24yr old people out of their comfort zone and takes them to unique places around the world to do meaningful projects. Projects include a community phase building a school or a water supply for a village. An Environmental phase where they either help out in a national park or partake in a biodiversity research project catching animals for a survey. The third phase consists of adventure expedition where they get to get a scuba diving qualification and then spend the rest of the phase trekking and sleeping in hammocks. To enable Raleigh to do this they need a number of group leaders or Project managers (PMs) and medics. I took on the voluntary position for both roles.

These first two weeks they put us through our paces with lectures, teaching sessions, 6am swim tests but we also had lots of fun and games along the way.

Below are the official Raleigh blogs for the first two weeks:

 project_managers (1)

Project allocations:

Project planning visit:

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Week 18 – Brisbane, Australia to Borneo, Malaysia

Fred's world tour
Week 18 – Brisbane, Australia to Borneo, Malaysia
26th of January until the 1st of February 2013
In brief:
  1. Fly back to Sydney from Brisbane.
  2. See the Darling Harbour fireworks.
  3. Finish the job paperwork and buy the last few bits for the Borneo expedition.
  4. Go see and intimate 'La Soiree' at the Sydney Opera house.
  5. Fly to Kota Kinabalu in Malaysia (Sabah Borneo)
  6. Meet up with the rest of the Raleigh international project managers.
  7. Begin an intense 2 weeks of Raleigh lessons, exercises and trekking.
  8. Happily hand over the duties of blog writing to the pros at
This week starts with a little lie-in and yep, you guessed it, a huge buffet breakfast! We made our way to the airport to fly back to Sydney. At this point we hadn't been having the best weather but that is nothing compared to the rain that the Whitsundays and Rockhampton are getting. Record rainfall apparently! We were so lucky to have had such great weather when we were up there. Once back we went straight to Bondi and caught up with Tony and Daithi. That afternoon because its Australia day we headed to Darling Harbour to see the Australia Day fireworks. As I've been here before I managed to sneak us through the cinema and up to a great spot to watch the spectacle. They were really good because they include fireworks, laser show, lights, and music. Great way to experience my first Australia day. The hoards of people was incredible.
The Sunday was a bit of a blur for me. It was long and hard trying to get all my paperwork and packing done because at 7pm I booked Chris, Tony, Daithi and I some tickets to go see The Soiree show in one of the studios in the Sydney Opera house. Mark also got himself a ticket and we luckily were able all to sit on the front row. It was really good, with plenty of weird and wonderful things not to mention getting wet because of a gymnast doing acrobatics around a bath full of water!
Monday I was off to Kota Kinabalu via Kuala Lumpur on Air Asia. I was sad to say goodbye to everyone in Australia, nervous about the next three months of Jungle medicine but also very excited.
After meeting the fieldbase team in Kota Kinabalu at 11am on the 29th of April they took us to the the Raleigh house. At Raleigh Fieldbase is where for the next 2wks we would be inducted and moulded into the perfect Project Managers on Raleigh International's 3month expedition '13C'.
The venturers won't be arriving until Valentine's Day (14th of February)
Let the fun begin!
This is where I sign out for 3months (official duties end 27/4/13) and the Raleigh blog takes over. So for all the updates head to
That's all for now, see you at the end of April.

Week 17 – Great Barrier Reef to Brisbane, Australia

Fred's world tour
Week 17 – Great Barrier Reef to Brisbane, Australia
19th until the 25th of January 2013
In brief:
  1. Take a large catamaran to the Great Barrier Reef.
  2. Go in a glass bottomed boat and have a marine biologist talk about the reef ecosystem.
  3. Take a helicopter flight over the reef and see the famous heart shaped reef.
  4. Snorkel Hardy reef (part of the Great Barrier Reef).
  5. Hire a car and head on a road trip down the coast to Rockhampton.
  6. See the Capricorn caves of Rockhampton.
  7. Cross the line of Capricorn.
  8. Go on a day trip to Fraser island the largest sand-only island in the world.
  9. Take a short plane flight over the island.
  10. Swim in the freshwater lake on Fraser island.
  11. Go to Steve Irwin's Australia zoo.
  12. Hug a koala, stroke a kangaroo, feed an elephant and see a Crocodile display.
  13. Sightsee Brisbane and go out to sample the nightlife.
One of the most amazing places on earth and apparently the only living thing visible from space is the Great Barrier Reef! It even has a heart shaped reef right in the middle of it. The best way to see it was to catch a huge Catamaran for 3hours out to the Reef with 'wave cutting' and 'stabilisation technology'. Despite the high tech claims people still got sea sick! :-) on the boat they explained to us all the different activities that you can do from the pontoon just at the reef. They all sounded amazing including the helicopter flight over the Hardy reef. Once on the Pontoon we got on a glass-bottomed boat to see the reef and have a biologist give us some interesting facts. After this short tour, it was time to hop on a helicopter! For some extra money you can get to fly over the great barrier reef and admire this huge ecosystem from the air. Not only that but you can see the heart shaped reef which I never realised was actually here. That was a very special surprise. The views were incredible and it was really worth getting that other perspective on the reef.
Once back on the pontoon we wasted no time in getting our wetsuits, fins and snorkel gear to explore the majestic structures and wildlife of the reef. The views were spectacular and I couldn't help dive down and get that different perspective of the overhanging parts of the reef. Really great. We saw huge clams, colourful hard and soft reefs as well as plenty of beautiful fish. One fish happened to be very territorial and started charging at me to my surprise! Although it had no teeth, when a fish starts charging at your face or bite a finger it does make you jump out of your flippers. I probably didn't help the situation by hanging around longer to capture that moment on video :-)
At around 2pm I was getting hungry and the catamaran put up a great buffet spread of food which is just what was needed before heading back out to the reef via the slide of course :-) Not long after that we had to board the boat to start to head back to Airlie beach. One night in Airlie and a car rental agreement later we were heading down the coast of Queensland on a road trip. This day I happened to have received an offer for work in Canberra so I had plenty of documents to print out and complete when we arrived at our destination for the first night, Rockhampton. This was great news but it did mean I would need to get my original documents posted from England because of the complexities of getting certified copies. My parents were amazing at finding and posting the required documents to Australia. Thank you so much guys.
The next morning we headed to some nice caves called the Capricorn caves and we took a tour. We walked around this network of caves that were at one point harvested for its huge quantity of bat poo also known as guano. It also had a chamber with high ceilings and apparently it makes a great place to have weddings. When they have a wedding they light up the entire cave in candles and the music played out is perfectly resonated in the aptly name 'Cathedral' cave chamber. The acoustics here from music are second to none and they gave us a taste with all the lights off which was a nice touch. Just outside I also managed to get a glimpse at a Rock wallaby which is basically a small kangaroo that's very agile.
Back at Rockhampton we crossed the line of Capricorn and took some pics next to the landmarks. En-route south we stopped at a seaside village to eat some fresh fish which was nice. Then once we arrived at Hervey bay and checked in to our hotel we went for a tapas dinner. The next day we were booked in on a long day-tour of Fraser island. Its apparently the biggest sand-only island in the world. It is also home to the Dingos, a dog like animal with killer instincts and a reported love for small children! Chris and I were both keen to see them. After a ferry ride across the 4x4 bus took us along sandy roads to a jungle walk to explore the jungle that had somehow formed over the years and made this sand-only island a home. The rain and a water supply from the freshwater table below made this a viable habitat for plants. We saw some enormous trees and impressive vegetation such as the staghorn that lives on the branches of trees. They have a purely symbiotic relationship and don't harm the tree in anyway unlike the strangulating vines.
Next the bus went to the beach and drove along the 70mile beach which was pretty cool. This stretch of beach is classified as a road in Queensland, it has speed limit signs and around the festive period police monitor it for drink drivers or speeders. Our next stop was a ship wreck of an old cruise liner built in Scotland. It navigated the seas during the world war and for years after until it was decommissioned. En route to Japan, when it was being towed for scrapping, a big storm washed it ashore. All that remains sticking out of the sand and water is the bow and the top-deck.
Next we stopped at some sand-cliffs with multiple colours and that's where I took a plane ride. This plane took off from the beach. Apparently there are only two places in the world where this is possible. The other is in Scotland. Again like the Great Barrier Reef getting this alternative perspective was amazing. The sea was multi-coloured because of the sediments, the beach long and the views over the island forest was great too. All it all a very special flight.
From there I joined Chris and waded our way along a cold freshwater creek supplied by a source pumping hundreds of litres per hour from the underground water table. Around 2pm we headed back south along the beach to where we would get treated to the biggest buffet lunch! Perfect! Always a bonus in my book! For the afternoon we went to the biggest lake on the island for a swim which I'm not sure was the best idea straight after a buffet lunch. Nevertheless it was a great place to swim with a white sandy shore and pristine clear water. Also it was appealing that there have been plenty of dingo sightings on the shore when they come to take your clothes away or your children! Unfortunately no Dingo sighting for us and no children were harmed. ;-)
this is the lake shore
That concluded our tour of the island, we got a ferry back and then jumped in the car and headed south to Caloundra for the night. This is where we managed to get a really good deal on a brilliant hotel near the beach. The breakfast was amazing and with a full belly we headed to Steve Irwin's Australia zoo. I avoid most zoos on my travels because they are usually badly maintained and the animals are clearly not happy. This zoo on the other hand was absolutely brilliant. Lots of walk-through enclosures to get up and close to animals, feed them, watch demonstrations, informational talks and then see a huge variety of creatures from around Australia. I fed an elephant, a kangaroo, stroked a koala and watched a demonstration of what crocodiles are capable of in the Crocoseum. Typical Steve Irwin style! Impressive stuff and a really great experience. You really need a full day to see and do it all.
We headed to Brisbane for our last two nights in Queensland. In that time we sampled the delights of China town, the night life and the sights that Brisbane has to offer. We even went up the equivalent of the London eye. A big Ferris wheel on Brisbane's South Bank. I did have to spend some time frantically finishing up some application paperwork because on Monday I fly to Kota Kinabalu in Borneo!
That finishes week 17 of my epic round the world trip. Its been amazing and next week I fly back to Sydney for Australia day, watch yet more fireworks, go to the opera house to see another show there and then I plan to fly to Malaysia on Monday for 2wks of group leader training!!
That's all for now, until next time.

Monday, 11 February 2013

Week 16 – Sydney to the Whitsunday islands in Queensland, Australia

Fred's world tour

Week 16 – Sydney to the Whitsunday islands in Queensland, Australia

12th until the 18th of January 2013

In brief:

  1. Show Chris around Sydney

  2. Go to a unique club night in Sydney

  3. Chill out in Bondi beach

  4. Go see London's West End Dance spectacular 'Blaze' at the Sydney Opera house

  5. Be amazed at the Latin dancing in a Hard Rock café at Darling Harbour.

  6. Show Chris the five storey rubber duck

  7. Visit Manly beach and walk around the park reserve

  8. Fly up to Hamilton Island in Queensland Whitsunday national park.

  9. Hire some camping gear and get transferred to Chance bay beach on Whitsunday island.

  10. Walk along the pristine white silica sand of Whitehaven beach.

  11. Snorkel and get a glimpse at the amazing coral and marine life just off Chance bay.

My friend Chris had started to get over his jet lag, with a little help from melatonin and he was keen to start exploring. What better way to show him the coastal path to Clovelly than by going for an early morning run! From there we headed over to Circular Quay and basked in the city's biggest tourist hub. We headed towards the harbour bridge to catch a good view of the Sydney opera house that Chris had never seen before. To get an even better view we went to the South east pylon of the harbour bridge where for a nominal fee you could go to the top of the pylon. Simply spectacular. The 360 degree view from there was definitely worth the effort and the money. Having deserved a good lunch we bumped into the gourmet market in the middle of the Rocks district. Previously an area built on the rocks of the harbour bridge has now turned into a florie of art shops, boutiques and cafés. A trendy little place but heading back down to circular quay to gaze at the street performers while having a great sorbet ice-cream was really great.


From there we walked to the Opera house and got up close and personal with the thousands of white tiles that comprises the iconic roof. After some pics we headed to Mrs MacQuarries point for yet more great views of the harbour on a great day. It was totally different feel to when I was there for New Years eve. From there another 'must do' was to go through the botanical gardens and feast on the unique display of plants in the downtown garden.


Saturday night in Sydney we definitely had to make the most of it so I managed to find a club night with an unusual theme that provided no end of entertainment. :-) one of the reasons I like Sydney!

On the Sunday we chilled out on Bondi beach with some of Chris' friends on a cloudy day but it was still fun. That evening I had managed to get some great seats for the Opera house to go see London's West End dance spectacular 'Blaze'. Its a cocktail of the worlds best dancers doing a huge mix of very impressive dance routines and killer breakdancing moves. We had a great time. I never expected I would get to go to see a show in THE Sydney Opera house. Let alone from one of the viewing boxes close to the stage! Granted it took me a long time and money to be able to get those tickets but it was worth it. To finish off we went to have a drink at the Opera bar with the harbour bridge and the Opera house as a backdrop to some ciders. Really nice.


We then started to get hungry and it occurred to me that the Hard Rock Cafe has a Salsa music and classes on a Sunday night. So we headed over there which was really fun. I was very surprised to see some great dancers of all nationalities pulling some great moves! Not only that but we were just next to Darling harbour to see the huge inflatable duck which I had to show Chris.


For Monday I had planned for us to head to Manly beach using the ferry. Not only did we get to see all the sights of the harbour from a boat but we went to see Manly and the difference from Sydney's hustle and bustle. We walked to the Manly north point reserve to sample some nature. What was sad but very common in Australia was the remains of a bush fire that burnt lots of the vegetation. As its fairly dry here it doesn't take much to set off a fire. Unfortunately this week there were multiple fires all over the state of New South Wales that were currently blazing out of control. Its sad to see so much of the inner territory getting destroyed and an unbelievable rate every day. Its apparently one of the worst fire alerts the state has ever experienced!

Once back in manly it was nice to grab some food and chill on manly beach before catching a ferry back to meet Tony and Daithi for dinner in Bondi. The plan after dinner was to pack our bags because the next day we were catching a flight to Hamilton island in the Whitsunday national park of Queensland.

The flight went via Brisbane and it was with Virgin Australia which was great. I really didn't have any complaints. However, my allegiance still resides with Virgin Atlantic the airline my friend Steve and his partner John work for.

Once at Hamilton island we immediately noticed the difference in temperature. The Catamaran ferry transfer had air-con so it was a blissful ride to Airlie beach where we would stay the night. Normally Airlie beach would be an amazingly busy backbacker area full of travellers using it as a base to go see the Whitsunday islands and the Great Barrier reef. Unfortunately the economic downturn has actually really affected tourism in this area. That evening we shopped for our food to see us through the next four days of camping at Chance bay beach on Whitsunday island. The next day we joined Scamper a company operating out of Shute harbour where we would rent all our camping equipment including snorkel gear. What we didn't realise is that the waters around here, especially this time of year is infested with jelly fish and can be lethal so the rule was to wear 'stinger suits' which was basically a lycra one-piece suit leaving only your face exposed! I couldn't wait to try these on and make the fashion statement of the century.


The transfer to the island was painless and saw us having the camp-site all to ourselves and hence also the beach. We set up our tent and made ourselves at home. We scouted the sea for jelly fish and there were none! Great start! It was very hot so a nap was in order. It then started to rain which worried me slightly because four days on a deserted island with rain might not be the experience we were after. Luckily it stopped and we were able to cook ourselves some dinner on the gas stove and enjoy some drinkies on the beach.

The next morning I thought it would be a great idea to walk the 4km to Whitehaven beach which is the very touristy beach on Whitsunday island for being a beautiful pristine white silica beach. When we go there we found a fair few people but this was nothing because within 40minutes one float plane with honeymooners landed followed by a barrage of ferries bringing tourists for a day trip to the beach. It felt like almost in an instant the quiet, peaceful and beautiful beach became a chaotic place filled with people in lycra! (stinger suits).


We made our way back to our quiet beach for lunch and then snorkelled the rocky shore from chance bay. The lycra suits were pretty special but it actually was great because not only would it protect us from jelly fish but also prevent us from getting sunburnt. We didn't see any jelly fish but I was surprised to see huge amounts of fish, colourful coral and huge living clams just off the shore! The sunset from the beach was also pretty spectacular.



The next morning I thought it would be a great idea to head off to Whitehaven beach on a 4km morning jog. I soon regretted that decision because of the difficulty running on the sand, the heat and the multiple amounts of spired webs that had formed across the path overnight. I also saw the biggest spider and spire web right at head level that I narrowly missed catching right in the face! That day we did more snorkelling, chilling and having our last ciders for our last night on the island.

The last few days had been amazingly relaxing. The only annoying thing were the 'March flies' which were huge blood sucking flies that don't really get repelled by DEET despite that claim on the bottle. They were very satisfying to kill though because they weren't that quick!

That ends week 16. Next week we head back to the mainland, catch a boat tour to the Great Barrier reef for a day and go on a road trip down the Queensland coast.

That's all for now, until next time.


Monday, 28 January 2013

Week 15 – Sydney arts festival, Australia

Fred's world tour
Week 15 – Sydney arts festival, Australia
5th until the 11th of January 2013
In brief:
  1. Do a 12km run with the local running club including a dip in Bronte beach.
  2. Attend a huge free outdoor Soul music concert featuring the great Sharon Jones.
  3. Walk the augmented reality trail through the national park of Middle head.
  4. Listen to the sounds of the unique Chronometer.
  5. See the huge five storey inflatable rubber duck in Darling Harbour.
  6. Take part in 'quiet volume' a Sydney festival production within the beautiful State library of New South Wales.
  7. Go to see an art exhibition … what a load of rubbish (literally)
  8. See a theatrical dance/breakdancing/parkour/skateboarding/BMX biking show!
  9. Have my second phone interview for a job.
  10. Meet up with my friend Chris and show him around Bondi
With a packed week last week what better way to relax than by waking up early, taking a bus to centennial park and joining the running club on their 12km run to Bronte beach! :-) It was challenging, especially the 6:40am wake up for a 7:30am start. The Bronte swim was perfect and the group was, once again, very cool to chat to. This week I got my bacon & egg roll before grabbing a bus back to Bondi. For this week before my friend Chris arrives from England I was tempted to fly to Melbourne and sightsee. However, I then came to learn that the Sydney arts festival starts this week. This month long festival brings, artists, performers, shows and exhibitions to Sydney. It has a variety of weird and wonderful things to go see enough to suit any palate. I spent a fair bit of time researching and reserving tickets for various events as they were all going quickly. My first taste of Sydney festival was the free outdoor Soul music concert happening at the Domain park near Mrs Macquarie's point (where I went for the fireworks). The line up of artists was good and the atmosphere was great. The headline act was the famous Sharon Jones who gave an awesome vocal performance. The evening was truly soulful.
This concert finished at 11pm and as it was a Saturday night I went to check out the Sydney night-life. I got chatting to a few people and the night flew by. We ended up in a club which brags to have Sydney's best light and sound system. Judging by the fun I had and the great music the DJ was playing, I would find it hard to dispute that claim. Sunday proved to be a gorgeous day, so I did some job applications and headed out to Circular quay. Circular quay is nestled between the Opera house and the Sydney harbour bridge. I met up with my friend Mark and we grabbed a ferry across the harbour. Its a great way to see the Sydney harbour, the bridge and the opera house. Once across the harbour we were only a short bus and a walk from the Middle head national park reserve. This is where 'Notes for walking' was happening. The Sydney festival website described it was a 'pilgrimage, magical mystery tour and adventure trek rolled into one'. The aim is to use location based augmented reality software to navigate around middle head reserve and find a set of short video notes. Basically with a special app you could point your phone's camera to an area and the digital GPS tagged content would be displayed on the terrain for you to click on. These interactive components would then play a short video on your phone filmed where we were standing and with some poetry.
We struggled to find all the markers but after sorting out the glitches off we went exploring the ruins of the old naval fortresses and the rest of this beautiful reserve. This was my first taste of an augmented reality tour and I wouldn't be against doing another one.
From there we walked west along the coast to Georges Heights Lookout where we could observe the huge cruise liner exit the harbour and from where one could listen to the electronic work Chronometer by British composer Sir Harrison Birtwistle. This was recorded in 1971 and is a piece of audio played out of speakers tied to trees, railings and bushes on a loop. You could sit on bean bags and admire the spectacular view while listening to the 'unique sounds'. I say unique because it is comprises of percussive sample recordings of Big Ben and Wells Cathedral clock!

From there we caught the last ferry back to circular quay and it was perfect as the sun started to set. Then next on Mark's and my agenda was to go see a rubber duck in water. Not just any rubber duck. This rubber duck is floating in Darling Harbour and is five storeys high and five storeys wide. It is the work of Florentijn Hofman from the Netherlands. Sydney festival describes it as 'Surprising, whimsical and a whole lot of fun for no apparent reason'. Again that's pretty accurate!
For dinner I went to join Tony, Daithi, Brendon and Darrel as well as some other of their friends at an Indian restaurant in Kings Cross which was nice. When I think of Kings Cross I think of the London train station but in Sydney it is a big party area with bars, restaurants and clubs to cater for everyone. It is also the home of the huge, and apparently famous Coca Cola sign.
Over the next few days before Chris arrived on Thursday I spent time relaxing, going for some runs, doing some more shopping for expedition gear and first aid kit purchases for Borneo. I also went to see some Sydney festival stuff. Monday is when I went down to the State Library of New South Wales. The oldest one in the state that was the home of Sydney Festival's 'Quiet Volume'. The bio of the event says 'The Quiet volume is a whispered, automatic performance for two people at at time. Given headphones, participants are asked to follow instructions as they sit at a table with a stack of books and a notepad. Sitting side-by-side and immersed in the written word, they respond to the private rituals and space around them. Suddenly, the conjuring magic of language and the quietest sound can become vivid and mind-blowing, even deafening. Best of all, the librarian will never know.'
Not really expecting much I was pleasantly surprised by the sounds, the instructions given, the interaction with the unknown person taking part next to you and the frantic flicking of pages. I left thinking I should pick up a book and get immersed in a fictional story although I doubt it could surpass this audio-visual treat I just experienced. From there I popped my head into the gallery upstairs before heading home.
Tuesday's treat was on Sydney's hottest day so far, but that didn't stop me from getting to the 'Waste not' exhibition by artist Song Dong at Carriageworks. This exhibition represents the process of mourning and remembrance of the artist's mother following her husband's (his father's) death. It is basically is a collection of rubbish collected by his mother over the years following her husbands death. The collection includes shoes of all sizes, plastic bags, empty toothpastes, empty bottles, tools and so much more. It was a combination of China's 'waste not' mentality and the mother trying to fill the void. The artist then took all the possessions and he now regularly puts them on display in galleries all over the world as a travelling expo! Weird and fascinating at the same time.
For Wednesday, Mark and I got tickets to the 'Concrete and bone' show at Dulwich hill skate park. The description lists it as 'an exiting confrontation between bodies and wheels set among the concrete, cracks, curves and graffiti of a skate park'. It was my favourite event so far encompassing and impressive mix of theatrical dance, amazing breakdancing, crazy parkour with a mind blowing display of skateboarding and BMX biking! We managed to get front row seats at the edge of a half pipe where several times during the show a BMX bike would be catapulted 6 foot in the air right in front of us! Very cool.
On Thursday the 10th my friend Chris arrived from England and on the Friday he was keen to explore Bondi beach and the surroundings. We did just that right after my phone interview with the heads of the emergency department at Canberra hospital. I think it went well and it ended with 'I think you will fit right in here'. Sounds promising... I'll keep you posted.
That ends week 15. For my 16th week I show Chris around Sydney, go see London's West End Dance spectacular 'Blaze' at the Sydney Opera house and fly up to Queensland for some camping at the Whitsunday islands. Take care and as always let me know if you like the blog or you have any questions by using the comment box bellow.
That's all for now, until next time.

Friday, 25 January 2013

Week 14 – Sydney new years & Wollongong, Australia

Fred's world tour

Week 14 – Sydney new years & Wollongong, Australia

29th of December until the 4th of January 2013

In brief:

  1. Do my first 5km run with local running club.

  2. Go see the Freemasons DJs live in concert and get to the front of the stage.

  3. Visit the Sydney Olympic park and swim in the Olympic pool.

  4. See my first ever 20/20 cricket game in the Sydney Olympic stadium.

  5. Queue up for hours to get in the perfect spot at Mrs Macquarie's point for the world famous Sydney harbour new year's eve fireworks.

  6. Snorkel in the nearby Gordon's bay.

  7. Meet up with Sana and Dan, friends from university for lunch in Sydney's Chinatown.

  8. Visit nearby Wollongong and do the Illawarra Fly treetop walk.

  9. Explore the surrounding forests and coastline of Wollongong including a 'blowhole'.

  10. Sample the Wollongong night life with a 'retro' themed night out.

  11. Go to a real Buddhist temple and learn calligraphy.

  12. Watch a pro's polo match at the world famous Iceberg Bondi pool.

I have started to feel like a resident and less like a tourist here. I hence stumbled across a local running club that meet up at centennial park on Saturday mornings. They run together in two groups. One does a 5km loop of the park and the other a 12km run. The latter start at 7:30am and run to Bronte beach for a quick dip in a sea pool then back to the park. Once back, both groups go to get a bacon and egg roll from the park cafe. To ease myself in, I did the the 5km run first. The pace was ok for a chat as you run and then the breakfast was an amazing way to get to meet new people with similar interests. Unfortunately for me I still had a 5km run back home so I skipped the food and left it for next week when perhaps I would do the 12km run. Other than that my first day of this week consisted of going into the centre for yet more shopping for expedition gear. What is extra frustrating is that on one street several shops sell the same thing but with a huge variation in price. Sometimes half or even a third of the price so I did plenty of comparing for the best deal. Once back at Bondi I went to the fitness first ( Gym for probably my last time on Tony's free December guest pass. What was great about this gym is the size of it, the variety of equipment and the outdoor shaded workout terrace! Not only that, but the view from the terrace while you workout is fantastic. Australians really know how to do gyms (on top of several other things)!


For Saturday night I stumbled across an advert for the well know Freemasons DJs from the UK. They were doing a gig in Sydney and the tickets hadn't sold out yet! So brilliant, I got myself a ticket and as I couldn't get anyone keen enough to join me I went alone. That didn't worry me though as I met lots of people at the front of the stage where I stayed pretty much all night. Freemasons came on and did an amazing DJ set and I really enjoyed myself. So much so that I lost track of time and decided that by 5am I probably should head home ;-) . What was also funny is that this night club is called 'HOME nightclub' and the event was named 'HOMEsexuals featuring the Freemasons'! As in, sexual beings in love with HOME nightclub. I thought was quite clever play on words.


The next day I had organised with my friend Mark to go visit Sydney's Olympic park where the 2000 Olympics were held. Mark showed me round this iconic sight including the real Olympic flame cauldron which has now been made into a fountain. I also saw the names of Brits that won medals immortalised in stone at its base.


We also went to see the aquatic centre and swam lengths in the pool not to mention traverse the inflatable obstacle course. Both Mark and I kicked ass on the obstacle course by the way. What was a shame was that the diving area was closed so I couldn't pretend to be Tom Daley for a moment.



Mark and I on the podium

After the swim we caught a quick bite to eat and headed to the Olympic stadium where Marks' name was on the 'thank you poles' outside the entrance. As as sign of gratitude for Mark's donation and volunteer work his name was immortalised by being engraved on these decorative poles still standing outside the stadium today! Very cool.


Mark also managed to get us tickets to see my first ever 20:20 cricket match between the Sydney Thunders and the Sydney Sixers from premium seats! It was very cool. The atmosphere was electric, the live music entertaining and the seats perfect. It was a win for the Sixers but I still left the stadium holding a cool green thunderbolt in support of the Sydney Thunders! :-)


The 31st of December 2012 was the day that I try to make my way to the best point in the harbour to observe the New Years fireworks. These fireworks are world famous so I wasn't expecting it to be easy. The queue to get into Mrs Macquarie's point was almost 2km long with people having camped out the night before to get the best spot. I made my way over about 11am and by 3pm I was inside and lying under a tree killing time. Lots and lots of time! I brought food, a book and picnic blanket. The original plan was for Tony and Daithi to come and join me but as the queues were horrendous they stayed home which was probably a wise choice. The time soon passed. There were aerial plane acrobatics, boat jet-water display, warm up fireworks at 9pm and a lit up boat parade to help keep us entertained. By this time I had packed up my picnic blanket and made my way through the crowds to the very tip of Mrs Macquarie's point! Pleased with myself I was able to appreciate the 9pm fireworks from the front row and be in the best place in the world for the midnight fireworks. They definitely didn't disappoint. It was epic! They went on for 20mins and I was so close my ribcage shook with every bang. The colours were breathtaking, the views impeccable and I managed to get great footage on my camera to remember the occasion. Once it was all finished I was pleased with myself that I had invested all the time in getting to this amazing spot. I even got chatting to some nice Columbians next to me. They had queued from 10pm the night before! I took some still pictures before being quickly ushered away from Mrs Macquarie's point. The Opera house and harbour bridge were lit up and there was a smokey haze that remained from the fireworks giving that extra nice touch to the pics. All in all a great experience.


To finish my new year in style I walked with the crowds to some bars and got a few drinks before getting my tired soul to bed. En route I sent out all my New Years wishes to my friends and family most of which were bemused by my messages because they still had 12 hours to go.

The first day of 2013 was spent recovering from the events of the last few days, relaxing in the sun, playing on Tony's Wii console and also going to Gordon's bay with Daithi for a snorkel. It is so nice to just be able to drive 10mins down the road and be snorkelling Australia's rocky shores!

On the Wednesday I was also fortunate enough to meet up with two of my friends from med school who had come to Sydney for the fireworks. Sana and Dan had recently got married and moved to the Gold coast to work for a year before starting specialist training back in the UK. We had a great little catch up over some tasty Chinese food in China town. I then left them to get some sightseeing done with the hope of catching up with them again in January when I go visit Queensland.


For the last two days of week 14 of my round the world trip I spend more time applying for jobs and headed to a town south of Sydney called Wollongong. I met up with my friend Mark there. 'Gong' (as the locals call it) is where Mark works so he showed me around. We checked out the beach and then headed into the mountains to walk around the lush green forests that surround the town. One of the best ways to see this is with a huge elevated walkway that allows you to walk high up in the tree canopy. is just that. The impressive metal construction also has a huge tower which takes you much higher than the tree tops and give you a great view of Wollongong and the surrounding area.


From there we headed to some walking trails and saw a big waterfall. At this point we realised that Australian park rangers, here at least, grossly overestimates the time it takes to do a walking trail. A sign that said a trail would take 3hours took us less than one hour! Made us giggle. Its the other extreme from Bolivia where a '5 minute' walk would take forty-five!

Curious by the name and also this apparent 'costal phenomenon', Mark and I headed to the 'Blowhole'. It was a great coastal rocky point to appreciate the coast in the afternoon. The Blowhole however was not that impressive. I'm sure in the right weather conditions the might be a big jet of water projected into the air from the natural hole in the rock but on this day I could’ve made a bigger splash by jumping in the water myself! :-)

From the 'amazing' blowhole we went to the pool for a quick swim, had a great fresh fish dinner and went out to sample the Wollongong nightlife at a Retro themed night. The locals definitely brought their best dance moves which was pretty entertaining to watch.

On my last day I went for an early morning 5km run along the gorgeous Wollongong coastline. I have definitely got to love these ;-) and what better way to start the day than with the world's best poached egg breakfast. I was pleasantly surprised. Our first stop today was to explore a big Buddhist temple and walk around the grounds. Bizzarely there is this huge temple here but you don't see me complaining as it was stunning and I really enjoyed the Caligraphy session. We sat in a beautifully decorated classroom and copied some chinese characters holding the special pen in the special way. It was unexpectedly quite satisfying.

We then took the coastal road back to Sydney which was very impressive and we managed to get to Sydney in time so that I could go watch a waterpolo match. It was taking place at the iconic Iceberg salt water pool in Bondi. A mixture of international level players were playing against the local club the Aussie Sharks. The 'international all stars' consisted of three times Olympic gold medallist Tamas Kasas, Olympic silver medallist Deni Fiorentini as well as other world champions. It was a great setting to watch my first pro waterpolo match. I didn't pay the fortune to watch the game pool-side but got a great view from the coastal path that runs just above it. The result was 9-8 to the Aussie sharks in case you're wondering. A lot can be said for team play in this case because the All Stars team haven't really played as a team together before which I'm sure is why they lost. Remember everyone, there is no 'I' in team! ;-)



That ends my 14th week. Next week I go on a 12km run to Bronte beach with the local running club, sample lots of the Sydney arts festival events and of course persevere with job applications. Let me know if you like the blog, feel free to comment below or send link to a friend. That's all for now, until next time.


Monday, 21 January 2013

Week 13 – Christmas in Sydney, Australia

Fred's world tour

Week 13 – Christmas in Sydney, Australia

22nd until the 28th of December 2012

In brief:

  1. Feed cute little possums in a wildlife animal rescue centre.

  2. Shop for Christmas presents while listening to carols in the mall on a 32oC sunny day!

  3. Experience my first Aussie summer Christmas.

  4. Watch the Sydney to Hobart yacht race.

  5. Make the most of the sales and go expedition gear shopping for Borneo.

  6. Attempt to burn all the Christmas junk that I consumed.

  7. Watch Russell Crowe and Hugh Jackman sing their way through Les Miserables.

My visit to Canberra last week was great and I could have stayed longer. However, I made a promise to help out with feeding some possums at the animal rescue centre with Daithi. So after a long morning 12km run I went around the local neighbourhoods with Daithi cutting a few branches off trees and sticking them in the boot for the possums. Daithi is part of WIRES which is a charitable network of carers to rescue and support injured wildlife . They take it in turns to feed the animals at the rescue centre and also take care of an injured animal in their own homes. For example a bird injured by a dog or a cat would be picked up by a volunteer and nursed to good health until it can be released. Daithi had recently acquired a tiny chick bird after a dog found the nest. Daithi has had to feed it through a pipette every 40mins luckily he's already on holiday. With a boot full of branches and an ice-cream container made into a makeshift nest off we went to the rescue centre. We changed the possum's water, chopped up some fruit and put in the new branches for them.


There was also an aviary with three baby kookaburras who were simply beautiful and make the most unusual calling sound:


After feeding the possums we went to where the bird Daithi is caring for was found. Daihi explained that sometimes if you go back to where the chick was found within 4days the parents would still be around and may 'take it back'. After an hour of trying there was no joy so back home we went. Later that week the chick started to refuse feeds and gently passed away. From the way he was moving around the box it looked like the dog had broken its leg and severely damaged its wing so it might have not survived long anyway. Daithi gave it the best chance.

With the run up to Christmas we went out to dinner with some of my hosts' friends and I did some Christmas shopping for the Kris Kringle we were having at the house on the 25th. It had a 10 dollar maximum and we had to get three gifts each. On Christmas day itself my hosts went to a family lunch but then would return in the evening. That left me to go for a run to Bondi beach, get a picture with the beach Christmas tree and talk to the volunteer lifeguards working on Christmas day. Unfortunately it was a cloudy day but that didn't detract from anything. There was even a cute infant dressed in a Santa costume at the base of the tree on the beach!


After a small lunch I was keen to go for a Christmas swim on Bondi beach as I heard that normally there would be thousands of people on the beach in their swimwear and Santa hats. Unfortunately after the cloudy skies of the morning came a thunderstorm bringing with it lots of rain and lightning. Halfway to the beach I decided to turn back as it seemed to be getting worse. Oh well. So much for that Christmas day swim! That evening was great. I did miss being with my family as this was the first time in my whole life that I was without them on Christmas day. My hosts made me feel part of their family and I had a great day regardless. The food was impeccable, the conversations entertaining and the presents comical. What more could one want in Australia?... well, a sunny day would've been nice too. Despite the rain I still got to cook some ‘shrimp on the barby’ on Christmas day!


Boxing day was completely different in terms of weather. The sun was out, the breeze was gently blowing and it all made for the perfect day to go out and watch the Sydney to Hobart yacht race. This is a race that happens every year starting on boxing day in Sydney and arrives into Hobart, Tazmania a few days later. Its 1,170km long trip and the record is 1day, 18hours and 23min set by Wild oats XI. Wild oats is evidentially the biggest and faster craft but there are plenty of smaller ones that take up to 7days to get there. I go to the south head of Watsons Bay about 1hour before race time. The walk towards the very tip was beautiful with the clean sandy beaches of Watsons bay and camp cove having the striking Sydney down-town skyline as a backdrop. Once at the tip I managed to get a great spot with view of all the boats 'warming up' near the start line.


At 12am the starting gun went off and the boats tacked across the start line. Soon the colourful jibs were up and flying. The chaotic swarm of spectator boats were following the action from outside the designated raceboat channel which simply added to this seaborne spectacle. This race is not only world famous for its long distance and technical difficulty but for the armada of boats of all sizes that take to the seas on this one day a year. Truly impressive.


With no hope of getting a bus away from the south head I laid on the fortress wall and relaxed watching the boats get smaller and smaller as they got further away. I then made my way along the coastal path south towards Bondi. The path here is on the top of the beautiful high cliffs. I does have multiple information boards giving counselling advice and phone numbers for those that feel they want to commit suicide. Unfortunately this area is know for this. There are messages written on the rock with words such as 'goodbye' and 'sorry' from people that have previously jumped off!


I then managed to catch a bus back. Nothing could be nicer on Boxing day than eating left over Christmas food and enjoying a good film. The next few days of this week I spent trying to not eat more chocolate and failing miserably. I also went shopping for Borneo expedition gear in the January Sales and I attempted to compensate for the overeating by going to the gym or running. I also met up with my new friend Mark for food and go see 'Les Miserables' film with my buddy Simon. Watching Russell Crowe and Hugh Jackman sing their way through a film and being in a cinema where 80% of the people cried was quite the experience! :-)

Once again a brilliant week that just flew by. Next week I go see the Freemasons DJs group, visit the Sydney Olympic park, see my first ever 20/20 cricket game, attempt to watch the Sydney harbour fireworks from a good spot and visit the town of Wollongong.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Week 12 – Sydney and Canberra, Australia

Fred's world tour
Week 12 – Sydney and Canberra, Australia
15th until the 21st of December 2012
In brief:
  1. More beautiful runs, gym and chillaxing.
  2. Attend a traditional Australian family birthday barbecue in Australia's semi-outback.
  3. Travel to Canberra the Nation's Capital.
  4. See Australia's oldest bonsai trees.
  5. Visit the inside and stand on the roof of Australia's parliament house.
  6. Trek up to the Telstra tower for a perfect view of Canberra in the setting sun.
  7. Visit Australia’s best galleries and museums.
  8. Listen to the sounds of one of the world's biggest instruments, the National Carillon.
  9. Watch an art-house film at the National film and Sound Archive of Australia.
  10. See the light and video show spectacle at the War memorial museum.
  11. Learn about Australia's origins and see the architecturally splendid National Museum.
It feels like the last two weeks have absolutely flown by and I've loved every minute. Well... having said that... calling lots of hospitals and making multiple applications without being too fruitful has been quite tough. Regardless, while the job search continues I enjoy more beautiful runs along the coast and also to local parks like Waverley or Centennial park. I spend time with my hosts, cool down in the waters of Bondi beach and get some vitamin D by chilling in the morning sun.
This week I also got invited to accompany my hosts to a birthday party in the countryside. It was for Rosie's birthday who is Tony's brother's wife. It was a 2hour drive due north-west towards a place called Campbell town along route 5! The party was at a farm house and because Tony has a big Italian family it was a pretty big gathering. I got the opportunity to chat to a fair few people, try my best Italian to talk to Tony's relatives and sampled the food at this authentic Australian 'barby' with an Italian twist. The food was plentiful and the desserts magnificent. This was my first taste of the Australian outback and because its comparatively not too far from Sydney apparently it can't be called the 'outback'. So... as I couldn't really see many other houses nearby and it was pretty hot I'm going to refer to this place as the 'semi-outback' :-)
However amazing the last two weeks have been by simply living in one place, my tourist cap was starting to get sad. So off I planned a trip to the Nation's capital, Canberra. It was a three and a half hours away from Sydney on a wi-fi bus so I couldn’t complain. Canberra is Australia's capital city and its in the state called the Australian Capital Territory (funnily enough). It is actually a purpose built city. In 1901 when the colonies were federated and became states there was a strong rivalry between Sydney and Melboune as to which one should be the capital. It was then decided to build a new place halfway between both cities and by 1927 Canberra took over from Melbourne as the capital city. Canberra is strategically planned to make the most of the hilly wilderness. Its clearly divided in zones centred around an artificial lake. Famous for its political assembly and cultural richness. There are more museums, galleries, sights, activities, shopping and night-life than you can shake a stick at. Absolutely perfect for a tourist but has the reputation of being dull by the locals. At first glance I can't imagine why (not sarcastic by the way). On my arrival I headed straight for the youth hostel passing the shopping and bars area and was hugely impressed. There were lots of activities for adults and the kids. They even had rides on camel which I thought was strange.
At the hostel I checked in, read the guidebook a bit more and planned a route. With sun cream on, sunglasses, hat and a bottle of water off I went into the mid-day heat. It was pretty hot but I was on a mission. My first stop was the Commonwealth park on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin. The artificial lake was the vision of Burley Griffin that wanted to turn the most undesirable place in Australia into the vibrant city it is today. Within this park there was a Bonsai garden which was serene and housed the oldest beautifully shaped bonsai trees in Australia. From there I toured the shores of the lake and was shocked to see people running and cycling in the mid-day heat here but good on them. I passed the Captain cook memorial and crossed the road to the government zone where I saw the world's embassies in one place. Each architecturally designed by their respective countries which is rare I believe. I particularly like the Papa New Guinea embassy.
I then walked to capital hill to the hugely impressive parliament house. Set to look like it was built within a grassy hill. You can even walk on the slopping grass sides. Almost like a modern day hobbit house from Lord of the Ring :-) After a few pictures outside I managed to join the last guided tour. The really entertaining guide took us round the house of representatives and the senate. He showed us some interesting decorative ancient tapestry and gave us interesting information about the objects in the different places. For example, did you know the two highly decorated boxes either side of the centre table in the house of representatives were traditionally used to deliver the results of the discussion to the king for his approval? Now completely obsolete obviously because the monarchy has no power in the house of representatives. Also did you know on their coat of arms there is a kangaroo and an emu? It turns out that this is because both can't walk backwards. Interesting. This place also holds one of the four surviving copies of the 1297 Magna Carta which is a 700yr old manuscript that is the 'foundation stone of constitutional and parliamentary government'. This manuscript basically details in writing that 'no one in society is above the law; not the king nor his subjects, not the government nor the governed'. (ref 1)
After this it was getting late so museums were closing I hopped on a bus to the university and walked the empty campus streets to the base of Black mountain. This mountain is 812m tall and at the top it has the Telstra communications tower, restaurant and viewing platform. With no means of public transport off I walked just in time to catch the setting sun over Canberra. The not so densely laid out city around the lake can easily be admired from there. The sunset was pristine. A long walk back to the hostel ended with a meal cooked by me and a chat to fellow travellers at the hostel. This was then promptly followed by a well deserved sleep.
My second day in Canberra started with and early breakfast and a visit to the old parliament house, which is basically the same layout at the 'new' parliament house only smaller and with a lot more history to it. Unfortunately the guide was not as entertaining as yesterday and in fact overran by 30minutes which didn't help my ambitions schedule for the day. Nevertheless worth the visit if only for the million dollar interactive display exhibit at the back!
My next stop was the National Portrait Gallery, I was probably more impressed by buildings architecture and the bus-sized painting of the queen during her jubilee than the other face paintings/photos. Each one to their own, but taking pictures of people from around the world and displaying them doesn’t really constitute art in my book. I might need to be educated on that one. All I know is that the coffee shop did make an amazing cured beef and mustard baguette!
Once I satisfied my belly I was off across the walkway to the National Gallery of Australia. This was an overwhelming mix of artefacts, paintings, sculptures and outdoor exhibits that made one wish there was more time in the day to see it all. Even before going in I was impressed by the sphere flying in mid-air (actually it was suspended between the High Court of Australia and the Gallery). The outdoor 'skyspace, within without' by James Turrell made for a placid and tranquil start to my visit. I won't try to describe it. Its probably better you check out the pictures or google it.
Once inside I made my way around the highlights including the Aboriginal memorial, the sacred bull Nandi vehicle of shiva statue (11th - 12th century), the Arthur Streeton painting 'Golden summer, Eaglemont' (1889) and my first Claude Monet painting 'Waterlilies' (1914-1917) The spectacle didn't finish there. The gardens has Rodin replicas dotted around, a miniaturised version of Antony Gormley's Angel of the North which stands in full size at Gateshead in England and other astonishing works. One pleasant surprise in the garden were the bells that I could hear across the water which was coming from the National Carillon. One of the world's biggest musical instruments. It comprises of 55 bronze bells and was a gift from the British government to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the nation's capital. I supposedly missed the recital yesterday so it was nice to be able to appreciate the loud and polyphonic sounds of this huge towering instrument.
From the Carillon on Aspen island to the oldest remaining cottage of the Blundells. The Bundells were family that worked on these lands for generations when it was farm land and not the metropolis you see today. The house still stands as one of the only ones in the area which enables us to appreciate how they lived in those days.
With time almost out for my second day I managed to get a seat at the film theatre of the National film and Sound Archive of Australia. They were playing the art-house documentary of a Japanese film maker who followed a family after the Tohoku earthquake that brought a tsunami and that caused a nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima power plant on the 11th of March 2011. There was a Japanese film-maker introducing the film and then they played the film. What is really good about all the things I went to see today is that they have all been free including this film. Well there was a small fee of $2 for the old parliament house.
On my last day I woke up fairly early to meet a friend of a friend for breakfast and then quickly made my way to the Australian War Memorial museum. On the hour they have a spectacular display of lights, video and sounds around real war machines. They had a Lancaster bomber, world war one fighter planes and a Japanese mini-sub that exploded in Sydney harbour  The museum also educated me about the wars that occurred over on this side of the world something that I hadn't learnt much about at school. The memorial part of the museum was pretty impressive too.
The war museum also had a brilliant temporary exhibit called 'Rememberme: the lost diggers of Vignacourt'which tells the story of a photographer that took pictures ofsoldiers passing through the village of Vignacourt during world warone. This French village was near the front line and gave passing soldiersthe opportunity to send a photo-postcard back home. Unfortunatelynone can be identified by name as this was never recorded. Most onshow were Australians.'

I then took a bus across town to the National Museum of Australia. The Lonely planet called this place a 'big abstract Australian storybook using creativity, controversy, humour and self-contradiction' (ref 2). I would say that is a pretty accurate description of what I saw. One moment I was seeing how they preserve and restore museum pieces and then the next I'm watching videos on all the killing of rabbits that plagued the landscape after introduction from Europe. I posed next a real Olympic relay torch and cauldron from the Sydney 2000 olympics, sat in a huge digger scoop and finished by staring at the marvellously odd architecture that houses this museum. My day then finished by a bus ride back to Sydney and an early night to prepare for the weekend's events. All in all it was an amazing week.
Next week I feed possums in a rescue centre, experience my first Aussie summer Christmas, see the start of the Sydney to Hobart yacht race and shop for lots of Borneo expedition gear in the sales.
  2. Lonely Planet – Australia. 16th edition, Nov 2011