Sydney being Sydney

Hey All!

I recently got back from my trip to Sydney with some of my uni mates and it was a amazing! I’ll do my best to share some of the highlights.

Sydney Opera House

On our first day we did a lot of random exploring of the city. We traveled through the Sydney Botanical Gardens and took a million pictures in front of the Opera House and Harbor Bridge. There’s this really pretty area near the end of the Harbor Bridge, called the Rocks, which showcases the oldest part of Sydney.  The area is full of neat alleyways and classic stone buildings. It’s pretty incredible.

Sydney Harbor Bridge

Plus there was a ton of great restaurants in the Rocks area. On my first night a few of us stopped for drinks and pizza at the Australia Hotel.  We indulged in some prawn covered pizzas and my favourite, salt-water crocodile pizza.  I think I’m really going to miss all of this easy access to crocodile meat when I’m home in North America. I really like it!

Croc. Pizza

Our second day was spent exploring the Blue Mountains National Park, which may have been my highlight of the trip.  The Blue Mountains are located about 2 hours West of Sydney.  The area is covered with thousands of hikes. We did about three.

We traveled down and around one set of falls, the Katoomba Cascades, where we witnessed some amazing views. At one point, we stood near the middle of the falls, where it flattened out, and faced this incredible backdrop of the Blue Mountain skyline.  I couldn’t help but run up and slightly under the falls, they were so pretty! Plus we were kinda hot from all the hiking up and down the mountain.

Katoomba Cascades

Our next big adventure in the Blue Mountains involved a 900 stair climb down to the bottom of the Three Sisters rock formation and then a 900 stair climb back up.  It wasn’t the smartest idea we had that day, but I certainly won’t forget it any time soon! The ‘stairs’ were incredibly narrow and uneven; plus it was really windy in this area. I recommend taking a trail back up from the Three Sisters stair climb, rather than the 900 stair climb up.

Three Sisters Stair Climb

The Three Sisters rock formation is a pretty famous part of the Blue Mountains. There is this legend that the mother of the Three Sisters turned the girls into stone to protect them from would-be male suitors.

Three Sisters formation to my right. (your left)

After spending the day hiking through the mountains, we decided to spend our third day at the beach. Manly beach to be exact. We took a ferry from the Sydney Harbor out to the beach, which provided us with beautiful views of the Opera House and Harbor Bridge.

Watching Sailboats from the Ferry

Later that evening we explored Sydney’s red light district, in the King’s Cross area, which is also where our hostel was located. Needless to say there was a lot of random encounters and interesting locals. I didn’t mind staying in the Kings-Cross area, but I might try somewhere a little less “colourful” next time!

Iconic Coca-Cola Sign in King's Cross

On my fourth day in Sydney, I finally had the chance to try surfing. I went to Bondi Beach for this endeavor. My friend and I had the very intelligent idea of teaching ourselves to surf.  We hired boards for about an hour and paddled around the Bondi surf. Given that we had no clue what we were doing, I think we fared well. However, next time, I’ll pay for a lesson!

Post Bondi Surf Adventure

Finally, the last part of the trip was spent exploring the weekend markets, watching street entertainment and touring the city.  I really recommend Sydney. I’m incredibly happy living in Brisbane, but Sydney was a great city to vacation to.  There’s so much history, a great night life, beaches and lots of national parks to visit.  All things I really enjoy.

Group in front of the Opera House

That’s it from me for now. My mid-semester break started today and I’m off to New Zealand tomorrow to check out some World Rugby games. I’ll be back in about 10 days. I’ll do my best to update the blog while I’m over there, but I make no promises!

GO CANADA!!!

How To Travel Like A Hippie

I call this post “how to travel like a hippie”, inspired by Urbe Secades Gonzalez.

I’d been bugging my uni friend Urbe, about doing a weekend trip, according to her hippie rules, for a few weeks now and last week we finally set out on this adventure. The following is our adventure according to the hippie rules:

Rule #1 – Choose your destination, but don’t plan any itinerary, make it up as you go along.

We decided to travel about 2 hours north to the Sunshine Coast, in particular to Noosa.  It’s a small beach town with a very friendly atmosphere. Once we decided where we were going we could ask around about places to stay and things to do, but we weren’t permitted to look at any pictures. That would have spoiled the discovery of our new surroundings!

Noosa Head's Beach

Rule #2 – Travel with a random group of friends from various backgrounds.

Four of us decided to make the trip to Noosa last weekend: an Englishman, a Scottish Lad, the Crazy Spaniard and one Canuck. It ended up being pretty interesting learning about everyone’s backgrounds, which gave us lots to talk about on our extremely long journey to and from Noosa.

The Englishman, Crazy Spaniard, Scottish Lad, and Canuck

Rule #3 – Take the cheapest transportation possible.

We traveled to Noosa by way of public transit, which meant that the normal 2 hour drive to Noosa was closer to 4 hours with all of the buses, trains and then more buses that we had to take.  However, it was very affordable at about $7 each way.  Plus you meet all kinds of interesting people on the local buses and trains.

One of the 3 buses we road that day.

Rule #4 – Purchase your meals at the grocery store, then picnic on the beach.

For about $8 we were able to cover our costs for breakfast and lunch.  On our first morning, we decided to eat our breakfast on the beach.  We didn’t intend to spend too much time on the Noosa Head’s Beach, but it was so beautiful that we all laid around for several hours simply soaking in the beautiful scenery and warm spring day.  In the afternoon, we finally said goodbye to the Noosa Head’s Beach and hiked through a state park, to a nearly private beach in the middle of the state park (Alexandra Beach).  Here we stopped for lunch and little more lounging

Breakfast on the beach

Rule #5 – Keep your entertainment cheap and easy.

Throughout the weekend we spent most of our time lounging around and swimming at the beaches.  They were incredibly beautiful.  And, despite what the locals say, the water really wasn’t that cold.  I also loved the hike we did along the Pacific Ocean from Noosa Head’s Beach through to Alexandra Beach.  It was incredible to scale the beautiful hillside along the ocean. Hiking along the ocean is something I can’t do back home; so it was a really sweet opportunity to experience such views.

View of Alexandra Beach

Rule #6 – Find the cheapest accommodations possible.

On our final night we decided it was “warm” enough to sleep on the beach. I was a little skeptical because I wasn’t sure if we were even allowed to sleep on the beach, and it still gets relatively cold at night. Despite these apprehensions, we all still really wanted to spend the night under the stars, so we made it happen.

Beach Camp-Out

We found a few small sand dunes along the Sunshine Beach and set up camp in between them for the night. It turns out that 4 layers of clothing and a sleeping bag good to about 5 degrees was ALMOST warm enough for the camp out! All in all, it was an incredible experience. We all woke up at 5 am and watched the sunrise, and then slept in until about 8am when it was warm enough to crawl out of the sleeping bags.

Sunshine Beach Sunrise

Rule #7 – Get to know the locals.

One thing that really stuck out about the Sunshine Coast, and Noosa area in particular, was how friendly the locals were.  Everyone was more than happy to help the four of us navigate our way around.  Whether it be offering us a ride to the bus stop or looking after our backpacks in the local surf club, as we watched a World Rugby Game, the people were super easy-going and accommodating.

On the morning that we woke up on the beach, a man came over and started chating with us.  I was a little nervous that he was going to give us trouble for sleeping on the beach, but instead, he simply encouraged our travels, wished us well and told us to keep “living the dream.”

My weekend with Urbe was definitely my best weekend in Oz to date. I highly recommend travelling according to Urbe’s hippie standards!

As a final, and unrelated note, I thought I’d quickly mention my new job.  Unfortunately, cheap hippie trips do still cost money, so I decided I’d get a job to help out with my bills for a little while.  As part of my visa requirements I’m allowed to work up to 20 hours a week, which is more than enough when you’re trying to travel and keep up with school!

Hard working polling station clerks.

Over the last two weeks, the Uni has been holding their student elections and I’ve gotten a job as a polling station clerk, as well as an official counter of these votes.  I’m not gonna lie, it hasn’t been the most interesting job, but like most jobs in Australia, it pays pretty well.  The minimum wage for this position was is just over $20 an hour. Needless to say throughout my last two weeks of working for the school elections, I’ve made enough to cover 4 more hippie adventures!

Next stop: Sydney, Australia!

RIVERFIRE!!!

This post needs no other name than Riverfire! 

When I first found out that I was to be going on exchange to Brisbane, Australia, I immediately started researching the city and area.  I quickly found all these pictures of amazing fireworks displays and was incredibly happy to discover that I would be living here during this fireworks event.  This event is known as Riverfire.  It marks the beginning of a cultural festival here in Brisbane (also known as Brisbane Festival).

The Festival runs for about three weeks, and throughout these weeks there’s various shows, art displays and concerts.  Much these acts are free to the public as well.  So far, my obvious favourite is Riverfire.

Group at Riverfire

This Saturday afternoon, my friends and I headed to downtown Brisbane and found ourselves a perfect spot to watch the fireworks, right in front of the Brisbane River.  The Majority of the fireworks were lit off over the river, with a fair amount also being lit off of several downtown skyscrapers.

It’s funny because my friend and ended up saving seats for our group for over two hours, so by the time the fireworks started we were getting really irritable. However, as soon as the first few were lit off, our moods completely changed and we couldn’t have been happier.

Riverfire with Southbank in the background

You know those moments in life where there’s no where else in the world you rather be, but right where you are? (That’s probably a quote from a song, I’m sorry for being incredibly cheesy). However, I felt so lucky to be sitting by the Brisbane River, on the other side of the planet, surrounded by great friends, and seeing this beautiful fireworks display going off all around me.

Riverfire was beyond my expectations. It was non-stop for over 20 minutes! It rained fireworks from the river! The display was perfectly timed to some of my favourite songs! I completely understand why over 500,000 people travel to the downtown every year to watch the fireworks.

I could go on and on, but I think I made my point. In the meantime, I’ve posted a video of the finale onto Youtube. I’ve also attached the link to it. Hopefully it will give you a better idea of why I’m so crazy for riverfire.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7WcQ61GTPco

Cheers!

A Little Publicity for the Program

Last Tuesday I received an email from a producer from the Canadian Broadcasting  Corporation (CBC). He worked for the CBC radio show, Ontario Morning.  Apparently, he saw my blog, which was posted on my university’s website and to my surprise, he found it so intriguing that he asked if I would be interested in doing a live interview on Thursday morning. I was so excited I immediately said “YES!”. Of course, afterwards, I freaked out for several hours realizing that I would be speaking LIVE across Southwestern Ontario.

Most of my friends and family back home can attest to the fact that, while I don’t mind public speaking, I OFTEN, say stupid, foot-in-the-mouth type things, without thinking. Naturally, I was pretty nervous that I would say something of that sort.

In order to prevent such a terrifying outcome, I spent about 4 hours studying for the interview; which I realize now is a little nutty given the fact that I knew the interview would only be about 6 minutes long.  At any rate, the producer was very interested in hearing about the differences I’ve found between my studies here and back home. I did my best to portray my personal feelings about these differences and overall, I really enjoyed the experience of being on the radio back home.

If someone had told me before I left for Australia, that I’d be on the CBC two months into this adventure, I would have told them they were crazy.  I’ve been incredibly lucky during my time here. I’ve had some amazing opportunities land in my lap and I genuinely appreciate all of these little surprises. The Best part is, I’m not even half way through this journey, so there’s lots of time for more unexpected and exciting adventures!

If your interested in hearing the interview, check it out at:

http://www.cbc.ca/ontariomorning/episodes/2011/09/01/aussie-blogger/

This is me signing off for now!