A Travellerspoint blog

The search for climbing begins...

Flinders ranges (walking in the rain), Adelaide (gathering information), Waitapinga (climbing!), Car Crash Crag (poor attempts at climbing)


View October 2011- July 2012 on Laura Mitchell's travel map.

So we escaped the outback and are now hunting down some climbing in the camper...

Day 1: Flinders Ranges- 9.12.11

Went to Wilpena Pound national park to do some climbing but it was raining and we had no guidebook so first fail. we decided to do a walk round the national park instead so as to not waste the 2 hour drive. We got very wet walking for 5 hours in the rain, but saw a few Kangaroos and got a nice view of the flinders range. Afterwards we drove down South past Port Augusta and stayed the night in a picnic spot situated between a railway line and a highway (nice and quiet…)

Flinders Range Panorama

Flinders Range Panorama

Adelaide – 10.12.11

Made it into the city where the only thing we did was to get some lunch and then go to a Scout Outdoors Centre shop to get a climbing guide and some advice. The nice assistant there “Roo” told us the best places to go around the area, so we bought a guidebook and were on our way down south to stay at a campsite in Victor Harbour which was a 15 minute drive from our climbing destination.

Actual Climbing Day 1: 11.12.11

Waitpinga – Cephalopod Crag
Pretty cool massive slab down a long decent gully right to the bottom of the sea cliffs. All of us Lead a couple of very easy climbs (Grade 13's- for grade conversion use google, I cant remember off the top of my head... ), then I top-roped a pretty good grade 19 climb lead by Nathan, then had an epic fail on a 23 (did the 16 grade section fine but then came off at the crux when it turned into harder grade). Cool climbing though massive swell meant we had to be a bit careful where we sat.

Climbing at Waitpinga

Climbing at Waitpinga

The Bluff – The Pleasure Dome
“Worlds best 5m grade 14” quick stop off to try and get each of us in the pose on the front of the guidebook. What the picture doesn’t show is the drop below it, therefore the 10 minutes trying to coax me to lean out over the edge, and another 10 minutes trying to figure out how to get into the pose the girl on the front of the guidebook is in (harder than it looks and still didn’t get it quite right!). Then back to camp for steak cooked on a bbq (an after climbing habit picked up from Spain)

Trying to copy Guidebook cover at pleasure dome, but putting my legs in a wierd position instead

Trying to copy Guidebook cover at pleasure dome, but putting my legs in a wierd position instead

The Pleasure Dome

The Pleasure Dome

Climbing Day 2: 12.12.11

Today we drove to Car Crash Crag which wasnt as successful, we couldnt find any reasonably graded sport so we ended up doing an akward unidentified, unknown grade climb (which was OK) and then Nathan had a bit of an epic on a grade 20 which involved going the wrong way, putting in one of the few nuts we had to protect the wrong way, getting back onto the right route, hauling up on the quickdraw, standing on bolts and generally doing everything possible to get to the top, which he did do, so not too much of a fail! anyway after that we gave up and have now driven back to Adelaide to use internet and such. Unfortunately we arent having the most luck finding good sport climbs around the area we are in, hopefully we will make it to the Blue Mountains near Sydney at some point, but at the moment we have to stay between Adelaide and Melbourne to return the Camper at Christmas.

Tomorrow the search continues....

Posted by Laura Mitchell 22:51 Comments (0)

Outback and Ayres rock

Cape Tribulation, Rain, Highway, nothing, rocks, flies, more nothing.


View October 2011- July 2012 on Laura Mitchell's travel map.

The beginning of December marked the start of part two of our Australia Travels; Campervan Month. In Cairns we rented a Toyota Hi-ace Campervan (which was pretty damn expensive as we left it a bit late to book to be picky, but its also massive and pretty well equipped with cutlery, plates, pots and pans, towels, sheets, sleeping bags, 2 double beds, table, chairs, hob, fridge and sink)

Our beautiful, money draining campervan

Our beautiful, money draining campervan

We started of our trip by driving up to Cape Tribulation, a couple of hours drive (and a very short ferry ride of about 2 minutes) North of Cairns, a tourist destination due to being a picturesque rainforest area right by the sea. Unfortunately the whole time we were there it poured with rain so we couldn’t do much other than stop at a couple of lookout points, stay at a very expensive campsite, and watch Nathan make a precarious climb to try and get some coconuts (unfortunately unsuccessful as he was unable to dislodge the coconuts, despite getting to the top of the tree). So we made the drive back to Cairns, stocked up on some supplies (a mossie net and a CD drive to play DVDs in Nathans Net book) and then started our journey to the centre of Australia in earnest.

Nathan up his coconut tree

Nathan up his coconut tree

So the next few days consisted of uneventful driving learning a few valuable lessons like – don’t let Nathan have a McDonalds drink in the car as he will leave it on the side when we drive off and it will spill everywhere – and also some campervan etiquette (wave at everyone else who has a campervan, particularly enthusiastically if they have the same make of campervan).

Pretty soon we realised that there is nothing in the outback so the day routine became; driving on highway, looking at nothing, identify the road kill, look at more nothing, top up the tank with petrol, more nothing, overtake a road train, wave at a driver going the opposite direction, fill up more petrol, cry about how much money you are spending on petrol, look at more nothing, maybe stop in a shop to buy some food, stop for the night (either in a campsite or in a free picnic stop on the side of the road; we alternated between the two) and then look forward to the prospect of more nothing.

Hours of nothing was interspersed with the occasional “Town” where the main event was holding your breath to see how expensive petrol was (seeing as we were having to fill up about twice a day; the record high has been $2.20 per litre), but also our trip had a few other highlights:
•The Devils Marbles (some cool looking rock formations on the side of the road).
•Finding a petrol station which sold Cornettos for $1.80, rather than the usual outback price of $4.50. Exciting day.
•Alice Springs, a relatively big town for the outback, a nice break from nothing.
•Stopping in a road house where they had mementos people had left from all over the world and they had a Guernsey Driving license (and the guy lived on my road). Nathan left his Guille Allez Library card.
•Cracking out the Christmas hats and singing Christmas songs on the highway.

So after 5 days of driving we made it to Uluru (Ayres Rock) where you pay for entry into the national park and they give you maps and such of the walks in the surrounding area. The first day we arrived around 4pm so we visited the cultural centre where there was some information about aboriginal culture (and also some very overpriced aboriginal art for sale) and had our first look at Ayres rock. We then spent the night in another overpriced campsite, and the second day we got up early and went for a guided “Mala” walk. The walk consisted of walking round part of Ayres Rock learning about which caves the Aboriginal Mala people used and what for, looking at the cave paintings, hearing stories about evil spirits chasing the Mala tribe and looking at where waterfalls flow over the edge when it rains. We learnt a bit about Aboriginal culture and the way they see evidence of the existence of ancestral spirits by how the rock is shaped, though too much detail to go into now (Google it).

Look, Ayres Rock!

Look, Ayres Rock!

After a quick visit to the other side of Ayres rock (where there is a permanent water hole) we made the 50km drive to other less well known area of the national park; Kata Tjuta. Here we had lunch (to stay out the 36 degree midday sun) then did the surrounding walks; Walpa Gorge and Valley of Winds. The walks were good but the sun was extremely strong and there were a lot of flies around, making it a little uncomfortable! However we did it, tick it of the life list, move on. The rest of the evening was spent giving tired German cyclists a lift, watching the sun set at Ayres rock, stealing a free shower from the campsite then doing a bit of stressful night driving through a flock of suicidal birds to get to a free camping area down the highway.

We were then back to driving though nothing, though stop off towns started to get a bit bigger (we stopped in a mining town called Coober Peddy where Nathan finally got his way and we went to a museum, and in the evening we went to a local nativity/carol event which we only caught the end of as we didn’t realise the clocks had gone forward an hour). However now we are more to the South, and starting to hunt down climbing areas (we are in a campsite in the Flinders range, however with forecasted rain tomorrow and no guide its not looking promising) so hopefully that marks the end of hours and hours of driving to nothing, and the beginning of some climbing! (next stop is Adelaide and then onto Melbourne, with some climbing stops in between and the Great Ocean Road).

So far in the 9 days we have had the camper just over 4,800km…

Posted by Laura Mitchell 22:17 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Great Barrier Reef Diving

Live Aboard boats, sharks, turtles, fish, night diving, sea sickness and Vegemite

sunny
View October 2011- July 2012 on Laura Mitchell's travel map.

Great Barrier Reef Diving

We have finally reached the end of our Grey hound bus route and arrived in Cairns a few days ago. For the past four days I left the boys to their own devices and went on a live aboard diving trip. After an hour and a half transfer boat (with lots of people throwing up/being thrown up on) we arrived at the boat I would call home for the next few days.

The boat was pretty nice, with three levels, a dive deck, a saloon for eating and cabins on the bottom, wetsuit storage and more cabins in the middle, and a sun deck and library on the top. I had my own cabin for the trip with an ensuite bathroom (as the boat wasn’t full and I was travelling by myself) which was pretty luxury!

Each day followed a specific routine involving getting up at 5.30am, first dive at 6am, breakfast, then the option of another dive at 8am. We would then go pick up any new people getting on the boat and go to a new dive site for another dive at 11am. Lunch was then at 12pm and a dive at 1pm for the people who had just joined the boat. We would then move sites again for a 4pm dive, dinner at 6pm and finally a night dive at 7pm. Each day we could choose between 4 dives.

We rotated between a few different dive sights; East Timor, Whale Bommie, Club 10 and Manta Ray Bay. Although the visibility wasn’t great on some days I still saw Sea Turtles, White Tip Reef Sharks, Titan Trigger fish, Butterfly fish, Nemos, a Massive hump headed Wrasse, Parrotfish, Giant Clams, Sea Cucumbers and loads of other fish which I wont mention/cant identify. We also managed to get through some pretty cool dive throughs’ (apparently a small reef shark was swimming next to me through one which my buddy saw but I only glimpsed out the corner of my eye and didn’t identify). After our first dive with a compulsory guide, we were left alone to guide ourselves which lead to a bit of getting lost (though only once we ended up so far from the boat they had to send the tender to tow us back) but mostly worked out pretty well.

Turtle (which we swam with for a while)

Turtle (which we swam with for a while)

Me about to exit a swim through

Me about to exit a swim through

Fishes

Fishes

Interspersed with the diving was sunbathing/napping on the sun deck, eating lots of pretty good food, having to eat spoons of vegemite for punishments for irresponsible diving, a bit of seasickness, getting a rash from coral, having strict 3 minute showers, letting my imagination run a bit wild during night dives with impenetrable black sea all around you, renting underwater cameras, attempting to stay up one evening until midnight with a few drinks, but falling asleep at about 8.30pm both other nights (after getting up at 5.30am and diving all day)

All in all a really good trip, visibility could have been a bit better but definitely improved my confidence with diving as ended up guiding most the dives I was on (though need to work on my navigation for sure!). looking forward to diving again but at the moment just pleased to be back on solid land (though we were all standing swaying in the dive shop as we were so used to being on a moving surface)

P1270460.jpg

Posted by Laura Mitchell 17:41 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

Airlie Beach and Whitsundays Sailing

"Sailing", Cramped living conditions, Steak, Diving, Snorkelling, Stinger Suits, Turtles, 19 Guys, 1 Girl.


View October 2011- July 2012 on Laura Mitchell's travel map.

So we arrived in Airlie beach at 7am in the morning on Saturday and had a pretty uneventful day; we checked into the hostel and then explored the very small area. There was a market in town because it was Saturday, and there is a lagoon here (which is the only option for swimming without a stinger suit because of the jellyfish in the sea) but other than that it’s mainly just a town you go to for a Whitsundays sailing trip.

So on Sunday morning bright and early we checked onto our trip and dropped off all our bags (you couldn’t bring any rucksacks with zips as that is how bed bugs travel apparently). We then walked down to the harbour to get on our boat; The Samurai. The passengers consisted on 19 guys and me. Apparently it’s quite unusual to have a male dominated trip. The boys weren’t particularly thrilled. 7 of the guys on the trip had also been on our Fraser Island tour which was a bit of a coincidence and another one of them had been on Castaway with us in Agnes Waters; so we knew half the people already. The crew consisted of one guy and two girls, so at least I had a little bit of female company. Our boat was quite a small racing boat, so it was quite a snug fit for all our beds; which didn’t matter in the day as we were all on deck, but at night it got SO hot and stuffy even with the doors open that one night I resorted to sleeping on deck at 3am in the morning (which would have been enjoyable with all the stars if the deck hadn’t been so hard and uncomfortable, but I was too happy about the fact I could breathe properly to go back inside)

We spent the first half of our first day “sailing” (we actually motored the whole time on the trip due to inconsistent wind, which was a bit of a shame) to an Island with the famous Whitehaven beach. We moored in Tongue bay and saw a turtle swim right up to our boat, and then we went ashore and walked over the top of the island to stop at the lookout point which had a pretty awesome view…

View point at Whitehaven

View point at Whitehaven

We then walked down to the beach, and donned our extremely attractive stinger suits to go for a swim in the water…

Getting ready to swim at Whitehaven with our attractive Stinger Suits (which are even more attractive when you put up the hoods)

Getting ready to swim at Whitehaven with our attractive Stinger Suits (which are even more attractive when you put up the hoods)

returning to the boat we “sailed” to another bay to put our anchor down for the night. We spent the evening drinking beers and eating steak (the food was really good on the boat, though 19 guys meant things got devoured pretty quick) and it was a really nice evening (until we had to sleep in the hot box). In the morning we were up pretty early and “sailing” to a place called Hayman Island.

When we got there one of the crew members, Ellie, gave an introduction to diving to all of us. Part of our trip was a free “Scuba Experience” which consisted of taking us down in groups of about 4 to experience diving. We only went down a few metres so it was pretty safe; only 3 of us were certified and they were going to let us go off on our own longer dive but cleverly two of us (including me) had forgotten to bring our Paddy cards, so they couldn’t let us go without a guide. It didn’t work out too badly though as the three of us who were certified went together in a group which minimised faff so we got a bit of a longer dive, though still pretty short due to air restrictions. However whilst we waited for the other groups they supplied us with snorkel gear which allowed us to see everything that we could see diving anyway, so it was a pretty good morning…

Snorkelling next to Hayman Bay, Whitsundays

Snorkelling next to Hayman Bay, Whitsundays

In the afternoon we went to another location to Snorkel, which was also pretty good though several people got swept away by the strong current and had to be rescued by the dinghy. We all had to sign in when we got back on board at every place we stopped though, so no worries about leaving people behind. The evening was spent moored up in another bay and eating even nicer steak for dinner, so again a pretty good evening. It rained at night though, so no sleeping on deck.

The sporadic rain continued into the next day, it wasn’t too bad and was quite infrequent but it was very grey and overcast so sailing wasn’t as enjoyable. I got a bit seasick when I sat in the cabin to escape rain, but other than that I had a relatively sea sickness free trip. We spent the morning in another Snorkelling location, and then we sailed back to Airlie Beach. It was nice to get off the boat and finally have a shower (going in the sea doesn’t really count as washing).The evening was spent out and about in Airlie Beach; the boat owner told us we got a free pizza in a specific bar for being on Samurai, so we headed there first. Then we heard rumours of free beer in the bar next to our hostel, so we went there (we just had to say confidently enough that our boat owner told us we got free beer in the bar and they gave us a couple of pitchers between us) and so all in all we didn’t do too badly.

Now we are just sitting by the Lagoon killing time until our bus at 8pm. We are treating ourselves to having a meal out tonight in our hostel bar and I have spied Kangaroo on the menu so might give that a go… (Mainly we are eating out to avoid using the kitchen which has about 1 saucepan and 3 forks to share between the whole hostel, which is pretty big). We are then on the overnight bus to Cairns (another 10 hour bus) where I will be doing my diving live aboard trip, thankfully the rooms on the boat will have air conditioning…

Posted by Laura Mitchell 14:17 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

Agnes Waters

Motorbikes which were really Scooters, and Castaway which was really chilling out on a realatively well equipped beach

sunny
View October 2011- July 2012 on Laura Mitchell's travel map.

Our first morning in Agnes Waters consisted of spending three hours in the travel agent trying to sort out our lives (we had an open ticket for the Whitsundays but the next available sailing wasn’t until 26th November, we didn’t want to stick around that long so we transferred to a different boat, the Saumuri, which is a racing yacht. So we have that to look forward to in a few days time). We also booked Scooteroo, Castaway (will come back to these) and I also booked my Live Aboard diving trip in Cairns. Sorted.

During the afternoon we went on the “Scooteroo” tour, which involved putting on a leather jacket and some fake tattoos, doing some “training” on your scooter (which consisted of driving in a circle a couple of times) whilst born to be wild played in the background, going out in a group of about 40 (pissing off everyone else on the road), almost crashing into the person in front of you who stops suddenly to point at kangaroos (though I got quite excited about seeing a Kangaroo with a Joey in its pouch so was probably close to causing a crash myself), watching the sun set, eating potato wedges, then going back to the office to buy a souvenir photo…

Scooteroo Souvenir Photo

Scooteroo Souvenir Photo

The next day we had our “Castaway” trip booked; the trip consisted of being flown over to a “deserted Island” (which actually had a manned lighthouse on it where we got told to go if we got in trouble) to be “left alone to fend for ourselves” (though not before they gave us beef stew in a pot with instructions of how to cook it, i.e. mix it every now and then). So really it was “Castaway….but not really” as there was tents, a hob, cutlery, plates etc. However we did have to build out own camp fire (well the boys did) and Wilson was there.

So we spent the first afternoon/evening looking for oysters on the rocks, which weren’t particularly appetising… then we went back to our beef stew and the boys built the campfire which we sat round roasting marshmallow, pretty luxury castaway. The next day we practically walked round the whole island, up to the lighthouse, to Jenny Lind Creek where we scrambled along the rocks to find some caves we could apparently only get in at low tide (which ended up being small cave, not caves), then back towards camp then to Pancake Creek for a swim. This is where the group split up; Nathan and I decided to scramble round the headland back to the beach, whereas everyone else went back the way we came inland. It was cool scrambling round the rocks, though they just kept going! Every corner we turned there were just more rocks, but we made it eventually (after dodging rock pools, investigating a recently shipwrecked boat, and ignoring the red arrows telling us to get off the rocks and go back to the path).

Later on in the afternoon Bruce the pilot came back to get us, and after a photo shoot by the plane, headed back to Agnes Waters. The flights to and from the Island were pretty interesting, with Bruce doing his best to make us be sick I think (making the plane go up and down and pulling into dives to recreate zero gravity) but he did show us quite a cool trick where he put my camera up at the front then told me “catch” (“oh no” I thought) then made the plane do a nose dive and in the zero gravity the camera just floated towards me (luckily he closed the plane window first)

One of the more appropriate pictures from the plane photoshoot

One of the more appropriate pictures from the plane photoshoot

Safely back in Agnes Waters our final day consisted of a surf lesson in the morning which was pretty cool. Though it wasn’t really a structured lesson; more a 10 minute talk on paddling and stance, then 15 of us were let loose in the water with the “instructor” coming over to push us into a wave every now and then. The waves were pretty big and a bit choppy (not ideal for beginners) so it was knackering trying to get past the breakers, but we got a few good waves in. In true “I want value for money” style, I tried to stay in the water for most of the 3 hours and so was shattered at the end (with a lot of saltwater in my system) but did catch a few good waves and got “wave of the day” at the end (apparently because I looked like I was going to wipe out about 5 times but managed to stay up). Had really good fun so it’s a shame we wont be able to surf really from now onwards (north of Agnes Waters it starts becoming dangerous to swim because of jellyfish etc. you can go in with a stinger suit though)…will have to take it back up when I go home to Guernsey…

I am writing this now sitting round in the hostel killing time until our bus at 9pm. We are then on the bus for 10 hours overnight and arrive at Airlie Beach in the morning.

Posted by Laura Mitchell 17:32 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

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