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June 24, 2006

Yarghh!

Well Shiver my Timbers and Roger the Cabin Boy Me Beauty, I feel like a genuine Pirate.

The sailing trip aronud the Whitsundays was awesome! We were on a 110 year old Tall Ship called "Defender". With 20 other people all wanting to experience the high seas (that honestly is the last pirate reference).

We left port early Thursday morning and after negociating the tricker parts of the shipping channel on the diesel engine everyone mucked in and helped raise the 2 sails which sped us towards the Whitsundays at a heady speed of 8 knots.
We had pretty good weather for our 3 days - the seas weren't too rough (certainly not enought to upset a 115' 140 ton boat)!

On the first day we sailing around Hook island (the northern one) and snorkelled over some coral reefs with plenty of fish before lazying on the beech for an hour to soak up some rays.
Back on the boat that evening we had a fw beers while playing various games - such as picking up an ever shrinking box off the floor and trying to climb through a broom handle - I'll explain later.

On day 2 we walked to a lookout overlooking Whitsunday Beach (the 3rd best beach in the world - according to National Geographic - with sand so pure (99.7% pure silica) it was used to make the Hubble Telescope optics). We took some photos then sailed around the coast and having moored up spent a couple of hours on the beach itself.

On the 3rd day we again snorkelled, this time in a bay absolutly teeming with fish, including the king of the area, 'Elvis' a 50+ year old Giant Maroi Wrasse who will swim next to you and even left you stroke him.

After that excitement we got back onto the boat and sailed for home. We had a few beers in the evening with our fellow adventurers on the hgih seas before catching the overnight bus to Hervey Bay.

Tomorrow we begin another 3 day adventure - this time its a 4x4 Self Drive trip around Fraser Island. The worlds largest sand island and another World Heritage Site complete with freshwater lagoons and a 75km sandy beach!

More news upon my return!

Posted by edwardnorthridge at 09:44 AM | Comments (0)

June 19, 2006

Paddy gets PADI'd... again!

So we arrived in Cairns on Wednesday morning and went straight to our hostel - "Dreamtime". A rather sureal oasis of leafy plants and relaxing on the outskirts of the centre of Cairns - I'll try and get some photos. We spent the day planning our time down the coast and discussing all the various options with the (very patient) front desk clerk. After much deliberation (Lloyd Grossman style) we were booked in to various Diving, Sailing and 4x4 driving trips down the coast, combined with various free nights in hostels and bus trips we had the following 14 days planned and booked completely!

We decided to do our Scuba diving here on the Cairns section of the Great Barrier Reef and signed up for a 3 day "live-aboard". We were to do our PADI Advanced Water Course (the follow on to what we learnt in Thailand). The boat had 11 dives over 3 days which was quite a gruling schedule - on both Saturday and Sunday we were in the water diving before 7am... We did 4 dives each day (3 on the last) and included deep diving (to almost 30m) and 2 Night Dives - which were really cool.
We saw loads of fish and wildlife including: White Tip Reef Sharks, Hawksbill Turtles, Green Turtles, Giant Maroi Wrasse, Butterfuly Fish, Clownfish (a.k.a Nemos), Fusilers, Flute Fish, Giant Trigger Fish (I had a stare out with one..), Moray Eels and Parrot Fish to name a few! We got a load of pictures of us diving underwater - the guy who was training us was a National Geographic Photographer - and took his camera with him whenever he could. We alos hired a camera of our own and had a go, the results it must be said weren't as sucessfull ;o)

Despite our failings at pro-photography we all passed the course - so we can now call ourselves "Advanced Open Water" Divers. hehe

Overall the trip was fantastic, the company we went with wasn't the cheapest (by far) by they had the best repuation in town and it really showed on the boat. All the guys were great and when you had 4 full (very big) meals a day it just made it all the better!

We got back exhausted lsat night and after heading to a local bar to have a final meal and goodbye to everyone crashed into bed.

Today we're having a rest and chilling out before getting the overnight bus down to Airle Beach to start our sailing trip.

More news when it happens :o)

Posted by edwardnorthridge at 11:26 AM | Comments (1)

June 13, 2006

Greetings from 'Down Under'

So we flew from Bangko to Singapore and then from Singapore to Darwin. Although spending 4 hours in an airport terminal of a country you know nothing about is amusing enough - it took about an hour to work out what the currency (and its exchange) was - we were glad enough to get to Australia.

After a fairly harrowing immigration process (never have various parts of me been sniffed so throughly by as many dogs) we collapsed into the terminal and got the bus into town, a few hours sleep at our hostel ("the Cavenagh") saw us hitting the streets at midday to see what Darwin has to offer, but about 13:50 we had seen everything and so went to the cinema to relax and watch The DaVinci Code - which was pretty good :o) Dinner that night was had at the hostel (Chilli Con Carne Spag Bol) washed down with a "schooner" of local beer - pretty good

The next day we were picked up at 6am by the tour company and courtousy of an overgrown 4WD truck we drove to Kakadu National Park.
There were 10 people on the trip including us, we were in the care of our Tour Guide 'Tex', who drove us around, showed us the sights and even cooked for us in the evening! The guy was great!

On the first day we went on a 2 hour Crocodile cruise in a billabong and saw both freshwater and saltwater crocodiles. The 'freshies' are the ones with long very thin noses and are considered 'nice' - in that they won't attack unless you really annoy them - the salt water crocs see you as a walking buffet. We saw loads of other bird life including some sea eagles - which were cool.
Sopme culture followed - a trip to Ubirr to see the Aboriginal Rock art - which was cool! We camped in a semi permenant camp ground (the normal site was overrun with Mozzies). We had a monster BBQ for dinner (lamp-chops, sausages, pasta salad and potatoes) before crashing into bed.

The next day we swam in 2 waterfalls; the first at a palce called 'Gubara' followed by a visit to an Aboriginal Cultural Centre to learn a little about the native culture. we then drove to our second campsite at a waterfall called 'Gunlom'. We setup camp and spent a few hours of the afternoon swimming at the base in the plunge pool. About an hour before sunset we walked to the top of the waterfall and watched the sunset over the plains - which was really cool :o). Dinner was a monsterous bowl of chicken/pasta/tomato slop - which despite the name was really really good!

On the final day we again went to 2 waterfalls. The first was a 3km walk from the road called "Yurmikmik" (Motor car) falls - and was really cool. The water was absolutley freezing but we all swam/did some barefoot Deepwater Soloing around the plunge pool!
The second was at a place called something springs. The waterfall was smaller but still quite impressive. We ate tortials for lunch - with left over slop. Before starting the long drive home.

On the way back we stopped in at the Adelaide River Inn for a drink - the Inn is also the final resting place of the Buffalo (Charlie) from Crocodile Dundee (which was filmed in Kakadu) who died a few years ago. Charlies final resting place isn't as restfull as you might first imagine - he has been stuffed and now stands at one end of the bar... partially on the bar. :o) Have a Google Image search for "charlie crocodile dundee" and you'll see what I mean.

We got back to Darwin at about 6pm and having showered and changed went to the local backpacker bar which had free food for anyone coming back from a trek, we met up again with all of our group and Tex.

Today we are chilling out, we had a line-in, each of the previous 3 days we have been awake at 6am. Then wondered along to the "Indo-Pacific Marine" a sort of small scale aqaruium with a difference. We were shown round by the enthusiastic owner, who show us all the exhibits he himself had put together and looked after. The difference he explained was that all his tanks etc were self sustaining - he hadn't changed/cleaned/filtered the water in the tanks for almost 20 years - everything in each exhibit worked together and ept everything ticking along. All very interesting!

Tomorrow we are on the 6am flight from Darwin to Cairns where we begin our bacpacker trail in ernest. Not quiote sure what to expect but we only have to survive 3 weeks before our flight from Sydney. It will probably be 3000km of post A-Level 18 year olds but I'm srue I can fill their minds with enough University Horror stories to keep myself amused...

Hope all is well :o)

Posted by edwardnorthridge at 01:23 PM | Comments (0)

June 08, 2006

Bangkok

Bangkok has been great fun - we stayed with a friend of SK's just outside the city centre.

We went to the Royal Palace/Temple - which were both incredibly grand! Also went to Wat Poh a mega huge temple with the equally mahoosive 'Reclining Buddah'.

Photos are all on SK's Photo Album

Right I have little over 2 hours to get to the airport and check-in for an International Flight...

Next Stop Oz !

Posted by edwardnorthridge at 11:07 AM | Comments (0)

June 05, 2006

Paddy gets PADI'd

So I'm back from the "paradise" that is Krabi.

We flew down from Chaing Mai over the course of a day. The flights were a bit of a mess as the one we wanted to get ended up being cancelled - which left our only option being to fly business class from Chaing mai to Bangkok. Business Class on a budget Airline though - pot noodle and a slightly larger glass of water than the rest of the plane along with a complimentory newspaper.. speak of Luxury. We got another flight from Bangkok to Krabi and arrived at about 7pm.

Various dodgy dealings and haggling with Taxi drivers (indluding us walking outside the limits of the Airport) saw 4 of us get a taxi for a little under GBP 3.

We spent the night in the Hostel before getting the Longtail boat to Krabi. We decided to Stay on the Back-packer beach - 'Ton Sai' which is a 10 mintue walk around the coast to the North from Railay West. Our heavy rucsacs made it a 30 minute death slog through the jungle but we found a nice enough place and crashed :o)

We spent 3 days doing a Scuba Diving Course - the PADI open water diver. We did 5 dives in total and had a great time seeing loads of sealife from Turtles to Sharks and even Clownfish (think Finding Nemo). We're both qualified scuba divers now so we're really looking forward to diving in Oz on the Great Barrier Reef and the Whitsunday islands.
The diving was great, although our very last dive was cut short by about 10 minutes as I began to get awfull stomach cramps and not wanting to become "Ed the Human Squid" at 15m down had to head for the surface, remove all my kit and go for a quiet snorkel on my own... I'm sure your imagination can do the rest. ;o)

The rest of the time was spent lazing on the beach, although we did spend a few afternoons climbing at the beginner crags around the beachs. Despite a 10 month layoff from climbing I was plesantly surprised to see I hadn't forgotten everything I knew and still managed to get up a few 6a's. Saying that I probably won't be going back untill I can at least cruise 6c (everything over there is kinda gnarly).

We spent the final 3 nights in a "posh" resort on Railay itself - posh means they had electricity 24/7 not just from 6pm untill 2am. The resort had a free buffet breakfast every morning which we managed to make the most of - although it was kinda vile (frankfurters instead of sausages etc...)

So tomorrow we get to Bangkok, where we spend the day before catching our plane to Darwin, where we spent 5 days, before catching another plane to Cairns, where we have 3 weeks to do the East Coast of Austraila.

Hope all is well

Posted by edwardnorthridge at 01:26 PM | Comments (0)