I wond’r if we have enough petrol to make it to the next town? Petrol scares and kayaking with crocodiles en route to Darwin

Our first days drive from Cairns to the nice little historical town of Croydon was a rather sophisticated affair by our standards, seeing us drop past Coffee Works in Mareeba, the region that grows 80 % of Australia’s coffee. There we took the opportunity to sample some cold brew nitro – silky smooth icy cold black coffee that tricks your tastebuds into thinking it’s been sweetened and has milk added, by being poured from a tap with the help of Nitrogen, similar to beers like Guinness, mmmm…

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Settling back into outback life

The next days travels took us past Normanton, where we checked out the impressively large tourist information centre that reminded us more of a museum, staffed by local Aboriginals with great local knowledge. Before heading off we couldn’t resist taking some obligatory photos with ‘Krys the Savannah King’ – a massive life-size replica of the largest Saltwater Crocodile ever caught. It was hunted and killed in 1957 by Krystina Pawlowski, a Polish crocodile hunter who amazingly switched sides and became an outspoken crocodile conservationist in her later life! That evening we camped in a sunny show ground with plenty of space for a spot of badminton – a great way to stretch our stiff legs after a long days drive 🙂

The following few days saw things become even more desolate, with towns growing further apart and roads deserted, except for the occasional monstrous road trains we overtook once having plucked up the courage!

Surprisingly we didn’t often know where we were headed each night, as the maps hadn’t finished downloading on the WikiCamps app (Australia’s campers bible) and we rarely had any signal. Amusingly this meant all we had to go on was distance and direction, while trying to home our flashing blue dot in on a campsite, shown on a blank background. It certainly provided some entertainment at the end of tedious afternoons full of monotonous driving!

A benefit to being in the wilderness of the Outback however was the enormity of the nights sky; with no light pollution, the infinite twinkling stars that flooded the sky above us was truly spellbinding.

Despite the emptiness of our surroundings, there were usually things to see along the way to reward us for driving these long lonely roads. A couple of notable examples were the never ending magnetic termite mounds that stretch out into the horizon (so called as they’re always aligned North to reduce heat from the sun) and the brilliant Royal Flying Doctors Museum in the lesser known town of Cloncurry. John Flynn is famous for setting up the innovative Royal Flying Doctors Service back in 1928, bringing much needed medical help to the remote towns of the Outback. The impressive museum features three floors full of fascinating history and enthralling stories, brought to life through a variety of galleries, exhibits and film.

Almost running out of petrol, en route to Katherine

With such large distances between anywhere, comes an element of risk. We’d done well so far to always fill up with fuel when having the chance, but unfortunately forgot while wrapped up in the awesomeness of the museum. We only noticed we were running on empty once half way to the next town, so couldn’t turn back. The next hour was therefore spent in nervous silence, as Joella and I struggled to take our eyes from the petrol gauge, willing the car to keep going. Thankfully our seemingly never-ending tank did us proud, and we made it to the forecourt of BP in Mount Isa, wearing the biggest Cheshire Cat smiles imaginable! To prevent a similar occurrence in the future, I taped a reminder to the steering wheel so it wouldn’t happen again.

After spending a night in Camooweal – the last Queensland town before the Northern Territory border, we intended to hit Tennant Creek the following day and explore the surrounding area. But following a friendly chat with the groundsman of the campsite, our plans soon changed. He recommended avoiding Tennant Creek due to the seeming collapse of the community (petty and violent crime among parts of the Aboriginal population continues to grow). Instead we headed to Banka Banka: A cattle station full of cowboy charm, featuring fire pits, dangerous bulls and camels!

Now a day ahead of schedule, we were nearing true civilisation once again; in the form of Katherine – the town “where the outback meets the tropics”. But before arriving, we couldn’t resist stopping in past the famous Daly Waters Pub for a quick feed. The old world establishment (by Australian standards) is as you’d expect from an Outback pub, but with one significant difference; there’s random stuff hanging from every inch of the ceiling and walls. As the story goes, this peculiar ritual originally started with a bunch of bras being hung up by a bus load of women, who’d lost a bet with their driver! While pretty much draped in lingerie and tucking into our steak pies, we conveniently used the free wifi to book some kayaking the next day, to explore some nearby gorges…



Attempting to avoid crocodiles and snakes in Nitmiluk Gorge

After a very early start the next day, we eventually arrived at the jetty and climbed aboard the boat that shuttled us through the first gorge. During our briefing en route, we were surprisingly advised the signs we’d spied earlier were in fact correct and there are crocs about!

With relief, we learned these are of the fresh water variety, and have brittle jaws that prevent them from tackling larger prey like humans, although can still bite if provoked. Apparently, we can be sure there are no dangerous Salt Water Crocs present from the annual floods, through the use of three methods: 1) Low level helicopter surveys during the day, 2) Night time boat inspections using search lights to look out for reflections from their eyes, and 3) Traps. Although reassuring to a point, these practices don’t sound very scientific or entirely foolproof :-/

Once we’d arrived at the end of the first gorge, we picked up our double kayak and began exploring the second, then third gorge beyond. Kayaking proved to be a fantastic way to witness the beauty of these natural geological formations in such tranquil surroundings, while they slowly changed colour from reds to oranges as the sun rose higher in the sky. Following multiple foul mouthed tirades from me, Joella can confirm it did prove difficult finding a rhythm while paddling together, but we eventually got the hang of it. On our return leg through the first gorge, we were pleasantly rewarded to a double sighting of Freshwater Crocodiles, thankfully from the safety of the boat 🙂

That evening we treated ourselves to a stay in the more expensive campsite within Nitmiluk National Park, allowing us to fit in a longer trek the next day without any driving beforehand. We opted for the charmingly sounding ‘Butterfly Gorge Trail’ that proved to be full of diverse surroundings; first we began with a hike up to a scenic viewpoint of the first gorge below, followed by trails through arid landscape then finally down into a gorge enclosing luscious rainforest.

During this last section through the thicker undergrowth I heard an ominous rustling sound that led me to immediately scream: “RUN, THERE’S A SNAKE!” despite failing to see anything that resembled a threat. We then embarrassingly spent 10 minutes trying to decide whether to proceed or turn back. It was only until some fellow hikers casually strolled past without any sort of issue, that we decided to continue, feeling a little stupid in the process! Thankfully our bravery was eventually paid off, with a beautiful waterside view of the second gorge, appropriately surrounded by fluttering butterflies.

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Next stop: Darwin, to visit my Cousin Jess and her fiancé Ben!

I wond’r where the python is? Beginning our Australasia adventure in style, in Byron Bay and its Hinterland

Immediately after returning from our Queensland trip, Joella struck gold with housesitting assignments once again; managing to line up four in a row, featuring an eclectic mix of Sydney’s superb suburbs and characterful critters, including:

  • A lovely little dog called Rosie, and Pistachio the cat, in the foody district of Glebe
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  • Two playful British Shorthaired cats, named Paddy and Millie in hipster Newtown
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  • A very chilled out and attentive cat called Barney, in Leichhardt; Sydney’s Italian Quarter

  • Two cute little ginger cats named Tigi and Frankie, in the awesome beach town of Dee Why
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Preparing for our five month adventure

With our visa expiry fast approaching (16th Aug), we realised we’d better start planning the holiday part of our ‘Working holiday’, otherwise risk being banned from entering Australia for a decade if we overstayed. Much to Joella’s annoyance, my inner Project Manager came out, resulting in the creation of a series of spreadsheets detailing projected spending to ensure we’d have sufficient time and funds, before handing in our notice at work (I’m such a bloody nerd). Once we’d locked down the route (travelling North to avoid the chilly winter months down South) and accompanying details, we begun preparing our trusty steed for the long drive ahead…

From our previous experiences sleeping in the back of our Holden Commodore, we’d put together a list of needed improvements. The most important issue was space, so priority number one was to sort out a roof rack and roof box. Following a day of trawling through ads, making phone calls and circumnavigating Sydney (Leichhardt > Blue Mountains > Campbeltown), we bagged both for just $150 🙂 Although the roof box had definitely seen better days, thanks to a quick tutorial from my Uncle Martin, we soon patched it up using strips of fibre glass together with adhesive and hardener.

For our next challenge we needed to come up with a solution that would allow us to cook and relax outdoors, no matter what the weather was doing. Installing a side awning seemed like the obvious choice and we managed to buy a brand new 2m x 3m set up online, for under $100, that we bolted straight onto the roofrack 🙂

Lastly was the dreaded matter of curtains. We’d spent what felt like eternity on YouTube, researching a variety of methods involving drilling holes in the roof, velcro strips and industrial strength magnets. But in the end the cheapest and simplest solution won out, that saw Joella carefully cut out perfectly fitting sun shades for all windows, held in place with suckers. This had the extra benefit of providing much needed insulation during the colder nights in the outback.

Once we’d shopped for the last of our necessary supplies; including mountains of tinned foods, a butane stove, stacks of tupperware, a clever folding table and a badminton set, we were all set for our big adventure!

Cheerio Sydney, g’day luxury escape!

During my last week at work I was taken out for lunch to an English style pub that even served London Pride and semi-decent fish and chips! The epic team I felt grateful to have worked with over the last 6 months even sorted me out with a Scottish themed leaving card and goody bag, consisting of an Australian hat and purse made from a Kangaroo scrotum! Goodbye work and Sydney, time to hit the road for our big adventure…

Our first day involved a marathon nine hour drive North, to a house sit Joella had excellently lined up in the Byron Hinterland. The dates and location fitted perfectly with our schedule, and we weren’t fussed about not stopping en route, as we’d already explored these areas on our previous adventures.

We successfully arrived just after dark, and immediately felt at home, thanks to how welcoming and inviting Tracy was; she introduced us to gorgeous Chloe her labradoodle and reeled off a long list of things to do in the area that I attempted to frantically scribble down. While she gave us a guided tour of her wonderful home after dinner, we soon realised that we’d be living in the lap of luxury – the place was enormous, modern, beautifully decorated and finished to a very high standard. (uh oh, am I sounding like an estate agent…?) There were even outdoor showers offering stunning views of the surrounding countryside!

The next morning, after dropping Tracy off at the airport, we took Chloe over to nearby Ballina for a nice walk along its glorious beach in the golden sunshine (something we’d missed in miserable rainy Sydney the previous week). Once home, we then ventured carefully (apparently there are pythons about and Joella swears she saw evidence of one) for a stroll around the impressive gardens that featured a swimming pool, cinema room, studios, separate appartments, pizza oven and terrace; while tucking into the bountiful supply of juicy oranges and sweet baby tomatoes we picked along the way.

Exploring Byron’s Hinterland

Throughout our stay we certainly felt rather well to do, while sitting out on the enormous decking overlooking the swimming pool and gazing out at the gorgeous countryside. This was despite drinking instant coffee – we were now unemployed so on a budget (although the experience was certainly improved by the rather tasty lemon drizzle cake Joella baked). However, we didn’t want to sit around drinking tea and coffee all day – we were keen to treat Chloe (and ourselves) to plenty of exciting excursions while on the doorstep of such a beautiful part of the world!

Although Byron’s Hinterland isn’t as well known as it’s famous coastline, it proved to be equally as beautiful in our eyes (not being massive beach people probably helps). With the undulating hillsides, luscious forests, countless towns full of quirky craft shops and roadside honesty stalls selling homemade jams; it certainly offers a unique, almost spiritual charm that nourishes the soul.

For one of our trips we headed out to the Killen Waterfalls, after first stopping in past Harvest: a nice country farm and deli, to pick up some of their famous sausage rolls we’d been told about by Marcus the handy man I’d met at the house the night before. The initial walk down to the waters edge was fairly straightforward, although we needed to take it nice and easy along the stepping stones that lined the river bank, to prevent Chloe (and us) from getting wet feet. Once we laid eyes on the falls our efforts were immediately rewarded; sitting down to watch the water from above cascade down, crashing into the pool before us while glistening in the sunlight was very relaxing.

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Later in the week we couldn’t avoid visiting the famous hippy town of Nimbin – apparently the only place in Australia where Cannabis is legal, although I have a feeling this is merely down to Police turning a blind eye… Within ten minutes of arriving, Nimbin immediately lived up to its reputation; as we found it impossible to avoid being offered weed while mooching around the various Cannabis themed craft shops! Although we’d thriftily packed sandwiches, we ended up enjoying free hot dogs from a friendly group of global missionaries without any attempts at converting us (are we already lost causes?).

On the way back, we stopped in past the picturesque Rocky Creek Dam where we ventured upon its many surrounding walks. Despite failing to spot any platypus, we still enjoyed ourselves as we weaved through the forested footpaths and traversed the slippery concrete spillways. With a blink of an eye, our time with gorgeous Chloe at the luxury escape had drawn to a close, although we were now looking forward to spending some time back on the coast, in wonderful Byron Bay 🙂

Back to Byron Bay, and to sleeping in the car

Not wanting to pay the premium for camping on the edge of Byron Bay’s famous beach as we did previously when driving up for Sarah and Kael’s wedding, we instead opted for a campsite a little out of town opposite Byron’s Industrial Estate.

Although this probably doesn’t sound too appealing, rather than consisting of the usual factories or building merchants you’d expect to find, it was instead lined with countless organic eateries, vintage clothes shops, home decor boutiques, art galleries and micro breweries. As planned, we made it to Australia’s famous ‘Stone and Wood’ brewery, just in time for its annual Stone beer, which is made using the traditional method of dropping wood fired stones into the kettle to caramelise the brew. It was certainly a unique taste, a little similar to Guinness perhaps, with hints of coffee and dark chocolate – perfect for the cooler winter months which were requiring Joella and I to wrap up for (no we haven’t suddenly become soft Australians unable to cope with temperatures below 20 degrees).

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Our last evening saw us make an unsuccessful sunglass shopping expedition to Byron’s main strip (Joella’s last pair were on their last legs), before then enjoying a nice bottle of Pinot Noir alongside our bargain basement $5 Domino pizzas. This was perfectly accompanied by one of Byrons seemingly infinite beautiful sunsets, together with a bunch of hippy type folk who were dancing madly to the impressive busker as he finished off his set.

Once again, Byron and its surrounding Hinterlands didn’t disappoint. It was now time to say good bye to the warm, comfortable coastline; and journey inland to the harsh and unforgiving outback….

I wond’r if Joella really ran out of air? Scuba scares and other adventures on our ‘holiday within a holiday’

Continuing with our jet set traveller lifestyle, we found ourselves on yet another house sitting assignment; this time looking after some more unusual pets – ferrets! Unbelievably they had their very own room in a rather well to do neighbourhood, full of numerous pipes and tubes to keep them entertained, until we were brave enough to let them out for what can only be described as a whirlwind of mayhem…

Although only playfully, they would often nip your heels, resulting in Joella comically jumping up on the sofa, while I tried to catch ‘em before they disappeared yet again into the various holes and crevices they so skilfully found. We soon discovered that ferrets aren’t the most agile of animals, and often failed miserably to run in a straight line or climb the simplest of things – acting pissed is probably the easiest way to describe their general mannerism!

The flat (or as Australians say ‘unit’) was perched on the steep slopes that make up the suburb of Neutral Bay, lying on the water a short ferry ride from Sydney’s Circular Quay. Despite warnings from unadventurous locals that Sydney Harbour was full of Bull Sharks, we couldn’t help taking a quick dip in Hayes Street Beach one afternoon, following a fascinating look round Nutcote – the home of world famous illustrator May Gibb. May Gibb is mostly known for her children books based on characters inspired from Australia’s plant and animal life, such as the Gumnut babies, Big Bad Banksia Man and Mr Lizard.

Neutral Bay was a convenient and scenic commute for both Joella to Mosman, and I to my new job in the city working for Host / Havas – a global creative agency, part of the massive Vivendi Group. I was to be working on the single largest account in the country – Australia’s Defence Force Recruitment. DFR turned out to be a far more exciting proposition than I imagined, keen on innovation to maximise their recruitment efforts through technology such as virtual reality games.

Before we were due to head off on our ‘holiday within a holiday’, we were kindly put up by my cousin Cass at her place in the outer suburbs of Campbeltown. There we were in the presence of an, errr, eccentric bunch of rescue animals, including a dog with a funny bark named George, a rather angry kitten called Spice, and Cass’ hyperactive Alsatian puppy – Blue.

Having decided to avoid the crowds at the Australia Day celebrations in the city, we instead opted to spend the morning in a slowly sinking kayak, with Cass and excitable Blue, slowly paddling down the Nepean River – it was pleasantly entertaining 🙂 After that we were off on our first proper adventure since Aberdeen in October, to Narooma and beyond!

A blinding stopover at Jervis Bay – Home to some of the whitest beaches on earth

Instead of aiming straight for Narooma, around 6 hours South of Sydney, we opted to stay somewhere en route, in a yet to be determined location – how spontaneous are we! But before trying to find a bed for the night (well actually our bed was in the boot), Hyams Beach and its apparently whitest sand IN THE WORLD was our target. Unfortunately conditions were overcast, but the sand still glistened in what daylight there was – very unlike any other sand I’ve encountered before. Although funnily enough, it did remind me a little of the incredibly white beaches of Barra, an island off Western Scotland – true!

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Following an unplanned afternoon nap, our attention turned to accommodation, and we soon learned that not booking ahead on Australia Day wasn’t a good idea… After what seemed like a million phone calls, while attempting to be as chummy as possible, we eventually secured a spot in Sussex Inlet, a quaint little holiday town 30 mins drive away. Luckily the owner had allowed us to take the ‘overflow’ spot, and on arrival excitedly talked us through the wonders of the Snowy Mountains, Australia’s answer to the Alps. It definitely wet our appetite for an inland adventure following our coastal stay in Narooma… While looking for a bite to eat in the nearby RSL, we unexpectedly encountered the wrath of a jobs-worthy bouncer, who refused to let us in because Joella didn’t have ID on her. Luckily with my drivers licence I was allowed to order a takeaway pizza, just before the kitchen was due to close – phew, I was starting to get hangry.

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Breathtaking views and hard labour – Setting up camp in Narooma

After a morning stroll along the inlet, watching the hustle and bustle of all the fishing mad Aussies racing out in their various boats, we packed up (well, pretty much just shut the boot) and began our relatively short drive that lay ahead of us. Following a brief stop in Batesmans Bay for some more holiday gear – we just can’t get enough of Target and K-Mart (think Primark prices with a variety of goods like John Lewis), we arrived in Narooma.

Having requested a specific pitch on the instructions of my Uncle, we were expecting a lot from our camping spot, and oh boy it didn’t disappoint! We were perfectly positioned on the edge of a steep hill that dropped down to the beautiful beach below; offering us glorious views of the vast ocean stretching off into the horizon, peppered with rocky stacks. After taking in the incredible sight, we couldn’t resist bolting down to the beach for a satisfyingly refreshing paddle.

My cousin Jess and Uncle Martin arrived shortly after (ahead of Cass and Auntie Christa who arrived the next day), and quickly put a temporary hold to our relaxation… We found ourselves signed-up (like we had a choice) to help setup their caravan which took what felt like an eternity. Rather than your average caravan that you park up and you’re done, this was the sort that expands up and in length, then has a gazebo of an entrance tent. Fortunately Martin had a few tricks up his sleeve to speed things up, like using gigantic screws in place of pegs, quickly driven into the ground with the help of a drill. Once done, we thoroughly deserved our ice cold schooners and hearty chicken parmies at the local pub.

Depleted air supplies and power boat rides – Scuba diving off Montague Island

Following a refresher dive a few weeks before, and Joella nailing her SSI Open Water course, we were all set for our underwater adventure that Martin had booked us all on (minus Christa, who kindly volunteered/was told to dog-sit Blue and Lilly). We were up before the crack of dawn, but felt raring to go thanks to the adrenaline rushing through our bodies, and that was even before the power boat ride that saw us flying over the waves to Montague Island while being drenched by the ocean spray and golden rays of the rising sun!

Our first dive was predominantly with a group of lovingly playful seals, although some small sharks – Port Jacksons and Wobbegongs did crash the party. Don’t worry we were told afterwards, they don’t bite – although this is up for debate, as I later discovered there are cases of them nipping people’s legs (by nip, I mean take small chunks off). We also saw some large Grouper (who have been known to swallow 5 foot sharks whole) and tiny, but oh so vibrant sea snails.

After lashings of calming green tea and scrumptious home baked blueberry muffins while staring at the horizon in an attempt to offset the choppy waters, we soon found ourselves slowly disappearing into the turquoise depths once again. Unfortunately, after rescuing Jess’ flipper that had come off mid-descent, my queazy sea sickness got the better of me, and I had to cut my second dive short. All was not lost though, as our guide let me in on a little secret…

A short swim away was a narrow opening that opened up into a small pool, teaming with gorgeous baby seals! There I peacefully lay submerged with my snorkel on, while the puppies of the sea brushed past me, letting their curiosity get the better of them. But little did I know that while I was chilling out in the seal crèche, the rest of the group were (literally) breathlessly fighting strong underwater currents. Due to the extra exertion, Martin’s air almost hit zero, and Joella’s actually run out, leaving her having to use the guide’s spare regulator to make an emergency re-surface – yikes! Once back on the boat, everyone was surprisingly relaxed considering.

Dangerous rips, picturesque villages and campsite games – Settling into holiday life

Clearly not satisfied with our brush with underwater death the previous day, a quick dip the next day almost ended in embarrassment / something potentially much worse. As we slowly drifted outside of the flags, Jess, Joella and I soon realised we were caught up in an infamous rip current, and were being dragged out to sea. The seriousness of the situation was confirmed as we noticed the life guards grab their boards and run to the edge of the water looking intently on. Fortunately a shallow sand bar allowed us to stand up and slowly but surely fight the current, walking ashore – phew!

Understandably at that point point, we’d had enough of the sea (and judging by how it treated us, the sea had had enough of us) so we made a beeline for Tilba Central, a quaint little country town bursting with boutique shops, including a famous cheese factory that didn’t seem to mind us sampling all their smelly wares without making any transactions in return. Following a seafood picnic, in the form of super fresh oysters and melt-in-your-mouth squid, we all (inc the dogs) then took a stroll along the seafront and boardwalk, where we spotted Stingray gracefully swimming by. The rest of the arvo was spent being inspired by Martin inventing new words while playing Bannanagrams, and a nail-bitingly close game of the incredibly addictive pétanque.

Rapidly changing landscapes to Kosciuszko: Australia’s highest mountain

The next day, following a feast of pancakes lathered with the sinfully tasty Nutella and a side salad of the most delightfully ripe fruits, we were on the road again. Our destination was to be the Snowy Mountains, Australia’s answer to the Alps, although that’s being rather generous, maybe the Cairngorms is more accurate… Going from seashore to mountainside was expected to be a journey of contrasting scenery, but it’s difficult to prepare oneself for just how extreme this was going to be. In a matter of a few hours we experienced gorgeous sun soaked beaches with rolling waves, steep winding roads through sub-tropical rainforests, vast desert plains disappearing into the distance, then finally a baron rocky wilderness sprinkled with pine trees and overlooked by distant snow capped peaks. Just wow!

En route we took in the sights along the way, including ‘Gnome Alley’ and a rather creative postbox, before stopping off in Bega, a small country town to refuel – for the car and us. We had some mightily tasty coffees and peculiar pastries. On asking what was in the ‘Ned Kelly’ pie, the elderly lady informed me that it contained “meat”. When attempting to enquire further what sort of meat this was, she simply stared back, and repeated once again, this time with a slightly more raised voice that it had “meat” inside. Ok. So I ate the pie and lived. Nothing more to say really, except that maybe I’ll be converting to vegetarianism sometime soon, as apparently ‘meat’ refers to a mixture of animal meat, potentially including lamb, beef, pork and even horse…

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On arrival in Jindabyne, I couldn’t help but draw comparisons with Scotland’s winter sports scene yet again – it reminded me very much of an Americanised version of Aviemore (but with fewer drinking establishments). Similar to Narooma, we lucked out on our campsite, which was situated on the edge of Jindabyne’s picturesque alpine lake. Interestingly, the original Jindabyne town was partly moved up-hill, leaving the rest to be flooded by Lake Jindabyne, making way for a new hydroelectric dam.

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After cooking up a feast of Mexican chicken, rice and vegetables in the homely camp kitchen, while wrapped up (it was forecast to drop to 6 degrees that evening) we settled down to watch the wonderfully appropriate film entitled “Jindabyne”. Similar to Wolf Creek, it featured a psychotic murdering rapist, but luckily for our sanity it focused more on the relationships of the local families involved in a recent disappearance, rather than being a blood curdling horror.

After a night of broken sleep – our set up isn’t designed for winter conditions (we’re in Australia God damn it!) we set off to Thredbow to begin our ascent of Australia’s highest mountain: Kosciuszko! Although, being totally honest when I say ascent, I do in fact refer to the use of a chair lift for most of the way, but we did walk the final couple of hours to the summit, where we were treated to wondrous views reaching far and wide.

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Too hot to eat chilli and museum overload in Canberra

Our final stop saw us visit Australia’s official capital once again – Canberra, the city that’s seemingly built around a park, as Bill Bryson once put it. After driving round the large spacious, but empty roads, surrounded by ridiculously large acreages of lawns and never ending rows of trees, we eventually arrived at our hotel.

Wanting to make the most of our afternoon, we instantly dropped our bags off and shuffled over to the nearby War Memorial and Museum, that sits intentionally opposite Australia’s Parliament some 2 miles away further down the hillside. The view certainly does make you feel like you’re part way in a National Park, not in the the nations capital city! Inside was an incredibly detailed and fascinating look at Australia’s part in the numerous wars that have taken place around the world in the last century or so. Given Australia’s small population, there’s no way one can say they shirked their responsibilities in helping police the world.

Not wanting to join in with the bogun karaoke back at the hotel bar, we quickly freshened up, then hit the town. Pleasantly, Canberra has come a long way in the last few years in the way of drinking and dining establishments, so we had some difficulty choosing where to intoxicate our livers and gorge our faces at. In the end, with a little help from Zomato and Google, The Bent Spoke microbrewery won us over. Their never ending list of beers certainly made for great drinking, although the food turned out to be a little disappointing and, err… painful! Their chilli was so hellishly hot it was impossible to eat, unless you’re Chuck Norris that is.

Before departing back to the bright lights of Sydney, we checked into a couple more galleries and museums, including The Canberra Museum and Art Gallery, where we learnt all about the evolution of what was pretty much some empty grasslands, into what is today Australia’s capital; and the National Museum of Australia, that guided us through the nations past, involving crazily long fences to stop the spread of rabbits, and the shocking removal of Aboriginal children from their families in what’s today referred to as the Stolen Generation.

A stunning drive back to Sydney along the famously dangerous Macquarie Pass, featuring countless hairpins, surrounded by rainforests and stunning ocean views, certainly made for a fantastic end to our epic 10 day holiday within a holiday 🙂