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Clare T Global Odyssey

Hi everyone! welcome to my travel blog... I'll do my best to update this as often as possible and please leave me messages so I keep up to date on the gossip at home!

Diary Entries

Tuesday, 02 September 2008

Location: Auckland, New Zealand

Well, this is it, my last day of backpacking...

My last two days in Auckland have been suprisingly good, I got a free opportunity to jump off the Sky Tower here in Auckland yesterday - you'll see it in all my pictures of the city, its quite high! and this morning I finished my trip in style with a cruise around the harbour on a 1995 America's Cup yacht, taking the helm and scudding along at over 10 knots blew the cobwebs out, thats for sure! I have just been for a slap-up feast at the Auckland Fish Market and am just writing this update before I go to get the Airport Bus to really start my journey home.

I'm not sure how to sum it all up really, it doesn't seem real that this is the end yet. Its been amazing obviously and I can't say how happy I am to have been able to do all these things this year. I've visited 20 countries and circumnavigated the globe, I've watched Whales breach in the Southern Ocean, woven a silk scarf in Laos, rafted the Zambezi, woken to a view of the highest point on Earth, walked with Lions, maintained Noble Silence for 10 days, hiked in the land of Dragons, shared a meal with a Mewari goatherd, bungeed in the shadow of Victoria Falls, witnessed the frustration of the displaced Tibetan nation in Dharamsala and the dying days of an ancient monarchy in Nepal, dived with Dolphins and Manta Rays in Indonensia, camped on Desert Islands, chugged through the Mekong Delta, flown over the 12 Apostles, thrown myself off the tallest structure in the Southern Hemisphere, been gored by a Holy Cow in Agra, danced all tribal in the Okavango Delta, smelt the burning ghats of Varanasi, explored the wonders of Angkor, walked in Buddha's footsteps and watched a Tiger emerge from the jungle in the morning gloom. Not bad for 319 days.

So, this is it folks - sign off time. Thanks for reading and leaving me all the messages and hopefully I'll be seeing you all soon for a proper catch-up. At least if you've been following the blog you won't have to sit through any photo sessions!

Its been a pleasure,

Goodnight & Good Luck,

Clare xx

Sunday, 31 August 2008

Location: Auckland, New Zealand

Well I have just hopped off my bus back from the Northland and Cape Reinga, the most northerly point of New Zealand and thought I would write my update straight away.

I haven't got very long here in New Zealand so I've just seen Auckland and the far north, but its been quite a laugh. The first wierd thing was bumping into Bertie from the Tiger Reserve yet again, that now makes Bangkok, Sydney and Auckland where we have totally randomly met. Anyway, he was with a crowd who have been on the Kiwi Experience bus all around the South Island so I went out with him and that gang. We had a great time and got home in the early hours and the next morning I woke up to realise that I had missed my bus to go north so ran to the office in a panic... it was perhaps a bit too good a night out!

Not too much of a problem as it turned out and I was on my way on a public bus an hour or two later. Its still winter here so everything is deserted, which makes it pretty nice actually. Once we arrived in Paihia at the Bay Of Islands I got a bike from the hostel and set off to go to Waitingi Treaty Grounds. This is where the British Resident got the local Maori chiefs to officially petition the British Crown for protection and effectively is the document which formed the nation. It was quite far thinking compared to what happened in Australia in that it codified that New Zealand was made up of both Maori and European settlers and that ALL deserved protection and were equally important in the nation. Its a really peaceful place with a stunning 360 degree view over the Bay and was a nice spot to wander around for the afternoon.

The next day we all tramped onto the bus in the early hours to begin the long drive north to Cape Reinga. New Zealand is obviously really sparsely populated and the roads are all quite small and windy so its pretty nice scenery to drive through, but it just got wilder and wilder as we got closer to the Cape. The end of the land is really sacred to the Maori as they consider that all souls eventually move north to the Cape to ascend to the spirit world so there are tons of earthworks going on to move the touristy side away from the sacred parts of the land. It is however, a very beautiful spot with visibly strong riptides swirling around the base of the cliffs as the Tasman Sea and Pacific Ocean meet. Its very windswept and looking south you can see the start of huge sand dunes which make up the northern end of Ninety Mile Beach. Hopefully the pictures will help to show you.

We got a bit more up close and personal with the sand dunes on the way down to the beach as we hopped out of the bus to go Sand boarding - whizzing down ridiculously steep dunes on a Body board! Lots of screaming and hilarity ensued, particularly when our bus driver (fifty-something old dude called Wally) showed us the running jump mount of the board which gave enough speed to aqua-plane across the stream bed at the bottom of the dune!

After tiring ourselves out scrambling up the face of the dune a few times for second and third attempts we continued onto the beach. Ninety mile beach is actually 64 miles long - go figure, but was a total delight. We stopped periodically to dig for clams in the surf, get out and run about, coo over the little Seal pups who were waiting for their mums to come back and chat to the long-line fishermen who dotted the beach. We had to be careful though, if we had stopped the bus on wet sand, we would have apparently sunk up to the axles very quickly, luckily Wally knew what he was doing and made it off in one piece. We did pass a few car wrecks half buried my sand who had not been so lucky though!

On the way back down we stopped to visit Kauri forest spots which still have specimens of the magnificent Kauri tree. These forests once covered Northern New Zealand but very intensive logging, both for the Kauri tree and its gum and then clearning of the land for pasture means there are only pockets of forest left. There are however still huge Kauri trees lurking in the forests, we went to see one this morning on the way back down to Auckland - its called Tane Mahuta after the Maori forest God and is the largest living Kauri. Its absolutely HUGE and is apparently over 1000 years old. There used to be bigger ones than Tane Mahuta but they've been logged out to satisfy the demands for the timber and gum (sap from the Kauri) which was used in the production process of Linoleum. The younger tree trunks were used for ships Masts as they are so tall and straight - Kauri shed their lower branches as they grow to leave a thick tall trunk and then a smallish canopy of branches right at the top of the trunk.

So we motored back to Auckland this afternoon and I'm now back here with a day and a half to fill before flying out tomorrow night. There are still a few people around who I met here before I went north and I intend to get out on the harbour in a boat at some point - Auckland is called the City of Sails after all.

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Location: Auckland, New Zealand

You may notice I've finally found a computer that has the magic trifector of USB port, good connection & Image manipulation software to allow me to upload tons of pics from Indonesia through to Melbourne. Don't worry there are more to come but I'll add them when I get back to Auckalnd after my little trip up to the Northland and Cape Reinga.

Back in a few days so enjoy the weekend! D-6 for arrival back in Blighty...

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Location: Sydney, Australia

Its struggling to feel like travelling here in Australia as I've been staying at people's houses and have still only done one night in a hostel (Canberra on the way down to Melbourne). That said I am having a great time here in Australia and can definitely imagine myself living here while I work on my visa.

After a lovely couple of days staying with Haley and Craig I headed off to the Great Ocean Road via the Grampians. This is the area of Australia on the coast and inland between Melbourne and Adelaide on the southern coast. I got up at the crack of dawn to catch a lift into the city with Craig and then hopped on a bus off into the hills. It took about three hours to drive up into the mountains which looked suspiciously like The Blue Mountains near Sydney, but (if its possible) even colder. The big difference for me however was the presence of wild Kangaroos! The type around this area are called Eastern Greys and are pretty big actually as they hop about the towns and fields. We spent the day driving around to different viewpoints and doing short walks which finished with a spectacular view from the escarpment at the edge of the range over miles of flat open farmland while a rainbow formed stretching from the scudding grey clouds down to the fields. Lovely. That evening, those of us doing the 3 day trip met with our new groups for the next few days. They were a typical bunch of twentysomething, loud, young 'uns free for the first time and eager to tell everyone in a four mile radius about it... They weren't too bad really and their eager enthusiasm meant the food was cooked and the dishes done in quicktime so I didn't have any compaints, but there was a Czech woman and her teenage daughter on the trip who had obviously been mis-sold and seemed to regard everything (especially the mixed dorm sleeping arrangements) with utter horror. I'm not sure they really dug the backpacker way of travelling.

As the weather closed in the next day we hiked up to a viewpoint called The Pinnacle, kind of nice to get the blood pumping with in the morning and we all tramped back to the bus damp from the drizzle and red-faced from the climb, the bus immediately steamed up and didn't de-mist for the next 2 days! We ran downhill to the coast where we were promised some bursts of sunshine and started working our way along the Great Ocean Road. I've always wanted to do this coastal drive and it truly is spectacular. The weather was really changeable, they say in Victoria State that you get four seasons in one hour in Spring and they're not wrong! The Southern Ocean makes landfall here and it brings a change in the weather about every ten minutes, from driving rain and overcast skies, to brilliant sunshine, rainbows and blue skies seemingly instantaneously. It actually made a pretty good backdrop to do the coastal drive as he hopped in and out of the bus a the various viewpoints and photo stops. The 12 Apostles are now actually only 11 as one fell down but the coast is dramatic, rugged and rough. We kept our eyes open for Southern Right Whales and their calves, but no luck that day - however yours truly did have one little stroke of luck... Backpackers on bus trips get a discount on the helicoper ride over the 12 apostles, but due to the bad-ish weather & the hand to mouth existence of the twentysomething backpacker, no-one else wanted to spend the money on what might be drizzly helicopter ride. I therefore got bumped up from the standard 10 minute ride in a knackered old 'copter, to a 20 minute cruise up and down the coastline in a spanking, sparkling, shiny and new 'copter with three other people who paid easily double what I did. You see they needed a minimum of 2 to do the backpacker trip and I was only 1 - but I smiled very sweetly - and obviously pushed all the right buttons as I also got assigned the front seat next to the pilot so got ace floor to ceiling glass in front of me and the best view on the coast. Go me! We finished the day with a very dramatic windswept sunset over the 12 apostles before running back to the bus and huddling by the fire at the hostel trying to get the feeling back into our fingers, toes and cheeks... a very good day.

Next day we drove inland into Cape Otway to go to the canopy walkway in the temperate rainforest. The whole Victoria southern coastline used to be backed by temperate rainforest but as ever, logging and clearing to make pastureland has decimated the forest. Cape Otway has some pockets though and the canopy walkway is a great way to see it. I thought it was going to be a bit dull as it was still raining, quite cold and a bit bleak, but actually it was a really lovely morning. When its raining is the best time to see the forest (its called a rainforest after all) and the view from the walkways 25-50m up is amazing. There are huge treeferns, lots of birds, mosses and lichens which hang off the branches making it look a bit Middle-Earth and these huge, straight up and down Mountain Ash trees which are the tallest flowering plants on earth (the huge firs of North America don't flower). The trees have enormous buttressed roots and the big ones are hundreds of years old - they really are majestic and the rain water runs down the smooth trunks (they are a type of Eucalypt like most trees in Oz) like a waterfall. The rest of the day was spent driving back along the incredibly scenic coastline stopping at Apollo Bay for fish and chip lunch and homemade Christmas Pudding Ice-cream (very, very good), a small beach campsite to hunt down wild Koalas - they are sooo cute, Bells Beach - for like the first time ever, there were like NO surfers dude, Torquay - the home of Quiksilver & Billabong and finally motored back into Melbourne on friday evening. We fitted alot in, but it was a really fun trip considering the weather was Baltic at worst.

The next couple days were spent in Melbourne staying with my friend Helen, who I first met in Mysore in India in January - she is now nursing and living in the suburb of Maryibyrnong which is really close to Flemington Racecourse where the Melbourne Gold Cup is run in November each year. We had a whirlwind of going out and eating out including a trip to the Telstra Dome to see the Adelaide Crows stuff the Essendon Bombers at Aussie Rules football, a day walking down an Indian memory lane eating Masala Dosas at a South Indian Cafe and going to see a Bollywood movie at the cinema and a day on the cheap where we watched the Olypmics on the massive screen in Federation Square followed by an afternoon looking at coffee table books in the impressive reading room of the Victoria State Library. The Aussie Rules Football stands out as being one of the best things so far about Australia, the game is fast-paced and really watchable, the crowd is a cross-section of society from kids with faces painted to Grannies on an afternoon out, all the way onto old geezers who have a radio plugged in their ear to hear whats happening in other games. Its way more interesting to watch than football and dare I say it Rubgy, and though its pretty confusing at first, there are nearly 40 people on the field once you count the 5 officials, its actually really engaging. The players are also incredibly fit (in every sense of the word) they run around the oval for 4 quarters if 28 minutes each and tackle as hard as in Rugby - hilairously no-one can be sent off during the game they are simply booked and there is a tribunal on Monday morning where the issue is raised and punishments are meted out. Its all quite cut and dry really.

One thing I was really pleased about was that I caught up with my friend Greg who also works for Cadbury and who I met in Ghana last year on the Earthwatch project I went on. He was the candidate from Australia and though I had lost his email, handily checked my blog and saw I was in Melbourne, hence we met up for a drink at a bar in the centre and chatted about how life's treated us over the last year. I also managed to see Joenie, one of the girls off the truck tour in Africa, I stayed at her place my last night in Melbourne and she took me to the Healsville Sanctuary, a Zoo in the Dandenong Hills outside Melbourne where they keep all native Australian animals. I saw Dingos, Platypuses, Wombats, Tassie Devils, Koalas, Roos, Wallabies, Shingle-back Lizards, Goannas and much much more. It was great to see Joenie again and talk about times on the truck and I felt I ticked alot of animal boxes by going to the Zoo!

My 13hr bus ride back up to Sydney was long and relatively dull but driving around Oz does give you the chance to start to realise how big this country is. Its the size of Europe with a population of 20 million and you can drive for hours without seeing any people. You might see the odd house and cars on the highway but actual people are few and far between! We drove for 2 hours out of Canberra along the bottom of a hill ridge next to a totally flat plain which must have stretched about 10 miles across to the hills in the distance and didn't see a soul and only passed 14 cars. This is leaving the nation's Capital city!

So I've been back in Sydney for almost a week and have been trying to sort out the boring stuff about living here. Thanks to my long-suffering hosts Carrie and Jeremy, nearly everything is in place. I'm going to rent a room from one of their friends, I've been introduced to lots of their friends and I've done some initial meetings with recruitment people ready to pick up when I get back. So its all coming together! I'm looking forward to coming back to Balmain and getting settled into a life here - if only till next year.

So tomorrow I head off to Auckland to start my journey home, but I have about a week there before I hit the UK shores on the 3rd September... hope to be seeing you all soon!

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Recent Messages

From David
Enjoyed reading your blog and viewing some great pics.
Hope you have a great trip down under. Look forward to seeing you when you return.
Dave & Fiona.
Response: Cheers Dave! was great to see you all in September too... Hope the hot tub is still getting used now the weather is drawing in?
From RHian
Dude, i'm dying without the blog updates....can't you just start a "i'm working away" type blog?? Send me an email when you can so I have your email address -


Response: Dude I know! sadly my internet access has been limited to free time in the library... boooo. Hoping to remedy that very, very soon though watch this space!!
From Katrin
Hi Welcome back!

Hope you aren't suffering the post holiday blues too much. I have loved reading your blog and seeing your pics. Cant wait to see you again soon.
Much Love Katrin x
Response: Thanks Katrin! Really great to get a message from you... am actually heading back to Aus in about 2 weeks to work in Sydney for a while. Will drop you a facebook message to catch up.. Cxx
From Jess
So looking forward to seeing you travelling lady! You've done so much!!! Looking forward to catching up over a glass or jug or two of Sangria! See you soooooooooooon!! XX
Response: Thanks Jessa... can't wait either.... Spain here we come!
From Jane
I know you'll soon be back in the UK and we'll see you then but I just want to thank you for taking the time to keep us all abreast of everything you've been up to during your time away. You have no idea what a pleasure it has been to find another episode when I log on in the morning. I've printed them all off and have quite a book now to enjoy re-reading when the nights draw in. I'm glad you have remained safe and well and look forward to seeing you soon.
With love
Jane xx
Response: Thanks Jane, I think you must qualify as my keenest blog reader! I'm very much looking forward to seeing you all again soon as well. Will do my best to get the pictures I'm missing uploaded soonest.
From Joan
Gosh Clare, I can't believe that your travelling has nearly come to an end. You must be looking forward to seeing your mum, dad and Daniel and I'm sure they will be getting really excited. We must all get together sometime to hear all about your fantastic experiences. Joan xxx
Response: Hi Joan - I know I can barely believe it either, although my bank balance is beginning to show the toll of a year without work! I hope to see you all soon, though with me heading back to Sydney in October, I'm not sure it'll be all that soon - you'll just have to keep reading about that chapter!
From Alex
Middle of the night here and can't sleep so thought I would check and see what you up to! Glad Australia is going well. Back in Provence for the Fall. My big news is that I am quitting my job at the end of October and plan on traveling, getting yoga certifies and figuring out where to call home! Hope to chat with you when you are back in the Uk.
Response: Wow hon, that sounds amazing - you know there's bed here in Sydney if you need one... will chat in Sept for catch up xxxx
From Pringle
Tilbury! - how the devil are you? Love logging on here to read about your travels.....very envious! Rumour has it you're back here in a few weeks time for a night out? Might see you then. Em x
Response: Indeed Pringle! I very much hope to see you there too... can't beat a London night out with the old CTB crowd! xx
From Nina
Thank you!
We had a lovely day and honeymoon in the Maldives.. lots of reef sharks, mantas etc!
Readin your write up of Oz so far... particularly the part on Canberra... may I suggest Bill Bryson 'Down Under' as a spot of light reading.. hee, hee!
Mrs Kyp x
Response: Yay! Congrats to the both of you... I had forgotten about Bill Bryson but I should definitely be reading him right now... Cxx
From Greg from Ghana
Hi Clare, just checked your blog for the first time in a while and find you are in Melbourne (I think still). Send me an email and let me know if you have time to catch up for a beer!! Maybe a Club?!
Response: Good Plan! I lost your email address so good timing on checking the blog! See you soon (have replied to your email with more info..)
From Chris
Hey up chica - wow you are really doing the world, we miss you though! ANy chance you might hop back for a bit after all at some point while in Oz?!?!

Enjoy those home comforts and being somewhere so comfortable and familiar - I cried when I landed in Melbourne )but that was more about the memory of my ten year old self who thought neighbours was the best thing in the world!)

Hugs xxx
Response: I know. I know, its like I've blotted out squat toilets already... my first day in Sydney I gazed in wonder at a shaving of Parmesan cheese!
From Joan
Hi Claire
Just been showing mum your amazing pics, she is well impressed. You look great and seem to be having a wonderful time. We go to Portugal in 2 days not quite as exotic as some of the places you've seen. Take care and i will be in touch after my hol.

Response: Thanks Joan - have a lovely time in Portugal, things are going to calm right down for me here in Sydney too... back to the working world sadly!
From Graham
Clare - you appear to be having way too much fun & seeing brilliant things. Can you please calm this down as it makes my view at work of a grey warehouse seem all the more depressing. Although it does glisten in the sun. What was it like standing where Lara Croft fell through something? How exciting!
Response: I know! I was right where Lara once was....sigh. Anyway back to that warehouse, tell me more...
From Beth Walthew
Hi hun - KL sounds wicked. You and Amy look very 'I'm going to save the world' in your picture!! REALLY looking forward to seeing you in September. Love lots, bxx
Response: Thanks Boot! need to put up some more pics soon but can't find anyone with image resizing software - grrrr. See you kids soon though! xx
From Katie Whoot
Claree Clogs!

Still loving your blog - great to read when I need a break from work :)

Where to next? How long til i see your smiley face again? We all miss you!

PS I fully understand the descent into airplanes rather than overland after 8 months on the road...

Response: Little Whoot! hey there girl, I know, I know, I was meant to overland but really, enough of those rubbish overnight buses I'm 30 years old goddamnit! Blog might slow down a bit once I get to Oz (tomorrrow!!!!!!) but will be with Carrie and Jezzer so will be talking non-stop for about 3 weeks I reckon!
See you soon,
From Rhian
Ha - love the camel!

April, I got you penciled, no going on cruises next april......i'm holding you to it!
Response: No problemo... April it is girl, Hawaii here I come!
From Mattie
Hola, still reading your stories, still digging all your tales from the other side of the world (: Missing you loads, lf_M_xxxxx
Response: Thanks Mattie! Saw you all welcomed Liz back home in style from Marge's facebook pics... looked like a good weekend - Am on Bali now and ready for some R&R before launching into Australia...
From Jess
Me again...keep looking at your pics! I love the super hero pose! Love ya, not long til the wedding! X
Response: Great thanks hon, and a little birdie tells me its not long till Joe is back! wayhey!!! roll on August!!
From Rhian
Don't you worry Clare, come by Hawaii and i'll make sure you have some difficult traveling ahead. I'll make you walk from the airport to Waikiki for Mai Tais at Dukes, hows that?

LOVE the photos.
Response: Ha ha! sound like a challenge I could rise to! Pencil me in for April next year on the way home, I'm sure I could fit in some carousing in Hawaii - its tough life, but if you want to see the world.... Cxx
From Jess
Hey Love
I couldn't see your son in any photos...I guess you've been away 9 months now so you could have had a baby.....!!!
I love the floating market! X
Response: Damn foiled! well what with all your lot up Norfolk way producing babies I just started to feel the pressure! Thanks for your little messages hon xxx
From Chris
You've been busy since I last blogged on Clarey - unbelievable photos! You are making me very very apprehensive - have just bought Mum & Dad's house (ug) and am utterly distraught that something as mundane as a mortgage might make it tricky for me to follow your footsteps... So you need to have double the fun for me! CKR xx
Response: Wow! thats quite a life changer! Congrats on being a Homeowner... Will do my best on the fun front, but you know sometimes its just difficult to enjoy bumming round the world for a year with no commitments or firm plans. Cxxx
From Joan
Hi Clare, you continue to impress with your amazing photography and interesting blog. Keith says you should write a book. Take care.
Response: Thanks Joan, glad you're enjoying it... I'm finding that I put up more and more pictures as its gets harder to whittle them down to 12 for each page!
From Rikko

Yo dude, loving the pics, you've got some great shots there. And you're looking mighty fine too, if i do say so myself.

We're raving up it up on our balcony with some 181 classics. Charlie is round too :)

Rave on dude, and see ya soon
Love Rikko xxx
Response: WHooooOOOOOoooott back attcha! Glad to hear its not all doom and rainy gloom back home then... have a good time, but not too much of one, save it till I'm back!! Big Clarey Hugs
From Nina
Will be in Ho Chi Minh on Friday night (23rd) if you are about??

Hope you're enjoying 'nam xx
Response: damnit! no, we won't be there for about 2 more weeks - what are you doing there, pray tell?
From Jess
A-Ha! More pics! I love the canyonning one with the waterfall and the silk spinning. And three guys in one night-well done love-nearly up there with Beth and the rugby club incident!!
You look really good and happy, good times.
Response: yes not quite as good a story as the rugby club incident but fun nonetheless! How domestic goddess am I with the spinning and weaving? who would have though it?! cxxx