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Archive for January, 2014

On another balcony, watching another beautiful sunrise. This time the giant orange sun makes her leap from the horizon to cloud cover leaving behind a bright slash of yellow across my Melbourne morning.

It’s 6.30am at the bottom of the world. It’s the start of another beautiful day in Australia and pretty much everyone on the planet I know and love are still in my yesterday.

It’s taken me my whole life to make it, but finally I am here. Australia. Now just starting my fifth day Down Under and I need to reflect on my first impressions, as they’ll disappear into the wind if I leave it any longer.

The descent on the plane is the starting point. The first impression. From afar it was much like any other. It was overcast, so looked all too familiar. But as we got closer the strangeness started subtly. Roofs were a different shape, trees a little more gnarly.

The taxi ride into Sydney was more telling. Early morning so no folk about, but birds on street corners, bouncing after insects. Language on billboards ever so slightly different. And the houses as I reached Annandale a pot pouree of exotic cabins, different colours, brocade balconies, definitely something different here.

My first few days in Sydney, getting down to the water, finally getting my shot of Australya with e Harbour Bridge and Opera House hitting me square between the eyes. BAM here I am, pinned tightly to the surface of the planet. Right here. Right now. People eve where, jovial spirits, Australia Day. The harbour is way more compact that I imagined. My whole life the bridge and the opera house jump out of TV screens like towering divas, demanding you attention. Here they sit quietly, no shouting, but still I can’t stop taking pictures.

We go to the botanical gardens for a cheese and cracker picnic. I fall in love with the birds everywhere, exotic huddles of weird looking creatures and screeching flocks of bright coloured parrots.

Boats race through the harbour. We walk through the streets.

The next few days I work from a home office, but get respite from morning walks along coastal paths linking beautiful beaches, Bronte to Bondi, a lifetime dream, in search of the lifesavers, but disappointed to find they have beards and beer bellies, not like on TV.

The sun is fierce and welcomes me to Australia.

We catch a ferry through the harbour to Manly beach for delicious fish and chips, fighting off the Aussie gulls. School kids making the most of their last few days before school starts, driving the lifeguards crazy as whistles blow and loud speakers try to herd them between the flags.

Yesterday I left Sydney behind, soaring out in the morning getting an amazing aerial view of my last few days – the harbour, the bays clinging to the coast line, the ferry route to Manly, all perfectly framed through my airplane porthole.

We landed in Melbourne, my home now for a week. I was surprised at how big it is, skyscrapers and wide avenues with tramlines. A real city. I went to work and slipped into commuter life, disguised as a local. And now I sit on my balcony, on the 13th floor, overlooking my urban sunrise, getting ready for my day.

Coffee here is good. I wake up early in the morning. The light and sunshine gives me energy. People here are friendly but laid back. Straight-talking, no BS. Life is straight-forward, no drama.

I feel the distance from home but it’s more the distance in time. Here I’m a time traveller, a girl from the future, always ahead, an explorer in space time. I like it here, I’m meeting the world first and it’s bright and big and ever so slightly different. I know there’s a whole continent out there just waiting to impress me some more, but this time I am focusing on this small corner in the south east of e island. A hop and a skip from the South Pole.

But I know I’ll return at some point in the future. And I won’t wait so long next time.

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I’ll never forget our last night in Mauritius. It was time for bed, an early flight the next day. We’d just finished a long dinner but I insisted on a final walk on the beach. We walked across the sand, the wind was up and the once turquoise sea now black with the night. We walked past the sun beds, lying empty in their neat lines on the beach. I lay down on one and looked up at the blanket sky overhead. A dark, deep, clear sky. It blinked back, full of twinkling stars, dotted in the unfamiliar patterns of the Southern Hemisphere. And in the middle of that sea of foreign stars sat the bright clear moon, fat and full and smiling down on us. Magical. The sky felt so tall, towering overhead, I felt the size of this tiny wild island, sitting in the middle of its coral curtain. I felt like an explorer, an adventurer caught in time with windswept hair. I caught my breath and took one final look up at the beauty of that magnificent moon. The same moon that I now look up at, back home, still in the sky. My misty moon.

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I’ve just spent the last two weeks driving along the bottom of Africa. The very bottom – from Cape Town, along the Garden Route to Port Elizabeth. This is my second time, the first was 9 years ago and I was backpacking, living in cabins and tree houses, drinking beer in jacuzzis full of other backpackers. This time, way more civilised, on my honeymoon in amazing shiny hotels. A different world. Although I was excited to show my husband Africa, perhaps this wasn’t entirely the Africa he was expecting, but it was a fabulous one! My top five highlights…

1. The food. I can honestly say in just over two weeks I did not have a bad meal. I didn’t even have an average meal. Everything was delicious, from the gourmet delicacies in the French restaurants of Franshhoek to the cheap and cheerful late night curry on Long Street, Cape Town.

SA and Italy tie for first place in my food Olympics.

2. The friendly people/service. In SA when you are served food or provided a service, they respond with “pleasure” and they sound like they mean it! Often lacking in other places, there is always a friendly face and people care (or seem to!).

3. The views/scenery. I truly believe that Cape Town is the most beautiful city I have ever visited. Table Mountain and the bay and the rolling green down to the town is stunning. Who could argue with that backdrop? The 12 Apostles and then the Garden Route, for a photophile like me, I was addicted to snapping away on my camera as gorgeous scenes rolled past my window.

4. The weather. At this time of year the heat is on and as I know back home it’s super grizzly at the moment it makes me appreciate it all the more. The heat permeates my skin and seeps into my soul and s-l-o-w-s me down and I love that. All worries just melt away and there’s nothing to concern myself with but where the next cafe or bar is to sit, gulp down an ice cold castle and people watch…

5. The adventure. We packed in a lot (considering we’d slowed down to Africa time), from hanging with 2000 penguins on Boulders Beach on Christmas Day, to bobbing in a cage surrounded by 7 great white sharks, to a wine tour on horseback, to taking two cheetahs on a sunrise walk on leads (!), to our final hurrah of a three day safari in Shamwari. The safari was INCREDIBLE, possibly the best 3 days I’ve ever had on holiday. Up each day at 5am, out on a four hour game drive, home for breakfast. Relaxing in the day, then off at 345 for the second, searching for the Big 5. We found them all, the leopard took a lot of stalking and we nearly gave up hope, but when she finally came out of the bushes, it was the biggest rush. That and getting charged by a frisky male elephant!

It was with a heavy heart we left SA, but with our next stop being Mauritius it wasn’t the worst thing in the world!

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