Campervan journey from Cairns to Sydney

We arrived in Cairns at 5 in the morning after zero hours sleep.  The hostel couldn’t check us in, so we slept outside on their veranda, spooning our backpacks and trying to catch 5 minutes of sleep.  The hostel we had chosen had good reviews and said it was recently refurbished.  I know recently is an ambiguous word, but this place was rank.  There were three toilets between a gazillion people and it was full of 18 year old shrieking brits.  I might as well have been in fifth Ave in Manchester. “oh my gaaaaaaad I like totally slept with those two guys last night”, “sambuccaaaaaaa”, “are we doing shots yaaaaaaah”.  

So.  We changed our plans.  Instead of getting buses and staying in hostels, we would get a mini campervan.  We naively also thought this would be cheaper.  It is not cheaper.  Be warned.  It is only cheaper if you free camp and forgoe your bodily hygiene.  If you value a shower then you’ll have to pay site fees, which are similar to a hostel anyway.  But it is much better.  You can drive to where you want and see what you want.  You see a pretty thing.  You stop and eat lunch at the pretty thing.  Whereas on a bus you can only see it for a second from the window.

So we started in Cairns and hired “Coco the camper”.  Named after CocoIchibanya.  Because nom.  She was a mature old lady but very robust.  

She had a two ring burner, a full on proper fridge, plus all the bits that you should need – cups, cutlery, sleeping bags.  We got her from travelwheels, which is a much smaller rental company, but you don’t have the embarrassing advertisement on the sides.  She was discreet.

We stayed in a lovely place called Lake Eacham.  The campsite owners were lovely and talked to us for ages about MS.  Their daughter is currently in Mexico having stem cell therapy so it was interesting learning about their story and comparing to Andrew’s.

We went down the waterfall circuit past Millaa Millaa falls and spent the night at Etty bay.  

This site had Cassowaries wandering around on the beach and around your cars.  

We thought it was really funny.  Only later did we learn that Cassowaries are one of the most dangerous birds on the planet which can kill you with a kick.  Oh well!

We went to Airlie beach for a couple of days which was beautiful. 

 This was meant to be our stopping off point for Whitehaven beach.  It is meant to be one of the most stunning beaches in the world, with white sand and crystal blue waters.  We had booked a trip out there for the day and the weather seemed fine.  However out to sea, the boat was almost horizontal and we were being thrown about by the waves.  I was terrified, so when the skipper came to tell us it was too dangerous and we were turning back, I was relieved.  Andrew had had a dream that we were thrown overboard and got eaten by jellyfish, so I was starting to panic thinking that he had actually had a premonition. The company gave us a full refund and we got to eat our free lunch! 

Instead we went to Cape Hillsborough, which is a national park that you camp in.

There are some nice walks around, which we did, and the kangaroos just hang around the toilets like furry dealers.  It was nice seeing living kangaroos as there are so many obliterated on the side of the road.

We also visited a nature reserve and met some native animals including a blind Koala called Brady.



The actual highlight of our trip was Fardooleys bush camp.  It isn’t an official campsite.  This lovely couple have a shed load of land so they let people camp there for a nominal fee.  There is nothing nearby so the stars are amazing.  The showers are heated by a wood fire that the owner chops the wood for every night.  Best shower in Australia!  You are classed as a guest at their house rather than a customer and they invite you in to drink moonshine and listen to Australian country music with the locals!  We had a blast!  

We will never forget that it was Kevin’s birthday – He wore a little bow tie and hat and got a pie with a candle in it.  Kevin isn’t a human.  This is Kevin!!

We headed further down to 1770.  This place was stunning.  I have never walked on sand that squeaked before! 

Hervey bay was a bit of an anticlimax.  I had been before and remembered it being amazing.  I think I must’ve built it up in my head.  It did have an amazing pier though which seemed to go on forever.

We visited Noosa heads which was beautiful although really busy.  The sea was so clear and pretty.

Brisbane was a bit of a let down.  Cities aren’t great in a camper.  We spent a small fortune on the campsite yet we were still miles from the city so we paid another small fortune to get the bus into it.  It was OK.  Meh.  I think cities are cities.  They all have a forever 21 and a starbucks.  If you want something different you need to go out into nature.

We then headed down though Byron bay, through Flat Rock and Nambucca heads into Sydney.  

Unfortunately we got caught in a storm for two days and rain stopped play.  It was so heavy that there were flood warnings in Nambucca.  It felt like Manchester.

Down in Sydney, we braved the rain to go to see the city.  We were lucky and were there at the time when “Vivid”, was on, which is a light festival.  The opera house looked pretty cool.  The whole area around the opera house was nice and had some lovely bars and shops.  

At this point in my trip I had bought some tablets to help me de-stress.  They were just herbal things.  I noticed after a few days that my scalp started hurting.  A few days after that, my hair started falling out from the root.  Add to that that my pants are now becoming unbearably tight and my skin hasn’t seen the sun for a few weeks.  Some of my friends have been backpacking and have come back, slender, glowing and bronzed.  It will be just typical that I come back like this…

Shower the horse I’m done.

Anxiety in Oz

When I named this blog “the anxious backpacker”, I genuinely thought it would be filled with tales of panic, stress and woe.  Other than my completely appropriate response to backpacking in India, (you try having the shits for a solid month and see how happy you feel!) I haven’t actually had any cause to use the anxiety hashtag.  I’m not as homesick as I thought I would be.  I’m not as stressed as I thought I would be.  But on coming to the country which is most culturally similar to my own, a country where things should be easy, my brain decided to make things difficult.

We arrived in Perth and stayed with my Aunt and Uncle in Southern River.  It was time to decompress and chill out.  We ate Nando’s and KFC (We are back on the veggie wagon now – it keeps tipping over and throwing us off).  We did our washing. We watched TV and slept in a lovely comfy bed.

But I felt unbelievably sad and despondent.  Maybe my body thought I had come back home and it stopped producing the adrenaline that had been keeping me going in Asia?  More likely, it was the fact that 22 people were killed mercilessly in my hometown.  22 people, mainly teenagers, went on a night out to have fun and see their idol, and never came home.  We were glued to the TV and refreshing twitter constantly to get the latest.  It’s a weird feeling being so far from home and watching the events in your own city unfold, through a plastic box on the other side of the planet.

I am living in Bury at the moment and my heart was breaking for the mother of one of the victim’s Olivia, also from Bury.  She appeared on a news channel, pleading for anyone with any information on the whereabaouts of her daughter to contact her.  She fought back tears during the interview as she admitted that she hadn’t had any contact with her Olivia and was just waiting for some news.  Unfortunately it wasn’t the news she wanted.

When we weren’t staring aghast at the news or going down a twitter rabbithole, we did end up getting out into Perth city.  It was OK.  Meh.  I don’t know if it was my mood or if Perth is just “meh” but it just didn’t seem as nice as I remembered.  

The people in the city seemed a bit rough. The phrase I have learned to describe these people (which I’m still unsure as to whether it is offensive) is “feral bogans”. The kind of people I probably see in my hometown.  Chavs with no manners that push you out of the way to get down the street.  

I missed asian people and their good manners.

We had such a nice stay at my Aunties and it was great to see her.  I think it had been fifteen years or something since we last saw each other.  I will definitely go back to Perth, but I will make sure I am in a better mood!!

24 Hours in Singapore

After a very long delay (and an unexpected stop in Taiwan) we arrived in Singapore.  It was 3am.  We were staying in a 12 bed dorm so we were very worried we were going to wake people up.  We really shouldn’t have worried as it seemed our hostel was right in the middle of party central and there was a lot of noise going on anyway!  We only had one day so we shuffled off to bed ready for our next day.

When we woke up for breakfast we realised how amazing the view was from our hostel.  It was right on the Clarke Quay and was stunning.  

It was also boiling compared to Japan – I had forgotten what constant sweat on your body felt like. Mmmoist.

We did the obligatory look at raffles.  Only from the outside.  You can pay a small fortune to go and have a singapore sling there.  I’ve been inside before when I was a teenager and it wasn’t that impressive.

We wandered around the city and feasted our eyeballs on the colours.  Singapore is a very multicultural city so there are hindu temples right next to chinese temples and lots of interesting things to see.  And, as with any tourist destination, there are a shitload of tat shops.

We ate the most delicious chicken ever from Tian Tian at the Hawker markets.  Oh my days it was tasty – I had to queue for about an hour to get some!  The queue was going out of the building but it was worth it.  The lady chef has won awards for her food (and been endorsed by some celebrity chef that I have never heard of!)

During the day we FOUND A COCOICHIBANYA!!!!!!!! Sorry. I don’t mean to shout but I was so excited I nearly ran there!  For those of you that know me – It made me do my “happy food dance”.  If you don’t know me then you’ll just have to imagine what that looks like.  It looks good.

Also if you don’t know what I’m talking about when I say Cocoichibanya then see my other blog on Nara here.  I walked out of the restaurant and to my utmost delight I saw a Kate Spade stationery shop. I walked round, putting my grubby backpacker paws on all the lovely shiny planners that I couldn’t afford.  Soon, my pretties.  Soon.

The best part of Singapore for me was seeing the lights at night.  We wandered down Marina bay and looked at all the enormous hotels that lit up the sky.

We also saw this dude.

The most amazing part was the Supertree light show in the Gadens by the Bay.  These massive metal trees stretch up into the sky dwarfing everything around them.  

They play music and put on a light show twice a night.  When Andrew found out that the theme was Star Wars he couldn’t contain his excitement.  I could.  But it was an amazing experience even and one well worth going to see if you find yourself in Singapore.

Staying in a LOVE HOTEL in Japan… by mistake.

First and foremost I would like to advise that this post will not be suitable for persons under 18, anyone of a sensitive nature and also my parents!!

The airport in Tokyo isn’t actually in Tokyo.  It’s in Narita which is about an hour away.  We thought we would be clever and book a hotel in Narita so we didn’t have as far to travel on the morning of our flight.  This was our first mistake.  Tokyo is very well connected and if we had stayed at our hostel another night we would have had a five minute walk to the tram and then got the train straight to the airport.  Although geographically nearer, we had a forty minute walk with our heavy backpacks to get to the train station.  So although the train was only ten minutes, it was a much more gruelling journey.

The second and most obvious mistake was that we booked a love hotel.  Which is a sex hotel – there wasn’t much emphasis on love here!  We had discovered this fact a few days before staying.  We had booked everything in advance in Japan, including this hotel.  On the Agoda app there is no mention whatsoever of it being a love hotel other than in the small print which nobody reads.  (I might start doing so in future)  We thought it might be fun to stay in a weird themed hotel and chose this one as it was a Christmas  theme.  We were excited about having a second Christmas and even bought cheap presents for each other from a 100 Yen shop.


However when we looked on the map a few days prior to checking in, we noticed it said “adults only”.  We started to feel a little apprehensive about the cumming of our second Christmas.

Andrew did some research and the oddest thing is that Japanese people think Christmas is a sexy time.  What in the hell is that about?  It’s so odd to put these two things together.  But there are two main traditions for the Japanese at Christmas.  Firstly they have sex on Christmas eve and secondly they eat KFC.  Honestly – Google it!!  Love hotels in Japan are  a big thing because couples who are dating can’t have relations until they are married.  And even when they are married they often live with family and the walls are paper thin.  So they come to these kind of hotels to “attend to their needs”.


So we arrived quite late on (so we thought) at about half 6pm.  At reception a lady scurried out and said we couldn’t check in until 7pm.  We thought that was weird.  Then realised that people hired it by the hour in the day.  I was really wishing I had a blue light so I could check that the room had been properly cleaned!  Or maybe I would be better off not knowing!

We sat in the waiting room until we were allowed to check in.  It was the strangest waiting room I have ever been in.  Three couches sat facing the walls with their backs to each other.  This is clearly for privacy for the couples, but it felt icky, especially surrounded by christmas trees and Santa with his overflowing sack.


The room was actually really nice.  There was a huge bed and the biggest bath ever! Plus lots of products to use – shampoos, conditioners, body lotions etc.  I did have to read everything very carefully – I didn’t want to end up with lube in my hair.

You couldn’t escape from the fact it was clearly a love hotel.  Just flicking through the channels you went straight from BBC news to porn.  The room service menu was hidden in the magazine rack nestled between porn magazines and lingerie catalogues .  There were two vending machines – one was for drinks.  I looked excitedly in the other, thinking it might be food.  It wasn’t food.  It was a vending machine for vibrators.  Never in my life have my poor innocent eyes seen anything like it!


There was a hair dryer and even a hair styling blower for volume which I was excited about.  I’d had “backpacker hair” for the past three months! Nearer the bed was another box, about the same size as a GHD box.  I wondered if it could be straighteners.  My hair hadn’t been straight since January!  I opened it and was faced with a giant wand style vibrator.  It was packaged in a plastic bag which said “sanitised”.  So… a communal vibrator.  Umm OK then.  (In it’s defence it did come with a giant condom-thing which you are to put over it for hygiene.  A toy sack – in a Christmas hotel)  


We settled in for the night and we soon came to the conclusion that the people upstairs didn’t like the way their room was laid out. They were definitely moving furniture.   It wasn’t anything else as it went on for far too long.  Also later there were some shouts of glee from another room.  It was nice to know that someone else was just as excited about the hair products as I was.

So overall – I would recommend this hotel although more for the experience of trying out an odd Japanese custom rather than for the convenience of the airport.  If you would like to nosey at it – it’s here – http://www.chapel-hotel.co.jp/chiba/h05/  But be warned, if you stay here, I don’t think you’ll ever look at Santa in the eye again!

Fujikawaguchiko

The first thing about this place is learning how the hell to pronounce it.  When Japanese people asked where we were going and we replied Fujikahubleurghko we got some blank looks.  It is much easier to say Mount Fuji!  Although it would have been fantastic to climb Mount Fuji, it was off season and only recommended for experienced climbers and we were in no way fit enough to tackle it!


We arrived on a lovely clear day and got to our hostel which had an amazing view of the mountain.  Also the hostel deserves a mention here – If you do find yourself in this area this hostel was the best we have stayed in so far.  I’m writing this in New Zealand and this still holds true.  We stayed at K’s House Fuji View (http://kshouse.jp/fuji-view-e/index.html) and it was so well equipped.  The kitchen was miles better than what we have at home!  The only thing that was confusing about it was the sign for the women’s toilets.  Looks kind of…male… to me!


The first day we arrived, we walked round the lakes and got some lovely views of the mountain.  I have seen some things on this trip that were meant to move me.  People said that when I saw the Taj Mahal I would be moved by it.  Meh.  But I could have looked at this mountain all day.  I actually stopped for about half an hour just to gaze at it!  I’m glad I filled my eyeballs with as much of it as I could because the next day the clouds descended and it was like it never was!

We went on a hike to a viewpoint which would have been amazing but alas there was nothing there.  We had to improvise.  

There were still lots of lovely things to see on the walk including a stunning little temple half way up with some interesting statues.  Andrew did the Shinto Buddhism cleansing hand-washing thing.  There was a point on the walk in the woods where we stopped to listen and could hear nothing.  I mean actually nothing, no birds, no cars, no wind.  Nothing.  I could hear the blood in my ears pumping which was so weird!  


We walked 18km in total and were knackered when we got back!  We treated ourselves to two helpings of the japanese curry!  I had just ditched a lot of my clothes in Bangkok as they were too big and bought smaller ones.  As I shovelled in my curry I could feel my waistband tightening – I hoped I wasn’t going to have to upsize again!  I buried the thought with some Meji chocolate and 7/11 cookies.

We were really lucky that we arrived on the day we did as the next day (the day we were leaving) was also cloudy.  We met a guy from the states who had only come for two days and hadn’t managed to see it at all which must have been gutting for him.  


Grateful for our experience we got back on the bus to Tokyo.  We were headed to a hotel in Narita before flying out the next day.  As we were on the bus Andrew decided to check the flight.  As it turned out I had made the most delightful mistake ever!  I had thought we were leaving a day earlier than we were.   We had a whole extra day in Japan!  Luckily the hotel let me move the booking til the next day and we quickly found a hostel in Tokyo and set to making the most of our last 24 hours.

Nara – A deer do

If you come to Japan you HAVE to visit Nara!  At the bottom of Nara near the train station, all the hotels and guest houses sit together in the town centre.  Ours was a good walk away but was actually inside the deer park.  

The location was amazing. You walk out of your door into the park and headfirst into deer!  The only drawback to this place was that we had to walk two and a half kilometres to get food and drink! You had to be reeeeally hungry to motivate yourself to go to town!

The deer park in Nara is the primary reason that tourists come to visit.  The deer are very tame and come up to you for crackers (which you purchase from any of the shops in Nara).  They are also trained to bow politely for a cracker although there are some greedy individuals that head bump you trying to get in your pockets, and leaving deer drool all over your legs!

The park is amazing.  It is very busy in the day, mainly with Japanese school children on English lesson field trips.  They come up to you and ask if you mind answering some questions.  The same questions every time… “Where are you from?” “What’s your favourite food?” This was, in the beginning quite charming, as the children were so well mannered and eager to learn, but after the twelfth time in one day you find yourself being mean, and quickly turning down another path when you see the gaggle approaching.  

After 5pm though, the park is deserted and it is really serene.  Just you and the deer!

In Nara town we made a fatal mistake of going into a Coco-Ichibanya.  The pictures outside looked innocent enough.  It was just an ordinary japanese curry like a Katsu which you could customise to your tastes (spice level, sauce base, topping etc). However once we had eaten it, it became apparent that it was laced with meth.  We just couldn’t stop eating it.  We ate it the next day and the next.  And when we realised we were going to kill our budget there, we found 7/11 boil in the bag alternatives that almost hit the spot so we ate these instead.  Although we wanted to try the different foods in Japan we ate the curry eight times as it was so damn delicious.  We even found one in Singapore to my delight! – The next one on our route is LA and I will sure as shit be going there, no matter how far the detour. Its the ONLY thing I’m looking forward to in LA! Serious jawgasm!

The last couple of days in Nara we did some walking.  There was a little “hill” in front of our hostel which we walked up the back of and ended up doing 18km. 

The view was astounding though and well worth it, although the next day we couldn’t move!  There was also a strange inscribed rock formation at the top, where a lady was collecting flowers.  I presume it had something to do with Shinto buddhism, but it had a very eerie feeling.  

Nara was stunning!  Do yourself a favour and go there! I would come back in a heartbeat (and not just for the Coco-Ichibanya!)

Kyoto, Japan

From Tokyo we took an overnight bus to Kyoto.  We used a company called Willer express. Warning for those who are used to the overnight buses in Asia.  The buses in Japan are not the same.  Instead of being able to recline almost fully back, you have about a two inch recline on a Japanese bus.  Plus, because Japanese people are so very polite, nobody reclines and you look like a wanker doing so.  So we spent a full night in a chair sitting up, getting bum ache.  The redeeming features that the Japanese sleeper bus had were charging points on every chair (which is unheard of in Asia) and a cute little hood that comes down over your head like a pram hood! This, again, is a very Japanese manners thing – it is rude, for the ladies especially, to be seen asleep and potentially drooling over yourself. 

We arrived in Kyoto super early and decided to walk to our hostel which was about an hours walk.  I immediately noticed it wasn’t quite as perfect as Tokyo, although was still pretty.  

It was a grey day and we were shattered. 

Our hostel was a capsule hotel.  If you go to Japan you definitely need to try one of these!  We stayed at 9 hours kyoto (https://ninehours.co.jp/en/kyoto/) but there are others too. I just loved how minimal everything was!

The men and women were on separate floors with separate bathrooms, locker rooms and even separate lifts!  If I am honest, it was a nice break from each other!  Travelling with the same person, seeing each other 24/7 can start to make you feel a little “stabby”. Upon check in we were given a pack with toothbrush and strange but very comfy black pyjamas set and slippers.  

Edit
The lockers and bathrooms were on one floor and the sleeping capsules were on another.  Although these look claustophobic, they were actually really roomy.  Andrew just couldn’t get over how clinical everything looked.  He said he thought he was going to wake up in a bath of ice with his kidneys missing!

In Kyoto we visited a couple of temples. One completely by accident, which was stunning and within walking distance of our hostel.

The other is a famous temple called Fushimi Inari with sprawling orange gates over a circular walk.  At the bottom there are hundreds of tourists and school children all trying to get the perfect selfie with the gates in the background.

 

However once you walk up nearer the top past the lazy instagramers, there are less people and you can take some pretty photos. 

 It was a bit rainy on the day that we went but luckily we had our raincoats and an umbrella, fortuitously purchased (just in case) the day before!

We only spent two days in Kyoto so we didn’t manage to see everything, however we would definitely visit again and hope that we are luckier with the weather. Also we would get the bullet train instead of scrolling and getting the bus. We thought we had saved on a night of accommodation when in reality we just lost a day to being tired and cranky! Remember – cost and worth are entirely different things.