The Land of Aus’

Australia. The land down-under. The land of sunshine and beaches. Australia was absolutely stunning and burning hot. I visited Australia for a couple of weeks as part of a longer adventure, and I would love to go back. I stayed mainly within Sydney, and ventured up the Gold Coast to Surfers Paradise and Byron Bay. To be honest, the entire coast of Australia was a surfers paradise, and I burnt to a crisp!

Sydney was a stunning city and filled with things to do and places to visit, though I managed to walk around the whole city in my first day, going through the Botanical Gardens to the Opera House, to the sky tower and down to Darling Harbour. I was completely spent. Which probably explains why I spent most of the following days on the beach! On the next day I walked a beautiful coastal walk from Coogee beach (possibly the best name for a beach I’ve ever heard) to Bondi beach (my friends at home screaming at me for not getting a photo with the famous lifeguards or pretending to drown in order to be saved by one of them). It was a stunning coastline, but my favourite place was this beautiful cove along the way that was wonderful for swimming and cooling off for the rest of the walk (this is pictured below, but I don’t know the name).

The following days were full with a trip to Manly, a wonderful little town visited my boat (what more could you want than a boat bus!) where I ate A LOT of gelato, a trip to the aquarium and Taronga zoo (again, via boat).


To complete the trip I booked a flight up to the Gold Coast, and stayed with a friend’s friend’s family (that barbecued everything and had an amazing outdoor water bed because it is just always sunshine). Byron Bay was by far my favourite place, the beaches were just as beautiful and accompanied with a lovely, laid-like vibe. There were kite festivals, food markets and parades galore. In the end though, I had to make my way back to Sydney in time for my flight over to New Zealand!

And, Australia is full of parrots!

Life is a Beach

What more would you want than a 3 day weekend sipping cocktails and eating pancakes under the beautiful sun. Sri Lanka has gorgeous white sand beaches and an ocean filled with turtles and whales.

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A statue built depicting the height of the tsunami

Day One: Turtles. Spent the day travelling around in the bus all the way to a town named Hikaduwa, home to a wonderful turtle sanctuary. These guys have dedicated their life to saving injured turtles, hatching babies safely and releasing them into the wild. First though, I took a trip to a ladies house where she had set up this wonderful tribute to the victims of the Boxing Day tsunami. Though harrowing, with walls covered floor to ceiling in children’s depictions of the big wave, photographs and chilling, upsetting stories from those who survived, if you ever find yourself in the South of Sri Lanka, this is worth a visit. But plan to go to the turtle sanctuary afterwards, because it really does cheer you up.

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Day Two: Today was more or less a beach today, lounging around reading and drinking a lot of milkshakes. I also visited a lovely town called Galle, a completely walled town much like York or Canterbury. Absolutely beautiful. In the evening me and the friends I was with wondered  along the shore that was littered with bars and restaurants. Sri Lanka’s Ararak (much like whiskey or rum) was great in cocktails.

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Day Three: A very early start for me because I had booked myself onto a whale tour! I wasDSCN1737
extremely tired and I think I remember someone waking me up when we got out far enough into the ocean. Before long we saw pods of small of dolphins and got pretty close to some wonderful blue whales. I had always dreamed of seeing whales, though the experience was a little marred by being extremely seasick. Though it really was great, and I got some well-deserved pancakes and a pot of tea upon my return to the beach.

 

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Trekking and Safari

To start this post I have to tell you that going on a safari and viewing so many wonderful animals in their home has always been a dream of mine. Sri Lanka is the home of many national parks, famous for their beautiful vibrant birds, elephants and leopards. The leopard, being the more elusive animal, made me choose a national park home to the most elephants. Seemed like the best bet! And it was remarkable.

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It was a Saturday, an I awoke early to begin the tremendous walk to ‘The end of the world’, in order to arrive before the clouds appeared and the view disappeared with them. So it’s dark, really dark, but the sun begins to rise over the distant mountains and the deer that live there. It was so beautiful. Thankfully as well, not so hot. The end of the world is aptly named because it is so high it feels like you just might have reached the end, the drop is almost vertical and they say that from there you can see the sea (though I didn’t). It was wonderful. But not just that, the walk was intermingled with flowing rivers and waterfalls.

 

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The next day was safari day. Up at 4.30am (again!), and taken to the safari on this huge jeep. We began the journey with buffalo, a lot of buffalo.

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But as we turned around the corner there it was, our very first elephant! I huge male that had just come from a bath in the river. He stood close and threw mud over himself. Right by him was this gorgeous group of four juvenile elephants, all with bands around their neck. These elephants were being tracked to ensure their survival, because a couple of them has lost their mothers or been removed from the wild because of illness before being placed together as a makeshift herd. Before we knew it we’d seen toucans, snakes, peacocks in trees and crocodiles. Old elephants, mating elephants and mothers with their babies. And it was wonderful. I shall let my photos speak for themselves. No words do justice how great a day this was.

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Celebrating in the Cultural Capital

My second weekend! I travelled to the ‘cultural capital’ Kandy, which already sounds like a great place without even visiting. This is one of those places you must visit if you ever find yourself on this beautiful island. I may have only spent a couple of days there, but I packed it all in.
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Beginning the journey by visiting an Elephant sanctuary. I was never before an advocate of places like this, riding elephants while sitting upon a wooden board isn’t fair on the animals (they didn’t do that here), and it just never seemed like a place such big and beautiful animals should live. However, this place was quite wonderful. The elephants were all rescued from places like temples, and captive elephants in Sri Lanka are not allowed to be bred, which means this sanctuary was dedicated only to rescuing these elephants, whilst also educating people about them. Plus, it was absolutely wonderful to be so up close to such majestic animals.

 

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This beautiful elephant spent her days bathing after breaking her leg in a temple parade and finding herself in the sanctuary

From here, I visited tea gardens and learnt about the process of growing tea (which Sri
Lanka is pretty good at), beautiful botanical DSCN0991gardens with rows of coconut trees that resembled Hollywood and ponds full of turtles. I also visited herb and spice gardens, a wonderful display of Kandian dancing, a very unique form of dancing with huge masks, and the unveiling of the Buddha’s Tooth in the Temple of the Tooth. This temple is believed to house the tooth of the Buddha, which they display within a golden box whilst people present the temple with wonderful lotus flowers of many colours.

Finally, I visited a Buddha statue that stood right at the very top of a huge hill. I even got talking to a resident Monk, and he invited me in for tea and biscuits.

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Into the Jungle

I recently spent time working in Sri Lanka, a wonderful, vibrant place. For my first couple of days off from work I travelled to the Jungle, where I spent time white water rafting, rock sliding and jumping down giant waterfalls. Though it barely stopped raining it was absolutely fabulous!
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Though I don’t actually have any action shots, the photos are the very fast flowing river I rafted,
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