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Catherine

Goodbye to Coral Bay

​I can’t believe after nine months spent in the most eye opening, soul awakening place – it’s official, I’m leaving Coral Bay. I arrived with plans to stay a week, fairly solid plans with money spent on coaches, flights and accommodation for the next step, yet still we kept ourselves open for change. Since then I’ve shared some of the most unique, wild and life affirming experiences with a true friend and soul mate. We uprooted our lives for this time in Australia and braced ourselves for the change, as for most travelers it’s a genuine step into the unknown and so far we’ve taken almost every step in synchronicity and I do mean literally every step, but more so, we’ve taken just one step at a time. 

The beauty of travel is its unbelievable ability to open you up to new experiences, people and perspectives, you open-up to far more than you could have imagined and become more tolerant than ever (especially when it comes to hostels – or is that me being unbelievably British?) This place has been everything I didn’t realise I needed, taking me from my comfort zone and into great adventures, unforgettable experiences and wonderful people.

That being said, it’s a rare occurrence to meet a person who imprints themselves onto you for life, especially as you get past your early twenties and can’t be bothered with making best friends at every turn, far too much bloody effort. But I was lucky enough to meet one on my way through; this one caught me unaware. Now the third wheel in our tricycle, who I can only imagine couldn’t help but be attracted to the mischief Rach and I were up to on our last day and night in Coral Bay, in fact, he was so bewildered by how upset we were about leaving he suggested we chuck out everything we had planned. Well we all  know how that turned out, a few ciders on the beach later and Aaron became the reason we actually changed our tickets, cancelled our flights and let fate decide if we should stay a little longer. Arguably he’s also the cause of copious amounts of  mayhem; the lyrics, “red, red wine, makes me forget” have never been so poignant. 

So we stayed for an undecided amount of time and over the past nine months I’ve worked for four different companies, had ten different job roles within them and moved home six and a half times. I found new friends at every turn, some of whom I would call family and a special lady Rachel and I care enough to call our wife,  the youngest and arguably the most energetic of the three of us this trip wouldn’t have been the same without her and her missions, family dinners and 4WD. 

The bay has a way of making extraordinary things happen on a daily basis. We started as umpa lumpas(that’s the name for those who work for accommodation at the backies), we were then adopted by Bayview for six months and rescued from having to leave the bay once more by Ningaloo Reef Resort. To top it off, I’ve spent the last two months working for Ningaloo Reef Dive, which means I’ve been lucky enough to embrace the Ningaloo Reef in its entirety as a snorkel guide. Yep, I’ve come full circle in the Coral Bay circle of life, from a tourist to a crew member welcoming new tourists to the Ningaloo Reef, the beauty of showing them everything I still find so magical has made the final weeks here more wonderful and exciting than I could’ve hoped for. 

When you make any big life decision with someone who knows you inside out it undoubtedly makes it easier, in this case easier to say goodbye to family and friends and pack up your life, career and extended wardrobe (goodbye beautiful shoes!) It’s priceless, the gift of travelling with someone who knows you to your core; and for me that’s Rach. We both stepped into Australia with no plans, no expectations and if I’m honest – no clue! Yet, I can’t imagine it working out any more perfectly, we’ve jumped fearlessly into the ocean and emerged more awake and alive than ever. Grabbing personal fears by the balls, though perhaps a little reluctantly at first, we got the hang of unemployment, regaining the ability the embrace even the most awful situations with enthusiasm as per a nineteen year old and having no set plan for any day. The only problem now is that going back to anything less than this will be, in the long run, unsatisfactory and a waste of effort, you can’t come all this way and discover that life can work on this basic, wonderful and engaging level and then be at all happy to then return to the 9-5 you used to dread.

So, here comes the next challenge and one I owe to myself to grab by the balls. I am so sad to leave, but I’m happy I stayed whilst I could, this place is magical. If living here has proven anything thing to me, it is that you are as young, as capable and as happy as you choose to be. Adventure really does await, you just need to find it. 
I arrived with my long standing, soul mate whom I stumbled upon one fateful day in Camden and I leave with a new soul mate who stumbled into me with his fins once or twice (definitely thrice) one day on a whale shark boat, that’s the beauty  of life… it never turns out how you planned, but you should, at the very least, plan to surprise yourself.

To quote Robert Browning, ‘Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?’

snorkel guiding on the Ningaloo Reef

​Today I worked for Ningaloo Reef Dive and had an epic day guiding our customers through a couple of amazing spots, Lottie’s Lagoon where we met a curious green turtle and Asho’s Gap to watch both the reefies and three turtles get their sprucing from the cleaner fish, we were also lucky enough to have an epic manta ray swim where three manta rays cruised around whilst having themselves cleaned by a specially selected bunch of fish; a beautiful and electrifying experience. Not to mention the most incredibly confident and cute eight year old girlie who just fell in love with the reef and held such vividly excitable conversations about everything after each swim… this place brings out incredible characters within people and today youth was not wasted on this young girlie!:)

Amazing photos by Aaron Bull (all rights reserved)

C.x

My luckiest day in Coral Bay

Six months since my first day on a boat,  ever and on a last minute decision I jumped on the boat with Aaron and the crew. A beautifully hot day, the water like glass and coral spawn floating on the surface like orange rivers running through the Indian Ocean. We soon find out there’s a rather gorgeously proportioned smile from six months ago passinng through the Ningaloo reef, a huge surprise as it is completely out of season for Whale Sharks! But here he was, a beautifully slow 6m male who allows us to join him for a swim. Being offered the pleasure of swimmer for the drop, this means guiding the tourists alongside the whale shark at a licensed distance as not to distrupt or overcrowd him, and in turn sharing what was such an amazing ‘welcome the Ningaloo’ experience for me six months ago, I almost jump overboard at the chance. Whilst also being a whole lot better at not drowning whilst snorkeling and actually keeping up; I spend most of the time swimming right next to him, observing the details of this massive, dotty fish, from how slow and smoothly he moves through the water, to his two tiny eyes placed either side of that huge mouth; I feel a bit rude staring for so long that I find myself offering him a little wave. 

Not to mention, before this we swum on the sand flats in perfect visibilty with a 3M Manta Ray whilst he played with us, twisting and flipping. After the whale shark excitement I even completed my fifth dive, and first adventure dive as a certified PADI diver.

 I spot a Woobiegong shark hiding in his cave, a couple of nudibranchs, plenty of rays, blue spotted lagoon Ray and a leopard Ray, plus loads of schooling trevallies!

And then there was the snorkel at Asho’s Gap where we popped by the shark cleaning station, apparently one of the closest cleaning stations to shore in the world,  to see, not only black tip Reefies but, a white tip reef shark and a turtle amongst them too. What an amazing present from the Ningaloo Reef. 


 This fringing reef contains such a plentiful and vast range of natural beauty, boasting a sublimely healthy echo system for our future generations to explore. Seeing wildlife in its natural habitat gos a huge way to recognising more fully what should be saved, what is worth protecting; we just need to encouraging  respectful explorations where preservation is the motivation, not money. 

Sort of swimming (mostly drowning) with Whale Sharks in WA

 

So, here’s the thing – it’s just too damn blissful around here to even think about the testing notion of writing about it. Life’s hard. No, I’m kidding, it’s really not but with the chill-out levels raised to dangerously high it can be frustrating – having too much of a good time to have time to make notes about it so you’re older self can remember how vivacious and wild you were is an even greater injustice than having not done any of it in the first place. What if I forget how it felt to swim with turtles for the first time or six reef sharks at a cleaning station or how about swimming with the biggest fish in the ocean – the whale shark? It’s becoming a casual thing to pop into the water and see turtles, to swim around with the schools of fish in the coral just strokes away from the sand. The life that I’m immersed in is unachievable almost anywhere else in the world. I’m here and I’m living it and the shame is that sometimes you forget how hard you worked to get here and how absolutely beautiful it is, and time starts slipping by.

cat foley coral bay whale shark swim migration media australia west coast

As I write this, it’s been twelve weeks to the day since Rachel and I swam with three whale sharks. In the process of doing so, I almost inhaled half of the ocean and ate most of the pink floating coral spawn usually enjoyed by the filter feeders such as the whale shark (my friend beautifully calls it, ‘coral jizz’..mmm, thanks for that, Chan). I was stung on every exposed body part by a collection of tiny jellies, as I swam ferociously with my butt breaching through the waves after the whale shark. It only took a good thirty seconds after the panic ensued to keep up with that fish and I’ve lost Rachel, my go pro has flooded; after what I can describe as a fin assault by at least three bewildered snorkelers jumping in the water in reckless abandon on hearing the horn. And it’s no wonder really, the horn signals to the lead swimmer that the whale shark is close by – so go find it and let us know exactly where. Shortly after a hand goes up in the air from the water and this essentially means, ‘let the chaos commence’. So, abandon most, if not all, of your natural instincts whilst they scream at you not to throw your body in the middle of the ocean, with its wild swell and unknown depths, right into the path of the largest bloody fish in the ocean. To me it becomes understandable, even perhaps forgivable providing no one dies, that people enter a, ‘fuck you’, ‘do or die’ kind of fight or flight mode. Fins in face, arms grabbing your legs and pushing, tugging and pulling you out of the way, cutting you up with go pros – ladies and gentlemen, we have entered into the water with a really big fish and a whole bunch of hungry sharks (in wetsuits).

cat foley coral bay whale shark swim migration media australia west coast

But let’s set the scene properly with the a little prelude of the current situation we find ourselves in – that is that a juvenile male whale shark, let’s say about 7 maybe 8 meters long, with their mouth wide open, is chasing your bubbles seconds after you’ve jumped into the ocean.

cat foley coral bay whale shark swim migration media australia west coast

So, rewind and we’ve taken our first short walk off the plank for a snorkel and our first taste of the big blue. Of course, we were thrust in using the same, ‘horn’ proceeded by ‘panic’ principals, that left us with snorkels gritted between teeth and resisting the natural urge to hold your nose as you quickly and awkwardly jump into the deep. Disoriented by the snorkel gear and overly fast Aussie instruction, we were ‘frothin’ in all the wrong ways. Having just about surfaced among the wildly flapping fins and go pro frenzy, we endeavoured to make our way through the waves for our guided snorkel through the coral. During this, Rach made it a good five strokes before calling over for the mermaid line (that’s the floating, help me I’m drowning rather a lot, device) and so I’d gone back to see how she was coping; the perfect excuse to catch my breath before a mild panic attack had time to set in. Safe to say we missed the turtle._DSC6195

Though I started this blog on the premise of not remembering, it is safe to say that the experience that day, everything from the people, the way we danced, jumping around the deck with hands waving free as the floor moved from our feet as we landed – so exhilarated from our encounter – the people we met and the whale sharks we swam with, even the turtle I didn’t see, made it pretty much the final piece in the puzzle we were putting together. The final piece was put in place and the jigsaw read, ‘stay in Coral Bay’. So the next day we ditched the flights, rearranged the bus and our accommodation and put to work our lives here for the next few months. Though I never got a second chance at swimming with that magnificent fish, I almost wonder how it could’ve compared to my complete innocence, my underestimation and the sheer overwhelming exhilaration that the combination of them bought to the day. On my last drop I had Jaz, our snorkel pro (since risen up the ranks to esteemed drinking buddy) pull me along next to the whale shark and for some unknown time, but for what felt like a beautifully peaceful and tranquil moment – I’d almost mastered breathing at a ratio of 50:50 salt water to air by this point, so adamant was I to swim with this gigantic fish- that I swam alongside an animal I had never before heard of or known about before arriving in Coral Bay.

cat foley coral bay whale shark swim migration media australia west coast

Humbled by it’s beauty, I realised there’s so much more to see than I could’ve imagined and it’s all going to begin here, on this little fringing reef, in this little settlement in an almost unknown paradise with the best person I could’ve picked to do this journey with. My god, that’s some luck.

cat foley coral bay whale shark swim migration media australia west coast

Special thanks to Ningaloo Reef Dive who took us out on this life affirming adventure and to Migration Media who captured the day so magnificently.

C.x

 

Words by Cat Foley

Images by Aaron Bull for Migration Media All Rights Reserved

You can check out more of Migration Media’s amazing snaps on their Instagram account

Coral Bay Soup

So, I‘ve just made soup. The temperature here in Coral Bay, though a touch windy is ranging from the mid to high 20’s (celsius that is) and I’ve just made a nice and spicy, chili and butternut-squash soup. Let’s just think about that shall we? Because it seems rather odd, even to me. Here’s the thing, I think you always need a little something that reminds you of home now and again when you’re traveling. Once on a scorcher of a day in South Africa my aunt asked what I’d like for dinner and I said, “Nan’s sausage casserole”.
This may be my first successful attempt at soup making – I love cooking and I’d say I’m not half bad at it, but venturing in to the world of soup has never worked well for me – I think because generally it’s basic concept doesn’t seem quite difficult enough for me, so I try to make it into something more (whatever that means in the the realms of soup) and it inevitably ends up as a whizzed up meal; like the ones your mum would served you when you had just sprouted teeth but were too lazy to chew. It’s got the roasted stuff, the raw stuff, the slightly burnt stuff and remnants of some sort of sauce, all whizzed in the blender together – the content is very much like a mix of the week’s left over dinners. Now, I love a bit of a burnt onion in with my potatoes and gently roasted whole cloves of garlic, but these rules don’t apply to soup; one little burnt bit and the whole thing tastes like a bonfire. So yes, soup, simple but deceitfully tricky to master.

So, of course I have chosen a place where the pressure is off, if the flavours are overwhelming I’m going to dull it down by eating it cold with Greek yogurt like a, ‘new world cuisine’ gazpacho – told you I was whizz at this chef thing.

Still, why soup? Why not choose something like a good ol’ ham sandwich – with a slice of tomato and little bit of mustard? Because, because, I love a challenge and I couldn’t shake the feeling that I should definitely make it.

Whilst we’re on the subject, have I mentioned how expensive food is in Coral Bay? Well, let me mention it – food is expensive! Of course. We are miles away from any other towns here on the West Coast of Australia and when I say miles I do mean hours of driving, so it’s understandable, and being that we are such a small town they don’t so much buy in bulk as it would most likely go off. That is the case for the shops at least, the bottle-o’s however, well, they’re frequently found to be drunk drier than the sand filled landscape that surrounds them, take for instance the Mediterranean gin we discovered here (delicious and also stronger and cheaper than Gordon’s – rude not to) and a certain red wine we’ve found sits suitably well between cheap and consumable (truthfully, it only starts swaying towards the latter by the third glass). It happens so frequently that after a week of daily consumption there is, much to our horror, no more to be found on the shelf. So, I suppose, really, the price of food is balanced by the lack of travel costs, frequent missing of meals (due to a liquid diet) and the locals’ similar penchants to invite you to or join in on a arvo drink or two. Let’s not forget the sunset pilgrimages – I’m sure I needn’t mention that they demand a cider or four to enhance appreciation – and then, to top it all off, is the rather cheap rent for your little pad provided by the employers here. But at any rate, it’s still hard to get your head around the prices and that’s mostly because I’m converting them back to the pounds with the dollar conversion from when I arrived here; should I update myself on this conversion I’ll probably find I’m working in a gold mine and will never complain again, oh Britain.

So, the crux of it is that, I bought a huge butternut-squash for under $4 the other day and was astounded at the value, that’s less than £2 and it is rather large! Well, as I mentioned, we frequently miss meals, so, what to do with a thing like that? Make a rather large batch of soup seemed like the best idea.. Why not roast it all and shove it in salads and create meals that don’t cause self combustion? Well, that’s the thing, I really do think when you’ve been a touch under the weather – note chest infection followed by a cracked rib, as of late I’m a bit unwell – there’s nothing like smells and tastes to remind you of places and people; and when this happens you can eat with gratitude. I frequently sipped spicy butternut-squash soup whilst sat at my desk at in London, whiling away my lunch hour in front of a screen with no view to speak of, a busy train journey away from home and a feeling that something better was waiting for me if only I felt strongly enough to commit to it. So now you understand why it has to be soup. What better thing to enjoy as I gaze from my terrace at the ocean, the blue sky reflecting off it, just at the bottom of my road. Now the soup is always too hot for the weather – even when it’s served up cold, the view extends to the flat, ocean-lined horizon, travelling takes me somewhere beautiful on a daily basis and almost everyone I walk past smiles and says, ‘g’day’. With all these ‘mindfulness’ and ‘living in the moment’ waves of consciousness flourishing at the moment, I think there is something to be said for, on occasion, reflecting, comparing and contrasting to truly appreciate the moment you’re living in. To appreciate how far you’ve come and to take a deep breath in and wait for it to hit you, like a ton of bricks so hard and heavy it ensures you never second guess your gut. Never settle and keep moving forward, because, soup, is a versatile as you make it.

Welcome to Coral Bay, WA

Should you have wondered whether I have perished in the outback due to my zero dark thirty status over the past month (or two?), I’d like to inform you that I am, in fact, very much alive and enjoying life offline in Coral Bay. Located on the Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia, Coral By is some 1,124 km from Perth and 150km from the nearest town, and when I say that I mean quite literally – there is nothing between the two places; no stations, no turn offs, no motels and no lights. The town itself offers all the amenities you could need on a daily basis, but nothing excessive in the way of luxury – a couple of drinking spots, two small supermarkets which sell all manner of items from fresh food to fishing gear and Coral Bay branded holiday gifts, there’s a bakery for fresh pies and pastries and four spots to head to for dining out. Of course there’s tours galore – currently it’s whale shark season which is attracting most visitors, but there’s also manta rays, dugongs – the original mermaids of the ocean – dolphins, octopuses, cuttlefish, reef, hammerhead and the tiger sharks, three different species of turtles and a huge variety of fantastic fish, crustaceans and jellies out there – it really is like I’ve landed on the set of Finding Dory.


So, seven weeks here so far and I’m currently employed by one of two potential employers in this small haven, my role provides a varied repertoire as a cleaner, receptionist, dog walker and sheer drunken entertainment for locals on most days (I’ve won the local karaoke contest twice now, but don’t ask me how!) if you think about it, I’m basically like Arya Stark with all these personas or maybe it’s more like that J-Lo film, Monster-in-Law? I’ve just moved into my employee accommodation, covered the place in sarongs, shells and candles, I’m burning incense and I’m about to start up teaching some basic yoga classes to a few of the girls here – it’s got to be done right? I mean, I’m not ashamed to say I’m wearing shell jewellery of every kind and my main consideration on outfits is as to whether they’ll be easy to get off and back on at the beach.



I’ve settled into not only removing my attention from my social media likes, but the internet as a whole – you see there is no Wifi here and limited coverage from one or two of the network providers. Really the entertainment is the ‘sunset pilgrimage’ we embark on whenever possible; ciders in hand we make our way either to the beach or to ‘Hippie’s Hill’ to an old couch on the dunes, it looks over most of Coral Bay and on occasion blesses your efforts with added ambience like a kangaroo hopping by or a snake in the bush as you trudge up (I say blesses because I haven’t been bitten). There are always bottles of cold cider involved and, if we’re feeling fancy, we even bring gin and tonic with lemon slices and split it in to various sized cups and plastic glasses. Then we sit, stare at the clouds and make assessments of the sunset – sometimes it’s clear and simple – a predictably beautiful set with a rainbow after-burn that lights the sky up burnt oranges, purples and pinks ten minutes after the sun has disappeared (that’s why I like to call it the after-burn). Other times there’s the perfect layer of cloud that sits over the ocean and, as the sun dips beneath it, the colours are stretched out over the clouds and reflected in the still water of the bay, as the reef’s dark coral patches densley populate the clear turquoise water. The birds all gather on the edge of the water and just moments before the sun slips down behind the horizon, when both the sun, the moon and the first star are together in the sky, they flock across the sky in squawking harmony. Of course some nights you forget how to be grateful because the cloud is hanging that touch too low and cancels out the sun before it’s set and covers all the glowing colours hidden behind it and the stars are hidden – they’re the nights that you start drinking that half an hour earlier and stay out those hours longer because it’s warm and damn it, you didn’t get a sunset.


It’s a surreal experience and yet it feels like the most real one I’ve had yet – the first few weeks held some kind of weird haze, mostly from all the alcohol, but the drink was fuelled by the enthusiasm to enjoy this place for every hour of every day and to do so you need a routine. We wake up and jump in the water for a snorkel then we dry off for lunch with a little gin followed by another snorkel and a final sun bake before we start on our pilgrimage to the sunset of an evening, which is naturally followed by more drinks, rarely dinner and the start of the evening. I mentioned there’s only two pubs right? So what happens when they close? I know what you’re thinking, panic! But here there are no worries, no dramas and always a desire to party through. So, of course, the party moves to the beach or ‘Baz’s park’ (don’t think of London’s Regents or Victoria Park, think more along the lines your mum’s garden but with no flowers). We’ve bought speakers and panic purchases from the bottleo, which always results in far too much gin and cider for such an already sloshed bunch of people (it’s that panic I mentioned) and as this night progresses we all seem to have lost each other and then wake up still drunk and, fuelled by last nights remaining blood alcohol levels, we’re ready to restart the mayhem; because if you drink just enough as to not remember the devastation from the previous night,  there’s really not much of a deterrent and there’s really not that much else to do. Cue the university years round two*


*I’d like to say I was an adult and had better things to do, but the truth is that I found out that I’m just way better at it this time round. When I say way better, I mean my appreciation for the mayhem is a fully-fledged daily gratitude (Twenty-one again!)

I fell in to this way of being on the first night, during which I found my top bunk in our dorm much too hard to handle, poor Rach had a shock when she woke with my pile of blonder hair laying next to her on the bottom bunk – many of the guys here have long sun bleached hair – you can imagine her distress. It was later we learnt that we had in fact got up to all kinds of small town mayhem, attempts to climb the back gate to the backpackers as apparently we forgot there was a front door, following this failed attempt Rachel fell in the bushes and I felt the best move was to lay down next to her, there, in the bushes. No, I didn’t remember doing this, if I remembered it that would mean I may have had enough sense not to climb a gate or lay in a bush with Rach and the wide variety of venomous things that lurk there, luckily we’d attracted many an audience over the evening and the locals enjoyed getting to reintroduce themselves to us over the following week, retelling the stories of how they first met the two British girls. Yes, we’ve made a splash. Though for first two weeks this was a literal one in to the pool first thing in the morning to shock the hangover out of action, some days it took three attempts followed by a cider – I welcome you to the Coral Bay circle of life.


Just a note to all the tourist boards who will undoubtedly be interested in using my content to generate WA and Ningaloo reef tourism, there’s plenty more where this came from and of course I’m happy as long as I’m notified and credited.
C.x

Words and pictures by Cat Foley

Bondi’s for Brunch, Sydney Harbour is for Bubbles

So, next May will mark a decade since I started university, super shock and awe I know – especially as someone said I look twenty-two just the other day – back to the point, the first friend I made there was Chris. It was a friendship cast over three of our wildest years filled with drama and debt and dreadfully cheap booze ( I call it booze because I think the word alcohol has a certain level of sophistication and a quality to it that we were yet to embrace letalone afford). 

The day after we landed in Sydney Chris got in touch and said he was booking us in for Sunday breakfast in a cool little place called Bondi Hardware, having had three whole days wandering around our Bondi bubble with jet lag we knew exactly where this was.

Sunday morning and we’re just about feeling like we could be over the jet lag,  though we’ve wake-up around 5am and manage to sneak in a 6am breakfast before meeting Chris at 10am, by which point this feels like a lunch catch-up (clearly the transformation into Hobbits was complete). Arriving on time for once, I see that familiar silhouette strut in and we start chatting away like the six years since we’ve seen each other has shrunk to a few months. A few clear changes have occurred over the years, evidently, we’re both sat in a new continent as far away from our first meeting place as possible, both accompanied by our partners (Rachel, my partner in gin, travel and all things life right now and Michael being Chris’s actual partner, having moved over here together two years ago they now stop and stare every time a French bulldog passes by, I sometimes worried they’re planning a snatch and grab).


Stuffed literally and mentally from this fab breakfast reunion we make our way to sit on Bondi beach, when it’s this hot you can’t help yourself wandering on to the sand at every opportunity. It turned out this time to only be a brief sit down before Chris pops the lingering question, the question we all wait for, ‘Do you guys want to go and see Sydney Opera House?’ Well, with the jet lag just starting to shake-off (though second lunch time was lingering) and our new home becoming better known than the back of my hand, not to say you can get bored of Bondi but we had seen enough for now, we leap to our feet and make our way to Central Quay with our key navigator, Michael’s help to buy our Opal passes (that’s the Aussie Oyster card) and to route us out of our beach recluse and into the harbour! 


Jumping on the train there’s a moment you can’t underestimate as a Londoner, firstly it’s air conditioned just like their busses – no sweaty pits in your face – but mostly it’s got a second floor of seats, – again, no sweaty pits on your face – which is overwhelmingly strange the first time you jump onto a double decker train.  Settling our buts upstairs another bizarre novelty of the trip is your novel ability to change the seats’ direction; for those who don’t like to sit backwards to the movement of the train, who thinks of these things?! 

One quick change over and before we know it Chris is pointing out the window to the city, poking out through the surrounding trees is their central business district. We hop off the train as it pulls into Circular Quay and the first thing we see from our platform? Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House! Insane. 

We pick our jaws off the floor, look at eachother as if to say – yes, actually we are in Sydney aren’t we? And meander our way through to the harbour, where of course there, gleaming in the bright sunshine is the, ‘Laaaaa!’, Sydney Opera House. 


How bloody fabulous is this? Just bloody bloody fabulous, I think. It’s just that thing you always associated with Sydney, a bit like a myth, when it’s there staring you in the face you start to come to terms with how bizarre this journey is that you’ve made to the other side of the world, and this building signifies that. Though let me tell you that the Australian culture though outwardly similar to ours is decievingly disimmilar in its cultural vices; but we’ll talk about brunching and gelatos later. 


Having gazed significantly long enough for Michael and Chris to get bored, they edge us along the harbour, still in full view of the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge, to a waterside bar where like true Brits abroad we all perch in the midday sun, drink prosecco and top up our factor 50. Hot? Yes. Sweaty? You bet my drippy back. Bliss? All the way. Here we are sandwiched between two Australian icons (I don’t mean Chris and Michael, they haven’t been here that long yet) and drinking something tall, cold and bubbly. Oh hello Sydney! 


C.x

Bondi to Bronte …Surf’s up!

Bondi is stunning, I’m not sure if I have actually said it yet, given that the pictures speak for themselves. But it’s clean, there’s no shops or stalls imposing on it and it’s filled with fairly considerate people – equally it doesn’t quite hold the same character of the British beach with its wind breakers, sand castles and dug out pits that scatter the sand, the kids here seem happy to go boogie boarding and splashing around in their wetsuits in those insane waves. The waves are perfect for surfing and that’s exactly what’s going on, I think they must sell more surfboards than cars here, I’ve seen surfboards on busses, attached to bikes, even people on skateboards carrying surfboards. I think I might get myself one for the aesthetic, knowing me I’ll knock someone over with it or trip myself up on the street… Ok, no surfboard. 

  
So being that we’re on the coast there are plenty more lovely beaches to see and it’s evident they’re really rather proud of these, with prompts to recycle everywhere you look and alcohol prohibited in most public areas outside of bars here, (Sydney that is)there’s no mess and that’s how they intend to keep it. To enhance the appreciation they have coastal walks, which naturally we have walked a few times now.

  
 Our first coastal walk was from Bondi beach to Bronte beach, which we’ve done twice now. The walk is beautiful and takes an hour each way once you factor in the ‘awe and appreciation moments’ that cause you to stop and stare for a minute or two, occasionally this is a well formed rock or a view of the horizon and sometime it’s just a rather beautiful body jogging towards you – both great feats of nature. But truly, the walk is surrounded by the most amazing arrange of shrubbery, all with thick and waxy leaves, hard but beautiful plants scale the rock face whilst the natural water trickles down the edges back into the ocean. The rocks are worn in beautiful angles and softened caves, the hollows are akin the the shapes in skulls and the steps up and down follow the natural movement of the shore. It’s beautiful as you pass by Tamarara beach, a smaller beach where every time we pass therea almost cliche game of volleyball going on and a dip in the ocean pool at Bronte is a refresher, (read: could poke someone’s eye out and saltier than you’d expect) well it is the ocean. The waves that crash in heavily on this coast remind you why you’d rather swim in a closed area. The waves are powerful and strong in Bondi, perfect for the surf but not a little lady swimming out there… Yet people do it, but at a guess I’d say they’re locals, they respect the water and are well aware of its abilities, which is why most of them surf! 

We’re considering paddle boarding… I’ll keep you posted on that one.

C.x

Touchdown in Sydney – now how do we find Bondi Beach?

Jesus. Who knew arriving in a sunshine city could be so exhausting, what everyone tells you about jet lag is real but the reality of it is a dangerously delirious one, not a ‘you can just brush it off’ kind of way in which they mention it. What’s worse is you’re really trying to have the best time and embrace everything from the moment you step off the plane, but the reality is that you aren’t stepping anywhere without feeling as if the ground is moving to cheat your feet, like when the ground is further away than you think and so you end-up sort of stomping down in a lunging motion. Well, there we were, lunging, bumping and tripping our way to Bondi beach. 

Well, we had a little help from strangers, who are, by the way, suspiciously friendly. We clambered on the bus upon where I asked, ‘Do you go to Bondi Beach? We need to get to Beach Road.’ OK, now read than again slower and louder and you’ve got it. Our bemused driver replies, ‘Bondi beach!? Sure! Not sure about the road but we’ll slow down and have a look for ya!’ Oh, I thought. Stupid – they speak English. 

So, being as British as we are we thought not to bother him with the slowing down bit and jumped off at the top of a road that visibly led to the beach (yay! The beach!) and with one kind man’s help, he clearly saw our swaying stationery positions and expressions of bewilderment, this man of at least seventy-three took out his iPhone and mapped us to our destination with an minute..or two. But Wow, look at him go. Sunshine really does help everything. 

Arriving at our new home for the next month, (did I mention it’s less than five minutes from the beach?) only five minutes from the beach, we knocked and eventually found the key under the doormat as promised. I couldn’t help but think this was a wellworn and obvious place for hiding such an item and a reckless choice, but it soon became apparent that’s the vibe here, it feels safe. 

  
Now should I try to catch you up over our first four days here I would be pages deep in conversation, so here’s a few general moments that have made the move and effort to get here over the past year all the worthwhile.

For starters we’re by the ocean, we see it every morning and walk on the sand barefoot.. Which is harder work than they make it look on all these romantic strolls! Calve cramp!  Even when we arrived to an overcast couple of days we still found ourselves overwhelmed with the warmth, the smells of the plants and fresh air – a novelty when coming from london – and the sounds.

  
We are woken up at around 6am by a. Jurassic sounding bird that enjoys sitting outside our window every morning and another we fondly refer to as the dial-up bird occasionally chips into the alarm, it does sound just like the Internet in the nineties. Birds are definitely a talking point, there are the Jurassic ones, the bin bird in particular looks like it’s just flown off of the set for Jurrasic World. Much like England there’s the seagulls who flock to bits of bread being chucked around on the grass areas, sat there yesterday I feared for my little pinkie toes as they gleamed brightly in the sun, there was a considerable fear that they might be plucked from my feet like fresh wiggly worms. So much so I tucked them under and flailed around slightly, to no resolve; that bird stared me out like it’d dealt with tourists’ toes for a long while now. 

  
Then there’s the people, fresh off the Barbie and Ken production line, special edition, ‘gym wear’ (including yoga mat and sports bottle). Yep, they’re beautiful alright. The question is what do they actually do? As far as I can see they’re running everywhere and nowhere, speed walking and talking and drinking lots of coffee, but when do they need to work? And does a living permit for Bondi come with a fitness and body beautiful requirement level? I think they must have extra short working hours to allocate time to this regim and frankly they must have missed me slipping through the net – this is next level and frankly, sometimes the men get too hot to handle – well ok, they don’t, I’m always staring but staring in the knowledge that they do it for that reason, they want to be stared at, not talked to or considered for anything beyond the aesthetics, because who knows if there is much more once you’ve spent all that time working on the exterior.. Do you have anymore to give after that?!  So yeah, visually I’m impressed but for the chit chat – well we’re yet to be convinced. 

It’s a whole new world and we haven’t even left Bondi Beach yet, but you can see why…

  
C.x

Flying Heathrow to Sydney, the actual survival guide

So here’s the lowdown on what you might need to know about flying for almost 24 hours straight to anywhere. 

There’s a long time between you and your destination, any plans you have made about what will ease the jet lag are hopeless and undoubtedly if you’ve chosen a night flight like we did then temporary narcolepsy will soon set in and just be glad you can sleep through most of it. 

For the bits in between you’d do well to buy some flight socks, the cankles aren’t a good look and more so DVT is a real possibility on long haul flights. The socks  definitely helped with water retention around our ankles, though some level of cankle is assured on these trips. Keeping yourself as mobile as possible helps, walk up and down the isles ever hour or so and a few stretches and twists help, trust me there’s plenty of time for all this.

On that note, staying fully hydrated is a must, the small glasses of water they provide aren’t enough to do this, especially if you’re enjoying the free mini bottles of wine – and who isn’t?! –  so you could bring an empty water bottle onboard and ask them to fill it or if you ask frequently enough (like us) they might just give you the litre bottle. I’m not sure the chocolates I threw at the steward had anything to do with this gift of water, but you could bring some kind of token to offer the onboard crew, a thank you can sometimes go a long way on these flights. 


  
Moisturiser is a must, slap it on anywhere and everywhere as frequently as you feel necessary and then some more. Remember it can’t be bigger than 100ml bottle but you could bring a body cream and face cream and throw in a moisturising lip balm, these all go a long way to making you feel human with the air con and cabin pressure working to make you feel like a dried-up prune. A face wash or general body wash is nice too, as long as someone isn’t banging on the toilet door whilst your washing your bits. Not everyone is as polite as the British. Awkward. 

Spare pants and some panty liners for the ladies keep down-under, excuse the pun, feeling  fresh, wet wipes and delicate wipes are a good shout too, they just make you feel fresher. A spare top and some roll on deoderant will make you feel rejuvenated after a sleep; plus it’s all something to do and helps divide up your hours or days of flight time. We flew on a night flight on a Tuesday and managed to stay in the midst of the night until we arrived in Sydney at 6am on a Thursday, it was all very confusing. On reflection perhaps it’s better to stay a night somewhere in between or take a day flight, but you live and learn.

Toothbrush and toothpaste is a must for making you feel human. Don’t forget. 

Pack a few nibbles. For the take off and landing you might need something chewy as you can get a bit congested with the air con and air pressure, which can be painful with the sudden change in air pressure, whilst the meals can leave you feeling a little underwhelmed it’s nice to have a little treat or something satisfying. We stopped over in Singapore for a couple of hours and having no currency to spend there we were glad for a packet of crisps and some chocs I’d shoved in my bag to while away the added hours, plus it’s surprising how hungry you can get. 

   
 Talking of congestion, I’d pack some antihistamines, an olbas oil stick and some painkillers, never underestimate how painful blocked sinuses can be, and aches and cramps are not unusual on the long flights – have you considered the positions you’re going to sleep in?

For entertainment between the snoozing and eating, I’d bring some decent headphones onboard so you can hear the films properly – ours were disastrous despite flying with Singapore Air and we couldn’t figure out what the plot line was for love nor money. We didn’t get ear plugs on our flight which seemed unusual, but when everyone’s snoring you’d wonder why anyone would deny you this simple mercy, instead I shoved in my horrible headphones and listened to the classical radio channel, which at one point played Westlife – I wasn’t disgusted just confused. If it’s all a bit hopeless bring your iPod and have it backed up with some awesome playlists and a good book.  

  
For comfort blankets and mini pillows are usually provided but a neck pillow is a saving grace for the seated sleeping position, saves on a neck ache and that inglorious dribble seeping out of the corner of your mouth. Otherwise strap in and settle down and be preppared for a long ass haul and hope to god it’s worth it. Also know you’re going to have jet lag there’s no escaping it, so just go with it and welcome it as humanely  and hydrated as possible. 

Bon Voyage!

C.x
 

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