The last couple of weeks since Sydney has been fantastic with the fun cultivating in Brisbane where the main purpose of my visit to Australia took place - the Ashes! First stop after Sydney was to the beach-side resort of Byron Bay, I stayed at a great hostel called the Art's Factory which has a lively little community going on there. Thoroughly enjoyed my stay here, was very fortunate to run into my Swedish friends from the Kiwi Experience Johannes and Rasmus and we enjoyed 3 days together. Also bumped into Flo, a German guy on the same bus in NZ which has happened 3 times already on the east coast - great to catch up with him. Byron Bay is very much a touristy resort but nice relaxing stop for a traveller with an awesome nightlife in the infamous Cheeky Monkey's. I was lucky enough to win a free surf lesson from Cheeky Monkey's for spending 10 minutes in the sin bin (pictures to follow). I also went wakeboarding for the first time in 3 years which was incredible, absolutely loved it and managed to get more air on the wake then before, video will be uploaded as soon as I receive it... Byron Bay is also home to the Nimbin tours where you visit a village which can only be described as 'Little Amsterdam' - interesting place which has to be seen to be believed.
I next visited Surfer's Paradise which has a big reputation for amazing beaches and fantastic weather all year round. Unfortunately my timing couldn't have been worse, with the weather being average at best and the height of Schoolies. 'Schoolies' is the period after school kids celebrate the end of their exams by descending on the Gold Coast, what I can't understand about it is most of them are 16 and 17 so too young to get into bars or clubs and just spend their time hanging around the beach, very bizzare. Most of my time in Surfers' was spent slumped in front of the Hostel's 54" tv catching up on the weekend's football and watching a wide selection of films. It was nice to chill out and not spend much money, I did manage to try body-boarding at the beach but a jellyfish sting put a premature end to this...
I am now residing in Brisbane where I have spent the last week having the priviledge of watching the first test of the ASHES! I was lucky enough to obtain tickets for Days 2 & 4 when I was still in England for what I thought was a good price of 35 pounds each. Turns out that I could have picked up tickets on the day for half the price, Australia maybe very expensive but going to watch sport in Aus is very cheap! Another thing that is also cheap is PIES, I literally can't get enough of them - New Zealand also has a great range of pies - I have managed to introduce the magnificence of a meat pie onto otherwise sceptical Scandinavian's and German's. Anyway, back to the cricket as I am getting hungry at the mention of pies. The first test at the Gabba didn't disappoint, England got off to a bad start with Peter Siddle bowling a rare hat-trick putting England in all sorts of trouble. However, record after record fell during England's mammoth second innings 517/1 for which I had the pleasure of witnessing most of it live. Great atmosphere with most of it generated by the English fans and the Barmy Army who just sang all day, quality day. Already thinking of coming back in 2014 to see one of the other tests.
Brisbane itself is a cool city, reminds me a bit of London in a way with lots of bridges, a similar river to the Thames and a rather mundane copy of the 'London Eye'. There is a really cool Lagoon on the South Bank which is like a mini-beach, really hope London builds something similar after 2012 Olympics as it is a great place to swim. Spent most of my time with Seb (another German from the Kiwi Bus), have tried introducing him to the world of cricket, with limited success... We were supposed to be visiting Fraser Island together but the travel agent made a massive cock-up and booked us on the wrong day!! Thankfully we received a full refund and also managed to obtain a free day trip to Moreton Island (worth $155) which we are going on tomorrow.
Less than 3 weeks until I am back in the UK for Xmas, not quite ready to come home yet and very excited about my onward trip to Asia, a lot more than I realised. I am told it is snowing over in the UK currently, I am pretty content wearing my boardies for the foreseeable future. Next blog will be my final one from Bangkok...