Category Archives: Destination

Mornington Peninsula – Victoria

Today is a warm day in Melbourne and without any great plans, I pointed The Pointy Brick towards the Mornington Peninsula to see what I could find there. On a Great Ocean Road trip a few years back I stood on Queenscliff, on the other side of the harbour, and looked across. So, I wanted to look across from this side. It’s only 40km, so why not?

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Half way along the peninsula is a hill known as Arthur’s Seat. I drove up for a look. It gave good views down the peninsula…

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…and back the way I’d come.

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It had been a bit wet and the low cloud prevented a distant look at Melbourne across the harbour.

I drove on along the peninsula towards a little township called Portsea and the Point Nepean National Park beyond. Portsea is your typical beach township, but a cafe there makes the best Waygu beef cheese burger. I drove on to an information centre and further on to parking spot. There’s a 3.8km walk to Fort Nepean at the end of the peninsula, so I put on my walking shoes and headed out along the sandy trail.

During WWI this peninsula was fortified for war and the first actual shot of that war was fired from Fort Nepean. It said so on the information board.

The initial couple of kms cut through vegetation until I came to an old bunker.

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This was to be the first of many dotted along both inner and outer coasts.

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When I got to the first of the forts, I could walk into some of the rooms but others were closed off. Next was a set of barracks including a myriad of tunnels…

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…bunkers and gun emplacements.

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At the end of the peninsula…

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…the fort itself was complete with tunnels and gun emplacements at various different tiers.

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After checking out everything I could, I headed back to the van and back to the caravan park. Sometimes you have just got to get out there an explore, you just don’t know what you might find…

The Lone Ruins Wanderer

Naracoorte – South Australia

On the road from Kangaroo Island to the Grampians, I stopped at Naracoorte, a town famous for its world heritage listed fossil caves. Naracoorte has a system of 26 caves of various sizes and is one of the major – but not the only – caving systems in South Australia.

The day before I arrived, I had pre booked an adventure caving session. Luckily a couple had also booked, as there is a minimum number.

After a brief bit of training, we decided on a cave called the Blackberry Cave, because to has a lot of crawling around and tight spaces.

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The three of us and our guide climbed into rooms of amazing rock formations. While it’s a short cave and not for the claustrophobic, there’s enough room to crawl around although even with the knee pads, I still sustained some bruising.

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We got to the bottom of the Blackberry cave after a 45 minutes where we were told of a short tunnel that circled back into the chamber. It was tight and I went down first. I slid in head first as per instructions and prepared myself for the next part. I pushed through a tight gap, but my thighs caught and I couldn’t get through. Not prone to panic, I pulled back a little and tried from a slightly different angle. I was eventually able to shuffle through and up out the other gap.

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Caving can be sweaty work even though there is a sustained 17 degree temperature down there. We scrambled back to the surface. A lot of fun. I’m looking forward to my next one.

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The three of us were able to wander unassisted around a larger cave system known as the Wet Cave.

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There will be the first of several instances of spelunking I’ll be doing on this trip, with plans to do some in every state.

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The Cave Wanderer

Kangaroo Island – South Australia

Adelaide to Kangaroo Island to West K.I. Caravan Park

The road trip to Kangaroo Island was a mad 90 minute dash from Adelaide to Cape Jervis. Getting out of Adelaide was the hard part, it seemed like the city might not wish me to leave. A water main had stopped traffic on the Main South Road, and when I took an alternative, a car broke down right in front of me. Adelaide has a southern Expressway, but it’s one way only and time dependant as to which way. In the afternoons, you can only use to to get into the city, so I had to take the alternate route was fairly quick .

I raced towards the cape – the most southern point of mainland South Australia – passing through a town with a name I’m sure my brother would love: Myponga. I didn’t smell at all…

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As I raced towards the cape, I could see the ferry growing closer. I made it to the car park with 10 minutes to spare before we were loaded onto the ferry.

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The ferry was a 45 minute ride to Kangaroo Island, and because of a pair of stock trucks on board, it smelled like cows. It arrives at the eastern end of the island and I had to get to the other end where I was staying, some 140km away. Yup, it’s a pretty big island.

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I was warned to be careful when driving at night or in the morning, as wildlife like to hang out on the road. I got to the caravan park without running anything over, but saw far more roadkill than I would have liked to.

Flinders Chase and Ravine des Casoars Wilderness Protection Area

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Ravine des Casoars

The western end of the island is a National Park and has many different walks and things to see. I chose the Ravine des Casoars hike, one of the hardest on the island. The start of the walk is about 45km from the camping ground and a two-thirds of that is over a very dusty dirt road with many areas of corrugation. This was slow going and took me over an hour to get to the site. I did stop briefly to watch a couple of Goanna’s fighting…

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The walk itself is along the side of a ravine, then drops down into the ravine to walk out to the beach. At the beach, there is golden sand and interconnecting limestone caves.

The walk itself was not difficult, but crossed several different types of terrain, rocks, stony ground, dirt and sand. The trail cut through trees for much of its way…

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…until it headed down into the ravine and then followed a stream out almost to the sea. One of the hardest parts was walking along the sand bank while trying to avoid falling in the water. There were plentiful Goannas along the trail, some more than a foot long, and far too many flies.

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The azure blue of the sea was lovely against the golden sand. The rock formations along the side were amazing. Unfortunately, I didn’t know about the caves until I was there and hadn’t brought a torch with me – something I will remember to bring on every short hike from now on.

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The caves were amazing, and disappeared into the darkness, some of them formed tunnels that connected with some of the other caves. If I had a torch and I would have explored further.

Admiral’s Arch

At the the southern most tip of the National Park…
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‘’’is the Admiral’s Arch. A natural arch of rock…

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Near the arch were several New Zealand Fur Seals. If I was here a couple of weeks later, many more would have been here. They are all off out at sea mating, apparently.

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Remarkable Rocks

Not far from the Admiral’s Arch are the remarkable rocks.

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200 million years ago, a magma boil broke the surface and cooled. Over the millions of years, the rocks have been eroded leaving the unusual collection of massive rocks. The look like an artist created them. Remarkable, really.

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Seal Bay Conservation Park

Along the south coast of Kangaroo Island is Seal Bay Conservation Park.

Walking along a long boardwalk, you can get right down near the Australian Sea Lions that have come to the shore to sleep .

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There is also the skeleton of a hump backed whale along the boardwalk also.

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Tomorrow, I head back to the mainland to Naracoorte for some Adventure Caving.

The relaxed on an island Lone Trail Wanderer

Road Trip! – Brisbane to Adelaide

As the first part of my three month adventure around the lower states of Australia, I drove across country to Adelaide, South Australia. To get there, I traveled 2,058km and set foot in four different States, all over the course of 3 days.

For the trip, I bought what I call a sleeper van. Henceforth known as the Pointy Brick.

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It’s a ’96 Mitsubishi Express kitted out with a bed in the back and storage under the bed for all my needs. I bought the van from a backpacking couple that had just driven from Darwin to Brisbane without issue. I picked it up 2 months early so I could get the feel of it, and get it prepared for the trip. Over the course of these prep months, I took it to various national parks around South East Queensland. I put it through its paces and it survived. 2,058km is a long way in an old van, so I had it serviced before I left, just to be sure. The one thing I’m aware of in the Pointy Brick is its small gas tank, meaning I’d have to manage my fuel and fill up often.

Day 1 – Brisbane to Coonabarabran

I headed out of Brisbane on the morning of November 10, 2012 in the pouring rain.

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Yeah, goodbye Brisbane, I know it’s sad that I’m leaving, but you don’t have to cry about it… I headed out onto the Ipwich Motorway, pointed myself west and drove. The motorway was pretty quiet as I headed along a familiar stretch of road heading for the Main Range mountains. The rain slowed as I passed through Cunningham’s Gap and headed on to Warwick. The spires of the Main Range were some of the few mountains I was to pass on this journey and I took a last few pictures as I drove through.

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I passed Warwick shortly after and continued west along a road I had not travelled before. While the weather kept up its farewell the Pointy Brick had no trouble dealing with the wet weather and didn’t leak. With music blaring, I continued on the Cunningham highway to Goondiwindi on the New South Wales border. By this time the rain had stopped, but the clouds still remained. The entrance to the border town had a yellow blossoms strewn across the road. I filled up and headed back out and across the border.

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In NSW, I followed the Newell Highway south and straight away noticed the change in road conditions. For the most part, the roads are good in NSW, wider and better maintained. The speed limit on the highway is also 110km – which is something I had only seen on 2 Queensland Motorways. 110km/h is a big number for the Pointy Brick. I’ve had it just over 120km/h, but since I didn’t buy it for speed and power, I was not worried. On either side of the road are large fields of wheat for as far as the eye can see. There is the occasional tree, but otherwise wheat all yellow and wavy. This is pretty much how it was for more that 200km as I drove through Moree to Narrabri. Near Narrabri are some mountains – Yay! – but only a couple. And if I was ever back this way I wouldn’t mind climbing Mt Kaputar.

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This is Australia and of course you see a lot of kangaroos. They are everywhere and I think I must have seen more than a hundred of them. It’s not as cool as it sounds, though as I only saw two that were actually alive. That’s right. The rest were roadkill. Some were months old, others only days. All of it sad.

After Narrabri theres a large forest and nature reserve, which was a change of scenery.

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I eventually arrived in Coonabarabran at 7pm, which is after dark in Queensland, but not so in NSW because of day light savings. I cooked dinner and settled in with a glass of wine and watched something on my laptop.

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Day 2 – Coonabarabran to Hay

One thing to know about small towns, the coffee is generally crap! Some coffee is better than no coffee though, so I put up with it. I headed off along the Oxley Highway towards Gilgandra and then back onto the Newel Hwy to Dubbo.

Today the weather had cleared and became warmer, plus the wind picked up. The thing about driving in a vehicle shaped like a brick is it gets blown around by the wind. And when you are screaming along at 110km/h and a road train goes past the other way, you have to hang onto the wheel to keep it steady. Don’t forget the constant fields of wheat.

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Dubbo is a pleasant large town in Mid-NSW although its coffee is crap too. Not long out of Dubbo I came across a sign that told me I was entering Bland Shire. It wasn’t kidding, between Dubbo and West Wyalong there’s not much to see: wheat fields and road trains. I travelled through Peak Hill, Parkes, Forbes and kept myself busy on the way to West Wyalong listening to an audiobook by Robert Rankin.

Beyond West Wyalong, the next sign announced I was entering The Outback, NSW. From there the landscape changed dramatically. It became wild and desolate. Hardy plants grew, but not much else in this wasteland.

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With it, the heat increased and as I shot across country in the Pointy Brick the air rushing past my window was hot. I continued nervously, watching my temperature gauge and it did increase, but not too much.

I arrived in Hay, mid afternoon and quickly located the Caravan Park, cooked myself a pork yellow curry before setting myself up for the night.

Day 3 – Hay to Adelaide

I set out early the following morning in hope of avoiding the heat, but the heat got up before I did. I headed across the barren Hay Plains along the Stuart Highway. The heat was high and the wind hot as I charged across the land. The temperature gauge sat warmer than usual, but still below half – I’d checked the water levels before leaving and all was good.

Past Balranald, the massive wheat fields appeared again. To the north beyond the horizon was Mungo National Park with its twin peaks, shame I would have liked to have seen it. Oh how I longed to see mountains. I filled up at Euston and continued along the Victorian border to the beautiful city of Mildura after crossing the Murray River.

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Coming in to Mildura there is plenty of colour in the trees and the surrounds, no doubt because of the river.

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I stopped for lunch in Mildura and found an amazing pastry shop. Then I was off again, across the Victorian countryside. The land to the south of the Murray river was still warm and had large crops of Lavender but was otherwise more of the same. The temperature gauge held steady and after an hour, I reached the South Australian border and was stopped at Quarantine where they looked through my food – of which I had little – but still confiscated my small bag of potatoes. You can’t bring fruity items into SA. I didn’t think my spuds would count, but they did.

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When you enter Renwick, just over the border, you know you’ve arrived in wine country. With the Murray River going through it, there are massive vineyards everywhere. The road wends its way through the lush green land. It becomes cooler too, with a cool wind refreshingly going past.

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The last couple of hundred km into Adelaide passed quickly in an obviously more fertile area. I was pleased when the hills of Adelaide appeared on the horizon, something not flat! There was a couple of interesting trees that I wish I’d had my camera ready for. The Shoe Tree with about 30 pairs of shoes hanging from it. Then about a kilometre further on was the Bra Tree. There must have been more than a dozen bras of different colours handing from the branches…

In Adelaide, Apple Maps sent me on a tiki tour of the central city – stupid Apple maps, bring back Google maps! – and I eventually arrived at my friends’ house. Overall, the Pointy Brick and I arrived safely with no issues. A good beginning to the adventure.

Next, after a couple of days in Adelaide, I’m walking the Yurebilla Trail, three days in the Adelaide Hills.

The Lone Road Tripper

The Plan

At the end of this week I will be leaving Queensland and embarking on the beginning of a crazy adventure. This will see me walking around the southern states of Australia for 3 months before winging it to South America for more adventures. The initial plan was to take 12 months, but why set a timeframe on adventure?

What follows is a break down of my plan for the next 3 months including locations and the activities I’ve planned for in those locations.

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Nov 10-12
Brisbane to Adelaide – South Australia
Road Trip
2058km

Brisbane to Coonabarabran – 705km
Coonabarabran to Hay – 671km
Hay to Adelaide – 682km

SOUTH AUSTRALIA
Nov 13-14
Explore Adelaide
Nov 15-17
Yurrebilla Trail – 3 day hike in Adelaide Hills
54Km

Nov 17 – Birthday
Nov 18-20
Kangaroo Island
Short hikes and Wildlife Sanctuary

Sunday November 18:

Drive: Adelaide to Cape Jervis 108km

Ferry from Cape Jervis to Penneshaw

Penneshaw to Western Ki Caravan Park and Wildlife Reserve 138km

Nov 21 – 22
Drive: Cape Jervis to Naracoorte – 407km
Naracoorte Adventure Caving

Nov 22
Grampians Mountains Victoria
Naracoorte to Halls Gap – 218km
Stop off in Little Desert National Park

VICTORIA
Nov 23-28
Grampians National Park
Major Mitchell Plateau – 2 days
Mt Gar – Briggs Bluff Circuit – 2 days
Day walk – MacKenzie Falls section
Day walk – Halls Gap Section

Nov 29
Grampians National Park to Brisbane Ranges National Park – 196km
Road Trip
1 day

Nov 30-Dec 3
Brisbane Ranges National Park
Burchell Trail – 4 day hike

Dec 4
Brisbane Ranges to Melbourne – 62km
Road Trip
1 day

TASMANIA
Dec 7-8
Ferry to Tasmania and Drive to Cradle Mountain

Melbourne to Tasmania via ferry 459km
Devonport to Discovery Holiday Park – Cradle Mountain 80.5km

Dec 9
Bus from Cradle Mountain to Penguin the prepare for walk
1 day

Dec 10-18
Penguin Cradle trail
9 day hike

Dec 19-20
Rest days around Cradle Mountain with Numerous Day walks
Wild Cave Tours – Full Day Adventure Caving

Dec 21
Drop Vehicle off at Lake St Clair (214km) and bus back to Cradle Mountain

End Of Mayan Calendar

Dec 22-29
Overland Track: Cradle Mountain to Lake St Clair
8 day hike
Christmas on the trail

Dec 30
Drive from Lake St Clair car park to Devonport then Ferry to Melbourne
Lake St Clair car park to Devonport 247km Road Trip
Tasmania to Melbourne via ferry 459km

Dec 31
NEW YEARS EVE
Melbourne

VICTORIA
Jan 1
Melbourne to Wilsons Promontory Road trip (223km)
1 day

Jan 2-4
Wilsons Promontory South End Hike – 3 days

Jan 5
Wilsons Promontory to Mitchell River National Park 240km
1 day

Mitchell River National Park to Buchan Caves 128km
Caving

Jan 6
Buchan to Alpine National Park 216km
1 day

Jan 7-9
Alpine National Park
Big River, Mt Bogong Circuit – 3 day Hike

Jan 10-13
Drive to Kosciuzko National Park
4 days with stop offs:
Mt Buffulo National Park
Chiltern-Mount Pilot National Park
Burrowa-Pine Mtn National Park

NEW SOUTH WALES
Jan 14-18
Mt Kosciuzko National Park
Yarrangobilly Caves
Bogong Wilderness – 2 day hike
Whites River Hut, Rolling Ground, Dicky Cooper Bogong– 2 day hike – modified
5 days

Jan 19-25
Jindabyne
On The Beach – Convention

AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRITORY (ACT)
Jan 25-28
Canberra
Cancon – Convention

Return to Brisbane
Jan 28 – 30 Canberra to Sydney via Flinders 315km – Stay with Family
Jan 31 Syndey to Port MacQuarrie 379km
Feb 1 Port MacQuarrie to Ballina 364km
Feb 2 Ballina to Brisbane 177km

Feb 2-5
QUEENSLAND
Brisbane

Feb 6
NEW ZEALAND
Auckland

Feb 21
SOUTH AMERICA
Buenos Aires – Argentina
Ushuaia – Argentina

What am I going to do when I am there???

Have the time of my life!!!!

See you on the trails!

The Lone Trail Wanderer.

Vava’u – Swimming with the Whales

Today is my last day in Tonga and I must admit that I’ve rather enjoyed this little backwater Pacific Kingdom. While Vava’u has been the most commercialised of the islands groups, it’s not really that commercial at all. Tomorrow I face a flight to Tongatapu, a long wait at the international airport until my midnight flight to Auckland. I arrive at 2am and sleep in the airport until my 7am flight to Brisbane and home, well what home I have left there.

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Every year as part of their breeding migration, Humpback Whales arrive in Tongan waters. This has led to a commercialised ‘swim’ with the whales all throughout the kingdom. No trip to these islands should be done without going on of the swims. I’m not sure I agree with the idea – some of nature’s creatures should be left to just get on and live, not be harassed by we humans. So, I’ve held out from going for most of my stay. But on my second to last day – yesterday – I caved and organised a trip. As I said, you can’t come to the islands without swimming with the whales.

The first objective of the captain is to find where the whales are, then get up ahead of them and send the swimmers into the water. The whales will often hang out and ‘play’ but if they move away, we get back on the boat and try again. We only try twice before ‘getting the hint’ and finding another set of whales. Because there are many operators, they often work in conjunction with each other to locate the animals and to share time with them.

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We headed out to the west side of the islands and quickly located a pair of juveniles playing. We hung out around them for a while, watching them and getting the boat into position before getting into the water. In our snorkelling gear we were able to watch these animals go past. It’s magnificent to see such huge animals in their native environment. They weren’t that playful, however, and moved off. So back on the boat, we followed them and had another go. They moved away quickly again, so we left them alone.

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We received a call from the other side of the islands. A crew working in conjunction had spotted a mother and her newborn. Like a tag team crew, we arrived at the specified location as other boat and it’s cargo of swimmers and they headed of – they’d been swimming with the whale for an hour – so it was our turn. We were in the water as the great juggernaut of the mother flowed past us with it’s baby – only a few days old and twice my size. The beauty of the mother just hanging there in the water was immense and we swum for a few minutes watching her interact with her baby before they swum off. Back on the boat, we followed and tried again. This time we managed only a glimpse before they give us the hint.

While I would have liked to have swum with them for longer, the mother and her calf were the last set of whales we saw for the day. We did a bit more snorkelling around the coral gardens and Swallows cave. It was a very sunny day today and the coral just shines in all its colours in the sunlight.

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Not many photos of this, unfortunately, as I did not have an underwater camera today.

Back to Brisbane tomorrow and time to organise more trail walks.

The Trail Wanderer

Vava’u – Kart Safari

Today the sun came back out and the mugginess kicked in again. Having acclimatised to Queensland, I was thankful for the heat. While it hadn’t been cold, just not hot.

Today was a day I’d been looking forward to for much of my time on Vava’u… the Kart Safari day! It started in the afternoon, so I spent the morning just hanging out and relaxing in the backpackers.

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I headed down to the Kart Safari place for 1pm and met with the guy who was taking me on the tour. We waited for a couple from Melbourne to arrive and then 5 of us headed out on the tour in 3 carts. I was pleased as I had one to myself.

After a very brief training session: this pedal goes forward, this pedal stops, this is how you turn it on. And that’s it, easy! We strapped in and headed off. We followed the sealed road for a while taking a road I had not been along which quickly turned to dirt…

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Then to track:

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We drove to one of the most northern lookouts of the island. Great, because I had not been to the north as yet. As I had expected, the lookout was amazing, vast cliffs in both directions, hidden beaches and the raging blue of the sea.

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After a while at the lookout, we headed off back along the track to the dirt road to the sealed road and to the east, heading to Keitahi Beach – a place I’d been on the scooter tour. There is a steep hill leading down to the beach that was crazy on the scooter, but awesome in the buggy.

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We sat for a while and chatted to the guy who had leased the entire beach front and was building a new resort. Back in the karts, we headed up the hill and took a track which headed along the cliffs to another lookout. Again with amazing views.

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And the raging seas:

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We watched flying foxes circle in the air – I love these beautiful creatures having worked in a bat hospital over christmas.

We headed out and drove down the dirt road to ‘Ene’io Beach again – I’d been there on my scooter tour also – for a beer. Then we returned to the backpackers.

Overall, it was a fun afternoon in the Karts although it could have been longer. Tomorrow I will climb Mt Talau again, this time with my Canadian friend, then on Wednesday – my last full day in Tonga – I’m off to swim with the humpback whales.

The Trail Wanderer.

Vava’u – Snorkelling Tour

There are several places around the bay that I have been interested to see, so I thought a snorkelling tour would be the best means to see them. It’s with an experienced operator who knows the islands well – Hakau Tours. As it turned out, there were six of us going on the tour, all of them from the backpackers – The canadian girl I hung out with in Ha’apai, the kiwi guy from the scooters and three british medic students.

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The day started out rather shabby, with a constant drizzle, but lightened up. We met the operator at 9.30 and headed off into the harbour on his boat. The wind picked up quickly and rain threatened again. After about 15 minutes we arrived alongside an island called Kapa and around to the other side. The end of the island has short cliffs with jagged rocky areas along it that the water has worn away. Just beyond the corner are two caves. These two caves are the location of our first snorkelling swim. Swallow’s cave is the largest of the two and goes into the cliff maybe 15 metres by water, and a by the looks of it, more beyond. If I had the shoes for it, I would have gone further, but we were here to swim, so we swum around the cave where there was a large number of fish swimming in a school. We headed out and along the base of the cliffs, enjoying the small other fish and the coral until we got to the smaller unnamed cave.

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Back on the boat and we headed further out into the bay to Nuapapu island, the site of another cave – Mariner’s Cave. The entrance to this cave is underwater and to get to it, you need to swim through a short underwater tunnel – about 5 metres long. This cave is where the Tonga’s used to hide during the island wars when enemy ships came into the bay, then they would swim after them, climb on board and kill all the sailors. The cave is quite spacious when you get into it. I was second into the cave and while swimming through the tunnel, lost one of my fins and almost the other. I ended up scraping my foot on the tunnel – more war wounds! One of the others brought me the fin I’d lost and I swum out again. Swimming into the cave is psychologically more difficult, as you can’t really see where you are going. Swimming out again is more fun.

The water was warmer than the air, but we got out and froze as we were taken to the next place.

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At the far end of Nuapapu island and stretching over to Vaka’eitu island is a large area of coral reef known as the coral gardens. We were dropped off at one end and snorkelled our way to the other side. This took about an hour and was a lot of fun.

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We were then taken to a small island called Nuku where we stopped for lunch on the sandy beach. After lunch, we were dropped of a little offshore from the island and swum along its reef line. The coral was not as plentiful as the Coral Garden, but there are other things to see. A small school of barracuda swum past at one stage and at the end of the island I found a pair of clown fish. They were very inquisitive. Unlike the other fish, when I swum down to check them out, they swum up to check me out!

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The trip back only took 30 minutes, but the chilling wind and rain didn’t make it very fun. Back on dry land, we all rushed back to the backpackers for a hot shower, but were disappointed as they hadn’t changed the gas for the water heater.

Tomorrow is Sunday and the country shuts down, so it might be a good day for a hike, depending on the weather.

The Trail Wanderer

Vava’u – Scooter tour

The idea of my first day in Vava’u was to check out the township and get myself organised for my week here and to book myself some tours. Also while I was here, I hung out with a kiwi guy in the backpackers who asked if I’d like to do a scooter tour. Well, not a tour as such, we simply hire a scooter each and drive around the island. At 30 Paanga a day (A$20), why not!

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So, this morning the scooters were delivered to the front of the backpackers and with only a map and several hours, we set out. I’ve never ridden a scooter before, and it took a couple of minutes and some toe scrapes to get it. We stopped to gas up our vehicles and my scooter died – the accelerator would not engage. So, we called the owner and she sent out a mechanic, who got it going. We were ten minutes down the road when it started to play up again. So, after another call to the owner and a 30 minute wait, she arrived with another bike for me. And we were off!

The weather today was not the best, while I have seen the very occasional short rain during my stay, this was the first day where it actually rained. This happened while we were waiting for the lady to arrive and finished when we set out. We decided to head out to the north-east side of Vava’u to an island connected to the main one by a causeway, and a couple of beaches. We stopped for a chat with a resort owner at ‘Ene’io beach before heading off across the causeway to the end of the island.

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The people of Tonga are very friendly, and the kids just loved seeing us drive past on scooters. We then visited Keitahi Beach and my fellow biker went for a snorkel while I took some pictures of the beach and its surrounding cliffs.

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We headed back towards Neiafu to refuel. Then it was off in the opposite direction, to the south-west end of the main island where there is a large lake. The ride over there were great. Unlike most of the other islands, a large proportion of Vava’u’s roads are surfaced. And the roads between the villages are the best, as with less traffic, there are less potholes. Potholes are not the best in 4 wheeled vehicles, on scooters they are hideous but a lot easier to avoid.

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To ride around the lake, however, we needed to go on an unsurfaced track. This is where the fun began. Luckily it had not really rained too much in the last month, so the track was fairly dry. I say fairly, as there were some muddy spots that could not be avoided. Off road scooters! We got a little muddy and I came off a couple of times on the slippery track, but suffered only scrapes. At one stage we even had to carry the bikes over a fallen coconut palm.

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We finally made it back to surfaced road and headed back to the backpackers. This was when the rain decided to visit and it poured for about 10 minutes. Yay for being wet on a scooter. Thank god we were no longer on unsurfaced tracks. Back at the Backpackers and a well needed shower.

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Tomorrow I’m out on a boat doing a tour of the bay, caves, beaches and reefs.

The Trail Wanderer

Vava’u – The Arrival

After flying to Ha’apai in a DC3, I kinda expected the same to go to Vava’u. But alas, remember that 8-seater I took the 8 minute flight in from ‘Eua to Tongatapu? Yup, that was the same plane that flew me to Vava’u. Now 8 minutes in a tiny little plane is quite unnoticeable. 45 minutes in one is a long time. It’s like you’re screaming across the sky in a bucket. But as we came in to land, there were whales in the water below us. They are fairly populous in Tonga at this time of the year.

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As soon as you fly into the Vava’u group of islands, it’s like you’re in a different part of the pacific. While Tongatapu is the most populous island, it is very Tongan in it’s styling. Even the capital city on Tongatapu – Nuku’alofa – doesn’t really feel like you’re in a city. ‘Eua is a Tongan hideaway with it’s resorts and a few very Tongan villages. Ha’apai is a quiet backwater place where there is very little western influence and of course Uoleva is simply a deserted island.

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Being driven through Vava’u from the airport – a trip pretty much the length of the main island – you get the impression that this main island is far more commercial than the other groups. There are more roads here, and in turn, more vehicles to use the roads.

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I was dropped off at the Adventure Backpackers – my accommodations for the next 8 days. Most accommodations in Tonga are guest houses, resorts or hotels, but this place is truly a backpackers, like you’d find anywhere else in the world. The Adventure Backackers is right in the middle of Vava’u’s main town – Neiafu. This town on the harbour is like the west meets the Pacific. It’s got it’s Tongan aspects with the Chinese Markets, the pot holes and the markets, but it’s got bars, restaurants, shops and clubs a plenty. The people are friendly as ever here. And I’ve not seen this many non-tongas since I left the airport in Auckland.

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Standing in the balcony of the Backpackers, you look out along the harbour. There is a great island in the middle and small mountains around the side, otherwise there are many yachts dotted around.

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The main island is large for Tonga, and has been set up with tourists in mind with lots of activities. I am going on a scooter tour tomorrow, a boat tour with snorkelling and caving on Saturday and a big kart island tour on Monday. Somewhere in there I would like to do some hiking. But I’m sure there will be plenty of time.

The Trail Wanderer