Tag Archives: australia

Sydney to Jervis Bay: weekend roadtrip

SNAPSHOT:

Drive Down: Scarborough Hotel (brunch) –> Hyams Beach –> Chinamans Beach

Drive Up: Cambewarra Lookout –> Kangaroo Valley –> Fitzroy Falls –> Berry –> Kiama Blowhole

IF I COULD DO IT OVER:

Drive Down: Scarborough Hotel (brunch) –> Kiama Blowhole  –> Hyams Beach

Drive Up: Cambewarra Lookout –> Kangaroo Valley –> Fitzroy Falls –> Berry –> Sublime Point Lookout

MY IDEAL JERVIS BAY TRIP: 

Day 1: Scarborough Hotel (brunch) –> Kiama Blowhole  –> Hyams Beach

Day 2: Mollymook –>  Bendalong Point –> Washerwomans Beach, Conjurong Point –> Narrawallee

Day 3: Fitzroy Falls –> Kangaroo Valley –> Cambewarra Lookout –> Wineries

Day 4: Chinamans Beach –> Berry –> Kiama Blowhole  –> Sublime Point Lookout

Recently, my sister and I have been quite adamant to see every last bit of gorgeous coastline here in NSW because well, it’s so damn beautiful. Every chance we get- that our wallet allows- we’ll be off again, onto the next adventure.

In my years living in Europe, I’ve become really used to working with public transport. Mostly you can get around by bus, if not a train. If things got really tough you could fly or call an Uber but that was usually a last resort that wasn’t always completely necessary. Everything ‘just aroundt he corner’! But in Australia, it’s completely different. Man, if you don’t have a car, you won’t get to experience some of that absolutely-f*cking gorgeousness that is the rugged coast of NSW (and Victoria might I add). It’s absolutely breathtaking. There is just so much space, so much sky. You feel insignificant, significant, all at once. You feel the power of nature and you learn to respect it. The landscape here actually brings back memories of Yorkshire– just more tropical and coastal with more blue sky. OK, so it’s not like Yorkshire. Heh.

One weekend before Christmas, slightly on a whim, my sister and I found a great deal on a motel near Jervis Bay and decided to just head down- it was now or never. Besides, we wanted to see the whitest sand in the world and to catch some rays. Spring had not been kind to Sydney proper.

We booked a car the day of and headed off. We left at around 9am and we probably could have done with leaving earlier. Hindsight 20/20 and all that. As anyone that has experienced driving in Sydney will know, it’s not the most riveting experience driving out. But heading South rather than heading West is an easier drive. Before you know it you hit the Royal National Park and its easy, long winding highways. It takes about an hour and a half to get to the Scarborough Hotel, which is a good 20 minute detour off the main highway. Having said that, the views are definitely worth it. The food? Not super exciting. I don’t even think I took a photo of it, and as a Taiwanese person I love food photos.

The views are great though, and according to the friendly staff, during peak whale watching season you can see lots of ’em! So this is definitely worth a stop then! If you want to make sure you get a spot, do book ahead to call. Most of the tables with the best views had RESERVED signs on them, particularly for the popular brunch/lunch hours.

We decided to opt for maximum beach time after our little stop so headed straight for the holy grail: Hyams Beach. It’s where everyone says you should go! It was a hefty little drive from Scarborough Hotel, but we made it through. With some good tunes on (make sure you download the playlist as radio tunage can be rough) it makes the ride totally worthwhile.

We were lucky– the sun was out, there was barely a cloud in the blue blue sky, and the waves were gently crashing against the beach. Hyams Beach is actually set in suburbia (they all are outside of the big cities), so you have to park along a residential street. The street itself is quite long so you know, go for it. Find a spot! Despite it being a sunny weekend it took us under 10 minutes to find a parking spot.

We parked ourselves on the beach for the better part of the afternoon. It did get busier and busier on the beach, with lots of families coming out to play in the shallow water. I don’t know if it was because we were so inexperienced with Antarctic waters or because HOLY HELL IT WAS COLD. We only managed to literally dip in and out a few times. The longest we stayed in the water was probably 5 minutes?

We got a little tired of the screaming toddlers (big shout out to mums and dads here, you are absolute heroes) so we decided to head over to Chinamans Beach. We didn’t even need to move our car, it’s literally 300 meters up the road from Hyams Beach. You can go straight down the stairs once you reach the end of Cyrus St or you can head straight into the bush. The walk is less than 10 minutes and then you come out at the other end of Chinamans Beach where it’s guaranteed less busy and touristy. If you fancy, you can also head up the stairs and do a nice little coastal walk and find even more secluded beaches. The sand is EVEN sqeakier here because it’s not half as busy as Hyams Beach.

We decided to have a super early night so that we could catch the sunrise at Hyams Beach the next day. Obviously, what else are you going to do if you’re on the East Coast of Australia?! So after a really quick boring dinner we headed off to sleep in our motel with Harry Potter playing on TV. God love the Christmas season.

The next morning, it was looking a bit cloudy. Unfortunately for us, it meant that one or two sunrise photos later, it was already too bright and we didn’t actually catch any sun rising. Damn. But it was now not even 6am and we had the whole day ahead of us! What do do… Kangaroo Valley of course!

Now, I definitely recommend spending a good few days in this area because there is so much to do. Apart from great beaches there are also wineries and lots of great walks too.

As pictured above, you can do the Cambewarra Lookout (experienced drivers needed for this one. Lots of hairpin turns to get up this mountain). You can’t really tell from the clouds, but that bay-like thing far ahead? That’s Jervis Bay! You can (almost) see the gorgeous half-moon bend of Hyams Beach. When the sun did pop out for a second I swear I got sand glare. Here, you can have a cup of coffee or brekkie at the cafe or you can also just head straight to Kangaroo Valley and explore the funky little shops, cafes, and restaurants.

From Kangaroo Valley, another windy drive up a mountain will get you to Fitzroy Falls. Beware, when you’re coming from Kangaroo Valley, the Fitzroy Falls entrance is on the right and can be easily missed if you’re not looking out for it!

Fitzroy Falls is great for several reasons. You can do a short walk of just 800m or you can do a longer walk of up to 3/4km. It’s definitely worth your while as views are rather spectacular and quite reminiscent of the Blue Mountains! Parking for a regular car is $4 and that’s it, no other entrance fees. There’s also a cafe and visitor’s centre here so if you wanted to refresh before/after your walk it’s definitely doable.

From here, sis and I were starting to get hungry so we decided to get back in the car and get some more driving in before it hit brunch time. Destination: Berry Sourdough Cafe.

It is literally famous FOR MILES. People go up from Jervis Bay to eat there, like it’s a really big deal. And having had their sourdough now, I understand why. It is SO YUMMY! My sister and I bought a loaf of bread each that’s how good it is. And also had a pain au chocolat because that was also RIVETING.

Sis had a hummus dish with poached egg and avo salad, and I had a spicy chorizo omelette. Both were absolutely outstanding although there was a little too much hummus on the plate.

 

After this, we went for a little walk around town (one main road), taking in the charm of village life. There are plenty of ice cream shops to choose from and a pharmacy to save you with some bug spray (trust us it comes in handy).

We then headed to Kiama Blowhole, which was about a 45 minute drive Northward. The Blowhole is a rather popular stop but you have to be lucky. The wind and wave conditions have to be right to see awesome water sprays coming up from the rock formation along the coast. Instead, we opted for a lovely little dip in the ocean pool.

The rain started really pouring down so the trip was a little bit over for us. The clouds kept threatening rain and delivered. Gah. So off home we drove from here. There were quite a few stops that we missed out on that we definitely would have done had the weather been a bit more forgiving. Ah well, gives us an excuse to go again next time!!

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Glamping?…I think not

Have you ever gone glamping? When you think of glamping in your head, what do you see? I’ll tell you what I see, because when I booked it, I was looking at the company’s Instagram page getting really excited!

 

One of my besties and I booked a few months in advance. We were really quite excited because, well, wouldn’t you be? We would be able to get into the mountains, do some fun hiking… why not? Lovely little girlie weekend away in a super cool tent, and if the weather was going to be warm enough, maybe even a dip in the lake!

So off we go, Friday afternoon. Slightly behind schedule due to the bad traffic headed out of Sydney but ok, we were still going to make it before the 8pm cut-off for check-in.

It’s a pretty long drive on the Western Highway, with quite a few traffic lights too. But no matter, we’re going to do amazing camping! We had a picnic basket, cheese in the eski’s, and 10L of water freshly purchased from Woolie’s.

The instructions on IG, were, in all fairness, very clear. We managed to find the place OK, except… well, it was REALLY dark. There was no light really, and we couldn’t even see the tents! They didn’t even ask us for our name, and just showed us to a tent with a few torches. I had to pull out my iPhone to make sure I didn’t trip or fall.

We get into the tent and….

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THIS is what we were expecting…

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So… not super great. Then we were told, “We weren’t expecting the moon to play hide and seek, so we will have more lights tomorrow.” (UMM EXCUSE ME IT’S A CRESCENT MOON HOW DO YOU NOT CHECK THAT WHEN RUNNING A CAMP?)

Putting disappointment and the chill in the air aside, we quickly change into warmer clothes and head into the tiny town of Lithgow to have dinner at the Blue Fox. We didn’t take pictures of the food (soz) because we were really quite hungry and just really wanted the wine. We eat ourselves into a food coma (it’s good there, btw), and head back to our tent. It is FREEZING. We decide that if it’s too cold after 10 minutes we’ll go steal a blanket (read: doona) from the empty tent next door. 10 minutes and brushing our teeth with our heads sticking out of the tent later, we had to go and get the duvet because I couldn’t even feel my nose! We fall asleep on the really cheap and crappy pillows (read: I had to fold two over to make it feel like some semblance of a pillow) and await tomorrow with excitement. It will be better tomorrow, we told ourselves. 100%, we will make the best of whatever comes our way. We wanted to bond, right?

So the next day we are up EARLY. The birds were chirping the sun was starting to shine. It was still cold AF but the promise of a warm day was there! We get a chance to look around, and we see port-a-loos, port-a-showers, and a marquee with ‘Bavarian-style seating’ (think October fest with plastic chairs). Okay… um… where is that plush seating area? I don’t see it. Oh and the promise ‘fully furnished tents’ was starting to get annoying now.

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4 port-a-loos for 20 tents… that’s 10 people per loo.

We work up the courage to make our breakfast (banana pancakes thank you very much) in the wind, and it was quite unpleasant!! We had to use the covers of the BBQ to protect the gas from the wind in order to actually cook… gahhh!!

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my friend trying to heat up water in the wind… it took like 25 minutes for the water to get warm enough for tea (yes we should have brought a lid I know)

OK, OK, fine. We can deal with this. It’ll be fine. We’ve got a great day planned with a bushwalk, a farm visit, and lunch in a popular cafe in Lithgow. We would go kayaking in the afternoon and to end the perfect day we would have a BBQ with locally bought produce and drink to our heart’s content by our fire in the evening.

So… most of that came true. The bushwalk was good, the farm was cute, and lunch was so good we went to lie by the lake instead of going kayaking while we got over our food coma. But then… the wind really started picking up. Like, REALLY picking up. So much so that when we got back to our tent at like 2.30pm, a few of the spikey things had come out and the marquee had completely blown over. Before 4pm, the 3 staff members walking around taking care of things had made sure the tents were secured and got into their car to leave. We asked about the marquee, they said, “it’s too dangerous to put up now so we’ll do it first thing in the morning, see ya.” Oh… okay…

I went to take a shower at 4pm, right after my friend had gone first. According to her, at least the shower was nice. She felt like a new person. I went and tried 3 of the 4 showers, and there was absolutely no water coming out of any of them. Either she had finished a tank of 5,000L of water, or… I don’t know. Anyway, we emailed them, and they were like ‘but are you sure?’. We kind of gave up, I said I’d shower tomorrow even though I felt gross. It was getting cold again and I was too tired of things going wrong. I was disappointed that this luxury-experience didn’t come with above-and-beyond customer service that you would even find at a hostel. Another point deducted for lack of interest in guest well-being.

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Like the total troopers we are, we started getting ready for our BBQ… except… the wind was going REALLY strong now and they had taken away all the BBQ lids… we had to fashion some kind of shelter for the BBQ or else we would never be able to eat! We pulled some tables out from under the carnage of the marquee and propped them up on fire pits. At least we could eat now. The sun set really quickly and by the time we started eating, other campers had come to try out the BBQ. They all had to use our sheltered BBQ because otherwise it was impossible. We were all grateful the camp wasn’t at full capacity this evening because otherwise there would have been a long-ass queue for the BBQ too (I think, due to the wind, that most people went to the Blue Fox to eat). Can you imagine the camp at full capacity? 3 BBQ’s for 20 tents, that’s … 13.3 people per BBQ. Joy.

Thank god for prosecco. We would not have made it without. The wind kept howling and we built our fire… which went out really quickly due to said wind. We finished off a couple bottles of wine and the rain started falling. That was it, we decided to pack it in. No more use trying to make this a glamping experience when you’re huddled over a fire praying for the embers not to fly into your face.

We packed it all in, and went to hide in our tents. It was probably one of the worst nights of sleep in my life EVER. I was pretty sure we were going to be found in the morning unconscious because the tent pole had fallen down and hit us hard. The flapping was truly, truly unbearable. By about 3am the wind died down enough for us to get a few hours’ sleep… and by the time we got up again, it started picking up.

We decided we would keep trooping! So we made breakfast. But you know what? Breakfast was still so damn windy, we decided to give up. At 9am, the staff finally came rolling into the campsite and started pulling the marquee together, tidying it up (it was SUCH a hazard I can’t even tell you). It felt like they had given up too. Rain started falling again, and that was game over for us. By 10 am, we were packed up and ready to go. One last coffee stop, Spotify on the phone (make sure you download a playlist or two, bad reception in the mountains), and it was time to say goodbye.

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One sheltered breakfast…

Overall, I had a great weekend with my bezzie because we bonded big time. But what we got, facilities-wise, was definitely NOT worth the $150AUD a night we spent. There are cottages in the area that sleep 4 with actual toilet and shower facilities worth the same. Most campsites in Australia will have running water, which we didn’t have. There would have been plenty of other facilities, and the campsite would have been in a sheltered area, not in a bare field that wind just whipped over.

The saddest part is that we emailed them to ask for a partial refund, and also to offer some advice for future weekends (especially with the long weekend coming up), and we haven’t heard back. We emailed Sunday morning before we left Lithgow, and still nothing. Why? There didn’t seem to be an issue in responding when we needed stuff done on site, but now nothing? We tried messaging them on FB, and nothing, either. Very, very sad. We will have to take this up further with some authority or another, because a) it was not as advertised, and b) service was seriously, seriously below par of what was promised. We waited until now to write a review, because wanted a chance to settle things without having to tell the whole world, but alas… is this the only way things can be done today? Airing dirty laundry publicly?

It’s too bad it has ended this way. As a business-owner myself, I know that customers aren’t always right, and things are not always within your control (who can control 70kmp winds?!). But there is such a thing as basic decency and also upholding promises made. Big fluffly cushioned seating areas vs marquees with plastic chairs is a far cry from upholding promises. Leaving said marquee in a state of disarray was extremely dangerous, especially in the crazy winds. We hope to solve this somehow.

Political Apathy and the Global Citizen?

I love being a Global Citizen. I love travelling, meeting new people, being a bit vague about my story because it is so damn complicated and if I have to tell someone I’m half-Dutch half-Taiwanese and explain my American accent ONE MORE TIME…

 

I believe that through my confrontation with so many cultures over my lifetime that I am quite an empathetic person. It’s easy for me to step into someone else’s shoes, consider their thought processes and thinking. I don’t always agree with their point of view, but I can usually see why they are the way they are. This makes me quite the liberal. I believe in universal health care, voting rights, women’s rights, LGBTQIA rights… you name it. I’m also extra-sensitive when it comes to race, having experienced both positive and negative racism regularly (and still regularly do). 

The only thing is … all this country-hopping and trying to understand different political climates has made me a little… numb. Some big things still affect me, yes. Brexit affected me so much I felt I had to leave the UK… But on a larger scale, things just don’t affect me anymore. Sure, I vote through postal votes in the Dutch election and if it works out I go back to Taiwan to vote in the presidential election but when it comes to the country I’m living in and their political issues? I play the foreigner card and shrug my shoulders. I don’t get a vote, I don’t get a say, right?

I don’t want to get overly involved anymore. While I was essentially laying down roots in the UK, I didn’t want to get overly involved in its politics. I feel like that is where I always pointedly felt like an outsider, and that reinforcement was just not a reminder I needed or wanted. That lack of interest found its way into other parts of my political thought and action… when I was in Denmark, my heart broke for the refugees we regularly saw at Copenhagen Central station, but I couldn’t get angry anymore at the Danish government. Whenever videos now show up on my news feed of Taiwanese law-makers throwing shoes and chairs at each other, I just sigh in disappointment like a mother does her 12 year old child. Now, in Australia, I don’t get worked up that the government is fighting so hard against same sex marriage. Like, whatever.

I’ve come to find that it’s much more important to have the people around me walk to the talk and live up to what they preach than trying to change the hearts and minds of others. It’s not my job, because I’m not permanent. It’s actually a bit of a ‘get out of jail free card’ I suppose, but is that so bad? My energy gets thrown into other things, other causes, and other battles. A wise teacher once said, “We all need to choose our causes and our battles. For some it will be the environment, for others human rights, for some even something seemingly small to others…” There are battles all over that need to be fought, and despite my avid interest in it, the battle of political landscapes are not one that I’m going to get myself into.

6 Things No One Tells You About Sydney

Sun’s out, guns out!

I’m settling into adventure and it’s right here in Sydney, Australia. The place to see and be seen, it really is a one-of-a-kind city. When I was working for STA, I constantly sold the Australian dream (because I’m sorry but the American dream has all but shattered for most). I thought it was finally time to try it out after having talked it up for years and years. I’ve only been here a mere 5 months, but I love it here. There’s so many beautiful places around, nature is not far away, and there’s water everywhere. People are nicer (even though a lot of people say Sydney-siders are not known for their kindness, I have met amazing people here). I never realized this before I came here, but being able to see the water on a daily basis, seeing big open spaces, it really calms my heart, so I’ll definitely be sticking around! 

But, as with every new place you go to, there are some things that baffle you, and with Sydney, there were definitely a few things on the list! 

1- Liquor Shops

Liquor shops. Like, for real. In Australia, they legit don’t sell alcohol at supermarkets. The only supermarket you can go to for alcohol is Aldi (and it ain’t too shabby either may I add). You should also save receipts from supermarkets so that you can go to the affiliated liquor shop to get a discount on certain types of drinks (check the bottom of the supermarket receipts for T&C’s). It’s something you just get used to, though. I don’t really know what the reason is behind it but it’s just part of life here. I’ve lived in enough places to know that it’s a quirk. But when it’s your first few days in Sydney and all you want is a bottle of wine… this is the first thing you need to know! 

2- The Hills

How god-damned hilly is Sydney?!?! I don’t know about you, but most world capital cities I’ve experienced in my life (and there have been a few) have been relatively flat. Even ‘way back when’ people took time to decide and to make land easier to get around, because undoubtedly quite a few people will be milling around… you know, travelling in their horse and carriage and that. But no no no… let’s find the hilliest freaking place and just build houses there. Better get those legs in shape because if you want to walk around Sydney, you’re going to need to be ready for steep hills. Have I gotten used to them, you ask? No, I haven’t. But I’ve gotten pretty good at dodging them.

3 – The Weather

March is the crappiest month weather-wise, so avoid it at all costs. I thought it would be lovely to arrive in autumn and what I got was torrential rain instead that eventually turned into a flood in the basement of my house. Winter isn’t too bad. It still does get cold and I was very happy to have my European-style winter coat for that one week it got really cold, but other than that it’s actually quite mild. I thought it was going to be a lot worse and it really wasn’t. Besides, the heating helped! 

4 – It’s a bit out-dated…

A lot of things need updating… like, a lot!! Not everywhere will have fibre-optic Internet… not even Bondi! It’s quite crazy how this kind of stuff is still ‘in the making’ for a country so young. I thought Australia, especially Sydney, would be more on top of it… but not yet. They’re working on it, though, I promise.

5- Get Online

Get 4G on your phone! I know it’s a staple for most travel nowadays anyway, but this is not a sales tactic or whatever. Sydney’s easiest mode of transport is definitely by bus, and there are so many going in every which way, having Google Maps is going to save you time and effort! I still use it regularly. Soon Google Maps are also going to have buses running on real time so that’s going to make travelling around even EASIER.

6- Takeaway is expensive, but for good reason

Best Italian I’ve had in Sydney so far? From a take-away. Favourite Korean restaurant? Does take-away. I can chow down on kimchi fried rice while I re-watch GoT for the third time this week and I LOVE IT. Coming from the UK, I’m used to crappy take-aways for not a lot of money… and sure, I may be paying a little bit more here but boy do I get value for money! No wonder people don’t cook as much… food you buy out is just so tasty!

This probably sounds a little like I’m complaining, and yes, I’ll admit, the good comes with the bad. Despite it’s slight short-comings, or should I say, the little things that get glossed over by sweeping vistas, noodle festivals, chocolate festivals, tea fairs… yeah these seemingly small things are easy to overlook because the overall picture is still pretty damn nice. As soon as I got here, I fell in love with the place. The quick pulse of the CBD (during the week), the more chilled attitude of Bondi, and everything in between you can find here in Sydney. There is really something for everybody. Oh, and yes, the tourists are going to get swarmy in the particularly touristy areas, but that’s true of most big cities anyway. You get used to them and learn how to avoid them where possible. It’s all good, just go grab a drink in an atmospheric basement cocktail bar with a pricey menu and suddenly the world looks like a much better place 🙂