Land Down Under Pt. 2 (Exploring the East Coast, Byron, Nimbin, Gold Coast, Noosa)

After 5 days chilling in Sydney I began to move up the east coast.  My fellow mate and another American decided to cruise up in a four-wheel drive, for it would be the cheapest method of travel. Our first stop was Port Stephens.  We took a dip, ate lunch and continued to drive North.  I was excited for this portion of the trip because it was my turn to drive.  Driving on the left side of the road is a mind fuck, but after an hour I was comfortable.  My copilot did have to remind me to go left around the roundabout.  I probably would have crashed if it wasn’t for him, for my mind constantly drifts when I drive and I get lost in the music.  Most times I don’t even remember getting home.

Port Stephens
Two Americans and an Australian at Port Stephens

Our next stop was Port Macquarie, or McFlurry, as we pronounced it.  This small town is located at the mouth of the Hastings River in New South Wales.  The views from lighthouse were amazing.  One can easily get lost in thought staring at the view.

Port Macquarie
View from the light house

We continued to move north to the tunes of Johnny Cash and CCR.  Daylight was evading us so it was time to find a camp ground and rest for the night.  I can’t remember the name of the campground we stayed on, but there was a beach nearby.  Prior to bed we took a dip and enjoyed the sight of an overcast sunset.  The mixture of colors in the sky encouraged reflection ones more.  Standing in the ocean at sunset looking at a storm in the horizon approach us is like something out of a movie where the protagonist awaits valiantly for the troubles ahead.  Unlike the movies this protagonist had no troubles awaiting him, instead he stared into a storm of the past and all he could do was smile.

Our next stop was Coff Harbour home of the Big Banana.  Pretty cool spot to check out, it’s a tiny little attraction perfect for kids.  Our time was limited so we race on to Byron Bay.

Byron is an absolute fucking dream.  Not only is the beach fucking awesome, but its hippie vibe is very welcoming.  Yes, it is a huge tourist attraction but this place is still great.  This is my favorite place in Oz, I could live here for a couple of months.  Memorable moment of Byron was swimming in the ocean while it rained.  Water coming from below and above reminded me of Forrest Gump, “it even came up from under you”.  About an hour away is the small town of Nimbin, a hippie haven where we saw Tijuana Cartel take the stage.  If you are looking to partake in smoking the peace pipe, this is the perfect place to do it.  Unfortunately, my photos of Byron our stuck in my not-charging GoPro but he’s a picture of Ben approving the message.

Ben-Taco Message

Byron Bay was the last stop for me and my companions.  I would continue the rest of my trip solo.  My next stop was the Gold Coast.  I was not impressed by the Gold Coast.  The beach was long and endless, but it lacked the aesthetics of Byron.  For a place deemed surfer’s paradise, I did not see anyone surfing, although there were plenty of waves.  Its downtown area is geared for drinking so the night life is pretty good.  The beauty about backpacking is that every day is the weekend.  A good time can be found any day of the week. I stayed at Surfer’s Paradise hostel which is good, but nothing to brag about.  I did meet a cool couple here whom I ended up drinking with.  Just another cool story of two travelers who met and vibe very well with each other so they decided to travel together.

I decided to follow the advice of my mates and skip Brisbane, and head to Noosa.  Noosa is gorgeous. The main beach is crowded, but if you take a short coastal walk not only will you enjoy beautiful scenery, but you will end up on an empty beach.  I was pouring sweat from my run, so I jumped right into the ocean to cool off.  Another place I could definitely live, but more of a summer getaway.  Unlike Byron, Noosa contains a yuppie atmosphere with homes ranging in the multi millions.

Noosa-Private Beach
My private beach in Noosa

I stayed in Nomads, which is a party hostel.  Living conditions were good and pretty standard for a party hostel.  I was bunked with a group of Irish folks who were way older than me.   I could understand the ones who were living in Australia but the one that was visiting was a different story.  I forget how strong the Irish accent can be, holy shit I could not understand this cat.  I like this group of people, they were very welcoming and told me stories of when they were young backpackers.  They admired what I was doing and encouraged me to keep going.  I left the next day with a neck pillow as a gift, and words of wisdom, “May the road rise to meet you and may the wind be always at your back”.

The Land Down Under – Sydney

Sydney is a great and beautiful city with lots to see.  I tend to compare every city I visit to San Francisco.  To me San Francisco ranks number one, but of course this is a bias opinion since I grew up in the bay.  However, every traveler that I’ve met who has visited the states ranks San Francisco as their favorite American city.  Like any city SF has its flaws, but it is the cultivating cities that make up the bay area that make it a great place to live.  Similar to home, one can escape Sydney and head over to Manly for a more relaxed vibe.

Walking through Sydney it’s tall buildings resembled those of the skyscrapers from back home.  As I walked from the ferry station to Bondi beach I stumbled upon many different districts such as the gay district on Oxford street.  I could have easily mistaken this area of the city with that of Castro in SF.  As I escaped the financial district of the city I entered a posh district, once again on Oxford street.  A series of suburban homes followed before I hit the infamous Bondi Beach.  Bondi did not strike me as an impressive beach and had more of an industrial feel causing it to lose its charm.  I suppose the hype over the beach also did not help, still this beach is better than anyone we have back home simply because you can enter the water without risking hyperthermia.

bondi-artwork
I did however find this remarkable (Bondi Beach artwork).

What I was looking for in Bondi I found in Manly.  Manly beach in my opinion is greater than Bondi and delivered the beach town vibe that I was looking for.  Regardless of what I say you should still visit both beaches and form your own opinion for I have encountered mixed reviews amongst fellow travelers.  I visited Bondi against the advice given to me by my fellow mates who said the beach was filled with tourist and not worth my time.  They forgot I was a tourist and wanted to do touristy things.  My advice to you is to always visit the major touristy landmarks of any new city you are in.  Don’t be that retard know it all hippy traveler that is to cool for that.  In my previous travels I was advised against Oktoberfest in Munich by fellow travelers (the retard hippy) and locals because of the same reason, “it’s too touristy and crowded”, my response, “ummm, I’m a tourist and I fucking love crowds”.  I had a great a time at Oktoberfest by the way.

In both places you’ll find several shops, eateries, and watering holes, but be warned Australia is not a cheap place to visit.  Unlike my Europe excursion, I actually find myself in the kitchen prepping meals.  I can definitely afford to eat out in Oz, but not if I want to make a year of traveling a reality.  I do enjoy the curious eyes of my fellow backpackers as they assume I am cooking for two and are left surprised when I consume the entire meal.  Typical American and his large servings.  Actually it’s just me, I’m a fat ass.

There were many highlights to my Sydney trip such as attending Field day and watching Chance The Rapper and Childish Gambino perform sick sets, two artist who have rekindled my love affair with Hip Hop.  I’m going to tell you about a personal highlight that might not be significant to you.  As I walked through Sydney, carefully choosing busy streets for the sole purpose to stumble upon city landmarks, I stumbled upon one rarely visited by tourist and locals.

ww1-memorial-sydney

From the moment I saw it I knew this building was special but I had no clue what it was till I walked up the steps and asked the guard many his post.  “It’s a memorial to the Australian soldiers who fought and died in World War 1”.  The inside was small and circular with a statue of a fallen figure drenched over a sword.  On the hollowed parts of the wall, battles the Australians were involved in were carved into the wall, with Gallipoli being one of the most famous.  It’s easy to forget that such a small nation who was just formed in 1901 was involved in such a large war.  Since then our Aussie mates have fought alongside us in every major conflict.  Let us not forget these top blokes.  Till Valhalla mates.

fallen-on-sword

I was fortunate enough to be in Sydney for NYE.  Entering the new year in a foreign city watching the fireworks from underneath the Harbour Bridge I stared at the Opera house with a smile on face knowing it was one of many to come.

Cheers! And safe travels friends.

World Travel Itinerary

Just a rough idea of my plan to travel around the world.  4 days into Sydney and the plan is already changing, which I find is the best way to travel.  It’s good to be prepared but you have to let some of the pieces fall where they may.  (photo credit: @worldtravelfans) 

*get Vietnam visa online

*look at hostel bookers.com

Australia

Cheap Airlines: Tiger Airlines, Jetstar

Bus: Greyhound Australia Pass

Rideshare: Look at hostel bulletins to hitch a ride with people or look at Kangaride, Jayride and Gumtree

Things to see:

Uluru(Too far, towards Alice Springs), sail Whitsundays, hike the Daintree

Route:

  • Sydney – 3 – Opera house, Harbor Bridge
  • Melbourne – 4
  • Sydney – 2
  • Byron Bay – 3 – Aquarius backpackers hostel
  • Gold Coast – 3 Surf N Sun Hostel
  • Brisbane – 3
  • Whitsunday – 3
  • Magnetic Island – 3 base hostel
  • Cairns – 5 – Gilligans hostel, Great barrier reef, Kuranda Rainforest, mission beach, crystal cascades

Total days = 29

Philippines

  • Boracay – MNL beach hostel
  • Cebu

Thailand – must have passport at all times (law)

Bangkok

  • (5) NapPark hostel

Ayutthaya – Ancient City

Phitsanulok

Chiang Mai

  • (4) Spicy Thai hostel
  • Songkran Festival Thai new year, water fight (13-15th April) originated here

Chiang Khong

  • border with Laos
  • purchase 30 day tourist visa here, $30-$40 bucks

Laos

Houay Xai

  • Bokeo Nature reserve

Luang Prabang

  • (5) lots of shit to see here

Vang Vieng (4)

Sakura Bar

Vientiane – (5) capital city, visit Vietnam embassy here to get visa.

Tha Khaek

  • Do the Thakhaek loop on motorbike if possible. Takes 3 days but preferably do it in 4 days
  • Phou Hin Boon National Park
  • Konglor Cave
  • Tham Nong Pafa Cave

Savannakhet

  • Second largest city
  • Museum on dinosaurs and unexploded bombs from Vietnam War
  • City host many festivals (look them up).

Ao Nang, Krabi – Slumber Party hostel

Koh Phangan – The Nomad House

Ko Samui

Ko Phangan

  • Hat Rin, full moon party

Ko Tao

Krabi

  • Popular beaches – Ao Nang, Tang Sei, Rai Leh

Ko Tarutao National Marine Park

Vietnam

Dong Ha

  • A day is recommended here

Hue

  • Ancient city
  • Hue Citadel
  • Emperors tombs
  • Pagodas

Hoi An (4)

  • Riverside town
  • Party town
  • Beach is not far

Nha Trang

  • Backpackers house hostel

Dalat (4)

  • Lakes, forest and waterfalls (outdoors)

Mui Ne

  • Desert, sand dunes and beach (theres a desert in Vietnam? Da fuck?)
  • Not much going on apparently but great place to unwind. Probably will recharge my batteries here and regroup.

Ho Chi Minh (Saigon)

  • largest city
  • Pham Ngu Lao area, good place to find food, sleep, and drink
  • Lots of war sites

Hanoi – Hanoi backpackers hostel

Old Quarter, Hanoi – Central Backpackers

Cambodia

Phnom Penh

Koh Rong – island near Phnom Penh MUST GO

Sihanoukville

Siem Reap

  • Funky Flashpackers hostel
  • Temples of Angkor Wat

Israel

  • Jerusalem – 6 days, Abraham Hostel
  • Tel Aviv – 3 days, Florentine Backpackers Hostel
  • Day trip to the Dead Sea
  • Mediterranean coast
  • The North (???)
  • Petra – get there early, whole day trip,

Greece – Island hopping (link up w/ SF mates)

  • Santorini
  • Ios
  • Mykonos

Croatia – Dubrovnik, Split, Zagreb,

Hungary – Budapest

Czech – Prague

Germany – Munich

Spain – Link up with the moms.  Visit Madrid and Barcelona.

FUCK IT I’LL FIGURE OUT THE REST AS I GO

Morocco

Scotland

Ireland

Brazil

Bolivia

Argentina

Chile

Peru – Regroup in Lima.  Spend a month.  Link up with pops

Colombia

Panama

Costa Rica

Cuba

Home (Noooooooo 😦 

Chasing the Sun/The Great Escape (I don’t fucking know anymore)

Life is filled with “Goodbyes”.  I know this because I’ve had to say it way too many times.  Goodbye to family, goodbye to friends, goodbye to relationships, and goodbye to brothers who have made their final ascension into Valhalla.

But not every goodbye is a sad one.  Sometimes a goodbye is a closure to one part of your life and the beginning of another.  A new adventure or a fresh start, as cheesy as that may sound.  I’m not a fan of saying goodbye to people, so instead I say “see ya later”.  Goodbye sounds so final, so concrete.

This time around its no different, and I still don’t plan on saying goodbye.  As I get ready to embark on another trip I simply tell people, “see ya later, have a cold one waiting for me for when I return”.  Oh yea, did I forget to mention I’m going backpacking again haha!

This time I journey to the beautiful land of Australia.  Why you may ask?  Well that’s a silly question, its fucking Australia!  Also I made a promise to visit some good mates of mine I met in Europe, and I’m not about to stop breaking my promises.

I’m not sure why I named this blog post “The Great Escape”.  I’m not escaping from anything; I simply want to explore the world. Chasing the sun seems like a better title since I’ll be consistently chasing the sun this time around or perhaps, “Damnnnnn Carlos, back at it again with the traveling” is a more suitable title, I’ll let you decide.  Well now that I think about it I might be escaping from one thing, conformity.  You know that thing everyone wants you to do, get a degree, get a career, work, work, work, work (in Rihanna voice), get married, make offspring, retire, die.  As I reach my big 30, that pressure to conform increases. I guess by societies standards I should have a career and be married by now.  Been there, done that.

I’m no revolutionary, people today are steering away from conformity and doing great things.  The idea of marriage is dying, as more people stray away from it.  More people are choosing not to have kids, and focusing on personal development.  There is nothing wrong with conformity or normalizing to some standards. Its some people’s goal to get married and raise a family, shit it was mine there for a while.  I myself will eventually chase this goal as well, but not in the near future. I would like to tell you to do the same while you are still young, but hey it’s your life, live it how you want.  Personal development does not mean doing it on your own, for the company of different people and different cultures is the best way to grow.

If I ever get blessed with grand kids, who by the way will be a bunch of shit heads because I’m a shit head, I want to sit on a hovering recliner (it’s the future, they will have these) with a long wooden pipe for show, because I don’t smoke, stroking my grey beard and say, “Gather around young padawans, let me tell you about the time your grand pappy pulled a Hemingway” or the time I stood on the side of a mountain and watched a memorable sunrise in a foreign country where its inhabitants wanted to kill me.  (I’m going to terrorize these kids HAHA!)

I do have one final thought on this somewhat off track topic. I do believe one of life’s goals is to find someone to share these moments with, the person you can stand still with, enjoy sincere silence, and take in the moment.  This isn’t a necessity, but a nice compliment to your badassery (yup just made up a word).  I can’t tell you how to achieve this, but I do believe it can be done through personal growth, which can only be achieved by stepping outside the bubble of conformity.  Plus, life is to fucking awesome to live it by yourself, go share it with someone and make some kick ass memories.

Like before, this idea to take off started small, with a plan to save up and travel in two years, which turn to a small two-week trip in less than a year, to now traveling for several months.  I mean why not right, I’m already going to be in that part of the world, so why not keeping going. I knew I would travel again even before I left Europe, so I began to stash money away as soon as I landed in the states. Surprisingly I came back under budget and stored it in the travel fund. The gears in my head were moving but I had no date and too many destinations to choose from. Planning big trips like these are often daunting and time consuming, but well worth it.

Once again certain aspects in my life have push me towards this idea a lot sooner than I had planned.  Drawbacks, successes and failures have all created an opportunity for me to leave again.  I made up my mind several months ago to go full throttle with the plan, setting up a budget, watching my expenses like a hawk and working like a slave. Going to need three times the cheddar this time around.

So what’s the new itinerary?  Well let me tell ya! This plan will sound really ambitious, but fuck it, YOLO right.

Phase 1

First stop, AUSTRALIA!  I will be backpacking the east coast of Australia for a month. Somewhere along that route I plan on accomplishing 3 goals; fight a kangaroo, fight a koala, and not die. Assuming I’m still alive after all this I’ll be licking my wounds in Cairns before my departure to SOUTH EAST ASIA!

Phase 2

This is where it gets tricky and I’ll need help. I’ve already talked to several of you and thank you for the valuable advice. If anyone has any tips or information on SEA feel free to drop me a line. I’ve already started my research and have a rough draft on the route I plan to take.  Also any info on the Philippines (Boracay & Cebu) would help. I’ll be out of SEA by June due to monsoon season and plan on heading west towards Ireland and Scotland. Not sure how I’m going to get there but I WILL GET THERE. I’ve been dreaming about Ireland and the Highlands since I’ve been back, failure here is not an option. Also any info on Capetown and Morroco would help as well.

Phase 3

Phase three of the plan gets real ballsy as I plan to make my way to South America.  Now the chances of me reaching this continent are slim but hey, YOLO (I promise YOLO is not part of my regular vocabulary, but it seems appropriate. Just about every curse word known to man is).  This will simply depend on money, and how much I have left. I have not done ANY research on this yet, so definitely need all the advice I can get. Getting here means I budgeted just right, or I pulled a Rambo (sold live Cobras for snake fight club in SEA).

I’m also sending an open invitation to anyone who wants to join me on this adventure.  I’ve realize that most people are afraid to travel alone, so that’s why I offer people to join me on any part of my trip.  Money is also a factor and even though I can’t fund your trip, I can offer money saving advice.  The purpose behind these stories and blog is to encourage people to travel. Everyone should see the world through their own eyes. Pictures, videos and blogs don’t do it justice.

I’m currently working on anchor points, and so far I only have a few.  Life keeps me pretty preoccupied and most of my planning is done during my commute hours. I’ll be in Oz for NYE, which hopefully will be pretty bad ass. I fly out to SEA on the 27 of Jan after Australia Day (can’t miss that). Where I land first in SEA is still up to question but I will be in Thailand for SONGKRAN!! (Apr 13-16). I’ll be out of SEA by June. I’ll be posting a final itinerary as the date approaches.

Oh fuck I just realized that I leave in 5 months! 5 freaking months! Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuck. I still got so much planning to do.

Funny thing is I’m already planning what to do when I return, (get my iron horse back and tour my own country) got to stay focus.

Of course everything is subject to change as life continues to throw me curve balls, it just depends if I decide to dodge it, catch it or hit it.  Whatever happens I will choose the route that will provide me with a good story so I can write about it.

Safe travels everyone and I appreciate any tips/advice you send my way.