#TravelTuesdayAtoZChallenge

Out of sheer boredom and the fact that I miss travelling so much and don’t see myself doing it anytime soon. I have decided to set myself a challenge over on my Instagram @abitoflindsay that I am calling the #traveltuesdayAtoZchallenge.

Each week I shall share a picture from my travels of a place that starts with the same letter of the alphabet for that week. Last week it was a place starting with A, next week a place starting with B and so on. Some of the letters are going to be very tricky and I may have to use some creative thinking but I will try to stick to the challenge as best I can. I will also try to use pictures I haven’t posted on here before. If anyone wants to take part in this challenge just use the hashtag #TravelTuesdayAtoZchallenge , follow me on Instagram and tag me in it.

📍 A is for Auckland

📍 B is for Bremer Bay

My Ovarian Cyst Journey – How It Started

I have decided to write about my ovarian cyst journey because when I was first diagnosed I scoured the internet looking for other women’s experiences, I only came across a couple of blog posts but they did help to put my mind at ease knowing that other women have been through what I am going through and I hope this blog will do the same for others. I apologise for the length of this post as well.

How it started.

On the 14th of December I finished my day at work, I am a housekeeper at a hotel. I felt fine when I got home from work, I had some lunch then went to the shop, walking back from the shop I started to get a pain in the left hand side of my abdomen, it started off just as a dull ache and got worse and worse as the evening went on. I took some paracetamol and tried to go to sleep. I could not sleep because of the pain, laying down made it hurt more, it’s hard to describe the pain, it was a mixture of a stabbing pain and then intense internal spasms. At about 1am the pain was so bad I was terrified, thinking I was going to have to call an ambulance. Knowing how busy the NHS is at the moment I decided instead to call 111, they asked me a bunch of questions and decided that because the pain was on my left side it wasn’t appendicitis so an ambulance probably wasn’t necessary, they passed my information on to the out of hours doctor for them to give me a call so I waited. At about 2:30am the out of hours doctor called and again asked me the same questions and from my symptoms decided that it was most likely a bladder/kidney infection or IBS, she advised me to keep taking painkillers, drink lots of water and promised me my GP would call for a proper over the phone consultation the next day.

So on the afternoon of the 15th, after having to call the GP myself and remind them that I was promised a called, I finally spoke to my GP and again he asked me the same questions all about my symptoms. One part of that conversation that sticks out because I found it so funny was when he said that the first thing they need to check was if I was pregnant because in a women my age, 33, the sort of pain I was experiencing is most commonly an ectopic pregnancy, so he asked me if I was pregnant. I said no. He said how can you be sure? I said well I haven’t had sex, since January so…. he laughed saying yeah definitely not pregnant then as in all my years as a doctor I’ve never heard of an 11 month pregnancy. Eventually he advised me that it was possibly a urinary tract infection, he would prescribe me antibiotics and if the pain didn’t go away after the 3 day course then to call them back.

I had spoken to three separate people by this point and not once had anyone mentioned ovarian cysts, the main reason behind that I believe is that I didn’t have any other symptoms other than the pain, I especially didn’t have any of the usual gynaecological symptoms that normally occurred with ovarian cysts, my periods were and have always been normal and regular, they weren’t particularly painful, I would only get cramps on the first day. The only unusual thing was at the start of December I bled for 4/5days between periods, that is the first time anything like that has happened. After a lot of googling IBS or a UTI did seem pretty likely, the only other symptom that would lead someone to thinking my pain was related to ovarian cysts is the swelling in my abdomen which increased over the next week but obviously that’s not something people can observe over the phone and it is also something linked with IBS.

The pain did not go away with the antibiotics, painkillers did not even touch it and it spread so it was across the whole of my abdomen not just the left side. As I said above my stomach had majorly swollen so once again I rang my GP and managed to get a face to face appointment. My GP was lovely, she asked the usual questions, took a urine sample and did an exam of my stomach. She was very concerned but once again couldn’t tell me what was wrong, she said I needed to go to the surgical assessment unit straight away to get some proper tests, she wanted me to go there in an ambulance but the wait would of been over an hour and as my GP is right next to the hospital she allowed my mum to drive me round. Once we got to the S.A.U it was about 5:30pm, obviously my mum couldn’t come in and wait with me due to Covid-19 restrictions so I went in alone, all I had to do was wait to be seen and wait I did! I was called in to have my obs done (blood pressure/heart rate etc) and then I had bloods taken and finally 8 hours later I was seen by an actual Dr. By now I was in extreme pain, I was uncomfortable and cold from the waiting room, I was starving, I was thirsty, I was so tired because it was 1 in the morning, I was down right fucking miserable.

The Doctor again asked me all the same questions about my symptoms , he examined my stomach, he took more bloods, he did a rectal exam and decided then and there that I needed to be admitted and have a CT scan.

Me at about 2am waiting for my CT scan

I was still in so much pain so was given paracetamol and liquid morphine which didn’t really do much to take the pain away. I think having two examinations where my stomach was poked and prodded didn’t help. And I had my first ever Covid test. Eventually I was whisked away on a wheelchair through the freezing cold hospital to have the CT scan, I was injected with the contrast which felt really weird, it was very cold. And afterwards I was taken back to the ward and attempted to sleep with a loud snorer and a constantly beeping machine in the room. I was awoken at about 3:30am by the consultant, he said you have a massive ovarian cyst so we are moving you to Telford hospital as they house the gynaecological unit. My phone was getting low on battery, I wasn’t expecting to be admitted when I went to my GP earlier that day, I’m not sure why considering the pain I was in so I sent a quick message to my mum to let her know what was happening and asking her to drop me a bag off at the hospital the next day.

I stayed in the gynae unit for 4 days as they tried to manage my pain. On the Saturday morning I saw a consultant who told me I would need an ultrasound scan and would need surgery to remove the cyst. On the Sunday morning a different consultant told me that again that I was waiting on an ultra sound scan but as it was the weeknd and they are short staffed they don’t know when it will happen. On the Monday morning I was getting frustrated, again a different consultant, who I actually found more personable than the previous ones and who actually spoke to me for a while mentioned the ultrasound scan and mentioned the size of my cyst, I asked how big it actually it and my reaction was holy shit!

It was 35cms in diameter. 35 fucking cms! That’s like a small watermelon! No wonder my stomach had swollen so much. Finally on the Tuesday morning the 4th consultant I had seen said that an ultra sound wouldn’t be very useful to them because of the size of the cyst so they were going to send me home and I would have to await my surgery.

On the 22nd of December I was discharged from hospital. On the 30th of December I had an appointment with the consultant to discuss what exactly was going on with my cysts and what the plan for the surgery would be and I hoped I would be given a surgery date.

I was not given a surgery date then and there. I was told I would have it at some point in the next 6 weeks and my heart sank, wondering how I was going to cope with the pain for so long. The chat with the consultant was good, I actually really liked him. I was wearing my Franz Josef NZ tshirt and he asked me about it, saying he had spent some time in New Zealand too.

He explained that it’s either one big cyst on my right ovary or two, one on each ovary but still the larger being on the right. The CT scan isnt 100% clear because they are so large. Keyhole surgery is not possible because of the size, they will do a midline laparotomy, so I will be cut straight down the middle of my stomach. During the surgery they hope to remove the larger cyst, that ovary and Fallopian tube. Then they want to remove just the cyst from the other ovary keeping that one intact but he explained that to be honest until they actually operate and have a look they are not sure what they are dealing with and exactly what they need to do. They don’t know if it’s cancerous until they have taken it out and biopsied it but they are going to treat it like it is to be on the safe side until they are sure. He explained that the cyst is like a ballon filled with water, they have to be very careful when removing it because if it bursts and it is cancerous then it will release cancerous cells into my body and that is not good so it’s best they treat it like it is just incase. They couldn’t even tell me a percentage likely hood of it being cancerous or not because all the signs that point towards cancer can also be caused by having a huge cyst. One thing he said is that there is a possibility that they will get in there and there is nothing they can do other than give me a hysterectomy but as they don’t want to be doing that to a 33 year old they will try their hardest to save at least one ovary. There are obviously risks when it comes to surgery but this sort of surgery has added risks, the cysts bursting, have the cysts attached themselves to my other organs like my bladder. It’s all so unknown.

How it’s going so far.

I finally have a surgery date which is actually tomorrow, the 5th of February. It has been just over 5 weeks since that appointment since then I have had my pre-op assessment and on Tuesday I had my Covid test. It has been a very long and hard 5 weeks, my stomach has continued to swell bigger and bigger. It has actually grow about 7/8inches in the last 2 months. So who knows how large the cyst actually is now, that is obviously going to make it more difficult to remove, which is a big worry for me. I look like I am 9 months pregnant, which is ironic really because there’s a possibility that after this I may never be able to have children.

I am still in constant pain, some days are ok and some are worse than others, my back has really started to hurt me the past week or so, I guess that is the combination of barely moving for 5 weeks (I have left my house a grand total of 3 times), the weight of my stomach pulling on my back and sleeping on my sofa. I haven’t slept in my bed since the 27th of December, I can not sleep on my side like a usually do and because of the size of my stomach and the pain I experience I really struggled to physically get out of bed. My sofa is closer to the ground and I can use the back of it to pull myself up, which is much more comfortable. I can not wait until I can go outside for a walk again or to fall asleep in my bed on my left side again.

Surprisingly my mental health has been relatively ok the past 5 weeks, I think the country being in lockdown kind of helps because I know I’m not missing out on anything by being stuck inside. I’ve never had an operation before, I had never even spent the night in a hospital before all this. So I am nervous about that, generally I’m ok but every now and then I do get the most incredibly overwhelming anxiety about it but I know that is normal. I think my biggest fear is the unknown, they don’t know exactly what they will have to do during the surgery, they don’t know if it is cancerous, I don’t know how long it will take to find that out, I don’t know how I’m going to react to the anaesthetic or the surgery, I don’t know how I’m going to cope with the pain. I’ve been dealing with this pain for nearly 7 weeks now and it’s a very different pain to the pain of surgery recovery, at least I know painkillers will work on that pain, they barely touch the ovarian cyst pain.

Have you ever had a surgery as big as this? Have you had problems with ovarian cysts? Let me know in the comments. It seems that this is a subject barely talked about but it’s surprising how many women this problem effects and we shouldn’t be ashamed or embarrassment about the gynaecological issue we all go through.

So that’s it really, I’m all prepared, as much as I can be for major surgery. My mum will be staying with me at mine for a few days once I’m out of hospital. That is another unknown, could be in for 3-5 days apparently but it all depends on me and how my body reacts to everything, obviously with Covid-19 they want people out of hospital as soon as possible. Have got a food delivery arriving next week so my fridge/cupboards will be filled with healthy, easy to prepare foods and plenty of treats too. I’ve got books to read and series I’ve saved to watch.

I will be posting a recovery update on here once I am feeling up to it, am hoping to do updates for one week, one month, 3 months post op. Recovery was what I was really interested in finding out about when searching for other women’s experiences with massive ovarian cyst removal surgery.

Make sure to follow me on Instagram at @ABitOfLindsay and on Twitter at @ABitOfLindsay as I’ll be posted more regular updates on there and wish me luck, by 12pm on Friday 5th of February I will be in hospital waiting to go under the knife.

13 Things I Learnt From Living In The Australian Outback

I spent three months wokring and living in Mataranka in the Northern Territory and as that’s something not a lot of people do, I thought I should share a little bit more about my experience’s of living there and who doesn’t love a list post?

1 – If you don’t drive/have a car you are quite screwed. It is very difficult to explore the place by foot, there is no public transport and everyone will think you are crazy for walking everywhere, it was a half hour walk from our house to the town and people would always stop and offer us lifts home which we would usually turn down wanting the extra exercise. My housemate and I even walking to the bitter springs, everyone was shocked when we told them we walked 11km in 34+ degrees heat, but if we hadn’t done it I would never of got to see the springs.

2People in the outback love a drink. However it can sometimes be difficult to get alcohol in the Northern Territory because of the alcohol restrictions they have in place. No alcohol can be served before 2pm on a weekday or 12pm on a Saturday and if you want to buy a box of goon (cask wine – very popular with backpackers and aboriginals because it’s cheap and gets you very pissed) you are limited to one per person per day and you have to show valid ID, in the supermarket we had to write everyone’s names down on a piece of paper to make sure everyone just got one.

3 – Aboriginals are very angry drunks. It is difficult to explain what the aboriginals in Mataranka were like without coming across as racist. I am not racist, I just feel sorry for them. This is just my experience of them so far. The majority of them in the town don’t work, they get all their money from the government for land rights and they just sit around waiting for the bottle shop to open at 2pm then they proceed to get horribly drunk. You would see one run past the store carrying a crate of beer and there would be about 7 people following them in to the bush to drink it as quickly as possible as it was illegal to drink within 5 km of a bottle shop. Working in the supermarket meant I had quite a few run ins with them when they were angry. You refuse to serve them alcohol because they have already had too much and they get angry, one had been banned for trying to attack one of the girls because she refused to serve him and yet he kept coming in trying to get alcohol and he would kick off every time when asked to leave.

4 – There’s not much to do so big community events are everything. If you don’t go you really will be missing out on what is for us backpackers anyway a once in a lifetime event. While I was in Mataranka, I went to the Katherine Show, the Territory Day fireworks show and the Mataranka rodeo.

5 – You will never be truly clean in the outback. The intense heat means you are constantly sweating and the vast amount of dust mean that even when you have showered it’s not long until you feeling dirty again.

6 – The Bugs! Fuck me I have never seen or even imagined so many bugs in my whole life. Flies, mozzies, moths, grasshoppers, beetles, spiders, the lot. Having to walk outside to go to the bathroom at night was always a thrilling adventure, will you be attacked by a grasshopper? Will there be a spider in the toilet? Who knows? 

7 – You will embrace other types of wildlife. We had wallabies begging for food, bright coloured parrots and huge Hawks in the bush, our family of geckos that lived in the kitchen, massive cane toads sneaking up on you in the dark, the herds of Guinea fowl that when they run away from you as you get near them it reminded me so much of the stampede scene in Jurassic Park! We also adopted various neighbour dogs, we had Missy from the neighbours on one side who spent the night during a storm, Alan (who I named Sam before finding out his real name) who would come and join me and Lucy for our work outs, and then there was the heavily pregnant dog that appeared at my door when I was in the house alone, it wouldn’t leave and I was panicking it would give birth there and then. It eventually went home and its owner informed me that it gave birth to 7 puppies the next day.

Willow The Wallaby

8 – The sky can put on a great show. From the bright blue sky, to fantastic sunsets and a breathtaking amount of stars at night.

9 – Fishing is actually cool! During the dryer cooler months, people will spend as much of their free time fishing in the rivers as possible, catching some massive and very tasty barramundi.

10 – There is no better place to get fit than the outback. You have nothing else to do with your evenings and you don’t need fancy gyms and equipment to get fit. All you need is some outside space, a few tyres and a friend to push you.

11 – When it rains it pours! And trying to sleep while there is torrential rain battering the roof of the tin house you are in and the humidity is rising because there is no air con as the rain has made the power go off isn’t something I want to experience again any time soon.

12 – You will meet some real characters that you will never forget. They will share some fantastic stories with you. There was one elderly aboriginal gentleman that I will never forget, he was called Eric or Gang gang, he often worked with my bosses partner Geoff (who was a character in himself! He had two dogs that would follow him everywhere), he would come into the store to get some cigarettes, I would usually greet him with a “hello trouble” and he would just go “smoke” to me or Emma, our response would usually be “smoke please?”. He was a very funny guy, once telling us in a hushed voice how he saw that the police were out in the town taking away the alcohol they were drinking so Eric decided to climb a tree and hide it up there!

13 – The outback isn’t for everyone. But if you take a chance and are willing to embrace it for what it is it will change you in a way you could never have imagined.

Why You Should Go To Bali?

“Life, religion and art all converge in Bali. They have no word in their language for ‘artist’ or ‘art.’ Everyone is an artist.” – Anaïs Nin

The Atmosphere

There is something about Bali or all Indonesian/Asian countries that this so different to the western world. Having never been to a place like Bali before it was definitely an experience I will never forget and I would highly recommend it to anyone. There is so much traffic and noise and people and rubbish. It is extremely overwhelming to the senses to begin with but once you get use to not waiting for traffic to stop to let you cross the road, you have to just go for it and know they won’t hit you, once you get use to saying no thank you to every person trying to get you into their shop or taxi, once you over look all the rubbish on the streets and all the pavements that are in serious need of repair, once you embrace the fact that you are very far from everything you know, you will see this country and it’s incredibly friendly people are just perfect the way they are.

The Religious Culture

Coming from a largely Christian world and being an atheist it can be very interesting to visit a country where religion is a massive part of the culture and everyday lives of it’s people. In Bali the majority of the population practices Balinese Hinduism, there are dozes of temples and shrines on every corner, you will see Canang Sari, which is the daily offering to the supreme God, everywhere in Bali. You will have to step over many of them on the pavements as they are left on the ground outside every shop front.

The Food

I don’t think I have ever eaten so much cheap, beautifully arranged and incredibly tasty food in my whole life than I did in the 11 days I spent in Bali. As someone who loves their food and is willing to try anything (within reason) once, I was so excited to try Balinese food, my favourite dish was definitely the traditional Mie Goreng. My mum particularly enjoyed the Nasi Goreng.

Make sure to check out the previous posts on Seminyak and Ubud. I spent 11 days in Bali and even though we managed to squeeze a lot in, we barely touched the surface of what this country holds. I personally can not wait to return and explore some more. I hope these posts will inspire some people to give this incredible country a try once it is safe and the world has returned to some semblance of normal. You will not regret it

AWOL – Where I’ve Been And What Is Next

When I first started this blog at the beginning of the year I was so excited to share my travel stories, to become a part of the travel/lifestyle blogger community, to interact with readers and fellow bloggers and to basically starting writing again which is something I have always loved to to but then the world turned to shit.

I was not in the best place mentally at the beginning of the year due to complicated relationship issues then Covid-19 hit, the world closed down and it took all of my energy trying to deal with it mentally and to just keep myself sane. I just couldn’t think about travel and writing, I didn’t want to read about it so I assumed no one else did either so what would be the point in carrying on?

I am very lucky that I have not lost any family member’s to Covid, I have not lost my job or home but the thing that I did lose, that has taken months to come to terms with is Canada. It had always been my dream to do Australia, New Zealand and then Canada. I had my working holiday visa, I had arranged a leaving party, I had decided the date I was going to quit my job. My flight was booked for the end of April, that obviously got cancelled when Canada closed their boarders. As my visa had already been activated technically I could go once flights were up and running again and I didn’t need a job offer, which is their current requirement for people with inactivated visas, but so many people in the IEC Facebook group had actually been turned away at the airport. I did not want to risk that happening so I started applying for jobs, I was unsuccessful as most employees, understandably, in the hospitality industry (where I would of worked) wanted people who were already in the country and who didn’t have to go through 2 weeks of quarantine before starting.

My life like so many others had been placed on hold. I was furloughed from work, my mum wanted to move in with her partner to save money, (she was going to do this as soon as I left for Canada), so I felt like I was holding back her life as well. I was miserable, full blown depressed.

I had to make a choice. I could keep applying for jobs in Canada, move other there in the middle of a global pandemic, leave the security of my job here, hope that Canada’s cases didn’t get worse and I didn’t lose whatever job I had managed to get over there and then eventually have to leave Canada to return to he UK after only a few months to no job and no home.

It was probably one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make but the most sensible option given all of the extraordinary unknown circumstances seemed to be to give up on the dream of living/working in Canada so that’s what I did. I decided to say in the UK and try to make a life here.

The hotel I work in eventually reopened, I have rented a little flat, this is actually the first time in my 33 years on this earth that I have lived completely alone and I am feeling a lot happier. I will always be sad about Canada but its not going anywhere and as soon as the world is back to normal I will be having the most epic holiday there.

Now that I’ve caught you up on what’s been going on with me for the last 10 months, I will get back to this blog and what I’m going to do with it.

I am still going to continue with my Australia travel blogs and start writing my New Zealand ones, the memories are getting further away and I will regret it if I don’t document the amazing times I had. Hopefully people will enjoy reading them and it inspires them to visit when it is safe to do so. I will also be moving more towards the lifestyle type stuff. I want to explore and show off the beautiful Shropshire that is my home, I’ll do reviews of local restaurants/takeaways, local walks and places of interest. And once restrictions have been lifted I want to show off more of the UK as well. I also have a great idea for a book vs film/TV show review series, combining my two favourite things, books and binge watching Netflix.

This was the plan anyway but as the great Robert Burns wrote “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry”

2020 has decided to throw another curve ball my way. Just before Christmas I spent 5 days having constant abdominal pains, when pain killers didn’t even touch it I finally got a face to face appointment with my doctor who straight away decided that I needed to go to hospital, after an 8 hour wait in the surgical assessment unit, I finally got seen by a consultant at 1:30am who admitted me right away and arranged a CT scan. That scan showed a massive ovarian cyst so I was moved to Telford Hospital which houses the Gynaecology unit. I spent 4 days in hospital with them trying to come up with a pain management plan but to no avail , 9 days after being discharged I am still in constant pain.

At my follow up appointment yesterday I was told that I will be having surgery within the next 6 weeks to remove the cyst/cysts. Unfortunately due to many different factors and the size of the cyst (35cm by the way), it’s not going to be as simple as a normal cyst removal. Basically they don’t know what to expect or exactly how much they will have to remove, one ovary, both ovaries, maybe even a full hysterectomy, until I am on the table and they have opened me up. They also don’t know if the cyst is cancerous until it is removed. So yeah, I really found a great way to top up the shittiest year ever.

I will be attempting to document my cyst removal journey here because I believe that women’s gynaecological health is still seen as a bit of a taboo to talk about in public, It was something I previously never wanted to discuss with anyone, but that is exactly how I have ended up in this situation. If I can help to raise a little bit of awareness then I will.

I wish you all a very happy new year. Stay strong and know that this year is finally coming to an end, next year can only get better.

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Exploring Bali – Ubud and Sanur

After our 4 nights in Seminyak, My mum and I packed up our suitcases and made our way to our next hotel in Ubud. A place apparently made famous by the book Eat, Prey, Love which I haven’t read or seen the film so I didn’t have any preconceptions .

Travelling on the roads in Bali is definitely an experience that I will never forget, the roads are clogged with so many cars and even more mopeds, which are very popular for backpackers to hire and explore the countryside on. My mum and I weren’t brave enough for this. Also the road signs in Bali are pretty non-existent so I have no idea how our driver managed to find the hotel we were staying at without a sat nav as it was completely hidden away.

The entrance to our hotel

Now I can’t write this post without telling you all a little about the hotel we stayed in. Puri Gangga Resort (not an ad, sponsored or anything like that it was just amazing) has to be one of the poshest hotels I have ever stayed in, it was a truly beautiful place and the staff were the most attentive in all of Bali and it was probably about a quarter of the price of a 4 star hotel in Europe. When we left we were even given a leaving gift, my mum got a wooden turtle statue and I got a wooden cat statue.

Afternoon tea on the terrace
The infinity pool looking out over the jungle below

One of the great things our hotel did was on the Saturday night, they had a special evening of traditional Balinese dancing performed by the girls who lived in the village in the valley just below the hotel. It was a fascinating and entertaining evening. The dance told the story of a bumblebee falling in love. If you come to Bali and see one of these events is taking place then I highly recommend you go along and watch.

There was also a water temple in the valley below the hotel, the Gunung Kawi Temple which was so quiet and serene, a massive difference to the more commercial Tanah Lot Temple.

We were very happy to be tourists in Bali so of course when we spent the day in the centre of Ubud as well as walking around the incredibly varied and huge market there, we had to go to one of the main tourist attractions, the Monkey Forest.

For a small fee you get to walk around this forest that is quite pretty and honestly just reminded me of the first Tomb Rider game and get to see all the wild monkeys. Now these are not docile monkeys, they are very playful, some times aggressive wild animals and you have to be very careful of your valuables. My mum and I sat down for a rest because it was so hot and a monkey decided to climb on top of us and try to undo the zip on my mums handbag. I would advise that you have no food on you while exploring the forest.

One of the things we both wanted to see while in Bali was elephants. It’s one of the big draws of visiting Asia and Indonesia. I know there is a hell of a lot of controversy surrounding this subject and I have read a few articles condemning these places completely. So please don’t leave angry comments about this subject. As a massive animal lover I do agree with them on pretty much all of the points they make, especially the point of elephant rides, it is an unnecessary thing to do. I have never wanted to ride an elephant and I do not think this should be allowed at all, but I have always be fascinated by elephants and really wanted to get up close and feed some so I did some online research and the “best” place I found was The Elephant Safari Park and Lodge so we spent the day there. I have even included a picture of the information sign that they had around the park. I have since come to learn that there are no actual elephant sanctuaries in Bali, they are all just for entertainment purposes. In hindsight do I feel bad giving my money to a place like this? Yes but it was a great experience and I wasn’t displeased with the way I saw the elephants being treated and they all seemed pretty content.

One thing you have to do before leaving Ubud is to go to the Tegalalang Rice Terrace which we did on the journey to our next location of Sanur. Again it is another very busy tourist spot, you have to fight your way across a busy road and through the crowds trying to get the perfect shot for the gram but still an exceptionally stunning view.

We had spent a very busy few days exploring the wonderful Ubud and its surroundings. Our next location was Sanur, a quiet resort on the south east of the island. This was our chance to properly relax now, so we didn’t actually go on any excursions while in Sanur and I celebrated my 29th birthday while we were there so we just relaxed by the beach and pool, then spent the evenings enjoying good food and drinks, usually ending the night in an Irish bar called The Wicked Parrot. You have not lived until you have seen a Balinese band playing Irish folk songs and everyone in the bar joining in

Sanur Beach

Exploring Bali – Seminyak

After my three months of working in Australia’s Northern Territory I decided that I needed a holiday and because I had heard how great but also how cheap it is, the island of Bali in Indonesia was going to be my holiday destination.

I also decided that as I’m such a great daughter and thought my mum deserved a good holiday, I would invite her along too as my treat. All she had to do was pay for her flights, I would sort everything else out. Because of this I didn’t go down the normal cheap hostel backpacker route, I went for nice hotels which in Bali are still pretty cheap.

I wanted to see as much of Bali as possible in our 11 days there but also wanted a few just chilling by the beach days so I split our trip up into three different locations so we could experience a little bit of everything. We started out in Seminyak for 4 nights, Ubud for 3 nights and then Sanur for 4 nights.

I will be splitting my posts about Bali into three so remember to watch out for my next posts all about Ubud and Sanur.

Seminyak

Seminyak is a resort on the southern end of Bali, It is just north of Kuta. I chose to avoid Kuta completely on this trip as I had been told its basically like the Australian version of Kavos, filled will very drunk, drugged up, loud people, that’s not really my scene and as my mother was joining for this trip I didn’t think that would be suitable for us. Seminyak is still a very lively place, its biggest plus point is the many beach front bars, complete with bean bag chairs on the sand so you can relax under a brightly coloured umbrella while you drink a Bintang or a Bali cider (was so happy to find out they had this and it was so cheap too) and watch the amazing sunsets.

I arrived from Darwin the night before my mum so checked into our hotel, Puri Cendana Resort and got myself all settled in, I couldn’t wait to wake up the next day and start exploring. After enjoying a complimentary breakfast I headed off in search of the beach, Luckily the hotel was on the road to the beach so it didn’t take long for me to feel the sand between my toes. I relished in feeling the ocean wash over my feet again after spending 3 months away from it.

I eventually headed back to the hotel to check out the pool and wait for my mum to arrive.

After a few days relaxing on the beach and by the pool, letting my mother get over her jet lag we were ready to start exploring. We hired one of our hotels driver to take us to Tanah Lot Temple, one of the great sea temples of Bali.

Once you have paid a small entrance fee, you have to walk through a maze of market stalls to get to the coast line and eventually the temple. One thing to note about Bali is you can not walk past any shop, market stall, taxi driver without them trying to entice you in, sell you something or give you a lift. While walking around you just have to get use to saying no thank you to pretty much everyone.

You are able to walk over to the temple at low tide which we did, but non-Balinese people are not allowed to enter the actual temple. You might think that going to a Balinese temple would be a calming and enlightening experience but as Tanah Lot is one of the most popular attractions on the whole island just note that you will be sharing the experience with 100’s of other people. We even saw a bride and groom having their wedding pictures taken amongst the crowds.

One thing Bali is famous for is Luwak Coffee and on our way to Tanah Lot our driver took us to one of the many Luwak Coffee plantations. For those that don’t know Luwak Coffee is the most expensive coffee in the world because Luwaks or Chivet Cats eat only the ripest tastiest coffee beans, the beans then pass through their digestive system where they get fermented. The chivets then poo out the beans, they are collected, washed and processed into the most expensive coffee in the world. The whole process is suppose to give the coffee a much smoother and less bitter taste.

Anyone who knows me knows I hate coffee, even if its the sweetest, milkiest, trying so hard not to taste like coffee, coffee from Starbucks. I still can’t stand it, mainly because of the bitterness, it just sticks to my tongue but I have to say the Luwak coffee wasn’t actually that bad, it definitely had a less bitter taste than the normal stuff you can buy. I have to say I did enjoy trying the different types of tea a lot more.

The following day we left Seminyak and with another driver ventured into the hills to Ubud and probably the poshest hotel I have ever and will ever stay in in my life. Keep an eye out for my next post all about it.

The Australia Chronicles – Mataranka – We Of The Never Never

Out on the wastes of the Never Never

That’s where the dead men lie!

There where the heat-waves dance forever –

That’s where the dead men lie!Where the dead men lie by Barcroft Boake

The Never Never is used to describe a vast remote area of the Australian outback. I spent 3 months living and working in my never never. A very small place called Mataranka in the Northern Territory. It is 6 hours drive south of Darwin and is on the Stuart Highway, which runs right down the middle of Australia, from Darwin via Alice Springs and all the way down to Port Augusta in South Australia, because of this many people only end up stopping in Mataranka for fuel, a bathroom break and to grab some food so they never really experience it in all its outback beauty.

There is one thing Mataranka is famous for, a book called We Of The Never Never by Jeannie Gunn. Which I have never actually gotten round to reading.
It has become part of Australian Folklore and details the journey of Jeannie, who was the first white woman to settle in the Mataranka area accompanying her husband who was the station manager at Elsey cattle station.

The town is really into milking this book for everything, The towns sign says “Mataranka – Capital Of The Never Never”. If you are entering the town from the north on the Stuart Highway you will pass a park on the left filled with statues of all the main characters from the book.

In the 80’s they made a film about the book and they built a replica of the homestead Jeannie lived in and it still stands to this day near the thermal pools.

That’s another thing Mataranka is famous for, it’s two hot springs. There are the Thermal Pools and Bitter Springs.


One weekend my housemate Lucy and I walked the 6km from our house to go for a swim in the bitter springs. It was incredible, the water was so blue and so clear. You start at one end of the springs and using a pool noodle to float you allow the current to carry you to the other end. A little azure oasis in this red dusty place, well it was until about 40 school children showed up.

The Bitter Springs. No filter or editing needed, it really is that blue!

I didn’t manage to get to the Thermal Springs as they are up by the homestead and as we didnt have a car that would of been about an 11km walk each way, which isn’t particularly doable or sensible in 35 degree heat. I do know that the Thermal Springs are a lot more of a man made structure, a little bit like a heated swimming pool, surrounded by lush greenery.

Other things of interest in this tiny town that I think people should see if they are ever in this part of the world are the worlds largest man made termite mound! There’s a button on it and it’s suppose to tell you all about the town but when ever I went there is wasn’t working.


The stockyard gallery and garden cafe is a quaint little place, complete with another statue of a character from We Of The Never Never. Caricatures of aboriginal people line the wall above the counter and the gallery is filled with books, aboriginal art work and souvenirs, you can enjoy a good BLT for $8 while sitting in a tropical garden, be careful though as the locals birds that fill the trees may come and pester you for some of your lunch, they did when I was there!

And finally I think everyone who comes to Mataranka should pop into the Mataranka Store and Service Station and it’s not just because that’s where I worked!


The owner Judy has owned the business for 40 years and the store contains everything you could ever want! It’s really like an aladdins cave!  It always amused me when British tourists would come into the store because they always ask me how exactly I ended up here! It’s like they can’t image how anyone from back home would find a job in such a small place in the middle of the outback. The Aussies are funny as well so many have said to me “you British really do get everywhere!”

The Australia Chronicles – Mataranka – Life in the Outback

After my first month in Australia I found myself in a position I didnt think I would be in so early on. I was now going to be a solo traveller.

I left my friend at Cairns airport waiting for her flight back to the UK while I flew to Darwin to start my outback adventure. I had managed to find a job via gumtree in a general store in a town called Mataranka, in the Northern Territory. It’s a very small place of about 400 people, 6 hours drive south of Darwin and it was going to be my home for the next three months. I spent the night in Darwin a very dingy hostel and was woken up three times in the night by a French girl because I was snoring and waking someone up to tel them they are snoring obviously means they will stop doing it. I can’t bloody help it, I wish I could. It’s quite an embarrassing trait to have when sharing dorm rooms with people and has always made me very anxious. A Danish girl in Airlie beach said she was amazed by my snoring as it sounded like a bear! 

Found my street in Darwin

The next day I caught the greyhound coach to Mataranka. I’m going be completely honest with you, that coach trip was probably one of the worst journeys I have ever taken, not because of the actual coach ride but because I was absolutely terrified to do this whole travelling thing alone. One thing I was confident of was that I knew that if I had joined my friend in returning home it would have been the biggest regret of my life and I would of always wondered what if I had just had the guts to do it. I didn’t know if I could do this alone but I had to try and I’m so glad I did. My friend going home to the UK turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me, I just didn’t feel like that at the time.

When I got off the coach at the United Service Station in town the driver looked at me quizzically and said what the hell are you doing staying in a place like this?! I told him I had a job here and he wished me luck saying I would need it.

The sun was starting to set as I was picked up from the service station by Toni, my landlady, she gave me a quick tour of the two roads in the town then drove me to the house I would be staying in. We drove down a road surrounded on both sides by the bush, wallabies leaping in front of the cars headlights, Toni not even flinching.

The “street” my house was on

Now when she told me I would be staying in a four bedroom house with the other workers I don’t know why I had in my mind that it would be a nice two story house, all mod cons, with a Veranda and a nice little garden that I could sit and sunbathe in. (My Welsh housemate thought that same thing!) You can image the shock I had when we pulled into the driveway and I was met by what is basically a tin shed!
She showed me around the “house”. The bathroom that’s outside in which she once had to rescue a girl from a snake, the kitchen that is filled with plastic cutlery and plates, the broken sofas that have only been here a month, before that they had no furniture in the living room/kitchen. Finally I was shown to my room, a metal box, with a concrete floor, the only furniture being a bed and a chest of drawers (with two condoms in for some reason was one supermax and one ultra thin!?!?) no curtains, no homely touches. Nothing. Purely the basics.

The house

Now I’m not ashamed to admit this but when Toni left I sat on my bed and cried. For about an hour. The shock of the house being completely the opposite of what I expected, realising I was actually doing this alone, the fact I was in the middle of nowhere and couldn’t contact anyone to let them know how I was because only one phone network works here and my phone was still locked to a UK network. It was all very scary at that point!

I was still in panic mode up until I met the three girls I live with. I knew they are gonna be the things that make this place bearable. There was Skye the German, Lucy the Welsh and Shauna the Irish. Sounds like a bad joke right?

That first night I didn’t sleep well, the new strange noises of my surroundings preventing me from reaching the land of nod. The crickets, the dogs barking in the distance, the strange rustling coming from the bushes surrounding the house.
It is a very odd feeling to find yourself in the middle of nowhere with no one familiar to talk to but we change, we adapt, we evolve to deal with the curve balls that life throws at us and I for one was going to try and make the best out of this bizarre place I have found myself in.

The Australia Chronicles : Australia Zoo and The Rest Of The East Coast

After our hasty exit from Wooli we found ourselves on a greyhound coach to Brisbane with no idea what to do next.

Louise had decided that she didn’t want to go home right away but in two weeks time so she could finish our original plan to travel the rest of the east coast up to Cairns.

We spent our two days in beautiful Brisbane sitting by the lagoon and planing the rest of the trip. We bought a hop on hop off greyhound coach ticket, which I highly recommend because it was very good value and incredibly flexible, to Cairns and decided on the places we would stay.

Our route ended up like this:

Go to Australia Zoo from there catch the coach to Noosa and spend one night. Then it was on to Hervey Bay for two nights, Airlie Beach for two nights then Cairns for a week.

The Glass House Mountains as seen from the coach on the way to Australia Zoo

I have always been a massive Steve Irwin fan, I remember watching The Crocodile Hunter as a kid and knew I couldn’t pass up the chance to visit Australia Zoo and it did not disappoint. The Crocoseum show is a must do when visiting Australia Zoo, the trained native birds put on a spectacular show but best of all is obviously when the keepers are feeding the crocadiles.

Casually taking a cheetah for a walk
The Crocoseum show

As we didn’t really stay in any of the other places long enough they don’t really warrant a separate blog posts each but these are some of the sites we saw along the way.

On one of our overnight coach journeys we stopped at a roadhouse that is famous for this huge statue of a kangaroo called Matilda

The only picture I took in Noosa #hostellife

Hervey Bay
Cairns Lagoon

My biggest regret about doing the east coast is the fact we didn’t do any of the stuff people do the east coast for, we didnt go to Fraser Island or the Whitsundays or do anything to do with the Great Barrier Reef. Our focus was mainly just to get to Cairns so Louise could fly back home to the UK and I could fly to Darwin to start working.