Tag Archives: Oceania

Walking Uluru

It’s the symbol of the Australian Outback. A monolithic 348-metre mound of blood orange sandstone thrusting from an otherwise flat and desolate expanse of desert. Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock, has been a sacred Aboriginal site for some 10,000 years and, unsurprisingly, today it enjoys UNESCO World Heritage status. Tens of thousands of tourists flock to the rock each year to soak up its transfixing magnificence, to delve into the local Aboriginal history, to check another destination off their bucket list, and to embark on the hike of a lifetime.

Yet as with many wonders of the natural world (and many things Australian), simply reaching Uluru is a feat in itself, never mind hiking around its 10.6 km circumference. Located in the southwest corner of the Northern Territory, the rock is most easily accessed from the famous town of Alice Springs, which is approximately a five hour drive away, so it is by no means an attraction that lends itself to spontaneity.

The Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park is teeming with outdoor activities from scenic flights to camel tours, but one of the best ways to enjoy the area and of course the iconic Ayers Rock, is to amble one of the many hiking routes. Here is a selection of some of the most popular: Continue reading

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Book Review: ‘Down Under’ by Bill Bryson

I have been a huge fan of the travel writer Bill Bryson since an unusually young age, first devouring ‘A Walk in the Woods’ (an account of his journey along the Appalachian Trail) at the age of fourteen. His dry wit, uncanny observations, and unique ability to make the most mundane morsels of information immensely fascinating, is something I continue to enjoy to this day.

In his almost 30-year-long career, Bryson has embarked on countless travels throughout his native America, across Europe, and around Great Britain, dissecting each country and its characteristics with spirit and humour. However, one of my favourite of his books continues to be his journey to Australia, where he explores its people, cities, coastlines, and the infamous Outback with all the intense curiosity expected of a foreigner relatively unacquainted with the country. Bryson proves positively intrigued by everything from the deadliness of Australia’s wildlife, to the mind-bogglingly remote location of Outback towns, to the seemingly bizarre decision to make Canberra its capital city. Thus, the reader is offered a rich and laugh-out-loud education in the Australian way of life, in the form of a page-turning outsider’s insight into the world’s sixth largest country.

‘Down Under’ by Bill Bryson (source: images.gr-assets.com)

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Queenstown, New Zealand: An Edible Itinerary

When my parents dropped the bombshell that they were planning on flying out to New Zealand to visit me and they wanted me to plan them a no-holds-barred itinerary, I never imagined that the hardest part would be short-listing all of my favourite places to eat. Given my obsession with all things edible and my insatiable appetite for eating out, I suppose this shouldn’t have come as a surprise.

Queenstown boasts an impressive concentration of bars and restaurants, and to save you the pain and difficulty of choosing between the best establishments, I’ve drawn up a whistle-stop 24-hour food itinerary of menus that you absolutely must not miss.

Breakfast:  Bespoke Kitchen

You’ve arrived in the adventure capital of the world nice and early. You’ve got the entire day ahead of you to throw yourself off high things and scream at full lung capacity. What first? Breakfast and coffee, of course.

Bespoke Kitchen sits metres away from the Skyline gondola, one of the must-do sightseeing attractions of Queenstown. It may be more convenient to simply grab a coffee if you’re heading up the gondola to enjoy the view, but if you’ve got a bit of spare time before you do, it would be seriously rude (and foolish) not to give Bespoke a go.  

Bespoke has a small(ish) but fantastically varied menu offering all the usual suspects; expect perfect poached eggs, smashed avocado and fresh raw pressed juice alongside a multitude of options for people avoiding gluten, dairy and sugar. Your mind will be blown by the pure decadence of these raw treats. The chocolate salted caramel squares are perfect with Bespoke’s famous coffee, and are completely dairy-free, gluten-free and sugar-free. However, for those with no dietary requirements, there’s plenty of ‘normal’ cake to go around (the carrot cake is truly something to behold). The lunch menu also boasts a few firm favourites, though I must admit that I have opted for the pulled lamb flatbread with pumpkin hummus on more than one occasion because it was so delicious, barely giving the other dishes half a chance.

Bespoke Kitchen, Queenstown (source: tripadvisor)

On a more practical note, Bespoke Kitchen has outdoor seating, warmed by an open log fire and cosy blankets in the winter time, so even if you’ve swerved the sun and arrived in Queenstown to ski, you can still enjoy the mouth-watering treats Bespoke Kitchen has to offer. Continue reading

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Book Review: ‘The Dry’ by Jane Harper

No summer is complete if you haven’t spent a large portion of it ploughing through a page-turning thriller. This year I chose The Dry by Jane Harper – a gripping murder mystery set in small-town Australia. After a farmer turns a gun on his family and then himself, a journey to uncover the truth behind the deaths commences. Named ‘Crime Book of the Month’ by the Sunday Times, and branded a ‘breathless page-turner’ by the New York Times, I was expecting a riveting read, and I didn’t find myself disappointed.

Harper wastes no time in setting the scene with a quintessential representation of the Australian Outback. We are met with a blistering drought, clusters of scrawny livestock, and the tiny town of Kiewarra shimmering beneath a scorching sky. Not only is it deadly hot, and eerily remote, but in an isolated farmhouse just out of town lies the bloodied remains of the Hadler family, attracting clouds of blowflies.

Enter our protagonist. Born and bred in Kiewarra, policeman Aaron Falk finds himself returning to the backwoods town after what seems like a lifetime, having been forced to relocate to Melbourne following the suspicious death of his friend Ellie two decades ago. Thinking he’d put history firmly behind him, Falk is about to find himself revisiting some of his most stifled memories.

‘The Dry’ by Jane Harper (source: janeharper.com.au)

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‘The Cow’ of Queenstown, New Zealand

At the close of an almost three-week road trip around New Zealand’s South Island, I found myself alone in Queenstown for the final night of what had been an incredible adventure. I wish I could have given myself longer to explore the gem that is Queenstown, but with it being my last stop on the tour, and as a consequence of my tendency to take a lot of detours, I simply ran out of time. Ironically, of all my destinations, Queenstown was the one place for which I had a long list of recommendations. In my phone, you would find a reminder labelled ‘Things to do in Queenstown’, under which I had added suggestions from everyone I’ve ever met who’d been there. The famous Fergburger was somewhere high up on this list and having now been there I can see why everyone raves so highly about it. There is little more I can say that hasn’t already been said; my burger was jam packed with flavour, the meat was succulent, the bread was fresh and it was all round unquestionably worth the wait.

Fergburger

Fergburger (source: Tripadvisor)

When I arrived in Queenstown and scrolled through the various suggestions — most of which were standard tourist attractions — an item on the list that caught my eye was ‘The Cow’, solely for the reason that I had no idea what it was referring to. Before endeavouring to find out more about it, I wandered around countless art galleries (another recommendation on my list). Whether art is your passion or not, the numerous galleries on offer in Queenstown are really worth a look; most showcase local artists’ work and I’m confident that if you were to stroll into any of the galleries found there you would come across talent to suit even the most individual tastes. Anyway, back to the point (see above for a perfect demonstration of my continual digressions) — after browsing the galleries and shops, I saw tucked away at the end of a street the words ‘The Cow’, on what appeared to be the sign of a pub. Continue reading

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