Tag Archives: Oceania

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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Tales of a Traveller: the Self-made Desert Island Castaway

Ever dreamed of a simpler life? How about one where every day holds promise of blisteringly blue skies, the sound of gently lapping water, the rustle of palm leaves in the breeze and little else — instead of honking car horns, the drizzle of rain and a cramped commute? I know which I’d rather.

How many of us ever actually do it, though? Pack the bags, sell the possessions and escape…

In 1952, New Zealand-born bushcraft and survival enthusiast, Tom Neale, realised his lifelong dream of living a simpler life, marooning himself on a deserted island in the South Pacific with nothing but a pair of cats, a damaged boat, some books and a few chickens. The island was Suwarrow in the Cook Islands, and in fact it was more of an atoll, uninhabited since the war and 580 miles northwest of the archipelago’s main island of Rarotonga. He was to live on this sliver of sand, on and off, for the next 25 years.

Neale had been something of an oceanic nomad from a young age, spending his twenties and thirties roaming the South Pacific islands and taking up odd jobs along the way. It was when he crossed paths with a writer and traveller named Robert Frisbie on Rarotonga, that his desire to escape to a life of blissful isolation was truly fired up. Frisbie had been briefly stranded on Suwarrow with his family during the war, and his fond account of it captured Neale’s imagination, prompting him to book passage on a ship travelling in close proximity to the island. Continue reading

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Beneath the Surface: Snorkelling in the South Pacific Islands

Turquoise waters, white sugary sands, razor-sharp volcanic peaks and velvety rainforests; the islands of the South Pacific epitomise what many would consider ‘paradise’. You may never have visited these oceanic Edens, however, you will almost definitely have found yourself longing for such surroundings whilst scrolling through your Instagram feed, or leafing through a travel magazine on the train. From the Solomon Islands, east of Papua New Guinea, all the way to French Polynesia, where 118 islands scatter an area of 2000 sq. km, each palm-pricked archipelago is home to a unique culture, history and landscape, which for centuries has made them the stuff of oceanic legend, luring explorers, dreamers and adventurers to their exotic shores.

Today they are a sought-after holiday destination for everyone from honeymooners to outdoor enthusiasts. Granted, they aren’t among the most accessible destinations on earth — and they certainly aren’t cheap so if you’re living off a student loan perhaps bump a visit to your bucket list — but for those who live on the continent, or those who are looking for the romantic getaway of a lifetime, or are perhaps even backpacking Oz, they are a little slice of tropical luxury worth not passing up.

So you’re flights are booked, and you’re mulling over your itinerary, daydreaming about basking in a hammock strung between two creaking palms with a Mai Tai in hand, or embarking on a trek into the shadowy depths of the jungle to a remote village, well, one thing that absolutely must make the list is snorkelling. The South Pacific islands are impossibly photogenic above water, but below lurks a hidden subterranean wonderland to easily rival the scenery above. Here are four of the top places to take the plunge into an underwater paradise:

Moorea, French Polynesia

Part of French Polynesia’s Society Islands, Moorea is a geographical marvel boasting eight jungle-carpeted peaks flanked by shimmering aquamarine waters. Beneath the crystal clear surface lie kaleidoscopic coral reefs weaving with everything from butterfly fish to black-tip reef sharks.

WHERE TO SNORKEL? Sofitel Moorea la Ora Beach Resort is set on the edge of a lagoon and features 112 bungalows built over the water. Okay, so it’s a bit of a budget-shatterer, but if you are looking for somewhere that bit more luxurious (honeymooners maybe?) then this is a top choice and boasts some of the best snorkelling on the island.

For smaller budgets, a snorkelling tour will take you to some of the island’s most exquisite snorkelling sites, including Moorea Lagoon, on a five-hour cruise. Continue reading

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The Open Road in Eastern Australia

During the heat of the summer holidays last year, my partner and I took a two week long trip down the East Coast of Australia. We set out from Brisbane with just our car, a tent, two surfboards and an esky. We had vague plans of stopping to stay with friends along the way but it was a liberating feeling to start out with a ‘let’s just wing it’ attitude.

I have close family friends who own property near Bendigo in Victoria and we planned to spend a big New Year’s party with them around the pool, and in the surrounding country. Living in the city can really put a strain on the most patient of us, and we both needed a break and a chance to change routine.

The distance from Brisbane to Melbourne, for those not familiar with the size of Australia, is about a 20 hour drive, and we had plenty of sights to stop at along the way. The coast road is the most scenic for tourists and provides the beaches, national parks and taste of seaside living that most visitors crave. We stopped in Byron Bay, Coffs Harbour and arrived near Newcastle on the first day to stay with friends who lived right on the beach.

Author’s own

Shoal Harbour and the beaches near the city of Newcastle and further down towards the Central Coast of New South Wales are pristine, safe, and very close to hiking trails through national parks. For visitors who want to camp, there is a $5 app called Wikicamps which provides information on all of the free camp spots throughout Australia, complete with directions on how to get there and the services offered at each site. There is also an excellent book called ‘Camps: Australia Wide’ by Philip and Cathryn Fennell which gives useful information on camp grounds, some free, some not, and a lot of pictures to help readers find that perfect spot.

We took mostly inland roads on the way down and there are so many camps to stop at along the way, which is by far the cheapest and most interesting way to see Australia. Driving can be boring, but it is flexible and gives the opportunity to stop whenever and wherever you like! Continue reading

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