A Magical place called Coffs…

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Sunset at Sawtell Headlands
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View of Coffs Harbour from Muttonbird Island
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Jetty Beach
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More of Jetty Beach
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and again…
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and again…
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and again
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Frothing…

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Supply Coffee feat. vegan carrot cake
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Park beach
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more park beach
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Hike to sea dolphins…Boambee Beach
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Emerald Beach

Coffs Harbour is a little beach town somewhere between Sydney and Byron Bay. Maybe I’m bias because I called this magical little piece of the East Coast home for four months, when even four days would be more than enough to see everything, but I really think you should stop to check it out if you’re given the chance. Many of the popular East Coast tour companies skip it out, take you from Port Macquarie to Yamba without so much as a nod at Coffs. But you gotta stop bro!

Dem Beaches:

The beaches were my sanctuary after brutally hot days blueberry picking. Jetty beach is a haven, rarely busy unless it’s a school holiday, mostly sheltered from the wind and the waters are clear and still. You get the chance to jump off the jetty or even swim with the wild jetty dolphin if you’re lucky. For waves the surfer types prefer Boambee beach (Gallows) or Park beach, they stretch out longer and the ocean is wilder. Still picturesque and brilliant for tanning and swimming but definitely wavier. A little further on you’ll find Emerald beach with it’s wild kangaroo’s too!

Shopping:
The jetty was my stomping grounds so I’m familiar with that area most but there are fair shopping opportunities up in Coffs town centre, the palms shopping centre has bigger stores like kathmandu and franchises like Boost juice, whilst the surrounding streets are home to more local treasures like the wholesome Happy Frog cafe where you can grab THE BEST vegan friendly smoothies and organic local produce. You’ll also find Wrecked vintage here, a young independent vintage store, with some unique finds as well as home grown designs. Further afield you’ll find the plaza, a bigger mall where you can find chain stores like Cotton on and JB HiFi. And if you have a little more time to spare try out the surrounding area’s for more trendy, aussie style digs. Sawtell and Belligen are home to some nifty spots to grab coffee and mooch in local boutiques and if you plan your visit you can even catch the Bellingen markets which happen on the third Saturday of each month.

Eats and Drinks:

Around the Jetty area you won’t find shops but you will find hipster worthy cafe’s and bars aplenty. By the Jetty, on the Harbour there is a small row of restaurants including an ace burger joint called ‘Attitude Burgers’ amongst other little eateries. Further up by the train tracks you’ll find Fiasco, a little Italian restaurant and bar with the BESTEST staff. I worked here a few evenings a week, enough to notice the familiar faces of happy regulars and to sample one of each cocktail from their extensive, slightly unique, list. It’s great for wines and the manager Al will help you out if you’re a little overwhelmed by their catalogue. Oh and their pizza’s are pretty good too! If you carry on again you’ll come to a strip of nooks, among them you’ll find the cool Coffs locals chilling at element bar, a city type, industrial styled space with hard working kitchen staff (my friend Riva smashes it as a chef there) and super friendly waitresses full of helpfulness. Again you can find yourself an awesome cocktail here and live music on a Sunday night. There are other little gems dotted around element, try Sakura for tasty Japanese food or Old John’s cafe on a Wednesday night for slider’s. Best of all, all of the places mentioned recognise what vegan means and are more than happy to help you out with their menu’s.

Coffeeeeeeeee:

If you’re in need of coffee then Supply on Orlando street is where it’s at. A very new, trendy coffee shop, with fresh white brick walls and lots of open space, you can catch a whiff of ocean breeze from the seating outside or keep cool inside with wifi access. They do the most delicious vegan cakes…like the best I’ve tried. The raw snickers bar is bomb and the tiramisu so indulgent and they’re also made with whole food ingredients so technically they’re healthy…right? I always opt for an iced latte made with their in house mooless milk, a combo of almond and coconut milks, lighter than soy and not as invasive a taste.

A place to call home:

So again this little tidbit is slightly bias but I would full heartedly recommend the YHA as the place to stay. With options of private, family, four bed and six bed rooms it’s a great place for families and backpackers alike. Despite the branding it’s family run so you’ll often catch Bret or his wonderful daughter Rory at reception. The night manager Kate is the loveliest girl alive and if you have a spare minute you should definitely stop at the reception desk for a chat because they’re all more than capable of making your day with a good convo and a giggle or two! The longterm backpackers who work for their stay do a spiffing job of keeping the place all clean and tidy and it’s one of the nicest hostel environments I encountered. It’s also a two minute walk from both Jetty and park beach as well as being in amongst all those cafe’s and restaurants I mentioned. So get excited and book your stay there!

N x

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Working the World…

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I’ve become very aware that of late my social media has become some glamorised version of my life. Honestly? A lot of my travels have been pretty spectacular but I have spent 70% of this year working and I think it’s important to discuss that. My travels haven’t been handed to me, I haven’t just spontaneously boarded a plane to the other side of the world and filled my days with abundant adventure. Actually other than the marvellous first month of my Working Holiday Visa the rest of the time was spent working one to two jobs or worrying about getting work and staying afloat. I’m currently being paid very minimum wage on a blueberry farm,  where I’m constantly anxious about not having the money to pay my rent and eat. There was a point earlier this year where I was down to just $60 in my bank which may not seem very little but when you’re three months into your independent adventure on the other side of the world it’s super scary. Just last week I was stuck on 62 cents for four days, living on rationed cereal. It’s not ideal but its part of the adventure.

It would be nice to have unlimited money to fill your life with careless travels but there is no feeling quite like earning your way in this world. You appreciate what you work to afford so much more. It can be daunting when the people you meet have already achieved so many cool things. Everyone I know pretty much has already done the east coast and I’ve just burned through all my east coast savings flitting around Australia following farm work leads. It’s a very personal thing travelling and you can’t measure your “success” by other peoples standards. I haven’t done any long term travelling through the outback or week long road trips on the great ocean road but I will. In the meantime I’ve fallen in love with Sydney, created a little family amongst my colleagues and fellow city dwellers, experienced some amazing beach days and found solace in my adventure craving soul on day long beach walks and intercity getaways. I know Sydney pretty well, have come to call it home and I’m now in a desperate enough state to be able to charge on through 88 days of brutal, heated, back breaking farm work to stay another year. In the meantime I’m back to earning my way, advancing the boundaries of what I can cope with, giving back to the country I love.

I needed to put this out there because there was a point not too long ago that I thought travel was an impossibility, I was lost and uninspired in England. It has taken a lot but I’m here now and no matter how many hours I sacrifice to work I regret not one decision I’ve made this year. It’s been the best year of my life and I’m ever grateful to myself for making it happen. So if you’re reading this from a similar state of indecision and fear, here is your push. Give yourself into the risk because I promise it will be a risk worth taking.

N x

 

Peace, Love, Glebe…

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Glebe is a quirky little Sydney suburb, not incredibly exciting on a normal day bar the infamous Donut Time and the cute little cafes and bars. On a Saturday though Glebe is alive with vintage wearing, coffee drinking, record collecting, youth. Any Saturday, anywhere in Sydney, will be busy but this is uncharacteristically so.

The market is a mess, a colourful, patterned mess, of flea market type thrift stores, second hand bargains, crystals, independent boutiques and food vans. There is live music by the field where groups sit in there 60’s style clobber eating from brown paper boxes and drinking from coffee cups. There is chatter and laughter and freedom dancing through the warm air. It’s an energetic space, an inspiring space, a space you go to connect and reflect and escape.

The stall runners are warm, encouraging purchases but more interested in getting a good chat out of you. My vintage denim obsession thrives here and I’m talked into buying crystal donned jewellery from a gypsy soul enthusiastic about the properties of the stones and there value to enhancing life. I grab a coffee from van, a soy vanilla latte before approaching my favourite stand, 80 raw 20 paleo, of vegan treats for a banana and peanut butter pop. In the warm breeze I sit and take in the space around me, the music soothing and the people are living.

If your trip to Sydney is short and you’re there over a weekend then Glebe Markets is definitely one of my first recommendations, you’ll probably see me nosing through some stalls and stuffing my face with vegan cake, so come say hi!

A Day in Seminyak…

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Following an eclectic street of typical tourist tack gift shops, small airy boutiques, tattoo parlours, and all manner of foodie traps from Kuta is how we make our way to Seminyak. The road gradually fizzles into boutiques only, leaving the messy open stores lining the raging roads of Kuta behind, with room only for tidy store fronts, Australian inspired coffee shops and a more varied selection of vegan and health food shops. Seminyak shows the least of Balinese culture of the few places I have time to explore. The beach gives more of that western holiday makers vibe with up market hotels meeting the sand, advertisements for rooftop bars and a serious lack of salesman in comparison to the haggling background noise on Kuta beach.

Our day has turned cloudy by the time we reach the shore and the chill in the air takes away any previous excitement I had about swimming but the grey hues of the water are a steely wonder and as you hit where the ocean laps onto the shore you walk on the ghostly reflection of the clouds. As we take a seat on the sand a dog comes over sniffing at my friends taco’s and I try desperately to be friends but he backs away nonchalantly at my excitable, petting ready, hands. His cheeky attitude brightens our day after an earlier encounter with a stray dog, blind in one eye, covered in bites and rashes, thin and lost on the busy street. He stopped bewildered in our path and though I tried to encourage him to drink some water, he looked at it confused before considering his surroundings again. We lose him down an alley eventually but like the netted dog in Kuta I regret not helping him enough.There are so many dog walkers going by, joggers panting along and families strolling by in a chorus of giggles. This beach, more than any of the others, reminds me of Australia and that gives me comfort.

Seminyak is definitely worth a day of your time but personally I’m glad I chose not to base myself there for the trip. I love a pretentious coffee shop, shopping in trendy overpriced stores and munching on vegan brownies but I do all of that in Australia. It was an awesome day, definitely a nice spot to chill out and relax and we stumbled on a cute little market too. Maybe if we’d have explored a little  more we would’ve branched out into a more realistic Seminyak, I’m not sure I researched the area quite as well as I should of. A day of cafe hopping and scrummy vegan food at The Earth Cafe (I’ll do a vegan food guide soon) still made the trip worth it.

A Guide to Ubud…

There is so much to do in Ubud and of the three places I spent time in (Kuta, Ubud, Seminyak) it was definitely my most favourite. I spent four nights here in the Pandok Permata Homestay, maybe a night too long if you’re pushed for time but you could also definitely spend longer here if time, and money, is to your advantage. The hostel was beyond what I expected, beautiful intricate balinese furnishings and impeccably clean rooms with the most serene of views. The family who owned the place were forever happy to help and organised for a tour of some nearby hotspots for us at a ridiculously reasonable price. And a bonus? They have dogs! And the cutest little puppy full of hugs and playfulness.

Places to visit:

  • Jalan Gautama -My favourite little side street, quirky and busy with the yummiest and most creative eateries, lots of vegan choices on flavoursome menus too, there’ll be a couple spots reviewed in my Bali vegan food guide.
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    Please excuse the face, I was mid scream.

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  • The Monkey Forest – A rare moment when human’s are the spectacle.  I was honest to goodness attacked by two of the cutest little shits when I tried to grab my camera out of my backpack. I saw a few keys glittering in small, almost human, hands and a few of the more sinister little guys terrorising tourists keen to take a close up of their deceptively innocent faces.Processed with VSCO with c1 presetOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  • Tegenungan Waterfall – A great stop for that pretentious “traveller” snap and quick dip, we timed it right, getting there just before an onslaught of tourists. img_8299screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-15-14-02
  • Tirta Empul Holy Water Temple – This is the place to go for that famous holy bathing snap us tourists go nuts for. But make sure to wear something that covers your knees, or buy your own sarong. You get given one, free of charge at the temple entrance but you’re not allowed to get them wet, so I missed out on actually going into the holy bath.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  • Goa Gajah Temple – Or “Elephant Cave” temple. All of the temples we visited were awe inspiring to me, it’s such a peaceful space and all of them connect with the natural landscape in such a beautiful way. This one in particular had me feeling the Indiana Jones vibes.img_8322img_8330
  • Tegalalang Rice Terrace -One of the most iconic Bali landscapes, I think. I’ve seen this space splashed all over travel instagrams for years. As with everything “touristic” though, you really do have to see it and experience it for yourself.

I’m pretty sure none of these things are new to you if you’ve ever been to, or have planned to, head to Bali but I wanted to share them anyways because I had one of my favourite travel experiences so far touring through them all. Happy travels to anyone headed to Bali soon, it’s beyond magical and by far my favourite place I’ve been too.

 

P.S. If you’re interested in seeing some of my less than average travel photography then check out My “photography” blog

Ubud…

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I never really understood what living in the moment really meant until I was riding on the back of a strangers scooter, through the streets of Ubud, Bali. We ride fast downhill, weave through cars, the sun beats down on my unhelmeted head and after a brief cry from subconscious ‘My mam would kill me!’ I shut it up and give in to my here and now. Such a small simple pleasure, an easily reached adrenaline rush, no caution, no over thinking, just acceptance and genuine happiness. It’s normal here to ride on pavements, squeeze through tight spaces in spaceless traffic, to ‘yip’ and ‘yew’your way through barely policed streets. Even on a bicycle the adrenaline is hammering through your body, impatient cars and scooters scraping by. Nothing compares to that feeling of rolling down the hill from the hostel to the centre of town, that light summer breeze twirling through free hair, feather like brushes against your arms, the rice paddies in all their earthy beauty bordering your journey.

Ubud is a hub for the free spirited, the spiritual, the artistic, the life livers. Yoga enthusiasts in harem pants sit crossed legged on the floors of restaurants, bare foot in respectful tradition, eating plant heavy foods, simple but heated flavours and a side of green juice or a cheeky bintang. The energy is subtle and easy, none of the Kuta chaos. The closest to a party is a chic bar, house music and fairy lights crowding a beer garden escape. Nature peeks through everywhere, vines up shop fronts, trees in the centre of organic vegan restaurants, the beauty of the monkey forest on the outskirts of town, rainforests meeting gritty pathways. The western and eastern are co existing in some bizarre city nirvana here and its the most grounded yet excited I’ve ever felt in a place.

As peaceful as Ubud is, it’s very easy to forget where you are in its wistful embrace. Other than a few homeless women, children in arms with outreached hands, the town is neat and void of the poverty you know the people of Bali are victim too. Whilst in Kuta you see the worst of both privileged drunken westerners and homeless wandering locals, Ubud is slightly too manicured, no wonder considering some of it’s most frequent visitors are celebrities and well to do’s looking for a yoga retreat and spiritual cleanse. Ubud is beautiful, it’s a delicate, artistically rich space and I can’t recommend it enough, but try your best to see more than just Ubud on your Bali travels. Though any interaction with the locals is always a genuine pleasure. One of the aspects of my trip I was so awed by was the genuine willingness to help, sweet smiles and generous gestures of the Balinese people.

 

 

Kuta…

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Screeching of wheels, violent screams of horns, whizzing of scooters swerve through traffic and people precariously walk to avoid their urgent rampage onto the pavement. The roads are packed, jammed, a mess of loud overheating vehicles.

Lining these roads are ‘Warungs’ of harem pants in garish prints, faux Ralph Lauren polos and smiling shopkeepers with charming English enticements memorised for weak materialistic westerners. The people are friendly but do need to make a living, they tirelessly push with desperate grins and outreached hands. I smile and shake my head, a thousand ‘No Thank you’s’ as I follow on the narrow pathway behind my friend, stepping over happy religious offerings of flowers and sweets. Nothing seems real in these early moments, as an onslaught of voices and intricate architecture hound my laid back demeanour.

I remember one thing especially clear from our first expedition into the roads of Kuta. Three men netting up a stray dog out in the open, in plain sight of tourists and locals alike. My hands clenched into fists as I turned my gaze away, not nearly quickly enough to avoid seeing the poor creature move ever so slightly. The scene is haunting still now as I torment myself for not being brave enough to intervene, a self proclaimed animal activist who left a victim in pain and torment. But then my conscience was toying with what I viewed as right and what their world viewed as right. I guess that acceptance of being the privileged outsider is a bitter fact to accept but an important one too. It’s still not an excuse I should of stepped in. My role as the outsider would only become further realised as my trip continues.

After this incomprehensible scene my mind is momentarily cleared, my body relaxed as we make it onto the beach. By this point many a traveller in many a hostel have regaled tales of heavy parties, drunken stupidity and the splendour of Kuta beach to my eager inexperienced ears. But this is something you have to experience yourself. It’s covered in tourists, not quite a tropical retreat, the salesman are ever present with their surfboards, their chairs, their warm Bintangs but it’s part of its charm. The sea is crystal clear, frothing waves speckled with surfers, gleeful kids paddle in the shallows, the salt water calm sneaks up onto the almost white sand and bathes my feet, grounding and inspiring me. I nod my head softly and exhale, its been a couple of hard working months since I got to really enjoy a beach this way. There will never be anywhere I feel more at home than by the sea, soaked by the sun.