May 4, 2008, 1:05 pm
Filed under: travel

Curtain fig panorama

Originally uploaded by cobismith.

Maybe we were the only Australians ever to go there on a package tour (everyone else were European backpackers), but we went to the Tablelands on a tour with On The Wallaby. I haven’t been on many tours (the day I go on a Contiki tour is the day I stop loving Europe), so I don’t have much to compare it to. But as someone who is skeptical about tours, this was fantastic.

We went to one of the official (beware! There are many unofficial ones!) travel information services in Cairns, who recommended On The Wallaby. Great work, information people! We did so many things we wouldn’t have been able to do just traveling on our own. Our guide was great, with all kinds of useful insider knowledge, so we went on local, unpublicised trails through the rainforest, and pumped through a 12k bike ride that finished with a dip in a crater lake.

We stayed for two nights –we were the only people then who stayed more than one night – which was part of what made it so great. We got to relax at the beautiful hostel in Yungaburra, see platypuses at a nearby waterhole, and share a BBQ with staff and other guests.

I went to Far North Queensland as a kid and going to the Tablelands wasn’t even on the radar. I won’t make that mistake again. It’s a must-do.


Return to Oz
May 4, 2008, 12:52 pm
Filed under: travel

Cairns lagoon

Originally uploaded by cobismith.

We landed in Cairns from Tokyo. When I’d booked my round the world ticket my itinerary was from Tokyo to Sydney, but with a stopover in Cairns. I asked the travel agent if I could just get off in Cairns – who would turn down a trip to Far North Queensland!?

So we spent about 10 days up there and it was AWESOME. I was worried after travelling in two continents we’d just want to be home in Adelaide (if it still felt like home…). But I’m so glad we stopped up there. Cairns is definitely only a base for things beyond though. One night was enough.

Authentic, budget travel experiences
May 4, 2008, 12:42 pm
Filed under: france, travel | Tags: ,

A woman sent me a message through my old blog on travelpod:

Dear Cobi,
I am trying to arrange travel plans for my daughter who is
studying abroad in the UK. She and her friend want to
travel a little but are on a budget. In doing some
checking, because of our devalued US dollar, it’s making
it very difficult. You had mentioned staying with a
French family in the south of France. Do you have any money saving tips? Also how
did you come about hooking up with the family that helped
you? Thank you so much for your
time, your travels look great!

I usually stay with friends, as I had on that occasion she referred to (travel becomes self-perpetuating because the more you travel the more cool people you meet and the more people invite you to stay in different places). But there are two sites I would suggest for people looking for cheap, rewarding accommodation on a budget:

I’ve never actually stayed with anyone through this, but I’ve showed a couple of people around my own city as a host, and one of my friend’s spent a week with a lovely couple in Colorado that she contacted through the site.

Again, I’ve never volunteered on a farm myself, but my friends have had great – and terrible – experiences through this.

If I were travelling somewhere that I didn’t know anyone or had time to kill I would use one of these organisations to figure out where I would stay.

Tsukiji Fish Market
May 4, 2008, 12:23 pm
Filed under: travel

Carving up the tuna

Originally uploaded by cobismith.

A guy asked me though Flickr:

I noticed you just recently went through the fish market in Tokyo. Did you have any problems getting in, or taking photos? I heard they’ve been cracking down lately on tourists going in there. Anyway, any suggestions/advice would be appreciated. Thanks.


I had no idea they were cracking down on tourists in the Tokyo fish market, but since John mentions it, in fact the shops within the market were downright rude. I’m not talking the fish mongers or sellers (they were indifferent) or those in the streets around the market (they were desperate to get our business), only the ones actually within the market itself. Most of them actually had ‘Japanese people only’ in their windows.

This was most unfortunate as I’d dragged my partner up at 5am to go to the markets when he was maybe still a little drunk from the night before. On the train in the heat he was getting nauseous – when we hit the market with its fishy aromas he was not going well. So we were looking for coffee and some type of breakfast.

Amongst these rows of downright hostile shops there was one that had the word ‘coffee’ (in English) on the window, so we thought we could go inside. We did, there were a few old Japanese guys having breakfast in there. The old lady behind the counter ignored us for a while until it became clear we weren’t planning on going away empty-handed. Places like this our complete lack of Japanese language skills hurt. Thankfully the guy next to us was having coffee and toast and with some help from our phrase book and gestures she understood we wanted the same thing. It came out, and we were charged some exorbitant amount. We were frustrated but in situations like that you’ve just got to pay tourist prices.

With no longer empty bellies we ventured out into the market, gazing about, taking photos and generally getting in the way of people going about their business.

I was kind of surprised going to the Tsukiji Fish Market is in all the guide books because it’s not an easy thing to do. It was exciting and interesting but certainly not pleasant. On a couple of occasions I almost got fish guts and blood all over me, with people rushing about. And we almost got run over by a few trucks too.

That said looking back it’s one of my highlights of my trip to Toyko. Seeing sushi being cut out of the fish is pretty cool.

travelling on
May 4, 2008, 12:10 pm
Filed under: australia, travel

I stopped posting when I came back to Australia. That’s a bit silly really, given that I’m still travelling a lot. Also, people have been emailing me questions about travelling. So I’m going to do 2 things: reply to the questions in this blog rather than just email, in case anyone else wants the information, and share my travels in Australia. Just because it’s my home country doesn’t mean it’s not worth writing about!