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July 2nd 2008: Miss Kate Elliott and Mr Reuben Whitehouse departed Melbourne, Australia, for Byron Bay, Australia. Not as far as the last time I wrote here on this blog but that being said a far more epic journey involving 2000+ kilometres in 4 days in our new ultra-fat station wagon.

After spending the most awesome 9 months ever in Melbourne where we've made more good friends and family than we ever could have hoped, we realised we might want to stay in Australia for a while longer and the best way to do that was to take up the Aussie government's generous offer of another year's Visa in return for a few weeks work in the most gorgeous rainforests in the north of the country where it's warm and hilly and luscious like a Lord of the Rings film!


So after being paid for some recent huge piles of work, I put the cash to use and after much searching and other efforts we purchased a car in which to travel north (and around the north once we were to get there). So we are now the proud owners of a 1997 Ford Falcon Station Wagon. It's big: it's long enough that a stringy fella like me can fully stretch out in it with just the back seats folded down; it has enough space for our big old surfboard to fit inside it; it has a friggin 4 LITRE engine! We named him 'Robot': he has cruise control (you press a button and Robot presses the gas pedal on your behalf); he has central locking with a remote control that goes beep when you use it; he has a stereo that works; he has air conditioning; he has the word 'computer' written on the side bumper strip in relation to the engine torque control (woah!). Also, he has a visor, shiny wheels and tinted windows. Maybe we should call him Mr Pimped Robot.


In the last 5 days we've travelled a long way in Robot. We took the coast road north-east through Victoria and into New South Wales, just about stopping only to sleep. We spent one afternoon and night in the much bigged-up 'Tathra' where the Watsons take their annual family holiday. Here we encountered for the first time real-life Kangaroos, Wallabies and other such crazy creatures. We cooked up some baked potatoes on the camp fire in honour of Mr David Bowen. We rolled-up a wee Nimbin smoke in toast to Mr Peter Spinner. Then after all that, and feeling ever so slightly numbed in the brain, we turned around to see a couple of Kanga's silently watching us from just a few feet behind. They looked bigger under the glare of our little torch and also under the paranoic influence of the previously consumed goodies. So we slinked into the back of Robot, slammed the boot and waited for them to start trying the locks with those screwdrivers that they probably keep in their pouches.

In the morning we woke to find no such screwdrivered locks or slashed tires and instead found them all watching the sunset right there on the beach. I staggered down and got about 10 feet from a big 'Roo who took the slightest bit of notice of me before once again turning his attention to the sunrise. Respect. We took about 500 photos and then another smaller one turned up and we just about saw a baby Roo in her pouch as she hopped past. Awesome!

Get Behind Me, Kilometres:

After the Tathra experience we had to make up on time so we jammed it all the way up through NSW, getting stuck in yucky Sydney commuter traffic (somehow I managed to negotiate - and survive - the complex route which the Princes' Highway takes through Sydney in one go) and free-camped in a caravan park in Narooma (I think) and then onward until we reached Byron Bay by Saturday afternoon. We went straight to the campsite on the beach which Pete, Ollie and I had stayed at just weeks before (miss those boys aaahhh!) and felt on top of the world. I took the old surfboard straight out and splashed around for a bit before dragging Kate around Byron and walking her through all the highlights of the trip which I'd had there previously: "This is where we drank Rum for breakfast"; "This is where we staggered from one pub to another"; "This is where we first saw Jack's multi-colored jumper!"; etc.

Palm Vale:

So now we are just about settled in to a small farm just outside Byron Bay, right up in the hills. We're staying with two very nice people - Neil and Kitty - and their two Kelpy dogs and we're helping to re-establish the native rainforests which were cleared for agricultural use way back in the day. Currently this involves pulling out big but not too heavily rooted weeds, breaking them up into piles, and then counting how many leeches jumped off them and onto our ankles / wrists. It's not that bad on the Leech front really. It's gorgeous up here - so green and lush everywhere. We're helping to clear out a small gully at the foot of the property which has a small waterfall and a winding creek. We take the dogs with us each day and by the end of it they're totally tired from running around and swimming all day. We went into the local town and got some matching overalls for the job so we like to think that we look like Ghostbusters, but I think its more likely that we look like some inbred circus freaks, but then that would be an awesome achievement too, no?

Photos! Photos! Photos!

Posted by Reuben 01:19 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

'We Hit The Road'

Boo tries his hand at a Photo Essay thingamejig


Inspired by Spinner's growing collection of National Geographic Magazines, I thought I'd have a go at a Photo Essay. I'm not sure if what I've done constitutes an essay or maybe just more of a nursery rhyme... Whatever, I posted one up on JPGMag.com (which is awesome, by the way) because one must try new things, no?: 'We Hit The Road'

Posted by Reuben 16:49 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

That's Me!bourne

(I'm all about tourism marketing campaigns)

all seasons in one day 21 °C

25th October 2007: Reuben Whitehouse and Kate Elliott now find themselves settled into life in Melbourne, Australia. Australia is a country in the Southern Hemisphere where you can get an ice cold beer for the equivalent of 70p (a fact that contributes to it being one of the best places I've ever been). Melbourne is a city in that country where you should not, ever, never, fuck with Yarra Trams (say no more).

A month ago we stepped out of Ben's car (my bro got us to Heathrow from Wiltshire in under an hour, though I feel I may have lost a day of my overall life-span from the experience!) and had a sudden feeling of what the fuck are we doing? owing to the fact that we'd only booked the tickets a week before then and we'd not actually considered much where we were going and just how bloody long that flight was going to be.

Turns out the flight wasn't all that bad; first flight I've ever taken where you get free alcohol whenever you ask for it! Also the food was pretty awesome and there was on-demand video entertainment so I consumed approx. 10 movies and jumped off the plane all square-eyed and buzzing.

2 hours of immigration bull-crap later and we stepped through 2 big metal doors to the cheering, warm, cosy arms of Mr Peter Spinner! Accompanied by his fully awesome cousin, Nell, we had an ice cold can of Bundy Bear in our hands before you could rustle his new hair! They bundled us back to their digs in Brunswick and the drinking began in earnest: within 3 hours of being on the other side of the world we were rather inebriated and listening to some awesome Old Time music at the classest pub I've been to since Nesbitts and it was everything we've been longing for since July! I went to bed that night at 3am, several rums and beers in, feeling great; that is until I laid down and closed my eyes and suddenly felt the weakest and most generally wasted I ever have in my entire life to the point of wondering if I'll make it through to the morning; achievement?!

We spent the following week in a crappy hostel full of people who came to Melbourne to watch TV all day and sharing a room with an old Indian fella who didn't speak much and was in bed by 8pm every night. So we stayed out til 2am every night and Spins introduced us to some of Melbourne's awesome bars where you can get some of that cheap, super-icy-cold beer I mentioned earlier and some of the also to the million-bazillion awesome eateries of every sort that are around the town centre (or 'CBD' as they call it here; GTD in the CBD!).

The second weekend we were here we made an awesome road trip down the Great Ocean Road and went to Bells Beach, Australia (I looked for Bodie for a while but he must never have made it back in the end...) We rocked-up to Torquay looking for somewhere to camp at 11pm on Friday night and there wasn't anywhere except pricey Motels so we spent the money on a slab of beer instead and slept in the cab of Mick The Awesome Yute, instead.

Sleeping in a cab not being the most comfortable thing you can do, and cos it's generally pretty freezing here at the moment, we woke around 6am, chugged the engine to warm us up for a bit and then Pete decided to gun the beast another 45 mins up the coast to an awesome little break at a town called Lorne. On the way we saw some brave locals taking on massive waves breaking over a rocky point/reef and all we could think of was a nice warm Hazelnut Latté and some poached eggs.

We pulled up to the beach front at Lorne and waited for the Cafe's and surf board rental places to open and watched some local Longboarders riding some right-handers that were as clean as any wave I've ever seen; the waves here look like the ones in posters!

Getting up at 6am is a a totally GTD thing to do:
By 10:10am we'd driven 60k's, eaten breakfast, pitched then tent (badly) and had a beer in our hand! We sat around in the tent for an hour like you do when you first pitch a tent for the first time in ages - til the novelty wears off - and then headed back to the beach, picking up a mini-mal and a longboard on the way.

The next hour and a half saw me and Pete surf very chilly but super clean and aggressively dumpy waves. The waves here appear to be much faster than in the UK and France; you pop-up and then shoot along it at 100mph before jumping off before the lip bashes down on your head. It was an awesome surf and super super awesome to be back in the water. I managed get smacked in the face by a wayward longboard (my own) but I also managed to hang on, on a couple of screaming fast waves - the kind which make you wonder just what the heck you think you're trying to do as soon as you drop in. We managed a couple hours before we were too cold in our 3mm suits and no gloves etc. and headed back to the campsite for some of the worst sausages you could ever imagine and the kind of high winds you only get when you're camping for the first time in ages.

We're now settled in a sweet pad with a friendly British musician chap, across from the Botanical Gardens and Kate has to run home afer late shifts at the café incase a Possum jumps out on her!

Posted by Reuben 14:50 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

national trust no!

uk road trippin!


so since arriving back on the 24th of sept we have swapped the buddy lifestyle for a lovely cottage, large garden, cute dog and very comfy car! all of this courtersy of ben and beth who have very kindly given us the use of the car and house while away. It has been a great experience to be back in a proper house and we have learnt to garden and bake cakes, it wasn't such a shock to the system as during the three weeks that we were back in the UK we did lots and lots of road tripping to see as many people as we could before time ran out again.

Our first visitor was the pretty miss catherine sweet who laughed so hard when she saw the way we were living, we met her in our new company car and enjoyed a trip to waitrose to pick up some groceries! the last time we all met was in biarritz when she joined us for one of the final parts of the buddy trip, camping rough, not really washing, and living like gypsies! We enjoyed an afternoon by the canal and sipped tea in the garden before we had to part ways again.

First road trip stop was Cardiff for about a week, was so weird to be back, didnt feel like i had ever lived there! so lovely to see all the love coffi girls, had a fun night back in the shop also got to see chris and sarah and nick and aimee was kind enough to offer up her home, we had a great day yapping lots and visiting the beach and eating so many waffles! bub and georgie cooked us a feast and we were introduced to the wonderfule pleasure dome and then we spent two nights camping with dave and laura in west wales, trying to surf but lack of waves and bad weather got the better of us, we managed to create meals and even cups of coffee on a cool bbq and it was so nice to get back to the outdoor lifestyle, sitting on rugs and getting weathered.

On to south devon to visit boo's fam, its so beautiful there and had a fun day with his little sisters at a national trust site (a new experience for me...its so very english there!!) making wigwams and running around the woods and was lovely to catch up with his mummy who taught us the delights of baking nigella style! boo heads back to wales to book the next stage of the trip with sta and i head to london for a second meet up with bess, we only had about 5 hours to catch up but it was the best 5 hours ever, we were very tipsy by lunch time on fine cider and spent alot of time catching up and laughing, just the way it should be!

back to the wiltshire countryside where we cained a whole season 2 of 24 and parted ways with the buddy van, was so sad to see him go to his new owners but also exciting to be thinking of the next stage to this adventure whirlwind! had to say an emotional goodbye to catherine who has headed off to india and she is back after we have set off. spent time with boos nephews and sister and steve drinking in the garden and listening to music and playing with lego!

next stop, oxford where we got to have loads of fun with ollie and his fam, had a brilliant night dancing in oxford and then we all finally headed up to cardiff for chris' party, stayed in the pleasure dome again which was awesome and the party was hosted by not one but three different captains who made the night extra special! was amazing to see everyone again, made us realise just how much we had missed our lovely friends and it was great to be around familiar people again, really homely and perfect!

said a sad goodbye to ollie and the others and we were on our way to the airport, a little disaster later and we finally had picked up ben, beth and flynn and we were back in the cottage. Enjoyed spending time with ben and beth for the next 3 days catching up (and playing netball...oh yeah!!) and on the last day aimee came to swindon and we met up to catch up, shop and say goodbye. Just enough time to pack and get a couple of hours sleep and we are on our way to heathrow.............what are we doing??!! we have been so busy we haven't even had a chance to contemplate what we are about to do! 22 hour flight here we come.......................

Posted by Reuben 19:04 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

Backs to the Road

(Sort of)

all seasons in one day

So we're back in the UK, have been for a couple weeks and have covered several miles in my brother's motor visiting friends and family aroond the contree, like. It's been a while since I wrote on here and a lot has happened so I am going to attempt, large glass of wine in hand, to address as many cool points as possible since we were in 'Cathar Country' (it could get a bit long-winded), though Kate has already written about the crazy hippy commune episode which will forever remain the scariest but most potentially-filled-with-awesomeness-but-we'll-never-know-it-but-thats-what-makes-it-cool situation I've yet been in.
So after Carcassonne, we headed to the Med and landed first in 'Palavas Les Flots' where we discovered some decently hot tarmac and the most flagrant nudist beach ever (never again). We made bacon and brie baguettes and survived the nudism for approx 2 hours before heading off again lest our appetites never ever recover.

From Palavas-Les-Butts, we drove to St Mary's by the Sea (I translated that myself; check out mon Francais!) which can have surf at times, though didn't when we were there (no surprises) so we buttered up some pasta and ate it on a small jetty thing whilst I attempted to catch some fish with some terrible Camembert as bait.

From St Marie de la Mer we motored for ages through Marseille which appears to be the Ultimate City, with beaches, a decent Marina, general cool overall feel and some fat mountains just on the way out of it. We ended up in a small seaside town called Cassis and camped up on a big ant-infested hillside for 2 nights and swam around in a small cove which had a knackered old pier on it which you could jump off into fairly shallow but super clear water - awesomeness. Cassis also has the best and cheapest bakery found on the whole tour.

From Cassis we motored East in search of the great St Tropez which we weren't sure if we really wanted to go to but what the heck? It took 24 hours longer than planned due to my awesome navigational skills but when we arrived we weren't let down a bit - plenty chubby old rich people everywhere and more white clothing than a Michael Jackson music video (err...). We had a beer or two in the cheapest looking place we could find and then zoomed out of there before we got hired as ship hands on some fat old bloke's oversize yacht.

This is the point where we met the wee hippy lass of whom you can read more in Kitty's previous post.
Post-hippy situation, we pushed Mr Buddy right to his 50 mile per hour limit all the way to a small town set amidst big cliffs with churches set atop. The cliffs were lit up by huge lighting rigs which, at night, had bazillions of bugs going crazy in their beams; it was like St Tropez for bugs; they were probably all wearing white outfits but I couldn't tell from the glare. We camped up in a car park which was fairly empty and slept fairly badly on account of the strange experiences of just a few hours earlier. I woke to find our car park was a 'use at your own risk' place due to it being close to the river which is 'prone to extreme, sudden over-night flooding'. Nice.

The next day we motored up and down various mountains, mostly in 2nd gear and it was the coolest driving ever; winding around and through mountains and tunnels with huge drops just the other side of the road. Buddy managed most hills in 2nd gear, but we had to stop halfway up most of them, for half an hour, to let him cool down, the poor lad.

Next day we motored around and up and down and into Digne les Bains, a mountain town with a cool Municipal outdoor man-made lake full of ultra freezing cold water and a big waterfall which massaged some of the Buddy-induced knots out of our shoulders nicely. This place had a strange feel to it as we were right up in the Alps with All Nature around us yet we were swimming in a man-made lake surrounded by ice cream cabins and things. Surreal.

This was a day of stupendously stupid amounts of driving as we motored all the way up to Grenoble which we had high expectations of but which was an ultra-dump, Newport South Wales-style. So we motored out of there to a small town and then ascended approx 1000 metres to a tiny municipal camp site which was more of a back garden with an outdoor loo. We were knackered at this point and so crashed here for a couple days. We went for a big hike further up the mountain, about another 400 metres up (slowly) and stopped when we felt drunk as skunks from the altitude. We sat out another of the Summer's huge storms that night (storm #13 or something) and then headed out through Chambery, towards Lyon.

Now, Lyon is the coolest city we've been to so far; there's an awesome summer festival (Le Nuits de Fourviere) each year where decent bands play and lots of free outdoor cinema goes on. And this is something a bit annoying about our trip this summer; it seems every other town we've come to has had a sweet music festival on that we didn't know about and we've missed one of our favourite bands who randomly seem to be playing there; we missed Arcade Fire in both Bilbao and Lyon, The Howling Bells played down on the Med 3 days before we arrived and The Good The Bad & The Queen played the day before we got to Lyon. One year we'll go to the Lyon festival and watch a few bands and ride around on some of the rented bicycles some more. And eat a few more 'Maxi Chocolatines'. It's worth doing some research to see what festivals are happening in Europe and where cos there are some great ones which are totally non-advertised outside of the towns they're happening in, it seems.

From Lyon we headed further West towards the surfing coast and stayed in a couple small towns along the way and then a couple days at La Maison Sedgewick where awesome food and wine is in total abundance. We ate some fish at a local village barbecue where anyone can come along with food (or buy some there) and barbecue it on one of the huge barbies and sit at a huge table in a tent and listen to terrible music - it's awesome!

We zoomed from Correze back to the coast but didn't quite make it all in one day and made the terrible decision to park-up for the night in a busy motorway services area. As we slept some sick sumbitch screwdrivered the drivers door on Buddy but didn't manage to get the door open thanks to Kate hearing them and making a bit of a racket. Me, being the next Jack Bauer, slept peacefully through and when Kate tried to rouse me, I told her not to worry it was probably just 'Acorns falling on the roof' (quick thinking!). She was right though and half an hour later when I'd managed to wake up, I discovered the damage and we raced out of there, back to the woods of Biscarosse and into the safety of Juggernaut Campervan Land.

We spent a few days lounging around and surfing small waves and sampling the WiFi and beers of The Globe Trotter Cafe in Bisca before heading to Biarritz to meet one Miss Catherine Sweet at the airport. What followed was an awesome week of decent surf for the first few days, tripod photography, knitting and free-camping in car parks with the new added challenge of finding somewhere to illegally camp but which was safe enough for Bessie to pitch her tent for the night; she did well and was well into our non-washing-eating-only-cous-cous lifestyle by the end of it.

Bessie left us and a couple of chicks from London decided they had to buy our van the next week and suddenly we were presented with the possibility of being Buddy(home)-less and with no plans as to what to do next. We spent that week cleaning the Bud up for the viewing and looking at prices for various trips which included a stop in Melbourne.

The London girls bought the van but asked us to drive it home which was just fine by us (though by this point Buddy is much worse for wear and I have super duper Gun Gum skills wheeee!). The trip home took no less than 4 days and we discovered that there's surf near Calais - who'd have thought it?

Next day we were at the Euro Tunnel departure area at 6am wondering just what the heck we were doing there; it was a total mixed bag of feelings...

Posted by Reuben 18:58 Archived in France Comments (0)

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