Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Four Things

Kerala Dec 2012 (2)Kerala Dec 2012 (3)Kerala Dec 2012 (5)Kerala Dec 2012 (4)

Here’s my take on a meme doing the rounds currently. Lisa, Amber & Allison have all done it and I’m joining in. Also, have four random photos I took about two years ago in Kerala, India. I never have blogged much about my time in India but it’s topical now as we’re heading back next week. Not to Kerala sadly, because looking at these pictures really makes me want to!
Four names that people call me other than my real name:
  1. Aunty Poo – blame my brothers for this one. Poo oh so conveniently rhymes with Sue.
  2. Swells – not my name but not far off.
  3. SusieQ – a family nickname before Poo took over. The extended family and friends that have known me from my childhood use this one.
  4. Wellsy jnr – not for a long time but growing in the shadows of my older brother, that’s what a lot of his mates called me.

Four jobs I’ve had:
  1. Risk Analyst/Business Analyst – credit risk analyst in an investment bank setting
  2. Tax accountant – I started my career in personal and employment taxes at a big 4
  3. Bar maid – I’ve worked the bar both in Leeds, UK and here in Melbourne. The Melbourne gig was pretty much just pulling beers at the MCG during footy season. Easy money during uni, that’s for sure.
  4. Box Office Bitch – for lack of a better phrase. I worked at the local cinema during high school. I was predominantly in the box office selling tickets but I also worked in the candy bar, popping popcorn and scooping choc tops. There was some time spent on floor, clearing cinemas and ushering but it really was predominantly in the box office. Such a great high school job. Paid well and 2 free tickets a day.

Four movies I’ve watched more than once:
  1. Ten Things I Hate About You.  I’ve watched this more than once in the same day. I was obsessed with this movie.
  2. Love Actually. Christmas movie of choice, although it can easily be watched year round.
  3. Before Sunrise. I feel like this movie plays a small part in my wanderlust
  4. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Love this movie, great cast and beautiful setting.

Four places I’ve lived:

  1. Leeds, UK (0.5 years) – I deferred during my uni days to go and travel around Europe before I settled into my Mum’s home town for a little while, working as a barmaid at a hotel bar.
  2. London, UK (4.5 years) – this comes as no suprise, right?
  3. South eastern suburbs, Melbourne (I now live a few suburbs closer in than where I grew up but I’m still in the Sth East)
  4. West Gippsland. Sort of. That’s where my parents are and I returned to after my travels. It remains my postal address for things I’ve been to slack to change as well.

Four places I’ve visited:

  1. Cuba
  2. Kyrgyzstan
  3. Zambia
  4. Iceland.
This one was both hard and easy. Easy to list four, hard to chose which four to list. You can see from my travel page I get around, so to speak. I’ve chosen some of my favourites above though from the different regions I’ve been to.

Four things I prefer not to eat:
  1. Bananas. They smell gross, they sound gross when people eat them and they are just gross. I don’t think I’m allergic or anything but I have had to get off public transport when people are eating them too near to me. I have also vommed on a ‘friend’ who thought it would be funny to mash one in my face knowing how much I don’t like them.
  2. Chicken. It freaks me out. Other meats, including turkey? No problem. Chicken? No way, no how, no thanks.
  3. Eyes. This is a bit general but I can’t handle eyeballs on my plate. Whole fish or prawns that I need to shell myself etc. Just can’t get past the eyes. I do realise you don’t eat the eyes, but I won’t eat any part of the produce if the eyeball is on my plate.
  4. Melon. Watermelon is my least detested but I still don’t like it and think it smells. Cantaloupe and honeydew are just gross. Slimy smelly grossness.

Four of my favourite foods:
  1. Blue cheese. Can’t get enough of good blue cheese. Sometimes I like them strong, sometimes crumbly and sometimes soft but I love blue cheese.
  2. Chocolate brownies. I have no resistance.
  3. Almond croissants. Such an indulgent treat but I don’t think I’ve ever had one I haven’t loved.
  4. Crisp cold granny smith apples on a hot day. Cut and quartered of course. Yum.

Four TV shows I watch
  1. Orange is the New Black. We’re behind but slowly making our way through this.
  2. Newsroom. I don’t have cable but my folks record it so I can watch it at the farm
  3. West Wing. Another DVD box set I’m working my way through.
  4. Ellen. Not often but of all the talk shows etc, she’s easily the most enjoyable for me. 

Four things I’m looking forward to this year:
  1. Returning to India – next Monday actually! We’re heading over there for three weeks over Christmas. I’ll be revisiting a few places but seeing so many new ones.
  2. Getting a job. I finished my last contract 30 Sep and am hunting for a new role. I’ve enjoyed the break and being available to friends and family as needed but ready to go again. The joys of being a contractor in a fickle market.
  3. Babies. Hell no, not mine. But seeing my friends babies and my little niece (currently 9 months) grow and develop and show their personalities.
  4. Bike riding. Just something I want to get back into a bit.

Four things I’m always saying:
  1. Shit happens. Not the polities thing to say but I do say it a lot.
  2. FFS. Usually under my breath, thankfully.Usually the expanded version that doesn’t need to be typed. Usually in moments when people don’t let you off the tram/train before they try to get on, or when they walk 4 abreast on the footpath at the pace of my 98year old arthritis ridden grandad. Or when they show a general lack of awareness.
  3. Hi. Can I please have a skinny flat white, take away, regular size? My daily coffee order.
  4. Once I get a job. I’m fine financially not working for a bit because of savings and all that but I have cut a lot of superfluous spending. Things I want but don’t need (think a new rug for the living room or something like that) are being postponed.
This makes me really sound like a potty mouth but for the most part, I'm not.

Kerala Dec 2012 (1)
And one last gratuitous Kerala photo. This one as the sunset in Cochin.  Of the tope four, the beachy ones (1 & 4) are in Varkala whilst the backwater ones (2 & 3) are near Alleppey

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

So There's That

What do you do when you've got lots of thoughts on lots of things but they're not all cohesive and you don't know where to start? Why, bullet points of course!

  • loving this city I call home. I loved Melbourne when I left all those years ago but I think I love it even more now. Sure, there are things here that frustrate me but I'm just so thankful this is my home town. This cool city is where the bulk of my family and friends are.

  • reading again slowly but surely. I just joined the Melbourne City Library last week and am on my third book in as many work days. Nothing of substance yet (all are Cecelia Ahearn novels) but it's baby steps to get back into reading after being book blocked for a few months. Do you have that? If I start reading a book, I don't like starting a new one until I finish whatever I started. And when the one I started doesn't grab me, my reading slows right down, almost stopping. I was stuck on An Abundance of Katherines for three months. No YA book should take that long! As you can imagine, I do not recommend it.

  • reminiscing about being how cheap and easy it was to travel from London. We're beginning to think about Christmas holidays and everything just feels expensive by comparison. Or it could also be some job uncertainty that leaves me questioning what we should do. So far we have considered not going anywhere, travelling within Australia (the top end, the outback or the Great Barrier Reef) or travelling overseas (India (Rob's not been and I always thought I'd return - there's so much more to see), Borneo, Burma, Vietnam, the USA (cold, I know but Rob's sister & family have just been posted to Rhode Island for 18months so perhaps Christmas with them?), Fiji or another Pacific Island. As you can see, we're getting nowhere. No where I tell you, no where.

  • feeling uncertain about work. The role I took last year and am currently doing is a contract role on a project team so I'll be looking for another job come the end of this month. I knew that going in so it's no big surprise and I've been saving my pennies for it but I guess I'd just underestimated how much it would affect my decision making ability in other parts of my life. Holidays, living arrangements, everything. Also, a big stumbling block is what type of role I'd really like. What I do is kind of niche, there's only a tiny market for it here in Melbourne which is about to get even smaller. I never thought I'd even land a job doing it here in the first place, I'm kind of back where I was last year, but no closer to knowing what else I'd like to do (still in finance most likely although I do have an accounting background for fall back on so perhaps not. I  HAVE NO IDEA!)

  • wishing my big brother lived closer. He's up in Brisbane with his wife and baby and I miss them. I missed them anyway but since Hannah was born in March, it feels so much further. The flight is only 2hours but see above re Australia and lack of cheap travel. Everything is expensive. And I want to see my niece.

  • spending less money on groceries than ever before. We're really spending a bit of time meal planning and my gosh, what a difference it is making. It's not something I've ever been very good at, nor put much effort into but I'm enjoying it.

  • inspired by the changing of the seasons. Summer is on its way. We had a gloroious last few days of Winter, but Melbourne being melbourne was back to gray and rainy for the first day of Spring.

  • taking beginners Pilates classes. I got back into it through a great Groupon deal. It's not a cheap hobby so I'm only going once a week but I am really enjoying it. It leaves me sore but in a rewarding way, if that makes sense. I'm often put off by the cost of these things but at some point, and to some extent, I want to prioritise my health and this is just a step in that direction.

  • working on going to bed earlier. A constant goal. I'm a girl that needs my sleep and I can't get more of it in the morning so obviously I have to get more of it at night.

  • listening to the really bad cheesy Mix 90s station on digital radio or the Jezabels. The playlist that gets the most airtime on my phone includes Sara Barelies, the Jezabels, Missy, Ellie Goulding, Emile Sande, The Lumineers, Birds of Tokyo albums along with a  few other random singles.

Pictures at the top are from the weekend just gone, spent up in the hills, mostly on my parents farm (top row) and taking in the sights of the nearby town, Noojee)

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Victoria’s West Coast: The Great Ocean Road

Sad to leave and sad to be headed home after such a short break, we still had plenty to see on the way. We'd decided to drive home the long way on the Tuesday, hugging the coastline as we went. It's not a short trip, especially once you factor in stops for viewpoints and scenic lookouts, for meals and comfort breaks, but it is a wonderful trip.

Highlights from this section of the drive were the Grotto and the Bay of Islands Coastal Park as I can’t remember seeing them before. And of course, the Cape Otway Lighthouse as you know I have a for lighthouses. Cape Otway was the fifth lighthouse of the trip for us.

We only made it as far Kennett’s River before the sunset that day but luckily for me, I was headed back along the closer stretch of the Great Ocean Road with a visiting Canadian friend the following weekend. As you can see from these pics, we’ve had wonderful weather so far this winter (well, at least on the weekends).

Bells Beach, the following Sunday

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Victoria’s West Coast: Cape Nelson


After two nights (not nearly enough, I tell you!) in Port Fairy we headed a bit further west.  Our destination? Cape Nelson Lighthouse. We'd booked in for just one night (and I'm sad it was just one but that's what our leave allowed) in the restored lighthouse keepers accommodation. Whilst we didn't climb the lighthouse, we did head out along the various paths and to the viewpoints several times. Lighthouse during the day? Lighthouse at sunset? Lighthouse after dark? Lighthouse at sunrise? I've got photos of it all.

I had been really excited about this part of the trip. The cottages, built in the late 1800's are just so different to most accommodation options. The walls were easily a foot thick, the ceilings high. It's not just the aesthetics and the cottage, but it's location. Surrounded by national park, it felt really remote and full of history. Warmed by the open fire, I’d pop outside every so often to just take it all in, the sound of the roaring wind, the light from the lighthouse, the moon. I couldn’t help but think about what life of the keepers must have been like 100+ years ago. 

I was desperately sad to leave the next morning and am already plotting when I may be able to visit and stay in some lighthouse keepers accommodation. 


The random interior photo is to try and show just how thick the walls are. Have you ever stayed or thought about staying in lighthouse keepers accommodation or some other peculiar accommodation? I loved it!

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Victoria’s West Coast: Port Fairy

I've missed blogging and yada yada yada. You know the drill, I've typed it before, I've meant it before and yet, nothings come of it. It's been a while since I checked in and whilst I've been enjoying reading other blogs, I haven't felt compelled to write on my own. Those that follow me on Instagram would have a good idea of what I've been up to. There's been periods of quiet (work weeks, typically) interspersed with trips to Malaysia, Brisbane and Victoria's west coast.

Last weekend was a long one here in Victoria with Monday off to celebrate the Queen's Birthday (yes, I realise her birthday is in April but we've always had the public holiday in June). I tacked another day of annual leave on to it and headed down the West Coast with Rob.

Could a town have a more wonderful name than Port Fairy? Depending on the route you take, it's between 4 and 6 hours west of Melbourne and was our base for two nights. We paid a bit of a premium to have a beach front rental and don't regret it for a moment. The views from the bedroom, living room and even the kitchen (via a mirror) were phenomenal for this beach loving girl. As far as winter weekends go, this was a mild one so we were able to leave the deck door open a bit, just to ensure we could always hear the waves. 

{views from our deck, the lighthouse just visible at the tip of the point}

Our two days there were leisurely. Walks along the foreshore, walks along the Moyne River, walks out to Griffith's Island and it lighthouse. A treat of a dinner, served fireside dinner in Victoria's oldest Inn. I never tired of the views from our place and a week later, I'm yet to tire of the photos. It was all very relaxed and just what we were looking for.

After two nights (not nearly enough, I tell you!) we headed even further west but I’ll fill you in on that and share some pictures in the next post. Below are some of my favourite pics from the trip. Any you love?

There is a lot more to Port Fairy than these pictures show (art galleries, cafes, a dock, a river, historic buildings and more), I just really didn't capture them well.


For reference, we stayed at Ella Blue holiday rental and loved it. The kitchen was a bit sparsely stocked but it wasn't a major issue and I'd happily stay there again

Sunday, 20 April 2014

One Year Ago Today; Panama City

My Central American trip (that I haven't really shared) started more than a year ago. I really should share more though, I loved that trip fiercely and there was some incredible scenery . The countries, the people, the people I met, the food, the sun, the beaches, the colour, the old towns. It was all pretty incredible.  Below, I'm sharing just a small part of it at the time, but a big part of it in my life now.

Panama City

I didn't have many expectations for Panama City, flying in from Havana and more than a little sad to leave Cuba behind me.  It was the starting point for an overland trip I'd signed up to, Panama City to Antigua, Guatemala.

April 20 was the start of the group trip. After a few days exploring the city by myself, I attended the pre departure meeting and the first of many group dinners.  I made some snap judgements on who I was travelling with and looked forward to the next 28 days. Of the people I met that night, I'm still in touch with many. One in particular though, captured my heart. You've may have heard of him on this blog from time to time.

To say we started a year ago isn't entirely accurate. Sure, we met a year ago but we didn't really talk that night. Both of us a little shy in big groups, it was only a few days later in Boquette over some coffee that we got chatting, again as part of a group but this time a much smaller one. Both being from Melbourne, it was a natural topic of conversation.

A few days later again, this time in Monteverde, Costa Rica we enjoyed a night out dancing and drinking where things took off. Over the rest of the trip we enjoyed a light hearted holiday dalliance. No expectations, no talk of the future. Spending some days together and some days apart, we had a blast. Deep sea fishing off Roatan, skinny dipping off Isla de Ometepe, hiking volcanoes in El Impossible and long nights around campfires, chatting, laughing and having fun. 

All too quickly, we reached Antigua where we were going our separate ways. After a great few last days in Antigua we said our goodbyes. Still no talk or thought of the future, a lasting hug and a see you in Melbourne.  The boy flew south from Guatemala to Chile for a few days in Santiago before returning to his life in Melbourne. I continued on through Guatemala and Belize before flying home from Mexico a couple of weeks later.

You can probably work out where this story is going now. After spending a few days at the parents' farm in Gippsland, the first person I saw when I got to Melbourne was the boy. We've been pretty inseparable ever since then. The boy? His name is Rob and he is my love. With the convenient timing of Easter, we're once again travelling together, this time around Malaysia.


Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Matt Damon and My Dad

Back when I was younger, much much younger, I had a different job. A month after my 15th birthday I got a job at the local cinema megaplex. The first 6 months were spent in the candy bar (scooping popcorn, making choc tops and suggestive selling soft drinks and pop corn as big as your face). After that, I spent a little while ushering and clearing cinemas before settling into selling tickets. As far as high school jobs go, it was a brilliant one. I worked 8-12 hours during term (a weeknight shift and a weekend shift usually) but up to 40 on holidays as their demand increased. The money was good for a high schooler and it was a great environment (who doesn't want to be a the movies?). One of the prime benefits though was the free tickets. It started with two free tickets a week before changing to two free tickets a day. They didn't carry over and you had to use them (ie. You + 1 guest, they weren't valid for friends or family without you also being there). Obviously, I didn't go everyday but equally, I didn't pay for cinema tickets for a good couple of years. Nor did a lot of my friends or family.

Dad, although he probably didn't love it, was my taxi during this time. Not the only one, sure, but he did do a lot of ferrying me home (I could get there by bus but they'd usually stopped by the time I finished). As a thanks for this, or maybe anyway, I treated Dad to some free movies over the years. Whilst I certainly can't remember all that we saw, there was a definite theme to the first three that we saw. Good Will Hunting, The Rainmaker and Saving Private Ryan. See the theme? What if I tell you that Dad's in town tonight and we're going to see The Monuments Men?

Sure, there have been other movies we've seen over the years but I would hazard a guess than more often than not, the movies Dad and I see together in the cinema have Matt Damon. I've never particularly had a crush on the guy but he's easy enough on the eye, makes some great movies and is pretty darn decent in them. Dad's not a big movie goer and I'm a huge chick flick fan so it's just coincidental that the few movies that appeal to both of us feature Mr Damon.

So tonight? It's a date with Dad, Mr Damon and my love.  I'm a lucky girl.

Have you seen The Monuments Men? I say I love chick flicks but they're not all I like. I also really enjoy war stories, especially ones based on truths and I've heard some good things about it so I'm really looking forward to it.

Monday, 17 February 2014

Aksu-Zhabagly Canyon – Freezing Cold and Incredibly Beautiful

{that’s me in the middle, contemplating a skinny dip}

Our second night in Kazakhstan was spent camping in the Aksu-Zhabagly Nature Reserve.  One of the joys for me of overlanding is the camping. It usually means you're staying somewhere incredibly pretty where there are no other accommodation options.  It usually means some down time and it usually means sitting around a campfire late into the night, looking at stars and sharing stories and moments.

Aksu-Zhabagly NR is an example of this. We could have spent another night in the nearby homestay with a day trip to the park but we wouldn't have been the same.  We wouldn't have had the opportunity to hitch a ride from Uzbeki farmers in their big old Kamaz log trucks. That’s probably a story for another time though.

The title of this post could be a little misleading though. After unseasonably cold weather in Kyrgyzstan (ie. an unexpected foot of snow), the little pocket of Kazakhstan we were in was gloriously warm. T-shirts and shorts warm in fact.

After riding up top into the park and setting up camp, there was nothing but free time.  Most of us opted to hike down into the canyon and we were well rewarded for our efforts. A select few of us even decided to have a dip in the river. A swim in a snow fed river. I'm pretty sure those that didn't venture into the canyon could have pinpointed the moment we first jumped in, such were our shrieks. Heck, you could have probably heard us wherever you were.  That said, we jumped in and out several times, shrieking as we went.

Moments like that are just good for you right? Any favourite pictures?

{looking east from the top of Aksu Canyon}

{looking west from the top of Aksu Canyon}
{Down in the canyon, the frigid water}

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Kazakhstan–a Welcome Detour


I popped into Kazakhstan back in 2012. I say popped in because it was such a brief detour, for only two nights.  Whilst Kazakhstan neighbours both Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, it's not part of the Silk Road and wasn't initially on the itinerary for the trip I booked.  With some unrest in the Fergana valley on the Uzbek/Kyrgyz border, the route we took went north into Kazakhstan, spending a night at a homestay in Zhabagly and a night camping under the stars at Aksu-Zhabagly Nature Reserve.

Crossing over from Kyrgyzstan didn't prove difficult but it was hardly quick either.  Travelling in a group can slow this down some but equally, having someone who has done it before can make things easier. For this border crossing, it was me the group were left waiting for. The immigration officer I had on the Kazakh entrance was particularly personable. Smiling and stamping those before me, Borat (not joking, that was his name) became obsessed with the idea of me meeting his brother. Apparently his brother would love some Australian children. Eventually though, once he'd had enough of practicing his English and trying to arrange an introduction (also not joking, he kept trying to call his brother), he stamped my paperwork and I was allowed through to Kazakhstan. Our driver, who was waiting patiently with me, was equal parts amused and frustrated. Frustrated for the unnecessary delay, amused at the cause.

We arrive at our homestay in the small village of Zhabagly just before sundown so after quickly making use of the facilities, a few of us headed out on a walk and wonder, stopping for very many photos.  These photos are what you see below.  Zhabagly, a small village, lies a the foot of the West Tien Shan ranges where an life exists at a slower pace and smiles were never too far away.

After the walk, we were treated to a delicious multi course meal at the homestay.  Like Kyrgyzstan, community based tourism (CBT) is prevalent here. It often means paying to stay and eat in people's homes and I can't recommend it enough.

Have you ever had any interesting border crossings? or thought of heading to Kazakhstan? I’d love to head back one day and see more of the country, especially Almaty. And any positive detours? I love it when things don’t go to plan but work out even better than you could imagine.