Tag Archives: Australia

48 Hours in… Grunau

Grunau, Austria; a tiny but incredibly picturesque village hidden away in the Austrian alps, surrounded by mountains, lakes, lakes and mountains. Now that might not be enough to make you want to visit, but perhaps we can persuade you…

IMG_20161028_152753.jpg

The Accommodation:

IMG_20161029_105423Probably one of the best reasons to visit is the wonderfully Austrian and uniquely Busabout Treehouse. Run by an ex-chef and his family this ramshackle traditional old house really feels like a home. There have many people to the comforts of the bedrooms, the glorious surroundings and the pure sincerity of the welcome they receive from Gerhard and Co.

The dogs run freely through the garden, down to the river and into the neighbouring fields without a worry, and you can too. Those that only stop for lunch (and we’ll come to the food next) often find themselves wandering a little far from house as they follow the river, or meander through the woods.

The Food:

IMG_20161029_112313As mentioned, Gerhard, the owner/manager/dad was a professional chef, so you can imagine the food he cooks up is a little special. But he doesn’t bother with fancy flourishes of parsley or drizzles of balsamic vinegar. He makes good hearty home cooked food, the kind of thing that’ll have you craving mums cooking, then scratch that itch with the first bite. His legendary lasagne is a must-try while everything else on the menu is just a delight. Forget the diet though, he doesn’t mess around when it comes to portions that’s for sure. You’ll end up sitting around the dinner table together, laughing and joking like you’ve all known each other for years.

The Countryside:

IMG_20161029_133730Yes, the mountains, lakes, lakes and mountains of course are a huge part of what makes Grunau so incredible. For your window every morning you’ll have to collect your jaw as you stare out and the awe inspiring Austrian Alps, still snow capped from winter. It’s these behemoths that channel the water down into rapid rivers that and just so instagrammable you’ll be flicking through your photo albums for days. Follow these along though and you’ll get to the epic lakes that are dotted along the valleys. A personal favourite is the Almsee, a nice bike ride along from the Treehouse (yes you can rent them there). This lake spreads out across the valley floor and offers amazing opportunities to spot wildlife, take in the amazing views reflected off the lakes surface, or if you’re the romantic type, woe that special someone in your life. You may fancy a dip, which is highly recommended, it’ll certainly leave you feeling fresh as the water is all glacier-melt (AKA ice!) and not much above freezing temperature. Just take a towel and sunbake yourself dry again. If that doesn’t warm you up, there are numerous hikes, easy and challenging up the sides of the valleys, and for the very adventurous, to the very peaks of some of the nearby mountains.

The Activities:

IMG_20161029_111705If all that wasn’t enough, there’s a few special activities offered by the guys at the Treehouse. After taking the bikes for a spin through the valleys, horse riding is the most popular choice. With treks designed for all abilities, from beginner up to fully competent riders, there’s something for all. Beginners will get a chance to enjoy the natural surroundings from horseback (no need to pedal) while more advanced riders can let loose and feel the wind in their hair as they follow the experienced guides through the various terrains. Finally, if all that isn’t enough to can take a try at archery, heading into a secluded section of the woods to ping some arrows into various targets and trees (please no animals though!)

There’s never been a passenger who stayed in Grunau that didn’t wish they could stay longer, and plenty more who wish they hadn’t skipped it. Don’t make the same mistake and make sure you add Grunau to your Busabout adventure.

Written for the Busabout Blog

Benjamin Duff

@versestravel

 

Music Festivals around the world

Music is something that in international, but every country has their own take on it. Whether it be the music they make, the influences they work from or the way it’s played. Music festivals are one of the best places to experience this, as you’ll see a huge range of musical styles, both international and local, as well as seeing how the locals like to enjoy it.

Probably the strangest festival experience was a large festival near Pai, in north Thailand. The music was a good mix, there were ska/reggae cover bands, which are pretty common along with the strong rasta influence in the region, there were a couple Thai rock bands, who played a slightly dated sounding emo-rock, with occaisional top40 covers. There was a DJ stage, which was a nice mix of dubstep and comericial house, which unsurprisingly was where most of the white people were. Finally on the main stage the most popular and certainly the biggest pull were ‘bands’ (essentially DJs and some vocalists) that just covered modern Top40 songs. So the biggest names were those that didn’t play their own songs. But even more strangely than that; nobody pushed to the front, nobody pushed at all. In fact, the whole audience area was littered with tables, which worked hand in hand with the drinks being sold. Multi-packs of mixers, and whole bottles of liquor along with a bucket of ice. Perfect for sharing with friends around the little table you had in the middle of the crowd during the headline set. It’s something I’m sure some of the more mature festivals in the UK could take on with great success, but a very odd compared to the usual crush if you’re within 500 meters of the stage.

Another odd one for a UK festival veteran was Soundwave festival in Sydney. Single day festivals have often got a different vibe (I blame people having phone battery), but the Aussies don’t use the festival vibe as an excuse to be social. Instead I found most people stuck in their groups and the day lacked the community spirit you get at the longer events. The music while mostly American bands, was contemporary, even if a few of the bands would’ve had much bigger, or smaller, crowds in Europe. A case of each band getting a different reception as they spread around the world is never more evident than in Australia, where the styles are a little late, but from the local bands, you can hear the influences a few years behind the UK. The fickle music scene trends also really affect the popularity of a band, so while they can reach great success in one region, they could bomb in another.

UK festivals will probably always be my favourite though, the combination of naff weather, no phones and general drunkenness means you can be friends with anyone, at anytime. No matter who you’re watching, chances are you’re there for the same reasons, (because you love them, or you want to throw something at them) and that’s enough to make you friends. The rain makes them a little less fun, and rain is almost guaranteed at some point, just hope for a touch of drizzle over the epic floods that have been seen in past years. The tents, and the inability to find them along with the new campfire friends you make during the search are often some of the best times to be had at festivals. Something which is completely lacking from single day festivals.

So, in conclusion, the best festivals are multi-day with original bands, and a good mix of styles (without any mad clashes). Just like the ones we have in the UK.

Benjamin Duff

@versestravel

Sex or Death

I was introduced to the game Sex or Death while working in the greater Sydney area in Australia.

I was told about it by an Irish guy, who was clearly more cocky than he should have been about his abilities with ladies. It’s a simple principle – don’t book yourself a place for the night, just leave your stuff somewhere safe, apply copious amounts of deodorant and hit the town. The aim is to meet a girl and go home with her, as the only other option is to sleep rough on the streets and probably die.

This is not a game I’d recommend to anyone, ever. But it is fun, watching your friend desperately hitting on every girl in the club trying to find somewhere to sleep. I saw him waste a half hour chatting up a rather large girl, only for her mate to whisper something in her ear, followed by a rather humiliating rejection of my friend. As the night progresses of course and the more the alcohol takes effect, the more desperate and rediculous the players get, and so the less attractive the girls get, and the more idiotic (drunken genius obviously) the attempts become. I remember at one point asking another guy why he had two drinks, to which he said it saved going to the bar to buy her a drink.

Despite never actually wanting to play, times got tough at times in Australia, so a night spent curled up asleep in the back of a small car on a backstreet in Sydney was my punishment for losing.

Benjamin Duff

@versestravel

Favourites – The best places in the world according to me

So this might not be the most comprehensive list, as I’ve not been everywhere, but I’ve seen a few spots, and here’s my favourites

1. Queenstown, New Zealand

Queenstown

Queenstown is probably the most tourist orientated town in the world, it’s also surprisingly small. Considering it’s fame it really is tiny, but that is because the only thing it does is tourism, it doesn’t need lots of lawyers, marketing consultant agencies, technical support officials, or any of that kind of thing. It sure has lots of bar tenders though! The density of bars is apparently the greatest in the world, but that’s not why we love it.

  • You cannot go anywhere without bumping into people you know – While it may be full of tourists, you will know a lot of locals, and will bump into them every time you leave the house.
  • Everybody wants to be there – It’s such a competitive town to get work in, and it’s not cheap either, so everyone is grateful to be there, and this comes across and a wonderful positive attitude throughout the town.
  • There’s an unbelievable amount of things to do – not just the extreme/adventure activities that most locals can’t really afford, but there loads of other bits as well. Frisbee golf, the ice rink, cinema, trampoline park, skate park, hills to hike, the ‘beach’, cliff jumps, it’s hard to get bored here.
  • Knowing people gets you free stuff – The longer you stay, the more people you know, and there’s a constant cycle of favours between the staff, which works out to cheeky discounts, ‘local prices’, free shots, free chips, and well, anything anyone can get away with giving you.
  • Burgers – The famous Ferg Burger (and bakery) which leads the competition Devil burger, both of which have an amazing selection of rad burgers. I love burgers. My favourite was the Yankee Devil, with pineapple and egg on top. Ask for a large in a small bun to increase your meat to bread ratio.
  • The views – look in any direction and you’ll see the beautiful southern Alps all around, the mountains of Mordor, Ben Lomond peak, Cecil and Walter across the lake. Breathtaking, everyday.
  • Snow!

2. Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town

It may not be the capital of SA, but it definitely the cultural centre, and a much nicer place to be. Cape Town has a vibrant and lively atmosphere at any time of day, especially down on Long Street which transforms from suave hipster cafes and skate shops to party stops and clubs over the course of the evening. It offers some of the nicest and trendiest places to eat and drink we’ve ever seen. The city seems to be driven by the young energisers that make up it’s population, with design at it’s absolute core.

  • Table Mountain, Lions Head and Signal Hill – The city centre is surrounded by hills on one side, and water on the other, it means you’re never out of sight of the hugely impressive Table Mountain, and a decent walk is never far away. While the locals will always drive, if you’re in the city, just walk to the base, it makes you feel that bit better afterwards
  • Taking a drive around the Cape Peninsula – Ok, you’ll need to drive this one, or do one of the many tours available, but with a lot of cool stops around the peninsula you’ll need a full day at least to see it all. It’s well worth it, seeing penguins, mind blowing cliffs, and the view over the Atlantic Oceans.
  • The attitude of the locals – South Africans are not lazy people, and those that are working away in Cape Town seem to be the most driven and motivated people we’ve ever met. With a free afternoon they won’t just bum out on the sofa watching TV (if they even have a TV) they’ll be playing music, organising a party, writing their blog or just heading somewhere cool to do something cool. I crashed on a friends sofa for a while, and asked about the Playstation, to which they replied “We have a playstation?”
  • The feeling of hopefulness and endless possibility – There’s a general feeling that in South Africa, you can try things, it’s not as brutal and cut-throat as other countries and trying something new will be much more likely to be accepted (perhaps not successful) it’s a very liberating feeling.

3. Sihnoukville, Cambodia

Otres Beach

Sihnoukville is an interesting little place in Cambodia, stretching along the coast it ranges from the town, purely functional, to ‘Sin-ville’ the party beach down along to Otres 1 and 2, the chilled out beaches of dreams. Get yourself a bike, head down to Otres and hit up the super mellow vibe of beach life. There’s plenty of bars to try, so wander along the golden sand until you meet some nice people then just enjoy your surroundings with a drink or two, then when it comes to the night, mellow some more, or head to Sin-ville and get messy.

  • Otres beach – great sand, great views, great people, great food, cheap drinks!
  • Live music – both Otres and Sihnoukville have plenty to offer as far as music goes, usually hosting some traveling musicians, which can include yourself if you want. Talent just pops out of nowhere to do a little set of songs or poems
  • Surprise mini festivals – I went to three in about two weeks, and all were awesome. The regular hippy fest/market was a chance to chill out and hear more of the local (expat) talent, the indie rock party put on by one of the bars was a nice break from the usual commercial dance and pop, and a great way to bring everyone together. Finally the Full Moon Party over on Koh Rong Sanloem brought back flashbacks of Thailand without the overwhelming crowds
  • Easy links to the nearby islands – Nearly all the islands you can see from the beach are reachable from Sihnoukville, a couple hours on the boat (get the fast one). Just be aware that these islands are generator run, or not powered at all, which means the party ends when the lights go out! Everything is done ad hoc, so just get there, find a place to sleep and forget everything else.
  • Don’t Worry Be Happy – It’s impossible to stress here, so don’t.

4. London, UK

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/11121228/Do-you-care-about-London-and-its-future-development-Then-join-our-society.html
Stolen from telegraph.co.uk

Pure stress, constantly being aware of everyone around you so you don’t collide with a Chinese tourist, sweating on the tube, freezing outside, rain, smoke, smog, rain. London is an incredible city, the definition of infinity – everything that could happen probably already has somewhere in London, and you’ll be sure to find a barman who has a friend who knew a guy who saw it happen. There’s so much here it’s impossible to contain it all.

  • Camden on a sunday night – Once the weekend crowds have gone, Camden looks inwards and celebrates itself. The bar-staff swap sides and start drinking, along with all the local residents who themselves work the busy nights. This seems to be a surprising amount of strippers, up for a giggle and to meet some people who aren’t drooling all over them. The Good Mixer and the Camden Head seem to be the good spots.
  • Shoreditch hipsters – just hanging out anywhere in this area you’ll see the hipsters, usually on a bike with a moustache, desperately trying to get noticed for their uniquely styled floral patterned messenger bag, hand made in Cambodia by some hippy chick on holiday. The upside is there’s usually some decent eateries around.
  • The sights – Yeah, London has a few of these, but our favourite stroll goes south from Piccadilly, across the bridge and along south bank, then north again through Covent Garden and Seven Dials. Get out of the tube and start walking, and you’ll find some gems around every corner.
  • The parks – There’s quite a few of these and they’re all fantastic. Get away from the noise, and well, there’s more noise, finding a quiet bit can be tricky in the smaller ones, but head out to St James, Hyde park or Regent park and you might find a quiet tree to lean against for some ‘me time’.
  • Everything, all the time – It never sleeps, so if you need a burger, or some cat food, there’s always somewhere.

5. Melbourne, Australia

Melbourne_by_night
Stolen from wikipedia

Split into three section as far as I’m concerned, St. Kilda, the CBD and Fitzroy, each has it’s own characteristics and personality, all united by Melbournes cultural edge. St. Kildas beach and party style nightlife, leading up to chapel street had a more casual bohemian style, while the CBD was suits and coffee, and when night falls the smarter dressed went to the super clubs, and finally Fitzroy was for the misfits that like their clothing unique and their music live.

  • Trams – Easy to catch, easy to get off, and they go everywhere. And possible the easiest transport to get away with not paying. If you ever do get caught, play the tourist card and they’ll just boot you off, no fine. Not great if you’re late for work, but cheaper than anywhere else in the world!
  • Penguins – You can go check out penguins down in St Kilda, and they are adorable.
  • Manabar – Unfortunately closed now, but a bar with video games is always cool
  • Fitzroy music culture – Every night, in every venue, a different kind of music is play. Swing to indie, hip-hop, jazz and funk to punk rock, nerdcore, spoken word and avant-garde world music fusion. It’ll be in there somewhere.
  • Rooftop bars – despite Melbourne being the most southerly and therefor coldest Australian city, it has an abundance of rooftop bars, some of which offer incredible views over the city, others which offer incredible views of the building next door. Come rain, shine or freezing night wind, these rooftops are open.

A little longer than planned, but there’s our five favourite places in the world (so far)

WYSTC 2014

Convention Centre Dublin

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the World Youth and Student Travel Conference in Dublin, but I was very happy that I was allowed to volunteer.

The Keynote SpeechWhile the organisation of the volunteers wasn’t great, and the team of (mostly) apathetic travel and tourism students weren’t the most enthusiastic we covered the tasks we needed to do well enough, and those that really wanted to achieve something were given plenty of opportunities. I include myself in that group.

I used my spare time to network, and re-connect with sales reps, and company heads of companies I’d worked with through Peterpans while in Australia and New Zealand. Making contact with the heads of Stray travel, Mojo surf and Skydive Wanaka again was good fun. I also met a few people from South Africa who gave me some excellent advice about what to do in order to get into the country, and how to build a business effectively.

Livin' The DreamThe Travel Massive event allowed me to meet several other bloggers, hopefully increasing my following a little, but also to get advice on the best ways to proceed as an independent travel writer and consultant. I also spent some time talking with some of the organisers of WYSTC who were interested in my previous experience, and spoke of potential positions opening up within the company in the future.

Youth Trends with MtvI was invited to the Global Youth Travel Awards in the last day, but unfortunately could not attend. I was privileged and grateful to be asked, and wish I could have gone, without having to cancel my previous plans.

The conference has left me in a difficult position: I want to proceed with the training weekend (and hopefully the job) with Wasteland Ski, so I can spend the winter in the Alpes, but I also want to capitalise on the contacts I have made, with potential leads in South Africa, Australia, The Netherlands and a couple more, it’s hard to know what to do. I am thankful to have these options though, before this conference I only had the one choice!

Benjamin Duff

Sir Ranulph Fiennes

East Coast – An Informal Guide

From Byron Lighthouse - versestravel
From Byron Lighthouse – versestravel

The following is an edited version of an email guide I emailed to a couple of friends who I met in Thailand. I have improved the language and added a couple little points, but left it essentially the same. This is not a formal review, but it gives you an idea of what I was doing while working in Australia.

“CAIRNS

Things to do:

Great Barrier Reef – this is the big one, have to do it. Currently a special with Ocean Free that’ll do you a dive for $20 and it’s a sweet boat. Bungy Jumping here, only place in Aus. Don’t bother with Cape Tribulation (Cape Trib) it’s a bit shit, but the Atherton Tablelands tour is good. Uncle Brians is the best tour, but Captain Matty’s is good too (and a bit cheaper) White Water Rafting, this is great, but a bit of a drive away from Cairns, you can use this to transfer down to Mission Beach though, which is a nice spot, and it’ll knock about 2 hours off the journey down to your next stop

Places to see:

The lagoon, lots of girls, sometimes topless. There’s another one at Gilligans which is smaller, but less kids/old people so better for the ladies.

Where to go out:

Gilligans is king here, it’s got a massive nightclub in the complex, during the week it’s quiet and they do some stupid backpacker things, including wet tee-shirt comps and other stupid stuff. At the weekends it packs out with Aussie locals, the atmosphere take a bit of a dive, but altogether it’s still good, and it’s a good time to meet some aussie chicks too. The Woolshed has a similar vibe, and allows people to dance on the tables, which people like. It seems to be the main competitor of Gilligans, nowhere near as big, but still a good party, and cheaper than gillis. Worth a night. Everywhere else… not a clue!

Cairns – Mission Beach = 2 hours

Mission Beach - versestravel
Mission Beach – versestravel

MISSION BEACH

White Water Rafting – same as above. Sky Diving [EDIT: It’s possible to skydive up and down the East Coast with these guys, and if a jump is cancelled due to weather, they will transfer your booking to another day and location]- a great place to skydive onto the beach. This place is really small and chilled out, a nice rest from Cairns, and some really friendly people in the hostels, but you’ll get bored after a day or so, not much going on here at all.

Mission Beach – Townsville = 3 hours

TOWNSVILLE/MAGNETIC ISLAND

Townsville is an Aussie tourist hotspot, but very few backpackers here, it’s only used as the port to get over to Maggie Island. This is a place that wants to be Thailand! They have a full moon party, but people have said it’s a bit tame, so don’t bother with that, but you can check it out for a day or two. Seems to be highly recommended by the Irish, so maybe head over and check it out. You can get deals that include your ferry ticket, accom and some meals at the Base hostel if you go to Peterpans. Again, it’s small and chilled, but I’ve been told it’s really good so up to you guys!

Townsville – Airlie Beach = 10 hours (overnight)

The view from Airlie - versestravel
The view from Airlie – versestravel

AIRLIE BEACH/WHITSUNDAYS

The Whitsunday islands are beautiful, and you’ll want to be on the Clipper to have the best time, it’s the biggest boat, it’s got the best vibe and the biggest party atmosphere. Slide, diving board and hot tub on board, it’s for getting loose and having fun. But you’ll still get plenty of time to see Whitehaven beach and do plenty of snorkeling and see the fish! Just don’t get too drunk and a hangover on a boat is no fun. [EDIT: Having been on the Clipper since writing this I would recommend New Horizon, the sister boat. I found the games and attitude on board a little too childish for me, so if you’re over 25 stay away. However if you’re happy to dress up, and run around like a fool, this is the boat for you]

Airlie: Stay somewhere cheap, that’s not nasty (Beaches is nasty, everywhere else is pretty ok [EDIT: Nomads has nice rooms, good facilities and a great atmosphere] Party anywhere you want, there’s one road in Airlie, and it’s pretty short. You can wander up and down fine and you’ll see where is busy and where’s not. Beaches is pretty good and Mambos in the middle is pretty cool. Mama Africa is the only club and stays open pretty late. Just keep it easy, and when you meet a chick who’s game, take her home quick!

Airlie – Agnes Water/1770= 10 hours

Waterfall in Queensland - versestravel
Waterfall in Queensland – versestravel

1770/AGNES WATER

This place has two names, it’s confusing. This is a good place to stop for a night or two, they really want to bring more people in here, so you can usually get a free surf trip or something while you’re there. Most of the hostels have free wifi, so make sure you get one of those. The best thing here is that it breaks up your journey to Rainbow beach, saves a long stop over at a bus stop in Hervey Bay, which you don’t want!

Agnes – Rainbow Beach = 8 hours

RAINBOW BEACH/FRASER ISLAND

Rainbow is a cool little town, good place to chill, but with enough backpackers coming through to keep it fun. Most people just rush through though, so it might not be a great place to spend too much time. The best thing here is the DINGOS tour of Fraser Island. This is rad, driving a 4×4 around on the beach and down sand/dirt roads, then jumping out to see some cool shit, or go for a swim in some really nice lakes. It’s the best things I did in Oz, so do it! it’s 3-day 2-nights, camping next to the beach, and pretty high chances of a lay.

Rainbow Beach – Noosa – 2 hours

NOOSA

This place is cool, and crawling with Canadian chicks, definitely worth a stop over, and possibly a good place to stop for a while, work for accommodation get into things a bit more. A good place for surfing as well, so give it a shot. Don’t stay in Dolphins! The town is also near Australia Zoo, which is the biggest and best, so hit that up on your way down to Brisbane

Noosa – Brisbane – 2 hours

BRISBANE

Boring. Good botanical gardens, great modern art museum, not much else. Some people love it, I was bored.

Brisbane – Surfers = 2 hours

SURFERS PARADISE

Not my cup of tea at all! But, very good night life, a little more dressy than other places (no flip-flops or vests) and lots of Aussies on the pull. A good place to meet Aussie chicks though, especially if you get out of the backpacker bars. Has Wet n Wild and Dreamworld, the biggest theme parks in Aus, so give them a blast, but not in the school holidays.

Surfers – Byron = 2 hours

From Byron Bay Lighthouse - versestravel
From Byron Bay Lighthouse – versestravel

BYRON BAY

There’s three places to stay in Byron 1) Backpackers Inn – the cheapest place, about 10 mins from the town, not great though 2) Nomads – right in the middle, big party hostel, but one of the most expensive 3) Arts Factory – funky place, lots of people love it, but it’s about 20mins from the town Very cool place, very hippy, loads of people love it, and it’s rad. Great for surfing, and even free board hire if you find the right place, but the boards are made of rocks, [RDIT: it’s worth hiring a decent one if you’re actually serious about giving it a go]. The town is EXPENSIVE though, it’s popular, and expensive to match. You have to go to Nimbin, it’s fun and cool.

Byron – Spot x – 2 hours

SPOT X

It’s a surf camp, nothing else there! Just surf, chill, flirt, and eat. All food provided, and it’s good food!

Spot x – Sydny – 8 hours

SYDNEY…. I’ll finish this later…”

I didn’t ever finish it for my friends, but there is a very brief guide on the Aussie East Coast. It’s good for those only planning a short trip, as it covers all the best bits and basics, so if you want to go for anywhere between 3 and 6 weeks, this will work out well for you.

Welcome

Just a simple hello and introduction to this blog, and myself

I am 27, male, from the UK, and have worked in tourism for the last few years of my life. This, along with spending those years, and at least one more traveling throughout Australasia gives me a knowledgeable and unique ability to advise and sell trips to this part of the world.

I am currently working for Isaacs hostel in Dublin within their marketing department, using my skills to improve their interactions via social media whilst learning more about general marketing and improving my skill set.

I will be using this blog to write up certain experiences of my travels and to post current news and my opinions on aspects of the tourism industry in general.

If you have any questions, I am contactable via all the usual social media outlets. I am happy to give advise to individual travelers and welcome business opportunities.

Benjamin Duff