Date Friday, January 17, 2003

Happy New Year!

New Years Eve Sydney style

Singapore, Malaysian Borneo and a little bit of Australia - 17 January 2003

It's been a little while and it seems even longer as we're now in a new year. I hope you all had a good Christmas and that 2003 brings all you hope for.

We're now in Byron Bay, Australia, making our way up the East Coast in our little jalopy, but more of that later. When I last wrote we were in Malaysia. Since then we've been to Singapore twice, camped in the jungles of Malaysian Borneo and lived it up in Sydney... so from the beginning.

Singapore (part I)

We arrived in Singapore by train from KL - the coaches were all booked up due to the Hari Raya festival. We'd been warned that it wasn't the best journey and it wasn't! That didn't matter when we were picked up by our hosts - Dickon and Victoria. They're both teaching out there and kindly looked after us and showed us how the expats live - very nice!

The Republic of Singapore has a population of 4.1 million all in just 683 sq km just at the bottom of Malaysia. We'd been told that it's clinical and too clean, but we found it a nice mix of Western comfort and the hussle and bustle of the East.

Deek took us to see Singapore's very own rainforest. It's an oasis in the middle of such a crowded place.

"Nice buttress root", said Mr Thomas the geography teacher.

We also had a taste of luxury in Singapore, despite a night on the town, Mark and I made it for a Hyatt champagne breakfast - all you can eat buffet with free-flowing Moet!!!

Mark tucks in

Sabah, Malaysian Borneo

After a very relaxing weekend, we headed for Sabah, Malaysian Borneo. We wanted to see the orangutans and other wildlife for which the island is renowned. We considered climbing Mt Kinabalu - the highest mountain in South East Asia at 4,101m, but didn't have time to do that and visit the jungle (what a shame as everyone knows I love hills!).

Thankfully on our way to the jungles we passed the impressive Mt Kinabalu

We visited the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre. The centre rehabilitates orangutans which have been taken as illegal pets or have been orphaned etc. The orangutans are absolutely beautiful. They are such energetic creatures and with more than 96 per cent of their genes shared by us, it's not surprising how human they look.

Feeding time at the centre

Uncle Tan's Jungle Camp

We then moved into the jungle for a three-day, two night jungle experience. Karen and Dave (from Vietnam/Royton) had recommended the camp and it lived up to their description. The camp is extremely basic - no running water/basic 'environmentally friendly toilets' etc, but the people running the camp do a great job of making it more comfortable - tea and biscuits/banana pancakes and surprisingly tasty food. The time was spent going along the river either first thing in the morning or in the evening to spot wildlife. During the day, we were taken on various treks into the jungle.

Our very own jungle home

On the river

Night spotting

Oxbow lakes in the jungle

Lynette gets arty!

A young lad named Japan (his mother thought he looked Japanese when he was born!) - his Father fishes near the camp

We saw the end of the rainbow, but it was in muddy water!

A snake (wee baby!)

Not such a baby - we got really close to Mr Croc

After the jungle, Mark needed his hair cutting!

No comment!

Singapore (part II)

We returned to Singapore to enjoy the wonderful gift we'd been given by TRW - two nights at Raffles.

It was just as we'd joked about; Mark and I turn up with our scruffy gear and rucksacks and we're asked if we've found the right hotel. We were rather pleased with our 24-hour butler, Francesca! Our suite was beautiful and it was glorious to enjoy such luxury - particularly when a week before we'd been without hot water and a toilet for three days.

We still had all our muddy gear from the jungle camp - and although we put most of into the laundry service (which probably had never seen anything like it), we did wash a few bits and pieces in the room!

It was Mark's birthday while we were there. I'd arranged a surprise breakfast, but we were both surprised when five members of staff turned up to sing and give us a lovely cake.

The hotel - dating back to 1887 exudes the charm of another era

Suitably dressed for Christmas

The rooftop pool

It's simple, but we called it home!!

Washing in 5 star sinks - why not!?

Happy Birthday Mark

Australia - Sydney

We arrived in Australia and had to pass its two landmarks on our way to our friend Mike's place in Neutral Bay. It was like coming home after Asia - with all the home comforts - wine, cold lager in the fridge, vegemite!

We had planned two months here, but we've extended it already - there's so much to see. It's an enormous country (7,682,300 sq km). We've been amazed at all the different wildlife and scenery we've seen. We'd expected to see a lot of desert and beaches, so have been really pleasantly surprised at the lush hills and mountains. In places it's looked like Dorset, the Peak District and Scotland!

It's so amazing that only 20 million people live here.

Sydney is a vibrant city and with beautiful blue skies above the harbour you can see why so many people want to make it their home.

The Sydney Opera House - much smaller than it looks on TV!

The Harbour Bridge

While in Sydney we caught up with family (Mark's Mum's cousin and family) who moved out here 17 years ago. Colin, Janet, Rachel and Chris made us very welcome in St Clair, at the foothill of the Blue Mountains, where we felt as at home as in Oldham!

The Sadlers

We had to have a barbie!

Spot the grown up - what was the score?

While we were near the Blue Mountains we went abseiling - the highlight(?) being a 55 metre freefall drop!


We were in Sydney for Christmas - we had to check out Bondi beach, but decided not to stay too long. All the Poms are under their flags - St George, St Andrew etc, so we didn't want a fight.

Spot the santa hats

For New Year's Eve it was so strange to start the evening with a bbq... We were by the bridge for midnight and it really is the most amazing scene to kick the New Year off.

Mike and Mark warming up and chef supremo Craigo!

Happy New Year! Mine's a pint of champagne

On the road

We set off on New Year's Day - feeling special! Our car was packed full and we started our journey north.

Tilly Toyata and our spacious tent

Hunter Valley

Our first stop, to keep the New Year revelling alive, was the Hunter Valley wine region. The speciality wines here are Semillon and Shiraz. We left Tilly at the campsite for the day and visted seven small vineyards for some tasting. They encouraged us not to spit it out so what could we do? Hic hic.

The vineyards and us enjoying their fruits

Port Stephens

We moved up along to Port Stephens where we discovered that we were trying to camp at the busiest time of the year. This is where we started to get a taste of the wildlife with pelicans. We saw a pod of dolphins right up close - they're such incredible creatures.

Barrington Tops

We then moved inland to Barrington national park - having driven through Stroud and Glocester, we thought we were home! The scenery was absolutely stunning and we saw our first Kangaroo just near our camp in the forest.

A carpet python after its lunch - we both wound the windows up in the car just in case, but he's harmless

The first kangaroo sighting


We headed back to the coast to meet up with Colin, Rachel and Chris on their holidays in Forster.

Help pitching our tent!

Coming soon, Mark turns surf champ, Lynette falls victim of Koala movements.....

Mark on the crest of a wave