All cosy on Kosie!

Where do mountains get their names? You’d think from people who have been around for years and years right? Well it’s rarely the case. Pretty much half way between Sydney and Melbourne, about 3 hours away from Canberra, are the Snowy Mountains. It’s the only place in Australia where you can go skiing in winter and escape the worst of the heat in the summer. For thousands of years, the Snowy Mountains were visited by Aboriginal people. They call its highest ‘peak’ Jagungal, meaning ‘table top mountain’, which describes the area quite well. But on the 15th of February 1840, Paul Edmond Strzelecki, a Polish explorer, made it to the summit and decided to call this mountain Kosciuszko as it reminded him of a hill in Krakow where another Polish man named Kosciuszko was buried. The name got adopted and Mount Kosciuszko actually is the highest ‘peak’ of Australia, despite its modest 2228 masl. As you may know, Australians love to shorten words. You won’t hear ‘Tasmania’ but ‘Tassie’, ‘Australian’ but ‘aussie’, ‘barbecue’ but ‘barbie’, thus Kosciuszko is usually refered to as ‘Kosie’ by locals.

A few years ago, I decided to boycott new year’s eve parties as they usually suck and I rarely get to be around my loved ones anyway. I then decided to dedicate the last and first day of each year doing what I actually love doing (better late then never) and that makes me feel good about myself: climbing whatever peak is around me. After Costa Rica and France, Australia was a natural choice since I just spent 2014 in Sydney.

Being the highest summit in Australia, Kosciuszko is considered part of the 7 summits. But as it looks more like a gentle hill and is by far the easiest of the 7 summits to get to, Puncak Jaya in the Papua province of Indonesia steals its fame with its proper 4884masl.

We took a bus to Canberra (a strange deserted city at that time of the year) then hitchhiked to Charlotte’s pass where we camped the first night. I’ll be honest, we took it super easy and we did in 3 days the walk people usually do in a day so we spent more time relaxing and reading than challenging ourselves. I think that’s the good thing about the Snowy Mountains. The day after, we took our time, made coffee and walked to the Blue Lake, hiked towards Kosciuszko, slept at its foot, had wine and cheese for dinner on New year’s eve. We went to sleep way before midnight so we could get up early enough (4.30 am, you read it right) to walk up to admire the first sunrise of the year on top of Australia. It was truly magical…

Happy New Year 2015! I hope you get whatever makes you happy.

We are now about to leave for new adventures in New Zealand and I’m overexcited to visit those landscapes I’ve been dreaming of visiting as long as I can remember…

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Surrounding landscape, large valley and gentle hills

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Ages ago, those mountains were shaped by glaciers

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My favorite part of camping, waking completely alone in the middle of nowhere…

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…and have a delicious coffee!

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4.30 am, leaving the tent…

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Here comes the sun on Mount Kosciuszko

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At that precise moment I was the highest person in Australia! You can’t see but I always get very emotional…

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Matt and me in the sunrise light…It wasn’t really cold but super windy up there.

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The summit of Kosciuszko is so unimpressive you need a sign to make sure it’s the right hill…

Home and away – My best tips while in Sydney

There is no place like home. There is no place like homes, should I say. I’m always surprised by that feeling. What’s home exactly? Home is definitely the country where I grew up and still is because my family is there. But home also is wherever I feel at home, wherever I meet people that makes me feel at home, wherever I experience life-changing moments that help build myself and define what home feels like.

I had never really thought of spending time in Australia, I came here to discover my lover’s home town, Sydney, which also happens to have a pretty interesting coffee culture, conveniently enough as it is my job. We thought it would be a good place to settle for a bit. But to be honest, it failed to become home.

Don’t get me wrong, Sydney is not the worst place to live on earth, but the magic just didn’t happen. But! there are definitely a few things I’d like to share with you. If you’re into crowded beaches, gym and shopping, you won’t need me to find out what to do. If you’re more about exploring the surrounding not-that-wild-wilderness, you won’t need me either but here’s a few tips anyway.

1/ Get a bike!

Where? Check Gumtree or ebay, or just walk around Newtown near Australia Street and I’m sure you’ll find second hand bikes for a reasonable price. Don’t forget, helmets are compulsory in Australia! After a ride in Sydney you’ll get why, whether it’s pedestrian, cars or even worse public buses, Sydney is all but a bike-friendly city. That said, Both Matt and I have ridden our bikes every day of the year to go to work or anywhere and we’re okay (so far). In recent years, bike lanes have been created around the city, and getting a copy of this (free) map probably is my best advice:

Featured imageI found mine at the Glebe library but they can also be found at tourist offices or bike shops (the best ones are on Paramatta road) as well.  It’s great to avoid big busy roads and really helped me discover another side of Sydney I am glad I found out. There are different colours depending on whether the lane is completely separated from the road or not and the intensity of traffic. You get to cross parks, small back lanes with the coolest street art, check out streets with rows of gorgeous Victorian houses. Not only biking is healthier, but it’ll be much cheaper, nicer and faster than public transportation.

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2/ Go check out the crab races!

Go to pubs that organize those races like the Friends in Hand in Glebe or the Courthouse in Newtown. You can bet on any crab you want or just watch. Whether you had a few beers or not, it’s pretty entertaining and hilarious.

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Crab race at the Courthouse. Basically the first crab to reach out the circle wins!

3/ Use your Opal card on Sundays and go explore the Blue Mountains…

Opal cards are the brand new card for public transportation in Sydney. Don’t try understanding how it works, no one gets it. It depends on the distance and the frequency of use. The only thing I understand is that any trip on the Sydney public service cost $2.50 for the whole Sunday no matter the distance or the number of times you use it, meaning you can spend 2 hours going west on a train to go to the Blue Mountains for that price. (But I’d recommend you spend more than a day there, obviously)

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View from the Three Sisters, Katoomba.

4/ …Or Royal National Park!

Just about an hour south of Sydney, Royal National Park is pretty amazing. Kind of like New South West in a nutshell with large beaches, cliffs, bush walks, rivers, rainforest… We hiked the Coast Track a few weeks ago and I should really write a few words about it as it was by far my favourite hiking experience around Sydney.

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Somewhere along the Coast Track

5/ …Or walk from Manly to the Spit Bridge!

The ferry to Manly is included in the Sydney public transport so enjoy the cheap Sunday fare! Not only you start the day with a really nice ferry ride around Sydney Harbour (best views over the Opera House and the CBD skyline) but then you can walk along nice beaches and through the Sydney Harbour national park to take the bus home from the Spit Bridge a few 10km away. Don’t miss the aboriginal sites on the way with kangaroo or fish engravings carved in sandstone, dating back to prior European settlement.

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High tide

6/ Go whale spotting!

Take advantage of the cold but sunny winter months to go whale watching at Cape Solander. They are pretty far but spotting them from the shore is pretty impressive. We were lucky this year as there were loads of them going up north to warmer waters (they counted a few hundreds that day).You can also catch boats from Darling Harbour or Circular Key to check out the whales from closer.

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Cape Solander

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A couple of whales

7/ Walk from Bondi to Coogee

Just a nice walk between two of the well known massive beaches of Sydney.

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Famous Bondi beach

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A cemetery with a view

Just a 10 minutes walk from Coogee towards Bondi, there is a gorgeous little place called Gordons Bay that I highly recommend if you seek tranquillity. There is also a underwater trail for snorkellers (remember to put sunscreen on your back).

8/ Get this book

Last but not least… Buy or borrow that book, very useful with lots of different hikes idea with maps and all the info you’ll need!

_12508269/ Check out the massive bats

Massive bats indeed! Go out at dusk or night and look at the bats coming to life. It could be Camperdown park,  Jubilee park or even the backyard of your terrace house. There are so many of them that they can be a pest to the nearby environment so they are moved like it happened a few years ago in the Botanical garden.

To be continued…

Have you been to Sydney? What are your personal favourites?

Tasmanian encounter with… a possom!

Parce que le ridicule ne tue point, même quand on s’entend faire des commentaires débiles dans une vidéo. Bon c’était quand même hyper drôle sur le coup.

Normalement il faut les chasser, mais l’occasion était trop bonne pour moi comme pour lui, obviously. Bref!

Les possoms sont communs en Australie, même en ville (y’en a un qui vit dans le grenier et qui me réveille de temps en temps en pleine nuit lorsqu’il sort se balader sur les toits)

Ils mangent un peu de tout et surtout ce qu’ils ne sont pas sensés trouver dans la nature, d’où leur passion pour les poubelles citadines et les campeurs. Quand on mange devant sa tente, on peut s’attendre à les voir débarquer de nulle part à tout instant.

Un possom, ça ressemble à ça (désolée pour les photos pourries prises de nuit avec mon tel):

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Le fourbe!

Ils ont des griffes qui leur permettent d’être de supers grimpeurs:

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Brushtailed possom qu’on pourrait traduire par “possom à la queue touffue”? je crois…

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suspendu par les pattes arrières, trop facile!

Tasmanian adventures #2 – Cradle Mountain

The original idea of travelling to Tasmania was to hike the Overland Track, one the nicest week-long trek in the world. We had to postpone that as we didn’t have much time and wanted to see more of Tasmania, but we did spend a few days hiking up and down around there:

Cradle Mountain, from Dove lake

This part of Tasmania regularly gets covered by snow in the wintertime and the surrounding summits are usually comfortably snuggled in layers of clouds. But 52 days a year, the sky clears up totally allowing you to get a full view around the park. Randomly enough, that happened when we were there. Make sure to get maps from the Ranger Station, they’re cheap and very good.

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Listed trails around Cradle Mountain

Living the campsite, we followed Lake Rodway up and around Little Horn to meet the Overland Track that we left straight away to hike up Cradle Mountain summit. It’s a really nice hike with diverse landscapes and varied trails.

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Root trail

There are some huts along the way that serve as emergency shelters. If you are hiking with all you gear you can leave them there while you do the summit hike. They often have (amazingly clean) pit toilets and some of them have huge (rain) water tanks, don’t forget to refill your bottles, it will be needed.

The Kitchen hut, by the junction of the Overland track and the Cradle Mountain summit.

The first part of the trail up the summit is quite pleasant, an easy trail going more and more uphill.

Almost there!

The trail disappear for the last bit (an long hour or so). Then it is basically hopping from one stone to anotheron the dolerite narrow ridge which is fun at the beginning but gets a bit tiring after a while. The closer the summit the more it becomes scrambling on boulders with some rock climbing parts. If you have vertigo you’re likely to have given up at this point. It was challenging but definitely worth it, as always:

Summit view towards the Barn Bluff

Summit view from Cradle Mountain, 1545m.

Going back to the campsite is mostly downhill, which doesn’t mean easier. The heat made the hike more difficult than expected on my side as I really don’t like hiking when it’s 25°-30°. The sun in that part of the world is different from Europe and I get sunburn even faster here, or so it seems.

Going around the mountain, that vegetation!

We follow the overland track south, which is a nice walk with stunning vistas of the side of Cradle Mountain with an ever-changing vegetation. The sun is setting while we’re walking down the other side of the mountain back to lake Rodway:

Sunset over birch trees

Back to the tent, a group of French people desperately try to connect with an Australian lady, as far as their English can go, that is to say not very far and understanding both sides of their conversations makes the whole scene pretty pathetic but anyway, I fall asleep quickly enough.

The next day, the temperature reaches 30° and above, so we decide to wait for the late afternoon to go for a sunset hike. It’s one of my favourite part of hiking, being able to read or write or do nothing in the middle of nowhere with no one around.

Last sunset in Cradle Mountain national park

We decide to leave the morning after for new adventures.

 

Tasmanian encounter with…an echidna!

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This is me being all fascinated by this little fellow, and it is NOT weird because they really are fascinating. Did you know that:

* They can live up to 50 years.

* They have a four-headed penis that is 7 cm long when erected (its shaft covered with penile pines) (and nope, didn’t see it).

* They are the only mamals that lay eggs (with the platypus). The egg hatches after 10 days and then the female echidna places the puggle (baby echidna) in her temporary pouch where it’ll grow for 2 to 3 months.

* They love munching ants

Look:

Check out their rear claws and how strangely they move around:

Come to Australia or New Guinea and you might get the chance to observe them.

Tasmanian adventures #1

Matt: “How about we go to Tasmania for your birthday?”

Me (checking a map and google image): “ok let’s go”

And off we were to Tasmania just a couple of weeks after I arrived down under. I could hardly explain how excited I was to leave for my first trip outside of Sydney (though it’s a lovely city), to a place where I read all snakes are venomous, leeches greedy, and four seasons could happen in one day. Amazing!

Tasmania is a relatively small island (300km north-south-east-west roughly) and half of the territory is protected areas. It’s also the southernmost place you can go to in Australia (yes, it is an Australian state). Once upon a time, it was attached to the mainland, and even before that, Antarctica. The island is named after Dutch explorer Abel Tasman decided to give it his name. Before Europeans moved in, it was inhabited by Tasmanian aborigines. I recommend you read the story of Truganini to be reminded of what human nature is about. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Truganini

We hadn’t planned much, but a bit more than usual as we only had ten days on the island. We had three goals: Spend a few days hiking around the Cradle Mountain national park, eat cheese and drink wine on Bruny Island, and check out the Wineglass bay at Freycinet national park.

We flew in to Launceston and as we love adventure and the public transportation is bad and expensive and there was no point to rent a car we wouldn’t use in days, we decided to hitch hike to Cradle Mountain.

I don’t think we were done lifting our thumbs when our first ride stopped, right outside of the airport. It was a lovely old lady who had just dropped off her friend on her way back to Melbourne. She was going to do the occasional shopping in town and left us where it would be convenient to be picked up for our destination.

First impressions: It’s all very dry and in the first 5 minutes we spotted 2 dead wallabies and a dead possum on the side of the road. It’s quite heart-breaking at first (yes, even for me) but you get pretty used to it as it’s all around the island. It’s sad but as locals say, at least it shows that there is wildlife around.

Our next ride, after about 2 minutes standing by the road, was with a nice old couple driving around probably just for the sake of it. After telling us all about their son in Japan and making me repeat 3 times everything I said, they dropped us in the tiny town of Deloraine. It was time for coffee and breakfast before carrying on. Our next ride would be in an empty bus (with air con which was welcome that day it was close to 30°C) going back to the depot at Mole Creek, aka creepy puppets village. From there, a French girl (yes I know they’re fucking everywhere) took us close to the park where our final ride was waiting for us, a young couple from Queensland who happened to have been sitting next to us back in the café in Deloraine (yes, tiny island).

It was around 4.30pm when we got to the entrance of Cradle Mountain National park. we bought our passes and started hiking to the Scott Kilvert memorial hut where we arrived 3 hours later. Matt made dinner while I pitched the tent and off to bed we went as the day had been quite long and the next one promised to be full of adventures…

The joy of hitch hiking and ending up in the middle of nowhere…Here in Mole Creek, creepy village full of this sort of puppets-plants. Alright…