In my final few months in Sydney before I pack my bags and jet off to foreign lands, I have ambitious plans to tick off a few attractions from my list of things to see and do in NSW that I haven’t had the chance to see or do yet.

Last weekend I embarked on a road trip to the upper Hunter Valley region and accomplished two of those items on my bucket list: I ate scones in Scone and I hiked up to the Burning Mountain!


Eating scones in Scone

About 270km from of Sydney and just north of Muswellbrook on the New England Highway lies the township of Scone, famous for being the Horse Capital of Australia. I first became acquainted with Scone in 2010 during a drive from Brisbane to Sydney, but I was in a hurry to get home and didn’t have the time to stop for a look. However I’ve always found something strangely appealing about a location that has the same name as the delicious Scottish cake, and ever since then I’ve wanted to return to sample the town’s baked namesake for myself.

This wasn’t to be the first time I’d eaten a food item in a town of the same name. I’d previously consumed oranges in Orange, wieners in Vienna and cheddar cheese in Cheddar, so there was no way I was going to leave NSW without returning to the scrumptious-sounding Scone.

The first thing that struck me about my search for scones in Scone is that they’re a rather difficult commodity to come across. I parked on the main street at the southern end of town and walked north, expecting to find a multitude of cafes & bakeries that would satisfy my desires. But it wasn’t to be – a lot of shops were closed on Saturday, and the one eatery I walked past didn’t even have them on the menu. Eventually I found myself at the tourist information centre at the other end of town, where the friendly assistant offered the disheartening news that scones really aren’t a big thing at all in Scone, and there was no cafe she was aware of that served them on a regular basis.

I didn’t let that discourage me too much and set back down the main street, this time stopping at the Crowded House Cafe I’d passed earlier, to check if they might serve scones despite them not being a menu item. And to my delight, they did 😀

01 Crowded House Cafe, Scone
Sitting outside the Crowded House Cafe in Scone


02 Scones at the Crowded House Cafe
Delicious scones with jam, cream and tea!


03 Scones at the Crowded House Cafe
Getting through them…

The scones were just the right consistency, the jam was fragrant (although I don’t think it was the traditionally-served strawberry conserve), and the cream was light & fluffy. The outside temperature of about 17ºC proved the perfect weather to enjoy the warm cakes. It was a satisfying meal in a satisfying town.

From these humble beginnings I now have dreams of sampling frankfurters in Frankfurt, bolognese in Bologna, camembert in Camembert and champagne in Champagne.

04 Crowded House Cafe, Scone
The Crowded House shopfront from the main street


05 Scone Main Road
The main street of Scone. It has a very peaceful country town feel.


The Burning Mountain

20km north of Scone, near the small village of Wingen, lies a landmark with the interesting name of Burning Mountain. I can’t remember where or when I first heard of said blazing bluff, but for quite some time I’ve been aware of a bushwalk that leads to its peak where you can experience the surface effects of a coal seam that’s been smouldering 30m underground for some 6,000 years.

I have quite the interest in extreme terrain, especially after experiencing my first up close & personal taste of a volcano late last year when I visited Mt Aso in Japan. Seeing as Burning Mountain exhibited volcanic properties and it was literally at my doorstep, I couldn’t go past a sojourn to its summit whilst in the area.

In the wintry mid-afternoon hours with the sun shining beautifully, I set on my hike up the hill. The track was around 2½ km long and began fairly steeply, leading me through some arid grassland before flattening into an eerie forest of seemingly lifeless trees. It was claimed the close proximity to the burning coal seam affected the nutrients in the soil of this particular forest, hence the sparse presence of live greenery. After a few more twists & turns and another slight ascent, I reached the climax of the journey: the summit of the Burning Mountain.

06 Burning Mountain Hiking Track
The grassy hike towards the top of Burning Mountain


08 Burning Mountain Valley
Some beautiful rolling valleys near the summit

The dull vinegary scent of sulphur became apparent the moment I stepped onto the viewing platform. It was reminiscent of my earlier trip to Mt Aso, where the sulphur was so strong at times that I had to cover my face to mask the noxious odour from entering my respiratory system. Thankfully it didn’t smell quite so bad here.

As I edged closer to the burning surface, I could feel a definite rise in the warmth around me and I could make out the gaseous vapour advancing from the earth and into the atmosphere. It was really quite something to stand amid these effervescent fumes; it blew my mind to think they originated just below my feet where the temperature was in excess of 1,700ºC.

The rocks in the immediate centre of the burning summit were hot to touch, but altogether the heated ambience was tolerable. I was particularly impressed with a small rocky outcrop that expelled a stream of hot vapour at surprisingly high pressure, the crack in between the crag directly leading the way to the underground action. It was just a shame about the sulphuric stench… it totally ruined the thought I had of warming my hands in front of a fireplace while roasting marshmallows.

07 Burning Mountain
The summit of the Burning Mountain. You can’t see it in the photo, but it’s easy to notice the vapour rising from the earth when you’re there.


09 Burning Mountain
Looking back at the viewing platform from the summit


10 Burning Mountain
The hole between the rocks where the sulphuric gases were spewing out

After I finished marvelling at the smoky summit, I took a short walk around the surrounding area. A harsh, dangerous environment ensued, complete with deep cracks in the ground, huge inanimate trees, Martian-style landscape and countless bones of deceased livestock. At one stage I noticed so many bones that I thought I was walking through an animal graveyard. It made perfect sense for animals to inhabit the top of Burning Mountain, the tepid vapour providing much relief from cold winter nights, although presumably at a high risk to their lungs.

11 Burning Mountain
Deep cracks in the earth. I wonder how many animals/children have made the plunge?


12 Burning Mountain
The burnt-out remains of a gum tree


13 Burning Mountain Bones
Animal graveyard


14 Burning Mountain
A rather Martian landscape

And as if the Burning Mountain summit wasn’t amazing enough: while walking through the lifeless woods on my hike back to the car, I noticed the sound of an animal in the nearby scrub.

It was an echidna!

I’d seen a few echidnas in the wild before but I’d never gotten as close to one as this little guy.

15 Echidna
He was adorable!

And so concluded my day eating scones in Scone and exploring the Burning Mountain.

The coal seam moves in a southerly direction at approximately 1 metre per year, which in turn exposes a variable portion of the hill to similar harsh conditions. It will be interesting to revisit the Burning Mountain in 30 years time to see how much the landscape has changed.

Just as I was about to leave and head back on the 3½ drive to Sydney, I took a phone call from my dad and let him know of my day’s adventure. Interestingly, he filled me in on the fact that I had been there once before. When I was two years old, my parents and I drove from Adelaide to Townsville to begin a new life, and along the way they took a detour through to Burning Mountain where I walked the exact same path as I did today.

Based entirely upon that, I think that repeat visit in 30 years time is a given 🙂

Earlier this year I spent a few days exploring the Blue Mountains with my friend from Germany, Inga. One particular place we visited was an abandoned oil shale mining town called Newnes, just north of Lithgow on the far western end of the mountains and only accessible via a long & bumpy gravel road. You can read more about Newnes at an article I wrote for WeekendNotes, but altogether it turned out to be a very interesting step backward into regional NSW of yesteryear.

I’d been aware of the existence of a Glow Worm Tunnel not too far from Newnes in the Wollemi National Park and we were hoping to pay it a visit the next day. Although located within a close proximity of the historic town, the road access meant that we would have to travel back to Lithgow before embarking on another 40km of gravel to get there. We would have done it, but by next morning an unfortunate gathering of rain & fog hindered our plans and so we opted to head back to Sydney instead.

Ever since then I’ve been intrigued by this mysterious attraction. I’d read that the tunnel was carved out of the mountain in the first decade of the 1900’s in order to service Newnes by train, but the railway was dismantled and tunnel abandoned upon the ceasing of mining operations in 1932. The damp, dark conditions of the now-deserted passage proved optimal for the colonisation of a glow worm community, and to this day the larvae remain on the rocky walls emitting faint green bioluminescence in the hope of attracting a mate.

Last weekend I embarked once more upon the pleasant autumnal drive along the Great Western Highway to finally witness the glow worm tunnel for myself. After stopping briefly at Lithgow to pick up a torch and some purple carrots to munch on (I’ve never seen purple carrots for sale at any Sydney supermarket!) I continued up through the town and followed the signs to the dirt track that led to the famous tunnel. The initial few kilometres of the trail were quite demanding on my little Hyundai Accent but it soon smoothed out and I found myself sharing the route with scores of motorcyclists out for a Sunday spin.

The drive was simply spectacular. The landscape around me transformed from one of rocky outcrops & gorges, to a semi-open plain and then into dense scrub all within the space of half an hour. The most climactic part of the journey occurred not too far from the carpark where the road led me directly through the first of two tunnels constructed for the railway. It really is something else to drive through the heart of a railway tunnel with no sign of the entrance behind you or the exit in front. It was also quite the challenge to be greeted by a car travelling the opposite direction halfway through the one-lane shaft, leading me to demonstrate some pretty intense reversing skills while navigating my way back to the entrance to allow him to pass.

It took a little under an hour to reach the end of the track, where I parked alongside the 15 or so other cars who had also made the voyage. From there it was an easy but gorgeous bushwalk to the southern opening of the glow worm tunnel that I’d come all this way to see:


Glow Worm Tunnel 01
The monumental but also slightly daunting entrance to the 400m long glow worm tunnel


Glow Worm Tunnel 02
An informative sign just outside the opening of the tunnel


Glow Worm Tunnel 03
Looking back upon the southern opening after a short walk in


The walkway through the tunnel is rugged with small pockets of flowing water weaving its way along the curvature, and without a torch you’d reach pitch blackness within a matter of a few dozen metres. To see the glow worms they say you should find a spot about half-way through, turn your torch off and allow your eyes to adjust to the darkness for a few minutes. Sure enough, before too long I started to notice the walls flicker with the faint radiance of the so-called “fungus gnat”. It was truly a sight to behold.

After walking the whole 400m through to the other side, I spent a fair amount of time on my return journey in the darkness (albeit the occasional flash of a passing couple’s torch) just taking in the brilliance of the glow worms. The longer I spent hidden away in the shadows the more I noticed the insects all around – on the walls next to me, the ceiling above me, behind me and in front of me, akin to the shimmering constellational paradise of an outback twilight.


Glow Worm Tunnel 04
My first sight of the glow worms!


Glow Worm Tunnel 05
Electro- vs bio-luminescence


Glow Worm Tunnel 06
Looking out toward the northern opening of the tunnel


Glow Worm Tunnel 07
An interesting Cyrillic N-like formation near the tunnel’s southern entrance


Glow Worm Tunnel 08
The eeriness of the car emerging from the first of the railway tunnels on the way back to Lithgow


This was not the first time I’d witnessed glow worms in a similar habitat – a number of years ago I was lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the colony residing at Natural Bridge in the Gold Coast hinterland. But there was something even more remarkable about the Newnes glow worm tunnel: I felt enriched by its unique combination of historic human excavation and the natural phenomenon of the fiery insect larvae.

If you’re interested in visiting the glow worm tunnel you can find a wealth of information in the Newnes Discovery Trail Information Sheet available at the Lithgow Visitor Information Centre website.

It was well worth the 6-hour return day trip from Sydney. Even if the weather turns out miserable like the fateful day I was there with Inga, do yourself a favour and go anyway!

Not long after I moved to Sydney in 2009 I headed up to Palm Beach, famous as the setting for the TV soap Home & Away, and I noticed there was a lighthouse at the top of the Barrenjoey Headlands. I didn’t have time on the day to check it out, but after taking a recent tour of the beautiful Wadjemup Lighthouse on Rottnest Island off the coast of Perth, I was inspired to return to Palm Beach and make the trek up to northern Sydney’s very own towered beacon.

Constructed in 1881 close to the point where the Hawkesbury River meets the ocean, the sandstone lighthouse still remains in operation today, although it has been automated since 1992. It can be accessed by foot via the ‘Smugglers Track’, named so as the location was a popular for said activity in the early 19th century, up until a customs station was constructed in 1843. Currently, the spinning beam of 75,000 candlepower can be seen around 35km out to sea.

Here are some photos I took of my afternoon exploring Barrenjoey Lighthouse and the superb surrounding scenery. If you’re ever in the area, it’s totally worth spending some time up there yourself!


The lighthouse from the northern end of Palm Beach


Through the trees


The sand and cliffs of North Palm Beach from the Smugglers Track


Getting closer


The lighthouse 🙂


Against the glorious blue sky


Barrenjoey jet stream


There used to be two other lighthouses at the site; one was converted into a sundial after deconstruction


Palm Beach to the left and the calmer Barrenjoey Beach to the right, from the top of the service track

For nearly two years now I’ve lived in the Sydney suburb of Kirribilli, and I love it.

It’s central yet secluded, quiet yet free from dreariness, clean, colourful, scenic, friendly, and altogether just plain awesome.

Today, I’ve been inspired to write this blog post about my beloved locality. Firstly, my tribute to the gorgeous Lady Gowrie Lookout, and secondly, some snaps I took at this afternoon’s open day at Admiralty House (the official Sydney residence of the Governor General of Australia) and Kirribilli House (the official Sydney residence of the Prime Minister of Australia).


Lady Gowrie Lookout

Not long after I moved to area, I went for an afternoon walk past the two Government residences, and ended up at the bottom of a neighbouring lookout named after Lady Gowrie, the wife of the 10th Australian Governor General.

It was there that I noticed a heartfelt couple of lines painted onto the rocks, just a few metres from the shimmering waters edge:



one year

Where else in the world could you get away with emblazoning your love for all to see on the outer walls of the Prime Minister’s residence? James & Georgie’s tale inspired me, and together with my penchant for songs about Australian locations, I couldn’t help but write one about it.

This is a video I made recently to accompany the tune, featuring scenes from around Kirribilli and the lookout itself. It’s even a finalist in this years SydneyVision song contest! I hope you like it:

(if you happen to know who James & Georgie are, please let them know somebody has written a song about them!)


Admiralty & Kirribilli House Open Day

I was up fairly early this morning and went for a stroll toward the lookout, to sit at the park bench overlooking the harbour and read the paper. I noticed a number of people were queuing up outside the gates of Admiralty House, and it soon dawned on me that today was the annual open day, put on by the Australiana Fund.

I collected my camera from home and returned to the open day where I spent a good part of the morning exploring the normally-concealed gardens. Unfortunately photography wasn’t allowed inside either of the houses, but there was still plenty to capture outside their walls.

After two years of wondering what lay behind the heavily-secured boundaries, this is some of what I had the pleasure of seeing today:

The Harbour Bridge from the rear of Admiralty House


Admiralty House


The Governor General has the most perfect view


Nothing more Aussie than an Admiralty House sausage sizzle


An Opera House flower


Fort Denison in the background


Peeking at the giant sails through the garden


Passing ferry


Admiralty House garden bed


Picnicking on the lawns behind Admiralty House


Prime Ministerial lemons


The queue leading into Admiralty House


A bridge-inspired view of the queue


Rock fountain not far from the Admiralty House entrance


A little ray of sunshine


Prime Ministerial swimming pool


The ever-charming Kirribilli House


Kirribilli House garden bed


The lawns at the rear of Kirribilli House


Thank heavens for open days


The very Aussie southern cross on the Kirribilli House outer gates


Isn’t Kirribilli beautiful? 😀

I love the Blue Mountains!

On a previous visit quite some time ago, I noticed a sign not far from the bottom of the world’s steepest railway that pointed toward a mysterious location known as the “Ruined Castle.”

I decided that I had to return one day to visit this seemingly dilapidated fortress. After some investigation, I found that it was not a castle as such, but a rock formation at the top of a hill which, if climbed, offers stunning 360° views from the cliffs of Katoomba all the way to Mt Solitary.

After a failed attempt two weeks ago due to poor weather, I headed back once again last weekend and successfully embarked upon the nearly-7km trek to the Ruined Castle summit. It was, quite frankly, a freakin’ incredible hike. I tried by best to capture some of this Blue Mountains beauty on camera:


A glimmer of sunlight through the rainforest along the Federal Pass walking track


Nature at work: I don't think the bird made it through alive


One of the Ruined Castle pillars in the foreground, with a view of the valley below


After about 2.5 hours of moderately graded bushwalking and a slightly hairy but manageable experience on the upward rockface, I reached the breathtaking Ruined Castle summit. This is what I was lucky enough to witness:


You can click on the photo for a larger view, or alternatively click here for a 360° panoramic tour (opens in a new window).

Whilst I was taking in my surroundings, a sneaky crow took advantage of the fact that I was far from my backpack, which I’d left on a rock about 20 metres below. He managed to pull out most of my jacket but eventually gave up after realising the food was too securely packed for him to get to. Then he flew up to the rocky summit, landed a metre away from me in the shade, looked me right in the eye and made these incredible hooting noises (similar to an owl) which I’d never heard come from the beak of a crow before. I’d love to know what he way trying to say to me.

The hungry/friendly/inquisitive crow

Some alien-like flora growing between rocks

On my return journey, I paused for a few moments to take in the atmosphere near a section of Federal Pass known as the ‘Landslide.’ I noticed a faint sound in the distance akin to splashing water, and after a short detour through the bush up to the cliff face that looked upon me, I discovered a waterfall.

The source at the top wasn’t large enough to expel a constant stream of water – instead, thousands of droplets sprinkled in wind-shaped clusters to the ground some 40 metres below. I stood still with my camera and watched from a safe distance. It felt like I was in a dream, with my own personal waterfall before me, the rainforest below, the cliff face & the open skies above, and not another single soul around for miles. Frozen in this state of surreality, the unpredictable breeze caught me off guard and showered my camera and I with a sudden deluge.

After only having taken a handful of snaps of my newly-discovered fountain, I was left with a soaked outfit in the already-shivering climate… not to mention a non-functioning Canon…

A slightly surreal impression of the rain-like droplets falling from the reservoir above


(fortunately it turned back on again after drying out for an hour, and I’m pleased to report, remains completely functional :))


After my awesome afternoon of exploration, I fully recommend anyone visiting the Blue Mountains who is chasing more of an adventure than the easily-accessible attractions such as Scenic World and the Three Sisters, to check out the Ruined Castle. There’s a fantastic guide at with further details on the walk and what to expect.

Just try not to wet your camera along the way!

I went for a drive up to the Blue Mountains today and on the way home I noticed a signpost near the small town of Glenbrook pointing to an historical attraction called Lennox Bridge. Curiosity got the better of me and I decided to take a detour and see what it was all about.

Turns out it was the first stone bridge ever built in Australia, and the oldest bridge on the mainland still in existence today!

Designed by David Lennox in 1832, it was constructed by convicts and completed the following year, crossing over Brookside Creek, and providing a link between what is now the western-Sydney township of Emu Plains and Glenbrook. It stood part of the main western route for 93 years before the highway was diverted, and its operation continued until the 1950’s when the bridge was closed due to damage caused by over a century of stress from increasingly-heavy vehicular use.

It was eventually restored and opened again for traffic in 1982. Today it can be accessed via the Mitchells Pass tourist drive, and I’m glad I took the turnoff and had the chance to witness this incredible piece of Aussie architecture:

Some of the original stones


A.D. 1833


The view from the eastern approach


Life is what you make it


These days the bridge is only there for show because the road just up ahead is closed!

Earlier this afternoon I went to the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney specifically to take photos of the sulphur-crested cockatoos that hang out in the trees and on the lawns. They were so damn adorable and surprisingly tame. Here are my favourites of the snaps I took:


Cockatoo munching on a twig


Cockatoo with a cheeky look on his face


Cockatoo & a statue


More cockatoos


Cockatoo sitting at the top of a tree stump


Cockatoos arguing over an irrigation system


Cockatoo sitting on a signpost


Cockatoo on a palm frond


Not a cockatoo


Cockatoos fossicking through the ground


Cockatoo with the Harbour Bridge in the background


Cockatoo with Sydney Tower in the background


Cockatoos by a flower garden


Cockatoo having a sip of water from a leaking tap


Not cockatoos


I want one as a pet now!

As the hot and bothersome summer months approach us in the southern hemisphere, I find my friends in the northern speak of the joys of their upcoming winter and their already-falling snow. How I long for the winter to return; how I long to once more bask in the romance of the whitened streets and the puff of those pearly petals precipitating from the heavens above.

My first experience with snow-filled landscapes was here in my own home country, on our grade 12 camp to the Snowy Mountains in the year 2001. A group of about 25 of us ventured 2,500 km down to the township of Jindabyne at the base of Kosciuszko National Park, where we stayed for just under a week, commuting to and from the Perisher ski resort every day. For many of us, including myself, our first journey along the winding, mountainous road between Jindabyne and Perisher gave us our first taste of that cold, white fluff we’d all been dreaming of, beginning in little pockets by the side of the road, and by the end of the commute, culminating in entire mountain ranges blanketed in it.

I have very fond memories of having to properly rug up here for the first time in my life. We were told one morning that it reached minus 11 degrees the night before. After living for so long in the tropical climate of North Queensland, it was surreal for me to even imagine that Mother Nature had the ability to drop the thermostat down to that level. But I loved it!

My favourite memory from this holiday was the day a small group of us caught the chairlift up to the top of Back Perisher Mountain. We could see the snow-capped peak of Mt Kosciuszko in the distance, and we were most likely the highest ground-baring people in Australia at the time. It was an incredible feeling:

At the peak of Back Perisher Mountain in 2001

We never actually got the chance to see snow fall from the sky during our time at the Snowy Mountains, as the flurry of the flakes only ever occurred throughout the night. My curiosity was left in limbo, and it wasn’t for another eight years that I would finally experience what it was like to witness snow falling from the sky.

I was in the Belgian capital of Brussels during the first few days of 2009, and I had just finished wandering through the Atomium, a popular tourist attraction built in 1958 that resembles the cell of an iron crystal (albeit 165 billion times bigger than the real thing). I’d walked past a chemist earlier in the day whose digital thermometer told me it was 1.5 degrees, so I’d made sure I was well-layered, with two t-shirts, a jacket, and gloves. The sky was overcast as well, so I had an umbrella handy in case it decided to rain.

Departing the warm comfort of the Atomium’s enclosures, I made my way to Mini Europe, another nearby attraction, featuring downsized scale models of famous landmarks from all around Europe. Within 5 minutes of me entering the premises it started to drizzle, so I took my umbrella out of my bag, ready in case I was to be attacked by a downpour. Strangely, however, I quickly noticed that the falling droplets were not like normal raindrops at all. Instead of being sponged up by the surface of my jacket upon landing, the droplets stayed as they were, gradually melting their way into absorption.  This was not rain at all, I realised – this was snow, falling from the sky!

Oh, what a joyous occasion it was. To the average Belgian citizen, the flakes were so few and far between that they would have been fobbed off as a feeble and unnoteworthy. But to me, it was magic. Here I was, with a scale model of the Eiffel Tower in front of me and an enormous monument dedicated to the iron crystal behind it, and I was witnessing my first ever snowfall. I will never forget the day.


The Eiffel Tower model at Mini Europe with the Atomium in the background


Tiny snowflakes falling onto the frozen model lake at Mini Europe


Less than a month later I found myself in the English portside town of Dover. I’d spent much of the very chilly morning exploring Dover Castle, before hopping on a ferry across the English Channel to Calais in France. I returned to Dover later in the evening and it was during the walk between the ferry port and the train station that it began snowing. Unlike in Brussels, this was proper, thick snow that poured from the sky by the bucketload. I stood by the side of the road underneath a tree in hibernation for the winter, with my arms outstretched, basking in the glory of these beautiful falling white flakes catching the light of the passing cars and dancing their way toward the ground. On arrival at the train station, it had been snowing for long enough that the platform bound for London was covered in a thin film of wintry white. I had never seen anything like this before and I loved it.


Watching the Dover snow fall from the sky by the hibernating tree


The platform bound for London covered in a thin film of wintry white

I spent the entire train ride home to London in silence, staring in awe out the window as it became clear that the whole south-east of England had been blessed with a blizzard. It was still snowing heavily by the time I reached London, and I was lucky to catch one of the final trains home to the southern suburbs before they got cancelled for the night due to the adverse weather. On arriving home, my housemates and I played in the half-foot of snow that had now accumulated on the road, and this made us all very, very happy 😀

London Victoria Station under snow


Snowfall outside home in Thornton Heath


Snow on the hedge at home

I went to sleep that night, my mind still trying to comprehend this amazing new experience called “Snow” that I had just encountered. But nothing could have prepared me for what was about to happen the following day!


Our house the next morning


I rode my bike to work that day because the snow had shut down the entire public transport system


We made a snowcat in the carpark at work


Very eerie... but also amazing to see an entire cemetery under snow

Snow Day in London on the 2nd of February, 2009, remains one of the all time happiest and memorable days I’ve ever lived in my life. Words cannot express how much this country boy from tropical North Queensland came to fully appreciate London and its incredible weather patterns on this day, so different to anything I’d experienced before.

Only a month later, I went on a road trip through the Scottish highlands, which further cemented my fondness for the cold months. I got to experience the most incredible snowcapped mountain ranges, a hundred times more impressive than what I’d ever seen in the past. I got the chance to drive through a blizzard trying to reach the western side of the Isle of Skye – one of the scariest, yet most exhilarating drives I’ve ever had the pleasure of undertaking. I stopped by crystal clear waterways with tufts of white powder gracing the shoreline, I made friends with sheep on the snow-covered fields surrounding ancient castles, I ran near-naked through frozen vanilla valleys, I saw some of the best fucking scenery ever imaginable, amplified by the crisp, frosty atmosphere and the sensational, shivering SNOW!

Parked by the side of the road leading through the incredible Scottish highlands

One of the many snow-capped Scottish mountain ranges

Feel that cool, fluffy snow!

Parked by a small loch during some mild snowfall

A sheep friend by the ruined Ardvreck Castle

The pristine village of Ullapool, overlooked by gorgeous snow-capped mountains

Having grown up in such a hot and tropical climate where the closest thing to winter I ever experienced was a few days in June where it got down to 14 degrees during the day, my time spent in Europe over winter was a godsend. This was “me” – this was the climate that I felt most suited towards. The warmth and sunniness of the Australian summer simply doesn’t interest me, and I yearn to be back where the clouds are grey and the mercury struggles to reach anywhere above 7.

This, my friends, is why I cannot help but ADORE the winter. Bring it back, please!



Last weekend, the day before I was due to leave Brisbane for the drive home to Sydney, I went on the XXXX Brewery Tour at the famous Castlemaine Perkins brewery in Milton. I’m not too much of a beer drinker to be honest, but I am fascinated by large industrial workplaces. It’s one of the many touristy things I’ve always wanted to do while I actually lived locally, but never got around to doing.

I chose the “Brewery, Beer and BBQ” tour. After we’d finished the walkthrough of the premises we were all treated to four beers at the bar and a freshly cooked barbecue.

I’d gone on the tour alone, and out of the group of about 20, there was another guy who had also come along by himself. He ended up sitting with me for the barbecue and we got talking. You know when you meet someone who inspires you and makes you think to yourself, wow, what an awesome person this is?! He fell into that category.

His name was Alan.
He was from LA. Supported the Lakers.
Initially I thought he was in his early/mid 50’s. It turned out he was 67.
He’d been a school teacher for the past 30 years and had only recently retired.
He travelled through Australia back in 1996, and was now on a return trip 15 years later, retracing his steps to see if much had changed, and visiting some of the country that he didn’t get to see last time.
His trip was going to culminate in December in New Zealand, where he’d booked tickets to U2 in Auckland. He’d already seen them about eight times in the past.
Over his lifetime he’d set foot in 104 countries.
He refuses to stay in a hotel, and has only ever opted for accommodation in youth hostels. That way he gets to meet people.
All his friends back at home think he’s crazy.
He lives to travel, and has no plans to slow down any time soon.

We spend about an hour drinking our complementary ale and chatting about all kinds of things, from beer to travelling to iPhones to Lady Gaga. He was such a cool & friendly guy who was genuinely happy to be alive, with the world at his hands, and living life to the maximum capacity. There is no way at all that he had the mindframe of a 67 year old – he was as youthful and full of zest as any one of his past students would have been the day they graduated from high school at 17 years of age.

If I could be half as active and happy as Alan when I’m his age, I would consider my life a success. He proved to me that there is no such thing as growing old, if you don’t want there to be.