WEDDINGS, WALKS & WATERFALLS // Byron Hinterlands, Australia

Somehow two weeks have slipped by and I am only just finding the time to sit down and upload the remaining photos from our weekend getaway to Byron Bay! It feels like a lifetime ago now, as I have been so swept up in other dramas in everyday life. But I digress…

After a morning walk on the beach (and coffee, always coffee) in Suffolk Park, we packed up our ridiculously pathetic hire car and hit the road. During some quiet periods at work I had taken it upon myself to essentially plan out our entire trip, so Chris was happy to follow my suggestions along to Bangalow, a nearby inland town. To our luck, the local market was on! It was in a beautiful location, and was absolutely pumping. If only we hadn’t been so cheap and stuck with carry on baggage.

After exploring the market, I directed us on to Minyon Falls. Apparently Nissan Micra’s are not designed for narrow, winding, dirt roads, but nevertheless we made it and were treated to some pretty sweet views.

The waterfall itself was fairly nonexistent, despite being the middle of winter. It has been a fairly dry season, but the viewing point itself was worth the drive.

The main motivation for our trip was a friend’s wedding, which was being held just outside of the inland town of Lismore. Whilst Lismore itself was nothing to write home about (like, don’t even stop there), the location for the wedding was picture perfect.

It was such a beautiful day! Admittedly this was the first wedding we had attended of a friend our own age, so Chris and I were beginning to feel a bit old and question where we were with our lives!

The next day we decided to evacuate Lismore as soon as possible, and hit the road again. Of course, I made Chris pull over at the last minute to get the above photo.

We stopped for coffee in Nimbin, a town renowned for its promotion of alternative and sustainable lifestyles… and weed. I had thought the town might be quirky and fun to look around, but it turned out to be slightly less inviting than we anticipated. After downing our coffee, checking out the local bakery, and being offered weed at least three times, we were back on the road.

And finally, our last stop – Mount Warning. I stumbled across this hike during my research, and it was honestly one of the best hikes I have ever down. I would apologise for the barrage of photos here, but I am not even sorry.

Located about an hour north of Lismore in Wollumbin National Park, the hike is a straight up and down summit. It is about 4kms each way, and the signs suggested it would take about five hours return. With a few drink breaks and a 20 minute break at the top, we managed the trip in just over three hours return.

The hike up was beautiful, though quite steep at times. The incline was continual, and occassional you would get views over the hinterlands through breaks in the forest.

The last 400m to the summit was an almost vertical rock scramble, with a chain along the side to assist with the ascent. Chris and I arrived at the base just as another couple went ahead of us, so it ended up taking a long time to get to the top as we waited for them to go ahead, and for other hikers to come down.

The top features 360 degree views all around the surrounding hinterlands – it was absolutely breathtaking! You could see all the way up to the Gold Coast, across the Queensland border, and back down to Byron Bay. We couldn’t have asked for a better day weather-wise either. If you are ever in the area, this hike is a must do!

After scrambling back down to the car (climbing down the rock face was significantly harder than coming up it!) we took our time road tripping back to Ballina Airport.

Now it is back to waiting for sunshine to come back to Melbourne – fingers crossed it comes into force soon!

– Reanna

Advertisements

CHASING THE SUN // Byron Bay, Australia

With grey clouds overhead and rain threatening to let loose at any moment today in Melbourne, going through my photos from Byron Bay is reminding that Spring is finally here and sunshine is surely on my horizon.

Last weekend Chris and I packed out bags and knocked off work a few hours early on Friday afternoon to jet away to Byron Bay. We have been planning this trip for months, as we had been invited to a friends wedding in nearby Lismore. We flew directly from Melbourne to Ballina, a town around half an hour south of Byron Bay, which took under two hour. It was probably the worst flight of my life (flight anxiety + missed approach = a hot mess), so by the time we finally arrived at our Airbnb that night I crawled immediately into bed.

Chris and I had both been religiously checking the weather forecast for Byron Bay all week, counting down the days until sunshine blessed our pale Melbourne skins. The forecast looked cloudy and wet, however, when we woke up on Saturday morning we were treated to glorious sunshine! After coffee, we set off to Cape Byron.

The walk around Cape Byron is only around 3-4kms, so we decided we would be fine in jeans and sandals. As it turns out, every Byron local seemed to be out for their morning walk/run in their active wear, so we looked like unprepared tourists!

Eventually the walk comes to the Easternmost point of mainland Australia (the Easternmost point actually being on Norfolk Island). The sea and the sky were both so blue and clear!

Winter is actually a popular time for whale watching in the area, but we were totally not expecting to see any. After standing at the point for about 30 seconds, Chris pointed out a splash in the water. Surely enough, a few seconds later the grey blob appeared, splashing around some more. A whale! It was so truly magical and unexpected, and so quick that I was unable to capture the moment on my camera.

Yes, I forgot to pack sunscreen and ended up burnt by the end of the day!

Alright, I realise now I may have taken an excessive amount of photos along this walk. Everything was just so picture perfect!

The hike itself was relatively easy, with a few hills and steps. I would probably wear runners or boots if I was to do it again, though! Birkenstocks didn’t quite cut it…

Afterwards, we drove into the town and looked around the shops, before wandering down to the main beach. So many people were out surfing, sunbaking, and enjoying the sunshine. Unheard for winter in Melbourne!

In the afternoon we wandered down to Tallows Beach. We were actually staying in a suburb just south of Byron Bay called Suffolk Park, which was a 15 minute walk from the beach and featured some cute coffee shops and a popular bakery.

Of course, Chris decided it was warm enough for a swim! I stayed dry and took even more photos.

We spent the evening exploring a couple of local breweries, which were both disappointing. At least Byron had Uber!

The following morning resulted in more beach time, as we explored more of Tallows Beach.

This is a quick snap of the neighbourhood, Suffolk Park, we were staying in. It was quiet and picturesque, and a five minute drive from Byron Bay.

Don’t worry, there are even more sunny photos to come!

– Reanna

ESCAPISM // Woodend, Australia

Life has been a strange mixture of highs and lows lately. Some days are wonderful, and I feel so appreciative for so many things, whereas other days were horrible, highlighting the fragility of life. The bad days were beginning to wear me down, so after a spontaneous dinner date last week Chris and I booked an even more spontaneous weekend getaway.

Overall, we only spent around 24 hours away from the city, but it was enough to recharge and relax. We booked an accommodation package at Holgate Brewhouse in Woodend, which included dinner and breakfast. Woodend is only an hour from Melbourne, so it was a perfect distance for our short trip.

The weather on Saturday afternoon was fantastic, so on a whim (again!) we packed up our bikes and took them with us to Woodend in order to cycle out to some nearby wineries. This seemed like a good idea in theory, as the distances didn’t seem far on paper, but half of the roads were unsealed! Nevertheless, we were able to make it easily enough to our first stop, Mount Macedon Winery. This was recommended to me by a work colleague, and it did not disappoint. We just had to hide our crappy bikes from all the bunch of professional weekend cyclists who were also there!

Our next destination was Hanging Rock Winery, which due to my poor planning, ended up being another awful dirt road! We were exhausted by the time we arrived at the cellar door, which was surprisingly busy. After consulting with the owner (and trying some wine) we coordinated booking a taxi to pick us up from the winery, leaving our bikes tied to the gate for the night. This worked out well, as it meant we could buy some bottles of wine!

The winery had some great views of Hanging Rock, which you can see closer up in the photo below (which is taken the following morning when we were collecting our bikes – the weather was far bleaker!).

After a cosy evening at the Brewhouse bar, and a delicious breakfast (eggs, falafel, and beer bread – who would have thought of such a delicious combination?!), we headed up to the famed Hanging Rock.

Hanging Rock is a popular attraction for Melbournians, being only an hour from the city. The walk to the top of rocky mountain/formation/mameleon is only around 2kms returned, and well sealed, so it is super accessible.

We detoured from the path along the way to seek out views and clamber through the rocks.

Hanging Rock is most well known for the novel, and movie, Picnic at Hanging Rock. Shamefully, as is the case with most classic movies or novels, I have never seen or read it, but am aware of the mystery it puts around the place!

Looking over these photos now, it seems I may have gone slightly overboard! I guess I am still a bit click happy whilst trying to learn a bit more about my camera.

I thought the above tree branch looked like a piece of art, or like ripples in water.

The ‘Hanging Rock’ itself can be seen in the above photo – possibly the most underwhelming part of the mountain!

On our way down we were treated to some fluffy, native friends.

After another quick walk around the base of the mountain, we were back in our car and off home to Melbourne. Despite being a short trip, it didn’t feel rushed. Rather, it was a perfect amount of time to disconnect and have a little adventure, but without sucking up our whole weekend and leaving us stressed on Sunday night before the work week ahead.

I am excited for the warmer weather, even though it is probably months away, so we can make more weekend getaways for camping again. Winter will end eventually, right?

– Reanna

FINAL EXPLORATIONS // Singapore

At last, the end of our holiday photos! Considering we were only gone for ten days I still managed to take a ridiculous amount of pictures.

We had a 9pm flight home on our final day, so we still had a lot of time to spend exploring before we had to head out to the airport. We had a slow morning at our hotel, before checking out and setting off towards Arab Street in search of coffee. We came across this Old Malay Cemetery on the way – this was an aspect of Singapore that I found really beautiful, that in between all the buildings were little pockets of green.

We had coffee at a cute little cafe (Artistry Cafe, a decent brew if you are in the area!) a block down from the beautiful Masjid Sultan mosque.

After out caffeine fix we wandered towards the Bugis district. Chris had heard that the National Library had some decent views, so we wandered in and caught the elevator up as high as we could. We could only see across the Bugis area, but it was still a great view.

Bugis is known for it’s cheap shopping, in particular, Bugis Street. We had a quick walk through, but neither of us were in the market for any cheap goods!

We continued on towards the city centre, wandering past the Parliament and Supreme Court. Eventually we found a small hawker centre and spent approximately $3 AUD each on a massive plate of stirfry vegetables and rice. I miss Singapore…

Admittedly we had little else planned and we were running out of sights to see, so we somehow ended up at some horrifying apartment/underground shopping centre/nightmare at the Suntec Centre. It was good to get some airconditioning (and bubble tea) but damn capitalism is terrifying!

Okay, maybe we did eventually find some more good views among all the shops!

For the remainder of the afternoon we decided we desperately needed to do something indoors and out of the humidity, so we checked out the Asian Civilisations Museums. They had some great permanent exhibits about the extensive history of Singapore, touching on colonization and the multicultural influences on the present day country.

Of course, our final dinner in Singapore before going to the airport was another hawker hall. This one was located about 100 metres from our hotel, and was just as quick and delicious as we had hoped. I don’t think I would ever cook lunch for work if I lived around the corner from a hawker hall!

And that brings an end to our quick trip to Singapore and Indonesia! It worked out perfectly as a ten day holiday from Melbourne, with cheap flights, and a perfect combination of hectic sight seeing in Singapore and beach relaxation in Indonesia.

But one question remains… where to next?!

– Reanna

LITTLE INDIA // Singapore

I didn’t fully elaborate in my previous post, but returning to Singapore from Sugi Island required a private boat from the resort to Sekupang Ferry Terminal on Batam Island, and then an international ferry (taking around 45 minutes) to Harbourfront in Singapore.

We had just disembarked from the ferry in Singapore, when it began to rain heavily! Thankfully we had arrived around lunch time and were happy to sit tight in a little food court at the ferry terminal for a little while, before getting an Uber to our hotel. I also had the hottest satay sauce of my life at the ferry terminal! Turns out the ‘satay’ sauce at home is pretty pathetic.

Our hotel was at the other end of town from where we had previously stayed, near Jalan Besar. We were next to the Thekchen Choling Buddhist Temple, and across the road from a very hipster looking coffee shop.

The weather still looked grim overhead, but we ventured out in the afternoon after checking in to our room. Our destination was the nearby Little India, a historic ethnic district.

Little India was amazing colourful, with painted buildings, flags, and colourful food and wares being sold on the sidewalk.

One of the many attractions in the area was the Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple. As with the rest of the area, it was beautifully colourful.

We had no real distination, and were happy just wandering the streets and taking in the sights.

I am sure the apartment buildings below aren’t anything special, but they were just so bright that they really caught my attention!

All in all, it was a pretty quiet and eventful afternoon. We didn’t want to check too much off our ‘to see’ list, as we still had another full day before flying home. Plus we were still emerging from the peaceful mindsets we had adopted at Telunas Resort!

We finished the evening with a Japanese dinner and cocktail, before taking it easy and having an early night back at our hotel – we had an overnight flight back home so we needed all the sleep we could get in a bed!

– Reanna

 

NOTHING TO DO & NOWHERE TO BE // Sugi Island, Indonesia

Much like our experience on Bintan Island, Chris and I found ourselves forced to stop and relax in our environment. Both of us struggle to sit still, but we managed to find a balance at Telunas by rotating between reading in hammocks, swimming at the beach, and taking advantage of some of the activities on offer.

On our second day we wandered further down the beach towards the mangroves. The beach wasn’t as long as we thought, and eventually ended in jungle.

The beach, despite being beautiful, wasn’t the best swimming beach. Seaweeds ran thick through the water about ten metres out, and the beach was covered in crabs! We didn’t mind too much as neither of us are big swimmers and were happy to float in the shallows.

Later in the morning we hired a couple of sea kayaks and spent some time paddling along the beach. It was really hard work! Not to mention a week of eating, drinking, and generally being in holiday mode meant whatever fitness we possessed beforehand was beginning to decline. We were asked not to go too far, so we came back in after 45 minutes. Not to mention the beating sun was frying us!

Around lunch time the boat returned from Batam Island with a number of families and couples, bringing our time of having the resort to ourselves to an end.

Telunas offers a number of guided activities, one being a low ropes course hidden in the jungle behind the beach. We had to be guided there by a host, and we tested out terrible balance skills.

It was great to see the jungle, and I wished we could have also done a larger jungle hike that the resort had on offer. However, it required a minimum number of people to do it. Most people don’t come to a beach resort to go hiking, I guess!

The above photo shows the ‘bell’ that is used to signal meal time (7am for breakfast, 12pm for lunch, and 6pm for dinner). It was not really a bell at all, but rather a hollow wooden sound – but it got our attention at meal times!

The next morning we had to return to Batam, but we had time to squeeze in some reading on the beach before our boat left around 9am.

The boat ride back was just as magical.

I still can’t believe we managed to find this little slice of paradise hidden among the Riau Islands! For a resort experience it was quite affordable, and a great place to disconnect and relax in a simple environment. If you are ever in Singapore, this is a perfect getaway that is close by!

But for now, back to Singapore!

– Reanna

*** I should also mention at this point that all these views are totally my own – I have never had my experience or accommodation at any holiday destination paid for. I just genuinely want to recommend some places!

PARADISE // Sugi Island, Indonesia

Our final island destination before returning to Singapore was a bit more of a ‘resort’ option. Somehow during my holiday research I stumbled upon a blog post about an elusive resort, hidden along Sugi Island. A few more clicks later and I found myself on the website for Telunas Resorts and the rest is history.

The resort is mainly targeted at people coming straight from Singapore, however we were able to arrange to meet at the ferry terminal in Batam as we were already on the island. Batam has several ferry terminals, so thankfully our hotel was able to arrange a driver to take us to Sekupang Ferry Terminal. From there, we were to take a private boat to the resort. We were met by one of the hosts from Telunas, as well as a few families coming from Singapore. For the first time since arriving from Melbourne, we were hit with rain! It was quite torrential and made boarding our small ‘fishing boat’ a bit of a task!

Soon the clouds cleared up and we were able to take in the views of our hour and a half trip to the resort. The number of islands in Indonesia is mind-blowing, and we must have passed hundred just going to Sugi Island! We sped past mangroves, fishing villages, and uninhabited forests. I was frantically trying to take photos on my camera, whilst Chris was focused on working on his tan.

Telunas is actually made up of two resorts – the more popular (and more expensive!) being the Private Island, seen above. Everyone else on the boat disembarked here.

Then it was over to the Beach Resort, above. We were greeted enthusiastically by our hosts, who provided us with a ‘welcome drink’ (some strange but delicious lemonade/juice/mocktail) and lunch.

After we had stuffed our faces at the buffet we were shown to our room. There were a variety of options at the resort, but we opted for the smallest and simplest ‘Deluxe Room’, which featured a double bed and a private bathroom. I should note here that Telunas is not a fancy resort by any means – there is no air-conditioning, and no wifi! It is all about simplicity and taking in the island life – quite like Bintan!

Who would have known it was bucketing rain two hours earlier?!

The main attraction of the resort is the beach, which was beautiful. We spent most of our time rotating between swimming and reading in the hammocks.

You can see the ‘fishing boat’ we arrived in above, and the Private Island in the distance.

Besides one small family, we seemed to be only people at the Beach Resort for the first night of our stay. It was so blissfully quiet and beautiful. Everywhere you looked was breathtaking!

The room rates at the resort were reasonable, however they did not include the additional mandatory tariff for all the meals. The food was far better than I expected for a buffet, ranging from local Indonesian dishes and desserts, to more Western options. It changed with every meal, each day, so we were never sick of eating the same things.

The beach also included numerous activities, ranging from darts and badminton, to soccer and some other ball games we had never heard of. We attempted to play badminton but realised we were both absolutely terrible at it! Back to reading and swimming it was…

– Reanna