Monday, 31 December 2012

Land Down Under - The Majestic 12 Apostles

The Seahorse
A majestic place like this deserves a separate blog.

We originally did not plan to take the helicopter ride, but decided last minute because my guts was telling me not to miss this great opportunity--this once in a lifetime chance. And oh how glad were we----the view was just amazingly spectacular!!!

The Great Ocean Road--- is a 243-kilometre stretch of road along the south-eastern coast of Australia. In Victoria, Australia to be exact.

The 12 Apostles, situated between Apollo Bay and Port Campbell in The Port Campbell National Park, was originally named 'The Sow and Piglets'. The name was changed in the 1950s to tempt more visitors to see them.

These famous residence of The Great Ocean Road were created from the 70 meter limestone cliffs by the relentless pounding of the Southern Ocean. To date only 8 of the original 12 apostles are still standing as the ocean continues to erode and shape the coast line.     

Razorback, Baker's Oven, London Bridge, Salt and Pepper Shaker, Seahorse--- are just a few of the names of these sea stacks.

An appropriate highlight of our Melbourne trip no doubt!   

It is one of the most majestic places I have ever seen.  I stand in awe at the wonders of nature. Truly, how beautiful and wonderful this world is!

Check out my other posts on Australia:

 Day 1 in Melbourne - Of wombats, koalas and penguins

Day 2 in Melbourne - going for Gold

Through the New South Wales countryside

Four days in Sydney

The Land Down Under - New South Wales

I am one for slow and long drives along the countryside. I want it unhurried, and I want to enjoy the experience and see the picturesque rural scenery.

So, when the choice came up to either take the train or plane to Melbourne from Sydney, without hesitation, I chose the former.

Although it is of less convenience than taking the plane, I like to savor the trip. Planning for it was easier. I made sure our hotel in Sydney will be just a stone's throw away from the Sydney's Central Station, so it will be easier to move around to catch our early morning train ride to Melbourne.

We took the Countrylink  train to Southern Cross (Melbourne). The good thing about buying your ticket ahead is that, you may be able to chance upon a AUD1.00 fare for your child. I did! Yey!

First Class

Wide legroom, yes.

Brekkie :)
Don't get me wrong. If you are one who does not want to waste time, or in a hurry,  or easily get bored, travelling to Melbourne by train will not be for you. We took the early morning trip so we arrive Melbourne  11 hours after (yes, 11 hours!). Did we get bored? Actually no. We enjoyed the view of New South Wales' countryside. We enjoyed jumping on to the platform of each stations to just stretch our legs or do a very quick look-see, in between catching a shut-eye.

We passed by towns with cool and unusual names:

* Strathfield*Campbelltown* Moss Vale* Goulbourn* Gunning* Yass Junction*Harden*
* Cootamundra*Junee*Wagga Wagga*The Rock*Henty*Culcairn*Albury*Wangaratta*
* Benalla*Seymour*Broadmeadows*Southern Cross (Melbourne)

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Happy New Year!

As 2012 draws to a close and we move to another promising year,  let us remember to always go for that walk, to take that train, that bus, that ship,  that plane or just take that plunge;  to always explore the vast beauty out there. Acknowledge the change it may bring and open your heart to its promise.

May the new year bring us to places we have never imagined, new friends far and wide, stronger bonds forged, true happiness, true realization, peace in each and everyone's hearts, strength to still do it, and more funds to do just that.

May 2013 be our best year yet!

From our homes to yours, a wonderful and promising new year to all!

My Year-ender post.

The Land Down Under - Sydney

The view from Mrs. Macquaries Chair

A very short visit to Australia in May 2010. A perfect relief from scorching Manila.

Autumn in Oz is just wonderful. It took us a few days to get used to the very cold weather but we managed and loved it.

First stop ---- SYDNEY

Day 1: After check-in, and armed with a map, we did our own "walking tour".

First stop was Darling Harbour. Sydney's major destination for leisure and entertainment with so many bars, restaurants, cafes, cinemas, museums and parks. I can stay here for days trying to check out its nooks and crannies.

Darling Harbour

Next is SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium in Darling Harbour. 14 newly-themed zones that includes Dugong Island, the Shark Walk and the amazing new tunnel walk-through, Shark Valley.

Sydney Aquarium

Then we walked back to Sydney Tower to marvel at the beauty of Sydney as far as the eyes can see. The East's version of The Space Needle. 

Sydney Tower
Yup! the highest Mailbox in this hemisphere
The view from the tower

And of course, we had to see the Sydney Opera House. THE venue for performing arts in Sydney, it's unique design has become Australia's icon. We toured the insides of the Sydney Opera House and learned about it's colorful and interesting history. 

Sydney Opera House
Day 2: Grand City Tour--whole day tour of Sydney and suburbs including Bondi Beach, Manly Beach and the exclusive Vaucluse and Double Bay areas.

  • Spectacular Darling Harbour
  • Sydney Entertainment Centre
  • Chinatown
  • Sydney Aquarium and the Monorail
  • Sydney Opera House
  • The Rock's - Sydney's birthplace
  • Conservatorium of Music
  • Parliament House
  • Hyde Park
  • St James Cathedral
  • St Mary's Cathedral
  • Art Gallery and the Domain
  • Visit Mrs Macquaries Chair - superb views of the harbour and city skyline
  • Royal Australian Naval Base at Garden Island
  • Kings Cross - Sydney's 'hot spot'
  • Exclusive Double Bay and Vaucluse
  • The Gap - stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and the Heads
  • Visit Bondi Beach - Australia's most famous surf beach
  • Historic and trendy Paddington
  • Sydney Tower
  • Grand Sydney Tour
  • Sydney Town Hall
  • Stunning views over Sydney Cove and Circular Quay
  • Sydney Opera House
  • Cross the Sydney Harbour Bridge
  • Milson's Point - panoramic views of the bridge and skyline
  • Cross the Spit Bridge
  • Magnificent views from Seaforth Lookout over Middle Head and Pearl Bay marinas
  • Arabanoo Lookout - a superb panorama of the rugged Headlands and Manly
  • Tour through the northern beaches of Freshwater Bay and Curl Curl
  • Stop at the seaside resort of Manly, noted for its famous surf beach and Norfolk pines

Saturday, 29 December 2012

CAMSUR Roadtrip Day 3&4 - CWC & Naga City

Lago del Ray, CWC

April 11, 2009
Black Saturday

Who would miss going to CWC when you are in this part of the world? So, being our last day, we decided to make this day our CWC day.

From Sabang to Naga, CWC in Pili town is along the way. It is right smack in the middle of a field. You actually have to go inside a residential subdivision to get to this place.

We arrived CWC around as expected on a Black Saturday, the place is packed! No available tables...the line for wakeboarding is likewise looongg! we decided to take a look around the place, take some photos before heading out to the newly opened Lago Del Ray in CWC.


Pretty much makes sense to have something like this...especially if they want to make CWC a family place. The kids and non-wakeboarders (is this the right term?) can hang out here.

Lago del Ray opened last Feb'09. It is an artificial freshwater lake with lots of inflatables to choose from. Kayaks are also available.
Lago de Ray

Lago del Ray

Lago del Ray

CAMSUR Roadtrip Day 2 - Caramoan here we come!

Lahus Island
April 10, 2009
Good Friday

We left Naga around 7am for the 66km drive to the Port of Sabang (nope! not the Sabang of Puerto Galera), the jump-off point to Caramoan. Took us about 1 1/2 hours drive.

Good thing I was able to find a safe parking for Pinay and found very helpful porters. After buying our fresh fish for lunch, and after a slight delay, we were off to Guijalo Port in Caramoan for the 2-hour ride by 11am.

Makeshift waiting area at Sabang
The ferry is almost the same as those in Puerto Galera. Only thing is, Sabang does not have a decent port, so the ferries dock on the beach.Thus, passengers are carried by porters on the shoulder to and from the boat! Pretty scary experience you know...

Guijalo Port, Caramoan
As we arrived Guijalo Port, it was already low tide, so we have to take another little banca ride (one were you use an oar---no motor) to the port. whew...! But....our sundo made up for it. We were surprised to find out that our service car (yes, car, not tricycle which is the mode of transportation here) is a red Ford Escape!..what can you SUV in the middle of nowhere!

West Peninsula Villas
We reached West Peninsula Villas in no time. The place is in the middle of rice paddies and has only a few rooms and most were taken up by Survivor crew. Our room was impressive for such a small place. Clean, fresh sheets, aircon and cheap too (by Manila standards)...what more can you ask?

Since we arrived past 1pm, we decided to have our fresh fish cooked and took our lunch in the "resort". By 2pm, we were on our way to Bikal port by tricycle on rough roads. Bikal is where the bancas for hire are for island hopping.

CAMSUR Roadtrip Day 1 - Visita Iglesia

Penafrancia Basilica Minore
April 9, 2009

After weeks of planning, finally! Started the day very early. Left Manila at 3AM, gased up at Petron SSHwy and early breakfast for an hour.

Finally off a little past 4AM. Original plan of catching sunrise at Atimonan coastline was scrapped because we left Manila an hour late. By 5AM we were already in Sariaya with almost all vacationers on the road.

Atimonan - a great view for sunrise, but we were too late
Passed the towns of Lucena, Pagbilao..stopped at Atimonan coastline for some photos..then Plaridel and Gumaca. By the time we reached Gumaca it was already 8am. So breakfast again (since our next stop will be Naga already for late lunch).

Cathedral of San Diego de Alcala
After breakfast, we started our Visita Iglesia---at Gumaca's Cathedral of San Diego de Alcala. A rustic, centuries old church with beautiful ceiling. "Its first establishment was in 1582, on its present site. It was transferred to Silangan in the island of Alabat in 1638. It was burned by the Dutch forces in 1665; reconstructed and beautified in 1846. It is known as the biggest and oldest Catholic Church in the province of Quezon. It is located in Brgy. San Diego Poblacion near the Municipal Government office (from wikipedia)".

Altar of Gumaca Church
By 10am, we were off to Naga...passed Lopez, Calauag...the arc welcoming one to Bicol...and here the very rough road begins up to Tagkawayan and some portions of Camarines Sur.

The whole Quirino Highway is under construction and some portions have damaged cemented extra caution is advised otherwise, you will end up "flying" or with a blown tire. If you plan to take this route, be ready with 1 peso coins to give to kids/adults dotting this road directing motorists since most roads are one way...and I mean there's a lot of them!

One more thing, gas up at Tagkawayan because that is the last decent gas station all the way to Naga.

Friday, 28 December 2012

2012: My Year in Travel

Despite the roller coaster year that it was, 2012 turned out to be a year where I was able to tick off places that have long been on my bucket list. Thank you to budget airlines' promotions, we got to travel to these places affordably.

Pandanon Island, Bohol

main beach
I first learned about this island from a friend's post in Facebook 2 or 3 years ago. I could not believe that I missed this island after being based in Cebu for more than 5 years! So, though Cebu is like a 2nd home and thus, gets the least priority when faced with promotional fares, I decided to grab tickets for us last Dec 2011 for a trip in February 2012. I want to finally tick that place off my bucket list.

Contrary to what most people know, Pandanon Island off the Mactan Channel is already part of Bohol. But the easiest way to visit this island is through a banca ride from Mactan Island, Cebu.

Together with my Cebu-based cousins, off we went one fine day in February to Pandanon Island. Our very first "summer salvo" in 2012.

Pandanon Island is one of the far-flung islands/islets off Mactan Channel. If  you are coming from Cebu, you can hire a banca from any of the public resorts in Mactan Island to bring you to the island and back. There are also cruise boats you can join that goes to designated islands on a regular run.

The trip takes about an hour, but we did not feel any boredom as the scenery and the great blue is just breathtaking. On the way, you pass by several inviting islands and islets. If you are renting the banca, you can ask the boatman to let you explore some of the islands.

In our case, we decided to go straight to the island so we can spend more time on the island.  There are no restaurants in the area, so you are encouraged to bring your own food. Picnic huts and tables are available. And barbeque pits are abundant. Or, if you joined one of the regular trips, their rates usually include lunch already.

There are no resorts or hotels in the island.  If you wish to stay overnight, tents will be it. And yes, you have to bring it yourself.

So how did I find it? Honestly, it fell short of my expectation on the secluded, long white sand beach part. When we arrived, there were several people already there, so the beach was a bit crowded. I thought it has a very long white sand beach, but no, it does not have technically.  You see, it has a long white sand bar that was submerged when we were there because the tide was already coming in.

But despite that, and minus the crowd, the place has its own charm. A chapel, a ruin and white beach huts. With the sun shining, I still got my bluest of blue skies, whitest of white beach/sand, and turquoise seas. What more can a beach bum ask for? Indeed, a happy beach bum here.
at the back of the main beach
the other side of the beach