Adventures, Beaches

A beachy winter holiday to Western Australia

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In the great south-western tip of Australia, the beaches are vast with soft white sand and clear blue bays. Most days you’ll be there on your own, especially on a weekday in early December.

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Based in Denmark, WA, I spent a significant amount of time swimming in the protected natural Greenpool (like a saltwater swimming pool) and walking on the surfy Ocean Beach. Denmark had a bunch of markets and arts events on. Did you know hippies still exist? There was yoga a plenty, river kayaking in town, and coffee and cake stops throughout town. Raw chocolate cake anyone? Iced coffee with ice cream was a daily treat. A great little yarn shop and a bookshop are also there.

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The two long distance tracks from Perth to Albany go through Denmark: the Munda Biddi Mountain Bike Track and the Bibbulman Track, both approx 1,000km. There is also the long-distance Denmark to Nornalup track.

Despite the flies being in peak season and the snakes, I did a bit of walking. A tiger snake about as tall as me did cross my path at one point on the Bibbulman — the Denmark section has a lot of marshy reedy areas so prime habitat for this snake.

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The wildlife is everywhere — huge lizards, parrots, pelicans and birds everywhere, including the local Blue Wren, emus, and kangaroos. They find you as well. No need to go on a wildlife search.

There were a tonne more beaches and parks around Albany to explore. Only 30 minutes away.

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There are more nature reserves and national parks in the Southwest than private land or so it seems. No need to go anywhere else.

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Adventures, Beaches, Europe

Escaping to Sicily from London

View from Taormina

Sicily is one of those special places where the mountains meet the sea. Mt Etna, nearly as high as New Zealand’s tallest mountain, is a spectacular sight as you drive along the coast towards Taormina, and on a clear day it can probably be seen quite far inland. When it’s not too active, you can hike right up to see the bubbling lava. While I was there it was active and off-limits, but Stromboli — an island volcano — was accessible to hikers on the other side of Sicily, and was highly recommended for a visit.

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The Catania region had the most delicious food. Pasta with the freshest vegetables, pizza with torn mozzarella, almond and pistachio desserts, and all very affordable. My favourite was the local dish pasta a la norma or pizza al a norma with aubergines and aged ricotta. I’m going to try and recreate it at home, but am so far struggling to find the aged ricotta. A great excuse to visit an Italian deli.

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The sea was cold in early May, but the sun was warm so quick refreshing dips were perfect. There wasn’t much else to do besides eat, swim, and gaze at the gorgeous hilltop views over the bright blue Mediterranean. We walked through the botanic gardens most evenings with views to Etna, hiked up to Castelmola and explored a few beaches. Unfortunately, the weather was too bad up at Etna so we didn’t have the chance to do any more serious walking. Overall, it was a great trip. Next time I’ll rent a car (the drivers were scary though, especially in Catania on a weekday, the weekend was fairly quiet and I would recommend picking up a car at the airport then and avoiding the city centre) and explore the interior as well.

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