Our First Week in Australia – Wonga, Queensland

Day 1

We had arrived in Australia!! Even though we were extremely tired getting very little sleep on the flight, and flying at 2am and arriving at 8am local time we were very excited to be there!

We picked up our rental car and headed straight for Wonga in Queensland, which is a town North of Cairns up near the Daintree Forest. We made a quick stop at the nearest supermarket on route to our place to pick up some essentials, which was a bit of a shock to the system after being used to Bali prices for three weeks. 

After shopping we arrived in Wonga, a cute little beach town, and found our accommodation. We were staying with a couple through AirBnb and had our own private area with bedroom and bathroom, with the main house and outside area to share. We met Theresa who was so welcoming and spent most of the afternoon talking to her outside and getting tips about the local area. She told us about all the local animal residents to the house, including two tree frogs called Frodo and Freda, and two rat kangaroos called Ruby and Ruffus, among cane toads, many birds, lizards and geckos, all of which we saw during our stay.

 Later that afternoon we made the very short few minute walk to the beach near us and it was wonderful. We felt really lucky being so close to such a quiet beach, we only saw a couple of other people there.

Then it was time for some fish and chips at Newell Beach another beach nearby and a walk along the beach, a perfect evening!

Day 2

Our first full day in Cairns didn’t get off to the best start… Upon heading out nice and early to get to Mossman Gorge, we realised we had a nail in one of our tyres. We had to call the car rental place and then roadside assistance and wait for an hour, whilst calling our insurance to check it was covered. Then after we had our space saver changed we had to find a local tyre shop to repair the old tyre. 

After all this was done we finally headed to Mossman Gorge and had a wonderful afternoon walking around the rainforest area. It felt incredible to be in the rainforest and to hear all the creatures around. Mossman Gorge is an indigenous area, run by predominantly aboriginal people and forms part of the Daintree Rainforest area.

That evening as part of our stay our hosts could provide dinner at an extra cost. We had read great things about Theresa’s cooking and decided it would be worthwhile to try and to enjoy an evening with our hosts. The food was absolutely delicious, the main meal being a Hungarian goulash, which neither of us had had before. It was also great to spend the evening getting to know Theresa and Noah and to meet many of the animals we had heard about. This included grabbing a torch throughout the evening to spot the rat kangaroo when we heard the sound of crunching close by and listening to the strange bird calls, including the curlew that sounded like it was screaming – we really felt like we were experiencing real Australia.

Day 3

Our day began heading off to Crocodile Express in Daintree Village to go crocodile hunting along Daintree River. The cruise was an hour long and we did spot a croc swimming past the boat.

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Then we set off for Port Douglas, the most popular beachside town in our area – we loved it there! The Four Mile Beach was impressive and we even saw these little bubble crabs scuttling around.

Day 4

Our day started early as we were heading up to the Daintree Rainforest. It was quite a short drive involving a car ferry to cross the Daintree River, as this is the only way to enter the rainforest. It was an interesting experience and our ticket was bought for us as a treat from our hosts too, which was lovely.

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We arrived over the river in less than 10 minutes and began driving through the rainforest. It was stunning! The roads were windy and we passed many signs for cassowary crossing areas (a large human sized bird, this variety only found in Queensland Australia in the world). Unfortunately we didn’t see any on our drives or walks, but we were told they are extremely well camouflaged for such a large bird so we may not have noticed if we had gone past any. We did however get to meet one later on during our week. 

We completed all the boardwalks in the area – it was amazing to hear the sounds all around and to think of all the wildlife around you… most of which it was probably good we didn’t see!

We did spot a Boyd’s Forest Dragon, which was luckily pointed out to us by a tour guide ahead, as it was very camouflaged. We were told this was quite a treat to see as they are very hard to spot usually and quite elusive.

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We also visited the Daintree Discovery Centre, which included a 23m canopy lookout, lots of interesting walks, creature displays and an audio tour, which we enjoyed listening to and learn more about the rainforest.

Daintree Rainforest is considered to be the oldest continually surviving rainforest in the world. It is more than 180 million years old and one of Earth’s most precious living treasures. To put this age into context, the Amazon rainforest is said to be about seven million years old. 

Lastly we drove up to Cape Tribulation. We were a little disappointed with the walk and lookout here, maybe because the weather had turned quite grey and cloudy, so we didn’t get the best views. But it was still beautiful to see the rainforest and beach colliding in one place and to walk along the beach.

Cape Tribulation was discovered by James Cook in 1770 and named so because ‘here began all our troubles’, he recorded. His ship ran aground on what is now known as Endeavour Reef, and was seriously damaged. He and his crew then had to get to Cooktown to repair their ship. He also named Mount Sorrow behind the Cape – clearly not a good time for him!

Then our drive home… at about 10 miles from home we found ourselves driving in the most awful storm we had ever encountered – very tropical, nothing like we have in England. It was torrential rain, thunder and lighting and with the rain bouncing off the roads we couldn’t see anything ahead, it was like driving blind. The roads were windy and prone to flooding, so we were pretty scared. We finally made it home safely though and will maybe keep a closer eye on the weather up here in the future. We only saw one other car in the whole drive, so everyone else definitely knew something we didn’t!

Day 5

Today we decided to head back to Port Douglas. While there we went in search for somewhere to have lunch to give us enough energy to make the climb up Flagstaff Hill – this is a lookout at the top of the highest hill in Port Douglas. Once at the top it gave us an incredible view out over the Port which was well worth the ascent.

Day 6

We were very excited to be heading to Wildlife Habitat today and we had an awesome day, one of our best yet! The sanctuary endeavours to keep and showcase native animals in enclosures that mimic their natural environment, which was brilliant and a different experience to what we have seen before. 

We went to a few of the talks and presentations, which were all really informative and included stroking a python, blue tongued lizard and a baby freshwater crocodile.

We also went on a feeding tour round the wetlands area and got to be up close and personal with many birds, including feeding grapes to a cassowary. 

Then the best bit… feeding kangaroos! We had so many around us and as soon as they knew food was around we were surrounded.

Another highlight – holding a koala. It was heavier than we thought and very cuddly, we also couldn’t believe how strongly it smelt of eucalyptus!

Lastly, we went to a crocodile feeding and talk, and had a great view of some saltwater crocodiles being fed. The star being a four and a half metre male who was very hungry!

Day 7

Our last day staying in Wonga… we set off for an early morning walk along Wonga Beach and then went on a second boat cruise on Daintree River as part of the ticket we bought. It was on a different part of the river and the tour was really informative. We did see another saltwater croc but unfortunately only his head was sticking out of the water. 

After hunting for crocs, we then decided to eat one – a crocodile pie, which was surprisingly tasty! 

Next we went back to Mossman Gorge to swim in the gorge as we didn’t go for a swim last time. As we arrived and bought our tickets for the bus over we noticed the information guidance board stating that swimming was not allowed. However, when we arrived it seemed like no one had taken any notice as there were loads of people in there. So, we joined them and went for a very cold, refreshing swim. It was amazing to think we were swimming in a gorge of a rainforest – awesome experience!

For our last evening we headed back to the fish and chip shop we went to on our first night. We were sat outside enjoying our dinner when the owner came out and asked us if we wanted some beers and came out and joined us – in true Aussie fashion! An awesome way to end our time here and our first week in Australia. 

Final thoughts

We thought Wonga was an awesome little beach town and a fantastic gateway to all of the surrounding areas (Daintree Rainforest, Mossman Gorge and Port Douglas). We loved driving around and taking in all of the incredible scenery.

Lauren’s favourite thing – feeding the kangaroos 

Daniel’s favourite thing – swimming in Mossman Gorge

So that’s it for Wonga and the Daintree area and off to Cairns…

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Ubud, Bali

Day 1

We began our journey to the ‘cultural capital’ of Bali a little slower than expected, with the traffic getting there being really bad – it took us over 2 hours! So when we arrived we were very hungry and ready to go out and see Ubud. Not before checking into our guest house, ran by a lovely family – our cheapest accommodation yet at IDR200,000 / £10 a night with a wonderful Balinese breakfast brought to us every morning.

Walking around Ubud was exactly what we’d pictured – luscious and green, very cool, artsy, with lots of organic/healthy restaurants and cafes, yoga studios and spas…Lauren’s heaven!

We decided on a restaurant called Taksu for lunch, a gorgeous garden space where Daniel had the hugest falafel pitta and Lauren had something we’d never heard of -tempe burgers, delicious!

Afterwards, we walked to the Ubud market excited to buy some sarongs! There were so many to choose from it was almost impossible, but we settled on two and paid IDR100,000 / £5. 

Wandering around during the afternoon we stumbled across an art gallery, some cool shops and a coffee roasters.

Day 2

Our second day began extremely early for Daniel, being collected at 5:25am to travel to Amed – a town, and diving hub, located two and a half hours drive north from Ubud. 

This was to dive at Tulamben Bay on a Shipwreck called the USAT Liberty, which is one of the most popular wreck dives in the world. Once at the dive site we were told a brief history of the USAT Liberty and how it ended up on the shores of Bali. 

During the Second World War, the USAT Liberty was a United States Army cargo ship en route from Australia to the Philippines with cargo but was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine on 11 January 1942 and beached in Bali at Tulamben. The Liberty stayed on the beach until 1963 when Mount Agung erupted causing the ship to slip off the beach into the sea where she now lies. To give an idea of the ships size; its length was 125m and weighed over 13,000 tons. 

Daniel geared up for his first dive and made the difficulty walk across the pebbled beach into the ocean. We swam around the wreck seeing so much life and reached the depth of 20m. We were even lucky enough to see a couple of stingrays – one was out in the open and the other was hiding under a large rock. We didn’t want to get to close as we all know the story of Steve Irwin!

The second dive we actually swam through the wreck, which was incredible! During this dive we came across a Hawksbill sea turtle. As we made our way back to the beach we saw some spotted garden eels, some sweetlip fish, and loads of other fishes, too many to list. Daniel has never seen such a variety of fishes before.

Both dives were simply fantastic! 

This meant Lauren experienced day to herself to explore Ubud some more – walking around, and dining on her own, which was nice but quite strange… Definitely not as exciting as Daniel’s day!

Day 3

We visited Campuhan Ridge Walk, which was a beautiful lush, green area about 20 minutes away from our guest house. It was a gorgeous area that lead to a spa and restaurant, where we had drinks in our own little hut area surrounded water lily ponds and rice fields.

That evening we visited another Warung called The Fair Warung Balé, set up by the Fair Future Foundation. We had stumbled across it luckily that day and after reading into it, saw that it was a very popular place and made a booking for that evening. It is a unique social restaurant set up as a Non Governmental Organisation (NGO) with 100% of profits going to free health and medical care programs in Bali. One meal eaten there equalled 2 – 3 free medical treatments for people in need. It was a really cool and quirky restaurant, promoting a great cause, with incredible food… One of the best meals we’d had in Bali!

Day 4

Our day began with another amazing traditional breakfast of banana pancakes. Then we headed out early with the plan to visit a temple before it got too busy. The first temple we arrived at we couldn’t go in and the second was closed for construction work, so it wasn’t the most successful start. But it was third time lucky and we arrived at Pura Dalem, paid our IDR10,000 / 50p entrance fee, got our sarongs on and headed in. It was beautiful and interesting to walk around.

We then stumbled across a school on our walk back up the main road, we’re not sure if we should have gone in, but we did anyway. It looked like quite a impressive school, especially considering we’d seen the local children near our guest house being taught in what looked like a cornered off section of a car park building.

Next we had the most delicious ‘Açai bowls’ from Açai Queen and enjoyed them sat on a swing.

That evening we came across a vegetarian/vegan buffet restaurant – we were drawn in by the low price of IDR55,000 / £2.77 as we’d been spending a bit more on food recently, and it was a really good meal with loads of choice. We were even more excited by the garden area behind us where we saw a family of monkeys running across, seemingly being chased away angrily by some locals.

After our dinner we bought tickets for a traditional Legong Dance for IDR100,000 / £5, and arriving a bit earlier grabbed great seats on a raised section at the back. Sadly though, the dance was quite boring and very repetitive. It was great to see the costumes, traditional dancing and to hear the local music, it just dragged on a bit!

Day 5

We were very excited to be going to a cooking class today with a company called Periuk Cooking School. We started the experience visiting the family’s rice fields and learnt about the irrigation system – Subak.

We then went to the class, which was actually set in the owners home where we learnt about his family traditions. He told us about living there with three generations and how they all had their own living spaces. They also had their own family temple, which he said all the houses had. It was a really impressive place with a gorgeous view at the back, where the cooking class was set.

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We started by making Canang Saris, which are the daily blessing offerings. We wove the baskets out of coconut tree leaves and filled them with flowers, making sure to place a different coloured flower in each corner, and a small dried tied up leaf underneath the flowers, which represented your heart. Once finished we put them on the family’s shrine and made a wish.

Then the cooking began, we made 11 dishes in total. We began making three different sauces (Base Gede, Peanut, and Sambal Ulek), which involved mostly chopping and grinding and then this strange method of bashing all the ingredients together with large sticks.

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Among other things, we made Pepes Ikan which is steamed fish wrapped in a banana leaf, chicken satay and we learnt the process of making traditional steamed rice, which was surprisingly lengthy. Lastly we made Kue Dadar Gulung which were like pancakes, filled with coconut and palm sugar and they were delicious and a great dessert!

After all the hard work the whole group sat and enjoyed the cooking altogether. We were given all the recipes to take home, which we will definitely attempt in Australia… hopefully as successfully without so much guidance from Wayan and his family!

Day 6

By this point we were really getting into using the Balinese language, especially with the lady who ran our guest house. Some phrases we learnt and used:

Terima Kasih: Thank you

Sama-Sama: You’re welcome

Salamat Pagi: Good morning

Apa Kabar: How are you?

Baik: Good

Sangat: Very

Salamat Tinggal: Goodbye

To really get into the ‘Ubud way’, Daniel joined Lauren for a traditional Balinese massage that afternoon… when they were so cheap it was hard not to do everyday (for Lauren anyway!)

Day 7

This day started with the realisation that we had planned for an extra day in Ubud, thinking that we left the evening of Wednesday not the evening of Tuesday. This realisation meant that we lost a day we thought we had and also that we had to cut our tour/private driver day short, as we were flying that night. Overall though it wasn’t too bad and we still had the time to visit the two places we wanted to most – Tegalalang Rice Terrace and Tukad Cepung Waterfall. 

We set off early to Tegalalang Rice Terrace and arrived around 9:15am, which we thought may still be a little busy but it wasn’t, which was great! It was stunning and completely surpassed our expectations. It was also more of a trek around than we thought and we were glad we went early to avoid doing it in the midday heat too. It was one of the best things we did in Ubud!

Then we visited Tukad Cepung Waterfall, a less known waterfall in Ubud, which was great as there weren’t too many people there when we arrived! It was fun to go in, we did get a lot wetter than planned!

So earlier than we thought, it was time to leave our wonderful guest house and Ubud. We were sad to be leaving, especially thinking we had the extra day! There was also a royal wedding on the Wednesday we were excited to see, which we had seen and heard all the preparations for in the community hall next to our guest house at 5am on the Tuesday morning.

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Final thoughts

We thought Ubud was a fantastic traditional place, with so much to do, friendly people, a great sense of community, wonderful scenery, brilliant cafes and restaurants, and a relaxed vibe. It was crazy that just around a road or off a busy main street there would be gorgeous rice fields spanning as far as the eye could see. 

We would love to come back to Ubud, especially as we missed out on visiting one of the bigger temples and a traditional village on our last day and doing a yoga class. We would also love to go back because we enjoyed what we did experience so much. The culture and nature was amazing and the food is worth going back for alone!

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Lauren’s favourite thing about Ubud – Tegallalang Rice Terrace

Daniel’s favourite thing about Ubud – the Balinese cooking class

So that’s it for Ubud and Bali, now to Australia…

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Seminyak, Legian and Kuta, Bali

Day 1

We felt sad to be leaving Jukung Guest House and Sanur as we had really loved our time there and felt very comfortable. We enjoyed our last delicious breakfast, packed and checked out. 

We ordered a Blue Bird taxi to take us our next stop: Legian Sunset Residence, Legian, near Seminyak, which we booked using AirBnb. We were impressed with the size of our place, being the first time we’d had a lounge area and kitchen since we left the UK – not that we did any cooking during our stay!

Upon arriving, we did our usual and headed out to explore the local area, including grabbing lunch and dinner.

Seminyak had a similar feel to Sanur, but had more boutiques and upmarket shops and restaurants, including a big surf scene. 

Day 2

We decided that our first full day had to be a beach day! The beach strip works its way for miles and we walked along it north from Legian Beach all way to Petitenget Beach around two miles. It was a stunning walk with the sea breeze and walking with our feet in the ocean the whole way. We stumbled across this swing on our walk… they do like a swing in Bali!

Being bare foot on the sand away from the water was so incredibly hot and our feet were literally burnt bright red afterwards.  

Part of our mission walking up the coast was to arrive at Cafe Organic to enjoy some smoothie bowls and wow they were delicious!

After our tasty smoothie bowls, we fit in some beach lounging time while listening to Ed Sheehan; who we have discovered either Balinese people really love or they think tourists do (which is pretty accurate, we guess) as he is playing everywhere. We went to a ‘Warung’ for dinner, which is a small, usually family run restaurant or cafe, serving traditional food at a cheap price, similar to street food. We both ordered crispy noodle dishes, which just seemed to be uncooked noodles with chicken and vegetables, they tasted pretty okay considering… we just wouldn’t order it again!

We then caught the incredible sunset on Legian Beach, it was beautiful and even though it was busy, we managed to get close to the seafront to take in this wonderful view.

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Day 3

After being in Bali for nearly two weeks, instead of the pancakes and toast style breakfasts, we both finally chose to have a traditional Indonesian breakfast, which was Nasi Goreng (fried rice) and Mie Goreng (fried noodles), cooked this time! These dishes are served with fried egg, vegetables and crackers and it was surprisingly enjoyable at breakfast time…still slightly strange though!

Then one of the most ‘normal’ things we’d had to do since we arrived…laundry, where we found a place around the corner who charged IDR20,000 / £1 per kilogram, to clean, dry and iron everything, which we were sadly quite excited about. 

That morning after checking the Bali Sea Turtle Society’s Facebook page for days hoping for a turtle release event, they put a status up saying they may have enough turtles for a release that afternoon. This was enough to get us rushing down to Kuta Beach with everything crossed! We arrived and saw a queue had already started and a signboard saying there would be a release at 4:30pm. Lauren couldn’t contain her excitement. After waiting quite a while we collected our tokens which we had to bring back at 4:15pm to collect a baby turtle. It was so exciting sitting with the tokens knowing we would be collecting a baby turtle in an hour. We waited nearby at a beach bar and had a drink to pass the time.

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Then the time came to collect our turtles, together with 250 other excited people, and line up along the beach to release them into the ocean. Ours were pretty quick and scurried off towards the sea in no time at all, considering how far they had to go! It was a magical experience being able to release a couple of baby turtles into the ocean and to support the cause. It has been on our bucket lists for a long time, and is now ticked off!

As we were in Kuta, we decided to wander around but we were not really impressed. It felt like a cheaper and busier version of Seminyak and Sanur and more people trying to sell you things – you do say the words ‘no thank you’ more than anything else in Bali, even more so during our short time in Kuta. We did however enjoy an incredible sunset before heading off!

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As we walked home we walked through the bustling club and bar scene, which was like nothing we’d experienced. It wasn’t that late and already there were so many lights and so much music blaring into the street…we can safely say that we weren’t tempted to stay!

We arrived back near our hotel and after awkwardly walking past a restaurant right nearby everyday, where the owner asked us in for dinner and lunch every day, we finally obliged and enjoyed some good food and company. It was interesting to get to know him, being the only people in the restaurant, and to hear more about the Balinese way of life. Throughout our stay it has been so impressive how good the local peoples English is, especially considering how little we know of other languages. 

Day 4

Super relaxed day, which included finding a local vegan restaurant called ‘Tasty Vegan’ for dinner.

Day 5

Our day began at 6.40am being picked up from our hotel by a lovely driver, Wayan. We arrived at Sanur harbour to catch our boat to Nusa Penida. We did arrive extremely early and had an hour wait before our boat, so decided to walk along the harbour and grab some coffee at a nearby coffee house. We met a friendly Australian couple there who had moved to Bali just over a year ago and had a good chat about Bali and Australia.

We then caught our boat to the island and met our lovely driver there… another Wayan! In Balinese culture most people name their first born child Wayan (which is why there are so many!) or Putu or Gede. The second born is called Made or Kadek. The third born Nyoman or Komang and the fourth Ketut. These names are given regardless of gender and once a family has had four children the cycle is repeated again. All we could think was how difficult it must be in the schools!

We headed straight for Kelingking Beach, which was about an hour drive up some very steep and incredibly bumpy roads! We arrived early and it was already quite busy but people were curtious in lining up and allowing people time to get photos and sit on the edge. Having our private driver also meant private photographer, which was great to be able to get some shots of both of us… he even climbed a tree at one point! The views were spectacular! We had seen photos of it and were worried it wouldn’t live up to expectations, but it looked exactly the same and so beautiful with the blue sky behind and vibrant blue sea.

Next, we visited Angel’s Billabong and Broken Beach, which were next to each other, enduring more bumpy and hazardous roads. We were most impressed here, maybe because we’d seen and heard less about the two spots. Either way it was awesome to walk around and capture the sights.

Lastly, the tour involved a couple of hours at Crystal Bay, where we had snorkelled on our previous tour. As we didn’t realise we’d have so much time at this place we hadn’t packed swimwear and didn’t fancy sitting on the beach. Luckily, Daniel spotted a inconspicuous stairway leading up from the side of the beach, that didn’t look very well travelled. We decided to see where it would lead and were very glad we did. It lead right up to the top of the cliffs. We could see across the whole bay, which was stunning. As we climbed up we passed a couple of travellers coming down who told us that the path lead up to the top and then back down the other side to a ‘secret beach’. It was a real hidden gem with only four other people there. We spent some time there before climbing back to Crystal Bay.

Having had an incredible day we were ready to catch our boat back to the main island. The tour was great, we loved our drivers and guides and Nusa Penida island has been a real favourite place for us. Our driver told us it has only been visited by tourists in the past two, three years and is vastly becoming a hot spot to visit; we saw lots of building work happening while we were there.

Day 6

We were feeling pretty shattered after our long day in a Nusa Penida and had a relaxed day at the hotel. Lauren fit in massage number two at Luna Spa, which was a lot less relaxing this time including some serious back clicking, cracking and whacking! 

After watching two sunset evenings on the beach whilst taking photographs, we decided to enjoy one with no cameras and to just watch from the beach and take it all in, which was really romantic. Then we treated ourselves to some late night desserts and drinks before heading home.

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Final thoughts

Overall we liked Legian and Seminyak, both very similar trendy, surfer areas with wonderful beaches and restaurants. The Bali Sea Turtle Society and sunset were the best things about Kuta by far and we wouldn’t rush to go back there. After experiencing the beachy areas of Bali we were ready to go to Ubud and experience more of the tradition and culture and to buy some sarongs!

Daniel and Lauren’s favourite thing – the turtle release on Kuta Beach

So that’s it for Seminyak and on to Ubud…

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