Welcome to the North: Newcastle, Australia
Apr16

Welcome to the North: Newcastle, Australia

Despite being frequently referred to as “Sydney’s bogan brother”, the locals of Newcastle have always repped their hometown with a fierce amount of pride – If there is a Novacastrian in your vicinity, I can guarantee it won’t be long before they let you know where they’re from. Being situated about three hours drive north of Sydney, I never had much of a reason to spend much time in this coastal town. Just like much of New South Wales’ south coast, Newcastle is often overlooked and passed by Sydney holidaymakers heading further north for their vacations – something I am definitely guilty of myself. Using the Sydney to Newcastle rail link, I recently decided to visit some close friends of mine who had opted out of the Sydney rat race and set themselves up in “Newy”. Arriving at the ‘end of the line’, also known as Newcastle’s central train station, I quickly discovered the source of the local’s pride – Newcastle Beach. I wasn’t sure what was more impressive, the golden sands and turquoise waters of the beach, or the fact that I had arrived there after just a five minute walk from the centre of Newcastle’s historic downtown area. In contrast to its natural beauty, what has really put Newcastle on the map is the huge amount of coal found in its surrounding region. Right from its initial discovery in 1797, where coal became the first export of the young New South Wales colony, Newcastle grew to become the world’s largest coal exporting harbour. The large scale of operations that are associated with such a massive industry gives a significant insight into the underlying dominance of working class culture within Newcastle society. Walking through Newcastle’s downtown area, trendy cafes line the streets that are filled with a mix of Victorian era buildings and modern business centres. Despite its colonial heritage, Newcastle manages to portray a continual youthful vibe. The day I arrived in Newcastle, I was greeted with perfect weather. As the sun started to hang lower in the afternoon sky, I decided to walk along the waterfront that links Newcastle beach to its neighbour, Nobby Beach. Camera in hand, I was truly a tourist in my own country. Part way, there is a public ocean water pool. As I sat on the far end ledge of this complex to take some photos of some local surfers who were taking advantage of the last few right-handers coming through before nightfall, a pod of dolphins glided through the surf. At this moment I wondered to myself if there was any other place that emulated the stereotypical image of this...

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The New South Wales South Coast: Australia’s Best Kept Secret?
Apr09

The New South Wales South Coast: Australia’s Best Kept Secret?

If you had a group of Australian’s from Sydney together and asked them about their fondest childhood memories, I would bet the farm that a good chunk of them would include something to do with summer holidays in various locations along the North Coast of New South Wales. I am definitely guilty of this myself. Family camping trips to places such as Lake Cathie just outside of Port Macquarie, is an example. I guess there are a few factors that contribute to the North Coast’s popularity. Namely a subconscious thought that heading north means hotter weather and water along with the fact that most of the north coast’s major tourist hubs lie along the Pacific Highway, the major link between Sydney and Brisbane. While the hoards head north for summer, one of New South Wales’ best-kept secrets lies only about 3-4 hours drive south of Sydney. Keeping in theme with the same creative flare as the naming of its northern counterpart, the area I speak of is none other than the New South Wales South Coast. The majority of my summer holidays and adolescent road trips may have been to the north, but the occasional ones that went south had me wondering why it wasn’t the more common option. Unlike the north coast, this part of Australia’s eastern coastline isn’t on the direct route between Sydney and Melbourne, so if you’re one for avoiding crowds you’ll absolutely adore this part of the world. I recently went to the regions main hub town, Batemans Bay to catch up with some friends who now live there. With the Clyde River hugging it as it empties into the Tasman Sea, Batemans Bay is a tidy example of your typical Australian coastal fishing town. Its shops, restaurants, cafes and pubs filled with a balanced mix of locals, retirees and seasonal holidaymakers. For me, the town’s main convenience is its close vicinity to what are arguably some of the country’s most spectacular parklands and beaches. Spending an afternoon checking a number of these out, most of them had me almost thinking I had wandered onto the manicured set of a commercial shoot for the Australian tourism board. Any trip through New South Wales should involve the south coast at some point on its itinerary. If you ever do find yourself making your way through here, just be sure not to tell any of the locals that I sent you. I don’t want to be held responsible for contributing to letting their secret...

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The “Must See’s” of Costa Brava
Apr02

The “Must See’s” of Costa Brava

Well who’d of thunk it? Occasionally putting up with the Dad jokes from our Vagabundo bossman, Brendan van Son, sometimes has its perks. Recently I got to rep the V-bag team on a trip through Catalonia, an autonomous state found in the north-eastern part of Spain. I am lucky enough to be able to say that this was my second time to Spain, but aside from spending a few days in Barcelona the first time I was there, this was my first time having a real look at what Catalonia has to offer. Seeing as the region is a summertime hotspot for much of Europe’s rich and famous, who come to fill the many luxury villas of Costa Brava, it often means many of the area’s unique towns and villages are overlooked by the hoards of backpackers that make their way through Spain each year. Those who do decide to make a trip to Costa Brava work for them are in for a treat, as the area is rich with a unique history and culture that leaves its own distinctive twist to almost every aspect of its social fabric. Here are a few of the highlights from my time in Costa Brava:   Cadaqués The locals of this picturesque fishing village have a saying that when you come here, “You leave your worries behind the mountains.” This saying definitely comes alive as you make your way to the seaside town from the winding roads of the mountains that surround it. As one walks along the cobbled laneways that wind their way through the towns white washed buildings, you are left with no questions of being on the Mediterranean coast. Cadaqués lies midway on the Cap de Creus peninsular, the most easterly point of Spain. Sailing along this coastline gives spectacular views that won’t be forgotten any time soon.   Girona Walking into Girona for the first time was quite a sight. The colourful flats that line the Onyar River were glowing in the morning sun, causing their bright colours to reflect off the river Onyar that winds through the heart of the city, the town’s skyline dominated by the bell tower of the Sant Feliu Church. This fiercely proud Catalonian town is a great place for delving into the history that makes this region so unique.   Castellfollit de la Roca Arriving at this town, all my Game of Thrones Christmases came at once! Coming from a country that was settled by Europeans just over 200 years ago, we basically class anything that’s older than the 1980’s as an antique. Despite being one of the smallest towns in Catalonia,...

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Help Our Columnist Win The “Big Blog Exchange”
Mar19

Help Our Columnist Win The “Big Blog Exchange”

Fairly regularly I get asked why it is I travel so much and to be honest, it’s still a question I have a hard time answering. Its an answer that is buried beneath a number of worthy reasons that, for the most part, are too closely bound together that I struggle to distinguish them apart when giving a clear response. However, if asked what is one of the biggest life lessons travel has taught me, I will have my answer locked and loaded, ready to fire my response, largely thanks to the beautiful words of Maya Angelou: “Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.” A little over a year ago when I started my personal blog TheMostAlive.com, I had no idea how much it would be involved in changing the direction of my life. Within six months of blogging I found myself part of a team of incredibly gifted individuals here at Vagabundo Magazine to now, still on the travellers road , currently in Europe. While still coming to grips with trying to understand where it is that I exactly fit into this emerging market of travel blogging, journalism and photography, I know that from the start of it all, my passion has been to ensure that impacting life lesson I learnt from travel is shared with others to make the world a better place: no matter how different to me another place, people or culture may be, it’s those differences that bind us together as the tapestry of humanity. Recently I had the opportunity to enter into a competition being run by Hostel International called the “Big Blog Exchange”. What drew me to being part of this project is summed up in the competition’s slogan: “Changing The World Using The Power Of Blogs”. Essentially, the competition is drawing together bloggers from around the world, where eventually 16 winners will be chosen to exchange not just their blogs for 10 days, but also their locations. Each of the 16 will travel to a different part of the world, experiencing a life that is vastly different from the one they are used to. The 16 participants will be documenting this journey as it unfolds to audiences they may not have previously had exposure to. While not one to usually enter competitions, let alone yell “Pick me, pick me, pick me!” at my readers, friends and family (For the record I have written this post is at the permission of my Boss, Brendan!), I’m...

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Alcatraz: The History I Didn’t Know
Jan29

Alcatraz: The History I Didn’t Know

“So, what are some things that spring to mind for you when you hear the word Alcatraz?” This question was posed to the lingering group of stragglers I had found myself in, deciding to follow the National Park Service Officer who was now hitting us with this random but interactive question, while on an hour long walking tour into Alcatraz’s less famous past. A silent and slightly awkward response was broken with my reply “Nicolas Cage!” I know what you’re thinking – “those bloody Aussies…” BUT the point I’m trying to make here is that prior to my actual visit to the famous island, I had no idea of the other interesting points in its colourful past aside from its role as a Federal Penitentiary and backdrop to a 90’s action film. The first big surprise for me during my visit to Alcatraz was how easy it was to get there. The sole ferry company that is responsible for moving tourists to the island leaves from San Francisco’s Pier 33. After visiting New York City’s historic Ellis Island a few months earlier and thus undergoing its visitor security screening which resembles nothing less than the security at US airports, I was quite surprised with how relaxed and smooth the boarding process was over here on the West Coast – I might even go as far as saying the two experiences are the perfect metaphor of how I would compare and explain the persona of these two cities… While left untouched by America’s indigenous people’s due to their belief that the island was cursed, Alcatraz was officially documented by a Spanish explorer called Juan Manuel de Ayala when charted the San Francisco Bay area for the first time in 1775. Ayala named the island “La Isla de los Alcatraces” – The Island of the Pelicans. As you can see, the name stuck. Long before acquiring its most famous role as a jail, Alcatraz’s first official function was as a Military Fort where it protected the entrance of the harbour from posing outside aggression with numerous artillery batteries. This role for Alcatraz came about after San Francisco became the epicentre of the Californian gold rush in 1849, just a year after the state was acquired by the USA from Mexico at the ending of the Mexican-American War. The fortifications on the garrison island were expanded throughout the civil war with the island’s total number of guns reaching 105 in 1866. The traces of Alcatraz’s most famous function that most of us commonly know it for, can be found towards the second half of the 19th century, when the US military slowly...

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