A Travellerspoint blog


Adventures with the Buckleys

Our month long stay with family in Sydney

overcast 18 °C

Hey guys,

We can’t believe we have now been with the Buckley family for five weeks!! It has gone super quick. We have got loads to tell you so we will get straight into it. Hope you enjoy. :-)

Since surprising everyone with our arrival on the Saturday afternoon we have been on a whirlwind adventure of the sights and attractions of Sydney along with enjoying quality time with our much missed family, Uncle Paul, Auntie Dawn, Ainsley, Tayler and Millie the dog. That Saturday night we went to Wendy’s (Uncle Paul’s cousin) for a big family dinner where we were welcomed with open arms. It was a great way to kick off our stay. Followed with a juicy fry-up from Auntie Dawn on the Sunday morning we were being very spoilt. After breakfast all six of us went to Wollongong (the Gong) and enjoyed the beach and a lovely picnic.

Uncle Paul had taken the Monday off work, so we were up early, waved the kids off to school and then spent the day with him showing us the local area including Campbelltown and the Nepean Dam, followed with a tasty BBQ. The rest of the week we spent exploring Mount Annan and relaxing, Tayler was off school poorly so we stayed in a few days with her. On Tuesday it was a treat to see Ainsley play the drums at a school performance, he played ‘Riders on the Storm’ and was amazing. On the Thursday of that week we cycled to the Mount Annan Botanical Gardens and soaked in the lovely weather with a picnic and bottle of wine, which made cycling back a bit more fun.

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That weekend Wendy and her daughter Amber joined us on a whale watching cruise. After getting the 1 hour train into Sydney we hopped on the ferry and enjoyed the 3 hour round trip out to sea. We were lucky enough to see 9 whales which was brilliant. On the Sunday the two of us, Uncle Paul and Ainsley drove to Symbio Zoo where we saw the Tigers being fed and a reptile show before it started to throw it down. We hopped back in the car and attempted to out-run the storm. We headed for Nan Tien Temple (memories of Asia), Windang Beach and saw the blowhole at Kiama. A totally fun-packed weekend!!

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The next week, with everyone being back at work and school we chose to get our tourist on again and spent most of the week visiting the many sights of Sydney City Centre. Monday we hopped off the train at Central and walked through Hyde Park, visited Anzac Memorial and walked through Sydney Botanical Gardens. Later we went to see Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge before enjoying a beer at Circular Quay. It was getting dark by this time so to see Sydney all lit up was superb.

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Throughout the rest of the week we also visited China Town, Macarthur, Darling Harbour and the famous Bondi Beach which was beautiful, and with the weather being glorious it was another great trip.


A very busy week was followed with another eventful weekend with a visit to the Blue Mountains, something that we had really been looking forward to. The six of us were this time joined by Uncle Paul’s Uncle John and Auntie Gene. It was an incredible day with some spectacular views. We enjoyed riding the mining train, going on the cable cars which had a glass bottom, walking through the rainforest, finding the waterfall and trekking up to an impressive lookout of the famous three sisters.

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Sunday we were out and about again visiting Fitzroy Falls which was beautiful before heading to Berrima where we visited the courthouse museum and treated ourselves at the Lolly shop, before making our way to Mittagong – where we nipped in to Dan Murphy’s (best liquor shop) to stock up.


We have failed to mention so far that each evening we have been polishing off a mighty amount of alcohol, as anyone who we have chatted with on Skype will know. Haha. Our purchases went down a treat with the Chinese food we had that evening.

After a full on two weeks, this week we chilled. Not really venturing further than the local shops. It was a fantastic week as the weather was gorgeous again; we relaxed in the sun, learned how to wave board with the kids and enjoyed even more time with Millie. One evening after school we treated the kids to some tea out and a few games of bowling, we had such a blast the four of us. We also managed to squeeze in a couple of hours shopping for our Tayler. Haha.

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It’s a good time to say here that we have been spoilt every night with a lovely home-cooked tea, tasty dishes including massaman curry, chilli, pasta, A SUNDAY DINNER, and many a BBQ. Just so our parents know we have been pulling our weight, including helping out around the house and cooking some treats for them as well. Haha. To show our appreciation and say thanks we took Auntie Dawn and Uncle Paul out that Friday night, starting at Camden Valley Inn for drinks and then on to Joy’s Thai Restaurant for tea which was yum. A fun night out the four of us.

We stayed in this Saturday and prepared for later that evening when all the family was coming around for a BBQ. It was great to have everyone round and meet the rest of the family. Each of them brought their speciality dish so the night turned into a feast.

Our fourth week with the Buckley’s we had some more nice weather, so were able to take visits into Camden and enjoy lunching out and about in the sun. This was also the week that we started finalising our details for New Zealand. That Friday we were invited by Uncle Paul’s 2nd cousin Kail and his girlfriend Jade for a night out in the city. They treated us to a meal at a teppanyaki restaurant which was loads of fun and the food was really good. We played games that involved the chef throwing raw eggs and us catching them in bowls and omelette in our mouths. We ended the night with cocktails at Darling Harbour which we went down a treat.

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Wow just writing all this it’s amazing how much we have done....

Saturday 27th August the six of us were up and out making our way by train and ferry to Manly. We took in the surfer’s paradise of a beach and looked around the shops. That afternoon we caught the river cat to Parramatta. Also by this time we were all excitedly anticipating a new arrival back in the UK from Miss Lindsey Owens....but the baby would make us wait just one more day. :-)

Sunday we headed to Penrith for a show and fair that was on. The weather was lovely and we enjoyed watching a reptile show, stunt horse riders, motorcross and lot’s more. Around lunch-time we received a phone call from Kyle letting us know that Lindsey had given birth to a little girl, 7lbs 2oz – beautiful baby Abigail.

One of the (many) activities we had decided on before leaving home was Phil doing a sky-dive, as Kayleigh jumped out of a plane last year for charity when working for CEL. Being at the Buckleys in Mount Annan was perfect for this, as Sydney Sky-Divers are based 30 minutes down the road in Picton. We arrived at the air strip at about 12 o'clock and within 45 minutes Phil was suited up and boarding the tiny plane with his instructor Mick, they don't mess about in Oz!


At 14,000 feet the jump was made, Phil describes it as "one of the most exhilarating things I've ever done!" With 45 seconds of freefall and 5 minutes of floating under the parachute, it was well worth the money. Check out the landing on video...

Our last weekend in Oz has been loads of fun. We spent all day Saturday with each other at home, playing games, swimming in the pool (it wasn't the warmest!) and enjoying a sausage sizzle in the garden as the weather was lovely again. We had one last sight we wanted to see before leaving Oz, and that was Jervis Bay; a spectacular collection of white sands and clear blue waters just off the south eastern coast. It was a 3 hour drive to get there from Mount Annan, but it was totally worth it. We met up with other family members at Huskisson (or Huskie), and then drove on to the national park. We enjoyed some hot chips before heading for the beach where we played more games and swam in the sea. After the 3 hour drive back everyone was exhausted but it was the perfect end to an unforgettable stay here.

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We have enjoyed our time with the Buckley's so much it is going to be hard to say goodbye to them tomorrow, and it was bad enough the first time round. We are both really grateful for them putting us up for a whole month, and will be back to see them in the future. But anyway, our next leg awaits us....roll on New Zealand.

Thanks for reading. We hope you are all well at home.

Lot's of Love,

Kayleigh and Phil


Posted by JoyRyderRTW 16:28 Archived in Australia Tagged sydney new_south_wales zoo new_zealand anzac blue_mountains three_sisters jervis_bay whale_watching bondi_beach mount_annan buckleys 3_sisters symbio_zoo Comments (3)

Brisbane to Sydney in Two Weeks

Making our way down the South-East coast of Australia

sunny 22 °C

From Rockhampton we made the 10-hour overnight bus journey to Brisbane, however the trip didn’t go without a ‘slight’ hitch. Kayleigh was already feeling a little under the weather, but 3 hours into the journey she turned very white and was very poorly, luckily they have sick bags on the buses! We’re not sure if she picked up a bug from somewhere, but it came on pretty quick and she felt awful for the next day or so.

After getting only a little bit of sleep for the rest of the journey, we arrived in Brisbane at 6am and walked to our hostel, Chill Backpackers. We were staying in a 4-bed dorm room, and met Erlend, a nice Norwegian who had just arrived in Australia. With Kayleigh still feeling rough, she rested in bed while Phil and Erlend went on the roof as the hostel put on a free sausage sizzle with a few beers.

Kayleigh was much better the next day so we headed out into the city to explore. We walked to Queen Street in the centre where most of the shops are, saw the City Hall where LG were launching a ‘Life’s Good’ campaign with free Zumba dancing and checked out Anzac Square with monuments for Australia’s war veterans.

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We did some more exploring of Brisbane the following day, walking across the river to the Southbank area, where they have an amazing man-made beach, some lovely gardens and the cultural centre. We went to the free museum, which had some really interesting exhibitions including Australian animals, dinosaurs and Rock n Roll George’s car, a legend in Brisbane who used to drive round the city for over 60 years.


Unfortunately, that night the curse of Kayleigh’s bug came back to get us, this time it was Phil’s turn to feel sick! After an early night though, it didn’t last too long which was lucky really as we headed to Australia Zoo the next day, along with Erlend.

We were up nice and early and on a Greyhound bus by 7am, it only took an hour and a half to get there. The weather was perfect and the Zoo itself wasn’t too busy with it being a week day, so we had a great time seeing all kinds of animals. Highlights included watching the otters being fed, a crocodile show at the ‘crocoseum’, feeding some really tame kangaroos and wallabies, petting some koalas and watching the tigers playing in water. :-)

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We spent 5 days in Brisbane overall, and on a Sunday we made our way to the next stop, Byron Bay. It took 4 hours on the bus to make it there, and when we arrived we dropped off our bags at Aquarius Backpackers Hostel and headed out. We went straight to the main beach strip, which was a lovely long stretch of white sand, but the main attraction was the many surfers who were making the most of the waves.

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That night we went for a few schooners at the Beach Hotel, which was busy with locals and tourists enjoying a live reggae band. Afterwards, we went back to our Hostel where it was ‘Scattegories’ night. A game where teams had to think of funny words depending on the letter that was chosen (the ruder the better), we met 2 Californian girls and the 4 of us managed to win one game, free drinks all round!


The main highlight for us in Byron Bay was walking to the Lighthouse, built in 1901. The route we took to the lighthouse was a steep(ish) climb through a forest for about 4km. When we emerged at the top the view was spectacular. The day was warm with the sun shining, the waves from the ocean were crashing against the coast, along with the impressive lighthouse made for a very picturesque moment. To make it last we sat and enjoyed the view with some homemade milkshakes.

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For our descent we chose the coastal walk route which was much more of a stroll compared to the forest. But not before we ‘got our tourist on’ and headed to the lookout at Cape Byron which is the most easterly point of Australia.

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We really enjoyed our time in Byron Bay; the place itself was really fun. Unfortunately due to a couple of prats in our dorm room we were actually very ready to leave. So, on to Newcastle we go.

After our recent bad experience with overnight buses we opted to take a day bus to Newcastle, even though it was a 9 hour journey. Even so, it actually went quite quick – we arrived in Newcastle around 9:30pm, and our hostel was just a 5 minute walk away, which was good as even though we hadn’t done much all day we were still shattered, so we just crashed that night.

Our first full day in Newcastle we explored the shops, that didn’t take too long as the town centre is quite small, and then visited the beach. So there really wasn’t very much to do in Newcastle, but we were there as it’s the place to book your trip to Hunter Valley and visit the famous wineries – so we booked our trip for the next day.


That evening we joined some of the other people staying at our hostel ‘Backpackers by the beach’ at the Brewery, a local pub, for a free BBQ, beer and pub quiz. It was a fun night, and although we only got a mediocre result on the quiz we did get a few bonus questions resulting in some more free beer....What is the Canadian national animal?? Any takers? It’s the beaver, which for some reason Kayleigh knew lol. (Mainly cos she loves How I Met Your Mother!)

Up early the next morning we enjoyed some (Heinz English recipe) beans on toast for breakfast as we would need something in our tummies before going wine tasting. There was just us and another couple on the tour so we were able to taste a variety of wines throughout the day. We visited 5 different wineries and tasted around 30 different wines and port, as well as cheese and chocolate tasting. We treated ourselves to one bottle and bought a couple of other bottles for presents.

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We also visited the British lolly shop on our visit and picked up some treats from home and Phil had a Double Decker. Haha. We really enjoyed ourselves on this tour as you can imagine. In the evening we treated ourselves to dinner at a Balinese restaurant, which was a perfect end to our first 4 weeks in Oz.

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The next day was Saturday and we were due to be at The Buckley Household on the Sunday – but we had other plans. Up early again we caught the bus from Newcastle to Sydney Central taking 3 hours. From there we hoped on the train to Macarthur station just 7km away from the Buckley’s house in Mount Annan. We thought about walking but opted to take a taxi as we didn’t fancy walking down a dual carriage way lol. A quick 10 minutes in the taxi and we were round the corner from their house, just out of site. We walked up the drive of the house we thought was theirs and had a peek through the door window, Uncle Paul was on the couch, woo we had arrived!


We opened the door and let ourselves in to be greeted by surprised faces and lots of kisses and cuddles from Uncle Paul, Ainsley and Tayler – it’s been a whole year since we saw them. One person was missing though – Auntie Dawn was out shopping. Uncle Paul called her under the pretence that the house alarm was going off and she needed to come home. A few minutes later her car pulled up and as she approached the house we opened the front door to her. Her face was a picture, and she was very pleased to see us. :-) We are here for the next four weeks and have so far enjoyed one fun-packed week with them.

We will update you very soon on our adventure with the Buckleys.

Lots of Love,

Kayleigh and Phil.


Posted by JoyRyderRTW 17:52 Archived in Australia Tagged sydney koala australia wine brisbane lighthouse crocodiles dorm byron_bay backpackers newcastle oz wineries australia_zoo hunter_valley joyryderrtw cape_byron british_lolly_shop mount_annan Comments (5)

Our Oz adventure begins...

2 action-packed weeks to kick off our stay in Australia

sunny 24 °C

After a fond farewell to Southeast Asia, via Singapore Airport, it took two flights to make it to Australia where we are due to stay for the next two months. The flights themselves totalled 12 hours, and even though we had a quick hour stop at Darwin in the middle we were very glad to make it to Cairns as we both didn't manage too get much sleep.


We had booked in with Caravella Hostel, and they gave us a free pick up from the Airport which was cool. After putting our bags in our room we headed straight out to find out what the place was like. Being in Australia was quite strange at first, as we had been used to chaotic Asian cities with strange smells and noises going on, but in Australia it is much more like home so that was weird to get used to. Cairns itself was lovely, it was obvious quite a bit of money had been thrown at it for tourism as there was a massive (and free) swimming lagoon, a long promenade, free BBQs to use and even exercise areas for energetic types.

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It didn't take long before we took the opportunity of going in the lagoon as the weather was nice and hot (although a few degrees cooler than in Singapore!). The only problem with the lagoon is that nights are quite cold in Australia, so the water was literally freezing. Kayleigh dipped her toe in and decided against going in, while Phil went in for a swim after hesitating at first!

One of the main differences we've found with being in Australia now is how expensive everything is, particularly food and drink. This means we have been cooking our own food a lot more using various Hostel's kitchens as well as the free BBQs which were lined up along the beach. We absolutely loved getting some nice steak going on the barbie, sharing a bottle of wine together (as its cheaper than beer) and watching the sun go down, bliss!

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On the following night we bought some sausages and burgers and headed to the BBQs to enjoy another night by the sea. However there was a large group of people joining in a free yoga session (about 200-300 people) so all of the BBQs were taken up, doh! We decided to sit on one of the benches and eat the only other food we had, a cheese board with 4 different cheeses as well as a bottle of red wine. So looking like posh so-and-so's we ate the cheese with some french bread and polished off the wine, needless to say by the end we were pretty damn drunk and loving every second!


Our main reason for coming to Cairns was to check the Great Barrier Reef, which stretches all down the North-Eastern coast and is easily accessible here. We booked a day snorkelling tour and went to two different Reef sites which were both very different. The first, Michaelma's Cay, was a small island with lots of colourful fish, really clear water and many different types of coral to see. We spent about an hour and a half here, swimming around the shore and back to the boat. The island itself had a fenced off area of about 20 metres, as the rest of the island is a bird sanctuary for thousands of birds.

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After enjoying some buffet lunch on the cataraman, we headed to the next stop which was Paradise Reef. This was a site more out at sea, but when we got in we realised the sea was pretty choppy and it was much harder than at Michaelma's Cay. We got to see some other types of fish and coral, and had about an hour or so to enjoy it. By the end we were absolutely knackered but it was a brilliant day!

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We stayed in Cairns for 5 nights and decided our next destination would be Townsville, a city 6 hours south. Before leaving the UK we bought Greyhound Bus passes which entitle us to travel south between Cairns and Sydney as much as we like, as long as we don't go north. These have turned out to be brilliant purchases, as the buses here are expensive when buying trips one at a time so we've saved money already after a few journeys. The buses are also really good here, reliable, clean, nice drivers who actually tell you where we're going (not a lottery like in Thailand!) and radio / DVDs playing on longer journeys.

In Townsville we were staying at the Civic Guest House Hostel in a 4-bed dorm room, and managed to get a free pick up from the bus station on arrival. The city was quite similar to Cairns, we spent a full day checking out the beach and the impressive gardens along the coast.

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As we were only staying for one full day we didn't get to see too much else, but with the weather nice and warm we enjoyed chilling out and taking it easy for a change!

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Next, we headed 4 hours by bus to Airlie Beach, the main stopping point for trips to the gorgeous Whitsunday islands. The hostel we stayed at, Airlie Waterfront Hostel, was practically 100 metres from the bus stop so instead of being lazy we walked to it with our bags! :-)

We spent the day exploring Airlie Beach, looking around the bay and the lagoon before booking our next snorkelling trip, we really fancied another go after such a good experience in Cairns. That evening we enjoyed homecooked spag bol with a lovely bottle of red wine, before heading to Magnums a local bar for a few scooners of Tooheys beer.

The next day we were up early excited about our trip. Arriving at the Marina we boarded Big Fury, a huge speedboat, and at an impressive speed headed out to our first stop, Border Island. It took an hour to get there and with the boat going so fast we were completely wind swept, Phil's hair especially was pretty funny.

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Ater quick instructions from the tour manager we changed into our wetsuits, grabbed our snorkelling equipment and jumped into the freezing cold sea. The weather on the day was windy and overcast which unfortunately made the water a little murky, but with the water being so shallow the coral and fish were still just as beautiful as our last trip. This time the tour manager threw fish food into the water while we snorkelled, the result was us being surrounded by hundreds of various types of fish, all swimming through our legs and around us.

Our second and last stop was Whitehaven beach one of Australia's most beautiful beaches, where on the right day and time the sand swirls with the different currents of the sea and creates a marble effect. We got off the boat and enjoyed a tasty lunch, and shared some of it with the local lizards that have been accustomed to vistors throwing them bits of leftovers. For the rest of the afternoon we relaxed on the beautiful beach, the sand like flour beneath our feet and with the view of the surrounding rainforest it was simply a wonderful end to the trip....or so we thought.

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Making our way back to the marina on Big Fury we were taking in the views of the other Whitsunday Islands when a gentleman on board shouted "Whale". With it being the beginning of the migration season for humpback whales we were all hoping that we might catch a glimpse of the whales, but with it being so early it was quite unlikely. BUT, we did. Check out the video below of the two whales we saw that were swimming along our boat. Amazing!!

The next day we checked out and caught the Greyhound bus to Rockhampton, the beef capital of Oz. The 7 hour journey passed quite quick and again we were picked up from the bus station from our hostel the Rockhampton YHA. We arrived at the perfect time, on a Friday night at 7pm. Friday nights in Rockhampton are reserved for bullriding and enjoying steak and beer at the Great Western Hotel, so that's exactly what we did. Neither of us knew quite what to expect, but when we arrived there was a large arena, a BBQ, a bar and all the locals enjoying the night dressed in all their best cowboy gear.

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We grabbed a drink and sat in the stands ready to watch the rodeo competition begin. Those people are crazy. With the bulls doing everything they could to kick them off their backs the competitors held on for dear life. Some lasted just a few seconds, while others managed to hold on for longer to the elation of the crowd. The guy in the video below actually came second overall.

While we were there it would have been an insult not to indulge in a nice steak as they are supposed to be the best in Australia, so we joined the queue for the BBQ and ordered 2 steak sangas which were massive and sooo good. We were then really greedy and had some chips as well. Yum. We had a great night, it felt like we were in an old American western movie.

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The rest of our time in Rockhampton was spent looking around the local town centre, we visited their art gallery which was exhibiting aboriginal pieces and had the Melbourne Cup on display. There wasn't really anything else we wanted to do in Rocky so we relaxed until it came time to leave. Our next stop Brisbane....an 11 hour overnight bus journey that would take us half way down the coast on our way to Sydney.

We've got just under 2 weeks before we are due to meet up with the Buckleys in Mount Annan which we are both really excited for, until then though we still have so much more to fit in.

Speak to you all again soon.

Lot's of love,

Phil and Kayleigh


Posted by JoyRyderRTW 01:34 Archived in Australia Tagged snorkelling singapore australia lagoon darwin bbq cairns great_barrier_reef rodeo whitehaven_beach townsville rockhampton airlie_beach joyryderrtw michaelmas_cay paradise_reef steak_sanga Comments (6)

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