Mt Ngungun, Glass House Mountains

As any person bread and buttered in the humid suburbs of Brisbane will tell you, there's not a great deal to do in the city itself, and compared to Sydney and Melbourne it can seem a bit of a cultural wasteland. However, if you venture just a few minutes' drive outside town the landscape is littered with natural sights and things to do; bushwalks, beaches and swimming holes just to name a few.

The Glass House Mountains are about an hour's drive out of Brisbane on the way up to the Sunshine Coast. They were named by Captain Cook, who was obviously long overdue for a Specsavers appointment as they don't really resemble any glass house I've ever seen (#dem1770seyes). Formed by the erosion and exposure of rhyolitic plugs, they are a pretty dramatic feature of South East Queensland's landscape and vary widely in climbing difficulty.

Begrudgingly admitting we weren't expert climbers, we tackled Mt Ngungan, one of the smaller peaks standing at 220m. Low cloud cover meant the walk was a little less comfortable than I'd imagined in the humidity, but easy enough along the well tracked path that meanders up the mountain. There were a fair few other people at the summit when we arrived, but not an annoying amount, and the panoramic views were really impressive and worth the sweaty walk.


Travel Catchups: A day in Cardiff, land of handsome men

The UK has the most boss train network (yes that's a technical term), something that Australia fails massively at. Here, even the track gauges between states are different. I just found out last week that we even have a train service that runs to Toowoomba (a city 2 hours' drive west) but it runs twice a week and takes four hours. No thanks.

So as an Australian, the fact that I could get a high-speed train at almost any time of the day not only to a different state but a different country was a rather awesome novelty. Which is what we did when we had some time to kill on Christmas Eve in Bristol, by getting a train across the border into Wales and hanging around Cardiff for a couple of hours.

Probably it was because it was Christmas Eve there wasn't much going on, but we had a nice day walking around, seeing the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff Castle, wandering down to Cardiff Bay and laughing at the ridiculously long Welsh translations on things. I have every respect for the Welsh language, and think it's totally cool the country is officially bi-lingual, but there is a certain hilarity to words like "Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch" (a place on Anglesey we saw on a sign). 

As an interesting aside, we also noted that Cardiff had the highest number of good looking, dark haired young men we saw on our entire trip. 

That didn't help us much when we went to get the train back home though, when some poorly given directions and the Christmas Eve/flood chaos meant we ended up nearly halfway across the country in Swindon and had to risk a sneaky free ride back to Bristol. DAMN YOU SWINDON!!

But yeah. Cardiff was nice.


Travel Catchups: Bath & Bristol

Any sadness we felt leaving London was replaced with frustration and boredom when, on the Saturday morning we were due to catch a bus to Salisbury at 7am, we missed the bus by a couple of minutes and were forced to wait 4 hours for the next service in uncomfortable Victoria Coach Station. One thing is to be said for National Express though, their service was amazing - when I was completely dismayed and asked one of the assistants checking people onto the buses what to do he directed me to their office across the station where a gruff employee was able to book us onto the next available seats free of charge. I'm pretty sure here at home you'd be made to pay for another ticket!

After much listless conversation and observation of the unusually high number of crippled, legless pigeons that hobble around Victoria station we were finally on the bus and on the motorway to Salisbury. The original plan had been to spend a couple of hours there and visit Stonehenge before our afternoon train to Bath but it was a miserable rainy day and our time was severely limited so we sat in the train station for a few hours instead.

With that pretty unsuccessful day behind us, it was a huge relief when we FINALLY arrived in Bath in the evening and found our couchsurfing hosts' house. Jez and Fernanda were amazing hosts and staying in their home with delicious food, a comfortable bed and their adorable Boston terrier Nigel felt like heaven after a week in the hostel in London. We spent our days wandering around town, visiting the Roman baths (of course) and the Royal Crescent, which I was so excited about after seeing it in various period dramas on TV. We even got to attend the local Christmas service with our hosts, which ticked off the 'have a Songs of Praise-esque experience' on my mental checklist. 

It was then onto Bristol, which I didn't know much about beforehand other than it was the filming location of Skins, but I had a brilliant time there and met a few new friends in the process. The city obviously isn't anywhere near the size of London so everything was within a nice walking distance. The shopping precinct in the centre of town is large with everything I needed/wanted (hello Primark...), there are plenty of art galleries and other trendy sights to see, and the street art is better than anywhere else I've been. This is, after all, the home of Banksy. 

My friend Tom left on Boxing Day and flew off to Ireland for a week so I spent my last couple of days walking around town, including up to the Clifton Suspension Bridge where the views are stunning.