The start of our well-awaited trip was not what we had imagined. After a 5am wake-up to make our flight to Toronto, we should have noticed that things were going a bit too to plan. We got there in plenty of time, sat down to have breakfast and boom, our flight is delayed three hours. Okay fine, not the end of the world because we’ll still make our connection. Then it was delayed four, then five, then eleven hours… and then it was just cancelled. We had spent 14 hours travelling and hadn’t even left Edinburgh airport.
Eventually, Air Canada put us up in an airport hotel called Moxy. We’ve claimed everything back off them and hopefully should get €600 in compensation. That money should at least cover most of the cost of our original flight but doesn’t begin to cover the emotional stress that cancellation caused. At least we got to watch Love Island.
Thankfully our flight the next morning to Bogota actually left on time and although we were 24 hours behind schedule, we finally made it to Colombia.
When we finally landed in Bogota, we were faced with the dilemma most travellers encounter when they first arrive in a new city – the group of haggling taxi men shouting at you. By this point, we were so delirious that when a guy said ‘meter’ we almost jumped for joy. Halfway there and we realized it was definitely a scam, obviously. The meter was rigged and we ended up paying double what we should have (60k COP (~£15) rather than 30k (~7.50)) but honestly by that point, I just didn’t care. We also hadn’t got to grips with the money at all and this resulted in a lot of people shouting ‘rapido rapido’ at as we fumbled with our bumbags like a pair of middle-aged Americans.
Eventually, we arrived at our hostel in the historic part of Bogotá called La Candelaria. We stayed in Algeria’s hostel, it was small but cute, in a great location and the beds were comfy. The staff didn’t speak a word of English but were very welcoming and tried to be as helpful as they could. Luckily my duolingo-broken Spanish understood what he was saying about not going to the south or west of the city and which streets were the safest.
Although tired, our jet lag had us up at 7am the next morning which was great seeming as though we’d already missed a whole day of our trip. We got up and had the free breakfast the hostel provided, it was simple with pastries, fruit and coffee but suited us just fine. We spent the morning wandering around La Candelaria – there are loads of museums e.g. El Museo del Oro (Gold Museum) and Museuo Botero (Botero Museum) and restaurants and cafes to explore. As it was 9am on a Sunday when we were there, nothing was open. It was a shame we didn’t get to experience Bogotá properly but what can you do, ‘it is what it is’. We did stop for a coffee at Selina Hostel which looked fab, we didn’t stay there because it’s expensive but if you’re looking for a big international hostel that actually speaks English, this is your best bet.
Around 11am we headed back to the airport to catch a flight to Pereira, this is the closest airport to the coffee region of Salento. This time we got the woman from the hostel to speak to the taxi driver, he didn’t look too happy about it but we did end up paying 30k COP this time. Naturally, our flight was delayed AGAIN but only for an hour. Once we arrived in Periera we had the taxi man issue – a few were asking us for x4 what it should cost to get to the bus station, others were telling us there were no buses left today to Salento and others were trying to charge us £30 (120k COP) to drive us straight there. Luckily this time we actually knew what it should cost and with enough arguing and just saying ‘muy caro’ over and over again we got to the bus station for 15k COP.
Once in the bus station we were pretty aware that it was a Sunday and that it was already 5pm, there genuinely might have been no buses! As we were waiting to buy a ticket, one of the bus drivers just pulled us aside and put us on a bus. He was charging 500 COP more than the ticket desk but with that equating to 25p extra between us we were happy to pay it!
The bus to Salento was comfortable, only an hour and gave great views of the Colombian mountains (it also only cost 8k COP ~ £2 each!).
Salento is a really small town up in the Andes, you can walk from one end to the other in 10 minutes. It’s a beautiful town littered with multi-coloured houses, horses and loads of cute shops, restaurants and bars. It was warm during the day and cooler at night – it ended up being one of our favourite places in Colombia. We checked into our hostel (Viajero) and were very pleasantly surprised. This hostel was a bit on a pricey side (and by that, I mean £40/night for a private room) but the room was so nice and big, comfy bed, private bathroom and a balcony overlooking the mountains. The hostel itself included breakfast, had WiFi, washing, a kitchen, hammocks, TVs, computers – basically anything you could need and the staff were lovely and spoke English.
That evening we headed out to the main square for dinner and it was packed! We ate some traditional Colombian food consisting off plantain with meat or fish at a street stall and finished them off with some local beer – we finally felt like we were actually on holiday.
With the jet lag still prominent, the next morning I was awake at 6am which meant Lewis was awake at 6am. We had the hostel breakfast and then walked to the main square where you can get a Jeep to take you to a number of other towns as well as the coffee farms. Luckily the woman at the ticket office spoke English because we would have been so lost! There are a number of different coffee farms you can go to each with their pros and cons but we decided to go to one called Finca Buenos Aires. We were told to go wait by a jeep and I don’t know if we missed something but the driver didn’t give us much warning before he pulled away which resulted in us having to jump on a moving jeep!
We were on one of the first jeeps (9am) but they run every hour. We didn’t really know what we’d signed up for and when we were dropped off outside what looked like an empty house, we were pretty sceptical! However, once we walked through the gates our lovely tour guide Olga made us feel very welcome. She spoke nearly perfect English and took us through the stages of the coffee farming process. We got to wear the traditional wicker baskets the coffee pickers used to wear, plant newly germinated seeds, pick some cherries off the branches and grind them up. We then got to try the coffee, and me, who only drinks mochas, actually enjoyed the plain filter coffee they made us using their beans. We learnt a lot and the scenery was stunning. Everything they do there is by hand and we even got to meet the owner of the farm who was sat with his wife hand-picking the best beans to be exported – I would thoroughly recommend going to this farm if you’re in Salento, we had a fantastic day.
As we were finishing our tour (it took about an hour and a half) more and more people started arriving and we could see the tour groups getting bigger and bigger. It made us very thankful we were the first to arrive and it meant that we got transport to and from the farm and a private tour for £7 each!
We were back in Salento for lunchtime and headed straight to the bus terminal to book our bus to Medellin. After that tour, we were on a high which was quickly brought back down when we were told all the buses to Medellin tomorrow were fully booked. We went back to the hostel to research some other options – we could get a bus to Pereira or Armenia and hope to get a bus from there (they’re bigger towns with many more daily buses). But as I was on the bus website looking, I noticed it said there were 4 spaces on the 10am bus from Salento. A bit confused, we went to ask the receptionist who called the bus terminal for us, turns our 4 people had just pulled out of that bus and that we needed to run straight down there with our passports to book it! When we got there 15 mins later 2 of those tickets had already gone and we managed to snap up the last 2 – it looked like our luck was changing after all! Moral of the story, book your buses at least 2 days in advance if it’s a long-ish journey.
Once we’d finally sorted all that out we were starving, on recommendation, we went to a small restaurant called ‘Brunch’. They have the most amazing milkshakes and make their own hot sauce which we bought a bottle of – very hot but so good. We stuffed our faces, classic eyes bigger than your belly scenario, and then went and had a nap – the early rises were getting to us.
Even after we woke up we were still so full from lunch! We spent the first part of the evening having a few drinks at the hostel bar and playing cards. We then decided to go to play a traditional Colombian game called Tejo. It’s a bizarre game and 100% a tourist trap but it was only £2 to play as many rounds as you want and the beers were super cheap.
The game is set up like this; you have a slope covered in clay with a ring of metal in the middle. Small packets of gunpowder are placed around the ring and the aim of the game is to throw your rock at the ring and make a packet explode. You get points depending on how close your stone is to the centre of the ring and although we were both terrible at it, Lewis ended up winning in the end.
The next morning I had Lewis up at 6am again! After breakfast, we checked out, got a packed lunch from ‘Brunch’ and jumped on the bus to Medellin. The bus was so nice! The seats were huge and comfy. The trip to Medellin took 6 hours, including a 30 min stop at Pereria. This was probably one of the nicest buses we took during our trip.
Our first week in St Kilda was very PG. Although it was only a 4 day week it seemed to drag on forever – and I only actually had 3 days in the office! I spent the whole week just working, dieting and gymming; how boring. Even that weekend was very tame. Riss and Gabby had gone up to Sydney to visit a uni mate and Christie was working nights.
On the Friday, I had to go do some ‘public engagement’ for a temporary sewer line they’re putting in next to some of the posh beach-side houses in Brighton. This meant that I got to spend the day walking around in a high-vis jacket telling people that either: they might not be able to get in and out of their driveways and that there was going to be night-works, or, that we were putting a big ugly white pipe in their back garden. I was quite surprised that people genuinely didn’t mind. I guess when it’s the choice between a temporary inconvenience or holding it till you get to work each day, people are more forgiving.
I got let out early that day (finishing at 3pm on a sunny Friday is one of the nicest feelings). If I’m completely honest, the fact I knew I could get some time by myself was almost too much to handle. Sharing a bed, let alone a room means that personal space isn’t really a thing! I am getting used to sleeping next to Christie and am definitely sleeping better, but a whole night alone! I ordered a pizza and watched a movie and it was the best night ever. I ended up watching Wander – I cried my eyes out. Not just a tear running down the cheek sort of crying but real, hyperventilating, loud, ugly crying. Such a great film, would definitely recommend it! On the Saturday Christie and I had a lazy morning and then went and met the others at the NGV. For someone who doesn’t understand art, there were some pretty cool installations. My favourite was probably ‘Flower Obsession’ by Yayoi Kusama. This consisted of an empty room and then each person that visits places a flower in the room. The result is quite striking (also great for the ‘gram).
On the Sunday I actually managed to go for a run in the morning! I ran around the Albert Park Lake, which was such a lovely run and one I will definitely do again. The whole loop from my flat, around the lake and back was 9.5km. I didn’t run the whole way but gave it my best shot! Hoping to be able to run the whole thing before I leave – only 4 weeks left. After that Christie, Hunter (one of Ellen’s friends) and I went to Brighton beach. Because I’m a 70-year-old woman and am terrified of getting sunburnt, I factor-50ed-up. We got to the beach and it was sunny for about 1 minute and then it was cloudy for the rest of the time. At this rate, I’m going to be whiter by the time I get home than when I left. That evening we were lucky enough to have been invited to Ellen’s house for a family meal with her parents, siblings and two of Ellen’s friends (Paris and Tom) who also drove us down there – it’s nice knowing a few locals with cars! We gorged on 9-hour slow roasted pork in a taco-style meal. It was delicious.
My fourth week at work was incredibly slow. On the Monday I edited my blog, on the Tuesday I planned our East Coast trip, on the Wednesday I did some public engagement stuff but was home before 4. I did manage to get my two 500 days and all my workouts in which I feeling quite good about and at least I’m getting paid to do the things I would do in my free time! We did all go for a lovely burger for Cal’s birthday on the 10th so that was a nice mid-week treat. We went to On it burger in Abbotsford and I had to Jalapeno burger (it was very hot but very good). We didn’t go out or do anything too crazy as we were all saving our money (and livers) for the weekend.
Cal or walrus?
The Bday boy himself!
So, I may have been sensible on the Tuesday night but the Thursday night didn’t turn out so well. It started off with the best intentions, I met an old family friend at a rooftop bar which was very civilized and lovely, I hadn’t seen this boy in probably 10+ years so it was SO nice to catch up. We left after 3 pints and some food and one of the reasons we left was we were at the point where 1 more would turn into 10 more and I had work the next morning. I jumped on the tram pretty impressed with myself for being so sensible. Gabby, on the other hand, had different plans. She requested that we have a couple glasses of wine once I got back, and being the good friend that I am I couldn’t leave her hanging. To cut a long story short, 1 glass of wine turned into multiple and my 10pm bedtime turned into 2:30am. Riss and Christie did come stumbling in around 2am blind-drunk which provided some quality entertainment but I swear to god this is the first and last time I get drunk on a school night, the hang was unbearable (especially a goon hangover).
I think the McDonald’s cup in Riss’s hand really gives these photos a classy edge to them
As it was Christie’s birthday, that weekend was, as expected, a large one. On the Friday I was too hungover still to even contemplate going out, it was probably best to save myself for Saturday as well. We all woke up feeling fresh and were so ready for the day ahead. Everyone came over around 2pm and the VERY competitive game of beer pong began. I would like to point out that I was put on a team with Riss because the boys thought it would be funny to watch us bicker and then lose. Well, we showed them. Even after copious amounts of margarita and goon Riss and I won the whole tournament. We won every game but one so the boys can shove that in their pipe and smoke it.
Everyone loves beer pong
So serious I made a spreadsheet
I hope the boys realize never to mess with two women on a mission again
We went to a club called New Guernica in the CBD and it was great. I had the absolute best time – the set up as fab and the music even better. It was such a good way for us to enter Christie’s birthday! The night ended when someone (Riss) got asked to leave the club for being a wee bit too drunk and because we are such supportive and doting friends we all left with her. Sunday was spent cleaning and then moping around the flat. We watched so many movies and I obviously had some Pho to cure the hang. Poor Christie had to go to work – it was only supposed to be for a couple of hours but she ended up being there till close – on her birthday!
Work the next week was the usual was cry-myself-to-sleep boring, but by this point I was starting to panic at how little time we had left in Melbourne, it’s gone so incredibly quickly – especially compared to New Zealand which seemed to drag on for months. One thing on my checklist was Luna Park.
Luna park was opened in 1912 and it is just as creepy as you would imagine something that first opened before WWI. It has the oldest rollercoaster in the world – the Scenic Railway – and the iconic ‘Mr. Moon’ face as the entrance (terrifying). It’s the type of place I’d imagine people being murdered or there being an inhumane Freak Shows… Basically, I feel like it’s the set for the fourth season of American Horror Story or the ninth book of a Series of Unfortunate events (if you don’t get any of these references I’m not even going to apologize because you clearly need an education).
A series of Unfortunate Events
American Horror Story
Don’t worry, you can watch them both on Netflix
Ellen and Hunter then came over for a very cheese- and carb-heavy dinner and an episode of Frist Dates – a cute girly (+ Hunter) evening!
Later in the week, after an easy day of more sewer works public engagement (I ended at 3pm), Riss, Christie and I went for a few drinks in St. Kilda – we haven’t even explored it yet and we’ve been there for 3 weeks! I stupidly left my jacket down in Brighton at the site office but the guy I work for, a super sweet 60-year-old man, drove into St. Kilda to drop it off for me! After happy hour ended, we decided that food and movie was the best course of action. Netflix had recently recommended a new horror – perfect. It was less than perfect. It was a TERRIBLE movie – do not watch it! It’s called Open House and is about someone staying in a house after an Open House. It was only after we’d watched it and realized how bad it was that we checked it’s rating, it has 13% on rotten tomatoes!! Tip for the day: always google movies first.
On the Friday I did something I was quite (very) proud of – I managed to run 10km without stopping! Now it was only on the treadmill so I still need to see if I can actually do it again let alone outside, but I’m pretty chuffed as I did what I set out to do.
That evening we went to a dinner party at some boys who we’d met through Harry Fox. It ended up being one of the weirdest nights of my life. Firstly, we arrived and the host (one of the boys we actually knew) was SO drunk he couldn’t even see – pretty bad form if you ask me. His friends were a mixed bag, some were amazingly lovely and some absolute weirdos… We ended up having a fun night in the end as we went to a party but I don’t think we’ll ever be seeing the host again.
The Sunday we had a day for ‘Christie’s Birthday’. As Christie and Riss knew they’d both be with each other for their birthdays this year, they decided that instead of a present, each would plan a day for the other full of their favourite things. Firstly Riss took Christie for brunch, however, the queue for a table was 40 minutes so instead, they went for a drink by the river. What this meant was that when Gabby and I met them for burgers at a place in Collingwood called ‘Easy’s‘, they were more than tipsy. I’ll admit it was very entertaining and Christie’s rendition of Mr. Napkin head was possibly the funniest thing I’ve seen in a really long time. Easy’s is a really trendy spot (omg I sound like my mother, SOS). It’s old train carriages on the top of a building and the food is fantastic. It’s not cheap for a burger but totally worth it.
What a cool place for a burger!?
Christie really enjoyed her burger ft. Mr. Napkin head
Following the burgers, we headed into town to catch a comedy show on the last day of the Melbourne Comedy Festival. I’m normally a bit sceptical about live comedy because it’s just awkward if it’s not funny and Riss had sat us in the front row! However, much to my surprise, it was hilarious. The show itself was ‘Best of British’ and it gave me such a good taste of home – I miss the dry, sarcastic and generally mean humour us Brits pride ourselves so much on. Naturally, we got picked on. I think my favourite bit was when the comedian said ‘we have three beautiful Brits right here in the front row, oh wait there’s four of you, three beautiful and one ugly’ – referring to Rissbrook.
We finished the evening with a couple drinks at a place called Ponyfish Island and watched the sunset over the Yarra River and the Melbourne skyline.
Even though I was the sensible one and was in bed by 10pm after drinks that evening, something came back to haunt me the next day. I felt absolutely fine Monday morning but after lunch, I suddenly felt like I was going to vomit all over my desk. I was really hot, my heart was racing, my body shaky, palms were sweaty (knees weak, arms are heavy) and so I got in an Uber and went home. Luckily my boss was super understanding and it wasn’t anything an afternoon in bed with a cup of tea and Grey’s anatomy couldn’t fix, but I still have no idea what caused it.
That week we finally got ourselves to an AFL match! We were a bit cheeky and bought under-5 child tickets and managed to get in as it’s self-scan. I can’t say I understood any of the rules but the MCG stadium is a sight to behold and the atmosphere was electric.
MCG Stadium and Cal trying to teach me and Christie some of the rules
The 7am wake up the next morning to do the Great Ocean Road was a struggle but we were so thankful that we weren’t hungover! Hunter, who was kindly driving us the whole way, was a tiny bit ropey – He may have got into the football a little bit more than us – but it was nothing a Macca’s breakfast couldn’t fix.
The Great Ocean Road is a long way to go for 1 day. We would have liked to stay a night on the coast but we were really running out of time! It took us just over 3 hours to drive to the furthest point, Port Campbell, and then another 4 to wind our way back along the coast and then home. If I’m honest the time in the car really wasn’t that bad and we had a really fantastic day.
We stopped at the main sites; London Bridge/Arch (it used to be a bridge but half of it collapsed), Loch Ard George and the Twelve Apostles (now there are only 8 left). We stopped for a lovely Coffee in Port Campbell and for an extremely gluttonous lunch in Apollo Bay – I then preceded to feel so full I couldn’t breathe for the next two hours.
Twelve Apostles and London bridge
The only thing on the whole trip that Hunter was determined to show us was supposed to be this spectacular waterfall in Lorne called Erskine falls. When we got there (after about an hour of driving) and were presented with a dribble of water. It was comically underwhelming. After the flop of the waterfall, the other two went for a quick dip in the sea in Lorne but it was about 15 degrees so I made the executive decision to watch from the sidelines.
What the falls were supposed to look like vs. what they actually looked like
The drive home along the coast was probably one of the highlights. The views are breathtaking with the sky boasting a candy-floss pink sunset. When we got home we whacked on The School of Rock which was the perfect way to end an excellent day.
That weekend we went shopping along Brunswick Street – it’s famous for its multitude of charity and vintage shops. We then had a lovely drink on the rooftop of Naked for Satan and then had their Pintxos for lunch. Pintxos (pronounced Pinchos) are small bites,, typically finger food. The way it works is that each Pintxos is skewered with a toothpick, you just go up to the bar and help yourself to whatever tickles your fancy. When you’re done, collect your toothpicks and hand them to the bar staff, and they will tally your bill. They were 50cent each! I ate 10 of them and was absolutely stuffed, and all of that for a fiver. I would seriously recommend there for lunch if you are in the area, it’s a considerably better deal than paying $20 for tapas on the rooftop. The rest of the weekend was very chilled. We were all in serious-saving mode for the East Coast.
I can’t tell you how excited I was for it to be my final week at work. Don’t get me wrong, the job was easy and the people I worked with were lovely but I was just so ready to get on the road again. We did manage to squeeze in some mid-week fun, however. Ellen and I went for dumplings in Chinatown on the Tuesday night. They were SO cheap – $7.50 for 15 dumplings! It was also BYOB which is always a bonus. After 2 ciders and 20 dumplings later, I was feeling positively bloated and headed to Collingwood to meet the Manchester boys and the girls at a bar called Mr Wow’s Emporium. It’s a pretty cool bar but I just can’t afford $8 glasses of wine anymore. It’s goon or sober for me nowadays. We played a couple rounds of sub-average pool and then called it a night – god we are getting so old! Since when was going to work hungover not a thing anymore.
One second beofre Alex missed the shot
Dumplings and pool (Alex missed the shot)
On a mission to tick more things off my list, I went to see the famous St. Kilda penguins – they nest on the end of St. Kilda pier each evening. The best time to see them is half an hour after sunset which means it’s dark and very hard to get a good photo! Saying that, they are super close and the workers have infrared lights so that you can see them. People I’ve spoken to before said that these penguins were gross and not worth seeing, however, I completely disagree – have you ever seen a penguin that isn’t adorable?
On our final weekend in Melbourne, it was Gabby’s birthday! Gabby’s friend from uni, Meg, had nipped down from Byron Bay to celebrate it with us (cute). We went for a girly brunch at a place called Fitzrovia. Have the dish with the sweet potato fritters – absolutely phenomenal.
To celebrate Gabby’s birthday, in addition to our leaving, we hosted a civilised dinner party for all of our new Melbourne friends. We set up the table, Rissbrook made a fantastic lasagne, we even borrowed chairs from the downstairs flat! Yet, as always, it turned out to be one of the rowdiest nights yet.
We always knew there was a chance that we may not sleep before our flight to Sydney but even as the clock struck 12 I was hoping I’d still get a couple hours of shut-eye. It was wishful thinking, to say the least. Top tip: DON’T get the 6am flight out of Avalon airport, it’s not worth it.
When our Uber pulled up at 3am I’d say that Christie and Riss were A LOT more hyper than me. Sensible Bradie was thinking that we should really get as much sleep as possible, Christie had other ideas. If Natasha Bedingfield at full blast just as the hangover is kicking in isn’t enough to grind your gears, then maybe the irony of having to then drag a deadweight Christie once she finally crashed onto the plane, is more up your street. When I say drag, I mean it in the literal sense of the term. Once they had started boarding, I woke both Riss and Christie up and told them to get in line. Riss and I were halfway through the queue when we realised Christie was still in the foetal position on an airport sofa. After a firm ‘I’m not dealing with it’ from Riss, I then jump back over the barrier to go and wake her for the third time. This time I just sit her up, grab her bags and physically pull her off the sofa. This is the girl who has just travelled for 5 months in South America! Honestly.
After the stress of that entire journey, the simple bliss of having my own bed and room in my Aunt’s house once I got to Sydney felt like a well-deserved reward for being travel-mother. Two weeks of chilling here, being a tourist and catching up on sleep sounds pretty damn good to me!
P.S. When the ‘Manchester boys’ read the post about my first month in Melbourne, they expressed a feeling of loss-of-identity by being referred to as a group instead of the fantastic individuals they really believe they are. So, if it matters so much to them that I discuss each of them and the impact they have had on my time in Australia, I’ll do just that.
Alex – he is the self-appointed leader of the group. Although he claims to make all the plans, it’s not impossible that he’ll flake last minute and leave you hanging.
Matty – thinks he is a world-class musician. Long hair and John-Lennon-esque sunglasses, pretty much says it all.
Cal – I pretty much only play Trivia Crack with him because he hates leaving the house.
Joe – don’t actually think I’ve had a full conversation so can’t even tell you what he’s about.
P.P.S. I let the boys read this first and they approved its publication, so don’t think I’m a horrible person.