The one where my blog turns 5 and I visit an Alternative Lifestyle capital, see some big crystals and tear my meniscus


Amazingly my blog is now five years old. It’s hard to believe and I’m still referring to it as my new blog (in much the same way as people often refer to their youngest child as ‘the baby’ maybe, even when he’s teenaged). Time passes fast.


Most popular post on my blog over the past year: this is Flores, Guatemala

The most popular post now is San Ignacio, Flores and Tikal, about travelling down from Belize to Guatemala. Last year’s most popular, about the ‘hippies’ of El Bolson (Argentina), comes a close second. All posts with the word ‘hippie’ in the title are consistently popular, as are any with the word Guadalajara. Well Guadalajara is a very up and coming destination; as for hippies, maybe they’re just eternally popular.



I have 284 posts in total, but in reality the same 30 or so are the ones being viewed over and over again

The most common referrer is Google (by a long way), followed by WordPress and Facebook. Instagram brought me the grand total of 5 page views this past year. Even Pinterest brought more than that and I’m not on Pinterest.

Most views came from the US, followed by UK and third Australia.

Where I’ve been the past six weeks.

After Japan I came back into Australia via Gold Coast Airport (just south of Brisbane) and hired a car for a few days to explore the delights of Northern NSW.

Two High-spots of this mini-trip

  1.  Crystal Castle


Crystal Castle

Tucked away near Mullumbimby (their website says 40 minutes from Gold Coast airport, although I took nearly two hours to find it. I was tired after a long flight followed by an hour-long interrogation at the airport, and came off at the wrong junction).


The Crystal Guardians: there, I spared you the selfie

This little gem (ha, see what I did there?) contains the largest amethyst cave in the world. You can take a selfie stood between two of the tallest crystals in the world the Crystal Guardians and wander around the Shambhala Gardens complete with sacred statues and the World Peace Stupa, blessed by the Dalai Lama.


Bamboo pathway at Crystal Castle, slightly less crowded than the one in Kyoto

2. Nimbin


Nimbin sells itself as the Alternative Lifestyle Capital. I’m a big fan of alternative lifestyles so this sounded right up my alley.

It is most famous for its MardiGrass festival, an annual event (in May, I arrived just a couple of weeks before) celebrating the wonders of the weed; it campaigns for reform of the drug laws and aims to educate on all the various uses for cannabis. Strangely, for such notoriety, the NSW tourist website manages to sing the praises of visiting Nimbin without once mentioning what it is most famous for.



It’s a great town to chillax, with or without the help of its most famous bi-product. There are some quirky little shops with lots of colour and the usual array of things you’d expect in an ‘alternative’ destination: crafts, ‘hippie clothes’, cafes (vegetarian/vegan/glutton-free and most other diets catered for) and a collection of whimsical little guest houses.


After Nimbin I went back into Brisbane for a couple of weeks…


…back out to Burleigh Heads on the Gold Coast for a weekend…


Burleigh Heads is a nice enough place, accessible by public transport (get the train to Varsity Lakes at the end of the line, then it’s a A$10 cab ride).  Lots of indie shops and cafes, arts festivals, walks.  Not cheap though.

…back into Brisbane for a week…


…back out to Sydney for a few days…


…then back into Brisbane for a couple more weeks.

My plan had been to head to Broome and the Kimberley’s in the remote far corner of NW Australia. This trip required a lot of planning and also advance booking (it has a limited dry season when you can travel and gets booked out quickly).

Consequently I have spent a large amount of the past few weeks planning and booking, which really isn’t me. I prefer to get somewhere with only a vague idea of what I want to do (probably nothing more than a short list), stay long enough to do what interests me, then move on.

A week before travelling I suddenly tore my meniscus. Who knew I had one to tear? (it’s in the knee if you need a clue). All my careful planning was then thrown right out and I was left hobbling around Brisbane on crutches, testing the patience of an assortment of medical staff in the area.

Consequently, the Kimberley’s were cancelled and I’m still in Brisbane, off the crutches but still unable to walk any real distance.

So there’s the update.

Brisbane is changing from Autumn to winter; the temperature is lurking around 21-24 degrees during the day, but much colder at night. In England we’d call 24 degrees a heatwave and we’d be ironing our spaghetti-strap tops and thongs, ready for the beach. In Brisbane they’re dragging out their fleece-lined tops, and thongs are something you wear on your feet anyway. The thong we are ironing ready for the beach is called a g-string here (or, colloquially, sex pants).

What a topsy turvy world.

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