Hostels: the good, the bad and the downright ugly

Reading a post on OIK Strategy with tips about hostels by @About London Laura reminded me of the way standards in hostels (in Australia at least) can vary.

Until my RTW trip with my husband I hadn’t stayed in a hostel for nearly 40 years. Yet we were going on a RTW backpacking trip and hostels were part of the deal if we were to manage see more of this wonderful country.

The Good

This is possibly the best hostel in the world ever. Sydney Harbour YHA. It nestles in-between five star hotels and this was the view from our bedroom window.

IMG_7291The is our private double room.
IMG_7244The ensuite.
IMG_7243 On the terrace.IMG_7252 IMG_7255 Just at the front of the hostel and we can see the Sydney Harbour Bridge.IMG_7261 Barbeque night at Sydney Harbour YHAIMG_7293 I cannot see why anyone would check into an hotel in Sydney when you could stay here. There were all ages, families, backpackers and flashpackers. It most definitely not a party hostel. Except at New Years Eve of course. Can you imagine the views on NYE?

The kitchens were well equipped, a team of hardworking cleaners ensured that everywhere was spot less.

After previous hostels this was a good one. Previously we had stayed, as part of a tour group, in some absolutely dire ones. And also had to experience the dreaded dorm.

The not so good (yet compared to the next one it was not bad).

After a comfortable house sit in Melbourne we headed off along The Great Ocean Road to Adelaide. We were quite a big group and the guide called Pete admitted at the end that he had concerns about the dynamics. As it was we all really got on. Never a cross moment. Mixed ages, fitness levels and nationalities. 3 days on the road.

Our first hostel was Warrnambool Beach Backpackers. Tour guide Pete had advised us not to head into town where there was a carnival as it would be full of Bogans. Fortunately the town has one redeeming feature. Kermonds. The burgers here are amazing.

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Bellies full we checked in to a packed hostel and scrambled to find beds. I tried to get in a small dorm but a group of younger girls nabbed it declaring it to be a female only dorm, (they obviously had more experience in grabbing the best rooms)  so we were left with with another couple in a mixed dorm, 8 beds, which at first didn’t seem to be too bad. We had lockers  with keys and were only here one night. There was a group of scouts in another dorm. However it seemed we were the entrance room to a  much larger dorm of all young men who were going to join the bogans at the carnival. Result, no sleep. At all.

Pete the tour guide put me in charge of breakfast, he recognised my inner Monica of course, so I was up early and got a shower in before the hordes formed a queue in the corridor. It was clean, it was ok for a hostel, but large mixed dorms with smelly farty young men isn’t for me.

The next hostel was Neds Beds at Halls Gap.

Possibly the worst hostel ever.

The owner had an all night orgy in his jacuzzi.

I got bitten by bed bugs.

The only good thing was that I was in an all girls dorm.

The kangeroos were a bonus as was the ice cream parlour.

If a tour company lists this hostel on an itinery, don’t use the tour company. No really, don’t.

What hostels have you stayed in and would you recommend them?

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Bula! Fleeced in Fiji

Have just been looking back through the notebook I took on my RTW trip for some writing inspiration. What jumped out of the pages were the words ‘I never expected to feel “ripped off” in Fiji by friendly people who cry Bula! everywhere’.IMG_7827 IMG_7980 I had forgotten that. Fiji is sold to you as the ultimate laid back experience. Which it is. The beaches, the sea, the islands are stunning. And most of the people we met were lovely. I had also noted ‘I have been told that Papanigi is Fijian for white tourist, I think it means cash cow!’

The Ultimate Lei or would you prefer a Lazy Threesome? IMG_7695We had booked a Full Monty package with  Awesome Adventures, to include transport, accommodation and all meals while we island hopped via the Yasawa Flyer. There were a number of packages available such as Tropical Awegasm and Ultimate Lei which I would like to think were thought up by an adolescent spotty boy smoking behind the cycle shed, but more likely to have been dreamed up by guys similar to the Aussie public school boys Jeremy and Josh who we met on a Hunter Valley Wine tour, in some trendy agency in Sydney. From memory we were on the Ultimate Lei as it fitted around our flights.  Having checked the Awesome Adventures web site now it seems some of the schedules of the packages have changed as our first accommodation was Nubua Lodge on Nacula Island which is the last stop for the Yasawa Flyer.

Wow, look at that, and that and that. IMG_7672 IMG_7670 IMG_7636 The journey there was wonderful, we went on the open deck and drank in the scenery. The flier drops off and picks up backpackers, locals and resort workers, stopping at almost every island along the way. There is nothing else to do but sit back and relax. And be entertained by the people jumping onto smaller boats with no seats to be whisked away to an island while the rucksacks are flung over the sea from the flyer to the waiting boats. I never saw one land in the sea but I do wonder if it has happened.IMG_7643 IMG_7644 Too old to be awesome?

Our arrival at Nubua Lodge was not the best, as apparently we were not expected. Lunch was to be served and there were no places for us, so we the old couple, were seated separately from the young backpackers and were made to feel excluded. The average age on this trip was late 20’s to early 30’s and on more than one occasion we were treated differently, as if we shouldn’t be on an Awesome Adventure. We did meet one other couple older than us at the awful non eco Korovou Eco Resort and they too remarked that at times they had experienced similar treatment. There are other more upmarket packages that I guess are deemed ‘more suitable’ for 50 somethings, and Awesome Adventures screams YOLO and young! Yet we were on a backpacking RTW trip and on a budget so 5 star resorts and dressing for dinner were not on our list. The not joining in table Our stay at Nabua got better when we met Christine (not her real name but what she introduced herself as) at one of the get to know everyone type activities that apparently we were going to have to endure at every resort. The need to entertain us at every resort with holiday Club type activities I thought only happened at Butlins never ceased to amaze me, yet we managed to cope with escape most of them. It is what the Papanigi wants from a holiday in a tropical paradise apparently. IMG_7755 Christine Chantelle, Phil and I very soon established ourselves as the rebels on the first night and later on a few other fellow travellers gravitated to our ‘not joining in table’ to escape the hokey cokey or conga dance being organised. And a good time was had by all.IMG_7743 Fleecing the Papanigi

As part of the package we had booked there were a number of activities such as snorkelling included. Off we go in the motor boat with a pile of snorkels and mask to explore the underwater cave. As we arrive the once charming Joe le Taxi boat man tells us it will be $5 for a mask and snorkel. No snorkel no diving so what to do? You cough up the cash. The day before I had struggle to get my bag off the boat without dropping it in the sea, carried it up to the main hut, and after lunch picked it up to take to the Bure we were staying in. A member of the island staff practically snatched it off me and offered to carry it all of 20 metres for me for a tip. WTF?  I had carted that backpack around California, New Zealand and Australia and I wasn’t about to find a tip now in a backpackers resort. On every island there was always an essential extra at $5 but the worst case of trying to exploit  the tourists was in the middle of a Tropical Cyclone.

Phil and I have had a faire share of holiday disasters, but this experience has been the worse so far.

IMG_7995 IMG_7993 IMG_7991 IMG_7987 IMG_7985 IMG_7984 We had earlier that day been evacuated from Bounty Island and experience that had resulted in a cut foot, severe sea sickness and a leaking boat with dubious sparkling electrics. To arrive safely at port was somewhat of a relief and all I wanted to do was check into my warm safe room at Smugglers Cove. The bus driver was not going to the resort, we were not meant to be on his bus that at that time, we were meant to arrive in the evening (hey mister we got no choice we were made to leave the island, there is a cyclone!). Except that I didn’t say that, I may have been a bit ranty and sweary. I was upset and had been really very scared for most of that day. To add insult to injury he said he would drop us off and his friend would take up to the resort for $5 each. I sort of exploded at that point and people moved away from me. Then I cried and got on the bus. Some lovely young Australian backpackers took me under their wings and kindly organised and to shared a taxi with us. I hadn’t until then realised how bad the storm was, Nadi was effectively under water, most places had no power so I guess the bus driver didn’t want to risk getting cut off and leaving the main roads. When I managed to check my email the FCOhad requested me to confirm we were safe. Yes, that bad. Reflections This is what I had written summing up Fiji. ‘Glad we had the two nights at Natural Resort, memories of that night on the beach with the bonfire with all the staff and tourists lying on the canvas and gazing at the stars blocks out all the horror of the last day and the downs of the extra $5 and fleecing the tourists’.

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Round the world with my kagool

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The one item of clothing I lugged around the world that I do not regret taking was my trusty kagool or kag in a bag. It was well used in New Zealand when we went on a wine tasting tour … Continue reading

Talking St Kilda Blues

I have tried, not always successfully to link the names of my posts with music references. Mainly because I am travelling with a man who reads album covers for a hobby. And as vinyl is now apparently fashionable in a retro kind of way, even you young people should know what I’m talking about.

Anyway I managed to find songs about St Kilda which was a bit of a surprise. This was not the only one. The next one I’m saving for another post, when we get to Sydney. You will see why when I post!

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We went to St Kilda today, and one of our first ports of call was a music shop that has a bar! Enough said.

Pure Pop

That was after ogling at the cake shops.

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Then there were shoe shops. Lots of lovely shops everywhere.

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And a barber, that also provides a beer while you have your locks trimmed.

Even the fishmonger has flair.

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I loved St Kilda, it has a fabulous community garden, a theme park, a beach a pier and a cafe Lentils As Everything where there are no prices, you pay what you think it’s worth or what you can afford. I’m not sure how it sustains itself on this business model. But as I’ve just volunteered there, I may find out.

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