Tuesday, 6 April 2010

AJ's Golden Day #ExperienceGC

As requested by Fran from STA Travel Buzz; How would I spend a day on the Gold Coast?


This wasn't asked for but why the hell not! Make the most of any day! (Especially on the Gold Coast)

I would wake up early specifically to catch the sunrise over Burleigh Heads (10 min south of Surfers Paradise). Hire surfboards from the Burleigh Heads Surf club with a bunch of friends that I had made along my travels and ride some waves in the world class surf spot.


After an epic morning of Surf I would take myself and my new found friends on a 30 min bus journey out of Surfers Paradise to the thrilling Wet n' Wild Water Park!

This place is probably "the" best water park I have ever visited, you could do all the rides 3 times and that still wouldn't be enough. It's an awesome place to go and have a good laugh with your friends. A fun, exciting way to spend your afternoon.

Fancy a race anyone?

One particular ride you have to try is the "Tornado", you basically get shot down a very steep ramp in quad rubber ring with three of your buds into a massive cone where you get tipped nearly vertical on the slippery slope before falling into a somewhat plug hole... (any thrill seeker will love this!)
It's addictive... we did this over and over all day long!
The Tornado - I'd want to go on this over and over again.

From my understanding STA Travel can organize a 3 park pass that will get you into this fantastic water park as well as the nearby Movie World and Sea World. Click here for more information.


Well for the evening i'd head to the chilled town of Byron Bay. I'd experience the perfect Australian sunset by playing ultimate frisbee with friends and chilling on the beach. This is truly amazing when the sunset is accompanied by the local bongo player [check out the picture].

As a backpacking student on a budget the most amount of food for the smallest price is needed and for this I would head for Cheeky Monkey's located in Byron Bay. Here, I know for a fact that you can pick up Thai noodle rice and Steak and Chips for as little as $5 AUS!!

All this at Cheeky Monkeys $5!!


I would continue from dinner into the evening at Cheeky Monkey's playing the entertaining games for free drinks and meeting other backpackers that were traveling through, sharing our travel stories with one another.

Cheeky Monkey's Bar - Backpackers Bar in Byron Bay

Cheeky Monkeys do games to win free drink every night, we usually did :)

This place really kicks off around 11 o'clock, the tunes get pumping and dancing on the tables becomes a necessity until the early hours of the morning... an experience that is unforgettable (unless you've had a bit too much to drink).

STA Travel Tour

The STA Travel Tour I would undoubtedly choose would be the 4 Wheel Drive - Eco. Day Trip on Fraser Island.

Fraser Island was definitely on of my favorite moments of my trip and would highly recommend it to anyone, I'd do anything to go back to the idyllic island it is. It's truly beautiful with it's incredible freshwater lakes, massive sand dunes, miles and miles of stunning beaches and of corse the dingos.

If you would like more information click here. I don't get why you wouldn't want to!

If you'd like to see more my photo albums on the Gold Coast are here:

Surfers Paradise, Miami and Burleigh

Rainbow Beach and Fraser Island

Byron Bay

and here's a link to the blog:

Brisbane and the Gold Coast

What more could you want from a trip?

I'd love to visit the Gold Coast at some point in the near future so I can make this Golden Day a reality....

Monday, 5 April 2010

Peniche, Portugal - A Surfers Retreat.

When you hear of someone going on holiday to Portugal, your first assumption is that they're heading to the Algarve to for a relaxing holiday on the popular beaches. We decided to do something a little different, instead we set our sights on the mid-west coast, to the area of Peniche. Heard of it? Probably not as it is uncommercialized and is not set up for large amounts of tourists.

Peniche's economy has for hundreds of years relied upon the fishing industry and still does to this day. However it is better known by the surfing world by its consistent surf spots with some of the best waves in Europe. Peniche can be surfable 320 days out of 365 days of the year which is truly amazing and exactly what we needed as we'd been unlucky when organizing trips in the UK and only getting little or no surf.

Getting there and back!
When booking flights for this excursion I took the usual route of searching through flights on STA Travel [I should seriously change it to my homepage now] but unfortunately with the flights available it was too expensive to transfer the surfboards over. Instead we booked with Easyjet who let us transfer our Surfboards for £18 each way which believe me, thats a bargain.

I would suggest to anyone to organize your transfer to your initial accommodation before you leave [one less thing you have to worry about], Peniche Surf Camp sent a minibus to collect the 7 of us with our boards at Lisbon Airport for the 1 hour journey to our apartment.

We stayed in a town neighboring Peniche called "Baleal", here there are a couple of surf camps that you can stay with. We rented a 10 person apartment for the week from Peniche Surf Camp [click here for the website].

If you're not coming with a bunch of friends I'd recommend checking out the backpackers hostel in Peniche centre [click here for the website]

Exploring Peniche
During our stay we picked a day of small surf and hired bikes for the afternoon (cost: 5 euro) to cycle over to the peninsula and explore Peniche and find the much talked about Supertubos!

Peniche itself is a small fishing town entirely populated by fishermen, fish factory workers and agricultural farmers. We spent the day exploring the harbour, and the lanes. It is much smaller than you would first think but is a simple charming little town.

Within the town centre we stumbled upon the town's most historic building, the fortress that was built to defend Portugal in the 16th century, It was a really interesting place to check out, not another tourist in sight...

Night Life
We didn't head into Peniche at all for the nightlife for what we could tell, there wasn't much.
Instead we chose to stay close by in Baleal, here we discovered by far the best bar in town... "Bigodes Bar" where we spent most of our nights. 1 euro beers, 1 euro shots, a mixture of locals and traveler's... the perfect place to hang out in the evenings. Note: This is not the place to go if you want clubs and parties on the beach, but its still a lot of fun!

The bar was a true surfer bar with broken boards on the walls, surf movies playing 24/7, guitars for all to play and a completely chilled vibe... The mustache bearer, barman and owner Chris Spaanenburg was a complete legend, if you ever get the chance pop in and have a chat with Chris, he's got some awesome stories about the region. [for Bigodes Bar facebook group click here]

I have to give a special mention to the "Bigodes Burger". For 5 euros you get a burger with the nicest bread, egg, bacon, lettuce, tomato, cheese and crisps... and on top of that a pint of local beer. It is honestly the nicest burger I have even had, you may have heard of or even tried the famous "Fergburger" from Queenstown, New Zealand. This completely blows that out of the water. Amazing.

If you don't fancy heading to the bars, chill out with a couple of beers on the beach by the fire...

After a day of surfing you need a hearty meal, other than grabbing the legendary beer and a burger from the local surf bar we had the opportunity to try some of the local cuisine.

One particular restaurant located on the beach itself served some of the best food I have ever tasted... All of us decided to have freshly caught fish from the local area and the swordfish was probably the best seafood I have ever tasted (the others definitely agreed)!
Unfortunately being poor students as we are we couldn't afford 15 euros for a meal each night so we cooked ourselves Seafood Paella and BBQ's back at the apartment. Group meals on a budget, sorted...

Well, it speaks for itself really.. Peniche has some amazing locations that will produce the perfect surfing waves. We we're lucky enough to be staying 5 minutes from a beach called "Lagido" which was very consistent and so much fun to surf. All 7 of us caught the best waves we've caught here [ it's a shame we didn't catch them on video, its pretty tricky taking surf footage but what we did get is shown below :) ].

Surfing abroad is a much more enjoyable experience than surfing in the cold English waters, instead we were lapping up the sun playing about in the sea all day...

We made an extra effort to spend a day to find "Supertubos", the most popular wave in the region. On a good day it has a very fast and powerful (hollow) waves, which is one of the best in Europe, some call it the "European Pipeline". This beach is strictly for professionals, a lot of boards get broken here. Unfortunately when we visited it wasn't kicking off, but it was still pretty damn cool.

Another Surfboard was born...
One rainy morning we decided to take a break from the waves to visit the Fatum Surfboard factory.

We met the Fatum shaper "Gero" who took us around the process of making one of the very stylish Fatum boards. Gero explained how the boards were made from the foam blanks to the final product. It was fascinating.

This place really got me thinking into the possibility of making my own surfboard, which is something I really have to try at some point..

The Shaping Room inside Fatum Surfboards.

Click here to check out what surfboards Fatum produce.

Flights: £170 inc Surfboard Transfer
Accommodation for 1 week: £150 inc. transfers to and from Lisbon Airport

My time spent here, absolutely priceless and would recommend it to anyone that can surf, would like to learn to surf or just loves hanging on the beach in the sun.

Next time I'm going to have to rent a car, travel down the coast, find some surf spots of my own and make my way into Morocco. (another one for the bucket list)

Oh and by the way I am in the process of putting together a full length Peniche Video. Excited?

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

World Traveller Internship - The Application Process

Above: What I have been up to in the meanwhile...

My application (click here to view) has now been completed 3 weeks today and has received 972 votes! I have received many lovely comments from close friends and complete strangers :) The most heartfelt comments I have received are from people I have stayed with while traveling, people I have travelled with and people I have met on my journeys.

Here's a few:

The amount of support I have had behind me has been immense, I currently don't go a day without walking through uni and someone telling me how good they thought my application video was, how suitable they think I am to do this job and how amazing the World Traveller Internship sounds!

This application has restored my love for video recording and editing, i couldn't just stop at one video, I had to make another to prove my camera skills. Click here to view my latest!

When awaiting for the deadline to approach I thought I'd get an professional opinion on my video and who better to ask than the World Traveller Intern of 2009, STA Travel's very own legend Chris Danner:

and these words of wisdom will be taken into consideration when creating my final video (given I get the opportunity to!) The surf video chris mentioned is here!!

How have I prepared for step 2?
In preparation for the next steps in the application process I have written my CV ready to be sent, had it checked and checked again and to be honest I'm pretty happy with it. :) I have found that the Internship works damn well in timing for me as everything I have been working towards in the past two years (with my gap year, photography, web design, blogging and working with STA Travel Buzz) has prepared me for this internship.

I am at the beginning stage of thinking about my next video (THE FINAL VIDEO). I have (as always) many new ideas and approaches to this video and I'm very excited about making this happen... if i am selected for the final.

My Views on the Competition so far...
Today was meant to be the final deadline for stage 1 of the process however, it was announced last night that this has been extended for 3 more days which makes this even more exciting, i'm looking forward to seeing any new applications within these next few days.

So here's a quick summary of what I think about some of the applications so far:

- Slideshows -reaally.. no, if STA want to see your uniqueness, likability and personality I don't think this is the way to do it.

- Get to know STA before making a video - some applications (not naming names) have called STA Travel "Student Travel Australia" or "Star Travel", if you want to work with STA you've got to get their name right for a start... its "Student Travel Association"

- Camera Starers - Don't just stare at a camera and tell the world how much you love to travel, pictures and video are very important in expressing how and why you would be suitable in between clips of commentary!

From the applications I have seen so far there have been videos that have made me laugh, cry, sleep and cringe but the applicants that definitely stand out for me are:

Paddy Doyle A video full of life with confidence with that camera.

Emma Sparks "because travel should be on prescription..."

some of the really late entries have also impressed me by Amy Loader (with her guide to the creation of maple syrup), Harry Harris (with his humorous interviews and the smile that may win it for him) and of corse a mention to Chris Ambrose (with his "The World We Live In" song wouldn't get out of my head last night when i was trying to sleep).

I am excited to see who makes it into the Top 50! :)

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Woolacombe - Hear No Surf, See No Surf, Pray For Surf...

Last weekend, Myself and the University of Leicester Surf Club took a weekend trip away to sunny Woolacombe, North Devon. 21 of us packed up the cars with food, booze and surfboards and headed to the coast in search for some awesome waves.

Take a look...

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

World Traveller Internship - My Application | Round 1

Back in October I received an e-mail from STA Travel Buzz inviting me to the release of the World Traveller Intern Application. The following day I purchase my £30 train ticket and headed down to the STA office in Victoria. Here I managed to meet most of the STA Travel Bloggers (including Mankini on a Mission who I was quite excited about meeting), we were given a presentation regarding what we needed to do in order to apply for the internship. This instantly got me raring to go and got to work on producing an awesome video covering my experiences as well as my suitability for the job......

Many many hours of work and procrastination from writing my dissertation proposal and it has finally been finished.... my application for the World Traveling Internship with STA Travel.

For the first Round of the Internship application we were set the following task:

Round 1

Create a 2-3 minute video telling us why you’ve got what it takes to become a World Traveller Intern. The video should be posted as a response to our video. Then create a profile and submit the link to your YouTube video. Tell us and and world as much information as possible about you and start sharing your profile on Facebook, Twitter and beyond in order to get your friends to vote for you and get you featured on the homepage of WorldTravellerIntern.co.uk.

Make sure you have completed 100% of your application by the 23rd March 2010.

I feel that this internship would be the ideal for me, as everything I have been working on over the past couple of years seem to fit the criteria perfectly... Over a period of a couple of days, I collated my favorite travel photo's and experiences and put them together in a video to explain why ive got what it takes to become an STA Travel intern!

I found that 2-3 minutes was very very hard to explain how suitable I am for this job, I feel I managed to squeeze in the main points to get the message across. This weekend I will be recording a travel video as an addition to the application to prove how capable I am with the camera in hand :) So watch this space....

All of the other applications I have seen look awesome and I am very much looking forward to the outcome. I wish the best of luck to everyone!

My application is now live on the World Traveller Intern website!!

Click here to view and vote for me (if you think I deserve it!)

I would like to thank my good friend Tom Ford (yes thats him in the photo) for writing and putting together the music for this video. It fitted perfectly to what I wanted to achieve. Please go and check him out at http://www.myspace.co.uk/tomfordproductions

Friday, 12 February 2010

Gold Coast, Australia.

In April 2008 as part of my Gap Year we decided to travel south down the East coast of Australia with OZ Experience.

Traveling down the East Coast of Australia I was very excited about visiting the Gold Coast as this was a region I was particularly interested in visiting. I had heard many great things from other OZ Experience travelers moving their way to the north.


Brisbane was a really cool city, although it was MASSIVE! It took most of the day to get from one side of the city! Cairns, another major city in Australia is not even an 8th of the size Brisbane is! We managed to stay in a really cool hostel called Bunk where many of our friends that we met further up the coast caught up with us! Whilst in Brisbane we explored the city, headed down to the city lagoon on the sunny days, restocked on clean clothes and experienced a day out with a major rugby league game!


We stayed in the very central hostel "Bunk" looking back this was definitely my favorite hostel in the whole of Australia. Great room, a pool, a hot tub, its own club attached, awesome people annd a free food fridge which we lived out of! You can check out their website if you Click Here

In this hostel we met some awesome people and everyone on the OZ Experience bus pretty much stopped off here so we kept bumping into people that we had met further up the coast. One memorable night we had involved a group of 12 of us (who we had known since Fraser Island) all chipping in to make a authentic indian (british) curry for everyone! We were a big travelling family! :)

Brisbane as far as I know doesn't have an accessible beach (which for me isn't ideal, as the beaches are the places to be!) but in Southbank theres an artificial beach lagoon that was pretty awesome! Going out in Brisbane was soo much fun, I can;t really remember the names of any of the clubs but if you head into the "Valley" you'll be in the right place.

Rugby League - Brisbane Broncos vs Queensland Cowboys at Suncorp Stadium

During our stay in Brisbane we heard alot of hype about Rugby League (i didn't realise it was much bigger than union here, but its massive) with this in light we decided that we must go and see a game!! We managed to get tickets at the huuge Suncorp staduim (right next to the Castlemain beer brewery :P) it was one of the biggest rugby matches this season (Brisbane Broncos vs. North Queensland Cowboys) and apparently it was very close to selling out. The tickets only cost $19 for students.

Surfers Paradise and Burleigh Heads

On our way to Surfers Paradise from Brisbane OZ experience offered us the opportunity to go Zorbing. It looked absolutely awesome but we decided to save our money as it was $25 for about a 10 second ride. More money for surf lessons :)

Surfers Paradise, it is exactly how you imagine it! Long, golden beaches, tall buildings, good night life, good surf, what more could you want! During my stay here I was lucky enough to stay with some friends Viki and Jack for around a week in Burleigh (less than 30mins south from surfers). Here I took this opportunity to get myself a surf lesson! Until that point id always been keen to learn how to surf, and what better place to do it than Surfers Paradise itself! The lesson involved taking us through wave saftey, what to do if we were caught in a rip current (swim sideways, not fighting the current), the technique of popping on the surfboard and catching a wave. After 20mins of techniques on the beach I was extremely keen to get into the water and managed to catch my first ever wave! I would suggest a surf lesson to anyone! Catching a wave for the first time is one of the most exciting and unique feelings you will experience. As a result of this day I am now in the committee for my university surf club, we manage to still surf in various places around the uk a number of times each month!

My First Wave.

Staying in Surfers Paradise for a substantial amount of time let us get to know the area quite well, we found a couple of clubs that we really enjoyed including one called "The Bedroom", this club was awesome the dance floor was pretty much everywhere and where there were wasn't dance floor there were 4 poster beds scattered around the room. It was different and really cool.

One of my favourite places we visited in this region included Wet n' Wild water-park just outside of surfers paradise, we went here with a couple of friends we had made along the way and had an awesome day out, I strongly suggest going, some of the rides are such a good laugh, our favourite by far was the "tornado", a big funnel shape, that was on its side, and the raft slides from side to side, until you lose speed, which is when you slide down to the pool. click here to take a look!!

Byron Bay

I don't know where to start when talking about Byron Bay, but this is probably one of my favorite places we have been too. We visited in March and unfortunately the weather was very wet, despite the rain we have managed to go out on bike rides up to the lighthouse which was the most easterly point in Australia and watch dolphins below in the sea which was unreal!

We were in Byron Bay during a major news story click here to view. I'm not sure if the news got to the UK but there was a Shark attack on a 16 year old boy in Ballina [15mins south, a couple of headlands away]. This happened the day we set to head out for a surf but the beaches were closed to surfers and swimmers which was quite terrifying. Although we plucked up the courage to go surfing the following day which was awesome.

Byron Bay is such a chilled little town, the locals are friendly and it just has such a homely atmosphere. Every evening at sunset we headed down to the beach to play ultimate frisbee which was accompanied by a bongo player [check out the picture]. The town is very uncommercial, mainly made up of local shops and a subway. Opposite the Backpackers Village we were staying at was a bar called "Cheeky Monkeys", this was a really cool backpacker bar, cheap food, free alcohol to win and we could dance on the tables all night!

I heard a major feature of going to byron bay is taking a tour inland to Nimbin, known as the Amsterdam of Australia (for good reason so I hear), unfortunately we didn't have time to discover this and took a bus south to Sydney :)

Cheeky Monkey's Bar - Backpackers Bar in Town

Cheeky Monkeys do games to win free drink every night, we usually did :)

All this at Cheeky Monkeys $5!!

Mojo Spot X - Surf Camp

On our way down to Sydney our Oz Experience bus stops at Mojo Surf Camp as part of the trip! This was such a great experience as we got to stay with a surf camp seconds away from the beach with the rest of the people from the bus. We made really good friends with everyone on the bus on this stop over, most people took their very first surf lesson and I was absolutely loving the perfectly clean waves, it was awesome! After the surf was over and the sun had gone down a meal was provided and the surf camp organized a massive campfire on the beach and we had a bit of a beach party and chilled under the stars. One amazing experience, I'd do anything to head back to this place again for a couple of weeks.

The Gold Coast was definitely one of my favourite parts of my trip, my only regret is not saving enough time for it!! One day I'd love to head back with my new love for Surfing and maybe work in Byron Bay for a while if possible!!