When I travel one of the things I miss is cats. Cute, cuddly, fluffy, affectionate cats. They’re one of my favourite creatures. That’s why I love visiting cat cafes. Luckily, I found just the thing in Chengdu.
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I’m stopping over in Chengdu China on my way back from visiting the “Stans” of Central Asia. Chengdu is famous as the home of the endangered Giant Panda. The weather here is perfect for them – warm and wet – just what you want for growing lots of bamboo. I’m very lucky that it’s actually clear and sunny! A rare occurrence, especially in winter, and a great opportunity to capture some photos of people enjoying themselves outside.
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I’ve just completed my 100th scuba dive! I got into scuba four years ago on a trip to Cuba and I’ve been lucky enough to explore the underwater world in some fantastic places since. Learning to dive was a big challenge for me. I’ve always felt a little uneasy around water, having grown up in a landlocked city where the only lakes and rivers are freezing cold. I remember how nervous I was the first time I strapped on all that complicated scuba gear and sunk below the surface of the water. Something inside of you yells out “but I can’t breathe under water!”. It’s a real leap of faith to suppress that sense of panic. Once I started to overcome it, I began to love diving. There’s a real sense of freedom that comes with floating weightlessly. The marine world is so vibrant and distinct from what we see in our everyday lives.
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The Great Ocean Road stretches for 250 km along Australia’s rugged southern coast. Built by soldiers returning from World War I and dedicated to their fallen comrades, it’s the world’s largest war memorial. It also has some of the best scenery in all of Australia. After having such a good time cycling in Tasmania, I was keen to tackle the tight turns and steep climbs of the Great Ocean Road but I hadn’t counted on the intense traffic (thousands of tourists came during Chinese New Year). After my first day, I decided to leave the bike behind and simply enjoy this stunning place as a road trip.
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I’ve just finished a month-long, 1,500-km cycle tour around Tasmania. This remote island is a pleasure to travel by bike with long winding roads that pass through incredible scenery with little traffic. Its diversity is striking. There are vast temperate rain forests, tropical white sandy beaches with turquoise water, rugged coastlines with towering sea cliffs, and peaceful sheep pastures and lavender farms. Tasmania’s history is equally rich. From its notorious convict beginnings to hardy miners who struggled to make a life in the remote corners of this island, there’s so much to learn. Whether you stay in campgrounds or treat yourself to character-rich B&Bs and historic hotels, you’re sure to discover some real gems along the way.
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We stayed with Simon & Stuart last night and got along so well that they asked us to come back for another night to look after their pets while they’re away. I’d planned on continuing my cycle tour but these opportunities don’t come up everyday. I’m a huge animal lover. That’s one of the wonderful things about spontaneous travel – unique experiences that just seem to pop up.
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I’ve finally found it! The endangered, elusive Tasmanian Devil!
Today I visited the Tasmanian Devil Unzoo where you can get up close and personal with some of Tasmania’s wild creatures. It’s more than just a zoo. Or, I should say, it’s not a zoo at all. I’ll get to that but first the exciting part – I got to watch two Tassie devils wait in anticipation of fresh food then devour a chunk of wallaby! They’re such interesting creatures. About the size of a small dog, they look really cute and cuddly. Yet, they have the strongest jaws next to a shark and can tear tough meat and crunch through bones as if they were toothpicks. They’re carnivores but they don’t hunt. They scavenge for food.
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I decided to take a day off cycling to see Maria Island by boat. Maria Island is the oldest penal settlement in Tasmania and it’s also famous among geologists internationally. Plus it’s surrounded by hundreds of dolphins surging through and jumping out of the water! At least it was today for the lucky folks who joined Skipper Steve on the East Coast Cruises tour of the island.
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Melbourne is a city with a tremendous amount of variety and there’s even something for the cat lover looking for a fix. Cat Cafe Melbourne opened in 2014 with the aim of creating a calm and relaxing environment where people could come share some affection with their 14 resident cats. Cat cafés got their start in Taiwan and Japan and have been experiencing rapid growth in popularity over the last few years. Melbourne’s Cat Café is the first to open in Australia.
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