Archive for » February, 2012 «

Southwest Australia (16.-19.02.2012)

On my second trip outside of Perth I’ve headed down to the southwest with ten travel mates from my school. We explored the wilderness and untouched nature with a reliable and comfy 12 seater Toyota HiAce. Being old also has its advantages: You don’t need to pay extra if you’re over 25 and usually you may have the D1 category in your driving licence which enables you to drive buses up to 15 passengers. Yaaay, I’m feeling much younger now ūüôā

Our journey started at Wednesday afternoon, which lasted three and a half days, till Sunday evening. Hence, as you might assume, we had to bunk off school for two days ūüôĀ Anyway, after we sweat the alcohol from last night out of our bodies, we were ready to start.

To see all the pictures of the trip you can visit my Picasa album.

Day 1 – Albany

A 430 km drive to Albany. I’m still very amazed that you can drive on a straight road without oncoming traffic for hours. You can only hope that your car will not break down. Finally we arrived in Albany. Established in 1826, shortly before Perth, it is the oldest European settlement in WA and has a population of 25’000.
We checked-in at the Backpackers, cooked a huge amount of spaghetti and went out to a nearby pub. Although its rather small size, I think it can hold up to 50 persons, it had two security guards. No wonder is the alcohol so expensive here if almost every pub needs to employ security staff.
We started telling jokes after we had been drinking a couple of beers. It was a memorable night, very amusing and I didn’t laugh that much since a long time. Just to mention phrases like “Nei, das isch super” or “Kaffi-Creme”.

Day 2 – Augusta

100212 1011-007.jpg The next day started early in the morning. Our schedule was very tight. We drove to the Torndirrup National Park, which lies 15 km further south of Albany, to see The Gap and The Natural Bridge. These spectacular rock formations, which also provide a beautiful view to the windswept rugged coastline, has been created by the massive power of the Southern Ocean.

100212 1311-030.jpg We continued to the William Bay National Park, 80 km further west of Torndirrup. This place is known for its picturesque beaches, untouched coastlines and the Elephant Rocks & Elephant Caves. The intense colors and lack of tourists amplified the breathtaking atmosphere. I got sentimental because I¬†wanted so badly to share this beautiful moment with my girlfriend, who I hadn’t¬†already¬†seen for six weeks. Elephant Rocks, as the name suggests, look like a herd of elephants in the midst of shallow water.

100212 1533-063.jpg Time was our biggest enemy but we managed it somehow to visit the Valley of the Giants in the Walpole Wilderness Area, which is 40 km further west of William Bay. A highlight in there is the Tree Top Walk, on which you can walk literally between the tree crowns of 400-year-old giants in a height up to 40 meters. If you experience fear of heights you will either get rid of your phobia or crap your pants.

After finishing our walk we headed towards Augusta. Twilight was approaching fast and we had to drive very carefully as animals moving unexpectedly on roads. Particularly in twilight or during the night kangaroos ave very active and are crossing the roads more frequently. After driving further 240 km we finally arrived in Augusta around 9:30 pm. Having checked-in at our lovely YHA, we looked for somewhere to have dinner. Augusta’s population is about 1300, therefore we had no much choice. We found a big restaurant, which was close to where we stayed, but unfortunately the kitchen had already closed. However, Joel, hungry as he was, spotted some leftovers of salad from one of the staff members and asked him I he could eat it up. The cooks had mercy on us and offered us a great deal. They would warm up any leftovers from a previous wedding ceremony and just charge us 20$ in total so that they could buy another beer for themselves. They served tons of meat, filled up with vegetables, and also various salads. A perfect deal: A big dinner for 11, not more than 2$ per person. Afterwards, we all went back to our fantastic, comfortable and low priced hostel, the Baywatch Manor YHA, which I can strongly recommend for backpackers.

Day 3 – Bunbury

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After having an extensive breakfast we continued our trip to visit the stunning crystal wonderland Lake Cave in Margaret River. To enter the cave first you need to stroll down about 350 steps between ancient Karri trees rising up to 50 meters into the sky. I mounted my Canon 50mm f/1.8¬†lens and hoped that I could take a good shoot of the crystalline beauty in extremely low-light conditions. However, this wasn’t an easy task. Without a tripod you have usually no chance at all. But with a bit of improvisation I managed to built a stable fixture with my lens hood ūüôā

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Check out the picture, I really think that I achieved the task successfully. Afterwards we walked to a nearby beach, where a bunch of surfers tried to catch the two meters waves, which in my opinion were to powerful.

Later on we drove to Bunbury, which is the 2nd biggest city (or shall I say village) in Western Australia. Quite surprising because compared to the¬†1.6 million metropolis Perth, Bunbury has only 30000 inhabitants. Different cities, different manners. We stranded in a rock pub which had a clientele of all ages. Starting from 18 years up to probably 50+. Surprisingly, women are used to grab and squeeze men’s bottom cheeks without hesitation, especially the elderly. Despite that Bunbury lies to the south of Perth, which implies lower temperatures, the chicks wore shorter skirts than their fellow citizen from the state’s capital. After having an enjoyable night in the pubs we went back to the Youth Hostel and headed back to Perth on the following day. Ah, almost forgot to mention it. If you want to eat delicious pizzas in Bunbury, have a look at Bianco’s Gourmet Pizza. I will never forget the lovely taste.

CAE writing

You may expect that I’m laying on the beach everyday, sunbathing and keeping an eye out for surfer girls.¬†But the first eleven weeks of my Asia-Pacific trip are not as¬†relaxing as people might assume.¬†To achieve my goal in passing the CAE exam on the 17th of March a lot of work needs to be done. In addition to my 25 lessons a week at the Lexis English school I need to do a lot of homework.

I’ve had my first CAE mock exam last week, which was split up in five categories – Writing, Reading, Use of English, Listening and Speaking. The test results enabled me to determine my English skills and to see if I’m on my way to pass the CAE. I’m very satisfied with the overall result of 76 %, which would be a B grade. But if I want to achieve the highest level in the¬†CEFR¬†I need to pass the CAE with an A grade or more specifically 80 % and above. This level represents the mastery or proficiency of a language.

If you’re wondering how a CAE test might look like I will show you a task¬†from the writing part¬†followed by my article as the corresponding answer.¬†You’ll just get 45 minutes to read all four tasks, then you need to choose one task and write approximately 220 – 260 words. According to your chosen task this could be for example an article, a proposal, a report or an information sheet. Therefore you don’t have plenty time and you must work quickly and efficiently.

Enjoy the reading.

Task – Write an article

A technology magazine, International Technology Today, has asked its readers to submit articles on the impact of mobile phones on modern society. In your article, you should discuss the different personal and business uses of mobile phones and assess the advantages and disadvantages of this technology.

Impact of mobile phones on modern society

The aim of this article is to discuss the personal and business uses of cellular phones and their advantages and disadvantages.

Almost every reader would agree that the communication technology has changed our way of loving dramatically over the last two decades.¬†Mobile phones were dedicated to a small range of CEO’s in their early stage of development and its main purpose was to enable businessmen to stay in touch with their partners and company – anytime and anywhere!

Nowadays, cellulars are affordable to almost anyone. Calling your beloved partner, rearranging meetings just before they start or finding someone easily in a crowded place are just a¬†few of the many advantages provided by this technology. But it also has its drawbacks.¬†People expect that you need to stay on wire (almost all) around the clock. It doesn’t matter anymore if you are on holiday or enjoying your sunday’s family picnic. This development leads to people being unable to “switch-off” and generates more stress.

But the device itself has also undergone a lot of changes over its lifetime. It is not a basic phone anymore, just enabling the user to make calls and text messages. In fact, it is much more powerful than average users expect.¬†Smartphones, like the iPhone, are providing a platform to customers, highly customizable to everyone’s needs. If you get lost in a foreign town you will find your hotel easily. Just install some navigation software ¬†over the air to your smartphone, and the lovely woman’s voice, coming out of the tiny speaker, will guide you reliably to your destination.

But be aware – the sword is double-edged. Smartphones are not as easy to use as the old intuitive mobile phones. Their long lists of features are often also their doom, resulting in very complex user interaction and handling, where non digital-natives especially can’t cope that easily.