Tuesday 7 February 2012

Botany Bay and Canberra

Nikki, Emma and Me at the Captain Cook Landing Site, Botany Bay.

In front of the Library after seeing the 'Handwritten' exhibition.

Parliament for a spot of tea with Julia.

Our last luncheon before Emma gets her wisdom teeth out.

Coming back to Sydney felt like de ja vu but also rather brilliant because I was getting to stay with my friends again. The jetstar flight from Cairns was only 2 and a half hours, but the taxi driver from Sydney airport was unbelievably rude telling me I should have got the train to Tempe, knob. After a few phone calls I managed to find the spare key and get into Nikkis house for a nap and a shower. When she got home we had a brew and a chat, then made dinner. The next day we went round to the other house and saw everyone. They found my skydive dvd rather funny. I found the bunny to have grown considerably. Then Nikki drove me and Emma out to Botany Bay in the evening where we saw the monument marking it as Captain Cook's landing site. It was all very beautiful and appropriate that at the end of my trip I should go where it all started.

The next day Nikki drove me the few hours across the freeway to Canberra.
A few interesting things about Canberra, it was only built in the 1950s and was planned as the capital because before that time they didn't have one. It has a huge man made lake. It is still not complete because when they were building it they ran out of money. It's quite an odd place; when you're walking around it you sense the planned streets and the architectural design of a very young city. And as everyone there works in government they're all quite well off, and therefore drive expensive cars and dress impeccably. Well anyway, Nikki took me to the library where we saw this exhibition of handwritten documents from all sorts of people from Bach to Napolean, and Descartes to Dickens. Very interesting. Then we went to Parliament which has the worlds second largest tapestry and the Magna Carta, amongst other sacred stuff. Then we had dinner at Nikki's friends house, picked up Emma from the bus and went back to her parents for sleep.

The next day we went to the art gallery and had some lunch, saw the famous sheep staring at another sheeps bum, then it was time to return to Sydney, leaving Emma behind in Canberra to have her surgery :(

Monday 30 January 2012

Cairns, Couch surfing, Crocodile and Cape Tribulation

Getting rather close to a rather large crocodile on the Daintree River

Horse riding in Cape Tribulation.

I arrived in Cairns and got the bus to Kewarra Beach which took an hour. Couch surfing with a guy called Nevan. On my first proper day in Cairns me and Makayla, one of the other couch surfers tried to walk to Palm Cove by the beach but our path was blocked by a temporary creek which we didn't really want to walk through because of the jellyfish, so we went back to the beach and had a drink before catching the bus into Cairns, where I bumped into none other than Jenny and Sebastian down by the lagoon. Turned out the were going to Cape Trib the next day like me, so we were thrilled. Solway Lass is never over. Then me and Makayla had bbq in a tropical thunder storm, which was lovely, and had a swim, and then indulged in $3.50 Coronas. I got the bus back and got a good nights sleep before my early pick up the next day.

I walked to Kewarra Beach Resort, a rather flash place where we had our beer the day before, and hopped on the bus. We stopped on the way to Cape Tribulation and met the second bus load of people containing Jenny and Sebatian then we went for our little boat trip on the Daintree River. As you can see by the picture, we got incredibly close to a 4 metre crocodile who was big and fat because he'd just had lunch. We got to Cape Trib around 1pm and I had some lunch, and because it felt like the centre of the sun, I went in the pool and lay about for most of that day. I was also very lucky in my room getting a double bed. Yay!

The next morning I got picked up at 8am and I went for my hourse ride with one other girl. We went around the rainforest and then had a canter on the beach, then went back through some fields where we had a great view of Mount Sorrow, named by a rather sombre Captain Cook. That lasted about 2 hours, then I got dropped back at the hostel, and immediately jumped in the pool, then had lunch and guess who I should bump into? Only Harj meloves, from Whitsundays. Bless her, she's a love, so we swapped numbers and I'll probably meet her before she leaves Cairns. I was getting the bus back to Cairns so our reunion was only brief. I got back to Nevan's around 5.30, had a nap, naturally, then we made dinner with one of the other couch surfers, watched a movie, then hit the hay.

Learning to fly

My bizarre reunion with Cheskie at Mission Beach.

Leaving the lovely Airlie Beach was hard but I was looking forward to getting to Mission Beach. I got there at 6 and the greyhound driver literally ripped the top off my bag so now it is completely broken with barely 2 weeks to go. Ah well, it's so rubbish I was suprised it's lasted this long. So I got picked up and went to the hostel where I basically collapsed, still so tired from pulling all my muscles on the ropeswing and the night out in Airlie. The next morning was the oh so fateful day of... the SKYDIVE! But something rather bizarre happened before I even got in the plane.

I was in the second group so we went down to the beach to watch the first group landing. And as they walked past us I could swear I recognised one of these girls. They went back to the office and we followed them back up, and as we were in the office, me and this girl looked at one another and I said 'Are you Cheskie?' and sure enough, it bloody was you know. I was in a play with her at uni and I haven't seen her in a good 2 years, and apparently now she's living in Mission Beach. What a coincidence eh?

After that small bombshell, I got my harness on, and off we went in the bus. After about a half an hour drive we got to the plane and on we got. And then we were flying up and up and up, for 25 minutes, and then it was goggles on, door open and out they started to go. I was the last one out, and I can't tell you what I feeling watching everybody disappear out the side of the plane. And then, then, all of a sudden my feet were out and under the plane, head back, hands on straps, and....

WEEEEEEEE! I was flying. In the dvd, I look so entirely shocked, my eyes look like they're about the burst out of my face. We jumped at 14,000 feet and were in freefall for 60 seconds, then my tandem guy pulled the parachute, and pointed out the great barrier reef. After a few spins and 5 minutes, it was time to land on the beach. I tucked my legs up, hands under my knees and the ground came up so fast I couldn't believe we weren't going to crash, but I didn't land on my arse, merely stood up when he said, and I realised I was still alive.

A bunch of who'd just done the dive went to the bar to wait for our dvds, and to celebrate Australia day and the still being aliveness with a few drinks and a sausage sizzle. I bumped into Cheskie there and took a photo of us so I had proof it had actually taken place. After we got out dvds, we got a lift back to the hostel. After the massive adrenalin rush I suddenly felt really tired, and because I couldn't think why not I had a nap, then made dinner and sat in the lovely air conditioned tv room to watch the Australian open, Nadal v Murray. Nadal won, which was lovely.


Lying in the hammock on the Solway Lass as we sail towards Whitehaven Beach.

Jenny, Caroline, Sebastian, Harj and me on Whitehaven Beach.

Ropeswing = Classic.

After a 16 hour overnight bus trip I arrived in Airlie Beach where it was so humid you could feel the sweat sprouting out of your pores. I had a couple of days to kill before I got on the Solway Lass, so I minly hung around the lagoon, swimming when the heat got unbearable and lying in the sun. I'd lost my sunglasses so I got a couple of pairs for $25, bargain me loves. Then I went and checked in for my trip around the Whitsundays where I was given a little black bag because you weren't allowed to take bags with zips onboard, or alcohol.

The next day I put my stuff in the luggage storage at Peter Pans and cracked out the mosquito bands. We got on the Solway Lass around 7pm, and went out to sea, where we had some food and a few drinks and a chinwag. In my room there were 4 beds but only me and Harj, a lovely English woman who used to work for the BBC and told me she was instrumental in making BBC iplayer happen, and thus, I was in love with her.

Our first day on the Whitsundays was a day of first for me. In the morning I went SCUBA DIVING, for only $60. In my little group was John and Andrew, the Canadian fellows, and we went around for about 30 mintues and got just below 10 meteres. It's something I never really thought I would do but I enjoyed it so much, I really want to do it again. I also learnt that SCUBA stands for Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus. Then after an amazing lunch and a load of jumping off the boat and ropeswinging, we went snorkelling and I saw a TURTLE. That evening after dinner and beer and the cardboard box gang (picking a box off the ground using your mouth, no hands and only feet on the ground) we heard some splashing from the side of the boat and we looked over and this DOLPHIN was playing in the water really close up. And that was an awesome awesome day.

The next day we went for a little bushwalk and saw some aboriginal cave art, licked a green ants arse which tasted very strongly of lime, did a whole load more ropeswinging and snorkelling, then ended up on this beach watching the sunset, being brought beer and food by boat by the crew, which was lovely. That night on the boat we had a ridiculous relay race, which my group lost but who cares!? We still got some free champers. Then we all chilled out drinking and staying up late chatting on the deck.

The next day was our last and we woke to a big downpour which made breakfast hazardous, but it cleared and by the time we got into port, none of us wanted to leave, and Jenny actually had a cry because we'd all had the best time and everyone got on so well. But we met up that night for a meal and some dancing, and I had a lovely salsa with Sebastian, a jive with John and some weird mix of both with a random Sewdish guy who bought tons of drinks for us all. Which was lovely.

Overall, the Whitsundays on the Solway Lass has been the highlight of my trip so far. We all said it was a holiday from our holiday and I couldn't fault a single thing about the crew or the ship. We got turks heads (little anklets that you have to cut off) so everytime I see it I remember what an amazing time I had and how lucky we were with the weather and each other. Miss you guys xx

Brisbane and Noosa

Me and Steve at Australia Zoo

Brisbane! Though the weather was rather rubbish I managed to have an ok time. The hostel was an old colonial building about 20 minutes walk from the centre. I had a lovely afternoon walking round the cultural centre, looking round the art galleries and museums staying out of the humidity and the rain. I also got the city cat ferry one day and went to New Farm Park, which turned out to be quite boring so I went back to the city and walked home. Not much else to report about Brissie.

I changed my buses and decided to go to Noosa stopping for a trip around Australia Zoo on the way. On the bus I met an English girl called Grace and we ended up walking round the zoo together, seeing the big Crocodile show with Steve Irwin's wife and children. It rained literally the entire time and the bus was half an hour late, so by the time we got underway to Noosa, we were all soaked to the bone, and everything in my backpack was damp. We got to Noosa and had to wait in the rain for the shuttle bus to the hostel. After I ate and dried off there was nothing else to do but get drunk in the hostel bar with some locals, one of which was a German man that hypothesized that the sun didn't cause skin cancer but it was more likely to be the result of washing powder. Interesting... Well, the next day it rained even more ferociously and so I just stayed in the hostel and nursed my hangover popping out for a pizza sometime in the afternoon. Shame I didn't get to really see Noosa as I only went there because everyone said it was lovely. Rather disappointing.

Saturday 14 January 2012

Surfers Paradise and Hot Air Ballooning

The high rise coast of Surfers Paradise from the main beach.

Hot Air Ballooning over the Gold Coast.

After my last night in Byron Bay spent dancing under a full moon by the sea to the sound of furious bongos, I left for Surfers Paradise. I can honestly say that it is the worst place I've been since I've been away. Not only was the hostel disgusting, with cockroaches in the bathroom and a virtually non-existent mattress, but the town was cheap and nasty, filled with casinos, and binge drinking teens. As you can probably tell, twas not to my tastes. So I stayed on the beach buying nothing but food as the only thing I wanted to take away from that place was a tan.

Luckily most of my second day in Surfers was spent going on a Hot Air Balloon ride. It's been one of those things I've always wanted to do and I wasn't disappointed. I got picked up at 4am, and was shocked to find Asian couples being the predominant customer, but a few more people arrived that actually spoke English and didn't ignore me entirely. After a couple of hours drive we got to a random field somewhere with the unmistakeable sight of 2 large hot air balloons, already blown up and waiting for us. After a quick safety talk we were loaded on and off we flew.

The previous day I had been informed that only last week a hot air balloon had crashed and all aboard had died, so you can assume I was somewhat nervous. Gradually we got up to 5000 feet, above the clouds and over the fields, the spectacular scenery doing away with all my fears. And even though we were so high up, in basically a big wicker basket with nothing to strap us in, I was calmly flying over NSW. 'Bloody bliss' I thought.

On landing we nearly ended up in a tree, then knocking a stubborn cow over, but we touched the ground with a soft bump and waited for the balloon to deflate. The 'driver' pulled this cord and opened a widening circle of fabric at the very top of the balloon to let all the hot air out then pulled another cord so the whole thing lay on it's side. Then we all started jumping on the thing to get the air out, roll it up and put it away in a huge bag. Spent, we got in the van and drove to breakfast, it only being 8am by this time.

O'Reilly's vineyard was an hours drive away, and getting greeted by a cold glass of champagne and a huge breakfast was just the ticket. For the first time in my life, I declined free wine tasting. Afterwards, we had a wander, and then it was time to get back on the bus, a 2 hour drive, and back into bed at Surfers by 11. What a splendid morning.

Monday 9 January 2012

Leaving Sydney and Byron Bay

January 6th, I left Sydney from Central station after having a lovely meal in China Town with Jeny, Emma, Kirby and Nikki. Felt like crying on the bus but I didn't, because it's the last adventure, yay!

So after the overnight bus, I arrived in Byron Bay, and met up with Yvetta. We went for a little walk around on the beach and had a drink, then said goodbye, perhaps forever this time. I think we're going to keep missing each other up the east coast but oh well. The next day I walked up to the lighthouse, stood on the most easterly point of Australia, came back down and went to the beach for a swim. It was glorious, not too hot but lovely. I finished my book too, The Kitchen Gods Wife, by Amy Tan, which I strongly recommend me loves :)

On my last day in Byron, I went on the "Happy Coach" to Nimbin. If you know about this place, you know what we did and I refuse to make further comments, except that my mother at a most inopportune time.

The next morning, I got the bus to Surfers Paradise, a large town by the beach with several high rise apartment buildings. Not sure I like it all that much. It has the drinking clubbing thing going on. But my Hot Air Balloon is tomorrow morning, which will be lovely.