Thursday, 11 April 2013

Travel Blog: Australia

12/4/13 - Cairns - Melbourne

Today we are getting on an aeroplane for the first time in a while.  As finding work in Cairns is proving impossible, we have decided to fly down to Melbourne and try there.  Even though I am very excited to visit this city - I've heard many people say it's their favourite place in the whole of Australia - part of me doesn't want to leave this East coast trip behind.  It feels like the past few weeks have just been a holiday, and now we have to go back to the big city life and work all the time.  And I know this is the point, after all I am on a working holiday visa...but when the holidays have been this good, it makes it a lot harder to go back to work.  But we really haven't got a choice, considering our bank balance.  

It is strange how the different places in Australia can be so completely different.  The big cities can be just as big and daunting as any of the largest European ones, but go just a tiny bit outside of them and it will be incredibly rural and the people will be a lot more chilled out.  This is why there is a part of me that doesn't want to go back to the big city life; I was really enjoying the tiny coastal towns, and the relaxed vibe up the East coast.  I haven't worn make up in a good few weeks, and surprisingly I like it.  (I can't remember the last day at home I didn't put on any make up at all).  I know for a fact I will have to wear it again in Melbourne, and start planning my outfits to be more trendy, because that's just the way it is.  And I just can't be bothered!

But it is time for a new adventure....we have felt a bit lost in Cairns.  It was the finish point for us and all of our friends we had made along the way.  Now we are the only ones left; everyone has travelled to other places or different countries altogether, a few have gone home.  We needed a destination for a new adventure, now the East coast route is officially over. Melbourne it is!

Travel Blog: Australia

9/3/13 - Tablelands Waterfalls

Cairns has so much to see in its region, there's just too much to choose from; Cape Tribulation, Daintree Rainforest, crocodile cruises, rainforest villages, the list goes on.  Of course I'd like to do them all, the only thing stopping me is my budget. We have been job hunting in Cairns but it doesn't seem like there are many jobs around at all.  Granted it is a very small city, and for some reason it feels like all the backpackers in Australia have suddenly gathered here looking for a job.  So as I'm very low on money, I had to do the cheapest tour I could find, which was a tour of the surrounding countryside and waterfalls in the Atherton Tablelands.

And of course, it didn't disappoint!  Walking through millions of years old lush rainforests - which are exactly the same rainforests that dinosaurs walked through - to get to huge, gushing waterfalls which we could take a dip in....I'm not sure how that could disappoint to be honest! One of the waterfalls, Milla Milla Falls is so beautiful that film crews are often there, filming advertisements for shampoo etc.

Although the water was very VERY cold, it was lovely and refreshing.  Another part of the tour took us to places looking for a unique Australian animal, the platypus.  Unfortunately the platypus spotting was unsuccessful, which doesn't surprise me as all Australian wildlife seem to hide from me.  The waterfalls were the highlight of the day though, and the landscapes I will never forget.

Travel Blog: Australia

30/3/13 - The Great Barrier Reef!!

So today we set out on a boat from Cairns, to see one of the natural wonders of the world, The Great Barrier Reef.  And not only were we going to snorkel, we were going to try scuba diving for the first time.  I'm not going to lie I was pretty scared! But there were lots of people doing their first intro dive, and we were going down only 2 people to 1 instructor so it seemed quite safe.

Last night we watched 'Finding Nemo' to get even more excited, so we would have been very disappointed if we didn't find a nemo fish!  Luckily we found quite a few, and they are so tiny.  They also never ever leave that anemone plant!  

The diving experience really was amazing.  It was quite hard to get the hang of breathing underwater, and it is so loud when you breathe out and all the bubbles appear from your face.  But as soon as I'd mastered it, I never wanted to come back up to the surface. It is like entering another world; the whole ocean and its family are suddenly there to play with.  The visibility is great, you can see deep and beyond, and the creatures we seen we could never begin to count.  Apart from millions of types of fish, of all colours imaginable, and lots of different types of multicoloured coral, we also saw an octopus and a turtle! He was just chilling on the floor.  Some people even saw reef sharks too.  Most places on the reef are actually quite shallow too, I imagined the reef life to begin quite deep but it's not the case at all.  When diving we only went around 6-7 metres deep, and we could have touched the coral and seabed if we wanted.  Huge fish and sharks are often in the shallow water just below the surface, and you can see lots of marine life from the boat.  At one point, we could even stand up on the sand in the middle of the ocean.[See 2nd photograph below] We must have spent hours snorkelling and investigating the underwater kingdom, and it just wasn't long enough.  There literally is so much to see on the Great Barrier Reef. It is so huge, that there are lots of different boats that go to lots of different reefs and cays daily.  If I had the money, I'd do them all!

In fact, I think I have got the diving bug.  I am really regretting not doing a PADI dive course in Koh Tao when I was there, as it's probably the cheapest in the world.

Travel Blog: Australia

28/3/13 - Magnetic Island

Magnetic Island is a really beautiful small island off the coast of Townsville, and our hostel was located right on the beach.  It was almost like a resort, if you ignore the part where there were 6 other Irish guys squashed into our non air conditioned room, and the kitchen was infested with huge ants.

Anyways, apart from relaxing and sunbathing in hammocks, there isn't a lot else to do here.  So we decided to go on a hike, as the island is half national park and has lots of wildlife (cough cough koalas!!) So we climbed one of the tracks, called The Forts, and although the views were very rewarding the koalas eluded me again. That's twice we've done a walk and been promised wild koala sightings, and I've been disappointed. However the rock wallabies almost made up for it; a wild colony of rock wallabies, obviously tamed for years, ate straight out of our hands! They were extremely cute and we even saw  little joeys close up popping out of their pouches.

And that's about it for Magnetic Island! We only stayed for 2 days anyway....our last stop, Cairns is next on the agenda. 

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Travel blog: Australia

24/3/13 - Airlie Beach/Whitsunday islands

After all the rain recently, we were worried that our sailing trip was also going to get cancelled.  Lucky for us the weather was on our side (sort of) and off we went to live on a boat for 3 days.  A lot of boats that set out to the islands are big party boats - but I didn't really want that setting to see one of the most beautiful places on Earth. You can do a booze cruise anywhere, especially some of the holiday hotspots nearer to home.  I have not travelled to the other side of the world for a booze cruise!

We hopped aboard our boat, 'British Defender' but it wasn't all plain fact we set off in very heavy rainfall and had to wear these lovely Paddington bear raincoats.

And as it was only a small sailing boat; 16 passengers and 3 crew, we all had to sit on deck and brave the weather.  Sailing was actually really fun, we got to help out grinding up the sails and swapping sides of the boat when the sail turned.  The boat at times was literally sailing horizontal to the water, and we had to hold on! Then we stopped for the day, and I followed the skipper's orders: Once anchored, get wankered!
OK, so I took it way too literal....

Moving on, the following day we sailed up to Whitsunday island, home to infamous Whitehaven beach. I have tried and failed to describe many beaches, so I'm going to give up.  There was lots of sand, and it was beautiful.  Bright, white silica sand - the whitest in the world.

It was here, on our walk to the lookout that the guide told us to lick ants' bums, as the Aborigines discovered they taste citrusy and added them to food.  I really wanted to try this delicacy, but I was just too hungover.

For the rest of the day we snorkelled in some of the best spots around the islands.  People back home always say to me watch out for the sharks, but it's the jellyfish you have to look out for here.  There are lots of different stingers in these waters, and one sting can kill you.  (Obviously very rare!) It's not even the big ones, it's tiny transparent stingers you can't even see.  So we just wear sexy stinger suits, and pray they won't sting our face, hands or feet!

Just when I started to get my sea-legs it was time to get back on land.  Our trip on the 'British Defender' was such a great experience, the crew were really fun and we met some cool people.  So glad it didn't get cancelled!

Friday, 5 April 2013

Travel blog: Australia

20/3/13 - Town of 1770

When booking our East coast trip, 1770 was sold to us by one thing only - the Scooteroo tour.  It sounded so cool, getting to ride choppers through the amazing scenery where we were promised kangaroo sightings. We even get given leather jackets and fake tattoos! It was going to be awesome. Just a short 5 hour drive from Rainbow Beach.

The problem was, we chose the cheaper bus company didn't we, as we're always cheapskates. So the only bus of the day dropped us at our destination at midnight. Which would have been fine if it was in the town centre, but no it was in the absolute middle of nowhere.  A piece of gravel, surrounded by grass and darkness.  Luckily our hostel provided a shuttle service but it was late.  So there we were, about 5 backpackers stood waiting, no phone signal, no civilisation to be seen and one street lamp half a kilometre away.  It was only a matter of time before somebody mentioned 'Wolf Creek'...

And then our shuttle arrived and we were in for another surprise.  Other backpackers were driving us back, and they were crazy French stoners.  So we're all packed in this tiny van, driving down a road for half an hour with not one street light, and we're putting our lives in the hands of a high Frenchman.  All part of the adventure...

Our hostel was actually really cool, with a name like Cool Bananas so it should be! It had a chilled out hippy vibe, with flowers in the toilet and people doing yoga on the grass. And then it rained relentlessly for 2 whole days and our scooter tour got cancelled.  What to do in the tiniest village ever when it rains? Find the pub of course.  Funnily enough there was only one bar, called a tavern, on Tavern Road.

So this whole stop off was pretty pointless. Then we got in the crazy van again at midnight to get on the cheap bus for another 9 hours.  The distances around this country really are something else. I mean, we still haven't left the state, not even close.