East coast of Aus
So after 3 weeks in the city in Sydney I catch a boat to Manly. It occurred to me that a girl that I used to work with, Julie, had moved to either Australia or NZ. I got hold of her on Facebook on the first night there and incredibly that is actually where she lives! So we met for a drink and it was fab to catch up again.
The next day I headed off to the Manly Oceanworld where they had some cute fish and starfishes. I then had a nose round an art gallery / museum and a stroll round the Corso looking in the shops (and buying clothes and shoes!).
Beyond this, it gets a touch blurry for the next two weeks, mainly because I didn't get round to updating my diary so I can't remember when I did what.
I visited the Quarantine Station which was interesting and surprisingly pleasant and I saw a lot of sulphur crested cockateles walking home.
I made quite a lot of trips to Manly Beach and Shelly Beach, can't go home without a tan!
And did a spot of shopping again. And I also headed up to Palm Beach with Julie which is where Home and Away was filmed but like many people I spoke to, I didn't recognise it at all!
I also did a whole heap of drinking as there were a lot of lovely people staying at the hostel to party with, most nights in fact but strangely did not have the usual pounding head and nausea which is probably why I did so much of it! I had to leave because the temptation to stay was strong and I really wanted to see more of Australia so I jumped on the ferry and caught a bus to Port Macquarie.
I arrived late at night and found my way to the YHA and got some sleep. The next day I visited the Roto House and the Koala Hospital which housed some animals that had suffered horribly due to road accidents or fire. Some had suffered really horrific burns in a fire in the nearby Bonny Hills but the hospital brought them back to health. Many koalas suffer from chlamydia and females will die a horrendous death from it as well as often suffering from cancers in their mouths. So I sobbed my way back home, glad I was born human.
Back at the hostel I had met a lovely old chap called Jack, a real gentleman from Melbourne. We got on well and went out in his hire car to look at the painted rocks down at the coast and enjoyed a few meals out together.
He even stayed up very late on my last night there so that he could run me down to the bus station so I didn't have to walk there in the dark. I like Jack because he is very easy to talk to and shares a lot of my own interests. He even built his own house and ran his own business and enjoys travelling. Also, if you ask him a question that he does not know the answer to, he will say that he doesn't know which is very refreshing.
My next stop is Byron Bay. I foolishly thought that I had left the hardcore drinking behind in Manly.... My first day, I just mooch around familiarising myself with the place. Next day I am up at 6:30 and head off to a little airport, climb into a little plane and then jump out of it. It is a 14,000 jump with over 60 seconds of freefall which is fantastic but oddly, is also a shame. The rush that I get from skydiving is the overwhelming of my senses during freefall. Your brain has trouble deciphering what is going on since the whole event is quite alien to you. But with the extended freefall you start to get accustomed to the sensation and this takes the edge off of the rush a touch. None the less, it is still an outstanding experience and the feeling of calm that washes over you when the canopy opens is sublime. Post jump I headed to the beach until it started to rain again.
The following day was the obligatory trip to Nimbin. What a laugh! So we climb on board the Happy Bus and John who is also very happy and possibly a touch mad drives us to the town.
On the way we stop at a waterfall and hug the biggest water gum tree in the whole wide world. Ahhh! John declares "Welcome to Nimbin" as we arrive and we spot what is possibly the most stoned person on the planet trying to walk down the road, I use the term walk very loosely. He looks like one of the zombies out of Shaun of the Dead, I'm sure he is over acting. We have a quick stroll around Nimbin which is essentially a single street and then we head off for barbequed sausage sandwiches. Yumbles. Then back to Nimbin for a longer look around. There is an odd little museum there which was quite enjoyable and the whole place feels kind of nice. Funny to have someone's granny trying to sell you weed on the street!
We leave Nimbin and pass through a place called Lismore which John tells us is noted for two things. The horrendous flooding that the place suffers and a high concentration of lesbians in the local population. We do see sign of the flooding, it's incredible. There are markers for floods occurring in different years on the telephone poles and they are right up high. I was unable to determine wether the bit about the gay women was true. Further down the road we stop at John's wifes shop in Bangalow which is lovely but out of most backpackers budgets.
The next day I walk up to the lighthouse at the other end of the bay and enjoyed the views there. The return trip is through rainforest and pops out bu the beach where I see some lovely art in the form of yin/yang symbols cut into the sand for a wedding.
I return to the hostel and meet some lovely lads from England. One is amazing as he lost 95% of his sight 2 years ago but is still travelling alone, I am in awe of him. I also met a self employed missionary called Joshua who lives in Brisbane. Whilst I can't agree on the religeon, I have to say that he is one of the kindest people I have met in a long while. He just wants the world to be happy and his personality is such that he will improve the lives of many people I suspect. That night we all head off to Cheeky Monkeys where we have a spag bol, potatoe wedges and a beer for the measley sum of $2. The next day Joshua and I walked along the beach for a few hours then got on with a spot of reading in the sun and seruptitiosly perving on the gorgeous surfers. Back to Cheeky Monkeys for dinner, this time steak, chips, salad and beer plus a champagne for the girls for $7.50. I'm thinking of moving in.
Eventually Adam and I catch a bus to Brisbane. We arrive and I head off to the botanical gardens and explor the South Bank Gardens which are lovely.
The next day I have another look around the Botanical Gardens via the Mangrove Walk since I like them so much and head off to the Maritime Museum which has a good exhibition on lighthouses.
Later I meet my friend Shane at the Pig and Whistle in the city. I have not seen Shane for donkey's years and it is fantastic to see him again. Naturally we put away a few beers and I at least am a touch squiffy by the time Cam arrives. We head back to their house and Cam makes us a lovely stir fry. The first home cooked meal I've had in a while.
The next day it is so nice to catch up on some sleep in a room that you are not sharing with other travellers. I wash all of my clothes which is a bit thick because then I have nothing at all to wear so cannot go out in public. But I get to spend some time on the internet looking at overland trips through the Silk Road and generally catching up. Also, they have a tv which is fascintaing as I have not had a telly at home since something like 1998/9 so I am captivated. That evening we have another home cooked meal and chat.
The following day I head back through the gardens, over the Goodwill Bridge and off to the Queensland Museum. Later I catch up with Shane for more drinks and meet some of his friends.
Similarly the next day, I'm out for strolls then meet Shane at the Pig. We head over the river and go to a working man's bar which was a bit of an experience. We later bump into Cam and head out for dinner to celebrate a birthday. We then head off to a bar where I have a brilliant but very drunken night chatting with all sorts of random people including one guy that was up to all sort of mischeif and had me in stiches for the night.
Next morning I have my first proper hang over in a while and I am no good to anybody so I'm left for dead in bed. I manage to extract myself and gingerly head out for a long stroll around the neighbourhood which clears my head a bit. I then head into town to meet Shane, Cam and Dean at the Plough Inn. Shane must act as a translator for Dean who is totally spannered and incomprehensible to me which results in a night of hilarity.
The next day I am supposed to meet my uncle that I have not seen for about 20 years but he does not call me as agreed to finalise meeting plans so the morning is a write off. We head down to the Bowls Club for lunch which is lovely and then move on to the Powerhouse for more beers.
The following day I am very sad to say goodbye to Shane and Cam as I don't know how long it will be before I see either of them again. Maybe they will nip back to Jersey one day or I will find myself in Aus again, I remain hopefull. Had a brilliant time with them and it's nice to talk to someone that you haven't only recently met, you know, someone you can say "do you remember when" to. That's one of the hardest things for me, travelling alone. Sometimes you just need to be with people that you've known for a long time.
Anyway, I'm off to Airlie Beach to see the Whitsundays and excited. On the way there is a major cockroach infestation on the bus and it's impossible to sleep with them crawling all over us passengers, rather unpleasant but a novel experience I suppose. The first day is spent sloping around looking at the place and scoffing a gigantic burger.
I book a boat for the next day, it is called Eureka II and costs just $325 for three days and 2 nights which is brilliant when you consider that $50 for 2 nights at the hostel, approx $60 to hire snorkelling equipment plus food back on dry land. Meals are provided on the trip so it really is very good value for money. Not only is the boat used for tours of the islands, it is also used for racing so there is a touch of glamour too. It is a beautiful yatch, 80' long with enourmous sails.
My bunk is tiny but I like this and it feels authentic! The crew and passengers on the boat are great, I have landed on my feet. Particulalry enjoy the company of Paulina and her husband Tomek who are from Poland. She is very intelligent and knowledgable and he takes some outstanding photos. We are encouraged to get involved with running the boat which is fantastic. We help with raising and lowering sails and scramble from side to side as we turn to keep our speed up. This is so much better than being a passive passenger. We enjoy a snorkle and although the coral looks quite dull, there is a ton of fish to admire.
The next day we are up early and head to Tounge Beach where we climb up to a view point where we go nuts taking photos of the white sands, it is extraordinarily beautiful.
We enjoy lunch on the beach and some more snorkelling where I see a sting ray that doesn't seem to mind me following it about before moving the boat for the night. Curiously, despite the cler skies, there is no sign whatsoever of the moon but the tides seem to be behaving so it must be around somewhere.
The next morning we go snorkelling again and I stumble across a clam that is about 1 meter wide, astounding. After lunch we set sail for Airlie Beach and race a boat called Hammer that used to belong to Mal who now owns Eureka II. We lost the race but it was tremendous fun, the speed feels marvellous out at sea and we work well together for a bunch of novices. I've really enjoyed learning a bit about sailing having only tried it once before back home. Mal is great because he is used to training crew members so you can ask him anything and he is able to explain in full and with patience.
I'm sad on my last day in Airlie because I learn that an old friend has died, it's hard to be away from home at this time but I guess it's part of travelling, it can't all be fun and adventure. I decide to move on to Cairns catch another bus and once I'm there I head off to the Botanical Gardens. You'd be right in assuming that I have developed a taste for greenery. The rest of my time in Cairns is taken up with general sloping about in the company of a girl called Sami. I buy a didgeridoo and a mask that is shipped back home to Jersey and generally mooch around the shops. I then fly back to Sydney and it is like coming home, I really love this city, more than any other I have ever been to.
I am off to New Zealand now so goodbye Australia, I will see you again soon on my return trip home xxx