G'day all, howya going?!
***HAPPY NEW YEAR!!***
Apologies for such a huge gap since my last email - I blame the surprisingly hectic lifesyle of an aussie barmaid and traveller!!
Han and I have now officially lived, loved and left Sydney! We spent an amazing two months living the aussie dream, staying in a beautiful apartment with 6 other students from across the globe (2 Swedish guys, 2 Italian guys, a Welsh girl and another English girl), and working and partying hard in true Sydney style! I had an awesome time working as a barmaid in a funky bar on 3 levels in the heart of the city, and Han was perfecting her balancing skills as a waitress in Darling Harbour. We made so many lovely friends and fell in love with the crazy-yet-chilled lifestyle that Sydney offers! As hospitality workers, often finishing night shifts at around 2.30am, we formed a dangerous relationship with the 24-hour bars across the city, and on a few occasions I did tiptoe in at around 9.30 am. after a drinking session only to cross paths with my housemates who were just *leaving* for work..!
HOWEVER, I have discovered and sampled a huge list of new and exciting drinks and cocktails, and have even invented my own little concoction (a Juicy Lucy!) which I will happily make for anyone who cares and dares to try it when I get back to England!
Other highlights from Sydney include: climbing Sydney Harbour Bridge (awesome!), watching a ballet at Sydney Opera House, cruising the harbour and saling to Taronga Zoo, getting knocked over by the huge waves on Bondi Beach, spending a weekend up on the Central Coast, and of course getting fluent in Ozzie Lingo! ('Far out brussel sprout' remains my favourite phrase to date!) Han and I had our first surfing lesson on Bondi Beach, which was excellent fun and involved giggling for a whole hour until Han let go of her board on a huge wave and subsequently smashed me in the head with it...I also got whacked in the thigh, so having finally got rid of my enormous bruise from Thailand I got a fresh one right in the same place...and I now have an actual dent in my leg. Excellent.
We spent an incredible two weeks travelling with Hannah's parents, living the most luxurious lifestyle a backpacker could dream of, and staying in 4-star apartments accross Australia! We went strolling in the Blue Mountains, watched an incredible sunrise and sunset over Uluru (Ayers Rock), and moved from bright orange, arid soil in the red centre to lush rainforests and crystal blue water along the north coast and Great Barrier Reef. We spent 2 nights in Melbourne, balancing our cultural visit to Melbourne Museum with a VERY cheesy Ramsay Street Tour!!(Oh yes!) As embarrassing as it was to be driven around in a very inconspicuous NEIGHBOURS TOUR BUS, it was so much fun, and mine and Han's childhood dreams came true as we had our photos taken outide our favourite neighbours' houses!
*Random fact for everyone: 'Erinsbourgh' was created (yes, shock horror! It does not actually exist!) by forming a near anagram of 'neighbours'...) Everyday's a school day!
After Uluru we flew up to Cairns to begin our trip down the East Coast. It was very strange to be in the height of summer for Christmas, but it was lovely to meet up with 2 of our housemates and another friend from Sydney, and we spent an amazing day in Port Douglas, enjoying a typically Ozzie Chrissy with a true blue barbie on the beach! Boxing Day was incredible: we spent the day walking through the rainforest, strolling along the white sands of Cape Tribulation, and even going on a crocodile cruise run by a real life ozzie guy named Bruce!! (I have so far met a Barbie, a Ken - though they were sadly not together - a Brad, a Brett, a Bruce, but I'm yet to meet a Sheila!!)
Last week we took advantage of our recently acquired PADI certificates and went diving on the Great Barrier Reef! It was an incredible experience, particularly as we saw 3 sharks!! I was petrified as our instructor grabbed my hand and started leading me towards this white-tip reef shark, gesturing excitedly in dive language that it was a shark, (which I could see perfectly well, it being a few metres from my face!) But I had no intention of leaving him and venturing anywhere on my own with a shark around, so I had no choice but to follow him as he swam straight over it! The next two we saw, which were much larger, were grey reef whaler sharks: much meatier than the first but thankfully a bit further away! Fortunately they all seemed very disinterested in us divers, and I was assured that they are perfectly harmless unless you provoke them, which put me at ease AFTER re-surfacing!
We spent a magical two days on Hooke Island in the Whitsunday Islands. Here we went snorkelling (after much persuasion) in full, and very sexy stinger-suits, as it's the season for the deadly box jellyfish here which, if it stings you, can kill you within 30 minutes..! We also befriended the largest goannas we have ever seen, and did an astonished double-take as we heard the pattering of footsteps outside our room only to see a lizard the size of a small cow strolling past our door!!
We spent New Year's Eve in Airle Beach, an incredibly popular destination for youngsters at New Year. So popular, in fact, that we failed to find ANY accommodation for the night! This meant getting ready for the evening in the classy surroundings of the public showers down by the harbour, and changing in a locker room before putting our bags into storage and preparing for a full 20 hours of hardcore partying before our scheduled bus departure at 11 am on New Year's Day. Somehow we still managed to emerge as the most sophisticated-looking backpackers in town, even with a brown paper bag each and a bottle of champers tucked under our arm! We enjoyed a lovely meal and danced the night away until 5am, at which point we were amused to find that 90% of the club we were in had discovered that there were 5 female backpackers in need of a home for the night! Despite the offer of several yaughts and a couple of apartments from some generous but dodgy-looking characters, we sensibly took up an offer from the 18 year-old skipper of our boat tour!
Our next stop was Rockhampton, 'the beef capital of Australia', as its motto boasts! Us non-vegetarians were, of course, obliged to sample a famous and delicious stonegrill steak, which we cooked to our taste on a stone slab heated to 400 C! (And I can now say that I have also sampled crocodile and kangaroo steak!) The real highlight, however, was a tour of the Outback by Capricorn Dave, a seriously crazy dude who took Steve-O from Jackass on the same trip! We spotted kangaroos and emus, handled all sorts of weird and wonderful creatures, stumbled across a 7ft python in a shed (and stroked it, despite its hissing!) held lizards, scorpions and spiders, and licked the derriere of a 'lime ant', whose swollen green bottom tastes decidedly lime-like and EXTREMELY sour, and gives you a little electric shock when you lick it! Despite being the most arachnophobic person I know (bar little Han, perhaps), I am amazed to say that I even let a Huntsman spider the size of my hand crawl over my FACE!! Apparently it should have cured my fears, but it would appear that it has NOT worked, and I still jump onto the highest object in sight whenever the word 'spider' is mentioned...however, I must admit that I admire them *from* that object in a marginally friendlier light...We finished the day by swinging into a billabong and taking a tea tree mudbath in a freshwater creek alongside the turtles as the sun set over the water... :)
Since then we have explored the beautiful Fraser Island in a bright pink 4WD! We spent 3 days swimming in freshwater creeks and natural lakes surrounded by white sands, went shark-watching on Indian's Head, and camped on the beach beneath the stars with 13 others and a couple of wild dingoes!
And we are now in the beautiful and boho Byron Bay! We've been staying in the hippie residence of the Arts Factory (alongside the winner of Fame Academy for anyone who watched it), where you can stay in your very own teepee, lounge in hammocks, do yoga, take didgeridoo lessons, and make friends with the chicken-like creatures who stroll around outside your dorm (which is in the middle of a forest!)...The hippie spirit is already affecting 2 of our friends, Del and Emma, who have recently had their nose and lip pierced, respectively. But you'll be relieved to hear that Han and I are leaving the nipple piercings until New Zealand, where we hear it's much cheaper...(haha!!) Only 2 days remain now until our Ozzie adventure must come to an end, but our next stop is the stunning (and cold!) New Zealand, where we hope to explore the islands in our very own campervan!
Happy New year to you all, and I hope everyone had a lovely Christmas! (I must say, as fabulous as our day was, it really didn't feel the same not being in the good old English cold!!)
Can't wait to see you all this year, and I'm sorry that my New Year's Resolution of writing shorter emails has not yet come into effect...I promise to work on it!!
Lots of boho-surfer Love and frangipani Kisses,