Part one of the mega post.... started in Brisbane:
I need to start blogging more and talking less. I need to write down my stories so I don’t go home, wake up one day and forget they ever existed. I need to stop reading and get creating.
I have decided I like Brisbane. I had been a little apprehensive about coming here because people had told me that it was boring and that I would be bored and that there was very little to do without spending a fortune. I’m happy to say any fears were unfounded and that I’m really not sure which city these people were talking about because there’s plenty to do here.
But I digress. I cannot talk about where I am before I talk about how I got here. And there’s a lot of journey still to cover.
My final two days staying in Cairns were not the best. I think I was in Cairns itself for too long really, but if I hadn’t have stayed there I wouldn’t have had an amazing two days outside of Cairns before I headed south, so I can’t complain really. It rained for most of the Thursday in Cairns, and I remember being annoyed because I was actually having a somewhat fabulous hair day (needless to say, the rain flattened it). I was feeling a bit down on that day (sympathetic moods, perchance? More likely a result of spending too much time on my own with nothing to do), so I went to the art gallery to cheer myself up. They had some incredible Australian art in there; both modern and traditional. Some people get bored going to galleries and museums and the like, but I like immersing myself in the culture of a place. Sadly, the cheering up only lasted for a few hours and then I was miserable again and in need of some company. So I hopped on the bus to Kewarra Beach and went to see Amy (thank you so much, you guys, for having me that night. You have no idea how good it was for my sanity).
The Friday was spent wandering the city, sampling the local gelato and taking photos of the esplanade. In the evening I was picked up by Amy’s mum, who had had a very busy day at work getting her head shaved for charity (there’s been a big event going on in Australia called “Shave for a Cure”, supporting cancer charities). The evening was fun, and on that night I watched my first ever NRL game. Methinks NRL is just an excuse for a bunch of men to get sweaty and jump each other…. What?!
Saturday 14th March:
This is where things start to really liven up. I had so much fun with Amy and her mum on this weekend and this is why – we went on a road trip (road trip, road trip, woooo!)
On the Saturday we drove to the Atherton Tablelands, where we were met with all manner of excitement, ranging from a trip to a mango winery (no wine for poor underage Amy ), to a dam, to a war memorial, to a shop full of wooden fairies, to a giant curtain fig tree, to McDonalds, to parks, to blink and you miss them villages, to lots and lots of beautiful waterfalls, to a crater (where we made a mockumentary), to towns, and to Amy’s old house. All whilst singing along rather loudly to a somewhat eclectic soundtrack of music in the car. It was brilliant! And the beauty of it was that the Tablelands didn’t have any of the humidity of Cairns, so we were able to enjoy the day without melting.
Sunday 15th March:
Day two of the road trip! On this day we drove north to Port Douglas, playground of the rich and famous. The drive itself was pretty incredible; the road was all right by the coastline, which made for stunning views, but meant that parts of it have had to have been rebuilt because of cyclone damage. And then there’s Port Douglas. Knowing that it was where all of the celebrities like to buy their holiday homes I had some inkling that it would be nice, but it really is beautiful; all blue skies, white sand beaches and turquoise sea.
The main thing of interest to us, however, was not any of those things, it was the market that they held every Sunday. It’s outdoors and sells all manner of jewellery, clothes and handicrafts. So much I could have bought, but I settled for a hotdog and some mango sorbet.
Our next stops were lookout points, with varying levels of climbing involved. Worth it though for the views. Took a few pictures, which I’ve already posted, including some rather amusing ones of Amy pretending to conquer a miniature lighthouse.
And then we were off on another adventure! This time it was to Mossman Gorge, which is extraordinarily beautiful and also very good for swimming in. And so Amy and I took to the freezing cold water (much to the amusement of Amy’s mum, who was filming us on their video camera), to play around on the gentle rapids and try not to get swept down the river. We then also had extra fun when we played around on the swing bridge they had over part of the gorge. The only thing that could have made our trip to the gorge any more fun would have been if we had had inner tubes to float over the rapids on.
Once we dried off it was north again to Daintree, for a session of croc spotting on the river. Sadly there were no crocs, but at least we lived to tell the tale.
One stop back in Port Douglas for some licorice flavoured ice cream (mum, you would love it), and it was back on the road to our final stop on the road trip. We went to Palm Cove jetty, which was very very windy, but offered stunning views of the sun setting over Trinity, Kewarra and Clifton Beaches.
And then home, with Amy trying to play Christmas songs in the car all of the way….
Monday 16th- Wednesday 18th March
And so, my week in Cairns over, it was time to move on. South, actually: to Townsville. I said goodbye to Amy and her family (thank you again for taking such good care of me) and boarded the Greyhound.
Some people don’t like Greyhound buses, but I quite like them. It’s not that they’re particularly luxurious or anything, or even especially spacious. But they’re nice enough, and they’re usually empty enough that you can claim two seat and curl up for a nap. They also stop for loo and food breaks on a semi regular basis, and you usually get a movie or two to watch as well. What’s not to like?
Townsville felt much more like a city than Cairns did. I found Cairns as a city vaguely unsettling because it’s sprawling and extraordinarily low lying. Which just seems wrong. I like my tall buildings in a city, thank you very much. But it was nice to see things that were definitely different to what we have at home so I can’t really grouch too much about the lack of skyscrapers. ;)
I think my favourite thing about Townsville was actually my hostel. I stayed at the Reef Lodge backpackers, and it was nice, It had a real higgledy piggledy feel to it, and was just this haphazard collection of buildings. But it felt cozy. And it had a nice big kitchen, which is always going to be a plus point in my book.
I was actually in Townsville for St Patrick’s Day, and well and truly earned my title of worst backpacker ever by doing absolutely nothing to celebrate it. I didn’t even wear green. I know, Iknow…. But it’s not like I’m Irish or anything. Instead of celebrating (read: getting blind drunk), I spent my day perusing the Museum of Tropical Queensland, and walking down along the beach (trying not to get hit by coconuts). It was fun.
On the Wednesday I dragged myself out of bed and hopped on the ferry to Magnetic Island. It wasn’t that I didn’t like Magnetic Island… it’s just that I spent AUS$27 on the return ferry and AUS$5.50 on a bus pass and I expected it to be something more than what it was. The truth is that it was very pretty, but as I was travelling alone and didn’t have a lot of cash to spend there wasn’t really a lot for me to do. I mean, I couldn’t really trek solo in case I hurt myself or got lost, and I was reluctant to sit on the beach all day or go swimming in case something happened to my stuff. I know I probably would have been fine, but most of you should know by now that I’m a natural worrier. So my day on Magnetic Island wasn’t the best. But I took some nice photos.
Thursday 19th and Friday 20th March:
Another day, another trip on the Greyhound. This time to Airlie Beach, launching pad to the Whitsundays. The sun was shining when I arrived, which is always nice, but I got told when I checked in at my hostel that there was residual bad weather left over from the recent cyclone, and so a lot of boat trips had been cancelled. My hostel was a ten minute walk away from the main area, so I walked into town that afternoon for some exploring and dinner. In a strange and entirely coincidental event I met my roommate for the night over fish and chips at the local chippy. It was so funny when we realized that not only were we in the same hostel, but we were in the same room.
That evening, Carrie and I went back to the hostel and met our other roommate, Helen. The night was spent watching crappy American tv, drinking wine and eating popcorn.
We woke up on the Friday to the unwelcome sound of pouring rain. Which gave us the perfect excuse to sit around and drink tea all morning. I’m not kidding, that is actually what we did. It cleared up a bit in the afternoon, so I ventured into town to book myself on a day trip to the Whitsundays for the following day. Ran into Chris, a guy I keep running into all over the place, in one of the shops so we went for a couple of drinks and a catch up. Finished up the evening with a phone call home in Global Gossip and some quality net time.
Saturday 21st March
This day dawned bright and (far too) early for me, as it was the day of my boat trip. The Reefjet was a much bigger boat than the Ocean Free (the sailing boat I went on in Cairns) had been, and so I thought I might cope with it better. Alas, this was not to be, and I spent a good portion of all journeys aboar feeling (but not being) slightly sick. This was not helped in any way by the woman who actually was seasick who the crew sat near me.
Our first stop was Tounge Bay, where we went on a short bushwalk to a lookout point to take in the stunning views.
On the way to the second stop I got chatting to Karen, who was from Edmunton, Alberta. I like that on trips like this I usually find someone to make friends with. To get off the boat and go onto Whitehaven Beach we had to don our stinger suits as we were to be getting off into waist deep water. This meant, of course, that we all walked on to the beach looking like Tellytubbies… the things I have to do! ;) I stayed with Karen on the beach (which was all white sand and blue seas), and we chatted, sunbathed, I sketched for a bit, and we generally enjoyed not being on the boat. Or at least I did.
After our brief respite it was back on the boat for some lunch. We also found out that during the beach stop one of the guys on board had proposed to his girlfriend, and she had said yes. How romantic.
The last thing we did before heading back to the mainland was go snorkeling! Yay! You’ll know from my previous posts that this is the main reason I suffer through these boat trips, as without the promise of snorkeling I’d probably stay firmly on dry land. Sadly, on this occasion, I was feeling slightly too seasick to enjoy the snorkeling to its fullest, but I gave it a good go and saw some beautiful fishies and coral in the shallow waters near the boat. I’m glad I hadn’t wanted to dive on this trip as I heard from the people who had dived that the visibility was very poor and they hadn’t seen anything like as much as those of us who had just donned our masks and snorkels and stayed close to the surface,
Finally, finally it was back to the mainland, where I went for dinner with Karen and then whiled away the evening in Global Gossip, talking to mum and dad on the webcam.
Sunday 22nd – Tuesday 24th March
The next stop on my abridged tour of Australia’s east coast was Mackay, where I had booked onto a tour to go platypus spotting in Eungella National Park. Sadly, this fell through as when I got there I was told that there weren’t enough people wanting to go for them to run a trip when I was in Mackay. Needless to say I was Not Happy about this.
Once I’d got over the initial disappointment of not getting to go on the platypus safari however, I actually quite liked Mackay. It was a real town, not just a tourist town (like Cairns), and so I felt it had a lot more character. I can see why people stay there to work. I think the hostel I stayed in was another reason I liked Mackay so much. I stayed in Larrakin Lodge, which is a small hostel that’s almost more like a house than a hostel. The rooms are large and you don’t get given a room key; the kitchen and living room are connected, and everyone sits around chatting. It felt like the kind of place I’d like to stay in long term if I were to work in Australia. The owners were also really friendly. I’d definitely recommend it if anyone was looking for a place to stay in Mackay.
I was lucky enough to arrive in Mackay on a Sunday, which just happened to be the day that there was a free tourist bus running around town, and so after a bite to eat and a quick exploration of their mini art gallery, I hopped on the bus and rode around for a bit until we got to the harbor. The bus ride takes you over the river, which I had been told was full of crocodiles. None of which could be spotted when I crossed the river of course.
Monday in Mackay was dedicated to one very important thing: shopping! Namely shopping for a netbook. I trawled all over the place in search of one, and eventually ended up right back where I started. So for those of you who didn’t know, I am now the proud owner of a very cute white Acer Aspire One named Sunshine (and if anyone knows why I named my netbook Sunshine then they get a prize). Of course, I didn’t spend my entire day searching for a netbook; I also went to the mall and invested in an hour of pampering (aka a much needed trip to the hairdressers).
I had originally planned to go to Rockhampton from Mackay, but upon looking at the bus schedules against the dates I had booked for my Fraser Island excursion it wasn’t a practical option. So instead I booked myself on the overnight bus from Mackay to Rainbow Beach. Which meant I had an extra day in Mackay to amuse myself with. This was, naturally, spent mostly in the library, using their cheap wifi.