I'm still buzzing from that surf lesson. So much so that I've spent all week Googling the different surf spots in the UK for when I'm back home. I think, ladies and gentlemen, that this is the start of my quarter life crisis. Oh well, I guess it could be worse. It's not like I'm collecting stamps or something.
We still had a day left to burn in Agnes Water after the surfing, and burn we did. The day was spent lounging on the beach, riding the waves, and frying in the sun. Dave and Ailsa, the Cockney duo that I keep on bumping into along the way, were also in the same hostel, so they joined us too. Since travelling the east coast I've been seeing people I've met in the most random places. From meeting someone from Fraser Island in Agnes Water's local library, to reuniting with a guy I met in Melbourne in service station toilets in the middle of no where. Actually that last one sounds a bit dodgy doesn't it?
That night we had a chilled one at the hostel, as we were leaving at 9pm. Steak and mash was on the menu, so we scoffed that down and watched The Inbetweeners film in the common room until we had to leave. Cool Bananas employs a chap called Richard to man the kitchen and cook up some grub for the hungry travellers. He's about 4 ft 3 inches tall, with a moustache to rival any German pornstar from the 1970s, and has such a kind, sweet disposition. We ate his meals every night, each some of the best food we've had so far. It was nice to be served some food cooked with love and care, especially when all you've been eating has been pot noodles and tinned tuna for the past six weeks. Having said that, Honey Soy Chicken noodles from Woolworths are pretty sensational.
Next it was time to pack our bags and board the overnight Greyhound bus to Airlie Beach. It's an eleven hour journey, but I was too excited to care, as Airlie Beach is where we would be sailing the Whitsunday Islands; a real travelling highlight for me. The time flew by, mainly because I was asleep through most of it. We arrived in Airlie at around 7am, and the first thing that struck me was just how pretty the place was. The marina area looked like something straight out of the South of France. We made our way to Nomads hostel, our home for the night, and again, I was bowled over by how nice it was. There was a huge swimming pool and a cool outdoor bar, and the rooms were big and clean too. What a contrast from my stay in Takeshi's Castle hey?
Once we'd checked in it was time to visit the travel agency to check onto our boat. It was called the Boomerang and it was an ex-professional racing yacht. A lot of people I spoke to were sailing on the Clipper, the 'booze cruise' boat. I went to Zante when I was 17, and having just seen The Inbetweeners movie, I know exactly what happens on those cruises. I didn't fancy spending my entire time at the Whitsundays on the toilet, so the sailing boat was my choice.
That night, me, Celeste, Niklas and Jimi (another super friendly Swedish chap) went for dinner and drinks. We were joined with a few girls from our hostel too. I still laugh now at Niklas (someone who looks so Swedish it hurts) convincing the girls his father was South Korean and his mother was Somalian.
The next day was time to set sail. We met our group at the marina, and after filling in a few forms and labelling our many bags of goon, we were on board. All of the group were really nice. There was Celeste, Benny from Switzerland (the air traffic controller), Amanda from Reading, Siobhan, Dara and Sarah from Ireland, Cooen and Bart from Holland, Pip from Peterborough, Henrik from Sweden, and Phil from Liverpool. There's lots more, I know, but I'm terrible with names. The crew were all legends too. Tane the Kiwi captain (who knows some rather warped drinking games), Josh (who all the girls were swooning at), and Becca (who all the boys were swooning at).
Our first trip was to a reef where we'd get to do some snorkelling. It was my first time, so I was a little nervous. Will my 10m swimming badge not be enough?! Will I see a shark?! Will a Stingray mistake me for Steve Irwin?! We were told to wear stinger suits as there's a lot of Box Jellyfish and Irukanji Jellyfish in the area, each with extremely painful and potentially fatal stings. It just so happened that my stinger suit had a hole in the crotch region. Great. All nerves that I had were gone by the time I got in the water though. The coral was beautiful, and I found Nemo! A few guys saw turtles as well. And you'll be glad to know that my crotch escaped unscathed.
That night we had a delicious curry cooked up by Becca, and we were able to see the sunset. I was absolutely knackered, so I ended up falling asleep on the deck, much to the amusement of everyone else. The next morning I awoke to several pictures of me asleep with my mouth open, rather strangely clutching my breasts. I must have been having a sexy dream, I guess.
The next morning was an early start, as we were visiting the world famous Whitehaven Beach. In order to have it to ourselves, this meant dragging ourselves out of our bunks at 7am. It was totally worth it though. The beach was truly stunning. The sand is pure, powdery white, and the water is that sort of turquoise blue that doesn't quite look real when you see it in photographs. We had two hours to muck about, so we sunbathed and snorkelled in the sunshine. It was there that we saw Stingrays too.
After that it was time to have some lunch and dry ourselves off before heading to the lookout point. It is here that the most iconic photograph of the Whitsundays can be taken. It's a hot and sticky 10 minute trek through the rainforest, but as soon as you emerge from the top, the velvety white sand ripples between the pristine waters are there for everyone to see. It really is as beautiful as I had seen in pictures. We then walked down from the lookout back onto the beach. It was here where we saw thousands of tiny little crabs, all moving around together in one big group. It was cool seeing them all bury themselves in the sand in unison.
After that it was time for another snorkel. The water was a little less clear this time, but it was still fun. Dara saw a reef shark too. It was funny seeing him swim away in a fit of panic, leaving his girlfriend Sarah behind. That's true love right there.
It was nighttime before we knew it, and after filling our bellies with a tasty dinner of spaghetti bolognaise, it was time to crack out the drinking games. The 'My Vagina' game might be my new favourite. You can thank Tane the Captain for that one. I'd explain the rules more fully but my Nan reads these blogs.
The next morning (and last day of the trip) was spent in a place dubbed as the Whitsunday Fishbowl, as there's so much fish there. The snorkelling was incredible. Schools of the most colourful fish imaginable swim past your face in all different directions. Celeste saw a turtle. Benny saw a stingray. We all got to meet Elvis too. Elvis is a Humphead Maori Rasse and he is the alpha male of the reef. Apparently he eats off the genitalia of any of the other males of his breed to ensure he is the only one for the ladies. Now that is what I call dedication to the cause. Our guide was feeding him, so we all got to see Elvis jump out of the water and eat the bread out of Josh's hands. I even got to feed it and stroke it myself.
After that it was time to wave goodbye to the Whitsundays and sail back to Airlie Beach. I had such a good time. The scenery was picture perfect, the group were all lovely, the food was out of this world, the weather was around 25 degrees each day, and I discovered that Elvis isn't dead after all. That night the crew had booked us all a table at the Down Under bar, where we each got a meal and a drink. The bar staff said if we dance to Flo Rida's 'Get Low' on the tables we would each get free drinks. I think I pulled a few muscles and lost all of my dignity in the process, but we got the drinks and that's all that matters. After that we headed to Phoenix bar to finish off the night. I got very drunk and I seem to recall a being in a heck of a lot of photos. I'm already mentally untagging them. Phil and I wore exactly the same outfit too. The same t-shirt. The same denim shorts. Even the same underwear. I might actually tag that one just so you believe me.
Before I knew it I was on my penultimate Greyhound bus up to Townsville, where we then got the ferry to Magnetic Island. Me, Celeste and Alex had all booked to stay in Base hostel, situated right on the beach in Nobby Creek. I later found out it was directly next to a nudist beach. Nobby Creek all of a sudden seemed a rather apt name. The hostel offered stunning views of the ocean, made all the more impressive at sunset.
That night it was 'Boozy Bingo' at the hostel bar. I didn't win anything as usual, but one lucky girl went away with the $1150 jackpot. Once it had finally sunk in that the grand prize was out of reach, me, Celeste and Alex took off to the beach, along with two of my roommates Josh and Isaac, and Isaac's pal Ryan. They'd brought their guitars, so we all got to have a jam. It was the first time I'd played since leaving home, so I was a bit rusty to begin with, but after a while I'd found my stride. A personal highlight was getting everyone to sing along to Yesterday by The Beatles. Celeste took a picture of me mid-song but it looks more like I'm having a tricky poo, not quite the look I was going for if I'm being honest.
Me, Celeste, Alex and my other roommate Nina decided to hire a car for the next day. Not just any car though. We hired a topless moke, a car that resembles more of a golf buggy than anything else. Celeste was determined to get a Barbie pink one. I joked that if we were to get the pink car I'd have to constantly blast out heavy metal music just to compensate for the emasculation. There were no pink cars left when we went to pick up the keys, so we had to settle for a white and bottle green one instead. The Metallica playlist was put on hold.
We drove to a place called Fort's Walk, a gum tree forest in which you can find remnants of Australia's defences against Japan in the Second World War. There was the old ammunition store, and there was the fort, the latter offering amazing views of Radical Bay and beyond. The forest is also a great place to spot wild koalas. We were lucky to walk past a couple who had just seen one up in the trees and were able to guide us to where it was. They really are so cute. This guy had his arms and legs stretched out, looking like he was having the sleep of his life.
Having well and truly caught the Koala bug (not chlamydia that is!), we decided to head to the Koala Sanctuary in Picnic Bay. The sanctuary is situated within the YHA hostel complex, and it is home to loads of other animals, ranging from parrots to crocodiles, to snakes and wombats. The lady that runs it is an absolute star too. She was so helpful and informative, and let everyone hold all of the animals and take as many pictures as we liked. I held a crocodile, five different types of snakes, turtles, lizards, fed a parrot, patted a wombat's bum, and hugged a koala. It was worth every penny, especially as all of the money is invested straight back into the sanctuary.
We then took off to the other side of the island where, according to our map, there was a place called Whitfield Cove. Unfortunately there wasn't a sign where I could get my picture in front of, but it was still a great place to take a few photos and spot some wild wallabies.
Later that night we all bought meat and drinks from the supermarket and had a barbecue on the beach. By 10pm I was tucked up in bed though. I think Matilda the koala bear's lethargy had rubbed off on me.
This morning it was time to check out of the hostel and say goodbye to the Pimpmobile (as I liked to call it). We handed the keys back to the garage and boarded the ferry back to Townsville. A lot of people bypass Magnetic Island in favour of heading straight to Mission Beach to do the skydive. I recommend everyone to stop and check out 'Maggie'. Hug Matilda whilst you're there too, but hands off the white and green Pimpmobile.
Right now I'm on the coach up to Cairns, where I'll be staying until Monday. I'm feeling rather sad over the fact that I only have 4 days left in Australia. I'm also very, very itchy. No, I haven't got crabs. I've grown a beard for the first time. Maybe it's another facet to my quarter life crisis. I might just stick to stamp collecting after all.