For any of you back in England worrying about our lack of contact, do not worry! WE ARE STILL ALIVE!!
Bali was good, though quite rainy a lot of the time we were there, which ruined our beach plans. We ate lots of ridiculously cheap food though, and if I'd eaten anymore chicken satay I would have turned into one!
We did manage to fit in an afternoon of surfing though, and we were both brilliant at it (lets ignore the fact I had previously done 7 days surfing in Newquay when I was 16). James was worried he'd hate it, after not liking scuba diving and not liking salt water. We had a lovely instructor though, and after catching one wave (with his help) he was telling us to try standing. So the next wave we caught (again with his help) we were both standing up on our boards like the pros (kind of). We didn't quite manage to work out how to catch a green wave (a wave before it breaks) and so our instructor was shouting at us "wait wait...paddle slowly, paddle slowly, FAST FAST PADDLE!" Which was fun. There were about 5 beginner groups out there of 3 people and our group was the best! Yeah.
We went out to a club in Bali, after watching Newcastle beat Fulham. It was good fun, but we left at about 3am after the music turned rubbish.
We managed to miss our flight out of Bali to Darwin, as the time had been changed from midnight to 9:30pm. So we were on standby for a 1am flight to Darwin. However, we had a connecting flight from Darwin to Cairns at 7am to catch, so it was all looking a bit frantic. There was nothing to do in the airport so we were bored for a few hours and then when we tried to check if we were on the plane at midnight (as we'd been told to do) the woman at the desk told us to come back at 12:50 - 10 minutes before the flight left!!!! We couldn't convince the woman otherwise, but thankfully the nice man who sorted everything out in the first place came over and told us we were on the flight. YAY!
Arriving in Australia (with an hour before our connecting flight left) we were pulled over by customs for not having clean walking boots. Oops. We were taken into a little quarantine room with a sink and given a scrubbing brush to clean the boots. I enjoyed it. The customs woman was very nice and we had a good chat about quarantine in Australia and New Zealand. Plus I got to clean my boots for free, much better than I could have anywhere else so far. The quarantine lady suggested we cleaned our boots before heading to New Zealand though, as they have heavy fines for dirty boots.
With almost no hope now of getting our connecting flight to Cairns we headed to the front of the airport to departures. The Quantas desk was closing, but the people on the desk knew who we were and rushed us and our luggage through - it was like being a celebrity (except we still sat in economy class!!) Against the odds, we were in Cairns on 24th as we'd planned.
Cairns was very quiet for Easter Monday and we soon settled on a cheap hostel run by a Chinese couple, who didn't have a great grasp of English. There was an odd mixture of white backpackers, Chinese familes and middle aged aussie men staying there. On our second night we were drifting off to sleep only to hear a disturbance in the corridor outside our rooms. It sounded like there was a fight going on between two of the aussie men. I didn;t pay much attention as they had been arguing a lot since our arrival, but it soon took on a more ominous tone. There was lots of swearing and it sounded like one of the guys had stabbed another guy. The police and ambulance were called, but the stabber made a run for it. We later found out that the guy had stabbed the victim in the chest twice and sliced his face, but we don't know what the reason for the argument was. Apparently they'd had a disagreement earlier in the day as well.
We decided to stay in the hostel, despite the commotion of the night before (the stabber had made a run for it anyway) and we had a day seeing the Great Barrier Reef to get on with! We took a boat out to two sites on the reef - Saxon Reef and Hastings Reef. We both scuba dived at the first location and snorkelled at the second. Visibility on the dive wasn't great, but James was happy that he didn't panic on this dive and he now never has to dive again. It was amazing on the reef. Soooo many different fish and corals. We saw giant clams, puffer fish, angel fish, clown fish, lion fish and many others that I can't name!
After Cairns (and the reason you haven't heard from us in ages) we went WWOOFing, where you volunteer on a farm in return for food and accomodation. We did it for 2 weeks and it was very tiring. I now have sore legs and a sore back and lots of cuts on my hands (despite wearing gardening gloves). We were weeding, planting trees, cooking, cleaning and mustering cattle. Apparently we aren't very good at talking to cows - all a bit new to us! I was the slowest worker there (out of the farmer, James and another Canadian WWOOFer), but I like to think I was the most perfectionist worker too. There wasn't a great deal around the farm to do, as it was very isolated, but we did a hike into the bush and went swimming in the waterfalls in the bush, which was amazing. The scenery was just beautiful.
I will update this all later...Time for lunch now
To continue...We were on this farm, in the middle of nowhere (pretty much) for 2 weeks. I nearly decided to leave after week 1 when I was in pain and we were still weeding and planting trees everyday for 5 hours! But I managed to stick at it and we just about survived. The farmer we were staying with, Bood, was a lovely, kind man, until we got out into the fields where he seemed to think we should be able to absorb all he was telling us like a sponge, and he didn't seem to like the fact that James and I weren't that fast. Thankfully for us, Lucas (the Canadian WWOOFer) lived on a farm in Canada, so he got the brunt of Bood's frustrations as Lucas apparently should have known how to do everything more than we did. Though from what I understood, Lucas mainly worked with chickens and sheep.
Bood also had some interesting philosophies on life. Like the world is going to end in 2012 as everything is reaching crisis point (economies, governments, international relations, climate, etc etc). Along with this he threw in theories of the governments being controlled by reptiles (see Dr Who for references to this), humans being an ET experiment and conspiracy theories about the 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers. It was all very interesting to listen to, but that was all you could do - listen. It was difficult to try and put across another point of view without being cut off half way through a point being told how we have been "conditioned" to think like that. It got a bit depressing/tiresome towards the end and we tried to keep our conversations on the lighter topics!
One afternoon we were given the half day off work and were given a tour of a local town called Millaa Millaa, where everything seemed to be closing down or falling down!! They did however have very nice waterfalls there, and James and Lucas went for a swim, whilst I tried (and failed) to spot a platypus. I did see 2 terrapins though, and what looked like a catfish. We then when to a local dairy/cafe called "Out of the Whey" - very amusing. There we had scones, which made me want to go home, and a delicious strawberry milkshake. Lucas didn't get anything though, as he'd lost his $5 during his swim in the waterfall, so it's not only James who goes swimming with all his wordly possessions on him!?
Another evening Bood took us into Atherton (the biggest local town and apparently "the most liveable town in the world" - whatever that means). He treated us to an Indonesian meal at a restaurant and then we went to see a film being shown in a local shop. This wasn't a normal shop either, it sold crystals and dream catchers and books about apocolypse - it was going to be a fun night!
The film wasn't too bad. It was a man telling his story about being abducted by aliens, all the footage he has of UFOs and how he believes his mission in life is to raise other people's consciousnesses to become aware of aliens and these more powerful beings. Once again there was a focus on an "end of the world" type scenario, but this guy was much more relaxed about it saying that the aliens want to help us and we just need to be aware and raise our consciousnesses and medidate...Or something like that. Much jollier than the doom and gloom of Bood's predictions of building bunkers.
After the film there was a chance to stay behind and discuss what we'd just watched. Some of the regular group members were very vocal and I got very confused about what was being discussed and there seemed to be some underlying tensions between some of the group members. Bit weird, but entertaining. We saw some photos of orbs (anyone who watches Most Haunted will know what I'm on about) - they are spirits of some sort often caught on camera or film as blobs of light. It was a lot to try and take in!
Whilst living with Bood, we got to know lots of animals. There were the mice who lived in the kitchen, and occasionally in our bedroom, the massive millipede, which we only saw on our penultimate night thankfully. Also, there was a frog who lived in various places around the kitchen, he slept a lot in various places on the ceiling, fridge, chair legs and window sills. In our bedroom we found a small lizard co-habiting with us and at one point a toad too, which I had to carry outside! There was a tree snake that was trying to get into the house via an upstairs window one afternoon, which was exciting (only because he was on the outside and not the inside!)
The highlight for me though was when James and I decided to go platypus watching at the nearby lake at dusk. After standing still and being quiet for at least half an hour (what an achievement!) we saw one. He swam along the surface of the water for a bit and then dived down and repeated this three or four times before disappearing into the overhanging grass at the lakeside. It was great! The evening was less great for Lucas, who was going to come with us, until he got distracted by a big fig tree. Unfortunately the big fig tree was surrounded by stinging trees (which Bood had told us to avoid at all costs) and Lucas didn't notice this, so his hand got stung. He described it as the worst pain he'd ever experienced and his hand swelled up so he looked like he had no knuckles! Bood drove Lucas to Atherton to go to hospital. There apparently they used wax strips to try and remove the barbs (it didn't work) so they just gave him lots of drugs and said to leave it!
So that was our farm experience. We then travelled back to Cairns with Lucas (his hand seeming much better after a couple of days) and took advantage of the $10 meal vouchers at the Wool Shed - steak and chips, a drink and dessert all for a tenner (or 5 english pounds) what a bargain! Then it was off to get our coach.