Byron Bay to Sydney

Byron Bay will always be in my memory as this is where I did my skydive. The town itself is a lovely beach town and has a very laid back hippy vibe. A lot of the people I met at my hostel, Backpackers Inn at $32 a night, had been in Byron Bay for a few months. No one seems to want to leave but it is easy to see why.

On my first night the hostel held a bbq which was a nice way for me to meet a nice bunch of people, but unfortunately I had to leave them all early as I had my skydive at 7am the next morning.

My adrenaline was pumping and I was bursting with excitement following my skydive but I managed to calm myself down and spent the day relaxing on the beach and exploring the little town. I only had 1 more night in Byron Bay so I met up with one of the guys I met in Fraser Island and along with 2 other girls he had met, we had a good night out. Despite a late night and a slight hangover I was up early to make the most of my last day. My bus was leaving at 5.30pm.

Byron Bay has a lighthouse and I thought it would be a good idea to walk for 3 hours up and down hills and steps in 35 degree heat. Once I got to the top I walked around the lighthouse taking photos of the lovely scenery and walked out onto a cliff which is the most easterly point of mainland Australia. Just as I was about to make the descent back, I spotted 7 dolphins jumping in and out of the water below. Such a beautiful sight to end my stay in Byron Bay.

Back on the bus and 13 hours later I arrived in Sydney. My bus arrived at 8am and my next bus to Melbourne was leaving at 3.30pm the same day, so I only had a short time in Sydney. I had chosen this schedule because I had been to Sydney before and so it just broke up the long journey to Melbourne from Byron Bay. Luckily the bus terminal allowed me to leave my backpack behind their counter so I could go out and make the most of my day. I found a free bus which took me to Circular Quay which is a great place to see the Opera House and Harbour Bridge. It was lovely being back, the sun was shining and I instantly felt that lively Sydney vibe. I was in Sydney at the begining of the year for a holiday with one of my best friends and we did the Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb, saw Frankenstein the play at the Opera House and explored The Rocks, so this time I just wandered around enjoying the Sydney atmosphere.

Back on the 3.30pm bus for my longest bus trip yet, 17 hours to Melbourne in time for Christmas celebrations.

20131226-202601.jpg

20131226-202632.jpg

20131226-202656.jpg

20131226-202741.jpg

20131226-203225.jpg

20131226-203256.jpg

Advertisements

Bucket List: Skydive ✔️ The Best Stupid Idea I’ve Had

I don’t think anything will top the experience I had today! Bucket List item ‘do a skydive’ – check! By far, the best, stupid idea I have ever had.

I nervously giggled my way to the airfield but was mainly filled with anticipation and excitement. After signing in we put on our trousers and harnesses and were given a quick simple talk on positioning. Then I met the guy who would have my life in his hands. We walked over to the plane and surprisingly I still wasn’t scared, just excited. We got on the plane and I was sat in front of my tandem partner who began strapping us together as we started flying up above Byron Bay. The view was amazing thanks to a lovely clear day. I sat there in disbelief at what I was about to do. Although this item was on my bucket list the realisation that I was actually about to jump out of a plane was a very strange feeling. I just couldn’t believe I was actually going to do it. We flew for about 30 minutes and then the door opened…

A gust of air hit us all and this was the moment the fright kicked in. I didn’t have long to dwell on this, I tried to smile at the girl I had been speaking with leading up to the jump, but before she knew it she was being thrown out of the plane. I watched her tumbling around 14,000ft in the air and as I went to take a breath I was suddenly hanging out the door of the plane.

With no time to think about what was about to happen I was jumping out of a plane. The freefall lasted for 1 minute but it felt longer, which was not a bad thing. Although I was experiencing the scariest thing I have ever done I was also experiencing the most exciting and thrilling thing I have ever done. As I was falling 14,000ft through the air at who knows what speed, it felt as though I couldn’t breath. I kept trying to close my mouth so I could breath through my nose but I couldn’t help but laugh, smile and scream. I was having the time of my life freefalling and admiring the beach, mountains and villages below me.

I saw the instructors signal and it was time for the parachute to be let out. With a pull of a string and a strong jolt, we slowed down instantly, started spinning and then there I was, just hanging around in the sky!

Floating above the world is the most amazing feeling, I held out my arms like I was flying and tried to savour the moment as much as I could.

As we came into land I didn’t want it to be over. I was so disappointed that I was no longer falling through the sky! Once I was unattached from the parachute I was buzzing with excitement. I was so proud of myself and overwhelmed at what a fantastic time I had just experienced.

My tandem buddy was amazing and took a great, but not flattering, video of my jump. I also got a free t.shirt and a certificate. I will most certainly jump again. Who knows, maybe next time will be in New Zealand or South America!

20131220-154604.jpg

20131220-154617.jpg

20131220-154634.jpg

20131220-154654.jpg

20131220-154706.jpg

20131220-154716.jpg

20131220-154737.jpg

A small taste of city life – Brisbane

Travelling the east coast means visiting a lot of beach towns, which I have loved. I’v always loved the beach life and have always wanted to live near the beach so I have been in my element. But I like to mix things up a bit so a night in a city was definately in order. A 5 hour bus drive from Rainbow Beach and I was greeted by the tall buildings of Brisbane. I hadn’t received the best reviews of Brisbane but I always like to make my own mind up. So on my first day off I went, and yes you guessed it, got myself lost and explored. I really enjoyed walking around the shops, window shopping,
– I am a backpacker remember! Strolling across Brisbane River over Victoria Bridge to the South Bank and looking back over at the skyline. On the way back through the shops I spotted a sale and was able to treat myself to a new bikini. 3 months of the same bikini photos has become a bit boring now!

My bus was leaving Brisbane the next day at 1pm so I woke up early to make the most of my time in the city. I came across a small man made beach and lagoon which was pretty cool to see in the middle of skyscrapers! I could easily of stayed and sunbathed but decided I would rather make the most of being in a city, so I carried on walking and visited the museum, art gallery and my favourite, a modern art gallery. One of the displays that caught my attention and what I thought was genius, was a wall of postcards by artist Rivane Neuenschwander. Each picture represented a continent, country or city from around the world and the artist never left Brazil. We were allowed to pick a card, write an address on it and the art gallery will post it out. I hope mine arrives.

My last stop was the City Hall where a large Christmas tree stood. How strange to see a Christmas tree under a clear blue sky with the sun shining down and taking a photo whilst wearing flip flops, (sorry thongs) shorts, vest and sunglasses!

I enjoyed Brisbane, only wish I could have spent another day there. But, the adventure continues, back to the beach further down the coast – Byron Bay.

20131220-154301.jpg

20131220-154308.jpg

20131220-154315.jpg

20131220-154321.jpg

Fraser Island, where nature is your playground

My first day in Rainbow Beach was not so great. After another long bus journey I arrived to heavy rain which lasted all day. Even though it was raining I still did my usual thing of getting lost and exploring my new surroundings but there wasn’t much to see, just a parade of shops and about 3 hostels and a beach. I then spent the rest of the day watching movies in my hostel, Pippies.

The following day was much better, the sun was out and I went for a morning jog along the beautiful coastline then sunbathed on the beach before my 2pm meeting to discuss my camping trip;

3 days and 2 nights on the worlds largest sand island – Fraser Island.

The meeting was to advise us of the dangerous animals, especially Dingos and how to drive on the island. We were then split into 4 groups of 8 and these people would be who I would be sharing the 4×4 and cooking with. I was very fortunate to be put in a great group, 5 lads from Belgium and Germany and 2 girls from England. After the meeting we set off in our groups to do our food & alcohol shopping for the 3 day trip. We spent $26 each which provided us with breakfast, lunch, dinner & snacks and luckily we bought just enough to last us.

The next morning we all gathered around our cars for a few final tips and then we made our way to the ferry to take us across to Fraser Island. Once on Fraser Island the fun began immediately. Always following the lead vehicle driven by our guide Brett, the first driver of our car, Benni, raced us along the long stretch of sand dodging waves and rocks. We then swapped drivers twice whilst driving inland up and down sandy tracks surrounded by forrest. The forrest was amazing, especially when you remember that there is no soil on the island at all, just pure sand. After a few hours of crazy bumpy driving we arrived at Lake Mackenzie.

Lake Mackenzie, originally named Booroongora, is a huge lake made of pure fresh rainwater. The sun was blazing and so it was a welcome relief to jump into the fresh clean pure water. We spent a few hours here before it was my time to drive! I was nervous to begin with, as I haven’t driven for a few months, it was an automatic which I had never driven before and I was going to be driving on sand. Once I got going though, it was so much fun and easier than I thought.

Heading further north after some lunch we stopped at the shipwreck S.S Maheno. The Maheno was a luxury passenger ship and also used as a medical ship in World War I. The shipwreck will stay in the same spot until nature takes it away.

Another driver took to the wheel and we headed for camp. Pippies Tag Along Tours have a campsite permenantly set up and so all we had to do was choose a tent, crack open a beer and start cooking dinner. Our group had decided on bbq for the first night and so we had a lovely feast of meats and salad. After food, the alcohol took control and we all started chatting easily and then started playing drinking games and ended the night dancing around the campsite.

The next day my group were severly hungover but luckily we knew we were in the tour guides car that day so we didn’t have to drive. Instead we were able to relax and enjoy the day. First stop was the Champagne Pools, this is actually the sea but rocks are placed in a way that the waves crash over them and then the sea water forms lots of little bubbles, hence the name Champagne Pools. After a nice refreshing swim we then headed for Indian Head. This is a huge cliff face where the original natives of the island spotted Captain Cooks ship approaching the island. We sat on top of the cliff for a while watching Mantaray and Turtles gliding through the waters below us.

After a spot of lunch it was on to Eli Creek. Eli Creek is a flow of fresh water on the beach pushed out by natural springs further in the island. The power of the springs pushing the water out creates a natural flow which enables you to slowly float down the shallow creek. Our tour guide provided us with rubber rings which added to the fun.

Another night was spent in camp (after sandboarding down the sand dunes) eating and chatting and I also had an encounter with a Dingo! We had seen a Dingo in camp the night before but it just looked at us and walked away. This time I was coming out of the shower block alone when the Dingo came out of the bushes and started walking towards me. I doubt it would have done me any harm but it was not worth the risk. I calmly shouted back to the girls in the showers to open the door quick and I slowly walked backwards into the block. I waited 5 minutes and then we all walked out together, by this time the Dingo had moved on. Phew!

The last day on the island was spent at Lake Wabby, a lake formed in the sand dunes. It was once one big lake, but over years more sand dunes have formed, creating smaller seperate lakes. Again this was fresh water and after a long, hot, tiring 40 minute walk into the island and across sand dunes it was a beautiful welcoming lake. A lovely end to such a great weekend.

Our tour guide Brett was brilliant, so knowledgable, passionate, relaxed and good fun, I would definately recommed this tour to anyone travelling the East Coast.

So much fun and so much beauty on one island where nature is your playground.

20131220-153907.jpg

20131220-153915.jpg

20131220-153923.jpg

20131220-153930.jpg

20131220-153939.jpg

20131220-153946.jpg

20131220-153954.jpg

20131220-154002.jpg

20131220-154010.jpg

20131220-154016.jpg

20131220-154023.jpg

20131220-154030.jpg

20131220-154037.jpg

Sailing the Tropical Waters of Whitsundays

Sometimes I surprise even myself. 2 nights and 3 days onboard the S V Whitehaven, a 17.5 metre yacht, is not something I ever saw myself doing. But the offer of cruising tropical waters of the Whitsundays, (the Whitsunday Islands are a collection of continental islands off the central coast of Queensland, north of Brisbane), sunbathing on the open deck, snorkelling coral bays and stepping on the beautiful sand of Whitehaven Beach was an opportunity I could not miss out on.

A very expensive $400 paid for 3 days and 2 nights and food on the boat, use of kayaks and snorkel gear and also 3 nights accommodation at Airlie Beach Waterfront Backpackers.

We set sail on Friday morning after meeting the 3 crew members and the other 24 passengers I was to spend my time with onboard, all of whom where really nice. We were given a safety talk and then it was 3 hours of sailing to reach Whitehaven Beach. The weather was perfect and we spent the 3 hours sunbathing and getting to know eachother.

Arriving at Whitehaven Beach, the largest of the 74 islands, the boat moored up and we jumped into the speed boat to take us over to the island. After a short walk through a wooded area we stepped onto a beautiful beach with miles of pure white sand and beautiful blue water. We spent a few hours here taking photos, sunbathing and playing frisbee and then we took a walk up to a viewpoint to witness a beautiful scene. The tide had started to go out and the clear blue sea gave way to swirls of white sand and in the shallow waters you could see Stingrays gliding through the water. Beautiful.

The next 2 days were spent sailing and stopping off at various coral bays for snorkelling and kayaking, with each coral bay getting more colourful and a wider range of marine life swimming around.

The food on the boat was amazing, lots of it and also snacks inbetween meals meaning I never went hungry. The crew were very knowledgeable and each evening they would sit with us and talk through the islands, coral bays and marine life we had seen.

My main concern about sailing was suffering with sea sickness. It isn’t something I normally suffer with but I had never been on a boat overnight, but luckily I was fine and loved every minute of it. The cabins were very hot and the beds rather slim but all in all very comfortable and opening your eyes in the morning looking through the porthole to see the sun and sea is a picture I will never forget. At night we would all sit around drinking and chatting under the bright stars. I was lucky to have a lovely bunch of people onboard and met some great personalities.

After the sailing trip I stayed in Airlie Beach for 3 more days. It is a beautiful beachside town popular with backpackers. The sea is inhabited by jellyfish from November to May. But there is a big swimming lagoon on the shore similar to the lagoon in Cairns. There is also an area of the sea sectioned off by nets. I spent my days in Airlie running, swimming, bush walking and meeting more great people. But once again, lots of goodbyes as I set off further down the east coast on a 14 hour overnight bus. Next stop Rainbow Beach.

20131211-152817.jpg

20131211-152841.jpg

20131211-152851.jpg

20131211-152913.jpg

20131211-153127.jpg

20131211-153136.jpg

20131211-153143.jpg

20131211-153149.jpg

20131211-153205.jpg

20131211-153214.jpg

Where Rainforest meets Great Barrier Reef

“Asia is all about culture & history, Australia is more about nature and beauty”. These were the words of a fellow traveller I met in Indonesia and in my first week in Australia I was able to witness the beauty of nature myself.

Daintree Rainforest is the oldest known rainforest in the world and the edge of the rainforest meets the Great Barrier Reef, so whilst standing on the golden sandy beaches of Cape Tribulation I was able to marvel at 2 of the worlds natural wonders at the same time. Pretty amazing.

I had already snorkelled the Great Barrier Reef and so it was time to explore the rainforest. Our guide led us into the rainforest following a guided path until we came to a stream. We were told we could swim in it as it was perfectly safe but we weren’t warned about the strong current! I got into the cold but refreshing water and started swimming about, then I spotted a big rock which the sun was shining on so thought I woud swim over to it to warm up. As I put my hand on the rock the strong current suddenly pushed me away and was pulling me along down stream. I was really struggling to fight against the current but finally found a calm spot and used all my strength to swim and pull myself out. I was pretty worried for a while but now all I can do is laugh at the thought of me bobbing down stream in the worlds oldest rainforest! That’s not something that happens every day!

After our swim we were ushered back to the minivan after what was about just a 10 minute walk in the rainforest! I was not impressed. Luckily, the tour we was on could be done in one day or split over 2 days so you could spend the night in the rainforest. We opted for staying over and so we had the opportunity of experiencing more of the rainforest. We stayed in a hostel which was made up of little huts in the forrest and we had booked a night walk. Although the night walk cost us an extra 40AUD (about £22) it was worth it. Our guide took us into the forrest following only natural paths, once we were deep in the forrest he asked us all to turn off our torches. I was waiting for my eyes to adjust to the dark so I could start to see objects but it was so extremely dark it was impossible to see anything and because the trees tower higher than the eye can see I couldn’t even see the stars! We stood in the rainforest in pitch black for about 5 minutes just listening to all the different sounds. At first I was really scared but then I was just mesmorised. After a few minutes I began to see fire flies flitting about and then I noticed the luminous fungi! It was all around us, sparkling. It reminded me of the sea plankton in Cambodia. It was quite a magical sight. When the torches went back on we continued our walk and along the way we spotted a Forrest Dragon, (only found in the Daintree Rainforest), a yellow and red frog, many Huntsman spiders, a huge Brown Tree Snake and lots of other weird and wonderful creatures.

The following day we cruised along the Daintree River and was fortunate enough to spot a few crocodiles along the riverbank. It really was amazing seeing all these animals in their natural habitats and not behind a glass at the zoo.

I spent a week in total in Cairns, I met some lovely girls from England and Canada and had a great last night at the Woolshed which is a popular backpackers club.

After more goodbyes I set off on my own again for the next part of my trip.

20131205-223311.jpg

20131205-223321.jpg

20131205-223329.jpg

20131205-223336.jpg

20131205-223345.jpg

20131205-223351.jpg

20131205-223400.jpg

20131205-223410.jpg