Goodbye Australia

With my flight back to England fast approaching, I had to make the most of my time in Australia. Melbourne is a fantastic city and I had met some lovely people but I had also seen and done so much already in Melbourne and I wasn’t quite sure what else I
could do to fill my time.  Money was running very low and so I very easily came to the decision that I would like to spend my last full week relaxing in the sun, back up north in Airlie
Beach
. I really enjoyed the few days I had previously spent in Airlie Beach and knew this is where I wanted to be. After a lot of internet time, I found a very cheap return flight and set off for Airlie Beach.

I flew into Hamilton Island Airport which meant an hour’s ferry crossing over to Airlie Beach and as soon as
I stepped off the ferry I could feel the lovely Australian heat. Wearing black jeans and black t-shirt (the weather in Melbourne at 5am is not very warm) and backpack on back I took the 20 minute walk to Nomads Hostel, where I had pre-booked 2 nights, due to the
fact that it had a swimming pool. By the time I arrived, I was soaked in sweat but had a huge smile on my face as I knew instantly I had made the right decision.

I spent the week just as planned, jogging every morning, swimming in the lagoon and sunbathing by the hostel pool. Being on a very tight budget I went shopping with $30 and bought a supply of food for the week. It is amazing what dishes a backpacker on a budget can come up with. I met so many more lovely friends and spent my last precious nights partying with
them. I spent my last night with Alice from England and Jimmy from Sweden and not wanting my time in Airlie Beach to be over, we partied through the night until it was time to get my ferry. No sleep and a quick shower I set off on the 20 minute walk in the
morning heat back to the ferry. I was sad to leave Airlie Beach but I still had 3 days in Melbourne before the dreaded flight home.

And what a lovely 3 days in Melbourne
I had. I was lucky enough to be able to stay with Dan and his housemates again which meant I was able to accept an invite to The Australian Open with Alan (Dan’s housemate) and his friends. The Australian Open is a major tennis tournament held annually in January in Melbourne. It was the first day of the Open and I was fortunate enough to see some big tennis names playing or practicing. We were at the match where Ana Ivanovic won her first game and we saw R.Nadal and Hewitt practice. It was also the first day of the start of a heat wave for Melbourne. You can imagine my delight! I spent my last day in Australia on the beach of St Kilda in the 43 degree heat and watched the beautiful sunset over
Melbourne city.

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I will never forget my fabulous Christmas of 2013!

A few weeks ago Christmas was just an inconvience making my travels complicated and expensive. I had always planned to be on a beach on Christmas day, regardless of the weather and whether I was alone with a good book or with new friends, but I can now say I had the best Christmas!

I booked back into Base Hostel in St Kilda for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day so that I could be by the beach. I met up with Julia, the Brazilian girl I had met on my first day in Melbourne and we sat on a grass area opposite the beach drinking in the sun and chatting with the many others doing the same.

As the sun was setting we got ready to go into the city to spend the evening with a group of French girls Julia had met. They lived in an apartment in the city and put on a buffet and we sat chatting and drinking for hours. We then went to a bar in the city where we finished the night.

Waking up Christmas morning did not feel strange at all. I think I am that content in hostels they must feel like home! I woke up, cheerily wished my room mates merry Christmas and tried to facetime friends and family. I was only able to get through to 2 of my friends as they had just got home from a night out, it was so nice speaking and laughing with them and once I had spoken with them
I was even more cheerful. I went downstairs to have breakfast and started speaking with a guy and 10 minutes later we were arranging the day at the beach. By 12pm I was sat in 34 degree heat on the sand surrounded by hundreds of people in swimwear and Santa hats, sat with a great bunch of people with the music blaring and the alcohol flowing! It is amazing how a “good morning, merry Christmas, what’s your name?” can lead to when you are backpacking!

At 3pm it was time for Christmas dinner. I had paid the hostel $20 and myself and 40 (plus) backpackers sat together enjoying turkey with all the trimmings and pulling crackers with new friends. It was not long before I was back at the beach partying with a new bunch of great people until an amazing sunset. We enjoyed the sunset together and as they began to disperse I was invited over to party with another great bunch of people. By midnight there was 3 of us left standing and so we made our way to a club to see in Boxing Day morning.

My alarm was set for 8am Boxing Day as I had booked myself onto a tour to visit the set of Neighbours. Neighbours is an Austrslian TV programme which is very popular in England. It was extremely popular back in the 80’s and as a child I was a huge fan. I have not seen the show for about 15 years but I wanted to visit the set as it was a big part of my childhood. Admittedly I did not recognise much but I did recognise the houses and the street and that was enough to make me happy. I spent the rest of Boxing Day window shooping at City Docklands, watching some of the Ashes (cricket) on the big outdoor TV screen in Federation Square and walking around the city.

I met some wonderful people and I will never forget my fabulous Christmas of 2013.

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Melbourne – Australia’s Cultural Capital

544 miles from Sydney and a 17 hour bus journey is Melbourne, ‘Australia’s cultural capital’ and (what should be) my last destination before flying back home to England.

I was lucky enough to be invited to stay with a friend of a friend whilst in Melbourne, but for my first night I booked a bed at Base Hostel in St Kilda. I have grown to love hostels as they are a great way of meeting like-minded people and with Christmas approaching I felt it would be nice to meet more people. St Kilda is also Melbourne’s most famous beach and when I booked my ticket to go travelling the one thing I knew I wanted the most, was to be on the beach on Christmas Day.

When I arrived in Melbourne I was greeted by a dark sky and pouring rain. The bus dropped me off in the city and I had to make my way to St Kilda. I knew there was a tram that would take me there but having never used a tram before it was a long process. First I had to find the correct tram stop and then I had to find somewhere that sold tickets as you cannot buy them onboard. After a 17 hour bus journey, walking around with my backpack and 2 other bags in the pouring rain wasn’t much fun. But as soon as I arrived at the hostel I was greeted with a friendly face who let me check into my room early for a shower & change of clothes. When you have spent the past 2 nights on a bus and had your morning wash in McDonalds this is ‘Christmas come early!’

After a hot shower and a chat with the people in my dorm I set off to explore. St Kilda Beach reminds me of the beaches back in England. There is a theme park called Luna Park situated in front of the beach and although the sea is clean and clear it is more of a grey colour than a nice bright blue and with the dull sky, it really felt like England. I had met a girl from Brazil, Julia ,at breakfast and we were to go on a free walking tour of the city. Unfortunately we didn’t make the tour on time so we wondered around the city ourselves and came across the Exhibition Centre where a James Bond exhibtion was being held. We then wondered through the streets of Fitzroy, home to lots of quaint and quirky shops and cafes. It was then back to the hostel where I had a few drinks with my room mates.

At 10am my friends friend, Dan, came to collect me. Dan lives in Richmond which is about 5 miles from St Kilda. The weather was still dull and so we went to Chadstone Shopping Centre, the biggest shopping centre in Australia!

After 2 months in hostels, it was nice to be in someones home with a home cooked meal and a double bed in a room all by myself. But, the following day it would be back to the hostel for Christmas celebrations…

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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.

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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!

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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.

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