Thursday, 26 March 2009


I need to apologise profoundly for the spelling errors in that last blog. Ordinarily, after I've typed an entry I go through it and correct my errors. However, as I mentioned there was a rather long queue and I didn't have time. I have gone back and corrected the mistakes now so hopefully it will make some kind of sense.

I had one more day in Airlie before moving on and I used this to go to the book exchange (I have just finished Donna Taart's- a Secret History. I got it because it was cheap and it turned out to be marvellous) and laze by the town lagoon - an outside picturesque swimming pool created, I think, to prevent silly tourists jumping in the unsafe sea. I met up with Judy and the other Kendal 2 and we all had dinner together before an uncharacteristic early night for them all as they were getting boats early the next day.

I then went to Mackay, 2 hours south of Airlie. Now this is not really a backpacker destination and as such I could only get a motel not a hostel. This was delightful luxury. It's amazing when you've been roughing it (ooh it's been almost 3 weeks since being at Maggie's with my own room- practically a lifetime!) that having a double bed, en suite and TV can do for the morale. After a stroll around town, I got a take away which I ate at my little table with a cool bottle of cider watching the news. Fantastic.

The next day, I did more exploring as you see this was not just a holiday visit, it was recon. Anthony and Cat, 2 friends from uni are moving here in August to work at the local hospital after being lured by another uni friend (Matt) who already works here. There are several nice things in Mackay. Little cafes, an adequate shopping centre, 2 cinemas (neither arthouse), a free art museum, a book exchange and apparently botanical gardens (I couldn't find them). There is also a nice marina by all accounts, but I didn't have time to see it. Well, that's a lie actually, I just couldn't be bothered with the faff of getting the bus. I am a terrible tourist. One thing I noticed though is that not only is Mackay very flat, but it is a very anti-pedestrian place. The reason the bus was a faff was because I couldn't find a bus stop. And half the streets don't have pavements. Anthony and Cat- buy a car.

That evening I went to see the afore-mentioned Matt and met his lovely wife, Lucy (who I thought was called Marion for some unknown reason) for the first time. Getting to their place was slightly precarious as I have mentioned the lack of pavements and as such I had to walk either on the poorly lit road or on grass embankments. I abandoned the grass walking after a large rat ran up to my foot, stopped, looked at me and ran away. Fortunately, after a nice catch up and feed, Lucy offered to drive me home so return journey advetures were avoided.

The next day I had to catch an overnight bus and so I spent the day uncomfortably. I prefer to awake and then jump on transport, not hang about , but the evening bus was the only option. I did very little as I couldn't settle. Fortunately, I had got another very good book (Marcus Zusak's The Messenger- an earlier work to his critically acclaimed the Book Thief, which I have also read) so this was a comfort and helped toil away the hours. I then got the bus, the first leg of the journey taking 13 hours, followed by a gap of 2 hours then a final 1.5 leg before arriving in Rainbow Beach, where I am now. I did not smell good on arrivial and very quickly had a shower then went for a wander aroud town. This is a lie. There is no town. I found a small cul de sac of shops and a shell garage. Oh well, it's only for a night before I go on my Fraser Island trip.

Right that's me, I better go spell check this now...

Sunday, 22 March 2009


Dear, I'm terribly sorry, I have been so remiss in writing this and my last entry was a tad luck lustre. For these things I apologise and will now explain.

As I mentioned before I met 3 very nice Kendal dwellers and a terribly young 18 year old girl on an overnight trip to the rainforest that I then went on to inbibe several alcoholic beverages with.
Well, the following days were spent primarily with one of these mint cake eaters, a girl who seemly has limitless energy and a very high alcohol tolerence. I will call her Judy. As we were both travelling South on the greyhound (a cheap bus service) we decided to go together and the night before we left Cairns we went to friend of hers house to swim in his pool. This quiet night morphed into a wine from a bag drinking frenzy (they call it a goon bag for future reference) causing a panicked bag packing and very uncomfortable bus journey to Magnetic Island the next day.

Now Magnetic Island on the brochures is a delightful place full of amazing activites and jolly times. Now the reality is slightly different. The hostel we stayed was beach front, although due to the time of year, giant stingrays and jelly fish are present and you cannot swim in the sea in safety. The rooms in this place were little shacks with very shoddy craftsmanship and multiple portals for nasty beasties to enter into and were complete ovens at night. The first day was spent somewhat pleasently. I nursed my hangover and lay by the pool. That evening was Paddy's day and the bar at the hostel put green food dye into all the drinks. This sounds interesting, but trust me by the end of an evening, a hundred drunken teens with green tongues was not amusing especially as I was still nursing my poor head. The next day was miserable weather, I tried to book a horse riding trip in spite of this, but when I turned up they said they had not been told about me (I'm sure the girl I spoke to on the phone was the one that turned me away - very suspect) and I couldn't go. As there was nothing to do in the evenings, again the hostel bar was our destination and even more alcohol was consumed, but not by me.

The next day we were joined by the very young 18 year old and hired a small car to go round the island. The island has one road and is only 10 kms long. The car didn't go far. Still we had a jolly time and had a BBQ by the beach. That evening it was destination bar again. I reminded them both politely that we had an early start to get the bus to Airlie beach the next day. They assured me that they would be ready in time and then at half 5 in the evening cracked into a 4 litre goon bag and proceeded to drink most it. The young girl was put to bed with a bucket by me at approximately half past 9 and Judy had to be located the next morning and hurried out of the hostel to catch the ferry (to get the bus you see, it was an island).

However, we did make it, but by this stage I was getting a tad weary of the near constant alcohol abuse and when we arrived in Airlie beach I selected a hostel a bit out of town and for the last few days have been revelling in a dry atmosphere eating lots of chocolate. Don't get me wrong both girls are delightful, but I can't hack the pace and neither could my liver.

Airlie beach in my opinion is very similar to Magnetic Island in the sense the only after hours activity appears to destroying ones brain cells and as such my slightly out of town hostel has been a god send. Fortunately it differs in the fact that there are good things to do during the day and it's larger than 10 km squared. Unfortunately, due to a mild illness (don't worry I am fine) I had to spend the vast majority of my first day waiting to see a GP to get a prescription, the total of my 2 minute consultation and drugs coming to over 100 dollars (God love the NHS, I will never take it for granted again). This meant that buy the time I went to try and get a boat trip, I couldn't get the one that I wanted and the others available didn't suit my plans. Instead I had to opt for a day trip.

Now at first I was very disappointed by this. The whole point of coming to Airlie beach is to sail the Whit Sunday Islands and spend a night on a boat. However, my day trip turned out be fantastic. Now when I booked my day trip, I knew there was beach walks and snorkling involved. What I failed to realise was it was a speed boat. Yes, indeed. I looked over the jetty and thought dear lord what have I done!? The 3 crew were 3 completely delightful young men who proceeded to circum-navigate almost all the islands in a break neck fashion, but still stopped long enugh to have lunch on a beach, walk the beaches and snorkle some very nice reef. So it may have been short, but I thoroughly enjoyed my day, saw all the islands and saved about 200 dollars (well that's how I see it).

I must go as there are many people waiting for this one computer, but that's me practically up to date. Just remember, love the NHS.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Sun and Sea (sickness)

So after a delightful stay at Maggie's and a catch up with my travel agent friend, I headed off to Cairns which is the tropical part of Oz. Again my amazing timing (see my Melbourne dates and the bush fires there) meant that I had just missed a cyclone, amusingly called Cyclone Hamish, a couple of days before I headed north.

For once I was mildy organised and had booked a couple of things before I arrived. Unfortunately, despite requesting a female only dorm at my hostel, I was once again put in a mixed dorm and was called Christie when I arrived at reception. My name is MORAG and I am NOT a man! Anyway, it is a fairly nice hostel so I bear it.

On my first full day here, I went on a very large boat out to the barrier reef to snorkle and visit the fishes. Alas, my stomach was left behind on the boardwalk so the journey was not entirely pleasurable. I did end up chatting to a very forth right Dutch woman who was very sympathetic. Snorkling was very fun and saw many pretty fish and a couple of huge fish which I was concerned about eating me, but fortunately all my fingers are intact.

The next day I went on a 2 day trip to the rainforest and day one was a hive of activity with swimming in a watering hole, visiting a wild life sanctuary, going on a crocodile river cruise (only 2 small ones seen), visiting an ice cream factory (surprisingly disappointing) and having half a cow hamburger for lunch.
However, after the day was over, myself and a few others were left at a hostel literally in the middle of the jungle that had shacks for rooms and one shop that didn't have carrier bags. We learned despite being next to the sea, we couldn't swim in it due to it being stinger season and potential death. So we made the best of it by playing a drinking game, twister and then a limbo competition which I was pitiful at.

The next day me and my new friends (2 girls and a guy from kendal, a very young girl- 18! from South Hampton and a hard work ITU nurse from London) explored the Daintree rainforest, went to the beach and looked longingly at the sea. Fortunately, we had heard of a water hole that was safe from crocs and stingers and made or way there. Alas, it was difficult to get to and from on traversing the river on our exit, my flip flop got washed off my foot! Now i had left most of my stuff at Maggie's for this 3 weeks NE exploration and I only had this pair of flip flops or my walking boots with me. I would not lose it! So I threw off my back pack and leapt into the river . I reached, I clung- the flip flop was saved! Now I hope you are imagining a graceful rescue, because that's what I also saw. Prehaps my fellow travellers may not share this image, but they are not telling the story now are they?

So after that adrenaline rush, we got picked up and taken back to Cairns. My new Kendal friends (no mint cake jokes please) and I went out that evening and maybe inbibed a few too many fine ales to calm my nerves resulting in a very lazy day yesterday consisting of laying by the free outdoor pool and recovering.

I feel almost recovered now, thank goodness and my flip flops are staying firmly on my feet.

Monday, 9 March 2009


So where was I?  Ah yes, back in Sydney for a few days.  Well, I did indeed catch up with a few friends that I had met during my previous visit to the city.  One evening I ended up at a Brazilian themed night club and learned how to sambo (well, tried may be a better description).  I also caught a couple of films at the Mardi Gras film festival and ended up chatting to a chap next to me on one occasion.  It turned out he was an consultat anaesthetist.  It seems even going round the world, I can't escape the medical profession.  I don't have much else funny or interesting to say about my sojourn in Sydney.  For most of it I was struck with a profound lethargy and failed to do anything bar eat, sleep and read books.  Exciting, international traveller am I.

Now, coming to a (slightly) more productive few days, I went back to Brisbane agian to stay with Duncan and Maggie.   This time however, they had moved house to a place called Coorparoo.  I have to be honest, but it appears that the names of Austrailan cities/towns/hills is one of three things- either copied from the UK (Perth being a good example), a literal description (Mount Disappointment) or lastly in the case of Coorparoo just made up from a random selection of leters.  There are some claims that these names are Aboringinal, personally I think the Aboringines were playing a joke and no one has cottoned on.

However, despite the silly name, their new house is very nice.  All high ceilings and wooden floors and very tidy.  I immediately threw the contents of my rucksack all over the guest room floor to try and remedy that, but to no avail.  I was then very industrious for  couple of days planning my NE coastal trip that I am due to leave on tomorrow, but this must be kept in perspective, most of my days of late, if I sleep for less than ten hours and have to do more than one necessary chore eg. buy milk, this is a hard day.  

At the weekend Maggie, Duncan and I explored the markets around their new home and looked at a lot of large antique tables.  I was atonished how expensive used goods can be.  I mean it may be stained oak, but some else could have changed a baby on it or something,  yuk.

Anyway, Sunday turned out to be a very exhausting day, especially for me with my busy busy life.  Maggie and Duncan had both entered  a off road triathalon.  For those of you who don't speak crazy-fit, this is a race in which people PAY to swim 1km, ride off road 25km and run 10km.  Yes, they PAY to do this.  And unless you get placed 1st, 2nd or 3rd, you don't even get a medal!?  What is the point of doing such a thing of you don't get a shiney bobble at the end of it?!  

So I was to be a spectator at this maddness.  For those for you who don't know, I'm a bit of a professional when it comes to other people being fit and exerting themselves thanks to Louise, my dear friend from uni who likes to run a long away, usually in foreign countries that I happen to be in and as such I've seen her race in 3 different countries.  I'm her number one fan, but I promise not to break her knee caps like Kathy Bates (for those of you not acquainted with the book/film Misery- trust me that was a really funny reference).  The down side of supporting Maggie and Duncan was that I had to get up at 4:30.  Yes, 4:30 AM.  What is wrong with these people?  Fortunately, I was able to take a fold up chair so for the duration of their duel exertions, I was able to sit in the shade drinking a chai tea latte, proving to be the worst sports photographer ever.  They both did very well.  Maggie just missed out on a medal and I'm sure there was a conspiracy because the girl who apparently beat her the third had fat thighs.  

However, we were not all to go home empty handed, oh no.  It turned out, I was going to be the big winner of the day.  I have discovered that in a typical raffle in Oz, rather than just the ususal bottle of wine/whiskey or a home bake, that the major prize is a meat tray.  When I heard the boy scouts touting for a raffle and heard the immoral words 'first prize meat tray', I felt curious and obliged to buy a ticket.  Now, I'd all but forgotten this purchase and as we were packing up to leave, they announced the raffle was to be held.  As I looked for my ticket stub, Duncan was regailing me with the tale that 2 weeks ago he had won a meat tray at the local bowling green and how marvellous that had been, when I heard my name over the tannoy.  I had won the grand prize.  Victory!!!!  I ran up to the stage, flung my arms in the air with joy and recieved my winnings.  This was not any meat tray,  Not only did it come with 2 bottles of wine and a snazzy red BBQ apron adorned with two jovial cartoon sausages with crowns on, but it may have been the largest meat tray any put together by a scout group.  It weighed about 5kg and contained 7 huge steaks, 8 lamb chops and 6 very large patties.  

A pretty good investment for a dollar.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Deja vu, all over again.

So did I mention Hobart reminded me of Alness? Well this feeling continued for the entire 2 days I was there as did the pouring rain which prevented me doing any of things I wanted, namely climb Mount Wellington. So for the duration I was, to say the least, very grumpy and didn't enjoy my time in Hobart. I did go to a nice bookshop cafe, but that was only the only thing I enjoyed in the city.

Now of course, perhaps I'm being too harsh. Maybe it was just the weather or just the manky hostel or that I had left my new friend the executive travel agent or the fact that everyone thought I was Irish. Or maybe it was really just like Alness.

Anyway, I escaped the rain and headed up to the small, but infinitely nicer Launceston again. I returned to the hostel I had stayed in previously to discover for some reason this time they thought my name was masculine and had placed me in an all male 8 bedded dorm.
Now I can't recall if I have mentioned before about my strong feelings about hostel etiquette so I will re-iterate. When living in a commual space, esp for weeks and months at a time, it is the done thing to respect ones co-inhabitants. Not turning the light on in the middle of the night, not talking loudly early in the morning, not having sex on the top bunk (it does happen) and so on and so forth. It has been my experience that women follow these rules exceptionally better than their male counter parts and most importantly, snore less. When living communally, snoring becomes the bane of your existence because you can't get away from it, you have no personal space and you can't throw a shoe at them incase they turn out to be a shoe fetishist and steal your flip flops. It's a fine line. So to summerize, stay in female only dorms.

Now, going back to Launceston, I had been placed in an all male dorm and alas the hostel was fully booked and I couldn't change hostels as I was due to be picked up early to go up Cradle Mountain the next morning. So I had to stay and at first I didn't mind. At 4 in the morning when the trio of snorers was still going strong and the stench of beer was coming in wafts from the bunk below me, I minded. What I found most amusing though was whilst having my breakfast I had a brief conversation with 3 of the blokes in my room who were also up early. They asked me if I had slept well and I explained no for the above reasons and their response was 'really!? We didn't hear or smell anything'. Men.

Anyway, on to more pleasant things. That morning I had opted to join a tour to go to the Cradle mountain region and see the infamous mound and I was rather surprised to discover there were only the guide (an aspiring film maker), a polite Japanese girl (are there any other kind?) and a slightly mad young German guy on it. However, this actually made it a rather nice more personalised experience, made even better by the guide stopping suddenly on the middle of bridge and asking us to peer over. We saw a platypus which is the most bizarre of creatures. A furry otter like thing with a beak and seal like fins for feet, but most extraordinary of all was it's glowing yellow eyes. I can truely understand why back during the discovery era of Oz that people thought it was surgically created animal for high jest. What was also funny about this sudden nature detour was the guide said he'd been doing this stop for the last month and hadn't seen a platypus until now. That's the luck of the Irish for you.

So after our time with nature we finally got to the range, the over cast day suddenly seemed to disappear, the clouds parted and the magnificent Cradle Mountain stood before us. It was impressive, even more so when we climbed up the adjacent mountain to get a better view. I took lots of pictures that will not even begin to do justice to such a beautiful place. We then wandered a bit off the beaten track to see the remnants of a house built in the 1900's by and Austrian chap (who's name I forget). The story behind this house in the hills was the chap was a botanist who had met and married an Australian botanist back in the day and honeymooned here for 6 weeks looking at trees. A few years later , his wife died suddenly. Left bereft and afronted by the cruel complexities of the modern world, he'd upped sticks and built a cabin in the wood and was determined to become a botanist hermit. However, this chap (Wilhelm something) was actually quite a sociable guy despite his resolution to be a hermit, as the years passed he became quite famous for living off the land up and ended up having a multitude of visitors (both local and tourists) who would come stay with him. It apparently became quite the done thing to visit Tasmania and go stay with Wilhelm, a bit like going to Paris and seeing the Mona Lisa. Anyway, his house has been preserved and apart from the lack of a decent sewerage system, I could see the appeal of staying in such a peaceful place and having your mates over to look at trees.

This harmony was broken slightly by the afore-mentioned German fellow tourer who kept asking 'when can I smoke', 'can I eat this potentially poisonious berry' , 'if I see a snake can I kill it' and best of all while standing at the edge of a cliff over looking a tourist trail 'Can I throw a rock off this'. No, no and no!!!

So after all the joys of Tasmania, it was finally time to leave. Unfortunately for my fellow Jetstar customers after being dropped off at my hostel, I didn't have time to shower before getting in the plane to Sydney. Sorry about that guys.

I'm now back in Sydney again, back in the hostel out in Glebe that I first stayed in when I got here in January. Nothing much has changed in 2 months. The beds are still a bit wobbly, the creepy Kiwi bloke who claims he is a masseure is still prowling the courtyard and the mossies are still biting. However, there is comfort in the familiar and I intend to spend the next few days catching up with a few friends I met last time I was here and relaxing. Because it's very stressful being unemployed.