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Joanna’s Travel Diary

Tuesday, 04 Sep 2007

MapOk, so I have officially been rubbish at updating this site with diary entries. Here’s a rundown of the last 2 months… you might want to get yourself a cuppa as I got a bit carried away!

I arrived in Sydney at the beginning of July and spent a lovely week with Trisha, Andrew, Connor and Steph. After getting over the initial shock of how cold it was (don't believe anybody that tells you Australia doesn't get cold), we had a great time wandering around the sights, caught a show at the Imax, and had loads of delicious dinners. I caught up with Sal and Laura at their delightful accommodation in Kings Cross (they still maintain this was the best hostel in Oz), and we sampled the local nightlife. Free champers at the first bar we went to was enough to convince me that Sydney is GREAT!

Next stop: Byron Bay. After enduring the first of many Greyhound bus journeys we arrived in Byron early morning and somewhat eagerly jumped off the bus expecting (or rather, optimistically hoping) the air to be noticeably warmer than Sydney. Needless to say, 13 hours north didn't make a whole lot of difference. The bikinis wouldn't be coming out just yet! We had a great few days in Byron - did the much talked about walk to the lighthouse which offers amazing views of the coastline (including the most easterly point of Australia), grabbed some dinner from the 'best' fish&chip shop on the East Coast, and, naturally, checked out the local bar scene. It was pretty low key but we still managed to dance (on tables) into the night at a bar or two. We were told a trip to Byron Bay wouldn't be complete without paying a visit to the nearby hippie town/village of Nimbin - so we booked ourselves on 'Jim's Alternative Tour'. Won't go into too much detail about this one but an interesting time was had by all!

A short bus ride north and we arrived in Surfer's Paradise, possibly the most awful place on the east coast: Think high rise apartment blocks, wide promenades with every fastfood chain imaginable, and the holiday destination of every Aussie chav between the ages of 16-20. ARGH! Anyway, not ones to dwell on the negative side, we thought we may as well embrace the local 'culture' so signed up for the Surfer's Bar Crawl and spent the night being herded around bars whilst trying to avoid the cringeworthy games on offer. (We did, however, appreciate the free drinks and pizza!)

We arrived at our next stop with no real expectations, so were pleasantly surprised by Brisbane. It was nice to make a brief stop in a city where there are things to do other than visit the beach, and, most importantly, a larger variety of restaurants to choose from (Chinatown, wooo!). We paid a visit to the Koala Sanctuary and forked out 15bucks to hold one of the cuddly dudes. The resident skippies were also cute and friendly - in fact, they were pretty docile and didn't mind us patting and feeding them, (in retrospect, I hope they weren't sedated?!). We met Laura's friends from Ormskirk in Brisbane, another Laura and Hemo, and proceeded with the journey north.

It was a shame we only had 2 days at our next stop, Noosa. The beach here is gorgeous and the seaside town is lovely too. There are loads of lovely cafe bars and restaurants, which unfortunately our backpackers budget didn't allow for visits to, but I've bookmarked it as a place to revisit in the future.

Onwards and upwards to THE most talked about activity on the east coast - the 'Fraser Island Adventure'. In short, 11 of us piled into a 4WD with camping gear, food and alochol supplies firmly fastened to the roof, and were let loose to roam around the world's largest sand island for 2 nights and 3 days. Some of the highlights were as follows:
- Chilling out by the crystal clear waters of Lake MacKenzie
- Successfully erecting a tent for the first time (Ha! Bet none of you thought you'd ever hear me say that!)
- Giggling at (and dismissing) our Dutch friend's pleas to 'pleeease drive more slowly'
- Being utterly shocked and appalled by the music on Hemo's Ipod (the Teletubbies theme tune was up there amongst some of the worst songs - the boy shouldn't be allowed an Ipod!)
- Trekking over the sand dunes and catching that first glimpse of Lake Wabby, REALLY spectacular.
- Marvelling at Job's (pronounced ‘Yob’s') engineering talents as he constructed a toilet in the bush out of mud and sticks. Then going to the toilet en masse, so to lessen the possibility of being mauled by the resident dingos.
- Leaving my mark all over the island, quite literally, in the form of the previous nights drinks and dinner. (Disgusting I know, but that's what happens when you play drinking games with cheap and nasty goon wine!)
So that gives you an idea...

Two and a half days later we arrived back on the mainland in desperate need of showers, and spent the evening relaxing in the hostel bar with newfound friends. The following morning Hemo decidced to throw himself out of a plane with parachute attached (also known as skydiving). We watched from earth and prayed for his safety.

That afternoon we boarded yet another bus, this one to Agnes Waters / The Town of 1770, so-called because this was the first place Captain Cook landed in 1770. The 'town' is absolutely tiny - one small bar and a couple of shops, but it's known on the backpackers' network as the cheapest place in Oz to get a surf lesson. Unfortunately my camera was out of action during this time so no photographic evidence of my efforts to ride those waves, but I have a certificate as proof! Let me tell you, surfing is bloody hard work! After an hour and a half I was totally wiped out, and only managed to get up on my feet a pitiful once before letting out a little yelp and falling straight off again. I was quite good at 'knee-boarding' though - does that count for anything?!

After a long overnight bus journey we arrived in Airlie Beach, departure point for sailing around the Whitsunday Islands. We boarded our boat - The Clipper - that afternoon, and sailed off into the sunset. The islands are situated at the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef and are truly spectacular. We spent our two days on the boat lazing about on deck while the more daring among us jumped into the freezing waters in the hope of spotting a few sharks. I don’t think they were disappointed! We stopped off at Whitehaven beach where we has a little explore, spent far too long posing for photos, and walked up to the lookout point (see photo of fourth most photographed spot in Australia – how do they record these kind of stats?!). At sunset we had dinner cooked by our friendly (although somewhat scary) resident chef, kicked back with a few beers (or goon, for those who still had the stomach to handle it - I personally haven’t been able to touch the stuff since Fraser Island!), and the games began. Anyone for a highly customised game of ‘Ring of Fire’?

Back on land we deemed it necessary to have a party to celebrate/commemorate the previous 2 days of partying, so hit the Airlie Beach nightlife in style. Despite Hemo’s best efforts, I am pleased to say I was the last one standing – Tara, you would’ve been proud!

So after all the fun and frolics on the east coast it was time to fly down to Melbourne – to the city they call the ‘Cultural Capital’ of Australia, and attempt to find some kind of, gulp… WORK. Obviously I gave myself a few weeks to get acquainted with the place – figure out where all the good shops, bars and restaurants are situated. And we also had to squeeze in the most cringe worthy of cringe worthy tourist attractions – The Neighbours Tour. Unfortunately we didn’t get to see any filming, but had a little wander round the street, met ex-cast member Connor, and were forced to swot up on our Neighbours trivia by the over-zealous tour guide. Neighbours tour aside, first impressions of Melbourne are pretty good. Initially I panicked a bit – where are all these zillions of bars and restaurants I’ve heard so much about? Answer: They are hidden away up lanes and alleys and require a map and/or a local to find. Since arriving in Melbourne I’ve had great fun playing Devil’s Advocate in the Melbourne v. Sydney war (sorry Melburnians, but Sydney is far prettier! Although I have to say, Melbourne has better shopping and in my book that counts for a lot!); and arguing that PROPER football is far better than this AFL rubbish (that really winds them up).

Wow this has turned into a bit of an essay so I’ll leave it there for now. Hope everyone is well, leave me a message or email soon. Miss you all lots x