I can’t actually believe I only have a week left in Australia – eight weeks has absolutely flown by. Its terrifying, really, and I’m struggling to see how its possible that I only have seven weeks left out of a five month trip.
I’m also struggling with the idea of going home.
Although I cannot wait to see my friends and family (and eat a HUGE roast chicken dinner, sleep in my own bed, drink nice wine, and have access to my wardrobe again) I’m unsure what lies ahead for me in England and I’m conflicted over what to do next.
But that’s for another time, I suppose. No need to even think about this yet.
“I suppose its like the ticking crocodile, isn’t it? Time is chasing after all of us.”
JM Barrie, Peter Pan
I still have quite a lot planned for my last week in Australia. Tomorrow, I fly back down to Melbourne (which will be my base for the next week) before flying out to the Outback on Tuesday for four days. I’m really excited for this trip, if a little nervous as I will be sleeping under the stars in a swag and not in a tent. Eeeek.
So what have I been up to recently?
First up was Airlie Beach and a sailing trip around Whitsunday Islands. I LOVED this trip.
I went with a sailing boat called New Horizon (the company is called True Blue Sailing) which held 32 passengers. I spent a night in Nomads in Airlie Beach before setting sail at 2 pm the following day. I was a little nervous as I had never slept on a boat before and wasn’t sure if I would get sea sick or not, but I was really lucky and didn’t feel ill once. We spent a large portion of that first afternoon and evening getting to know one another, sailing to our overnight spot, before jumping into the water from the ship’s diving board and splashing about in the ocean as the light faded.
Some of the Whitsunday’s boats have a reputation for being a bit “party” but New Horizon was really relaxed and most evenings we tended to have a few drinks, eat our body weight in whatever was on that night’s menu, and play a few drinking games.
The next morning I was up at 5.45 am to watch the sunrise. I sat with my feet dangling over the edge of the boat as we sailed towards our next destination. It was absolutely stunning and to be honest my pictures do none of the places I visited during this trip any justice.
After breakfast we were straight in the water, snorkelling by 7 am. As it is coming to the end of stinger season, we had to wear stinger suits which are a nightmare to get on and we all looked hilarious as we squeezed ourselves into the wet material and fixed our snorkel masks. The safety boat took us out to a good snorkelling spot and we simply jumped overboard. Open water snorkelling is great and although I’m not the strongest swimmer in the world, I managed to get out pretty far. The group I was with didn’t even notice until some shouted “turtle” and we realised we were too far away to swim over to them in time and snap a picture (I did see a turtle in the water later that day when I was taking off my stinger suit but I didn’t have my camera with me).
In the afternoon we sailed to Whitehaven beach and, after taking the usual pictures on the beach front around the famous sign, we walked through a small forest, we arrived at the lookout. I have never seen anything so beautiful (and again my pictures cannot even begin to capture the beauty of Whitehaven beach) and was surprised to that everyone’s pictures are unique as the sands change every day (which kind of makes my pictures special now I think about it). We spent a few hours searching for sharks and stingrays and taking more pictures on the beach (the tour company is yet to put these on the Facebook page so I can’t really add the good ones to this post). That evening was spent exactly as the previous one with the added bonus of dolphins swimming around the boat at night!
The next day we snorkelled for a while in a new location before making a leisurely journey back to Airlie Beach port. It really was the most relaxing trip and I would highly recommend anyone booking with New Horizon if your searching for a Whitsunday boat. That evening was spent having dinner with a friend made on the boat and joining the rest of my boat mates for the after party (which, again, was like a terrible club in Spain).
After a day of relaxation in Airlie Beach, it was time to cart my bag onto the Greyhound bus to Townsville where I got the ferry over to Magnetic Island.
Now Magnetic Island is absolutely beautiful and my accommodation at XBase was like being in a resort (although it was still dorm rooms and not single rooms) as it was right on the beach and extremely quiet. I didn’t do much during my two days there apart from visit the Bungalow Bay Koala Sanctuary one afternoon.
This was really worth the $25 AU as you get to interact with a whole heap of native animals including a wombat, snakes, birds, a crocodile, lizards, bearded dragon and, of course, Koalas. Now I didn’t pay to “hug” the Koala and have a souvenir picture taken but I did manage to get a couple of Koala selfies and a stroke!
After Magnetic Island I took my last Greyhound bus (I was more than happy to say goodbye after the long trip) to Cairns: my last East Coast Stop. I am still in my hostel in Cairns as I write this.
I have a complex relationship with Cairns. Whereas I have really enjoyed my time in NJOY Hostel (which is by far one of the friendliest hostels I have stayed in since I have been travelling) there’s not much going on in the city. It’s an odd little place, full of backpackers who are here to party or dive The Great Barrier Reef.
I had two trips booked during my 8 days in Cairns because I wanted a few chill days but I really didn’t need this long.
The first trip was up to the Daintree Rainforest and Cape Tribulation. If I am honest, this trip was a bit of a disappointment. I was really excited to get up to the Rainforest and get away from the party scene in Cairns, which I succeeded in doing because there’s not much going on up in CT, but I had expected a little more Rainforest from the tour and a few more activities. We did have a river cruise to spot crocodiles but only managed to see half a sunbathing croc! So when it came to heading back to Cairns after a night in the world’s quietest, yet beautiful hostel, we were more than ready to go.
The Rainforest is truly beautiful and worth a visit. I stayed at The Beachouse (YHA) which was right on the most beautiful beach that was often empty and seemed like it should be in Thailand or somewhere rather than Australia. I think I just expected more from the trip.
After a few quiet days sunning myself by the lagoon and hanging out with the lovely people I met in my hostel, it was time for the trip I had most been looking forward to: scuba diving at The Great Barrier Reef.
I went with a company called Ocean Freedom who I cannot recommend highly enough. Everything from the boat, to the extra glass bottom boat tours offered, opportunities to snorkel and the food (so much food – I haven’t eaten so much cake since my leaving party) were fantastic.
After my diving brief – I had never done a scuba dive before, so I made sure I listened intently as I was incredibly nervous – I was put into the very last group so spent the morning snorkelling in the choppiest water. Again, after deciding the water was too much for me to swim in, I headed back to the boat after half an hour only to hear someone shout “turtle” again. Gutted. I swear they are avoiding me.
After lunch, it was time for me to dive. They kitted me up with a wet suit, flippers, mask and the oxygen tank and weight belt which were so unbelievably heavy, I could barely move to jump into the water. I have never been so frightened in my entire life, than jumping off the back of the boat with all that weight strapped to me! As I clung to the back, the choppy water swirled us around like a washing machine. My very lovely instructor then proceeded to take us down, one by one, for the first metre (we only wen 3 metres deep) but it was such a strange sensation that I did have a small panic and have to pop back up again. After calming me down, my instructor managed to get me back under and I can honestly say after five minutes I had completely forgotten that I was swimming underwater for such a long time, because it is so so stunning down there. I feel so lucky to have been able to explore the reef and see amazing sights like a Clownfish (nemo) and follow a stingray along the ocean floor. I am so glad (and as cheesy as this sounds, I am really proud) that I overcame my fear and took the plunge. It was the best thing I have done since I have been travelling and I would really recommend it. I’m hoping to scuba dive again in Bali and maybe one day be brave enough to do a PADI course!
Have you had a breath-taking experience while travelling? What has made you stop and think how lucky you are? Has anyone else recently been scuba diving? Any tips for places to dive in Bali?