The East Coast: Townsville, Magnetic Island, Mission Beach and Rafting

Less complaining, more enjoying. Now that the Greyhound disaster is done, I can get back to enjoying this trip of mine, right?

Well, mostly.

I’m still suffering from it. The money I lost from not doing the Whitsundays tour and then having to pay for extra accommodation during that time sucks but I’m working on it.

Townsville at night, from Castle Hill

Townsville at night, from Castle Hill

Anyway, realising there isn’t that much to do in Airlie Beach beyond the Whitsundays and drinking, I decided to change my trip and leave a day early. Originally, I was only going to be in Townsville for a little while, either side of my Magnetic Island trip. Instead I decided to spend a night there and see it.

There’s not much there, but I didn’t have time to research it. I found a decent hostel and decided to walk up to Castle Hill for sunset. Only, I was a little late and before I was even half way up it was dark. That didn’t stop me – but it did make me realise how much fitness I’d lost! When I’m settled somewhere, I’ll work on that again.

The views were great, and probably would have been better in daylight but time was going to stop me doing that again. I sat and watched the lights from all around the viewpoint before walking down in even less light.

What did we do before our phones had torches?! Then again, I wasn’t the only one doing it, so maybe it wasn’t that foolish a decision. You decide.

Koala Kuddle!

Koala Kuddle!

The next day, it was off to Magnetic Island for two nights. I was staying in the YHA, which also includes a Koala Sanctuary. I did the tour that day with a friend (who I swear is following me up from Byron Bay!) and I held lizards, birds and got a koala cuddle!

My word, they are the most cuddly things ever, for the few seconds I was allowed to hold it. It didn’t want to let me go, either!

We then did the Fort Walk where we got some amazing views of the island and saw a couple of wild koalas on the way back. That made it a good day.

The next day, I walked around the island a little, went to a few beaches and lookout points, like Arthur Beach and Alma Bay, with a big hill walk in between. I know I ask this a lot, but WHY do I walk up big hills in the heat? I feel like I’m trying to kill myself.

Also, take a lot of water. I keep forgetting that.

It’s worth noting that this hostel had the comfiest beds I’ve been in since leaving home back in January. I slept like a baby both nights. Other hostels; take note!

Then it was another bus to Mission Beach. I didn’t see any of it, except the Woolworths and my hostel, as it was dark by the time I arrived and I had to be up the next morning for Xtreme Rafting.

Or so I thought.

Unfortunately, the Xtreme Rafting didn’t have enough people so I was offered the normal full day rafting instead. I was a little disappointed but they were still going to take me to Cairns at the end of the day, which was easier than going back to the hostel, getting a bus into town and another bus to Cairns.

We had a great day for it. The sun was blazing down on us, and the river was full, with the power station letting out as much as possible. That meant a good day, according to our guide.

White water rafting in Tully

White water rafting in Tully

I got put at the front with the only other guy on the boat. It was tricky at times keeping in synch with each other but we got there. Every time we were told we could jump in the water, I did. I enjoyed floating down through the current. It also helped stave off the cold water somewhat, but the heat was so strong that we dried off pretty quickly. There were squeals as cold water hit us. I was not immune.

It was a little stop and start at times, as we had to make sure every boat got through each section safely. I ended up being the one to hold us in place more than a couple of times. Did I mention how unfit I am now? It was made even clearer here.

We were the only boat not to have anyone fall in – unintentionally, I should add. Every other boat had rafters, or even an instructor, fall in at some point. There’s a point where we all fell in after a short drop, but that was planned. A very good way to wake up. The lunch was also great!

Then it was off to Cairns, where I slept soundly, with a fair few things to do over the next week – including a skydive!

Advertisements

The East Coast: Brisbane, Noosa and Fraser Island

From Surfer’s Paradise in the Gold Coast to Brisbane, a city of split views – at least, that’s what I’ve heard so far.

About half the people said Brisbane is great and the other half said it was boring, with only a few indifferent opinions in between. Given how much people were raving about Surfer’s, I had a feeling I might get on a little better here and so it turned out!

Brisbane letters

Brisbane letters

Less than a two-hour bus ride later, during which I bumped into a friend from Spot X and we had a good catch up, I arrived in the next city. For those keeping track, I’ve now been to Melbourne, Sydney, Perth and Brisbane, so that’s four.

Brisbane is a smaller city than the others but the advantage of that is things are closer together, and since I only had two days before moving on again, that helped me get through a few things.

I took some time to explore the CBD, finding an awesome bookshop called The Archive, which mainly had old books, so if you’re looking for some older covers this is the place to go. The botanical gardens were really nice and after walking around them along the river, you can cross a bridge to Southbank, where there’s another park, an arts centre and an artificial beach!

Brisbane's artificial beach

Brisbane’s artificial beach

Yes, you read it right. Brisbane doesn’t have a beach, and while you can certainly reach the coast in some way, it takes time. This beach sits next to the river and is sand based with salt water. There are pools on either side too so if sunbathing next to the water isn’t for you, there’s another option.

I want to spend more time here as there are some really nice bars and restaurants around, in Southbank and up in Fortitude Valley, just finding time for it all was impossible on this trip.

Almost too soon it was time to head to Noosa, which is where one of my big trips started. I got there in the afternoon, checked out the beach and before I knew it, was heading to bed for a 6am wake-up so I could get myself on the way to Fraser Island, the largest sand island in the world!

Lake McKenzie on Fraser Island

Lake McKenzie on Fraser Island

This was a group of four 4×4 cars, with those with a valid license able to drive at some point (damn my past self for not getting a license!) but there are no roads on the island, you’re driving on sand the entire time. As a passenger, I was in the front car with the tour leader who, having done these tours for 14 years, knew a good deal about the island, its history and locations.

There were a number of main spots we had on the list to visit; Lake McKenzie with its clear water and ridiculously fine sand (the kind you can exfoliate your skin with and brush your teeth with – true story) but while that was incredible, it was also the cloudiest day so not as warm as usual. I know, I know, I shouldn’t really complain but just imagine how much nicer it would have looked with the sun. Regardless, I didn’t want to get out of the water.

The night, well, both nights, actually, we ended up on the beach around midnight. With no light pollution, you could see the stars and, my God, its one of the best views I’ve ever seen. I can’t even describe to you how stunning it looked, both nights. It made me wish I had a proper camera with the right lens to even attempt a photo of it. It remains in my mind though, don’t worry.

The Champagne Pools on Fraser Island

The Champagne Pools on Fraser Island

We cleared our hangovers in Eli Creek the next morning, with some cool and refreshing water before pressing on to a shipwreck and later the Champagne Pools, which do not have champagne but when the waves crash over the rocks, it creates the bubble effect seen in your champers glass. You are swimming with fish too!

A little history lesson of Indian Head on our way back and that was us done for the day.

The final day took us to Lake Wabby, which was a 45-minute trek from the beach, where we had to park, and back again after our hour there. The fish in this lake eat the dead skin off your body, much like those beauty treatments you see, or saw, dotted around shopping centres. Very weird to feel. As gorgeous as it is, it won’t exist in the future as a sand dune is slowly filling the lake. It used to be 16.5 meters at it’s deepest but currently sits at 9.5m. That’s scary to think.

Being a sand island, you wouldn’t expect there to be a rainforest on the island, would you? Would you?! Well, there is! It’s to do with the underground freshwater streams that keep it going. It was an experiment that took hold. That’s just one of the extra bits we got told by our tour guide/driver.

Sunset in Noosa

Sunset in Noosa

Then it was back to Noosa, where, I promise you, we all slept soundly. I was in a tipi for the two nights on Fraser Island, which was fine enough with a mattress and blanket but a real bed was so much better.

Yes, even a hostel bed!

Two days in Noosa followed, recuperating and enjoying the beach, a sunset over it, and a coastal walk to the Fairy Pools (much like the Champagne Pools) and Hell’s Gate.

Next up; a 9-hour coach journey to Agnes Water. Great.

A Trip to Perth

This one’s a little late but due to my laptop needing a new hard drive, that kind of took priority! So, after two awesome weeks in Melbourne, I was set for a 4 and half hour journey to Perth on the west coast.

First things first, it’s hot over there! I thought Melbourne was warm but bloody hell, this took it to a whole new level. Absolutely gorgeous, though. Some of the countries best beaches are that way, I had been told, and I can confirm that now (from what I’ve seen so far).

There’s so much more than that, and I was lucky to have a friend over there to show me around some of these really cool places!

Kings Park

One of the views of Perth from King's Park

One of the views of Perth from King’s Park

This is quite possibly one of the biggest parks I’ve been to. I spent over four hours one day wandering through it and still missed so much of it. It is HUGE! It’s also on top of a big hill (why do I do this to myself?!) but once up there, there were some stunning views.

Memorials, the Botanical Gardens (which is split into different regions) and views over the CBD and harbour. Remember the weather is essentially perfect so I had to delete a lot of duplicate photos!

Even better, along the edge of the park, closest to the water, is a

Quokka

Quokka

walkway with viewpoints and also a glass bridge! Not going to lie, that freaked me out a little (I don’t like heights, after all) but I still went over it, of course.

So. Many. Animals

So, after seeing penguins in St Kilda, I knew I was going to see these cute buggers called quokkas on Rottnest Island. They are ridiculously cute and very happy to approach people (but don’t feed them) for pictures. I also tried snorkelling for the first time. It was strange but with more practise I’ll get there.

Dolphin

Dolphin

Another trip took us to Penguin Island. We did a boat trip first and saw dolphins! They even chased the waves the boat made. That was cool. On the island itself, we saw a penguin feeding but the wild ones were hiding during the day. We did see one in a little cave, though.

We also went to a wildlife park where I was able to feed kangaroos, meet a koala and a wallaby among many more. That was an awesome day, too. Lots of pictures from that day – animals don’t listen to instructions very well!

Geeky heaven

Inside White Dwarf Books

Inside White Dwarf Books

One of my favourite things about Perth happened a couple of days in. I discovered a bookshop called White Dwarf books. Now, everyone knows I love books but this store goes to a whole new level as it’s a store specifically for science fiction and fantasy.

YES, YOU HEARD ME!

I stayed in there for hours chatting to the staff, who were cool. I actually missed a bus tour around the city, but I regret nothing. I could have bought everything in that shop.

Inside The Nostalgia Box

Inside The Nostalgia Box

About a ten minute walk is a place called the Nostalgia Box, a retro gaming museum. It’s a neatly packed place going through the history of video game consoles from the beginning through to the last generation and even though I knew a fair bit, I came away with a little more knowledge. Bonus.

And, of course, a bunch of consoles to play, too!

Cider and Pork!

Music at the Cider and Pork Festival

Music at the Cider and Pork Festival

The last weekend of my stay in Perth happened to coincide with the Cider and Pork Festival. This was a great night with good drinks, even better food and decent music.

I met some really cool people, one couple in particular stood out. We were chatting and they asked about my book. After explaining it to them, and what my job involves, they practically demanded I stay in the country longer than the current plan. It was really nice to hear people that enthusiastic about my work and I admit, I am tempted to stay longer if I can.

I want to point out here that these events in the UK are ridiculously expensive. While alcohol is generally more expensive in Australia than back home anyway, the prices I paid for these drinks were about the same as in bars, so it made no difference. A festival back home has a definite increase in price.

This is just a snapshot, we did so much! Those two weeks ended too early, I think. Back to Melbourne for a few more weeks with the F1 coming up fast!

Arriving in St Kilda, Melbourne

As I mentioned before, three days in Hong Kong just isn’t enough but I was ready to get to Australia at last! Another long flight loomed. This couldn’t be worse than the last one, right? Mostly.

I was on an aisle seat, which was fine. Two Chinese women were next to me and one wanted the aisle seat and the other the window seat. I didn’t want to be trapped between them so I politely said no. Unfortunately, they spoke no English. The flight attendant translated for us but somehow I got stuck in the middle anyway!

Without going into too much detail, I think I either got adopted or married, honestly not sure which. The only phrase they knew was “I love you” and it was said to me over and over! They were fascinated with my eyes and kept showing me pictures of their families. I fell asleep for an hour and woke up wrapped in three blankets. And they kept feeding me food! How awkward. Still, better than kids.

Anyway, I’ve been in St Kilda for just under two weeks and I’ve loved every moment…well, except one part.

Settling in and defeating jetlag

The first day was wasted, but it’s normal. I sorted out some boring stuff like banks and orientation and took myself on a short walk but mostly chilled at the hostel. A few drinks in the evening helped me settle and I met my first friend, who works at Base. We get on really well and this isn’t one of those who I’ll spend time with and forget, I’m sure we’ll keep in touch!

If you had told me before I arrived exactly what kind of hostel Base was, I probably wouldn’t have booked in. Too much partying and noise for an old git like me but actually, I think it was the best thing. It forced me to do things and get involved and that helped me get out of my shell a little. You might not think I need help with that but being so far away and knowing no one, that little push helped me get involved a little quicker. I’ll pop back every so often but I don’t think I need it anymore.

St Kilda Festival

The rock stage at St Kilda Festival

The rock stage at St Kilda Festival

Less than a week after I arrived, St Kilda Festival arrived. I didn’t know this was happening before I arrived but I was excited to go. It takes over the entire area, and is one of the biggest free festivals in the southern hemisphere! About 400,000 people were expected this year with stages and displays and arts stuff going on throughout the day.

Of course, I found the rock stage.

Saw some good bands and spent a nice day wandering and chilling in parks with some of the friends I’ve made since arriving. To have this right on my doorstep, literally, was a stroke of luck and while I get why residents avoided the area for the day or weekend, it was good fun and I didn’t see any fights or riots that happen in festivals back home at times.

A feel for Melbourne

One of the pieces of street art/graffiti from Hosier Lane

One of the pieces of street art/graffiti from Hosier Lane

I’ve spent a lot of time finding my feet so far, going on walks around the area, visiting the beaches – some of which are really nice but I’ve been told they’re nothing compared to elsewhere! Melbourne is a very friendly place overall, and despite the busy areas feeling a little overwhelming at first, I feel like I did in Manchester. I love it here.

I’ve heard mixed things about Hosier Lane but I found it really interesting. Some great graffiti art here and I took a lot of pictures. It was smaller than I expected, though, and I saw someone working on a new piece. Having a place for people to do this is clever, as I’ve not seen as much graffiti as back home generally.

There are also penguins living on St Kilda pier! They come out at sunset and go hunt. They’re not phased by people at all but I did feel like pushing people away when they were trying to get past the crowd. It was so cool but it’s important not to feed them to disrupt their cycle.

A missed opportunity

A Penguin at St Kilda Pier

A Penguin at St Kilda Pier

Being slightly out of the city has its perks, it’s easier to relax a bit more and still be close to everything I want to do. Getting out of the holiday mentality where I feel like I have to do something different every day has been hard but I’m getting to the stage where I’m happy to have a chill day, especially knowing I’ll be back again.

However, a few days ago I was out on a pub crawl and my drink got spiked. I didn’t know at first but soon I was unable to stand, see straight or do anything. The next day I couldn’t focus my mind, see properly, eat anything and more. It was awful. It took me over a day to fully recover but I’m fine. It’s happened now and it hasn’t put me off doing things – I just need to be a little more careful.

The sad thing was I missed White Night, which is a 12-hour light show in the CBD with music and such. From the pictures and videos, it looked epic. Next year, I’m doing it!

Moving on

Sunset at St Kilda Pier

Sunset at St Kilda Pier

Tomorrow I fly to Perth for two weeks to see a friend from back home and spend a little time exploring the city and the area. I’ll be coming back to Melbourne after for another few weeks to explore more and find more sunset views like this before a big, month-long adventure!