The East Coast: Cairns and Skydiving

I’m in Cairns! At last! Five weeks this trip has taken me. I’ve seen some amazing things, met some fantastic people and had a few setbacks but that’s normal, right?

Now, being a grumpy old man, I was thankful not to be in a party hostel. It’s a 30-minute walk into town but it’s a nice walk (when it isn’t raining – those tropical storms are a pain!) and the hostel does regular buses through the day and night.

Cairns Lagoon

Cairns Lagoon

I spent some time exploring, and like some stops along the way, Cairns has a lagoon where you can swim and chill. It’s not a good idea to go in the sea cause, you know, crocodiles. I do not fancy being eaten by those things.

Now, here’s one of the biggest highlights of my trip; the skydive.

Yup, the guy who has a fear of heights is going to jump (or be pushed, however you want to say it) out of a plane. I thought I’d be terrified by this point but I was actually pretty calm.

Then I got a phone call the day before. With some bad weather predicted, they wanted me to go early. That’s cool, I figured I’d get picked up at about 8am. That’s fine.

NOPE. Try 5am!

Never in my life, that I remember, have I woken up at 4am before. Been up from the night before? Sure. That’s happened a fair few times.

Oh well, it did mean a sunrise skydive. How cool would that be? The answer is pretty damn cool!

I’ll admit, quite happily, the nerves started kicking in the moment I woke up. I mean, am I seriously going to fall out of a plane at 15,000 feet? It was a tandem skydive, so I was fairly confident of being safe but still, that’s high!

My instructor was cool, and kept me talking throughout, which helped. Other than distracting me until everyone was in the plane. That meant that we’d be the first one out. Shit. Like, SHIT!

(Apologies to anyone reading this not a fan of such language, but it’s the actual thought that I had at that moment. Authenticity, you know?)

Climbing was bad enough. There are two absolutely terrifying points of this experience. The first is when the door opens and you swing your legs out and under the plane. You have to really tuck them under. I can’t remember why but he did tell me. You can feel the wind trying to pull you out. That in itself is scary.

The worst bit, though? How about those first three seconds you leave the plane. I say leave because I didn’t jump, nor did it feel like a push. You have this thought, like “Holy shit, I’ve fallen out of a plane! What do I do? Crap crap crap!”

Help! I'm falling out of a plane!

Help! I’m falling out of a plane!

After that, you settle into it. You relax. You look around. See the sun rising over the clouds, the patterns of the clouds themselves, the ocean, the rainforest, the ground.

The ground!

Right, let me be clear. If you closed your eyes, you wouldn’t know how fast you’re falling. The amount of air hitting you and the resistance it creates does a good job of making you think you’re almost hovering there, like a big fan is holding you up. Open those eyes and you can tell easier you’re falling.

It was such a thrill, and I was allowed to put us in a spin after the parachute was opened. That was fun! I expected jelly legs after landing but, other than my hair being a tangled mess, I was fine. I’d actually do it again! I know what to expect and it was really cool! Not sure I’d ever get to the point I’d jump out myself but who knows?

A few days later, and I’m due to go scuba diving at the Great Barrier Reef. All goes well until the boat SETS OFF and then they find out I had asthma as a kid, over 20 years ago. Without a medical certificate, I can’t do it.

The Great Barrier Reef, as seen from the boat

The Great Barrier Reef, as seen from the boat

So, I’m stuck on a boat for 9 hours. Thankfully I took a book. I got a couple of pictures from the boat but it’s not the same. I was offered snorkelling but you have to stay on the surface and people said they couldn’t see much so I passed.  I’m 99% sure I’d have been fine to do it had I known to get one!

The crew were nice about it, though, so I can’t knock them. The photos of others doing it looked awesome. One day, I’ll come back again and do it.

That was a little disappointing but already my attention is shifting. I’m really poor now and I need a job. Time to get one, ideally farm work to help with the second-year visa.

I’ll do a round-up of the whole trip and my thoughts shortly, once that work has been acquired and I can get a stable routine going for a while.

It’s been one hell of a trip, with a few things still left to do. I’m actually really tired, ha! Until next time, people!

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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!