Looking back at the last 12 months

I actually can’t believe it’s been a whole year since I landed in Australia! It’s been an incredible experience from start to finish, and the includes my short time in Hong Kong just before. I can honestly say that this has been the best decision I’ve made since graduating university back in 2012.

It hasn’t always been easy, and there are times I felt pretty low, but I’ve gotten through them and I’m glad I didn’t give up. I have to thank everyone who helped me, no matter how big or small, get through the struggles.

I’m still learning, and still looking forward to seeing and doing more, but this seemed like a good time to revisit some of the trip, partly for you but mostly for me.

The highs

There are so many! I have some favourite moments, though, but in no particular order:

Help! I'm falling out of a plane!

Help! I’m falling out of a plane!

Skydiving in Cairns

Given my disliking of heights, falling from 15,000 feet doesn’t sound like something I’d enjoy but it was amazing! Even better, it was at sunrise! Getting over the initial fear and settling into it allowed me to enjoy the views and sensation. Would do again.

Sunset in Byron Bay

Sunset in Byron Bay

Sunset in Byron Bay

It might not be the best sunset ever, but the place is stunning and the water, the hills, the lighthouse – they all add to the effect. This was just after surf camp so I was already on a high from that. I also got to catch up with an old friend, so bonus.

Magnetic Island

This is a dream getaway with koalas, wildlife and beaches. The island is small and scenic – you can walk across it and back in less than a day, but there are a lot of hills. I could have done with more time here but I was able to recharge my batteries, hug a koala and get some great views, too.

The lows

Before I left, I promised to share the good and the bad, and there’s been a few lows along the way.

Not being able to find work

This hit me hard at the end of my east coast trip. I had gone almost six months without working, other than bits of freelance, and had run out of money. I survived a little longer before taking the plunge and coming back to Melbourne, which has proven to be the right decision. I got so low that I almost decided to come home before and after this decision. I’m glad I didn’t but I found it hard to stay motivated when I felt like I couldn’t catch a break. Lessons were learnt, though, and I won’t get in that situation again.

Feeling a little lost and alone

There have been a few times that travelling solo has hit me. This was most obvious when I had no money and no job but every so often, despite being a solitary person who likes my own space, I’ve missed being around people I know – and other backpackers don’t really count. I miss people from back home and the familiarity and security they offer, even if only for a short while.

The mundane

Working full-time can be quite mundane. After arriving in Melbourne, I got a bar job in a music venue. Easy enough but good fun. I also started working in the hostel I’ve been staying in, mostly doing nightshifts. That was different for me but ruined my body clock.

Eventually, I got a full-time 9-5 back in digital marketing. It pays well and I’m using this chance to save as much as I can, without living a boring life in Melbourne. There are definitely worse jobs out there, though.

The top pick

The Champagne Pools on Fraser Island

The Champagne Pools on Fraser Island

The stars on Fraser Island

Hands down, this is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. I’m sorry there’s no picture but they were breath-taking and I’d love to see them again. Fraser Island itself is also one of the best things I’ve done in Australia. It’s so serene and beautiful, but dangerous at times, too. Gorgeous lakes and rivers, champagne pools and a rainforest all on one sand island.

Other moments

Quokka

Quokka

The F1 at Albert Park was fantastic! The race itself might not have been the most exciting but seeing it somewhere else for the first time was something else – and it was so cheap to do!

Surf camp was so much fun, and I really would like to do more surfing over the next year.

Visiting Perth to see a friend from Manchester was awesome – I had my own tour guide! We saw dolphins, penguins, quokkas and much more.

The whole east coast trip was incredible, and something I can’t wait to experience again, kind of, when I do the west coast!

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Turning 30 in Australia

Okay, so this is a very late post! Things have been a bit full on since my last update, which was back in August! I’m going to explain what’s been going on in this gap in my next post in a week or so. This one, however, is dedicated purely to my 30th birthday back in October – and what I did for it.

Doing something a little different

Most of my birthdays over the last decade have been celebrated with friends and copious amounts of alcohol. This year, for the big three-zero, I’ve been in Australia (duh) and while I do have friends here, most of my good friends I’ve met are in other places in the country, so I was feeling a little lost as to what to do.

Also, while I wouldn’t mind going out and drinking, this is a big one so I wanted something a little different. My first plan was to go to Hobbiton in New Zealand but money prevented that from happening.

The idea of a trip still appealed so I looked for something else and I found a day tour, on my birthday, to a place not too far that as been on my list for a while. It meant a day out alone (not counting other people on this tour) but it was a memorable way to spend my birthday.

I decided on a tour to Phillip Island, which ended with the Penguin Parade.

Moonlit Sanctuary

The journey was a good few hours but the tour was able to break this down on the by stopping at Moonlit Sanctuary, which is about half way between Phillip Island and Melbourne (there was no stop on the way back but it was so late and long day, most of us took a nap).

Feeding this little guy at Moonlit Sanctuary

Feeding this little guy at Moonlit Sanctuary

This was quite a small wildlife park compared to some I’ve been to since arriving in Australia but that actually worked to its advantage. We had a barbecue lunch and had some time to walk around and explore. Plenty of different animals to see and learn about but the real highlight of this place is at the back where there were kangaroos and wallabies to feed and get pictures with. I even fed one with a joey peeking from the pouch!

The highlight here, however, as a baby koala on one of its first talks with people around. It had only been out in the world for a couple of months or less and it was very curious and a lot more active than most koalas I’ve seen.

Phillip Island

Just one of the residents at the koala sanctuary

Just one of the residents at the koala sanctuary

I probably could have spent all day at Moonlit Sanctuary but before I knew it, we were off again. Our first stop on Phillip Island was at a heritage farm, which was a nice place to wander around and look at. More animals and a bit of history but the next stop was more interesting.

We had a bit of time to stop by a koala sanctuary on the island. Now, yes, I’ve seen plenty of koalas already but they’re so cute! There are different enclosures with boardwalks to explore and I managed to see half a dozen or so, mostly all close together.

One of the views from the Nobbies

One of the views from the Nobbies

We then moved on to the Nobbies, which was a boardwalk on the coast of the island with some stunning views and the chance to see some wild penguins in the huts and holes. I did manage to make out the silhouettes of a couple and one that was definitely awake and checking if it was time to hunt but that’s it. The real penguin viewing was

The Penguin Parade

The highlight of the tour is the Penguin Parade. We had some time to kill so I grabbed some food and took a seat in the stands. As the sun dropped so did the temperature and I was glad to have brought a coat on an otherwise hot day. Some penguins marched out to see but more were returning and it didn’t take me long to realise there were better spots to be.

I camped out along one of the main ‘paths’ and watched a lot of groups of penguins march by, some breaking off as they reached their homes. They were constantly looking at the people and making plenty of noise. There were a few little scraps as well but it was definitely an interesting sight to see so many marching penguins – unlike St Kilda where you’re lucky to see more than a few at a time.

It was a lovely way to finish the day and tour before the long bus ride back home.

Unfortunately, there was no photography allowed of the penguins. Flash photography can really damage their eyes and to make sure there’s no accidental camera flashes, all photography is banned and there are plenty of staff making sure no photos are being taken. There is an app with photos they’ve taken but it’s not the same so I decided just to remember the little birds on my own.

The day did end with a few drinks but all in all, it was a great way to spend my birthday. A lot more chilled than the ones over the last decade or so.

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!