Saturday 20th August 2011
A long day, but so much fun! We set off to Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park, which was awesome. There were several talks and presentations on the beliefs, customs and way of life of the Aboriginal people - and we learnt how to throw a boomerang and spear! (or fail at it…luckily, I managed not to hit myself with it - or anyone else!) There were a lot of boomerangs and didgeridoos in the gift shop- too bad didgeridoos are so expensive! But I did buy myself a returning boomerang. :P Then we had some free time in Cairns to look around the market, before heading to “Reef Teach”, an information session on the creatures of the Great Barrier Reef. Really entertaining! (there are some seriously weird creatures in there…) Oh, and there are no jellyfish at this time of year, so that’s good news! Had a look around the shopping centre, which was cool. I also signed up to go scuba diving tomorrow- and skydiving on Monday. Yeah, I paid and everything. I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t. No backing out now…
Tonight was awesome too. We joined the Ultimate Party Bus pub crawl around town, starting at our hotel. Soooo tired now, but a great night!
Sunday 21st August 2011
Wow. What a day. Another early start (after last night- ouch!). We all boarded “Ocean Spirit 3” for a day of swimming and snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef! And for a lot of us, an introductory scuba diving lesson as well! I confess to freaking out a couple of times- the prospect of plunging 10m underwater with only an oxygen tank to rely on for breath terrified me!- but I’m glad I went through with it, because it was so cool! Like watching a 3D video- only real! Everything was crystal clear- the corals, the fish…we even saw a stingray and a sea turtle! And found Nemo! I got a lot of photos, but since I used a disposable camera I have a feeling they won’t be very good, which is annoying. How many times am I going to get to see a close-up sea turtle?!
I was going to go snorkelling, but ended up falling asleep on the top deck! I was awoken by the boat rocking about- it might have been sunny, but the sea was rough, and if you stood at the front of the deck you got drenched by waves! It was hard even to stand up without falling over (stupidly, I attempted to walk downstairs, resulting in a giant bruise on my back where I went flying into the railing - fail!). But we saw a whale! :D Certainly a day of new experiences!
Bought myself some Internet credit so that I could let everyone know I’m still alive! Also watched fireworks from the balcony, and had a look around some shops. Everywhere seems to open really late! Oh, and wherever you go, you can hear bats! Huge flocks of them, squeaking really loudly, even as you walk down the street!
Now I’m bricking it about tomorrow! Skydiving?! Wtf was I thinking???!!!!
Monday 22nd August 2011
OK. So that sucked. Basically, thanks to the weather (windy day- again!) we couldn’t do the skydive! :( Feel like hell, too (no sleep last night!). A group of us went quad biking instead - I was awful at it, and spent the entire session convinced I was going to die, and ended up having to have someone else steer for me so I didn't cause a pile-up... Yeah, I’m not sure I’m cut out for this adventure stuff!
Rescheduled to do the skydive in Byron Bay. Eep!
Tuesday 23rd August 2011
Yet another early start- up at 5.30 to drive to Tully for a day’s white water rafting! Felt pretty crappy to begin with, but had an amazing time! We began our crazy trip downriver, the raft bouncing off rocks, all of us getting soaked! At one point, when we were heading towards a waterfall, our instructor told us to form a human pyramid! We (stupidly) obeyed! Despite our best efforts to hold on, we knew as we saw the water foaming beneath the waterfall that there was no way we were going to stay in the raft… and we all fell in. Spectacularly. No one was spared! Since we were all wearing life jackets, though, we floated to the surface of the water, and climbed back into the raft. I’m pretty proud that that was the only time I fell in. And I bought a USB stick of all the photos that were being taken as we raced through the rapids! They’re hilarious- especially some of our facial expressions!
What an amazing day! Totally made up for yesterday! :D
Wednesday 24th August 2011
Travel day- from Cairns to Airlie Beach. Wasn’t too bad I suppose- we watched Finding Nemo, which was pretty appropriate! And I read more of LOTR. I wanted to sleep, but it was too noisy! Still, Airlie Cove Resort, where we’re staying tonight, is really nice. Airlie Beach is small- literally two streets! We went to a shop that sells opals and didgeridoos, and we all got a free opal (worth $30!). And learnt to play the didgeridoo! Walked back to the chalet beneath the night stars- they’re so beautiful!
Thursday 25th August 2011
First good night’s sleep for ages! Had to check out first thing this morning, before we headed to the beach. Ocean rafting! An amazing experience- totally different from what I’d expected! The ocean rafts look like a (bright yellow) cross between rafts and speedboats, and they go really fast, bouncing over the waves! A thrilling ride through the Whitsunday Islands- I enjoyed every minute of it! We stopped for an hour’s snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef. It was so cool- you could literally put your head under the water and you’d be faced with beautiful corals of all colours. The water wasn’t too cold, either. And we saw two dolphins and a manta ray! :D Wow…
Our next stop was Whitehaven Beach- appropriately named as it has the whitest sand in the world! So white that it looks like snow! Such a beautiful place…white sands, green forests, crystal clear turquoise water…paradise! A walk in the forest, then time to relax on the beach (and bury each other in the sand :P) Then back on the ocean rafts, to complete the loop around the Whitsundays! We saw a sea turtle, with its head and flipper above the water as if waving at us! We’ve definitely seen some awesome wildlife today! (including an army of solider crabs that disappeared into the sand when we approached them!) It’s been a fantastic day, and now we’re on the way to Fraser Island. We’re leaving most of our stuff on the coach, only taking one bag with us on the ferry. An overnight bus trip, yay. Sleeping on a coach isn’t fun- it’s impossible to position yourself so that you’re actually comfortable!
Friday 26th August 2011
Our journey finished at 6.30 am, when we were awakened (those of us who'd actually managed to fall asleep...think I might have dozed off for a minute or two!) by loud, very annoying music! Stiff and aching from the bus seats, we boarded the ferry to Fraser Island. Unfortunately it was raining. But we did see two dolphins on the way there. :) We had a hike through the rainforest for an hour or so. Fraser Island is the world’s largest sand island, and there are some beautiful places to see- rainforests growing alongside sand dunes! No swimming in the sea here, though- the currents are too strong, and there are sharks! We checked into our accommodation, then did a 4 ½ km hike to Lake Wabby, a freshwater lake. On the way there we saw a dingo! Apparently we aren’t supposed to feed them, or they become a pest! The hike was okay, pretty wet though (yeah, it was raining constantly- even the people who didn’t go swimming in the lake got soaked!). Saw another dingo on the way back- it made off with a fisherman’s bag! Apparently they’ll eat anything… and might even attack! Yikes!
Saturday 27th August 2011
Another rainy day. My clothes and shoes are still wet from yesterday, and we left all our spare clothes and stuff on the mainland! Attempted to dry my shoes with a hairdryer. :P Yeah. Today we got on the bus for a tour of the island, down the 75-mile-long beach! First thing we saw was a dead sun fish (a giant thing that didn’t look much like a fish!). But we saw three dingoes (live), and one of them walked right up to our bus! They’re pretty cute, really. We saw the Maheno shipwreck, the rust-covered wreck of an old boat lying on the beach, and some beautiful coloured sand cliffs. Apparently, there were 72 different colours in some of them! And another dingo came up to us, and lay right in front of the bus! Apparently it’s unusual to see so many of them- maybe it’s the rain. :P
Our next stop was Indian Head, which we climbed, to stunning views of the beach and sea. Got some awesome photos- saw a distant whale, a ray, and about three tiger sharks!! And the sun came out, too. :) We climbed back down and drove on to our next destination, Champagne Pools, where the sea crashes over the rocks and into pools that look like they’re full of champagne bubbles! I took some more photos - saw a few crabs in the rock pools. We finished the drive up the beach and headed back, stopping for a game of “Pippy racing”! There were these shelled creatures (like oysters), and we all had to pick one up. On three, all of us put them down on the sand, and whoever’s 'pippy' buried itself completely in the sand first won! (mine wouldn’t move; it just sat there looking like…well, a shell :P) We stopped to paddle in Ely Creek, a freshwater creek, then our last stop was for a 1 ½ long hour hike over sand dunes. Pretty tiring, but throwing ourselves off sandy cliffs was fun! Drove back through the mist, which was another experience (it looked like we were going to drive right into the sea!). There was an “ISV” themed party tonight, which resulted in some pretty hilarious costumes!
Sunday 28th August 2011
Another travel day- so of course the weather was nice! We got the ferry back to the mainland (dry clothes, yay!) and met Tony and our bus. Back to civilisation! (again) Unfortunately, our coach broke down en route to Byron Bay, and we ended up stranded at a service station for 5 hours! It wasn’t that bad, to be honest- the weather was nice, so everyone ended up sunbathing and generally enjoying the sunshine (my sandals are finally dry!). I finished reading LOTR- The Fellowship of the Ring, and started reading The Two Towers. Did a bit of writing, too. :) At 5pm we finally set off again, arriving in Byron Bay around 9.30.We’re here for two days, and there’s a lot to do! Including (fingers crossed) skydiving…
Monday 29th August 2011
Interesting turn of events…Joe told us this morning that conditions were perfect for skydiving, and if we wanted to do it this morning instead of tomorrow, we could! And because we didn’t want to risk the weather changing unpredictably, most of us said yes! So a minibus picked us up at 9.30, and we drove to a building near a field. We had to fill out forms, and queue for ages to hand them in…the suspense built! Then the first plane went up, and we watched each parachutist glide back to the ground! It was awesome! Nerves became excitement, and before long it was our turn to put on the harnesses (sexy :P), and get into the plane…Camera rolling! (yeah, I paid for a video too!) A clear sky with barely a single cloud meant we had an amazing view as everything shrank to map-size and we flew over the sea. And then the door opened- a blast of cold air hit us! Go time- had a bit of a shock when a solo parachutist flung himself out the plane - there one second, gone the next! Then the first pair moved to the door…and were gone! And the next, and the next- the line disappearing each in the blink of an eye, and then it was my turn- before I could panic any more, we were over to the door and out of it! Freefalling- I was aware that I was screaming, my ears were popping- but it was AMAZING! The parachute opened, and I could breathe again! I looked around me in amazement…it all seemed unreal. Like a paper landscape- fields, forests, towns, beaches, endless blue sea…I admired it as we drifted down, underneath the parachute, waving at the camera. I was loving it- it wasn’t scary at all! In no time at all we were approaching the field, to land gently on the grass. I’d done it! I’d totally jumped out of a plane! WOOOOOOOOOOOO!! Haha, I was buzzing all day! I have a certificate to prove I did it, plus the DVD :D
Went back to the hotel to get ready for our surfing lesson on the beach! It actually wasn’t that hard to get the hang of the basics, but I got drenched because I kept getting swamped by waves! The surfboard kept attacking me, too. And I fell in a LOT. But I managed to stand up- four times, and once for almost five seconds! I have a nice new collection of bruises, lol. But it was fun. :)
Tonight we had a barbecue at the surf school, which was cool. I’ve decided I like Byron Bay. :) Went on the Internet, too. Emails, facebook… told everyone about it! :D
What a day! I’m so glad I came here. I love Australia.
Tuesday 30th August 2011
Free day- mostly spent wandering around Byron Bay! Went in a lot of souvenir shops, buying souvenirs for people, and chilled by the beach for a while. I wish we were staying here for longer!
Then- overnight bus journey no. 2, to Sydney! This time I actually got some sleep (though I did fall off the seat at one point!).
Wednesday 31st August 2011
Arrived in Sydney around 6.30 am. We couldn’t check into our rooms yet, so Joe and Ash took us on a tour of part of the city. It’s pretty impressive- high-rise buildings everywhere, but it’s beautiful too. Took loads of photos! We also went to Sydney Aquarium, which was awesome! Like a bigger, better version of the Sealife Centre, with dugongs, platypuses, penguins and sharks! First time I've seen a platypus; they're seriously bizarre creatures!
Then we had a look around other parts of the city including Chinatown; Sydney's oldest pub; and the Harbour Bridge and Opera House! More awesome photos! And then we had our sunset cocktail cruise, which was pretty good :) Watched the sun go down behind the Harbour Bridge. :)
I can’t believe tomorrow’s our last day! :O
Thursday 1st September 2011
Last full day in Australia!!!!
First stop: Featherdale Wildlife Park! The best of all Australian wildlife- kangaroos, wallabies, wallaroos, koalas, flying foxes, wombats, tropical birds, a giant saltwater crocodile, various other reptiles (including the most poisonous snake in the world, the Inland Taipan!), and a lot more! Got to feed kangaroos, and have our photos taken with a koala! Took nearly 200 photos in total! And I was slightly tempted to smuggle the koala home! :P
Then we drove into the Blue Mountains, stopping at Echo Point to take photos of the awesome views, including the “Three Sisters”. Then we got ready for some abseiling! Three cliffs awaited us- one a couple of metres high, another maybe 10m, and another about 20m! My first thought was, “No way am I going to do that!”- but I did! I got the hang of abseiling surprisingly quickly, and really enjoyed it! I even did the 45m/150ft high challenge, even though you couldn’t see how high up it was until you were literally hanging over the edge! Wicked. I’ve decided I’m a fan. :P Loved today!
Our last night in Australia. :( Some of us walked all the way across Sydney to take some last photos of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge! Walked back, tired but happy. Happy to be going home! On the one hand, this has been an awesome month, totally mind-blowing and worth every penny I paid for it- but I’m looking forward to going home and seeing everyone again.
Friday 2nd September 2011
Checked out of the hostel and boarded the coach for the last time. When we arrived at the airport, there were a lot of tears, especially when the time came to say goodbye to the people who were flying back to L.A.! Then the same thing a couple of hours later, as the people going to Fiji left. So that just left us- the people flying to London Heathrow. Onto our last plane, saying goodbye to Australia as we took off. 23 hours of hell. Got no sleep, again! But read the rest of The Return of the King, finishing it just as we landed in Heathrow (pretty appropriate!) Home. At last.