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Settling in Sanur

I arrived in Sanur knowing I would settle here for my final part of Bali.
I had good intentions of jumping on a boat to Nusa Lembongan and also of taking a day trip to Uluwatu and Nusa Dua… but my sciatica was in full force against me, my stomach was still not right and I decided that it was OK for me to just lie on a beach for my last two days and rest, eat well and prepare myself for my journey home.
So that’s what I did. I found a place to stay, opened my suitcase, pulled things out and felt pleased to know I would only have to repack it one more time!

The Lonely Planet coins Sanur as the youngest of the Three Bears – not too crazy like Kuta, and not too sleepy like Nusa Dua. Neither of which did I visit: Kuta didn’t appeal to me in the slightest, and Nusa Dua was on my to-do list, but maybe next time.

I enjoyed walking the entire length of the promenade and LOVED that fact that I got hassled twice. Only twice. This may have been due to the festival Galungan which took place on my second day there and meant that many businesses were shut and locals weren’t around to bother me!

I loved the fishing boats stacked randomly on the beach up and down the coast – some looked like they’d been there for so long, but it may have only been a few hours. In a place like that – you feel compelled to eat fish! I wanted to give those fishermen the business of my taste buds!

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Sanur and Bali seem so far far away from me now, as I sit at my desk wearing jeans and a long sleeved top. Oh how I loved the food!
Check out this beautiful Mahi Mahi fish I had on my last day, and the beer I rewarded myself with afterwards…

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I also made use of very cheap massages, facials and manicures, and let’s not forget that I found Hardy’s supermarket wonderful for all my gifts and nicnacs to take home – I’d only been trolling about 21kg, which felt like more, but I had up to 30kg allowed…

Final thoughts on Bali…

The Balinese are a kind nation, who have welcomed tourists with open arms, and in some places I sense this has been slightly to their detriment. But then Bali is indeed what you make of it – it can be entirely what you want it to be. If you want a resort where you need to do nothing other than change from your bed to your sunbed – you can have that cheaper than in Australia – and if you are game you can venture out for some cheap food, booze and clothes. If you come over with surfboards tucked under your arm looking for the ride of your life, it’s pretty much a given. And if you want to get off the beaten track, sample the cuisine, walk through rice fields, feel the energy in a temple or calm yourself with yoga – you can do all of that too. I don’t think the last option is very advisable when you are a single female, lugging around a suitcase and 2 years of thoughts and feelings to process topped with a bad back and a keen sense adventure without the budget to cater for it.

But what a great two weeks in the end – I was tested a little, I treated myself as much as I could afford to and I was touched by some of the people I met and the moments I shared.

I came home with stories to share, a tan to show off (not easy when you have to dive into winter wear…) and a blog that I think needs to be continued as I find my way around at home in the UK and figure what to do next.

Watch this space folks!

Padangbai

I felt like I found the Bali I was looking for here…

Not too many hassles, no pretentiousness, no over pricing, great beaches.

I arrived on Monday morning and decided within minutes I would settle here for two nights. I had a beautiful lunch with interesting conversations at Zen Inn where I was staying, before taking a hike to the beach.
I thought I had got the directions wrong when I Looked at the steep rocky footpath that apparently led me to Bias Tugal ( White sand beach ). I persevered in the heat in my $3 flipflops and made it to the top breathless from the hike and my breath taken away by the view. A small palm fringed cove at the bottom of the cliff awaited us, with gentle surf and not many people, and out on the horizon a few boats making their way to Lombok or back.

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I spent a few lazy hours there enjoying the surf and the tranquility. One lady asked me if I would like a massage, to which I politely responded no, and she left me a alone. An Ice cold Bintang made it all the better too…

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Wandering around Padangbai i discovered a charming little village based on fishing, boats to Lombok and diving. It’s a pretty laid back place where ceremonies take precedence and life rolls on. I was disappointed to see where all the obsessive sweeping and countless offerings end up, and you really wouldn’t want to sit on the main beach here…

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The Blue Lagoon beach which the Lonely planet recommends was not one of my favourite places. Whilst the snorkelling is very good, you are subject to hassles on a very small beach, or very desperate women wanting to sell you their sarongs and bracelets, and after paying twice what I think I should have for a broken snorkel set I was then sarcastically told I was “very nice English” when I didn’t want to engage in conversation or even look at the sarongs being thrust under my nose. Honestly, yes I KNOW everyone is just trying to make a dollar, but their tactics need to be changed, they have little understanding of how to make a sale in my opinion and thanks to that experience, I didn’t spend very long at that beach. I did a few snorkel sessions, admired the view and then hiked back to my preferreed beach of Bias Tugal. A lady approached me – the same as the previous day, and said she recognised me from the day before, would I like a massage today? I said I wanted to have a swim first and would think about it when I had rested. She waited a considerable amount of time before approaching me again, and I did say yes simply because the politeness and simpleness of her enquiry made me want to give her my business.

We chatted a little before and after and she told me I was a Strong woman for travelling to Bali alone. This was worth more than the massage itself, as the past few days I had started to question whether I was enjoying myself at all – dealing with a poorly tummy, a bad back and a constant feeling that everyone wanted to extract money from me rather than help to enjoy being here. So thank you to the nice massage lady on the beach – such a simple thing to say and such a lasting effect it had.

More of Padangbai

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The highs and lows of travelling solo

19/10/13
Candidasa beach

Note: Apologies readers, my blogs are not coming out chronologically. I wrote this on the beach yesterday, later finished on my room, as I had had some frustrating moments over the last few days. Take it with a pinch of salt please… It aint all bad!

Tea for one…
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The highs and lows of travelling alone

Since leaving the life I had made in Barcelona 3 years ago I have been wandering around on my own. After a few months in the UK with mum and dad I had a 6 month teaching adventure in Slovakia and on a very low salary I saw the neighbouring countries on brief weekend visits. I then had a few more months at home to earn just enough money to buy my flight to Australia where I have spent the last 2 years doing my own thing.

The number of people who are surprised to learn I have done it one my own surprised me in fact. Some just couldn’t get to grips with the idea of someone just jumping on a plane and heading somewhere new for a while. They found it strange I had not done it with a friend or a boyfriend, or often asked if I had someone at home waiting for me. Many have even called me brave, but I don’t think travelling to Australia, or any of my Asian stopovers have needed bravery. A little more cash would have been useful and yes, at times I would have like a bit of company, but I have managed it without needing anyone to hold my hand. I haven’t left a trail of destruction or broken hearts in my wake, and thankfully mine hasn’t had any further damage. I have met people along the way: some I have seen again since, some I know I will, and some I am pleased I won’t.

I have worked as hard as I have needed to to look after myself and I have had a pretty good time doing it and for the most part I wouldn’t have travelled with anyone other than myself. Not having to answer to anyone, nor compromise or deal with disagreements has made life a lot easier. I travelled with a then very good friend of mine many years ago – when I was just getting a taste for this nomadic way and I have barely spoken to her since. I am sure I am not the only one who has lost a relationship through their travels. Only yesterday I was sitting in a Warung in Amed having my lunch when two French girls walked in. One had a red face, barely able to hold back the tears and the two could barely look at each other. I caught snippets of their conversation when they seldom spoke but I didn’t need to hear to understand that the strain of travelling had taken its toll on their friendship.
When I first arrived in Bali I had no watch – I’d lost it in Australia a few days before. Although I was frustrated not knowing the time at first, I found being timeless quite liberating. I got up when I woke up and went to bed when I was tired. I ate when I was hungry, and did what I wanted for a few days. I came to Bali with no plans at all – just my trusted lonely planet and a few recommendations and have been taking each day as it comes, at my own pace.

But when you are in a country that has such an abundance of places to go (where doesn’t?) and number of different interests to satisfy – someone to bounce ideas off and help make decisions would be really helpful. Instead I wrack my brains wondering where to go, or whose advice to take and often arriving somewhere thinking the sand is white on the other beach…

I have also felt alone here for the first time in a long time. I thought Bali would be an easy place to get about when you are travelling alone, but perhaps not when you are lugging suitcase, a backpack and a laptop around. I am also paying twice what everyone else is paying per night, as rooms are charge per room, not per person and full price for any travel I do, as I am paying for just me rather than splitting the cost. There have also been times when I have felt vulnerable on my own. Never in danger – don’t get me wrong. I walk down the street anywhere n Bali feeling perfectly safe, but just vulnerable. I suppose it’s still a rare thing for them to see a woman on her own, and I seem to be a target to get hassled. I simply cannot walk past a male (or female) without them attempting to offer or sell me something. Whilst I understand most people are just trying to make a living I wish the colour of my skin didn’t mean there was a dollar sign flashing on my head and the fact that there is no one by side didn’t mean I was an easy target. Having experienced this before, but to a much lesser degree, in Malaysia and knowing how different the culture is here I have taken to wearing a fake engagement ring. This has worked a few times, but the ring is so cheap that I cannot take it off now for the awful green ring it leaves giving me away!

There have been a couple of occasions over the last few days where I have felt frustrated because I have had to ask for help or been put in a position where I am reliant on the help of a stranger – who under the guise of “helping” me has used it for his own gain. Take yesterday for example. I had booked a shuttle from Ubud to Amed the previous night – organised by the helpful man at my accommodation, He gave me the address of his cousin’s homestay in Amed and since he has been o kind I was only too pleased to take his recommendation. I was told to be ready just before 7, and that I would be helped with my case, and dropped at my accommodation. Not was the case. I struggled down the steep steps alone, as the driver waited patiently at the entrance 15 minutes earlier than I had been told watching me struggle with all my luggage he then turned on his heal to walk up the gang to the car! I had to ask him to help me to which he did of course, but clearly felt it wasn’t his job. The “direct shuttle” wasn’t direct, and we had to change buses in Padangbai to one with no air con (later traffic jam was very unpleasant). On arrival in Amed the driver dropped us (there were fortunately 2 French passengers with me) at a hotel in the “middle” of Amed, refusing to drive any further and drove off. Now it’s NOT easy to get around when you are lugging what I am, in that heat with motorbikes whizzing around uneven roads and no pavments. We were all pretty disgusted that he was prepared to just leave us there! A member of staff came out of the hotel, and seeing our predicament offered us to drive us to the hotel the French people had booked, at a steep price. I told him I had the address on the back of my bus ticket which the driver that driven away with. When I told him where it was, he said he would get me a better place, for a better price. Of course I was taken to his cousin’s homestay, which, pleasant though it was, wasn’t where I wanted it to be – It was far from the nice part of the beach, although I was assured this place was “on the beach” it wasn’t. But what else could I do?

Today, in a new location I became frustrated at everyone approaching me offering me a taxi, even after I said no I would often be followed down the street and asked again repeatedly. The same thing happened at the beach. Do I want to go in a boat? No thank you. Then following me, or approaching me again after I have sat down to ask me again, and again, not today? Tomorrow? It’s doing my head in! And much as I would love to go in a boat please, I won’t say yes and pay the same price you charge for 6 people as I am on my own, or get in a boat out to sea with an Indonesian man who is likely to grill me about my personal life (this too is normal and apparently harmless, but wildly frustrating!) I think I actually upset the driver I had in Ubud the other day when I refused to answer his questions about my previous relatonships to which he persistently asked, despite me telling him I was not in the mood to discuss my heartbreak.

So travelling alone? Good or bad? It has its merits of course, but right now perhaps I am in the wrong frame of mind. I am tired, keen to step onto my own turf, keen to have someone by my side and tired of having to struggle when I could do with a hand…

Ready for Rottnest Island

08/09/13

My day out in the national park on Saturday made it easy for me to get an early night once I’d arrived home.The pint of cider I’d had in Mandurah after a walk around the marina, the venetian canals and the waterfront sufficed my need for a drink that night, and so ensued a good night’s sleep. Is this an age thing? Not long ago that pint merely would’ve been the start of an evening – being tired never came into it.

Anyway, I awoke fresh faced and rested and was out of the door by just after 9 to catch the bus to Hillarys. I never used to be fond of Sundays, in fact don’t think I even existed on a Sunday morning previously. I found myself surprised at the number of people out and about enjoying breakfast or an early morning swim in the sun. Tell me British readers – is this something we do? If my all-nighters are coming to an end will there be people getting up early to meet me for breakfast on a Sunday morning?
Ponderings aside I’ll continue…

I arrived at Hillarys with quite a silly grin on my face. I was smiling because I was so pleased that I had remembered to have a good time by myself. I was smiling because today’s plan didn’t involve relying on anybody, nor were my plans hindered by anything. I had chosen to get up early and catch the ferry to Rottnest Island to explore and enjoy Rottofest. By myself. Coincidently I did know someone who would also be there and as I’d predicted – our paths didn’t cross, so I spent the day by myself.

The crossing was about 45 minutes with a slight swell. I stood at the back of the boat with my hair flying out of control admiring the bright blue Indian Ocean and wondering what my day would bring.

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Wrist band slapped on. Programme and map to hand I set about getting my bearings and finding something to eat. Almost immediately I saw a little quokka. At this point I hadn’t realised they were ten to the dozen, so took some very average photos which were later replaced.

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I have never been to a comedy show alone, so I shuffled into my first show, careful to sit somewhere inconspicuous. I felt relaxed and able to laugh with the crowd. Jokes can be enjoyed and shared by anyone. I saw Suns of Fred – a musical theatre trio whose songs were expertly crafted with lyrics and improve comedy.

Once back in the sun I went for a wander to check out the sights on foot. I made my way to Basin Beach, Geordie Bay and Bathhurst lighthouse and spent come time soaking up the sun whilst contemplating a few things.

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I headed back to the music stage to enjoy fish and chips, a pint and Bastians Happy Flight.

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Another comedy show and another beer, followed by another wander and then a bit of photography on the beach as the changing light promised a palette of interest across the sky.

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I got bitten to pieces whilst waiting for the ferry home – my trousers rolled up from paddling along the shore.
And because we know I don’t have perfect days – the ferry I arrived on docked 10 minutes after my last bus home. Hillarys is a long way from my house when you consider doing it on foot. So a $17.50 taxi took me the measly 6km not even to my door because I stopped him when I saw the price on the meter!

things to do in Kalbarri

I arrived in Kalbarri without my usual precision planning – aiming to just see what was going on, enjoy the sunshine and some time away from Perth.

The only hostel in town was run by a very friendly couple – Joe, originally from the UK, and his Australia wife Carol. http://www.kalbarribackpackers.com

On checking in, I asked out of concern, if they had any idea what the weather was likely to do, and what ways I might enjoy my time in Kalbarri. The response regarding the weather was not what I wanted to hear – that it had been lovely last week, beautiful today, but was set to change tomorrow. Being from a country of bad weather, I try not to let a bad forecast put me off, but as it was a much needed and looked forward to holiday, I found myself feeling I’d got a bad deal.

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Kalbarri National Park is where most visitors go: for walks, amazing views and of course their iconic photograph sitting in Nature’s Window. What a lovely idea – how can I get there? Well, as is my luck, the park was closed to the public due to the re-laying of the road. The only way to enjoy it during the week was to go on a tour. How convenient. So, I paid for 2 tours – one to go kayaking in the gorge and one to see the sights.

Tour one was fabulous. I was picked up in a very old, large 4 wheel drive bus, and driven out to the park. Due to the roadworks, we were escorted through the park, and then drove off road down a private track, where we then scrambled down into the gorge, walked along the river bed to the boats. I got paired up with a Singaporean guy, who behind me in the boat chatted to me about life in Singapore, living in Perth as a student, food, cooking and travelling in Asia. As soon as we got into our boat, it started to rain, of course, but once it cleared up: the sunshine, the tranquility and nature’s great landscape was awe inspiring. After about an hour’s paddling, we arrived on the shore for homemade cake and then climbed back out of the gorge, stopping to admire breathtaking views as the sun graced kissed the cliff tops.

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The tour I did later, was met with rain. Lots of it. Not having even a jacket, let alone a rain coat made it a very uncomfortable afternoon indeed, but was assured that I was having a very unique experience as nobody gets to see Nature’s Window in the rain! The Z bend was also on our itinerary, and despite feeling very cold, I was very happy to experience the national park in unusual conditions…

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here comes the rain!

Nature's Window

Nature's Window

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Other things I did, as I often do, was long walks. One was along the cliffs to Nature’s bridge with my hostel roommate, in the hope of seeing migrating whales, but none wanted to show themselves.

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I also took a very long walk along the beach, without intending to – sometimes I just start walking, and like Forrest Gump: I forget to stop! So I ended up walking about 5 kms out of town to Red Bluff, stopping to paddle, stopping to think, stopping to pick up seashells, stopping to photograph huge crabs and stopping to breathe and absorb the wonderful Indian Ocean views.

Blue Wave rocks

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Giant crab!

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Red Bluff

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4 days in Kalbarri was enough to clear my mind, refresh my photographs, restore my faith in hostels ( thanks to an awesome bunch of people staying there) and as if I needed to – remind me of what a wonderful land Australia is.

from Hong Kong to Home!

Winsham
21/12/2012
Temp 7C
Weather: SUNNY!!!

Opps!

Over a week has passed since arriving back on the Isle and I haven’t had a chance to finish writing about Hong Kong. I’ve been too wrapped up in the cosiness of being home, in the novelty of getting cold and wet and being able to dry off in front of the fire, wearing a scarf and a hat, listening to everyone grumble about the weather, sharing stories, photos, food and laughs with family and friends and it’s not even Christmas yet!

I landed at Heathrow airport at 4:30 in the morning on the 12th to freezing fog and a grand temperature of -4C! I raced through the airport, bustled my way through security and passport control, fought my way to my suitcase and skidded to a halt at the bus stop for RailAir only to find I had to wait half an hour for the first bus which wasn’t until 6am! Back into the airport, nothing could wipe the smile off my face as I wheeled my way into the bathrooms, opened my suitcase and put on 3 more cardigans, the hat and scarf that I had knitted back in the Melbourne winter, a slick of lip balm and made my way back to the bus stop to wait. Arriving at the train at 6:30am station I beamed my way to the desk, smiling to myself that I would be on the train home, racing across the country before mum and dad were even out of bed… BUT Not so fast! “When is the first train to Crewkerne?” I breathed, out of breathe with excitement. The Ticket clerk’s face dropped as she looked at the screen and sorrowfully informed me the next train home was at 7:37am. Nevermind, I wheeled my way to the platform cafe, grateful for my numerous cardigans and £10 I had withdrawn at the airport. Coffee, croissant, magazine, seat and I sit there smiling like a child waiting for the first train to the Westcountry…

That wasn’t the only time I had smiled so hard last week. As I got off the Disney train on Monday and walked down the avenue towards the entrance of DisneyLand Hong Kong I smiled so much my face hurt. I am 28 years old and that day I knocked 20 years off as I wandered around the park, having taken mySELF to Disneyland and released my inner little girl. I few observations I made that day were that little Asian girls dressed as their favourite princess are even more adorable than normal, Mickey Mouse speaks perfect Cantonese, The Lion King spectacular was worth the entrance fee alone and standing in line waiting for a ride by yourself for an hour and a half several times a day, when everyone around you speaks in a foreign tongue, provides a lot of thinking time.

Another thing that made me smile incessantly last week was a walk around The Peak. I took the Peak tram to the top, and paid to go up to Sky Tower, but after that I was wondering what else to do. By reading signposts I discovered a walking route that went right round the mountain, so spent a very happy 2 hours ambling my way along the path, stopping to admire the ever changing panoramic views of Hong Kong and Kowloon as the sun faded in and out and around a bit too. Once at the bottom, with shaky knees from the steep descent, I boarded a bus heading to central, got off it when everyone else did and jumped on a double decker tram to see where that went. Getting off that, I followed my LP map for a bit, then put it away preferring to meander the streets and see what I could find. When darkness fell and I felt I had done enough, I took the star ferry back to Kowloon and sat in wonder gazing at the fabulously lit buildings over on Hong Kong Island. Not hungry enough for dinner, I had just enough money to treat myself to a reflexology treatment before making my way to the airport ready to make my way home.

Now sitting in my bedroom, I am admiring the blue sky, listening to the singing birds who have been hiding from two days of relentless rain and allowing myself to reflect on the fabulous trip I had on my way home.
The next task is a little bit of present wrapping, some baking, perhaps a nice walk in the country b
Disneytrain!

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Caloundra

Caloundra

This trip has been interesting so far in many ways. Firstly I am experiencing a new love: one for Australia that has been continually growing within me. It’s a love that sometimes just bubbles over and makes me giddy with joy when I look out of the plane window for example as I am coming in to land, or when I meet a stranger who treats me like a friend, or when I am sitting on the beach watching the surf and I just feel very happy to be where I am. That’s what travelling is all about isn’t it? Finding happiness in the places you visit and learning more about the world and yourself as you go along.

So the first destination on my 10 day reprieve from the bush is Caloundra on the Sunshine Coast to visit my grandmother’s brother who I last saw about 10 years ago. My uncle (B) referred to his street as “God’s waiting room” and when I asked him what people did in Caloundra, his response was “retire!” That should give you a clue about the people and their lifestyle in this seaside destination. I found it rather a pleasant place to live, but it does have an alarming number of retirement villages, luxury apartments and mobility scooters buzzing around. Perhaps it was because I spent time with the elderly for two days that I noticed more elderlies than I otherwise would have, or maybe there are just no young’uns there.

It has a big fishing and boating lifestyle and only 5 minutes after meeting B’S neighbour I was invited on a fishing trip that evening! It seems anyone who isn’t out catching the surf is either fishing or just boating around. A little walk along the waterfront in front of B’s house and I learnt a remarkable amount about local flora and fauna that I otherwise wouldn’t have paid attention to.

The climate is temperate and the sun nearly always shines on the Sunshine Coast, so there’s little to complain about in a town as such. B told me there is a saying about the weather on the Sunshine Coast which says it’s fabulous one day and marvellous the next, or words to that effect. It’s near enough to Brisbane for those that need a city hit now and again and far enough away to enjoy life on the water’s edge. It made perfect sense to me why so many of my relations journeyed across the world to the Sunshine Coast to resettle for a sunnier kind of life.

no worries… too easy

No Worries…. Too easy!

Or… a visit to Mossman Gorge, The Daintree Rainforest and Cape Tribulation.

June 26th

Weather: Cloudy and drizzling

Temp: 25 C

Having had relatively little sleep, thanks to the difficulty of getting the boat to stop moving (see The Great Barrier reef) and some noisy neighbours and not having had a decent night’s sleep for over 5 days AND getting up at 6.30am again, meant I staggered onto the tour bus in a zombie like fashion, desperate for a coffee but with ever the optimistic smile of a good day ahead on my face.

3 Backpackers got on the bus at the next stop having rolled out of the hostel bar not long before and personifying everything I hate about backpackers. I was grateful for the Polish girl who sat next to me, who later became the following day’s travel buddy and someone for me to repeat the phrase: No Worries, Too Easy with as many times as we could.

That catch phrase was coined by our guide who was every stereotype he could be. A skinny, shaggy- haired, smiling Queenslander with a laid back, slow drawl, who finished EVERY sentence with “Noooooooooooooo Wooooooooooooooooooories” and very often followed that up with “Tooooooooooooooooo Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeasy”. It went something like this: “Ok guys, just relax and take in the scenery as we head up the coast, nooooooooo worries”. “ Ok gang, we are about to arrive at Mossman Gorge, where we’ll be be getting out for a walk noooooooooooooo worries”. “So the saltwater crocs here are the most aggressive in the world, so don’t go anywhere near the water nooooooooooooo worries”. “we’re gonna head up towards the Daintree now and I’ll be giving you some commentary on why I think rainforest is awesome, noooooooo worries, tooooooooooooo easy”. Get the picture? I wish I could have recorded him. Now I’ve spent so long telling you about the driver, and not anything about the amazing things we saw or the interesting anecdotes this guy had to tell us (someone who loves his job as much as this guy makes trips like this such a pleasure) which I learnt so much from.

So first to the Mossman Gorge. ON the way up here, we had interesting stories about Sugar cane farms, their history, the geography of the area, the aboriginal tribes and also the nasty things in the rainforest like the Stinging Tree, which if you accidently brush against it will leave you in pain for at least 6 months. He told us about a guy he met in the Daintree, who he told this fact to, to which he responded “six months? Mate ( all Aussies say that, doesn’t matter if they’re your mate or not) I was held up by that for 10 years!” Message? Don’t touch ANYTHING!

Mossman Gorge: I went a bit snap happy here, as I couldn’t get over the tranquillity of the calm green water and the rushing splendour of the waterfall within metres of each other. My photos, are (as you should know by now) totally untouched by photoshop and what you see, is exactly what I saw.

Onwards to the Daintree. The rainforest mist and rain added to its atmosphere and the smell of freshness is nothing like shower gels claim it to be. It’s a million time fresher. Crossing the Daintree river on the cable pulled ferry, the stories started about things that go on in the Daintree, due to the fact that there are NO police THAT side of the river, so pretty much anything goes. Our driver at this point took off his seatbelt, telling us that there were no police around to fine him for not wearing it. This is a concept I found difficult to comprehend. Do people in Australia only wear seatbelts for fear of being fined if they are not?

The Daintree is the oldest rainforest in the world being at least 115 million years old and the number of species of EVERYTHING in it are almost uncountable. Rainforests need 2 metres of water a year to survive, London has 0.6 metres a year, but some parts of this rainforest have between 8-10 metres per year! It’s one of the most toxic in the world, thanks to its many poisonous flora: although these hopefully will be the basis of cancer cures in the future.

Cape Tribulation is where we stopped for our picnic lunch and a nervous stroll along the beach. We were advised that if we wished to swim, we had about a 60% chance of survival right in front of the picnic area, but going near the water anywhere else, no chance! We were also reminded that crocs can hold their breath for 3 hours, so they can quite comfortably sit in the water waiting as

long as they want.

The river trip, on the flimsy little boat took us up stream through the territory of Scarface, the 5m alpha male, who didn’t make an appearance, but we met 2 of his girlfriends: Dusty and I can’t remember the other’s name. We also saw Lumpie, and smaller male and several baby crocs resting on the river. We were assured that thanks to a lack of sun of late, the crocs were particularly lethargic and unlikely to do any jumping! We learnt about Yellowtail, who took a 9 year old boy from the river bank and Fat Albert who killed one-too-many cows, so was shot by the farmer.

The ride back to Cairns was scattered with more stories and anecdotes of all of the above, amidst stops at lookouts and the most amazing icecream I have tasted from the Daintree IcecreamCompany. Wattle seed was my personal favourite.

A good day? No, a fabulous one that made me laugh, gasp, question and relish in the true beauty of the world we live in and the things we can love and learn every day.

the great barrier reef

The Great Barrier Reef

25th June

Weather: cloud and strong wind

Temperature: 23C

I fondly remember my first scuba diving experience, almost 8 years ago. It was a day where everything looked postcard perfect. The sun was doing what it does best, the sea was sparkling and calm and the wind was non-existent. Perfect. But that was 8 years ago.

Today there was no sun. It was chilly. It was windy. The sea was not calm and not sparkling.

On booking, I had no inclination of bad weather ahead of me, nor of the choppy sea, waves, wind and other non-desirable conditions. Not until we were speeding away from Cairns and out towards the reef did they tell us, or more accurately, did we become unmistakably aware of such things.

As we were lurching our way out to the reef, the only thing you could do was watch the horizon and try to ignore the smell of disinfectant that was unquestionably masking yesterday’s vomit. The tea and coffee was a challenge to drink and I caught my ginger beer in the nick of time as it tried to slide off the table. I grabbed a “plan B” paper bag from the bar in case of an emergency and decided to grin and bear the rolling boat.

On our way to the reef was the briefing for the Introductory Dive, which I had opted for. I listened raptly to all the safety instructions and practised everything that was demonstrated. I did everything I could have done to prepare for my dive whilst still dry and not feeling too sick.

Wetsuit on; Weights attached; spit in the mask; sit on the edge of the boat; tank strapped on; gauges checked; flippers on. The boat was rising and falling at least a metre if not more with the surf. The sun wasn’t shining. The sea wasn’t calm. I was placed in the water and just turning round to hang onto the back of the boat was testing. Hanging onto the boat as my shins were bashing into the bars below the surface and my face was constantly punched in the face with waves, whilst trying to go over final safety instructions was hopeless. All this amounted to a total rush of panic once I was under the water. Unable to trust my breathing equipment, I hyperventilated and totally freaked out. Desperation rose over me as I waved frantically at the instructor to let me back up. He pressed the magic button that filled my suit with air and I was sent back up the one metre I had descended. Pulled to the surface by another member of the boat team I struggled again with the rise and fall of the boat whilst trying to explain what was wrong. “I’m freaking out, I am sorry!” I gasped. “Why are you freaking out, love?” was the reply. ”I don’t know WHY I am freaking out, that’s what freaking out IS!!” I could go on giving a minute by minute account of the terror I went through to get me back under water, buggering up my breathing to getting a lungful, smacking my shins again, but I did eventually get under water. We didn’t descend until I was breathing regularly and not sending a mask of bubbles everywhere. As we swam downwards, I clung onto the instructor’s arm for my life. We saw Nemo, turtles and giant clams and once I had got over myself I even managed to sign W O W when we saw such things.

Was it a mind-blowing-must-do-again experience? No. Why? Once I got over myself, I was indeed fine, and safe. But there was no sunshine to light the magic of the underwater world that I so lovingly remembered and I just didn’t feel the reef was making a big enough effort to impress me.

The snorkelling was a disappointment too. The winds, waves and currents prevented us from going out to the second reef, which is supposed to be even more outstanding than the first. The choppy sea, lack of sunshine and strong currents made snorkelling too arduous to be pleasurable. I was thrashing around, breathing through my snorkel like Darth Vader, trying to swim away from the boat, whilst fighting with my snorkel which was constantly being filled with water thanks to the waves and exhausting my arms thanks to the current. The view down there wasn’t that special either, as nothing really looked that great with no sunlight to point out all the good stuff.

The ride home was entertaining. We were given a glass of “free” wine, which annoyed me. How could it be called “free”? It’s what we had paid for! It was also hard to keep the wine in the glass as the captain seemed to be keen to race back to port, making air over the waves as we flew past other reef cruisers.

It’s certainly a day that has left me with stories to tell. After 8 hours rolling up and down on the boat, I could still feel the motion as I lay down to sleep, which was not a sensation I was happy about.

I prefer to hold onto my previous memory of diving; the sparkly, panic free, awe-inspiring one.