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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…

Up to Ubud

15/10/13
Ubud

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As I write this I am sipping on very sweet strong coffee, and eating a freshly prepared fruit salad, sitting on the balcony of my $15 room. Instead of rushing off sightseeing, I am taking it easy, trying to work with the Ubud rhythm and also taking a moment to catch this blog up!

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So I arrived in Ubud yesterday afternoon. I had a driver take me from my hotel in Legian all the way to Ubud. Davy was a well informed man with little to say, but questions he could easily answer. Interestingly the journey was shared with another guest from the same hotel who was from Melbourne – so thanks to my Australian experience we found we had plenty to talk about between commenting regularly on the alarming number of motorists with no helmets on, cyclists with no helmets on and that despite the somewhat erratic nature of the roads I noted that about 90 % of vehicles on the road looked brand new, and I didn’t see any with signs of previous accidents. Much as I love driving, you’ll know from previous posts, I have to say Indonesia is not somewhere I would willingly rise to the challenge.

On our way to Ubud, as predicted we stopped at a number of places. Yes of course these were all very interesting, and even a few things to be learnt by watching people creating works of art or traditional crafts, but I couldn’t help feel that I was a bit of disappointment to my driver and owners of the places we visited, as I didn’t once put my hand in my pocket to make a purchase.

I didn’t take any photos ( and quite probably wouldn’t have been allowed ) of the ladies working on silk batiks, or the jewellery makers working on filigree earrings and the artists in different stages of their 3 week paintings. I really do appreciate seeing things like this, but can’t help but feel a sense of desperation as we are steered into these places and looked upon hopefully as tourists with money who might make their day.

Once arriving in Ubud a communication problem, a traffic jam and a very hot day meant that finding a place to stay was a little more stressful than needed. We drove past the first two places I wanted to try and by the time I realised we were looking for somewhere to drop me off, all I could do was jump out of the car in traffic and run to a few of the many guesthouses that Ubud is abundant with. I was going to go for a little luxury – hoping for a pool in a lush green garden, but what I ended up with – where I am sitting now couldn’t be better.

JL Monkey forest
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Right down the end of a gang ( small lane way ) I found Rice Paddy Bungalows. Having tried a place recommended by the Lonely Planet which was revolting, and another place in the same gang as this which looked mosquito ridden I was happy to land upon this. There’s only 6 rooms here – in three buildings and set in a lovely green garden. Cadek, who later told me his name was lying on the ground when I poked my head into the garden. “Yes?” He said smiling, as he jumped up and put his t-shirt on. He showed me the available room – up a steep set of stairs, but wonderfully spacious, spotless and incredibly good value. It’s a large room with a beautiful 4-poster bed ( I have always wanted to sleep in a 4 poster bed!!) and a bathroom which is kind of a wet room. I have a large balcony with table and chairs, breakfast included and wifi in my room. Not to mention the very friendly staff who asked me politely where I was from etc but thankfully did not ask me where my boyfriend was or enquire as to why I was travelling alone – two questions I am already tired of answering – so much so I have taken to wearing a fake engagement ring!! Kedak also came all the way with me back to the car to collect my suitcase. When I asked if he’d mind helping me I hadn’t realised he’d be willing to take it all the way there and then – to my shock – pick it up and carry it on his head up the steps to my room!

Everytime I have met Cedak he as greated me warmly, remembering my name. This morning, I woke up nice and late for once and once he saw me on my balcony he rushed up to offer me the breakfast menu. What arrived was delicious indeed – A banana pancake drizzled with honey, a black coffee and fruit salad of banana, papaya, pineapple and melon. Incredible value for just $15 – compared to the revolting room I stayed in the previous night which I paid $4o for!

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https://www.facebook.com/ricepaddy.bungalows?fref=ts

Cervantes to Perth

One of the wonderful things about not planning things is the adventure you can have with unexpected new friends.

I was sharing a room in Kalbarri with a girl from Belgium, and having mentioned that I hadn’t planned my trip back to Perth, she suggested I join her, driving back as she was going back the same time. Perfect.

Myself, the Belgium girl and another guy from the hostel, loaded into her little hire car on Friday morning. Me with a sore head from a spontaneous drinking game the night before and also with a heavy heart – not quite ready to return to Perth and say goodbye to the residents of Kalbarri Backpackers.

We ambled our way down the highway towards Perth, stopping in various places of interest along the way, to maximise the opportunity of having the freedom of a car.

The first stop was Cervantes. A town with a Spanish name, and Spanish named streets. There is not much going on in Cervantes to be honest and for that reason we had the hostel to ourselves, bar the two resident cleaners from Taiwan. The hostel was spotless with plenty of homely touches – books, magazines, herbs and spices, toilettries.
http://cervanteslodge.com.au/pinnacles-cervantes-lodging-backpackers-hotels-rooms-rental-bed-breakfast-overnight-stays/

What Cervantes is known for is its proximity to the Pinnacles Desert. This is an eerie place, which we visited at sunset, and if I were a more talented photographer, perhaps I could have captured better its science fiction-like atmosphere. Strange stones rise out of the desert making you feel as if you have walked onto a Star Wars set and you should be carrying a light saber!

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Driving through yet another national park as we made our way down the coast, we stopped at Hangover Bay – wonderfully named place with a beautiful beach. I would LOVE to cure a hangover there!

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Next stop was Lancelin – because my big brother told me to go there, so we dropped in for a photo op and a toilet stop.

random sand dune

on the road

Lancelin

Lancelin

Nearer to Perth, and the departure of our other passenger was Yanchep National Park – where koalas were sitting in trees, wallabies were nibbling the grass and Kookaburras were singing up above.

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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.

Off up the coast

I had a week off during the school holidays back in July and a little bit of birthday money to play with so I went on a little adventure for some sunshine, soul searching and to do what I came to Australia to do: Live loving and love living. In other words – live in the moment and smile.

My destination was Kalbarri – a small township on the coast about 7.5 hours north of Perth.

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Having searched fruitlessly for a cheap way up the coast: looking for ride-shares and even couchsurfing options, I went back to what I know best – long distance buses and youth hostels.
Throwing some caution to the wind I booked a one-way bus trip from Perth to Kalbarri and one night in the only hostel there hoping the rest would fall into place, which – as is nearly always the case – it did.

But there is no such trip that Grace can make without a bit of sweat and stress (read up on my Slovakia stories for more of this) and a little bit of sweat and stress was what I had the morning of my departure.There have been a number of times when my last minute nature is entirely responsible for any mishaps I may have had, but having learnt from that I find that sometimes in my world – things are simply just not simple!

Getting from where I live in Carine (a northern suburb of Perth) to the bus station in East Perth would normally have been a fairly easy transition of a bus from my house to the train station, a train to the city, a train to East Perth and then a short walk to the bus station.

However, the good people of Transperth wish to improve their frankly-not-very-convenient public transport system and chose to do this by shutting the central stations and disrupting normal service during the school holidays.

Leaving my house at 06:40am for an 08:30am bus should have been ample time and would generously have allowed time for breakfast and coffee at the station cafe before my 8 hour bus trip. Not for me. Of course.
My weekend bag and handbag pissed me off on the lengthy transits I had to do on three occasions. The length of the footbridge overpass at Leederville, platform at McIver station and overpass at East Perth were far too long for heavy bags.
I was quietly impressed with how well organised and smoothly the transition to replacement transport went at Leederville, as well as surprised by the number of staff they apparently needed to orchestrate it all. These staff members would have been much more useful on the next leg of my journey as the location of the free transit bus had changed and information of its whereabouts or timetable were non-existent.
About 50 of us grunted and squeezed into it as it arrived after 20 minutes (not 8 as promised) and trundled 600 metres to the next train station – much to the bewilderment of many of the passengers who dismounted. Since everyone seemed to be going to or coming to McIver station, the 1.5m path of its entrance became almost impassable with the surge of commuters. Trains were then waiting at platforms they weren’t normally on and I burst onto the train moments before its door beeped shut – with looks of sympathy from my carriage mates. “This is bloody ridiculous!” I panted to which the “friendly” commuters either nodded or busied themselves looking at what was in their hands or on the wall of the train. I am pretty sure in the UK this is the rare occasion when people DO converse and unite on the opportunity to have a good old moan.
On arriving at East Perth my shoulders ached once I saw the length of the passenger bridge and I almost walked in the wrong direction once of it by mistaking a coach for the not-very-obvious coach station.
On arrival, although desperate for a coffee, as it was 08:17 I immediately checked in and then ran to the cafe only to realise I couldn’t get anything for less than $10 paying by card, nor could I withdraw cash without forfeiting the $2 charge. And when every cent of your trip counts – coffee has to wait.

Margies madness

I should have blogged this ages ago! I am so far behind!

Waaaaaaaaaaaaaay back in June I was getting itchy feet, so a friend and I decided to hire a car and take it to Margaret River. It’s a small town about 3.5 hours south of Perth synonymous with good food, wonderful wine and great surf breaks. Travelling on a budget doesn’t always get you those things – but I never travel anywhere without making great memories, laughing hard, breathing deeply and taking it all in. So this is how I did it:

I hired a car from Europcar which was a bus ride, a train ride and another bus ride away from us. I managed to get the only manual car in the depot, as for some reason Australians tend to favour autos. Driving without using a gear stick is not driving in my opinion.

Then I got a friend to jump on board.

Then I found two backpackers who also wanted to go to Margies (how the locals call it) on Gumtree. Pick up the car, pick up the backpackers and all pile into the TINY car whose suspension and tiny engine are now being tested.

We hit the road and as we get closer to Margaret River the clouds get heavier and heavier and it starts to rain. Not before I spot Gracetown – which just HAS to be visited and photographed.

Then we try and check into your hostel but reception is closed for a few hours… Check in done, rain sets in and we race to the coast in hope of catching a sunset in a rain break. We get totally drenched, but we’re on holiday so it doesn’t matter right?

Going out involves THE only pub in town where I spend more than I want to on beer and the following day’s hangover inhibits me greatly.

Sunday afternoon arrives and it’s time to make my way back to Perth even though it feels like I have been here 5 minutes. So I take one of the backpackers who wants to go back, and we amble our way back up the coast stopping here and there to admire the view, do a cartwheel on the beach, shelter from the rain and drink a crap coffee to keep me awake on the drive back top Perth.

On arrival back in Perth I drop my backpacker off at his new hostel, then my friend and arrive home waking the dog as I park “my” car outside the house and go inside. Exhausted, happy and nostalgic from another weekend well spent in Australia.

Then nearly two months later I get round to blogging about it, having forgotten the details that make people laugh but hoping my photos make up for it!

Gracetown

driving

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in comes the weather

Margaret River mouth

Surfer at the river mouth

and now I can't remember which ones!

and now I can’t remember which ones!

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rain rain rain

Yallingup

Yallingup

Yallingup

Yallingup

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Cape Naturaliste

Brisbane revisited

Brisbane.

I didn’t blog about Brisbane on my previous jaunt over here, as I spent two days in my post-Melbourne-pre-bush life haze. I wandered around the West End and South bank area, as well as venturing to the city centre following the Lonely Planet walking tour. Not connecting or in the mood to make friends with any backpackers in my noisy hostel, I spent hours out of it, visiting the art gallery, treating myself to a haircut, eating out and generally sucking in the city before heading out to the bush.

I was never able to post any pictures about it, as once arriving in the bush, I soon realised how hard it would be to get the internet to do things I wanted it to. However, this time,hopefully I retrospectively post some images of the city.

on to Mackay

On to Mackay…

28th June

Weather: sun and cloud

Temp: 20-25 C

I had to get up at 3:50am today, to get a bus at 4:10, to get a 6:am flight, 2 infact, to fly all the way to Brisbane and then back up to Mackay. Why? Mackay was the easiest place to get back to the bus from. That’s really all there is to it. There is nothing else there!

There is no public transport from Mackay, to go 6km to the city centre. The options are hiring a car or spending $20 on a taxi! Hmph.

I arrived at Gecko’s Rest hostel and went to check in. Bed wasn’t made, so I went back to reception, to leave my bags and pass the time looking for a much needed coffee.

“So what I can I do here?” I asked the receptionist who seemed just so bored of her life. “My budget’s low, so where should I go today?” Despite the array of tourist paraphernalia adorning the walls of the reception, her response was; “there’s nothing much to do here.”

Me – ever bright and positive: “Well, I’ve heard that the sun is going to come out later, so I’d like to go to the beach, how do I get there?” “There is no beach here, and no buses; you need to take a taxi” What?? If it costs me 20 bucks to get here from the bloody airport, I shudder to think what the price of a round trip to the seaside 16 km away would be!

As a last resort I asked for a map, and said I would like to have a coffee and breakfast so she got a photocopied map and reluctantly highlighted the “main” streets for me and just about managed a smile as I wished her well and sloped away. I was exhausted. I hadn’t got up that early since catching a red eye flight to Barcelona last summer, so all I wanted was to sink into a comfy chair with a large coffee and ask the Lonely Planet what to do. Could I find such a place? Don’t Australians drink coffee? Do they not need breakfast? Is it not the school holidays? Where IS everybody?!

I spent the day wandering around, in and out of a few shops. I found a charity shop, which made me happy. I found a nice place to sit down and try and sunbathe at the Bluewater Lagoon, which I enjoyed until the sun went in and an ant bit me on the bum. I browsed a few shops and finished a very long day off at the cinema, which as you’ll now know is a rare treat!

Magnetic Island #1

Magnetic Island

22nd-24th June 2012

Weather: Rain, cloud, sunshine, drizzle, cloud

Temp: 20-25 C

I arrived on a dripping wet Magnetic Island, after a very soggy day in Townsville. I slid off the ferry and onto the bus, paid my $1.70 and plastered a smile on my face determined not to let the weather have a negative effect on my holiday.

I checked into Base Backpackers, the only backpackers directly on the beach in Australia. (This is their claim, so forgive me if I am wrong). I last stayed here on my trip up the east coast in 2004 and being 20, I doubt pissed-up backpackers and excessive noise bothered me in the way it does now, but I chose to ignore those sentiments for the next 36 hours and join in. Everyone in the bar was indeed, drunk. It had been raining all day, and in compensation for this, the bar manager had thoughtfully been putting on drinks specials and extended happy hours since 10am. My free glass of bubbly went down rather well, as did the next few, leading me to continue buying more and so quickly catch up with my new travel friends and join in on the puddle dancing madness of backpacker drinking.

The next day, I was rudely awoken at 7am to loud music blasting out from the bar. I thought my watch must have stopped and that it was later (my $5 watch has been playing that game of stopping recently, causing me to have a few near misses this trip!). Nope, it really was 7am and after plying us all with drinks all night long, the bar staff were up and about and letting everyone know about it. I consoled myself with an egg and bacon role (hangover) and sat watching the sea, in the sunshine wondering how to spend this rare blast of sun, knowing that the rain would soon be back.

Unable to make clear decisions after so many litres of alcohol I thought it was a good idea to go for a hike. I have fallen victim to this before, you may remember a lot of my walks in Slovakia were due to a guilt-ridden hangover that I thought would be eradicated with exercise.

I took the bus, which was fun in itself for $7. It meandered through the villages of Magnetic Island, providing time to gape at people’s front gardens, swimming pools and neighbouring coves to dream of a possible life here on the Island that Captain Cook’s compass got confused about.

I got off the bus and decided to take the Fort walk. Apparently you can see wild koalas, wallabies and snakes. I didn’t meet any of those locals, but I did enjoy the very rewarding views once reaching the sweaty summit. The remains of the forts and battle type things were there and most were possible to explore or climb around. This, I wasn’t too keen on, as I was very aware of what might have been lurking inside. On the Ascent I must have oozed out at least a bottle of bubbles, so on the descent I felt somewhat dizzier and more sober.

At the bottom, I sat I the sun waiting for the bus to take me to the Koala Sanctuary.

townsville

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So, my first impressions of Townsville, apparently a capital city, were that it was full of overweight men and crap restaurants. After that, all I could think about was rain and a bit more rain and some more crap restaurants.

It wasn’t all bad. I had a wonderful night’s sleep in a double room in a squeaky clean hostel, which I would recommend. After a 6 hour journey in the ute from the farm to civilisation, I was looking forward to my week of well deserved adventure. When the rain came in and the clouds dropped making nothing off the coast visible, you can perhaps imagine my disappointment…

I went to the Reef HQ aquarium. It’s recommended in the Lonely Planet and with the help of my student discount and my glasses I had a good look around. I went to the Turtle Hospital and learnt that one of the biggest threats to turtles is that they swallow plastic bags thinking they are jelly fish. Their insides get clogged up, they can’t poo, so they fill up with gas and float to the surface. Poor things.

I also took to time to read all the info and check out all of the images of all of the things in the ocean here that will kill me, or would like to. Very useful information.

After that I had a soggy walk along the esplanade. A 2.2km stretch of beach with information stations about skin cancer and deadly jellyfish. Really all very positive messages. I also tried in vain to find restaurants that the Lonely Planet recommended me, figuring the least I could do in such crap weather was enjoy a decent lunch. That was all in vain though as at least 3 of them had long gone ( my edition was only printed about 8 months ago) and the one i chose was crap.

I can’t say I would rush back to Townsville, and really would urge people to just jump straight on the ferry, heading over to Magnetic Island ( post to come) if the weather is good or up the coast if it’s not!