Week 28 to 33: Brisbane, Kingscliff and Byron Bay

During my trip up the east coast, I decided not to stop in Brisbane because I was under time pressure to get the the Whitsundays for my LTE course. As I flew back into Brisbane from Thailand I decided to spend a night there and catch up with a friend who was also there for a few days. I did some shopping and we went out for dinner and a few drinks that night. The next day I walked along the South Bank in Brisbane and went for a swim in the lagoon. I then said goodbye to my friend and got on the train back towards Kingscliff.

I spent the next few weeks trying but failing to stay busy while I applied for jobs in the Whitsunday’s. Unfortunately due to the time of year there was no jobs available. Luckily my old job at the cafe in Kingscliff took me back straight away so I could start saving for my next trip. After lots of research I decided this was going to be to Fiji.

The next few weeks went by fairly quickly, I worked 5 or 6 shifts most weeks, spending time surfing and at the beach in between. I also went to Byron Bay for a few days to meet up with Abby, who I met at the elephant sanctuary in Thailand. It was great to catch up, we went out both nights, got up early to watch the sunset over Cape Byron lighthouse and even fitted in time for some sunbathing. The last evening we were there we also walked along the beach and saw the most amazing sunset I’ve ever seen.

The following week it was my birthday, although I worked during the day, we went out for dinner. To celebrate my birthday me and my uncle Scott also did a skydive over Byron Bay! It was terrifying but really amazing and I’m so glad I did it. A few days later I was off to Fiji!


Week 26 and 27: Thailand

Instead of my dad and his boyfriend Darryl coming to visit me in Australia, I met them halfway in Thailand. We both flew into Bangkok on Thursday and met at the airport, it was really great to see both of them after 6 months away. We spent the rest of the afternoon by the pool, before going to a sky bar for some cocktails, before dinner at the hotel and an early night as we were all tired from the journeys. The next day we did a boat tour around some of Bangkok. We met our crazy Thai guide, Nui at our hotel. She had called us a taxi and it turned out we had a lady taxi driver, which apparently in Bangkok is very rare. I’m not one to encourage stereotypes but she was a pretty terrible driver. Eventually our Thai guide had had enough and declared we would get the train the rest of the way. Eventually we got to the river where we boarded our little private boat. This turned out to be a great way to see Bangkok, we went to a street market, a few temples and an orchid garden, as well as stopping in between to have a delicious Thai lunch. Our Thai guide was hilarious and slightly eccentric so we were sad to say goodbye at the end of the your. That evening we got in a tuk tuk (we couldn’t not do that in Bangkok!) and were to a Thai fusion restaurant for dinner. We had some amazing cocktails and great food as well.

The next morning we left to fly to Phuket. We stayed one night at a very luxurious hotel (we even had our own little pool!), with a great view over the bay. The next day started our sailing tour around some of the islands. We had a great groups with a mixtures of English, Australia and a few other nationalities. We spent a very chilled few days ‘sailing’ (although disappointingly it was mostly motoring) around island in the Andaman sea, swimming, kayaking, paddle boarding, sunbathing and beer drinking. As it was so hot we dragged our mattresses and bedding out from our cabins onto the deck and slept outside every night under the stars. I slept well even with the wind turning our sheets into flapping sails and fishing boats with noisy car engines whizzing past at 5am every day! The food on the boat cooked by our Thai chef was amazing. On our last night we left the boat and went in Railay for dinner. After dinner we went to a bar holding a Thai boxing match which was pretty cool to see. Our time in Thailand coincided with the Thai new year (Songkran), which involved the tradition of having large water fights. Some of the Thai staff at the bar started throwing water around which evolved into a massive water fight with everyone in the bar. We left a few hours later exhausted and soaking wet. It was hilarious and a night I definitely won’t forget any time soon.

We spent the last few days in Thailand on a small island called Ko Jum. It’s so small there are barely any cars, most people get around on scooters. We hired some so we didn’t feel left out and spent lots of time exploring the island. Despite losing a day to food poisoning, the island was a great place to spend the last few days, we even managed to gain a day by nearly messing up the day we meant to leave! We had lots of cocktails and some great food too, including lots of locally caught fish. On the last day we made our way back to Bankgok, flying from Krabi airport. We killed a few hours in the pool at Bangkok airport hotel before our flights, then said goodbye and headed our separate ways.

Week 24 and 25: Kingscliff

After finishing my LTE course I packed up my backpack once again and flew back to Brisbane and headed back to Kingscliff. With little money and only a few weeks before I left for Thailand, I went back to work at the cafe in Kingscliff. I also got some time for surfing in between and one morning me and my uncle Scott got up really early to climb Mount Warning. The hike was 8.8km long and was pretty challenging, finishing with a pretty steep climb up some rocks. The view at the top was well worth it and we reached the top just as the sun was rising, although it was absolutely freezing at the top, and we hadn’t really brought much warm clothing with us! Afterwards we went out for a well deserved big breakfast. As usual, time flew by and 18 days after getting back to Kingscliff, it was time to head off again.


Week 22 and 23: Airlie Beach and Whitsunday Islands

My first trip was on British Defender (nicknamed Defa), who was named by the Duke of Edinburgh on London’s Thames River, she is a high tech Whitbread Around The World Racing Maxi that was raced by the British Armed Services during the 1989/90 Around the World Race. In 2001 Defa was converted into a Whitsunday Charter Maxi yacht. I really enjoyed this trip, and as this was work experience I assisted a lot with crew duties, such as cooking and cleaning, as well as helping with some of the 28 passengers and helping with sailing. The crew cabin on Defa is tiny, meaning only the skipper sleeps in there, and it’s also very hot below deck, so we slept on the bow of the boat, under the stars. This seemed like a good idea until it started raining in the middle of the night, so we had to move all our mattresses and bedding downstairs and find somewhere else to sleep (the floor being the only available space by the time I got down there). The next night however was much better, and after watching some David Attenborough with the other crew on the skipper’s laptop, I slept really well. Sleeping outside and on a boat means you get to see the most amazing stars, away from light pollution, the milky way is so clear and stars are visible all around you, ending only at the horizon. After every trip is an after party at the Down Under Bar in Airlie Beach, so after staying to clean the boat and prepare it for the next trip, and a well deserved long shower (showers are limited to 2 minutes on the boats), I joined the passengers for a few drinks.

My next trip began the following day on Broomstick (nicknamed Broomy), who was originally built in South Africa to win the Cape Town to Rio Yacht Race, going on to compete in many of the world’s most famous sailing events including Sydney to Hobart Race, before eventually being refitted to be a charter yacht in 2001. I took part in similar duties on Broomy, although some elements of sailing were slightly different. I also got the best job of all (and in case you couldn’t tell I’m being sarcastic here) of pulling apart 10 roasted chickens, for dinner. Other fun jobs included cleaning the heads (boat lingo for toilet) and cleaning mould off the ceilings with vinegar. On Broomy all crew sleep in the crew cabin, which is the same as passenger cabins but not as nice. Of course there was lot of great stuff I got to do as well, like more snorkelling, lots of sailing and going to Whitehaven again. I also did another trip on Broomy over the weekend, which was just as good.

When we got back into the marina on Monday, I helped clean the boat for another trip starting the same day. I also had another trip starting a few hours later, but on a different boat. This boat was called Boomerang (nicknamed Boomers) and was originally built in Italy to compete in the world’s most recognized races. She had great success including 1st place in the World Maxi Series Race, in addition to other race wins in the USA, Japan and NZ, before retiring from racing and being refurbished for Southern Cross Sailing in 2009. I had 3 trips on Boomers and she became my favourite boat out of all of them. The skipper understood I really wanted to get a job out of the course so gave me lots to do, including preparing some meals on my own. Despite the course being aimed towards people gaining the experience to get a job, the crew were often hesitant to ask me to help (due to previous bad experiences with LTE’s apparently), so I had to make sure I asked if I could help as often as possible. After 3 trips I felt like I knew a lot more about sailing and how Boomerang runs, I even got to take passengers on the bushwalk and to Whitehaven beach on my own. I often get asked if I ever get seasick, the answer is yes, on the first morning of the trips, the sea often gets rough in the place we anchor over night, making the boat move around a lot, which is fine unless your below deck trying to clear up breakfast, enough said (although it only happened once!).

This was the end of my LTE course so of course I ended it with a night out with the crew and passengers from my last trip. Overall the LTE was a great experience, I learned so much and met lots of great people both passengers and crew and while I really hope to get a job out of the course, I’ll still be glad I did it if I don’t. 

The Week 21: Airlie Beach and Whitsunday Islands

Before I left to go travelling I found a course that allows you to learn to sail and then gain work experience, called the Learn the Earn course (LTE). Unfortunately I didn’t have enough money to do this as soon as I got to Australia, but the money I earned working over Christmas was enough to cover the course, as well as my east coast trip.

The first week of my course was spent on Eureka II, a 60ft Sydney Sailing Yacht, doing my commercial crew course. I imagined the boat would be full of other people doing the same course as me, however it turned out it was only me and one other guy doing the course, and the other 12 people on the boat were just guests doing a charted sailing trip around the Whitsundays. Despite this I really enjoyed the course and learned a lot from both instructors and the already qualified crew members on Eureka. We started with the basics of sailing, with all the terms (and there’s a lot!), wind directions and basic safety. We learned more and more as the week went on and eventually we were helping to put the sails up and bring them down, as well as tacking and gybing and helping to bring the boat into the marina and onto its mooring. I also learned lots of knots which also seem to come in useful at other times, not just sailing, (for example making a washing line in your hostel bunk bed!). As well as learning about sailing we also got to do lots of snorkelling in the Great Barrier Reef and visited the world famous Whitehaven Beach. This was amazing to see despite the fact our visit was cut short to go back to the boat  and learn about flares. The route we take begins at Abel Point Marina, we then travel across Whitsunday Passage, sometimes stopping at False Nara depending on the weather for snorkelling, before anchoring in Hook Passage for the night. The next morning we depart for Tongue Bay, where we take passengers over to Whitsundays Island on the tender, then complete a short bushwalk to the lookout that overlooks Whitehaven Beach, before going down the the beach and spending some time there. Tongue Bay is known as a turtle breeding site so often I’ve seen turtles briefly popping out of the water, although I’m yet to see a turtle when I’m snorkelling.  After lunch we go to Blue Pearl Bay, where the snorkelling is amazing! Sometimes nicknamed the fish bowl, you are surrounded by fish as soon as you get into the water. After this we go to Langford reef for more snorkelling and sometimes for nachos on the beach on Langford island (depending on tides). Finally we anchor at Stonehaven for the night, before travelling back to Airlie beach the next morning. This is the most common route but it often varies slightly. We did two back to back 3 day 2 night trips on board Eureka, then finished off the week learning to drive the tender boat and finalising paperwork. After this I went to pick up my uniform and roster for my next two weeks of work experience!

Week 20: Cairns 

The journey to Cairns took a lot longer than expected. The long distance train was delayed because the weather was so hot, the train could only go a certain speed to make sure the tracks didn’t buckle and derail the rain. As a result we were stuck at Tully train station for 3 and a half hours, which was fairly unpleasant considering it was 37 degrees outside and there was nowhere to go with aircon! Early that evening we eventually we got to Cairns and I struggled to the hostel with all my bags. That night I met up with Lauren, one of the girls I’d spent time with in Magnetic Island and been on the Fraser Island tour with. I also bumped into some of the tour guides from the Loka tour and some other people I’d met on the bus. The next day I had booked a waterfalls tour, which involved visiting waterfalls around the Atherton Tablelands. We visited Babinda Boulders, Josephine Falls, Milla Milla falls and Lake Eacham. Josephine Falls has a rock slide similar to the waterfall near the indigenous camp in Tully so it was good fun sliding down it, someone also brought an inflatable sting ray with them to sit on and slide down. Milla Milla falls is well known because Peter Andre’s ‘Mysterious girl’ video was filmed there, as well as one of the Herbal Essences adverts. It’s funny to see everyone flicking their hair out of the water attempting to get a picture of their ‘herbal essences hair flick’. Lake Eacham was a massive freshwater lake that we visited last for another swim. That evening I went out with Lauren again, it was her last evening in Cairns so we went out that night with some other girls we’d met in various places up the coast. For my last full day in Cairns I had booked a boat trip to the outer reef of the Great Barrier Reef. I had a problem with my booking so I ended up on a bigger but cheaper boat instead of the sailing catamaran I tried to book. The trip was still good and I really enjoyed the snorkelling, but the boat was really slow so most of the day was spent actually getting to and from the reef. The boat also had a strange smell inside which wasn’t helping my hangover, and very little shade outside. Despite this it was a good day and I saw lots when I was snorkelling and even a few dolphins from the boat. On my last night in Cairns I met up with Naomi, who I’ve spent a lot of time with travelling up the coast, as well as lots of other girls I’d met along the way, and Star, who I met during my first week in Australia and went to surf camp with. We had pre drinks in the dorm room and ended up making friends with all the other girls in the room, making it a proper girls night and a great way to spend my last night in Cairns and the end of my east coast journey. The day after I got up bright and early to walk to the bus station to catch my 10 hour bus to Airlie Beach.


Week 20: Indigenous Camp, Tully

The journey to Tully from Magnetic Island included a bus, a ferry, another bus and a train. Once we got to Tully we were met by our guides for the indigenous camp, then we got on another bus to the campsite. Once we got there we set up our tents, which was a bit of a challenge in 35 degree heat! But we managed it and then got to go to the river for a swim. The river has a small waterfall with weathered rocks that make it possible to slide down like a waterslide. This was great fun and the water was cold and refreshing unlike a lot of places I’ve swam in recently! Later on we prepared dinner by wrapping fish in a special type of leaf often used by indigenous people for cooking. The fish tasted great later on and we also had some (not so traditional) chips with it! One of the guides then spoke to us about indigenous people, who were the very first inhabitants of Australia. It was really interesting especially as I didn’t know a lot about this area of history before. Before bed we set off in the minibus to go ‘spotlighting’, which involved driving around looking for snakes and other wildlife. Sadly we didn’t see any snakes but we saw fireflies and a very large golden orb spider. That night I had a surprisingly good sleep considering our tent had 8 people in it and somehow filled up with bugs over the course of the night. The next morning we went for a walk in the rainforest while one of our guides explained how different trees and plants are used for different things by indigenous people. This was also really interesting and I had no idea that some plants can be used for so many things! After this we packed up our tents and headed back to Tully for our final train journey to Cairns.