Meet me on the East side, Australia

April 2018

Byron Bay

Byron Bay

 

Buses, a boat and many, many beaches

Entering Australia for the first time hungover, is not advisable. Stopping in Brisbane airport I had a nap before catching the connecting flight up to Cairns. Surprisingly, I arrived feeling refreshed, that is until I walked into the wall of humidity that greeted me as I left the airport. Staying in a little oasis, the hostel was the perfect place for some much-needed rest and recuperation after the craziness of leaving New Zealand. The commonwealth games were underway on Australia’s east coast and with the buzz came plenty of free activities, including an evening concert, nothing better than sitting on the grass with an ice cream, listening to music in the warm evening air. Walking through the town centre at night the last thing I expected to see were giant fruit bats. When dusk arrives, they litter the sky during feeding time and the spectacle left me mesmerised. Walking with a group we stopped and peered up at a tree, something catching our eye. Looking closer it was full of bats, hanging as they slept.

Leaving Cairns, I caught the Greyhound bus and headed south, with a quick overnight stop in Townsville, I arrived in Airlie Beach.

Going on a sailing boat in Whitsundays is one of the best things I have ever done and as I sit at my desk writing this, I wouldn’t hesitate to go again. If I can give you one piece of advice, it is to try it (maybe take some sea sickness tablets just in case). Arriving into Airlie Beach I was nervous with excitement. I don’t usually book things in advance, but the sailing trips need a little research, you don’t want to accidently find that you’ve booked a party boat instead of the relaxed sailing trip that you had initially hoped for. They do book up fairly quick, so preparation here is key. Checking in for my trip the next day left me time to explore Airlie and I soon found out that most people were here because they were about to go sailing or had just been. Handy for some useful tips.

Boarding the boat, I soon realised that the four days we were going to spend on it were going to be cramped. Sleeping arrangements were unusual, one bed with a bunk above it so tight that when you were laid under it, it just missed you, not too great if you suffered from claustrophobia. It’s a good thing we all got on! I feel I got on to the boat a little naive of what sailing really meant. When the captain said sit at this side of the boat (on deck) and hold on, it was because the boat tipped to a 45-degree angle and if you failed to hold on there was a high chance you would fall into the sea. All part of the thrill. Days were spent sailing, stopping at the Whitsunday islands and swimming in the sea. The evenings were spent on deck watching the sunset and the stars appear, whilst drinking and sharing stories with people from all around the world. I had the feeling that with leaving land, I had left the real world for a while, living in a bubble. It was only when I got off the boat back in Airlie that the bubble burst. Back to reality and showers!

Kangaroos! Moving further down the coast I stopped off in Agnus Water and 1770, for a few days off the tourist route. Don’t get me wrong, backpackers were about but not in the droves that can be found in more well-known places. An area that hasn’t built itself up for tourism Agnus Water and 1770 remain quiet, laid back and provide an insight into how local people live. Joining a group of five people I went with a local guide who showed us little known places and gave us an understanding into the history of the area. Visiting a husband and wife team who rescue kangaroos, nurse them back to health and then release them back into the wild, was the highlight. Although they have been released, they come back, relaxing in their garden with the hope that they get fed some sweet potato. Ending the tour on the piece of beach where Captain Cook landed when he sailed up from Sydney in 1770 (hence the place name) was a fitting ending to the day and of course it was as the sunset (you can never have enough beach sunsets).

Heading south I had a quick stop in Hervey Bay, where I discovered the best place to drink coffee with an uninterrupted view over the beach, before arriving in Noosa Heads, a place I had been recommended by the backpackers that were travelling up the coast as I travelled down, rather handy when exchanging information.

One thing I was told I should do whilst in Noosa was the coastal walk. Walking from the town I set off on a path that took me through forests, past small beaches and around the most easterly point in Australia. Along with these beautiful views I also got rather a shocking one, when I took a rest on a beach and turned to see naked people casually sunbathing and swimming in the sea. Yes, it turns out it was a nudist beach. I guess some people really do go all out for the perfect tan! Back in England we get pestered by pigeons when eating out, in Noosa, the pigeons had undergone a drastic make over and now appeared in the form of colourful parakeets. I found it hard to be annoyed at something so colourful. When at the other side of the world, you don’t expect to casually bump into someone from your home village. This surprising event happened when I was at the beginning of the coastal walk and almost walked past a couple that I went to school with. The world really is a smaller place.

Do you ever get the feeling that you will fall in love with a place before you’ve been? Well, this was how I felt about Byron Bay and it couldn’t have been truer. As soon as I arrived, I knew I would be extending my stay. A hostel across the road from the beach, a room with a balcony complete with a hammock and fun, easy going people, there’s no wonder I was immediately sold. Days were spent sitting on the beach, walking into town and relaxing. Taking a bicycle, I rode to the light house and gave myself a tour of Byron Bay, stopping to listen to a busker singing and playing the guitar. One evening I went with a group to a bar where we sang our favourite pop songs without a care (it’s a good job the music was loud enough to mask the bad singing)! Getting up early I joined a group going to Byron Bay’s light house to watch the sunrise and it was defiantly worth getting out of bed early for. Walking back, we passed little coves and beaches where surfers were already in the sea. Getting in an early morning surf before work. Even as we walked back down the beach and the rain soaked me through, I didn’t mind, getting back I sat in the café next door to the hostel and watched as the rain bounced down. It reminded me a little of home, family trips to the beach that were spent dodging rain showers, a little bit of nostalgia found at the other side of the world. As the time approached to leave Byron, I became ever sadder, I knew I would miss having the beach on my doorstep and the lazy days that it allowed, but it was on to Sydney, a contrasting metropolitan hub that I was intrigued to explore.

Boarding what would be my last Greyhound bus of the trip, I got settled for the night. Yes, for my last bus I went for a night journey. Traveling overnight on a bus isn’t the most comfortable but it saves on a night’s accommodation and time and with finding myself waking up to a view of Sydney Opera House it could have been worse. I had a few days exploring Sydney (separate post) before I caught a flight to Melbourne.

Melbourne, the creative hub of street art and quirky coffee shops. Meeting friends I was treated to luxury, staying in an apartment on the 55th floor, provided amazing views out across the city and by watching both the sunset and sunrise, I was lucky enough to see the city decorated in an array of colourful hues. Standing on the balcony as I took in the sunrise, I noticed a crane driver, who at the same time noticed me, we waved at one another and it felt like we were the only people in the city who were awake. Walking through the Royal Botanical Gardens of Victoria we basked in the sun and paid a visit to the shrine of remembrance, climbing the steps to take in the view. Being in a city known for its artistic style it would be a shame not to visit the art gallery, where we took in works by famous masters before walking through the streets admiring the art by the anonymous. Not sure how to end my trip in Melbourne we decided on the childhood favourite of bowling, fortunately it didn’t get too competitive, and it was a great way to say goodbye.

Australia, I will day dream about your beaches, the surf and summer, as I watch the rain bounce down in England. Until next time.