ALL CHANGE!!

I’ve re-designed the onemanandhisbag website and had to move it to a new server, so for anyone who wants to continue reading the story you need to head over to OneManAndHisBag.Com and re-subscribe to get the updates.

Oh, and there’s a new post over there – a few weeks shy of 1 year since the last one!!

Hopefully see you over there. . . . .

Gordie
http://www.onemanandhisbag.com

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Testing, testing!

Is this thing still on??

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The final countdown!

Shortly after my safe, but tiring touch down at Caroline’s place in Rainbow Beach, I was at the 4×4 centre. I was signing my life away and Caroline was sorting ice for the esky (that’s weird Australian talk for coolbox). All the food had been taken care of, Caroline had also provided all the camping equipment so I just needed to sort the beers and we were on our merry way.

Accepting liability for a 4wd adventure??

Packed up and ready to roll

The adventure of Fraser beings immediately as you negotiate beach terrain to board the barge, it’s ramp lowered down directly onto the sand. Pretty interesting stuff for an off-road novice. Caroline was still somewhat incapacitated by her sprained arm so her 4×4 expertise could only come through in directions to me!

Driving on to the barge!

Caroline on the barge, sprained wrist and all!

Driving up the sands of Fraser Island beach that run for 75 miles was such a buzz! I forgot my tiredness and we headed for the SS Maheno, a ship wreck on the shores.

An unusual sight through the windscreen

Buzzin down the beach

AHOY!

Maheno wreck

The horseflies were out in force. Horrible flying bugs that give a really sharp bite. They are like heat seeking missiles! We also spotted a couple of the dingos that call Fraser home. Supposedly the last remaining pure breed dingoes in Australia. Dogs are not allowed on the island, to prevent cross breeding. The dingoes can be dangerous though and the advise is to stay away from them, and definitely don’t feed them!

DINGO!!

It was soon time to set up camp. Prepare for the ‘really interesting’ bit! The weather had turned bad. It was pretty windy and the rain was coming down. Never a good time to put up a tent, but we got there eventually. We were very secluded in our spot beneath some trees. The muddy, sandy track full of potholes, puddles and tree roots on the way up was great fun! As we settled down for a few drinks, a niggling suspicion I had came true. After preparing us some food (it was great having someone cook for me!) Caroline disappeared into the tent. I relaxed in a chair with a cold beer from the esky. Caroline then re-emerged from the tent wearing considerably less clothing than when she went in. The conclusion to my suspicion goes something like this; Caroline is a nudist.

Camp Nude!

She didn’t get much sleep that night. I, on the other hand, slept like a log, totally exhausted after the drive from Cairns and the off roading around Fraser. Well, I say a log. Going by the recording that poor Caroline made on her phone, it was more like the chainsaw that cut down the log. I wonder if I ever snored like that in my life before? Either way, it was hard to believe that I was listening to playback of me!! An exhausting drive + a full tummy + a couple of beers = Gordie in the deepest of sleeps with the loudest of snores! Caroline, if you’re reading, then I apologise!

Let's off road!!

Caroline doing her 'thing' down at Eli Crack, sorry, Creek!

The second day on Fraser was a bit of a write off I’m afraid. I had some kind of delayed reaction tiredness kick in, maybe the adrenalin ran out? Plus, the weather was REALLY bad. Having seen so many pictures of this beautiful World Heritage site from fellow travellers, it looked very different shrouded in cloud with the rain lashing down! Still, we battled on and made it up to Lake Mckenzie. Although, not before having to pack up camp as the ranger closed the area due to falling debris from the trees!

Lake Mckenzie was pretty cool though. I think it’s probably the first freshwater lake I’ve ever been in, and the water was pretty warm too. It really is like a giant bath!

 

McKenzie Lake

Lake McKenzie weather!

Have a look at what you could of won - Lake McK on a sunny day!

This was really the last play of the day, as we headed back to the small township on the island before I decided that I wanted to get on my way. Having had so much time on my hands, I really felt a bit of pressure now about getting back to Sydney on time. Plus the cannonball run with the camper meant heavy fines if I delivered it back late. In hindsight, it was probably quite selfish. Caroline had done so much to put the trip together and I might have seemed ungrateful at the time, but I just had that feeling that I needed to move on and didn‘t want to spend another night on the island.

Battling the elements!

The storm!!

We caught the last barge of the day as they were preparing to halt sailing due to the winds, which by now exceeded 40 knots! Back on the mainland, I took the 4×4 to the specially built jet wash designed to remove as much sand and salt as possible. Back at Caroline’s I got the news of the Christchurch earthquake. Watching the scenes of total devastation, I really began to wonder how many natural disasters my trip would entail. And, how many times would I be able to dodge them? With alarming regularity, the disasters all happened around 1 week before I was due in the area. Brisbane floods, Cairns Cyclone and now Christchurch earthquake. I was considering emailing the emergency services of the countries I had yet to visit, just incase!

I’m just gonna take a sec to say “Thank you Caroline for sorting EVERYTHING for the trip, and thank you for making it so memorable. I sure have a tale to tell compared to the usual ‘Fraser’ experience!!”.

I slept in a car park on Noosa beach that night before taking a detour en route to Southport to visit a place I’d spotted on the map. It took me 2 hours out of my way, but it was worth it for the photo opportunity.

My favourite place name ever!

It was great to see Cathy Arbuckle again, we were like old friends! Once the whole family was back from work and school we headed to a Malaysian restaurant for food. Derek ordered a selection of dishes and we dined liked kings and queens! It was delicious, and it was so nice sharing a meal with the family. I’m just sorry that, for some reason, none of us took any pictures. Even Derek, who is a professional photographer – damn!! I guess we were having too much fun!

The next day me, Cathy and her daughter Carolyn hit Jupiters casino in Broadbeach. Surprisingly, it’s the first time I’ve ever been in a proper casino! I’m not a big gambler. Although Cathy and Carolyn are regulars. Cathy has a special privileges card which meant we had access to floors further up in the building. Normally, she can only take one guest in but she did a great job blagging it for me! Cathy’s status meant we also got free drinks, result. Carolyn got comfy at some of the big hitting machines, whilst me and Cathy stuck to the low bets. Fate, fortune, karma, luck whatever you want to call it was with Cathy. We sat side by side, and dropped our first few dollars. Almost immediately, Cathy’s machine lit up like a Christmas tree; she won a $2,400 jackpot from her first dollar – awesome!! She disappeared and came back laden with the cash. Generously, she gave me $100 to play with. It was loads of fun, especially with the burden of losing money lifted I could really relax. In the end I came out with more than I went in with and the $100 still in tact – happy days! All good training for Las Vegas baby!!

Jupiters Casino

I spent the evening in Surfers with Paul and Joanne (my Corby friends!). It was cool to have a few drinks with them as they were nearby. I slept that night on the streets in Surfers, parked right near a 5* hotel – cheers easy! I woke up to glorious blue sky and a dip in the ocean, laaavley!

Better weather at Surfers this time round

The hotel near Surfers where I'm a Celeb stars stay

The cannonball run was on schedule, maybe even a little ahead so I ventured off on to some scenic routes taking in Byron Bay and Lennox Head. I found some amazing surf spots and was tempted to chop a tree down and fashion a board to get out there! My last night with the camper was spent holed up in a service area just south of Newcastle. I was woken pretty early by a gang of kids writing in the dirt of the camper, and their parents calling them away!

I clocked in at Apollo/Cheapa Campers Sydney depot with 1 hour to spare. I grabbed my pack and it was all down to my feet once again! I had been in touch with Darren and Nicola throughout most of my Aus adventure and they had invited me to stay for my last 2 nights before my flight. Payback was babysitting on the last night. Their kids are adorable so I had no problem agreeing, especially as they had tickets for Billy Connolly at the Sydney Opera House – how cool?

SOME PICTURES FROM THE LAST SECTION OF MY ROADTRIP

Lennox Head


I took the train across to Yowie Bay and it wasn’t long before Darren and I hit the town! He took me to a local bar where we started sinking the beers. I got chatting to some people who recommend a nightclub nearby, the only problem was me and Darren were wearing shorts and thongs (haha, flip-flops!). There was some debate before we headed back to Darren’s to get changed. It was touch and go wether or not Darren had enough Wife miles in the bank to cash in not only a night out, but coming home, getting changed and going out AGAIN! Fortunately he did, either that or he wrote out a big fat I.O.U to Nicola. Good times, and a brilliant unofficial last night in Aus. The official last night was spent curled up with the kids, Libby and Sam before I packed them off to bed and had my inaugural Skype party! So much fun having everyone online all at once, even with the slight technical issues to begin with. Really must do that again sometime!

Final stage of the cannonball run, crossing the Sydney Harbour Bridge

The morning of my flight, Darren took me with him to work to meet up with my old boss who is out there setting up the Australian version of the company I used to work for in the UK, Duravit. It was really cool to see him, and to see the Duravit Australia setup I’d heard so much about. Never thought that would happen!

Darren kindly dropped me at the airport and my Australian experience was done. One time, however, I will board a flight totally without incident. You might remember the drama of losing my boarding pass leaving Bangkok for Sydney as the young lady called to the queuing passengers “Mr Wooracott?”. Well, Sydney to Auckland I upped my game. Not content with having my name called to just a few passengers, this time I had it boomed across the PA system to the WHOLE damn airport. “This is a final call for flight QF43 to Auckland. Could Mr Gordon Woollacott please proceed immediately to gate 6”. Seriously? I could see gate 6 as the messaged boomed. I wasn’t late. I was pretty much bang on time, although my fellow passengers were all early and on board. Goody two shoes. When I fly from Auckland to Nadi I pledge allegiance to myself, it will go smoothly.

If England is the motherland, then Australia is the naughty school kid. They constantly swear on the radio, innuendo adverts abound and pointless road signs litter the highways.
The population cling to the coast like it’s the back seat of the bus as they all play with their toys. Kites, surfboards, wakeboards, skateboards.
You come to visit a country and leave knowing you visited a continent. I love it.

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RELOCATION, RELOCATION, RELOCATION!

FEBRUARY PART 2

The Whitsunday adventure started in earnest with a morning walk through the rainforest of Whitehaven Bay. Back on the beach, the recent cyclone had wreaked havoc. The sand was lined with all sorts of debris from the sea, mainly a load of leaves. I renamed it ‘The Great Barrier Leaf’. See what I did there? Anyway, this bay was where we launched the stand-up paddle boards. I was really looking forward to having a go as it’s something I’ve wanted to try for a long time. Looking very fetching in our protective stinger suits (oh yeah, there is a particular type of jellyfish out there that is deadly but of course, that’s not unusual in Australia, is it?) we headed out. It was easier than I thought, but the waters we were on were very calm. I’d be off more than on in waters with surf! So confident was I, that I was riding with my sunnies on. Needless to say, there’s a very cool stingray cruising around Whitehaven Bay with a rather nice pair of expensive Electric sunnies right now. Not good. On the upside, I get to shop for a new pair!

Pose it up!

View from Whitehaven look out

A golden orb spider

Stand up paddle with Andy

The Great Barrier Leaf - oh, how we laughed!

Shortly after the SUP session, we set sail for Whitsunday Island. I have a little note book that was given to me as a gift before I left. It’s full of handwritten inspirational quotes and sayings and is very special. Some of the pages were left blank so I can get other people to add their favourites. I spotted one on a hippy bus back in Byron Bay that I added myself. It says:

“To err is human. To moo, bovine”.

The reason I’m telling you about this is because an American friend, Becca, recently added a quote that is bang on for how I feel about Whitsunday Island.

“The feelings for which you cannot find the words to describe, are the best feelings”.

We had so much fun down on the beach. Tristan took some awesome pictures, and it was here that we got the one and only group shot. If a picture speaks a thousand words, then surely these offerings must.

First steps on the white sands

The cheesy shot that the girls do (but with added Bale heart!)

Trying to do the jump - outtake!

The jump, once Tristan got involved!

Team ON ICE

View over Whitsunday Beach

The money shot

Everyone was buzzing as we headed back to the boat for lunch. We had shared a truly breath taking experience. After lunch, again an awesome feast prepared by Craig, we sailed to another bay to snorkel. That’s the good life right there.

I’ve never properly snorkelled before, so to do it for the first time at the Whitsundays was special. In a similar vain, it was like when I went to my first ever cricket match which happened to be England V Australia IN Australia for The Ashes. Going straight in at the top!

To get to the ‘launch spot’ Luke provided us with what was essentially a professional lilo! He threw it in the water and we all jumped on. I was given the task of driver. A feat that is achieved by ingeniously dropping the ‘sea-doo’ in to the water behind the lilo and operating it like an outboard motor.  It took a little while to get used to, but once I had it under control we set sail for the marker.

Snorkelling really took my breath away. Is that an oxymoron? Haha! This is gonna sound real stupid but this is what I thought the first time I dipped my begoggled face, horizontally into the Pacific Ocean. It’s like looking at the ocean in 3D! When you’re swimming, surfing, sailing or in one man’s case walking on water it’s a very one dimensional surface. It’s just a sea of blue, literally. Once you don the snorkelling gear and push your face through that one dimension, eyes wide open with a blind faith in the rubber and plastic encompassing them, you feast upon another world. The coral is stretched out as far as you can see. The different heights and colours adding to the sensation of flying above another land inhabited by the most colourful life forms on the planet. They dart in and out as quick as a flash. Schools of fish swim past, having all been to the same deep sea department store for the latest designer stripes or spots. They stop off every now and then for a quick bite on the coral. It must be like living in a world where trees are French fries. Nyom nyom! If you get your ears under and listen, you can hear the sound of fish eating the world beneath their fins!

After floating around in total captivation, I decided to have a go with the sea-doo doing what it was made for. What an awesome bit of kit!! It’s snorkelling for lazy people, just hold on, pull the throttle and GO! It really comes in to it’s own when you spot something, like a reef shark, and you can easily catch up with it just by squeezing your finger. I think me and Andy pretty much hogged the thing for the whole time! It was even better for him as for some reason he has the underwater breathing properties of a fish! With the seadoo taking the strain from the body, he was able to stay down there even longer. Very impressive!

Ilse and Sylvia eventually decided they had seen enough and needed a rest. Luke had been hovering around with the little dingy ready to take anyone back, but he’d gone back to the boat. I had the seadoo at the time, so we created a train with Ilse holding my legs and Sylvia to hers. It was slow going but we got back to the boat. The ocean became very murky the further out we got, and the horrible square jellyfish were everywhere. These ones were harmless, but when you touch them you feel them go all the way down your body as you swim by! They are pretty solid little buggers.

The 'professional' lilo!

Back on the boat Luke announced we were to set sail for a spot to sleep. About 20 minutes into the journey, the world around us changed. The sky grew ominously grey. To the east we could see huge rain clouds delivering their contents back into the Pacific. To the north, we could see the same! There were 2 storms around us. The yacht, a catamaran, was listing wildly as the waters surrendered to the wind. Then all hell broke loose! The 2 storms converged above us in no time. Luke had been taking full advantage of the winds and had the sails up. Craig was out, attempting to pull them in but as the storm had built so quickly he was struggling. Luke turned to me and asked if I would please go and help! Now that was some adrenalin right there. It was a 50 year storm, and there I was in just my boardies, my body being pounded by rain falling at what felt like 100mph, holding on to a rope and heaving with all my might to pull in the sails. Eventually, we won and the sail was down. I asked Luke about the sails afterwards. If we were unable to pull them down, not only would the boat have been in serious trouble, but the sails would no doubt have ripped at a cost of $50,000 each! Ouch.

Storm from the North

Storm from the West

Hardcore sailing!!!

On the last day of the experience we started with an early morning snorkel during which I spotted at least 10 parrot fish! We stopped off at a sandbar where me and Andy went for a ride in the see-thru kayak. It made me feel a bit sick rocking around and looking down at the coral so I jumped out for a snorkel. This proved to be one of the highlights of the 3 days. We were surrounded by Loggerhead turtles. I nearly swallowed the ocean when I spotted the first one. He was swimming directly towards me, and I momentarily forgot I was underwater as my inside voice became my outside voice calling the others over to see it!! We swam with them for ages, it was incredible.

See thru kayaking!

Swimming with DUUUUUUUUUUDE!!

Back at the marina we said our emotional goodbyes and I headed to the bus stop for my connection to Cairns. Another Greyhound redeye special! But, not before a truly memorable time was made even more so by the news that Tottenham had BEATEN AC Milan at the San Siro! Have I slipped into an alternative reality?? Almost, although I hit the real world with a thump as I checked my wallet and realised I was down to my last $50 from the $300 borrowed from Claudia and still no PIN. Oops.

Enjoying a glass of red with Andy and Aimee

The bus left Airlie at 8.10pm, Claudia came to say goodbye. My time in Australia is fast coming to an end so I don’t expect to see Claudia again. Not in this part of the world anyway. I arrived in Cairns feeling pretty shell shocked. The bus ride lasted a gruelling 10 hours and I had pretty much zero sleep. They played a film, Taken, but it got stuck halfway through so I never did find out if he got his daughter back!

Cairns provided some good party action, following the relative calm of my northern Queensland experience so far. One particular place had the classic ‘beer pong’ going on. For those who don’t know, you bounce a ping pong ball from one end of a long table to the other and attempt to land it in your opponents drink, in which case they have to down it. You start with 9 drinks in a triangle and the idea is to get rid of all of your opponents before they land in all of yours. Well, ultimately the idea is getting drunk! Anyway, the reason for this convoluted explanation is just so you get the joke coming up. The drink of choice on this occasion was an Aussie energy drink called MOTHER, mixed with something else. The marketing of this particular game was genius “Get your balls in your mates Mother”, screamed the poster! Why, those crazy Aussies!!

Temperature in Cairns - ouch!

In the previous blog, I mentioned how things were set to get ‘interesting’  with Caroline from the Rainbow Beach video store. Back before I set off on the Whitsunday trip I penned an email to her. I had a crazy notion that, being a local she might have some contacts with a 4×4 and maybe they would be willing to rent it to me and maybe she would be willing to accompany me on the trip as she has been to the island many times before and maybe, just maybe, I would get to see Fraser Island after all. Well, I received a reply whilst in Cairns. She was in! Caroline writes for the local paper so was able to blag a cracking deal with her friend at the 4×4 centre. This involved writing a story about Fraser Island, kind of a tourist in her own country style, in turn for a hefty discount on the hire. Result!!

Meanwhile, time was ticking. My flight from Sydney to Auckland was just over 1 week and 3,000km away! I already decided I wanted to stop off with Cathy Arbuckle and her family on the way back as I only spent a few hours with them during the first visit. Now, I had the added bonus of a Fraser Island escapade. The only way this kind of mission would be possible is if I had my own wheels. I headed to McDonalds for some free wifi, my aim; to find a relocation deal from Cairns to Sydney. I got lucky. VERY lucky. The lottery of the relocation deal does not offer good odds on getting exactly what you want. I was ready to accept relocating something to Brisbane and then taking an internal flight to Sydney, but there was no need. The first website I looked at, http://www.standbyrelocations.com had a campervan that needed to be in Sydney 3 days before my flight. It was available for collection from the Cairns depot the next day and carried a nominal fee of $1 per day! Too good to be true, but I got on the phone and checked it was still available. It was! It all went so smoothly that I found myself double checking my email confirmation, just to be sure that this was for real! The agent on the phone was brilliant and explained I had 5 days to get the camper to Sydney, although I did have an option to extend that by 2 days with a discounted ‘hire’ price of $75 per extra day. Total cost, $155 for 7 days. I checked the normal hire price out online, $1800 for the same period. Sweet! The extension offer meant that my planned stop-offs would now be possible, although it would require a barn storming first stint of 1,700km within the first 24hrs. I guess there’s some maths in there somewhere, but the reality was I drove for 20hrs during the first 24hrs of picking the camper up.

Not a Volkswagen, but she'll do!

I don’t mean I drove 20hrs straight, but I left Cairns at 10am Sunday morning and arrived 1,700km later in Rainbow Beach at 10am Monday. There was plenty on the road to keep me occupied, along with the three fill ups!

This was the period when I witnessed the devastation left by tropical cyclone Yasi that had hit the area only weeks earlier. I was in the safety of the Sunshine Coast whilst northern Queensland was battered by the brute force of nature. After the flooding in Queensland that affected an area the size of the UK, Cyclone Yasi would have taken out the UK and most of mainland Europe with it’s mass. As it hit land around Mission Beach, the winds reached speeds of 285kph and eventually caused over $800 million in losses. As my bus from Airlie had been the overnight service, the destruction was shielded by darkness. Now, it was very apparent.

No caption required

Where once there were leaves

Just a few 100k's down the road it gets noticably greener

Along the way I realised the Aussies have a very interesting way of promoting road safety. During one particularly long and boring section where, for a period of around 4 hours during the night I didn’t see one other living thing apart from trees or pass one other vehicle, the road signs were talking to me! “YOUR EYES ARE SHOT MATE” they screamed. “DON’T SLEEP AND DRIVE” was a wise suggestion. “ARE WE THERE YET?” made me chuckle. One of my favourites “SPEEDING WHILST OVERTAKING IS ILLEGAL”. My logical brain kicked out the conclusion that speeding whilst not overtaking must be ok then? But the ones that really set me off were directed at my passenger. This is ONE man and his bag. I had no passenger. “IS YOUR DRIVER ALERT?” I looked toward the empty seat next to me and said “what do you think?” Straining my eyes as wide open as I could! “KEEP YOUR DRIVER ALERT WHILST PLAYING GAMES”. “Hmm” I said to the vacant seat “that one could be tricky”. Well, it gave me some entertainment anyway and, even though I was alone it kind of worked and helped me on my merry way to Rainbow Beach, Caroline and a Fraser Island adventure!

The sun comes up on my cannonball run!

1,700km's = 1,700,000,000,000 dead bugs!!

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I gotta get outta this place!

Ok, for those of you who have been following my ashamedly erratic blogging from the start, let me apologise! It’s just, SO much happens. I spend most of my time doing it, meaning less time to write about it! So, here I am in Fiji. In relative seclusion. I have chosen the ‘quiet’ place to stay on the small island of Mana, Sereana Backpackers, as opposed to the party option of Mana Lagoon Backpackers in the vain hope of simply relaxing and putting in some quality blog time (and catching some rays!). As it happens, the party backpackers is next door. No more then 10ft away!! I’ve quickly learned the expression ‘Fijian style’. I guess this is the quiet backpackers ‘Fijian style’. To give another example. On the small speedboat ride out here, (which, by the way was 50 minutes of pure adrenalin over shark infested waters!) I was sitting at the back. The ‘pilot’ of our vessel chucked me a rain jacket and said “put this on, you may get a little wet”. As soon as we hit open water the boat was leaping off waves and crashing down causing torrents of water to flood over me from the ensuing wake. For the other 6 or 7 passengers under cover, this provided most of the entertainment for the duration. So, for ‘get a little wet’ in Fijian read ‘you might as well swim’. Love it.

I’m gonna split February in to 2 parts and attempt to cover each in no more than 3,000 words. I think, after that point you’ll probably find yourself reaching for your pointing device and checking facebook or the weather. Oops, there goes 250 words already. Ok, at the end of the last blog (excluding the Fijian brucie bonus) I was about to fold myself into a Greyhound bus seat for a few hours bound for Agnes Water/1770. Game on.

FEBRUARY – PART 1

You might recall I was having a bit of a ‘poor me’ moment at Rainbow Beach. My crumbie come down after the sunshine coast extravaganza. Well, I’m sorry to say it continued when I reached Agnes Water! The whole sty in the eye thing got worserer and worserer. I eventually dragged my ass to a chemist and got some cream after ‘suffering’ with it for a week. Guess what? Two days later it had gone! Ain’t medicine BRILLIANT?! But, for the 2 days prior to the magic potion I ‘poor me’d’ my way through. The backpackers I had chosen, Southern Cross, was remote. Very remote. In which case, the Irish lad running the place took it upon himself to provide entertainment. It really was car crash for me. My days of standing in front of a baying crowd of pissed up teens and early twenty-ists whilst an unknown lady from god knows where tries to send a gobstopper up one of my trouser legs, around my crotch and back down the other side before proudly chewing it and blowing a bubble ahead of the competition are gone. Long gone. Same goes for dancing with another unknown lady, until the music stops, before assuming the most bizarre sexual position you can think of in an attempt to win an equally bizarre prize. When the mud wrestling was announced, I headed for bed. Call me old, I guess I am in relation to 18 and 19 year olds, but I CAN party. I don’t need a ringmaster to create a party for me. Especially a munted Irishman bellowing at full volume down a PA system. The only highlight was that I bumped into Claudia again. Remember? From Switzerland? We had the whole candle lit Australia Day bbq thing.

In the morning I took one of the free bikes offered by the hostel and headed out to Seventeen Seventy, and the exact point where Capt. Cook landed. Along the way, I stopped off for a bit of sunbathing and a swim in the sea with Claudia. She was staying in the town at a backpackers called Cool Banana’s! It sounded WAY better than mine.

Look out post at Seventeen Seventy

I needed out of this place. I stopped off at the tourist info centre to check for buses or trains north. The bus times sucked. The next viable place for a stop off between here and Airlie Beach (for the Whitsunday Islands) was Rockhampton. Another helluva bus ride. The Greyhound would get me there just after midnight, leaving Agnes Water at 9pm. I could take a taxi to the next town and catch a train, but the cost was ridiculous considering I had my Greyhound pass already paid for. I then checked car hire. Nothing in this town. Aaaaargh! Ok, hitchhike. It’s the only way out! “Sure, you could hitchhike” was the encouragement from the tourist office. It was only after this that I found out hitchhiking in Australia is illegal! Anyway, only if you get caught. Just don’t stick your thumb out for a copper I guess. I’d checked out of Southern Cross, having already decided for sure I was not going to stay there. I headed off to the beach to sit and contemplate, when I passed by Claudia’s backpackers. It looked good, so I checked in. The owner, Greg, is a legend. Proper nice bloke, and fastidious about cleanliness. I met up with Claudia and we booked the Greyhound together for the following night at 9pm. At least I now had someone else with me having to deal with the less than convenient schedule. We booked the YHA in Rockhampton who are clearly used to the late arrivals. They gave us a code for a safe in which our keys would be waiting when we arrived. We went out for burger and chips to celebrate!

For somewhere of little consequence for most travellers up the east coast of Australia, Rockhampton provided some interesting moments. It’s a real ‘country & western’ wannabe town. It’s not unusual to see guys walking down the streets in full cowboy regalia, spurs and all! The town is famous for it’s meat produce so Claudia and me headed to a place called The Great Western Hotel to sample the steak. For added interest, the GWH also boasts a rodeo er, pitch? Field? Circuit? Not sure. Anyway, a dusty circle where guys ride bulls for as long as they can. Wednesday night was practice night. We hooked up with a girl called May, from Israel on our way out of the hostel. She was leaving on a 3am bus, so I promised her we would be back in time. We arrived at GWH and, small town Australia time again – kitchen was closed!! Had we not spent half an hour or so watching guys full off seemingly possessed bulls, we may have caught it. We hit the pubs and clubs, after negotiating the rail track that runs directly through the centre of town on the road. It’s not for trams, this is a full blown express route through Rockhampton! As we walked to the pubs an engine rumbled through, pulling endless amounts of freight. The freight carriages every now and then had the doors open, allowing my mind to wander off with images of jumping on and enjoying some true vagabond lifestyle!

The nightlife in Rockhampton, or Rocky as it’s known, was pretty dire on a Wednesday night. Shortly before 2am, we grabbed a taxi and headed back to the hostel. Claudia wanted to stay, but I’d promised May I’d make sure she was back in time for her bus. Back at the YHA, May and I spent some time in the TV room before she hit the bus and I hit my bed.

Rocky also provided me with some aboriginal experience. We visited the Dreamtime exhibition, reportedly the largest collection of Aboriginal heritage in Australia. We were shown round by an aboriginal guide who told us much about the indigenous people of the country before teaching us how to throw a boomerang. Great fun! He ended the tour by playing the didgeridoo in an Aborigine cave setting. He was awesome! In between, a guy introduced to us as an ‘Islander’ talked about his home in the Torres Straits. The only Torres I had heard of previously was sold for £50 million to Chelsea (what a joke, by the way). The Torres Straits sound amazing. I would really love to visit, although I understand it’s notoriously expensive to travel there.

Claudia and de boomerang!

Gordie and de boomerang!

The Greyhound to Airlie beach was a true overnighter. Leaving Rocky at 00.40am and arriving in Airlie at around 7am. The upside of such a trip is you get free accommodation. The downside is, it’s on a bus!

We were greeted at Airlie by the owner of the hostel who whisked us less than half a mile down the road to Beaches. It was cheap, only $18 a night. I think the reason for the low cost, is their low overheads. I’m pretty sure they don’t have any cleaning staff to pay. Considering I was on the verge of one of the most beautiful places on earth, the place was a disgrace. By far the worst hostel I have stayed in. The kitchen was more like an ant farm. The carpets were worn and filthy. The corridors would make a great setting for a violent murder mystery film, and to top it all off I’d lost my bank card and passport. Ok, so that’s not Beaches fault but I blame them anyway! Claudia had enough after one night and relocated to the YHA. I saw it out, only due to the cost savings.

As Claudia checked in at the YHA, I asked if they could contact the Rocky YHA to see if my card and passport had be found. Sweet baby Jesus, they had my passport. Somehow, it had fallen down behind the sofa in the TV room. You can travel half way around the world, but the ability to lose shit down the sofa remains. My bankcard, however, is still MIA.

A good Samaritan was travelling on the next bus from Rockhampton up to Airlie and so, was furnished with the important cargo of my passport. It duly arrived at the YHA in Airlie, however, due to changes of staff nobody knew who my hero/heroin was. I would loved to have thanked them personally with a drink or two! So, passport and idiot duly reunited I turned to the next task. Getting money without the use of a bankcard. In true Gordie style, I had a backup plan. I had another card. Yeah, that’s not true Gordie style at all. That bit comes when I realise, I had another card but had no idea of the pin number!! My adventure was hanging by a thread. More than anything else in Australia, the Whitsunday Islands was the place I wanted to visit. With no means of paying for it for the foreseeable future, I was stuffed. I had a small amount of cash that would maybe last a week of hostel and food and that was that. I shared my woes with Claudia, again grateful for a travelling companion at that moment. “Don’t worry about it” she said. “I will lend you some money until you get sorted. How much do you need?” I’d been with Claudia for a few days now and hadn’t even realised she was a travel angel, they really can sneak up on you! Immediate implosion diverted. I set about getting a ’pin reminder’ for my backup card which would have to be received via Corby. Simple. Although, Nationwide certainly dragged their heals in sending it! In fact, I didn’t get it until I arrived in New Zealand!

I discovered a couple of places where they could bypass the EFTPOS (Aussie equivalent of chip n pin, a ridiculous acronym that nobody knows what it stands for!) so I could sign instead. Fortunately, one of these places was a small independent agent booking trips to the Whitsundays. During my exhaustive search for the vital vessel to take me to this perfect paradise, I came across a flyer for ’On Ice’. It screamed cool. With thoughts of the depressing ’Nimbin’ trip on my mind, I had decided to go for a small boat. There are boats to suit all budgets and tastes. Party boats of over 30 people, right down to private charter for 2. ’On Ice’ held 10 people maximum. An added benefit of smaller boats is they can go to secluded spots that the bigger ones can’t access. On Ice was also laden with toys. A genius stroke of marketing for a grown up kid like me. Stand-up paddle boards, see-thru kayak, a sea-doo and windsurfs. It was an easy choice in the end. The agent put me on standby for the best price. This meant I wouldn’t know until the day before if I could get on, but I would get a huge saving. The number of tourists was down in general for the area following the Brisbane floods and the devastating Cyclone Yasi over northern Queensland, so the prices were better still. I took the chance, and it paid off. As it happens, the timing of the trip coincided with valentines day. I prayed for some other solo travellers on board. My prayers went unanswered. Sometimes, we don’t know best and things work out for other reasons.

I arrived at the port, armed with 10 bottles of beer and 2 bottles of wine. This was a 3 day, 2 night trip. I felt confident I wouldn’t run out. The beer on one night, the wine on the other. Simples. I looked around at the others gathered at the meeting point. My agent had said there were only 7 booked on, so with a capacity of 10 we should be pretty comfortable. My stomach sank as I quickly realised that I was the odd one in 7. Two, very obviously in love couples were sitting around chatting and laughing whilst another 2 girls sat together opposite me. My mind compounded things further by suggesting that the 2 girls were also probably lovers and that I’d better hope the captain of the ship hadn’t decided to bring his missus too for a valentine extravaganza!! Maybe I could get a date with a dolphin? I was over $400 deep into this mission, turning and running, by far the loudest thought in my mind, was not an option. Worse things happen at sea. Hmm, that’s not helping much.

The Captain, Luke arrived at the jetty. He was a big fella, bronzed from his hardships at the helm of On Ice. His blonde, curly hair sprouted wildly from his head. He looked like a male medusa, only with really long worms instead of snakes. The proposed trip was laid out to us. It’s never the same, and is governed by weather and tides. We were to set sail immediately and head towards the islands. It was over 2 hours to our first destination, the ride out inventively billed as a ’sunset sail’. We clambered on board, handing our footwear in which would not been seen again until arriving back in Airlie. This was a multi-million dollar yacht, it was not worth our salt to scratch the gleaming deck.

Inside was truly amazing. Curved white leather seating, teak stained furniture, a beautifully crafted dining table and sleek tinted windows. We were shown to our cabins. My bed was kind of coffin shaped and seemingly in a corridor! It was wide enough at the top for my shoulders, and narrow enough at the bottom for my feet. I had a porthole by my head, through which Luke assured me I would wake up and see fish. Maybe even a dolphin. My heart skipped a beat!

I dumped my stuff and headed back up. We were out of the port now, so I asked if I could move along the side of the boat to the front area. I just wanted to go a chill for a while and try and quash the negative thoughts of valentines and couples! Not long after I settled down, the others came and joined me. Andy introduced himself to me, and in true ’we never looked back’ fashion, we never looked back. One by one, we all became acquainted. The elite members of the On Ice crew consisted of Andy and Aimee (UK), Tristan and Mae (FR) and Ilse and Sylvia (B). All very European, and all very, very cool.

Andy and Aimee are very much a couple. Andy is on a world travelling mission, and Aimee had flown out to spend a few weeks with him. They are an awesome couple. Move over Posh and Becks! Tristan and Mae were in the midst of their honeymoon, a fact I didn’t learn until the following weeks when Andy finally pulled his finger out and got everyone connected via facebook! These two would also have a place at the table of awesome couples. And then my Belgian friends. Just to dispel any rumours to the contrary that I may have hinted at, they are not a couple! Sylvia was good fun, and Ilse has a real sense of adventure. Proper traveller. She took on the role of official On Ice photographer, although we are still to see the fruits of her labour! I really liked her sense of humour, hopefully we will meet up for a Belgian beer or two sometime in the future.

I‘m gonna finish off with a note I scribbled on the first night of the trip.

“We’ve arrived at a bay just off Whitehaven Island. I’ve just had the most delicious bbq chicken meal, served up by Craig, the ship’s hand. The stars out here are incredible. The milky way, glistening like paint splattered from a celestial brush across the stunning canvas of the southern skies. I can feel the  boat rocking gently in the calm of the bay. It’s an early start in the morning, but it’s gonna be so worth it. Coral reef bursting with life and the silica sands of Whitsunday Island awaits. This is why I‘m here, for moments like these. I can’t wait.”

ON ICE

Posted in Australia | 3 Comments

BRUCIE BONUS – LIVE UPDATE FIJIAN STYLE!

I tapped this all up on a ‘note’ on my iPhone as I got in to bed last night. I thought it deserved a Brucie Bonus live blog update. Regardez!

Oh wow! I need to write this down. My experience of Fiji so far has blown me away. From being collected at the airport with a sign, to the incredibly warm welcome I received at the village.
Ana, my couch surfing host, had been taken ill during the day and was in hospital with cronic sickness and diarrohea. Her husband, Niko (explained to me, like the camera but without the N!) stayed at home to welcome me! Due to Ana’s illness I am staying with Fi and Api who are the more profilic CS hosts in the village, the name of which I must learn to pronounce.
Niko gave me a traditional welcome with some kava being prepared by his son-in-law. It’s a drink made from the roots of the kava plant. They are left in the sun to dry before being pounded to a fine soil like powder. This is then poured into little brown paper bags before being emptied into a cloth bag over a special bowl for the occasion. The bag is then ‘washed’ with water and allowed to drain into the bowl. The liquid is then mixed with the coconut halves in which it is served.
We all sat around on the floor in their modest home. There are two small living areas. Each lit with a single small flourescent tube. The one above us was flickering on and off, casting rhythmic shadows over the face of Niko. He just smiled and gave one of the children a few coins to run off to one of the neighbouring huts for a new bulb. It seems each resident has their own particular trade. Ana and Niko’s is cigarettes and alcohol. They are very popular! This explains the request from Ana for me to purchase 2 bottles of Bounty dark rum from the duty free, of which I was promised reimbursement. I’m tempted to offer them as a gift. In fact I will.
So, the kava. As this was my first time, I was instructed to clap my hands 3 times before accepting the coconut brimming with what can only be described as muddy water. I obliged, before being told to drink it down in one. I had already decided this was the only way to go! I downed the drink, trying my best to ignore the earthy taste and smell. I placed the bowl down and clapped twice again, as instructed. “Vinaka”, I said. Fijian for thank you. It wasn’t bad! In fact, there’s definitely something about it. It helped me feel a real part of things almost instantly. I can see why they use it as a welcoming ceremony. Prince Charlie had the same treatment when he visited the same village a few years ago. If it’s good enough for HRH, it’s good enough for GGW. “Taki”’ came the cry from Niko whilst banging the floor! I think it means ‘more’!
I was given another bowl, this time being allowed to forego the 3 claps prior to drinking. The claps afterward remain, copied by the pourer of the drink. It leaves a tingle in your mouth and eventually your tongue goes a little numb. It’s said to make you drunk, although there is no alcoholic content. I had 3 or 4 high tides before reverting to low tides! I don’t feel drunk, but there is a definite feeling of relaxation. Niko promises I will sleep well, with no dreams.

The kava being prepared. . . appetising eh?

My name was proving difficult for them to pronounce, particularly Niko so I was given a Fijian name, Koli! I love it.
Shortly after the kava had started flowing and a few more cigarettes were sold for a dollar a piece, I was served dinner. Being a renowned ‘fussy bugger’, I had already negotiated this obstacle in my mind. These people don’t have much by western standards. I was going to suck it up and appreciate their generosity, whatever was put in front of me. It was chicken pieces, made with soy sauce and vegetables. It was served with locally grown grapefruit. I’m sure I’ve had grapefruit before, but maybe not. (UPDATE: I LEARNED THIS STUFF IS CALLED CASAVA AND IS TREATED THE SAME WAY WE TREAT POTATOES. THEY EVEN MAKE CRISPS OUT OF IT!) These chunks of fruit have to be the driest thing I ever tasted. I had a minor panic as my throat began to seize up as the thought of eating the rest of the plate so as not to offend careered through my mind. The only liquid on offer was the kava. That was until a bottle of orange pop fell from the heavens. I gulped half of it immediately. The chicken and sauce was good. I was provided with a plate for the bones, of which there were many. Oh, and no cutlery by the way. Proper Fijian style. I offered grapefruit to the others in the vain attempt to shift a few chunks from my plate. Predictably, my offer was politely refused with smiles all round. I explained that the portion was way bigger than I was used too. Mostly true. The remains were taken and shared amongst the children.
Niko heads up a family of 15 who all live in close quarters. Two of his daughters will give birth in less than 1 month. It’s a busy household.
Not long after dinner, Ana returned from hospital, an hour taxi ride away. She was accompanied by her 24 year old daughter, Lessa. Ana immediately dissappeard to bed for rest. Lessa came to join us and sat next to me. She told me of her life in the village and her education and career. Only a couple of years ago, she was hospitalised with a serious drink problem. As it happen, I’m pretty sure I spotted children as young as 5 smoking. There is a very different attitude to drinking and smoking. Niko has a strong belief that the Government just want to scare people with links of cancer to smoking. I guess it’s bad for business.
Lessa now works in a hotel where she serves behind the bar and also assists in the kitchen. It’s long hours for $90 per week, around £45.
At 8pm we moved into the next room. This is when I spotted the cooking zone and was glad to have already eaten. In the vacated room, a large thin foam mattress appeared and 4 or 5 sleepy children assumed the position. Vying with each other for a decent spot.
A few more neighbours stopped by. Some inticied by the cava and some by the curiosity of the Englishman. “Bula” all round. A welcome in Fijian. I began to feel sleepy and, after a brief broken conversation about bin Laden I thanked everyone and headed across the yard to my bed at Fi’s place.
As I look up, I see a few wooden beams resting on breeze block walls. Across the beams, sheets of corrugated iron protect me from the elements. The only element so far has been a hot and sticky one but, I’ve just heard a few rolls of thunder. Jit, my taxi driver, promised a clear day of sunshine tomorrow. That would be nice. Lessa has offered to show me around their historic village. The first settlement on the island over 3,000 years ago. Niko informed me that the first inhabitants separated and formed tribes and fought each other. The name of the village Viesiesie, means separation. The losers of the fights were more than just that. They were food! Gaaaah! Fortunatley those days are long gone (at least I hope so!) since Christian missionaries arrived in 1826, bringing religion with them and a better way of life.

Posted in Fiji | 2 Comments

HALSE-CYON DAYS!

Weeks 8 and 9

I arrived in Noosa on a local bus service from Maroochydore as I was off the beaten Greyhound track. The bus was driven by a very pleasant British ex-pat from Yorkshire. We chatted for a while on the journey as we were the only two onboard! Eventually the bus began to fill up with school kids, surfboards and grannies. This was a sure fire sign of the eclectic nature of Noosa that was to come. It is one of the most expensive places to live in the region, and some of the riverside properties are breathtaking and worth millions of dollars. There’s a street called Hastings Street that is full of the top designer brands from around the world, along with some very swanky restaurants. Then, just down the road from that is the very down to earth Surf Club. But it all works so beautifully well together. I always felt that Byron was my favourite place, but thinking back to Noosa makes it a very close run thing.

I had heard good things about the YHA hostel in Noosa, called Halse Lodge, from other travellers. The other options in town included Nomads which is a definite no for me. Nomads is really for the 18-25 year old crowd. The Halse Lodge was fantastic and ranks amongst my favourite hostels. It is a 19th century wooden house built for a cleric back in it’s day. It’s so full of character, it’s amazing the timber walls can contain it.

The Halse Lodge YHA - Best hostel!

Sabine arrived from the south to join me for her last night out in Australia before sadly returning home to Germany. She mentioned something about work and money? Anyway, Sabine was the unfortunate one who had to suffer for me to realise how selfish I was in danger of becoming on my little mission. Perhaps selfish is the wrong word, but having spent so long only having to worry about one person, ME, I forgot to consider that I had a companion for the evening. We had decided to treat ourselves and dine out. In the meantime I received a Skype call from Tommy and he had quite a lot of news. I was really engrossed in everything happening in his world and completely lost track of time. Sabine ‘gently’ reminded me a couple of times until, finally, I ended the call with Tommy and we headed out. That’s when ‘small town Australia’ really bit me on the bum. We take things for granted back in England, such as restaurants that stay open past 9pm! Quite incredibly, we were unable to get a table at 9pm in Noosa, Sunshine Coast, Australia in the summer. All kitchens were closed. Sabine had been pretty patient up until now, but she certainly let me know that she was more than mildly disappointed at my lack of urgency. This sent me off into one of my childish sulks where I go all quiet, hopefully for the last time as I came to realise how ridiculous that whole thing is! Although, in my defence, who would have thought that in a holiday resort all the Chefs’ would pack up and leave by 9pm?! So, all that put a bit of a damper on things but we managed to get an Indian takeaway thanks to an act of pity, I believe, on the part of a friendly Manager. We took our plastic tubs, plastic cutlery, plastic bottle of lemonade (yeah, liquor stores were closed too!) and headed to the beach. Good to see I haven’t lost my romantic touch, eh?! It all came good in the end.

I waved Sabine off on the Greyhound next morning and spent the rest of the day laying on the beach and updating the blog. In the evening I ended up with a group who were hanging out in the car park with a few drinks and music playing from the boot of a Dutchman’s car. Just like the old days! It was a pretty fun night during which I met Claudia, from Zurich, Switzerland. The following day was Australia day which meant a national holiday and big parties across the country. Claudia was planning on taking a walk through the national park on a koala hunt. I had taken a short walk through the park with Sabine but Claudia was planning the full blown 4 hour mission. I can’t remember if I was invited, or if I invited myself but either way we agreed to meet after breakfast and hit the track.

Australia day was super hot. We did the four hour walk and managed to get a glimpse of most things including some pretty lairy spiders, a guana, sea turtles and, just as we were getting to the end of the track, a wild koala clinging to a eucalyptus tree and catching some z’s! As the track ended next to the beach, it would have been rude not to go for a refreshing dip in the sea. The pacific ocean never felt so good, even with the sea parasites nipping behind my knees. A very weird sensation that hasn’t happened anywhere else!

I kind of expected some kind of beach party for the Australia day celebrations, but seeing as nothing was happening Claudia and me created our own. However, by the time we got down to the BBQ’s by the river it was dark. Although the council kindly provide these facilities, the one thing they lack is light. Never fear! I donned my superman cape and headed off in to town whilst Claudia bravely attempted to get the show underway with the light from her phone! I returned, triumphant, laden with candles and some plastic cups to stick them in. It was one of those random events, and was a lot of fun. Claudia left the next morning. Do you see a theme developing? Is it me? Or, is it just the nature of the travelling world? I think the latter, or at least I hope so!!

Candle lit Australia Day BBQ!

The same day that Claudia left, a couple of likely lads from the homeland arrived. Toby and Jay. Toby owns a couple of restaurants down in Brighton, and Jay has a name with only one syllable. Toby has a ‘way with the women’ and the ‘women run away’ from Jay. Toby supports Southampton and is full of expectations and the hope of some silverware, poor old Jay is a dirty dirty gooner with no hope and CERTAINLY no silverware.

That's me on the left, Toby in the middle doing the creature comforts then Jay the Goon

Football differences aside, it was a pretty good combination. People just watched on in uncomfortable fascination at the banter flying around. I think most of the foreign nationals were convinced a fight would break out at any moment! We had a lot of fun playing up to their fears. We hooked up with a load of different people over the time that we ended up staying there. In fact I stayed there for 9 nights! That’s a record for me, excluding the ’forced on me’ 10 nights at Jackaroo in Sydney (although, technically I only stayed there 9 nights due to the delayed flight!). I think the Canadian/Dutch girls we met, Ella and Anne were the ones who appreciated the banter the most, they couldn’t get enough!

I spent most days surfing at Noosa, which has to be one of the best spots I have ever surfed. The waves are perfect for my skill level, and with the weather the way it was I was out there in just boardies – heaven! The hostel had boards available for free, all I had to do was leave $100 deposit. They were not the coolest boards (red and yellow foamies with a hard bottom and flames, YEAH!) but they were fun. One of the more bizarre experiences I had was when I caught a pretty good wave and rode it almost to shore. As I dived off my board feeling pretty pleased with my effort I heard someone call out “go Gordie!!”. I turned round, and there was a local who had been drinking with us in the bar the night before! Toby was going good too, it was nice having someone else to surf with. Surfing, for me, is way more fun when shared.

The culmination of this particular period was an impromptu night down by the river. Beer, burgers and generous helpings of tequila followed by a dip in the river. The line up included me (UK), Toby (UK), Jay (UK), Anne (NL), Ella (NL), Rosa (NL) Martin (D), Gabbi (US), Steve (AUS), John (SW) and Israel (UK). A pretty multi-cultural crew, and yes Israel is a guy from the UK. That was not a mistake! Steve, an aborigine who works with disadvantaged children, produced the killer line of the night. There were about 5 or 6 of us in the river, stripped down to just underwear, when Steve came diving in from nowhere. He swam up to us and said perfectly calmly “everyone else is naked, yeah?” I swear, I almost drowned!!!

From then on it got a bit more adventurous, until we were climbing on board a luxury yacht and diving off. That was, until the owner came out! After running like I haven’t done since the days of ‘chap door run’ we ended up at a bridge over the river. A perfect spot for jumping in, and no one to upset. Steve took the lead and jumped, testing the depth! We all followed suit until PC Rolf rocked up in his patrol car. He proceeded to tell us ‘you’re not local, are you? If you were, you wouldn’t be jumping in to this river which is full of bullsharks and stingrays.” Oops. We got dressed and were politely moved on.

The boat!

The bridge!

The night didn’t end there as we walked in to town to try and find a night club and got talking to a local walking in the opposite direction. He explained that as it was past 1am everywhere was closed, or dead. He invited us back to his for a house party, although there were 6 of us at this point and only 1 of him so really WE were providing the party! He called a mate who owned a private hire minibus in the town and we were on our way. We got to the guys place and he put on some music before cracking open Pandora’s box of illegal tricks. It was quite apparent from the start what this was all about, but it added to the adventure of the night. The majority of us kindly turned down our hosts offer and shortly afterwards, thanks to the quick thinking and streetwise Jay, we were on our way back to town with the minibus that had taken us there.

In between all of that I had a very cool day out with the Zerners on the weekend. We began with a boat ride out with the whole family, courtesy of Mel’s dad who is the proud owner of what the Aussie’s call a Tinny and allowed Jason to take us in it.

Jason with the tinny. If that's not Australian right there, I don't know what is!

After the ride out with the family, Jason and me headed out on a fishing trip. A first for me. Jason was a great teacher, showing me how to attach bait to the line and also how to cast. My casting was pretty lame to be fair, but I did get a few good ones.

It's not always about the size. It tasted GREAT!

Not bad for a days work!

The gourmet meal!

Pretty quickly we started getting bites and soon accumulated a haul of around 8 bream. We took them to shore where Jason showed me how to fillet them. I had a go at some descaling, but Jason handled the technical side. Back at Mel’s parents place we were treated to a bbq before I was dropped back at my hostel. I had the fish with me, and a mixture of flour and lemon from Mel’s mum along with some salad from the bbq. It was a lovely meal. Caught it, cooked it, consumed it! All in the spa

It was sad times leaving Noosa, and Halse Lodge. The place had become like home and I was well acquainted with most of the locals and the staff, and had made some great friends. The locals like the place as it’s the only bar in town where you can take your drink outside for a smoke! They also had a piano there, that was IN tune and free wifi. But, it was time to move on. I had the feeling. Too much of a good thing and all that.

The next week was probably the most crumbiest time I’ve had since I left home. I put it down to a culmination of a come down after such an awesome time in Bli Bli and Noosa, and that fact that I developed a sty on my eye not long after arriving at Rainbow Beach. It really made me feel crappy. My Rainbow Beach experience didn’t do much to help, although there were a couple of highlights.

Rainbow is a tiny tiny town, with a population less than 1,000. From a tourism point of view, it serves as a base for visiting Fraser Island. A world heritage site. As my adventure is really ad hoc, I didn’t fit in at all at the hostel. Everybody there was either just about to head off on their long since booked Fraser trip, or had just returned. I spent 2 days there procrastinating about how best to see the island. The tag-along tour didn’t do it for me. Basically, you go along with a large group to a pre-tour meeting and are separated into teams of 8 whilst being given a laundry list of do’s and don’t’s. I overheard one meeting and it was like being back at school. Also, most of the participants were well under 25 so I would have been the oldest swinger in town by far. The idea is you take turns to drive the 4×4 so at any one time there will be 6 of you crammed in the back. You ‘follow the leader’ around the island before setting up camp and, presumably, getting pissed. All these things together put me off, apart from the last thing.
I spoke to a couple of travel agents. Hiring a 4×4 and going on my own was not an option. Not only was the cost prohibitive, but it straight up was not allowed on your own. There is a 4×4 tourist bus that runs a day trip. It seemed this would be my only way of seeing the island, outside of the tag along. Although, I was into the tourist bus as much as I was into the tag along. This is the point where I abandoned the whole Fraser Island idea. Why should I do it if I’m really not feeling it? It’s supposedly a ‘must see’ place, but I couldn’t see it the way I wanted to. I think my ‘Nimbin’ experience was the biggest player involved in this match so I trusted my gut feeling and booked the Greyhound out of here!

The morning of the day I left, I found a little video/book store offering internet access. This is where I met the owner, Caroline. She had damaged her arm surfing and was wearing a sling. A lady had just arrived with boxes full of books. Caroline bribed me with free internet and a coffee to help unload the Samaritans car. Backpacker and free is such a beautiful combination. I was on it. I got chatting with Caroline about travel, Volkswagens, writing and learned that she writes for the local paper. We spent quite a while chatting before the time came for me to leave as I was bound for Agnes Water. A town near a place called 1770, where Cpt. Cook landed in, er, 1770.

So, my time in Rainbow although not consisting of the obligatory trip to Fraser Island was not in vain. One evening I ventured out, alone to the Carlo Sandblow. An amazing creation of nature where the wind literally blows the sand over everything in it’s path creating a huge, sandy valley in the cliff. The only other person there was floating a couple of 100ft above me, paragliding over the incredible scenery.
I also got to feed a wild dolphin! I have to admit slight disappointment as the flyer assured me ‘swim with, and feed wild dolphins’. Well, they should drop the pluralisation and also replace the word swim with wade. But still, it was an incredible experience and my first contact with this stunning creature.
And, I got to meet Caroline. Stay tuned for interesting developments on that. For now, I’m off on the bus to Agnes Water. A gruelling 10 hour stint. Ouch.

'Wading' with the dolphin

Carlo Sandblow. Just me and some sand kicked up after running for the timer!

Posted in Australia | 1 Comment