3 Days in Cairns

 Fish have whole other respiratory organs to do what we are doing with a plastic tube

The trip didn't start too well. Our flight from Melbourne was at 7, so, of course I woke up at 3am panicking we wouldn't make it. Leaving Camilla sleeping, I ordered an extortionately priced Uber to the airport at 4am. My Uber driver was actually from Cairns and we had a great chat about his home town. But then he asked "so when's your flight? 5.30?" But nope, Mr Uberman, you have clearly underestimated my travel anxiety. Yep, I decided to leave 3 hours wiggle room for a domestic flight. 

Anyway after meeting up with Camilla when she arrived at the airport at 5.30 like a normal person, we were off.

Embracing our first rays of sun after escaping the rain in Melbourne 
We stayed at Gilligan's, which is known as the party hostel. Never having stayed in a hostel (always been more of an overpacked-suitcaser than a backpacker), I had very low expectations. I was picturing rodents and bugs everywhere, with pick pockets hiding under your bed and people having sex behind every corner.

Home Sweet Home 

I was pleasantly surprised. Although Gilligan's is above an incredibly trashy club (think Blurred Lines playing during a wet t-shirt competition, a casino attached to the main room, and a Bingo Lingo so sexist it puts England's to shame), it was actually pretty clean and had a really friendly atmosphere.

We also used Gilligan's travel agency to help plan and book our day trips. For our first day we went to the Great Barrier Reef with Passions of Paradise (not as telenovela as it sounds). The journey there was very choppy, with Camilla and I clinging desperately to our benches. Greta spent the journey bouncing around saying she could spend a year on that boat, to which I said I'd pass, thanks v much.

Shout out to Greta embracing Moana vibes, whilst I tried not to vom. 
When we finally got to the reef it was stunning. We stopped at two spots to get in and snorkel. I've snorkelled once before in Israel where I got so distracted by the fish that I put the whole snorkel underwater, breathed in and got a mouth full of sea water. In my defence, snorkelling is a super weird experience!! Your whole life you swim holding your breath and being aware that you'll have to resurface soonish to get air. Then suddenly boom, you're told 'forget all that- it's all good, breathe normally in the middle of the ocean surrounded by fish that actually have whole other respiratory organs to do what we are doing with a plastic tube.'

Looks like I'm posing but this is genuinely me trying not to get face whipped by my hair in the wind 
Luckily, I chilled out after a bit and got the hang of it and managed to get a great view of one of the 7 natural wonders of the world. The water was amazingly clear and was a perfect temperature the day we went. The coral was maybe a bit of a duller colour than you'd see in pictures but the fish were actually much brighter than I'd expected. We also spotted a few turtles, reef sharks and sting rays, but I must say I did a hasty doggy paddle away whenever the bigger fish got a smidge too close.

Let's just ignore that I'm wearing a float belt... 
(Also shout out to the Passions crew who unexpectedly stopped twice on the way back. First to rescue a small boat that had run out of fuel and then to pick up a huge piece of plastic floating in the water. Not all heroes wear capes, folks.)



The next day trip was to rainforests and waterfalls around Cairns. The tour was run by Uncle Brians and our guide was Sid. We were in a group of about 12 people, all traveling in our 20s which was a really nice crew.

This lake has a crocodile in it who supposedly doesn't eat humans but I decided to not take that plunge...
Sid showed us around, simultaneously being entertaining and terrifying, showing us all the many things that can kill you in Queensland, like the Wait-a-while tree, so named because of its tiny spikes hooking into your skin meaning you'll have to wait a while to get out.

Thanks for capturing this attempt at a dive that turned into a face plant 

Sid was also helpfully around to snap photos of me falling, slipping and generally embarrassing myself at various moments int he trip, thanks for that. 

This helpful Nemo preserves a smidge of my dignity whilst showing this stunning facial expression
One of the highlights was definitely Josephine Falls which has such smooth rocks on the waterfall that you can slide right down it. Despite both Greta and I bruising our bums in the process, it was still amazing.

Tips for anyone considering doing this trip--- bring extra clothes and good towel!!! The water was pretty damn cold in some places and, spoiler alert, a $9 piece of fabric disguised as a towel will be completely useless.

"Quick, it's Golden Hour!!" 
After the aforementioned bruises and doggy paddling, we were pretty exhausted on day 3 and took a well deserved break for sunbathing. (Yet another spoiler alert for readers back home, drumroll please... I failed at tanning. I have potentially become paler.)

Amazing food (and aesthetic, obvs) at Lafew Cafe & Kombucha Bar

Our last night out was at Woolshed. Sorry Gilligan's, we love you, but Woolies is the better club. But of course, all nights could always be improved by a lil bit of sexist bingo.

Free drinks from Gilligan's... alas, not enough to make us enter the wet t-shirt contest

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A Week In Tasmania




The city girl within me got more and more terrified as the bars on our mobiles faded away 

Going to Tasmania, I’d anticipated wild animals, mountainous hikes, unpredictable weather and stunning views. And I was right.

Tasmania is all of those things, but until you’ve been (or read a blog by someone whose been, thank you) it’s hard to really imagine. For most people outside Australia, Tasmania just conjures up images of the Tasmanian devil (both cartoon and real). Until coming to Australia I hadn’t thought much about it at all, and knew it just as the little island underneath the big island. But when I heard it being described as the cheaper New Zealand, it seemed like a good option for mid-semester break.

Our Route 

 
We started our trip on the west side, which has been described by Discover Tasmania.com as ‘one of Australia’s last true wilderness frontiers.’ It’s an incredibly pretentious sounding statement, but I have to say it sums it up pretty well. The London city girl within me got more and more terrified as we progressed down the road from Launceston into the rainforests of the west. As the bars on our mobiles decreased and faded away, I knew I wasn’t in Kansasmy comfort zonewifi reception…a city anymore.

Height of fashion on Cradle Mountain 

On our first night in rural Tassie we drove around in the dark for a few hours searching for a campsite. Driving at night around Tassie isn’t recommended because of the wild animals. A sad reminder of this was the amount of roadkill lining the way. Me being me, I’d downloaded an app to help find free campsites. But, alas, Android being Android, it didn’t work and helpfully sent us into the middle of a horse paddock. We finally found a place and I promptly had my first experience with boiling water to make in sanitary (rather than relying on a helpful tap).

The next day was Cradle Mountain where we were greeted by torrential rain. The walk round the lake, however, was beautiful and we spotted a few rainbows. The hike to the summit was less my forte as it involved scrambling over rocks uphill. We couldn’t actually get to the summit because the weather was so bad but I wasn’t particularly complaining about our decision to abort mission. Instead, we did a Wombat walk which was adorable (and, yay, no rock scrambling.)


Wombat Walk

The drive down to Hobart the next day was pretty stunning. There are so many terrains in Tasmania that we were driving through a green countryside one minute and surrounded by dark orange woodland the next. We had more of a city-day, getting a lunch by the harbour and visiting the botanical gardens. To my delight dismay, there aren’t camping options near Hobart so we had no choice but to rent cabins for the night. Such a shame of course to sleep with a roof over our heads and on mattresses.

Museum of Modern Art 


Wednesday was also spent in Hobart, visiting MONA, the massive, world-famous art gallery in Tassie. As this is an art blog, I’ll probably do a more thorough write up of it at some point, but in summary: vaginas, tattoos, Madonna, and lots of art. Would hugely recommend.

Of course no day is complete with just culture, so we headed to Mount Wellington and did a short walk around it. As it was all horizontal, and I didn’t have to lift my leg near my chin to climb it, there were no complaints from me.

The penal colony at Darlington 
We spent the night in Triabunna which is a great little coastal town with a supermarket!! (Not that I spent most of the western side looking for signs of civilisation or anything.) From Triabunna, we caught the boat to Maria Island, which is a stunning national park full of wildlife as well as having one of the best preserved convict probation stations in Aus. It doesn’t have any roads so the only way to get around is mountain biking. Which sounds all great at first.

And then you realise you haven’t really cycled since Amsterdam a year ago. And Amsterdam is tarmacked, not sand and mud. And, to be honest, Amsterdam hurt your bum too.

Painted Cliffs in Maria Island 

Yeah, so… um… I personally loved the cycling part. My thighs, bum, back, hands and shins didn’t. I mention shins because they probably got the worst bruises. Not because I fell off the bike. But because I kept dropping it onto myself as I walked it back.

Relief after surviving the bikes on Maria Island
Needless to say, I spent a few hours waiting for the others back at Darlington, the historical township on the island. On the bright side, I now know a lot about the history of the place so hit me up for any fun facts about the convicts there.

Freycinet

We all somehow survived the cycling and lived to see the next day, which we spent in Freycinet, a beautiful national park encompassing Wineglass Bay and the Bay of Fires, two must-see sights in Tassie. We did a hike for a few hours which was pretty manageable (despite how out of breath I was) and well worth the views. The others decided to climb Mount Amos as well, but I was scared off by the signs yelling DON’T CLIMB UNLESS YOU’RE AN EXPERIENCED HIKER. Which, as you may have guessed, I am not.

Bay of Fires
For the final day, we started winding back round to Launceston to catch our flight home. On the way we stopped off at St Columba falls, another example of the different terrains to be found here. Then I finished the trip by finally purchasing a t-shirt with Tasmanian Devils on it. Yes, it is made for a child, but as the saying goes, if the top fits, you buy it.

Walking to St Columba Falls

St Columba Falls


 We really did get to see so much in such a short time, it’s well worth a visit. And on the bright side, despite my constant terror of most forms of wildlife there, I didn’t actually get bitten by anything…

Nope, that happened back in Melbourne two days later. When I was bitten by a spider in our garden…

The Aftermath. 
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Some Things From March

I’m sure I did Lose Yourself better than Slim Shady.


It’s been a month of sunburn, sports, and snakes (ok, no snakes, but a bird flew into our kitchen and I was freaked out for days.) As a blog about each experience –shared on every social media outlet, obvs- would potentially lose me all my friends and followers, here’s a mini summary of some of my favourite moments from the past few weeks…

Camberwell Market
I have officially vowed I’m never going to shop elsewhere whilst I’m here. And even though Cotton On Body is currently having a sale, and I’ve been tempted, so far, I’ve kept to it.  There is no need to go anywhere else, because this place is basically a huge car boot sale where you can get tops for £2. Yes, you have to riffle through some buckets of a few rags until you get anything half decent. Yes, you will have to haggle quite a bit. And yes, some of the things I got don’t quite fit. But it’s the bargain that counts, right?

Karaoke
Our lives were changed forever when we discovered a Japanese Karaoke just down our street. That may be an exaggeration, but it seemed that way as I belted out Abba, rapped along to Eminem and rain danced to Africa. The alcohol may have helped, but I’m sure I did Lose Yourself better than Slim Shady himself.


Phillip Island
Convincing a baby kangaroo to trust me enough to eat from palm is probably going to go on my LinkedIn along with my other life accomplishments. The island is just a few hours outside Melbourne, and is a stunning little chunk of nature. You can go to a nature reserve and hang out with some Roos and some emus (which by the way are utterly terrifying… Check out Number 2.) The Island is also famous for it’s Penguin Parade where you can get up close with the smallest penguins in the world, which are –both unimaginatively and adorably- called Little Penguins.

Surf Camp
Okay, stop laughing. Yes I did go on a weekend devoted to surfing. For all those who witnessed me in PE class (on the rare occasions I didn’t skive with a “headache”), I know this seems unlikely. Unsurprisingly, I was not a natural. In fact, I may have swallowed most of the Indian Ocean, so, sorry about that, Earth.

F1
As every other activity I’ve listed all involved spending money, it’s pretty great to talk about getting some back. Yay, I’m earning! This past month I worked at the Melbourne Grand Prix. The soles of my feet and my eardrums may never be the same, but it was worth it. All whilst being a grandstand attendant, I got to see Lewis Hamilton’s head as he whizzed past, I patted a guide dog and I got to use a megaphone. So, whose the real winner, Mr. Vettel? 

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My First 25 Days In Melbourne

The world is clearly very much your oyster rather than your myki.



I write this with my aircon on full blast, thongs on my feet, vegemite toast in hand.  That’s right, folks, I’ve been living in Australia for 25 days now. Tomorrow I’ll be starting my first week studying at the University of Melbourne so I thought I’d reflect on a few things I’ve learned from these first few weeks here…

You can burn through clouds. Perhaps basic knowledge, but, alas, took me a few days to realise. There’s also some crazy levels of UV round here, which just makes all that skin radiation and burning even more jolly.

The smile of someone who does not realise they'll look like Rudolf the next day. 

An emu’s foot could rip your heart out. Just a generally good thing to know.

Some things only sound good in an Australian accent. Including but not limited too: How you going? (Asked by every shop assistant as soon as your foot steps through the doorway). Esky. (Ice box). Arvo (afternoon). Crikey. (Yet to hear anyone say this un-ironically). Prahran. (A suburb of Melbourne that magically is only one syllable when said by a local.) If you try to pull any of these off as a foreigner, your visa may be revoked.




Australian Dollars are real currency and should not be treated like Monopoly money (unfortunately). It has, admittedly, taken me 25 days, and many shopping trips to fully accept that.

Boomerangs are actually a hoax. Yep, I actually don’t believe anyone has ever managed to get it to come back.

Yep, not one of these boomerangs came back. 

Kneeling on a surf board can feel like the biggest accomplishment in your life. Yes, I never actually managed to get to my feet, or stay on the board for more than a few seconds. But kneeling on the board seemed like a huge improvement after spending most of the session clinging desperately on it whilst lying on my tummy like a terrified pancake.

House hunting is a bitch. Because most Aussies live at home, there doesn’t seem to be as many student house shares for internationals as there would be in England, making it a pretty savage process. At one viewing I went to I was greeted by Australians sitting around glaring at me saying ‘not someone else with an accent…’ Nuff said.

(Almost) everything here can kill you. Some of the deadliest species on earth are sharing this country with me right now. Meaning I have had many moments of having to tell myself no, that ant is not a giant bull ant about to crawl into your sandal and bite you. That’s a shadow not a sting ray. That’s a rock not a shark.
Air Brunei has a multicolour light show before landing, because why land in normal lighting if you can land in a rainbow?

It is possible to watch Stranger Things Season 1 in a day. With the help of Netflix on your ipad and a flight from London to Melbourne, (with stop overs in Dubai and Brunei), it can in fact be done. Expecting the phone call from Guinness  World Records any. day. now.

Myki is the more stressed out, sunburnt cousin of the Oyster card. The Underground is a complex system, but most people manage to navigate it with the help of Oysters. The Aussie version, known as Myki seems to have thrown all logic out the tram window. You have to tap on, except you have to remind yourself to do so as there’s no barriers. However, you don’t have to tap on in some areas known as the ‘free’ areas. Except they’re not actually free because if you tap on you get charged anyway. You are told to tap off. But it doesn’t seem to always make a difference if you do or don’t, and most locals don’t seem to bother. The world is clearly very much your oyster rather than your myki.



The longest streets in the world are all here. Ok, I don’t know if that’s true. But I’m ready to bet it might be. Melbournians seem to think it makes the most sense to have extremely long streets that cross multiple suburbs and can have huge park right in the middle, and keep the numbers going to a million rather than just split it into a few shorter streets… Looking at you, Lygon and Drummond. 

View from Naked for Satan, Fitzroy. (You do not have to be a nudist nor in a Satanic cult).
It’s illegal to drink in public places or on transport. But perfectly fine if it’s in a park. Did Australians miss the memo on the idea of a wholesome family park? They obviously think it would be better to have it covered with people drinking coz they have nowhere else to go.

A very accurate depiction. 
.
A rubber glove is a valid costume idea. We’re cockatoos, okay!

Getting to that central position did involve narrowly missing kicking a woman in the face with my socked feet. 

A huge carpet is the most relaxing place ever (and has the added bonus of making you feel like a giant). Courtesy of the National Gallery of Victoria, this giant landscape carpet is the best place ever for a cheeky nap in public.

White Night. 

Walking through a city with millions of other people whilst lights are blasted on famous buildings is simultaneously really cool and really weird. Aka White Night, where the roads are cleared and everyone walks around going to events the whole  night. Still not over the feeling of standing right in the middle of one of the busiest roads in Melbourne.

Another rooftop because why not. 
  
The best place to have a drink is always on a rooftop. After this trip, I’ll never be able to go back to getting drinks with friends in an underground bar in London. I’ll just have to climb onto the stinky grey roof with my umbrella and my drink and hang out up there instead.  

Stay tuned to hear more about my trip...

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