Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Whimsical Whitsunday's

The Whitsundays is a cluster of islands situated on the Great Barrier Reef, it attracts thousands of tourists all year round and for two nights we were two of them. We were introduced to our new home for the next two nights, she was named The Broomstick. Our crew were fantastic and hugely accommodating throughout the whole trip. We shared the yacht with a group of 16 of us. We were lucky to have a great group on board who all easily got on and made the trip such great time! We spent our days sailing from beach to beach snorkelling at different parts of the reef. I was lucky enough to see a manta ray swim right underneath me.

The Broomstick, I'm sure this boat was made for my Mum!

Each night we would be fed a banquet of delicious food by our fab crew, then would watch the sun set sipping cans of cider. We laid out on the top deck both nights gazing at the stars above us. This was one on my most memorable parts of the trip just laying back looking up at the glitter filled sky. We was even luckily enough to have a great view of the milky way and saw several shooting stars! This was my first time seeing a shooting star so will always be a highlight for me.

Us enjoying the sunset.

White Haven beach is a popular destination to visit whilst sailing the Whitsundays, most famous for its 98% pure silica sand beach. It was just like a picture from a postcard, the most beautiful sight my eyes have ever seen. Crystal clear turquoise water with the silkiest grains of white sand for seven kilometres. The sand actually squeaked beneath you as you walked along. The water was so lovely and warm, I wanted to stay and swim all day. We even got to play with little soldier crabs, who dug themselves into their little houses by drilling themselves sideways into the sand.


                                                                  Summer lovin'

Our awesome group!

A solider crab, cute eh?

Sam treated me to my third scuba dive of my trip whilst we were out on the yacht. I was still just amazed at how beautiful the underworld was, it was by far my best dive. It was so colourful and filled with so many different types of marine life. We was lucky enough to swim in-between some tight spots of the coral, being ever so careful not to touch anything. The hour under water went far to fast, I could have spent so much longer watching over all the schools of fish going about their daily lives. It so peaceful and tranquil, I should have been born a mermaid. Its on my bucket list to get my open water divers certificate as I am eager to dive all over the world. 

After our amazing two nights aboard it was time to depart from our lovely crew and group, it was a quick goodbye before we where whisked off into an aeroplane and was taken on a scenic flight above the Whitsundays and the Great Barrier Reef. This has been also one of my highlights from our time in Australia, the sights where just breathtaking. We nearly didn’t take any photos as our camera had ran out of battery whilst being on the yacht, but the lovely Abi came to our rescue and kindly lent us her fancy pants camera. You need next to no photography skills when the scenery in front of you is so picturesque. But I do have to give the camera some credit too! I look back on the photos and just cannot believe I actually took them. There are like the photos that come with a new phone that you can set at your background before taking your own photos. 

                                                                Me and the lovely Abi.

About to board our scenic flight!

I am ready to go, so damn excited.

The famous Whitehaven beach from the sky.

Simply stunning.

Heart reef! 

Our whole time spent on the Whitsundays was utter paradise, I mean who could be happier when you’re being treated like royalty being sailed around one of the seven natural wonders of the world?

Love Chailey x


Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Our indigenous experience!

G'Day mates! 

Chailey asked if I wanted to be a guest and write one of her blogs for her so here I am! 

After our adrenaline filled trip to cairns, it was time to move on to our next adventure. The travel company we had booked our east Coast travel with, Loka (highly recommended), offered an exclusive one night stop in a beautiful area called Tully to stay at an indigenous camp on some of their land in the mountains. (The mountain range was called the Misty Mountains, the LOTR fanboy in me was very happy with that.) 

Taking a dip in the misty mountains. 

We met one of the guys, Warren, we were staying with at the train station and shortly after his uncle Doug arrived. Doug was very welcoming and explained that Warren would take us up to the campsite in the mountains, while he was going to collect some supply's and meet us there. 

The drive was beautiful, we passed awesome Queensland rainforest and cool farm land. We had previously sky dived over part of this forest, and rafted down the river through it as well so it was cool to be driving into the middle of it to camp. 

After helping unload everything and set up the camp, Doug had a chat with us to explain more of what he does. He and his wife, along with various other family members, ran a company called Ingan Tours; a great local tour company that encourages people to come and experience some aboriginal culture, like kayaking down their rivers and creeks, and forest walks to explain about fauna and flora (animals and plant life). 

We had a very frank and eye opening discussion with Doug on that hot August afternoon. He began by asking us what we know about aboriginal people. Truthfully we didn't know a lot, only what we'd found out for ourselves since being here. But we didn't want to offend Doug at any point by being ignorant or rude. 

He was great, and explained lots about his ancestors land, his tribe, the Jirrbal people, the differences between tribes and how the location of their land determines how they live. (The Jirrbal people are rainforest aboriginals who know how to live in forests, fish in streams and use nature to benefit their lives. Other tribes live in mountains, deserts, beaches and coast lines.) 

We also discussed the current situation many Australian Aboriginals find themselves in, something which is worth researching and finding out about before casting judgments. It's well documented, even in England, that some Aboriginals- who's ancestors thrived on this lands soil for thousands of years before the colonisation happened (also something worth being educated on)- are unable to find work, and have drink or drug problems. This is common in the cities we've visited, and there are mixed feelings from the white Australians about them. HOWEVER; we have been very lucky to meet many aboriginals off the beaten track, on their land and in their towns who are doing well, and eager to welcome us and chat with us. If I could, I would love to volunteer for Ingan Tours in Queensland, to learn more about these issues and watch their business grow (they have just started renovating their new headquarters near the train station- they will employ local young people from the community to work in the adjacent coffee shop). 

As a white English man, it was hard not to feel sad and a bit guilty during our conversation with Doug. What happened during the colonisation of the native people of this country was barbaric to say the least, and done mainly by high ranking British military (as well as convicts, and other Europeans). Doug was great though and assured us that he wanted to just educate us and hoped we took something from the discussion. (Which I obviously have as I'm banging on so much about it) 

I promise the rest of this post is more light hearted, but I wanted to convey the importance of this issue, and how this discussion helped me in my own way. It was probably a moment I will never forget. 

After this we took a walk with Warren, into the rainforest where he told us all about the plants and the trees and what different purposes they have to rainforest tribes (my favourite was the tree which is used to make boomerangs!) 

Chailey on our forest trek. 

He took us to a local creek where we had a lovely refreshing swim, and he showed me how to catch a fresh water prawn, which is smaller and darker then sea water prawns. We had to look under rocks, and when we found one, be very slow and quiet until the last moment when you throw your hands in the water to grab them! I managed this tricky manoeuvre on my 2nd attempt. Clearly pleased with my self I went over to show my wife. She was happy and asked "will it nip me if I put my fingers in his pincers?!" Warren replied "yes probably,but it won't hurt", so Chailey promptly stabbed one of her little fingers into the prawns pincers and got quite the shock when it clamped down on her. So much so, that she sent the poor little sod halfway into next week when she flung her hand away! I can imagine the little prawns conversation with his Mrs after he spent the next 4 hours travelling back to his original rock; 'I know you won't believe this but this bloody blonde girl threw me into the rainforest!'...

The poor flying prawn. 

Other highlights of the trip included our supper, which was local fish wrapped in leaves and cooked in a ground oven underneath the camp fire. Very delicious. Also, our night time wildlife drive. Chailey and I stood in the back of Dougs pick up truck with torches while we drove around looking for cool things. We saw an owl which was so cool. After we spotted it we stopped to watch it for a while and it was cool to see its head move round to meet our gaze. 

Chailey preparing her fish 

Warren preparing our supper in the traditional way 

Later on that drive we found many many snakes. Chailey, the only one with a fear of them, managed to spot most of the ones we found including one which was so big it could've used me as a toothbrush! (Probably an exaggeration). We also came across a dead brown snake, one of the worlds deadliest, which I was prompted to touch, and decided instead to pick it up by the tail and dangle it around. On the drive back Doug got out to confront a very angry and active baby brown snake which was in the road. I think he wanted to move it off the road, so naturally he beat it over the head with his stick and flicked it off into trees. I don't know why but seeing an aboriginal man knock out one the most deadliest snakes in the world and chuck it into the rainforest like its no problem, is one of my most vivid memories my mind has decided to take away from that night. 

The dead brown snake! 

We got back to camp around 11pm, and swiftly went to our tent. We survived from the bugs and wildlife in the night, although I did wake up with the tent unzipped and my legs hanging out, which was odd as we zipped it all up before I fell asleep. Hopefully I didn't get dragged off into forest by an army of angry prawns who wanted to know where their leader was, and brought back before I woke up. 

We survived the night!

The next day we had an awesome cooked breakfast, then we headed out on our merry way! It was a truely humbling, fun, eye opening night we spent in the mountains of that rainforest. Something that I will never forget. 

Warren, me, Chailey and Doug. 

Thanks for reading! I hope you have enjoyed Chailey's writings as much as I have, I'm already looking forward to her next one. Catch ya! 

Friday, 9 October 2015

Crazy Cairns!

We arrived in sunny Cairns Tuesday morning eager to explore our new surroundings. After checking into our hippy hostel Calypso, we walked down to the esplanade, home to Cairns' famous lagoon. We grabbed some lunch and spent the afternoon reading by the lagoon. I had been recommended to visit the salthouse, a lovely bar over looking the harbour. We spent many afternoons exploiting the $3.50 ciders at happy hour. We got chatting to a couple from Reading whilst there, enjoying the sunset and swapping travel stories. 

The famous Aussie road signs.

It was on Sam's bucket list to Skydive. I said outright I wouldn't be doing one and was freaking out at the idea of Sam doing one. I wanted to cage dive with a great white Shark, that was going to be my thing I said. As we started to book all our tours and it started to look like we wouldn't make it down to Port Lincoln (SA) where I could dive with sharks. I felt like I needed to do something big and extreme. Whilst out here I have been constantly pushing myself to new levels, trying new things I would never have dreamed of doing back home. The day came to book Sam's skydive, and the words "book me a skydive too" slipped out of my mouth without even thinking. I didn't know where this new found courage had come from but I just went with it. 

Boy am I thankful I did, I had the best time of my life. One of the most exhilarating moments in all my life. I was free falling 14,000ft through the air. I was so alive, aware of the wind rushing past my ears and through my fingertips as I screamed in delight. The calm rushed over me as the parachute opened and I felt like a bird soaring through the sky towards the clouds below. I could see Sam below me, it filled my heart with such pride to see him finally for filling his dream. As I landed on the beach I was eager to go back up and do another one. 

We gave ourselves a free day in our itinerary on Thursday but decided we wanted to fill our day with another activity. We booked ourselves onto Uncle Brian's Fun, Falls & Forest tour after hearing many good things about it and also falling in love with the quirky advertising leaflet. We visited the famous Millaa Millaa Falls where Peter Andre filmed the iconic waterfall scene in mysterious girl. Josephine Falls where we slid down a natural rock slide, that was so much fun. The whole day consisted of lots of swimming and numerous food breaks. It was a long day and worth every penny, we even got to see see some platypus in the wild. The ride home was filled with heaps of laugher. Singing cringey songs you hate to admit knowing every single word. We finally realised why it was called uncle Brian's tour because at the end of the day the we all felt like one big family! Uncle Brian's famous quote was: Looking at life on the bright side of the road. Something I'll always remember from one of my favourite tours.

Us at Millaa Millaa Falls.

Friday was my 23rd birthday! It was my wish to go scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef. We started the day super early, getting picked up from our hostel at 6:30am. When we arrived at the boat we were given breakfast whilst listening to a marine biologist give us a talk about the reef. We were first to dive, after having all equipment put on us we were ready to get in the water. The visibility wasn't what I expected it to be, it was similar to when I last dived in Koh Tao. I imagined to dive in to a scene of the little mermaid, colours everywhere. The reefs were beautiful though each coral fascinated me, how they were all growing and fighting for the largest surface on the seabed. After our long day diving we went back to our room to chill for a while, that's when I opened my cards and gifts and also skyped my mum which was lovely. It was an early night for us after dinner as we had another super early start the following day. I had such a fantastic 23rd, it will be a while before I'll be able to top that birthday for sure.

Admiring the Great Barrier Reef.

Saturday we were booked to go extreme white water rafting. At first I was apprehensive but agreed to give it my best shot. In the morning we met our team; Luca, Summer, Ron & Lizzie and our fab teacher Angelo! We ran through some safely and then we were ready to head out onto the Tully river. It took me a while to get used to the ropes, climbing back into the boat was a blooming task itself. Surrounded by breathtaking views I was just happy bobbing along in the lake enjoying the scenery. Paddling away, I started to let my worries float down the river and relaxed into the activity. We stopped after 4km for lunch, then continued down the rapids for a further 6-8 km. Each rapid brought different skills and ways in which we would manoeuvre the raft. I loved being splashed by the water and rolling over the rocks as we cascaded down the rapids. All the rapids had a different names, I wish I could remember them all; lemon squeezer, and birth canal were couple of names. We were also given the opportunity to dive off rocks into the river and even went down a few rapids on our bums. At the end of the day we all headed to the pub for a nice cold Somersby! Perfect way to enjoy such a fab day.

A pair of egg heads.

I thank you Cairns, I can honestly say you excelled yourself! 

Love Chailey x