Posted by: aussieashley09 | June 30, 2009

::24 Day East Coast Trip::

25 day east coast trip

Since I have almost a month off til I start my new job (AHHH YESSS I GOT A NEW JOB!), I have about a week to plan this ‘backpacker’ trip. I talked to some of my friends and asked them what places I had to visit. Backpacker student travel agencies are a huge industry over here: Tribal Travel, Peterpans, Travelbugs, Adventure Travel are some of the big ones that offer basically all the same travel package deal. A basic popular one is $299. Each travel package offers nights of accom in hostels and tours all up the East Coast. I got one tailormade to what I initially planned on doing in 25 days with WANDERERS TRAVEL. All the packages are open dated. After you figure out when you’ll be there, then you call ahead to the place and book it then. That way you can spend more or less time in a location you like. These travel packages are not guided tours, they are just rooms and activities with specific companies. Each individual backpacker trips and plans vary.

First stop: Byron Bay Wed- Sat April 29 – May 1

Instead of taking a bus trip for 12 straight hours from Sydney, I took a cheap $70 flight to Ballina Airport.  A shuttle van to Byron Bay, 30 min away and with my package I got 3 free nights at Cape Byron Lodge. A lot of travelers and Austalians love Byron, I wasn’t too impressed. It’s a cute little surfer town, yes, but didn’t have a super special flair to it. The weather so far has truly sucked. It’s been rainy and cold. I expected to come up north to get a tan. Not happening yet. I don’t even want to take off my jacket anywhere.

The next day I took the HAPPY COACH to Nimbin, this cracked out hippie village, 2 hours away. First place we stopped at was Minyon Waterfalls. We did a 15 min stop to take pictures of this gorgeous view. Then off to Nimbin. Umm, wow… This one street town reminded me of the old stereotypical Western movies, with the post, grocery, newsagent, library all located within a 3 min walking distance. The store fronts were all rainbow colored. The biggest difference is the people and their viewpoints. The locals roam around aimlessly barefoot, in tattered clothing, looking homeless and definitely not in their right mind. I heard the F bomb spoken commonly as if it was the word, the. These people lived, breathed and promoted weed. They recently produced an 8 page newspaper spread, with ‘creative articles’ all the positives of using weed. Lucky for me, I just missed their biggest event, MardiGRASS. Your eyes did not deceive you: That says MardiGRASS, not MardiGRAS. It’s a celebration for what else, ohhh glorious weed. It was that upcoming weekend. They had events such as hemp Olympics, guess how many ounces in a bag, roll a joint the fastest, and a huge parade with a gigantic blown up weed replica that said LET IT BLOW. For those that really know me, can understand me being in this town is quite funny. I felt so naïve, uncomfortable and out of place. I walked into the Nimbin ‘historical museuem’. Very psychedelic. When I was walking out, I was asked by a local, “How many ounces do you wanna buy?” I basically ran away. I guess It’s a great town for people who ‘deeply appreciate’ that shit. I’m just not one of them. Before leaving the town, our bus driver intensely warned us the van would probably be stopped and searched by the cops. She was required to give us a 15 min lecture on ‘how drugs are illegal’. She asked who bought any drugs, about 5 of 12 hands went up. She gave out tips to not getting caught such as leave it on the bus and not on your body. Then they can’t prove its yours. Obviously, these tips were all very new and helpful to me. On the way out, the cops stopped the bus, confiscated the goods and no one fessed up to it so no one was charged. Quite an interesting day trip.

I met some really cool people in the hostel: another Australian who recently moved up for a job from Coffs Harbour, 3 American girls on holidays from Sydney Uni, 2 really sweet german girls and 2 locals. I love meeting new people but let me tell you, it’s very, very repetitive. For my sisters, imagine formal recruitment intros times 25. Same, boring questions: “Hi, whats your name? Where are you from? How long have you been travelling? Where are you going next? What brought you to Australia? What’s your favorite part?” Seriously I answer those questions AT LEAST 3 times a day. As much as I love meeting new people, you just don’t want to talk after awhile. And I’ve only been travelling a week! So I know I could never just come here and backpack through for months at a time. After a long bus ride, arriving in a new place and new hostel, I really just want to sleep. Of course I’m social and nice, but going out drinking is not on my agenda (o-m-g, I think that means I’m officially old and boring).  I’m considered one of the ‘older backpackers’. Most backpackers are right out of school—ages 18-20 so this is their first experience away from home. It’s like our first semester of college, so you can guess what they’re like. These kids are going out and drinking hardcore every night with meaningless sex with strangers. I have no desire to go out and get drunk with people I don’t know or trust. Then imagine trying to figure out your way home in a brand new area. Plusss drinks are effin expensive. A bottle of Bacardi is normally $40! I’d much rather spend my money on good food (which I do). I think I just like drinking you guys instead. You must be hard to replace—You are way more fun. J

Anyway, the next day—I borrowed one of the hostel’s bikes and took a 2 mile bike ride to the Cape Byron Lighthouse, the most eastern point in Australia. I parked the bike as far as I could, then had to walked about 45 more min up and down some intense hills to get close to the Lighthouse. After getting close, it started to drizzle and then a rainbow appeared! It was soo cool! The views up top were amazing, looking over at the whole beach on the left or seeing the jagged rocks with waves crashing on the right.

 I walked down the cliff and onto another section on top of rocks. In the distance, I saw dolphins swimming! It’s time like these: taking an invigorating walk up to view spectacular scenery, seeing a rainbow and watching dolphins play, that I realize, ‘Wow, I’m really in Australia.’ Can’t help but smile. I always remember when I’m walking alone on beaches. I just love thinking and saying that.

That night, very very late, I got my first Greyhound bus trip at 315am. I had to get a taxi at 3am. To get the rest of my 8 locations, I’d be taking the Greyhound up. It’s the cheaper bus option compared to the OZ experience (a huge backpacker filled bus). The greyhound runs more frequently and stops more often. I’ve never done a bus trip and so far it’s been interesting. I already noticed I’m not a big sleeper on buses so I’m always anxious to sleep at the next hostel. Instead of spending money to stay at a hostel, the greyhound will take me up to my destination instead. At the end of this trip, I’m either gonna love or loathe bus trips.

2nd stop–  Noosa—What a beaut!! Sat –Sun 3-4

 (((During my VERY sleepless 7 hour bus ride, I realized I left my mobile at my previous hostel—shitttttttttttt! Or as the English say, BOLLOCKS! Not only is it my phone, but it’s my alarm clock. I called the hostel frantically and they’re going to send it to Hervey Bay since I’ll be spending a couple days there. Seriously, Thank God.))) I arrived looking like absolute hell in the small beach town of Noosa. It’s populated with rich residents and rich houses. All I wanted to do the first day was sleep. But I feel like I’m wasting time exploring the town since I’m only there for a short time. The hostel, Dolphin Beach House, picked me up from the bus stop, a 15 min drive away. It’s out of the ‘town’ but its better than the young backpacker drinking hostels. The bright pink colored dorm walls had a mini apt style set up: 2 rooms, 9 people total with their own bathroom, tv, couches, frig and stove. You definitely got to know people better, but only those 8 people. It’s a rarity for dorms to be like that. A common area with a big tv is the place to meet everyone in the dorm. I meet people everywhere I go, but you never talk longer than a day before they move on to somewhere new. Germans and UK are the most popular countries I’ve encountered. Most anybody but Americans. The first day I was there I walked along their main street, just filled with small beachy shops. I liked it at first, but it’s pretty much the same everywhere.  Before sunset, I strolled on the beach for an hour, taking in the beautiful beaches, green mountains and people playing with their dogs. Even after seeing so many beaches, I never get sick of them.

Day 2– I went to bed early since I’m going to AUSTRALIA ZOO—home of Steve Irwin. It’s a hyped up, expensive zoo, but I made sure it was included with my package. Queensland is the only place in AU where you can actually hold a koala. In New South Wales, I went to another small zoo, where you can ‘pose with one’. I don’t want a posing pic, I want to actually hold me like a baby. AU Zoo has a free double decker bus that picks up with 1.5 hour of the zoo. I went with one of the British girls from the hostel. We hung out together all day, taking fun pics and yes, I held a koala!!!!!!! J Seriously, cutest animals. Probably weighed about 10-15 pounds and felt like a live teddy bear. It made my day! I left early on the Greyhound at 2pm, arrived at 4pm. I wanted to walk around the Noosa National Park. I’ve come to really enjoy national parks. It’s great exercise, right in the middle of nature. There were no signs directing people what path to take. I’m getting a lot better, figuring my way out myself. I use my instinct and ‘internal compass’ to end up in the right place. Pretty crazy. It was another 1.5 hour walk that led from the steep green forest to the sandy beaches. Ahead of me, was a newly married couple taking wedding beach pictures. Owners were chasing their dogs around (I really miss my dog) and kids (Thank God Felix wasn’t here to ruin it) were playing in the sand. Finished just as sunset was hitting (around 520-530pm). How much more ideal does it get than that?

Originally I planned on doing a 3 day/2 night Canoe trip and a ½ day of kayaking. In Byron, I thoroughly planned out my trip and realized that I didn’t have as much time as I hoped for. So even though I paid for the canoe trip, my priority trips were camping safari on Fraser Island and overnight sailing trip. Back on the bus….

3rd stop—Hervey Bay/Fraser Island May 4 – 7

Bus ride to Hervey Bay. Kookaburra Resort picked us up from the bus station. Met my first camping companions, and they were Americans! A disgustingly cute young couple from NY/NJ area, Lia and Jamie. Dropped off the girls (my oversized luggage) and went for a jog/walk along Hervey Bay for an hour. When you don’t exercise for a long period of time, you can feel the sluggish effects. It was so serene on the Bay. Not many people out and the water was so calm. Run/Walking is a good way to get exercise and see other parts of the town. Hervey Bay is a veryyyyyyy small rundown town. There are 2 towns with access to Fraser Island: HB and Rainbow Beach. HB is the closer town which means less driving time and more time to enjoy the island. Came back for the Fraser Island prep/warning meeting at 6pm. There are 2 options for seeing Fraser: self drive camping with a huge LandCruiser or guided tours with hotel stays. I chose self drive, cuz its cheaper and its more fun to figure your own way. Besides I haven’t camped in a long time. Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world, so you need a 4WD to get around to roads are basically nonexistent. The meeting lasted 1.5 hours, with a video about carefully driving on the island. Some students a month ago died from overturning the 4WD (which is so easy to do since all of our equipment, food and personal stuff goes up top). The guy running the meeting, Richard, aka Dick, is a complete and utter asshole. We had to pay all kinds of extra insurances and food prices on top. Back home in the US, when you hear something is optional, you disregard it and assume its just another unnecessary way to make money. I was the first one out of 11 called up to pay the extras. I said no the extra insurance since we already had 3 other kinds of it. He flat out called me an idiot. I was soooo livid pissed.  Everyone else in our group did not plan on paying it either, until he insulted me in front of everyone. He gave everyone attitude about it all. He works in customer service every day and that’s how he treats people?? We all hated him already. 

Day 1 of camping—got up at 6am to leave the hostel at 7am. The hostel prepares food for us for $35 and we have to cook it at the camp site. The hostel also has a suggested itinerary list, based on the high tide schedule, with places to stop at and beach areas to sleep at.

Had an interesting group going: 3 Americans, 2 Germans, 3 Brazilians, 1 Irish, 1 French and 1 British. 11 people total, 2 sets of couples, 1 mother/daughter pair, 4 guys and 7 girls all crammed into this LandCruiser. Quite the diverse crew. 3 guys alternated between manually driving Jaws (our nickname for the great white beast). Took an hour to get to the ferry, drove Jaws onto the ferry, along with 10 other student groups, doing the same thing as us. The drive plus 2 more fit up front, with 8 people facing each other, ambulance style. Actually it wasn’t too bad. On the first day, we drove to Meheno shipwreck site. It’s was a huge cruise liner that wrecked in 1935. Made me excited since I’ll be diving to a real shipwreck site underwater next week! Driving on the beach is not as carefree here as it is in the Outer Banks. It’s actually considered a ‘highway’ with speed limits. You avoid driving near the water at all possible costs since salt will ruin the car and you’ll be paying a hefty fine. We were supposed to camp on the beach, but we found a fenced in campsite with showers, grills and toilets. Normally you have to pay to stay, but we were allowed for free. I shared a tent with the German girls. (Turns out they were au pairs in Sydney too! Small world!) We’re the first ones that have our tent up! That night, we drink beer and GOON. Goon is a generic term for boxed wine. You can’t have glass so goon is a very common backpacker drink. In Byron Bay, a popular shirt says, SLAP THE GOON (meaning to shake up the bag). We played some fun drinking games, Shoulders and a version of Fuck of the Dealer. When it’s dark out and you’re out in the wild, your body tries to tell you to go to bed. I passed out by 930pm—yes that’s lame.

Day 2 of camping—I’m the first one up at 6am. I guess when you go to bed that early (which you know I never do), your body wakes you up early. I start getting breakfast stuff out: sausages, eggs and toast. Not too bad huh? We take down the tents, pack it all back onto of Jaws then drove to INDIAN HEAD and hiked up to the top. It’s a huge (150 -200 feet high) with my favorite jagged rocks below. The view is just incredible. We walked 45 min along the white sandy beach to Champagne Pools, naturally made pools from the ocean. It was a long walk with a disappointing ending. Don’t get me wrong, it was interesting, but the pools were very small. The waves crashed over them and created some cool pictures, but it wasn’t worth the time spent there. Luckily, everything happens for a reason. We met 18 Australian fisherman, who drove us back to our car, saving us a 45 minute walk. As if that wasn’t good enough for us, we ended up hanging out with them for 3 hours!!  They gave us free unlimited beer (too bad I don’t like beer huh?), a BBQ sausage cookout with corn fritters on the beach and just socializing with these extremely friendly middle aged guys. The guys sincerely wanted to know about our travels, where we’re all going, the typical 20 questions. They have an annual week long trip of fishing, drinking and eating. They have a gigantic frig and freezer full of food. 2 of the guys were former chefs so they’re not eating pizza and wings all week. The weather was perfect, sunny and hot until 3pm (my first nice day since I started travelling 10 days ago!). Everything about the afternoon was just so ‘Australian’- Barbie on the beach, beer, warm hospitality, music, the sun and having a good time. It was probably one of my favorite days since I’ve arrived.

After our happy hours were over, we had to book it 2 hours back to our campsite. A dark storm was coming and so was high tide. The water kept rising higher and higher to our 4WD. A bright rainbow did greet us though!! It was getting hard to avoid hitting the ocean and the sand dunes were to the right of us. We were narrowly stuck between the ocean and sand dunes. We debated a couple times pulling over and parking there for the night. We kept going and bypassed our suggested camping area. We vetoed sand in favor of facilities, BBQ grills and hot showers.  Dinner was lamb stew with rice. Bed early again at 9pm. God I’m so old! I never even went to bed that early in college or high school!

Day 3 of camping—Breakfast:  Weetbix and toast. I LOVEEEE weetbix. It’s big rectangle wheat squares you drown with milk. I normally put honey and bananas on top of mine. I seriously will miss that food when I go back home. Anyway, I finally showered. Everyone joked with me that it was about time and it probably was. You had to pay for the showers so I held out as long as I could. 3 days is my max, haha. We drive out to Lake McKenzie, one of the most beautiful places on earth. The first 30 feet of the water is crystal aqua clear, then it drops deeper and the water turns a navy blue. Not exactly warm, but not super cold either. We were the first ones who arrive since our campsite was closer than the rest of the other backpacker vans. It was breathtaking. Pictures attempt to do some justice. We layed around until noon and then made lunch. We have been warned intensely about dingoes—which looks like skinny dogs, but have the ferocious mentality of wolves. The funny saying, “Dingo ate my baby!” is based on a true story. They notice babies/young kids because they have sudden movements. As dangerous as we knew they could be, we all desperately wanted to see one. During lunch on our last day at Fraser, we saw 3!!! They don’t look scary so mostly everyone to call one over. They smelled our food and eventually ran away. But our trip was complete!

The whole 3 days it was expected to rain with thunderstorms. It only rained one night. Now it wasn’t as hot as I wanted, but viewing Indian Head and Lake McKenzie with sunny weather made it a spectacular trip. For the most part, the people were great! We had too many dominating personalities in our group. Everyone wanted to be leader. For me, I didn’t want to be leader. I was more of the silent lead by example team member who always helped set up, clean up or made food. We got pretty close in 3 days, had some good laughs and were sad to see each other leave. The funny thing about travelling the east coast is you meet the same people over again. I see the same people on the Greyhound. My next trip on the sailing boat trip, the German girls will be with me. Eh, they’re nice but loud. Grr, loud Germans.

4th stop—Airlie Beach/Whitsunday Island – May 8-13

Overnight bus trip from Hervey Bay to Airlie, yuck. Left at 800am—arrival 9am, 12 hours, every seat filled, sweetness. But I went with the American Couple and had Brazilian Roger to sleep on. I slept so much better cuz he was my huge pillow, haha. Besides the 2 nice days at Fraser, the weather has been pure crap, rainy, cloudy or colder than expected. The rainy season was supposed to end in April. BTW, in case I didn’t explain, there are 6 states: South Australia, Western Australia, Queensland (my whole east coast trip, North of Sydney), New South Wales (Sydney), Victoria (Melbourne) and Northern Territory. Queensland is notorious for being known as having sunny weather 300 days a year. I expected it to be sunny and hot like it normally is. But as my luck goes for me, I’m still pretty white and a tan might not happen. I booked more days at Airlie since I heard it’s perfect lay out weather. Ahh not so much. After getting off the bus and walking to my free hostel nights at MAGNUMS, it rained on and off all day. Again like Noosa and Byron Bay, it’s a small one street town with beach shops, cafes and travel agencies. Found a Macca’s (Mcdonalds) which has free wireless! See, that’s the only benefit of lugging around this laptop! Magnum’s is a huge hostel/mini resort with cabins. Directly attached to it are 2 bars. I really should go out. There are 3 big backpacker bars: Magnums, Beaches and Momma Africa. I have nothing to do tomorrow (Sat) so I should go out. However, I don’t like going out by myself anymore. The same thing always happens: make the effort of getting dressed, stand around the bar awkwardly by yourself and wait for someone normal to talk to you. Of course fun normal straight girls aren’t going to approach another girl, it’s weird. So it’s always the sexually driven guys that talk to you first.  I really don’t feel like having to fend off hormonal guys (And do you realize how easy it would be to shag a guy? They basically throw themselves at you.) I know I’m probably missing out on some fun by not going out, but then again, maybe not. Besides, if I’ve gotta cut things out to save money, going out would be the first. I started reading The Firm by John Grisham and I can’t put it down! So yes I just said I’d rather stay in and read a book, than go out, drink and dance with strangers. I’d rather dance and go out with you guys, seriously.  In the end, I passed out from reading at 9pm. So yes I turned 23 and I turned old.

Sat—up early from going to bed early. I decide to see more of Airlie and go for a jog/walk. The sun came out briefly for my 4.5 mile jog/walk. The rest of the day was pretty boring. Did a little shopping, booked a hostel for Cairns. Then sadly and pathetically, read more John Grisham and was in bed by 9:30pm. On a saturday night= I. am. lame.

SundayChecked out of MAGNUMS, put my big pink suitcase in 3 day storage and had to check into the sailing shop. (See how much checking in and out I have to do on a daily basis?). We had to check in between 1030 and noon. After I checked in, I could do whatever I wanted until 345pm. Blah what a waste of time, especially when its an overcast day.

I sat down on the bench and looked around at who I’d be spending the next 2 days in confined spaces around the Whitsunday Islands (there are 74 tiny islands).. 20 something very young party animals were standing around each holding their own box of Goon, including me (Ahhh we hate it, but we can’t seem to stop buying it. 4.4 liters is about $11-14).  Definitely some cute foreign boys as well! The German girls from my Fraser trip were on the boat too. A blonde short haired confident girl began talking to me and of course, asked the same 20 questions. Claire, from England, had quite an interesting story. Although it’s frustrating and repetitive asking and answering the same questions, it’s really intriguing to see how people live, where they’ve travelled and what they’ve done. This 27 year old have backpacked (on and off during a couple years) to about every country in the world for a total of 15 months (All of South America, Europe, Asia and now Australia–  do you realize how many countries are in each of those continents?).  If you guys think I’m brave, I’m nothing compared to her. It’s inspiring to listen to. We have similar personalities and got on really well. We all walked to our home on the ocean. Pegasus our small white sailboat, in which I found out was the oldest and one of the smallest boats in Airlie Beach  (since the 70’s). According to the crew at the ‘orientation’, we have a ‘more chilled out boat, compared to the other backpacker party boats’. Ha, well,  ummm, read on. There were 11 small bunk bed style rooms and luckily, Claire was my roommate! Boat left at 4pm and our cute all male crew, Pat, Danny and Johnnie, and we had no idea what to expect. We mingled with everyone and began some fun convos with Sophie (1/2 German, ½ French), Natalie (Swiss), Jarno (adorable blonde male—pronounced Yarno- full german), Claire (English) and me (again the only American). Steak, potatoes and salad for dinner in our very small dining table/kitchen area/bedroom of 4, followed by apple pie with custard for dessert. Pretty impressive for a tiny boat like ours! Then the Goon came out. We played drinking games with the crew. Learned a new game called Think Before you Drink. I dominated at it!! I was helping people with their answers. We’re definitely going to play it at home! Goon was hitting me good. Yess!

Now the sleeping arrangements…. On our Fraser trip, one of the guy just got off Pegusus and was COVERED in bed bug bites all over his body. They’re caused from sleeping on the boats’ mattresses. I was terrified of getting disgusting red bumps so I bought the cheapest sleeping bag I could find ($40 ouchhh). The first night I actually slept on the dock with Sophie. Stopped drinking at 11pm since I had to dive the next day. Quite the sleepless night, rolling around on the top of the boat. But I did wake up before everyone and saw the beautiful sun rise. The next night I (illegally) took my sleeping bag to my mattress and got a full nights sleep.

On Monday, we sailed to the notorious Whitehaven Beach, known for its 98% pure white pristine sand. It’s a historical landmark now so resorts can’t build on it. I’m so glad for that. I love staying at beach hotels like anyone else, but there’s something so special and rare about an untouched, natural beach. Within Whitehaven, another highly photographed area is Betty’s Beach. Not much of an actual curved shaped beach area, but more of a triangle shape. Claire and I took pictures of the beach, naked boys running around, and layed around on the white sand. The weather was pretty overcast the whole trip. None of us were getting tan.

Back on the boat, had another great lunch, rested for an hour and then certified divers got a free dive, while they taught beginnings the basics. Honestly, it might’ve been one of the crappiest warm water dives I’ve done. Visibility was shit, meaning you couldn’t see more than 5 ft in front of your face. Sometimes, you just have crappy water days though so I’m not implying the diving the Whitsunday is always crap. Obviously you want great vis so you can see the great fishes swimming around you and to prevent getting lost by losing your dive group. For the first time, I can say the snorkeling was better than the diving. The coral reef was shallow enough, you could see plenty of fish in great visibility since it’s much closer.

Dinner was sausage, pasta and salad. I’ve never had so much sausage in my life (that would be about 5 whole times) and I’m getting sick of it now. Monday night is when the craziness begins. We started drinking our own individual boxes of Goon; mine of course was Fruity White. Thennn the Goon Olympics started… but ironically none of it involved us drinking Goon. Sunset around 530pm. Around 8, we headed up to the front of the boat. We had 2 team captains and split into 2 teams of 12 each. Normal line games,  then, da da da, the clothes came flying off. For our last 2 games, we took any clothing we had on and put all of our clothing the fastest on our team captain. The team that took off the most clothes and therefore, put the most clothes on their team captain, won. Then the classic Greek Week game, take a rope and thread it up and down, through each member’s clothing. But the less clothing you had on, the faster your team went. We dominated, because we were basically naked in front of 24 people.  Initially I had on jeans and a hoodie. I’m not that confident with my body so I’m not one to show it all off. Eventually I stripped down to nude colored bra and underwear (gasp!).  Mom you would’ve been so proud. Yes that was still ‘covered up’ compared to others. But there were some people who completely hanging out, girls and guys, including our crew members. So much for this ‘not being one of the party boats.’ After the Olympics ended, we kept drinking (with our clothes on) and from the sexual tension going on during the games, people definitely hooked up. The next morning reminded me of Sunday morning brunches at WC—talking about who hooked up with who, what happened after some people went ot sleep. Basically it was just awesome. After that night, we all were closer.

Tuesday – we went snorkeling in the morning. I went with Nat and disappointedly, it was worst than the first day. Eating lunch was interesting, the waves were very choppy. The boat was on an angle for the 3 hour ride home. Food was literally sliding around the table and people flew into other people. I turned white and started to get a little nauseous then. That night we all went out. The crew was supposed to meet us out; they never showed. The 4 blondes hung out together: Sophie, Claire, Nat and Me. We pregamed with the rest of our Goon. It worked pretty well since I don’t think any of us bought a single drink. We danced like drunken idiots, had some great girl conversations, and kissed some boys.

 Overall, this was a truly awesome trip, better than Fraser because of the awesome people. Since I don’t party that often, it was so nice to meet some friends, where the convo went beyond just partying (although it may not sound like it). The pictures from the whole trip involve lots of body parts, which unfortunately you won’t be seeing. I felt like me with these girls and that was a great feeling to have friends. I’ll see Claire again in Cairns next week & Sophie is coming back to Sydney for a bit before she goes home. I can’t wait to see them again!

5th stop—Ayr—Wreck Dive May 13-15

Bright and early, 745 am to catch a 930am bus to the ridiculously small town of Ayr. Travelling on the bus with friends, Claire and Jarno, felt much more like home. The 3 ½ hour ride(my shortest bus ride!) flew sitting next to friends, instead of sitting next to strangers (that means no 20 questions!). In Ayr, I wasn’t there to sight see the town, but sightsee underwater. One of the top 5 dive sites in the world is near Ayr, in Alva Beach, called SS Yongala Dive. I really enjoy diving, especially since this was a shipwreck site and one of the best in the world. I specifically altered all my plans on the trip to see this site.

With a packed bus of 48 people, I was the only one getting off. There was a reason there wasn’t a huge tourist destination. I know I’ve said the other beach town are small, but I take those comments back. Nothing here, kinda like Nimbin without the weed.  There are 2 dive companies that go out: Adrenaline Dive and YONGALA DIVE. Yongala picked me up from the bus station and it took 20 minutes to get back to the company. The actual lodge is located in the middle of nowhere. No supermarket, no internet, no phone service, barely even paved streets.  In this lodge, underneath was the dive equipment and reception and on top was a clean, brand new hostel lodge, sleeping up to 10 people. Clean hardwood floors with a kitchen area, and tv room. The first day I went out to the beach, read my book and went for a looooong run. This beach is different, it has many water pools and sandbars before the waves broke 300 yds away. Not a single soul on this beach, a hidden beach. I took my ipod and I danced/jogged/walked on the beach until sunset. If anyone was watching, they would’ve been peeing their pants. Back at the lodge, I met Jamie, a cute older dive instructor from Sydney. Jamie has been diving there all week. Started reading a new John Grisham, The Client and passed out by 930pm.

Early start 630am with a great yummy breakfast of Weetbix and honey. Got the wetsuit, vest, mask, fins and hopped into the LandCruiser. It was the same style car from Fraser Island with 3 people up front and 8 crammed in the back. We drove on the beach until we find the boat. We weren’t getting into the water normally from a pier. The small boat, a max of 12 people, was tugged along the beach by a huge John Deere tractor. The tractor reversed and slowly lowered the boat into the water, no pier, no ramp, just picked a spot. 6 guys and 3 girls (each from different nations) all anxious to see the site, braced for a bumpy 45 min ride out to the site. Because it’s a small boat, it’s easily tossed around on the wicked waves. Jamie said this was the calmest day yet, I just laughed. It was almost as bad as the Whitsunday. Thank goodness I took 3 seasickness pills this morning. It’s very common to get sick on this boat, like 3 people did today. I was getting nervous, closer we got, worried how challenging this dive would be. It’s 27 meters down (88 ft), which I think is pretty shallow for a wreck dive. The max depth with a basic OPEN WATER DIVER card is 60 ft, but I know in some of my previous dives I’ve gone to 80 ft. Beyond that, you need to get more study more, and pass a test to be certified to dive that deep.  I read 20 pages and answered the test before the boat went out. Everyone had varied experience on the boat from instructors to newbies to intermediates like me (I’ve done about 30 dives in 5 years).  

Suiting up, air on, fins on, regulator in mouth, backwards roll off the side of the boat, splash into the water. 5 minutes later, I’m clearing my ears and descending down 90 feet. You always dive with a buddy so we’re all buddied up with someone. We land on the sand and have to do some exercises to pass the Deep Dive test. Then we get to explore.  This is a massive liner, sank in 1911 by a cyclone which carried freight, 1st and 2nd class passengers, 1 horse and 1 bull (random I know). Not only is this a gigantic ship, but it’s now the hang out for THOUSANDS of wildlife, completely covered in coral. In the first 5 minutes of being down, there was a sting ray close to me, devil ray swimming above. Kobe kingfish (looks like baby sharks), clownfish (finding nemo fish!), thousands of colorful fish, and my absolute favorite a big turtle! It was breathtakingly BEAUTIFUL. I told the crew how I’m slightly scared to see the ‘friendly, non poisonous’ sea snakes. Just my luck, the snakes smelled my fear. 3 or 4 long 2 foot snakes swam too close within my comfort zone. My face turned white and my eyes bugged out while the instructors were laughing underwater. I lost so much air trying to swim away from them.

I couldn’t get over how incredibly beautiful it is. Everywhere I swam, schools of big and tiny fish were swimming around me. Was down for 35 minutes and time goes so fast. There’s always something fascinating to stare at.

We came up for an hour break, then back down for another 40 minutes underwater. This time, the instructor pointed out the 2 coral covered toilets, glass windows, a claw footed bathtub and the insides of the wreck. It’s illegal to swim through (or penetrate) the wreck, but looking through it, you can envision how large it was back in 1911. It’s remarkable for a boat to be that pristine and every part still intact. It seriously was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. On most dives you see a couple colorful fish and a little coral. But I was swimming with the THOUSANDS of species of fish in one area. Diving from now on will have high expectations and would surely disappoint me.

6th stop—Cairns May 15-16

Last bus ride 930am—530pm = 8 hours! Wahoo! It’s been pretty crowded but I was determined to have 2 seats to myself (call me selfish, but you’d fight for them too!). Jamie and I sat together, he’s getting off at the next stop to catch a plane back to Sydney. After he got off, luckily no one attempted to sit with me. I must smell, but hell that is just fine with me for today. I’m writing while on the bus and is it sad to say I haven’t talked to a single soul the whole time? Truly, I don’t mind at all, actually relieved. I don’t feel like starting up convo. I know it’s the same questions and answers, all while trying to look enthused  about repeating the same stuff for the past 20 days.

Arrived in Cairns and checked into my hostel, JJ’s Backpackers. Nice enough place. The owners are so accommodating. They made us a huge sausage BBQ (I’m so sick of sausages!) with tons of side foods. Apparently, they do that every Saturday night, which is so extremely appreciated for backpackers who live off of pasta. That night, I met up with Flo from the Whitsunday trip. Met the people at his hostel, drank some quality Goon and we went off to WOOLSHED, the notorious backpacker party pub. Lonely Planet quoted it as, ‘if you can’t get laid at Woolshed, you can’t get laid anywhere.’ We had an awesome night. Then the next morning, he was leaving to go to Bali. One of the cons of traveling: you find someone you actually enjoy being with, but you both have different travel plans and more than likely will never see then again in your life. Today I hung out at the Lagoon—this free pool in the heart of Cairns. There’s not much of a beach so everyone recovers from their hangovers here. The weather sunny and wonderfully hot—about time! I’d be waiting for this. At the Lagoon, they had Saturday markets of little booths of clothing, jewellery, etc. I met an older American man (50ish) and we talked for awhile about young travelers in Australia. The Gap Year concept (travelling around the world after high school or uni) is so common, its actually encouraged in European countries. The concept is so unheard of in the States. He was just amazed listening to how young travellers do it, the idea of hostel rooms, how we travel around, where we go. He went on a day boat trip and met tons of young foreigners. He was surprised at how much they knew about our country and (for the most part), how intrigued they were with America. You don’t realize until you leave the country, but we are a huge powerhouse country. Whatever happens to our country effects the world. They knew more about us, because their economy is likely determined by our economy. Our pop culture is widely known. Travellers from all countries know the major movie stars, actors and singers. The only con to them being so interested in us is: we know nothing about them.

7th stop—Cape Tribulation May 17-18

Wanderers booked a Cape Trib tour with Tropics Explorer. This company will pick me up from my hostel, drop me off at my Cape Trib hostel, pick me up again, drop me off at Port Douglas hostel, then finally pick me up from Port Douglas to go back to Cairns. Pretty sweet deal! Otherwise it costs $75 for a shuttle to pick and drop you off.  They picked me up at 8am, and drove the most magnificent, windy, spiral highway Capt Cook Highway which borders the ocean. It was one of the drives where car companies use for commercials. We went an hour crocodile boat cruise, where we saw 5 crocs. We went to a couple amazing lookout points, learned that one of their biggest crops is sugar cane, and after 2 hours of driving, made it into the rainforest Daintree. This is the 2nd biggest rainforest in the world, next to the Amazon (aka Holly would’ve loved it). Did some bushwalking (aka normal walking) through the rainforest and marveled at the trees. Stayed at PK’s Village, ‘supposedly’ the party resort, set in the jungle with not another business for a mile. Before coming out to the large breathtaking beach of Cape Trib, you pass through the rainforest. Back home, its just straight to the beach, or coming out from your hotel on the beach. Here its so secluded, lying on the beach in front and the green rainforest and high mountains behind you. Really so beautiful. Met a really sweet, fun girl, Charlotte from England. That night we played a couple rounds of some fun card game. Absolutely no party at night and barely anyone was there. It was the most boring hostel I’ve ever stayed in. They had a nice bar/ restaurant, but meals costs between $9- $20. Char and I decided to go to the local convenience store and buy some cheap food. We bought tuna, wheat rolls, eggs, baked beans. Out of the ordinary combos huh? After splitting  the price, it costs us a whopping $4 for 1 dinner, 1 breakfast and 1 lunch, quite the deal. We went to bed at 10pm; that’s super early at a hostel! They also charged you for everything! You had to pay for plastic plates, cups, utensils, etc. The kitchen facility was crap so we ate straight out of the pan/bowl. The tin openers were secured to the metal sink with a metal wire. There was no microwave. It was just crap. We had the most interesting meals though: tuna with sweet chili sauce and couscous out of the Tupperware container for lunch. Repeat with eggs on top for dinner. It was so ghetto and looking disgusting, but seriously so good.  

8th stop—Port Douglas May 18-20

2 weeks into traveling, my very last week and I’m finally having fantastically warm sunny weather. The company picked me up from the PK’s and dropped me off an hour south in Port Douglas, a rich resort seaside town.  When you drive into the main part of town, the road is lined with palm trees, as if you’re entering a resort. Again there is one major street with shops and pubs. There’s also a beautiful marina at the end of the road. On the other end of the road, is 4 Mile Beach, a smooth flat endless beach. I went for a run on it and it was better than running on the road. I stayed at Parrotfish Lodge, one of the nicest hostels I’ve ever stayed at. Has a great bar with cheap food, colorful large rainbow colored rooms and a pool lounge area, not to mention extremely helpful staff! On my first day there, I walked around the town and down to the marina. There’s not much to do at Port. I really wanted to do a horse ride. Wagga Beach Ride picked me up for a 3.5 hour horse ride on the beach. We had a small group: the cute young guide, me, and 2 italians on their honeymoon who’d never ridden before. I live on a farm and obviously have some experience on a horse. Just my luck, they give me the slowest horse out of 32! I was sooo pissed off I would never recommend it again. What really made me love the trip was the bus driver, Tom. For an hour, Tom told me all about his life, living on a ranch and working as a sheep shearer for 25 years in the middle of nowhere towns of Australia. These weren’t the touristy, they were places where getting to use a phone was a big deal.  He told me you get really close to the people you’re working with all the time, but then you’re sent to different locations every 2-3 weeks for a new job. He still keeps in touch with many of his old shearing friends. They all slept in the same hotel/hostel. Showers weren’t showers. They were cold water pumped from a well and dumped on your body. Every night they would go out to the local bars and start bar fights and pick up girls. It was absolutely fascinating listening to him talk about ‘the real Australia’. That was the best part of the whole trip in Port Douglas. It’s meeting open, friendly people that make each travelling experience so unique.

9th stop—Back to Cairns May 20-22

I arrived back to Cairns with just a couple days left on my big tropical adventure. I stayed at Bohemia Resort (where I stayed with my mom) only because it came with the travel package. It’s a nice hostel, a great pool and a yummy free weat bix breakfast, but its entirely too far into the main heart of the city where the action and fun happen. They have shuttles that only go until 11pm, while other hostels run theirs until 4am (which is obviously much needed!). I walked home one night and it took 25 minutes! Normally I wouldn’t mind it, but at 3 in the morning I did!

The best part about Cairns, is its very backpacker friendly. Most hostels will have vouchers for free meals at 3-4 local pubs. Free food includes: some type of pasta, bangers and mash, chicken schnitzel (fried chicken), fish and chips. Or you can upgrade for $5-7 to a healthier option: grilled chicken with honey mustard, salmon, salad, etc. The bars and hostels all fight for backpacker money so they’re always advertising free food. They usually the backpackers will stay at the pub they ate dinner at. The notorious WOOLSHED gives you free meal, drink and dessert for under $10. It’s not dainty portion sizes either, they’re pretty massive. Definitely enough to fill you up.

The night I got back I did a pub crawl around 5 bars. It was alright—met loads of people. They played very sexual games which made it a surefire way for people to drink and hook up. See the pictures! Funny pictures but when horny people got drunk and obnoxious fast, I was rather annoyed. Since I’m generally sober with strangers, the guys were hitting on the very young immature easy girls.

The next morning I got super early and did a boat trip out to the Reef again, because it was included as free with my package. It was with Reef Daytripper. The actual ride out was 2 hours so the 25 passengers laid on the catamaran. It was a fairly quiet group, didn’t meet many people. Most of them all came together so they didn’t venture out to meet new people. The snorkeling at Upolu Cay was pretty great. On each boat trip, there’s always the option of doing a dive or 2. I never pass them up since I’ll never get to dive in warm water back home. We went through a bunch of caves and tunnels but after doing the Yongala, it was absolutely nothing in comparison. I think every dive after that will just disappoint me immensely. The weather was warm and beautiful so that made up for any lack of repeated conversation. The boat trip (Passions of Paradise) I did with mom in March was much better, more interesting people to talk to. The staff wasn’t that friendly, they seemed bored and didn’t interact with anyone.

Summary of travelling

When I first started this trip, I knew this month would fly the fastest out of the 4 I’ve been here. It definitely has. I’m packing up now, hoping my pink suitcase is under the weight limit of 23 kilos (50 pounds). This was my first ‘backpacker’ experience, of constantly being on the move, living with other people and always rearranging your suitcase. It’s always so nice to return home though. Living out of a suitcase and sleeping on buses sounds like the rockstar life. I was just missing my screaming fans, haha. I’m so glad that I did this trip, first one of many more to come. I proved to myself that I can live out of a suitcase, make decisions, make trips on time (you know, just barely) and befriend people I just met. I’m supposed to be flying home on June 29, but I feel like I’m just getting a taste of OZ. Ahhh what do the next few months hold? 🙂

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Posted by: aussieashley09 | May 16, 2009

10 day Adventure Trip with MOM!

After a rough beginning of March, I was so ready for Mom to come visit me, to get that ‘comfort zone’ back in my life. Hell, just to get an adult hug and conversation is worth it all! She was coming over for only 10 days, but boy, was it an action packed 10 days! We discussed what ideas she wanted to do and what I wanted to do. I went to a student travel agency Students Flights Centre and had them help me book fun CHEAP activities, hostels and flights (otherwise, I would’ve researched, compared and debated for weeks on activities to do). I’ll try to recap our exciting journey.

 

Thurs-Sat March 19-21 Sydney Sights

Mom arrived on Thursday at 7am and I arranged for her to be driven to our hotel in the city. I had to deal with Felix in the morning. After that was finished, I hopped on the train and met my mom in the city. JOYOUS. That’s the word to describe the reunion with my dear best friend. It was so nice to have someone to travel with now!! Since we’re basically the same person, we mostly enjoy the same things. She had to see the wondrous sights of my city and why I love it here. Since I’m fairly comfortable knowing my way around the city, I think the fastest and cheapest way to see the city is a hop on, hop off bus tour. It travels to 20some different stops and then a separate bus goes to Bondi. After that, we went to Paddy’s Market, which is this glorious building, 800 vendors of cheap purses, clothes, souvenirs, and food. I loveeee it in the there! We only had a short hour to shop because we had to go back and get ready for BEST OF THE WEST END, performed by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and 2 Broadway singers at the world famous SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE! It’s a musical melody of some of the biggest broadway songs. I was so excited to actually go inside for once! We were in the Concert Hall, the largest hall of the 5. I found the hall the ugliest, no character, no color scheme, just a lot of wood paneling and the cool acoustic rings hanging above. The show was alright. Even though I love musicals, I obviously haven’t seen enough. I knew maybe 3 of 13 songs performed. But I would definitely love to go see some more, Les Mes, Phantom, Oliver, etc. I need more cultural arts in my life. Who wants to join me? ;0)

 

Friday—my favorite, most beautiful spot of Sydney is Manly. It might be a small, coastal town, but it is simply beautiful. I had to take Mom there, just so she could try to understand why I love it there. The best way to experience it is to take the $12 30 minute ferry. On the way over, you see all the beautiful, expensive (at least $1 million each just for that view of the habour) coastal homes. Although there’s really not many touristy things to do in Manly, we just walked around on the Corso or along the boardwalk at the beach. The Corso is a nondriving, bricked street full of shops, where its usually busy, great for people watching. Late minute decision, I took Mom up to visit family #1. She met the 4 kids, mom, dad and saw my potential room. But eventually, because of the pay, I wasn’t set on it. For dinner, we cheaped it and fell asleep fast.

 

Saturday morning—got up super early to get a BACKSTAGE TOUR of the OPERA HOUSE. It’s an expensive 3 hour tour where you get to see how sets are built, brief history, dressing rooms and breakfast at the end. It was a really really cool tour. There was so much controversy when building it and it’s quite pricey to maintain the 30 year old building. I was ‘a conductor’ in the main orchestra pit, I took pictures in the dressing rooms (which were disappointing), I saw how the stage revolves for different plays on different nights. For most operas, they have to take the set up and down this industrial elevator the width of the stage. It takes 2 hours every night to set up for that night’s performance. The lighting and stage crew have to practice for many hours just to get everything timed right, during the play/opera.

 

I assumed there was only one big room: the red famous photographed room. In reality, its 5 separate rooms. The Opera House actually has 5 separate halls, so 5 separate operas, plays, bands, artists on comedians can be going on simultaneously.

Late flight out on Saturday night to Melbourne.

 

Sunday 22 to Monday 23 night—Melbourne

Sunday—When we left for our trip, travelers I met kept saying that I would love Melbourne, a ‘very European little city” meaning small side streets, cobblestone roads, known for fantastic coffee. However, Melbourne (pronounced Mel-Bin) is my least favorite city so far. Melbourne is the southern biggest city in Australia. Population is soon to rival Sydney. They have a free CITYCIRCLE tourist tram which gives a commentary while travelling around to the major landmarks. To me, I didn’t see anything that great. Federation Square is a big meeting place where people sit on large steps. Across from that is the main train station. Right beside that, the Yarra River cut through the middle of the city.

 

We walked around looking for something fantastic, and were slightly disappointed in our tourist search. We found several little darker lit, intriguing alleyways, filled with coffee shops and little tables in the street. The cafes all looked the same after awhile, serving the same sandwiches, desserts and coffee.

 

For our big night activity, we saw the musical WICKED. The set, characters and songs were AMAZING!! I’m so glad we got the see it! Mom loved it too! Afterwards, because Mom LOVESSS casinos, we went to the Crown Casino. It was more than just a casino, it was almost a mini Vegas resort, with multiple level casinos, bars, nightclub, restaurants. Mom won some big money and that made her night.

 

Monday—Next we hopped on a bus and went to the only ‘beach’, St Kilda. Which truly isn’t wide enough to be called a beach. It had a long boardwalk with fishermen having a jolly time. At the end, was a rock wall, jutting out in the ocean. During certain seasons, penguins come up and walk on the rocks at night. As luck would have it… I contracted some stupid rare eye infection where florescent lighting and sunshine made my eyes water, turned my eye veins bright red and I couldn’t open them at all. I had to see 2 eye specialists, one in Melbourne and one in Cairns. We spent a lot of Sunday, trying to find an optometrist for a last minute emergency appointment. The first doc in Melbourne gave me some eye drops (then had to search for chemist who could fill them), but said I still needed to see a specialist in Cairns. My mom led me around like the blind. I could open my eyes briefly just to see where we were, but then I had to close them for most of time. I was absolutely helpless. I’m pretty good at travelling by myself, but if it weren’t for my dear mother being there with me, the trip would’ve been ruined. We could’ve stayed in hotel room, but my mom came all this way and I didn’t want her to miss the sights. So even though, I walked around with glasses with watery/ blood shot/blind eyes, and my mom as my ‘seeing eye dog’ at least we saw Melbourne. I still need to go back for one more weekend and do the Great Ocean Road tour.

 

After walking around, on the other side of the Riverwalk was a Wine Festival. Sha-weeett! It was an all weekend event, paying $30 with over 70 wineries presents. Unfortunately we got there around 4, it ended at 5pm. Did that stop us?? Um, nope! So we ran from booth to booth, sampling wines. $30 is pretty cheap considering all the wine we drank!! Mom was definitely feeling tipsy, shot after shot of wine, haha. I definitely felt a little buzzed too since we had over 30 samples in one hour—haha!

 

My first friend I met in Sydney, Jose, moved to Melbourne for a couple months. Tanja (the au pair before me) moved to Melbourne too. I kept in touch with both of them. We met them up for dinner at the wharf. It was really cool to see both of them. Tanja and Jose still hang out, so I’m glad I introduced them! We left late Monday night and arrived at midnight in Cairns, staying at BOHEMIA RESORT, mom’s first ‘real hostel’. [[We got a double room with en suite (means with bathroom included). Most hostels share a same sex bathroom for 20-30 girls. Like reliving dorms again!]]

 

Tuesday 23- Friday 27—Cairns

Let the action begin!! This is where the adventure lives in Australia. Every day was booked with a full day activity.

 

Tues—Bungy jumping—Before I started on this trip, I knew I planned on doing adventurous, crazy things. People suggested ideas to me. I always laughed and said HELL NO to bungy jumping. So what possessed me to do it? Someone I know lived by the motto, “Go big or go home.” That’s the theory I adopted. AJ HACKETT’S is a notorious bungy jumping chain with exotic worldwide locations. The owner was the first person to jump off the Eiffel Tower and then got arrested for it. So this guy, he knows how to jump. Not only does he jump, but he tried out 16 different jumping styles in 3 difficulty levels to jump off of this particular platform. The only place in the world that lets experienced jumpers, ride a bike off the top and watch it plunge into the water. There’s also the typical swan dive (the beginners dive), the water touch (making the rope longer so you get dunked in the pond), backward bounce, pendulum (my 2nd jump), hanging off the platform, handstand off the platform, etc.

 

They’ve had thousands of people jump from their 164 foot platform, set in the rainforest, jumping towards a big pond of water. The location couldn’t have been more beautiful. At the top, you’re above the treetops and can see out into the city of Cairns. So I figure it’s not like I was jumping off an unsafe bridge. You’ve all seen the videos on facebook. It was the MOST TERRIFIYING thing I’ve ever done in my life. The first time I went, the guys had to countdown 3x for me to finally go. When you jump, you are suspended in the air for a couple seconds. You forget that you have a cord attached and feels like you are falling straight to your death. Then at the last minute, when your heart is in your throat, the cord tightens and you spring back up and bounce around.

 

I cried the whole way down, then tried to catch my breath on the raft while hyperventilating. I walked over to my Mom, still shaking uncontrollably and crying. Took me 10 minutes to calm down. After that, I was determined to do another jump. Why? I wanted to leave with a positive experience and not me crying the whole way down. So I walked back up, figuring if I did it backwards, it wouldn’t be so bad since I couldn’t see how far down it was. Since ‘I knew what to expect’, I hoped that would calm me down. Hmm… or not. I wasn’t crying this time, but still just as scared. I chose to do level 2– pendulum, swinging back and forth at the end. I put my heels at the edge of the platform and had to lean back. Still took some encouraging, but I leaned back and I screamed out of excitement this time and not fear. It went so fast. When I reached the bottom, the raft guide said that was one of the harder jumps. I’m really glad I did it again and ended it on a great note. Would I do it again, maybe if someone else paid for it or if a group of friends did it together (who’s up for it??). It‘s the ultimate comfort zone challenge. If you can do this, you can almost do anything (don’t think I could jump out of helicopter and ski down a mountain though). Skydiving is sooo much easier compared to this, like a piece of yummy cake!

 

Wed—White water rafting on the Tully River. I’ve been rafting about seven times before so I really like it. Surprisingly Mom enjoys it too, as long as the guide promises not the tip the boat over. She strongly vocalizes how much she doesn’t want to get thrown out of the boat. We had an awesome, fun guide who made it quite enjoyable. The other people on the raft have never been before so they were whiny and sucked at paddling. We travelled down grade 3-4 (they say grade, not class) rapids. You need a guide because the rapids are so complicated. If you hit it the wrong way, you could definitely die. Needless to say, it might’ve been the most intense rapids and river I’ve been on yet! Usually you have long distances between rapids. On the Tully River, it was rapid after rapid. Had a basic sandwich lunch, then back on the river for more rapids. Luckily, for Mom, we didn’t flip out at all. Many rafts did when they didn’t listen to their guide’s direction.

 

Thursday—Scuba diving. My dad is the reason for my budding adventurous spirit. He pushed me into learning how to ski and getting my scuba certification (of which I both dreaded). Without my scuba, I would’ve missed diving in the Florida, Caribbean, Belize, and now in the notorious Great Barrier Reef. Of course they have tons of classes on how to learn in Australia, but I felt confident going ‘down under’ (pun intended!). Mom and I took a day trip with Passions of Paradise, included a dive, buffet lunch, snorkeling and lounging a huge boat filled with 70 people. I really love being on boats, (not fishermen boats). Lounging on the deck & reading a book is not that hard to get used to. So yes I think I could get used to a yacht easily! The Caribbean has some incredible wildlife and coral, but the GBR’s coral is colorful, huge and endless, as it continues into a black hole. The dive went smoothly, didn’t see any big creatures like sharks, but several LARGE schools of very colorful small fish. I held a foot long sea cucumber. They feel like big fat caterpillars. Mom had a great time snorkeling. We had the option of diving or snorkeling at the 2nd location, but instead decided to lounge at the front of the boat and read a good book with the sun beating down. It was a pretty perfect day! (Not to mention my dive instructor asked me out on a date that night! I declined though.)

 

Cairns is a small little beach town. No high rises or big buildings, thank God. On the Esplanade, restaurants look out to the sea of incoming boats and cruise lines. All the bars are located with 10-15 min walk of each other. It is a huge backpacker party town. It’s common to get free meals, $5 meals and very cheap drinks. This time, though, I’m avoiding the parties to stay with Mom. Of course, we hit up the casino for mom’s sake. We went to the casino in each city, but Melbourne’s was closest to Vegas Style.

 

Friday—Hot Air Ballooning—earliest morning start to the week bloody 3:30am. Got up while it was pitch black outside. A small shuttle bus filled with Asians picked us up and drove to a field in the middle of nowhere, where it was completely quiet. We patiently waited while we saw 2 gigantic balloons attempt to be blown up. The staff worked vigorously, calling orders and running in a panic, to try to keep them inflated, but they kept falling back down to the ground. You know, not exactly calming, considering you would be in that balloon basket soon. We kept wondering how safe this actually was. Did we get that one rare in a million chance that of all the tours they’ve conducted, ours was the tragic story? There were 4 groups going in 2 separate basket rides. Around 6am, the first balloon was inflated successfully. Now we had to run back to the shuttle and FOLLOW the balloon wherever the wind took it. They had ‘recommended fields to stop in’, but it was never a guarantee. The company received permission from all land owners since landing places were personal property. We chased it down 30 minutes later with our van. We had to strategically hop in the basket, while the first group hopped out. Finally we entered our Asian filled basket (seriously we were the minority, 2 blondes and 16 black haired Asians, haha quite a funny sight). We ascended quickly into the air and glided smoothly over houses, farms, roads, lakes and people. It was so calming and quiet from above. No street, plane, or car noises. It was surreal to take in the green, fantastic view. The landing was interesting. We all had to crouch on basket’s bottom and brace for a landing. Thennnnn the basket tipped over on the ground, with Mom and I sitting on our backs. Don’t worry—that’s ‘a normal’ landing. We had to crawl out and then helped pack up the heavy balloon into this small bag. It was on my bucket list of things to do and I’m glad I can check that off! Afterwards, we enjoyed a hot eggs breakfast and then boarded a 3 hour plane ride to Sydney.

 

We absolutely loved Cairns (maybe even my favorite city!). Fantastic warm weather, everything is easily accessible, fun city with cheap pubs/food, tons of adventurous things to do. Can’t wait to go back!

 

Saturday 28-Sunday 29— Back to Sydney for 2 more days. Slowing down? HELL NO. More tours? HELL YES.

 

Hunter Valley Wine Tour– I signed us up for a day wine tour. The Hunter Valley is famously known worldwide for its 170+!! wineries. Mom lovesss red wine so I’ve been saving this trip for when she came. Nothing like drinking with your momma! A 2 hour drive later, we arrived at our first of 5 stops: The Rosemont. We sampled 7-8 types of wine. We found our favorite wine of the day, a sweet fruity white wine called O. (meaning served over ice). We normally don’t agree on wines. She likes red, I like white. But we both agreed it was perfect. I’m looking for a way to get it shipped home cheaply or find it somewhere in CA and get it shipped home. We travelled to four more wineries where we sampled wine, after wine. During our gourmet lunch, we had 4 main meal samples for lunch, each served with a wine specific to that food (aka 4 more glasses of wine!). Our last stop involved a gourmet cheese and oil tasting. I don’t get why cheeses are such a delicacy. Sure I think they taste better than Kraft, but I would never buy an expensive type of cheese. It was mostly ages 40-50 on the tour and some of them were hardcore wine and cheese connoisseurs. I’m thinking, ‘it’s just cheese.’ Although we had between 7-8 wine samples at each stop, we both weren’t drunk.

 

After the tour ended at 5, we kept going,changed into dressier clothes and boarded a Comedy Cruise around the harbour. The 4 hour cruise included dinner, comedy show and some dancing after. The food was pretty good, the comedy wasn’t bad and we met some interesting people. We happened to be on the cruise when it was Earth Hour. The lights on the Bridge and the Opera House were dramatically dimmed. The view was fantastic. You’d think we’d be exhausted after that day. But nope, to the Star City Casino (the only casino in Sydney) we went! Mom had no luck but I think going to a casino in every city is pretty cool!

 

Sunday morning—We knew the week would fly. It always does when we have fun. It was an unspoken day, the dreaded moment. I went with Mom to the airport. As you can imagine, that was emotional for both of us. I rarely ever cry, but the waterfalls were flowing. It was ironic; the last time I said goodbye to her, I was boarding the plane and she was staying put. Now it was the opposite, where she boarded a plane and I stayed back in ‘my country’. The uncertainty of when I’ll see her again is obviously the biggest worry. I have an idea now when I’m coming back and it’s not July like originally planned. I’m not going to say when until I finalize plans but I cannnn tell you it’ll be in 2009! 😉 Or maybe I’ll just be a big surprise! But probably not, since I’ll be anxious to return home! Coming home will be a bittersweet moment. After 4 months, I’m still not ready at this point. Beginning to question whether I’ll be fully ready to return to a ‘normal life’. Sure I have my homesick moments, where I miss having stability, close relationships and hugs; being around travelers who think like you about seeing the world and actually doing it, is a good source of comfort.

 

More on my travels soon love!!

 

Posted by: aussieashley09 | May 9, 2009

–25 day trip:: Byron Bay to Airlie —

25 day east coast trip

Since I have almost a month off til I start my new job (AHHH YESSS I GOT A NEW JOB!), I have about a week to plan this ‘backpacker’ trip. I talked to some of my friends and asked them what places I had to visit. Backpacker student travel agencies are a huge industry over here: Tribal Travel, Peterpans, Travelbugs, Adventure Travel are some of the big ones that offer basically all the same travel package deal. A basic popular one is $299. Each travel package offers nights of accom in hostels and tours all up the East Coast. I got one tailormade to what I initially planned on doing in 25 days with Wanderers Travel.

First stop: Byron Bay Wed- Sat April 29 – May 1

Instead of taking a bus trip for 12 straight hours from Sydney, I took a cheap $70 flight to Ballina Airport.  A shuttle van to Byron Bay, 30 min away and with my package I got 3 free nights at Cape Byron Lodge. A lot of people love Byron, I wasn’t too impressed. It’s a cute little surfer town, yes, but didn’t have a super special flair to it. The weather so far has truly sucked. It’s been rainy and cold. I expected to come up north to get a tan. Not happening yet. I don’t even want to take off my jacket anywhere.

The next day I took the HAPPY COACH to Nimbin, this cracked out hippie village, 2 hours away. First place we stopped at was Waterfalls. We did a 15 min stop to take pictures of this gorgeous view. Then off to Nimbin. Umm, wow. This one street town reminded me of the old stereotypical Western movies, with the post, grocery, newsagent, library all located within walking distance. The store fronts were all rainbow colored. The biggest difference is the people and their viewpoints. The locals roam around aimlessly barefoot, in tattered clothing, looking homeless and definitely not in their right mind. I heard the F bomb spoken commonly as if it was the word, the. These people lived, breathed and promoted weed. They recently produced an 8 page newspaper spread, with ‘creative articles’ all the positives of using weed. Lucky for me, I missed their biggest event, MardiGRASS. That says MardiGRASS, not MardiGRAS. It’s a celebration for what else, oh glorious weed. It was that upcoming weekend. They had events such as hemp Olympics, guess how many ounces in a bag, roll a joint the fastest, and a huge parade with a gigantic blown up weed replica that said LET IT BLOW. For those that really know me, can understand me being in this town is quite funny. I felt so naïve, uncomfortable and out of place. I walked into the Nimbin ‘historical museuem’. Very psychedelic. When I was walking out, I was asked by a local, “How many ounces do you wanna buy?” I basically ran away. I guess It’s a great town for people who ‘deeply appreciate’ that shit. I’m just not one of them. Before leaving the town, our bus driver intensely warned us the van would probably be stopped and searched by the cops. She was required to give us a 15 min lecture on ‘how drugs are illegal’. She asked who bought any drugs, about 5 of 12 hands went up. She gave out tips to not getting caught such as leave it on the bus and not on your body. Then they can’t prove its yours. Obviously, these tips were all very new and helpful to me. On the way out, the cops stopped the bus, confiscated the goods and no one fessed up to it. Quite an interesting day trip.

I met some really cool people in the hostel: another Australian who recently moved up for a job from Coffs Harbour, 3 American girls on holidays from Sydney Uni, 2 really sweet german girls and 2 locals. I love meeting new people but let me tell you, it’s very, very repetitive. For my sisters, imagine formal recruitment intros times 25. Same, boring questions: “Hi, whats your name? Where are you from? How long have you been travelling? Where are you going next? What brought you to Australia? What’s your favorite part?” Seriously I answer those questions AT LEAST 3 times a day. As much as I love meeting new people, you just don’t want to talk after awhile. And I’ve only been travelling a week! So I know I could never just come here and backpack through. After a long bus ride, arriving in a new place and new hostel, I really just want to sleep. Of course I’m social and nice, but going out drinking is not on my agenda (omg, I think that means I’m officially old and boring).  I’m considered one of the ‘older backpackers’. Most backpackers are right out of school—ages 18-20 so this is their first experience away from home. It’s like our first semester of college, so you can guess what they’re like. These kids are going out and drinking hardcore every night. I have no desire to go out and get drunk with people I don’t know or trust. Then imagine trying to figure out your way home in a brand new area. Plusss drinks are effin expensive. A bottle of Bacardi is normally $40! I’d much rather spend my money on good food (which I do). I think I just like drinking you guys instead. You must be hard to replace—You are way more fun. J

Anyway, the next day—I borrowed one of the hostel’s bikes and took a 2 mile bike ride to the Cape Byron Lighthouse, the most eastern point in Australia. I parked the bike as far as I could, then had to walked about 45 more min up and down some intense hills to get close to the Lighthouse. After getting close, it started to drizzle and then a rainbow appeared! It was soo cool! The views up top were amazing, looking over at the whole beach on the left or seeing the jagged rocks with waves crashing on the right.

 I walked down the cliff and onto another section on top of rocks. In the distance, I saw dolphins swimming! It’s time like these: taking an invigorating walk up to view spectacular scenery, seeing a rainbow and watching dolphins play, that I realize, ‘Wow, I’m really in Australia.’ Can’t help but smile. I always remember when I’m walking alone on beaches. I just love thinking and saying that.

That night, very very late, I got my first Greyhound bus trip at 315am. I had to get a taxi at 3am. To get the rest of my 8 locations, I’d be taking the Greyhound up. It’s the cheaper bus option compared to the OZ experience (a huge backpacker filled bus). The greyhound runs more frequently and stops more often. I’ve never done a bus trip and so far it’s been interesting. I already noticed I’m not a big sleeper on buses so I’m always anxious to sleep at the next hostel. Instead of spending money to stay at a hostel, the greyhound will take me up to my destination instead. At the end of this trip, I’m either gonna love or loathe bus trips. 

2nd stop–  Noosa—What a beaut!! Sat –Sun 3-4

 (((During my sleepless 7 hour bus ride, I realized I left my mobile at my previous hostel—shitttttttttttt! Or as the English say, BOLLOCKS! Not only is it my phone, but it’s my alarm clock. I called the hostel frantically and they’re going to send it to Hervey Bay since I’ll be spending a couple days there. Seriously, Thank God.))) I arrived looking like absolute hell in the small beach town of Noosa. It’s populated with rich residents and rich houses. All I wanted to do the first day was sleep. But I feel like I’m wasting time exploring the town since I’m only there for a short time. The hostel, Dolphin Beach House, picked me up from the bus stop, a 15 min drive away. It’s out of the ‘town’ but its better than the young backpacker drinking hostels. The bright pink colored dorm walls had a mini apt style set up: 2 rooms, 9 people total with their own bathroom, tv, couches, frig and stove. You definitely got to know people better, but only those 8 people. It’s a rarity for dorms to be like that. A common area with a big tv is the place to meet everyone in the dorm. I meet people everywhere I go, but you never talk longer than a day before they move on to somewhere new. Germans and UK are the most popular countries I’ve encountered. Most anybody but Americans. The first day I was there I walked along their main street, just filled with small beachy shops. I liked it at first, but it’s pretty much the same everywhere.  Before sunset, I strolled on the beach for an hour, taking in the beautiful beaches, green mountains and people playing with their dogs. Even after seeing so many beaches, I never get sick of them.

Day 2– I went to bed early since I’m going to AUSTRALIA ZOO—home of Steve Irwin. It’s a hyped up, expensive zoo, but I made sure it was included with my package. Queensland is the only place in AU where you can actually hold a koala. In New South Wales, I went to another small zoo, where you can ‘pose with one’. I don’t want a posing pic, I want to actually hold me like a baby. AU Zoo has a free double decker bus that picks up with 1.5 hour of the zoo. I went with one of the British girls from the hostel. We hung out together all day, taking fun pics and yes, I held a koala. Seriously, cutest animals. Probably weighed about 10-15 pounds and felt like a live teddy bear. It made my day! I left early on the Greyhound at 2pm, arrived at 4pm. I wanted to walk around the Noosa National Park. I’ve come to really enjoy national parks. It’s great exercise, right in the middle of nature. There were no signs directing people what path to take. I’m getting a lot better, figuring my way out myself. I use my instinct and ‘internal compass’ to end up in the right place. Pretty crazy. It was another 1.5 hour walk that led from the steep green forest to the sandy beaches. Ahead of me, was a newly married couple taking wedding beach pictures. Owners were chasing their dogs around (I really miss my dog) and kids (Thank God Felix wasn’t here to ruin it) were playing in the sand. Finished just as sunset was hitting (around 520-530pm). How much more ideal does it get than that?

Originally I planned on doing a 3 day/2 night Canoe trip and a ½ day of kayaking. In Byron, I thoroughly planned out my trip and realized that I didn’t have as much time as I hoped for. So even though I paid for the canoe trip, my priority trips were camping safari on Fraser Island and overnight sailing trip. Back on the bus….

3rd stop—Hervey Bay/Fraser Island Mon 4 – 7

Bus ride to Hervey Bay. Kookaburra Resort picked us up from the bus station. Met my first camping companions, and they were Americans! A disgustingly cute young couple from NY/NJ area, Lia and Jamie. Dropped off the girls (my oversized luggage) and went for a jog/walk along Hervey Bay for an hour. When you don’t exercise for a long period of time, you can feel the sluggish effects. It was so serene on the Bay. Not many people out and the water was so calm. Run/Walking is a good way to get exercise and see other parts of the town. Hervey Bay is a veryyyyyyy small rundown town. There are 2 towns with access to Fraser Island: HB and Rainbow Beach. HB is the closer town which means less driving time and more time to enjoy the island. Came back for the Fraser Island prep/warning meeting at 6pm. There are 2 options for seeing Fraser: self drive camping with a huge LandCruiser or guided tours with hotel stays. I chose self drive, cuz its cheaper and its more fun to figure your own way. Besides I haven’t camped in a long time. Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world, so you need a 4WD to get around to roads are basically nonexistent. The meeting lasted 1.5 hours, with a video about carefully driving on the island. Some students a month ago died from overturning the 4WD (which is so easy to do since all of our equipment, food and personal stuff goes up top). The guy running the meeting, Richard, aka Dick, is a complete and utter asshole. We had to pay all kinds of extra insurances and food prices on top. Back home in the US, when you hear something is optional, you disregard it and assume its just another unnecessary way to make money. I was the first one out of 11 called up to pay the extras. I said no the extra insurance since we already had 3 other kinds of it. He flat out called me an idiot. I was soooo livid pissed.  Everyone else in our group did not plan on paying it either, until he insulted me in front of everyone. He gave everyone attitude about it all. He works in customer service every day and that’s how he treats people?? We all hated him already.  

Day 1 of camping—got up at 6am to leave the hostel at 7am. The hostel prepares food for us for $35 and we have to cook it at the camp site. The hostel also has a suggested itinerary list, based on the high tide schedule, with places to stop at and beach areas to sleep at.

Had an interesting group going: 3 Americans, 2 Germans, 3 Brazilians, 1 Irish, 1 French and 1 British. 11 people total, 2 sets of couples, 1 mother/daughter pair, 4 guys and 7 girls all crammed into this LandCruiser. Quite the diverse crew. 3 guys alternated between manually driving Jaws (our nickname for the great white beast). Took an hour to get to the ferry, drove Jaws onto the ferry, along with 10 other student groups, doing the same thing as us. The drive plus 2 more fit up front, with 8 people facing each other, ambulance style. Actually it wasn’t too bad. On the first day, we drove to Meheno shipwreck site. It’s was a huge cruise liner that wrecked in 1935. Made me excited since I’ll be diving to a real shipwreck site underwater next week! Driving on the beach is not as carefree here as it is in the Outer Banks. It’s actually considered a ‘highway’ with speed limits. You avoid driving near the water at all possible costs since salt will ruin the car and you’ll be paying a hefty fine. We were supposed to camp on the beach, but we found a fenced in campsite with showers, grills and toilets. Normally you have to pay to stay, but we were allowed for free. I shared a tent with the German girls. (Turns out they were au pairs in Sydney too! Small world!) We’re the first ones that have our tent up! That night, we drink beer and GOON. Goon is a generic term for boxed wine. You can’t have glass so goon is a very common backpacker drink. In Byron Bay, a popular shirt says, SLAP THE GOON (meaning to shake up the bag). We played some fun drinking games, Shoulders and a version of Fuck of the Dealer. When it’s dark out and you’re out in the wild, your body tries to tell you to go to bed. I passed out by 930pm—yes that’s lame.

Day 2 of camping—I’m the first one up at 6am. I guess when you go to bed that early (which you know I never do), your body wakes you up early. I start getting breakfast stuff out: sausages, eggs and toast. Not too bad huh? We take down the tents, pack it all back onto of Jaws then drove to INDIAN HEAD and hiked up to the top. It’s a huge (150 -200 feet high) with my favorite jagged rocks below. The view is just incredible. We walked 45 min along the white sandy beach to Champagne Pools, naturally made pools from the ocean. It was a long walk with a disappointing ending. Don’t get me wrong, it was interesting, but the pools were very small. The waves crashed over them and created some cool pictures, but it wasn’t worth the time spent there. Luckily, everything happens for a reason. We met 18 Australian fisherman, who drove us back to our car, saving us a 45 minute walk. As if that wasn’t good enough for us, we ended up hanging out with them for 3 hours!!  They gave us free unlimited beer (too bad I don’t like beer huh?), a BBQ sausage cookout with corn fritters on the beach and just socializing with these extremely friendly middle aged guys. The guys sincerely wanted to know about our travels, where we’re all going, the typical 20 questions. They have an annual week long trip of fishing, drinking and eating. They have a gigantic frig and freezer full of food. 2 of the guys were former chefs so they’re not eating pizza and wings all week. The weather was perfect, sunny and hot until 3pm (my first nice day since I started travelling 10 days ago!). Everything about the afternoon was just so ‘Australian’- Barbie on the beach, beer, warm hospitality, music, the sun and having a good time. It was probably one of my favorite days since I’ve arrived.

After our happy hours were over, we had to book it 2 hours back to our campsite. A dark storm was coming and so was high tide. The water kept rising higher and higher to our 4WD. A bright rainbow did greet us though!! It was getting hard to avoid hitting the ocean and the sand dunes were to the right of us. We were narrowly stuck between the ocean and sand dunes. We debated a couple times pulling over and parking there for the night. We kept going and bypassed our suggested camping area. We vetoed sand in favor of facilities, BBQ grills and hot showers.  Dinner was lamb stew with rice. Bed early again at 9pm. God I’m so old! I never even went to bed that early in college or high school!

Day 3 of camping—Breakfast:  Weetbix and toast. I LOVEEEE weetbix. It’s big rectangle wheat squares you drown with milk. I normally put honey and bananas on top of mine. I seriously will miss that food when I go back home. Anyway, I finally showered. Everyone joked with me that it was about time and it probably was. You had to pay for the showers so I held out as long as I could. 3 days is my max, haha. We drive out to Lake McKenzie, one of the most beautiful places on earth. The first 30 feet of the water is crystal aqua clear, then it drops deeper and the water turns a navy blue. Not exactly warm, but not super cold either. We were the first ones who arrive since our campsite was closer than the rest of the other backpacker vans. It was breathtaking. Pictures attempt to do some justice. We layed around until noon and then made lunch. We have been warned intensely about dingoes—which looks like skinny dogs, but have the ferocious mentality of wolves. The funny saying, “Dingo ate my baby!” is based on a true story. They notice babies/young kids because they have sudden movements. As dangerous as we knew they could be, we all desperately wanted to see one. During lunch on our last day at Fraser, we saw 3!!! They don’t look scary so mostly everyone to call one over. They smelled our food and eventually ran away. But our trip was complete!

The whole 3 days it was expected to rain with thunderstorms. It only rained one night. Now it wasn’t as hot as I wanted, but viewing Indian Head and Lake McKenzie with sunny weather made it a spectacular trip. For the most part, the people were great! We had too many dominating personalities in our group. Everyone wanted to be leader. For me, I didn’t want to be leader. I was more of the silent lead by example team member who always helped set up, clean up or made food. We got pretty close in 3 days, had some good laughs and were sad to see each other leave. The funny thing about travelling the east coast is you meet the same people over again. I see the same people on the Greyhound. My next trip on the sailing boat trip, the German girls will be with me. Eh, they’re nice but loud. Grr, loud Germans.

4th stop—Airlie Beach/Whitsunday Island – May 8-13

Overnight bus trip from Hervey Bay to Airlie, yuck. Left at 800am—arrival 9am, 12 hours, every seat filled, sweetness. But I went with the American Couple and had Brazilian Roger to sleep on. I slept so much better cuz he was my huge pillow, haha. Besides the 2 nice days at Fraser, the weather has been pure crap, rainy, cloudy or colder than expected. The rainy season was supposed to end in April. BTW, in case I didn’t explain, there are 6 states: South Australia, Western Australia, Queensland (my whole east coast trip, North of Sydney), New South Wales (Sydney), Victoria (Melbourne) and Northern Territory. Queensland is notorious for being known as having sunny weather 300 days a year. I expected it to be sunny and hot like it normally is. But as my luck goes for me, I’m still pretty white and a tan might not happen. I wanted more days at Airlie since I heard it’s perfect lay out weather. Ahh not so much. After getting off the bus and walking to my free hostel nights at MAGNUMS, it rained on and off all day. Again like Noosa and Byron Bay, it’s a small one street town with beach shops, cafes and travel agencies. Found a Macca’s (Mcdonalds) which has free wireless! See, that’s the only benefit of lugging around this laptop! Magnum’s is a huge hostel mini resort with cabins. Directly attached to it are 2 bars. I really should go out. There are 3 big backpacker bars: Magnums, Beaches and Mummers. I have nothing to do tomorrow (Sat) so I should go out. However, I don’t like going out by myself anymore. The same thing always happens: make the effort of getting dressed, stand around the bar awkwardly by yourself and wait for someone normal to talk to you. Of course fun girls aren’t going to approach another girl, it’s weird. So it’s always the sexually driven guys that talk to you first.  I really don’t feel like having to fend off hormonal guys (And do you realize how easy it would be to shag a guy? They basically throw themselves at you.) I know I’m probably missing out on some fun by not going out, but then again, maybe not. I started reading The Firm by John Grisham and I can’t put it down! So yes I just said I’d rather stay in and read a book, than go out, drink and dance with strangers. I’d rather dance and go out with you guys, seriously.  In the end, I passed out from reading at 9pm. So yes I turned 23 and I turned old.

Sat—up early from going to bed early. I decide to see more of Airlie and go for a jog/walk. The sun came out briefly for my 4.5 mile jog/walk. I jogged around the marina where I’ll be departing out of for my sailing trip. I’m doing a 2 day/ 2 night sailing around the Whitsunday Islands (located close to Airlie).

I’m finally caught up with my blog now– Pictures will hopefully come soon! Who knows!

Posted by: aussieashley09 | April 8, 2009

Future predictions? ;)

{{First off, let me say THANK YOU to all the complete strangers who’ve left comments and actually enjoy reading my blog! It’s really so flattering and definitely motivating to keep writing more! So thanks, new friends, for following my emotional roller coaster. 🙂 }}

As seen below in my making some serious changes blog, I’m still pretty directionless when it comes to my time down here. I just wanted someone to give me a hint or tell me I’m not wasting my time. Since I can’t reach God’s by email, I went to the next best source. Of course, I did what any normal, God-fearing, rational girl would do… go see a psychic to TELL her what to do (‘next best source’ might also be considered fake too- whoops. well guess anyone would do). But seriously, I’ve never really believed in that stuff. I don’t even read horoscopes because it’s a waste of time and a bunch of lies. Obviously, I’m to a point of no return… I’m desperate for advice.

Dressed in black from head to toe, huge black and sliver rings on every finger, long shaggy hair, complete with a moustache, I met Barry (how hippish does that sound?) my tarot card reader. As  scarily goth as he looks, he speaks tarot-cards1confidently, reassuringly and says pet names, like Love, in each sentence. It’s hard not to like him. He takes me into a super tiny dark room with a tiny table, covered by a black velour cloth. There is a little light in their, about as bright as a candle. Off to a good start right? The only question he asks is my birthday April 9, 1986, meaning i’m an Aries. Your birthday makes a ‘significant difference’ in the numerology charts (there is a cycle of good and bad years, depending on your blessed day of birth). He adds up my birth numbers and figures out I’m coming into my year 6 which is a ‘great year’.

These hugggeee cards are ‘cleansed’ before each personal reading. They have weird, distorted pictures, which to me don’t make any sense. Then I shuffle the cards, any way I want, as long as I want. Done shuffling, hand the cards back over, ready to hear my dreaded fate. He starts to deal.

Each card has a theme, whether heartbreak, friendship, jobs, travel, etc. Out of 78 cards in the deck, can you imagine the first one and most significant is? PLEASURE. Naked guy caressing a blonde girl in a potential foreplay position, who belong on the cover of a dirty Fabio book that middle age sex deprived women read (or someone else i know! and no i’m not talking about me.). This card sets the tone for the rest of the deck, and therefore, my predicted future. It determines what ‘spread pattern’ the table will look like. There are about 10 different patterns. My spread looks like this: tarot-cards2

       X

X           X 

X           X

X           X

        X

Doesn’t mean I’m gonna go through a mad sex raging streak. Means thats I’m bound to be in a serious, stable, long term relationship. I laughed out loud. I asked if it would be long distance, he said no. Starting a relationship while I’m down here is the last thing I want to do. Barry says: “April is when the fun begins. You’ve been single for a long time, right? All these guys will come at you at once, so you’ll get your choice. Don’t choose the one that has all the material things, big house, nice car, but too cocky. He’s not right for you.” I asked if it will be a healthy relationship. “Yes it will be a healthy and a great long lasting relationship, possibly The One for you.”

Turns over some more cards. My number 6 keeps showing up on these beginning 20 cards. “The last year has been really hard for you, going through a lot of struggles {years 3-5 are difficult years} .You are depressed now. But this year will be different, you’re on your way up, love.” Truthfully my eyes filled with tears. It was such a relief to hear things were going to get better.

More cards… the career card. “You’re debating about your current job. But you need to leave it, get out of there. It’s not healthy for you.” { Reminder: I’ve told him nothing, but my birthday. } I asked him if I should completely leave my field and try something new. He asked if I was currently working with kids. I said yes I’m an au pair. His face lights up, “NO– that is what you should be doing. If you weren’t doing that job, I’d tell you to be a teacher. Love, Aries are natural born leaders and great role models for kids. Stay within that field, just leave that job. More job offers will be coming up. Don’t choose the one that need an answer immediately {which was family #1}. More will come up, no worries, love. This is your year for a new career and a new relationship. Both will prosper, love, dont worry.”

“Did someone die tragically around you?” No “It’s someone who’s in a frame.” Still No. “This person, even if they weren’t that close to you, wants me to tell you, don’t get the tattoo. Your mom would be so upset.” Um, so random but that is true. I’ve debated a tattoo recently, just didnt know what. “I see great travels coming up. You’re already a long way from home and someone is coming to visit. You will have a great time and I can see you really need this visit.”  Boy did I ever.{This was 3 days before the trip with my mom started.}

“You will be meeting more friends soon. Your social circle will be widening {and to me, 2 good friends would greatly increase the size of  my social life}. But they will become jealous of your relationship and try to break you up. Don’t listen to them. Be selective with your friends.”

Now the most dreaded card of them all… He turns over the PREGNANCY card. I laughed and then I started panicking, “What?! No! I don’t even have a boyfriend, Hell, I don’t even think I want kids anymore, at all!!” He chuckles and says “Well love, you’re bound to be a great mother in your life. BUT if you don’t watch yourself, there is a great chance you will get pregnant in April.”   “OMG, that just can’t happen, no way. How do I prevent it?”   Barry: ” You’re not promisicious, but just be careful. You are going to fall hard for the relationship guy and things will escalate quickly. An engagement by the end of this year is possible too.” {Now I really snorted at that one! C’mon me… engaged now? I’m not exactly the most stable person right now.} He then preceded to relieve my fears and tell me how he predicted a 44 year woman’s pregnancy, who medically was deemed sterile. Great, thanks for that. Finally, he sid, “If you’re not pregnant in April, it won’t happen for awhile.” Whew, back to normal breathing. When I told my mom that prediction, she turned as white as a ghost, haha.

So now do I believe in tarot cards and astrology? I don’t think i’ll ever be one of those people that opens up the paper and searches for their daily horoscope. I still don’t believe horoscopes. How can you? There are so many variations, by different astrologers, for just one day. Which one are you supposed to believe? Sometimes they have very concidental things, but that’s rare. But some of those things he predicted, very weird. I don’t think its concidence, but I also gave him no hints about my career or love life.

I may not have been turned into a complete believer, but i’m not a skeptic any more (well i might be if mr. right doesnt come). Would I pay for it again? Hell yes! It helped me relax, relieve some fears and continue looking for an au pair job and not office work. Was it the right decision? You’ll see the results in upcoming blogs! 🙂

Posted by: aussieashley09 | April 6, 2009

-Back to step one, AGAIN- :(

As fast as God giveth, God taketh away… Scroll down and reread blog post below about family #3. Did you really read it? Sounds ideal right? I was basically picturing how quickly I would pack, where I would put my clothes, etc. This morning I received an email from the mom of family #3, saying that although my personality was perfect for them, the mother in law decided to come live with them for May. They loved meeting me but didn’t think it was necessary for an au pair to come if they just need one for 1 month. They’re never had an au pair and didn’t think it was the right time for one yet. Needless to say, I’m absolutely devastated, crushed and feeling hopeless again. It’s incredible how you can go from this huge happiness high to misery. Maybe that’s why people stay addicted to drugs, to keep experiencing euphoria. Look at me, I’m comparing losing an au pair family to drugs, wow. Now I’m back to the dreaded online searching, AGAIN. It’s getting so frustrating, emailing families and then coming 2 hours into the city to visit them and then 2 hours back to pick Felix up. I’m really trying to stay positive and put it in God’s hands, that another family like that will turn up. It’s hard to stay positive when I’ve been searching for a month with no further leads. (Is this how job searching for a permanent job is going to be back home? Eh, ew, yuck, gag me, why should I come home again?) I’ve always believed that everything happens for a reason, that God has a gameplan for anything. But it’s so hard when you’re clueless to this plan. I’m dreading going back to Sarah and Felix. I’m feeling desperate, I need to get out of this family now. I keep praying the next family will be better than the last, but what if it’s worse? What if the kids are worse, I cant stand their bickering, and having 4 poorly behaved kids, instead of just 1? I don’t want to make time pressured decision. The search for a ‘real Aussie family’ is getting so disappointing and frustrating that I’m truly debating giving it up. {{ I’m sorry you’re reading yet again another depressing blog. Beaver is generally happy!!}}

My first plan was to be settled into my new family by my bday (April 9). Since it’s this week, that is not happening. It’s Easter weekend so Felix and his parents are going down to Melbourne. I have no intentions of going with them. I might do a surf weekend instead. My newly revised goal is if I don’t have a secure family in the next 2 weeks, maybe I’m not supposed to find that happy family situation. IF I give up that idea, I will travel up the East Coast with the Oz Experience bus trip (hop on, hop off backpacker filled bus trips) for a month, then the same bus trip in New Zealand. I would actually make it home by July 1st. Deep down, that’s my absolute LAST resort. I’m not ready to come home at all. I miss you of course, but it’s just not time. However, I don’t want to stay with a family if I feel like I’m wasting my time, energy or money.

So the hunt is on… please keep praying for a speedy new fabulous WARM, welcoming family. Talk soon loves.

Posted by: aussieashley09 | April 4, 2009

Switching the gameplan… new family!

To put it lightly, I’m completely and utterly boggled. What to do, where to go, what will happen?  My biggest weakness is I royally suck at making decisions; whether it comes to buying clothes, picking out a hostel, grocery food choices and now changing my life again to what? I know it’s a ‘lesson to be learned’: to be totally independent and make confident decisions. In college I made a couple big decisions, but on a daily basis, it usually consists of “Should I go to class today?”. So obviously you read about my ‘disappointing family life’ (if not, see post below).  Since the beginning of March I’ve debated leaving this job and possibly my position as an au pair. Based on this experience, it really made me question if I should look for another au pair job or get an actual desk job. There are pros and cons of each.

Au pair PROS:  free rent, free meals, free car (usually), free wireless, under the table cash, no taxes, family support system

Au Pair CONS: Lack of interaction with adults. If you’ve had a bad day with the kids, can’t ‘leave work’ to go home to get away from it. It’s still there.

Desk job PROS: get an actual income ($10-20 an hour) meeting new people my age, actually improving on my resume, learning new skills, comparing Australian work culture to US

Desk job CONS: very hard to find, have to search for an apartment ($150-220 average A WEEK), bills, weird roommates (since no one can compare to mine!), buy your own groceries, income tax, safety concerns, and of course, real city smog living.

Basically its free and friendless or paying bills to have friends. Sounds like Greek life huh? Haha! My biggest fear is I’m going to move to a new family and I’m not happy there either. Then what? Whether the kids are horrible or the location sucks, what if I make another huge decision? I did decide that if the next family doesn’t work, then thats it. I’ll travel up the east coast for a month then to new zealand for a month and then return home. I don’t want to mess up another family’s search for a long lasting au pair. Searching for an au pair, talking to them, comparing which ones you want, having them visit your family, that takes a lot of time and effort. And when it doesn’t work out after only 2 months, you have to repeat the process all over again. For me, moving allllllllllllllllll my stuff around is a pain in the ass. I came over with 2 very large pink suitcases and then my little carry on. After shopping to fit in with the Australian fashion, I really don’t want to know how much I have now. And I really do wear all of it. So It’s not like I can send anything home just yet. It’s a pain in the ass for the family to find a new aupair, but also for me to pack from one family to unpack at another.

{{Let me clarify, I am NOT a backpacker. I could only backpack for a camping weekend. I could NEVER stuff a backpack full of clothes, haul it on my back and wear nothing else for a month or longer. I truly don’t know how they do it. It’s easier for guys with their lack of necessities. But for girls, with our hair appliances, makeup, smelling goods, and shoes… and stuff that in a backpack, shit that’s impossible. Yes I probably sound like Paris Hilton right now. But seriously, could you do that for a month? Some of them even go on longer trips than that!! And besides, imagine all the back pain!}}

 In my head, the CONS of a desk job outweigh the PROS. Anddd my psychic told me that I’m meant to be an au pair (I know you cant wait for the entry). I posted my profile back on the 2 FREE au pair websites I use: greataupair.com and newaupair.com (a little plug for them). I’ve been getting tons of responses. Having an au pair is such cheap labor, compared to day care. One more responsible person in the house that can help chauffeur kids around or make kids food or help getting them dressed, makes such a difference in a families daily life. I mean, at least I hope I do! Then another thought came up: Do I want to stay in Sydney or go somewhere brand spankin new? Am I getting tired of seeing this city? For awhile, I thought I really wanted to live in Melbourne (which is 12 hours drive south of Sydney). After visiting it with Mom, I definitely did not want to live there. So what about the Gold Coast (which is where all the great beaches are!)? Ideally, I would love to find a job in Manly—I loveeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee Manly. It’s my favorite part of Sydney. You either prefer Manly or Bondi (there’s always a little competition between the residents of which beach is REALLY better). My top choices for location were Gold Coast, Manly and Sydney. Not many responses for Manly, but still a ton in surrounding parts of Sydney.

 Let me tell you about the families I visited and interviewed with:

  1. Narrabeen—located in the Northern Beaches (40 min north of city, but 5 min from beaches).  Went and visited them 2x.  4 kids—10 mon boy, 2 yo boy, 6 yo girl, 8 yo boy  PROS: great downstairs floor for my room, with tons of clothing space, get my own car, extremely nice family., only 20 min drive to Manly, previous au pair had huge connection of other au pairs to introduce me to. CONS: Laundry for 7 people, cleaning, coordinating schedules of all 4 kids. More work, but super super super low pay for 4 kids ($170 a week = $117 US dollars). Yes I’m getting shallow and I want more $$ to at least come home with. I don’t want my savings depleted.
  2. Bondi—5 min walking distance to the beach. 3 kids—3.5 yo boy, 6 yo boy, 8 yo girl. On the day I visited, only met mom and 3.5 yo boy. PROS: average pay ($200 = $142 USD), truly only work 3 days a week, 4 days off, could travel more, super nice mom. CONS: the little boy reminded me so much of Felix and his actions, it was my first turn off, very spoiled as the baby of the family. Their house is a very white, modern, square, characterless box, situated in between 2 tall towering apartment buildings. Bondi is a very crowded area with barely any backyards. I was supposed to go back and visit them after my holidays with my Mom, but I didn’t feel to urge to.
  3. Woolwich—on a peninsula around the Harbour Bridge. Took the train from my home into Circular Quay which is where the Opera House is, then on another 20 min ferry to Woolwich. 2 kids— 5.5 yo boy and 3.5 yo boy.

PROS: FANTASTIC, GORGEOUS, GINORMOUS VICTORIAN house (I mean hello there is an INDOOR swimming pool!!). AMAZING VIEWS of the Harbour from the living room. I LOVEEEEEEEEEEE THIS HOUSE! I was blown away! Great room with en suite (means with bathroom attached) on bottom floor. Parents super nice and down to earth. Said they would introduce me to all of their single friends that still go out. Pay is great! Originally it was $200 a week, but they upped it to $220 a week ($157 USD) {cuz I’m that amazing}, get my ‘own’ car (a Hybrid Prius, their own car is a BMW Suv), Willing to pay for ½ of my cell phone bill a week, very flexible hours. Only need au pair for 3-4 months which is perfect for me.  Both Tash and Dad (Josh) did gap years when they graduated Uni so they understand if I want to travel around. A cleaner comes in once a week and someone does their laundry (scoreeee!). Kids were very outgoing and friendly. I’m sure they’ll have ‘their moments’, but parents seemed to have much more discipline than Felix’s parents do. And at the end of my stay, will give me a domestic return flight anywhere!

CONS:  SADLY, they are moving mid May so I have to help them move to their next house in Lindfield. Haven’t seen the new house, but they designed it, has 6 bedrooms and my room at the next one has its own bathroom too. I am their first au pair so trial and error. Will still be slightly bored during the day. Woolwich Area is mostly rich retired old people. Lindfield has more activity. Mom (Tash) is home recovering from a back injury so will be home with me sometimes. But if they introduce me to their friends… who knows? At least the area is nicer, closer to the city and the family is an actual family, with a mom, dad, 2 kids, and 2 cats.

Ironic how the pay goes up with less kids huh?  Can you guess which family I’m picking? Originally I was going to go with Narrabeen one, because I felt the parents and I really connected. But after meeting the Woolwich today, I can’t wait to move in!! I haven’t told them yet, but I will on Monday. I feel really confident about this one. I mean, it sounds sweet right? Even if it does have the best benefits ever, the main reason I’m there is for the kids. I’m really praying these 2 little blonde haired boys bond with me and we all get along, like a happy family who occasionally has squabbles!

With all the sweet benefits, you’re probably wondering if I actually work. I’ll help get the boys up at 7am, eating breakfast and then driving them off to school, swimming lessons, or sports in the morning. Sometimes I’ll stay with them and watch them play their sports. Then pick them back up at 3pm, go outside and play at the park, make dinner 2x a week and then they’re off to bed at 7pm. They’re older than Felix and he doesn’t go to bed until 9-10pm! The kids don’t watch tv until the weekends and I think that’s such a smart idea! Felix is glued to his when he gets home. I’ll be doing a lot of driving, so I’ll have to learn my roads around here too! That’s always a challenge! Imagine trying to remember directions and focuses on the left side of the road. I’m great at remembering when I can follow cars. However, when you’ve been driving on the right side of the road for 6 years, it’s a hard habit to break.

Right now, I’m at the Blue Mountains again (remember my first rainy trip out?). I’m back to do repelling (called abseiling here) and then canyoning tomorrow. I’m actually pretty scared to do the repelling. My dad tried to get me to do when the boys when in Boy Scouts. He even bribed me with $200 and I couldn’t do it. Maybe the offer stills stand (ahem, DAD!). I know its like bungy jumping with the high heights so hopefully I’ll enjoy this. Then the canyoning part is swimming through small narrow caves and cevices in icy cold water and then the BIG finale—abseiling down and through a 100 ft waterfall! I’m pretty pumped about that part! But I’m here until Monday morning and then I’ll be heading back to pack up my life for my new house!

So you did it guys. You really did it this time… Your prayers and warm, positive thoughts have been sent successfully to Australia (like email, haha). Superficially everything on the outside of this family seems great. I hope it’s really as good as it appears. I know God is really blessing me right now. Seriously He is taking care of me big time right now. I’m so grateful so I want to blend in and become a member of their family. I want to move in and be settled for my birthday on Thurs. BTW, as soon as I arrive, (birthday present to me from them, haha)—because of upcoming Easter holidays, I’ll be travelling with them to 2 locations! Nelson Bay Beach –2 hours north at their parents beach house and Oberon—3 hours west at their parents 5,000 acre farm! 5,000 acres is pure, green farmland is unheard of!! Back home, that’d automatically be turned into a resort. That will be a great start to getting used to the family.

So when am I coming home…? To be answered soon!

— Thank you all for your emails and comments of happy thoughts. You truly have NO idea how much taking 5 minutes (or more!!) out of your day means to me. Don’t worry I will respond tomorrow night. I really really appreciate it. J Thank you for being there for me! I love you!!! J

Posted by: aussieashley09 | April 2, 2009

Making some serious changes

I’ve been here 2.5 months and truly, I’m not happy. At all. About anything. Actually i’m more upset, frustrated and disappointed in my trip, my experience and myself. In the beginning I was just hoping things (meeting new friends, the family warming up, the kid actually being nice) would get better. Not so much. Get ready for Debbie Downer…

I hoped by going into the city on the weekends and staying at different hostels, I’d meet some permanent travellers (no, that is not an oxymoron) friends who are working full time jobs for at least a few months. I’ve noticed there are 2 types of travellers: 1. transient travellers— visiting as much as they can in a short amount of time. Maybe a week max stay in each city. 2. working travellers— want to put down roots, find a full time, earn some money, and then a few months later, repeat that again in a new city. I keep meeting #1 when I want #2. Plus being out in the ghetto, 40 min from the city stuck in a house all day, definitely does not help the situation. In my tiny little town, its a great, safe area for families, just rows and rows of little houses. But not a bar for 20 minutes or opportunities to meet people.           {{ Daily routine: make brekkie for felix, get him dressed, drive him to preschool. from 10-4, sit around the house, wash the dishes, tidy the house, do laundry, work out, count the blades of grass, you know really fun stuff. At 4, pick him up, attempt to get him to go outside (but usually he fights for the tv), make him a new and healthy dinner which he refuses to eat so Sarah makes him a new one, bathtime and then to my flat to watch tv. I’ve watched more tv in my life in this country than my own. Now I dont want your sympathy, I dont even care who reads it. This blog is just pure venting for me. }}

I am taking the 2 dance classes, tango and latin ballroom, 2 days a week. Met lots of nice people but It’s mostly over age 30 though (not saying thats old). It’s just theyre married with kids, etc. Not exactly the hang out type.  I refused to stay in this town on the weekends, so i’ve been in the city every weekend. So far I’ve met some bar party friends, but no one i could have a real conversation with. The whole point to staying in one city is meeting some permanent friends and really becoming part of their culture. I LOVE when visitors ask ME for directions and I can actually tell them the right way to go! I’d love to have friends to travel around the city with or go on weekend road trips. Good friends, quality friends, not just dancing friends. I believe that the people you encounter on any trip can impact the whole journey. Whether its your loud neighbors, mean receptionist or awesome tour guides, they have the power to make or break your holiday. I still truly believe in this quote…

The great difference between voyages rests not with the ships, but with the people you meet on them.

— Amelia E. Barr

I dont want to be a visitor here. I know I can do that, have a great time and see all of the touristy things that I love to do. Yes the country is beautiful and the weather couldn’t be better. I just want some people from all over the world to enhance this journey. Jose was a great friend and we had a good time exploring together. But he moved down to Melbourne (a 12 hour drive away).  😦   Yes you’ve heard or seen me do some crazy things that I never thought I could do. However, the point of this journey, was to figure me out, to figure out what I want to do in life, give me some motivation for ‘going into the real world’.  To me, having a career goal and doing everything i can do to achieve it is some form of stability. I wasn’t one of those blessed people who knew from birth what they were born to do. Does anyone else feel this way? I like PR, but there are so many types of jobs in it that I could like or hate. Because I don’t feel like I’m growing as a person,  I feel like I’m not getting anything of this trip. But I refuse to go home (more on that later….). It’s been a very rough past 1.5 months; spent crying, feeling lost, confused and alone. Because no one can help me, but me.  I understand this is just a rough s p o t in my journey, like beginning college was a scary 3 months tough period. The difference, I could go home in just 2 hours and get adult hugs. Thank God I joined my sorority my 2nd semester.  It’s like living in Oxford, another strange foreign country, but at least I had friends there with me. Ironically, after 3 months there and I was so ready to go home. I could cop out, and fly home to my comfort zone of familiar friends and family.  As alone as I am, at 2.5 months here, I’m not ready for home yet…  Maybe this is part of the experience, part of growing up, no matter what country your in. So far, I’m not seeing any advantages to growing up. Cant I just go back to Playdoh and Barbies?

Onto the family situation… You will think differently of me after I say this, but I cant stand my little boy.  This little boy makes me want to scream, cry and throw MYSELF on the ground in a tantrum. I’ve been around kids basically my whole life and babysat a couple families frequently during college. I’m not terrible with them, but I can admit I’m not Supernanny either (though I really wish I was!). If you could only see him, throwing his 3rd fit of the day…. He’s a little prince and his parents are his servants. I don’t want to fit in with that mold. I’m not one for spoiling kids unless they really deserve it. And he does not. First off, he’s an only child, to a mom who’s an only child and a father who’s only home 3 days a week due to work. He does not listen to anything, he’ll completely ignore you if you tell him to stop. He doesn’t get disciplined. His food taste is limited: eggs for brekkie, sausage and ravoli for dinner. Whether he finishes his dinner or not, he’ll get an ice cream bar. And most nights, 2 ice cream bars! He gets lollies (candy) frequently and 4 or 5 cups of sugary orange juice every day. I’ve never heard NO so many times from a child in a day. He needs attention alllll the time. Whenever the mom and I try to have a quick convo, we can’t because Felix interrupts and demands the attention. Of course, Sarah stops mid sentence and focuses solely on him. It’s beyond frustrating cuz we can’t normal convos ever so I basically gave up on talking. We barely have deep convos. Don’t get me wrong– she’s great about asking for trip advice and is pretty accomodating. But actually having a deep normal convo with an adult is quite rare in this family. He’s much better and disciplined with me than he is with her. He knows he could get away with murder and still get ice cream at the end. I’ve attempted to set the rules, tell him NO even if he throws a fit. If he would throw a fit with her, she’ll eventually give him whatever he was crying for. Sometimes when I tell him NO about something small, he’ll literally throw himself on the ground and cry dramatically(such as ‘the sky is blue’  Felix: no, its red! i said its REDDDDDDDDDDDD!). It’s actually quite comical, that’s good laugh there.  We’ve made some progress though. Because I want him to become more ‘mature’ and not so babied, he’s learned how to eat his dinner on his own, starting to put his clothes on himself and a big step today, was socks and shoes without my help. Manners are getting better and he knows the right way to cross the road. Sounds like a great little kid huh? That’s about 10% of time. He morphs into this little devil child with his mother. 

My experience with him as made me question myself. Am I really terrible with kids? Why is he not connecting with me? Am I made to be a mom?  Hell, I’m not even sure if I want to have kids now. Seriously, I used to want to a whole truckload, and now, I’m not convinced I want to be a mom. Everyone says its different with your own, but I dont really want to test that theory. I told my mom to not count on having grandkids come out of my va-j-j, that she should rely on the other 2. Maybe this is how ‘normal’ kids act at this age and I’m just not patient enough to deal with it. Maybe it’s me that’s the bad nanny. What do you think? HOWEVER, this brief experience with this family, has made me appreciate my own parents parenting skills. Sometimes Dad can be rough, tough and too strict, but Lordly, its better than raising spoiled brats who expect the world to bow down to them. And my dear Mom, raising 3 kids under 3 {and a puppy!}, I truly don’t know how she survived. She has the patient of a saint.  It’s questioned how I acted as a kid. Of course, you know she said, “I was a perfect angel”. {I swear she did!!}.

Needless to say, about 2 weeks ago, I told the family that I am looking for a new job. Somewhere closer to city, with a real family (mom, dad and more kids). Somewhere with a lively town, places to meet young people, and a warm welcoming family that asks about my day and means it. I dont feel like I have a support group or that family unit I wanted. i’ve been searching online for new au pair jobs. I debated for a long time whether I should look for an au pair job or an actual city desk job. I’ll explain more about the new possibility choices in a later post. So far I’ve met 2 families and said no to them. I’m meeting another one this Friday. Explain more about families later…

Although being friendless for almost 3 months has royally sucked, there are some positives (yayy i know about time, i said something happy). To all my close friends, taking time out of their day to read this, I LOVE YOU and THANK YOU. I’ve tried finding close friendships down under.  But then deep down, I know its not possible, maybe it just won’t happen.  Because it’s hard to find friendships like ours. Believe me, i’ve travelled to Europe and Australia. We’ve graduated college and have been seperated for almost a year. If you’re still making the effort of keeping in touch with me, while I’m 15 time zones away, I really am so lucky to have you in my life. I told my mom to not count on having grandkids come out of me. To those who i’ve called bawling because i didnt know what to do in my past month, thank you for listening to me bitch. I honestly feel/felt like I have wasted almost 3 months of my life (and my own stinkin money) with nothing to show for it. I havent changed or figured out what I like or met any amazing friends or even travelled that much. It’s my straight forward roomie Kait, that reminded me, “You have been living on your own in a foreign country. You know you can make it whatever new city you live in. You can read directions, talk to anyone, find your way around. You are completely independent to do fun things without anyone else, your fearless. You are doing crazy insane things, like bungy jumping, that YOU never thought you could do. You are growing up and dont realize it. ” Friends that help you up, when you’re falling down, thats a precious wonderful gift in life. We might’ve fought, irritated each other or caused drama, but true friends are there for you, all the time. My other roomie Holly said, “You are learning and changing so much that you probably won’t realize until you come home.” Those statements both hit me hard. i’ve never looked  through another perspective.  By not having friends here, I truly am so grateful for the ones I have, who are getting me through, whether its by phone calls, emails or facebook messages. I appreciate my close friendships so much more now.  Thousands of miles away, one thing I’ve realized (so far) is friendship only grows stronger from distance. And basically that means you can’t get rid of me now. :0)

As much as I want to come home to see you, I’m not done here. Posts later about extending the trip (uh what!!), new families and of course, what the tarot card reader predicted for my future.

Posted by: aussieashley09 | March 31, 2009

Not your average Mardi Gras…

For those kicking my ass to write more updates (ahem, Carsen), thank you. No truly, I’m glad you are actually reading this. But actually I’m learning this is a great therapy tool for me. I’ll see, hear or do things that I think, I can’t wait  to type this down. It’s been awhile because alot has happened… Try to keep up.

Sat March 7– Mardi Gras Parade–

Traditionally Mardi Gras in the US is green, gold and purple and a celebration of drinking. For Sydney, its the bright colors of the rainbow, standing for Gays and Lesbians. In fact, it’s the largest Gay celebration parade in the world! Sydney is the 2nd largest city for gays, next to San Fran (but soon to be the #1). The best place in the world for NYE is Sydney. This is the 2nd biggest event in the city compared to that.

Not only do the people in the parade dress up, so do all the bystanders. And um hello, I love theme parties. So of course, if i was going to dress up, I’m going all out. After graduating college and leaving behind my awesome weekend Just playinggg!!! I didnt care what their float was (something about united the gay Balkans). Iwas going be marching in the MARCHING IN THE BIGGEST GAY PARADE IN THE WORLD!!!

Mardi Gras Craziness!

Mardi Gras Craziness!

mixers, I haven’t got a chance to dress up. So I went to the dollar store and bought basically anything that was rainbow (see pic haha). Jose joined me in our big night out. He had a brillant idea for drinking: camelbacks. Ideally used for running in the miltary, we made it even better and put tons of alcohol (rum, sprite and raspberry juice and him with white boxed wine– uhhh yeah you see where this is going…) on our back, drank and carried it around all night. We walk towards Oxford St (the unofficial gay street of Sydney) and are stopped by this gay guys dressed up as girls. As in they look better in a bustiere than me! Because I looked so ridiculous, these guys asked us to be apart of their float.  Obviously I said no. 

Parade started at 745, but we had to be locked into our block lineup area by 6pm. This wasn’t your normal boring line up though. It was a party inside a block. There were probably between 1000-2000 people dressed colorful gay, crazy (or barely there) costumes and floats. Not just standing around, but a DJ was blaring and everyone was dancing! It was so fun! We had a good amount of time just to walk around so I taped tons of video. And then dear lightweight Jose was a denial drunk. Kept sitting down, having a hard time standing up, screaming WOOOOOOOOO at everyone. I knew where this was going. Me, on the other hand, not drunk whatsoever. He puked a couple times, before the parade even started. The float organizers wanted to kick him out, but he promised he was done. I was walking whether he was in it or not, haha. Finally we started walking. This parade route is so long, it took us 45 minutes to finish it all. Tons of chinese people. When I say tons of people, I mean 10 rows back from the st, piled on top of each other, trying to get pictures of every float.  I screamed, drunk people screamed for me, wanted pictures and hugs with me. Needless to say, I slightly loved it. 🙂 Definitely taped the chaos of walking down Oxford. It was just nuts. Pure insanity. And let me tell you, I felt like a rock star! Somehow, Jose survived walking most of the street but then got kicked out halfway through. I didnt even notice, haha.

More coming soon loves. Pictures on the bucket coming soon!

Posted by: aussieashley09 | March 20, 2009

10 Day Mom Adventure!

Hi guys! Thank you all for your encouraging comments and following my life. I know it’s been a month since I posted but I haven’t forgotten about it at all. So much has been happening in my life. UNFORTUNATELY, this is just a short blog posting saying, you will probably have to wait to hear all about me possibly moving to a new job, new job offers and um, seeing a tarot card reader to figure out my life, haha (no seriously…). Ahhh I’m sure the suspense is killing you now.

My Mom just joined me in Sydney for a 10 day jam packed adventure planned by me (yayyy!).  So I’ve spent the last several weeks looking for fun activities for both of us, checking out the fabulous cities of Sydney, Melbourne and Cairns (which essentially is flying from North Carolina to Florida, then Florida to Boston,  then Boston back to NC) in only 10 short days. When we get back, hopefully I will tell you how we survived bungy jumping, hot air ballooning, scuba diving at the Great Barrier Reef and white water rafting (post cyclone high waters).  🙂

Talk to you soon!

Posted by: aussieashley09 | February 22, 2009

Valentine’s Day Weekend

So it’s been raining for the past week. Australia weather is crazy: fires 12 hours from me, and floods 5 hours from me. But no floods near me, just pure steady rain all week. Even though its raining, I can’t waste a weekend at home so I need to travel somewhere, with the hope the weather will be better there. Hm didn’t happen so much that way.

I filled my pink big suitcase and off we went for another weekend in the city. Got on the train and stayed the night again in Kings Cross at Funk House. I’m beginning to get sick of the Cross so I need to find a new hostel for another weekend. I met up with Lena, Daniel and Garrett to venture out to Soho. Not particularly excited since I’m not a big fan of Soho already. Got our free drink of wine, free entry and mingled around. I felt sufficiently awkward dancing to techno/electro/house (whatever the hell it is) songs I didnt know or care to know. I wanted to leave early and find somewhere else to go. I figured out if I’m not happy, I’m my own person and I can go to any bar by myself (as long as I have my pepper spray, which yes, I definitely carry it every night and hold it on my walks home to the hostel). Luckily, (to calm my moms worrying), the gang came with me. We went to EMPIRE, directly across from our hostel. I heard my American hip hop music and my booty was shaking! Definitely made up for Soho’s music. Mixed drinks were only $5 too! We all had a great time– bed around 2:30am (still an early night for Sydney standards) for a short sleep.

Sat morn– the big commercialized holiday for all you lovers out there— Got up at 7am to catch a small 20 person bus tour to the Blue Mountains (1.5 hours away from the city). The mountains are actually Blue Mountains reflected a navy blue, due to the e

ucalyptus trees. The famous rock creation, is named 3 Sisters from Aboriginen legends.The day started off with a visit to Featherdale Wildlife Park, definitely my highlight of the whole day. Crocodiles, kangaroos, snakes and my favorite, koalas, all upclose. Koalas are seriously so adorable in person. In my opinion, next to my dog, the cutest animals ever. They’re just little gray teddy bears with long claws who cling on to you. I could’ve stared at them all day. Disappointedly, kangaroos arent that cute. Aggressive with scary claws, like a hawk’s claws. After that hour visit, our driver showed us how to throw a boomerang. Originally they were very sharp and used to catch prey for food. Next, small buffet lunch at a hotel. Ate with a young german girl, who definitely didn’t understand much English, so sometimes we stared blankly at each other. These were all over 40+ travelers, not interested in conversing with others. Definitely not the right tour for me. Then we arrive at the Blue Mountains. ScenicWorld is the only attraction site for all the public. They have a couple very cool transportation methods to go down into the rainforest valley.  Cable car, steep train ride, skyway car, and simply just walking down the mountain

I love Koalassssssssss

I love Koalassssssssss

on the narrow wooden walkways. I took the steep train ride down (steepest incline train ride in the world– literally straighttttt down) then ventured around the jungly forest, going deeper and deeper into nowhere. I walked alone, on the wooden paths, with tree branches cluttering my way. They kept it very natural, even cutting out parts of the pathway around big trees. The wood was ‘hugging the tree’ (you would’ve loved it Holly!!).  It was very, very serene, almost convincing you were in the tropical rainforest. And what would a rainforest be without rain? Thats right, ALLLLLLLLLL day it rained. Not drizzle rain, but a steady hard rain. I had a t shirt, hoodie, poncho and jeans on with a pink umbrella (noticing a theme?). I could’ve passed as a rat’s sister, but not as smelly. God must’ve missed my positive prayers that the rain would stop. Because it was rainy and terribly foggy, I could only see one of the 3 sisters. So the picture above is what I was supposed to see. I only saw the one on the far left, the other 2 weren’t even visable.  Since I was sorely disappointed by the ‘nonexistant’ mountains, I plan to go back there to do a day trip, abseiling aka rapelling off of huge cliffs. {{Funny how that’s something I would refuse to do at home, but when I’m in Australia, I feel like I have to do it all.}} On the way home, we stopped at Olympic Park and then took a short cruise ride to the Harbour.

Valentine’s night— out looking for a valentine. Gaff was supposed to host speed dating (yay!!). The whole gang of my hostel friends went on the free party bus ride and began our night with a free fish n chips dinner. My new favorite drink is vodka, grenadine, and sprite (basically a spiked shirley temple). Usually around $8-10, $5 if you’re early. With those prices, the most I’ve ever had is 2 in one night. Needless to say, being drunk has yet to happen. Not such a bad thing since I would be soo lost getting home. It was Playboy Bunny night again and to replace the speeddating was bikini contest. Booo…! It was another good night of dancing and then ‘early to bed’ again at 230. My feet can scream at me for so long, til I answer to them. (And no valentine– thats ok– more money to spend on meee)

Til next weekend friends….

 

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