Tag Archives: australia

Travellin’ Tuesdays: Great Barrier Reef in a hurricane? Why the hell not.

The beautiful Whitsunday Islands

This week I thought I’d talk about visiting the Great Barrier Reef, arguably one of the most astounding sights on the planet. My friends and I took a trip there whilst backpacking up the east coast of Australia, we didn’t get as far north as Cairns but were still able to visit one of the world’s natural wonders – albeit in unusual weather conditions.

Out of our entire Australian experience, myself and four friends spent the most time in the Whitsundays, as three of them were booked onto a scuba PADI course. I have to admit that I envied their exciting adventures underwater (the Whitsundays are definitely the dullest place to spend 8 days when you have nothing planned), but my complete phobia of all things sea related meant that I wasn’t too put out. What did affect my mood was the less than perfect Aussie summer, in which I experienced hurricanes, terrible storms and humidity like you wouldn’t believe, not the best situation when you are camping in the cheapest, and shittest, tent known to man. Seriously, it cost £25 on ebay, had a hole in the top and wasn’t even vaguely waterproof. We were thinking that vents and waterproofing weren’t relevant when you’re camping in the SUMMER. We were wrong.

Anyway, we had booked onto a boat trip to a pontoon in the Reef and were highly excited about entering Nemo’s world. The fact that there were two hurricane-like storms on the horizon slightly dampened our spirits, particularly my friend Sophie, who is infamous for getting sick just by looking at the sea. It turns out that the remaining four of us were the only people on the entire ship not to get seasick during the two hour journey to the pontoon. If you thought that being surrounded by 50 people throwing up could put you off life in general, you were right. Needless to say, we were the first off of the boat when we reached the pontoon, straight into the wetsuits and out into the water.

The pontoon had a number of different activites, such as a glass bottom boat and a water slide, but I was most interested in actually getting into the water. Particularly because it was a roped off area monitored by a lifeguard – I should mention that I have a pathological fear of sharks. As in, I can’t even look at a picture without flinching. But I felt safe, and I was really excited to see some fish that were more exciting than those of the gold variety. It was so peaceful yet bustling with life at the same time, and I was definitely replaying “Just keep swimming” in my head for a good half an hour. From iridescent cuttlefish to, what shall be forever known as ‘Dory fish’, the view was quite spectacular and I was sad to get out and return to a pontoon filled with seasick families determined to get their money’s worth despite overwhelming nausea.

I met up with my friends, who had left for a diving experience and a spin on the glass bottomed boat, they gleefully informed me that they had seen a reef shark. A REEF SHARK. In the water. Near me. Yes, they’re small and harmless, but any creature with ‘shark’ in the name instantly terrifies me and, well, I was not impressed.

However, shark terror aside, the experience of seeing up close the kind of wildlife normally reserved for an aquarium visit more than made up for a previously dull week in the Whitsundays (I should mention that I was ill with laryngitis and skint during this time as well). But it was all part of the character building, can you tell that I like that phrase? I must have used it every week so far, but with good reason. The whole point of travelling is to experience something new, and it may not always be a positive experience, but it will definitely leave you with a good story to tell.

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Travellin’ Tuesdays: How to Die on Fraser Island

Lake Mackenzie

This week I thought I’d share my experiences of Fraser Island, a sand island off the east coast of Australia. My friends and I spent 2 days there, managing to dodge the certain death that we thought was coming to us, courtesy of a 2 hour safety briefing prior to our departure.
In that space of time, we were told about the multitude of ways in which to die in two days of driving, camping and generally getting sand into crevices that we didn’t know existed.

For a start there was the sand itself, we were warned about washouts, hazards that occur on the beach when a section of the ground is swept away leaving a hidden mini-cliff that had rolled many 4x4s in the past. Subsequently our vehicle remained at a respectable speed for the duration, which meant that we became stuck in loose sand next to an ever-nearing tide, forcing us to wedge ourselves headfirst underneath the car to dig ourselves free before the saltwater violated our engine.

Next were the rip tides, just in case the many dangers of the island itself were enough to put you off, a seafaring escape was out of the question. And while we’re on the subject, sharks, crocodiles and every poisonous jellyfish imaginable also called the waters their home. It is fortuitous that the island boasts a number of stunning lakes complete with shores of white sand and crystal blue waters, so that you can have a relaxing day contemplating just how lucky you are to be alive.

Lastly, there is the island’s wildlife, a rather conspicuous aspect of our trip, in which we made sure to be dingo safe (crossing your arms over your chest is scientifically proven to stop wild dogs wanting to attack you, fact.) as one strolled past our campfire without a second look. While the snakes left us alone, the Australia-sized spiders seemingly enjoyed our girlish screams and thus made their presence felt at every opportunity. It was at an Aborigine-run campsite on the first night that I heard, and can still hear to this day, the clicking of pincers emanating from what I can only describe as two tarantulas, a short distance above my head. I try not to imagine what the pair was discussing, other than who was to eat me first. I was, therefore, determined to ignore the spiders in the camp toilets, whose range in size and colour would have excited even the most casual of zoologists, but I was glad to head off to a jellyfish covered beach the next morning.

The Champagne Pools

In our quest to stay alive, we swam in the shallows of a cool lake filled with curious turtles in search of toe-shaped morsels, explored a crusty shipwreck that made us think of our next tetanus shot, and floated nervously in The Champagne Pools alongside microscopic yet deadly jellyfish. It’s probably a good idea that I neglected to inform my mother of the above risks until after I had returned, but as we left the sandy paradise behind, there were only two words I could think of to sum up my experience: character building.

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