“I’m never going to Australia. They have too many things that can kill you!”
– An Idiot (It was me); circa 1989-2012
For the longest time, i vowed never to go to Australia and this was not a decision that was grounded in any rational thought. The reason was purely for my perceived health and safety. When i go abroad, i appear to attract nature. And what happens when a substantial amount of a country’s wildlife is said to be venomous? Amy is mortally wounded. I was terrified for such a long time and i begun to have night terrors about Huntsmen spiders during the lead up to the trip. But as it turns out (and as most Aussie’s will inform you) the wildlife steers pretty clear of humans and the encounters that i did have were not as horrific as i had imagined.
Australia is that destination that everyone wants to visit but not many will venture. This is especially true of friends and family here in the United Kingdom. Flights are expensive, Australia itself is pricey and over 40 hours of flight time does not sound appealing for a two week holiday. Therefore, it is one of the major stops on a round the world/gap year itinerary.
One aspect i did not plan for was the impending emotional roller coaster it proved to be. I will elaborate on this further but first of all, here are some of my favourite places in The Great Southern Land.
Let me make this clear – Australia is big. After mapping out some itineraries on Google-maps, we decided it would be best to take the Greyhound Bus from place to place. We started our trip off in Cairns for New Years Eve and made our way down the East Coast, ending up in Sydney by the end of January. Even a month of travel pushed our itinerary to the limit, even with a few overnight 10+ hour bus rides. It is mind blowing to see first hand, just how vast this country is and how far away the towns are from each other. Whilst in Agnes Water, i browsed through some real estate brochures and one of the positives of the properties was “Only 2 hours from Gladstone and 3 hours from Bundaberg!”
With all this space and countryside, there was a lot of room for some truly incredible places. Australia’s coastline is the most spectacular that i have ever seen. Whilst sailing the Whitsundays and sitting on the pure white sand of Whitehaven Beach, i suddenly found myself in the most beautiful place i had ever been visited. This was beyond postcard worthy and it is one of those places that you have to see for yourself. We sailed from Airlie beach with Cruise Whitsundays on their big purple catamaran. The day included snorkeling as well as free drinks and an all you can eat BBQ, aka a backpacker’s dream. Unfortunately, no other beach will ever compare to Whitehaven, which is especially true of the English Channel and its chilly neighbours. But at least there’s no jellyfish here, just pale skinned Brits and overpriced beach huts.
After a night in Agnes Water, we took a 4 hour drive south to Rainbow beach, which is another area of spectacular coastline. It was here that my phobia of dangerous wildlife was to be tested, as we were about to spend three days on Fraser Island – and we were going to be camping. We stayed with Dingos Resort and had an incredible but exhausting few days. Fraser Island is a World Heritage Site, Queensland’s largest island and a place that should be on every Australia itinerary. During our stay we explored inland lakes, drove jeeps on the beach, hiked to incredible beauty spots and all with the most horrendous hangovers in 40°c heat. I won’t give too much away here as i intend to give Fraser Island a page of its own. It really deserves it.
There was also a lot of spiders. This seems to be a running theme in my travels.
Oh, Sydney. I loved you.
I arrived in the iconic city after a 13 hour overnight bus ride from Byron Bay. It was 46°C, i was carrying a massive backpack and naturally, i got lost. This was also my first experience of travelling solo in a city. As you may know, i had been travelling with one of my good friends up until Brisbane. Unfortunately she had to return back to the UK and my trip changed dramatically. I no longer had the safety net of having another person with me. It was initially terrifying and i spent all my nights in Byron Bay crying into my pillow whilst my dorm mates explored the night life. I will also admit that i watched a lot of Eat Pray Love during that time. It was turbulent, i was a bit of a drama queen and i think it definitely impacted on my Oz experience. After a week of crying to Julia Roberts and wishing that i could find a handsome Brazilian man in the hostel kitchen, i pulled myself together and explored Sydney.
I finally had a taste of what solo travelling is all about. I had been told that you meet more people when you travel on your own and it is definitely true. You can be sat eating ramen noodles all alone on a sofa somewhere and within a few minutes have an invitation to a night out. I visited the Blue Mountains with an English girl who i had met the night before, spent the day at Taronga Zoo with an American guy i met on the ferry and we even met up at the airport the next day as we had similar flight times. That just doesn’t happen in everyday life! Travelling makes you more social, it forces you out of your comfort zone and you can benefit greatly from that. One of the best solo travel experiences i had was in Sydney, and although it sounds a little odd, it was actually very liberating – I went to see The Hobbit on my own at the IMAX. I had a great time and i didn’t even have to share my overpriced popcorn.
Now, lets finish this post up with a lovely Australian wildlife collage.