Life is an Adventure.

Email written 20th September 06.

We arrived in Australia at the end of April. We flew to Cairns, as the plane got lower the Great Barrier Reef was visible from the plane window; it was such an amazing sight! 
We stepped off of the plane and felt the heat hit us!! 
Australian winter?! They don't know what winter is! 
However due to the recent cyclone the weather was a bit unpredictable, always hot (tropical) but raining one minute and then sunny the next! I don't know if this added to my disappointment but Cairns was not a good introduction to Australia for me. 
I had pictured white sand beaches, turquoise water, surfers, bbqs, koalas and roos etc!!! 
All we found in Cairns was a drab city! The men we met were all red necks with the most outrageous attitudes towards us 'Sheilas' and there wasn't even a beach!!!

However one thing Cairns does have is the Great Barrier Reef! We spent a day diving and snorkeling, exploring the majestic underwater world! I have never seen such big fish! 
On my second dive I was lucky enough to be diving alone with one of the instructors, he got me to sit on the sand underwater and stay still. After about 3 minutes a reef shark appeared, and then another.... I had 4 sharks sniffing me! They were circling us and the instructor even touched one!
I had seen a reef shark whilst snorkeling in Fiji but this was my first close encounter and it was amazing! They are such graceful, fascinating creatures!

We were unsure of how to travel Australia; it’s a big place! 
We wanted to find the most economic way of seeing as much as pos but avoiding tours and big groups of backpackers! Not fussy are we! We decided to take some time out to give it some thought but we did not want to stay another minute in Cairns. We grabbed a car and headed north to Cape Tribulation! Wow! What a beautiful place! 

Cape Tribulation lies within in the Daintree Rainforest and is where the rainforest meets the Great Barrier Reef, the only place in the world where 2 world heritage sights meet! I breathed a massive sigh of relief upon leaving Cairns.... I saw beaches, and the bluest sea I have ever seen! Thank goodness.... I had been looking forward to exploring Australia my whole life and was devastated to feel so disappointed, the journey to Cape Trib restored my faith in the country I have always been fascinated with! 

We did lots of walking, we walked right over the cape, the view was fabulous; lush green forest, white sand and turquoise water! I would have loved to swim but unfortunately the stinger season was in full swing! Little jelly fish with a sting that will kill you! 
I also discovered another very Aussie creature whilst in the rain forest... the Aussie spiders!!! They are giants! I had to get used to checking under the toilet seat! Whilst in the Daintree forest it was only natural to take a trip on the Daintree River and see the inhabitants.... salt water crocs! We got so close! It was a great experience to see them in the wild!

After a long weekend seeing the natural wonders between Cairns and Cape Trib it was time to head back to the city. But not for long! We had decided to hire ourselves a wicked van! Living in the back of a van for a couple of months really appealed to us both and it meant we had the freedom to go where we wanted, when we wanted! 
So off we went! 

Mission beach was beautiful but the devastation left behind by cyclone Larry was strongly evident and the weather was still doing strange things! We spent a day holed up in the van parked up beside the beach relaxing! It was really beautiful despite the weather and devastation. We also saw a cassowary in the wild! What a strange bird! They grow up to 6 foot and can be really dangerous!

The rain may have been causing problems when trying to cook our dinner on the camping stove but there was one pro... the river Tully was riding high! So we went white water rafting!
I have to admit I was a little nervous! I did that whole girl thing 'I don't wanna be thrown out' and the whole 'Im scared of being hit in the face with the end of a paddle' thing (which is only natural after they scare the hell out of you in the safety briefing! But I am so glad that I did it, I loved it! I would love to do it again, it was so much fun! 

Townsville had one very big highlight for us....a BP truck stop! Yep we parked our little van up along with the truckers and took advantage of an amazing free shower! The truckers were certainly amused to see me boiling water for a cuppa in my PJs in the morning! 

Townsville was the jumping off point for Magnetic Island. We spent a few days on the island, walking and lounging on some of the best beaches I have ever seen! When we arrived back from Magnetic Island the weather was still doing strange things and so we decided to head off the coast and in to the outback!! 

We left Townsville and headed for the red centre! The drive to Alice Springs took 4 days..... 4 days of nothing! I got a little claustrophobic at the end of the second day, it was a strange feeling knowing that we had 2 days of nothing behind us and 2 days of nothing in front of us! This may be a hard concept to understand but I actually mean nothing! Just a big open space! Once I got over the fear of being nowhere near a city I started to relax and I loved it! 

They were 4 days that we will remember forever! We met some real characters in the outback - real Aussies! One family that I will never forget are the family that run the 'Stuarts Well shop / camp ground / only shack that does a bit of everything in the middle of nowhere'. They had lots of animals running around but their pet dingo was particularly amusing - he sang and played the piano!! No really! 

We also passed through Mt Isa, the town famous for the line "A dingo stole my baby!”

As we left Queensland and entered the Northern Territory 2 things changed: the time changed and the speed limit disappeared!! A state where you can drive as fast as you like! Which is exactly what I did for about an hour until we noticed the dramatic increase in fuel consumption! From then on every time I sped over 110km/ph Adam would shout at me! 

I had a bit of a shock when we first entered the outback..... I saw my first ever Kangaroo! Dead. The amount of road kill was disgusting! I never really got used to it, I just had to overcome the urge to shut my eyes when we approached some, a good idea when driving! The only plus of road kill is the fascinating eagles that we saw eating the road kill! They had no fear and would just sit in the road and let you drive past - they were so big and fascinating. 

Finally we reached Alice Springs. At first it felt like a bit of an anti climax.... we drove for four whole days through the middle of nowhere to arrive here? Alice Springs is just another big town, it just happens to be isolated in a major way! However Alice is actually a really interesting town with a great history. We visited the old telegraph station and the 'spring' that gave it its name. We also visited the Royal Flying Doctors, which was amazing! What do you do when you need help in the middle of nowhere??? And I really mean NOWHERE!!!! You call the flying the doctors! And we learnt to play the Didgeridoo! 

Alice Springs was a good introduction to the aboriginal culture that the outback brought to life. The communities that live in the outback are real communities in every sense of the word. They all congregate at the one pub each evening and share their lives. It’s a shame that so many people are moving to big coastal cities nowadays, communities like those that we met are fading fast.

Not long in to the outback we encountered our first problem.... little pebbles and stones that flick up each time you pass another vehicle on a particularly stony piece of ground. Crack. That was the noise our windscreen made when a pebble hit it! We watched the crack grow daily over the following 6 weeks but thankfully the windscreen stayed in place! 
From Alice we headed towards the town of Yulara, the nearest town to the Katatjuta National Park - home of the famous rock Uluru. 

On the way we visited the 'Devils Marbles' a scared site in aboriginal history and a natural phenomenon! Giant rocks shaped like marbles balancing on top of one another! Uluru (Ayers Rock) will remain a huge highlight of this whole trip. It is amazing. Nothing can prepare your eyes for the size and boldness of color of the rock! We started our exploration of the rock by walking all the way around the outside! 9kms. It was great to learn about the different aboriginal sights around the rock. Its funny how when you are walking around it the texture and color and shape change so dramatically. It’s very hard to think of it as the giant rock that you see from the distance when you are standing beside it! 
I must draw your attention to one very annoying part of being in the outback.... the flies. Wow I have never seen so many flies in the atmosphere ever. They just buzz around your face, your lips, in your ears!!! Ahhhhhh it drove me mad! And so I joined the group of people who may have looked silly but could talk without swallowing 10 flies and wore a fly net on my head!!! Fetching!

That evening we parked our van in a good spot and got ready for sunset. Uluru glowed the most amazing colors during sunset. Every minute it seemed to turn a different shade of red. At one point it looked like it was ablaze it was such a vibrant shade of red/orange. It was a fantastic experience. The cost of the campsite at Yulura was outrageous and we had become so self sufficient that we resented paying campsites and so we were just camping in the outback. Unfortunately this meant driving out of the national park in the dark to find our spot! 
Driving in the outback in the dark is a very silly thing to do. Kangaroos come to life at night and if you hit one it will likely write your vehicle off! We drove to our spot with our foreheads on the windscreen, lights on full beam and as slow as possible! It was scary!
The next morning at 4.30am we did the journey in reverse! 
 Sunrise at the rock is fabulous. As the rock begins to glow orange in the dull light of dusk it illuminates everything! We parked up in front of the rock and made some breakfast in the van. 
No restaurant in the world could provide a view like the one from our camping chairs with out tea and toast that morning! 

Next up on to "The Olgas". Why don’t more people know that within the same national park as Uluru lies another amazing sight! The Olgas are fantastic rock formations set in breath taking scenery. 
We did the 'Valley of the Winds' walk which took us right down to the base of the rocks and then up and over in to the valley on the other side! It was hard work but very rewarding!

At the end of the day we parked up to camp and had a bucket of water shower in the middle of nowhere and enjoyed the last of the evening sunshine!

The previous day I had been aware that we were low on fuel but had roughly calculated kilometers and liters and figured we'd be okay! As we drove through nowhere on our way to our next destination it became very clear that the fuel situation was not okay!!
But what do you do in the middle of the outback?! We just had to pray that it would make it and if it didn’t pray that it wasn’t too many days until a car passed by!!!
When we just about stalled at the petrol pump I've never been so delighted! Good van! I knew she'd make it! The ridiculous price choked us a bit, but when you are in the centre of the outback what can you say?!! Lets check out the price of the next one, its only 4 days north!!!!!

So we made it to our next destination.... 'Kings Canyon’. Having been doing so much walking we felt ready to tackle our most challenging walk yet - the canyon rim walk! Completely exposed to the sun and a mighty canyon wall to climb we took a deep breathe and ran at it!!

It was hard getting to the top but it was really worth it! The view was outstanding and due to the fact that not everyone makes it to the top the lizards are happy to scuttle around your feet and check out the infrequent guests! The view from this high (270m) was unreal! It really was a fabulous walk! It was our shortest walk of the few days (6 km) but took us the longest at 3 and a half hours! Half way through the walk and you start to descend in to the canyon via a very steep pathway. Eventually you come to a lush green forestry area!! Right in the middle of the outback, in the middle of this dry red canyon is the lushest forest with a lake and the most beautiful birds and lizards! We sat down beside the lake and watched the life living in the middle of this canyon! 
If I could ever teleport myself to one place when in need of some peace it would be there, it is known as the garden of Eden and for me it brings to life every connotation that that title conjures up.
 Kings Canyon was our last place to visit in the outback; the time had come to take the 4-day drive back to the coast!

We arrived back on the coast at 'Airlee Beach' famous for being the jumping off point for the Whitsunday Islands! The typical thing to do is to hop on a boat for a few days and sail around the islands. There are so many boats on offer ranging from the quite luxurious yachts to the large party maxi! As much as ad and I wanted to do it in style we knew our finances were pointing towards a very large very cheap, very loud party boat! Oh well let’s do it we said.
On the evening before we were due to sail we headed to the office for our pre departure info only to be told that out boat had been cancelled! We had booked it on the cheap on standby so we figured that we would just have to wait another day or two...... apparently not!
The company policy is that if your boat is cancelled you can transfer on to any other boat sailing at the same time with places available at no extra cost!!
So the next morning (after a night of camping in our van on Airlee beach high street!!!) we set sail on 'Prima' - a luxury racing yacht with gourmet menu and only 9 of us on board! Instead of our communal bunks we had been up graded to a double en suite cabin!!!
Good Karma or what?!!!!

It was great! We ate good food, sun baked on deck, did quite possibly the best snorkeling I've ever done (fringing reefs of the great Barrier) and chilled with a great group of people! Perfect! For 3 nights and 4 days we lived liked millionaires! Heaven!
We only stepped off of our yacht on to 'Whitehaven Beach' one of the world’s top 10 beaches!

I discovered a very friendly fish whilst sitting on the back of the yacht one afternoon... Bat Fish! They are so friendly and beautiful! If you put your toes in the water they suck on them! They were adorable!

So from our luxury yacht back to living in the van and camping another night on the high street praying the police wouldn't guess we were asleep in our van and move us on!!!!!

Next stop the town of 'Bundaberg'!!! Yep home of Bundy rum! We came to Bundaberg with one thing in mind - a trip to the Bundy distillery!
It was great fun and the entrance fee included lots of samples - now these are aussies you know so alcohol samples are done the right way - LARGE!

Next on my list of Highlights down the coast was Rainbow Beach!
Wow this place is fabulous and not too popular yet! Rainbow beach has only recently started advertising itself as a jumping off point to visit Fraser Island. Most people still head to Hervey Bay to do it.

Rainbow Beach is within a National Park and is stunning! Gorgeous long golden beach, sheltered by towering rainbow colored cliffs!
We booked on to a trip to Fraser Island for the following day.
That evening after a long walk along the beach we decided we would stay a little longer than originally planned in rainbow beach, it is so chilled.
We attended our pre departure meeting for Fraser which opened with the lady revealing that they had over booked the trip by one person and would anyone be willing to stay back a night for a free night in the dorm. No one responded. She looked at me and I said we're a couple so no point asking us. Well after a bit of bartering we had ourselves 2 free nights in an en suite double! Perfect considering we wanted to stay a bit longer!
Good Karma again! (Or just Jammy so and so’s!!!)

So we spent a day walking in the national park - exploring the sand dunes and the forest. The sea was so blue that the views from the rainbow cliffs were like a postcard!

Fraser Island was fantastic! I have to admit we were a little worried. Being grouped with 9 other backpackers, given a 4x4, camping equipment and a map of an island was scary! 
But our group were awesome and we had a wicked 3 days!
We camped right on the beach; in the morning we could just stick our heads out and watch the sun rise!
The sights of Fraser Island were great - a shipwreck, rock pools, 2 fresh water lakes perfect for swimming, a tea tree lake, and a cliff jutting out over the sea allowing you to sit and admire turtles and sting rays swimming below you!

Next up was the town of Noosa and time for a good shower for us! My old boss from the 'Slug and Lettuce' Rhys now lives in Noosa and was nice enough to take us in and give us a bed!
It was fantastic to see him and his wife Louisa and the new addition to their family a lively puppy called Toga!
Whilst in Noosa we walked the coastal route through the national park looking out to sea at dolphins and relaxing on the most wonderful beaches!

Next up on my list of highlights was a quite poignant place now. Home of the Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin, The Australia zoo.
We were disappointed that Steve wasn't there the day that we visited (he was there the day after we left!!) but we had a great time admiring the animals and getting hands on with creatures such as the Wombat, Kangaroos and my new favs Koalas!!!
We were so shocked to hear about his death and being in Australia at the time of their national heroes demise will always stay with us.

Brisbane was a city that I instantly liked! The banks of the river reminded me so much of London down by the Tate that I felt warmed to be there.
The weather is great and perhaps having a blue sky makes a city look more attractive? 
I really enjoyed our time there!

Next up a slightly less attractive place  - 'Surfers Paradise'!!
I actually quite liked the high-rise beach town that so many people drive in and straight back out of!!!
The beach is great and watching the surfers reminds you that you really are in Australia!
The town itself is a little....... Well I'll say it in Aussie 'Bogan!' (Pikey!!!!!) However to look at it is great and reminded me very much of a movie set!

We drove over the border and in to our third Australian state - New South Wales!
Out of the Cane Toad state of Queenslanders and in to the state of Cockroaches! By now Ad had learnt his Aussie Rules Footie and was quite involved in the rivalry!

Our first stop in New South Wales and probably the strangest town I've ever visited was Nimbin!
A hippy inland town where love and peace rule!
We took a wander up and down the one street town admiring the painted shop fronts and alternative shops!
We were offered magic cakes and freaky cookies several times and the peace 'n' love vibe was infectious! (Mum you would love this town!)
Ironically as we drove away from Nimbin a rainbow appeared over the town!!

Byron bay is probably one of the most talked about Backpacker towns!
It is a gorgeous town with a beautiful beach and a party scene to excite even the dullest of backpacker!
However this vibe is only apparent when the sun is shining. Not when it is tipping it down with rain! And tip it down is all it did the entire time we were in town!
We took a walk to the lighthouse and looked out to sea to try and spot whales but after a while of being soaked we retired to the van for a cup of tea!
The whole way down the coast we kept seeing the same van at all our stops, eventually in Brisbane we introduced ourselves to the couple who were living in it, an English couple our age.
Each night we had been pre arranging a site to camp at and meeting up!
Tired of the rain the 4 of us drove down to the beach and set about cooking dinner outside, on a stormy night on a one-ring camp stove!

After dinner we all headed to the pub to watch the mighty lions kick off their first game of the world cup. (Not so mighty after all!)
As we cheered and got riled up we had to teach the rules of 'Soccer' to all the Aussies!!! Very amusing!

And down the coast we traveled slowly and taking in lots of great towns. 

Next big highlight was Sydney! It was great to see the Icons that are the Opera house and the Harbor Bridge! It is such a good-looking city!
We spent our time visiting the usual tourist sights: The Rocks, Botanical gardens, Mrs. Macquarie's chair, Harry's Cafe de wheels for a famous aussie pie, cruising on the ferries around the harbor etc!!!

We spent a great day at the traditional seaside town of Manly and also chilled out with the surfers at Bondi!!!!!

We also decided to have one final shot (for those of you that recall our disaster in New Zealand) at Whale Watching!
Thankfully this time we were graced with the presence of 5 humpback whales!!! It was Magical! The whales showed us all the famous behaviors - the pectoral fin waving, the tail slapping and best of all the breach - when the whale dives out of the water and falls back in on its back causing an almighty splash!!!

The only downside to Sydney was a major drop in temperature from the warm coast we had grown used to!
Sleeping in the van was horrible! We had to buy hot water bottles and redo them half way through the night when they went cold! (Okay so Adam had to get up and redo them when Id wake up cold!!!! It must be love!)

From Sydney we headed inland and towards even more cold to the Blue Mountains! The scenery was great!

We decided that despite the cries of 'boring' from fellow travellers we would pay a visit to the Capital Territory state and Australia's planned capital city 'Canberra'.
It was actually very interesting to see a planned city and visit the country's Parliament and Royal mint.
However the morning we awoke here the van was covered in a thick layer of ice - imagine sleeping in that with no heating! It was like a big fridge!

Aware that our time on the coast was coming to an end it was time for one last adventure in the van - The Great Ocean Road!!!

We took it in turns to drive the windy, wiggly, turning coastal road while the other let out cries of 'wow' and 'ahhh' whilst looking out of the window!
It was an intense drive in our little van but the gorgeous towns and stunning rock formations were perfect!

We admired the strange rocks named: the 12 apostles, London bridge, Loch Ard Gorge, The blowhole, The grotto and many more!
We spent a night camping beside a beautiful river and the most amazing towering cliffs!
It’s very hard to put in to words how amazing the sights along the Great Ocean Road are!
We drove the road as far as the town of Warrnambool where we spent an afternoon admiring Southern Right Whales from the beach!!

The time had come. We headed towards Melbourne uncertain of how things were going to work out but very aware that we had run out of money!!! Time to find a job!!!

And here we are!
We are living in the town of St. Kilda beside the sea and only a 15-minute tram ride to the city!
St. Kilda is home to the weird and wonderful and reminds me very much of Soho but beside the sea!
We love it here!

Melbourne is such a fantastic city! It has a really great vibe and life is of a high quality for a low price! (Well it is when you are constantly converting everything in to pounds subconsciously!)

We have been working probably harder these last 3 months than we ever have done!

I am working 2 jobs - one in an office doing finance! It’s not as boring as it sounds, it’s for a company that provide accommodation for backpackers and so it’s actually a lot of fun!
My other job is waitressing in a quirky Parisian style cafe that serves gourmet pizzas! The food is amazing and its great value for money! I get to eat and drink as much as I want for free! The people are great too!
I tried to shy away from responsibility and just serve the pizzas but somehow I’ve ended up cashing up and locking up but I couldn’t say no to the extra dollars$$$!

Adam has had a somewhat harder ride of employment in Melbourne. It would seem that the Aussie old-fashioned attitude of the Outback is still somewhat alive in the big city. Adam was offered a job as a bricklayer! He was welcome to a mans job apparently but office job? No way!
Poor thing!
His first job was working for Vodaphone! Sounds okay I hear you say..... Door knocking for no cash....... unless he sold a phone plan to some un suspecting poor family in the suburbs. How do we know that they were poor? Because they would have to judge their customer by the type of neighborhood, the car (rust bucket) in the drive etc!! They had to go after the slightly more gullible people in Aussie society!

Ad decided that we needed something with a steady income. He gave in and realized his intellectual skills were not to be recognized; he would have to get his hands dirty!
And dirty he did! Ad has been working as chief of the St. Kilda hand car wash! He has a band of non-English speaking Indian / Israeli boys who he points and throws sponges at!
Its not actually as bad as it sounds, he gets to drive some very fancy cars and I guess guys like making cars look great and shiny don't they!!! Don't all jump at once - there is a queue and he will be charging when he gets home!

It hasn't all been work though - only 60 hours of the week!
Every Sunday we have been dedicating the day to tourist activities! The Melbourne museum, an AFL Game at the MCG, Victoria market, Brighton beach, Pin Oak Close (the real Ramsay street!!!!), immigration museum, Botanic gardens, Australian Centre for Moving Image, roller blading in the many Melbourne gardens and parklands, The Crown Casino and lots more!

We have thoroughly enjoyed our time here in Melbourne, I'm so sad to leave but so excited to be moving on to the next stage in our adventure!

On Friday we fly to Perth! We had originally planned to just chill out and try not to spend any money but...... that Karma thing again came in to play.......

I won a trip in TNT Magazine (a mag for travelers!)!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
It is a trip for two up the west coast from Perth to Exmouth and back; all accommodation, food and transport included as well as activities like diving and snorkeling the Ningaloo reef!!!

And then on the 4th of October we arrive in Africa for the final 3 months of our trip!!!

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