Peace out, Byron

09.04.19

Queue the violins… it’s time for us to say goodbye to Byron Bay. And with a 14 hour overnight bus journey ahead, what better way to spend the time than to tell you about our dreamy days in this weird and wonderful place.

We arrived here four days ago and had barely taken one step off the bus before Byron Bay hit us straight in the face with its hippie vibes. Everywhere you look there is multicoloured street art, barefoot beach babes, and ‘happy herb’ stores, all nestled together in this tiny, buzzing town. We were hungry (as per), so grabbed some lunch and then headed straight to admire the stunning beaches, waves, and surfing talent (obviously not quite up to our expert level, but at least they try…).

Walking round the bustling streets once again, we stumbled across a market, offering everything from bangles to bees-wax food packaging, and from paella to palm readings (not going to lie, we were very tempted to find out what our futures hold!). One look at the sign saying ‘vegan samosas’ and I was sold, so we took a seat and enjoyed some al fresco dining as the sun set. After demolishing a further sorbet and vegan crepe, I admit I was finally full, so we lazily wandered back to our hostel for a good nights sleep!

Another day… another market! Through our excellent time management skills (with perhaps a slight element of luck) we had timed our Byron trip to coincide with the monthly ‘Community market’. As you can probably tell by now, we LOVE a market, and spent a very happy morning getting lost in the maze of stalls and tasting all the free samples. A similarly happy afternoon was spent lying on the beach, interspersed with regular dips in the sea to cool off, before our fave Swedish pals arrived in Byron for an emotional reunion (yes, the last 36 hours apart had been a struggle). We whipped up a speedy pasta dinner for four to enjoy in the hostel rooftop courtyard under the stars – how romantic!

The only photo I managed to get of the markets…

Sunrise – Take 1. I say ‘Take 1’ because turns out that even waking up at 5am does not give you enough time to walk to the Byron Lighthouse lookout point to watch the full sunrise! After realising this as we got ready to leave our hostel at 5.20am, we quickly changed tactics – Emma jumped on the front seat of Monique’s bike, Elin powered ahead on her bike, and I ran as fast as my legs would carry me to keep up! At just after 5.45am, we breathlessly made it to the most Easterly point of Australia’s mainland Lookout (still in our pyjamas, I should note), and collapsed in a heap to watch the final few minutes of the sunrise. It was absolutely stunning… but still we couldn’t help feeling like we had missed out on the full experience. Tomorrow we would do it right!!

Health and safety to the max.

…And so we did! Next morning, with alarms set for 4am and a heightened sense of determination, we again made our way to the lookout point (walking this time) – it was SO worth it! For over an hour we stood in awe as the skies magically transformed from nighttime into daytime, and being the only ones there made it feel like our own private viewing of Nature’s colour show. I definitely won’t be forgetting this in a hurry.

Waking up ridiculously early two mornings in a row, and with one involving an unexpected 5km uphill run, really takes it out of you, so the rest of our days post-sunrise were mostly spent napping on the beach and wandering around the bustling town, stopping every now and then to admire the talent of the many street buskers. If there is one adjective that can best describe Byron Bay, it would be ‘alive’. Despite its compact size and the fact that if its residents were any more chilled they’d probably be horizontal, there is always something happening; a constant buzz of activity. And it’s this buzz that makes Byron one of the most inviting places I’ve ever been to – I really got the sense that you can be whoever you want to be here, the more weird and wonderful the better – Byron will love you for bringing a new energy to its streets, and will welcome you with open arms in to its community.

So it is with much sadness that we have to say goodbye to this magical town and continue our journey – but hey, on to the next!!

Peace out Byron, we will be back ✌🏼

Speak soon!

Flicks

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48 hours in Brisbane!

05.04.19

I’m just going to start by saying HOW ON EARTH IS IT APRIL ALREADY??! Anyway, now that that’s out the way, let’s get into the blog!

After four weeks of beaches and bikinis, we had almost forgotten what a city was, and it felt very strange seeing skyscrapers and busy traffic crossings as our bus made its way into Brisbane City centre. Now, in all honesty, we had set our expectations quite low for this city – let’s just say that the majority of backpackers we had bumped into didn’t have too much praise for Brisbane! But we were ready to let the city prove us wrong… and prove us wrong it did! In just over 48 hours, both Emma and I grew to love this young, lively city. So here are my top tips for what to do and where to go to make the most of this fab little city in just two days. Enjoy!

1. Make friends with some ace gals from Sweden. Ok, I’m willing to admit that this is quite specific and may not be achievable for all… but we were lucky enough to have met two lovely girls from Sweden while camping on Fraser Island, and even better, our East Coast itineraries match almost exactly! So, we have joined forces and continue our travels as an awesome foursome.

Dream team.

2. Put your feet up and relax on a ferry ride along the river. One of my favourite things about Brisbane is the river squirming all the way through the centre. This often means that you can find yourself stuck with a large expanse of water between you and your destination… but by no means is this a bad thing! With a free City Hopper ferry service, you can jump on and off the ferry as many times as you like. Not only does this get you from A to B, it allows you to sit back and enjoy the stunning landscape of Brisbane’s city skyline. And, because it’s free, you can ride the ferry all the way to the end of its route and back, just for the fun of it (or maybe because you accidentally get on one going in the wrong direction… no, of course this didn’t happen…)!

3. Spend the day chilling at Southbank. No trip to Brisbane would be complete without a visit to Southbank. Surprisingly similar to London’s Southbank, this part of the city is perfect for taking a gentle stroll along the waterfront, grabbing a bite to eat and watching the world go by outside one of the many cafe or restaurants, and sorting out your insta at the big Brisbane letters. Unlike London, there is also a man-made beach and lagoon right by the river front, perfect for those who want to pretend they have escaped the big city for a few hours in the sunshine.

4. Zoom Zoom! Ride around the city on an electric scooter. One of the coolest modes of transport on offer in Brisbane is the electric Lime Scooters, and it couldn’t be easier to rent one – just grab a green scooter (you’ll find them dotted about the city), scan it into the app, and you’re on your way! We had so much fun zooming along the river boardwalk and through the botanical gardens, and it definitely is a time-efficient way to get around! My only advice would be to not hold onto these guys for too long (or just be smarter than us and read the price details first), especially if you are on a tight budget as the price can add up quickly! But don’t let that put you off, as without a doubt it is worth the cost!

5. Get lost in the lanes of Fortitude Valley. When we arrived at our hostel in Brisbane, the receptionist told us that Fortitude Valley (the area we were staying in) was like London’s Soho with its trendy bars and cafes and buzzing nightlife. And I would say he was right! We spent the first part of the day aimlessly walking around the area; through China Town, pedestrianised streets with bars and restaurants, and little Laneways with hidden cafes. One hidden cafe we stumbled across was called ‘Cakes & Shit’, and it only took one look at the cakes for us to decide that this would be a very suitable place for lunch – it would have been rude not to! Fortitude Valley is also renowned for its nightlife, and we had a fun evening hopping between pubs and bars, before ending up at Prohibition club to end the night with a dance!

6. Let your taste buds go wild at the Eat Street Markets. You can’t beat a good food market, and the Eat Street markets on Brisbane’s Northshore are no exception to this rule. Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday night, these brightly-coloured container units open their doors and invite you to eat your way around the huge variety of food stalls, offering tasty treats from every cuisine imaginable. With sparkling fairy lights, live music, and the sweet smell of doughnuts in the air, it’s easy to spend hours enjoying the buzz of these markets, and I think this was possibly the highlight of the trip for me!

Thanks for the adventure Brisbane! Now back on the bus ready to embrace the beach and bikini life once again in Byron Bay. Speak soon!

Flicks

Change of career plan, we’re going to be surfers

26.03.19

There are some places along the Australian East Coast, like the Whitsundays and Fraser Island, where the backpacker community would say “Did you even do the east coast if you didn’t go there?”. But our next stop was not one of these places, and we were excited to go off the beaten track with a stop at Agnes Water. Our bus arrived in Agnes Water at 2am, and literally dropped us in the middle of nowhere (picture pitch black darkness and an overgrown field). There was absolutely nothing around. Apart from, thankfully, an old lady with a little minibus waiting to take us to our hostel. I remember her trying to engage us in conversation, but we were so disorientated from being woken up in the middle of the night that I don’t remember a word of what she said! About half an hour later (but who really knows), we got to the hostel (we hoped), and the lady directed us down a dark path to our beds where we collapsed for the night in a confused blur…

The next morning we were greeted with beaming sunshine flooding through the windows, and I stepped outside to see where on Earth we had ended up! Phew, we were definitely at a hostel in Agnes Water – tick! The hostel was set in acres of woodland, with hammocks dotted about and little wooden cabins for dorms. It was incredibly quiet and peaceful. We made the most of the free breakfast as a priority, of course, then decided to hop onto the shuttle bus and head into town. ‘Town’ turned out to be a row of about ten shops and cafes on the roadside, just a short walk from the main beach, but still there was a lovely community vibe to the place, and you got the sense that all the locals were like family to one another. I guess this comes from living at the end of the road!

Agnes Water Main Beach

Later on in the afternoon, we popped over to the nearby Kangaroo sanctuary for feeding time. An old man hobbled out to meet us with a bucket full of sliced sweet potato, followed closely by a little swarm of hungry kangaroos ready for their lunch! The sanctuary has been taking in orphaned joeys for 16 years, all of whose mothers were killed in road accidents. It quickly became apparent that the old man had more time for kangaroos than humans (If you want to feel depressed about the human race, then this is the man for the job!). But, on a more positive note, I think he could also win an award for being the most knowledgeable person on the planet when it comes to kangaroos. They really are fascinating animals. Did you know that a female kangaroo can pause her pregnancy for up to 12 months? And that kangaroos chew each mouthful of food at least 40 times, and then regurgitate and re-swallow the bile from their liver (sounds kinda gross) to absorb even more nutrients – talk about efficiency! We got to spend all afternoon feeding these friendly and very greedy friends, and I think we all left feeling like a very inadequate species in comparison!

Making friends with food

Back at the hostel, Emma and I cooked our standard veggie and chickpea dinner, and spent the rest of the evening playing cards (or rather attempting to remember the rules of card games with varying success) before bed.

Now, the main reason for stopping in Agnes Water was because Emma had heard that the waves are great for surfing and, even better, lessons are unbelievably cheap compared to more touristy spots such as Byron Bay. And she was certainly right (future Aussie travellers, take note)! For just $25 each, you can get a three hour beginners surfing lesson. Today was the day that I would try surfing for the first time, eek!!

Now imagine the most ‘Aussie’ guy you can… and this was who would be taking our lesson today! With blond beach waves, a surf board tucked under his arm, and a permanent “no worries mate” attitude, JD introduced himself as our surfing instructor and it was safe to say I felt that we were in very safe hands! Clumsily picking up our surfboards, we stumbled down to the beach ready for a short safety chat, which can be summarised as ‘Don’t be an idiot in the sea and use your common sense’, before some land training to work on our technique for standing up on the boards – head up, tuck toes, lift chest, back foot, front foot, done. Easy, right? We were ready to take on the waves!

Looking like pros already…

I knew that surfing would be no walk in the park, so wasn’t particularly surprised when, on my first attempt, I performed more of a nose dive straight into the water! But I was determined that by the end of the lesson I would be standing upright on the board, so jumped straight back up and paddled back out to sea. Lo and behold, after a couple more highly failed attempts involving crash landings and head bumps, I managed to get both feet on the board and stand relatively upright for a couple of seconds. It was the best feeling in the world! And round and round we went for the next two hours, paddling out to sea, catching the wave and jumping up onto our boards. And it was SO MUCH FUN! I don’t think we stopped smiling for the entire lesson.

If you zoom in you can probably see a look of dismay on the instructor’s face…

This may have only lasted a couple of seconds, but think it was a good effort considering the guy behind…

We finished the lesson feeling exhausted but buzzing on adrenaline, and proudly went to collect our Level 3 surfing certificates – who needs a BSc when you’re a qualified beginner surfer! The most amusing part was looking through the photographs that had been captured while we were out on the water… let’s just say there were some real gems in the mix that don’t need to be shared! So now Emma and I both want to abandon the ‘Adult Life Plan’ and instead live the surfing lifestyle – there’s no problem with that, right?

Thanks again for reading, catch you later!

Your surfer dude, Flicks

Beach huts, Bingo, and (koala) Bears

19.03.19

A four hour coach journey from Mission Beach to Townsville, a (rather bumpy glad-I-didn’t-just-have-my-lunch) 15 minute ferry ride to magnetic island, and a three minute bus ride later, and we had arrived at Base Hostel on Magnetic Island. (Fun fact: Originally named Yunbenun by the Aboriginal people, Magnetic Island was renamed by Captain Cook during his boat circumnavigation, due to the apparent strange effect the island had on his compass as it passed!) When I say hostel, this is not your average multi-storey bunk bed convention centre kind of hostel. I’m talking rows of triangular beach huts, neatly sat side by side along the waters’ edge, and a super chill beach bar overlooking the Great Barrier Reef marine park – too easy mate! (Sorry, just a subtle attempt at Aussie slang).

A hostel, really?!

After a morning of sitting, we decided to stretch our legs and take a walk to Hawkins Point Lookout. We clambered up the rocky path and were almost literally blown away by the huge gusts of wind that greeted us on reaching the peak. A lovely view over some of the island’s bays… and of the thick black cloud slowly edging its way towards us! If you read my previous post, you may notice that a theme seems to be emerging… turns out it’s rainy season up in Queensland, who knew!! We didn’t hang around too long and began our descent… but once again nature proved its power and the torrential rain began to fall! We were absolutely drenched, but with no other choice but to continue walking, we just laughed, put on our best ‘rain face’, and embraced the storm!

Back at the hostel our fellow (and arguably more sensible) islanders were huddled under the shelter of the bar, using the rain as a perfect excuse to start drinking at 3pm. Gradually, the rain died down and we took the opportunity to dry off before grabbing some dinner at the bar. Tonight’s evening entertainment was bingo – how civilised! Or maybe not… we were taken back to good old Bingo Lingo Uni nights; rowdy singing, dancing on the tables and, with a private ensuite room up for grabs, some ultra-competitive bingo squeezed in the gaps. And we had the best night!!

The next morning we could have a PROPER lie in!! So, naturally, Emma took complete advantage of this, and I, naturally, slept until the grand hour of 7.30am! But we definitely made the most of a very lazy morning, before picking up our 4×4 hire car with two pals we met on the way for a day of island exploring. It only took us 15 minutes to reach the opposite corner of the island, Horseshoe Bay, where we stopped for a coffee in one of the three cafes along the ‘main strip’. Next, we headed along the Forts Walk, and kept our eyes peeled for sleeping koalas up in the trees. Sure enough, we spotted three koalas, all balancing precariously between tree branches enough to be snoozing very happily! And they were so cute!!

We drove all around the little island for the rest of the afternoon, seeing what else was going on (not a lot), finding more hidden bays, and seeing if we could spot any more wildlife (a parrot or two). We had a great afternoon, and would definitely recommend Magnetic Island as a day trip destination, especially if you are a koala bear enthusiast! We rounded off the day with the classic traveller go-to meal of pesto pasta (or pasta pesto, the jury is still out on that one) and a few games of cards before heading to our little beach hut beds. Tomorrow we pack up and on to the next stop – Airlie Beach!

Speak soon! (And thank you so much for reading!)

Flicks 🙂

An overnight escape in the rainforest

15.03.19

I am currently writing this while lying on a sun bed under a canopy of palm trees, listening to the constant chorus of chirping birds and singing insects. Ah, what a way to spend the morning!

Another early start yesterday had us heading out of Cairns centre onto the Captain Cook Highway just after sunrise, bound for the 165 year-old Daintree Rainforest. We stopped for a refreshing dip in Mossman Gorge – refreshing being the operative word; the water tasted unbelievably fresh and was unbelievably chilly! Shortly after, we took a relaxing boat trip along the Daintree River and spotted crocodiles trying to keep cool along the river banks. The final part of our journey took us into the upper Daintree Rainforest where we were staying for the night, but not before we spotted a Cassowary foraging for food on the roadside!

The Cassowary is native to the tropical forests in northern Queensland, and probably the most unusual bird I’ve ever seen!

And so we had arrived at our rainforest retreat! We settled into our little cabin lodge (just a bit different from Gilligan’s hostel in Cairns…) and nibbled on our warm hummus and cucumber sandwich packed lunch (yes, they were about as delicious as they sound). The afternoon was spent in much the same vibe, reading and napping and reading some more.

Just when we began contemplating heading out to find some food for dinner, the skies opened and the rainforest lived up to its name! At first we stuck to our British roots, determined that a little rain couldn’t deter us. But as the droplets grew bigger and bigger, we eventually admitted defeat and ran inside to the shelter of the little restaurant for a cosy meal out of the rain – we’d spent the last three nights avoiding Gilligans wet tshirt competitions, so weren’t too keen on unintentionally getting involved here!

Our cabin in the forest!

It was a special moment to wake up in the middle of the rainforest. We decided to go for a short walk down to Myall beach, and oh my goodness the view blew us away! On one side of us is the never-ending expanse of calm blue seas that are the Great Barrier Reef marine park, sea waves lapping at the white sandy beach. On the other side is thick luscious rainforest of the Wet Tropics, set against the backdrop of rolling green hills. This, known as Cape Tribulation, is the only place in the world where two world heritage sites sit side by side. Standing on the beach, sandwiched between these two natural wonders, I was (not for the first time since being up in Queensland), in awe of nature!!

Blue skies, green forests, and white sands – heaven!

Our journey back to Cairns got off to a good start with a stop at the Daintree ice cream shop. We got to taste mango, coconut, and, more unusually, wattleseed and black sapote ice cream, fresh from their fruit trees! We then got a final chance to take in the incredible view of Cape Tribulation with a quick stop at Alexander lookout. It was now time to journey back to Cairns for one more night before the next stop on our adventure, eeek!

Alexander Lookout – what a view!!

The Great Barrier Reef really is Great

12.03.19

Well, if Day 1 is anything to go by, I think this is going to be a pretty incredible trip. By 8am we had boarded our boat ‘Passions of Paradise’ and set sail into the Great Barrier Reef! Because of the calm and clear weather conditions, the crew were able to take us out to Miln Reef and the Three Sisters – supposedly one of the top destinations for coral viewing and fish spotting.

Sailing out to the Reef was extremely strenuous… I can imagine, for the boat crew at least. For us, it primarily involved chilling on the sun deck drinking coffee and trying not to think too much about sea sickness. Two hours later, we had arrived!

Feeling like pros in our very fetching outfits, ready to take on the Reef!

After a brief safety chat we were ready to jump into the water, with the most challenging (and amusing) part of this being attempting to walk in flippers to the boat’s edge! But after a couple of slips and stumbles, we were in!

Now, you might be expecting me to say that we’d journeyed all the way out to the Reef, took a deep breath, peered under the water’s surface… and saw miles of discoloured, dead coral. Well of course, because the Great Barrier Reef is dying as a result of human actions causing coral bleaching and will have been completely destroyed in a few years’ time, right? Wrong! The coral was vibrant, colourful, and this whole underwater world felt very much alive.

Not going to lie, I may have shed a tear or two at my first sight of the reefs. It was more than I could have imagined – there was coral of all shapes and colours, with caves and crevices for the schools of multi-coloured fish to dance in and out of. The beaming sun made it even more magical, as the rays bounced off the shimmering fish as they navigated around the coral. And most noticeable was the overwhelming sense of peace and calm.

As we floated about, I turned to Emma and said “Doesn’t it make you feel tiny?”. Literally, physically, tiny. Surrounded by mountains of coral, and the deepest blue depths that looked like they had no end. I felt like I was getting a secret snapshot into a completely undiscovered world, an intruder looking in as the local fish happily went about their busy lives – the most immersive, 4D live screening of Finding Nemo!

Unfortunately, our front-row seat tickets had to expire at some point, and at late afternoon we reluctantly clambered back onto the boat ready to head home. But, the big bonus of the trip was about to come, as we got to learn more about the organisms and ecosystem that we had been exploring. It was here that our presumptions about the devastating state of the reefs’ future were reverted.

We learnt that coral bleaching is a natural part of the life cycle of coral, and that even after the mass bleaching events during the high temperatures of summer 2016/17, the mortality rate of coral in the Great Barrier Reef was only around five percent. So yes, global warming is a threat to coral reefs, but not in the dramatised way that popular media might have us believe.

I was also interested to learn about how ocean plastic is affecting the Great Barrier Reef. Ocean plastic is the hot topic of discussion at the moment, so I was surprised not to see any traces of plastic debris in the Reef. One of the crew members explained that they remove large pieces of ocean plastic from their snorkelling sites – brilliant! However, micro-plastics (tiny pieces of plastic where larger pieces have been broken down) remain, and can be mistaken by fish as food. Turtles as well have very poor eyesight, so can easily mistake a plastic bag for a dietary staple; jellyfish. This definitely reinstated why it is so important that we all do our bit to reduce consumption of single-use plastics (something that we are finding challenging so far while travelling, and deserves a whole other blog post to fully address).

As we clambered off the boat, Emma and I were left with an overwhelming sense of respect for the ocean; it’s size and it’s beauty (and a little jealous of the fish that get to call it home!). I guess I had set my expectations too low due to popular media, but the benefit of this was that these expectations were blown out of the water (pardon the pun), and the reef’s beauty was more than I could have hoped. What a way to start the trip!

Speak soon!

Flick

Adventure is out there!

Hello!!

Thanks so much for joining! This is a first for both of us – my first blog post and (unsurprisingly) your first time reading one of my posts! And I’m so happy that you are here.

Hopefully the reason you are here is because you are interested in hearing a little bit about what my pal Emma and I get up to while making our way down Australia’s east coast. Emma is currently in the air somewhere between London and Singapore, while I am enjoying a lazy Sunday in Melbourne, and relishing the benefits of being an organised packer. So what better use of my spare time than for writing our first blog post!

So, time for a little back story… around six months ago, Emma (pictured right) and I (the other right) both embarked on a volunteering expedition to Fiji with Think Pacific – hence the dresses, this is not our usual attire. It was here that we met, along with 17 other excited travellers, to form the most EPIC volunteer team (yes I’m biased, but it’s true). We lived, laughed, cried, danced, drank grog and shared updates of our bowel movements together for four unforgettable weeks, before a very emotional goodbye. Emma jetted off to explore Central America, and I hopped over to Australia to begin life and work in Melbourne.

Fast forward to December, Emma has barely taken one step off the plane after landing back in England before the holiday blues hit! Still at the airport, Emma messages saying that she would love to travel around Australia. I think my response was something along the lines of “YES LET’S TRAVEL TOGETHER!!”. As you can tell since you are reading this post, it didn’t take much persuading on either of our parts to book flights and begin planning our Aus Adventure!

And now here we are! Backpacks packed with too many clothes and a year’s supply of suncream (mainly mentioning this to reassure Mum..), and less than a day away from being reunited in Cairns. I think an appropriate phrase to express my current feelings right now would be… EEEKK!!

We’ve got a lot to squeeze in to the next seven weeks, but we will try to post updates as often as we can, and I am so excited to share our adventures with you. So please stick around if you would like to travel vicariously through us as we attempt to document our journey.

So, here we go! Or, as Russel would say… Adventure is out there!!

Speak soon!

Flick 🙂