Quite some time ago I wrote a post on Fraser Island, but now that I’m back home in Northern Ireland with a bit more time on my hands, I’ve been busy going through all my travel footage and making videos. So here’s one of them, 3 days on Fraser Island condensed into 3 minutes of footage showing my favourite spots.
We were on our way to the Whitsundays, a group of islands in North Queensland, for a 3 day yacht trip! Think turquoise blue water, coral, fish, turtles and white sand beaches.
The jumping off point is Airlie Beach, and when Chris and I arrived, I couldn’t believe how many bars, restaurants and people there were in this small town. It was absolutely packed! With the surrounding green hills, and the style of the buildings, it reminded me a lot of Queenstown in New Zealand.
After finally finding a parking space we jumped out of the van to explore on foot. Being the end of summer, I was instantly hit with the heavy humidity, making me feel hot and sweaty.
We went for a walk along the beach where lots of people were congregated on blankets and camp chairs. As a loud bang went off I realised they were here for a fireworks display.
Afterwards, we went back to the van and made the decision to book into the YHA camp ground for the night instead of freedom camp. We arrived at the hostel, set up camp, and got ready for a good night’s sleep. Except it wasn’t… I don’t think I’ve ever slept so bad! My weather app told me humidity was at 100%! So even though it was only about 26 degrees it felt more like 34. We lay on a soaking wet mattress with the side door and windows open, trying to get any air possible into the van.
The next day it was time to get ready for our yacht trip around the Whitsunday’s. We woke up early, showered, and then went to check in at the Oz Sail office. Booked through Wicked Travel, we’d decided to go on a yacht called Spank Me. To be honest, I hadn’t been overly impressed by my previous Wicked Travel trips, so I was a bit worried.
But before I had a chance to overthink things, we had the challenge of finding somewhere to leave the van. There’s no free parking in Airlie Beach, most car parks have short limits, and the long term parking at the harbour costs about $15 per day. Luckily, Base Hostel offer parking for $5 per day, and we were just about able to squeeze into their last available space.
Next step was packing, and that was a nightmare. Sweat was dripping off me, my clothes were soaked, and it wasn’t even sunny! I made full use of the Base campground facilities, taking about 3 showers to try and cool off. I couldn’t wait to get on the yacht and away from the humidity!
Packed and ready to go Chris and I went to the Spank Me meet up point. There, we joined 21 others and were handed out stinger suits. The group ranged between 18-35, mainly English with a few Irish, Swedish, Canadian and a German guy. Boxes of goon and tins of beer were everywhere, with some people ready for a bigger weekend than others.
The skipper, Cam, rocked up and introduced himself. Cocky but funny, he gave a quick talk and made a point of saying that Spank Me is not a party boat! That the name is a racing term and had nothing to do with getting spanked.
That first day we got out on the ocean and went sailing. The 60-foot ex racing yacht was pretty impressive. We all helped get her going with various people doing different jobs to get the massive sails up, and then were able to relax with our legs hanging off the side as the boat flew through the water.
After a few hours we moored the yacht at Hook Island where we went snorkelling. Unfortunately it wasn’t the best. The water was a bit cloudy and there weren’t too many fish about. But it was just great getting in the water after being on the boat all day.
That night we got back to the yacht starving and Craig, the boat’s chef, was down below busy making dinner. When he shouted up to us that dinner was ready I couldn’t get over how much food there was! Spag Bol with garlic bread, salad, coleslaw, cheese and I can’t remember what else, but it was awesome!
As it turns out there was actually meant to be about 30 people on the yacht, but due to the cyclone that had just hit Queensland a few days before, some people hadn’t made the trip (thank god! The boat wasn’t the biggest). But they’d still brought the usual amount of food and cooked it all, so we got to eat like kings.
After dinner we had a few drinks and Cam started off some games. He was a funny guy, very witty, knowledgeable in lots of things Whitsundays, and very quick to take the piss. But at the same time he really did love himself, and very obviously liked young girls in skimpy bikinis. But in many ways he made the trip, giving us a laugh.
When it came to bedtime, Chris and I had really lucked out. All the beds were small bunks within the yachts hull. It was cramped and extremely hot, I felt especially bad for the people right next to the toilets, which were loud when they flushed.
Chris and I, on the other hand, had a double bed right under a large hatch that was open. So we got to fall asleep under the starts with a very slight ocean breeze running over us. As the night went on most people gave up and moved their pillows and blankets up to the deck, sleeping there instead.
The next day we were up early and given a delicious breakfast before setting off to the famous Whitehaven Beach. This beach’s sand is 98% pure silica. It’s blindingly white and reflects the sun’s heat so well, you can walk bare foot over it and not get burnt.
We got taken to the beach in a small, motorised dingy and then hiked up to the islands viewpoints. From there we got an amazing view of the whole beach. The sky was clear blue, the sand absolutely white and the sea, beautiful shades of turquoise. If you looked carefully you could make out the shapes of baby stingrays, using the beach as a nursery.
After, we went down to the beach, put on our stingers to protect us from the jellies, and went to explore the beach and water. With the tide coming in everything was constantly changing.
After returning to the boat and getting some lunch, the rest of the day was spent going to different snorkelling spots, and it far surpassed the experience I’d had the day before. There were fish everywhere! The water was clear, and the coral was beautiful. I spent a lot of time diving down and swimming around, finding all kinds of fish hidden around in the coral.
Our final morning was an early one. Cam was up early at 5am shouting to getting everyone up. I could tell he enjoyed this part! I looked over the side of the boat and could see some really big fish swimming around us; I couldn’t wait to get in.
That last morning was probably the best snorkel. As the sun began to rise I jumped into the cool, glassy water, and enjoyed the calmness around me. There were fish everywhere but the highlights were seeing nemo and a big fish that was in the middle of changing it’s sex.
And just like that it was all over. Exhausted after the past few days, we just lay around, sleeping, sunbathing, or taking in the scenery, as we made our way back to Airlie Beach.
I don’t really like booking onto tours. You never know what you’re going to get, and it’s frustrating when you don’t feel it’s worth the money. But in this case, going on Spank Me turned out to be a great decision. At $380 for 2 nights it’s one of the cheapest yachts and the crew were brilliant. I can’t speak for the more expensive boats, but Spank Me did the job.
The road trip videos continue. Adventures through Lennox Head (unfortunately not us surfing) and Byron Bay, before staying with an Aussie family in a cute wee place called Little Pocket near Brunswick Heads. There, we helped look after Tiger, Townsie (2 awesome kids), and baby Roux, as well as helping out Bec and Trent in the garden. Then it was time to continue our journey to the Gold Coast and Brisbane.
Way back when Chris and I were in Brisbane we decided to look for work, sending us 5 hours north to the lovely town of Bundaberg. So after that job we decided to back track a bit, going first to Fraser Island, and then further down to the Sunshine Coast.
Meeting Up With the Gibneys
I was pretty excited about going to the Sunshine coast, not for the beaches, but to meet up with one of my best friend’s from home, Danielle, aka Dizzle/DJ Danni D. She and her Aunt Jill were going to be in Australia for a few weeks visiting their family who now live here.
It had been over 18 months since I’d last seen Dizzle! But she’s been keeping our friendship alive by sending me weird selfies while working night shifts as a nurse.
So first stop was a small town called Buderim to stay with the Gibneys. I hadn’t seen the family in about 7 years! But Dizzle’s Mum, Wendy, and 2 sisters, Caitlin and Ashling, made me feel right at home with beers and tasty home cooked food. And with 7 people from the Emerald Isle being reunited the craic was mighty should I say.
The next day Wendy took us to the market at Nambour. It’s on every Thursday and is definitely worth the visit. You can get everything here from clothes, to foods, to your fortune told. The stalls are bright and vibrant with a hippy feel throughout and everyone’s just wandering around enjoying the chilled out vibe.
Over the next few days I just hung out with Daneille, going to the beach, out for dinner, the cinema, getting lost in the shopping mall… (still don’t know how that happened but thought we were never going to find her Mum’s car!) But too soon it was time to say goodbye. Luckily it wasn’t too sad as I knew we’d be seeing each other back home in July. Continue reading
Going back a bit here but I’ve finally go around to making my 2nd Aussie Road Trip Video. This was all shot in NSW from the Blue Mountains to Evans Head. After the Blue Mountains there were just so many beaches, viewpoints, and national parks to see. I also loved the wildlife I came across along the way.
Okay, so I’ve been completely rubbish at updating my blog recently. The last post I wrote was on Fraser Island which is were I was months ago! And since then I’ve covered a lot of ground.
I’ve travelled up the East Coast to the Whitsundays and then on to Cairns. I’ve gone sailing, snorkelling, played around in Queensland waterholes, and scuba dived on the Great Barrier Reef. From Cairns I drove 6000kms through the Outback, stopping at Ayers Rock, The Olgas, and Kings Canyon, to then continue down the middle through the strange town of Coober Pedy and on to Adelaide. It’s all been fast paced but amazing.
In Adelaide I experienced an adrenaline fuelled week of panic, running around like a headless chicken as I tried to sell the campervan, organise my surfboards and belongings to ship home, and complete what felt like a million other tasks. By the skin of my teeth I managed to get everything done, kinda.
Right now I’m sitting in Melbourne Airport about to board a flight to Singapore. After 15 months I’m saying goodbye to Australia, leaving from the same airport I arrived in, and setting off on my 4 month South East Asia adventure.
I’m feeling a mixture of nervousness and excitement but at the same time I don’t think it’s really sunk in that I’m leaving!
So hopefully over the next few weeks I’ll have some time to get up-to-date with my blog and write about all those things I’ve done since Fraser, as well as some new stuff on Asia!
High on the bucket list for my Aus adventure was a trip to Fraser Island. At 75 miles long it’s the largest sand island in the world, and I couldn’t wait to get over there and see it for myself. I didn’t know quite what to expect, only knowing that the island’s native aboriginal name is ‘K’gari’, meaning ‘paradise’
But how to get over there without a 4wd? I had 2 options; either renting, or going on an organised tour. Chris and I quickly crossed off the renting option. We had no off road driving experience, knew very little about cars, and had heard plenty of stories about people breaking down in their crappy rentals. However, I’ve never really done the whole organised tour thing either and wasn’t sure if I wanted to.
We set off from Next hostel in Hervey Bay with 7 or 8 people to a car (it was pretty cramped), 4 cars in total. You had to be over 21 to drive, which meant there were only about 3 or 4 drivers in each car, I wasn’t complaining!
We got the ferry and within 45 minutes we were on the island!
Straight off we were driving along inland tracks through the rainforest. They were narrow and windy with bumps everywhere. And the guide up front wasn’t holding back which was awesome.
But when it came to my turn I didn’t really grasp how to apply the brakes before the bigger bumps. On one of the worst ones I managed to get the front wheels of the car right up in the air. I think everyone was a bit shaken but the main thing was the ice stayed in the esky and our booze was in one piece.
Over 3 days we drove through inland tracks and along 75 mile beach, stopping at points of interest along the way. And as it turns out, Fraser Island was called paradise for a reason. Continue reading
I’d never even heard of the Town of 1770 until getting to Bundaberg. But once there it seemed to be mentioned all the time. A beautiful holiday spot with nice beaches and not much else to do but relax. So when I found out I had 4 days off for Christmas (yes I’m a bit behind on my blog), Chris and I decided to get out of Bundaberg and find some relaxation.
On Christmas Eve we left Bundy and drove 129km north with our esky full of food and beers for the next day. When we arrived it was dark, but even still, I could see that this was a nice place. The tiny town is made up of only a couple of restaurants and a lot of holiday homes. Alongside the road is a wooden boardwalk that overlooks a beautiful inlet of water where people have their boats moored.
Not knowing where to go we followed the road to the end and entered the Joseph Banks Conservational Park. It was quiet and empty so we decided to sleep there. I doubted rangers would be out on Christmas morning.
The next day the car park was full of guys with their fishing rods, maybe a Christmas tradition for them! Chris and I walked around the park, following trails to different lookouts and points, clambering over and around rocks. Walking along the tracks I could see groups of people far below me fishing off the rocks.
We then drove back to the main part of 1770 and went to one of the beach side parks where we spent the day on our picnic blanket, under the shade of the trees, drinking beers and playing music. I cooked sausages and rissoles to eat with bread and salad (not very Christmassy), and then we devoured half a pavlova, which had been on offer in Coles.
The thing was huge, meant for 12 people, but it went down so easily!
I thought it was going to be busy but surprisingly it was very quiet. Most people must have opted for Christmas dinner in their homes. We finished off our day with a swim at sunset. Which was a brilliant idea until we had to get out in the dark and were attacked by mozzies!
The next day things picked up a bit. Everyone was at the beach, sunbathing, swimming, renting out paddleboards. We went for a swim before leaving and driving 5 kms south to Agnes Water.
Like 1770 this is also a popular holiday area, however, it’s a bit more built up with apartment blocks, supermarkets, and shops etc. We went there for the beach to do some surfing but it was very busy and the waves were small so we just went for a walk instead.
That evening we munched down the rest of our pavlova. I have to admit I felt a bit sick after, but then it wouldn’t be Christmas if I didn’t overindulge!
With fruit picking jobs all year round, Bundaberg entices Backpackers from all over Australia. Sweet potatoes, sugar cane, tomatoes, pumpkins, you name it and it’s probably grown in Bundaberg! So the perfect place to come to get your 2nd Year Visa? Maybe don’t book your plane ticket just yet…
I’ve spent the past 2 months working in Bundaberg and staying at the Workers & Divers Hostel. It wasn’t the worst 2 months of my life but it was far from the best. But here’s a few reasons why I think I’d reconsider going to Bundy, were I to do it again.
1) You’ll most likely get taken advantage of
It’s hard to get rich in Bundy. Whether it’s the farmers taking the piss paying you crap contract rates, the hostels charging outrageous rent, or bad weather giving you unexpected days off, you may find you’re not earning quite as much money as you’d hoped.
In my case I landed on my feet with a good job. I worked on a sweet potato farm earning $21/hr and was part of a great team. The downside? My rent at the hostel was $200/week. It was actually meant to be $235, however, I stayed in my campervan and was given a $35 discount. A lot of people thought I was crazy! But the way I saw it was I got cheaper rent, plus a clean, comfy, bed bug free bed to share with Chris.
The hostel owner turned out to be nothing but a greedy contractor with a never ending list of rules stating all the things you can’t do in the hostel, along with threats of kicking you out with no refund. He didn’t care about the backpackers, he just cared about how many beds were filled and how much money he was making.
Obviously not all hostels are the same and some are better than others. But often the cheaper ones get you contract rate jobs where you might work your ass off for 10 hours and not earn much.
2) Bundaberg farms aren’t always the nicest places to work
As I said above I got very lucky with the farm I worked on and was part of a fun team full of both local Aussies and international backpackers. It was that team that made the mundane and repetitive work bearable. But this isn’t the case on some farms.
Before working on the potato farm I worked in a packing shed where things weren’t so great. The supervisor never smiled and didn’t know how to talk, just shout. She would walk around the pack house shouting and swearing at people while smoking a cigarette. And if you did something wrong, even on your first day, she would scream at you for it. The rest of the local staff were always stressed and it was a horrible atmosphere to work in.
Back at the hostel I would talk to people about their farms and often I would hear similar stories. One farm had a dog that would bite the backpackers and the farmer would do nothing about it. On other farms people would be shouted at, sworn at, nothing was ever good enough or fast enough. I think a lot of the farmers lacked respect for backpackers, especially if they’re from non-English speaking countries.
3) There are thieves lurking in Bundaberg
During my first 3 weeks in Bundy 3 people got their i phones stolen. Many of the hostels offer very little security. Doors are often left open and old locks are easily picked. It’s not hard at all for people to walk in casually off the street and take their pick of mobiles, laptops etc. After one of the phone’s was stolen our hostel checked back the CCTV footage. They saw a man wearing a mask with his hood up walking around the hostel. But nothing more was done about it.
It was shortly after one of these phones was stolen that someone tried to open the door to my van. I was sitting in the front one night chatting with Chris when a young guy tried the handle. He didn’t see me through the tinted side window but I saw him, and watched him as he went up the street, trying each vehicle he came to. For the whole of my stay in Bundaberg I could never fully relax with my stuff. I made sure everything was always hidden and out of sight.
4) Bundy is rough as
There’s no doubt about it that Bundy is a rough town, one of the roughest I’ve been to in Australia. I definitely didn’t feel safe walking about the streets at night by myself. Often on the way into town I’d pass homes and hear domestics going on from within. On New Years Eve a group of us were walking past a house when my friend said Happy New Year to a woman, touching her lightly on the shoulder. She flipped out and had to be held back by 2 kids who just kept saying, “They’re just tourists, they don’t know!”
Most weekends I’d go to a club called Central with people from the hostel for a few drinks, and there’d always be a few shady characters about. One night we were sitting at a table when a couple of locals came over and sat across from us. They started banging and shaking the table, trying to knock over our drinks and staring at us as they did it. They came across as so pumped up and aggressive, just looking for a fight.
Another night a huge and extremely pissed Aboriginal woman started slurring incoherently at me in the toilets. I had no idea what she was saying, but I ended up running into one of the cubicles with a friend to escape her. She banged on the door and shouted at us before leaving.
But at least the police seem to have it under control. After dark they are everywhere! I’ve never seen so many police cars for a place of this size. At the weekends especially, they will be driving the roads, walking the streets, keeping an eye on everything. At least their job never gets boring.
“I can’t stand being in a place where Backpackers are taken advantage of!”
Since leaving Bundaberg it’s amazing how many backpackers I’ve met who have recently spent time there doing farm work. It’s almost like a right of passage in the backpacking world. And they all say the same thing. It was a shit place but I met some amazing people.
And this is totally true. I had hilarious nights out, met friends I know I’ll see again, gained experiences I’ll keep with me forever, and I actually had some fun! But would I go there again? No way. I can deal with the rough locals. I got used to the dirty hostel. But I can’t stand being in a place where Backpackers are taken advantage of!
I hated how my friends would get home from picking lemons all day with looks of despair on their faces as they’d barely earned enough money to pay their rent. They wanted to leave and look for work elsewhere but couldn’t afford to and didn’t know where to go. Backpackers come here because they’re desperate and then stay because they’re desperate. They know the rent’s not fair or the pay is a joke, but still they keep coming. It’s just all one big vicious circle that will never stop.
Since leaving the dairy in August I’d been having fun and not thinking ahead too much. But all of a sudden I realised time was running out, and if I wanted to earn some more money before leaving Australia in March, I’d better get a job.
So while I was in Tamborine Mountain I went to the library one day and half-heartedly looked for work. There wasn’t much about in the area I wanted work in, except for one job in Bundaberg, posted a good few days before.
I tried ringing anyway and a guy called Ian answered the phone. I could barely understand a word he was saying in his thick Queensland accent, and getting information out of him about the work was hard, but he promised a job each for Chris and me at $21/hour.
Chris would be working on a sweet potato farm, and me, in a tomato packing shed. The snag? Accommodation was at the Workers and Divers Hostel and cost $235 a week, each. I really didn’t fancy sleeping in a shared dorm room so asked Ian if we could sleep in our van. He was kind enough to say yes and even gave a discount… the rent would now be $200 per week, each.
As we were pretty desperate to get a job quick I agreed and told Ian we had plans in Brisbane that weekend but could come on the Sunday night. He sounded unsure and said to call Sunday morning to confirm there were still jobs.
Hung over but enjoying our Sunday morning in the hotel, I called Ian, expecting all the jobs to be gone. “What are you doing, aren’t you on your way to Bundaberg yet?” he said. He’d clearly forgotten I’d say I’d call first! I explained we’d be there later that night, no way was I rushing out of the hotel! Part of me had wished the jobs would be taken, but maybe it was just meant to be. Continue reading