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.
10 Things I Can’t Get Used To after Travelling in South East Asia
For the past few months my blog has kind of been put on the back shelf. I told myself I’d keep it going throughout my South East Asia travels, but who was I kidding, it was never going to happen! The past 4 months have been a crazy whirlwind adventure of buses, tuk tuks, motorbikes, long tail boats, packing and unpacking, bag lugging, sweating, hotels, bed bugs, monks, temples, villages, rice terraces, street food, beer tasting, adrenaline activities, and cultural madness. So I decided to leave things until I got back.
And here I am, back home in sunny Northern Ireland (it hasn’t stopped raining…), so I’m sure I can get back on track. To ease myself back into blogging I thought I’d start with 10 things I can’t get used to after travelling in South East Asia.
1) Every time I use the toilet I pause before putting the toilet paper in the bowl. I still haven’t got my head around the fact that it’s ok to flush almost anything down the toilet in this country.
2) When I go shopping I have to resist the urge to haggle for everything.
3) When I see a dog my first reaction is to keep my hands well away, but then I remember it’s ok to stroke the dogs here, they don’t have rabies.
4) I never realised how happy getting into a bed with freshly washed, cozy, warm, bed covers could make me. 1 week later and I still go to sleep every night with a big smile on my face.
5) It’s a bit scary talking to people from home again. They talk so fast, they use words I haven’t heard in years, do I use those words enough? Do I even sound Northern Irish? I’ll need to get myself a Norn Iron dictionary.
6) I am no longer a gypsy. I don’t have to pack and unpack a bag every few days, and it’s now normal to sleep in the same place each night.
7) All of a sudden it matters what I wear. My faded, suncream stained singlets don’t really cut it anymore and it’s probably a good idea to check my reflection before leaving the house.
8) When meeting up with friends it’s hard not to start every sentence with ‘When I was in Australia/Thailand/Cambodia…’ I’m sure they don’t mind hearing the odd story but lets be honest, they’d rather talk about who’s getting married or having a baby.
9) Every time I see a wispy fly floating around my instant reaction is to cover myself in deet, but then I remember that Northern Ireland seems to be one of the few places in the world where you don’t get mozzies.
10) Since arriving back I’ve heard nothing but complaints about the rain and the lack of summer. And yes, everyone is wearing jeans, jackets and scarves. But when I think back to the past 8 months and how I’ve been constantly covered in layers of sweat, suncream and insect repellent, I’m finding this whole cold thing a novelty. Although that said I seriously miss wearing flip flops. Shoes suck.
Teaching English in Cambodia
Travelling, being a tourist, it can all get very repetitive. That’s why when I arrived in Cambodia I knew I wanted to do something different. I wanted to experience the real Cambodia and also do something to try and help make a difference within a local community. And so, for 10 days, I went into the countryside and taught English at a rural, village school. Continue reading
Getting Spanked in the Whitsundays
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.
Aussie Road Trip: Lennox Head to Brisbane
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.
Being a Part of Earth Frequency
A few months ago I had the unreal experience of going to Earth Frequency, a music festival held in Ipswich, Queensland, around February each year. I say ‘music’ festival, but really this doesn’t sum it up at all. Yes, there is music, mostly alternative, but there’s much more to the festival than just that.
Before even entering the main festival grounds the campsites themselves can be an adventure. Some people arrive with just their tent, but for most this is a well prepared and thought out process. People bring trailers and vans full of stuff to personalise their camps. Proper sofas, tarps, fairy lights, bikes. Some people even go to the lengths of creating their own bars complete with dance floor and dj booth. When I stumbled upon one of these I had to look twice to work out if it was part of the festival site or not.
Once out of the camp area I walked around the beautiful, lush, green festival site where I came across art installations and galleries, a village full of food and clothes stalls. I sat in on healing, soul and body workshops, listening to people talk and sharing ideas. I very quickly felt I was a part of the Earth Frequency community.
When darkness fell the site was transformed into a psychedelic wonder land. I immersed myself in the music, exploring the 3 different stages, taking in the décor and theme of each stage and feeling the energy of everyone dancing together.
As I said, Earth Frequency isn’t just about the music, but it is a big part. With both international and local artists, there were all types of genres being played from techno, to psytrance, to hip hop, to stuff I don’t even know how to categorise.
To be honest the only artist I knew beforehand was a guy called Dub FX, an unbelievable beat boxer/singer. He creates music by looping sounds and beats made by his own voice, building the song right up and then singing over the top of it. Most of the music carries strong messages too. It was amazing finally getting to see him perform live.
But not knowing any of the artists has it’s perks. Rather than rushing around trying to stick to a pre-made timetable, I was able to just go between the stages depending on my mood, and only purposefully went to see a few artists I liked the sound of.
The main stage was probably the most impressive. And in between music acts the crowds would come in close to watch intermission entertainment. Dancers would move in extravagant costumes to ambient, atmospheric music, sometimes dancing with fire.
On the Saturday evening an opening ceremony was held by the original aboriginal landowners. They welcomed us to their land, asked us to respect and look after it, and then put on a show of aboriginal song and dance.
On the final day a big closing ceremony was held. Everyone came together and sat in a semi circle around the stage. There were words from the aboriginal landowners and then dancers came on for one last final act.
As they danced to slow ambient music a girl spoke about the idea of the festival, the culture it promotes. The importance of respecting and looking after the earth. Most people sat or lay back with their eyes closed, breathing in and out, just listening to her words.
Afterwards a feast was prepared. I couldn’t believe it! Everyone lined up to grab a plate and then walked alongside a long table piled up with food, it looked like a magical edible garden. Chicken, pork, beef, potatoes, vegetables, pineapple. So much food and even better it tasted amazing.
Me, Chris and our friend Miko
Earth Frequency is definitely a festival I’ll always remember. It’s a place where anyone can go and fully be themselves. You can leave your real life behind for a few days, and just immerse yourself in the Earth Frequency culture. There’s so much to learn, so many ideas being shared, it might just change your outlook on life.
Old Friends, Canoeing, and Surfing on the Sunshine Coast
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.
New addition to the Gibney Tribe
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
Aussie Road Trip: Blue Mountains to Evans Head
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.
Moving On to Asia
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.
Anyways, somehow during the researching stage, Wicked Travel managed to rope me into a package deal. I’d be going to Fraser with Palace Adventures on a self-drive 4WD tour with 2 nights camping.
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