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.

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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.

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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!

Spank Me!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Pelicans

If there’s one thing I love about Australia it’s the wild life, it’s just so diverse and it’s everywhere, I feel like I see something new every week. And my favourite animal this week is the pelican.

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These birds are pretty massive, they almost look like some kind of modern day pterodactyl! I love it the way they stand side on to you, just staring at you through their big unblinking eye… although it is a bit weird.

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The first time I saw a pelican in Australia was while working on the farm in Blighty, NSW. Being about 4 hours away from the coast I was a bit confused! But apparently they turn up every year, around the start of winter, when the irrigation channels get drained and there’s lots of fish to be had.

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Now, travelling up the East Coast they’re almost as common as seagulls, although much less annoying. You’ll see them on the beaches or hanging around the inlets, patiently waiting for the fishermen to get back, as they know they’ll get some fish scraps.

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Pictures by Chris

 

Four Days in Sydney

Unlike the rest of our trip, Chris and I decided to actually do a bit of planning for Sydney. I just didn’t want the stress and hassle of driving through the congested city, looking for sneaky places to sleep at night in the camper, or trying to find a shower.

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So weeks in advance, we booked to stay in a twin private room at the Maze Backpackers, a hostel on Pitt Street. It was only $30 each per night for our own room and we were so central, I thought it was definitely worth it.

We entered Sydney on a Friday night and drove around for a while looking for somewhere suitable to leave the van. Eventually we found a fairly busy street with free parking near the Ashfield railway station, only 20 minutes from Central Station. I wouldn’t necessarily advise this approach to anyone! Leaving your van on a Sydney street for 4 days probably isn’t the best of ideas…. But we were taking everything we cared about to the hostel and had a steering lock to try put thieves off. We slept in the van that night and then set off to the hostel the next morning. Walking away I just prayed it would be alright.

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The Isthmus Peak Track

I wanted to share one of the best and most beautiful walks I did while I was in New Zealand, the Isthmus Peak Track.

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It was around this time 2 years ago I was living in Wanaka for the ski season. My boyfriend, Chris, had started pre-season work at Cardrona Ski Field, but I was jobless and struggling to find work.

So one morning, I decided to get out of the house and go off by myself for a hike, hoping it might make me feel better. After a bit of research I decided to do the Isthmus Peak track, a 16km day walk that takes you up to a 1,385 metre summit. With the sun out and barely a cloud in the sky I left Wanaka and drove 30 minutes to Lake Hawea and the start of the walk.

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The Hay Plains, One of the Flattest Places in the World

I look forward to my 3 days off every other weekend. Not only does it mean I don’t have to get up at 3am, but it usually means a road trip and change of scene from lovely Blighty.

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Chris and I decided to check out the Hay Plains, about 2 hours north of Blighty. With only a 17 metre difference between the highest and lowest point on the plains, this is one of the flattest places in the world. And you do really get that impression as you’re driving along the highway, as there’s literally nothing around you. Everything is totally flat with not even a tree on the horizon. Continue reading

A Look Back: Wanaka, Queenstown and Glenochy

The other day I spent some time looking through photos from my time in New Zealand. I was happily flicking through them but it was when I got to the album titled ‘Wanaka, Queenstown and Glenochy’ that I couldn’t help but stop and look at each photo again and again, thinking about where I was and what I was doing when each one was taken. I was filled with a complete sense of nostalgia, I think I’d somehow forgotten just how beautiful this part of the world is.

But looking at these photos has brought it all back to me. Arriving in Wanaka in May 2012 for my first ski season, hiking up Mount Roy, camping on the lake side, the dodgy drive along unsealed roads and through rivers to reach the Mount Aspiring National Park, and taking a road trip from Wanaka, to Queenstown and then on to Glenochy.

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