From void to overflowing

If nothing else, my life is most certainly not mundane. Since finishing Deakin the routine of sitting in my PJ’s studying has been shattered to pieces. Not only have I traveled 1000’s of Km’s in cars, buses, trains,trams and planes, I’ve experienced two very different climates and slept in 5 different spots.

The week began on a bit of an emotional downer as I left my Geelong home, left work, left my couch surfing friends and left Melbourne. I have however not arrived in Cairns and the adventures have already begun.

I didn’t spend long in Cairns itself on the day of arrival as a friend of mine picked me up after just a few hours to travel North up to Cape Tribulation. As he was running a few hours late the initial plans were revised and we decided to stop over at his house for the night and head to the cape in the morning. Best decision ever. Damien truly lives in my dream home. It was so quirky with upcyled art work decorating every wall. A residence that was structured of several open plan out houses encircling a jungle like garden, it even had resident hens and bats. That evening Damien kindly cooked me dinner. We watched a couple of adventure movies with a cheeky tipple. My 4:30am start caught up to me at about 10:30pm and I had to make my apologies and retire to bed. 

The next morning was another one that saw me up with the lark. 6:15am, quick bacon and egg butty brekkie and we were on the road up to Cape Tribulation. Upon setting off I set Damien a little challenge to find me Cassawaries, (a bird which was around at the time of dinosoars) turtles, and stingrays. I never got one minute thought I’d see them all. 

I probably should mention that the trip up to Cape Tribulation, was to fullfil a booking to snorkel the Barrier Reef. The trip sure as hell wasn’t cheap at $140 for the morning but boy was it worth it. From stepping into the speed boat to disembarking, it was money well spent. The boat journey was exillerating, the snorkeling spots were just astoundingly beautiful and the Ocean Safari team were brilliant. I can well and truly tick that amazing experience off my bucket list. 

On the return journey to cairns, we once again stopped off at Damien’s to pick up my belongings and shower off the salty sea water. 10 minutes after setting off in the direction of Cairns, the back tyre blew. ‘hhhhmmmm this could be a problem.’ Luckily Damien is quite like me and chilled out about this sort of stuff. After discussing a number of options be very noisily continued the journey to the closest garage 14km away. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced as many perplexed stares whilst in a car before. It made such a racket that you could probably hear us from 2km away. 

Ten minutes after pulling up at the garage we were back on the road. I arrived at my hostel just in time for dinner so after picking up a few supplies I had an extremely relaxing evening watching Narcos on Netflix and drinking hot choccie in the hostel yard area. 

What’s next I hear you ask? Well that is currently a mystery. I’ve had an offer to join a convoy of travellers heading off on a camping road trip down to Brisbane on 25th (two days time). The journey will take 3 weeks and hit all of the hotspots ie Fraser, magnetic and the Whitsunday islands but it comes at the cost of $1100. I know that doesn’t sound too bad but I think doing it as a smaller group would be much cheaper and allow much more freedom and flexibility. Do I wait it out and see if anyone else offers a ride share south bound, or do I just go with this? Decisions, decisions. No matter what I know I’ll have a blast. It present however I’m focusing on the more pressing issue of what’s on the cards for tonight. Damien suggested hiking to Pyramid Mountain and camping at the top yesterday but as I’ve not yet heard from him, I’m not sure it’s going ahead. Luckily Cairns has tons of backpackers hostels so I shan’t have trouble finding somewhere to lay my head…That said, I’d much rather be laying my head at the top of a mountain watching the sunrise from an elevated location than in a mediocre backpackers. Mweh, it’s all an adventure ey!? 

Miracles can happen

I am very happy because I have conquered myself and not the world. I am very happy because I have loved the world and not myself.

Void.

Once again, that bizarre combination of elation and fear that comes with the release of pressure. How do I even articulate this present moment? I’m really not sure.

I’ve just finished the final exam of my study period in Australia, therefore I feel compelled to document something. For the past couple of weeks, since the end of term, I’ve experienced the space to contemplate this past year and the imminent future. For once in a very long time I’ve actually been able to muster a sense of pride in what I’ve achieved this year. As I look back to August of last year, I truly would’ve never guessed that I’d have gotten to this point. Yet by focusing on each day at a time, I managed to pull myself out of the ravine of self doubt and make it back onto my Deakin path. Not only that, but I made it to the end destination. With that however comes the knowledge that I have to start a new trail and I’m reluctant now to leave this one behind.

Studying humanities, we tend to dwell quite a lot on the formulation of identity and this may sound rather cliche but I do, in some ways, feel like I’ve ‘found myself’ out here. I’ve faced up to my eating disorder, I come to realise that I don’t ‘fit in’ in the UK but that doesn’t mean that I don’t find a place in other circles and I’ve realised just how bloody suborn I am in refusing to give up when perhaps I should. I’m aware that I did an awful lot of complaining last trimester and I want to apologise for making you guys suffer that. This trimester has been exponentially better. It has still hasn’t been a walk in the park but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my units. I’ve learnt so much and it’s even given me the confidence to consider studying a masters and maybe even a PhD. (I severely caveat that with the word maybe).

Anyway, not to dwell on uni now that it’s all over an done with till September. Time to focus on personal life, which I fear has been severely neglected. Despite the vast majority of my time on aussie soil being spent on the same spot of our lounge sofa, I’ve miraculously managed to formulate a small but extremely valued social network. Over the next week I have a fair few catch ups that I need to squeeze into the calendar. Tonight a lovely girl from work has kindly decided to throw me a little farewell shinding at her house. It’ll be wonderful to get to chat to everyone outside of a work context. I’m sure it will make it even harder to leave though. Tomorrow I plan on heading up to my old place of work to say a final goodbye to my old colleagues. (and also get one of the best muffins in Geelong)  Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find the time to pop back there since returning in February and I’ve really missed the guys there. Wednesday Ben, myself and Ben’s friend Stefan are going to tackle the famous 1000 steps walk in the Dandynong Ranges. Given that I define myself now as a hiker, I couldn’t possibly leave without getting that walk under my belt. Thursday I’m catching up with a uni friend for coffee at the great little Cafe Go in town. Then over the weekend I’m excited to be returning to the ‘home-from-home’ provided my couch surf buddies. Although I’ve caught up with Rohan a couple of times, I haven’t seen Jack since I left. It’ll be wonderful to see him again as they really do feel like life long friends.

Come Tuesday I’ll be embarking on my last leg of adventures. Thus far I have arranged my first nights accommodation in Carins followed by a trip up to Cape Tribulation to snorkel the Great Barrier. Beyond that, the journey is an open book. I plan to get down to Sydney for 20th July to spend my birthday with the family, but how I shall get there is totally unknown. Come the 27th July it will be time to return to Melbourne to say the tearful final goodbyes and return back to the UK on the 31st. So, this is no time to be nostalgic and melancholy about leaving. It’s time to embrace my final few weeks in Australia without any academic pressure accompanying me on my journey.

Serious Reflections

I’m super busy at the moment and should most certainly be doing uni work rather than typing up blog posts, however in the wake of today’s bombing in Manchester, I feel that I need to clear my head of some of the clutter.

Most people that know me, are more than aware of my addiction to social media. Recent posts that I’ve been reading more and more frequently across such avenues have been really troubling me. With this mornings terrible news and the way it is being relayed, I’m finding myself even more dismayed.

The levels of empathy for those hurt and their families is truly reassuring, but if the news is true that the attack has been committed by a suicide bomber, I feel that their also needs to be some empathy on their behalf. Thus far all that I’ve seen has been blame, stigmatisation and abuse. When will we see that we all have a role to play in these events? We, each and everyone of us, construct our society and the atmosphere which incubates extremism. In posting these message of ‘scumbags’ etc, we are perpetuating the problem. Rather than finding scapegoats, we need to acknowledge our own complicity in creating these events. I am by no means excusing or condoning the action, but we need to look for the underlying structural reasons driving these events. They’re not isolated events by ‘crazy, lunatics’, these attacks are  often committed people who are well informed and highly reflective about the actions they are undertaking. They develop serious grievances against society to the point that we need to take revenge, yet we don’t question the source of their grievance we question them as individuals.

My feelings with regards to this matter have been growing for sometime, mainly as a result of the posts relating to the upcoming snap election. I find it worrying when I see so many of my friends, whom I respect and admire, posting misinformed, bias, negative and often abusive messages on social media.  I understand that people feel extremely strongly about their political opinions but focusing on the negatives of ‘the other’ serves to fragment our communities. Others opinions and values may not mirror our own, yet they’re just as valid…yes, even those who want to disband the NHS or remove school dinners for children. Rather than judge, I truly wish that people would open their ears and start listening to where these voices are coming from.

I know that many people will be extremely frustrated with my own views here, and I do apologise to those people, but I certainly feel that the judgemental attitudes pervading our society have impeded my life personally. I can’t imagine that there are many people reading this now who do not agree with that statement. To counter this, I intend not to project the fault upon others but actually look to myself. I can be just as judgemental as the next person. I’ve poked fun at the girl who I’ve believed has been dressed ‘too slutty’, or purposely sat away from the guy on the train with a skin head and lots of tattoos, (not you Madness, promise) so I too am an architect of the negativity which drives people to feelings of hostility.

Once again, I hope that I haven’t upset people too much with this post, but as a emerging historian and sociologist I feel compelled to document my thought processes at this socially significant point in time.

Leaving my heart in NZ

Knowing what I’m like for getting distracted, I’m currently sitting in my sweaty, post jog running gear and writing this before I even take a shower. For those of you thinking ‘ewwwhhh the filthy bugger’ well, I’m telling you it’s this or nothing, because as soon as I’ve had a shower, I’ve a huge pile of washing to tend to, a book to finish reading and a documentary series to watch for uni, hence stinky blog writing.

Having returned from and absolutely incredible week in New Zealand, it’s actually rather difficult to describe the emotions I’m feeling right now. My current mood is a mixed broth of positive and negative, which is a really bizarre feeling to have. What I can say with certainty however, is that I’m astronomically better than I was prior to this trip. My mother always said that sea air’s good for you. Having had a good dose of that, along with crisp mountain air too, I gotta say that ‘our Eileen’ was right.

Not only ‘our Eileen’ but I guess I also have to issue some credit to my good friend Mr Woodburn. Steve, you were right. (God damn it!) the South Island of New Zealand may very well be my spiritual home; changing seasons, friendly people, abundance of wildlife, stunning green hills, crystal clear waters, astounding glaciers and endless mountains for little legs to climb. As you can tell, I’m something of a fan of the place.

The first 3/4 of my trip was spent in the company of my beloved cousin Eve. Prior to meeting up in Queenstown I don’t think I had seen Eve in approximately 4 years. Needless to say that once my worry wart of a brain had finally pushed uni concerns into the background, anxiety over meeting up with Eve took centre stage- what if we didn’t want to do the same things? What if we couldn’t find anything to talk about? What if we had a fall out?…All thoughts which were totally unwarranted. Turns out that, despite childhood differences, Eve and I have both developed into very similar women. Being in the company of such a wonderful soul for 5 whole days and nights has really put me back on track. I sincerely hope to embark upon some more adventures with that sparkling -I would say little but she’s taller than me (not difficult I know- before you say it)- gem in the future. During the latter section of the get away I traded Eve in for my Kiwi friend Jordan. Once again I was apprehensive as to whether he and I would get along a second time around. Once again I was being utterly ridiculous and I found that things were exactly as they’d been when I last saw him.  I have to say that I find it very sad that I may have said goodbye to him for the last time. It’s not often that you find someone who has the same sarcastic sense of humour and false arrogance to that of your UK based Sunday drinking buddy.  That said, I think that I may have developed something of a problem in surrounding myself with cocky, arrogant, misanthropist men. That’s something that shall need to be addressed.

Returning from my little tangent there, the second trip to NZ has surpassed the first- and that was pretty darn great. That said, every adventure has to have its calamities and this was certainly no exception. The first evening Eve and I picked up a $200 fine for sleeping in the van in a carpark which didn’t permit ‘freedom camping’. Luckily she and I are both rather easy going and very much ‘don’t sweat the small stuff’…or should I say ‘sweat the small stuff and don’t give two hoots about the stuff normal people get annoyed with’.  I guess we both just figured we’d have one less fancy meal out and one more beans on toast in the van to balance the coffers.  We also made a trip up to the gigantic Tasman glacier but due to extremely crappy weather could barely see it. The following day the rain persisted all through the night, to the point of infiltrating our cosy 4 wheeled sleeping quarters. Luckily I tend to sleep curled up in a tight ball and only discovered the full damage done by the leak once I stretched my legs out in the morning. From about my knees down, my legs and feet were a tad cold and wet. The final ‘mishap’ if it can even really be called that was encountered when Jordan and I had to upgrade the diesel mileage allowance of the car. Turns out that Eve and I had gone over the previous tax allowance by a few Kilometers which Jordan promptly advised would induce a somewhat hefty fine of $400ish should we be pulled over by the police. Feeling like I’ve already been issued with enough fines to last me lifetime, topping up the mileage became priority #1 after dropping Eve at the airport. The problem here was that completing vehicle admin type tasks generally involves having the name and contact details of the registered owner-neither of which either Jordan or I knew- queue postoffice attendant surveying us as though we were a couple committing grand theft auto. Despite being a bit of a ‘ball ache’, it all got sorted in the end….oh also, I say that’s the final mishap but on the last day I also insisted that we walk along a beach next to some seal colonies. I know you’re probably thinking ‘where is the mishap there?’ Well, I’ll tell you that when you’re having to squeeze through a small gap between two hefty sleeping seals, who don’t respond all too kindly to being disturbed from their slumber, it’s pretty damn terrifying. At least it is when you are doing this for around an hour because there are bloody hundreds of the stinky things.

Hmmm which reminds me, talking about smelly blubbery beings, I’ve still not had my shower so I better wrap this up. I can’t be sure when I’ll next have brain capacity to deal with extra curricular life but when I do, you guys will be the first to get all of the gory details. G’night folks…

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Oh wait, one last thing before I toodle off – First result of the trimester = 95%. Even my pond scum, bottom feeding, low self esteem has experienced a teeny boost from that one. Hopefully the next two won’t kick it back into its place.

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Time for a break…time for a Kit Kat.

It’s been an extremely long time since I last blogged so I’m not even going to attempt to document all of the events since that last post. I also intend to stop writing this post after 25 minutes, which is hopefully just enough time for a flash update.

So, since my big aussie adventure the major events were as follows:

  • Christmas in Geelong with the parents – Not without its challenges but couldn’t have asked for a better Christmas present.
  • New Year spent with the Aussie Aldersons – Rather boozy few days. I also surprised myself in discovering a  very well concealed talent. Turns out I’m actually quite good with children.
  • Stop off in Sydney – Truly discovered the delights of the city this time.
  • 10 days hitchhiking around New Zealand- Saw lots of amazing scenery, blown away by Hobbiton and made a very dear Kiwi friend who showed me unlimited kindness
  • Mini break in Bali- Partied with backpackers, zipped around on scooters, did some yoga and almost died on a motorbike Uber.
  • Couch surfed in Geelong – Made life long friends with the guys who kindly put me up for two weeks. Now have a solid group of friends in Geelong.
  • Had several job trials – Offered 3 jobs. Opted for one closest to  home. Had a little workplace bullying to begin with but all dandy now.
  • Worked for Deakin showing the new intake of international students around- Rather envious of the superior levels of support they got, as opposed to when we arrived. I did get to hold a python (no innuendo intended) as part of the activities though, so that partly pacified my anger.
  • Began back at Uni

So, in a nutshell, those are the major bits an bobs there has been an awful lot of intricate ups and downs that encircle those events but if anyone wishes to hear about those, I’m afraid you will have to coax them out of me with the incitement of a catch up beverage…speaking of which, one major update it that no a drop of wine…or beer…or any other form of alcoholic beverage has passed my lips since Labour Day. (5March) After a somewhat messy night catching up with a couple of fellow Grayson’s (bad influences that lot, I tell ya) I thought it would do me good to have a stint of absence. It’s been far froma walk in the park but actually not half as difficult as I’d built it up to be. As for my other vice- food- I’m sorry to report that is still a major issue for me. Unfortunately, as with wine, that isn’t something I’m just able to go ‘cold turkey’ with. I shall spare you all of the gory details with regards this persisting issue but I will share one small incite by saying eight hot crossed buns in one sitting. **shakes head**

With my 25 minute deadline looming, I’ll say a few words about uni as that pretty much dominates proceedings at the minute. I’m totally adoring my units this tri but once again the assessments are a real source of stress. In the past 4 weeks I’ve completed 3 essays and one test. Due to my perfectionism (Inherited from my Father along with the red hair and stroppy nature, sometimes I think it would have been preferable to have been Gerald the Milkman’s offspring) I’ve fallen a tad behind on my reading. Once I’ve finished this little chore I may just about squeeze it in before heading to the Airport. Anyway, my units are great, really interesting topics and great tutors. Some of my fellow classmates are a little on the eccentric side but at least the seminars are always interesting.

Life at home is actually really great. My housemates and I are all getting along really well and there is a lovely relaxed vibe around the place.  Work is keeping me really busy outside of uni as I’m clocking up between 18-20 hours per week. Good for the bank balance but not so much for my sleeping pattern. I’m also being pestered about completing some (unpaid) online training modules, which is starting to get my goat. I wouldn’t mind too much but they are sooooo time consuming and that is an extremely valuable yet scarce resource in Emmaland. Which leads me nicely into wrapping up my 25 minutes typing time…Ok, so it was actually  33 minutes but we all know that I always exceed my writing limits.

Ta-ra for now, hopefully the next update will contain a few fun, exciting and no doubt rather silly tales from NZ.

 

The conclusion to the Great Roadtrip Saga

Following my stint of responsibly dedicating time toward my blog, my momentum once again ground to a bit of a halt. I can assure you however that I’ve not been completely slacking, as since my last post I’ve managed to secure another part time job (apparently due to my ‘adorable British accent) which will fund my next 6 months here. I’ve also simultaneously be fulfilling a Student Ambassador role- at Deakin rather than MMU- and getting up to date with both Sherlock and Game of Thrones. Now all that’s left is to finish transcribing the occurrences from my road trip, finally watch Kubo and conclude my book on American Freedom before the term starts back up on Monday. Sounds like achievable enough targets but I fear it will be challenging with extreme shortcomings as far as attention span is concerned. I’m certainly known for setting myself near impossible challenges so here goes…

Day 57. Slept in a proper bed at Bega Valley Backpackers Motel. Woke up at around 7am and began to pack up my things. Realised that I had no salad for sandwiches later in the day so walked up the road to Woolies to buy some. Stopped of at Cole Express on the return journey to indulge in a dirty servo caffeine fix. Got sucked into a conversation about history with a strange guy in the servo. Found Adrienne awake when I returned to the hostel.Wrote in my diary while waiting for the other girls to surface. Charlene woke up in a panic as her alarm hadn’t gone off. Told her not to worry. Cooked eggs on toast with grilled banana for breakfast. Sounds odd but really works. After packing up the car, we drove to Tilba Tilba where we strolled around for a little while window shopping and taking pictures. Such a quaint little historic town with beautiful little stores. Sat down in an old fashioned sweetshop for a bit while the girls had a milkshake. I used the time to use the free wifi. Visited the major tourist attraction of Tilba Tilba- the cheese factory. Made the most of the free samples trying cheeses, honey and chutney. Yummy. Couldn’t leave without some of the fabulous blue cheese. Called into a wee store next to the cheese factory and spotted a passport wallet with a girl resembling Jade (my brothers better half) on it and just knew that I had to but it. Particularly as it was reduced from $19 to $10. When I came to pay, the adorable store owner knocked the price down to just $5. Bargain of the century. Concluded our trip to Tilba Tilba with a walk to the lookout. Not phenomenal but a pretty view all the same. Ate a lunch of apples, pears and cheese while back on the road. My idea of the perfect meal. Our next stop was Camel Rock where we saw dolphins frolicking in the waves. We were blown away by the amount of them. I’ve seen the odd one or two before but here there were so many. What a lovely surprise. Strolled along the beach where I got caught up in some guys fishing rope. Drove to the next rest stop so that the girls could bbq their lunch. I found that I too was lacking in energy so had some bread & hummus. Continued our drive down to Eden. I recalled it being pretty uninspiring but the girls were similarly unimpressed. We did however find some entertainment here in the form of a guy sitting on a bench at a lookout point shelling oysters who had painted finger and toe nails. Left Eden in search of a free camp area which was recommended to us by a couple in Tilba Tilba. We located the campsite with ease but was lacking in supplies for dinner so went in search of a store. This proved much more elusive. Everywhere within the vicinity was closed. After a lot of searching we gave up and headed back to set up camp. Along the way we spotted a sign for Gypsy Point and knowing we wouldn’t pass by in the morning, we opted to check it out then and there. Turned out to be a gorgeous bay of tranquillity. Once back at the campsite we set up our tents and threw together what food we had for dinner. Ended up with potato and onion parcels cooked on the fire, with cheese, beans, apple and pear. Also had a Tim Tam and milk for dessert. Staying off the booze and just having green tea. Charlene wasn’t very well so went to bed without eating. Other girls retired straight after dinner leaving me alone to read a bit by the fire before heading off to the land of nod.

Day 58. Camped at Genoa Rest Area, Victoria. Woke up at around 7:30am and strolled around the campsite. Put a pot of water onto the BBQ to make coffee. Made myself look semi respectable.(I can’t say that I’ve looked respectable in some time) Once the girls were also up we ate breakfast and discussed plans for the day. Addressing time constraints, we amended the plans to walk around the national park that were made the previous day. After packing up all of our things we drove to Lakes Entrance stopping briefly at Nowa Nowa along the way, which turned our to be a really bizarre town. There was hardly anything at all there had a vibe of being a commune. When we arrived at Lakes Entrance we parked at the bottom end of the Esplanade and ate lunch at a picnic bench.

img_1827Wandered up the Esplanade fighting against the wind. Laura was craving Macca’s so we all sheltered briefly from the wind in there and used the free wifi. I took the opportunity to re-fill our water bottles while we had access to running water. As we resumed walking through the village I found it much prettier than I’d recalled from my first visit. Perhaps it appeared prettier this time due to the sunlight brightening it up. Crossed the bridge over the estuary to take a look at the main beach. Really pretty with golden sands, turquoise water and huge surf. I really missed out on this last time we came. As we returned to the car I popped into a little sewing shop to buy a ring to re-attach a bikini strap. The girls also picked up some thread to make bracelets. Couldn’t resist the lure of the ice cream parlour next door.Most of the girls didn’t want anything which had me questioning my greed luckily Adrienne also got a milkshake but I still left carrying the extreme weight of guilt at being the only one having ice cream. Did some shopping for dinner and said goodbye to Lakes Entrance for the second time. img_1831Would have loved to have played mini golf there at one of the numerous courses or have gone to the fun fair but time and money constraints held us back. Leaving town I pulled into a rest stop that I remembered from my first visit, which offered a phenomenal lookout. Soaked up the pretty views of the estuary and the double beach and went on our way. Drove to a cute wee town of Metung. (reputed to be the prettiest in Australia) Nice place but I can’t see why it has been awarded such a high accolade. Continued driving to Paynesville to catch the ferry over to Richmond Island. As we were driving through the countryside along the journey we spotted an Echidna crossing the road. I adore those little guys. They’re just so sweet, perhaps it has an element of nostalgia reminding me on hedgehogs hibernating in our garage during my childhood. Immediately upon arriving at Paynesville we located the ferry point. There was some disagreement amongst our travelling troop as to whether we take the ferry as foot passengers (no charge) or take the car ($12). In the end we decided to walk, which turned out to the better decision as the island is only really small. Disembarking from the ferry we saw the signs posting us to the Koala trail. At first I was extremely sceptical about spotting a wild koala but after only 4-5 minute we’d already located one…then two…then three…and it went on till we’d lost count at around 15. I can’t believe we came across so many on just a 1.5km walk. We arrived back at the ferry point just at the right time to make the return crossing. Before resuming our drive we refilled our water bottles and refuelled Noreen. I was tempted by caffeine while paying for fuel but the machine was having some difficulties. Waited for quite some time for the attendant to fix it and felt terrible for making the girls wait for me to feed my addiction. To make it up to them, I bought them each a Freddo, which they seemed to appreciate. Drove for a few hours through the stillness of the countryside. Shared lots of stories and had a good old giggle with the girls along the journey. Located our campsite and selected a great pitch by the river. It began to rain so we moved our tents under a bridge to ensure we kept dry. As the rain began to ease off we ate dinner and chatted. Another booze free night. Just lemon tea this evening. Extremely cold night and could hear the animals in the river which was a tad alarming.

Day 59. Channelled my inner troll by sleeping under a bridge at Franklin River Rest Area in Toola. No need to say this but I woke up early at 6am. Made myself look reasonable. Wrote in my diary. Charlene was the next up. We found that it was something of a chilly morning so we moved the car into the sunlight and sat in the front to warm up. Laura’s birthday so I made a little card from my notebook paper. Attempted to draw a koala but anyone familiar with my artistic talent-or lack of- can imagine how terribly it turned out. Oh well, the intention and effort was there. Adrienne and Laura eventually made an appearance at 8:30am and we swiftly set off for Wilson’s Prom. Having no map of the park we followed the directions to the Visitor Information Centre to gather some advice. Couldn’t find the visitor centre, only a local store at the entrance to the park. Enquired in the shop and was told that the visitor centre was none existent and that there was only an information plaque. When I consulted the plaque I noticed a marking indicating an info centre within the park. Despite the girls lack of faith, I was determined that their would be somewhere delivering information on such a huge and significant National Park, thus headed the car in the directions noted on the plaque. Luckily we were soon pulling into a carpark of a rather large tourist info centre. What the devil were the people at the shop on about? No info centre? tut tut. Once we’d gotten our hands upon an area map, we realised just how large Wilson’s Prom is. It’s massive. No way we could do it all in a day. With that in mind, we narrowed the days activities to a hike up to the highest point in the park, followed by some time down by just one of the picturesque beaches, concluding with a tour of the lookout points as we exited the park. As we formulated this plan, Laura began to have a huge strop as she didn’t want to hike and prefered to just have a day at the beach. To try and keep everyone happy we came up with the compromise of driving Laura to the beach while we did the hike and meeting up later. Laura however was also unhappy with this suggestion as she didn’t want to spend a portion of the day alone. The other girls were just as keen as me upon doing the hike and Laura reluctantly joined us and spent the entire coach journey and hike up the mountain in the biggest childish strop you could imagine. Although  the walk up the mountain and the views from the top were fabulous, it was distinctly spoilt by the tension permeating the air. The three of us did our upmost to bring back the cheerful Laura to no avail. As we headed back down the mountain Laura disappeared. We made several attempts to find her as we were journeying back down but there was no sign of her so we assumed she had gone off ahead, however when we reached the bottom  there was no sign of her. Resting on the ground in the warm sunshine, Laura casually strolled up to us about 15 minutes later. She advised us that she had purposely avoided us to have some ‘alone time’. It had obviously worked wonders as she was now in a much better mood. Thank God! By this point, we were all ravenously hungry and couldn’t wait to get to the cafe for some lunch. It was far from cheap but I managed to get a ham and cheese croissant for $6. Moved the car round to Squeaky Beach.(apparently named due to the sound that the sand makes as you walk over it)  Completely awe inspiring; turquoise water, incredible rock formations, white sands Jpegand islands of shore. simply beautiful. I left the girls sitting, making bracelets of the beach and went off for an hours walk. When I returned, it was beginning to get late in the day and we’d promised Laura a McDonalds McFlurry party for her birthday so we left the park making just a couple of stops at lookout points. The girls were soon all in the land of nod but I woke them once I’d found a little town boasting a McDonalds. 15556445_1022591001178817_958213934_o.jpgWe first nipped into an Aldi for groceries and then headed round to Macca’s. I had an Oreo McFlurry which was soooo good. These have been missing from my life for far too long. I know that my father will be utterly dismayed to read this (he may even disown me) but they used to be a favourite of mine before the demons took over. Due to the occasion and the level of physical activity done that day, I manged to consume it with minimal guilt. I must ensure that I give in to their deliciousness on the odd occasion to avoid them becoming a huge terror again. Post McFlurry party we drove through the lovely Gippsland countryside towards our final campsite of the trip. The scenery reminded me of home with its rolling green hills. We found a free campsite in a little wooded area by a small stream. Made camp and had dinner. Over the course of the week, the girls had bonded really well and as they chatted I found myself feeling like an outsider. Rather than attempt to infiltrate their little clique, I simply retired into my tent to read. I can be such a loner at times. I wonder why I struggle to connect with some people yet get along really well with others.

 

Day 60. Camped at Bass Valley camping area. Had a lie in until 8:30am. Shock horror. 15595624_10154855198456255_1255707233_oAs mother always used to say: “must have needed it”. For the last morning, I’d promised the girls a campfire -strange how camping brings out ones inner pyromaniac. It also provided a means for them to cook their brioche. Subsequently I went for a walk around the area to collect firewood. Fire successfully alight, put it to use to boil some water for a good ol’ cuppa while waiting for the girls to wake. Once we were all up and spritely, we had our final breakfast as a travelling quad. Although I’d spent 24 hours a day for over week with the girl, I was still amazed by how much junk food they could put away, and none of them was by any means overweight. They were actually positively skinny. It’s been great to be in their company for this very reason as it’s allowed me to re-evaluate my own eating habits and put my diet into perspective. I’ve no need to be so afraid of chocolate, crisps, chips etc. People clearly consume these things and are not all obese. Anyway, after that little detour into my neurotic disordered thought, I will resume the travel narrative.  After breakfast we  packed up the car and set off for Melbourne. Arriving into the city at 11:30am I was hit by a wave of happiness. So great to be home.  I pulled up as close to the girls hostel as parking restrictions would allow and we emptied Nooreen of all but my own belongings. Although we’d made plans to re-convene later that evening, I had concerns that plans are subject to change therefore before heading back to Geelong, I made sure that we all settled our debts to one another. Formalities complete, I left the girls to get settled and headed back home to speedily change before heading back to ‘The City’. During the car ride from the campground to Melbourne we’d discussed plans for the evening and had agreed upon meeting for drinks. Laura however as dead set on visiting some techno clubs which are really not my scene so I made plans to also meet up with Dan. (my Melbourne based friend whom I’d met when travelling in Poland a couple of years ago) That way I figured that I could meet up with the girls later on and say our goodbyes, yet also have someone whom I could remain out with once they ventured off to dance their toes off into the early hours. Towards the end of the trip I was also feeling less and less connected to the girls and rather than spend the evening feeling like an outsider, I could enjoy the company of a friend who’s company I always value. I met up with Dan at a grotty pub in South Melbourne at around 5:30pm. The place reminded me of some of the city centre dives we have in Manchester. Oh the nostalgia. Looking forward to visiting those wonderful grot holes again. After a couple of drinks and rounds of pool (yes, Dan convinced me to get up of my bottom and play pool. Miracle)  I texted the girls to obtain an ETA for meeting up. As anticipated, they advised me that their plans had changed. They no longer intended to venture out of the hostel until later in the evening as they’re purchased a box of wine and were engaged in pre-drinking at their abode. I have to say that I was a tad annoyed in spite of anticipation this. Glad I’d arranged to meet up with Dan as I was really craving some time immersed in a wider socialising environment. Dan and I ventured to another pub then hopped onto the tram to St Kilda. We set up camp in a bar close to the girls hostel as they’d advised that they would be joining us in a jiffy. Some time later they still hadn’t arrived so we made our way to their hostel to drag them out. As we were welcomed to the hostel by Laura, it soon became clear that they had no plans of coming to meet us anytime soon. None of them were ready for going out and were all rather tipsy already. Sensing Dan’s discomfort I said my goodbyes and Dan and I left them to it. Feeling like one final drink was in order, we scouted the local area for a bar. Although there were a few in the vicinity, all appeared to be shutting up shop for the night. Good sign that it’s time to go home. As it was now quite late, it was highly likely that I’d miss my last train to Geelong by the time I made it back to Southern Cross station. Thankfully Dan kindly offered to give me a place to stay for the night. We called it a night and hitched a cab to Dan’s home in Ivanhoe. All in all a good day and was great to catch up with a good friend in a city that I love. So happy to be home.

Penultimate installment of the great Oz adventure

I’m on a roll at the moment with time at my disposal. Although I’m rather tempted to utilise it to catch up on episodes of Sherlock and finally watch Kubo, I know that I need to finish off blogging my travels, so here we go…

Day 43. Still at Caloundra Backpackers. Same start to the day but treated myself to a fancy ice-cream before work. The cafe was quiet again. Feeling extremely anxious about being rumbled in my lie relating to my reason for leaving. Finished work early due to it being quiet. Returned back to the hostel and joined some of the fellow guests for a glass of wine.Binged on nuts and nibbles which were left over from the Friday night BBQ. Always hate myself after these binges.

Day 44. Caloundra Backpackers. Got up later than usual at 7am. Made myself a small breakfast as I was feeling a little ropey after my overindulgence the previous evening. Walked to work for my 9am start. Worked a short 4 hour shift. Went shopping in the boutique clothes shop on my break. Invested in a cute, crocheted belly top. Perfect for when I head back to Byron. Finished work and walked back to the backpackers. Extremely hot day. Did my laundry and went to the beach. Walked back to work as I was doing a split shift. Good to have those few hours break before starting back at 5pm. Returned back to the cafe to find Sunny in an extremely bad mood. Got chastised for voiding off a couple of coffees on the morning shift as they were missed by the Barista. Really hit a nerve with me. I always work hard and try to do whats right by my employers and customers and thought that I was doing the right thing. Really did not appreciate it being suggested that I was trying to swindle someone. Very very tempted to cut short my notice and just walk out. Have never felt like that about a job before. With the help of my colleagues I calmed down, pulled myself together and made it till the end of my shift without storming out. Due to the extreme heat, the weather broke in the evening and the heavens opened. Bruce took pity on me and drove me home rather than allow me to walk in the rain. Very grateful to him for that. Turned out to be a beautiful evening of crazy thunder and lightening. Totally forgot that I’d hung out my laundry earlier in the day. Totally sopping but still brought it in rather than leave it out. Went to pick up a curry to treat myself after my crummy day.

Day 45. Last night at Caloundra Backpackers before hitting the road again. Sleeping really well here, which makes a change for me having suffered with poor sleeping patterns for years now. Got up and washed laundry that’d fell victim to the extreme downpours the night before. Packed up all of my belongings and got ready for work. Underestimated the amount of time it would take to get myself organised and ended up having to drive to work rather than walk as I’d planned. While at work I began thinking just how much I adore working in cafes on Sundays. They are always really busy with customers who are happy and care free. Ended up working a longer shift than I’d expected. 6 hours in total. Felt completely exhausted when I finished. Guilt over leaving hit me like a sledgehammer when the positive comments were rolling in from my colleagues and bosses. The very generous gift of a bottle of wine and car didn’t easy my self chastisement. After leaving Sunny’s for the last time I went back to the hostel and attempted to call the wrinklies (parents for non Graysons/Alderson’s and Fishes) who are now on Aussie time but out in Perth which is 3 hours behind. Feels extremely strange but fantastic to be able to call them at more sociable hours of the day. Despite being almost on the same time, I still struggled to reach them. How dare they have a life. Packed the rest of my bits and bobs, showered and left Caloundra Hostel for the final time. Back to sleeping under canvas. Made the journey back down to Coochin Creek and set up camp. Ate my left over curry and began to read my book. Felt myself nodding off so gave in an called it a night. Woken up by my phone buzzing at 11pm. Glanced at the screen and saw that it was my dad. Didn’t answer as I was just too tired. I know -or at least I hope -they’ll forgive me. I’ll see them soon anyway.

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Last day in Caloundra

Day 46. Camped at Coochin Creek Campsite. Woke up extremely early at 5am. Not surprising really given my very early night. Got up and packed up most of my things but left the tent out to dry off from condensation. Hope the rangers don’t come round while its drying. Really could do with not paying to camp. Made the essential morning coffee before hitting the road onward to Australia Zoo. Intended to nap in the car while waiting for the zoo too open but found that it was just to light and sunny to get any rest. Managed to hook up to the Zoo’s free wifi and became immersed in my social media accounts. Spent the day strolling around the Zoo. Not great given the $50 entry fee. Certainly wouldn’t visit again. Chester zoo is actually bigger and better but hey ho, it kept me busy for the day and I enjoyed the midday show in the Crocoseum. The show was actually rather impressive with native Australian birds flying over the crowds. I also have more knowledge about Salt Water Crocs which may very well come in handy when I head up to Cairns next year. While wandering around the Zoo I had a call from Mummy and Daddy. It was wonderful to speak with them on Aussie time and hear about how much they’re enjoying their own Aussie adventure. Finished my day at the Zoo earlier than expected. Was done with everything by 3pm so visited the nearest Coles Express for a cheap coffee and a Kitkat to pacify my extreme chocolate craving. I feel that I’m getting much better with food now. There was once a time when I wouldn’t have dreamed of putting a milky coffee and anything with refined sugar anywhere near my body. After re-fueling I drove down to Brisbane where I picked up my ‘Ride share’ buddy; Laura. Lovely girl. I think we’ll get along really well. Drove down to the Gold Coast, where a guy whom Laura had met while hitchhiking around NZ was offering to give us a free bed for the night.  This is why I love the travelling community. Upon arriving at the apartment it crossed my mind that we’d hit the jackpot. The place was amazing with a huge pool area and phenominal views across the city. We sat down to dinner, eating pizza (provided by Laura and I) and drinking bubbly (provided by Greg) and retired for the night. Was woken up in the middle of the night by a gigantic electrical storm. Attempted to wind up the blinds to get a better look but accidentally wound the wrong way which cause the blind to fall down. Typical Emma and her bad luck. Attempted to reattached but proved to be impossible on my own in the darkness so went back to bed to face the music in the morning.

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Day 47. Sofa surfed in Southport, Gold Coast at Greg’s amazing apartment. Woke up and confessed about my saga with the blind. All three of us worked together to re-hang. After a lot of frustration we finally managed to get the bloody thing back up. Why do they make these things so difficult? Drank some tea then headed out to move the car to avoid picking up a ANOTHER parking fine. Car sucessfully moved, we hoped into Greg’s car and drove down the coast to a beachside cafe. Had a muffin, coffee and juice for breakfast. Greg’s treat. Walked through Burleigh National Park. Nice. Chatted a while then Greg drove us down to Coolangatta.  Really lovely place. Laura and I left the Gold Coast around mid afternoon. Decided not to camp at the rest stop we’d intended upon staying at as it turned out mainly to be campervans and not tents, leaving us unsure if tents were permitted. Drove to a The Billingen Hotel, which was a pub close by offering free camping in their garden upon purchase of something from the bar. Think we can tick that box. Pub was fairly busy but the town seemed to be just one street consisting of nothing more than a general store come Post Office, an Indian restaurant, a car garage and the pub. Feels very American wild west not Aussie. Pitched our tent and wrote in our diaries. I also penned a couple of postcards to mail to the girls back home. Drove to a better pub for a great evening meal before returning back to our tents where we watched a wonderful electrical storm before bedtime.

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Day 48. Camped in the garden of the Billingen Hotel. Woke up at around 7am. Laura not awake yet. Got up and got ready, also packed up the car. Once Laura was up and ready we drove to Byron. Immediately after parking the car in Byron, Laura realised that her wallet was gone. My first instinct was to panic that she would most probably think that I’d have taken it. Emptied the car and all bags searching for the missing things to no avail. Laura absolutely broke down as money, passport and all photographs from her travels were gone. Began to re-trace our steps starting with the pub where we’d camped. Spoke to the cleaner whom hadn’t come across it. Went inside to speak to the manager and leave him with our contact details should the wallet materialise only to be advised that customers belongings regularly fall into the mitts of a local teenager who hands around the pub. Manager provided us with kids address which we swiftly paid a visit in an attempt to recover the wallet. Pulled up at a rather shabby looking abode and recounted our predicament to a young guy in the garden. Young guy disappeared into the house followed shortly by a rather sleepy and groggy looking teenager. Kid advised us that he does often steal things from the pub but hadn’t for a while as the police had been keeping an eye on him but told us of another local man whom is known as a tea leaf. (Lovely village which we seem to have stumbled upon) Headed in the direction of the OTHER known local thief but while trying to located his place I convinced Laura that it wouldn’t be a bad idea to call the pub where we had eaten dinner the previous night just on the off chance that we’d accidentally left it there. Laura was really sceptical and continued in the role of criminal hunter extraordinaire, interviewing a local mechanic in terms of a character witness for the second expected thief. After all of the palava, turns out we had simply left the wallet behind at the pub the night previously and it had remained in the exact spot we’d been sitting at ever since. Phew! Feeling unbelievably relieved, we drove to the pub to collect the wallet, popped over to the supermarket across the way for supplies, ate brekkie in the car and then drove back to Byron to try again. Despite much more dreary weather than my first trip to Byron, I took Laura up to the lighthouse. Had a coffee in a funky cafe while Laura ate some lunch. Weather began to look really grim so we opted to pay the art house cinema a visit. Parked up outside the infamous Art Factory Hostel only to spot Tom and Jenny (two of the Mooloolaba long term’ers) sitting outside a camper cooking. Chatted to T&J for a little while before being interrupted by a couple of men wielding a large camera and fluffy microphone; ” Hi, we’re from channel 7, I don’t suppose you are staying here are you? we’re just trying to find out about a British couple that are staying here.” After advising the fellas that we couldn’t help them and exchanging a few perplexed glances, Laura and I headed off in the direction of the cinema. Saw a film which I didn’t quite ‘get’ but best cinema ever. Huge comfy seats with fluffy cushions, uber relaxing vibes and attached to a micro   brewery which is part of the Little Creatures brand. Amazeballs. Left the theatre at 8:30pm in search of a camp ground. Began to rain bucket loads. Really not pleasant to drive in. Roads were extremely dark and the windows persisted to steam up. Was actually rather scared as I was really struggling to see. Finally came across a highway rest stop named Little Italy. Turned out to be no cooking facilities for our burgers and I could sense myself getting very agitated due to my h’anger. Couldn’t have survived on just bread an vegetables so asked some fellow campers if it was possible to use their camp stove. Burgers safely and deliciously cooked we joined our fellow campers to eat dinner and chat a little before bed. Set up our tents next to a building under a canopy to prevent us from getting wet during the night. Woke up scared in the middle of the night by a dog wandering around the tent. What is it with me and these dogs on campsites? Second bloody one.

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Day 49. Camped at Little Italy highway rest stop. Woke up to the 6am alarm which I’d set the previous evening. Packed up my tent and woke Laura. Washed. (as best I could) Dog still hanging around. Began to get rather concerned when Laura began talking about taking the dog with us if she was unable to find the owner at the rest area. There was just no way we were taking the dog in my car. While Laura was asking around, guy pulled up in a truck advising that cars in the rest area would need to be moved to allow a school bus to pass through. Dog went over to the truck and the guy seemed to know it, so I asked about it’s ownership. Was advised that the dog travels down to the rest area from a farm close by safe in the knowledge that backpackers will provide it with food. Relayed the story to Laura who didn’t seem convinced and still wanted to take the dog with us. After some re-assurance about the plausibility of the mans tale, Laura finally conceded to leave without the dog.  Drove to the closest National Park to eat breakfast in a nicer spot than by the highway but there were far too many Mozzies. Plus the beach was not all that beautiful anyway. Drove to Yamba where we visited the Tourist Information Centre and enquired what to do for the day. Took coffee in a local cafe then drove to the local blue and green pools. Did a couple of walks. Laura slipped on the rocks but didn’t injure herself so we had a little laugh about it. Left Yamba and drove to Coffs Harbour. Passed the famous ‘Big Banana’but really don’t get what all the fuss is about. It’s not even that big. Obviously it’s much bigger than a natural banana but it’s not awe inspiring large. Had a little walk around Coff’s Harbour while chatting to Paul on the phone. Walked along the coast and discovered my true history geek by getting unbelievably excited about spotting a ‘pill box’. On the way back to the car we passed a really strange guy in the car park who must have been on drugs. Extremely odd but seemingly harmless. Left Coff’s and drove to a the free campsite that I’d used before at Dorrigo. Thought I saw a couple of poster about a total fire ban so was driving around the site looking for the fire which we’d built the last time as I knew it was well surrounded. Wasn’t paying attention and reversed Noreen (the car) into a tree. Thought I’d got away with it but then realised that I’d smashed the rear light. Bugger! Don’t have much luck with cars. Set up camp and attempted to light a fire. Rain not making it easy. Went into the bush in search of more dry wood and almost stood on a snake. Quickly backed away attempting not to disturb it. Finally got the fire going and taught Laura how to cook chicken and our special little veggie parcels for dinner. Joined for dinner by two lovey German girls who shared their garlic bread with us. Chatted, drank wine and relaxed. Chomped through an entire pack of custard cremes. Must must must get these binges under control.

Day 50.  Camped at Thora Campground near the Dorrigo National Park. Packed up tent immediately after getting up. Finally wrote in the card which I picked up for Auntie Pen at the Eumundi Markets. (Thinking about it now, I hope it arrived safely?) Waited a little while for Laura to wake up.Once Laura had got up and ready, we drove up to the lookout point which was just around the corner to eat our breakfast while overlooking the whole valley. After breakfast we headed over to the jungle ‘skywalk’ where we ran into the two German girls from our campsite. Began walking with them but soon realised that we were going the wrong way. The girls were doing the entire loop walk but we only intended to do the sky platform, so turned back. After the skywalk we drove to the big waterfall close by and chatted with an elderly Aussie couple. Left Dorrigo just before lunch and drove to the old Goal at Trial Bay. Really beautiful building overlooking the beach.img_20161209_120859.jpg Took a few pictures then sat down at the picnic spot for lunch. We were joined for lunch by so many flies that resulted in Laura quickly loosing her sh*t and retreating to the safe zone in the car. Although I can usually ignore the flies, this time there was even too many for me to cope with and I soon followed. We would perhaps have stayed at Trial Bay a little longer had it not been for the god damn pests. Took Laura to Port Macquarie to visit the Koala hospital and see her first ever live Koala. Experienced a little miracle and actually saw a koala awake and clambering up a tree.I’m honestly not sure why there is such a fuss about these creatures. They’re actually really dull. All they do is sleep. Knowing that there wasn’t much else going on in Port M from my last visit, we drove through Great Lakes to find our next camp spot. Managed to find a great site with still quite a substantial chunk of the afternoon ahead of us to kick back on the grass and relax in the sunshine. Due to arriving so early we were both a little concerned about getting caught out by the rangers and being asked to cough up the extortionate $40 site fees, particularly as it was clearly a popular campground, but luckily all was fine. In the evening we shared the BBQ area with a group of young guys down from Sydney for the weekend. They delivered a tale of a surfer whom had been killed from a shark attack on the beach there, just the weekend prior. Not sure if to believe them or not but see no reason for them to lie. Thank god Laura and I both don’t surf. Seems that my dads old saying; “what do sharks eat?”… “Australians!” my well be true in this instance.

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Day 51. Camped at The Ruins in Booti Booti National Park. Made sure that we were awake early to pack up before the Rangers came on duty. Utilised the facilities to have a quick shower before making a speedy exit. Drove out of the campsite and parked up a little further down the road where we had our breakfast by the lake. Laura had the oddest breakfast I have ever seen. (actually, no, that’s not true, the oddest breakfast I have seen anyone eat was June last year in Thailand who ordered Spaghetti Carbonara at 7:30am while we were all eating muesli and fruit)

After lining our bellies, we drove some more and parked up at a spot to begin a bush walk ending back at the campground where we’d stayed the evening before.The walk turned out to be much longer than I anticipated or perhaps just felt longer than it was given the heat. We were both poop’ed when we reached the beach at the other end so abandoned the idea of walking back and instead attempted to hitchhike. Selecting a prime spot at the entrance to the campsite on the main road we were waiting no longer than 7 minutes before a lovely young guy picked us up. Once we had reunited with Noreen, we got ourselves back on the road bound for Sydney. Laura kept mentioning how hungry she was, (Man this girl can eat) so when I stopped for coffee I also picked her up a blueberry muffin as a little gift. Caffeine and sugar hit sorted and we were back cruising down the highway but not for long. Finding the traffic to be slowing we soon encountered the source; a terrible and very recent road traffic accident. Knowing some first aid, Laura felt that she may be able to help and asked to stop and get out. Being rather squeamish myself and fining it really distasteful how people use accidents as entertainment, I stayed well back while Laura went to help. She very quickly returned advising that the situation did not look at all good. It seems that a young lad, possibly only 18 and driving a very swish and now squished 4wd had ploughed into a middle aged guy who had been standing by his boat and trailer at the side of the highway. It was suspected that he may fallen asleep at the wheel and veered off the road. After discussing with Laura what we should do, we came to the conclusion that we’d be better off just leaving to allow more room for the emergency services when they arrived. Just before we were getting back into the car a lady close to the guy on the ground asked for a blanket to keep him warm. As we were camping we had tons of things so I left behind a towel. As I handed over the towel to the lady I inadvertently glanced at the guy on the ground and saw how bad the situation was. He was lying, unconscious, in the grass covered in blood with two completely shattered and dislocated arms. Poor guy. I actually feel for the young lad as that’s a mistake that will live with him for the rest of his life. Carried on down the highway and making a little pitstop just before Sydney as a Psychiatric Hospital following a recommendation from a friend of Laura’s. Now this sounds like a very strange thing to do but it would seem that the grounds surrounding the hospital attract a really large number of kangaroos…and subsequently a large number of tourists. After around an hour petting and taking photos of the kanga’s we had to climb back into our oven of a car and make our way to Paul’s, where we’d be staying for the next couple of nights. Arrived in Rosebury late afternoon baring beer and ingredients for dinner. Although is was friday we thought that the prospect of a nice home cooked meal and beers would convince the guys to enjoy a night in. We were wrong. The guys were already on the pre-drinks when we arrived. Despite insisting upon a night in, Paul was way more insistent upon a few drinks out. As he is my friend and was kindly providing us with a bed for a few nights, I had to concede. Laura meanwhile got the nice pj and movie night. (made even better by the cute male companion.Damn it she gets all the luck) All said, I hade a great few hours down the pub with the guys but by 11-ish, I was far too drunk and persuaded Paul to take me home, where I persisted to put more spaghetti down my top that in my body. Mustn’t drink on an empty stomach again, turns out rather messy.  Finished off my drunken dinner with a magnum (which I don’t even remember eating) before shuffling off to bed where I  crashed face first for the night.

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Day 52. Stayed in Paul’s spare bedroom in Rosbury, Sydney. As always I was the first one up. Went on the hunt for some Wifi as Paul and Ryan were in between contracts with suppliers. We are such slaves to Wifi nowadays. While sitting outside the local Westpac bank I had a call from Paul enquiring where I was. Returned back to the apartment and Paul and I made a trip to the supermarket to pick up ingredients for breakfast. Ate a huge brekkie. Yogurt, fruit and muesli for me, full English for the others. After our breakfast walked down to the trainstation to begin our adventures for the day. Paul and I heading in the direction of Bondi, while Laura was bound for the city. During the walk I realised just how ‘Aussie’ Paul had become when he began complaining about walking the -perhaps-3km walk to the station. I on the otherhand displayed how much of an alien I was to Sydney when I was totally blownaway by the double decker trains with movable seats. Paul was extremely amused by my enthusiasm for something which to him was very standard and mundane. Double decker trains though!? Brilliant or what!? I’d not even had chance to get over my excitement by the time we needed to depart the train and swap to another, Laura meanwhile remained on the train. First stop for Paul and I was the retail area of Bondi to purchase some snorkels. Typically I opted for the cheapest while Paul invested in a rather expensive option. Shopping done we strolled on down to Bondi. Found the beach completely crowded with tons of people. Not really my thing but was still rather impressed to be at such an iconic location. Turning our back on Bondi, we took the coastal path down to Coogee. Really pretty geology and a lovely walk which meanders through the most stunning grave yard I’ve ever seen. I know where I wanna be put to rest after I pop my clogs. Reached our swimming spot in the early afternoon where we waited briefly for Paul’s housemate Ryan to join us for a dip. Whiled away a couple of hours swimming around,people watching and shark-copter spotting. Also came across some enormous fish, lots of tiddlers and numerous sea urchins while snorkelling. Once we’d dried of in the basking sunlight, we did the only thing that 3 Brits were destined to do on a warm Sunday afternoon- head down the pub for a cold one. I must say, I felt extremely underdressed in the swish bar that the guys took me too but soon forgot about that due to the relaxed vibe of the place. Guys treated me to a glass of wine before Ryan retired for the night.Paul and I meanwhile moved on to another pub back in Bondi, where I got to meet the lovely couple who are neighbours with Paul and Ryan; Ben and Annie. Over the course of the evening I was plied with more wine. So much so that I began supplying it to the pubs botanical surroundings. (Sorry Paul but I’m such a lightweight) The pub turned out to be a great spot for people watching, attracting so many odd balls. I was entertained for a substantial period of time by an elderly chap dancing somewhat exuberantly. It did however become clear as the evening progressed that a good portion of the clientele were smoking like chimneys and/or high on cocaine or other substances. It crossed my mind that Sydney is like Britain in the 80’s – Full of yuppies with far too much money. Eventually my ravenous hunger became something which I could no longer ignore so I finally persuaded Paul to leave so that I may line my stomach with something other than alcohol. Ordered a couple of Pizzas to be delivered to Ben and Annie’s, where we sat and enjoyed dinner in their beautiful terrace garden. Pizza’s were so good that I ended up eating way too much which awoke the anxiety beast. I also began to worry about Laura whom we hadn’t heard from since the morning, so headed back to Paul’s apartment. Relieved to find Laura home. Stomach full, friends all accounted for, time for bed.

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Day 53. Slept at Paul and Ryan’s apartment in Rosebury, Sydney. Probably no need to tell you this, but I got up early. Pinched Ryan’s keys and went off in search of wifi again. Stood outside the bank again to hijack the free internet and upload my piccies to Google Drive. Having successfully uploaded my shots and cleared my phone to enable me to collect more memories, I pointed my feet back towards the flat. As it was still early, I assumed that I’d make it back before any of the others had got up, but I found that Ryan had already arisen and departed. Felt terrible about taking his keys. Whoops, I’m sure he’ll forgive me. Read a bit and had some brekkie while waiting for Laura to surface. Once Laura was awake I asked her very politely if she could trim my hair as my spit ends were becoming unbearable- that’s the major downside of the sun out her, it completely ravishes your locks. Hair sorted, I quickly made myself presentable to venture into the city to meet a friend from back home- Rafe. Opted to wear my lovely new boutique dress for the first time and have got to say, that after the months of scruffy, dirty, campfire smelling clothes and make-up free face, I felt as close as I will ever feel to being somewhere on the pretty scale. Had a lovely lunchtime catch up with Rafe and he treated me to my coffee and muffin, which was very generous of him, and much deprecated by me. Shame he has a girlfriend now otherwise I may have worked up the courage to ask him out for a drink when we were both back in the UK. Caught the train back to Rosebury where Laura and I packed up the car and set off to collect our new travel buddies- Charlene and Adrienne. Both seem like lovely girls although Adrienne seems a little quiet. Charlene on the other hand is extremely talkative and very enthusiastic, very much full of energy. First stop as a travelling quad was to Katoomba in the Blue Mountains. Traffic getting out of Sydney proved to be pretty terrible so we arrived at the Three Sisters just as the sun was setting. It turned out to be the perfect time to catch the landscape in the dusky sunlight and possibly at its most beautiful.  Nipped into town to pick up some groceries then headed to find a campsite in Blackheath. Opted not to go back to the one I’d stayed at previous night as it was just too far to travel, so late in the day. Set up camp and lit our fire. Cooked dinner and chatted with the girls, who were rather impressed with mine and Laura’s camping skills. Now more acquainted with our new companions it was time for bed.

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Day 54. Camped at Blackheath Glen free campground. I don’t normally sleep much but last night took the biscuit, thanks -or rather not thanks-to some extremely rude German blokes who decided to, very loudly, set up camp right beside us at 4am in the morning. Seriously, who sets up camp at that time, and if you do, surely you wouldn’t do it within 6ft of other campers…and inflate your mattress using a motorised pump. I’m not normally one for conflict but after putting up with their racket for about 45 minutes, I lost my rag, unzipped my tent and shouted “for f*cks sake guys, can you keep it down, people are trying to sleep”. Re-zip tent and try to return to sleep. By that point I was wide awake so gave up on sleep, turned on my kindle and read a little of my book. Once it began to get lighter, I ventured out of my tent, packed my things into the car and parked my bottom on the picnic bench while waiting for the others to surface. Tried to hold out on eating till the others were ready to join me but after being awake since 4am, I could no longer silence my hunger pangs and gave in to breakfast. Keen to do something with the day, I eventually lost patience and decided to be the bad guy and disturb the others from their sleep.Once they had finally caught up to me, we hit the road to the Jenolan Caves. En-route we encountered numerous roadworks which brought back terrible memories to me from the day I got my speeding fine so was careful not to exceed the limit. That said, we travelled through a zone which was as low as 5km. My speedo only began to register at 5km so my anxiety at not maintaining the required 5km/ph was through the roof. Eventually we crawled our way to the end of the road, parked up and went to the booking office to get our tickets for the caves. We liked the look of the main tour but didn’t so much like the look if the $50 price tag and subsequently went for the less wallet hammering $30 tour. Also a little frustrated that no student discount was available but that seems pretty common for Aus. Unfortunately we’d arrived too late for the early sessions and too early for the afternoon ones, so had a couple of hours to kill. Went for a walk around the surrounding area which was extremely tough due to the heat. (Apparently it was the hottest day in Sydney up to that point for a decade. However, since Christmas it has gotten as high as 49C. Crazy temperatures)  Emma’s essential daily doggy walk checked off we took a seat in the shade at the entrance to the caves and took out our packed lunch. We were once again plagued with flies and can’t say we enjoyed our lunch break much. 1:30pm struck and it was time to venture into the caves. Unbelievably spectacular. Really enjoyed it and would recommend to anyone visiting this area. Immediately after the tour, we began our journey to Sydney as I was getting rather worried about time. I’d arranged with Paul to drop by that evening to have my tail light repaired and it was weighing on my mind that I also needed to arrive at a camp spot with enough light left in the day to set up. As we were leaving Jenolan we were stopped briefly in our tracks by some wallabies at the roadside.I think Laura would have liked to have stayed longer but I really had to encourage her to leave due to the lateness of the hour. As always, the Sydney traffic was horrendous and extremely frustrating. Once we’d finally reached Rosebury, I dropped the girls at the local mall to shop while I nipped to Paul’s to get Noreen sorted. Thanks to the wonderful human beings that are Paul and Ben, I was quickly and inexpensively driving a roadworthy vehicle again back to the mall to pick up the girls. Headed to the closest campsite to Sydney, which was in the Royal National Park but I’d forgotten just how large the Royal National park was and began to think that we’d never reach the camp ground. After an extremely long drive, we finally reached Bonnie Vale, which rewarded our efforts with the beautiful sight of twinkling lights across bay and reflecting off the calm water.

Day 55. Camped at Bonnie Vale campsite in the Royal National Park. Got woken up by the astoundingly noisy cockatoos. Official wake up call kicked in shortly after at 6am. Got up quick sharp to pack away before the Rangers came round and found a number of others seemingly doing the same. On the way out of the site we encountered a park employee opening up the toilet blocks to the day area which spooked Laura quite a lot. She and I ended up having crossed words when I refused to hide in the campsite shower block. While the other girls prepared breakfast I attempted to smooth things over with Laura but realised that our relationship had encountered irreparable damage. Shame but I I know that I tried my best to restore good relations. After showers and breakfast we drove round to Bondina, parked the car and ventured off to do a coastal walk. Some way along the road we still hadn’t come across the start of the walk and was stopped by an elderly lady who advised us that we were still some way away and offered to give us a ride to where we needed to go. (This is one of the things I love most about Oz.Most people are so warm, welcoming and willing to help you out) Enjoyed a fabulous walk along the clifftops to Wedding Cake Rock but once again it was made reasonably challenging due to both the heat and the god damn flies. (Uncle David, if you’re reading this, I have well and truly perfected the Aussie wave) Although the flies were extremely irritating, we still had a great time soaking up the wonderful views, sharing some great chats and taking piccies. Returned back to pick up Nooreen and moved around to Watamoola Beach. After spotting several cars with parking permits and a few police persons dotted around the car parks we became slightly worried about not having paid for parking. As I’ve done previously, we scribbled down a little note which we placed onto the dashboard and hoped for the best. Meandered our way down to the beach which was truly amazing.One of the best yet.Possibly only rivaled by Boomerang Beach. This one offered something different from the others as the beach intersected a creak and the ocean providing two spots for swimming. There was also a rather large cliff face at one side of the creak which people were leaping from. Looked rather fun but chickened out from doing it myself. Spent a couple of hours by the beach but I wasn’t altogether comfortable as I had the distinct sense that there was still a great degree of tension between Laura and I. I’m almost certain that she and Charlene were talking about our disagreement in French, although that may be me being paranoid. We left the national park and struggled to come up with a plan for the rest of the day. Flicking through the Lonely Planet, we opted to make a stop at Kiana as we were passing through to take a look at the blow hole. This sounded thoroughly amazing from the description but turned out to be a complete non event – Seemingly Aussie towns do a great job of marketing their crummiest towns as something spectacular, so fellow travellers take heed. Began the drive to Jarvis Bay where we’d planned to camp yet Laura began to stress about camping at a paid site. Agreed to camp at a free campsite but as we were searching for one the heavens opened and darkness descended. With the weather and lateness of the evening working against us, we were totally unable to find a decent place to camp. As the driver I felt completely responsible for getting us somewhere safely for the night and began to get extremely agitated and distressed. (I wont lie, there were a lot of swear words uttered and a little bit of steering wheel head banging going on.) Being completely unable to locate a proper campsite by around 10pm, we finally stopped at a highway truck stop and camped at the side of the road in the pouring rain. Ate a picky dinner as we had no cooking facilities, played a few games of cards and made our way into our darkened tents. Turned out to be a very cold, wet and miserable night.

Day 56. Camped at Jerrawangla rest stop, next to the highway. Woke up at 6:45am extremely wet. My fingers were actually all crinkley like I’d been in a bath for a couple of hours. Quickly packed up my roll mat and duvet and retreated into the car in an attempt to warm up. While waiting for the girls to wake up I repaired the strap on a bikini top which I’d picked up from an Op shop in Mooloolaba. Charlene was the first to surface so had a little chat with her and we agreed upon persuading the girls upon the idea of finding a hostel for that day/night. Completely fed up of the rain, it’s not fun at all! That morning, having woken up cold, wet and pretty miserable, I thought the day couldn’t have gotten worse. It did. Once all the other girls had woken up and we’d packed up our camping gear we all clambered into the car looking like drowned little rats but enthusiastic about getting clean, warm and dry at a cozy little hostel somewhere. The enthusiasm soon abandoned us when there was no flicker of a response from Noreen upon turning the key in the ignition. The previous night Laura had passed comment about me leaving the headlights of the car on while we were setting up camp to allow us to see what we were doing, and I have to say that I was a tad concerned that she may have been right about me draining the battery. I knew however that would be easily fixed if we could get someone to give us a jump start. As this saga was playing out, a truck stopped approx 100m ahead.

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Tad wet 

I spoke to the driver about our predicament hoping he could be the knight in shining armour that we needed. Unfortunately trucks can’t jump start little Noreen’s so que mission to flag down a passing motorist. Not long after resuming our positions on the side of the highway, a lovely guy called Ben came to our aid. He didn’t have leads himself but offered to drive me to the nearest Servo to pick some up. At the Servo Ben selected the leads needed and refused to accept any money for them. (Aussies can be so generous. I can’t see that happening in Britain) Once back at the car operation ‘bring Noreen back to life’ began. Said operation turned out to be a much more traumatic experience than I’d envisioned at this point. I won’t go into detail as its a long tale but I will just say that it involved more knights, mechanics, calls to roadside assist and an Aussie version of an AA man. (whom unfortunately copped for the delirium which had taken hold of all 4 of us and prompted much innuendo) One disconnected immobiliser later and we were all celebrating the amazing sound of a turning car engine. After chomping down a car picnic for breakfast we were back on the road. First stop was through Ulladulla to Ben’s tattoo shop to return the jump leads and say thank you. Having no idea if he was a drinker we debated what to buy him as a thank you. We knew that he smoked having puffed away around 4 while in our company, but we weren’t keen aiding someone achieve lung cancer and decided against that. The other thing we knew is that he seemed a huge consumer of Red Bull given the numerous empty can decorating the floor of his ute. We have a winner- Red Bull. Gift and jump leads in hand we located the store and said our thanks. Had Ben not have been tattooing a client at the time, I fear we would have all walked out with a permanent momento of our automotive adventure, courtesy of  Ben’s trade.

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We’ve all dried our bottoms on a handdryer

 

Embarked upon the 3 hour drive south bound, passing back through Batemans Bay but not stopping on this occasion as I remember it being crap. Drove through a hippy town and onwards to Narooma. Made a pitstop at Narooma to eat some lunch. Arrived in Bega and located our hostel. First impressions were not great and the place looked rather sketchy from the exterior. We opted to chance it and knocked on the door, no answer. We did however find the door unlocked and made our way inside.The place was totally deserted but really quaint and homely. We began to unpack our things and shortly after Ron (the hostel owner) made an appearance. He was an adorable elderly gentleman who took us under his wing, providing us with free laundry facilities, new batteries for the TV remote and our choice of rooms in the hostel. After a brief chat, for some unknown reason he reduced the accommodation from $30 to $25 and then finally to $20. At this offer I quickly snapped his hand off an practically threw him the $60 cash before the girls could mention anything about card payments. They can always pay me back later. Ron disappeared, leaving us to do our laundry and get settled only to return a little later with a box of lindt chocolates for us all as a pre christmas gift. So amazing! I enjoyed a little sofa snooze before the girls and I went off to explore the town. We located a teeny local craft market and each bought a bracklet for $1. As we were wandering back towards the car, a local newsagent was offering free wine and cheese, seemingly for no reason at all. Can’t say no to free cheese and wine. Beginning to think that Bega is one of my favourite towns in Oz. Returned back to the hostel and cooked our pasta carbonara dinner. Found sharing the kitchen with Laura rather challenging as she seemed really angry with the way that I cook. Ate and discussed plans for the following day. Sensed that the others were getting a tad frustrated with me for wanting to make plans rather than just wing it. Really don’t want to waste time though and sit around doing nothing, which is often what happens if no plans are made. After dinner we kicked back on the sofa’s with our duvets, choccies and glasses of milk and watched/slept during the movie Australia.