A Travellerspoint blog



overcast 22 °C

FYI for those of you reading this is a double entry update - I had intended to post my Fraser blog a few days ago but haven't had the chance so instead of one big huge post I've broken it up into two. Scroll down below this post if you want to read up on Fraser Island.

The bus journey from Hervey Bay to Brisbane was about 5 hours - I'm getting used to travelling by bus now and I have to say it's a lot more enjoyable than a plane journey. It's cool just plugging in the iPod, chilling out and taking in the scenary on the journey. Every bus so far has played films too which also helps the time pass quickly. I arrived into Brisbane at about 2pm to torrential rain! After 3 really good days of weather it was a bit of a shame but I didn't mind too much as it's humid. It was strange coming back into a city after two weeks of small beach towns and islands. I was jut getting used to the quieter life.

One of my good friends Tracy lives here - I worked with her at Hunter Marshal and then at Adecco for about two years. She invited me to stay at her apartment so I cancelled my hostel and met up with her that evening. It's great seeing old friends again. That evening we got a Dominos pizza and had a good catch up before an early night as we were both knackered.

On Thursday I was up early for a City tour I had booked the night before. It was good one too at about three hours where you were brought around all the key highlights and given all the history. The city itself is the third largest in Australia at about 2 million people and you can tell they take a lot of pride in it. It has a very English feel to it due to many of the older buildings and architecture. Australia was originally a prison/convict country and many were brought to Brisbane by the British. That afternoon I took a wander around South Bank - an amazing area with an outdoor pool/beach lagoon, a large ferris wheel, plenty of cultural activites, Chinese gardens, a small make shift rainforest and shops/restaurants.



I visited two art galleries and the city mueseum for a bit of culture. The modern art gallery was hilarious, some of the stuff is just plain weird i.e. a room with 16 seperate screens all lined up filled with Michael Jackson obsessives singing every single song from his 1982 Thriller albulm. It was all very much out of tune. The guys on it were camper than Christmas wearing the white glove and the girls had the strange eye thing going on. I couldn't get a photo as it was too dark, shame.



That evening me and Tracy headed out on the lash - after a spot of dinner we visited a great Irish bar for cheap drinks (4 single vodkas and a mixer for 8 dollars!) and a few hours at a brilliant karaoke bar where you are backed by a live band. I sang Wonderwall, Bittersweet Symphony and then Livin on a Prayer as a duet with Tracy. There was a prize at the end of it and I won. Love it! 50 Dollar voucher thank you very much. It ended with some clubbing and a late return home.





Hangover.com this morning! I had intended to visit Steve Irwin's zoo but got up too late so today I am just having a wander around the streets and updating the blog and pics etc. As I said in an earlier post I've had my fill of zoos so it wasn't the end of the world. Tracy is on her Christmas night out so I will meet up with her later. Tomorrow I go to Surfers Paradise for four nights - I hear the city is like a cheap Santa Ponza and lots of schoolies but it has four massive Theme Parks so I can't wait! Really excited. It's Wet Season along the coast (the first in 29 years I'm told how typical) so I hope it won't rain too much.

Oh and finally, it couldn't feel less Christmassy here even though the Australians are making an effort. Here's a picture of a a random busker playing Jingle Bells in his flip flops, shorts, t-shirt and sunglasses - I'll never get used to it!


Posted by mattld 20:59 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Hervey Bay and Fraser Island

sunny 30 °C

On Sunday I arrived into Hervey Bay where I was getting prepared for my 3 days to Fraser Island. The town itself is like a quieter version of Airlie Beach with a nice beach front with shops and restaurants. I chilled out at the beach that day and at 6pm I met up with the 31 other people for a full briefing on what to expect ahead of the trip. We were all split into four groups of 8 - it was myself, five other lads (2 from England, 2 from Sweden and 1 from Wales) and two girls from Germany. It was a strange split as every other group only had 1-2 guys max and the rest were girls. The Germans were not happy about it!

After the meeting we had to get our shopping budget ready so we kept it simple and went with everything advised on the list and it cost about 21 dollars each - not bad for 3 full days worth of food! Unfortunately, I got into a row straight away with the German girls who wanted a more 'efficient' list. They wanted to cut out practically everything - from the meat to the bread and butter etc. With six lads in the group and the Swedes admitting they are savages (which turned out to be very true) I was having none of it. In the end we agreed to pay more than the girls and off we went to get our food sorted followed by a box of Goon each. That evening we hung out on the beach and went to a local club at the end of the night.

Monday morning and we were up bright and early at 5.30am. We had another briefing, this time with our tour leader who advised us people have been killed on the trip, bitten by snakes and dingos etc. Lovely! He then announced that one person had to change from our group to another due to seats on our jeep - it would however just be for the jeep trips. Immediately the Germans came into my head as they were no fun and it had to be a non driver - neither of them were old enough. More fighting resumed but eventually they gave in and off they went. In came an English girl who we met the night before who wasn't happy with her group and we were ready to go!


I had 3 of the best days I've had on this whole entire trip on the Island. It was just brilliant fun. During the day we visited 3 amazing fresh water lakes, hung out at the beaches, trekked through rainforests and enjoyed taking turns driving the jeep over normal terrain and on the beach as well. Our group was very much a lads one and there was a lot of banter - from singing Oasis songs on one of the guys iPhones to being naughty and overtaking the slower cars it was great craic.




We spent two nights at an Aboriginal camp site and we were very lucky as it is one of the few without a curfew and we were allowed to have a fire - the only conditions from the Aboriginals were not to spit in the fire or whistle after sunset as it 'attracted evil spirits'. Bless them. Each evening we'd cook dinner and then get stuck into the Goon over a number of drinking games. The best one involved putting cards down which had an action everyone had to do straight away - the slowest person would then have to drink half a cup. My favourite action was shouting 'Everyone get to the chopper!' in an overly dramatic Arnie voice while simulating a helicopter motion above your head. Very funny seeing 20+ people doing it at the same time. Later on in the evenings we would head to the beach where I was brought back to my youth - drinking outdoors under the most amazing stars playing the likes of Truth or Dare and 'Spin the Torch' was more fun than I remembered.

There are a couple of downsides to staying in a camp fire - you have to be covered in anti mosquito spray the whole time or they will eat you alive. I put it on and still got bitten. A few even managed to fly up my t-shirt and bite both sides of my stomach. Feckin mosquitos! I haven't stayed in a tent in years and now I remember why. I had two of the worst nights sleep ever with a rock hard base and a towel for a pillow. Thank god I was drunk enough on Goon otherwise I'd have gotten no sleep. And finally, the dirt and sand. It got everywhere and you were filthy the whole time - the showers were ice cold with a dribble of water so I didn't bother with it. You just had to embrace it. All of the above was well worth it though for the craic we had.




The German girls annoyed the hell out of me and everyone else on the trip - despite wanting very little food they ate just as much as the rest of us and constantly spoke in German to one another and you could just tell they were slagging us off. To them we were immature boys and to us they were stereotypical Germans with little personality and no fun factor at all. We did amuse ourselves though several times pretending there were spiders in their bags and hiding their lunch which didn't go down too well. For the record there are a huge amount of Germans over here, more than any other nationality and a lot of them are really nice. It's just a few that give them a bad name. Aside from Germans, the most common nationalities are English, Scandinavians and Irish! For a country of just 4 million, it's hilarious that you run into other Irish travellers on every trip, hostel and Greyhound bus along the way. Who the hell is left in our country?


We got back from Fraser on Tuesday and that night some of us got together for a final shindig on the beach with more Goon and a small after party. Most of the people I met on the Whitsunday and Fraser Island trips were amazing fun - it's sad when they end as everyone is going in different directions and it's a pity you have to say goodbye. You form friendship bonds very quickly when you're travelling alone - Facebook is great for staying in touch though and luckily a few will be in Surfers Paradise the same time as me. Wednesday morning was another early start - up at 7am, out of my hostel and off to Brisbane!

Posted by mattld 20:39 Archived in Australia Comments (4)

Airlie Beach, Whitsunday Islands (and Vegemite)

sunny 27 °C

On Tuesday I arrived into Airlie Beach for an overnight at Magnums. The difference between here and Magnetic Island couldn’t have been greater. Everything is much cheaper and competition is sky high to attract backpackers so everyone from the local smoothie shop to Dominos are doing special deals aimed at tourists. It made a nice change to Magnetic where there was very little choice and everything was over priced. It’s definitely got a more tourist feel to it, which is a good and a bad thing. The ‘schoolies’ who are on their break are everywhere to be seen – teenagers running wild. It all made me feel very old at 27! Anyway I got a nice Thai meal for dinner, got my clothes wash done and took it easy for the night. The hostel itself is not as nice as their other chain on Magnetic - there are no swimming pools, I was just getting used to that! I booked a double room and it was like a shoebox but it did the job. The whole hostel itself reminds me a lot like Camp Crystal Lake from the original Friday the 13th – a bit too much actually.

The next day I was down at the dock by 11.30am, complete with my box of ‘goon’. It’s a very cheap wine substitute in a box that everyone drinks on these trips over here. Apparently it’s made from fish and eggs, two ingredients I am not generally keen on but hey when in Rome. A 4 litre box cost me just 17 dollars – bear in mind that 1 glass in a bar is at least 7 dollars and you’ve got a very good deal! There are plenty of options available for the Whitsunday Islands tours. I had originally been booked to go with Avatar but unfortunately it was double booked last minute so I opted for Powerplay – a slightly more expensive trip but I did not want to be stuck with a load of 18 year olds screaming ‘Spring break!’ for 2 full days. One of the tours here is actually called ‘Spank Me’.

Anyway, I couldn’t have made a better decision. The boat itself was almost brand new, plenty of room for the 18 passengers + 4 crew and it had a Jacuzzi! Sold. The group I travelled with were probably the best bunch of people I have ever gone on a tour with. There wasn’t one person I didn’t get on with. Most of them ranged in their mid twenties to early thirties and there was one couple in their early 50s who we christened the mammy and daddy of the boat. Nationalities were dominantly Americans, English and Irish but there were some Welsh, Canadian, Italian, Swiss and French as well. I have to add the Americans were great banter – we were all constantly taking the piss out of their accents and general Republican type things but they took it very well to be fair.



The tour consisted of a number of stops for sightseeing, snorkling, scuba diving and a trip to Whitehaven beach – a beach that is closer to paradise than any other place I have seen before. The photographs do no justice to how stunning it really is. The sand there is officially the finest and most impressive in the world. There are strict laws against anyone who takes any with them and the only company that are allowed are NASA who used it to build the Hubble Telescope! We spent a couple of hours there playing about, swimming, taking in the sights and messing about.





After getting my Padi cert it would have been a shame not to do a dive so I did two – one at Luncheon Bay and another at Manta Ray Bay. They were much better than Alma Bay on Magnetic but the visibility still wasn’t that great. Still, I got see a huge turtle up close (Dude!) and a giant fish that I cannot remember the name of, but they go through a natural sex change from female to male in order to mate with the dominant female once the dominant male dies. Bizarre but interesting.

One downside about tours in Australia is that they like to punish you if you are late back onto a bus/boat or don’t follow the general rules they set. The punishment on both tours I’ve been on so far involves being forced to eat a spoon of vegemite (also known as Bovril). In the case of this tour, if you didn’t sign back onto the boat when getting back on board from a scuba or snorkel you would be punished and made to eat it. I had been dreading this and on the second day I did forget to sign in – nooo! There was not getting out of it. It was disgusting. Mingin! Rotten. Not happy! I can’t believe people actually eat this. I hope I don’t get it again…


Vegemite aside, we were very well fed throughout the trip, the crew were highly entertaining and both nights involved plenty of goon, laughs and some drinking games for good measure. I have to say I was very sad to leave. That night, 8 of us met up at Beaches for an after party along with groups from the other boats - we got jugs of free beer/cider and wine! It would be rude to say no so a good night of drinking was had before we ended up at Paddy Shenannigans (lol) for dancing and singing.



Today I checked out of my hostel at 10am but have to hang around until 7pm with nowhere to go as my bus isn’t until then. Thankfully there's a cheap 24 hour wireless internet connection for 10 dollars next door to my hostel - time to catch up on lots of Apprentice episodes, write this and upload pics! The bus later is overnight at about 14 hours – I'm not looking forward to it. However it’ll get me to Hervey Bay, my next destination where I have a 3 day jeep safari on Fraser Island.

Update on my travel plans for 2011
FYI I've changed my plans around a little for next year - nothing is 100% concrete yet but this is what it is starting to look like. I'm off to Asia in Jan/Feb to visit Thailand/Cambodia/Laos/Vietnam/China and I have a travel buddy! Carly, one of the girls I met through Liz, who I met through Aidan is coming with me so I'm thrilled. Didn't fancy doing Asia alone. We've a lot to see over 8 weeks but will make it work, I can't wait. After that I'm passing Australia so a token Sydney visit for a week is a given, especially as it's Mardi Gras and I've heard a lot of great things. I then spend 3 weeks in New Zealand, 2 weeks in Fiji and finally a week in LA (3 days LA, 3 days San Diego I'm thinking). I will be home end of April and most likely back to work in May. I got a good price on a round the world ticket for all those stops - just under 2,000 Euro (in comparison my return ticket just to Sydney was 1,400!).

Posted by mattld 00:28 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Hello East Coast! (Cairns & Magnetic Island)

overcast 30 °C

I really enjoyed my last few days in Sydney. Had a big night out on Saturday with Andrew, Michael, Ben, Angelica, Liz, Carly, Michelle, Neil, Louisa and Ohmeed.



Four of us diehards lasted until the end as we headed to a Korean karaoke bar. My voice was hoarse by the end of it! I have vague recollections of singing medleys outside the Museum train station by Hyde Park at 5am with plenty of passers-by taking an interest.


On Sunday I was too ill to do much so I just went to see Skyline in the cinema – worst film ever! I was expecting Independence Day Part 2. It was rubbish – avoid at all costs if you’ve not yet wasted your money. Very annoying characters (especially the guy from scrubs), pointless subplots, bad acting and a very bizarre ending – don’t do it! Last night I met with Liz and Carly for dinner at Darling Harbour and had a really nice evening – treated myself to my first posh meal.. a Scotch fillet steak! Yum. And a cocktail for good measure.

I had a nightmare this morning with the travel company as I made a few last minute changes and then their printer broke so it was getting frantic towards the end as time was running out. We got everything sorted though. My travel rep Hannah was really good I have to say (at Wicked Travel on Pitt Street).

I removed the canoe/hitch hiking trip as although it was free, every review I came across was negative. From being infested with mosquitoes to toilets in the ground, dirty tents, lack of security to 18 year old ravers etc. no thanks you’re grand! It would have made for enjoyable reading but I’ll get my fair share of camping/bush antics on my Frasier Island Jeep tour. I decided to spend the free days by adding on to Brisbane and Surfers Instead. I won’t bore you all with a brand new itinerary as it’s quite long but will fill you in as I go along.

I arrived in Cairns on Tuesday evening and was pleasantly surprised to hear that my hostel would pick me up for free – nice one! It had been raining earlier that day so it wasn’t too humid when I arrived. You can definitely feel it’s at least 5 degrees hotter than Southern Australia though. I was really happy with my hostel – very clean facilities, a bar (with nightly entertainment) and an outdoor swimming pool! Never seen this before in a hostel - I was thrilled. After checking in I went for a swim and met a lovely couple from the Netherlands – Sonders and Marlise. They invited me to join them that night and we had a few drinks and took part in a Wii bowling tournament with 26 people. In my element! I won my group but crashed and burned in the semi-final. There was far too many people hitting constant strikes – a pity as the winner’s prize was a free scuba diving day to the Great Barrier Reef. It was good fun though.

The next day I had an early start and headed off to Cape Tribulation – the tour included a trip to a wildlife sanctuary (I’ve had my fill of animals and these kind of parks now! You won’t be hearing about anymore unless they’re included on a trip I wanted to do). I got a chance to have some tasty fresh croc for lunch.


After that we headed to the Mossman Gorge. I did this before two years ago – it’s a giant rainforest with a freshwater gorge. After some exploring we all got in for a swim – can’t describe how nice this is. Temperature is cold enough to be very refreshing but not enough that you’re shivering. Had great fun trying to swim against the mini rapids and jumping off some of the rocks.


Following that we went for lunch and then a cruise down the Daintree River for some crocodile spotting – we came across about 4 lurking about. Unfortunately towards the end I kept falling asleep as I only got about 5 hours sleep the night before.

Towards the end of the day, we had a stop at a really good look out point for some snaps. It was here I had my first taste of green ant – that’s right I sucked a green ant’s arse! I was forced into it by our instructor. Very weird and I wasn’t thrilled but due to peer pressure I did it. It actually tasted like Lemon & Lime! I’m a Celebrity bushtucker trial eat your heart out.. Final stop was half an hour at Cape Tribulation beach. I really wanted to get in as the water was so warm but there were no nets to protect against stingers. Still, I had some fun with another Irish girl I met on the tour Suzanne trying to get a shot of each other in the air! We also came across an unusual road sign...



That night I met up with the Dutch couple again who cooked me dinner. How nice is that? I cleaned up and bought them a pint to say thanks. We played some volleyball in the pool and spent the evening playing a Dutch version of Switch (known as Bully). Same idea but the trick cards were different e.g. an Ace reversed and a Joker meant you had to pick up 5 cards – all wrong! I installed some Irish rules and we had our international version. Poor Marlise had a 19 card pick up at one point, muhaha.


I wish I had more time in Cairns – unfortunately I’ve a busy schedule ahead so it was onto Magnetic Island for my 3 day Padi course. It was a 5 hour bus journey on the Greyhound and not too bad – interestingly most people on the bus were travelling on their own like myself. Arrived into Townsville in the late afternoon and took a ferry out to Magnetic Island. It’s a beautiful island I must admit and it’s pretty cool staying off the mainland for a few days.


Only problem is everywhere closes at 7pm and there is no night life at all! Once again the hostel (Magnums) was great. This time with two pools and a jacuzzi. I stayed two nights in a private room and two in a dorm. Private rooms have a tv, ensuites and lots of space. Only downside is there are about 50 small ants crawling around the toilet! I didn’t bother complaining as both bathrooms I’ve been had this problem so I think it’s to be expected here. I tried killing them all initially but they came back so then I just changed tactic and ran in and out of the loo as quick as I could when I needed to use it.

The Padi course was quite challenging and intense – it’s normally done over 5 days but we did it in 3. It consisted of 9 dives – 5 in a pool and 4 in the Ocean where we dived at Alma Bay. We had two half days of theory and then on the final day a 50 question exam. Friday and Saturday night were spent doing homework given on the day and studying ahead. It’s not what I was expecting when I booked this trip I’ll admit but the nerd in me kind of enjoyed studying for an exam!

There were only thee of us doing the course – myself, a Norwegian girl Katrina and a Germany guy called Henning. Our instructor Scott was competent and efficient but lacked a personality – I wasn’t expecting a stand up comedian but to say he was dry was an understatement! Oh well feck it. Anyway after getting 88% on the test in addition to 10 blisters, a back ache and man flu I am now a qualified Padi Open Water diver. Love it!

Today (22nd November) I am back to Townsville and on the bus to Airlie Beach. I’ll spend a night there before a 2 day tour of the Whitsunday Islands by boat. Providing I have internet, I’ll be back by the end of the week with another update. Until then take care!

PS: Took pics from Magnetic Island without my card in it (duh!) so won't be able to upload them until I'm home.

Posted by mattld 16:06 Archived in Australia Comments (2)

Luna Park, Bondi Junction, Oceanworld and Blue Mountains

sunny 32 °C

In contrast to my last post, it has been a busy five days trying to get some last minute sightseeing in. The weather has finally picked up! I'm now moaning that it's too hot lol. Here's a snapshot of my week:

Monday - not much to report on here as I spent a good bit of the afternoon with my travel rep organising my East Coast trip. There's a lot to work out with the dates and hostels etc. so we had to map it all out. Collecting my tickets on Saturday so hopefully be sorted by then.

Tuesday - met up with Andrew (he's now my official tour guide) who took me on a trek from Circular Quay across the harbour bridge and over to Luna Park. Unfortunately it was closed but the walk through the bridge has some amazing views of the harbour area and opera house.



On the way we found the most stereotypical Irish shop you could imagine - leprechauns, tweed jackets, shamrocks and Mary Black albulms are just some of the items you can buy!


Before heading home we headed to the Sydney State Parliament and managed to sit in on two sessions - for someone not very political I was half thrilled I must admit.

Wednesday - I headed out to Bondi Junction for a spot of shopping - I heard several times from people that they had a great shopping mall and they weren't lying. It was feckin huge! I spent ages just wandering around and managed to get myself some shorts and sleeveless t-shirts (aka Wife Beaters) for the East Coast. Have to say though still not mad on the fashion over here. There's not a great choice at all and most sizes are very small - if they're not catering for the average sized man what hope does an overweight person have? It's probably because there are very few heavy people here. The Australians generally know how to live a healthy lifestyle in fairness to them. That night I saw Jackass 3D with my landlord Will - very funny but that last segment was just too gross!

Thursday - when I bought my tickets for Sydney Aquarium/Tower and Wildlife World I also got Oceanworld in Manly included for free. With the weather being lovely I headed back out to Manly beach for a second time to check it out and get my value! On the way I managed to offend a Jehovah's Witness when discussing Christmas - she said she didn't celebrate it. I asked why not? She explained. I froze up and didn't know what to say. All I could respond with was "But Christmas is great!" in an overly thrilled manner. I got a filthy look up and down before she stormed off. Oh well I don't like your religion anyway Mrs.!

Back to Oceanworld Manly - Unless you're doing the shark dive they offer it's a bit rubbish and very small. If included free, go if you're out there but otherwise I wouldn't bother. I took a stroll down the beach and found a nice little rock pool that's large enough to swim in. After dipping my toe in and out for about 15 minutes I took the plunge and it was freezing! But very refreshing given the heat. I ended the day at the beachfront in a nice restaurant eating garlic prawns with rice - yummy. Met up with John Power that evening for a drink - another Irish person I know who has moved over here permanently! Can't blame him..

Friday - went to the Blue Mountains with Liz and her sister Michelle who just arrived over on holidays. I did this tour two years ago but really enjoyed it so decided a second trip wouldn't do any harm. It's a long day though. I was up at 6am and didn't get back to my apartment until after 7pm - earliest start I've had in at least two months. One of the stops includes Featherdale wildlife park which is far more interactive than any other zoo in Sydney - you can feed the kangaroos, hold a snake or cuddle up to a koala bear. Nice!



They then bring you out to Echo Point where you can see a view of 'the three sisters'. This is a towering rock formation and its history is very strongly connected to the aboriginal culture.


The main event is a visit to the Blue Mountains where you get to take a cableway down overlooking the view where you can then take a walk through a timber boardwalk in a Jurassic style forest under a canopy of trees. The highlight for me was getting on the world's steepest incline railway with Indiana Jones music playing as it takes off!

Before leaving the driver dropped us off at a town called Leura to wander around and we found this very cute sweet/chocolate shop that had loads of stuff I have not seen in years e.g. Double Dips and Frosties! And lots of stuff I've never seen before e.g. Fanta Pineapple. I treated myself to a Kit Kat Chunky Cookies and Cream - release it in Ireland now please.


The final part of the day was a cruise back to Circular Quay - it was very pleasent but by this stage we were all wrecked and dying to get home to bed. I don't think I appreciated it as much as I should have done. Overall, would highly recommend this day trip if you are in Sydney at some point. But make sure you a good nights sleep the day before!


PS: I lost my sunglasses during the week - feck! That's two things now including my phone charger which I left behind in my hostel on the first week. Oh well, by now I should have lost at least two mobile phones, the camera, a bank card and possibly an ipod for good measure. So I'm not doing too bad :D

Posted by mattld 21:04 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

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