Category Archives: Queensland

Travel | How to get that luxury 5* experience on a budget

imageI will always be a backpacker at heart, but even I cannot deny the dream of luxury travel. While I love the simplicity and the freedom of carrying my life on my back and being able to change my plans at the drop of a hat, luxury travel does give you a wealth of opportunities to stay in some incredible places and doing amazing things you only dreamt of until now. Having worked in hospitality at a rooftop bar in a 5* hotel, you soon get to grips with what takes a regular hotel stay and turns it into a luxurious one. It’s those tiny details, and most importantly the staff who really transform your experience. This combined with my experiences as a traveller has really showed me what defines the 5* experience and how you could get this on a budget to still live within your means while travelling.

Most importantly – you don’t have to be filthy rich to live like a queen on your holidays. You just have to be smart and do your research before you go. putting in a few hours of reading and booking time before you go can make a world of difference to your trip. Especially when it comes to planning your actual travel.13892178_10153669370592617_5126173372115806732_n

Travel tips for luxury on a budget

  1. Think carefully about how you spend your money, would you rather fly business class or spend that money on a nicer hotel at the other end? A few hours in economy won’t hurt if it improves your holiday overall. Or, vice versa, if you’re going to a life of backpacking and hostel beds but face a 2-day flight, you may want to invest in your seat by chasing an upgrade.
  2. If you’ve got a long layover, why not purchase some lounge passes? These give you access to luxury food and drink, massages and spa treatments, beds to sleep in, unlimited wifi and could make-or-break your time in the airport.
  3. Parking at the airport? Look into services where drivers will drop you off at the airport and pick you up after you arrive back – these can really make a difference and mean you don’t have to wait in line for a bus.

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Accommodation tips for luxury on a budget

  1. When picking your accommodation, look at websites that offer last minute bookings for much larger properties as you may find some spectacular deals if they have had little interest. Most renters would rather hire out their place for a reduced fare than for none at all.
  2. Sometimes it can be better to sacrifice the size of your room and to go for the smallest room in a 5* hotel instead of a larger room in a 4* just because of the amazing services available that could save you money elsewhere.
  3. When booking, look at whether adding in meals and booking a bed and breakfast package might save you money overall. Sometimes if you go off peak season, you might even find half board can be offered at drastically reduced rates which could save you a lot of money buying meals and will give you the 5* dining experience.

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Activity tips for luxury on a budget

  1. When planning your trip, try and get a big group together as this can save you a lot of money overall. Whether its a backpacking trip or family holiday, a group booking ca make a world of difference to the overall price. Plus you often get extra added bonuses and rewards for booking as a group.
  2. Look on apps like Groupon and others for discount treats when you’re in the big cities – it’s amazing what you can find on there, from massages and spa treatments to entry to big attractions and shopping deals.
  3. Depending on what country you are travelling to, know the standard rates for things like hiring a private driver for the day. I did this in Bali several times and it was such a cheap and great way to see the island. We had a private driver who would take us to each attraction and would wait until we were ready to move to the next. No cramped bus, no schedule, just luxury.
  4. Plan your whole trip as one and save a huge amount. When I did the East Coast of Australia – which can be a very expensive trip – I saved $$$ and even got free meals and activities out of it by booking the whole trip as one package in Sydney before I set off. It does put you on a schedule but it also gave us luxury upgrades like our own private cabin on our Whitsunday’s cruise.

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Travel | What it’s really like to work as an au pair in Australia?

imageUnless you’re sitting on one heck of a trust fund or you’ve just won the lottery, Australia is pretty impossible to travel long-term without working. I worked lots of different types of jobs during my first year down under – hospitality jobs in a theatre and a bar, I got my hands dirty working on a farm, I even became a sales manager! Talk about variety, but one experience stood out above all the rest, for all the wrong reasons. You always hear about backpackers taking an au pair jobs while in Australia – for some it makes them brave enough to move over here having a job already lined up through an agency. For others, it’s a nice break from hostels and a chance to have your own room and live with a family for a while. It can be a great way to get childcare experience for those hoping to work in this industry, or in teaching, in the long run, but it can sometimes be totally different to what you expected.

My time as a nanny was without doubt the worst job I have ever worked in my life. I had never once underestimated the workload I would be taking on, the fact that I wasn’t that keen on children or what the job would entail, and yet I was still horrified by my own experiences. Saying some of it out loud to friends really showed me quite how much I put up with while I was there, and because of this, I wanted to write this post so that other backpackers travelling Australia will be a bit more prepared than I was. I’m not just going to focus on my terrible experiences, because that’s just not fair, I know several people who have had amazing experiences working as au pairs for really lovely families, but I also know some who have really struggled. This post is here to give you all the information so you can make a decision for yourself whether the job is for you, and to know what to do if it doesn’t work out.image

My experience

“I worked as an au pair for three months in Charleville – we’re talking 800km west of Brisbane – which was an incredible opportunity to experience real outback Aussie life. I took the job at the last minute when I struggled to find anything else and on first glance it looked like a good opportunity. It offered me $300 a week plus my own annex, food, gym membership and car/scooter access. I was looking after two boys (6 & 7) who were at school during the day, when I would have cleaning tasks to complete – I would get them ready for school and do drop-offs, then look after them after school, take them to their activities and prepare dinners. It sounded like the dream job for an au pair, but the reality was very different.

“I was never told that one of the children I would be looking after had special needs and with limited experience of looking after children I think this was vital information. This child actually turned out to be the most precious, he was loving and kind and sweet, and once we settled in he was great to look after. Saying goodbye to him was hard after several months together. The other child however, was spoilt, overindulged by his parents who were never there, he bullied his brother and was violent towards me. I don’t blame the child for one second, but the constant changeover of nannies in the home plus a lacklustre attitude to parenting hadn’t helped. Neither had the way his mother spoke to me, which he keenly imitated.

“Every day I would be kicked, punched, slapped, pinched and spoken to like I was worthless by both child and adult. I would be told I should be dead because everyone hated me, or that I was selfish and lazy. I worked 12-14 hour days dealing with every body fluid going, scrubbing, cleaning and cooking for the family and most nights I would finish late, sometimes several hours after I was supposed to finish.

“The family had no respect for their home, it was filthier than most hostels I have stayed in and they would constantly throw rubbish everywhere. Their menagerie of animals would leave trails of droppings across the floor and would piss on the carpets. One weekend, I had cleaned the house on the Friday and left it spotless, the family went on holiday that Sunday and left me to do a deep clean of the house. When I went in on the Sunday, there was rotting food laying all over the kitchen, there was rubbish everywhere, clothes scattered, shit on the floor, there was no end of filth in a house that had been pristine less than 48 hours earlier. It was this spiteful behaviour that became my daily life.

“There are some even worse things including abuse over social media that I won’t share on here, but I want you guys to understand, I worked my arse off for this family and was treated terribly. It makes me really sad that I never got to experience the amazing bond you can get with some families as an au pair, but I could have done no more to make that happen. Despite this, my outback experience was one I will never forget for the amazing people I did meet along the way, it’s just a shame my working life left so much to be desired.”image

Holly’s experience

Holly is an English girl I met while I was working as an au pair, she was a real rock through my three months there and helped keep me sane on many an occasion. She was also working as an au pair for a local family but had a completely different experience to mine. Read on to find out about her job:

“I found the job on Gumtree, I must have applied for around 50 nanny jobs in total and only two ever replied! The one I got and another one prior to that but decided this one was a better fit! I worked for a family in Charleville, in outback Queensland. I was only supposed to work there for three months but ended up staying with the family for over a year, and even moved towns with them!

“I didn’t get a very big wage which was the only thing I didn’t really like about the job, I worked from 7am till 9pm, six days a week so it was long days and very intense! I got $300 a week which doesn’t sound like much at all but I was quite lucky because my family paid for me to live in a house in town, I ate with them 6 days a week and they also provided me with a car and fuel (mainly for work purposes but I could use it in town socially) so the money I earned I got to spend on what I wanted.

“I looked after twin girls, they were five months old when I arrived and 17 months by the time I left, so I saw them change and grow up so much while I was there including crawling, first steps. I was pretty much their second mother, my involvement with that family was pretty intense. I cooked, washed, cleaned, fed, changed, bathed, shopped, played all day! Some days I had the twins just by myself which was hard work and other days the mother and I both looked after them.

“I honestly LOVED this experience. Charleville is so out of the way its not somewhere your average backpacker would’ve stumbled across but I’m so glad I did. I love the town and have made some great friends through it, and the bond I had with the family is one that I think will last a long time. Obviously not everything was perfect, things rarely are but on a whole I wouldn’t have changed this experience at all. At least I can say I’m prepared for my own children now. And I don’t think I ever would have done a lot of the things I have if I hadn’t come out here, I can’t say going to a rodeo or mustering cattle was ever high on my list of things to do but I did them out here!

“What advice do I have for other people interested in doing something like this? Say yes to everything! Life is too short to say no or be too scared, especially when you’re going to a completely new town by yourself. Just be brave and get stuck in! Enjoying yourself is the most important part!”image

Coping with your au pair job:

You might get lucky and have an amazing experience like Holly, or you might suffer like I did, but if things don’t turn out the best with your au pair job – here’s how to cope:

  • Try and have a Skype chat with the people you will be working for before you actually go there, it can help put your mind at ease and prepare you a little.
  • Make sure your job role is clearly outlined before you start – hours working, what your package (accommodation/food/transport) will include.
  • Nanny jobs can often be found on Gumtree instead of through agencies – this can be a good way of finding work. But make sure you vet them as much as possible beforehand – safety above all else and never go to an outback job without letting someone know where you’ll be.
  • Be prepared to work long hours and have a job that will take over your life, but also make sure you have boundaries and allow yourself to have nights completely off from the job.
  • Make sure you get your pay – don’t leave any outstanding when you leave as some will try to get out of paying you.
  • Make sure you get payslips and if you have to drive a vehicle for them, make sure you are insured.
  • Try and raise any problems – if you feel confident enough – with the family and see if they are open to discussion.
  • Don’t be afraid to say no – you’re an employer, not a slave.
  • If you’re somewhere outback, make the effort to get to know people in the closest town, don’t be stuck out on your own with a crappy job. My friends got me through three months of that job – I couldn’t have done it without them.
  • If you’re going very rural – check out this post I wrote on 18 things you learn from working in the Australian outback
  • If you’re in the outback or somewhere secluded and don’t feel safe, contact a friend or someone who can offer advice and get you out of there.
  • If you’re with an agency, contact them and raise concerns, see if they can transfer you to another family.
  • If you’re doing it for a second year visa and think you can battle through, see if you can stick it out, don’t risk finding an even worse employer and losing the hours you have worked.

imageIf you need any advice or have any questions about au pair work, leave a comment below or message me on Facebook or Twitter.

Have you worked as an au pair in Australia -what was your experience like? Where else in the world have you worked as a nanny?

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Australia | My ultimate budget guide for a month on the East Coast

11745765_1147415768609240_7957452483586575087_nThere’s no denying the East Coast is a huge draw for young travellers heading to Australia. With its white sandy beaches, epic party spots and the Great Barrier Reef on your doorstep, it’s become something of a rite of passage for backpackers. For first-time travellers, it’s a perfect place to start out with all the familiarities of home but a damn sight more sunshine and fun trips to do. There’s no better place to make friends in Australia and many of the people I met on the East Coast actually became some of the best friends I have found since travelling. There’s so much fun to be had along the way with Fraser Island being a huge highlight for me, but don’t forget Whitsundays cruises, skydiving, white water rafting, surfing in Byron Bay and all the rest. The list of amazing trips and things to do is endless, and it can become a bit daunting when you first start thinking about planning your East Coast adventure, it doesn’t take long for things to get very expensive! The East Coast will without a doubt be the most expensive part of your time in Australia – why? Because you’re spending weeks partying non-stop and going on incredible trips – don’t worry, it’s worth every penny! But there are lots of ways to cut costs along the way – it just takes careful planning. So how do you go about budgeting for your trip?11224855_10152949576367617_5464624702726152160_n

How long does it take?

First of all, you need to decide how long you’re going to spend on your trip – whether you’re squeezing it in just before a flight home or have endless time to stop off along the way. I took five weeks to complete the trip, starting in Sydney and including one final week in Cairns. This seemed a perfect amount of time to fit in all the trips we wanted while still getting some downtime to relax between the nights out. I’ve had friends do it in two or three weeks, but they all wished they had longer to do it. Likewise, I’ve known a lot of people who, instead of booking a whole trip in one go, have figured it out along the way and stopped off in places to work. After asking a lot of travellers I met along the way, the consensus was that four weeks was the optimum time to take travelling the East Coast. 

It’s important to work out what your budget will allow for, to work out who you’ll be travelling with and how long you want to spend at each stop. Also, think about whether you want to do it during peak season, we did it during winter and still had amazing weather, and met lots of people – but it did make the trip cheaper overall. If you’re travelling with a big group there may be less flexibility on time and costs, but you may also manage to get great group discounts if you all book together. If you’re travelling as a pair, or alone, you get total freedom over every stop and can just decide on the spur of the moment to hitch a lift with anyone you meet along the way which can work out a lot cheaper. Even booking as a pair will wind up being cheaper overall than booking individually as they’ll often throw in extra meals/trips for free or discounted rates. Speak to a travel agent when you’re looking to book and ask for their best offer, then visit three others from different companies and ask for their best offer. Ask them if they can beat the previous offer!11898942_10153005074437617_7025964837598304311_n

Where to stay?

There are lots of different accommodation options from camping and couch surfing, to hostels and hotels, but by far the best option is hostels when you’re on the East Coast. They’re the best place to meet people and get further discounts on food and trips. I saw the very worst and the very best of hostels on the East Coast – from the bed-bug infested and the filthy to the luxurious chalets and en suites. The best way to find the best of the best – ask other travellers you meet along the way for up-to-date reviews and cheap deals.

  • Cheapest hostel: Gilligans Backpackers Hotel & Resort at £14/$25 for 10 bed dorm
  • Most expensive hostel: WakeUp Hostel in Sydney at £22-26/$38-45 a night
  • Favourite hostel: Base Backpackers Airlie Beach Resort at £19/$33 for a six bed dorm
  • Least favourite hostel: BUNK Brisbane at £14/$25 a night for a 20 bed dorm
  • Average bed: £18/$31 a night

TOP TIP: Always ask at the travel desk – often backpackers run it and they’re just as keen to get you the best deal as you are to find it. They’ll often give you huge discounts and throw in extra free meals or the odd night’s free accommodation.

Total: £360/$635

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How to get there?

There are lots of options available, from flying and organised bus trips, to renting a car, hitchhiking and hop-on hop-off Greyhound. On a tight schedule and without much money to spare, I’d recommend the Oz Experience Greyhound pass which costs just £213/$375 to travel a whopping 3150 kilometres at your own pace, it’s actually cheaper now than when I used it, so even better value! It does mean one or two long journeys by bus but it does give you the luxury of sleeping through them rather than having to drive and skip nights out. Before booking I really wanted us to drive the East Coast, but now I’m glad we didn’t, it would have been significantly more expensive and we would have missed out on meeting a lot of people if we had a camper van instead of hostels. Camper van hire starts from around £40/$70 a day but you also have to factor in fuel and insurance costs – it just depends on your budget and the experience you want. Internal flights are available if you’re on a very tight schedule and need to travel quickly between Sydney, Brisbane and Cairns for trips, but I wouldn’t recommend them unless you have only two weeks for the East Coast.

TOP TIP: Always go prepared on Greyhound – take warm and cool clothes as the temperature can be unpredictable and there’s nothing worse than shivering for a whole 12 hour bus journey. Take a packed lunch/dinner, the rest stops can be pretty grim for snacks and this will save you a lot of money. Don’t rely on the wifi on the bus as it’s pretty rare that it will work well for the whole journey.

Total: £213/$375 for Greyhound

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What to do?

The whole of the East Coast is chock-full of amazing trips and things to do, and there is a huge list of once-in-a-lifetime experiences you simply cannot miss out on! During my five weeks I swam with sea turtles, kayaked with dolphins, went whale watching, diving, white water rafting, drove 4WDs around a desert island and saw the Great Barrier Reef with my own eyes. It was incredible and definitely not something you want to scrimp on. Trips you don’t want to miss:

If you can’t fit all these in or just don’t have the money – narrow it down to the main ones (Great Barrier Reef, Fraser Island, Whitsundays and Diving). There are plenty of other cheap, or even free, experiences to enjoy along the way!

TOP TIPS: Always look for trips that include free meals and shop around, often the travel agent next door will try to undercut the first one you go to. Also, enter competitions! They’re held at every hostel along the way and you can win some amazing trips – we won a Whitsundays cruise and a Kiwi Experience bus pass for New Zealand in one night!

Total: £1,470/$2,590

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What to eat/drink?

Food and drink can quickly blow your budget way out of control – it’s important not to get carried away, but also not to miss out by being too tough on yourself. You’ll meet all kind of travellers along the way – some are living off instant noodles and goon, others are surviving from one budget backpacker deal to the next. You need to work out what is realistic and try to balance your own meals – we flitted between eating out, taking advantage of backpacker hostel deals and cooking our own meals during our five weeks. Something to consider is going veggie, if you’re looking to cut costs this is a great way to do it. Meat is expensive in Australia and I’d much rather spend that money on activities or alcohol, I found it cheap and easy to eat healthy as a vegetarian in Australia. Just make sure to stay healthy – no-one wants to get ill on the East Coast!

  • Cheapest backpacker meal: instant noodles at 30p a pack!
  • Best hostels for budget backpacker meals: Wakeup Hostel in Sydney and Gilligans in Cairns from as little as £2.50/$4.50, or even free if you buy a drink!
  • Cheapest home-cooked meal: veggie pasta £2-3/$3-4
  • Best budget group meals to make: beach BBQs, fajitas, pasta
  • Average cost of goon: £7/$12 (Golden Oak 4l)
  • Cheapest bottle of wine: £2.50/$4.50 (Whispers)
  • Cheapest beer: £3/$5 (Tooeys stubble)

TOP TIP: Head to the backpacker bars and take advantage of the drinks deals, free breakfasts and food deals. Group together in hostels to rustle up a meal and find the costs cut hugely by sharing. Enter competitions and win drinks for you and your mates!

Total:  £200/$350 for food (based on spending £10 a day when not on trips with meals included) For alcohol it totally depends on how much, and what, you drink!11222133_10152951499637617_5982267502697766247_n

So how much will it cost you?

I’ve budgeted generously here and know lots of people who have done it on a lot less, but if you want to go all out and enjoy every amazing trip – you can do it in £2,000/$3,500. With a budget of £2,500/$4,400 you could easily drink every night and squeeze in even more trips along the way – likewise you could cut back even more on trips, food and drink to spend less. It sounds like a lot of money but when you see what you get for it, it quickly becomes clear this is a once in a lifetime trip, and one you want to do well! Nobody wants to regret not going diving on the Great Barrier Reef or not taking the catamaran to Whitsundays. If you’re on a tight budget, just prioritise the things you really want to do and cut out some of the less important trips/stops – you could easily cut this budget down to around £1,800/$3,100 this way. Every backpacker is different, but it’s important to find the right trip for you and to make your experience the best it can be. Talk to travel agents – their job is to make your backpacking dream a reality – and don’t forget the goldmine backpacker Facebook pages that hold a wealth of travelling experience and advice within them. Need any tips? Leave a comment with any questions and I’ll help you plan!11168431_10152928893202617_9101439380460830205_n

What was the highlight of your East Coast trip? How much did you spend along the way? What tips can you give other backpackers?

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Travel | Top tips for getting that second year visa | Australia

12552895_10153259417087617_2924245034914644478_nThree months. It doesn’t sound like a long time, but when you’re in a job you hate, trust me, it drags. As the Darwin days came to a close, I started to think seriously about getting my regional work done – it wasn’t something I had planned but after the last few months I knew I really wanted to stay in Australia the full two years. I still had so much left to see and do, I couldn’t abandon this amazing country just yet. So I began looking online for jobs that would count towards my 88 days – originally I was supposed to be joining two friends from home on a mango farm near Darwin but poor crop meant that fell through. After that I started looking at everything from working in outback pubs, livestock farming, fruit picking, au pair work on farms, even working on ranches and cattle stations. There were so many jobs it was hard to know which ones to apply for so I started off by narrowing it down to areas I really wanted to visit – places like Tasmania and Western Australia that I hadn’t yet explored. Then, once I’d applied for all the jobs from those areas, I started to widen my search on Gumtree to areas like Queensland and the Northern Territory. This website was the most helpful when it came to finding work in places that satisfied the criteria needed to get that second year visa.

It’s a bit of a long process applying for jobs like these unless you have a contact on a farm already – that seems to be the best way to do it, by recommendation. When you’re just desperate to find something and take the first job offered, sometimes you can end up doing something you hate and working for people you can’t stand. I think one of the main problems with taking rural work is that the Australians hiring you know that you will do pretty much anything for the sign off – they know that they can push it and take advantage because you need them more than they need you. I mean, we’re interchangeable and more importantly we’re replaceable. One backpacker can be replaced by 50 eager new ones in a week, so why should they really care how they treat us? Now before someone jumps down my throat, I know not all farming employers are like this and I have several friends who have had a blast doing their farm work, who have loved it so much they spent twice as long there and later returned for more. Many who describe it as their best memory of this country.

But I’ve also heard twice as many stories of people being taken advantage of – in every sense from money and working hours, to sexually. You only have to take one scan down the backpacker Facebook pages to read some of the horrific stories of travellers turning up and being treated like slaves, expected to work insane hours for almost no wages and disgusting living conditions, and I’ve heard way too many stories of girls getting stuck out on a farm in the middle of nowhere with dodgy farmers who tried to touch them or even crawl into their beds in the middle of the night. I’ve heard all sorts since travelling – mainly because thats always the first conversation people want to have in Australia – everyone is looking for tips on how to tackle their farm work or to vent about how awful theirs was. Mine? It was an experience that I definitely wouldn’t want to repeat. I learnt a lot about how much I can put up with when I really want something – because trust me it’s not like me to keep my mouth shut in the face of such treatment. But thanks to good friends there and keeping my eyes on the prize, I made it through and now it feels like it happened a million years ago. It was worth sticking it out to get it done and dusted with three months to spare, but I’m so happy I will never have to go through that again.12348051_10153179434517617_8211459727443272948_n

If you’re looking for farm work, why not check out my top tips for getting that regional work done:

  1. Talk to as many people as possible – backpackers you meet on the road, on Facebook pages, friends-of-friends, potential employers. Get as much information as possible so you can make informed decisions and get recommendations.
  2. Don’t ever feel pressured or get yourself into a situation you don’t feel comfortable with – no second year visa is worth putting yourself in danger. You will always be able to find another job if you need it.
  3. Try and go with friends – it’s less scary than going off all by yourself and it can help make three months go a lot quicker if you’re laughing the whole time.
  4. Throw yourself into outback life – trust me it really does show you a completely different side to Australia and it’s an amazing way to experience real Aussie culture instead of just city life and East Coast fun.
  5. Make sure you have a Telstra SIM, trust me, most of these places won’t get signal with other networks and not being able to keep in contact with friends/family will drive you nuts – plus if you get in a bad situation a Telstra SIM could save your life.
  6. Always tell family and friends where you are going and what you will be doing – make sure someone in the country and someone back home has your travel details and will raise the alert if you don’t get in contact within a certain time. It may sound over cautious but if you’re travelling solo and heading off into the outback, you might be glad to have someone checking you made it safely to the other end.
  7. Try something new – don’t be afraid to try something completely new because it could be the best experience of your life. Cattle farming may not sound like it’s for you but it could be the only time in your life you’ll ever get to try!
  8. Make sure you’re getting those pay slips from the beginning – none of this “I’ll sort them out before you leave” rubbish.
  9. Don’t leave the farm if you’re still owed money – it makes it ten times harder to claim it back when you’ve already moved on to another territory. Also – if they keep saying they’ll pay you but you see no sign of cash make sure you put the pressure on or get the authorities involved.
  10. Try and get a job that comes with food and accommodation included – it makes a huge difference and means that you will save every cent because you have no outgoings.
  11. Don’t be afraid to leave – I knew a group of guys who had a van and moved between farms every four to six weeks, avoiding all the hassle that came with long-term stays and stopping them from hating the jobs.
  12. Get it done. So many people I know have left their farm work until the last three months of their visa – but often it can take nearly four months to complete if you don’t end up working every day. So many have been left stressing or short just a few days for their application – its not worth the stress! Getting it done early means you still have months left to relax and enjoy Australia.
  13. Make friends! Whether you’re on a farm in the middle of nowhere wth a bunch of backpackers, or you’re in an outback town, get out and about! Meet people and experience a different way of life. I had a blast with the friends I made in Charleville, and while the job wasn’t all that, I made it through my three months thanks to the angels who became my friends.
  14. Sign up to an agency that specialises in farm work – they might be able to organise accommodation as well.
  15. Don’t worry. I know this post makes it sound a bit like all farming experiences are awful, but I’m just trying to highlight some of the issues surrounding the second year visa. Yes there are some awful experiences out there, but there are also some amazing ones. If you’re the kind of person who can take the best from every situation then you’ll smash it whatever you end up doing. Just be away of the problems and dangers, but don’t let them cloud you with fears of what might happen. Knowledge and preparation is what keeps you safe and happy on the road.

Tell me about your farming experiences – what kind of work did you end up doing? Best or worst three months of your life? Any other top tips?

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Charleville | A random coincidence that was written in the stars | Australia

imageOne of my favourite things about being in Charleville was the incredible, enveloping darkness that I noticed from the very first moment I pulled up in town. Living in Darwin CBD, I never really experienced the darkness of the outback, I was always surrounded by streetlights and only ever really noticed the darkness when I went running alone at night. But nothing compares to standing out in the street in Charleville alone after dark, there are barely any streetlights and you can’t even see your hand in front of your face. I’ve never experienced a darkness like it. It’s unnerving at first, and then you start to adapt, you get used to walking the same paths without any lights, you start to make out familiar shapes. One of my favourite times to be outside was when I would arrive home late, either from a friend’s house or the pub, and I would hop out of the car at my place. As they pulled away I would always stop for a second to let my eyes adjust to the darkness, then I would look up at a sight that would always take my breath away. The stars here are the brightest, the clearest, and the easily the most beautiful I have ever seen. I cursed the fact that I didn’t have a good enough camera to capture their beauty on several occasions, but was certain that even the best cameras in the world would not do justice to the sight.imageI was lucky enough to have a great friend – one of many – while I was in town, someone who kept me sane on more than one occasion and made me feel so welcome from the beginning. He loved the stars and had his own telescope, so we went out a few times while I was in town and parked up in a field in the middle of nowhere to get away from the lights and take a closer look. Those nights spent lying in the back of a truck watching as one arm of the Milky Way moved across the night sky were easily my favourite time in the town. Spending nights losing count of all the shooting stars we spotted and zooming in on different constellations – those are the moments I know I’ll remember the most from my time in Charleville. Even better, it was great to be with someone who knew about the stars and could tell me about them. I remember the first time we went out and I managed to capture the amazing picture of the moon through the telescope – I couldn’t believe how beautiful it looked that night and I’m glad I appreciated it then because another time when we went out at the full moon it was so bright it outshone so many of the stars in the night sky.imageWhile I was in Charleville, what was probably one of the most random coincidences I have ever experienced happened. An English friend I met while in Thailand and travelled with through Laos suddenly showed up in town. It turned out the solar power company he worked for sent him all over the country, he had just been in New South Wales the previous week and now he had turned up in my tiny outback town! I couldn’t have been more surprised to suddenly hear from him, especially when he dropped the bombshell that he was in town with his friend and colleague, JP. It came at a perfect time – the halfway point through my three months and I was struggling to stay sane in this town. Seeing Paul and getting to catch up with a fellow backpacker was just the tonic I needed to show me why I was here doing this three months – so I could spend another year with people like him. Of course, we had to celebrate being reunited and how better than with steaks and wine?! We had a fantastic weekend together catching up, we went swimming at the river and even squeezed in a visit to the town’s Cosmos Centre and Observatory.imageThe three of us went along on our final night together ready for a night of stargazing – we weren’t disappointed. After we were shown a short movie about the observatory and how it was created, we headed straight out to a specially-built building with a retractable roof. It was very impressive and obviously had a lot invested into the creation of such a structure, especially considering it was housing several telescopes worth millions. The guides were fantastic – they talked to us throughout, answering any questions and telling us all about what we were seeing and lots of other information that helped us to understand the scale of what we were seeing. We focused on the brightest star in the night sky, Sirius HR 2491 which is also known as the Dog Star, before taking a look at The Great Orion Nebula in the sword of Orion, both beautiful and completely different to look at. We also took a look at open cluster M41, a binary star system called Almaak with orange and blue stars, before finishing with the second largest globular cluster in the night sky – Tuncana 47. Now this won’t mean much to most of you – but I can tell you it was a pretty spectacular collection of stars and a real range. They were beautiful. The only thing I was a bit disappointed by was at that point all the planets were below the horizon so we didn’t get to see any, sadly they only started to appear as I left so I missed them completely. But to be honest, the stars were just that stunning that I wasn’t really that bothered. If you happen to find yourself passing through Charleville, I would definitely recommend a visit to the Observatory – it’s truly out of this world.image

Where is the best place you’ve stargazed? Have you randomly bumped into a travelling friend in the middle of nowhere?

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Charleville | The Charleville Cup & exploring the area | Australia

imageMy first day in the town turned out to be an interesting one, the whole town had turned out for the Charleville Cup, a horse racing championship that took place on the same day as the Melbourne Cup. It gave me a real taste of life in the outback as I had the opportunity to meet pretty much the whole town and to see everyone dressed up to the nines. Coming from rural England, it was interesting to see the huge similarities and contrasts between that and rural Australia. Thinking back now, I was very lucky to arrive in time for the event because most of the people I met that day turned out to be some of the best friends I have made in the town. I’m so glad that I did meet them straight away because I think otherwise I could have had a bit of a lonely time in the town and might have struggled to meet as many people. I was amazed to meet a whole gang of English girls but it was great to hear some familiar accents among all the broad Queensland drawls, definitely comforting to know that there were some people who understood how nuts it is for an English girl to find herself living and working in the outback like this. The day was filled with horse-racing, fashion shows, betting and drinking, and was a great welcome to the town, I think better than any day I have been here, that one really summed up what my life would be like for the next three months.imageI’ll be honest and say it took a few weeks to really adapt to the slower pace of life in Charleville after the last few months in Darwin, it took me a little while to realise there would be a lot more empty time spent here. Instead of spending my nights dancing my heart out and partying, I would exchange for a life of lazy mornings spent sleeping in, afternoon workouts at the gym followed by quiet nights in front of the TV. It was a shock to the system and to start with I couldn’t cope with how bored I was, it seemed such a waste of time to relax but once I got over the shock I realised it was exactly what my body needed. I started to really enjoy having a break and pushing myself at the gym to get healthy and fit again – I’m probably now in the best shape I have been since travelling because I’ve been determined to get fit. I’ve taken the time to do other things I enjoy like cooking in a real kitchen, instead of a pathetic hostel offering, I’ve been reading and lazing by the pool. I’ve still missed a lot about my old life but knowing it was just for a short time gave me the motivation to make the most of it instead of fighting against it.imageDon’t think for a second that means there is nothing to do in Charleville – it’s just different. One of our favourite things to do was to get out of the town and head to the Ward, a part of the Warrego River where you can swim. On weekends you’ll go there and often see groups who take boats and jet skis up there – I never thought I’d be seeing people riding jet skis in the outback that’s for sure! It’s lovely and I remember the first time I went up there, we stayed floating around in the muddy water at sunset, chatting away while I watched kangaroos hopping up the banks of the river while horses drank further downstream. I went several times after that and one friend even made me jump off the bridge – I lost my sunglasses but totally worth it! For some it might be a muddy river with huge fish that jump out of the water, but for me it was a taste of the real Australia – a side that even many Australian haven’t seen for themselves. I got to see how these people had grown up and to experience, if only for a little while, how they live. That’s what travelling is all about, experiencing other cultures, other ways of living, and throwing yourself in the deep end to experience it for yourself.imageDon’t worry, I wasn’t totally sober and devoid of nights out for the last three months, we still went out every weekend for drinks at the pub or parties at the Bowls Club or one of the houses in town. There was something going on most weekends if you knew the right people and luckily I did, it meant I always had something to look forward to each week and that the weekends flew by! The nightlife may not have been particularly buzzing, but there was a good crowd to have a few drinks with and laugh a lot with each time so we had plenty of fun. I did also get to experience some pretty entertaining nights including a Bachelor and Bachelorette Auction to raise money for a sports team – everyone was hilariously drunk and bidding on the brave would who had got up on stage. There were also great parties over Christmas including the annual Boxing Day party which had a huge turnout and was a great night filled with dancing and lots of drinking games. And of course, just a week ago I was celebrating Australia Day with a barbecue, pool party and drinks with friends – so I’d say I’ve done pretty well over the last few months.image

Have you spent time in the outback? Where did you find yourself? How was your experience?

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18 things you learn from working in the Australian outback

imageSo after three amazing months of living and working in Darwin, it was time to move on and get my regional work done – I was determined to get that second year visa signed off so I could come back and do it all again. I had been hoping to move down to Tasmania or hit up Western Australia, but then a job came along that I just couldn’t turn down. More about the job itself in another post, this one is going to focus more on what it was like to live in an outback town in Central Queensland, if you like, a real Aussie experience. I arrived in Charleville after a full 24 hours of travelling by car, plane, train and bus took me from the Top End, out to Brisbane and then nearly 800km west. As the 12 hour bus ride ticked by, I dozed between spurts of gazing out the window as we drove further and further away from ‘civilisation’ and further into the bushland that dominates the centre of Australia. It was a strange feeling to not only be so far away from home, but to be so far away from the family I had created along the way. It was actually the first time I had been entirely alone in Australia, despite having been here for around six months. A pretty empowering and terrifying feeling at the same time, this feeling was something I had missed from travelling solo – that thrill and adrenalin rush you get when you know you can only rely on yourself if it all goes wrong.imageI arrived at around 7.30pm to a pitch black town, just a few useless streetlights were dotted around. I was the last person on the bus and the bus driver jokingly offered to take me back to Brissy if I was having second thoughts, but I laughed, hauled my bags off the bus and prepared myself to meet the people I would be working for. This week my three months will come to an end, and with three months of working in the Northern Territory, I’ve learnt a lot about what life is like in the outback. So if you’re thinking of doing the same to get your visa signed off, or just for fun, read on to find out what you need to know about bush life. Here are 18 things you learn from working and living in the Australian outback:

  1. When Aussies say outback, they mean it. There is literally nothing there. No shops, just a post office, a bank and a supermarket if you’re lucky. Sometimes there’s even less than that and you can be hours away from the closest shop. When you buy supplies, stock up on everything you need and even the things you don’t realise you will need.
  2. The lifestyle is totally different – gone are the days of doing something every single night, gone are the cinema trips, dinner dates, after work drinks. In the outback people work all week and save it for the weekend.
  3. Any event is a huge deal. The races, a Christmas party – anything like this that involves the whole town will be a huge affair and people will plan for weeks, or even months for it.
  4. Phone signal and wifi become huge luxuries – sign up to Telstra who seem to be the best – but don’t expect to rely on your phone for anything. Even electricity can be unreliable at times – as I write this I’m glad I charged my iPad as the power has just cut out!
  5. The landscape is something incredible – at first you see it as this dry, barren desert but soon you start to see the beauty in it, the gorgeous, deep red of the earth contrasted by the intense blue of the sky.
  6. The flies – the further into the centre of Australia you get, the more flies will swarm you. I was warned, and I’m glad they’re not too bad here in town but I’ve heard some horror stories from other travellers who ended up in the centre.
  7. There is not much to do around work, so naturally, people in the outback love to drink at the weekends. But don’t expect those bottle shops to be open as long as they are in the cities. Stock the fridge up and you’ll be sorted.
  8. Fear for your life. Well, not quite that extreme but do be careful and remember that this is the place you are most likely to see all those dangerous snakes and spiders people warn you about when you come to Oz. Always kick the toilet seat and check your boots if you leave them outside.
  9. The stars at night are some of the clearest and most incredible you will see. With so much less light pollution and clearer skies, you’re bound to be spellbound by the night sky, I know I am.
  10. You’ll be loving the simpler way of life and the break from city living, and simultaneously hating it and counting down until you can leave and return to life as you knew it.
  11. The people are amazing, you’ll meet some great characters and really have the chance to see how real Aussies live. You’ll never find a place more welcoming.
  12. There’ll be animals everywhere! Horses, goats and cows in the fields, dogs, cats and chickens in the houses. And they’re just the ones that the families invite in, don’t forget all the bugs, bats, birds and more that will be lurking outside.
  13. Everyone drives everywhere. The distance from the house to the shop, to a friend’s place or the post office will always be so great that everyone will just drive. Gone are the days of walking everywhere as a backpacker, you’ll be back on the road and probably in some real outback vehicle.
  14. Everything will be trying to eat you alive – there will be mosquitoes, sandflies, midges and many more. Sometimes itchy lumps will spring up on your skin and you won’t know why – don’t worry, most of the time it’s impossible to tell because there are so many things it could be.
  15. The weather is intense and hot, it’s a heat unlike any you have felt elsewhere. Often it feels like the heat is radiating up from the very ground as well as shining down on you from the sun. Plus when it rains, which it will do at times, it will be serious, tropical showers.
  16. You will always be dirty and sweaty, the breeze is constantly blowing around dirt and dust, and no matter how you try to keep clean, you will never feel it. You’ll soon accept it and come to enjoy being a bit grubby, especially if you’re doing farm work – trust me, no shower feels better than that one at the end of the day.
  17. There are so many opportunities to get out there and embrace the Aussie lifestyle and to get to try out things that you never thought you would. On your days off try helping out at a nearby cattle station, learn to ride a horse or shear sheep. It’s a skill you’d never get the chance to try in the city.
  18. That outback life isn’t for everyone, but everyone can give it a go. There’s nothing more satisfying than being a total girly-girl who loves make-up and shoes, but giving it all up to live rough for three months. Proving to all your friends and family at home that you can do it, and giving you a new appreciation of life when you return to city slicking.

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Have you ever worked on the Australian outback? What kind of work did you do? Where were you based for it? 

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Backpacking | 10 things I really missed on my first Christmas in Australia

imageI’m just days away from my one year travelling anniversary and I’m not going to lie, I’ve missed some pretty important things in that time. From birthdays and anniversaries, to my sister’s graduation, and my best friends making huge life changing decisions about their careers and love lives that force them to move across the country. The world doesn’t stand still when you jet off to the other side of the world, it’s easy to forget that life as you knew it carries on and the people you leave behind continue to grow and change. And it’s okay, most of the time, because we’re so damn distracted by the beauty and epic nature of the travelling life we have chosen, we kind of forget about what’s going on at home. We have our moments when we get a rush of homesickness as we sit in a hostel hallway on the phone to mum and dad, or catching up with our best friends over FaceTime – and we do, we really do feel it. But then, more often than not, that fleeting feeling is gone, dancing away on a warm breeze like it was never there. You see, it’s not that we don’t care, it’s just that our life as a backpacker is all about living in the present, and pining for what once was just doesn’t have much of a place here. Yes we all have days where we wallow and we miss home, but you’ll notice those were the days when we didn’t have much on, when we were a bit bored and allowed ourselves the time to think of home uninterrupted.

There will always be certain times that bring up a wave of emotions for backpackers – perhaps it’s the birthday or the anniversary of the death of a loved one, perhaps it’s a certain holiday or something happens at home. For others it can be as simple as the first time they spend Christmas away from their families on the other side of the world. I’ve seen countless articles posted on backpacker Facebook groups lately about all the awesome things about spending Christmas in Australia but I wanted to talk about the other side of this experience. It’s not rosy and lovely for everyone who is away, and I think it is important for backpackers to realise that it’s okay if they don’t have an amazing time. Everyone at home always thinks we’re out here having the most incredible time 24 hours a day, and most of the time that is true, but there are rubbish bits as well. There are times when it rains, we feel like crap, get ill, break down and have rubbish moments just like we would at home – and when we have to spend the holiday that is all about family half a world away from everyone we love most, it can be a bit pants. Every moment is what you make it and while some people will have the time of their life celebrating this Christmas away from home, others will find it a little harder.imageI had no idea where I would be spending my first Christmas away from my family, I didn’t know who I would be with or what I would be doing. For all I knew it could have been anything from a BBQ on the beach to a homemade roast with friends – the reality will be a little different. You see, I’m still living and working in the outback to get my second year visa. I took this job knowing full well it would mean spending Christmas and New Year away from my friends, mainly because I was so desperate to make sure I had my visa days sorted early and could really relax for the final five months of my first year. I don’t regret that decision because I only have six weeks left to work out here and then I will be reunited with all of my amazing Darwin and East Coast pals, and we will more than make up for lost time. But in the meantime that does mean I’m feeling a bit lonely this Christmas and because I’m not surrounded by all my closest friends it’s making me think of what I’m missing out on at home. I’m pretty close with my family and between them and all my friends at home, we have a mountain of Christmas traditions that I know I’m missing out on. But don’t worry, there’s no chance I’m going to let it ruin my Christmas in the outback because when on earth will I ever get the chance to experience this again?

10 things I really missed about a UK Christmas:

1. The build-up: from the UK’s Christmas adverts to Christmas shopping and finding the perfect present for someone special. From hearing festive songs played in the supermarket, to planning the food for Christmas Day and the countdown to finishing work.
2. The weather – it’s rubbish, cold, wet and miserable outside. It’s dark at 3pm and much as we all complain about it, that’s part of Christmas. It gives us an excuse to wear extra sparkle when it’s dark outside and that chill in the air gives all the more reason to get all snuggled up inside.
3. Nights spent drinking and laughing with friends in boiling hot pubs with steamed up windows, not thinking about work the next day or how cold it is outside.
4. Family traditions – putting up the Christmas tree and decorations with my dad while we blast the Christmas songs, festive baking with mum, a trip to Winter Wonderland with my sister, the Royals on Christmas day.
5. Family gatherings – when family from all over the country get together for a day of food, wine and fun at their annual Christmas party. A chance to catch up and have everyone together.
6. Festive food – the mince pies and puddings, the roast lamb and beef, Yorkshire puds and roasties, and cheeseboards, oh god, the cheeseboards. It’s too hot out here to really gorge like we do at home and the stuff they sell just isn’t the same.
7. Christmas TV in the UK is great – from soap specials to period dramas like Call the Midwife, comedy shows like Gavin and Stacey and The Royle Family, classics like The Snowman and all those great movies from Elf to Home Alone and Cool Runnings.
8. Christmas jumpers! What is Christmas without wearing the worst jumper you can find, or a snuggly onesie that makes you look like a reindeer, or great big wooly socks? It’s just not the same on a bikini.
9. The actual day – getting drunk with your family, seeing the surprise on someone special’s face when they open their gift, the aftermath when you can’t move because you ate so much…
10. The bit when your head feels like it’s going to explode – too many people, too many parties, too much food, too many hangovers – you’re almost glad to see the back of the holiday season.

imageimageI do have to just add to this post that I did still have a pretty fun Christmas thanks to some really good friends I’ve made here in Charleville and a huge thanks to them for not leaving me alone. I ended up having a turkey roast at a friend’s house with her family, spent the day enjoying drinks followed by two Christmas parties. Boxing Day followed with more drinks with friends and a party at the Bowls Club with everyone in town and a lot of fun was had. It was better than I could ever have expected and that’s all down to the wonderful people in this town who have made me feel so welcome.

What’s your favourite thing about a UK Christmas? Have you had a lovely Christmas? What was your first Christmas away from your family like? 

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Cape Tribulation | The school trip | Australia

imageThe final East Coast trip I will write about was sadly a bit of a disappointment. We were kind of expecting it so it wasn’t a big shock, but when we booked the trip we hadn’t really known much about it. Cape Tribulation was sold to us as being a chance to get closer to nature and see the rainforest and national parks in all their glory, it was sold to us as a completely different experience to all other trips on the East Coast and not one to be missed. Well, I’m sorry to say it but I think it was one that could easily have been missed out on. I spent most of the day feeling like I was on a school trip being lectured with fact after fact instead of somewhere I could really experience. Don’t get me wrong, I love visiting national parks and forests – I actually prefer that kind of trip a lot of the time, but I just didn’t feel we really had an opportunity to get much farther than the footpath. Nothing felt very wild about the trip, it was all so safe and so controlled. The trip cost around $187 but I really don’t think it was worth that – I would much rather have kept the money and used it to hire a car for the day to go with friends.

We started off early on a long drive out to World Heritage listed Mossman Gorge which was probably my favourite part of the day – I loved the setting, it was beautiful and great to start the day with a swim, even if the water was a bit cold! It was nice to have the chance to stretch our legs after the long drive, but sadly we were on a tight schedule and didn’t stay there very long.just before we had headed down to the gorge we were welcomed to the visitor’s centre by an Indigenous guide who told us about the history of the area and the Ku Ku Yulanji people who inhabit the region. It was really interesting to hear about the beliefs and the traditions of these people as I hadn’t yet had much of an opportunity to learn much about the indigenous population other than those I had seen drunk in the streets. It was so lovely to be welcomed be someone who had grown up in the community from which these beliefs came. After we were finished at the gorge, we went down to the Daintree River where we were taken out on a cruise to spot crocodiles and any other wildlife along the banks. It was nice to see a different landscape for a bit, but I have to admit we were pretty bored on the boat, there were just a few things spotted – some birds and two tiny crocs that looked more like big lizards to me.imageimageAfter the cruise, we were off for a guided walk around the forest where our guide took the opportunity to teach us all about the different plants and the history of how they came to be in this place. He talked to us all about how the landscape emerged and how the ocean met the jungle causing mangroves – it was interesting but it did feel like I was in a lecture for university. Filled to the brim with knowledge, we headed to Cape Tribulation for lunch and to head down the boardwalk to see for ourselves where the coral reef met the rainforest. This was beautiful. And why? Because it was the wildest and most uncontrolled part of the day – we were allowed to walk down by ourselves to discover what lay at the end of the short walk and we had free time to walk around the beach and take photos. It was lovely to not be rushed and to have time to actually appreciate what I was seeing, plus it really was beautiful. The day finished with homemade ice cream and a stop at Alexandra Lookout – an amazing viewpoint from which you can see for miles. This spectacular viewpoint offers views right across the Daintree River estuary and beyond to Snapper Island and the Coral Sea. It was a lovely note to end the day on.

I’ll be honest and say that I would never do this trip again, and I wouldn’t recommend it to others. While there were good points, like getting the opportunity to learn a lot about Aboriginal culture and history, I did feel like the information could have been better delivered to feel less like a lecture. It was a long day where I felt I spent a lot of time wanting more from the trip – whether it was more excitement, more freedom or less lectures. Perhaps me and that type of trip just don’t go well together, but I think if I were to return to the area I would definitely want to check out the Uncle Brian’s Fun, Falls and Forest tour, which according to some friends of ours was a great day of swimming in waterfalls and exploring the rainforest. Much more what I had in mind when I booked the Cape Tribulation trip. It totally depends on what type of trip you prefer, but for me, I would have preferred not to spend nearly $200 on the Cape Tribulation trip – I just feel there are ways of giving an education tour without losing the interest of your audience, and ours was definitely lost. Plus there was a real lack of getting the group to bond – we were just left to our own devices which meant a lot of people kept to themselves and barely said a word all day. I much prefer the trips that get you all involved from the start all day long and who throw facts at you but interweave them with fun, conversation and stories.image

Have you been on the Cape Tribulation trip – what did you think? Did you do Daintree and Cape Tribulation by yourself – how was your experience? What kind of trips do you prefer?

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Cairns | White water rafting Xtreme | Australia

imageThis was without a doubt one of my favourite trips of the whole East Coast, sitting happily alongside Fraser Island in my memories it was one of the most unexpectedly awesome trips I have done since travelling. Why? Well, when we booked it, we were just so excited about Fraser Island, Whitsundays and all the rest that the white water rafting trip kind of fell to the back of our minds, especially since we wouldn’t be doing it until the end of our travels. The backpacker/travel agent who booked our trip for us raved about the trip after she had booked it for her and a friend, she really recommended the Xtreme trip. I was naturally cynical because I figured she was mainly just trying to sell us a trip, but when else would I get a chance to try Xtreme white water rafting? It made the final cut of our plan and off we went for four weeks of fun on the East Coast, but when we reached Cairns we were getting a bit bored of trips. Not so much the trips, but the ‘organised fun’ with these groups when we wold have preferred to be with the friends we had already made. It sounds a bit negative, but we’d had four weeks of intensive travel-party-trip-party-repeat and we were exhausted. Plus we went on two trips in Cairns alongside this one and they were both let-downs; our Great Barrier Reef trip as you read about in my previous post, and the upcoming Cape Tribulation.I was still really excited for the trip, and a little bit nervous, but my expectations were definitely lowered after the other two. Possibly a good thing, I love when that happens and you end up having an even more amazing time because you’re not expecting as much.

We had been booked in with Raging Thunder Xtreme Tully Rafting for the day – sounds epic doesn’t it? The trip is priced at $225, but again our price went down as part of booking a larger package. This included pick up from the hostel, a full day raft adventure plus all equipment, you can go from Cairns or Mission Beach, lunch, small groups of six and only about four boats, and lots of other adventures along the way like swimming through rapids, cliff jumping and raft surfing. The guys who ran the trip were brilliant, they were so much fun and really got us all enthused for what we were about to do – each group took it in turns to face along parts of the river and take on tricky areas while the others watched how they would handle it and who would fall in first. The whole day is set against the magnificent backdrop of the Tully River – and trust me, you couldn’t feel further from the East Coast. We were lucky and the weather was perfect, just warm enough to dry you off after fall in the water, but cool enough that we weren’t getting burnt to a crisp.imageI won’t talk too much about what you do throughout the day because I loved that I had no idea what was coming next around each corner, but I will say this: without a shadow of a doubt, you should choose to do the Xtreme Tully Rafting. Unless you happen to be a really weak swimmer, you will want to experience this. It is scary in places but only because it gives you a chance to conquer fears of jumping from high places, swimming in rushing water and the like, while in as safe an environment as possible. The guides are great at giving advice and talking you through every step, but they also won’t let you wuss out or take the easy route. I had done some cliff diving and rapid swimming back in Vietnam but after I injured myself doing it, it did make me a little nervous. But I was more than game for this, you couldn’t hold me back from throwing myself off the highest points, diving into the rapid water and sliding around in the raft with the rest of my group. We had a great group and some hilarious moments including one when our guide played a trick on one of the guys and tipped the boat so it flooded on his side – we were all in hysterics while he was screaming in panic.

My favourite part? It had to be when we would go through the large sections where we had to all work together to navigate through the rocks jutting out across the water. It was brilliant fun and we all felt awesome after making it through first time on most of them – although there was a funny one were we all got stuck on a rock and had to climb off the boat to get it free. We made some good friends on the trip and had the best day – we went straight back to the hostel and raved about it to all of our friends who actually booked on to it the following week and said it was amazing! After trying white water rafting for the first time, I can say I am definitely going to be doing that again – it’s such a fun adventure day out, a great adrenalin rush and a fantastic workout – we were exhausted after a day on the river. Plus it’s so nice to see a different landscape to all those beaches, seeing mountains and river was just so refreshing. It was nice to be reminded that there is something in Queensland other than ocean and dust! Top tips for this trip: wear shorts not just swimwear and don’t worry about a camera, you don’t have a chance to take photos and they’ll do it for you.image

Have you been white water rafting? Where did you go and would you recommend it? Have you done this trip – what did you think? What was your favourite East Coast adventure?

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