Tag Archives: Queensland

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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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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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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Cairns | The huge East Coast reunion | Australia

imageAfter an epic four weeks of travelling up the East Coast – taking in the stunning sights of Fraser Island, Whitsundays, Magnetic Island, traipsing through the national park in Noosa and kayaking across Byron Bay, we were more than ready for the final stop on our tour. Cairns is one that everyone talks about and we were excited to see what it would have to offer – if our previous stops were anything to go by it was going to be pretty amazing! More than anything, we were looking forward to the huge reunion we would have with all of our friends we had met along the way – with countless more stops along the East Coast route, we’d lost some friends to places like 1770 and Mission Beach, but we were all due to arrive in Cairns during the same week. When you’ve got a huge week like this planned, it’s important to have a good hostel ready and waiting for you, and in Cairns there’s only one that people talk about – Gilligan’s! Owned by Base Backpackers, the super-hostel is a multi-level hostel with rooms ranging from four to ten bed, each boasting en suite facilities with a kitchen on every level. To say it was one of the best and most impressive hostels I have stayed in was an understatement – the nightlife was great, the location was perfect being right in the middle of Cairns, it was the cleanest hostel I have ever stayed in and there were loads of deals for those staying there including free backpacker dinners when you bought a drink each evening. We had booked in for four nights, but already planned for stay for at least a week.imageimageAs soon as we arrived the reunions started, we bumped into some friends we had met down in Airlie Beach and Noosa and went for drinks and dinner. That first night there saw us joining upon the fun and games downstairs as the staff had us all playing Bogan Bingo – a hilarious game we ended up playing over a few different nights. The next few days were spent exploring Cairns – we checked out the lagoon and spent a few days sunbathing and barbecuing down there with friends, we headed out in the evenings for drinks and ended up partying in the Woolshed – another place you simply have to go. It was a blur of fun, goon and complete exhaustion – every night we partied and every day we spent the whole thing out in the sun. Between this we had trips planned including The Great Barrier Reef, Cape Tribulation and White Water Rafting Xtreme – more on these in my upcoming posts. So we were fully booked with plans and on top of this we had to find time to hang out with everyone before we all parted ways as some people flew home, others to New Zealand and others to the other side of Australia.imageimageCairns was a great little place, as soon as you arrived it felt like you were on holiday as you could tell most of the people walking the streets were. It was full of shops, bars, restaurants and more, and the lagoon was packed with sunbathers every single day. I could understand how some people could love it and end up staying to work, but personally it wasn’t somewhere I could have stayed longer – I was happy to stay for 10 days of fun with friends but that was what kept me there for so long, not the place. I found myself very aware that it was a holiday town and that people were constantly passing through – that the backpacker culture there was so transient it was less of a culture and more of a business. But that was fine with me, I had no plans to stay longer than we did and I didn’t want to work in Cairns, it was just a perfect end to our East Coast trip. So where did we spend our nights? In true backpacker style, we followed the cheap drinks and food which took us to our own balcony, to Gilligan’s bar, the Woolshed and Irish bar, and for one night we ended up in a bar around the corner after being offered unlimited drinks and pizza for $20 or $30 on a Sunday night. Best advice for saving money, trawl the streets and keep your eyes open for deals – these girls just passed us some leaflets as we crossed the street for that one and it was a great night!imageimageAnother really great night we had in Cairns was actually one when we were bored one night and decided to go out for a drink and a walk. We were walking when we heard a load of fireworks going off and spotted the shower of stars beyond some trees, we headed over and saw that they must have been part of an event that was ongoing at the cruise terminal – naturally the journalist in me wanted to know what was going on and walked straight over. Despite it being a private and ticketed event, we waited until the doormen were distracted then snuck in to find a really lovely party going on. It was celebrating an Aboriginal art exhibition opening and how better than to do that with music, champagne, fireworks and food? We ended up checking out the exhibit which featured pieces worth tens of thousands, hobnobbed with the other guests and enjoyed some fancy foods and fine wine. It was a bit of a treat considering we had been living off scraps for the last week. It was a really refreshing change to be around that kind of event and some of the pieces of art were amazing – we ended up having a really interesting night and it was totally different to what we had been up to every other night. I love when you stumble across things like that.

Have you been to Cairns – what did you think? What was your favourite bar in town? Have you crashed any exciting events? 

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