Well, I can't believe I'm saying this after you've been my home for two years, but Australia, it's time for me to go. It's been one hell of a wild rollercoaster ride from start to finish and I've lived some of the highest of highs over here, as well as some of my lowest moments. I feel so privileged to not only have had a chance to travel here, but to have actually lived here, I've become a part of the community several times over and I've built several amazing lives for myself and found family at every turn. In my two years over here I've been lucky enough to call so many exciting new places home – to find so many families waiting to welcome me with open arms, warmth and kindness at every stop on my travels.
Australia, you've taken the solo travelling girl from across the globe, who was fiercely independent and so sure of what she wanted out of this world, and you've changed everything for her. I arrived a little bit broken with a heart that still ached, but every experience and every person I met along the way has helped shape me into the happy, confident woman I have grown into. In those precious two years of my working holiday visa, I have achieved so much this side of the world despite being away from everyone, and everything I know. Whether in my career, my friendships, my relationships or even in this blog - it's been a big two years for growing as a person and realising what I want out of life. I may have been a bit unsure of myself when I arrived, but I'm leaving Australia the happiest I've been in a long time, with a new purpose, a whole heap of exciting plans for the future, and someone amazing by my side who can't wait to begin our life together.
There have been so many amazing moments in these past two years, like partying my way up the East Coast and meeting friends who would become some of my best and closest friends in Australia. Getting my first taste of Australia on the Great Barrier Reef, Fraser Island, Whitsundays, learning to surf in Byron Bay and swimming with dolphins. For a girl who had originally planned to stay just five months, my decision was quickly changed as I realised how much more I wanted to see of this incredible country. New Zealand was put on hold for adventures up in the Northern Territory where I had my first taste of outback life and a true hostel experience - still my best in Australia as I became one of the Dingos and found a family I never knew I was missing. We went through everything together, forged a bond for life, raved until dawn at bush doofs and then went our separate ways to all corners of the globe.
Then it was time to knuckle down and get those three months of farm work done if I wanted to make sure I had that second year visa under my belt. Off to Central Queensland I went, 800km west of Brisbane to a tiny outback town where there was nothing but dust and giant kangaroos. I spent three months working on a cattle station, looking after children and even helped out during lambing season - it was a real culture shock, hard work and I loved the experience. Then it was time to head to the city I would come to know as my home away from home – Melbourne. The next few months saw me becoming a sales manager and managing a team of 15-20 people who became the highest selling team in the country. I had an apartment, great friends, a great guy and so much to be grateful for.
After going home for six months to travel around Europe, I felt the call from Down Under, we weren't finished yet, there was so much left to see and do. Dropping into Bali for a month beforehand, I headed back to Australia and landed in Cairns before making my way down to the fresh air and mountains of Tasmania. A real highlight of the year, I explored Hobart before setting off on a two-week road trip around the island. Climbing mountains, camping wild, sleeping under the stars, hiking national parks – it really was a dream trip. Then it was time to head home to Melbourne for Christmas, the next few months would be filled with festivals, epic nights out, camping trips, beach days and countless adventures. Picking up a job as a cocktail waitress at a 5* hotel, I was working as a hostess at high class parties held by Ferrari and GQ Magazine and served celebs like Nicole Kidman. But just like that, it was time to move on. So I flew to Adelaide to catch up with an old friend and make special new ones, but a week was short and then it was time to go again.
I touched down in Perth and quickly found a home in Fremantle with the Pirates, for weeks of reminding myself what it was like to be a backpacker and live a hostel life. It was a precious time of laughter, new faces, crazy nights, sunset dates and a new family I never expected. I even celebrated my birthday surrounded by amazing people, three special birthday cakes and one new person by my side who I didn't realise had already been written into my story. Sad goodbyes later, it was time to head off on the road trip of a lifetime, the epic journey I had been waiting to experience. Leaving with a group of four in two cars, our convoy covered over 4,000km and grew to 10 people across six cars. We made memories that will last a lifetime, spent every waking second together, learned about the world, grew as individuals and some of us even fell in love. It was a road trip that genuinely has changed my life and I couldn't be more grateful for the people I shared it with – from the girl who invited me to travel with her, to the guy who drove over 1,000km overnight to experience the trip with me.
Now I'm saying goodbye to the second life I have built for myself in Darwin – it feels right for my Australian journey to end here, in the place where I have felt the most love and friendship both times around. While I'm sad to say goodbye, it feels so right to leave. Always go out on a high I say, and I don't think I could reach much more of a high if I tried. Now it's time to take on the next adventure and see where life takes me. Thanks to everyone who has been a part of these past two years in Australia, thanks for making it special whether we spent months together or just a few hours. I hope you'll all be right by my side in the next chapter of Absolutely Lucy's travels.
I'll be spending the next month back in Asia, a place that has held my heart since I first set foot in Thailand. This time I'll be living my dreams as I'll be travelling around Sri Lanka! On a trip that is much needed for some serious relaxation time for myself and my boyfriend after we've been working every hour possible in Darwin, this could also be the biggest trip for this blog yet! I have been invited to work with and review five luxury and budget adventure accommodations while over in Sri Lanka - from incredible resorts to magical treehouses. For some of these, I will be the first blogger to have ever worked with the companies, so I'm very excited for this opportunity. It gets even better, I am such a lucky girl because I have even been invited to review two safaris and a hot air balloon ride – this really is a dream come true trip. I've had some tough moments this year that have really affected my blogging and even had me thinking about giving it up, but instead I persevered and even spent weeks redesigning my entire website and designing a brand new media pack. My hard work really has paid off and the opportunities I'm getting now show it was all worthwhile. I can't wait to share this trip with all of you who supported me through the toughest times.
Western Australia is all about the national parks and the endless beauty of it's vast emptiness, there are not many places left in the world where you can drive for days on end and not see a soul. Two of the best known national parks on the West Coast are Kalbarri and Karijini, both spectacularly different and both absolute must-sees on your way through the territory. Sadly for us, when we passed through Kalbarri National Park, we found most of it was closed due to ongoing works to build a skywalk around one section of the park - but the small parts that were open to us were still beautiful enough to inspire me to write about everything you can do in the park - not just the parts I saw. After all, this blog is all about sharing my experiences and knowledge so that it can inspire others to travel in the future.
When arriving at the park you want to ensure you have done your research beforehand as the phone signal (even with Telstra) is pretty rubbish in the park. Make sure you check which parts are open and for any announcements on the Park's official social media channels and website or you could end up driving a LONG way just to find out the park is closed. Make sure you take plenty of fuel with you, all the water and food you will need as shops are very limited and expensive in the centre and there are no water points. Drop into the visitor's centre on arrival to pick up a parks pass, book any tours/trips and to ask about the best spots for camping either for free or for a small cost.
We drove into Kalbarri and decided to start with Hawks Head and Ross Graham as we had seen signs that other parts were closed. We did the 200m return walk to Hawks Head Lookout, and the 400m return walk to Ross Graham Lookout - both offered stunning views over the gorges and far across Kalbarri National Park. Then we went down and completed the 1.4km River Trail walk through the Ross Graham Gorge where bright red cliffs and crystal clear waters awaited us. It was beautiful down there but you definitely feel the heat so take plenty of water and a hat to shade yourself from the intense sun. Sadly, just as we finished the walks, we bumped into a rage who told us we had to leave as a helicopter was coming through to shoot goats!
Kalbarri has so much more to offer than we were able to see, so if you're visiting once the park reopens, be sure to make the most of it and really see everything there. From the small taste I got of the park, I could tell it had so much more to share and that I had barely scratched the surface.
There are so many amazing walks to explore during your visit and all of them are accessible with 2WD, although some do start along unsealed roads. Starting early in the morning to beat the heat, you should make your first stop Meanarra Hill Lookout where you will find 360 degree views of Kalbarri and the Murchison River flowing into the Indian Ocean. Of course, it wouldn't be a visit to Kalbarri without seeing Nature's Window, stroll 3.1km along a picturesque trail to one of WA's most iconic natural attractions.
Then if you're in the mood for breathtaking views and spectacular scenery, check out the Z-bend Lookout at 1.2km, or the Z-bend River Trail at 2.6km if you fancy attempting the steep descent and ladder climbs down to the river bed. Then for those who fancy a longer hike, the 4.6km Four Ways Trail is a must for those interested in geology and landforms, while the 4.8km Loop Hike offers well-prepared walkers a challenging but impressive hike.
Kalbarri's rugged coastline is meant to be absolutely spectacular and with walk trails alongside sandstone cliffs that plunge dramatically more than 100m to the ocean, it is easy to see why. Look for amazing rock formations along the decaying cliffs, and don't forget to keep watch for dolphins, whales and much more in the crashing waters.
For stunning coastal views check out the short walk to the Natural Bridge, then wander along The Bigurda Boardwalk (1.2km) which joins the Natural Bridge with Island Rock, a sea stack that now stands against the forces of nature. Later for sunset, you'll want to head for Shellhouse Grandstand, a terraced rock face that gives the impression of a shell-shaped house to fishermen at sea and is best viewed at sunset with glowing light on the sandstone cliff.
For a bit more of a challenge, try the 16km return Bigurda Trail along which walkers will find a vast array of wildflowers, plus pods of dolphins and humpback whales. Or stroll along the 3km Mushroom Rock Nature Trail to step back in time 400 million years as you discover the strange rock formations.
What was your favourite part of Kalbarri National Park? Can you recommend any other national parks in Australia?
I've been putting off writing this post for a while, because quite frankly where on earth do you begin writing about a road trip that covered over 4,000km and ended up being your best experience in Australia? How do you find the words to describe a trip that changed your world? I'm not exactly sure even now and it's going to be a little rough around the edges, but the time has come to try and share my experience with you guys - so here is my raw and unedited guide to planning the most epic road trip across Western Australia.
Start simple and see how it fits in with your travel plans and the changing weather across Australia - do you want to do what I did and start down in Perth as winter arrives and drive up towards the heat of Darwin's dry season? Or do you want to escape the wet season in Darwin and drive down towards the sunshine of Perth? Both ways have their pros and cons, so choose what fits with your plans the best. I always prefer to chase the sun so I started in the cooler place and planned to end my time in Darwin so I could easily pick up work after the trip.
You might already have road trip buddies in mind, or like me, you might have yet to find them. Don't worry if you don't know anyone who is planning to do the trip at the same time as you! I just caught a flight to Perth, found a hostel in Fremantle and within my first few hours there I already had two separate offers from travellers asking if I wanted to join their trip. Within a week I met even more amazing people who were asking the same, and basically my end road trip group was a random mixture of people who originally had never planned to do the trip together. It was great, nobody really knew each other that well, but we knew we liked each other and we were excited to travel together. I actually didn't 100% make up my mind to join them until less than 24 hours before we started driving! We started out with myself in a car with an English girl, Lizzie, and a German couple driving another car, but by the end of the trip we would have a convoy of 10 people in six cars - almost all friends from Fremantle. When choosing who to go with, you just have to trust your gut.
Okay first of all, let's clarify that you don't NEED a 4WD for this trip. There are only a few very small parts that you are unable to access with a 2WD and it will save you a lot of money. I was lucky and everyone else already had cars so I was able to just jump in and contribute to fuel costs - this is a great way of doing it if you don't feel confident buying a car and having to sell it afterwards. However, buying a car is the best way to do it - you have the freedom to drive for as long as you want, to change your plans at the drop of a hat and so much more independence. Hiring a car means you are on a time limit, you have to take extra care of the vehicle and worry about damage costs plus you have to pay a daily rate on top of fuel costs. My friends all had Holden Commodores and I can't recommend them enough - such reliable vehicles, we had lots of room to sleep in the back on mattresses, plenty of space to store all of our camping gear, plus great on fuel.
The trip can take as long or as short a time as you want - we took six weeks to drive from Fremantle to Darwin but we all wanted to really take our time on the trip and enjoy it. We rushed the last bit between Broome and Darwin because two people had to catch flights, we did that in just a week, but the rest was a nice gentle pace. However, I know people who have done it in 2-3 weeks and have still had time to do the highlights - but, you do have to be realistic about the driving. 4,000km is no joke and sometimes the road are just big and empty for a very long way, driving on your own can be exhausting so it's good to have someone to swap with for a while, especially if you're planning to drive a long stretch in one day.
Again it does depend on whether you buy a car, hire one or jump in with friends and how long you take to do the trip. But I saved probably around $3-4,000 and then had money put aside from my tax-back before I did the trip. I think altogether I spent around $2,500 on the trip which included all the fuel, food, trips like the whale shark swim, entrance to national parks and alcohol. I saved money by jumping into the cars of friends and my now-boyfriend, I also saved money because they already had all the camping gear/bedding etc that we would need. We also shared food and cooked altogether which I think saved us a lot of money and effort doing it individually each night. We nearly always camped wild so we didn't have to pay for campsites, and in terms of alcohol, we weren't getting drunk every night so it wasn't too expensive to buy a few crates of cider every now and again between all of us.
Top things to think about once you have the vehicle organised is where will you sleep? If you're sleeping in the car, organise a proper foam mattress - you won't regret it, this will give you some of the best sleeps. Camping? Make sure you have a good tent that is quick and easy to put up in the dark, plus either a blow up or foam mattress - a lot of the camping spots have rocks and uneven ground, which can mean a rubbish sleep if you don't go prepared. Take very warm clothes for at night, at the beginning of the trip I would go to bed in three layers including thermals, a hat, two pairs of socks and laying under a thick duvet - it was mighty cod at night near Perth and I was sleeping in a car, it was worse in the tent. Don't worry, it couldn't be more different up by Darwin.
Make sure you have all your food preparation gear - camping stove with plenty of gas, chopping board, cutlery, sharp knives, pots and pans, a teapot or camping kettle is good for boiling water faster. Get storage containers for all your food and gear, it make life so much easier when it can easily be taken out of the car in the evenings and you know where everything is - plus they stop anything trying to eat your food. Camping chairs make a huge difference - they cost barely anything so make sure you have some. Also, make sure you have a spare petrol can - either strap it to the top of the car or keep it inside, it will come in handy. If you see cheap fuel, fill it up and save money late on when prices get higher.
Western Australia is genuinely the most beautiful part of Australia - forget the partying of the East Coast, WA is vast, untouched and empty - they couldn't be more opposite. It was my favourite experience of Australia and the one really true taste of living that Australian dream of camping out under the stars and on the beaches every night, washing in the ocean, swimming in crystal clear waterfalls and clambering through gorges, driving huge empty roads, hiking mountains and sweaty jungle, swimming with dolphins and whale sharks, seeing nature at it's wildest, sand boarding down the dunes and climbing up to breathtaking viewpoints in national parks. I could go on - but my words aren't enough to do it justice, you really have to experience it for yourself.
Now we've talked about how to start planning the trip, let's talk about the amazing place you'll see and the things you'll do on the trip! I'll be writing about most of these in much more detail in separate posts but here is just a list of all the must-see sights along the way:
Hopefully this guide will give you a head start on planning your trip by answering some of the questions I definitely had before I left - but also I want to remind you to be spontaneous and keep changing your plans. If you talk to locals and head about an amazing camping spot, stay one more night to experience it, or fancy spending a few days snorkelling at the beaches, just do it. Our trip was incredible because we were all such a laid-back group and because we didn't have a time limit, we just enjoyed the freedom of life on the road and took one day at a time. Western Australia is one of the few road trips yo can do where you can genuinely be in the wilderness and not see another soul for days at a time, take the time to appreciate this life - turn your phone off, breathe in the clean air, watch the moon rise and really live every second. You won't regret it.
Have any questions about planning your WA road trip? Leave a comment below and I'll answer all your questions...
Western Australia is home to many incredible sights and experiences, but for me, none will ever come close to the majesty of swimming with whale sharks. My deep blue mermaid dreams came true this day when I came face-to-face with these incredibly peaceful beasts cruising through the ocean, completely wild and yet barely metres from me. What could have been terrifying was actually the most magical ocean experience of my life, let alone within Australia. We had waited for this moment, talked about it, planned it the whole way up the coast towards Exmouth and now it was finally going to happen. But the best part about it? Getting to share this moment with amazing friends – some of whom had only just begun travelling, and others who were coming to the end of their travels. And one friend in particular who made my road trip dreams an incredible reality throughout an amazing six weeks as we celebrated her birthday with champagne on board the catamaran.
We booked through Ningaloo Discovery and I can't recommend them enough - the company is dedicated to never interfering with the creatures and works to ensure they remain safe and protected. They use a catamaran which is great for anyone who suffers sea sickness because the boat doesn't roll as much on the waves - although you should be fine since you don't actually stray that far from the shoreline. There are only around 20 people in the group and you are split into two teams, you take it in turns to swim with the whale sharks and only have a limited time to protect the wildlife. The company uses a sea plane to locate the whale sharks and unlike companies in the Philippines and Mexico, the refuse to feed the whale sharks so they don't alter natural feeding behaviours or threaten the health/future of the creatures. Once they have located the whale sharks, the boat heads over to the general area and waits for them to surface and be spotted by the team of experts who then lead the teams into the water with strict instructions on swimming alongside and not touching these huge animals. It sounds strict, but it is measures like these that protects whale sharks in the long-term.
On the day, we were told to always stay two metres away from the whale sharks and to swim alongside them in a line, to control our movements and not startle these partially blind creatures. We were told to watch out for fins and heads in case they changed direction, but not to worry as usually they were quite predictable in their movements. Then we got in the water and everything we had been told became useless. All of the staff said this was the most incredible day they had worked in seven years of the company running. Something must have been in the air, or the water, because the whale sharks were incredibly lively and started expressing all kinds of unusual behaviours that had never been witnessed by the staff before. It was incredible - at one point we had four whale sharks swimming around us at one time, normally you are lucky to see one or two! Two of them started to vertical feed and they swam upwards to the surface, and two of them even looked like they were going in for a kiss - it was such an unusual and incredible sight. The waves were filled with oceanic rays, manta rays, sea turtles, jellyfish and, of course, the whale sharks – it was hard to know where to look next! Our time in the water was spent trying to get out of the way of these powerful but harmless creatures as they twisted and turned through the water with ease and we kicked our flippers awkwardly. It was chaotic and with one amazing sight after another filling our eyes, it was sensory overload. We came up for air gasping for breath and screaming with excitement at what we had just witnessed. We thought we were excited - it was nothing compared to the ecstatic chatter of the staff which just did more to bring the experience to life for us. A truly magical day and one I will never forget.
We booked a week in advance, but despite it being peak season and us being a large group there was still plenty of space for us. We called up, organised and booked with them over the phone but you can also do it online.
Also-freaking-lutely. I would pay again in a heartbeat to live that day again. I paid $360 for a full day of snorkelling, swimming with around 6-8 whale sharks and countless rays, turtles and dolphins, plus all my meals and drinks were included - and the celebratory champagne - and we were picked up and dropped off at our campsite. Plus they take all the photos you want and need so you can focus on having the best day. I actually think that is quite cheap for the full day of activities and the experience I had. Originally I had expected it to cost around $5-600 so I was pretty content with the price, especially since I had saved up the money for it from my previous birthday. Swimming with whale sharks is one of the absolute experiences you must not miss out on when travelling Western Australia, trust me, you'll regret it if you skip it.
I'll leave it there because, honestly, I think the pictures really speak for themselves better than my words in this case. All images used with permission from Ningaloo Discovery. If you would like to find out more about booking your trip - check out their website here or leave me a comment below.
There's nothing quite like escaping for a long weekend in the wilderness when you've been working in the city for so long. I always get a bit antsy and stressed out when I'm in the city for long periods without a chance to escape into nature. So after working flat out for months in the city, when my work suddenly gave me four days off in a row I grabbed the opportunity and planned to make the most of it. A very last minute plan - as in, we woke up and decided to take a three/four day trip around the national park exploring all the waterfalls and hikes along the way. This was a trip I had waited two and a half years to finally experience and I was so excited to finally see Kakadu National Park with my own eyes - and now I can't wait to share my experience with you all. This post will cover everything you need to know, from car hire and what to pack, to which sights you don't want to miss and a good schedule for your trip.
Now Kakadu is one you can plan as much or as little as you want - you might need to hire a car, find a tent and all you camping gear - or you might want to book somewhere nice to stay. We have spent a lot of time camping the whole way up the West Coast of Australia so we already knew exactly what we would need. We called round a few hire car companies knowing we would need to get a 4x4 for the trip and made sure to compare prices and what access we were allowed with each vehicle - the best deal at such short notice ended up being with Advance Car Rentals who charged around $700 for three nights of car hire and allowed us full access to the whole park except Twin Falls. Our 4WD was just big enough for us to sleep in the car with the back seats down - it wasn't super comfortable but with a few duvets in there and pillows it was enough for three nights. We were glad not to have to put up a tent each night because we always arrived at our campsites in the ark after watching the sunset somewhere beautiful.We already had bedding, a stove and cooking equipment, an eski and camping chairs, so we loaded up the car then headed to the supermarket to stock up on food. Lots of fruit and nuts, bread for sandwiches, pasta and some treats to barbecue for dinners. Make sure you take enough food because there is nowhere to buy anything unless you want to pay a small fortune, also take plenty of water or stock up at the Visitor's Centre just off Arnhem Highway near Jabiru- this is also where you can purchase your Park Pass which costs around $40 per adult. Most importantly, make a quick stop at Darwin Visitor's Centre before you leave - tell them you are off to Kakadu and the amazing women in the centre will tell you everything you need to know without wasting your time and they will even give you a whole bag of information. From a campsites guide to facilities, prices and free ones, to maps of the park, ranger's activities and information about every single attraction and countless other walks and activities to check out. This pack is invaluable for your trip and if you pick it up in Darwin, you'll have the few hours in the car to plan - that's all it took us to work out our entire trip.
I packed in a matter of minutes and I had pretty much everything I needed while we were there - make sure you pack using this list and you should be all set for an adventure:
There are a lot of different places to stay to suit all budgets - from the lovely lodges and eco-rooms available for those needed a few luxuries, to the bush campsites where you can experience the real wilderness. I can't recommend going full bush enough - it really is the only way to do Kakadu - watching the stars at night as we warmed ourselves by a campfire and even the drop loos were all a huge part of the experience. Across all seven sections of the park there are managed campsites with showers and toilets, full on caravan parks and completely basic bush campsites to choose from depending on what you prefer. But don't let the idea of no showers and rustic toilets put you off - that's the only way to camp Aussie style and you quickly fall in love with the lifestyle.
We spent our first night at this boutique campground for those who want the remote outback camping feel while staying close to the action. It was basic with just fire pits, picnic tables and fire pits, but it was also beautiful, quite and felt remote while not having to drive too far after watching the sunset at Ubirr. Plus we were close to the Visitor's Centre for stocking up on water the next morning. This was a perfect first campsite for us and we enjoyed spending hours watching the stars through the trees as our campfire sent sparks up into the atmosphere.
The second night we were aiming to stay at Sandy Billabong which is known as the prettiest camping spot in heart of the World Heritage-listed national park. However, driving in the dark, we missed the turning and decided to carry on driving until we reached Jim Jim Billabong Campground. This stunning campsite is a lovely fishing spot and a great place to catch barramundi, so it proved not to be the worst wrong turn in the world. The campsites are not too far apart and are some of the most beautiful to stay in - they're particularly convenient if you're planning on exploring Jim Jim Falls the next day, or heading down to Gunlom and Maguk like we were.
Our final night was spent at Kambolgie Campground, which as one of the quietest campgrounds located nearer the edge of the park is known for boasting an abundance of wildlife. After spending our last day exploring Maguk and Gunlom Falls, and knowing we had a big drive back to Darwin via Pine Creek the next morning - we were keen for a quiet night somewhere on the route out of the park. It was a lovely campsite with fire pits and picnic tables just waiting for us, and our campsite neighbours were lovely, waking us up with coffee in the morning.
All of these campsites were fitted with honesty boxes and asked a small fee for the upkeep of the park, however if you are arriving and leaving in the dark these were pretty hard to find.
My absolute highlight of Kakadu was without a doubt watching the sunset and discovering Aboriginal artwork up to 20,000 years old, still clearly painted on the rocks telling stories of the people who lived then. Both Ubirr and Nourlangie provide beautiful walks to discover the art at your own pace and be wowed by the details included in the paintings, before heading up to a high point at which to watch the sunset. These are the best sunset spots in the park so I definitely recommend doing one each evening, picture views straight out of The Lion King. Ubirr shows an incredible sunset over the vast open plains, while Nourlangie shows the gradually changing colours of the sunset projected on Nourlangie Rock. There is also a longer 2 hour art site walk at Nanguluwur if you have the time.
We tried to cram in as many of the short walks, hikes and climbs to lookouts as possible during the trip, but there were so many that we couldn't manage all of them. However, we did try to make sure we completed some of the best, most interesting ones. We did the lookout walks at Mirrai, Bukbukluk and Gungurul which provided sweeping panoramic views across the landscape and are both worth the uphill struggle. We also enjoyed what is described as one of Kakadu's most interesting short walks, the 2.5km track at Bardedjilidji before heading to Ubirr for the 1km bush walk around the artwork and up towards the sunset spot. The next evening you should check out the Nourlangie region which boasts some beautiful walks. We only had time for the 1.5km walk to art sites and the 300m steep slope climb to the sunset spot with views of the escarpment, but there are also other longer art site walks available plus the Gubara Pools Walk which sounded really nice - we just didn't have time to complete the 6km before dark.
If you love swimming in waterfalls as much as me, you're in for a treat at Kakadu, despite the crocs there are several places where it is safe to swim and enjoy the water in the intense heat. The 2km walk at Jim Jim Falls from the car park to the base of the falls is a must do - although just a short walk, it includes rock scrambling through the cool canyon and is a lot of fun. This is one you definitely need a 4WD to access and it is only accessible during dry season - plan a lot of time for this one as it takes 1-2 hours to drive there one-way and it takes a further 1-2 hours to reach the waterfalls, swim and relax. Although the waterfall wasn't really flowing when we were there, it was still a beautiful spot and well worth the journey.
Another incredible spot you don't want to miss - this 2km return steep climb is an intense, but short hike up the side of the cliffs to find natural infinity pools and a lookout with amazing views of the park. At the bottom of the cliffs you will also find a clear plunge pool and a waterfall, a perfect spot for a picnic. This really is one of the most beautiful places I have seen in Australia, perfect for getting those perfect Instagram shots and for relaxing in the sunshine, go late afternoon to avoid the heat of the day and to have the place to yourself. Access is via a gravel road.
A tropical treat, Maguk definitely made up for Jim Jim's waterfall running dry. This one was in full flow and we finally arrived after a very hot 2km walk through a sandy, rocky creek and monsoon forest, to find a beautiful waterfall and plunge pool just perfect for cooling off in. The water is so clear and full of fish, it really is a hidden paradise and we were glad when everyone else left so we could enjoy having the place to ourselves. It is recommended to have 4WD to drive there on the gravel road, this one is dry season only so be sure to check road conditions before you drive.
My trip to Kakadu was absolutely magical, it was the perfect, romantic weekend of swimming in waterfalls and camping under the stars with someone special and whether you go as a group or just the two of you, I'm certain you're for a treat. A must-do while in Darwin, if you're stuck looking for people to do it with, try reaching out via the backpacker Facebook pages, or even book a tour. However you choose to experience Kakadu National Park, prepare to be amazed.
What was your Kakadu highlight? Have you got any tips for planning your trip?
One of my absolute highlights while I was down in Fremantle, was a day trip I took over to Rottnest Island. Some of you may have heard of these delightful little creatures called Quokkas after the craze started for getting selfies with these incredibly tame animals. I only first heard of the quokka during my first year in Australia and ever since then I've always wanted to see one with my own eyes, yet another Australian animal to add to my ever increasing list of unique natural sights. From kangaroos and wallabies, to wedge-tailed eagles, koalas, dingoes, wombats and kookaburras - the only ones I haven't seen in the wild are cassowaries and Tasmanian devils. So I was keen to check out the quokkas and also to see the incredible nature beauty of Rottnest Island, which is supposed to be a real jewel on Perth's coast.
Visitors take a ferry over for the day, or can spend the night - there is even a hostel on the island - and then spend the day biking around the island or taking tours to view the highlights, snorkel, relax on the beaches and of course, to spot quokkas. I was excited at the prospect of a day out on bikes exploring a new place and was keen for some fresh sea breezes and sunshine, but when I looked at the price, my heart sank a bit. Prices for the ferry and bike hire started at $100, and went higher if you needed to hire a snorkel as well. It doesn't sound like much, but I thought it was quite expensive for a day trip, especially when all that was included was ferry and bike hire. I was on a backpacker budget and although this was the start of my holiday after working for so long - I didn't really want to wave goodbye to $100 of my budget for my West Coast trip. Cue frugal Lucy thinking about ways to reduce the price.
Luckily, I was chatting about the trip with a few of my friends at the hostel and was told that the Rottnest Express ran special deals on a Tuesday which took the price down to $39 for the ferry, or $59 for both ferry and bike hire. That was a much more acceptable price, and since I could borrow snorkels off people in the hostel, I ended up saving around $60 on the price. Definitely look into booking this way - use this link. After all, we backpackers have to be smart with our money if we want to travel for as long as possible. The next issue, was to find a day that would offer the perfect weather for exploring the island - the weather in Perth at this time was a tad unpredictable with brilliant sunshine some days, torrential rain other days and cold winds. Some people who had no choice but to go on the trip on the rough weather days came back miserable, cold and wet because the island is so exposed and there is no shelter. Those who went on the sunny days came back full of tales of adventures and quokkas with big smiles on their faces - I knew what experience I wanted. I gave up on going on the trip three Tuesdays in a row, and then magically, on my final Tuesday at the hostel, the sun was due to shine and give us a perfect day for it. A big group of us booked the trip and were really excited for a day of snorkelling and sunshine.
We took the 9.15am ferry from B Shed - just a short walk from our hostel - and arrived at 10am, perfectly timed to grab our hire bikes, complete a loop of the island and then be back to catch our return ferry at 4.25pm. You could easily go on an earlier boat and come back later if you want more time to explore, but I felt the time we had was perfect - we had plenty of time to see everything at our own pace and to relax on the beaches and snorkel. When you arrive, pop into the visitor's centre at the end of the jetty to collect a map and to have a quick chat with the guides who work there - they can advise the best route around the island depending on the weather and how much time you have so you can hit as many of the best spots as possible. Make sure to take a packed lunch, plenty of water and and alcohol you might way as the shops there are expensive and are only in the centre, not out near the beaches.
We decided to take a left at the end of the jetty and to head towards Kingstown where we spotted our first quokka - they were so much bigger than I expected that I almost thought it was a possum. We couldn't believe how close we could actually get to these incredible tame creatures and how friendly they were. We snapped a few photos and then headed on our way towards Bickley Bay and Bickley Point, taking in the stunning views along the way. Heading down to Porpoise Bay for our first go at snorkelling - we were incredibly lucky and saw wild dolphins playing in the water barely 30m away from where I was standing. Parker Point was another stunning viewpoint with so many quokkas just waiting to be captured in your selfies. Then we headed round to Little Salmon Bay and Salmon Point where we went snorkelling again and enjoyed the sunshine. My friend and I went snorkelling all around the rocks and saw so many fish hiding amongst the coral.
As it hit the afternoon, we decided to start heading towards the lighthouse and back towards the jetty. Our way back was a beautiful bike ride through the lakes, passing Serpentine Lake, Lake Herschel and Government House Lake as we raced each other and laughed our way round.Now we had a lot of time relaxing and snorkelling which was exactly what we wanted out of the day, we only completed half of the island loop, but that was perfect for us. You could easily go a bit earlier and return later so you could complete the whole loop, but I don't think you would have as much time for snorkelling and just enjoying the beaches. However, I would also recommend checking out the top half of the island where there are many amazing snorkelling spots including The Basin, Longreach Bay, Parakeet Bay and Little Armstrong Bay. Or head to the further away point for snorkelling at Abraham Point, Mabel Cove and Fish Hook Bay, and even surfing at Cathedral Rocks and Radar Reef.
It was a perfect day that was much needed for all of us and a lovely escape from Fremantle. With many of us leaving the following week, it was a great way to celebrate our time together and to see one of the most incredible natural beauties Perth has to offer. I got to swim with wild dolphins, take selfies with quokkas, snorkel with fish, climb rocks, bike over 10km and relax on the beach - a pretty epic day.
Have you been to Rottnest Island - what was your highlight? What other amazing islands can you recommend to visit in Australia?
That's a really sad sentence isn't it? It's amazing how much our appearance really does affect the way we feel about ourselves, and how easily it can be damaged without us even realising. I wrote a post a few weeks ago about finding balance in your own life as you get older - read it here. And, well, I've got to tell you guys that I'm failing at the moment, big time. I've just finished working over 40 hours in just four days and I'm beyond exhausted, I haven't been eating enough and I've barely had time to sleep let alone relax. It would be okay if this was a one-off, but to be honest these last few weeks it has become more and more common. I'm working too much, I'm too desperate to save money and plan for the next exciting adventure to think about my health and it's not good for me.
My days are spent biking to work in 35 degree heat, rushing around for 10+ hour shifts until I'm almost dizzy for not eating enough or waiting eight hours for my next meal. Then I bike home to collapse into bed for a few hours, getting to spend a precious five minutes with my boyfriend, and then I get up and do it all again. I'm a sweaty mess most of the time, I pile on the make-up to cover the bags under my eyes and pull on the same manky uniform I've been wearing for days on end. Travelling isn't always as glamorous as you think, is it? Don't get me wrong, I don't mind this life - it takes it's toll and I'm terminally exhausted at the moment but I know it will be worth it when in three weeks I go travelling again and get to spend all my time relaxing, enjoying and appreciating my relationship.
But in the meantime, it really hit me lately that I barely remember the last time I made an effort, or when I honestly felt glowing and happy and healthy. It was weeks ago, when I was off exploring a national park and spent my days hiking, swimming and eating healthily. I wore no make-up and lived in my bikini, and I was confident and happy, really happy. Before that, I remember the West Coast road trip, when I was living off nuts and avocados, when my body was strong and fit from exercise and fresh air. I was always smiling and full of energy because I rose with the sun and went to sleep under the stars. I miss that life. Back then it took nothing to make me feel beautiful but now, living in the city and not getting the chance to make an effort, or dress up or feel pretty, it takes its toll.
It's interesting how physical health and mental health play such a big part in our understanding of beauty. At the moment I'm mentally and physically exhausted, I'm run down and don't have time to look after myself, and I'm finding it hard to feel positive about my own body image. It's silly, because my body is the healthiest and strongest it has been in a long time from being outside and working out at the gym. I know deep down I'm happy with the way I look, but exhaustion can have a big effect on the mind and when you don't appreciate yourself, you often end up making it impossible for others to appreciate you. You don't realise until you've been sucked into that pattern of behaviour of not taking the time to look after yourself and then feeling down because you look and feel rubbish. It's so easily avoided, if only you can notice the signs before it is too late to prevent it - and sadly, that's what I'm always rubbish at.
We may be on different sides of the world, but I'm sure you can all relate to feeling like all you do is work. Feeling like life is getting on top of you and it's just not fun any more. You don't get time to look after yourself, then before you know it you're exhausted and run down, your attitude towards yourself is less than forgiving and you don't know how to get out of the hole that you've dug for yourself. It's a slippery slope - but I don't want this to be a post about feeling down and not loving yourself enough. I want to talk about how to fix things and how to change your attitude towards yourself.
It's not easy, but you start with the basics. Are you eating and drinking enough? When was the last time you had a good night's sleep? Are you getting sick, or have you lost/gained too much weight? Are you stressed out from work or life? Ask yourself all these questions and figure out what your pattern is so you can identify it earlier next time. I know that every time I end up overworked, I find I'm not eating enough which affects my weight, my sleeping patterns and stress levels - more often than not I get sick as a result. Other people overeat to deal with stress, or indulge too much in coffee to keep them going which messes up their sleep pattern even more. It's important to identify your own individual pattern of behaviour so you can break it and notice it earlier next time you do this.
Why are you letting yourself get in this state? Do you have an unachievable goal looming in front of you? Or are you unhappy with something else in your life so you're throwing yourself into work to escape? Whatever the answer, you need to tackle the problem - remove the obstacles from your life and everything will slot happily back into place.
You might not be able to escape the workload or the job, you might not be able to get out of the stressful situation, but you can change how you react to it and how much you let it affect you. Take charge and focus on boosting your body image and positivity, give yourself time to appreciate what you have. Pamper yourself - paint your nails or dye your hair, have a long bath and do your make-up how you like it, then pop on an outfit that makes you feel fabulous and go out. You could try one of these gorgeous party outfits from SimplyBe for the festive season. Whether it's out for cocktails or just to the supermarket, just know that you look and feel amazing, then hold on to that feeling and remember it when you're next working and feeling run down.
After three much-needed days off spent relaxing at the beach, sleeping in and eating properly, I'm feeling so much better. Still not 100%, I don't think I'll feel that until I quit this job and start travelling again, but I'm definitely on my way. Sometimes all we need is to look after ourselves a bit.
What makes you feel body positive? Have you got any tips for dealing with body issues and exhaustion?