Reminiscing about The Ashes!
Brisbane Travel Blog› entry 6 of 10 › view all entries
Saturday 22nd April
Aussie, Aussie, Aussie! I finally arrived in the land of Bruce and Sheila, of venomous animals, the former island of convicts and has-been cricketers. I landed early in the morning and deliberated about having a look around Brisbane before my connecting flight to Cairns later on, but decided to crash out in the airport instead for a few hours. I checked into the Virgin Blue airport lounge for the worthwhile sum of $5 (2 quid) and spent most of the day sleeping, watching DVD's and playing on the PlayStation. I eventually dragged myself away and boarded my flight to Cairns. Upon arrival, I met Katy, Laura and Jane (Katy's friend from home) and we got a minibus to our hostel.
Sunday 23rd April
Today we got up early sorted our Greyhound bus out (my form of transport from Cairns to Melbourne) and essentially planned our little adventure down the East coast of Australia. I celebrated the epic plans with some fish and chips before continuing the celebrations downtown with a massive Aussie steak and a big night out in The Woolshed (a place full of backpackers, which was a highly sophisticated establishment - the highlight being goldfish races on the dance floor)! We then stumbled home along the Promenade.
Monday 24th April
This morning we checked out of the hostel and went to the Lagoon, which was fantastic. I had a nice chilled out swim, which seemed to iron out any potential problems like a hangover and proved that sport can do some good after all (who'd have thought it?). I ensured that my hangover would not return by having a mammoth fry-up, which looked funny next to the girls meagre toasts and pastries! We looked around town (which was full of bats) and returned to the hostel. We waited around for a while for dinner and generally chilled out before our Greyhound pick-up shortly after midnight.
Tuesday 25th April
After spending eight hours on the bus overnight I had a good sleep, all things considered and arrived in Airlie beach by mid-morning.
Wednesday 26th April
This morning, we chilled out before heading to Whitehaven beach (the deservedly famous beach on the Whitsundays). Before getting to the beach, we walked through light forestry, where our guide spotted some green ants.
Thursday 27th April
This morning we woke up very early for a bushwalk on one of the islands, and saw some aboriginal art work before hiking to the waterfall (which turned out to be a stream with a slight gradient). Nevertheless, the guys all went into the freezing freshwater 'lake' (about the size of a large bath), whilst convincing the women that it wasn't cold and that they should come in as well. They didn't fall for it though - I think it was something to do with the blue lips and the state of semi-consciousness we suffered.
Friday 28th April
After a slow start to the day, I packed my bags and made my way to the nearest cafe for a calorie hit.
Saturday 29th April
This morning we arrived in the town of 1770 (named after the year Captain Cook stumbled across a bit of land between the Pacific and Indian Oceans, which was later named Australia).We checked into a superb hostel called Cool Banana's and immediately checked out the shops and then meandered the short walk to Workman's beach; a small and very quiet beach.
Sunday 30th April
At some ludicrous hour I got up and left the girls in the hostel for the day I had been looking forward to for so long... diving the Great Barrier Reef! After doing my PADI Open Water and then the Advanced course, I was ready for a good, deep dive, but found that the deepest I the water got was 8m. 8m?!! My bath is 8m! Nevertheless, I set off as this was the most southern point of the Barrier Reef and therefore my last chance. We set off to Lady Musgrove island and I went diving in the lagoon with another guy (there were 99 people onboard, yet only two were diving - the others went to the island, which looked about as interesting as the dentist). Despite the shallow dive, we immediately saw loads of creatures, including a moray eel, which look a bit like Mick Jagger, so I hastily retreated.
Monday 1st May
Yet another early morning and yet another Greyhound (poor dog), this time to Hervey Bay. We stopped for a fry-up at Bundaberg, so I was content and so when we arrived at Hervey, I was ready for some shopping and a walk along the beach.
Tuesday 2nd May
The early morning was offset by the prospect of going to Fraser Island, which was part of our package with the Whitsunday's. We left our bags at the hostel and met the rest of our group, (totalling nine girls, two guys; eight Brits and three Irish).
Wednesday 3rd May
After enjoying a lie in (7am), we had breakfast and headed off eagerly awaiting another day of adventure. We went to Indian Head, which was a high peak, where we saw sharks from a comfortable distance. Getting to the area was difficult due to the thick sands and demanding hills, so it took a few attempts and a lot of cheering when it eventually crept up the near-impossible incline.
Thursday 4th May
After a horrendous night sleep (using a rolled-up sleeping mat as a pillow) I woke up looking like Quasi Modo and shuffled outside for another aciton-packed day. Many of the others complained of a sleepless night too, but because of a drunken brawl outside. Therefore, we found it only right to wake up everyone else and left the base camp to a harmony of shouting and beeping horns, whilst flooring it in the 4x4. First stop was Lake Boomanjin, which was very pleasant, despite being before 9am. Another short drive took us to Lake Birrabien, which was even more beautiful. This lake was postcard-material and had pockets of black sand in the shallower waters.
Friday 5th May
This morning we left at some ridiculous hour and got the Greyhound to Brisbane. We dumped our bags in the locker (which also nearly involved me losing my thumb in the process...) and went for a look around Brisbane for a few hours. We went shopping, visited the Botanical Gardens and had a superb lunch at QUT (Queensland University of Technology), which we managed to stumble into. After taking in as much of the city as we could muster in the few hours we were there, we headed back to the station where we bumped in to Shaunie and Heather, who were travelling to Surfer's Paradise. We were travelling to Byron Bay instead, where we crashed out as soon as we arrived.
Saturday 6th May
After savouring the rarity of a lie-in, we finally went into town, where the girls went off to look for bikini's and other girlie stuff and I went for a walk and in search of a bottle bar for tonight's BBQ. I came back from town quite late to find our dorm light on, so I thought it would be a good idea to use the opportunity to knock on the door and jump out at the girls (something that had been a major success throughout Australia). As the door opened, I jumped out, shouting 'boo!' to find our roommate (who was stunningly attractive) stand in the doorway, looking in sheer horror at the fool who just jumped out on her. After calming her down and convincing her that I wasn't insane and that there was in fact, no need for police involvement, I had to leave the room for a good old giggle.
Sunday 7th May
This morning I woke up feeling pretty lousy and decided against the kayaking that I had planned to do that day. Instead, I had a series of breakfasts to combat the old liver and looked around the shops with the girls (neither they or I trusted myself not to make an ass of myself with the roomie again). We went to the Sunday market, which was nice and then went on a bike ride after my brain and stomach reached a mutual understanding that I wasn't going to be sick. The bike ride was filled with the usual drama's you would expect when taking three girls on a short trip. After the seemingly impossible task of attaching helmets without messing their hair, we set off at a pace that had to be 10.3mph exactly (Laura's bike didn't have brakes at all, and my bike was like a cruise ship, whereby the brakes had to be applied 30 minutes before I actually wanted to stop). We went to the lighthouse and went to the most Eastern part of Australia before heading back to the hostel and then going to the Greyhound stop for our next town. Whilst at the Greyhound stop, Mike Howe walked past, and soon we were united with Gareth and Scoots as well. After a good old' chin wag, we found out that whilst we were there, there were ten Hatfielders in Byron Bay, which is extraordinary given its' size.
Monday 8th May
This morning we reached the midpoint of the journey - Sydney. We check into our hostel and immediately went looking around the place. We went straight to the Opera House, via the Botanical Gardens, which was a very pleasant walk. After taking the usual touristy photo's and smiling a lot, we got a ferry to Manly. It was full of surf shops and beautiful women, but as we arrived late in the day and due to the colder weather, the beach was pretty deserted. We headed back to the hostel and relaxed before meeting Sam in the evening. We had an early night as the travelling was catching up on us big time!
Tuesday 9th May
This morning we (Katy, Laura, Jane, Sam and I) went to Darling Harbour to admire the views and see a bit more of the city. The harbour was really nice and afterwards Sam and I left the girls to go shopping whilst we went into a bookstore, which kept me entertained for hours. After another great lunch we came back and got ready for tonight. The three girls and I set off to the Opera House to watch a play called 'The Hanging Man', which actually premiered in West Yorkshire! The play was pretty good and it was nice to watch something in the stunning venue. We came back for dinner and another early night.
Wednesday 10th May
This morning the girls and Sam left at 5.30am, which I found hilarious as I lay in bed and murmoured something like 'goodbye'. I contemplated life without discussions of bikini lines, calories and nail varnish and grinned like a Cheshire cat all morning. Speaking of which, I phoned up Cat (from Norwich, not Cheshire) as I knew she was nearby Sydney and by mid-morning I had met up with her, Matt Smith and his friend from home, Baz. We done a bit of shopping and then had a nice long walk to the fish market, where we had the world's biggest portion of fish and chips (three pieces of hake, loads of chips and calamari as well)! We waddled into town and Cat went shopping for something girlie, so Matt, Baz and I went to the pub, which was called 'Cheers'. I loved the novelty value of this and played pool and had a few beers until Cat found the place. They went off to catch their bus (which was going to Newcastle) and I walked back to the hostel, very slowly, watching the street entertainers and then getting completely lost in the botanical gardens when it was getting pretty dark.
Thursday 11th May
This morning I got picked up by my Dad's cousin, Paul, who has lived in Sydney for most of his life. I was looking forward to meeting everyone, including his wife Jo, son Geoffrey and daughter Vanessa because I hadn't met most of them and I was too young to remember their last visit to the UK when I was around. It was even more exciting to meet the extended family, consisting of Paul's brother Barry and his wife, Liz and my Granda's brother Bob and his wife, Jean who were coincidentally visiting at the same time! I arrived at Paul's house and met Bob, before the ladies came in from their drive and finally Barry arrived from a long walk. I spent the rest of the day catching up on the family gossip and spent a lot of time doing not a lot! In the evening we had a huge BBQ for a proper Mason family reunion and Geoffrey arrived from work with his girlfriend Nat, which was great.
Friday 12th May
This morning we all went out to Sansusie after breakfast and had fish and chips for lunch at St. Georges club, as well as chocolate cake. It was a really pleasant day - a far cry from the spontaneity and inefficiencies of backpacking. We came back, chilled out and had dinner, and Vanessa arrived with boyfriend Daniel. Barry, Paul, Daniel, Vanessa and I went out to their local pub in the evening, which provided ample entertainment for a Friday night! We all had a good laugh and I met Daniel and Vanessa's friends, who were great fun as well.
Saturday 13th May
This morning was all systems go as Barry, Liz, Bob and Jean were all leaving Australia and heading back home to sunny old England. We had breakfast and ensured everything was packed before having a few farewell drinks and waving them off at the airport. In the afternoon, Paul and Jo didn't know what to do with themselves after a month of guests, so Paul and I chilled out and watched a DVD. In the evening, Geoffrey and I stayed up to watch the FA Cup final (I had earlier learned to my horror that he was a Liverpool fan) and therefore needless to say, he was delighted with the end result, as I went to bed at 3am after the longest FA Cup in history!
Sunday 14th May
After a very late start to the day, I left Paul and Jo to a much deserved 'day off' and headed into the city to watch a Rugby League game at the Telstra stadium (the main Olympic stadium for the 2000 Olympics). The whole area around the stadium was purpose-built for the Olympics and I couldn't help but think that this was what London was going to look like by 2012. I went to watch the Bulldogs v. Eels (their proper names were the Mitsibushi Electric Bulldogs and the Parramatta Eels, which made me think of small robotic bulldogs, but then was just glad that Mitsubishi hadn't taken over the eels...). The game itself was great. I was in Bulldogs section and therefore supported them or be beaten to a pulp, so I gamely cheered when necessary and booed when appropriate to do so. Only 13,000 people turned up, which was small for the 80,000 capacity stadium, but the atmosphere was still brilliant. The dogs won 22-18 after a nail-biting finale and I had a great time. The whole sporting theme in Australia is so cheesy and very American. After each try for the Bulldogs, the music 'Who let the dog's out?!' was blasted through the speakers to the 13,000 euphoric fans and a hysterical Pommie. It was a great day and I got the train back to Paul and Jo's and had a delicious Chilli con carne with them before retiring to bed.
Monday 15th May
This morning we had went to Cranulla, wich is a seaside resort usually visited by the locals. It has a beautiful seafront and lots of bars and restaurants nearby. We went to a great cafe and had some more excellent food, in true Aussie portions. We then continued the drive and looked at some of the most glamorous suburbs in Sydney and then continued the drive through national parks before heading back to base to chill out and watch a DVD, before the 'last supper' that evening.
Tuesday 16th May
Today I left the home comforts that I missed so dearly (warmth, good food and relaxation), thanking Paul and Jo and everyone else for their fantastic hospitality and brilliant daily excursions and headed into Sydney for a final look around. I casually walked around, saw the Harbour bridge, bid my farewells to the Opera House and walked throuh Hyde Park back to Central Statio where the bus picked us up for the night-time journey.
Wednesday 17th May
This morning I arrived in Melbourne, which was noticeably colder than Sydney and meandered my way through rush-hour foot traffic to the hostel recommended by Cat and Matt. Soon after checking in and taking full advantage of the free breakfast I ignored my body's cry for sleep and went investigating the city. I must have walked for miles and seemed confident of my whereabouts. The streets are very simple and well signposted, but I think the maps of Melbourne are actually of another city, because they do not correlate with Melbourne in any way whatsoever. Anywho, I got back and later went out to watch the highly publicised Mundine v. Green boxing fight, which invloved getting completely lost and ready for a fight myself. The Australian press had kindly advertised the bout at 5pm, but when I eventually found a bar with the fight on, I realised that the programme started at 5pm, and had 12 fights on that night, with the Mundine fight on last. I surrendered and went back to the hostel and relaxed, but stayed awake for the Champions League final, which was on at 4.45am! I stayed up to watch a very lucky Barcelona snatch the cup from Arsenal and then went for my free breakfast.
Thursday 18th May
Soon after scoffing my face with the breakfast, I checked out of the hostel and went to another hostel (one of the few productive things I achieved on my adventures yesterday), which was marginally cheaper and quite a lot nicer than the previous one. I had a rough idea where the new hostel was, so I went about looking for it, complete with my 200kg bag strapped to my back. After 15 minutes of walking the streets at 8am, I decided I was lost and made a few last-ditch guesses where the hostel was before I jumped in front of one of the trams. To my delight/anger I found the hostel, which was about a 100m walk from my previous hostel. I dried up my tears and checked into the new hostel, and declined the free breakfast for fear of exploding and went straight to bed. I slept until the afternoon and decided that I needed to do something pro-active. I settled on going to the Arts centre to see if they had any performances on and then went to ACMI (the Australian Centre for Moving Images)... get me! It was actually a collection of art work in the form of moving images (shock horror) created by, and for kids. Still it kept my simple brain ticking for a while and I left after my head started to hurt. On the way back to the hostel, I passed a bakery with loads of muffins, and I heard the woman in the shop say 'It's buy one get one free'. Needless to say I nearly tripped over myself getting in and got chatting to the staff, who were all from England. As I was leaving they offered me some more donuts/muffins/pastries free of charge as they were closing the shop. I gratefully accepted and walked down the street with bags of cakes, which drew a lot of attention from the fatties walking by. I deliberated scoffing my face all night, but instead donated them to the hostel guests (only after I couldn't physically look at a muffin again). I played pool with my donut-eating friends and watched TV for the rest of the evening.
Friday 19th May
This morning I woke up just in time for free breakfast (which finished daily at 9.30am), which was a great bonus and then went on another walkabout. After another mammoth walk I came to the conclusion that the more I walked, the more I got lost and vowed never to walk again. I eventually got back to my hostel and finally done something productive by falling asleep before I had dinner. I went to the previous hostel, where I had bought an AFL (Australian rules football) ticket and watched an introductory video of the sport, picking up the basics of the game. There were 50 of us, all going to the MCG to watch the game, so I was excited, not only because it was going to be a new sport to follow, but because of the history invloved with the MCG (it was the first stadium to host the Ashes). The game was between the Melboune Demons and Hawthorn Hawks. We were advised to support the Demons and so we did. The atmosphere was great - the stadium was huge and such a fantastic arena for sport. The game kicked off and the crowd got behind both teams. I was sitting next to an Aussie called Mick, who explained the rules as it happened. Surprisingly, there are very few rules and they are pretty straight forward. Melbourne dominated throughout and the final score was Hawks 61, Demons 136. This was a huge scoreline as anything above 100 is deemed 'high'. We were sitting behind the posts, so any goal scored was easy to see and we were cheering like mad. There were just under 43,000 spectators there, of a possible 95,000, but it was still a great occasion and I would love to see another game.
Saturday 20th May
The day started with the familiar sprint downstairs for breakfast and the subsequent celebration of making it in the knick of time. I went back to bed and woke up at lunch, which was much more reasonable. I then went to the pick-up point for one of the highlights of my time in Melbourne... the Neighbours tour! There was a mini-bus full of people eagerly awaiting the visit to Ramsay Street and as soon as the wheels on the bus went around, the theme music was pumping out of the stereo. I soon realised this was on a continuous loop, so five minutes later I found myself moving back-and-forth rythmically, sucking my thumb, waiting for the silence. It arrived later than expected when we stopped by to basically stock up on Neighbours memorabilia. We then drove to Ramsay Street and took loads of photo's outside random people's houses and caused a general nuisance before moving on to Erinsborough High (the school featured in Neighbours) and took some more photo's there - careful not to get any kids in the background as I feared the police may be called. We then went back home, whilst watching classic episodes of the show on DVD. The whole tour was very cheesy, but a good laugh and I would recommend it to others who haven't got a life and need a 'hit' of nostalgia after 3 months of travelling! I came back to the hostel and then went out again, having a great meal before going to the Art Centre for the evening performance of Gilbert and Sullivan's 'The Gondoliers'. After forking out a fair bit for the ticket, I was relieved to have a great seat in a very grand theatre. The opera lasted almost three hours, and it was spectacular. I thoroughly enjoyed it and would recommend it to people with lives! After such a busy day, combining the cheese of Neighbours and the wine of the opera I skipped back to the hostel with glee after a great day in Melbourne.
Sunday 21st May
After yesterday's dramatic day, I continued the culture fest by heading to the Australian Open Tennis arena. I had a tour around the courts, the seating areas, press rooms, and trophy cabinets, which was a worthwhile experience, before heading to the smaller courts to watch some of the youngsters play tennis. The Australian's have the right idea - Tennis is far more accessible to kids over there than in England, which is why English tennis has been supported by the likes of 'Tiger Tim' and 'Gormless Greg' for the past ten years. Court hire at this great arena was only $25 an hour (10 quid). The talent was great as well - definitely stars of the future. I got chatting to one guy who brought his son once a week, and the 11-year-old was unbelievable (he'd hammer Tiger any day). After the tennis, I got the tram to Albert park, which is used as the Australian Formula 1 track each year. The track is used as a public road throughout the year, so I walked around the perimeter and saw the pit lanes. It was a nice long walk, full of joggers and rowers. There were sports arenas all over and I was half-tempted to stay and watch a football game, but decided enough of sport! I headed back to the hostel and had dinner watching a DVD before going to bed.