Thursday 30 August 2018

Four Nights in the Gold Coast

Whilst not working, I am in the habit of saying 'yes' to any opportunities that arise, as I am aware that I need to make the most of having a huge chunk of time off without the constraints of shift work. Rhianne had already booked to go the Gold Coast, but due to circumstances no longer had someone to go with and asked if I fancied it, with only a week's notice. Without a moment's hesitation I booked the flights and jumped aboard. Rhianne is fantastic at planning (she planned the majority of our Bright trip too), and so I was happy to go along with anything she suggested. We flew into Gold Coast airport on Thursday evening, picked up a hire car, and headed to our Air BnB. 

We decided to get an early start on Friday morning and go to Morans Falls, a sub-tropical part of the Gondwana rainforests in Queensland. I have recently learned that Instagram is a fantastic source of inspiration for places to visit and camera-worthy views and locations, and Rhianne having spotted Moran Falls on Instagram, we decided to head there. The walk was a fairly easy 4.4km which took us about an hour and a half from start to finish. To get the view pictured above, we had to walk through and along the stream to get right to the edge (there were a fair few others doing this too!), but the views were absolutely worth it, particularly as it was a bright and sunny day.

We had a quick look at the tree top walkway before making the drive to the Sky Point Observation Deck in Surfers Paradise. Driving back down the mountain I noticed an animal along the side of the road, and slowing down to look at it I was very pleased to see a kangaroo! It's the first I have seen out in the wildlife and it made my day! Thankfully it was only a young 'roo as the adults are huge and can be absolutely beastly. 

The observation deck offered fantastic views across the Gold Coast, and thankfully the weather was brilliant and the sky was clear. We didn't spend long up there as there's only so much you can do once you've taken in the view, and didn't fancy the overpriced refreshments. We decided to go and buy an ice cream and sit on the beach for a while, just watching the waves and the surfers, and enjoying the sunshine. It is surprising how much of a difference it can make to your mood to feel the sun on your face and the sea breeze. 

Before heading back to our Air BnB, we stopped at John Laws Park at Burleigh Heads, where you can walk to the lookout points and watch the sunset or sunrise. The sunset was absolutely breathtaking against the city skyline, and we spent quite some time sat there watching the co lours of the sky change. I was fascinated by watching all of the young people who were hanging around the park eating dinner or playing games; it seemed such a nice way of life to be able to sit in the park and watch the sea, with people running and walking along the coastal track. It's certainly very appealing, and I can see why people move to the Gold Coast.

Rhianne and I went for dinner with one of her old work colleagues and had a walk around before returning to the Air BnB to rest up for the next morning.

The next day we took the drive to Byron Bay, for Saturday and Sunday night. Once arriving we had a look around the town, and made sure to get to the beach for sunset. Many other people had got the same idea and flocked to the beach to watch the sun go down. It's a really lovely beach, very clean and not at all crowded, and was a lovely place to see the sun setting against the sea and the lighthouse. We found a pub later that night to watch a blues band and grab a bit of food, before returning to our hostel for the night. 

For our last full day we opted to take a surfing lesson at 9am. We got up early enough to stroll along the beach whilst it was peaceful and quiet, before meeting our surf instructor at 08:30. After only a few days in the Gold Coast I must say I am very inspired to live somewhere near a beach, where I can get up early for leisurely beach strolls and sit and chill of an evening.

I had a surfing lesson in Bali last week, so it was fairly fresh in my mind how to surf, so it was nice to do another refresher so soon. There were only three of us in the lesson - Rhianne and I and one other - and so we had a lot of tuition and managed to get quite a few waves each. The surf lesson was great fun, although very tiring despite only being in the water for around an hour. I'd love to surf a lot more so maybe in the near future I'll sign on to a surf school for a few days.

After surfing we were absolutely starving and stopped for some lunch, before making the walk up to the lighthouse. As always, the views were brilliant and we spent a fair amount of time watching for whales, and managed to see quite a few. We even saw a few dolphins! We were told by the staff at the hostel that we would not see whales, but I strongly suspect this is because they wanted to entice us on to their whale-watching tour for a fee. 

On Monday evening, our last night, we went to a fanastic wood-fired pizza restaurant. We decided to get a fairly early night as Rhianne wanted to get up at 05:30 in order to see the sunrise. Unfortunately the sky was pretty cloudy and the sunrise was nowhere near as spectacular as we had thought it would be, but it was very nice to be up early and see the day in. It's made me realise how much I actually miss getting up early for work and seeing the 'golden hour', and it will be nice to get my routine back.

Tuesday 21 August 2018

Hitting The Slump

I have now been in Australia for just over two months, and so far I have been pleasantly surprised by the absence of any homesickness, save for the odd day in the first couple of weeks which passed pretty quickly. Fast-forward to 65 days after arriving down under, and I think I’ve finally hit a slump. 

Today is Wednesday. I arrived back to Melbourne on Monday after a 12-day tour of Bali, and unfortunately the end of my trip was ruined by the dreaded ‘Bali Belly’. On Thursday of last week there were around 8 people out of 18 on the trip who suffered from the dreaded 24-hour vomiting, and I thought that I had been lucky to avoid it. Friday came, and three other girls and I decided to have a morning at a local spa due to heavy rain and the absence of anything else to do. I booked myself in for a very cheap package for a facial, massage, and manicure for the bargain price of around £8. All was going well until I sat down to have my manicure, and all of a sudden tried to explain to the beauty therapist that I needed to make a run for the toilet, but I wasn’t quick enough and promptly vomited all over the salon floor. To say I was mortified was an understatement. I then spent the whole of Friday in bed, throwing up constantly, unable to keep down any fluids. Sadly that meant I missed that evening’s farewell meal, along with a few others who also ended up struck by the bug. Later in the evening, when I felt like I could barely move a muscle for fear of being sick, there was also an earthquake which lead to the bed shaking and was not the most comforting of feelings. Even worse when you can hear people around the hotel shouting in panic and running around, and I’m questioning whether I even have the strength to pull myself out of bed!

I spent all of Saturday in bed hoping that I would feel fit enough to make my flight on Saturday evening; I did, but it was not a pleasant experience. I could not have been more pleased to get back to Melbourne and to my own bed! Sadly it is now Wednesday and I am STILL ill. I shouldn’t have been ill this long and it’s causing me all sorts of worry, and making me feel utterly miserable and alone. 

Bali was an absolutely amazing experience, and I got to enjoy lots of new things and meet some great people. I went for my first ever surfing lesson and loved it; I was very lucky to see countless dolphins on a sunrise boat tour (not even this picture does justice to how spectacular the views were with the dolphins leaping out of the water right beside us);  I went white water rafting which was absolutely hilarious; I enjoyed Indonesian cooking lessons and dancing, amongst many other things. I should have been on a high after all of this, but sadly the dreaded Bali Belly ruined the end of my holiday, and I think this episode has kick-started my current slump.

Feeling ill, I just want to be at home in my bed in England, around my home comforts and the undivided attention and company of my furry little house cats. I want to be able to pop into Tesco to buy the things I know I can eat and drink when I feel sick, that aren’t available in Australia. I want to be able to go to see a doctor without paying $60 for a consultation and $150 for a pathology test. I miss being around my familiar people and not having to be constantly trying hard to be sociable and make an effort to form new friendships; as much as I enjoy meeting new people, there is something to be said for the comfort and ease you enjoy at being around those that are close to you when you are drained of energy to do much other than to just ‘be’.

I am yet to start work and am missing the routine. I have just received my first month’s rota and I could not be more disappointed. Going from working 12-hour days with three or four shifts a week, with colleagues that I absolutely adore, to working in a new place with up to six 8-hour shifts per week, gives me plenty of worries about what kind of work-life balance I am now going to have to get used to. What I wouldn’t do to have my old shift pattern back, and to sit and natter with my old colleagues. 

Despite my current pessimistic state, I still feel very grateful to be here and know that this feeling will pass. I have some more trips planned, firstly flying up to the Gold Coast in a couple of days to do some surfing and general exploring in warmer weather. I’ve a few social events in the calendar to look forward to, and once I get back from the Gold Coast will promptly be joining a gym, as that is one of the major things I am missing right now and know that I need.

That all said, I must remember in times like this, that “This too shall pass”.

Wednesday 15 August 2018

A Weekend in Bright, Victoria

In the first week of August, two friends and I decided to take a road trip to Bright, a town in Victoria which is the start of many walking trails, as well as the skiing areas. Bright being roughly a 4-hour drive North of Melbourne, we had a few stops along the way, including a little town called Glenrowan, best known for being the place that Ned Kelly was finally caught and captured in, in 1880 after a siege and shoot-out with the police. I'll admit I had heard of Ned Kelly but didn't have a clue who he was or what he was known for, so I did a bit of research on the journey and found that he is widely considered a Robin Hood type, however in my opinion (and many others on internet it seems), that reputation is very wide of the mark.

Glenrowan is a fascinating little town which feels that it is many years behind, with lots of little cafes and a real Australia country vibe. Not surprisingly, most of the accommodation and shops are named after Ned Kelly himself.

Away from the city, there are so many things to look at and beautiful areas of countryside, so we stopped a fair few times to have a look and take pictures.

We stopped along the way at a town called Beechworth, known in its heyday for its gold, but we stopped specifially because we had heard that the Beechworth Bakery was highly recommended. We stopped for pie and cake but I must say it wasn't anything out of the ordinary! It's a tiny town with a population of under 3,000, and is another very quaint-looking Australian place.

It was really nice to be outside of the city and to be able to explore the countryside. We all enjoy walking, so decided to walk the Apex Lookout walk, as we'd heard there were fantastic views from the lookout point. We had a bit of lunch 'al fresco' before making the walk up to the viewpoint.

The views were fantastic and we had a nice clear day. The only disappointing thing was at the lookout was a power generator, which we had not expected to be there, and the views were therefore only decent from one side.

We took another stop to admire Mount Beauty, which I was very surprised to see was snow-capped. All of my preconceived ideas about Australia told me that they experience nothing but sun, so in my naivety I was rathersurprised to find that you can actually go skiing in Victoria and that there is snow at this time of year!

We were adamant we wished to go to a motel or hotel that had a jacuzzi (or 'spa' as they call them here), and fortunately we managed to find one. We spent a good couple of hours drinking prosecco in the spa before we decided to sort ourselves out for dinner. I'd had a shower and washed my swimmers, before wrapping myself in a towel to dash to the room. Unfortunately the rooms all looked remarkably similar, and some poor guy stood looking very surprised when Laura and I walked straight into his room before staring at him in confusion! Luckily he saw the funny side and laughed it off, although given that he didn't speak any English I have just assumed he was not traumatised.

Sunday morning was spent at a lovely little cafe on the river called the Ginger Baker, which served the most delicious selection of brunch dishes. On the way back to Melbourne we stopped at several wineries in the King Valley Prosecco Road region (yes it is as great as it sounds, wineries all in a row all offering prosecco) for a few tastings, before driving back to the city. 

It was great to get away even if only for the one night, and it has shown me there really is so much to see away from the city. It really made me miss having a car, as it would make it so easy to take off for days out here and there, and so I am really considering whether I want to get myself a car once I start work. 

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