Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Manly No Longer

Today I went for what was probably my last run in Manly and it finally hit me that in just a couple of short days I'll be leaving yet another place I've come to call home.

I've heard Manly locals proudly refer to their beloved home town as paradise on more than one occasion, and it's not hard to see why: Surf, sun, beaches and so much natural beauty, all at your doorstep... Manly definitely has a lot going for it.

While it was a wonderful place to spend the summer, it had its downsides. My utter disdain for my job, our crazy landlords (I don't think I ever mentioned them but to give you an idea, they installed a security camera in the house just as we were moving out - slightly nuts) and a lack of a solid group of friends detracted a bit from the overall experience. Still, living in Manly definitely gave me a greater appreciation for the time I spent in Melbourne (where I lucked out with both my job and group of friends/housemates) and I really do feel like Ben and I made the most out of our time here.

There are things I'm going to miss about this little beach town but I am absolutely ready to to bid Manly (and Australia!) adieu and start on the next adventure: A week in Cambodia and a summer in Europe!

One of our many summer night dinners on the deck

A Christmas down under!

 The pool where we occasionally swam laps, with Manly Beach in the background

Manly Dam


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Less Work, More Snorkel

A while back I was musing about the give and take of travel (AKA about how my crap job but that it's allowed me to do lots of amazing stuff.) The good news is said crap job is finally finished, but the bad news is they managed to screw me over one last time...

Long story short, when I got hired I was told I absolutely HAD to stay until the beginning of May. Wanting to keep my promise, I booked my flight out of Australia for May 3 and arranged for my last day of work to be May 1. 

Just the other day (April 26 to be exact) the owners oh-so-kindly told me they decided to cut my last four shifts so that they could train someone else. So rather than having a couple of free days before flying out liked I planned, now I have a whole week - not ideal considering I was given next to no notice. It's a bit annoying having a few hundred dollars less than I thought I would plus so much unexpected time to fill before leaving, but I'm also genuinely happy that I never have to endure another shift at that place again. And instead of working today I got to go for a snorkel - gotta look on the bright side right?!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

We'll Never Be Royals

Although I wouldn't necessarily consider myself a royalist, a chance to see the future King and Queen of England practically right in my backyard seemed too good to pass up. As part of their Australian tour, Will and Kate stopped by Manly Beach to pay a visit to a children's hospice, view a lifesaving demonstration and accept a custom made surfboard for baby George (who wasn't there unfortunately!) It seemed everyone in Manly, myself included, was there to give them a warm welcome - and they were all smiles in return.

Royal Fever in Manly

Some people got pretty into it...

And at last they arrive!

Kate talking to some of the local kids in the lifesaving club

Crazy crowds

Gorgeous in real life!

Baby George's surfboard

Friday, April 11, 2014

T-Minus 21

Recently I was musing about the less-than-stellar jobs backpackers often do to keep our travel funds topped up. I concluded by saying that although the work isn't always fun, it's worth it, and it is (the proof is in the pudding turtle-filled ocean!) But after an epic week of gallivanting around Queensland it's back to the grind (on my own for the time being, as Ben's visa is up whereas mine's valid for another month) and I'm already counting down the days until my next bout of travelling begins (21 days to be exact.)

Here's what's happening:

- Working in Manly for the next three weeks (living in a new flat with four new housemates: an Italian guy and three girls from Finland/Germany/England) and saving up as many dollars as possible
- Flying to Siem Reap, Cambodia on May 3, where I'll be riding in tuktuks and 
visiting friends for a week
- Flying to Paris on May 11, where I'll meet up with Ben and spend a few days eating baguettes and drinking wine under the Eiffel Tower, or something equally as stereotypical
- Taking the train to London and meeting my family, who fly in on May 16
- Travelling around England/Scotland/Italy with my family for three weeks
- Spending the rest of the summer in Ben's hometown of Shrewsbury (he has to be home this summer to be in his friend's wedding!) with a little Euro travel/visiting friends thrown in as well hopefully!
- After that, who knows? Teaching in Korea perhaps... 

Needless to say I'm beyond excited for these upcoming plans and to get back into 'travel mode' for a longer period of time. But I need to make a couple more coffees and clear a few more tables before then... T-minus 21 days until it all begins!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Adventures in FNQ

After a few amazing dives on the Great Barrier Reef, our week in FNQ (Far North Queensland) was off to a fantastic start! 

We spent two nights in Cairns (a rather unremarkable city in my opinion, but a good jump off point to the Reef) then picked up our rented campervan and headed north. Now we were set on seeing crocodiles in Queensland, but in case we didn't see one in the wild (spoiler alert: we didn't) we decided to stop at a crocodile farm (which sounds evil but apparently it's sustainable? I'm still undecided) to have a look at these guys. Boy are they SCARY... but it was cool to get a look at them up close.

That night we parked the camper in a nice, quiet spot near a sugar cane field. Perfect location for a good night's sleep... or so we thought. As soon as the sun went down, the bugs came out to play. Not just one or two - I'm talking hoards. Armies even. It was war, them vs. us, and we didn't stand a chance. So into the camper we went. They can't get us in here, we thought to ourselves smugly. But our triumph was short lived, because within minutes we realized we had another problem on our hands: The heat. The stifling, humid, unbearable heat which, with the windows closed to keep the bugs at bay, had us basically suffocated. We woke up every couple of hours throughout the night, drenched in sweat and gasping for air. (This experience prompted us to buy something that would normally seem ridiculous but considering the circumstances made perfect sense... see the photo below)

Cooling off the next night with our rad new fans

Despite nearly suffocating to death, we made it through the night and first thing the next morning we went to Mossman Gorge. Situated in the Daintree Rainforest, a massive national park in FNQ, the Gorge is not only a sacred Indigenous site but also a perfect spot to have a swim and cool off.

After a refreshing swim in the Gorge, we drove further north all the way to Cape Tribulation, a small, remote locality in the Daintree Rainforest. With a population of only a few hundred people, there wasn't much more in Cape Trib than a few shops, a primary school and a handful of small resorts/hostels/campgrounds. 

Cape Tribulation can be as relaxed or as full on as you want it to be. We decided to make the most of our time and do a couple of day trips while we were there. The first was a guided kayak trip, where a small group of us ventured through mangrove trees and some pretty rough waves, before arriving at a beautiful, coconut-covered beach. 

We would have loved to go diving as well but as there are no dive companies in Cape Trib, the second trip we opted for was snorkelling out on the reef. I thought I might be disappointed considering we had just been diving in Cairns, but I think I actually enjoyed the snorkelling more! This part of the Great Barrier Reef is far less trafficked (we were the only boat out there that day!) and therefore more intact, resulting in more marine life to see - including TURTLES!!!

Seeing the turtles up close and swimming beside them was without a doubt one of the coolest moments of my life. They are so incredibly calm and graceful, you can't help but be just a little awestruck by them.

But the amazing wildlife didn't stop in the ocean - there was plenty to see on land as well. Ever heard of a cassowary? I hadn't before this trip but it's basically an enormous, colourful ostrich. They're rare to see in the wild, but luck must have been on our side because Ben and I saw four in one day (baby ones too!) They have to be some of the most unique looking animals in the world. 

On top of all this incredible array of wildlife, I also had the best fruit ice cream I've ever tasted at the Daintree Ice Cream Company (also with the best view I've ever seen while eating ice cream.) I mean, eating ice cream made from fruit from trees you can see right in front of you - does it get any better?!

Best ice cream shop ever

Apricot, blueberry and wattleseed (yep, it's a real thing!)

When we weren't kayaking, snorkelling, cassowary-spotting or devouring the most delicious ice cream known to man, we were perfectly content just enjoying the scenery that this 135 million year old rainforest had to offer.

Sometimes when you travel, a place just doesn't impress you all that much. FNQ, and the Daintree Rainforest in particular, did just the opposite; It completely, 100% exceeded my expectations. It's one of those places that I know has made a lasting impression on me, probably because I have never seen (and possibly will never see) anything quite like it.