A Travellerspoint blog

April 2016

Having a laugh: the Melbourne International Comedy Festival

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I've never been to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, but I just happened to be in Melbourne in time for the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.

So I got myself a couple of tickets, one for 5 at 5, a $5 gig with 5 acts at 5pm. I saw 5 actual Aussie acts which was hilarious, and then moved swiftly on to my next show a selection of 3 Brits in a gig named British Invasion.

Now I don't wish to boast, but I did fabulously. I spent $25, saw 10 acts (including MCs) and spent the evening just laughing and having a great time. Why wouldn't you? If I lived in Melbourne, I'd be at at least one show every week, probably more!

Now I really must get myself to Edinburgh one of these years.

Posted by Rebecca Heller 02:44 Archived in Australia Tagged shows comedy Comments (0)

Surfing (injury) in Byron Bay

The last stop of my East Coast adventure was the beautiful Byron Bay. It's pretty touristy, but like so many places I visited, it's easy to see why.

I had pre-booked a surf class for my first day so I spent my morning chilling on the beach, before heading to the bus stop to be picked up.

I was met by the mojo surf bus, already full of what turned out to be a group of Danish teenagers all on the same trip, most of whom had had a class the previous day. So whilst they were revising all they'd learnt the day before, I had a quick lesson with one other newbie.

On my first attempt here, I actually managed to stand. Yes! I got so excited that I was actually surfing that I did not jump off my surf board early enough and landed in extremely shallow water. I felt a pretty sharp pain in my left ankle, waited for a moment, wiggled it about and deemed myself fit enough to carry on.

I spent the next hour or so in the water, trying to correct with my repeatedly off balance surf technique. I did manage to stand a fair amount and by the end I was feeling so good about it all I decided I would probably book another session whilst I was in Byron Bay.

By that evening, my ankle was feeling a little tender, but not bad enough not to go out. I wandered about town, went for dinner and some drinks with new friends. Sadly after a few hours I was limping quite a bit so I sensibly decided to return back to my top bunk bed in the hostel.

Unsurprisingly, I didn't sleep well as my ankle was throbbing somewhat, and by morning I was unable to put any weight on my now very swollen ankle. The hostel owner kindly drove me to A and E so I could get a scan to check it wasn't too seriously damaged. The scans didn't show up anything more than sprain, which was great news really; the doctor strapped my ankle and sent me on my way.

Now of all the injuries I could have got this was pretty manageable, and of all the places, Byron Bay was pretty great. There are plenty of activities in Byron but actually, it's perfectly acceptable to sunbathe on a lush beach, sip a fresh lemonade and have the occasional dip when the sun just gets too much.

I also got to see Melina, my roommate from my tour in Peru, who lives near Byron Bay. It's pretty cool that I managed to see so many of my Aussie friends met whilst travelling in South America, and I'd love to think I'll see them again soon elsewhere in the world!

Posted by Rebecca Heller 02:25 Archived in Australia Tagged beaches surfing injury Comments (0)

The Whitsundays and Fraser Island

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View Australian adventure! on Rebecca Heller's travel map.

The next couple of parts of my trip were on organised tours. I had been informed that I simply couldn't miss either the Whitsundays or Fraser Island.

For my Whitsundays trip I booked with Wings. A sociable boat with a knowledgable crew, without the clipper boat's intense party atmosphere. There's not a whole lot of space on these boats so it's fairly important to find one that is likely to attract your kind of people. I think I got mine right.

This trip consisted of a lot of sunbathing on deck, plenty of snorkel spots, and a visit to the paradise like Whitehaven beach. Throw in great company and some cheeky evening ciders, and you have the recipe for a good old time. I felt like I was living a glamorous lifestyle, without any of the actual glamour on our boat of course.

I knew I was on the right boat when we met another group's crew member who asked if we were having a good time and swiftly told us we couldn't be having that much fun if no one had had sex in the jacuzzi yet. Wrong crowd buddy.

Anyway, I'd say the Whitsundays are a must-see, providing you're not prone to sea sickness. It's beautiful, unspoilt and relaxed.

My next leg of the journey was to Rainbow Beach ahead of my Fraser Island tour. Rainbow Beach is a small and somewhat charmless town that really is a stop off for Fraser Island tours.

I stayed at Dingo's hostel where the rooms and reception area were nice, but I was seriously unimpressed with the kitchen. Not only was it small, but severely under-equipped for the number of guests, and a lack of washing up liquid (combined with lazy backpackers) meant what little they had was truly disgusting.

I was therefore quite excited to head off on my Fraser Island tag along tour. These consist of groups of jeeps, one of which has a tour guide, the others are driven by participants.

Fraser Island is a huge sand island with natural lakes, rock pools and such like, but not a lot else. The beaches are roads and subject to the same, if not stricter, road laws as everywhere else. This meant that some party animals missed out on driving opportunities, especially over the Easter Weekend, following some intense partying each night!

There are genuinely beautiful parts of Fraser Island, Lake Mackenzie for example, and it's an unspoiled spot, despite the number of visitors. The Dingo tours are big on their partying so this was my first and only real experience with goon (cheap, rubbish wine in a bag!). I had great people in my car, our Fraser Family as we liked to call ourselves, and I think that really added to the trip. As with so many things, it was as fun as the people I spent time with, so really very fun!

Posted by Rebecca Heller 02:21 Archived in Australia Tagged beaches islands snorkelling beach sailing tour Comments (0)

Cairns: under the sea

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View Australian adventure! on Rebecca Heller's travel map.

I found Cairns to be a slightly odd place. Not not nice, just a bit odd. It seemed like no one was from there, they just moved to work there, but I suppose I just might not have met the born and bred locals.

My first night there was St Paddy's day so I found myself in the infamous Gilligans for a celebratory beverage. Gilligans is a big hostel with two large bars and a larger reputation for parties. People were really dressed up in there, it was the first time in ages that I was conscious of my backpacking attire, or rather, just my lack of high heels, body con dresses and false eye lashes. It didn't detract from a fun time though, I really enjoyed the outside bar with live music.

The following day I set off nice and early for my Uncle Brian's rainforest trip. As would suit our location, it absolutely poured at intervals during the day and we did pass through the wettest town in Australia (why would you choose to live there?!). Our tour guide 'cousin Brad' loved to chat incessantly and loudly, and allowed no sleeping on the bus at all. Brad was weirdly flirty with everyone for 7.30am, and the eyebrow wiggle was frankly too much.

Despite this, I actually enjoyed the trip a lot. We went swimming in various lakes and under the Mila Mila waterfall (home to Peter Andre's Mysterious Girl video - yes there was some hair flicking). And for all the weirdness, Brad had an excellent playlist that excused the eyebrow wiggle, just about.

The next day was my most exciting in Cairns as I went for my first trip on the Great Barrier Reef, and contrary to the forecast we had a beautiful day! On the boat they made us fill in medical forms and took us through the safety briefing for first time scuba divers. I felt fine about it so I got stinger-suited and flippered up for my first snorkel.

Now I've seen Finding Nemo, I went to the Natural History Museum Coral exhibition and I've watched the telly, but seeing the Reef for the first time is pretty cool. They weren't wrong about the different kinds and colours of coral, and they were fairly spot on about all the fish.

Oh and I found Nemo. Several times actually, I'm not really sure what all the fuss was about.

I wasn't nervous about my dive until I was in the water itself. I remembered all the tests I had to do under the water and it was after that that my unconscious took over and I struggled to breathe properly. It's odd really since the big instruction is to breathe as normal. It was as though my brain screamed 'WHAT ARE YOU DOING FULLY SUBMERGED IN THE OCEAN?! COME TO THE SURFACE AT ONCE!'

We came to the surface, I regulated my breathing and we went again. Weirdly, pinching my nose helped me to distract me so I wasn't overthinking the whole breathing thing. As you can imagine though, holding on to the instructor, pinching my nose, breathing and trying to take photos with my rented underwater camera was a bit of a performance but I managed it!

I'm really pleased I tried it, but I'm not in a massive hurry to dive again soon. I absolutely loved snorkelling though, and it was a relief to get back in the water to snorkel around, and find Nemo again.

Posted by Rebecca Heller 02:18 Archived in Australia Tagged waterfalls lakes snorkelling rain scuba-dive Comments (0)

Melbourne Take One

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View Australian adventure! on Rebecca Heller's travel map.

Attending the wedding was a big focus of my time in Melbourne, but post-wedding, I did make it into the city to explore. As per my habit, I went on the free walking tour of Melbourne, and would you believe it, I bumped into Chryso, a former colleague of mine. I had just been coming round to the idea that the world was in fact much larger than we give it credit for, since I'd seen such a small percentage on it during my trip. But bumping into a former colleague, that was proof that it is in fact a small world!

I visited the excellent joint Andy Warhol and Ai Wei Wei exhibition at the National Gallery. I'm not sure if it will be on anywhere else, but I'd strongly recommend it if it comes to a city near you!

Before I left I also managed to see my friends Rama and Kariza who I'd met in Peru and saw Carly again for a spot of dinner at Victoria markets. So really I had a wonderfully sociable stay in Melbourne.

I also finally booked my East Coast adventure. As opposed to most of my time in South America, I discovered that I really needed to pre-book my East Coast trip, since everything from hostels to buses to tours books out ahead of time. So I swiftly got myself a couple of quotes and went with the cheaper option through Peter Pan's.

There are so many options when it comes to tours it can be overwhelming. Thanks to conversations I'd had with Carly and other people I'd met along the way, I knew vaguely what was out there, what to avoid, and the questions to ask. This definitely saved me time, and I'd like to think, money.

So here's what I booked ahead of time:

  • Cairns: an Uncle Brian's Daintree rainforest tour and a Great Barrier Reef trip for my first ever snorkel and an introductory scuba dive.
  • Airlie Beach: Whitsundays tour with Wings
  • Rainbow Beach: Dingo's Fraser Island tour
  • Byron Bay: surf class
  • All bus tickets with Premier - far cheaper than Greyhound and fit my schedule
  • All hostels

Whilst my itinerary had very little wiggle room, it was quite nice knowing it was all booked and paid for, so all I had to worry about was food and treats for the next three weeks.

Posted by Rebecca Heller 02:11 Archived in Australia Tagged friends family tour Comments (0)

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