Friday, 16 March 2012

You Know When You're Walking Down The Beach And A Stranger Puts His Python Around Your Neck? I Hate It When That Happens.

So, as I realised last week that I somehow spent a three week chunk of my budget in just over a week, I decided to get a wriggle on down the coast and moved on to Mission Beach as someone told me there "wasn't much to do" and I "wouldn't spend much money" there. Between being picked up from the bus stop and arriving at the hostel I had already agreed to do a 14,000 ft skydive, thus spending another weeks worth of budget in one go by signing up for something that I wasn't sure I would be coming out of alive. (Although this would solve my money problems, I would also be dead, therefore chances of further enjoying my trip are somewhat limited). Before leaping to my untimely demise, I spoke to a few people who had already done it and questioned just how terrifying freefalling through the air was. They all assured me that it would be the most thrilling and surreal thing I have ever done and that it doesn't actually feel like you're falling at all. I can now speak from experience and glady tell you that when one minute you're in a plane 14,000 ft in the air, and the next you are plummeting towards the ground at God knows how many miles per hour, you can tell that you're falling. The sixty seconds prior to the parachute opening were probably the most horror-filled moments of my life when it occured to me just what I had done and I kept having hideous flashbacks from an episode of Hollyoaks I once watched when a girl jumped out of a plane an her parachute didn't open... Obviously, as I am still here, my parachute did open and I lived to tell the tale. What I did not (almost) live through was running into a cassowary whilst on a walk up a mountain with two German girls from my hostel. I'm not entirely sure their English stretched to, "fucking hell, there's a bird about to eat us", but I think they got the point when it ran past us, in a surprisingly camp manner, and had us frozen to the spot for about ten minutes in case it came back/was still around/had gone to get friends. I knew nothing good was going to come from going on a "bushwalk". Bushwalk is the term Australians use when they mean 'slow, life-threatening torture'. I think it's the equivalent of a leisurely walk through the woods in England (an activity I have partaken in only about three times since I was fifteen), only instead of the woods, it's vertical up a mountain, instead of rabbits, it's birds that kick you to death, and instead of pleasant English weather, it is 100 degrees and sweat is dripping from places I didn't even know had sweat glands. We were so traumatised by the whole ordeal that the long walk back to the hostel seemed all too much to cope with and we hitch-hiked a ride back with an Australian couple. Unfortunately for us, we had to squish ourselves in the back, still sweating, amongst half a trampoline, a dog basket, and a children's car seat. It wasn't the most confortable ride of my life, but the more distance put between my face and the kicking bird, the better.

Just in case the cassowary, the bushwalk, the hitch-hike and the skydive were not enough to scare me into never leaving the house again, a stranger on the beach put his snake around my neck. (Not a euphemism, an actual python). There I was, wandering along the beach, daydreaming of simpler times when I could afford bread, when a man started chatting to me. I chatted happily back for a few minutes when I suddenly realised he was holding a snake. "Oh, my snake?" he says, as though he was simply walking a border collie down the beach, "beauty, isn't she? Here, try her on!" and before I knew it, "she", bless her, was around my neck, 'purring' (i.e angrily hissing) and tightening her grip in a not entirely unworrying manner. After what felt like an eternity on my shoulders, the snake was finally removed as a woman and her child came over to investigate. Being Australian, and also clearly insane, they had no objection whatsoever in holding the snake whilst I took a photo for them and the woman either did not receive or just chose to ignore my telepathic messages that clearly said, "it's going to eat your child" every time the snake 'yawned'... Who knew I was so maternal?

After all the horrors of Mission Beach, I decided it was time to move on again before I eventually came to a sticky end. Understandably, the Australian Greyhound buses are a lot smaller than the American ones that I'm used to, I just wish I'd not discovered this as I attempted to lie myself down across two seats, fell off, and subsequently became wedged in between my seat and the seat in front. After a fair struggle, I managed to eventually heave myself out and sat in a quiet dignity for the following 18 hours with the group of people who had just witnessed my downfall and were, naturally, getting off at my stop. Just as I was congratulating myself at the beach later on in the day on my tanning upgrade from milk-bottle white to egg-shell white, the group from the bus strolled past, followed by not one but twelve Australians carrying surfboards who, in comparison to me, looked pretty much a different race. Tanning progress = nil.

Monday, 5 March 2012

The Great Barrier Reef - One of the Seven World Wonders. (Or At Least, It Was Before I Broke It)

"If you are lucky enough," (that's right, it says lucky), "to see a cassowary in the wild, appreciate it from a distance. Be aware that this endangered species is also an unpredictable and potentially dangerous animal. When threatened, they can use their clawed toes" - clawed toes - "as weapons, jumping and kicking with both feet at once." This is the reality I was faced with as I walked through a rainforest full of these delightful creatures. Not only would that be an extremely painful death, I can also imagine no death more humiliating than being kicked to death with the 'clawed toes' of what is essentially an exotic pigeon. Thankfully, I left the bird trail unscathed and continued on yet another wonderful experience - the sky rail. In short, this is basically just a really exciting ski lift that goes over a rainforest. I know what you're thinking - that sounds amazing. And yes, it is amazing. Unless (and there is always an unless in my life), you happen to be in the carriage by yourself, the only other occupant being an enormous spider. After my mother played a cruel trick on me when I was 14, I now have an irrational fear of spiders. It's not just your average dislike either, I will literally sit and cry for a good hour if I am confronted with one. Granted in the past year or so I have actually become much better, this time I was 300ft in the air with no escape. The only thing I could think of to do was put as much distance between myself and this hideous cretin as possible, and this of course meant leaping (ungracefully) to the other side of the carriage. Given that the carriage was hanging from a cable, naturally when I leapt the carriage rocked, and when the carriage rocked, the spider ran, leaving me hanging mid-air in a tiny, enclosed space, rocking back and forth trying to outrun an insect. Meanwhile, the rainforest I'm meant to be admiring from the sky (and will probably never see again in my life) is passing me by and I'm starting to realise that 'cultural excursions' are maybe just not my thing...

Still, I did not let my spider experience deter me and soon found myself on an overnight trip to Cape Tribulation and Port Douglas. It's a wonder we got there at all as the friend I was going with kept getting the name wrong and ended up asking a bus driver if they were going to 'Cape Trepidation'. We managed to get there though, and our bus driver, George, is probably my favourite thing about Australia so far. At the first bus stop, he advised us to get off the bus, take some photographs, and smoke a joint. He then spent the next few hours telling us stories, all of which involved either girls getting killed, girls getting abducted, or girls/boys/family pets being eaten by crocodiles. Bare in mind, this is about half an hour before we were about to go on a boat to go and view some crocodiles in the wild - the baby ones were all well and good, it was when our guide exclaimed, "oh, look! Here's the mum!" that George's warning of "crocs can jump" came screaming back to me.

It would seem that there are a lot more ways to die whilst backpacking through Australia. The other night a girl in my dorm stood up on her bunk bed to take a photo and ended up being smacked in the head with the ceiling fan. I don't imagine there are many nice ways to be decapitated, but I think that's probably one of the worst. Who knew hostels could be so dangerous? On the whole though, I think the main issue with sleeping in a hostel is watching out for creeps. Unfortunately for the people in my dorm, that creep is me. The thing with sharing a room is it's easy to forget there are other people in it. For example, I woke up the other night to yet another of my exotic insect bites itching like mad. Apparently, I am irresistable to the mosquito population (understandable). Anyway, as I was rubbing cream into it, the girl in the bunk opposite happened to wake up and I realised that my sleepy gaze had somehow come to rest on her. Waking up to find a stranger staring at you in the dark and rubbing their leg probably isn't the best way to start your day, and needless to say, she left shortly afterwards. Accidentally creeping someone out whilst they sleep, I've found, is not the best way to make friends. Nor, it would seem, is saying to a girl from Sardinia, "oh, so you're a sardine? Like the fish!". Miraculously though, I have somehow made friends. My first night here I was the only one in a group of four that wasn't a doctor or a nurse. Somehow, working behind a deli did not sound as sophisticated as I'd once hoped. I felt a bit better though when later on in the week I ended up carrying one of them back to the hostel after she was refused entry from the club for being too drunk. It was an uphill battle right from the moment we went to put her shoes on and realised she had brought two right footed shoes, one of which didn't even belong to us. Another hurdle in the process of making friends - trying to explain to an angry Dutch girl why you are carrying one of her shoes whilst you simultaneously try and lift your inebriated friend into the top of a bunkbed.

This weekend's 'cultural excursion' has consisted of snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef. Excluding the time I once flipped 28 beer mats and caught them at the same time, it was the most amazing thing I have ever done. It was a little bit awkward when I realised that I had accidentally broken a bit of a world wonder with my flipper though... One down, 6 more to destroy. I also had a bit of a terrifying experience when I swam a little bit further around the island without realising and came out of the water to see nothing and no one. Naturally, my first thought was that a shark had eaten everyone and I was next. (The shark had also eaten everyone's luggage from the beach, and the pier and several boats that were there when I first went under). I highly doubt that the phrase it's more scared of you than you are of it was written for sharks off the coast of Australia, so I got out of the water and went on foot in search of my comrades. It's somewhat difficult to look even remotely cool and/or attractive when you are walking past tanned Australians in bikinis whilst you are dressed head to toe in an unflattering wet suit (complete with hood), a huge mask, flippers, and a snorkel. Unsurprisingly, I did not pull it off.


So, the thing about Australia is that you have to pay for literally every single bit of internet you use. Everywhere you go you either have to buy your internet use using your English bank account (whoops...), or spend $20 on a ridiculously overpriced sandwich just to skank a few WiFi passwords from the local cafe. So whilst I was browsing the other day, I noticed that this hilarious girl nominated me for a Liebster award, which basically means she thinks I am funny, and not unlike Adele in terms of award winning. However, I realised my fifteen minutes of internet time was almost up (more than fifteen minutes costs extra and that, my friends, is a slippery slope) before I'd properly had a chance to read it, but I thought, "you know what? Fuck it. This is my career we're talking about". (Since I quit my job, productivity has dwindled somewhat and thus I now refer to any activity where I use my brain as my 'career'). Britt first e-mailed me to check how many I have, as apparently the less followers the more deserving you are of said award. Do you know how many I have? Eleven. I have eleven followers. That's how many 'real bloggers' think what I have to say is worthy of their time. I always think my blog is pretty popular due to the amount of hits I get, but then I realise that they are mostly from my mum/dad/sister, the rest of my family, a few friends and then my mum's work friends whom she has bombarded with look-how-clever-my-child-is Facebook messages. (You know who you are, and I apologise profusely). But mainly, my hits come from weirdos who have taken to the internet and searched 'Chinese lesbians' in Google in the hopes of coming up with something a lot more exciting than more blog.

Anyway, part of the deal is I have to link 5 blogs that I think are better than mine. (That's not really what I'm meant to say, but here are some blogs that are probably a lot more coherent and make a lot more sense that whatever my blog consists of): - the first time I read this, the writer had just bought an inflatable shark and it was pretty much the funniest thing in the world.

So there we are!