Sunday, 13 January 2013

In With the New

The first day of 2013 and my first thought on waking up was to make sure I was somewhere with a signal at 11:00 since that would be midnight back home. I managed to get through to my mother just as they were bringing in the New Year, failed to reach my brother and got a ring back from my in-laws. Not bad considering the time differences and the number of other people making calls at that time. Fab as it was to say happy new year to them my parents were with friends and in-laws just about ready for bed I think so the calls were kept short with promises of proper call later.

Phone calls made the morning started off lazy as my friends discussed what to do with their day and I organised to meet up with my host friend once she was up and about. Before long I was headed to the train station and a short train ride to meet said host friend who drove to meet me half way between her town and Sydney so I could see the spectacular ocean views along the coastal road. She even made an adventure out of it by running out of petrol on the way home. Before the are cries of “typical female” abound her petrol gauge was claiming there was a quarter of a tank left. Lesson of the day: don’t trust the petrol gauge. Whilst we waited for assistance we put on the iPod and made ourselves comfortable. Before too long the road side assistance man was there to save the day. A quick emergency top up and stop at the next petrol station and we were safely on our way once more.

On our return we were greeted with much hilarity and I was convinced to take a relaxing dip in the pool. Well I was promised relaxing what I got was shot at by multiple water guns and climbed over by a small child, which was much more fun than merely floating around would have been. Of course allowing small children to shoot water at you and climb all over you makes you their instant best friend which was lovely but I was glad when later in the evening they transferred their attention back to my host friend who glad kept them entertain for the latter part of the evening. For all I had slept well and not been out partying as such I still felt myself tiring as the day came to an end. I love other people kids but I don’t know who they manage to keep up with them. Any parent reading this I have major respect for you and your stamina levels. As lovely as it was to meet my friends family friends and their kids I was happy to head straight to bed once they had left the building.

On the second day of the new year we did attempt to be productive and go to the cinema but there were a lot of kids (I like them in small numbers)  and we had cut our timing a little tight due to both of us being held hostage by our beds that morning. We soon determined that neither of us was that bothered about seeing the film and went for coffee and cake instead. It was a grey day and the rain seemed to have settled in for the duration so we head home  or another day of films and in my case photo sorting and editing. I know there are some purists who think photo editing is cheating but I love messing with my shots, for me it’s half the fun. Of course a day of film watching means a day of snacking on chocolates and sweeties but since that is something I rarely do when travelling I ignored the calories and simply enjoyed our last day together before I headed north back to the tropics. Not back to Broome but to the east coast this time and Cairns where the rainforest meets the reef, or so I was told.

On the day I left I got up at a reasonable time as packing was going to be a challenge. Somehow I managed to fit everything in to my rucksack and even more surprisingly it was within the weight limits for my flight. My impulse to stop and take some last minute photos of a damaged top I was going to throw out (and ended up packing anyway) meant I made my train to the airport without a second to spare. I had a hasty goodbye with my friend which I think suited us both as neither of us like them which is fine because I knew I would be seeing her again sooner rather than later this time.

My train got me to the airport in plenty of time which I was glad of when I saw the check in queue as it was very long however much to my surprise for once I was one of the people asked to go to an empty check in desk and before I knew it I was free of my large backpack and heading through security. I used my spare time to get some dinner as the flight was too short for it to be included and I knew that by the time I got to Cairns it would be too late to go hunting for food. It also allowed me time to book a spot on the shuttle bus from the airport to my hostel which I had forgotten to do previously, thank goodness for the internet is all I can say. My flight was uneventful. No moving of seats or free wine or iPads this time but it was a calm flight and the Virgin Airways staff are pleasant and helpful so it was an easy enough journey and gave me plenty of time to work on my blog.

Once in Cairns I quickly found the bus and was soon dropped off at the hostel. I had decided to stay at a non-YHA hostel on the recommendation of another traveller and based on the online photos I thought this place would have more character. Instead of a six bed I had booked a three bed dorm on the understanding that the hostel try to make the smaller dorms single sex. Try is not a guarantee though and I ended up sharing with a couple my first night. Thought they were pleasant and very polite I felt a little awkward about this. Thing improved the following day when they moved to a private room and I had two new roommates. One was a Norwegian girl and the other an American guy who was currently living New Zealand. Both were there for the diving and made for interesting roommates.
The Dreamtime Travellers Rest Hostel
I didn’t do much in my first four days in Cairns but I did make a point of being more social that I had been in Broome. I went for walks around the city centre to get my bearings and see what kind of place I had landed in this time. My initial impressions were that Cairns was large, confusing and full of people. Whilst I liked it well enough I didn’t think I would be hanging about, especially as I had spent 4 months in the tropics already. Therefore in-between wandering around the shops and esplanade I planned my trip south looking up hostel a nd trip costs and determining the places I really wanted to stop. The choice of destinations was helped along by some lovely facebook friends who gave me their thoughts and impressions of the various places I was thinking of stopping. Since I was still thinking of looking for work in Tasmania I decided to stop at a limited number of places and picked my top three Queensland destinations then decided to stop at Byron Bay in New South Wales before skipping down to Melbourne with a possible quick stop in Sydney if any of my friends were going to be about when I was passing through.

As well as planning my future travels I decided to use my UK Christmas money (thank you in-laws and big brother!) to book a couple of trips up into the rainforest. After all I was going to see the reef so I had to see the forest as well,it's only fair. So through the ever helpful hostel staff I booked a day trip tot he Atherton Tablelands and a trip up to Cape tribulation which would leave me at Port Douglas on the way back. On the recommendations of the staff here I booked myself in to a hostel for two night thinking it would make an excellent start to my travels. I did notice the work available message but I had made a plan and I thought for once it would be nice to stick to it so I went back to my dive book and trip planning happy in the knowledge that life was about to get very interesting once more. 

Markets at the Esplande
Cairns CBD

The Lagoon at the Esplande - No stingers here!

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Thoughts on New Years Eve Number Four

As another year was coming to an end instead of the dread I had felt in the previous few years I found myself looking forward to Christmas. I would be staying with one of my closest friends and seeing a few more good ones along the way. I was finishing up at work and moving on to new places in the new year. I would be travelling again but this time with money in the bank. Life was good. I arrived at my friends house to find Christmas in full swing. I had enjoyed catching up with her on the car journey back from the airport and it was lovely to see her family again on my arrival. I felt truly welcome and wanted. To celebrate this feeling I made sure to post as many photos and updates as I could during the day so my families back home could see my Christmas, I even left skype on so that they could contact me whenever they were available in the hopes of speaking to them on the day itself. Despite only managing a very jumpy skype call with my parents and brother and not managing to speak to my inlaws at all I enjoyed sharing my day with my online friends via facebook almost as  much as I enjoyed sharing it with my friends family. New Year though is a different kettle of fish.

Christmas was always my favourite day with Jonathan preferring New Years Eve. He loved to bring in the New Year with a wee dram with his closet friends and family. I guess that is why I enjoyed Christmas yet still felt apprehensive as another year was due to start. Of course there is also the obvious of it’s yet another year without him. I was invited to spend New Years with the same family I shared Christmas with but found myself being very indecisive. I knew I would enjoy their company but I wasn’t sure they would enjoy mine! In the end I had the opportunity to go into the city and see the fireworks with another good friend.  It was the right thing to do. I loved the fireworks. I’ve always loved fireworks and the Sydney New Year show is definitely something anyone should see at least once if they can. I was excited and with friends but I was also sad. It still hurts to know this is yet another year Jonathan never got the chance to experience. It was also the first year in a long time where I didn’t have a whisky to bring in the New Year, instead I had a very Aussie glass of wine.

It’s hard to explain. I didn’t cry and there wasn’t any outward show of tremendous grief like there has been in previous year, just this sad acceptance of he’s not hear when he should be.

I’m not sure if my friends really get that I still feel this way and since I often fail to recognise my actions for what they are until after the fact I rarely tell them but I do know that they got me through. The ones who shared their Christmas celebrations with me gave me laughter and joy on what has previously been a difficult day, the ones who shared New Year with me gave me something else to focus on and they all were just there. I am constantly amazed at how people don’t understand the value of simply being there, of letting me be whatever I feel and am without question.

So the beginning of 2013 was a sad and started with me missing Jonathan but before the day was out I was back to me. By the time the clock struck midnight again I was back at peace with myself and my life and looking forward to my next adventure. Four years ago I never thought that I would be here writing these words or anything like them, but I am. I am here and I am alive and I am loving life. So if you are reading this and you were miserable and sad and lonely over the season, even (especially?) when you were surrounded by those you love know this, it will pass and it can get better. It takes a hell of a lot of effort and a fair bit of time but we’ll get there in the end and it will worth it.

Monday, 7 January 2013

Out With The Old

Having arrived at my friends very Christmassy home on Christmas eve I was warmly welcomed and then fed.  I took a few minutes to settle in to my room before spending the rest of the evening continuing to catch up with my friend and watching the obligatory (in my family anyway) Christmas movie which this year Polar Express. Before long though it was time for bed and we were being told that Santa wouldn’t come until we were all safely tucked up for the night and so my rather long day ended rather well.

I was woken up early the next morning and ordered downstairs so we could all open our presents. Having requested that the folks back home restrain themselves I was slightly concerned to discover that out of everyone I seemed to have the most gifts to open! Fortunately there were many edible gifts amongst them which could be disposed of over the next week or so with a little help from my friends. Though I had many little things it didn’t take me long to work my way through my ‘haul’ nor did it take the others long to catch up. This of course left the eternal grown-up Christmas day problem of what to do next now all the presents had been opened, the answer was to eat. Since I have been well and truly off my diet for a good few weeks now I was very happy with this arrangement and even indulged in a wee morning glass of champagne. I took as many photos as I could during the day and uploaded them so my family could see I was having a good time without them. I even managed to have a quick skype call with my mother and saw my Christmas card from my brother which he opened and showed to me over during the call, even pixilated it was a very nice card.

 On boxing day I gate crashed my friends family lunch. We went to a lovely hotel in Thirroul, a town 90 minutes north of my friends home. As well as a tasty meal and enjoying meeting some of my friends family we also managed to fit in a walk along the coastal road so my recently neglected camera could get a proper work out. This was accompanied by some interesting discussions with my friend on religion, life the universe etc and reminded me of our many random conversations as we sat on the chairlift to and from work in the mountains. Lunch took up most of the day and when we left some of my friend’s family followed us home to continue the family catch-up. My friend and I decided that we had been social enough for the day and took ourselves off to watch Shrek. This was interrupted to watch the Dr Who Christmas special which I am hopeful has converted said friend into another fan for me to have geeky conversations with. After Dr Who we resumed Shrek only to be interrupted again so I could skype with my in-laws. After a lovely catch up (the signal was much better on boxing day than it had been on Christmas day) we finally finished Shrek before either of us fell asleep, just.

With Christmas over I headed in to the city to meet another friend for lunch which turned in to drinks and then dinner and included me phoning my host-friend to make sure it was ok for me to stay longer. Yes I felt a bit like a teenager but as it was a two hour train ride back from the city staying until 7:30pm in town meant I wasn’t back until 9:30pm at night. Not too late but late enough for someone playing taxi and therefore unable to drink all day. The friend I met in Sydney was one of the first people  I met in Sydney and I always enjoy catching up with him when I’m passing through. Even better a friend of his joined us and insisted that they were going to see the fireworks. Which got me thinking that if they did go I might just ask to tag along with them. However we soon got distracted by other random topics and too soon it was time for me to head back to the suburbs. Easy enough you;d think except that my train got delayed at a station half-way back and my friend ended up coming to get me thus making us rather later home than planned.

Now I could have stayed in the city but I didn’t because the next day my friend and I were off to get a manicure and pedicure kindly paid for by her parents as a Christmas present. We made a day of it by going for brunch first then heading home afterwards to get ready for a dinner with a mutual friend of our from out time working in the Snowy Mountains last year. Our mutual friend booked us a table at a Lebanese restaurant with lovely food and a belly dancer as entertainment. It was all good fun and two of the three of us even got up to have a go. Yes I felt very silly but that only made it more fun though the wine may have helped there too. Since our friend lived closer to the city we stayed with her and went to see her at her work the next day to say good bye. We also took the opportunity to do some much needed shopping. Sadly mine wasn’t the fun kind but a hunt for some necessities but my friend managed to get a rather nice pair of sandals and some funky pyjamas. Apparently the centre we were in was the second biggest in Australia but instead of impressing me that only made me want to get out faster. I’m really not a fan of shopping centres and even less so after four months in the tiny town of Broome, there were way too many people squished in there. Once home we finished the day with some baking as I attempted to make banana bread, an Aussie treat that I have become very fond of during my travels. My friend had bought some bananas and allowed them to ripen before I arrived so all I had to do was find a simple recipe and follow it. Now I don’t know if it was me or the recipe but let’s just say if I had been making banana cake then I would have felt very successful.

By the eve of New Years Eve we decided we needed a lazy day after all that activity and had a lovely day watching some of my favourite films and eating rubbish all day. It was a great lazy day which was slightly marred at the end by me managing to trip over a water pipe and skin my knee. Really you can’t take me anywhere. In my defense I was looking at the stars only to be brought to earth with an almighty bump: I am sure there is a lesson in there somewhere but I refuse to consider it. Thankfully I never travel anywhere without my amazing papaw cream so I figured I’d be right as long as I kept applying that to it. On our return I finally got a reply from my city friend who I had messaged the other day and all of a sudden I was indeed going to see the Sydney fireworks. I managed a quick call home to both mine and Josh’s parents before I was back online working out train times and figuring out what I should take and of course what to wear. Therefore on New Years Eve I was once again on my way in to the city to meet my friend as bring in the New Year Sydney style.

New Years Eve in Sydney was really something. We were a little late getting in to the city so we didn’t make it to our original planned lookout point but we made it to one opposite and with a little bold shuffling got ourselves a pretty good spot with a fabulous view of the bridge and its surroundings. We had been a little bit naughty and smuggled in some vodka to help keep us warm/occupied as we waited. Despite arriving later than most it was still only 17:30 when we arrived at our spot. We had had a few before we left my friends flat place but we were being very civilised and quiet nor were we likely to become otherwise however that didn’t stop some older ladies from reporting us to the authorities who quickly appeared to confiscate our vodka. Now I know they were technically in the right but they were loud and obnoxious and so self satisfied it was really annoying to be reported by them. Seriously they were more disruptive than anyone in surrounding out spot. They did provide some amusement during the nine pm kiddie firework by shouting at everyone to sit down. We couldn’t see any signs of disability so we can only assume that they were to lazy to stand up for the whole fifteen minutes of fireworks that, oh yeah were mostly up high in the sky anyway. After the firework then the boats lit up and paraded around the harbour, no doubt giving those on board an excellent view of all the plebs on dry ground with our cameras and giving us something different to look at for a few minutes.

Despite our vodkaless state we kept each other entertained well enough until finally it was midnight and the skyline lit up. They were bright, shiny and loud, in fact everything a girl could hope for to bring in a new year. We were in a dip so the sound of the fireworks echoed of the near by rocks and soon there was smoke all around us. Despite this we could still see the fireworks going off in the sky in front of us, beside as and behind us, not to mention the bridge fireworks which made an excellent finale even if it was less of a focus than it has been in previous years. It even looked like I managed to get a few decent shots with my camera though I wasn’t sure how good they would be once they were on the computer. Once the fireworks were all over and we were a whole fifteen minutes into 2013 it was time for a quick escape. We joined the crowds as we left the park en mass and headed to the nearest train station. Thanks to our packing up before the fireworks and our crowd dodgeing skills we were right at the front of the crowd waiting to get in to the station. This was good for getting home but a little bit scary as when the gates opened the crowd surged forward. The city was well organised though and we were soon in a more open space and making out way to the train which we caught with no bother at all and without any of us getting lost.  Once home we managed a quick new years drink before it was time to call it a night and 2012 was well and truly over, which of course meant that 2013 had begun.....