isabellamariana97

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Oz: Noosa

Admittedly it was a mistake piling Noosa, Hervey Bay and Fraser Island into one post, because a lot happened over these eight nights. There will therefore be a fair share of omissions to save this post from becoming an essay. But let’s get down to it. We didn’t know what to expect from Noosa, but we’d heard good things. The description that rung out at us was ‘Noosa is a less commercial Byron Bay’. Instantly we were excited. We stayed at Nomads; a chain hostel with integrity. It only took us a 45 minute long queue to check in to realise Nomads was the place to be. But if we hadn’t figured that out then we certainly would’ve our second night in. The bar/pub/club attached to the hostel was where all the locals went for a decent night out. For us it was a thirty second walk from our room; up through the outside seating area and round to the front of the hostel, where the queue to get in started forming at around nine o’clock. The club did not disappoint; $5 mixers and old school tunes ensured a great start to the night. The only downside; it shut at midnight. We weren’t disappointed for too long however, as the hostel had organised a bus down to another club as soon as the doors to theirs closed. On we hopped, only to get down there and be turned away at the door for wearing flip flops. Our distress waned quickly though when we discovered the club next door had no dress code. Getting in, Cindy and I, as well as a lovely Scottish girl we’d met at Nomads (shoutout to Ellyn), were three of about twenty customers. But we aren’t the type to give up on a night out, and resolved to down drinks until we were pissed enough to make fools of ourselves on the dance floor. Four drinks down however, the club had filled up. A new wave of excitement hit with a few new rounds of drinks each, resulting in us getting suitably drunk and stumbling back to the hostel at three in the morning, kebab in hand. Just as good as home. But however hungover we were the next day, it didn’t stop us from booking a surfing lesson for that afternoon, as we discovered that Noosa is the last decent surf spot on the East Coast; after that various sea monsters mean the water is too dangerous for activities such as paddling etc. Fuck the jellyfish. Traipsing down to the beach for one o’ clock, we met our surf instructors. One seemed very taken with me, but I’ll quickly diminish any readers’ hopes of a summer romance with a hot Australian surf instructor; he was around my dad’s age and simply enjoyed the fact that I was from England and had hair like his wife’s. Going into this surfing lesson, Cindy and I really had no idea what to expect. After my water-skiing nightmare of 2012, I was quite anxious to involve myself in any other kind of water sports. However, after just one lesson, I’m hooked. Surfing is not at all scary, and as the instructor rightly pointed out, it isn’t like any other sport. It isn’t very fast-paced, meaning you have a lot of time when you’re on the board to figure out what you need to do to catch a wave successfully. It’s easy; even I got up first time. My heart leapt when our instructor told me I’d be a ‘wicked surfer’. Finally, I may have found a sport I could be half-decent at. Buzzing from our lesson, we wound down on the next beach over for the rest of the afternoon, and celebrated with Ben and Jerry’s.

We got back to the hostel in the early evening, ready for our last night in Noosa. And what a night it was. Bumping into one of the groups from Somerset we’d met in Byron Bay, we hung out with them for the rest of the night until all the clubs closed, and then accompanied them back to Noosa National Park where their campervan was parked. How five 19 year old boys managed to squeeze into what was, in reality, a people carrier not a campervan for an entire East Coast road trip I will never know. Goon, beer and speakers in hand, we sat on a patch of grass overlooking the sea until the early hours of the morning. At around five o’clock, the Australians came out. Donned in fitness clothes and whatever else you wear when you exercise (I wouldn’t know), a decent fifty people must’ve passed us that morning. I can’t imagine what a sight we were; off our faces, drenched from a swim in the sea earlier that morning, music blaring, rubbish everywhere, goon bags being swung in every direction, I feel we may have seemed a little disrespectful. Typical British. Greeting everyone who passed with a slurred, ‘Good morning’, to mixed reactions, we had a good laugh. Until it reached seven o’clock and Cindy and I realised we needed to get back to the hostel to check out. Accompanied by our new friends who had their hearts set on a Maccy’s breakfast, we set off on the hour long walk home. We parted ways down in Noosa town. I don’t think they ever did make it to Maccy’s. Dreams shattered. After a shower where we discovered various injuries from surfing and climbing (and falling) on the rocks during our all-nighter,  and some breakfast we felt mildly like human beings again, and after monging out in Nomads reception for the morning, we set off to catch our next Greyhound bus up to Hervey Bay.
I know I said I was combining this post with Hervey Bay and Fraser Island, but after seeing how long it is, omissions and all, I’ve decided to do them in separate posts. Sorry if this disappoints my many fans.

 

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Oz: Byron Bay, Surfers Paradise and Brisbane

Thanks to a friendly German (shoutout to Lennart), the six hour bus journey from Port Macquarie to Byron Bay went pretty quickly. Getting off the coach, I instantly loved it. Greeted with reggae music emanating from the park next to the bus stop, and backpackers every which way you looked; the atmosphere was one of a kind. Heading first the wrong way then the right way, we found our hostel just down the road from the main street. A YHA hostel, it was pretty high standard; air conditioning and all. We settled into our room and met one of our two roommates, before heading out for some dinner. Tonight was a memorable one; ‘twas the night we discovered $5.75 Dominos. Let’s just say it was the beginning of the end for us. Once we’d tasted that deliciously cheap goodness, we couldn’t get enough. Our first Dominos was enjoyed in the aforementioned park, chatting to some locals and enjoying the live music and weird dancing. Pizzas completed, we strolled with full bellies fifty feet across the neighbouring car park to The Railway, an outdoor, slightly rough-round-the-edges bar with live music. We sat, enjoying the fact we were in Byron Bay, before getting approached by some weird Canadians and retreating back to the park and then the hostel for an early-ish night. Upon returning to our room we met our second roommate, an Austrian girl called Clara who became a recurring character on our East Coast trip (shoutout to Clara). In the morning we found breakfast in a quaint local bakery before getting ready for a day of exploring. Now before I continue, there is one thing you need to understand about the East Coast of Australia. Any main street frequented by backpackers at any popular stop off is littered with travel agents of all shapes and sizes, with reps that are paid on commission. This means their future with their respective travel agency relies on how successfully they can shove their various deals and packages down your throat. We fell into this trap on that fateful morning in Byron Bay, spending an entire morning in Greyhound Wicked Travel, booking all of our main activities for the East Coast that we were too disorganised to book beforehand. In fairness, we were lucky to get on some of the tours (shoutout to the Greyhound guys), so the time spent in their shop was probably necessary. Emotionally and financially drained, we finally arrived down at the main beach by the afternoon. We sunbathed until I got bored and threatened to throw a tantrum, and then walked down the beach to the lookout point, which offered stunning views in every direction. One more quick swim and then we headed back down the beach and back to the hostel to get ready.

We rocked up to the Greyhound travel shop where they were offering free pizza, goon, a selection of prizes, and free entry to Woody’s; a slightly retro, slightly small club/bar across the street. Of course, free pizza meant one slice, free goon meant roughly an inch of liquid, and we later found out that it was free entry to Woody’s anyway. We did get a free drink at the club as well, but I chose ale which was possibly the worst decision of my entire life. Despite my moaning, it turned out to be a pretty good night. Beginning the evening with my German bus friend and his mates, at the club we met two groups who were from the neighbouring county back in England, and ended up down at the beach (again) chatting with a couple of them about trivial bullshit gossip from back home. Not exactly scintillating philosophical conversation but a laugh nonetheless. The next day it was time for us to leave Byron Bay. But not before we’d hit up the beach one last time for coffee and a foggy morning walk. It brightened up by the time we caught our bus in the afternoon however, making saying goodbye to what is still our favourite place on the East Coast, that much harder.

Arriving in Surfers Paradise in the early evening, the humidity hit. We got to our hostel sticky and flustered, and only became more so when we found we were sharing the one fan in our room with four other people. Seeking refuge outside with Austrian Clara (who’d caught the same bus as us up to Surfers) and a friendly British guy (shoutout to Ben), we started organising hostels. This is when things got stressful. Every hostel we tried for Noosa (our next stop after Brisbane) was full, meaning we had to think about rearranging our whole plan for the next week. Frustrated, we whipped up some dinner and characteristically decided to hide from our problems until the morning. It didn’t take us long to get out of our funk, as the hostel took everyone on a night out to a club that I can’t remember the name of. It was a fun night getting to know new friends and experiencing a small part of the Gold Coast nightlife. Had a bit of a ‘mare at the end of the night but I’ll spare the details because my mum will be reading this at some point. Hi mum. The next morning consisted of chilling out and having a laugh with our hostel friends, getting our shit sorted (which we did) and sheltering from the blistering heat. Cindy and I took a very short trip down to the beach to see what all the fuss was about and then quickly returned to the shade. By the afternoon us and some of our new friends were on an air conditioned Greyhound bus up to Brisbane.

Thank god; we’d picked another YHA hostel. It was magnificent. A rooftop pool and seating area offered insane views of the city, the kitchen which we did not use was huge and well facilitated (apparently), and the air conditioning was so good you woke up with a cold. We like that. We got to Brisbane in the late afternoon and spent a few hours getting ourselves together; food, laundry, alcohol, money, all that jazz. Feeling less like trash from our experience in Surfers the night before, we headed up to the roof for a drink with an extremely gay Australian man (shoutout to ice man) we met in the laundry room. A few sips of his litre Smirnoff bottle later, he was happily informing us and everyone in the near vicinity about his cocaine habits and the fact that there’s a g spot in the male anus. Who knew. Sadly we had to make an early exit from what was quickly becoming a very uncomfortable situation, as we were meeting our Gold Coast friends for dinner down the road. The first proper dinner we’d had in what felt like years, I chose chicken schnitzel served with chips and gravy, and salad. Chips and gravy. Just thought I’d repeat that. It was orgasmic. A few more beers and then Cindy and I headed back to our hostel for a nicely air conditioned sleep. The next morning we took full advantage of the free hostel breakfast before setting off on a walk through the city to Brisbane’s man made beach. More like a community pool, I wasn’t too keen, but we found a nice spot to sit in the shade where Lucinda read and I sat and twiddled my thumbs for a few hours. Back to the hostel for mid-afternoon and then off to catch our next bus to Noosa, we were really only in Brisbane for 24 hours. It’s a nice city, but definitely more time for exploration and a few decent nights out was needed. Definitely on my list of places to go back to when I return to Australia.

Oz: Sydney, Newcastle and Port Macquarie

Touching down in Sydney at seven o’clock on the evening of the 5th, I felt rough. The novelty of embarking on my adventures had somewhat worn off after 24 or so hours of travel, all whilst developing what I think was some form of laryngitis. The taxi drive to our hotel in Darling Harbour where my friend was waiting perked me up no end however, as the whole forty-minute drive was filled with the driver informing me on everything Australian (shout out to Peter from Ready2Go). Seeing Lucinda’s face in the hotel reception only made me feel even better, and finally I was excited. I mean that probably wasn’t evident an hour later when I passed out mid-conversation. But it was worth it the next morning when I didn’t feel completely awful, and we set off on the grand adventure of finding a cheap breakfast. Bearing pecan twists and granny smiths we caught an Uber to Manly to drop Cindy’s suitcase for New Zealand (where she’d be travelling to after our East Coast trip) off at the family friend’s whom we stayed with when we got back to Sydney at the end of the month. Manly is awesome. It’s like an upscale Chelsea Borough with more interesting architecture and better views. Walking down to Manly Beach we experienced the quiet suburban atmosphere mixed with summer holiday hype (and rich fifteen-year-old hipsters).

It only took us that first ferry trip from Manly Wharf to Circular Quay to figure out we’d found a pretty special city. Gliding between the proportions of the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge towards a complexity of glass towers standing out against a clear blue sky is quite a surreal experience, which, in hindsight, feels no less surreal the more ferries you take. But a walk through the city in searing heat is enough to bring anyone back down to earth, and we were grateful to be back in our air conditioned room later that afternoon. A quick nap to ward off the jetlag then we were off to find some dinner. The nearest food mall offered a nice array of cuisine, and we sat down to a civilised though questionably hairy ‘Chinese’ meal. We trudged back to the hotel feeling underfed and ripped off, and happily let the jetlag claim us at a distinguished nine o’clock. The next day we took a slow walk through the city, ending up in the Royal Botanic Gardens for lunch and a three hour nap. Or for Lucinda it was a three hour nap. For me it was three hours of worrying that I had tonsillitis and internet diagnosing myself, since my sore throat from the day before had progressed into high level strep, and my man voice was in full effect. We then set off for our hotel for the final time to retrieve our bags and catch our first Greyhound bus to Newcastle.

We arrived in what seemed to be an entirely deserted Newcastle late on Saturday night. The only noise in the town seemed to be coming from the hostel we were staying in, but on arrival we discovered it was filled with only mid to late twenty-year-old solo backpackers, out in Australia with the sole purpose of ‘finding themselves’. This was mildly disappointing to two nineteen-year-old gap year wankers who were looking for a month long piss up. However, the jetlag was still full power, so we headed off to bed swiftly. Waking up at an unreasonably early hour, I felt groggy and disgusting and opened my mouth only to find out I’d nearly lost my voice completely. Quite frankly, I wanted to get the fuck out of that hostel quickly and into some fresh air. Dressing quickly, skipping breakfast, we took ourselves outside ready to explore the town. Only to discover it was Sunday and there was nothing to do but go to the beach. So to the beach we went. Picking up my first latte of the trip, I felt immediately better sitting on the near empty white sandy beach in the cool morning air. And so commenced a day of sunbathing, reading, and checking out the Surf Rescue boys. A productive day all round I’d say. Back to the hostel for dinner, some short-lived socialising with the old people, and then back out to the beach for a night time walk. We were pretty shattered by the time we got back, but after a brief altercation with a cockroach we bonded with a Northern couple staying in our room. Not a lot could keep us from sleep however. Turns out a day lying on the beach really shags you out.

An early bus took us to the likes of Port Macquarie. After being shown around the hostel and hearing about the dangers of goon (a word I hadn’t heard before but was all too familiar with by the end of our trip), we took a walk around the town, which offered up some pretty views and therefore some good Instagram opportunities. We got back just in time to catch the bus up to the Koala Hospital. Although mildly depressing hearing about the koalas being infested with chlamydia and blinded by conjunctivitis, and obviously being unable to touch them, they were very cute. The walk back to the hostel was not cute however, and by the time we got there an hour later I was once again feeling slightly worse for wear. But I somehow got some shut eye in our uncomfortably small room situated directly next to the busiest intersection in town, with paper thin windows, and an hour or so later we hopped on the bus to go and see some wild kangaroos. A trip worth taking. We saw them in a herd, babies and all, and two young ones even decided to have a boxing match, their moves rivaling that of Ali (may he rest in peace). Back at the hostel we enjoyed a few beers with dinner but decided to skip out on the game of ring of fire that seemed to be taking place in the living room. Surprisingly I slept well, and we spent the next morning before catching our bus being proactive and planning our dates and stops for the month ahead. Of course that plan later went to shit but we’ll get to that.

Oz: The Travel Diary

It’s nearly two weeks now since I returned from my five week trip to Australia where I traveled with a friend up the East Coast. It was the trip of a life time and I keep finding myself drifting off and daydreaming about some of out crazy adventures; subsequently coming to wearing a big goofy smile and feeling decidedly embarrassed. In order to preserve the memories, I’ve decided I’m going to write up a mini blog series on our East Coast trip. They will be posted daily in six parts, starting tomorrow, and each post will be a quick story telling of a few stops at a time. I thought I’d just write this short introduction so the first post isn’t completely out of the blue, and isn’t any longer than it inevitably will be.
I will be partly writing this little series for me, but I also hope to inspire anyone umming and ahhing over whether or not to do it, or just generally any fellow victims of wanderlust, to take the extortionately expensive leap across the pond(s) and go. It was the most incredible month of my life for reasons which I hope I’ll make clear in these next six blog posts, and was worth every single, irresponsibly spent penny.
So I hope that whoever reads it enjoys it, and please feel free to comment with any questions, observations or insults. I welcome any kind of attention here on my very humble little blog.

The Travel Bug

So I’ve just returned from a month long trip to Australia, and it was the best month of my life. I had the most amazing time meeting new friends every day, seeing things, exploring nature and just generally having adventures. I only got home yesterday and already I’ve spent the majority of my time researching flights back out. I definitely didn’t expect to enjoy myself that much. I truly left my heart in Australia.
That’s why I’ve pushed uni back another year and will be returning to the land down under in just six months on a working holiday visa. Yes, I caught the travel bug.
The side to travelling that you rarely hear about is just how hard it is to come home. We didn’t stop for a month, moving from place to place, doing something every minute. So you can imagine what coming home to the quietest place on Earth must have been like. It’s the biggest come down you can think of. But the hardest part is that it feels like it never happened. My travel partner is still in Australia, everyone I met is still out there or travelling; it feels like it was all a dream. I’m so far away from it all now that there’s a disconnect. Just like when I was out there, I couldn’t imagine what being at home would feel like. With my situation in particular, I’m finding myself having to readjust to life exactly how it was before I left. I’ve come home to the same job, the same difficulties, the same weather, but I feel different. It’s like it doesn’t fit anymore. I know I’ll feel differently after a month or so, but for now I feel like shit. Like I don’t belong in my own home. I’m itching to get away again (one of the many symptoms of this travel bug), and have already constructed a provisional travel plan from July onwards. But five months seems like an eternity when I’ve discovered how much can happen in just one. However, you need a balance, and I know it’ll be worth the grunt work and mediocrity when I’m on my way back out there. Also, I do love home. I’m lucky enough to have a beautiful family, both at work, home and in the form of my best friends, in a beautiful area.
It is such a bittersweet thing to have found a place I never want to leave, as well as having a home I so badly want to return to.

My New Year’s Resolutions

1.       Stand up, speak out, defend.
After the calamity that was 2016, I can’t think of a more appropriate time to employ an attitude like this. I’ve realised about myself that, in conversation, I tend to compromise my views and opinions to avoid conflict or disagreement. But now is the time to start standing my ground and defending my principles, standing up for what I believe in, and speaking out against what I think is unjust.

2.       Slow down.
It’s been a busy year, and an especially busy last few months, and amidst all the rushing around I haven’t found a lot of time to really slow down and reflect. I like to reflect because it makes me appreciate where I am, figuratively speaking. So this year I hope I can do more, but make time to slow down.

3.       Get outside.
I’d say the ratio of time spent outside to time spent inside for me is 70:30. Ideally I’d like to flip that completely in 2017. It’s time to get outside, see things, explore, and let fresh air and nature solve my skin problems.

4.       Learn French.
This has been a resolution I have failed spectacularly to achieve these last few years, but hopefully 2017 will be the one. I think French is a beautiful language and I’d like to prove to myself that I have enough self-discipline to actually learn to do something I don’t have to.

5.       Be careful with money.
These past few months I’ve been saving like a crazy person to go travelling, and it’s definitely taught me that every little bit mounts up. This year I really want to appreciate the value of money and what it can buy by not spending it on temporary consumer products. Money certainly can’t buy happiness, but if you save enough, it can buy a damn good adventure.

6.       Step away from social media.
Obviously not completely, for two reasons. Firstly, that’s just unrealistic, and secondly, in this modern age where nearly everyone is present on social media, to take yourself away from it completely is potentially anti-social and inconvenient. I’d just like to step back a bit and not feel like I have to scroll through Instagram every ten minutes, or constantly share my attention with a screen.

7.       Be honest.
By no means am I a pathological liar, but I tend to tell little white lies every now and again to save myself from potentially sticky situations. But one way or another, lying in any degree tends to come back and bite you in the arse. So hopefully this year I can be brave enough to tell people how it really is.

8.       Paint once a week.
Since finishing school, one thing I have really been missing is producing things. A lot of the time it was dampened by the stress and pressure, but in hindsight working and producing that much art, research, historical essays, book analysis’, theatre productions; that’s probably one of the things I now appreciate the most about school. This year I want to start pushing myself to create not because I have to, but because I want to.

9.       Read 52 books.
I love reading, but I find it hard to find time to do it. When I want to relax, I turn to the tv, or my laptop. My idea of escapism comes in the form of Netflix and YouTube, not a good book. With a bit of luck though this year I can stop viewing reading as a chore, and start enjoying these amazing little worlds authors create for us.

10.   Don’t stop working.
I’m proud of myself for how hard I’ve worked this year in many areas. I can honestly say that this has been a productive year, and I’ve seen a lot of results. That’s just proved to me that if you really want something, and you put in the time and effort, you can get it. So that’s what I hope to do more of in 2017. You can sleep when you’re dead.

11.   Smile and be open.
I was out clubbing with a friend recently, and as we walked past a guy, he told me to smile. That’s when I realised; I have a bitchy face. I don’t know how many people I’ve deterred because of this, but deter I will no more.

16 Favourite Memories From 2016

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1. Last New Year’s Eve

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2. Being in The Lion King (no I’m not joking)

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3. Muck Up Day

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4. Our Leavers Ball

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5. Summer parties

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6. The last night of the Feria de Ceret

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7. Seeing the sun rise over the hills of Ceret

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8. Our afternoon at the river in Ceret

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9. The day and night at Lily’s beach house in, you guessed it, Ceret

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10. The boat party in Ibiza

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11. Our dinner in Ibiza

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12. Reading Festival

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13. The 3/4 time I saw The 1975 this year at Reading

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14. Seeing everyone off to uni

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15. Visiting Caitlin in Leeds

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16. A quiet family Christmas