Life is a Party!

I spent the last 11 days on a group trip from Surfers Paradise to Cairns organized by Connections Adventure Travel. The company is specialized in adventure travel for people aged between 18 and 39. It was about 33 of us (from all over the world, ie England, Germany, Austria, Ireland, Norway, US, Canada plus two Australian guides) who travelled the 2,500km from the Gold Coast to Cairns on a bus called “Matilda”. It was great having an opportunity to meet so many new people and getting to know them really well in a short time thanks to long hours on the bus and even more hours spent in the pubs and bars (at times it felt like the group had turned into a nocturnal species!). Once again it was proven that travelling is all about the journey and not the destination! Everyone had a great time and it was no surprise that a few tears were shed when it was time to say goodbye this morning! The weather was also great during the trip and it was a relief to go back to shorts and T-shirt.

My personal highlight of the trip was the 2 night sailing adventure in the Whitsunday Islands aboard the British Defender. British Defender is a high tech Whitbread Around The World Racing Maxi that was raced by the British Armed Services during the 1989/90 Around The World Race. When I first saw the yacht (83ft long) I could not believe it was possible to squeeze so many people on it. But over the next 2 days I figured out that life on a yacht is great despite a tiny bunkbed and limited facilities. Actually while we were sailing I completely lost track of time (even more so than during the rest of the year!) and I also had a feeling of total freedom. Our sailing trip was off to a bad start though and there were suspicions that someone had braught bananas on board. First, one of the crew members (french canadian trainee) dislocated his shoulder and it was so bad that we had to turn around so he could go to the hospital. Later, one of the sails got damaged and could not be used anymore. From then on however it was smooth sailing. For most of us it was the first time on a yacht and hence there were some nervous faces the first time the boat was inclined (not sure this is proper sailing language…). Once we got used to it though, we could not get enough and just wanted to sail faster and faster. They almost had to kick us off the yacht at the end of the trip. So sailing was great and some of the beaches we got to see were simply beyond belief. These must be some of the most beautiful beaches in the world (but unfortunately also some of the most photographed)! Finally, it was the great crew of the British Defender that really made a difference. They were genuinely nice, spoilt us with some of the  best food of the trip (despite a tiny kitchen!) and gave us some very useful lessons in sign language (big fucking shark anyone?).

My other favorite was the day we spent in the Great Barrier Reef. Actually, I had no idea how large the GBR is – over 2000km! The 2 hours boat ride to get there was a torture since many of us fell sick thanks to the rough sea. However, once we got there all the pain was forgotten. Snorkelling and diving around the reefs make you feel like being on a different planet. The colours and varieties are stunning and thankfully the part of the reef we saw still seemed in very good condition. It was the perfect location for my first scuba diving experience and so I spent about 30 minutes under water with an instructor. If you follow the basics (just keep breathing normally, equalize ear pressure) and get taken by the hand, scuba diving seems like a pretty easy thing to do. We did not go much deeper than 4-5 meters but it was enough to spot some amazing creatures and definitely showed me the underwater world from a different angle (compared to snorkelling). Also, my instructor allowed me to touch a number of things such as the giant clam, a sea cucumber and some of the corals. As much as I appreciated the experience, water will never be my preferred element and hence I dont think I will become a serious scuba diver anytime soon.

During the trip we also stopped in Rockhampton (the beef capital of Queensland) and spent the night at a Rodeo event. I must say these cowboys are pretty courageous (or crazy?) to sit on these wild beasts and not surprisingly minor or major injuries are quite common. We also got a taste of how friendly the locals are around Rockhampton as some from our group got invited to a private residence with free flowing alcohol and a swimming pool. And as we all know the combination of lots of alcohol and the presence of a swimming pool inevitably lead to a minor or major pool party. Well, our youngsters even topped this with some balcony climbing back at the hotel after the pool party was over… Another stop on the way to Cairns was in Undara (it is considered to be part of the accessible outback) where we did some bushwalking, wildlife spotting (kangaroos, bats), got a fantastic bush brekkie in the morning and heard many stories of all the dangerous animals that live out here. While we spent only a couple of hours in Undara, it was enough to realize that this is a totally different breed that is living out here.

Anyway, after spending so much time travelling along the coast of Australia I am now ready for a change and will be flying to Southern New Zealand in a couple of days and hopefully go back to a more active lifestyle (of course I am talking about day time!).

Airlie Beach Party Night

Party time in Airlie Beach

Fraser Island

Fraser Island

British Defender

British Defender, our home for 2 nights

Champagne Sailing

Champagne sailing

Near Whiteheaven Beach

Near Whiteheaven, incredible…

Sunset Undara

Sunset in Undara

Great Barrier Reef

Our snorkelling/diving site in the Great Barrier Reef

Aborigines

A new tribe of English-Swiss Aborigines

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