Six months ago Australia didn’t feature on my top 5 travel list. That all changed when I met Christian. From the moment he introduced himself to my travel bestie Liz and I in Jantar Mantar in India, he’s inspired me with his love of Australia, which culminated in my recent trip to visit him on the Gold Coast.
The challenge: two weeks in Australia. But where to even begin? It’s laughable to try to explore that great big continent in such little time but if anyone could make an attempt, it would be Christian and I. After all, in the six months since our first meeting, we’ve managed to wreak havoc in no less than eight countries (India, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria, England, Scotland, Wales and Australia)! So we decided to make the most of the time we had and do the area properly: camping in the bush, road-tripping, meeting beautiful people, partying (just a bit!) and snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef. I couldn’t have asked for a better time or a better tour guide…
It’s a long old way to fly from the UK – about 26 hours flight time – but I refused to let jetlag get the better of me. As my good friend Andrew says, ‘jetlag is personal’ and in my typical way, I chose to not let it get the better of me. So from day one we were off, meeting good friends old and new and living the present moment to the fullest. We kicked it all off by attending a bush doof celebrating the Spring Equinox, where I got to experience first-hand the open and welcoming nature of a fun-loving group of Aussies. From there, our road-tripping took us to a plethora of gorgeous spots, including Brooms Head, Cathedral Rock and Bald Rock National Park. Camping with Christian and Mark was a treat in itself. Those two have it down to an elegant science. The fire was blazing, food on the go and camp set up in no time, leaving me to simply pour the port! We saw our fair share of posh camp setups, but I can honestly say we lacked for nothing. Keeping it simple is the only sensible option when time is painfully short and you’re doing single overnights.
I had been promised wildlife but was overwhelmed at just how many birds and new creatures there were at every turn. From kangaroos to humpback whales, not a day went by that I didn’t see something worth treasuring, including dolphins, emus (not to mention the endangered coastal emu), fruit bats, possums, wallabies and countless birds – rosellas, crows, cranes, pelicans, black cockatoos, kookaburrahs, satin bower birds, karrawongs, garnet birds, cormorants and more. For this city slicker, it was a joy to be up close and personal with so many of Mother Nature’s creatures and I made friends with those handful of animals who were drawn to me and vice versa. I had quite the menagerie by the end. There was:
- Bob the rainbow lorakeet (a regular on Christian’s balcony in Palm Beach)
- Fred the water dragon from the Blue Pools
- Frank the kooka burrah at Bald Rock campground
- Alice, my shy and playful karrawong on the summit of Bald Rock.
Each and every one brings a little smile to my heart as I write of them and I’m grateful for this brief but wonderful introduction to the beautiful and wild bush.
But it wouldn’t be a trip to Australia without checking out some of its fantastic beaches…I loved the white sand soft underfoot, turquoise ocean and big blue skies. Without a doubt, the highlight had to be the three days we spent on Lady Musgrave island in the southernmost part of the Great Barrier Reef. We took the boat from Agnes Waters/ 1770 with the daytrippers and gleefully laughed as they all set off again after a few short hours, leaving us to camp for two nights on this small serene island. A maximum of 40 people are allowed to camp at Lady Musgrave which means there are friends around if you want them but it’s just as easy to get some space and chill out in the hammock enjoying the view sans humans. I can’t count how many times we said some variation of ‘how lucky we are’ – and we were, to be in this stunning place.
We spent the three days snorkeling, sunbathing and bird-watching, and of course I made a few more friends. There was Preston, our guardian buff-banded rail who looked after our campsite, and his best friend Larry. We spent a lovely hour in the company of Ricky and Lucy, the happy couple who shared a gorgeous sunset with us the first night. Then of course I also befriended Sammy the green turtle whilst snorkeling…oh, have I mentioned the snorkelling? Complex corals alive with hundreds of colorful fish and life everywhere you look. It’s a true privilege to have been able to experience this, especially given the sad amount of damage that has been done to one of our Earth’s most precious natural wonders.
By the time the ship was due to pick us up, I was hoping against hope for high winds to keep it away, the prospect of missing my flight transformed from disastrous to appealing. Sadly, the boat did come and I did get on the plane, bemoaning the fact that I couldn’t stay longer. Hard to believe that six months ago, I had no idea that I would be having this adventure! Thank you Christian, for showing me just a small portion of Australia; you are lucky indeed to call this place your home.
I’ll be back…