Beach fires, waterfalls and introspection...

I've spent the past week really settling in, and as I meet and bond with more people this little place has started to feel like my new home.

Tuesday night was Oceane's leaving do, and we had an ace night on the beach. The fire was like a beacon, and we attracted various people who'd come looking for a party. Ever mindful of my early alarm (and the fact that however laidback everyone is, I probably shouldn't turn up too hungover on my second day) I decided to head back at about 1am. Only to be persuaded to stay for 'one more drink'. Hopeful that vegemite on toast and a litre of water would magically help my liver overnight, I fell into bed at about 2.30.

Hmm. Even my twenty second commute felt a long way on Wednesday. And I felt even worse when I realised there were 12 checkouts to do... I also had to swap dorms into the long-term room (only four of us rather than nine - hurrah!) so needed to pack and unpack. It was a long morning.

On Wednesday evening I decided that I was definitely going to watch the moon rise. The man in the moon however, must have somehow slept through his alarm because even by 10.30 he was nowhere to be seen. Tired and achey, our group gave up and came home to fall once more into bed. Next time, I'm googling what time to expect the moon. At least I got to show off my mad fire building skills. All bowed down to the prowess of my ex-scouting knowledge. I got to be bossy and MAKE FLAMES so I felt better about the moon-less skies.

Somehow I managed to get the morning off on Thursday so I had a delicious lie-in, relishing not having to clean any toilets right after I'd eaten breakfast. Then it was time to go to the first shift of my second job!
The Zenbah is owned by the same people who own the hostel and the two couples who manage the hostel (Louise and Alex, Stacey and Ash) work between them to manage both places, meaning that I already knew everyone I was going to work with. It's a bar/restaurant/cafe/whatever you make of it and it only opened a couple of months ago. I like it, because after much persuasion from Stacey they stock pear cider - a rarity in Australia as everywhere seems to be beer only!
I did well and (aside from smashing a stack of plates, spilling passionfruit pulp all over the bar and forgetting to put someone's main through the till...ahem) managed to learn the ropes pretty quickly. Customers are the same everywhere, and I started to flex my bar muscles. My leg muscles, however, are unused to being used for such long periods of time and by my last shift of the week on Saturday I was feeling seriously achey. Long gone are the days of my uber shifts at BonDs, I've been sat behind a desk for the past 19 months! I
sold chairs - I had to sit down a lot.

The only problem is that I get fed every shift. Doesn't sound so bad, but when you consider that Rudi the chef is french and worked in a Michelin starred restaurant back home...well you pretty much want to lick the plate when you've finished. And the French aren't exactly reknowned for their low-fat options. I'm hoping that running on the beach will counteract the calories. It's amazing what being half naked all the time does to your commitment to healthy eating.

On Sunday I was invited by one of the long termers to go on a road trip to Milla Milla falls up in the tablelands - and obviously I said yes. Despite having 12 people checking out I worked like a machine and managed to do all my cleaning, shower and pack and be ready on time to leave at 11. Skills.

The Milla Milla falls are just over an hours drive away, and even wedged into the back next to the eskie I enjoyed the journey, watching the scenery change from thick rainforest, to mountains, to rainforest-y mountains. There were four of us - Pete the driver (who stays at the hostel and works as a painter), Rudi (chef at my place of work, and also brother of Oceane the previous housekeeper) and Rudi's friend Jess; we were joined later on by Ann and another long-termer Ben who's originally from the tablelands. We visited two other waterfalls (Zillie and Ellinjaa) before Milla Milla and they were beautiful, literally carving out holes in the rainforest. It's cooler up in the mountains, and with spray from the falls I enjoyed feeling free from heat and humidity for the first time in nearly a month.
Milla Milla was beautiful. Just....gorgeous. (I'm not eloquent enough to do it any justice in description - I suggest you google it.) We even managed to get the falls to ourselves at some points in the afternoon, before another bus load of tourists turned up. Hungry, we tucked into the paella that we'd brought with us that got 'cooked' on the dashboard of Pete's car and heated up by the sun! It was over 24 hours ago and I've not got food poisoning yet, so it must work. It's a trick Rudi learnt from his mother apparently, and it must have been worth it just to see the look on my face... I really bemoaned not having my camera yesterday (I still haven't fixed mine/got a replacement) but more for the lack of paella-cooking proof than anything. Thankfully Ann had her camera and took a snap of me...

This is one of the locations for a herbal essences advert. Don't I fit in perfectly?

After warming up in the sun I decided to join Pete for a swim. He'd warned me (and I'd expected) that the water would be cold, and woooooah it was. Not quite 'Bantham beach in April' cold, but probably 'north Cornwall in August' cold. It was certainly fresh, and it was nice to be able to splash about without the sting of saltwater. There is something liberating about wild swimming (I love the Hampstead ponds) and it was a novelty being able to enjoy SUCH cold water without the worry of how to warm back up afterwards. Although after spotting a black water snake after I'd got out, I did remind myself that the worst you have to worry about in the UK is probably weaver fish. There are advantages and disadvantages to living everywhere...

We spent a few hours at Milla Milla falls, each managing at least one swim and a nap, before we got too cold and decided to head off. Pete's parent's own a pub in Milla Milla and we stopped in for a beer and - drum roll - my first proper Aussie meat pie. I don't know if it was the pie, or the appetite the fresh air had given me, but it was bloody tasty. Yum. I approve of Aussie pies. After Pete and I roundly beat Rudi and Jess at pool (I helped - by potting two balls) we were knackered and made our way home.

Last night was spent forcing my eyes open to read until a semi-reasonable time, and I've just finished my work for the morning. My plan of beach-read-swim-repeat has been foiled because I stupidly left my bikini in Pete's car last night (forgetting to remove it before he went to work today) and I'm pretty sure no one needs to see me sunbathe in my pants. It's probably a good thing though, as rather than laze my afternoon away I'm ticking things off my 'to-do' list.

Tomorrow is my first full day off since a week last Sunday - no waitressing, cleaning or pot washing. Hurrah! I intend to do nothing other than read on the beach, swim and get even more tanned. Don't hate me too much - I'm doing housekeeping and split shifts at Zenbah for the rest of this week, so I've got to squeeze in downtime somehow...

So, after my first week as a fully paid up member of the working-beach-bums scoiety how am I doing? Well, I only wear shoes half of the time. And I'm starting to look pretty tanned (having white bits and looking tanned are very different things for me). My hair is accelerating from red to blonde, and I barely wear makeup; if I do it's pretty much just a slick of mascara to darken my even-lighter lashes. Surprisingly I'm coping with the insular nature of this place - until yesterday I don't think I'd walked further than the 500 yards to the stinger net on the beach. Having people come and go helps because there's always a new face, but I'm actually OK with the contrast to my old life in London. In fact, it's one of the reasons that I like it here so much. No tubes, no targets, no rush, no stress.

I do love London, and I want to go back; I miss home far more keenly than I thought I would. This is compounded by the desire I have already to extend my visa to a two year one (it really is amazing out here). When I planned to come to Australia homesickness was something I'd expected, but how hard my goodbyes were took me by surprise, as has the amount I miss home. Not to say I want to go back now - I'm so excited to be here - but I think I'd just like to have a mate or two with me. I'm jealous of the people travelling in pairs! It's hard not being able to access the people you love all the time - the time difference is a bitch and it's no fun having to plan exact skype times with people. It's an adjustment, and I'm sure one that I'll make, and I know my other life will be waiting for me again when I return. I want to see the world, and I'm much happier here than I was before - just in a different way. Routine is comforting, but it doesn't necessarily make you happy in the long run. I love that I can go and have adventures where and when I fancy; the only thing that limits me is 'can I afford that?'. Given the popularity of work-exchange hostels I think I'll muddle through and go on all the adventures that I like. Knowing me, I'll be way more 'Australia-sick' when I get back to the UK!

One of the advantages of being here (and being signal-less and internet-on-my-blackberry-less) is that I'm not chained to my phone anymore. Not obsessivley tweeting, texting and calling. Guaranteed, I'd have taken and uploaded pcitures from the falls yesterday. Tweeted about it. Called someone with a 'guess where I am?' boastfullness. It made me think of the John Mayer song 3x5, and I liked it.

Wow, this has all gone a bit intropective, eh? That's what happens when I can't go for a swim. THE MADNESS SETS IN. I doubt anyone will want to hear me moan about working split shifts as you all work equally hard back home and don't have a beach to lie on after work. But if anything interesting happens I'll probably blog. Until then, g'day and g'night.

I don't know if anyone's tried, but my Aussie phone isn't working here as Vodaphone don't cover the area. Thanks Vodaphone. I'm working on getting a new sim, but until then should you need to contact me urgently then loosen the purse strings and spend 30p on texting my UK number.

Being a beach bum

So, my first couple of days as a dweller in paradise have gone pretty well. It's far easier to not snooze your alarm at 7.20am when you can see blue sky and palm trees out of your bedroom window. It's true, they've done studies.

Housekeeping is relatively easy in the hostel because it's pretty tiny, and everyone chats to you as you clean. My first morning with the lovely Oceane (the girl who I'm taking over from) was very successful, given the amount of gossiping we also managed to fit in. The only job I hate so far is de-gunking the sink but I can cope with that - I can see the sea out of the kitchen window, so I just close my eyes and think of the afternoon...

Monday afternoon was spent on the beach with Oceane, her friend Emily and a German girl called Anne. We stayed in the sun until we were too hot, and then flaoted about in the waves laughing everytime someone got caught out and dunked underneath one. Oceane and Emily are both French, so many discussions about language were had - it amazes me how non-English speakers always think their English is terrible. I feel like telling them to go to Tamworth to see what terrible English really sounds like.

We decided to had back to the hostel when we got too hungry, having no idea of what time it was at all.

After a big bowl of pasta I had a lovely chat with Dot on skype which made me feel terribly homesick, though not for home exactly - just the people back there stuck in the rain and cold. Come and join me everyone, boasting on a daily basis is SO much fun.

Luckily, the perfect antidote to feeling homesick turned up. Because we're on the west coast there's no chance of a sunset on the beach; we can, however, watch the moon rising. There's some sort of optical illusion explained by physics (which I'm sure someone must know) which makes the moon look huge as it rises out of the sea. I've no idea how or why it happens, but it's incredibly beautiful. Serene. We were all sat there quietly sipping our drinks as the fire died down and the moon rose up... It reminded me of why I'm here, and that even though I miss people (though not you, obviously) I'm on an adventure and I have to make the most of it.

As we drifted back I was chatting to Oceane about her first skydive and we decided to watch her video. Just looking at the people in front of her falling out of the plane made my heart beat with nerves, and even though we see four groups a day land safely on the beach I know I'll still do I put this delicately? Hmm. Shitting myself seems to be the only thing that'll cover it.

We were all in bed early, and I woke up before my alarm went off which was a novelty. Most people in my dorm work in contruction or farming so even at 7am there's only two of us left asleep. It makes me feel better about having to get up 'early' every day.

Oceane was off doing her second skydive (for free as she's done her stint as housekeeper) so I was left to clean alone. Other than being exceptionally sweaty by the end of it I was fine and didn't forget to do anything. Which would be tricky considering that I do have a list of the jobs...

Once more, after the midday scorch had subsided it was off to the beach with our little French/German/British group. I don't really need to explain what we did again - assume the whole sunbathe/swim and repeat shebang is happening if I mention the beach. It was hot, but a few clouds gave some nice relief and I even managed a nap, leaving some sexy red marks on my face when I woke up. (Note to self: scrunched up shirts are not to be used as pillows again.)

Tonight is a big party night as a few people are leaving tomorrow, so I expect that waking up early will not be as easy... It might be the first time I won't appreciate bright sun and heat. It had to happen sooner or later.

A change of plan.

A fairly uneventful week, during the week at least. I treated myself to some 8am lie-ins in anticipation of the hard work that fruit picking would turn out to be. I had a lovely sail on Wednesday (again, everyone else sailed and I had the important job of putting weight on the rails. I am an indispensible part of the team) and did research about what I'd need to take to Tully. I invested $15 in the Sally Army shop getting some old clothes, and searched fruitlessly for gum boots everywhere. Ah feck it, I thought, they'll have gum boots in Tully.

Friday was the day I had to pack, and it was almost harder to pack up that day than it was coming to Aus. When I came over here, there were only a handful of clothes that were suitable for Aussie weather so deciding which went into storage was fairly black and white. But packing after I'd packed was difficult. In the end I still ended up with far more than I really needed, I looked like a princess waltzing into the Mission Beach hostel with my own pillow, heels and hair straighteners.

The drive up to Mission Beach was smooth in Mum's swanky new Subaru (thank the lord for tinted windows and excellent aircon) and the scenery on the way was spectacular. Seeing acres of sugarcane makes you realise you're really abroad; not just living in a warmer version of England.

We made good time and got to mission beach just before sunset. The hostel staff gave us a warm welcome and we settled in quickly. Declaring that we were 'on holiday' Mum treated us to dinner at a lovely restaurant by the beach. Why does food taste SO much better when you're eating it under plam trees, watching the moon rise over the sea? -smug face- After a few more glasses of wine we came back to the hostel and had a few entertaining conversations with various people who were passing through. Two Aussie guys who looked and sounded like they'd come right out of a Chris Lilley skit were particularly hilarious, as was the extremely efficient German night porter. He came out to tell us all to be quiet and ended up sitting down with the rest of us, going to bed way after us troublemakers did...

Now. The next part of this story demonstrates that either, 1. I'm a jammy bastard and someone somewhere always makes things go my way, 2. Everything happens for a reason, or, 3. Coincidences often occur and people read things into them.

I haven't been looking forward to banana picking. Why would I? I was excited about meeting people and earning money, but I doubt even the most twisted sadist would enjoy being woken at 4.30am for eight hours of manual labour in 30degree heat. I also really liked mission beach, and felt quite at home with the laid back hippy atmosphere. One of the reasons for doing my picking was to get my 88 days for my second year visa, and I knew I'd have to do some with my little brother and sister when they came out anyway.

After Yasi ripped through in Feb it took out two of the four working hostels in Tully, so I only had a choice of two places to stay, one of which was fully booked for weeks. The only other hostel I could stay in has a policy of only letting you book in the day before you arrive. I've no idea why, but I guess it's probably to do with the flakiness of backpackers. They told me on Friday that they had plenty of avaliabilty but when I called them on Saturday morning the girl on the desk couldn't find the book, told me to call back and when I did they'd given all the places out... Thanks girl on the desk at Hotel Tully.

Oh shit, thought I, it doesn't matter how much I didn't want to pick fruit I've got to work somewhere and I didn't want to go back to Townsville with my bags packed...

Luckily, on our way to the beach on Saturday I'd noticed a sign next to reception saying they were looking for a housekeeper. When I asked about it the manager Stacey practically jumped for joy - they'd been desperate for someone! Working 8-11am six days a week pays for my accomodation and internet, so I figured that I could get another job and live cheaply, doing my best to save. Oh, and you also get a free skydive if you work for a month. Huzzah! Of course as I'm a jammy git, it turns out pretty much everyone in Mission beach wants to hire someone to be a waitress/potwash/barmaid too. Even luckier, the couple who own the hostel also own a bar/restaurant about 2 minutes down the road which is also desperate for staff. When Stacey realised I'd work all hours, had loads of bar experience and my RSA...well, she was very happy indeed.

So I'm going to see how I do here for a while; I think I'll be just fine bumming about on the beach for a couple of months.


After I'd sorted myself out both Mum and I were a lot more relaxed. She did me a big 'pre-uni' style shop on Saturday afternoon so I've now got enough food to last until my birthday, or perhaps Christmas if I get really hungry. We had dinner in my future place of employment and fell into bed exhausted from all the sunbathing at 11pm, sleeping like well behaved babies until the morning.

Another day of the beach beckoned, and we had a lovely time soaking up the rays and going for a splash when it got too hot (SMUG FACE). Poor mama though, as she had to drive back in the afternoon to make sure she was fresh for work tomorrow morning. Who will make her lunch every day now??

So I've spent the last few hours settling in to my new home, chatting to people and explaining my change of plans to Tash on skype. I'm typing this sat in the lounge area which has no need of walls, being interrupted occasionally by the seeimingly thousands of little gekkos that live in the roof.
Tomorrow I shall clean and have an afternoon on the beach, enjoying some free time before I start my other job on Tuesday.

My plans now? Well, this has taught me that I shouldn't really make any. People tend to come here for a week and stay for months - it's so beautiful here, literally paradise. At the moment I think I'll head back to Townsville at Christmas and head to Sydney mid-Jan, but who knows? I'm going to embrace the hippy lifestyle and just go with the flow.

I know I promised less smugness, but I'll just have to go back on that. Sorry everyone...

How Aussies do November 5th, and other stories.

I typed half of this blog on Friday, then neglected to post it. C'est la vie. It's now been turned into an epic week-long blog, perfect for reading over your afternoon coffee. And don't worry, the absolute smugness will soon, I fear, be ending...

Monday - Friday

I've not had much to report this week as I've mostly just been reading, job hunting and sunbathing. The good news is that I now have tan lines. The bad news is that I still look like Casper's albino sister. Such is life.

Having been blocked by the 'RSA qualified only' at the beginning of every job advert, I decided to bite the bullet and commit my Tuesday morning to learning about responsibility and alcohol and....stuff. (Turns out you can't serve alcohol to minors here! Who knew!). I don't want to call the course a government-money-making-waste-of-time but...well, it is. It takes four hours to explain that you can't serve drunk people, and that signs of drunkenness can include 'loss of coordination and slurring of speech'. I think the fact that about half of the questions focus on how much you get fined for breaking the law rather than how to help people speaks volumes. Unsurprisingly - given that the multiple choice questions made ITV phone in comps look like a mensa exam - I passed and am now qualified to serve alcohol in Queensland and a few other states that probably won't visit.

Moving on.

Went out for a twilight sail on Wednesday which was a perfect evening. It was a triangular course, and as we brought the boat round for the final tack the wind really caught in the sails and the whole way back was over smooth water going about 7 knots. Perfect. I like this sailing lark, but as we go into the rainy season I fear the opportunity to go out will diminish. There is such a thing as 'too much wind' here, apparently.

Apparently we've been lucky with the weather so far as this time last year it had already started... The BBC are starting to forecast storms, but so far nada and I've spent many happy hours floating in the pool and reading on my kindle. My kindle being in a very sexy waterproof cover (ikea sandwich bag).

On Thursday I had a job interview at a really swish restaurant and as I'm amazing I obviously got the job... However. At the moment I have an issue, the issue being that we're a good few miles out of the city centre, and public transport here is pretty much non existent. So I've either got to cycle along the highways (and I haven't cycled for years) or rely on my Mum giving me lifts everywhere. Not an ideal situation. Especially given that I would only be on 20 hours a week.

To earn enough to save for my Sydney/Brisbane/Melbourne adventures I was faced with working for 6 days a week in two different jobs, and potentially being stranded/paying $35 for a taxi at the end of every shift. So I decided not to be a waitress. Or work in Townsville...

Mum and I had planned to go up to Mission beach next weekend, and it happens to be very close to Tully which is a prime fruit picking location. After a bit of research I figure that spending 40 hours a week sorting bananas or digging potatoes might actually be the answer to all of my problems.

I reckon I can save about $1,500 in the 6 weeks before Christmas, and even though it'll be hard work I'll get to meet fellow backpackers and generally have a good ol' knees up at the weekends. It also means that I'm on my way to qualifying for a second year visa - the easiest way to get approved is to do 3 months of fruit picking work. The write ups on the hostel have people saying 'came for a months; stayed for six...' and similar; basically it's hard work but with a good reward.

So as of next Monday I'll be up at 5am to do hard manual labour for 8 hours a day. Given that I'll be on about $20-odd an hour and partying all weekend I think I can deal with it. Fruit picking is described as a 'rite of passage' for backpackers; I'm hoping it's not too painful to endure... At least you'll all be spared my smugness for a while. Tully is apparently the wettest place in Australia. And Australia's pretty big, so that's a lot of precipitation. I challenge it to be worse than Lancaster.

Lets just hope I can cope with the banana spiders. Gulp.

Saturday and Sunday

One of the things I was most worried about missing over in Australia was Bonfire night. As you all know, I'm essentially a child masquerading as an adult so fireworks (sparkly, bangy, whoosy things yay!) makes me very happy, as do bonfires (because setting things on fire is ALWAYS fun, a trait I get from my father who routinely felled trees simply to have something to burn and who's favourite ever present was a fire pit that my step-mum got him for Christmas). Happily though, I did have a bonfire. And it was on a beach. On a desert island. And I wore a summer dress.

I was happy to have the beach in lieu of fireworks.

To top everything off, we got there by sailing. It was the final race of the season, but unfortunately a few of the usual crew couldn't make it ("if you work for the airforce and they call you into work, you go into work") and the wind was a lot stronger than predicted so it was a challenging journey, but still a lot of fun.

At one point I commented to my Mum that it's a good job I never get seasick as the waves were HUGE; she just looked at me incredulously and said 'this is nothing'. Cripes. I definitely felt like a beginner at that point...

Because of the novice crew, and trouble getting the kite out (the wind swung around 40 degrees as we tried to get it up...not good) we finished 6th out of 7, but happily Panacea still won the Commodore Cup - well done to Mick and Val! We weren't the only ones to have trouble though, another boat got their spinnaker halyard stuck at the top of their mast and had to send someone up there. I'm pretty sure being winched to the top of a 40 foot mast, at sea, in 20 knot winds is the definition of bravery...!

The Herald island race is a sore point for Mick and Val as the last time they sailed it they hit rocks just as they came in. Not only did it write off the boat, but poor Val broke her nose as the jolt as they hit was so great it threw her into the instruments. There were a few held breaths but thankfully all was well, and we anchored up safely and had a well deserved drink. Ok, a few well deserved drinks.

We were given a lift to the beach at about 6ish in time for sunset, and I made the leap from boat to tender very gracefully. Ahem. At least I managed not to fall in. Our taxi for the evening was being driven by an interesting character nicknamed Xander, who looks like a proper little pirate. He sailed on panacea on Wednesday, but was a lot more chatty tonight probably due to the bottle of Bundaberg rum that he came aboard with... He wouldn't tell us how he got his name (I'd guessed that he was a Buffy fan) but finally he admitted that his full name was 'Alexander'. I'm not sure what the secrecy was all about!

The beach party was amazing, with 100 people in attendance. Some poor sod had obviously decided to take his significant other to a romantic uninhabited island for the night and had made a cute little camp at the end of the beach...only to have 22 boats rock up over the course of the afternoon. Probably the only night for a couple of years you'd find other people there! Oh well, I hope they enjoyed our party playlist.

Herald Island is a beautiful place, but a reminder that we weren't-in-the-UK-any-more-toto was a warning that a croc had been spotted nesting only a few days before. Erk. Never has a lack of toilet facilities been so perilous. Especially as I spotted a few snake tracks in the sand. No spiders though, which is the main thing. And, of course, all was well. You'd have to be a pretty brave croc to take on 100 people.

It was such an experience to spend time on the island, and thankfully the rain held off. The moon was so bright that everything had a shadow, and we didn't need lights or torches. There were actual coconut trees with actual coconuts on them. It was like being on shipwrecked. However you're all going to have to take my word for how pretty it was because my camera decided to die on Saturday morning, and some idiot (ahem) forgot to pack my Mum's camera in the beach bag. Never have I been so upset about not having a camera! Oh, the potential profile pictures...

As people slowly drifted back to their boats I found myself sitting around the fire, chatting and eating shrimp out of a bucket of sea water. How very back to nature! Who'd have thought that a London girl could having such an amazing experience and cope without tweeting about it?! Naturally, I was one of the last people to go to bed and somehow I managed to get from the tiny inflatable tender back on the boat. Some feat given that the moon had set and I was a good few bottles of wine down...

Last on the boat means last to nab somewhere to sleep, and I arrived back to find my bunk had been taken. No matter, thought I, and decided to sleep up on deck. Like a real salty sea dog. It was warm enough to not really need a blanket, a good job given that my pillow and sheet had been taken along with my bunk! A folded towel did the job, not that I had planned on sleeping right away anyway.

I'm a bit of an astronomy geek, so seeing the stars without light pollution was a genuinely exciting prospect. The day and night had been pretty overcast, so I'd only seen glimpses of the cosmos. (It's also pretty difficult to see the cosmos after a box of wine.) But as I lay back the clouds magically cleared, like someone opening a curtain, and my God it was beyond description. My description anyway. I've never seen a sky like that, it was achingly, movingly beautiful. Every so often a shooting star would tear across, and I could even see the Orion nebula. I probably laid there for a good hour, occasionally having my night vision wrecked by the lightening flashing down from a storm near the palm islands. At some point in time (I was clueless, as I don't wear a watch and had left my phone behind) it clouded back over; I decided that the deck wasn't particularly comfortable and made myself at home wedged on a seat next to the spinnaker bag.

The best way to start a Sunday is having water poured on your head at 7.30am after not a huge amount of sleep. I'm sure you'll agree. Having said that, I was so hot that it was actually quite a relief. Didn't stop me from swearing at the culprit like a true sailor though.

After a round of bacon and egg sarnies our hungover group decided to head home. There are many excellent hangover cures, but I'm not sure sailing on a very choppy sea is one of them. I was very tired, but couldn't face being in the cabin as we sailed (it makes you really seasick; I've no idea why) and eventually the fresh air blew my cobwebs away.

As we came towards Maggie island the motor decided to pack up, and we had to take some slow tacks so we were flat enough for Mick to take a look. When he'd found the problem (and ascertained that it needed a spare part) we carried on heading for home and I went down to reapply my suncream (the engine is underneath the stairs!). The next thing I heard was a shout of 'there's less than a metre below us!' and the alarm going off. Erk. We hit (smushed into?) a mud bank, which given that the motor had gone couldn't have happened at a worse time! Unable to motor off, but worried about getting even more stuck, we had to let the headsail right out and almost totally ease the main. We then had to put weight as far out as we could. Funnily enough, my tiredness had evaporated as I crouched on the rail inches above the water...!

Thankfully after ten or so minutes we floated to safety. I was getting worried that the Herald island trip was cursed for Mick and Val! It was certainly a learning curve, but Mick got to show off his best skipper skillz as he brought Panacea into her berth with just the main sail. And I got to do some winching!!

It was a brilliant weekend, and an experience that I feel lucky to have had so early into our trip. Thanks to Mick, Val and everyone else at the TCYC!

This week I'll mostly be enjoying not getting up at 5am and not sleeping in a dorm with eight strangers. Oh, and the pool. I'll be enjoying the pool.

P.s - I seem to have readers in Russia, the USA and Germany. I've no idea who you are, but thanks for regularly stopping by. Zdravstvujtye, Howdy and Gutentag.