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.
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.