Goodbyes and Roadtrips

One of the worst things about settling down is saying goodbyes; you'd think after October's epic tear fest that I would have learnt my lesson. But no, like an overly friendly puppy I can't help but try to make friends with pretty much everyone I meet. I've learnt that provided you are nothing but nice to someone for an extended period of time, they'll normally let you into their life a little, if only to avoid social awkwardness. (I call it 'breaking people down with niceness', and I've found that it also works on tables of rude people at work.)

So leaving Mission Beach on Sunday was quite a wrench. I'd been genuinely happy there, and very settled, so even excitement about Sydney (Culture! Civilisation! Shops open past 7pm!) couldn't quite temper the sadness of leaving.

However it's done, the plaster has been ripped off as fast as possible and I'm on my merry way down the coast with Ash and Stacey.

We've made good time, getting to Airlie by evening on Sunday leaving enough time for a quick dip in the lagoon. Watching the tennis was the plan, however we were glad we gave up watching when we did - a 1am bedtime would not have been good...

...before our epic, EPIC, 14 hour drive to Brisbane. But we made it. No kangaroos jumped out in front of the car, and I managed to not crash which is always a bonus on road trips. After making such good time we're hoping to see a bit of this part of the world, however given that the floods mean a lot of it is underwater may change our plans slightly. Don't worry though, I'm more likely to die of a heart attack after consuming more fast food in two days than I have in the last year than drowning/crashing/being eaten by a snake.

Peace x

P.s - miss you all already.


One of the things I used to most lament about my birthday was that it took place during winter. This meant that not only was it likely to be cold and grey, but that Alton Towers was always closed. Having my birthday suddenly moved to the middle of summertime was pretty exciting, although as my Mum pointed out, I still can't go to Alton Towers...

Choosing an option far better than a theme park I decided that the Beckett girls were headed to Magnetic Island. I was determined that I would hold a koala on my birthday. I wanted a birthday koala.

After Mum had finished work on Monday afternoon we all headed down to the Breakwater terminal to catch the ferry over to Nelly bay. Having sailed out of the marina so often it was strange to be so high up and able to see over the port walls. We also travelled a lot faster than usual - though I doubt that Panacea could ever outrun a massive catamaran!

We were staying over in Horseshoe bay so had to get a bus which seemed to take us on a lovely little tour. Maggie really is stunning and even though it's a tourist haven and home to 2,000 people it still has an untouched quality to it. Everything is green and beautiful; most of the buildings are half hidden in amongst the rainforest.

Our home for the night was to be Bungalow Bay, which came highly recommended by everyone, and as soon as we arrived I could see why! Rather than a large hostel building, the site has various 'bungalows', cute little wooden huts with their own deck and big pointy roofs. After Tash had got over the shock of having to stay in a room with no air conditioning on only her third night in the Tropics, we threw on our bikinis and walked down to the beach.

Our cosy little bungalow!

Happy to be swimming in a stinger net on Maggie rather than floating around nervously, and also some of the only people in the sea so late in the afternoon we stayed in the water until our fingers reached the point of being 'too wrinkly' and my stomach was demanding food rather loudly.

After a quick shower and an emergency timtam (thank god for emergency timtams) we opted (read:I chose for us) to eat at a lovely little restaurant/art gallery, mostly tempted by the steak special on the board outsid. Yum. Tash and I certainly enjoyed it.

I went veggie for nearly 4 years. I know, right?

We also once again ate our own body weight in cheese - the cheeseboard, weirdly, came with not just chutney but also strawberry jam - and may have also accidentally drunk quite a bit of wine.

Arriving back at the hostel we found the bar in quite a lively state, with two guys engaged in a dry all-bran eating competition to win a bar tab. Hmm. More wine was drunk, and I got chatting to two lovely Swedish girls. It turned out they'd just left Mission beach and had been in Zenbah (where I work) on Friday evening - when I'd been there too! Small world...

When Tash and Mum got too tired they declared that I couldn't go to sleep before midnight and had to stay up with them - luckily Mum always has emergency wine and she was kind enough to let us have a bottle. Not realising that the entire premise was licensed we were told off for drinking - and I quote - 'illegal wine', so we snuck off and found a nice spot in the carpark in which to sit and chat. I may have felt 14 rather than 24, but it was nice to have my new Swedish friends sing me happy birthday at midnight! Thanks Hana and Camilla!

Feeling sleepy I walked back to our cosy bungalow, only to hear splashing from the pool... Two of my other new friends from earlier, Alex and Luke, were having a swim and it took them about 20 seconds to convince me to jump the fence and get in. I didn't have my bathers on but then Alex pointed out that neither did she - it's just that she obviously had on nice matching underwear!!! It was a pretty cool way to start my birthday, and we have a fun hour or so chatting about life, the universe and everything.

I got back to our bungalow at about 2am to find Mum not there - she'd woken up and finding my bed empty had set out to look for me. Perhaps she worried that a rabid koala had kidnapped me?! When she arrived back I asked her if she'd tried ringing my mobile first to check...which she hadn't. Turns out you're never to old for your Mum to worry about you, and you sometimes worry so much that you forget about the wonders of modern technology.

We woke the next morning very hot and sweaty - it's hard to adjust when you're used to constant air con. After opening presents and cards from home we set off to scavenge for some brekkie, finding a lovely little seafront cafe that tempted us with smells of coffee and bacon.
Full of food, the sea proved to be too tempting. Luckily we'd come prepared with bikinis under clothes so in we splashed. It was very hard not to feel smug about swimming in the coral sea on my birthday - usually it's grey skies and sleet back home.

*smug face*

Very tired from all the eating and floating the hammocks by the pool proved way too tempting, so after a quick schooner...

*uber smug face*

...Mum and I had a power nap.

I am definitely getting a hammock installed when I next settle down somewhere for a while! It feels so indulgent, even though it's the most basic of sleeping arrangements.

*smug feet*

Refreshed and revived we were ready to encounter some proper aussie wildlife, so with tickets in hand we followed our ranger into the park..

Our first critter was a little croc

She may have been small and named barbie but look at what her teeth can do...

We then had to give the black cockatoo Shadow a kiss - well, not a kiss exactly... That would be weird.

She is very clever, and uses her tongue to gently take a sunflower seed from your mouth so she can eat it. I was amazed by this, as you can see from the childlike wonder on my face after my turn:

There was another cockatoo, which the ranger told us had such a good sense of smell he could distinguish not only between men and women - but homosexual and heterosexual men. Aparrently he doesn't like the gays though. Homophobic birds? Who knew?!

I'm pretty sure there's a joke about cockatoos not liking gay men, but I'm far too mature now to make it.

Next up was the main event: finally, I got to cuddle a koala. We had Matilda who was only fifteen months old and very cute. It wasn't until we'd all held her that we were told that she'd bitten a child on the face the week before. How they get the energy to even open their mouths puzzles me - they barely move at all. I love koalas, if reincarnation is real then I hope I come back as one in my next life. Please God? I'd be totally happy just napping and eating all day, getting the occasional head stroke and inflicting the odd facial disfigurement on an annoying customer.

Mum being Mum, the rest of the group was instructed to sing me Happy Birthay while I held the koala - it was a proper birthay koala!!!

After Matilda had done the hard work of being put on to people ('stand like a tree, you are nothing but a big tree to her') we got to the part that Tash was most excited about - snake holding! Now, I love snakes. I think they're amazing creatures. But Tash doesn't like them. The Ranger tried to demonstrate how harmless they were by putting their heads in his mouth but Tash wasn't convinced. Mum on the other hand was a regular snake whisperer and as we posed for a picture with one snake on each of us, mine decided Mum made a better victim and snuck it's way over to her.

It was OK for Tash though, because she got revenge when we had a nice surprise on our way out - a spider! Hurrah! Unfortunately (cough cough) it was too poisonous to hold (you can imagine my despair) so I made do with standing right at the back, muttering under my breath that 'if anyone tries to put that on me I will punch them in the face'. I may have alarmed an elderly Kiwi couple, but all arachnids stayed at least five feet away.

Nice and calm now all spiders were back in cupboards (or wherever they're kept) we had just enough time for laurekeet feeding before our tour ended.

I'm really glad to never have watched the entirety of Hitchcoks 'Birds' because I imagine he got the idea from Laurekeet feeding time in Bungalow bay... As fun as being mildly mauled by tiny screeching birds was, the pool was calling us again and we managed a quick dip (and beer) before we caught the bus back to the ferry, and the ferry back to Townsville.


On my birthday last year, I remember being stood - in the rain - outside of The Lexington having just lost the pub quiz. Five ciders and two sambucas down, I declared that I'd have my next birthday in Australia.

And it was a pretty bloody good birthday.

A bit of a catch up

Ok, so I'm rubbish. But in my defence, it's hard to write a travel blog when you're not actually travelling. Especially when I'm working for quite a lot of the time. Not that my day to day life isn't interesting's now become my day to day life. Bonfires on the beach aren't a novelty, they're something we do when the pub gets too expensive.

But I have been doing things, promise. I've just been keeping sctum about them online for no reason other than I'm too lazy to write, and have discovered uTorrent and a host of films I wanted to watch. However I feel like I should really catch you up on my life, so here goes...


It's quite nice being a backpacker but still being able to go 'home' for Christmas. I'd met quite a few people who were plumbing relatives thrice removed in order to have a nice homely environment to eat their turkey in; having a Mum a mere 240km away was something many were jealous of.

Still, it was with a bit of a heavy heart that I left Mission. Knowing that when I returned I'd only have a week and a half before I said my final goodbyes wasn't a nice feeling. Not that it mattered when Mum picked me up from the bus station, nothing in Mission can compare to a big Mummy Beckett hug. Fact.

Christmas didn't really feel like Christmas, which I think made it easier for both of us. It's hard to get into the spirit when the palm trees have lights on, and there isn't a big Eastenders misery fest to look forward to. In a way I was glad - I think both of us would have felt a lot more lonely had we really felt like the festive season was upon us.

Unfortunately Mum had to work the night shift on Christmas eve, so I accidentally drank a bottle of red to myself and got angry about this. Then, ever the optomist, I popped on some Buble and got to work 'Christmassifying' (that's a technical term) Mum's new house; she'd only been there for a few days and had been working constantly so I added some Cheskie fairy dust. And teddies wearing hats.

Being the model daughter that I am, I woke up early to switch on all the lights. (Fire safety concious but also keen for Mum to arrive home to an Aussie Christmas grotto.) When Mum had slept for a few hours we both woke up again to discover that Father Christmas had left me a stocking! It's almost like he knew that I'd be slightly sad away from home, but also in need of many toiletries. Thanks FC, toothpaste is pretty darn pricey out here.

The lovely Mick and Val had invited us over for Christmas lunch which we were very excited about. Meat was cooked on the enormous barbie, and we had a bowl of massive prawns. Hello Australia, I like your Christmas dinners! After a swim in their pool and a walk along the beach Mum and I headed home for a family skype. It was a very hard day of eating and drinking, so we just about managed to watch When Harry Met Sally before dragging our bottoms into bed, and sleeping very soundly.

A Christmas day swim!

New Years

Seeing as I've worked almost all of the NYEs in my adult life, I didn't mind working another one. In my experience you generally get paid to get drunk with your friends which sounds like (and generally is) a pretty good deal. We rang the New Year in with a rendition of Auld Lang Syne (my doing) and lots of alcohol (partly my doing), then clocked off and heading to my friend's place for a shindig.

I was determined to see the sunrise and managed to pace myself, just. At 5am I headed down the hill with two of the skydivers (Rob and Clem) and a bag full of booze.
It was worth it:

At one point I ws stood knee deep in the bathwater sea, watching the sun streak up and I just started laughing. How did a girl from Tamworth find herself seeing the first sunrise of 2012 on a tropical beach, the beach that she lives next to?

I fell into bed at 8am and slept until the afternoon. After a bit of faffing about I dragged myself next door to my friend's flat only to find them all heading to the Fish bar. Little did I know that accepting the invite would lead to a downhill spiral into more debauchery....

That's what happens when you order a round of tequilas at 5.30pm, Dave.

And to think I had to wash it down with a hangover-curing bloody Mary.

We continued in a similar vein for the next few hours, with the shots getting ever-more disgusting. I think the barmaid's coup de grace had to be the espresso/sambuca/kahluah concotion. It tasted genuinely offensive, but was so big that it took a couple of decent gulps. Mmm, made the taste spread nicely over my entire tongue.

We look so happy...if only Sarah had taken an 'after' shot

Suffice to say that I felt just great the next day. Although that was more to do with the tonsilitis that started to infect my body as I'd been quite sensible and stopped drinking at 1am. Jan 2nd, curled up in bed with the builders constantly nailgunning the broken roof felt like what my new years morning should have been. Sigh.

"When shall we nailgun the roof back on?"
"How about when Francesca tries to nap?"
"Good idea!"


As anyone who has spent any amount of time with me recently will know, my little sister arrived in Australia on the 7th January. When I became able to count down the days rather than weeks, my excitement grew to slightly dangerous levels; I became concerned that she would be injured during my initial airport hug/rugby tackle. Thankfully I stuck to having a good old fashioned cry and hug. Tash was fine, having found herself upgraded to business class during her final leg from Singapore. I'd be pretty OK if I'd had seven hours of being served fillet steak, asparagus and tiramisu with a selection of wines in actual glass glasses. All my 'I flew with Emirates and they have LEDs on the ceiling so it looks like the stars' smugness had been roundly beaten, by a worthy opponent.

Mum and I gave Tash a mini tour of Townsville, taking her to the top of Castle Hill and along the Strand before she completely passed out for a sleep. Waking her up after two hours was like trying to rouse a particularly pissed off dragon but between Mum and myself we eventually managed it. Declining our offer of a walk to a pub, we settled with eating our body weight in cheese and watching Outnumbered before Tash really couldn't stay awake any longer.

The next day we woke early and slapped on our suncream - the ever generous Mick and Val had invited us on their boat for a sail to Radical bay on Magnetic Island. Even though I'd obviously rather be inside watching TV with the air con on, I said I'd go to spend some time with Tash. It was a lovely day and a very different sail to the ones I've been used to on Panacea - I think I enjoy cruising tacks much more than racing ones! It's also a lot easier to sunbathe when the boat isn't heeling into the water:

Maggie looked beautiful in the sunshine, and after seeing lots of people swimming sans stinger suits we decided to take a dip.

It was gorgeous, and made even better by swimming to shore with Tash - I've now officially been on Maggie island! After once again eating our own body weight in cheese, having a nap and drinking some more rum we had to motor back to Townsville. Tash was understandably a bit bushed but we dragged her to the local for a yummy Sunday roast before letting her sleep.

Future Plans

Well, the plan was to leave Mission for good on the 6th and fly down to Sydney on the 18th. This is now not the plan, because of a few things:

- I'm irreplaceable, so no one had been found to fill either of my jobs.

- I hadn't actually worked out a plan for Sydney other than 'get there'.

- Right now, I think I'm more happy and content than I've been for a long time. I love Mission and I love my friends; I was pretty upset about having to leave them behind.

- Stacey and Ash were planning to drive down to Sydney at the end of Jan. Long car journeys are easier with three people rather than two.

- I'm still pretty poor, so three extra weeks of work wouldn't hurt.

The new plan is to stay in Mission until Jan 29th, and then to road trip down over the course of a week to Sydney. I'm meeting my new BFF Pheobe in Melbourne at the start of March so I've got a month to play with (and hopefully to work a bit) before heading over, and as ever I'm flexible with my plans. Who knows? I'm like a cat, always landing on my feet. And purring when someone tickles my ears.