Saturday, 9 June 2012

Life in the Tropics

So, it's been a while, again, since my last blog and as I am currently resting a twisted knee and hip (don't ask), I have no excuse for not updating you all on my last 3 months.  If you have been following my Facebook/Twitter updates you will know I am now in Airlie Beach, 512km and 6.5hrs south of my last post.  In the grand scheme of things, I haven't made it very far!

Mission Beach is where I left off, so it's where I shall begin.
I spent 9 weeks there, driving the courtesy bus by day for Absolute Backpackers and working in the restaurant at Mackays Motel by night.  The restaurant only had 6 tables so it was very easy work and most of the guests were long-term trade workers, so I spent most of the time socialising with the boys!  I did some gardening work for Mackays, until I was attacked by an angry colony of ants and spent a week with my legs in itching agony and my hands in my pockets!  I also managed 5 hellish shifts in a Thai kitchen, being shouted at in Thai, cleaning all the dishes by hand, but eating fabulous free food!
Only working for pay 3-4hrs a day, I found it hard to save much so activities were limited to the free stuff; lying by the pool/on the beach when the sun shone, bonfires on the beach at night, rainforest walks, hunting cassowaries and wallabies (not literally), swimming in creeks and jumping off waterfalls.

We were reliably informed there were no crocs in here!
Cassowary dad and chick

Being the rainforest, there was inevitably going to be some rain, and when it rains in the rainforest, it really rains!  We were flooded on several occassions, even having the bridge over the creek covered in fast flowing water.  Once the rains dried up, the bugs appeared in their thousands!  Such is life in the tropics!
I'm a bug killing demon!
There were obviously many nights out, some which ended sensibly, some not so much, and some which didn't end until the sun came up.  Cairns is a 2hr drive north and it was too much of an irresistible draw when Vanessa had a car, so myself and Noora just had to join her in a road trip.  Having not seen more than 1 shop in over 4 weeks, we found it hard not to spend, spend, spend the money we didn't have.  Cairns is a lot of fun and I wish I had more time to spend there and further north.  But my time is limited and after 2 months of laid back life, I made the hard decision to move on.  But not before my free skydive!  I was surprisingly calm on the day of the jump, but I had had a cancelled jump just 2 days before so I think the nerves had been drained from me then.  Vanessa had been working for Skydive Mission Beach and decided to join me to do her first jump as well, so we were able to distract each other somewhat.
The 'before' shot
I was jumping with Rob who I can't praise highly enough for his skills and ability to keep me calm.  In fact the only moment I felt a tad terrified was when the door of the plane opened (plane doors generally should not open).  Having bungee jumped before, I was convinced this would be easier, having no perspective of how high I was etc etc.  Turns out it is easier, but only because you have someone attached to you who does everything for you, including throwing you out the door!  Freefalling from 14,000ft is probably the best adrenalin rush I have ever had!  I cannot put into words how amazing it is, but it is an incredible feeling of freedom being able to push the limits of your survival.  Once the canopy is opened (which takes you by surprise and hurts a tad around the legs - note my face in the vid) it's a joyous glide over magnificent views of the great barrier reef, back to solid ground.  My biggest fear was, by far, the landing, having 'landed' badly from height in a previous life.  I needn't of worried, I just had to lift my legs up to my chest and Rob did the rest.
The slightly windswept 'after' shot
I seriously DO recommend this to anyone with an inkling of a desire to fight gravity!

And so ended the age of Mission.  I had a fantastic time there and made some amazing friends. One of which comes from my hometown of Motherwell.  Small world indeed.  Chinelle, Vanessa, Sebastian, Heather, Noora, Toni, Catherine, Jenny, Liam, Rebecca, Diesel, Mags and all the other Scots, Barabara and my tradey boys, and of course, Pip, Brendan, Peta and Dez.  You all made my time there an amazing one and I miss you!

The best part of my job!
So onto Townsville.  Again, I had only planned to stay 3 weeks, but... I initially worked at a hostel for my accommodation again, but found an advert for a job working in boarding kennels.  Naturally I was very keen on the work and earning some proper cash, but it meant 12hr days for 29 days straight.  Being poor, I couldn't pass up the chance of money, so I had to suck it up!  The job was 15km away from town so I has to hire a care for the month.  I forgot the joy of freedom a car can bring!  I also found an amazing flat to stay in as living in a hostel was going to be way too expensive and tiring!  I just wish I had more time to enjoy the time with my flatmates, Nathan and Ange. 
The kennel work was easy.  It was great to be back working with dogs again.  The owner also had another business transporting pets around the country, which I wasn't aware of until my first day, and I had 2 days to learn the entire business before he and his wife left on holiday.  He did admit he flung me in the deep end, but I managed and hopefully didn't bankrupt him!  The money has been a life saver, however, I was taxed almost $1500 when I wasn't expecting to pay any tax, so the flight home remains unbooked!  After the work was done, I had 5 days to enjoy the fun side of Townsville and Magnetic Island.  Kayaking, horse riding and more beach times were had before I had to give up the motor and head south once again.  To be continued...

The works ute
Red sky at night, kennel maids delight


Thursday, 1 March 2012

Bad blogger on the buses

Ok, so it's been nearly 3 months since my last blog.  I apologise for the tardiness!

The adventures have continued, although there have been a few bumps in the road, a lot of hanging about, waiting for the next step, as well as beach times and road trips. 
The next adventure has already begun.  I am now a bus driver for a hostel in Mission Beach, Queensland.  I do 3hrs work a day and in return I receive free accommodation, free internet, free laundry and if I stay at least 1 month, there’s a free skydive on offer.  Too good an offer to pass up!  It also allows me to find some paid work as well and puts me in a good position for saving some money to do the fun stuff…and buy a flight home :-s

I have to put up with this view for the next month or so...

That perfect job still eludes me… in fact finding any work that isn't a sales role duping people out of their hard earned cash is hard to come by!  I have been kept afloat by odd shifts here and there (thank you Gregg Peek – check out his free city tour of Sydney, the generosity of family and friends who have put me up for a few nights and kept me fed and watered, but mainly the bank of Mum and Dad have been far too generous and have enabled me to stay here living the dream!  Thank you kindly!

In the time since my last blog I have worked as a 'shepherd' for the aforementioned Peek Tours; worked as a nanny living on millionaires row right on Tamarama beach (just round from Bondi) looking after 4 kids for a very rich family; spent Christmas working for said rich family and then partied with my fellow orphans; had a fantastic New Year with some fabulous people watching the fireworks at Sydney Harbour and then watching the sun rise on Bondi with a lovely random Aussie bloke; campervan road trip to Melbourne and a 3 day Great Ocean Road tour with the lovely Katie Day; spent 5 strange days in Adelaide melting in 40 deg heat before hitching a lift back to Melbourne with Paul Atkinson.  I then spent a week in Melbourne, hosted by the right honourable  Dr Glassford (thank you kind sir for your unyielding generosity).  I managed to take in the semi-final of the Australian Open Tennis between Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic.  Great atmosphere, even though the outcome was not the desired one.  I spent a day pondering the complexities of life in the Botanic gardens, getting emotional at the Anzac memorial and wondering along the Yarra river.  I caught up with some long lost friends; Alisha, my favourite little Aussie, and Jamie and Sarah Anne, my favourite islanders from Skye!  I wish I had stayed longer, but the promise of work was too tempting and I made my way back up north to Sydney.  I spent a lovely long weekend in the Blue Mountains with my Dad's cousin, Marilyn, her husband Kevin and Milo the dog, who very kindly put me up and gave me a personal tour of some delightful towns, shops and cafes, as well as experiencing the worst hail storm I've ever encountered Blue Mountains Hail Storm!  Thank you both for your wonderful hospitality.

Blue Mountain home

I also managed to find a volleyball club to train with while back in Sydney, as well as attempting some beach volleyball with Dirk and Megan.  There was the Australian Open surf champs in Manly, free gigs on the beach, great music at Spectrum, skateboard comps, surfing with Jarrod and the Mojo boys, movies and meeting Mark Wahlberg with Piritta.  
I am glad to finally be travelling and exploring again, but I will miss Sydney and the people in it.  I have become quite attached to the place.  I will be back!

When trying to recall everything I've done in the last 3 months, it makes me smile thinking of the fun I've had and the friends I've made, and I really wish I had the discipline to keep a diary/update this blog so I can look back and remember everything I've done.  I must make a concerted effort to blog more often, but I fear they may become like buses... none for ages then they all appear at once!

The Living End free gig on Manly beach

Moonlight cinema, Centennial Park

Bowl-a-rama Bondi

Sydney sunrise

Sunday, 4 December 2011


What's the one thing you've always dreamed of doing?  The one thing above all else that you would give anything to do or see?
For me it has been swimming with dolphins, particularly common dolphins, my favourite species.  But not just being in the water with them, actually swimming along side them, being part of the pod.  A wild, fanciful dream you may think, and I did too, being not of the dolphin persuasion.

Coming to Australia, a swim with dolphins was high on my bucket list and having already been on a swim with dusky dolphins in New Zealand I was very much looking forward to doing it again.  I had looked into a few companies who do dolphin cruises and sent off my CV in the hope of finding a job as a boat guide in the sun.  I contacted Andrew at Dolphin Swim Australia, the only permitted dolphin swim in NSW and they invited me for a trip on their vessel 'Imagine' to experience what they do.  And what they do is spectacular.

My day started early, leaving the hostel at 5.15am (thanks to the wonderful Pete at Melaleuca for getting out his bed and driving me there!) arriving in Nelson Bay to be fitted with my wetsuit and board Imagine, a fabulous purpose built 15.8m ocean sailing Catamaran.  The staff and crew are a wonderful bunch, very welcoming and friendly.  They also know their stuff and we were fully briefed on what we were about to do and how to do it, as well as everything we needed to know about the species and the beautiful marine park we were in.  We headed out into the open ocean in search of the dolphins.

In search of dolphins

Elise, Andrew's other half, is a marine biologist in her own right and is carrying out research into the migratory patterns and distribution of the common dolphins in NSW waters, so I felt very comfortable that we were not chasing or harassing the dolphins in anyway, and that everything was on the dolphins terms.  What came next reinforced that entirely!

When we located the dolphins they showed that they were interested in us by approaching the boat and swimming around us, enticing us to play.  We carried on our heading and the dolphins stayed with us.  That's when we get in the water! Sitting on the boom net on the bow, we adorned our flippers and snorkels and on Elise's signal we entered the water as gracefully as possible, clipping our harness onto the the grab rope.  Holding onto the rope, the skipper gently powered forward and we were indeed swimming along-side the dolphins!  Initially I was so overcome with what I was doing that I forgot to breathe and relax, and to welcome our new friends!  I soon remembered what I was supposed to be doing and relaxed into the ride, singing some Scottish tunes and getting to know these extremely inquisitive and playful individuals.  Being a small group of us onboard, there were plenty of chances to get back in the water and have another play.  The more I got in the water, the more fun we had and the more the dolphins seemed to enjoy our company.  One dolphin in particular seemed to enjoy my rendition of 'Ae Fond Kiss' and stayed beside me for a full 10 minutes!  They talked and sang back to us too and you can actually feel their echolocation clicks bouncing off you.  Incredible!

Common dolphin echolocation

Just when we thought it couldn't get any better we spotted at least 1 sei whale, a new sighting for me!  Unfortunately we didn't see it underwater,  but what excitement to be in the water with a whale!

Not the sei whale we spotted.  My camera is not that good!

Unfortunately for both humans and dolphins, the adventure had to end and we had to get out the water and head for home.  We were accompanied most of the way by 3 of our friends who rode the bow almost to the Bay.  Quite a goodbye!
Escort home

I have always found whales and dolphins amazing to watch in their natural habitat, but to be accepted into their world, their home, is an immensely humbling and breathtaking experience and one I will never forget.

Dolphin Swim Australia from Andrew Parker on Vimeo.

If you don't believe in your dreams, or chase them, they will never be within your reach.
So if you ever doubt your dreams, think they are just fantasy, stop.  Breathe.  Relax.
Sometimes dreams do come true.  All you have to do is Imagine...

Thursday, 17 November 2011

A week of firsts

There was a moment of hesitation when I awoke on the 5th Nov.  'Will I just not go?  It'll be so much easier to stay.'
I finished packing at 4am and finally got some sleep. Scott, Ange and my nephew Angus came round to see me off and there was a tear in my eye when I thought that the next time I see Angus, he'll be walking and won't recognise me.  But they'll all be in New Zealand visiting the Kiwi rellies after New Year, so I can always nip over and visit.

I tried to make the airport farewell to mum and dad as short and painless as possible, so it was one very quick, tearful goodbye at the security gate before I went on my way.  Luckily, friends on my folks were travelling on the same flight en-route to Hong Kong, and very kindly signed me into the business class lounge.  Free cuppa, a biscuit and chat to take my mind off the thought that this was the first time away from home for longer than a month.  Thank you Campbell and Val :)

The flight to Dubai was fairly uneventful, however, flying across Baghdad I happened to open the window shutter.  I saw a flash behind me and was unsure what it was so I continued to stare out into the dark night.

Lightning storm above Baghdad
 I was witnessing my first lightning storm from above.  Highly impressive!  The tunes only added to the moment.  Bon Iver - Holocene

I arrived at Dubai airport just after midnight local time.  Campbell and Val tried to sign me into the business class lounge again, which would have been bliss, but to no avail, as we were not travelling on the same onward flight.  So I set about looking for some free food, bu the place I was informed of at Glasgow airport was closed for refurbishments.  By the time I found where I could get said free food, I had walked the length of terminal 3 almost 4 times!  Fed and watered I found a lounger and made myself comfortable and set about entertaining myself.  6 hours later it was time for the final leg to Sydney.  I slept most of the way, somewhat uncomfortably, only awakening for the vast amounts of food provided on the wonderful  Emirates airbus a380. I highly recommend it!
I landed in Sydney, greeted by spring sunshine, and waiting to collect my bags I was approached by the sniffer dog.  Being a dog in a previous life, the pup was obviously excited to see me and gave me the best Aussie welcome he could.  Luckily his keeper laughed and moved on, much to my relief!

After finding the shuttle bus to the hostel, I was on my way through the streets of Sydney central.  The driver had kindly agreed to drop an elderly lady in an area outside her normal route and proceeded to get lost, and I found myself navigating for a local!  Finally the way was found and I was checking into my room.  I found my room, found it was the wrong room and found myself back at reception!  The right room found, I said g'day to my roommates and went off to explore.  The first nights entertainment was free food and a drink in the hostel bar while getting to know my new friends.  An early night called, it had been a long day!

Day 2 the group meet for a walk of the city.  We took in most of the main tourist attractions, lead by our fantastic group leader, Katie, Bontanic gardens, Hyde park, Harbour bridge, the Opera House, Darling Harbour - I was melting by the end!  We hit Scubar at night for some pizza and drinks.  Some of us stayed later than the rest and ended up in an Irish bar dancing with some lovely Aussie boys :)

The gang

Day 3 was the harbour cruise on our private boat!  We took in all the sites from the water, stalked some celebrity abodes, had lunch at Sydney fish market, quick stop at Manly where my camera took a dip in the ocean and died (oops!), and then we ended on a lovely little beach where some of us swam, jumped of rocks, played some ball games and generally chilled out.  After 2 days of constant drinking I was feeling a little worse for wear and quickly developed a chest infection (very easy when living in hostels) and headed to bed, after my free meal of course!

Manly beach, the last picture before the Canon took a dip and died!
Day 4 - After sleeping off the last 2 days shenanigans I headed to the Travelers contact Point for a quick talk on working and travelling in Oz.  Some good hints and tips I've yet to put into practice.  Still feeling really ill, I wasn't up for another big night so we headed down to Darling Harbour for a bite to eat and some fun on THE greatest play park in the world. Fact!  I will take more pics with my new camera to show you all how amazing it is!

Day 5 was a trip to the Blue mountains which lies 2hrs west of Sydney.  I love it there and will have to spend some time there later in my trip.  We were taken into the National Park to search for kangaroos, which are apparently becoming a rarer sight in these parts, thought to be caused by dingos.  We finally found 3 eastern greys, no photos due to a dead camera, but they are huge.  We were taken on a fabulous walk and spent 11:11 11/11/11 looking out over a waterfall into Megalong valley.  Spectacular.  If only I had a camera!
It was a long walk down the valley but fairly easy.  Getting back however, involved climbing over 1000 steps.  I do not recommend doing this with a chest infection!!  Friday night and Saturday were spent in bed!

Day 7 was surfing day with Mojosurf.  These guys are awesome and got me standing up...eventually!  I think I will spend a lot of time in the ocean :)  Being the awesome surfer dudes that they were, they took us for a discounted meal that night and we chilled with some beers and pool.  If you want to learn to surf, the Mojo crew are highly recommended :)

And so ended my first week with UltimateOz.  The rest is unknown and still a bit scary, but I'm looking forward to coming adventures :)

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Superfluity of reason...

My mind is starting to take a wander of the map with the inordinate amounts of 'stuff' running riot around my brain, so please do excuse the following ramble!

So there are less than 3 days left until I fly due south and I am consumed by emotions, not least, stress due to packing uncertainty.  Anticipating future events for the next year in an unknown country is a tricky task, and I'm not the most competent at making decisions.

I'm gonna need a bigger bag!
I certainly travel lighter than my younger days, but I'm forever considering the 'what if's' and the 'just in case' scenarios - I get that from my mother, so I tend to pack things I'll no doubt not need.  But I can still somehow justify my reasons for packing that extra top, squeezing in one more pair of shoes, buying ANOTHER bikini, because I might wear out the other 12! because you just never know.  The truth?  Simply making myself believe there is any number of logical reasons to the extra item other than 'I want to take it!'

So what soon-to-be suitcased items will be superfluous...?  Only time will tell.

Time to stop thinking and do!

Monday, 10 October 2011

No regrets...?

They say you should go to your grave with no regrets, but in reality I don't believe that it is possible, for anyone.

8 years ago today, my life was irreversibly changed.  To the very core I would never be the same again.  Dealing with loss is a painful and complicated business, but it does tend to get easier with time.  Dealing with regret is another predicament altogether.  It's something I've struggled with to varying degrees over the years.

         'Regret for the things we did can be tempered by time; it is regret for the things we did not do that are inconsolable'
                        Sydney Smith  

My biggest true regret is indeed something I did not do.   
8 years ago, I swore I would never make the same mistake again, that I would not feel frightened to take action that might cause me embarrassment or pain, because in the end, my hesitation hurt all the more.
Maybe that's why I have moved from place to place, and from job to job, so as not to miss out on an opportunity.  Or maybe I have just been wandering aimlessly, waiting for the world to make sense again.
I think Tolkien personifies my sentiments best:

              'How do you pick up the threads of an old life?  How do you go on... when in your heart you begin to understand... there is no going back?  There are some things that time cannot mend... some hurts that go too deep... that have taken hold'
                                                      JRRT: The Return of the King

This year I learned that regret CAN come from things we do and that these can also be inconsolable.  I was once again broken and changed, my intuition was once again right, and I once again failed to listen.  In some such way, it seems harder to accept a mistake when you've made it twice.

However, I have managed to find a silver lining.  I can travel at long last!  It's something I've waited years to do.  The time was never right; I never had enough money; I had no-one to share it with.  I should have lived the dream a long time ago.  But here is one regret I can remedy!

If I'm honest, if I had a choice of life right now, I'd choose the fairy-tale ending, where I'm swept off my feet by my handsome prince to live a life happily-ever-after in our white-picket fenced cottage by the sea, with our beautiful children and our crazy dogs.  But it's not a choice I have.  So instead of waiting for the fairy-tale to happen to me, I am choosing to create my own magic and adventure in the hope that it leads me to the happy ending I desire.  And if not, then so be it.  I'm going to enjoy every minute of the journey

And so starts another epoch.  The 3rd age of Fi.  And I am hopeful that this aeon will be the one where the sun truly shines after the rain.


Sunday, 26 June 2011

Once upon a time, I had a dream...

For as long as I can remember I've been a dreamer, living in my own little world believing I could fly or run with wild horses...or better still, flying on multi-coloured horses over rainbows!  The older I got, the bigger the dreams became and the more I wanted to escape what I perceived to be a dull and boring life.

I suppose my wanderlust was instilled from a young age by my Dad who worked at sea with the Merchant Navy.  He would return with weird and wonderful gifts from places I had never heard of, and I remember the feeling of excitement as I thought of exotic far flung places, imagining wise, age-old cultures living in perfect harmony with the world.

Then I got older still and the dreams kept coming (and going) and the more they failed to materialise, the more I started to think they were never going to come true.  I gave up on a lot of dreams for various reasons but always thought I had plenty of time to achieve them if I wanted.  I now realise that time, is in fact, running out.
I haven't dealt well with turning 30.  My mortality has caught up with me and I genuinely feel like I don't have enough time. I don't know why.  It's just a feeling.

After years of chasing unfulfilled dreams, I am now in a position to let my feet wander.  After a very bad start to 2011, I have picked myself up and found I am left with no ties or responsibilities and if there is a time to follow my feet, it is now.  After all, soon I'll be too old and the dream will be over.

In 4 months I plan to be on my way to Australia to spend about 10 months travelling and working, and I don't mind admitting it's a terrifying prospect travelling over 10,500 miles to the other side of the world on my own, but I know I'll regret it if I don't do it.  Life is short and sometimes very hard, but I'm eternally optimistic that it can be bloody amazing if you focus on the good times and don't let the bad overwhelm you.

So this is my blog, to share my experiences, good and bad, with friends and family, to capture the dream as I live it and to remind myself that no matter how stormy it gets, the sun always shines after the rain.

fi x