Cairns, yes, I'm sure you've heard the name before. And, yes, as popular as it may be, Cairns truly did live up to its name. If you can beleive that in just over 48 hours, the popular tourist destination made a serious impact on our trip as a whole. Flying from Darwin to the entrance of the Great Barrier Reef, we arrived to gloomy skies and rainfall. Taking our free taxi service to Gilligian's, the well known hostel in northern Queensland, we fit right in. Saddling up to our hostel, I made my own version of pre-packaged oatmeal. Pre-packaged oats, the travel campanion of the southern hemsphere, was looking pretty dull, as jacked up Irish man whipped up a plate of 69 cent pasta beside me. As I mentally prepared myself for the reef tomorrow, I cozyed up to my bunk for the night, feeling pretty happy with the decision of turning in early. The peaceful slumber I had intended, was rudly awoken by a half- naked man trying to sit on the side of my bed. Apparently the cute British boy bunking with us had been enjoying the Cairns night life...a little to much. Awkwardly waking up, the only words coming out were "wrong bed!" He didn't get it. After 5 times, and now Chelsea waking up in laughter, I started punching at his back. Finally cute British boy got the hint, and I fell asleep. A great story for the kids.

The promised sunshine of Cairns was shot, as the gloomy rainy, weather hung over us like last nights encounter. Us girls, headed to the port, jumped on the 90 minute cruise taking us to one of the 7th natural wonders of the world. As some might anticipate a smooth, scenic ride, I would describe it as the complete opposite. I don't know if i've ever enountered so much chunk-blowing in my life. The dream vacation, spiraled downward as patrons cluched the sides of the boat for dear life. I'm popping sea-sickness tablets like an avid user, and bleakly trying to rememeber what solid ground feels like. Arriving to the reef, I'm happy to report I didn't toss my cookies once, as for Chelsea....

So, the reef was great! The waters calmed, we strapped on some serious dive gear and followed introductory diver Paul to the depths. The 90 mins of hell had nothing on what was underneath the surface. Being fully submerged for over 30 mins, I lost myself in the world around me. I was amazed at the life forms, and colours that surrounded me. Scuba-diving was serene and calm, both soothing and detailed in colour. Let's not think of top deck. Snappers, sharks, turles, and schools of fish, we couldn't have asked for better. Jumping back on the boat for a great buffet meal, we rode back to Cairns, barf-free, as we met up for Mexican Food with our fellow travellors, Vicky and Emily. The meal was amazing and the shared memories were a spectacular end to a full day. We couldn't and didn't want to stop laughing, as the 4 of us were parting ways that evening. But as Chelsea and I headed of to Airlie Beach, we braced ourselves for a 12 hour, overnight greyhound, with a stomach full of... Mexican Food.

Four things that will never leave my memory. Ever. 

Team: Awesome. Car: Troy. Driver: Anthony II. Fraser Island, FWD. 

We had arrived in Hervey Bay, meeting our campanions for the 4 day adventure on Fraser Island just off the coast of North Queensland. We had the high privledge of driving our own 4WD vehicle on the island with an international crew. Allow me to describe. Phil: German, loves meat, all the time. Adrien: also German, loves meat and Canadian girls. Paul: Irish, doctor, fun loving and flamboyant, and Leyre: little Spanish lady with a strong opinion (and accent). Adding Chelsea and I, we all packed into the jeep, loaded with camping supplies, 5 kilos of carrots, 4 different types of meat and landed on Fraser Island. Fortunately we weren't left driving on the island alone, we had a tour guide, "No Dramas" Dubsy, who coined the phrase "too easy" as he pranced around in his Ugg boots. Dubsy showed us the beaches, swimming holes, lakes, sand dunes, shipwrecks and the campsites. He informed us of Dingo sticks, wild ferns, and utilizing the camp-site toilet. ( Basically a fisher-price kids pottie). Fraser Island has rain forests, beaches and lakes. The swimming is prohibted in the ocean due to sharks. " If the shark is as big as you, no swimming in the water" direct quote from Phil, our autobahn driver. The wild life was unique (not to mention the Germans) there were iguanas, whales jumping and dingos roaming. Dingoes that weren't afraid to scrape up the last of any barbeque. Hence the Dingo Stick: A long wooden stick that you must carry when leaving the campsite alone. If approached by a dingo, act in a ninja like stance to ward off. The hassle with the dingo stick is trying to both pee, in the pitch dark, with no hands free. Figure that one out. 

Phil named after Phil Collins manned both the steering wheel and the barbeque. Using forks, he hovered over the grill bombarded with greasy sausages and an assortment of kangaroo patties. The majority of the time, the menu consisted of meat and the 5 kg bag of carrots, which was fully consumed between the 7 of us, over the course of 3 days.

Driving on the largest sand island, and world heritage site, Fraser Island encompass, and surrpassed all my expectations. We drove along side the coast, directly on the sand highway, watching the sunrises and sunsets. Whales would jump in the distance and the peace and calm of the island was unreal, until we boarded the 4WD and the sounds of deep German " Oh Oh OHs " and christian rock, lifted our spirits, (literally) as we bumped along the sandy terrain. 

The team WAS awesome, our car WAS 4 wheel drive, our driver WAS NOT "troy" and I still have no idea who Anthony II is.

I'm a sailer, I sail, with the wind and the waves, Ahoy!

Yes, the arrival at Airlie Beach was...well we arrived! as the weather greeted us with tropical rain, and a cloudy overcast. A great weekend for a sailing trip! A trip that would explore the world famous Whithaven Beach and the Whitsunday Islands. Our view of paradise got slightly distorted as we embarked from our 12 hour greyhound bus trip to the open seas, again. Greeted by our crew, we met Habibi, the low budget sailboat which held 25 backpackers in small dormintory, coffin like beds, sardined together to create a close ambience. We then met Dougie, the lifeboat, who deflated as we left port for the 2 night excursion. Piling into our lifeless, bedless boat Chelsea and I listened to our skipper give the briefing of the trip. Gale, was shoeless and ruckless, and yes, he had a mouth like a sailer. As he inhaled his cigarette in front of the no smoking sign, he told us the rules. He skimmed over the description of one of the most highly acclaimed island chains in the world, and ended his presentation by downing his first (and many to come) Aussie beers. Beauty.


Heading downstairs, to our coffin/window seat of a bedroom, I parked my things and prayed for the scaricity of bed bugs. Heading towards upper deck, I noticed the weather getting worse, I threw on a jumper and sat imagining I was Peter freaking out at the worsening of the weather. Gale reminded me of Jesus, asleep, as he commendeared our boat. The waves heighten, the rain poured, and the mood was dampered. The on board food was cooked, and like a pack of wildebeasts, the 25 student backpackers cleaned up the spread in a matter of minutes. Being full was not allowed. It was free, and you'd never know when you'd eat again. Towards the end of the evening, and after making it through the hurricane like conditions, we parked our boat in a small alcove and slept. We woke up the next morning, getting dropped off at whithaven beach, where the weather finally cleared. The sand was the cleanest, and whitest sand I've ever seen, and the natural park was highly preserved and protected, there was to be no removal of shells from the beach. Ever....

The continued sailing trip on Habibi offered a chance to snorkel, eat, star gaze, chat and chat some more, as the rain continually came down. The use of the on-board washroom, proved for some good discussion. In order to propely fush, you must hold the button down for a few seconds in order to activate the small blade which would shred the paper. This button wasn't descrete at all. Let's say, you and the crew, knew what was happening down there. Frenzy set in, as the combination of people, and 'on board stench' creeped up like hidden bed bugs. Habibi, ended with a beautiful sail back into the harbour as the skys opened up and the scent of closterphobia lingered in my nostrils. I put on my flip flops as we docked the boat, waving by to Gale and the crew. I learned many things on that sailboat, many things. I'm still trying to figure out if that was a culture shock, or a vacation. If toilets really grind up paper, and if this was legal at all? One of a kind experience, like non other. At least I got some shells.

Brittany Hayward