Sharks and Sunshine

Since being away on this trip, I’ve been to a lot of amazing places, all of which I have written about for all to read. I have loved every everywhere I have been and I have tried to describe them all as best I can. Since writing however I feel as if I have started to exhaust all adjectives possible and thus run out of ways to really explain where I was heading next. To give it’s real just deserves I wish I could create words which better the now mediocre ‘incredible’

Amidst the blues of the Pacific Ocean is an area known as the Polynesian Triangle. It stretches from Hawaii in the north to Tahiti in the east and then to a small group of islands in the west. These islands on the western tip of the triangle were my next destination. This was Fiji.

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I planned Fiji as a holiday within a holiday. A perfect 10 day escape from the manic overgrown backpacker scene of Australia and it in a word it was perfect. It was only to be a short trip, but I planned on absorbing myself as much as possible in these wonderful island gems.

Feejee as it is known in its native tongue, is made up of over 300 islands, most of which look like the image in your head when I say the word ‘paradise’. So much so in fact that one of them is where Tom Hanks found himself stranded in the movie Castaway. In history the islands would be a frightening place to find yourself ship wrecked. To early European settlers the islands became known as the Cannibal Isles in reference to the islanders favourite dish. Many of the first landings in Fiji by European discoverers were given a hostile welcome before meeting their gruesome end on the dinner plates of chiefs and tribesmen. Cannibalism was a daily routine for many in Fiji. Ratu Udre Udre was known to have eaten as many as 872 people during his life. He placed stones outside his house to represent each of his victims. During our trip in Fiji we got to actually see where Ratu was buried. Cannibalism however fortunately hasn’t lasted into the 21st century and humans have thankfully been spared for coconuts instead. 

As soon as we arrived into Fiji, the spirit of Bula was upon us. Walking down of the plane we were met by singing, dancing and music and were presented with shells from some locals. It felt like something from Forgetting Sarah Marshal! Soon after we arrived were we would be staying for a couple nights just outside of Nadi and relaxed into the Fijian way of life.

As we were only in Fiji for a short time we decided to do a tour with Feejee Experience which would ensure we got the most out of our short time there, it proved to be a fantastic way to see the islands. Early the next morning we were picked up by our Feejee Experience crew, Jerry Bati Finan and Arvind Prasad along with the rest of our small group and we made our way out of Nadi and towards our first destination, Natadola Beach. The Feejee Experience would take us around the whole of the main island of Viti Levu, before we headed of after to other islands independently. Natadola beach was the perfect first stop on the trip and gave us a little idea into the kind of places we had waiting ahead for us during the next 10 days. The white sand stretched around the coast and was boarded by lush green forest and palm trees and the stunning blue waters of the pacific. A short walk further along the beach and around a bend we found a breath taking lagoon hidden away, the perfect place to start the trip. After Natadola we headed towards Malomalo village but not before a brilliant stop and a huge sand dune for some sand boarding. This was great fun and despite the tiring walk back up to the top each time, coming down was awesome. Having done it before back in New Zealand I thought I had the hang of it. I was quickly reminded however when I went a tad off course on one ride and ended up flying straight through some bushes and taking a mouthful of sand! 

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For the first evening we stayed at the great Mango Bay resort. The backpacker hostels in Fiji proved to be some of the best I stayed at on the whole trip, it was more glam-packing than roughing like back in Australia. A very welcome change! After an evening spent relaxing by the pool, the next morning we were off again and onto one of my favourite points of the trip. The second day saw us do an amazing trek through the dense Fijian rain forest. The lush trees and vines rolled over the endless hills we walked amongst. We had to walk through various small rivers and streams in search for our final destination; Wainiyabia Waterfall. The waterfall was worth the hike. As we came through another section of trees the sight of the beautiful multi-layered waterfall cascading through the forest was stunning. It really felt as if it was a hidden secret, stashed away out of sight from other tourists. We walked up and around the it to another section of the falls in which we could get a well deserved swim and break from the relentless heat and humidity. The water was refreshing and icey cold. There was even a section where you could climb up the step rock face near the falls and jump back down into the falls which was brilliant. It made for some great video footage which I will add in a short film I hope to make once I return home. 

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After an hour or so at the falls we begun our walk out of the rain forest eventually arriving at a small river where a little boat picked us all up and drove us through the forest and eventually ending in spectacular fashion at the beach. It was a brilliant walk, without a doubt one of my favourite days on the islands. 

Our third day offered quite the cultural experience. Following a short stop in Suva, Fiji’s capital we headed for the ting village of Nasautoka in the hills. Earlier on in the trip we had been briefed about the visit to the village in which we would meet the chief and also be involved in a traditional Fijian ceremony. To take part in the ceremony fully our ‘tribe’ needed to have a leader its self; a chief. Somehow I suddenly found myself being elected Chief of the Feejee Experience Tribe. I wasn’t completely sure what I had gotten myself into, still I was excited to see what lay ahead for me as chief!

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We arrived at the small village and were met by some of the residents who welcomed us in with songs and dancing. Shortly after they gave us a run down of how the ceremony will work and how the day would go. To begin with we would be welcomed into the village officially by the chief and his family and would then take part in the traditional Kava ceremony. We approached the the main building in the village, everyone was told to go in one door which led to the back of the room and me, as chief was told to enter in by the front door and the head of the room. I was told to step up to the entrance step in and yell Bula! Once I did I walked up and took my seat on the floor alongside Chief Ratu Semi Seruvakula. We was an elderly man with a strong handshake. He sat me down, asked where I was from and was I enjoying his country. It felt amazing to be sitting next to the chief of the village, representing the visitors. 

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From there the chiefs spokesmen made various Fijian speeches, welcoming us to his family before beginning to prepare the first of what turned out to be many Kava sessions for the day. As we had been driving around the island for the past couple days I noticed what appeared to be some dark plant roots wrapped in newspaper laying on the dashboard of the bus. Arvind would hold them up regularly showing them to people as we passed by, in fact even the odd cow! I later learned this was Kava. By showing it to passes by he was effectively saying, ‘we have Kava, come join the party!’. Kava is a plant, the roots from which are used to make a traditional Fijian drink. Back in the village, the head family begun to make the drink by crushing down the roofs of the plant in a huge beautiful Kava bowl. Water is then added from banana tree roots and the flavour is soaked into the water. As I was chief I would be first to take a drink, in fact I had the first two drinks! I was presented with a small wooden cup full of the brown muddy looking water. I had to clap twice before accepting and then as tradition dictates drink the Kava in one go. It is an interesting taste to say the least! Quite a peppery taste with a hint of dirt which stays with you. Kava isn’t an intoxicating drink however once drunk in large quantities it does make you feel very relaxed, a large reason for why it is so popular among locals. When you drink it down, it has a numbing feeling on your tongue and throat coupled with a tingling feeling as you swallow. It was quite a bizarre drink but it was great to experience it. 

Following the Kava ceremony we went to another part of the village where we would visit the local school, this was fantastic to see. The Nasautoka District School, lies just up the road and looks out over stunning lush valleys and the large river below. Once at the school the children performed a show of amazing Fijian dances for us and the teacher told us the history of the school and what the children there liked to learn. We all each as well make a little speech saying where we were from and what we did back home. It was great to see the kids light up when talking to us. It was a brilliant experience to meet them all, and offered the chance for some great photo opportunities. 

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Before we headed back to the main hall, we went further up the road and then walked down to the hills towards the river. From here we got on rafts made from bamboo and rafted all the way back down the river to the village. It was brilliant, the scenery was stunning and people would shout Bula to us as we drifted by.

The day was ended in yet more Kava and we were played out with some wonderful Fijian music in which we all danced along with. It was a superb day, it was touching to be welcomed into the village and treated with such generosity and love from our hosts. It will certainly be an experience I will always remember. 

That evening we spent the night at the beautiful Voli Voli resort before departing the next day in the afternoon bound for the famous Sabeto hot springs and mud pools. The Sabeto springs are surrounded by beautiful mountains and the water in some of the pools was so hot it was boiling! Some however we a little cooler which meant we could get in and relax. That wasnt before however we had jumped in the natural mud pool and had mud lathered across every inch of skin on us! The mud is said to have healing powers, even through it felt incredibly slimy, it did in fact feel quite nice. 

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The hot springs was the last stop with our Feejee Experience guides. From here we headed back to Nadi for one night before going our separate ways. I however was headed to a couple of the islands for 5 more days before leaving Fiji. Just so it happened a few of the others in our group had the same plan which was great. 

The first island we headed to was a 45 minute boat ride from Nadi. Our first sight of Beachcomber Island totally hit me for six. The little paradise island in my head actually did exist and I thought I may have found it. The island was literally just a small spec of sand with a few green trees in the middle of it! It doesn’t get more castaway than this! A small boat picked us up and took us to the beach where we were once again welcomed by locals singing and playing guitar on the beach. 

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The island was stunning, you could walk around it in about 7 minutes and across it in about 2! It was paradise. We spent just two nights on the island, snorkelling, kayaking and relaxing, it was stunning. 

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After beachcomber we again got on the boat and headed 3 hours north towards the Yasawa Group of islands. I fell asleep on the boat on the way there and suddenly felt Sophie shaking me to wake me up. Still half asleep she said, ‘I don’t want to alarm you, but I think the boat is on fire’. I woke up fully looked around and the whole bottom cabin was full of smoke, not what you want to see! Oddly the crew seemed to be acting calmly like there was no reason to panic. I on the other land was looking for which island looked closest and started to think ‘what would Tom Hanks do?’ Thankfully it was our time to get off the boat and onto a smaller on to take us to our Island. As we did step off the smoke was really getting thick. The boat however was still deemed sea worthy and continued on its journey. We learnt later that it was the AC unit which had actually caught fire. 

If beachcomber was paradise then Mantaray Island was a different gear all together. From the boat the beach looked beautiful, the resort itself was hidden away out of sight from the sea, it just looked perfect. Surrounded my hills and coconut trees, it seemed to offer a lot more than Beachcomber did. We spent 3 nights here exploring the island and taking up all the activities.

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Mantaray was also to be where we wold do our final dive on the trip, and what a dive it would turn out to be. Unfortunately we were out of season for the amazing Manta’s which visit these shores but the diving was amazing none the less. I know from reading surfing stories that have come out of Fiji that the islands have a large population of sharks, namely Bull and Tiger Sharks. Apart from the White Pointer, a Tiger Shark is the last thing you want to see in the water. Because of this I was a little weary about diving in Fiji but excited none the less.

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On the morning of the dive however I did have a strange feeling. Not a feeling of fear more a feeling that something wasn’t quite right. The spider sense was tingling! Despite that I carried on as normal, setting up all my gear and we headed out to our dive site. We which the drop point after about 15 minutes and the sea was quite choppy. We all suited up and bailed off the back of the boat into the incredible blue Pacific waters. It was immediately amazing. We were diving off a stunning fan coral wall which seemed to go down for miles. The fan coral was enormous, some of them over 4 or 5 metres long, they were beautiful. We were swimming along the wall and the guide was pointing out a colourful little Nudibranch on the wall. As he was doing so I noticed something move quickly out of the corner of my eye. 

On this trip while diving I have seen lots of sharks, namely just Black and White Tip Reef sharks. These are usually pretty small at a metre or so in length and are fairly harmless. However what moved just to the right of me seemed a little different. I turned around and saw a large 2 metre Grey Reef Shark cruising around just below us. At this point it was only myself and Sophie who had seen it and we were desperately trying to get the others attention so they could see and to be aware of it. I love sharks, I think they are amazing creatures however they do scare me, and this was a proper shark, one of which are well known for being curious about divers. The others eventually saw it and the shark began to display a very aggressive behaviour. It was going back and forth beneath us and repeating circles. the fins at its side we pointed backwards in an attacking stance and it kept making short and very quick darts towards us, it was beginning to get rather scary. Sophie thought that the best place to be would be next to the guide has he may know how to deal with the situation. Once she got next to him however she noticed that the guide was in fact holding a very large knife in his had. This was not looking good. I on the other hand thought the best place to be would be close to the wall with by back against it so I’d always be facing the shark. This started off being a good plan, before I got to close to the wall, bashed my foot on the wall and it cut it open. So now I was swimming around bleeding everywhere with a massive hungry shark swimming beneath me. This officially wasn’t going well. Luckily after a little while the shark seemed to get bored and eventually swam off. A few minutes later we begun to make our ascent back to the surface. Once on the surface waiting for the boat to arrive, everyone started enthusiastically talking about the amazing shark we had just seen and how close it it got. I remember saying ‘this is a great conversation and that was an amazing experience but we’re not out of the water yet and I’m bleeding all over the place, anyone fancy getting in the boat!’

It was a fantastic dive and although it was quite scary for a minute of too, it was brilliant to see a large shark like that up close and without bars. Quite the adrenaline rush.

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After just 3 nights however our time on the island was up and we were headed back to Nadi for our last night before catching an early flight over to Melbourne. Fiji was absolutely perfect, everything I had imagined and more. The islands are breath taking and the people are some of the friendliest I have met on the trip. They welcome you as if you are their own family. As we left Mantaray they all sang us the song of Isa Lei, wishing us safe travels and hoping we don’t forget them when we are far away. That’s one thing I can promise. My time in Fiji will never be forgotten. 

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Cyclone Season

Being back in Brisbane, was quite strange. So much had happened since last being in the city and it was quite strange to be in Brisbane and not be totally broke for once! We spent a few days just relaxing around the city and getting a few bits ready for the next stage of the trip.

From Brisbane we traveled south to the world famous Gold Coast. We decided to stay just south of the central Surfers Paradise in a small town called Coolangatta. Staying here in ‘Cooly’ was something I was really excited about. Rather than the huge theme parks, high rise blocks and plastic posers on Surfers Paradise which the Goldie was famous for, Cooly had something that was seriously worth seeing. Coolangatta is home to a number of famous beaches which have some of the most famous waves in the world, none more so than Snapper Rocks. Just north of Kirra Point, Snapper is famed for the longest wave in Australia and when the swell is big enough, some of the longest barrels on offer anywhere on earth. For myself and budding surf fans this was a mecca of Australian surfing. I spent a few days enjoying some of the longest rides I’ve ever had out at Snapper which was fantastic. Since being on the trip I’ve really got into cruisey long board rides, and Snapper can be perfect for that. At one point I was on my board out back and an enormous stingray swam straight underneath me! Don’t get that back in the Kernow!

Another reason for the Cooly surf scene being so famous is for the Rainbow Beach Surf Club which hosts the prestigious annual Quiksilver Pro, the first event on the World Championship Tour each year. I even managed a cheeky visit into the surf club its self which was fantastic. The walls were littered with famous photos of surfers walking in the same steps I was. As you go up the stairs to the club the names of every winner of the Quiksilver Pro are imprinted into the steps. Coolangatta pumps out world class surfers at a crazy rate. Two time world champ Mick Fanning is from the area and both the current male and female world champions are from Cooly too, ladies champ Stephine Gilmore and one of my heros Joel Parkinson. Unfortunately I didn’t catch a glimpse of either of them surfing their home break!

After a few days in Cooly we headed down the coast leaving Queensland for the first time since being in Australia. We entered in New South Wales and arrived at the famous Byron Bay. The Bay has always been one of my favorite places in Australia. It has a vibe like no other town in the country. Byron is a small very slow paced surf town on the most easterly tip of Australia. Its been famed for free love, hippies, sexy drugs and rock and roll. The town has almost a feel that it is still stuck in the 70’s which is brilliant. Such laws have been enforced to keep as such, its illegal for any buildings over 4 stories tall to be built and its against the law for any big multinational corporation like McDonalds to build there. In fact there was a huge petition to prevent KFC from setting up shop in the Bay. It keeps the Bay’s heritage and its roots firmly intact.

There is a brilliant feel to the town, everyone comes to the beach in the evening for sun downers, live music and entertainment, there is always some sort of hippy-esque enthrallment’s to keep you captivated.

Byron was only meant to be a stop for a few days, time for more surfing, site seeing and a causal trip to Nimbin, more famed for its Cannabis festival! However mother nature ensured our stay in the Bay lasted over a week! A few days into our stay a tropical cyclone of biblical scale hit the coast of Queensland and northern New South Wales and lasted what seemed like ages. it was probably the most severe storm I have ever been in and whats more it ruined Australia Day which was a total wash out! The days before it got to Byron it was blue sunny skies, a big beautiful beach with nice clean waves and within hours it and turned to mayhem! 140km+ winds were smashing the small coast twinned with thunderous heavy rain. We took a walk up to the beach and saw that the cyclone had wipped up the ocean into a frenzy of huge 8 metre waves. The entire beach had completely dissapeared under the enormous swell. Even after days of the storm first arriving and cooling off the waves continued to be massive. A couple of days past that the winds died down and the swell turned really clean and Byron was once again pumping out some great waves.

We were planning another stop after Byron before Sydney but because we got stuck in Byron we were running out of time as we needed to get to Sydney. Flooding was widespread across the area. A town which we needed to pass through south was completely submerged. A bridge runs over the river in the town and during its peak in the storm the equivalent of Sydney harbour was passing under the bridge every 7 hours! An immense amount of water. Eventually however the weather relaxed and we were on our way to Sydney.

Even though I have been to Sydney a number of times, the sight of the harbour bridge and opera house is still a brilliant site. We spent the first few days staying with friends in Bondi who we had bet while traveling through Africa. They showed us around the city and also a great walk around from Bronte Beach to the famous Bondi Beach. After we left them we spent a few days staying in the city and exploring everything it has to offer.

Much like London, Sydney is massive and has a large number of suburbs each of which seem to have their own feel and community to them. It was great to walk among these and really get a feel for the city as a whole. We spent sometime at a couple of museums and one of the of the first site in which convicts stayed on arrival into Australia. That was a big eye opener into how Australia came to be how it is today. It was also quite an eye opener into the British attitude of taking over the world. There is so much to see and do in the city its hard to fit it all in. We took a boat trip around the harbour itself which was great. It gave great view of the city from the water and took us all the way up to Parramatta. We also had lunch in the famous golden tower which looks over the city. We had a buffet in a revolving restaurant giving us incredible 360 degree views of the whole city.

One of my highlights was a visit to the stunning Blue Mountains. Just to the west of the city these mountains seem to act as a rocky barrier between the city and the outback. We took a tour and learned a great deal about how the ancient indigenous people would live among these beautiful mountains. We also heard stories and myths about their tribes, stories which are still told today.

The mountains were a great way to end our time in Sydney, before we knew it we were packing up again ready for the next stop on the adventure. Where we would go next proved to be hands down, one of the most amazing places I have ever been. 

We were headed east; into the blues of the Pacific…

The Sunshine State

The wait was over. My time at Camooweal was up and I could finally be reintroduced into the real world, into society. We flew from Mt Isa to Cairns on one of more nervous flights I have had on the trip. Queensland now being in summer also means the the wet season, which means the odd tropical storm/cyclone. Just as we were about to take off one of these hit Isa. We took off in a tiny propeller plane amid a huge tropical thunderstorm during the evening. The plane shaked the whole way up while wind and rain battered the air craft from all angles. During the flight I could see massive thunder bolts right outside the window! Nevertheless we eventually made it safe and sound into the tropical city of Cairns, on the east coast of north Queensland.

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My main reason to come to Cairns was to see and experience what Australia was most well known for, the stunning Great Barrier Reef. Cairns acts as a gate way to the reef as it is the closest the reef gets to the mainland. We spent a few days in Cairns exploring the city and enjoying a relaxing first few days of not having to work! We then took a boat trip to the outer reef for some snorkeling and to dive the reef itself. The reef is massive, its the largest national marine park in the word and can even be seen from space. There are so many good places up and down the coast with great access to fantastic diving, however Cairns offers you the opportunity to get to the outer reef which holds some of the best sections. We took a day trip out on one of the many boats which visit the reef each day and did two dives during the day. The reef was stunning, so many different types of coloured coral just covered the seabed with millions of fish small and large. We even saw another Black Tip Shark which is always exciting! This time of year the north east of Queensland’s coast experiences a huge increase in the amount of Jellyfish in the waters off the coast, its known as ‘Stinger Season’. Because of this we had to wear a rather fetching stinger suit while diving or snorkeling, even swimming off any of the beaches north of Noosa isn’t advised unless with a stinger suit or swimming in a stinger net. Traveling down the coast I saw hundreds of blue Blubber Jellyfish, so many washed up on the beach too. The general rule appears to be, if you can see them its all good, if you can’t then that’s when you could get in some trouble! The two stingers to be afraid of are the Box Jellyfish and the Irukandj. As is well known, the Box is one of the most deadly creatures on earth, a sting from one of these can mean game over in just 15 minutes. Its up there with the Sydney Funnel Web spider as being the most venomous creatures you’ll ever come across. Until a few weeks ago, I didn’t think it could get much worse than a sting from the Box, turns out Australia of course has something even worse. The Irukandji jellyfish is smaller than your thumbnail and is light years worse! Its venom is known to be 1000 times more potent than a Tarantula. A sting from this causes Irukandji Syndrome and apparently is absolutely excruciating, well known to cause deaths after a sting. Unlike most jellyfish whose stingers are found only on their tentacles, then tiny Irukandji’s stingers are found all over it. So the water may look clear and nothing visibly dangerous, but you wouldn’t get me jumping in off the coast in Cairns in summer time!

Once Cairns was over, it was off down the coast to spend a very Australian Christmas in Mission Beach. This tiny town rests on a stunning tropical north Queensland beach. Like something from a postcard, palm trees and coconuts littered the shore and perfect place to spend Christmas!

Mission Beach was also to be the venue for an activity which I couldn’t quite afford previously/was to nervous. Finally plucked up the courage to skydive and what a place to do it. I have been thinking about how to write this section for a little while and If I’m honest I can’t quite find the words to describe the feeling. As those of you reading who have also taken the jump it is almost indescribable. I was picked up after being slightly delayed due to bad weather early in the morning, taken to the Jump Centre. Got the talk on how one is to properly jump out of an airplane and filled out all the necessary ‘please don’t sue us if you die’ paperwork. After that I met the guy who would be looking after my life and we drove 30 minutes or so to where we would be taking off. On the way as we drove inland, the weather turned questionable at best. Lots of rain, heavy clouds and strong winds. Nevertheless my co-jumper, Rory was cool as a cucumber and even managed to fit in a tidy nap on the dive over! Meanwhile I’m sitting behind him looking to the heavens thinking, well this hasn’t gone well. We had a further delay at the air strip as the rain poured down, in which time Rory decided to show me a massive green tree frog chilling out in the bathroom. At this point I asked Rory if he gets the same rush everything he jumps, bearing in mind he’s done over 5,000 and sometimes does 10 a day. He replied with ‘nothing like what you are about to experience mate. Awesome.

Eventually the rain eased and we piled into the plane and took off for the 20 minute flight up. Once we reached our height of 14,000ft we leveled out and all of a sudden the door opened up and a huge rush of wind flew into the aircraft. Next came one of the most bizarre things I have ever seen. A human being falling out of a plane. I was forth out so watching others just drop out and fade away into the cloud was very strange. Suddenly it was my turn. At this point I thought I was going to be as nervous as you could possibly be. One the flight up the nerves did pick up. I’ve never been much a fan of heights, doing this was because of that. Fight fire with fire was my thinking. Shifting forward and being asked to then put my legs underneath the plane made me think otherwise! Suddenly I was sitting on the edge of a perfectly good aircraft about to jump out. Before you know it, I was out the door and returning to earth. The next sixty seconds were euphoric. The sudden job was so intense, we flipped out of the plane, did a couple turns before leveling up, Rory tapped me on the shoulder meaning I could release my arms and we we falling through the sky. Seeing the plane fall away was incredible, it happened so fast. Within seconds we had reached terminal velocity, travelling through the air at over 200kph. The free fall lasted 60 seconds and I did not want it to end. To an extent it didn’t feel like falling, with the emotion and adrenaline it almost felt like floating. We speared through clouds, pretty sure with me shouting the whole way down. We fell over the beautiful ocean, the great barrier reef and its islands all below me and miles and miles of stunning beach. It was stunning. Before I knew it I felt a sudden jerk and we slowed right down as my parachute and saviour was released. We had fallen 10,000 feet in sixty seconds! The most exhilarating 60 seconds I have ever experienced.

Once the shoot was up, we glided around for another 4 or 5 minutes making our gradual decent. The views were simple epic, the clouds had cleared and I could see for miles. We eventually got closer to the earth and in true James Bond style landed right on the beach, I officially will never be as cool as that again. It was an incredible experience, truly like nothing I have ever felt. The buzz after it lasted for a couple days and I kept picturing the plane falling away from me and that first sudden feeling. I’d do it again in heartbeat. They say do one thing every day that scares you, I reckon that should hold me for a few weeks. So happy I finally did it, I picked up my stash and man points and headed for a well earned beer!

The next day was Christmas Day which was a great day. We were staying at a really small hostel right on the beach. It being so small meant that everyone got together, it kind of had that family feeling so it turned out to be a great place to spend Christmas. The usual freezing cold Christmas Day walk back home was instead swapped for board shorts and a beautiful walk down the beach in 30 plus degrees. It was seriously hot that day, it felt so far from Christmas Day back home! A great day nonetheless. A local chef cooked up a feast for us all and we all went down to his restaurant to have a fantastic dinner.

After the Christmas dinner had gone down we were back on the road again heading further south to Townsville. The city is largely considered the capital of north Queensland and acts as another gateway to the reef and also to Magnetic Island; our primary reason for a visit to the city. We were only there for a few couple days and made use of our time by a day visit to the Island which is just a 45 minute boat trip away. We took a great tour around the small island which took us all over. The island was covered in beautiful national parks and even better beaches and small bays. It would be a beautiful place to spend a few days. The wildlife there was brilliant. We saw some beautiful little Wallabies hiding in some rocks near the beach and were even lucky enough to see some wild Koalas up some trees in someones back yard! They are such an amazing little creature even though the spend the majority of their lives fast asleep!

Airlie Beach was to be our next stop as we traveled on. Airlie Beach I was really looking forward to as this would mean the start of an adventure around the Whitsunday Islands. The Whitsundays are a collection of small islands off the coast of Airlie Beach and they are simply stunning! We spend 3 days sailing around the islands on a beautiful trimaran sailing boat called Avatar. Avatar was a former race boat and is known as the fastest in the Whitsundays. In its hay day it won the Sydney to Hobart race 6 times along with many other famous races. It was a serious sailing boat and a great way to see the islands. For 3 days Avatar to us to all the best spots in the Whitsundays along with some fantastic snorkeling spots which once again included the lovely stinger suit! The snorkeling was fantastic. Almost as good as diving on the reef. We saw some beautiful fish including some large Bump head Parrot Fish and one of my favorites the Batfish. I also saw one of the biggest Green Turtles I have ever seen, just chilling out on the bottom, he was beautiful.

Avatar also took us to some of the islands for some great bush walks. None better than to visit the famous Whitehaven Beach and Hill Inlet. Whitehaven beach is the one you will see on all the postcards, the mesmerizing colours created by the shifting sands as they swirl along the bay. The Hill Inlet offered some great views across the beach, it really was stunning. Like no beach I have ever seen. Once we got down there it was even better. The water was so blue and the sand was amazingly white. I learnt later that it wasn’t actually sand and in fact Silica. It was so fine that you can actually clean jewelery with it! Along the waters edge were hundreds of graceful stingrays which was a great site. You could stand in the water up to your knees and the rays would gently glide over you and if you were lucky even the odd small Lemon Shark. A beautiful little shark as yellow as Bart Simpson.

Before we knew it Avatar was heading back to Airlie Beach, it was a great trip and a perfect way to see the islands. The Whitsundays were stunning, a huge thank you to all the crew on Avatar.

After spending a few extra days in Airlie Beach and seeing in the New Year we continued further south stopping for a couple days in the inland city of Rockhampton before arriving in the tiny town of Agnes Water which was twinned with the Town of 1770 just a little north. Agnus is a beautiful little town on the banks of another stunny beach, just below it 1770 is where James Cook first landed in Queensland, in 1770 funnily enough. It was a great place to spend a few days relaxing and also getting my first surf in! Its the first place you can surf in Australia when traveling south down the east coast. The waves were only small and I did also put my hand through a huge Blue Blubber jellyfish which wasn’t ideal but it was great to be back in the water anyway!

Hervey Bay was another few hours away on the Greyhound and we were heading there for one reason; Fraser Island. If you haven’t heard of this place then you need to look it up and book a ticket! It is one of my favorite places in Australia. So much in fact that this was to be my third time going there! Fraser is the worlds largest sand island. It is about 120km long and 25km wide at its widest. A beautiful rain forest covers the inland while a stunning beaches border it. One in fact named 75 Mile Beach for obvious reasons. You can’t go there in normal cars as there are no roads whatsoever, it is all off road. We did a 2 day 2 night trip there with a group. There was about 20 of us in a convoy of 4 Land Cruisers with a guide in the front on and each of us took turns to drive which was a lot of fun! There is so much to do and see on the island I could have stayed for much longer. In the time we were there we just about managed to see all of the best sites. The lakes on the island are incredible. You are unable to swim in the sea around the islands due to rough surf and also because it tends to be a breeding area for tiger and bull sharks and or course there is also the stingers. In fact two people were hospitalised the previous week with Irukandj Sydnrome. Lake Wobby and Lake Mackenzie were a massive highlight. Wobby is a beautiful emerald green lake surrounded by massive sand dunes. I had a lot of fun running straight down the huge steep dune straight into the water! The sand under the water follows the gradient of the dune and its incredibly deep very quickly! It makes for a great swim. Mackenzie is the one everyone goes to see. Google Fraser Island and you will see why and I’ll bet the photos you find won’t be photo shopped. It actually is that colour. A magic blue water resting on the same silica sand found on Whitehaven Beach. The light blue suddenly turns into a darker blue as the sand drops and the water gets deeper. The whole lake is surrounded by stunning green rain forest growing straight out of the sand; which I still don’t quite understand!

We headed right to the top of the islands to Indian Heads lookout which looks for miles over 75 Mile Beach offering some great views. We managed to see more stingrays from the top too which was brilliant. We then visited Champagne Pools in the north too. Stunning rock pools are sheltered from the huge waves by massive rock formations. Every so often a huge wave will hit the rocks and the water and foam will fall into the pools and bubble giving the pools their name. It made for a really nice place to relax! Further down the coast we stopped at the famous Maheno Ship Wreck which was wrecked on Fraser’s coast 1935 and also Eli Creek. Eli Creek is a spring that flows from the rain forest to the sea. The freezing water has a gentle flow so you I could flow down gently through the forest eventually ending up at the beach.

Even though it was my third time to Fraser I’d love to one day go back. The huge baron beaches fascinate me and diving off road is a lot of fun! I did a lot of diving on the island along the beach and forest. On the way back we thought we were going to be late for the ferry so I had to put my foot down a tad which made for a bumpy ride but bloody hell it was good fun roaring through the forest!

Fraser was over all too soon and we headed for our last stop before Brisbane; Noosa Heads. Noosa has long been a favorite of mine. The upmarket surf town puts the Sunshine Coast on the map! I could live there in a heartbeat! Its such a chilled out town with lots to do. A beautiful national park and everglades made for a great walk around the coast. From the cliffs you can see stunning beaches and even saw a pod of dolphins. Unfortunately the surf again wasn’t brilliant, I did manage to get out a couple times. However I ran into my second stinger which was much worse than the first. While paddling out after being in the water for about 5 minutes I felt and shocking pain down my arm, looked down and saw the electric blue tenticles of a Portuguese Man O War wrapped around my arm. I can tell you from experience, it stings like a bitch! Without thinking I tried to get it off with my hand and then of course stung my fingers too! Eventually managed to wash the thing off but it was quite a shock! They are known as Bluebottles out here and are responsible for 10,000 stings every year so they are quite popular. Luckily it didn’t affect me quite as badly as it does some people and the pain eventually subsided after 40 minutes or so…just in time for a few more waves!

So here I am now back in Brisbane! Can’t believe we are back here already. Its been nearly 5 months since we were last year and its gone pretty quickly. A lot has happened in the past few months, this has only been a snapshot.

As always there is so much more to look forward to coming up. Tales from Sydney, Bryon Bay and even Fiji are yet to come, memories in waiting are to be made and I can’t wait. Tomorrow I head to Coolangatta on the Gold Coast, I can see the waves from here!

‘Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.’

MOUSTACHE IS KING

So I’m stuck in the outback for at least another month and a half so what better thing to do than to grow an exquisite moustache in aid of the great month of Movember!

Movember is a month to bring back the moustache in aid of raising awareness and funds for prostate cancer, male mental health and male depression.

Its a fantatsic cause and any support would be hugely appriciated, we have already started raising money at the roadhouse.

To donate online please go to www.mobro.co/iainbeable

Thanks so much for all your support, here’s to a great Movember!