When in doubt, leave the country. I'd been waiting years for this- a three month solo trip to Australia. First I took a well-earned rest in Fiji, but after a week, sipping cocktails on a beach began to get boring (seriously!), so I packed up and headed to Sydney.
I met Debbie and Jo, who showed me round, got me drunk, and were generally superstars.
After a nice send-off I left Sydney on the Big Green Bus. I found myself sat next to a shady Canadian. I wanted to talk to her but last night's partying and the motion of the bus made speaking no option at all. It appeared she felt the same way. We grimaced hungoverly at each other until the first stop, at a vinyard of all places. "Who wants the tour?", yelled the horribly bushy-tailed driver. Adrienne and I were left among a small and sorry group of fellow sufferers....who turned out to be some of the nicest people I could possibly have met.
In Byron Bay we hit the beach, taking a surfing lesson, having barbies, and visiting some of the cheesiest bars I have ever seen. Wet T-shirt competitions and that. Spades brightened up the nigt by taking a dive off the table. Strange place- guy on the beach telling everyone "You are beautiful! Stay here forever!" (when I went back in 2003 he had enterprisingly brought out a line of Mr. Beautiful t-shirts. Still had no shoes though.)
This was the girls before a night out in Surfer's Paradise. Vickie and I went to the Ripley's Believe it or Not (we mostly didn't) and Sam worked her tan (a lot) while Australian teens on"Schoolies Week" got hammered and set things on fire.
We only stopped briefly in Brisbane, then on up the coast, via the Australia Zoo, home to many a freaky looking animal. Dingoes, which looked just like smallish dogs, were less funny when we were out in the elements on Fraser Island. It seems taking a piss in groups of three is preferable to getting a row of teeth in your backside.
One of the nights we were out there was Halloween. We had cleverly come equipped with not only a pumpkin, but 4 cases of beer and about a ton of meat. Scariest moment of the nights came not from the dingos or the spooky stories but from the introduction of Vickie's alter-ego, Tatiana, who demanded that the boys licked bourbon off her at frequent intervals. What a girl. Or possibly Jim, who having gone swimming (despite the tiger sharks) wandered forlornly back to camp claiming that "A dingo ate my drawers".
Naomi and I wandered off into the Whitsundays for sailing and snorkeling and were pleased to see that the lovely Devin and Jim were still hanging around like a bad smell when we returned. Also to grace the scene was Emmy, my housemate, on the way down the coast. She left her bikini as a present.
I left Airlie Beach alone and headed north. Paronella Park was like a lost city, all crumbling castles, bat caves and jungly bits. Having gone a bit stir-crazy on the bus, I surprised myself by throwing myself headfirst from a 50m scaffolding in the jungle. Like you do.
Then to a part of my trip I'd been looking forward to all along- scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef. I loved it, and not just because I got to wear a wetsuit, yeah baby. I spent 2 days in a swimming pool, and then out into the ocean. It was beautiful.