Thursday, 29 September 2011

Fraser Island, Queensland

Before I start, a quick note on why this beast of a blog hasn't been updated frequently of late.

Um, I was having too much fun! Which in no way reminds me of Fraser Island - a rather pretty 70-kilometre stretch of sand off the coast of Australia. Don't get me wrong, I liked the two-night, three-day trip. But I was still in my Oz-themed, near-emo level funk, and I was just OVER looking at beaches in weather that was downright chilly.

Here's a pic I took of Fraser Island for you...


You know what I think the problem was at this point? Australia, as I've mentioned, wasn't somewhere I was ever too fussed about going; and it's not that I wasn't excited about it, I just didn't have the drive and determination you need sometimes while backpacking. On the odd occasion when travelling you just hit a slump… your bag annoys you, hostels annoy you, money annoys you, even the teddy I brought with me wasn't providing any respite (don't tell him I said that). Travelling solo, for all of its awesomeness, gets exhausting. Yes, you meet loads of people and it's a huge amount of fun. But just when you really need it, there is nobody off of which to bounce ideas, nobody to give you that kick up the bum you need. What's more, the days when you do nothing seem a waste. This is illogical, because in real life, no one does amazing stuff all day every day. Yet because it's such an effort to be travelling in the first place, you feel a bit guilty when you take the "day off".

So, spoiled western girl problems aside, I wasn't massively excited about Fraser Island. It's a big sandy island and it's really beautiful and BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH. There are few permanent residents and no roads, so every trip there needs to be done in a 4x4. I went with Trailblazers, which differs from the norm by offering accommodation at a little beach hut-type-thing, rather than camping, which is the more popular type of sojourn on Fraser.

Here's a pic or three of where we stayed etc.




I get picked up from Noosa and our (I say our because a friend I had met was coming too) group numbers about ten people and our tour leader is this really fun guy called Brett, a name I am overjoyed to hear, because you can't get more Australian than a name like Brett. Well, maybe Kylie. But Brett is good enough. Basically, Brett will drive a big 4x4 mini van from Noosa to Fraser, take us to various places on the island and cook/get his minions to cook dinner for us each night. One of these dinners turns out to be kangaroo, and boy it is delicious.

For anyone who doesn't know - and I didn't until about a day before the trip - Fraser Island is basically a giant sand island, home to thousands of wildlife species and beautiful lakes; and it is also a Unesco World Heritage Site.



Getting to see Fraser from above in a little six-seater plane


Seeing whales

Seeing a dingo (remember, they're not cute, they're deadly, just ask Meryl Streep)

Meeting some really nice people (I'm the Smurf at the back)


Seeing a baby shark go a bit too near a surfer (OOH THE TENSION!)

Paddling down a lazy river (full of natural, drinkable mineral water)

Sitting round a camp fire and chatting


Having to go to bed in tights, leggings, jeans, a hoody, a fleece and giant fluffy socks

Then waking up to a cold shower

Meeting some annoying people

Realising my appetite is bigger than everyone else's

Freezing my nads off after paddling down the lazy river

...but overall I highly recommend Fraser Island; it's very beautiful, it's fun, it's simple, but just make sure you go in summer!



Solo book club

I picked up a copy of Tweak by Nic Sheff in a hostel in Bangkok and quickly finished it within a few hours, thanks to the author's hyperactive writing style which makes it an easy one to speed through. A memoir of Sheff's "life growing up on methamphetamines", it falls squarely into the genre of addiction memoir, although he is careful to pop a disclaimer at the beginning stating that some characters and events have been changed so as to avoid offense or breach personal privacy.

Yeah, right. This is what annoys me about these books. If an author is going to lay bare the horrors of addiction and make money from telling people about how they went through hell purely by making bad choices, they need to be upfront about the whole lot and not make edits here and there in order to make the story more interesting. It's patronising and risky, because once a reader's belief in the subject matter is suspended too far, it's hard to give any weight to the true parts of the story. What's more, certain authors have only started doing this since James Frey, who won praise and, soon afterwards, scorn for his book A Million Little Pieces (and even then it was only because Oprah found out a chunk of the "autobiography" was completely made up) was made a literary laughing stock and now churns out garbage like I Am Number Four through a weird writing house/pseudo book-writing collective (apparently). Side note: I've still not watched the entire movie adaptation of I Am Number Four. Is it worth giving it another go?

Anyway, Tweak is very Frey-esque, in that he seems desperate to show his readers how screwed up his life was and the depths he would sink to in order to get the next hit. The difference is that Sheff makes no excuses for his behaviour, nor attempts to examine the cause of such intense and debilitating addiction. He also relapses again and again even after the book ends; a fact the reader is encouraged to discover via the author's somewhat pretentious blog. A little more Googling led me to discover that not only is Sheff's dad a much-acclaimed journalist, but has also written a book about his son's problems, entitled Beautiful Boy. So I start to wonder; is the publication of Tweak down to nepotism, or would it have been strong enough to stand alone? I highly doubt it.


Saturday, 24 September 2011

Noosa, Queensland

Noosa is a little surfing town (yeah, another one) on what's called Queensland's Sunshine Coast. It is picturesque (yawn), with a few nice shops, a pretty beach (another yawn) and not much else. There are two bars, frequented by all the backpackers. They are worse than the old Manchester Met University Student Union, which was spectacularly grim.

That said, I ended up having a grand old time in Noosa. I had been feeling a bit like I needed to start exercising again so went running along the shoreline and, cringefully, had one of those moments where you look at the gorgeous ocean, the soft sand, the blue sky... and think yes I definitely made the right decision to go travelling. Running is the one thing that clears my head and it felt great to get out again. It definitely beat running on the treadmill at the gym my sister and I go to... she can tell you all about the characters in there if you have a spare five hours and want to be put off your dinner.

Here's the beautiful coastline I was lucky enough to visit... but don't be fooled; it wasn't nearly warm enough there to sunbathe.


ANYWAY. In Noosa there was the usual selection of hostels, but a friend and I plumped for Noosa Flashpackers, which lives up to its name by offering a little bit of backpacker luxury for only a few more dollars (it was the maximum I paid for accommodation in Oz, at $30 per night. I'm writing this from Asia, where the idea of paying $30 per night makes me feel a bit sick). It also meant I got to meet some awesome people, minus a few bad apples/foxes in the henhouse/whichever metaphor you prefer. We spent many an hour playing Mario Kart on the Wii in the TV lounge. It got pretty ugly. I'm not naming any names but you know who you are and dirty tricks won't get you very far in life. Also, 150cc is way too difficult and if you hadn't stolen King Boo every single race maybe I would have won a few more times. Losing isn't my speciality and neither is Dry Bones.


Flashpackers is the kind of place you go for a night and end up staying five or six. It was all too easy to just laze around and relax. For me, this was a new thing. I'm not used to doing nothing. Between my iPhone, netbook, compulsive need to write lists, go to the gym, work, chatter and stay busy, it's simple at home for me never to have a spare moment. Here, on the other side of the world, I had to get used to doing the total opposite. Not only does your body have to slow down, but your mind does. It literally empties because you have so much time - oodles and oodles of time - to untie mental knots, compartmentalise, regroup and reboot. It doesn't mean you work perfectly when you switch yourself back on again, but it sure does feel good to stop and look at your surroundings for a minute. That reminds me of a line from Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Didn't he say something similar?