Wednesday, 30 November 2011

A marathon, a Great White Shark and a road trip

Before you begin reading this blog entry be warned that it is a long one, over 9,000 words. It has been quite a while since I last updated you all on my activities but hopefully some of the things I have been up to will keep you amused and entertained.

The past few weeks has seen me travel through 4 of Australia’s States and cover a distance of over 4,000kms. Unfortunately, I now find myself back where it all began in Melbourne but it is fine, I know that in only 2.5 more weeks I will be back on the road for good.

I am currently homeless so this post comes to you from the front room of my good Aussie mate Nick ‘he wishes he was English’ Burt. His place is amazing and just the sort of gaff I would like to eventually find myself in. As I type this I look out over his balcony with a view of the Melbourne city skyscrape to the right, the coastal suburb of St Kilda and Luna Park directly in front of me (a small theme park housing the world’s oldest roller coaster) and surrounding all this, the ocean.

So here we go, I will do my best to be brief but there can be no guarantees!
Back to the beginning of October and it was the AFL (Aussie Rules) Final. Tradition dictates that you should attend a BBQ with your mates and get drunk whilst watching the game. I was invited to the house of a friend of my mate Winslow (footy mate from Grimsby) and had a great day. To summarise, the guy had a pool table, a number of cool lad gadgets on his veranda, 3 widescreen tv’s and lots of alcohol. The game kicked off at 2pm and I got to bed at 5am after mixing a lot of different alcohols and was rewarded with hangover number 9 of my life the next day. It was not pretty.
The game itself was quite good but the highlight was the pre-match entertainment – Meatloaf murdering his own songs during a 12 min set which was slated all over the media, especially due to his $600,000 fee.

The next week was taken up with preparations for that coming Sunday’s Melbourne Marathon. I have no problem admitting that I was terribly nervous and a little scared as the day approached but I considered not completing it, after all, failure is not an option.

The day before the race I attended a birthday get together for Winslow’s girlfriend Rae with Arancha. The do was at the Belgium Beer Gardens in Melbourne and I did not enjoy it – I was on lime and soda! By chance there happened to be 4 previous Melbourne Marathon runners in the birthday invitees and they all had some great advice for me which I readily took on board.
One guy, Andrew, gave me 3 pieces of information that I couldn’t help but think “bloody hell” as we discussed them:

1)You must do the run in your training gear – comfort is everything during a marathon

2)The energy gels are great and I assume that you have trained with them, as that is essential

3)I trained for a year for my marathon and once you get past the 30km mark you are in unknown territory but you know you can do it because it is only another 12km’s

The reason I got scared was:

1)Even though I knew this fact I ignored my own and his advice and only that morning brought some nice new running shorts and vest which I was determined to wear

2)I had energy gels but I have never trained with them before. In fact, I have only tasted one once before. To minimise the adverse effect that they may have had I took the gels without caffeine in them as I do not have much caffeine in my diet and I did not want a dodgy belly

3)He assumed (quite rightly) that I had done a lot of training for this. I daren’t tell him that I only decided 5 weeks ago to enter and that my previous longest run ever was the half marathon I did two weeks earlier. I really couldn’t be doing with that raised eyebrow look that said you are an idiot, I was nervous enough as it was.

That night I carb loaded and got a very early night. I was awoken an hour before my 5:30am alarm call by a text from my mother wishing me good luck!! I had to giggle to myself that her best intentions had robbed me of an essential extra hour sleep but that was that, I was now awake and scared shitless. Love you Ma.
I got to the MCG (start line) via taxi at 6am and had a good hour to prepare myself for the upcoming challenge. The all important preparations consisted off some pasta, half a banana, a poo (essential) and covering myself in Vaseline (even more essential as chaffing is a killer, especially joggers nip!)
Whilst getting ready I saw one of Arancha’s uni mates from Sydney who I had met the day before and he had some last words of encouragement for me which helped a lot.

So that was that, judgement time was upon me. Just before the race began the guy over the tannoy announced that the days oldest competitor was 83 years old – that statement was enough for me to know that I had to finish the race, if he can then so can I.
I won’t lie, it was really hard, but I still enjoyed every moment of it except for the last 5kms that seemed to last a life time. My way of tackling the marathon and getting over the finish line was to feed off of everybody else’s pain and suffering. It may sound harsh but surely that is what all sportspeople do in order to win – they psychologically get one over on their opponent.
For example, at 8kms I looked over to the other side of Albert Park lake, about 3kms behind me and saw people running – that’s a boost, you are beating a lot of people already; at 10kms a fit looking guy broke down and was hobbling and crying – my thought was he has trained too hard and his body has let him down, you should’ve done 5 weeks like me. There were other occasions on the course where you loop around the roads, so as you are running down one side and people are coming up the other you know that they still have to cover what you have just done – gutted.

I specifically remember crossing the 21km mark (halfway) and thinking that I was now in unknown territory as I had never run this far before but it was fine, I was feeling good and the occasion and my i-pod was keeping me going. Oddly enough, I started to feel a little rough around 28kms and at that exact point I noticed Andrew (the guy who gave me the advice at Rae’s bday party) in the crowd. I gave him a thumbs up, he applauded me and I cannot describe what a boost it gave to me. It is odd, but that smile from him alone got me through the next 10kms and I had only met him the day before.

As I got to the 37kms mark I really began to hurt. All I could do was put one foot in the front of the other and block every other thing out. I remember one guy stub his toe because he wasn’t lifting his legs up enough and I wanted to ask if he was ok but I couldn’t even muster the words to speak. It didn’t matter because within 5 seconds the guy was out of it, that little stumble stopped him completely in his tracks. It is really hard to describe the feeling of not having the capability to do anything more than just keep running forward towards your destination.

After what seemed like a 5km eternity I got to within 500 metres of the finish line. At that point I heard Arancha calling out from the crowd and I saw her and nearly lost it. A lump appeared in my throat but being the well spoken individual that I am I managed only to tell her that “I am f*cked” and carried on past her.

It’s odd that I managed to run 42.2kms in 3hrs 43mins, but the moment that I got over that finish line and stopped running I couldn’t breathe at all and I started to get very emotional. I have always wanted to test myself by running a marathon and I had done it. I think the worry of failure to complete it, which was my biggest fear, came to the surface after I had finished and all I wanted to do was burst into tears and lie down. However, the most important thing was still to be completed – collect the marathon medal that I have always coveted.

What followed was yet another emotional moment when I finally got to Arancha, a lovely leg massage from the volunteers at the finish line and then a self administered ice bath at home which was the key to my recovery. It was very uncomfortable and my penis was positively inverted by the end of it, but my limbs felt pretty good afterwards, so much so that I went for an 8km run 2 days later to stretch out.

The marathon was probably the greatest personal achievement of my travels so far and this maybe goes beyond my travels as well and I am definitely doing it again. Next time I will do some proper training though as I want to see how fast I can do it with better fitness levels and real preparation. Still, this was another positive result for mind over matter – the basis of how I live my life. If you want to do something, just do it.
By the way, marathon day also happened to coincide with my 1 year anniversary of being out of the UK – I clearly know how best to celebrate such occasions.

My final word on the marathon is a big up to the women who finished last. Fair play love but you couldn’t have been running much if you finished a total of 3hrs after me, but at least you finished it.

The next 3 weeks was an exercise in finishing up with the temporary life that I have made in Melbourne over the past 6 months. I moved out of my flat and in with Nick and his bird Sam (both amazing people and I am so grateful to them for letting me stay rent free for a couple of weeks), completed my contract at work and as usual had the odd night out on the lash.

One annoying thing is that since I completed my marathon my body has got it into its head (not mine) that it is ok to relax and put on some weight. I have told it that this just isn’t on but it isn’t having any of it, the w*nker, so over the next couple of weeks I will be taking it to task! It just isn’t cricket!!

Staying at Nick and Sam’s has been great. It is weird that after only one night there I felt more at home than I did in 5 months at my own place. I guess it all depends on the company that you share your environment with!
One amusing thing about staying there is that Nick has just got into remote control planes and on my first Saturday at his place he invited me along to go and ‘play’ with him. Here I was thinking that I may get to have a fly but it turned out that because the ground wasn’t perfect he just needed a body to hand launch the planes for him and somebody to carry the tool box (who carries a toolbox around a park?). It is easy enough to hand launch the planes but these planes are real weapons and about half the height of me in length.

When we got to our flight destination Nick started to prepare the plane for take-off whilst I stood there and tried to avoid the stares of all the ‘lads’ getting ready for their cricket match. It felt a bit like when you would walk though the council estates back home and all the cool kids would be there wearing their Nike Air Max whilst I hurried through, head down, wearing my Clarks trainers.

Still, my mum was right, Clarks are better for your feet and they are in good condition now, so I remembered this and held my head high as I prepared to launch the Cessna. My pride came crashing back down though as Nick then declared that he was too nervous to fly with so many potential victims around.

So we moved on and found another location just around the corner. There was nobody here except for a couple; he was practically slathering at the plane, whilst the wife was practicing throwing her javelin (as you do). I have to admit that his planes are pretty cool, especially with the fact that he attaches little cameras to each wing to film the plane’s eye view. It all suited my very geeky nature.
If you would like to see ‘our’ flight (you can see my curls at launch and me duck as he flies over my head whilst I am also filming the flight) you can view it on youtube by typing in ‘Park flight – small space!!!’. This will also give you a link to another clip of Nick crashing his plane into a lake and nearly having a spaz attack which is hilarious and one where he flew the plane into some overhead train cables and there is an explosion which destroyed his plane (one of many).

A couple of other events that I attended in my last few weeks of ‘life’ in Melbourne were the Derby Day, one of the biggest race days of the Melbourne Race Festival and a wedding.
Derby was great fun. I went along with Arancha, Nadia and Nat to the Flemington Race Course and as you would expect we got very merry. Overall I had a decent day, 2 winners and 2 places but most importantly I did not exceed my budget for losses, so I was happy; happier than Arancha who got fed up with my choices and decided to bet on her own horses only to see me win on the very next race.

The wedding of a colleague of Arancha’s was 2 days later and was out in the relative wilderness of the Dandenong Ranges. The location was lovely and it was nice to meet a lot of Arancha’s fellow teachers as I will be at their Xmas do next weekend. Seems odd that it is approaching Xmas and it is 30 degrees outside and I am looking at the sea.

Aussie weddings are different to ours and by all accounts this was a typical one. The wedding ceremony was at 4pm and thankfully was only about 30mins long. After that you are then left to amuse yourself for about 2 hours whilst the bridal party has the photos done and it isn’t until around 7pm that you are invited to join the reception and eat, although the speeches are first. The problem with this is that by the time you have eaten you are only left with about 2 hours to hit the dance floor and party to those wedding classics (yes they have the same ones here as well).
This leads me onto Aussie men and their claims that they are big drinkers – the truth is that they cannot drink for sh*t. Wedding timeframes like this are proof of it. They may argue that they have had 10 beers in a night “you pommie b*stard”, but they have been drinking from Scooner glasses, so the equivalent of about 6 pints.
However, big up to the sheila’s, they know how to drink.

The following week was my last at work, and what a great pleasure it was to tell people that I was now embarking upon a long weekend, a very long weekend, about 7 months to be exact. I wasn’t at all upset to be leaving Medibank, I mean who would be upset at leaving their job to travel? Still, I was very lucky yet again to have worked with some really excellent and talented people, some of which I will be staying in contact with.
I had 2 leaving meals, one on the Wednesday with 2 colleagues who would not be around on my final day and then the other on the Thursday with the wider team. There isn’t too much to say, lunch was nice, the company was good and I was presented with 2 souvenir books of Melbourne and Australia as a parting gift. My boss’ speech for me was funny when he told of how I came to the interview for the job with the most bags that he had ever seen for an interviewee and wearing a shirt bearing the telltale creases of one just out of the packet. He said that he knew I would be right for the job because I explained everything straight away and he knew that I would need a sense of humour to work within the department.

Basically, on the day of the interview I had nothing to wear, so I went into the city brought some trousers from a second hand shop (I didn’t actually mention this), a new shirt and tie (which the shop owner assured me that my body heat would cause the creases to drop out – I am not sure why I believed that) and some new shoes. As I didn’t know if I would get the job I planned to take some stuff back as I was a skint backpacker so I rocked up to the interview with all of these bags.
Funnily enough I did actually take the shoes back after the interview – I needed the $100.

I would like to say a big thank you to all of the guys at Medibank for making my time there good fun. It was frustrating at times (you guys know why – EDW) but I still take away some valuable learnings from the experience that we be very useful for my career in the future.
Now we get into the good stuff so you might to pause here to get yourself a cup of tea.

Finishing work meant that I would be flying to Port Lincoln, South Australia the very next day to go cage diving with Great White Sharks – a life dream. Definitely the best birthday present I am ever likely to receive – thanks again Lil’ C!

Via Adelaide, Arancha and I flew to Port Lincoln on the Friday and checked into our very liveable accommodation just on the outskirts of town. That night we had a couple of drinks and some dinner before retiring to bed early as we had to be up at 5:45am the next morning.
The alarm sounds and it is ‘Shark Day’. Buzzing and full of anticipation we board the boat ready for the 7am departure and take our seats as we begin our 2.5 hour journey out to Neptune Island. Getting onto the boat and seeing the cage on the back of it is a definite reality check moment but it only heightened our excitement.
During the journey out there we were treated to various breakfast items and drinks. Over the past 3 weeks I have been on a number of boat trips and I have to say that the food on offer is always of top quality. The Aussie’s can definitely put on a decent and healthy spread of food. Then again, they should for the price you pay for the trips. Still, I can just imagine how it would be in England on a cruise off the coast of Blackpool and getting a soggy egg and cress or tuna sarny, after the captain has ripped the cling-film off of those flimsy tin trays, with a bowl of cheese and onion crisps and a bottle panda cola on the side.

As we approached Neptune Island we could see seals on the rocks, a good sign. If the prey was there then hopefully the predators should be nearby. It was then cage lowering and chum time!! Over the dozens of documentaries that I have watched about sharks it is always the dumping of the chum into the ocean that is synonymous with the hunt for that elusive Great White that could be lurking just under the surface of the water.

For those of you who are not aware, Chum is ground up fish guts and blood. It gets pumped into the ocean to attract the sharks to simulate a potential injured or dying animal. I am pretty sure that I read somewhere that a Great White’s senses are so sharp that it can identify 1 part blood in 1 million parts water!! That is pretty awesome.
Along with the chum a number of huge fish innards were thrown overboard attached to ropes – essentially to act out a carrot and a stick scenario for when they arrived.
A couple of hours passed by as everyone kept their eyes on the ocean waiting for the first sighting, but a few people also used it as an opportunity to fish and they caught a number of decent sized fish. It was eerily quiet as we all hung around staring out into the dark waters that had streams of blood on the surface from the chum and that silence was only broken by the staff banging and splashing the waters to mimic an animal in distress.

Finally, the shout that we have all heard on tv went up, “SHARK!”. There it was in front of us, my first (and only as it turned out) Great White Shark, approximately 10 feet long and a beautiful dark grey in colour along the top of it’s body.
The first dive group jumped into the cage and were treated to the shark approaching the cage a couple of times and thrashing about right in front of them. As they exited the cage after about 20mins you could see it written all over their faces – pure amazement. All I wanted to do was get in there.

We were in the third group and by the time it was our turn the second group had been in there for 30mins with no sightings at all and I wasn’t hopeful.
I was first into the cage and whilst down there all alone two things struck me:

1)It was so cold – it is the Southern Ocean after all

2)If a shark does turn up now out of the murkiness and I am going to be really scared

Soon I was joined by the 5 other divers and we hung there in the freezing waters praying that our luck would be in. At one point we saw a fish that was the size of my thumb, I looked over at Arancha who had also spotted it and I could tell by her eyes that she could appreciate the irony of this as much as I could. There were some other big fish that came over to inspect us but alas there were no more Great Whites to be seen on this day. The only other things to happen whilst down in the cage was a girl slipping off the top of the ladder and landing on her arse at the bottom of the cage because of her weight belt (I found that really funny) and a fresh release of chum being swept into the cage by the current and some of it getting caught up in my now long flowing locks (which Arancha found really funny and refused to help get it out).

After another hour or 2 it was time to set off back to the mainland. To say that I was disappointed was an understatement but I can at least console myself with the fact that I have still seen a Great White with my own eyes and that is still something pretty rare and inspiring. Another consoling point was that I will be passing back by this way in 2 months time from my Western and Southern Aus road trip so there is no reason why we can’t come and try again.

I am a believer in karma and positive energy and I believe that I am doing well in the good karma stakes at the minute so I was pleased that karma presented me with an opportunity whilst on our way back to port especially after highlighting above that I would be passing again.
One of the staff walked past me with her folder and piece of card fell out of it and landed by my foot. I picked it up but before handing it back to her I read it first. I was pleased to see that it was a voucher for a free cruise on the boat to be used before Apr 2012 – I am passing by in Feb 2012.

Now there is an argument that says that I should’ve handed this back to the woman and this point was more than likely shared by the passenger who saw me pick it up, read it, smile and put it under my towel.
However, I was torn:
a)You can take the Lambert lad out of Leicester but you cannot take the Leicester and the Lambert out of the lad – I don’t call it theft, I call it opportunistic
b)I believe in my karma stakes and I was just taking what was due
c)Plus, the fellow passenger met my eyes and I could tell that he knew the rules of grassing on a G!!!

I was further satisfied with my karma and my decision when the staff member returned later and handed us a half price voucher to return and cage dive at a later date – which I was hopeful of receiving but wasn’t sure if we would get it because even though we hadn’t seen a shark in the cage we had seen one on the day which is the trip policy.
So the result is that I will phone up and find out if my full voucher is valid for a cage dive, and if it is we are quids in as I will ebay the other voucher, if it doesn’t include the cage dive I am also quids in as I will ebay that voucher and use the other. I love karma!!

So that was that, we got back to land, had dinner and a few beers to commiserate but still managed to have a really fun night.

The next day it was back to Melbourne and then the following day I was back at the airport to fly off to Sydney to be reunited with 2 of the hombres – Mr Latner and Mr Eggbert – after 13 months apart.

I got to Sydney around 4pm on the Monday afternoon and headed over to Lauren Greenall’s place, which is where I would be crashing for a few nights whilst we were all in Sydney. (Greenall is my mate from London who now lives out here and I stayed with her back in March when I first arrived in Aus, but you all know this as you are avid followers of the blog!!)
That night Lauren and I went out for some food and a few drinks.

Early the next morning I was up, out of the house and heading down to the hostel where the lads would be shortly arriving. What follows is an account of the lads’ roadtrip up the east coast of Australia – enjoy.

Day 1 – Sydney:

• We are reunited after 13 months apart. We embraced, enquired as to how we are all doing and then settled back into the same old routine. I wasn’t surprised to find that after being away for so long it seemed like I had only seen them last week. We have all been mates for nearly 20yrs now and all we have ever had is an easy going, take the p*ss out of each other relationship
• First thing we did was the obligatory sightseeing around Circular Quay – the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Sydney Opera House and get lots of photos of us all together
• 11am and it is time for the first pint. You may consider this as a waste as the lads had just arrived in Sydney but in my defence I did take them to a pub in The Rocks area of Sydney which is the location of the first buildings ever to be constructed by the convicts!
• Took a ferry over Sydney Harbour to Manley Beach. This is my favourite beach in Sydney and the lads got their first taste of the Pacific Ocean. Literally 5mins after walking onto the beach we headed to the pub and settled back for a few drinks.
• During this time we were approached by an old lady from the southern United States who wanted to take a picture of 3 genuine Aussie lads having a beer and then asked us if we had seen Chuck, her husband, who had gone missing. We had to keep an eye out for a fat (of course he is, he’s a yank) man wearing a yellow t-shirt and blue shorts! We also saw a group of South East Asian school kids who has trousers so short that they looked like a group of Michael Jackson’s with their black shoes and white socks
• Back into town to get changed and then met up at the Sydney Opera Bar (at the Opera house and looks out over the harbour and the bridge) along with Greenall and Helen (a friend who by coincidence would be on her hen do in Byron Bay this Sat when we would also be there)
• Boozy night which culminated in Egg having a dance off with some backpackers in their hostel nightclub
• There was a funny Latner story from that night. In the hostel you needed a card to get into the bathrooms; Lats apparently went to the loo but forgot his card. After banging on the bedroom door for ages Egg woke up and let him in so that Lats could get the card. He went back to the toilet and realised that he had gone into the bedroom, walked around and did not pick up the required card. Once again he found himself trying to wake Egg up and when he finally did, he went straight to bed. The result – his p*ssed the bed and he was on top bunk.

Day 2 – Sydney:
• Met up around midday and headed off to Bondi Beach to swim, bodysurf and splash water into each others’ faces.
• Took a walk from Bondi along the cliff edge to take in the Sculptures By The Sea exhibition – an annual exhibition of art along the cliff tops
• On our way up we passed an exclusive bar which overlooked Bondi Beach and there in front of us on the balcony sipping champagne was none other than Mel B, her husband and Monty Panesar (England cricketer) – an odd combination
Mel B quickly disappeared indoors but we were able to get a photo of Monty with Mel B’s husband
To quote Egg, this is how we got the picture:
“Alright Mont-eh, give us a picture son”
• Took in the delights of the exhibition which was really good. Personal highlight was this little hobbit type house and Egg making us take a picture of him in the doorway with his bare arse just peeping around the corner of it
• Out that night on the lash in the Kings Cross area of Sydney. We couldn’t get into the best club as I was wearing my thongs (flip-flops) which in my defence Greenall told me would be ok. So we found ourselves in this crappy sports bar playing pool with 2 couples from the back country, the guys hated us for some reason and there was also an old alcoholic woman that would just not leave us alone. I finished up at 4am as I was flying the next day, the lads carried on until about 5:30am and got lost going home
To prove that the guys hated us, after I had left the lads had a photo taken with the others and as Latner put his arm around one of the guys he quickly shifted and told Lats “don’t you f*cking touch me...” – ha ha!

Day 3 – Lennox Head

• We had booked our flights separately and the airline then messed us around meaning that I flew up to Ballina (the north end of New South Wales) 24 hours before the lads
• I was due to pick up the camper van the next morning so I headed over to Lennox Head, a cool little surfing town with one of the top 10 surf beaches in the world, checked into a hostel and wasted my evening chatting with other travellers and getting some sleep stored up for the coming 2 weeks

Day 4 – Nimbin

• I awoke bright and early to a warm sunny day and took a leisurely jog along the beach before checking out and heading back to the airport to pick up the camper van – our home for the next 2 weeks
• It was still early and I had about 6 hours to kill before the lads landed so I headed over to some cafe that the campervan lady recommended, had some lunch and sat back and read for the afternoon
• It was now time to get back to the airport so that we could begin the roadtrip. Backing out of the parking space at the cafe I was greeted with a very loud bang – I’d only had the van a couple of hours and already I managed to reverse it into a road sign that I swear wasn’t there before. Luckily there was no damage and we had full insurance so it wouldn’t have mattered anyway
In my defence this is why I am reversing out very slowly as Egg films me at the beginning of the roadtrip dvd – after all I was back in the campervan car park and that is not the place to have another bump!
• We christened the van Gaz because it has a sort of high top back which resembled Lloyd (only the lads will get this joke). The great thing about the high top back was that this was to be Latner’s coffin type sleeping space. It was decided that he should have the ‘prime’ sleeping spot because it was advised that this sleeping space was not suitable for small children and Latner is bigger than us two
• We were officially on the road and first stop was Nimbin – Australia’s hippy version of Amsterdam. You will recall that I was here back in March with my German buddies and I met Nimbin Kate in the museum, swigging her vodka. I wanted to lads to experience such cultural delights
• As we drove to Nimbin, which is located in the misty hills away from the coast, we saw something stretched out across the entire width of the lane. Before I had any time to react I had driven over a huge snake, driving over the tail and head! I had no choice, the roads were wet, it was raining, we were travelling at a decent speed so it was the snake or us
• We spent the night free camping in a car park whilst fully taking in the local culture!!

Day 5 – Byron Bay

• We left Nimbin in the morning following a nice breakfast at a place where Lats played with an equal of his – a dog that kept bringing the stick back to him and if it couldn’t find the stick it would pick up another and bring that to him
• The first thing we did was head to a swimming hole out in the countryside. We approached it from the top of a waterfall which we had to climb down in order to get into the water. Unfortunately it was only Latner and I that went for a swim because when we were crossing the rocks to the edge of the waterfall I noticed a small leech on my foot which I showed to Egg. He then saw a small one that had attached itself to his foot and I have never seen someone panic so much over such a minute organism, I honestly thought he was going to have a heart attack! Anyway, after getting it off he flatly refused to go into the water which left just the 2 of us to frolic
• The afternoon saw us arrive in Byron Bay, check into a nice caravan park and head to the beach. Whilst in the sea trying to perfect our bodysurfing technique we saw a large shadow cover the area that we were stood in and before we knew it a kite surfers huge kite came crashing down into the sea just missing Egg – why is it if your mates nearly get hurt it is really funny?
• That evening was our first night cooking our own food – a nightly ritual that we would come to really look forward to and a time when we could sit back and enjoy the fruits of our cooking labour. Every meal consisted of meat and pasta. We would enjoy all sorts of steak, kangaroo, sausage and chicken over the next few days. Egg has got a real talent as meat cooker and should open a kebab shop!
• It is fair to say that we got smashed on that night out in Byron. We ran into the girls on their hen do at around midnight after I heard Greenall laughing from the other side of the road (big mouth!!) and we proceeded to all get as drunk as skunks

Day 6 – Beerwah

• We left Byron and stopped off for lunch in Surfers Paradise
• The aim was to get to Beerwah (a small place north of Brisbane) and spend the evening there before visiting Australia Zoo, the spiritual home of Steve Irwin, the next day
• The bonus of hanging around in Beerwah for the afternoon is that it is also the home of the Glasshouse Mountains. We had some spare time so Lats and I ventured up to the lookout to get a fantastic view of the mountains. Unfortunately Egg’s chronic fear of heights (which you must get sorted out matey) meant that we left him further down in the middle of nowhere watching some kangaroos in a field
• Evening time was taken up with a BBQ and hanging around the van taking the p*ss out of each other

Day 7 – Australia Zoo and Noosa Heads

• Australia Zoo was great and I rank it as the number 2 zoo in the world behind Singapore Zoo. We were all a little gutted to see that if we had arrived a day later we would have been at the zoo on Steve Irwin Day and that would’ve guaranteed us a sighting of Bindi Irwin – the lads appreciate what a special treat that would’ve been! We consoled ourselves with a good time watching the crocodile show in the huge show arena, feeding kangaroos and having photos with them pretending to take them from behind and generally melting in the sun
• We drove on to Noosa Heads which is a very upmarket coastal town set around a number of waterways and a national park and it is lovely
• The usual afternoon and evening entailed – check into a cool caravan park located by the water, bodysurf at the beach, BBQ our dinner and then head out for a few drinks

Day 8 – Hervey Bay

• Today we headed off to Hervey Bay, which would be our base whilst we spent some time on Fraser Island
• We arrived mid-afternoon and checked into the Scarness Caravan Park, which was probably my favourite location that we stayed in. Our site was literally 20 steps away from the beach which is how I like to live my life. The owners of the park were Phil and Marilyn and they were really nice but they loved to talk. When checking in I noticed a calendar of the 2 of them in China and enquired to Marilyn about their trip as I am heading there next March. She proceeded to tell us all about the trip over the next 20mins.
We parked up on the site that Phil directed us to and then Latner made the mistake of mentioning China to him which meant we were treated to an extended version of the same stories over about 30 more minutes
• We had booked our Fraser Island trip through the park so we wasted the remainder of the day in our front garden that was the beach

Day 9 – Fraser Island

• We were picked up bright and early and taken to the port to catch the ferry over to Fraser – a world heritage site and the largest sand island in the world
• Egg was feeling a little rough so he went and sat inside for the ferry ride which meant that he missed the sight of 2 sea turtles swimming about just below us, 2 of 6 Latner and I would see that day (including 1 dead one)
• As we disembarked the ferry and prepared to join up with our tour group Egg dropped the bombshell that he was feeling very unwell and would be going back to Hervey Bay. We were obviously gutted that he would not be joining us but not as gutted as Egg was when we had to get a $50 taxi back to the van after receiving no refund from the tour company – I reckon that was the most expensive ferry ride in history!!
• So it was left to me and Lats to explore and enjoy what Fraser had to offer. We were on a coach trip with about 30 other people and the first thing to do was the say hello to everybody. Our group was as expected very international but one person stuck out straight away – Canada. He was a lone traveller and he was a nob, an opinion held by a number of people on the trip. We did our best to steer clear of him and he was annoying personified
• Our first day consisted of a rainforest walk (the only place in the world where a rainforest grows on sand) where we filled our water bottles up with fresh 100 yr old water from the creek, a visit to Indian Head which is a lookout over the ocean and was also the sight of a horrendous incident in the past when the indigenous residents of the island where forced to commit suicide or be pushed from the cliff tops by the wonderful white people, and we also spent some time at Eli Creek
In order to get to Indian Head from the Eurong Beach Resort which is where we lunched and would also be where we stayed for the night you needed to navigate along the beach highway – that’s right, the beach is a legal highway and an airstrip all in one, it has its own traffic cop and he will give you a ticket if you break the speed limit
Through all of this we avoided Canada
• As evening approached we went back to the resort and were handed our room keys. We were to be in a room of 4, meaning that even if Egg was here we would still have a spare bed and I bet you can guess who was allocated that bed can’t you? CANADA.
We couldn’t help but laugh to ourselves but we did our best to chat to him and invite him out to the pub with us but to no avail, he decided on a game of tennis with a German dude and an early night.
As usual with these trips it is only the English that seem to congregate in the pub at night and this was the case on this trip. We had a good night and got to know a few people a little better including Stuart Adam, an economics genius who is the expert that the UK news programmes will go to when they want an expert opinion
We retired around midnight and kept Canada awake with a joint snoring effort

Day 10 – Fraser Island

• The second day on Fraser Island was by far the best. We visited 2 of the many natural lakes that exist on Fraser and each one was its own version of paradise
• Lake McKenzie was first – pristine white sand and clear blue water, followed by morning tea
• Lake Wabbi was next – to get to Wabbi you must first trek for 2kms through the rainforest, then tackle a desert like area before finally getting to the top of a huge sand-dune which far below has an emerald green lake with a rainforest backdrop. It was like something out of Jurassic Park.
We were warned by our guide that we should not run down the dune and dive into the lake as it has made paraplegics out of more travellers than anywhere else on the island – so you can guess what Canada did
The sand on the dune was so hot that it felt as though our feet were blistering, but as we were second to the lake after Canada we then had the joy of watching every other person stagger down in agony towards the lakes edge. Each person that got down would run into the water and then turn around to also enjoy everybody else’s pain
• That was it for our Fraser Island trip, we headed back to the port and were reunited with Egg back at the campsite. That night Lats and I ventured out to the pub for a few drinks in probably the quietest town ever

Day 11 – Rockhampton

• Whilst on Fraser Island we were told about the rodeo that takes place every Friday night in Rockhampton, the beef capital on Australia, so we decided to check it out and it turned out to be my favourite night
• We arrived late afternoon and got straight on it. We started off by doing a Gazza style dentist chair at the campsite and the night went on in that fashion
• We visited a few bars and then onto the rodeo. The rodeo itself was quite funny, it was full of real cowboys strutting about like real men and the steak sangas on offer were really good.
As for the action I didn’t like it – it is just animal cruelty. My favourite parts of the rodeo were when the bulls got their own back and when the little ponies hurt and made the child cowboys cry
• Afterwards we hit Rockhampton’s main nightclub which doubles as a strip joint. Straight down to business as Egg and I bought Lats a bartop dance with the highlight being the motorboat that he got to act out on her huge chest. The night was messy, we met some cowboys, some very rough bogan (pikey) women and we drank a lot whilst dancing the night away!
• We found out at a later date that Latner had once again p*ssed the bed that night – and he was sleeping above me and Egg

Day 12 – Airlie Beach

• This was a beast of a driving day especially considering the night out we had had
• We got to Airlie Beach, the gateway to the Whitsunday Islands and a wonderful place surrounded by a turquoise sea late in the afternoon to find out that it was schoolies week – the week after high school graduation – meaning lots of drunk and loud teenagers
• That night we cooked up a feast and then went to a few bars in town

Day 13 – Airlie Beach

• First mission of the day was to book a cruise for the next day – my birthday!
• The rest of the day was spent hanging out at the lagoon, as we were now in stinger (jellyfish) territory so we could not enter the sea without donning a stinger suit, followed by bird feeding at 4pm at the camp site. Now it may sound gay that we went to the 4pm bird feeing slot but it was good. We got to hand feed the rainbow lorikeets that would land on our hands and heads and now that we had the bug we managed to tempt over about 20 ducks and 5 cockatoos to our caravan and hand fed them too! Yeah, that’s what real men do

Day 14 – Whitehaven Beach and my 32nd birthday

• We were up early ready for our 7am pick up and the lads had done me a great service by bringing over a number of birthday cards from back home which was a nice treat. Thanks for the cards people and big thanks to dad for the poem and a drawing of his favourite child – the cat. Homo.
Also big up to Latner for the present he gave to me
• The cruise itself was really good. The day was spent sunbathing, drinking beer, eating good food, snorkelling and spending some time playing football and rugby on the pristine white sands of Whitehaven Beach
• As we prepared for my birthday night out back at the van the lads gave me a song to listen to whilst they prepared my birthday present. The song was titled ‘Dick in a box’ and imagine my surprise when the lads then came around the corner naked except for, yep that’s right, their dick’s in a box. Latner was sporting a wine box and Egg a crisp box. My surprise was nothing compared to the 3 schoolies who happened to walk past at the wrong / right moment – love you boys!
• We had a boozy night out as expected in which I sported a present from Moggy, one of the homies back in the UK; a Mika t-shirt because I look like him. My hair is actually lot longer now but I can still appreciate the resemblance; not.
It was quite amusing to overhear some people who actually thought that I was wearing it for real

Days 15 & 16 – Mission Beach

• Mission Beach is located just 140kms from our final destination of Cairns, meaning that over the past 2 weeks we would’ve driven approximately 2,000kms and it is also the protected site of the Cassowary bird, a bird in my opinion that proves that birds evolved from dinosaurs. Unfortunately during our 2 days there we were not lucky enough to see any in the wild
• Our 2 days were very a chilled affair of the beach, BBQ and a few beers

Day 17 – Cairns

• Today was the day that we said our goodbyes to Gaz, our faithful friend who had housed us for the past 14 days, we were sad but at the same time also looking forward to our own beds, especially Latner
• We booked ourselves into a hostel opposite the lagoon and harbour, sorted a trip to the Great Barrier Reef for the next day and had nothing left to do but go to the pub
• We drank the afternoon away, played pool (yes Latner I admit to the fact that you beat me) and then went for a curry with good intentions of carrying on late into the night
• Back at the room to get changed we were greeted with cool air-con and a comfy bed each. Bearing in mind that it was 7pm we awoke the next morning at 7am! Looks like we have definitely reached our 30’s!!

Day 18 – The Great Barrier Reef

• We all really enjoyed our day out at the Reef. We got to snorkel at 2 reef sites and the second one was fantastic, further enhanced by a trip on a glass bottom boat. We saw a lot of marine life and some absolutely massive clams
• There were 2 stand out items from the trip

1)Our stinger suits made us look like real ninjas. We spent a good hour or 2 pretending to be ninjas and took many photos of us mock fighting and posing like the warriors we wished we were to the confusion of the other travellers

2)Maurice AKA Commando. Maurice was a big black ex military US citizen and a typical American (you know that I love them). When the safety briefing took place he was the one that gave out a big “Yeah” when everyone was asked if they were having a good time, he pumped both arms when informed that it was a non smoking boat (what does it really matter to him if someone is having a fag at the back?) and when the dive brief was given he was sat at the front asking dumbass questions and not getting the jokes even though we later found out that he was only snorkelling; he shouldn’t have even been at that briefing.
The moment that annoyed me the most was when he was snorkelling, got into trouble and the staff had to swim out to help him and to remind him that you should not be standing on the coral reef as it takes years and years to recover.
Honestly, what went wrong with that country?

• Upon returning to Cairns we decided to join the hostel bar crawl as I wanted to show Latner a true backpacker night out. During the past few days Egg had decided that enough was enough and he was now t-total and aiming for a healthier lifestyle (???) so it was up to the two of us to fly the flag.
We had a great night out and the fact that we downed a ½ litre bottle of JD before we began set the tone for the evening. We met some cool people whilst out and about but when I saw Latner’s eyes rolling in his head I knew it was time to call it a night.
We got back to the room which was pitch black but Latner insisted on leaving the door open so that he could show the now awake Egg how he could bend the light coming in from the corridor.
He then p*ssed the bed for the third and final time

So that was that, the trip had come to an end. We all flew out of Cairns to Brisbane and went our separate ways. I flew onto Melbourne and the lads after a day in Brisbane flew onto Singapore for 2 days and then back to Blighty.

I would just like to say a huge thank you to you both for coming out and visiting me. It was a long way to come and an expensive trip but I hope that you enjoyed it as much as I did and after now being away for 13 months it was a real treat.

To the lads back home Latner’s new name is now either Scrapes or Taps depending on the situation – I will leave it up to Egg to explain. As he hates both please try to use them going forward.

So I now find myself back in Melbourne wasting away the next couple of weeks until Arancha and I hit the road for our travel adventures – I can’t wait.

Ok, that’s enough as I can type no more.

Oh one last thing, I came out of Melbourne’s Flinders Street station last night and I saw a backpacker boring 2 dressed up girls chatting about some rubbish – it was Canada. With my head down I rushed past, Latner will appreciate exactly why.