Blog » Hungover ‘down-under’

entrytitleHungover ‘down-under’entrytitle

This was written late June 2004
Hello from Queensland!
Things are moving swiftly along for me…for the first time ever I am 'down under'. I've been in Auz since last Thursday and am loving it here – mainly as the sun is out in a big way (…and this is their 'winter', why suddenly do I feel so cheated!) New Zealand was positively chilly so I was glad to feel warmth again when I landed in Australia.
My journey to New Zealand did not quite go according to plan. One of my flights was cancelled and I had to leave Michelle at the airport in Cusco and be put up for an extra night. When I saw the hotel room I couldn’t complain; it was the most luxurious bathroom I have seen for years and certainly the hottest water I had felt in Latin America…I had two showers in less than 12 hours there! I also had cable TV with 90 stations. That would usually be completely wasted on me, but in my mood it was a godsend, allowing me time to catch up on the news and veg to episodes of 'Changing Rooms' with Spanish subtitles! Now I understand the frenetically happy lady I met in Brazil, who jumped up and down with glee clapping her hands when we replied 'yes' to knowing who Lawrence Llwelyn-Bowen was – they have a TV station dedicated to showing Changing Rooms and Ground Force…a Latin American version of UK Style…it seems the home improvement bug transcends oceans!
I had four flights to make it to New Zealand, the big one bring the 12-hour from Chile to North Island – of which the first hour and a half was dominated by the worst turbulence I have ever experienced. Also, I arrived in Christchurch nearly a full day before my luggage did, which along with a sniffer-dog being convinced I was smuggling cocaine from Chile made for a journey I won't forget in a hurry! The one redeeming feature of the whole schedule was the view from my window seat on the trip from Auckand to Christchurch. As we came into Christchurch I saw the city (which was surrounded by snow capped mountains and a beautiful blue bay) blanketed by swirling mists, the horizon filled with the most beautiful sunrise colouring all the wispy clouds multi-hues from yellow to a deep mauve.
My stay in New Zealand was swift. The first day I was up to watch the sunrise (not so much an eager traveller as a jet lagged one!) wandering through the botanical gardens, and I returned often to the gardens, which were on the way to the city for me. I took a ride on the cable car to the top of the mountains surrounding the city and braved the chilling wind to look at the crisp view.
I think I will be a sunset and sunrise aficionado by the time I get home. In Cairns, which was my next stop after New Zealand, I had an apartment with a balcony. About 5.30 in the evening I could watch the sun setting over the mountains in the distance, framed by palm trees and soaring birds. When I saw the view I went straight out to buy some gin and tonic…it was the perfect mix after a day in the sun!
Saturday I got a catamaran to the outer Barrier Reef. We snorkelled in two different places. After the initial shock of: 1/ breathing underwater (you know how girly I am about things like this…) and 2/ not being able to touch the bottom but actually still being quite safe(!), I got used to it swiftly and found I could turn and propel myself in the water with much greater ease that I had thought. I couldn't believe how bright and plentiful the coral was…I had to remind myself that this blanket on the ocean bed was actually a living thing. I saw so many fish: tiny shoals through to big quite scary-monster fish (luckily they stayed away from my legs!)…electric blue through to muted brown. We were only seeing one small point of the reef and there were thousands of fish below just going about their daily business; it is awesome to think how much more marine life there is over the whole coast.

I was actually quite proud of myself, thinking I was quite brave (easily pleased, me!). The one really scary point of the whole day was, however, when I noticed where the reef stopped. I was casually swimming along with my face stuck downwards watching a large blue fish nibbling some coral…out of the corner of my eye I noticed a strikingly solid block of blue, then I looked over to see the drop…there was literally nothing, just bright blue. I strained my eyes to try and see the bottom, but nope; there was just blue.
Sunday I went up to Kuranda, which is in the rainforest area of North Queensland. I got a train up into the mountains and later a cable car that skimmed the top of all the forests brought me home. Whilst up there I visited an eco-park, saw kangaroos and koalas and had a tour of the forest on a very loud army vehicle which could not only get over rough terrain, but also drive straight into water and covert into a boat! I learnt lots about the forest and its inhabitants, having yet another moment of realisation (pretty much on a par to realising that pineapples grew on shrubs!) when I learnt about termites – we saw a huge termite nest and were told that this was an unusual type of termite which ate the inside of living trees….and this is what originally made the didgeridoo!
I am currently in Brisbane and today officially have the worst hangover of my trip so far. I flew in yesterday lunch time and was met by Amanda, my old friend from Abbey National days. I am staying with her and she has taken the afternoon off work to come and meet me at the airport. Once safely ensconced on her patio she remembered the bottle of Bombay Sapphire she had, and thought me being on her side of the world for a change was a good enough reason to crack it open; three hours (and I don't know how many glasses) later we wandered to the pub…then another 8 hours later (ouch!) we staggered back down the hill. 'A little delicate' would be a huge understatement for how I am feeling today – not that I expect any sympathy from you lot…that’s ok, being in the sun and not having to work makes up for it!

This weekend I am being taken to the rugby, Amanda lives virtually a stones throw from the stadium. I have no idea about rugby and casually asked in my sport oblivious way – 'who's playing?' to be told that its England v Australia! I am a rugby virgin…but I am sure by the end of the game I will have picked up the basics.
For the first time since leaving home I feel like I am holiday. It took me an evening in Cairns to adjust to it; I have slowed my pace down. It is a completely different feeling to Latin America and obviously a lot of it has to do with the culture – here not only am I in a very much westernised environment, but importantly, I am not having to fight to be understood, neither do I have to stand working out Spanish/Portuguese phrases in my head before doing anything. I don't get much of a break from new languages though…I have started my 'Instant Russian' recording and book! As always the title on these things is at best misleading, at worst surely a candidate for trading standards; I have been dipping in and out of it for a week and I can only manage a couple of words so far, hardly 'instant'. I also have a Russian culture book and have been reading about the wonders of the beetroot soup that I think awaits me…nothing could be as bad as that guinea pig, after seeing that I can handle anything!
Enough from me, I'm going back out in the sun. Hope everyone is well.


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