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The third and last part of my little film…

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The second part of my little film…

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The first part of my little film…

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BarrierReefWednesday, 15th July.

Sitting with a tropical rainforest behind me and the Pacific Ocean in front of me.

I arrived at Diane’s (Phil’s friend) place in Cairns yesterday and set off early this morning. I was a bit disappointed that I didn’t get deeper into Daintree Forest (the oldest on Earth). I’ve decided that Australia is for sitting on the beach, this time around. I’m just going to lie on this deserted beach and ponder about my growing anxiety of flying back.

I’m slouched in a chair at a table in the bar next to the beach. There’s a girl over there doing exactly the same as me, scribbling in a little note book with an anti-social look on her face…only, she’s got a big jug of beer. Being the tit that I am, I forget to get some cash before I set off, so I’ve got a few dollars to last me three days. At least the food is free on the boat tomorrow. I’ll be too busy looking at coral and deadly poisonous marine life to be worried about eating…or will they all look like little cartoon roast chickens floating past my mask?

Thursday, 16th July.

Swam with a turtle.

I’d been snorkelling for an hour or so and he appeared beneath me. I followed him for about fifteen minutes. I almost followed him out of the reef, but seeing I was leaving the boat behind I let him go. I swam a couple of metres above him. His fins moved like wings, it was like watching a bird flying in slow motion.

I’m pretty happy with that.

I spent the rest of the time looking at sea slugs, giant boulder coral, giant clams, sting rays (…was that one following me?), schools of little blue fish and a big b@#%ard fish that I though was a shark. On the way back I laid on the deck in my shorts…like an anaemic Robinson Crusoe.

Friday, 17th July.

Still on the beach.

I was never one for the beach and I do look like a flabby little naked mole rat in the sun, but spending all day here without a soul in sight feels quite…nice. I lost my fear of crocodiles sneaking up on me out of the rainforest very soon after getting here. It’d be a gruesome end, but it’d be a beautiful place to get eaten at least.

There’s no doubt about it, luxury spots make for crap diary entries.

This feels like the official end to my trip. Sitting on a beach next to the world’s oldest forest. I know I go on about it, but this place really was exactly the same a million years ago…except Aborigines were hunting kangaroos out where I made friends with a turtle yesterday. The only niggling disappointment I feel is that I haven’t achieved much. Doing the train journey from Madrid to here would have been a lot harder and I would have missed a lot of Mongolia (the two weeks I’d originally planned would have been heart-breakingly short). But if I were sitting here having got to the far side of Asia over land, I think I would have fulfilled a part of me that at the moment still feels a little annoyed.

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Ehyup Brisbane

StraddyWednesday, 1st July

I’m going to see our Phil today!

I could possibly be a big disappointment and end up plodding round her house like a zombie with a tick looking for goats to milk…

I finished the book the Australian bloke gave me in Beijing. “Stay alive my son” by Pin Yathay. It’s the story of his escape from Khmer Rouge controlled Cambodia and the loss of his family and friends along the way. I was still going over everything in my head when I went though arrivals and almost walked past Phil and Jon. We set off in time to catch the rush hour traffic. I later went to bed with no intention of getting up early to take advantage of the day…

Thursday, 2nd July

I was greeted by a note from my sister (and her two cats Yorkshire & Pudding) and directions to her office. I wandered around Brisbane and started to get nostalgic about Mongolia when the thought dawned on me that I might never go back there. I was suddenly gripped with the urge to just keep going and began to think of where I could go next (all the while cursing the fact that I hadn’t started ten years ago). After living out of my rucksack for two months, sleeping in the middle of nowhere with very little belongings, making conversation with complete strangers everyday, often only with hand gesture, waking up to landscapes I’d never experienced before…I felt out of place. I wanted my sweaty clothes, goat smelling gers and big blue skies.

I found myself going into every bookshop in the city. I nervously started to read bits of books on anything. First travel books, then art books, then anything that came to hand. I knew I was going to be in relative comfort from now on and wasn’t going to be going anywhere for the moment, so frantically reading was a quick substitute.

But later Phil & Jon took me to see some big whales, so that calmed me down.

Friday, 3rd / Saturday, 4th  / Sunday, 5th July

We went to Stradbroke Island. We camped about a hundred metres from the beach. We had duvets, pillows, cool-box, gas stove, temperatures at night above freezing. I wasn’t a stinky nomad any more.

That day went pretty well. We walked through a gorge whilst humpbacked whales, sea eagles, rays, dolphins and turtles all vied for our attention. We’d walked directly into a nature documentary. We had a beer and watched the neon sunset on the squeaky-sand beach. This is more or less what we did for the following two days…which was fine by me. We also spent a while at Amity Point poking an abandoned catamaran, and Phil mas almost moved to tears by a flock of pelicans floating on the wind overhead. She really quite likes pelicans.

Monday, 6th – Tuesday 14th

I laid in. I wandered around Brisbane. Had nice nights in with Phil & Jon. They showed me forests and mount Coot Thar. But it doesn’t seem like stuff to put in a blog, I prefer to spout ill-informed observations about natives…

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HarbourBridgeMonday, 29th June.

Got caught in a sudden downpour yesterday whilst looking for somewhere to eat.

The sky turned to a thunderstorm grey/pink that I’d never seen before. Got wet and found a pizza place after half an hour walking, listening to French gypsies on my iPod. Did some more walking and found a bar, had a drink and watched people play pool.

I spent today in the Art Museum of New South Wales. Had a lie down in the park of fruit bats before going in and realised that eighty percent of Sydney’s population are joggers. Do these fitness junkies have jobs? How much do they pay the personal trainers that jog alongside them?

I liked the museum. Four floors of everything from Medieval, Aboriginal, Indonesian right up to Modern stuff, where I had to stop myself touching things, knocking them over and fulfilling the habitual pattern of making a complete dick-head of myself…

Later had dinner in an Asturian place with a French girl from my hostel. The crapness of the food made me miss Spain. We talked a lot, but I can’t remember what about.

I wish I had more time here. It seems pleasant on the face of it. It’s strange being in a foreign country where the natives speak your language. It’s a lot more unsettling than being in Beijing or Ulaanbaatar. I’ve just spent the last three days with a puzzled look on my face, wondering if I’d slipped into a parallel dimension. My brain’s now completely accustomed to not understanding a word people  are saying and the Australian accents that I here in the street get automatically interpreted as someone talking Japanese. My brain takes a few minutes to realise that it’s a language that I can understand.

Walked across the Harbour Bridge and I resisted taking photos as seeing so many people with cameras put me into another tourist-hating mood. I should have explored more of what was on the other side of the bridge (there wasn’t much at first glance), but I didn’t.

Later got a bus to Bondi Beach just before it started getting dark. What makes the sand squeak in Australia? Had crap and expensive fish’n’chips and deep fried Mars bar. Went for a drink with Maude (French girl) and we talked about what a nutter Sarkozy is, her grape picking summers in France and her year working in Dublin. We said goodbye at the hostel and I told her to look me up in Brisbane as she’s travelling up the east coast for two months.

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Sydney

A million cameras...Sunday, 28th June.

Captain Cook sailed all the way from Whitby to get here. I only flew from Ulaanbaatar…but I bet his journey wasn’t half as f@#&ing annoying as mine.

My plane finally left Mongolia three hours late, which meant that when I finally got to Beijing my connecting flight to Sydney had already left. I had to stop overnight in a hotel along with four others, all at the expense of Air China …although they only agreed to pay for four rooms, “only one room per nationality”. We were all complete strangers and nobody felt like sharing so one of the Americans paid for another room.

The next morning at the airport I learnt what an electronic visa was and that I didn’t have one for Australia. I was directed to a small office where I could use the Internet to apply for one while the staff stuffed their faces and watched TV. I put my bag through what must have been it’s fifteenth dose of x-rays to make sure all my film was properly knackered and boarded the plane for two hours of non-stop, soul destroying turbulence. We landed in Shanghai for a short stop which gave me time to buy what I thought was mineral water but in fact turned out to be bottled sweat, before boarding the plane again for another ten hours…

I joined the quarantine queue at Sydney airport, trembling and swearing never to fly anywhere ever again as the turbulence had been pretty much constant. I then learnt that my little wooden turtle (the only souvenir that I’d bought for myself) might be confiscated after reading the big “$10,000 fine” posters everywhere. Luckily I got through and my turtle was also allowed entry.

So, here I am in the southern hemisphere for the first time. I’ve already had pie’n’peas by the river and walked through a park full of fruit bats, and now I’m sitting by the Opera House in what feels like a big 3D postcard.

What did these people do on holiday before they had cameras?

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