Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Australia: 14. Pirate Sailin' The Seven Seas of The Whitsundays


Hey Guys - Sal here reporting from Airlie Beach, Queensland, Australia.
Wow 6 months in Oz already!
Think when I last left a blog I had just finished travelling with the Australian carnival circuit. Well, they were good enough to pay me for my time which got me down to Airlie Beach further down the east coast which is the best place to get out to the Whitsunday Islands, something not to leave Australia without seeing with your own eyes.

Anybody who knows me well, will know of my fantasy of pirates and adventure (this was a girl who dreamt of being Indiana Jones sidekick) - well I found the perfect boat to sail the seven seas of the Whitsundays.....for three days

The Solway Lass M'Hearties....she's a beauty
A 127ft 'Tallship Defender' ship named The Solway Lass - a proper pirate ship named by the Scottish with 10 sails and a Jolly Roger flag and everything. I was sold! If there was going to be one ship I would sail it was going to be this beauty. Its was actually haunted by a past captain that died on the's been through a lot since 1902 

On board a Pirate Ship...




The Three Day Voyage

I had taken it upon myself to map out my adventures at sea, where we were heading for the next three days on board the Solway Lass around Australia's Whitsundays Islands. We would first board the boat at night from 1. Abel Point off Airlie Beach for our captain 'Lloyd' and sail us into the moonlight to drop anchor at 2. Refuge Bay on the tip of Hook Island and then set off on Day One to 3. Tongue Bay. I have a confession...If I could have one wish, it would be that I didn't suffer from sea be fair the water was very rough on route to Tongue Bay actually spilling over on deck - some techniques you might like to try is stick cotton wool in your ear and suck an orange but man it was HELL ON EARTH!!! 

But first phase of becoming a pirate I think..... Sitting up at the bow of the Solway Lass with nothing out ahead of us but ocean...70% of the earth y'know




After anchoring on dry land at Tongue Bay on Hamilton Island, relieved to get on dry land we took a short walk through the forest to reach the look out of Whitehaven Beach, one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, the purest white sands zig zagging its way dreamily into the island. 

Our crew consisted of 'Lloyd' our skipper, 'Andrew and Damo' being the deckhands, 'Kylie' the Chef, 'Kate' at the on board bar, 'Max' who's the volley (the skivvy)  and 'Trevor' our security -- I'm sure he'd be seeing off any of those pirates that would come aboard. Being a guest on the ship though doesn't mean we'd escape helping out on deck - when the wind picked up, the mammoth sails needed to be raised and the girls would climb the masts to fix the sails to them - very impressive! it was good fun to help haul them up as deck hands too...

'Are you ready with the main sail?'
'Yes, B'osun!'
'Haul Away, Pull, Pull, Pull' .....hard work, blood and sweat 


We continued sailing north past Border Island and round the top of Hook Island towards Blue Pearl Bay, but of course being at sea on a pirates ship is anything but boring. We would pass the time relaxing in the bow nets, swinging off the rope swing - or playing pirate games on deck when the sea's where a little bit calmer.
We dropped anchor at 4. Blue Pearl Bay on Hayman Island for our second night at sea. The ocean as flat as a sheet of glass with millions of the most magnificent stars blazoned across the dark sky - if there's anywhere where you want to see stars...out to sea is the place with the peace and tranquillity (A couple on their honeymoon were passengers on board with us - how perfect for them.)
On Day Two of the voyage, I awoke in my cabin to the repulsive stench of sewage or something leaking out the through the cabin walls. Urghhh now that was enough to make you puke if not the choppy seas. It was good to get off the boat and onto the beach of Blue Pearl Bay to do some snorkelling alone the corals and reefs - when a HUGE sea turtle came swimming past me nearly making me choke as I breathed in awe and a mouthful of water with it. But soon disaster would strike, I brushed my hand against a sharp coral and tore the skin on my middle finger, reddening the water around me with drifting blood - ahh shark!! Of course I had to go back to the ship and be nursed at, it was so badly torn I thought I'd need stiches, ummmm....would have had to been a amateur boat job which I wasn't keen on. Antiseptic water and dressing would have to do for this injured sailor :(
I went back to snorkel on though, with a rubber glove haha. We pressed on as the winds picked up (oh no) travelling south around Hayman Island on the Hayman Channel with the sailing becoming quite a challenge. We tucked into 5. Black Island for more snorkelling as well as being bombarded by pesky black crows stealing our things on the beach and then fighting the other girls to the shower room below deck.  
We dropped anchor for the night in 6. Cid Harbour in a place called Saw Mill Bay to watch the gorgeous sunset to mark the night to have a little Pirate Party with the ships own fancy dress accessories, keeping lookout for any foreboding tall ships on the horizon. Eat your heart out Capt. Jack Sparrow.....
or... maybe not
 The crew had made us a real good old fashioned banquet for the final night spent at sea - such good service from a Pirate Ship which was actually deliberately sunk in the past to obliterate all the vermin. Day Three was the voyage home to mainland Australia and my finger is still in need of first aid which I'm hoping will heal in time for my fruit picking job at the end of the month. Damo and Andrew took us by motorboat after dislodging in from the beach to Saw Mill Beach to climb the painstakingly sweaty walk uphill into the forest to the top of the lookout over our sailing route over Hook Island....
It was well worth it....  
See for your self....
So after a few turbulent three days - my adventures at sea are over and back on the steadiness of dry land. If you ever come to Airlie Beach get yourself onto the Solway Lass...the only sailing experience you'll ever need.
At least I passed the Pirate Training..

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Australia: 13. So I Ran Away With The Circus...

Well not really....

Howdy! I've been non stop on the Aussie road for a while but have had quite an adventure...After crashing in a memorable backpackers in Cairns, I headed down the coast to Townsville failing to pick up a lift from another traveller and got my self a volunteer job on an animal and amusement farm that supply animals for fairs and rides for carnivals. My job was to be up at the crack of dawn to feed the menagerie of hungry squawking farm animals, ducks, guinea pigs, chickens, cows, horses, you name it... even bottle feeding adorable baby goats! and then repeat the whole process again in the evening.

Taking care of the kids....

In return as Aussie's love their sports as I do, the friendly neighbours 'The Cullens' who had a cafĂ© next door to the farm took me to a game of 'Polo Cross' which is pretty much like lacrosse but played on horseback, super skilled riders and was very impressive. My host also took me to see a NFL Football Game between the Townsville Cowboys and Canberra Raiders which was quite an experience sitting around hard core Australian football supporters. A night out to see the horse show 'The Man From Snowy River' was quite a treat - you ever seen a horse dance?

Sporting Outings in Oz

Two weeks later, I was asked to come on the road with them and their other showman friends Adrian the Snake Man, a motorcycle stunt man and a Family Circus.

We did shows down the East coast stopping off at towns towards Mackay, setting up a petting zoo and inviting people to come feed and pet them, which has been quite an unique experience (especially working with children and animals) chasing escaped pigs in the showground and rounding up baby ducklings that were let out and find hanging out at the pizza stand is a few of the mishaps that comes with working with animals as well as cruising the mountains on the stunt mans motorcycle (wheelies! no not really) I feel extremely lucky to been allowed to sample this exclusive carnival lifestyle as an 'outsider' and a 'Pommie Sheila' one at that. I count my lucky stars everyday, this is something not every traveller will get to do....

A common sign on lavatory doors for us 'Ladies' ha 



On to the next show....

My nights were spent on the bumper cars, wandering the magnetising showground full of glow and folly, taking photography for the circus and trying to learn the more easier circus tricks aswell as sleeping on the circus stage under the big top..with the show snakes!


Trying to master the art of circus



 Behind the curtain at the circus....I helped out backstage

The life of a circus performer...

I'm making my way further down south of Queensland to Emerald to meet my friend at the end of the month, we have a job at a mandarin farm this month - in the meantime, my circuit as a 'show woman' has ended and I've pressed on to Airlie Beach after getting a nice lil bit of money for the shows.

I have my eye on a pirate ship that takes you out to the Whitsunday Islands so we'll see....hope you're all well.

Bye for now!

The Final Curtain Call....