Australia

It was a huge surprise to arrive into Sydney and be greeted by the cold wind and rain. The first two days were spent pacing the streets spotting as many sites as we could do despite the weather! Fuelled by ice creams and coffee, we walked through Darling Harbour, up to The Sydney Opera House, The Sydney Harbour Bridge and to The Botanic Gardens.

Sydney is beautiful, however filled with a cosmopolitan falseness of dressing to impress online followers, splashing cash and a large drinking culture. A pity to say behind the image, it’s a stunning city filled with culture and light. We explored more markets, watched The Superbowl in the Hard Rock Cafe on Darling Harbour and tucked into homemade gelato along the bay.

Venturing on to Hunter Valley, we passed small villages filled with charity shops and bakeries, a huge culture difference from the cosmopolitan Sydney. Stopping in a vineyard called Mount Pleasant high in the mountains, nestled among large wooden homes and miles of greenery, we sampled a large selection of delicious, fruity and dry Australian wines.

We ventured to the small town of Tamworth, the capital of country music for Australia and home to a giant golden guitar, worlds apart from the cosmopolitan Sydney the farm lands, churches and open highways make it feel much more rural and real. We played lawn bowls in the village with the locals and sat out in a gorgeous pub garden patio decorated with fairy lights. We all played a quiz and tucked into delicious steaks.

The next day was spent in the quaint seaside town of Yamba. Like Cornwall with sun, the chip shops, fudge makers and a beaten lighthouse gave the beautiful hotel even more atmosphere as we watched he sun set over the ocean after a day spent swimming in the national park waterfalls and tucking into kangaroo steak.

The next adventure was to Byron Bay. Every cliché you could imagine crammed into one divine town. Meditation and yoga classes offered in all boutique hotels, VW camper vans line the streets, positive mantras on every colourful poster that paint the shops, live music on the sand, surf shops on every corner, homemade acai bowls, kale smoothies and trendy almond milk frappes are on every bistro menu and everyone walks the streets barefooted! We swam in a tea tree lake after a going to a public BBQ on the lake and making bacon and egg muffins for breakfast. We took to the waves for a surf lesson with our long-blonde-haired, shaggy instructor, lapping along the warm waves, enjoying baked cookies in the golden sand, feeling the warm breeze and soaking up the laughter of families and friends enjoying picnics was everything dreams are made of. A delicious takeaway and free pancakes listening to a live band in the sand while the sun set on a lilac horizon was the perfect way to end the day.

The following day I saddled up on a retro, baby-blue bike and hit the road, cycling along the coast, the azure crystal waters to my left and the lush green canopy on my right, the warm breeze on my face and friendly smiles from the locals made it a perfect afternoon. Free, calm and filled with fresh air, I thoroughly enjoyed homemade mango sorbet on my return.

The journey past The Gold Coast up to Brisbane was perfect, an ocean road lined with crystal waters, golden sands and delicious coffee shops. Brisbane is the capital of Queensland and is divine. Filled with delicious restaurants and shops at every turn and a beautiful culture, Brisbane is a city with its own beach, swimming pool, Chinese temple and miniature jungle and tables with lamps that glow through the night to illuminate the families who are playing in the park and cooking on the communal BBQs. The weather is warm and as I strolled past the clock tower, witnessing the locals with vans filled with washing machines and food for the homeless and past bars with groups of friends laughing over bottled beer, I felt truly emerged in Australian, friendly culture.

Visiting Noosa and walking through the national park makes you realise your significance on earth. Hearing nothing but nature, surrounded by foliage that provides food, medicine and oxygen to us all makes you remember that all the things we worry about are pointless. Sat by the crystal ocean we tucked into Concretes, a custard ice cream mixed with toppings like raspberries, passion fruit cream, ginger crumble and honey!

We all went glamping in individual cabins, sat out around a BBQ with sausages, breads and salads and surrounded by kangaroos, the Everglades and stunning lakes, we drank beers and tucked into meat. Much needed after an eight-mile hike into Noosa national park during the first midday sun earlier. There was a triumphant thunder storm, crashes of thunder and striking lightening against a black sky. Once the showers cleared we sat around a fire toasting marshmallows and playing games.

We took a huge four wheel drive out to Fraser Island. They use the beach as a highway and the almost monster truck style bus raced down the sand, the tide inches away from us. We stopped in a crystal fresh water lake to swim before soaking up the sun on the white sand.

An overnight train in comfortable armchairs and private televisions got us to Airline beach. We climbed aboard an ex-sailing boat and travelled on a three-day voyage of the Whitsunday Islands. Seeing Whitehaven Beach, which has the purest, finest sand around. The crystal waters far bluer than anything in the Caribbean, almost clear opal against the shimmering white and dark rocks creates an idyllic setting, perhaps why they chose it as the ideal location for The Pirates of the Caribbean. Grabbing a snorkelling set, we swam out to the Great Barrier Reef, witnessing the colourful coral, the damage from monsoons, the turtles, schools of tropical fish and feeling the delightful warm water soak in to us, a delightful relief after trekking into the National Parks earlier in the forty-degree sun! Delicious meals consumed on deck with rum and star gazing at the phenomenal crystal galaxy with endless twinkling suns was a welcoming relaxation.

Another long train took us to an aboriginal tribe who made us lunch, helped us to paint our own boomerangs and taught us about their culture before we ventured to Cairns.

A final week spent in Cairns was idyllic. A quaint town with large shopping centres, a huge ziplining and animal sanctuary on top of a casino, a lagoon, beaches, incredible restaurants, night markets and quirky bars. Families spend their days having BBQs, reading in the grass, splashing in the parks, taking part in the free exercise groups on the sand and drink coffees together overlooking the stunning crystal waters set against the dense green foliage of the rainforest.

I managed to hold a koala, skydive over the Great Barrier Reef and experience some incredible once-in-a-lifetime moments. It’s wonderful how a warmer, friendly and more understanding culture can captivate you. I felt my whole body and soul slow down into a steady, rhythm. I lost the tension, the anxiety and the constant rush and boredom I feel back home. Melted away the hours of tedium of wondering how to spend cold, dull evenings trapped inside from the rain. Even the quietest domestic days in Australia doing the laundry, cooking food and watching Netflix felt relaxing and like needed rest while bathing in warmth and light instead of feeling cold, tired and bored. The locals are friendly and smile back at you, a simple t shirt and shorts is all that’s needed to walk to the local bakery for lunch. Everywhere is open and welcoming.

How do you know when you’re completely happy? When you’re in a moment and wouldn’t honestly want to be anywhere else. When you’re completely content, not wanting to go anywhere or do anything else. I can easily say I’ve felt that here in Australia more than anywhere else.

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