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DEC 2001 - JAN 2002 - FEB 2002 - MAR 2002 - APR 2002 - MAY 2002 - JUN 2002 - JUL 2002 - JUN & JUL 2003
'Welcome back Sarena'
Australia - APR 2002
'Flaming Mosquitos'
Monday 1st April 2002 The Entrance

Every one slowly emerged from their rooms in Chucky's flat and after a long goodbye we left Chucky and headed back over to Andy and Wendy's. Phil had left the day before on a flight to Cairns. Wendy cooked us some lovely porridge and then we all went for a walk along the cliff tops from their flat.

We ended up at west point where I had some fish and chips. Then we returned to the flat and said our goodbyes.

THANK YOU - WENDY, ANDY and CHUCKY for your great hospitality.

I didn't want to leave Sydney at all. It is definitely the best city we have been too so far in OZ. But we have to leave so we all jumped into Betty and headed over Sydney bridge northwards. We didn't get too far as it was already getting dark so we pulled up at a campsite in a place called, The Entrance. And went to Pizza Hut for an all you can eat dinner for 10 bucks. As it happens we couldn't eat very much - It was absolutely disgusting! Remind me never to go to Pizza Hut again.

Went for a walk with Jon around Bushy park and Hampton Court, which was beautiful, the Daffodils were amazing in the gardens of the palace. Spring is a wonderful time of year and I just loved walking around amongst the deer and sunshine. I phoned mum later in the afternoon to find out that Del wasn't doing so well so I went straight home. Mum called the doctors for the third time that week and we had a lovely doctor come round (whom was extremely good looking) he was appalled that Del had been sent home in the first place as he was still a very ill man. He called an Ambulance straight away as Del's calcium had got high again and he was showing the same signs as before. The ambulance came about 20mins later and we had a lovely couple of paramedics attend Del. I went in the ambulance with him and the female Paramedic, it was quite funny really as Del was laid on the bed whilst myself and the lady talked about firemen / any man in a uniform and good looking doctors which had us chatting like long lost friends all the way to the General Hospital!! Poor old Del having to listen to us waffle on.We arrived 20mis later and he was taken to his bed, we then had to wait for ages for a doctor who then took him down for some tests. Delphi and Rob had turned up by this time so I thought I should keep us all awake by telling funny stories from our travels. I unfortunately had them laughing quite loudly, which wasn't so good for the poor patients who were trying to get some sleep… oops

Came home quite late and emailed Toby to tell him what had happened.

Tuesday 2nd April 2002 Barrington

We left the camp site bright and early and managed to pack my tent away dry! The first time its been dry for ages. We now headed towards Adele's house in the country. Adele was a lovely, but mad, women that we met on the walk in Tasmania. She invited us to stay with her. But Clare had tried to phone but not managed to get a message through to her that we where coming.

We arrived at her house, which was empty. So popped into her work place to find she had just left. So after a brief spell looking at the local scenery in Barrington we returned to her house and waited for a few hours for her to return. Adele was very excited, and surprised, to see us and she soon had us in doors and was feeding us chips and wine. She was a little upset as she had to go out in the evening. But she insisted that we must stay and so defrosted some T-bone steaks for us to cook for tea and then walked with us to the River at the bottom of their farm where we caught glimpses of Platypuses swimming in the Dusk. Clare and Beau cooked up the Steaks, they where gorgeous. Thanks Adele.

We stayed in and watched The Matrix while Adele's son, Frank, treated us to a couple of beers. Then I tried to sleep out on the couch, but Adele's cat, Puss, hogged all the space and a Mosquito kept buzzing around my ear all night.

Del was taken to the Southants Cancer unit for some tests today. My friend Tina, who had baby Max just after we left England, came over to see me today and we went out for lunch. It was fantastic to see them both, as I didn't think I would see Max until he was about 3yrs old. She left at about 3ish and we had lots of hugs and kisses goodbye.
Mum had picked up Nicky (my brother) in the morning (lots of hugs with him!!) then went to the hospital to see Del whilst I kept my eye on Nick; she came home quite late in the evening.

Wednesday 3rd April 2002 Nambucca Heads

I was meant to wake Beau up at the crack of dawn, but after a sleepless night felt too tired to get up. Luckily Beau got up and got me out of the couch. We wanted to be up early so that we could watch the platypus in the Dawn light. Maybe we where a bit to late by the time we made it to the river as we only saw one a couple of times right at the other side of the water. Not close enough to see properly.

After some toast and tea we said our goodbyes and headed of to Nambucca Heads for the night.

We arrived at Nambucca heads by about 2pm. Its a small seaside town that has a crystal clear estuary running through it. Apparently its perfect for a spot of snorkelling. We found a great campsite on the sea front and chilled out for the rest of the day. I taught Beau one last song on the guitar as we will be going our separate ways in a few days time. So he sat around playing it whilst I updated my diary.

Phoned Sarena. Still no good news from the UK. Then I tried to phone mum but no one was in. Lastly I got through to Declan in Brisbane to let him know that I should be up there by the weekend. I'm really looking forward to seeing Damien and Declan again. Its been years since we hung out and did wheelies up and down the lane on our BMX's.

Well it was the funeral of Del's brother in Wales today which mum went to with Delphi and Rob. I stayed at home looking after Nick (he's Down syndrome encase your wandering…) Toby rang to say hello and I told him of what I had been doing the last few days. Was not as exciting as his last few days!! Mum came home really late but I had some dinner waiting for her which she was just what she needed after a long drive. She told me all about the day and how awful it was - very emotionally draining.

Thursday 4th April 2002 Byron Bay

Even though we stopped at Nambucca Heads for some snorkelling, by the morning none of us were too keen on getting wet. So instead Clare bought some eggs and bacon and fried us up some breaky on the BBQ. hmmm lovely. I got up really early and phoned Deon and then spoke to Joy and Spit to congratulate them on their engagement.

Our next stop is Byron Bay and the drive took longer than expected. We arrived at about 3 PM and booked into Clakes beach caravan park. What a bloody rip off. 30 bucks for 2 people for a night in a crappy little spot. At least it was next to the beach. We all went for a swim and I was amazed at how warm the sea water was. Byron Bay is a great beach but I can see how busy it must get with all the tourists and hippies.

We went for fish and chips in the town center after our swim then made a few phone calls back home. We will be in Brisbane tomorrow and I can't wait to see Damien and Declan.

Went to work at the Tea Shop again today then came home a wonderful cooked dinner by my adoring mother I also found out that Del's bladder cancer has now gone to his bones - it's not the normal bone cancer but unfortunately a worse kind.

Friday 5th April 2002 Brisbane

Got up pretty early and went for a walk to the lighthouse on Cape Byron, the most easterley point of mainland Australia don't you know! The views were great but a little misty in the rain. Even Beau was up early that morning and was speaking to his Mum on the phone.

We got to Brisbane really quickly as most of the roads were motorways, and not too many hills which really slow Betty down. Tonight we are staying with Beau and Clare friend Kathy who lives just outside the City, so we drove straight there.

Kathy has just moved house and now lives in a Queenslander House (on stilts) in a suburb called Oxley. We had the house to ourselves in the evening as Kath and Adam went out for a meal with some friends. So we stayed in and dog sat Belle, Adams Boxer. Beau cooked a vegetable curry and I made a copy of our video tapes of our travels around OZ for Beau and Clare to keep.

Went to work again at the teashop and had another good day's work in the kitchen.

Saturday 6th April 2002 Brisbane

Off to Damien's house today. I thanked Kath and Adam for letting me stay and jumped in Betty by 11:30 to drive across town to , The Gap. where Damien and Declan live. It only took 20 minutes but arrived at the house to hear loud music blaring out but no one home to answer the door.

After a few minutes of banging I heard. 'Ello Nipper' as Declan appeared from a neighbours house. I was so excited to see him that I had to smoke one of his cigarettes, which made me feel pretty dizzy. Robyn, Declan's pretty neighbour made me a cup of Tea, whilst Declan showed me his brand spanking new Yamaha R1 Motorbike. What a beast!

Declan then gave me a ride on his bike down to the shops where we bumped into Damien. We all agreed to buy some steaks and then headed back to the house for a late lunch BBQ. Damien hasn't changed at al over the years and is still as funny as ever. He had learnt a new party trick though and showed me his 'slipping on the floor and spilling all the cooked steaks everywhere whilst still holding the plate level' trick. It was hilarious. After we dusted off the steaks we had a good old chat about everything and nothing. I then met a few friends and neighbours of Damien and Declan and before heading out to someone's house for a few drinks. It was intended that we went for a drink in town but it ended up getting too late so we drove back to the house in the early hours of the morning.

Didn't sleep well but new It was a week today that I go back to Tobes so I was pleased about that.

Dad came and picked up Nick (my brother) to take him out for the day whilst I just did my own thing until 5.00pm when I then drove to Whitchurch to meet Danny for the evening. We had a quick drink in the Red House then went to Steve and Emma's house to congratulate them on their engagement - yep Steve and Emma whom we met up with and spent Christmas with have gone and got themselves engaged!! I'm really very very happy for them both.

Danny and I then drove to Andover and left my car at his house then went into the town centre for a few beverages. Ended up in a small pub with lots of atmosphere drinking lots of cocktails and getting quite drunk!

Sunday 7th April 2002 Brisbane

Damien has been fretting about sorting his TAX out for ages. So we all ensured that he stayed in to complete his returns and claims. Jodie, Damien's 'special friend' came round and helped him, well did it all for him. This took most of the day so I just hung around the house and chilled out.

The Afternoon got really exciting as we popped into Brisbane city centre. Damien got a haircut and then started looking for new work boots just as the shops were closing. We were about to return home when Damien got a call out to a gas leak in the south of a city. So Damien, Jodie and I headed over there. It was great to watch the master at work as he hacked open the lid of the leaking gas cylinder with a saw. I may not be a professional but I'm sure rubbing a metal blade up and down metal next to a gas leak isn't really the safest thing to do. Anyway he repaired the leak and was then called out to another job at Pizza Hut north of the city. This job was slightly easier as the owner had a key to open the lid of this cylinder. All fixed it was getting late so the 3 of us stopped for an excellent curry on the way home.

We watched a video of Danny in the morning of him diving which was really cool then I drove home and went out for some dinner with mum, nick and friends then spent the afternoon feeling a little tired …. Clare also rang and we chatted about Steve and Emma and how she has been asked to be a bridesmaid, she was really made up!

Monday 8th April 2002 Brisbane

Damien left for work really early so I spent the day tidying the van and doing washing. Declan took the day off work to look for a new job and gave me a lift into a town on his bike to fax some documentation over to the Transport Authority in Western Australia so that I could renew Betty's Tax.

Declan spent the day tidying the house and then found some job placements for the aviation fire service which got him very excited. Damien arrived home late that evening but was promptly called out again. I went with him whilst Jodie stayed at the house and cooked tea. Hmmmmm lovely potato bake. Damien and I also picked up some battered cod on the way back home.

My lovely friend Alison came down from London way to see me today. I took her to the Teashop for some lunch and then went for a stroll around Romsey before going back home at 4ish. It was really nice to see her again as I do love my mate Alison and had a fantastic day.

Tuesday 9th April 2002 Brisbane

Both Damien and Declan went to work today so I spent most of the time in the house and on the Internet I spent most of the time talking to people in the UK via the Internet and sending them pictures of myself... very weird!. There is not much to do in there house as Jodie moved out about 4 months ago. The furniture, television and fridge was all hers and the boys have yet to replace any of it. I did go for a short drive around the area. And then caught a bus into town, but just walked around for an hour and then caught the bus back again. We went to a local restaurant for dinner as they do a 2 for 1 deal on Tuesdays. I met another of Damo and Declan's mad Scottish friends, Ray, who talked non stop all night.

Toby rang today and we had a good chat and how it won't be long before I see him again!! Wahey
Then watched the funeral of the Queen Mother, don't know why really as I'm not a royal lover but couldn't turn the TV off for some reason??
Anyway then spent a while getting all my things together then spent the afternoon drooling over my Bike Mag.

Wednesday 10th April 2002 Brisbane

Not much doing today. Its great just to sit back for a few days. I had to pop down to the local police station to get them to sign a copy of my passport to be faxed over to Western Australia for their ownership records of Betty I then took a drive up to Mount Nebo behind Damien and Declan's house. Then bought some food for dinner and coked everyone a Pasta dish.

Marianne came over today and invited myself, mum, Joy, and Spit over for a farewell dinner on Friday night, which was really nice of her. Clare Bear called today to see how things were and had a good chat with her. I went and picked up my sister Rebecca from college at lunchtime so that I could spend a couple of hours with her. We went down to Ocean Village for some Harry Ramsdon chips then drove into the forest to the Bell Inn Hotel which is where I used to work when I lived down south, had a couple of drinks then took her back home.
I went out with my lovely cousin Elizabeth for the evening and had a good old chat and a laugh and lots of big hugs.

Thursday 11th April 2002 Brisbane

Spent most of the day on the computer and then drove to Mount Coot-tha and had lunch overlooking Brisbane. Then I went for a walk across the mountain and along and Aboriginal art trail.

Damien has was not on call anymore and came back from work with a huge slab of four X beer. Then Declan came home with another slab. Then the Neighbours turned up and a Friend called Grant so the evening turned into quite a session.

We trundled over to Robyn's house late in the evening as she had foolishly agreed to wax Grant's back. Robyn magically produced a platter of meat and salad and cooked us a BBQ. It was as if she knew we would all end up around her house, amazing. She started work on Grant's hairy back which seemed to take ages. Grant is organising a stag doo (bucks night in Oz) at the weekend so I think he wanted a waxed back in case he got lucky! The rest of us drunk a few more beers and didn't return home by 1 in the morning

My friend shellbo called and said goodbye …..

I went down into Romsey to buy a couple of things to take back with me i.e. horlicks and proper teabags!! Have already bought a huge pot of marmite to take back to Toby, as he is a Marmite freak… Vicky came over for a couple of hours in the afternoon for a coffee, she is the Vicky we spent Christmas with in Oz and is due to give birth in 2 weeks which is very exciting. We had a lovely afternoon chatting about the gang and Oz but it was soon time for her to make a move so it was more big hugs before she had to go. I had a phone call from Mum who was at the Hospital very upset as they had told them both he now had Bone cancer throughout his body and were going to stop treatment, he should then think about going into a hospice for the remainder of his now very short life. Mum had to phone Delphi, Del's daughter and tell her then think about telling his 94 yr old mum who had just lost her other son. I was supposed to be going out over to Sally's house for a girlie night but phone up and cancelled and then waited for mum to come home. She did not walk through the door until 8pm and was in floods of tears bless her; I just gave her a big hug and let her cry for a while. I then opened the bottle of white that I was going to have at Sally's and we sat and chatted for the rest of the evening and even got her to laugh a little.
She had planned to call Del's mum Friday night and arranged for the family to be with her when she tells her so that she is not on her own for the bad news.

Friday 12th April 2002 Brisbane

Grant stayed the night at Damien and Declan's as he didn't have to work in the morning. He invited me to go up north to the Sunshine coast for the day. SO I followed him over to his house in Betty and he drove me up to Mooloolaba for a bit of swimming and sun bathing. We then headed to Colundra for fish and chips and then back to Brisbane as we were playing indoor soccer tonight as both Damien and Grant play in league for a local Irish bar.

We were running late so I phoned Damien and agreed to meet him at the football match and asked if he could bring my trainers with him. In true Damo style he turned up seconds before kick off. I really enjoyed playing but probably wasn't much help to the rest of the team. We did win though 3-2 and it was last years champions we beat which was a bonus. I however pulled my back which has been plaguing me since September which got pretty painful by the time we had finished the game.

I followed Damo home and we stopped off on the way back to pick up some food.

Well I went down into Romsey again to purchase some bifday cards and have a mooch for a couple of hours before going back home to wait for mum. She came home at 2pm and we down to the hospital to see Del, he looked really bad and was now suffering from very bad dioreah as were all the patients in the ward, some of them were my age and younger which is always a awful thing to see. The nurse now told mum that they were not sure Del did have Bone cancer as the blood test had come back clear!! What are these people doing I ask myself, they had told Del he they were stopping treatment and was going to die in the next few days or weeks and then the next day told mum that he wasn't?? So we were back to square one again not knowing what was going on, he obviously has the Bladder and prostate cancer still but that can be treated giving him more of a chance to stay alive a lot longer, so he is still a very ill man.Delphi was mad as they are constantly messing things up; especially at the general hospital so her attitude is the NHS are shite. We all went and found the leading doctor to find out what was happening and apologised about the previous day but said he wasn't In so therefore wasn't his fault. He really does not think Del has the Bone Cancer and the talk of arranging a Hospice for him is too soon - have to wait and see.

Well came back out of hospital and mum rushed home to tell the family in Wales the news and to cancel the phone call to Del's mum telling her he only had days. Thank god, she didn't phone her the day before!!

Joy came and picked us up at 7.50pm to take us over to Marianne's and Clive's (Toby's mum and dad) we gave her a pressie and card which mum chose for an engagement gift. She started crying and giving us big hugs as only Joy would - such a kind and loving person you could ever wish to meet.
We had a wonderful evening, Marianne had cooked us a fantastic meal and we talked and laughed whilst drinking copious amounts of wine for a couple of hours, Gus (Toby's bro) was there as well. We stuffed ourselves senseless then headed for the lounge where watched some of the travel video's before heading home at midnight.

Oh forgot to mention that Clive has shaved his big ole moustache off and looks 10years younger (watch yourself Toby!!)

Saturday 13th April 2002 Brisbane

Damo gave me a lift to Kath's house where Beau and Clare are staying then the 3 of us drove into down as there was a Travel Expo on at the Convention centre. When we got there we found that they were charging money to get in so we all decided not to go in and I went for another walk around town to try and loosen my back a bit. It made no difference so I caught the bus back to Damo's and got ready for our night on the Stag Doo.

We arrived at a private bar by 6 where food was laid on and everyone played pool. Then at 8 pm some 'professional' ladies arrived and put on a show. It was very curious! They stayed around for an hour and then left, along with most of the lads. The rest of us caught Taxi's to a Hotel Bar where a friend of the Grooms was playing his guitar. The bar stayed open to 3 and I went to find a phone box to give Sarena a ring as she was catching her flight back to Brisbane this evening. I told her all about the professional ladies and how much I loved her (repeatedly) in between my drunken hiccups. I then realised that I had lost everyone else who had all gone into a nightclub so I decided to catch a Taxi home.

5 minutes after I arrived back so did Damien who was carrying Declan in.

Well today is the day and I'm nervous again, packed my bags by lunchtime so it was just a case of waiting for Dad to come and pick me up and take me to the airport!!! It was quite a sad farewell but mum was very good for not crying even though she looked like she wanted to!!

I walked through the gates and went and bought some tobacco for Beau and some body shop shampoo for Clare, and then went and sat down near my gate and wait for my plane.

 

Sunday 14th April 2002 Brisbane

Felt pretty good in the morning considering how much I had drunk the night before. That didn't last long as Damien and I caught a Taxi to Damien's Uncle's Birthday party. It was a long drive and by the end of it I was feeling pretty sick.

Uncle Paddy, is a pretty over-the-top Irish musician and Damo had warned me about him on several occasions. To begin with he was very pleasant but as he drunk more he got more and more excitable until he was pretty unbearable. Paddy had invited some very talented Irish musicians who played songs all through the party. Everyone left his party by 6pm to Paddy's tears of emotion as we all drove away in a taxi. The musicians had a gig in town so Damien and his Cousin Derek and his his girlfriend Laura and I went into town to see them play.

Derek and Laura are on holiday from Ireland and had been staying with Paddy for the last few days. We actually visited a few Irish bars and ended up at the Casino bar before heading home. I was quite keen to get to bed as I knew that when I woke up it would be time to go and pick Sarena up from the airport.

Met a lovely man called Goz who was originally from Richmond in London but now lived in Brisbane and had been in the UK for the same month as me.

He had been home to visit his mum who was getting married but then died a week later of cancer. She was feeling ill but the doctors hadn't diagnosed cancer until the very end which was of course too late......... we both thought it strange we both had been home for nearly the same things and that we lived in t he same area in London.

The rest of the flight is a blur of crap films and vague dreams.

Got into Singapore at some point and had to wait at the airport for 4hrs which was extremely boring - I ate the marmite crisps that Joy had given me to give to Toby..... well I was hungry and I had no money.......... I did save one packet for him!

Monday 15th April 2002 Brisbane

Got up nice and early and left the house at 6:30 to go and pick Beau and Clare up. The 20 minute journey to Oxley though actually took 50 minutes so I was already getting late to meeting Sarena getting of the plane. The traffic was also bad to the airport, but after employing some London taxi driver techniques I managed to get into the airport 20 minutes after Sarena's flight was due.

It was still too late as I ran into the airport clutching some banners I had written I saw Sarena sitting very solemley on the edge of a plant pot. She saw me and got up to give me a hug but the moment had been lost. Beau and Clare then turned up with all their banners they had prepared to meet Sarena with. It actually turned into quite a sad occasion and we where all so unhappy that we were late. Bugger!

Clare drove us all back to Damo's house and I picked some bacon and eggs up on the way. I cooked everyone a little fry up and then Beau and Clare left in Betty whilst I left Sarena to rest and catch up on some sleep.

Sarena was feeling pretty low. She had such a had time back at home and was feeling a little out of place being back here in OZ. We had a good chat and I think she cheered up a little.

Sarena stayed awake to great Damien and Declan and then went back to bed.

Crikey it's time to land at last and I'm getting really exciting imagining all the scenarios at the airport when I walk through the arrivals door!! hugs and tears and lots of noise.

Grabbed my bags and then declared the huge pot of marmite and some instant horlicks I had bought with me - bastards took my horlicks but thank the gods above the didn't take the Mamite.

Well this was it - I was walking through the doors and I felt like a contestant on stars in their eye's ......... and no one was waiting for me. I looked around thinking they were playing silly buggers but, no they weren't at the airport.

I went and found a quiet corner and sat on my trolley waiting for them, thinking all these awful things - they have been in an accident or I had given them the wrong arrival time. 20mins later Toby walks in but by this time the excitement and anticipation had all gone, I stood up and gave him a big hug and he just kept apologising explaining the traffic had been really bad.

A few minutes late Beau and Clare walked in with large banners all rolled up and some of my favourite popcorn. I gave them more big hugs and they showed me the banners they had made for me obviously disappointed not to have been waiting for me with them on show, they had gone to so much work bless them.

They all then took me back to where Toby was staying with Damien and Declan and had a cooked b'fast courtesy of Tobes

Clare and Beau left so that I could get some sleep - feeling very dozy now

I couldn't sleep all afternoon as my eyes would not stay shut but felt awful and frustrated. I met Damo and Declan later on that evening for a sleepy hello before heading off for bed.

Tuesday 16th April 2002 Brisbane

We went into Brisbane in the morning and decided to hire a car for a few days so that we could bomb around the area as we plan to leave next Tuesday. Sarena had also finally convinced me to see a chiropractor about my back. It was worth it I think as she seemed to understand my problem and was able to manipulate my back to relieve some of the pain. We then bought some food and Sarena cooked everyone a gorgeous chicken salad and pasta.

Had a really bad nights sleep for some reason as was awake at 3am.

Caught the bus into Brisbane town for a look around and I really like the place - we then hired out a car until Friday. I decided to cook dinner for the evening for the 4 of us but it ended up with 6 people in the end - good job I cook in large quantities!! had a really good evening and was started to feel a little better but still a bit disoriented.

Wednesday 17th April 2002 Surfers Paradise

Sarena was awake really early as she is still affected by the old jet lag. We managed to get away from Damo's by 9 and headed over to see Beau and Clare. After a cup of Tea we then headed on the freeway south towards the gold coast.

We stopped of at a theme park called Dreamworld on the way and took a ride on all their scariest rides. The first and by far the scariest was the Giant Drop this was a simple idea that hosted you up in you seat 38 stories into the air and dropped you straight onto the ground. My body fell twice as quickly as my stomach! The next ride made use of the same tower and shot you along the ground in a car at 157 km/h and up the tower. The acceleration was amazing.

The rest of the rides seemed pretty tame after the first two and we also took a cable car around the park and watched the Croc's and Dingoes pass under us.

It was 4 pm by the time we got down to Surfers Paradise on the Gold Coast. We found a great hotel on the beach front straight away and then after a lie down headed out for some nosh.

We both fancied a Mexican, luckily there was one two blocks away. unluckily it was the worst Mexican I have ever been in, the food and service was dreadful

We had decided to head down to the Gold Coast for a couple of days but would stop off on the way at DreamWorld theme park. Fantastic place and had a huge rides called the the Giant Drop and Tower of Terror which I was really looking forward to going on!

We left at 9am and went round to see Clare for a cup of tea and a catch up before heading on to the park. We parked up about 50mins later only to be confronted with the tallest ride I have ever seen - 38stories high to be precise and you could just make out the little car thing at the top where the people were sat only to be dropped a few mins later at a death deifying speed to the ground........ mmmmm was now having second thoughts about this.

We got our tickets and headed straight for the tower, as we wanted to get this over and done with straight away. We only had a short while to wait before being strapped in and told to keep our heads back when coming down, then we were going up and up and up and up oh and up some more., I couldn't believe how high this thing went. It felt very strange to be sat at the top of this thing with nothing around you and just you little legs swinging freely in the wind - the worst bit was waiting for the car to drop as they kept you up there for a couple of minutes to get the tension high, I had a dry mouth and just couldn't swallow - infact I was shitting my pants. Oh my god we were then free falling into the ground. Well I couldn't even scream as my stomach and my arse were in my mouth and it was all I could do to breath!! It was very quick but one of the scariest things I've done (so far) We undid our harness thing and stumbled out of the exit all really hyped up and wabbly - I bloody loved it. ( Click here to view video (222 kb))We then went on the Tower of terror which was a car thing that went very very fast along a track and then shooted up the side of the same tower before falling backwards - fantastic.

Spent the rest of the day walking around the park going on the most fabiest rides, didn't like the fact they had a tiger park bit with the most beautiful tigers in amongst all the tack and noise of a theme park - don't like seeing animals enclosed.

We headed down towards the Gold Coast a few hours later feeling great and found ourselves a lovely hotel before heading out for the crapiest Mexican meal I have ever had - service was dire

Thursday 18th April 2002 Brisbane

Had a great breakfast for only 10 bucks. Then took a quick walk around the shops at Surfers Paradise to pick up some sun block cream. We passed by a tourist attraction called, 'Infinity'. Curiosity got the better of us. It was quite amazing just different rooms made up of different lighting, sound effects and mirrors.

We then drove south to Burleigh heads for a quick swim. The water was so clean and calm even Sarena took a quick dip. She looked a bit like the Joker off Batman though as the sun block cream we had just bought was extremely thick. It could well of been Dulux emulsion! After we had dried off we headed back to Brisbane and Damien's house so that I could meet an appointment with the chiropractors at 5 pm.

On returning to Damen's, we received some sad news on the answer machine from Sarena's Mum. Del had passed away peacefully in the early hours of the morning after his fight with cancer. I think Sarena had very mixed emotions and was maybe thinking she should of stayed in the UK a little longer. I believe that she was at home to offer help and support to Del and Sylvia during the hardest part of Del's illness and that she has no need to regret coming back to OZ.

That evening Damien and Jodie took us into town and we took the City Cat boat along the river and around the city in the dark. It was pretty cool to see everything lit up from the river. But Sarena still suffering from jet lag started to doze of on our return trip down the river.

Slept better at last so was beginning to feel a bit more with it.

Headed down to some b'fast which was very nice and then walked around the shops for a bit to buy some Mosquito cream - that was something I didn't miss being in the UK I am now making up for lost time, or should I say the mossies are! We stopped off at a weird place called Infinity so we thought we would give it a go, it was like a big maze place which had different rooms in all filled with lasers, lights, bouncy floors and mirrors etc, special effect that tricked the eye and brain - really very funny and very clever. Had alot of fun in their for 1/2 an hour before heading back to the car and back into Brisbane.

We stopped off at a wonderful place called Burleigh Heads which was a lovely little beach with crystal clear water. We both put our sunscreen on (factor 30) which turned us into the living dead, the stuff was very very thick and would not rub in.

Later that evening Damien checked his answer machine and found a message from my mum telling me that Del had died in the early hours of the morning.....

Really didn't know how to feel apart from a little shocked, I knew he would wait until I had left England silly bugger. I phoned mum straight away and she told me not to feel bad about coming back to Oz as I had been in England with her when she needed me most, but I couldn't help feeling I should have stayed a little longer but what's done is done. Everyone around me were really sweet but I felt a little detached from everything.

Friday 19th April 2002 Brisbane

I took Sarena for drive to the top of Mount Coot-tha where we stopped for lunch with an amazing view of the city and then we drove into town to return the hire car. The weather has been amazing in Brisbane in the last few days and today was really hot. We took a walk through the botanical gardens and across a bridge to south bank where an artificial beach has been made. It was packed full of colourful and weird people lazing about in the sun. We decided to get out of the heat and went to see what must be the worst film I have ever seen. Time Machine is a remake of the old classic and it was dreadful. After the film we did a spot of shopping for tea and caught the bus back to Damo's.

That evening I went around Robyn's house and helped Declan fill out an application form on the Internet for a position with the Aviation Fire Service. This took most of the night to complete. Grant turned up later in the evening and gave a few useful comments about the application form and then we had a few beers.

Woke up feeling quite low today and sad - strange really as I had had such a bad history with my step father but he had been a part of my life since I was 15yrs old and we had buried the nasty bits in the last couple of years.

Toby took me up to Mount Coot-tha which is a lovely look out point overlooking Brisbane, absolutely beautiful. We had lunch up there as Toby had told me they did the best Potato Wedges in Oz and the chicken salad wasn't bad! It was a very hot sunny day so we went on to Brisbane town centre for me to have a look around at the false beach they have made next to the river, all very nice apart from a very strange man who was line dancing to some Country and Western music trying to attract the females- they were pissing there selves laughing!! ( click here to view video (928 kb))

We then went to the cinema to be entertained by a very bad film ' Time Machine' which I didn't find that bad, Toby found it unbearable.

Later in the evening Toby went over to Robyn's house with Declan to help fill out an application form for the Fire Service for him . Damo was out playing football so I had the house to myself so I sat and read my book for a few hours. I couldn't stop thinking of mum at home even though I knew she had friends staying with her and was getting alot of support from everyone. I had a few tears for Del wishing things had been different between us and regretting some of the things I had said to him in the past and hoping he was now in a better place (that hopefully didn't have a Thresher's off-licence!!)

Ick Dick Red Balloon............rest in peace you daft bugger

Saturday 20th April 2002 John's Landing

Off camping today. Damien had a small job to do in the morning but we managed to get everyone packed up and ready to go camping for a night by midday.

8 of us went in the end; Damien, Declan, Jodie, Robyn, Chris (Robyn's son), Zara (Jodie's flat mate), Sarena and I. We headed north towards Noosa Heads and after arriving at one camp spot we decided to head back slightly and stay at a bush camping spot near a river and lake called John's Landing. It was an actual campsite run by a farmer and was pretty busy but we found a good spot away from everyone else. The Mosquitos where terrible though. We were instantly covered in them as soon as we opened the car window. Even the Repellent spray and smoky fires couldn't keep them away. The boys went hunting and gathering for wood whilst the girls prepared food.It was hard work driving around in Damo's 4wd looking for wood and dodging the mossies. But we collected some wood and then bought 6 dollars worth from the farmer.

The Mossies didn't leave us alone and the only cure we discovered for the problem was Four X Beer and Bundaberg Rum with Cola. It seemed to work.

I hoped to get loads of photos of our camping but the battery ran out on the camera. Bugger.

Well what a funny old morning, we had all decided to go camping for the weekend - me, Toby, Damien, Declan, Robyn and her son Chris, Jody and her friend Zara. It was really funny watching the boys try and get themselves sorted out with everything - very funny.

We eventually got away at lunchtime in two cars on our way to Noosa Heads where Chris had said was a great campsite. We arrived later that afternoon and found a cool place by a huge lake, looked all very nice until jumping out of the van and being swarmed with billions of mosquito's who ate everyone alive - Bastards We all covered ourselves with repellent and I then got changed quickly into my fatigues and net hat much to everyone's amusement!! they bit us through our clothes though.

We set up the tents then the men went gathering wood, taking the 4wd with them as they obviously couldn't carry wood for any distance..... the girls tucked into the beer whilst preparing the food we had purchased on the way there. It was dark by the time the men came back with the wood so we weren't best pleased especially when we saw all the wood in tied bundles, obviously been bought from the farmer bloke!!

The evening was a great success - beer drinking, belching and farting etc and that was just the girls! had some great nosh then went to bed with my ear plugs as the others stayed up for most of the night.

Sunday 21st April 2002 Brisbane

Everyone was up pretty early and Damo did the trick by cooking us breakfast whilst everyone else packed up the tents. We then headed into Noosa for a spot of swimming in the sea. Actual Noosa was too packed with tourists so after a quick gaze at a Koala in a tree we headed onto a beach town called Peregrain. It was pretty deserted and after a quick game of kick the footy ball around we dived into the sea.

We then had a BBQ and cooked the rest of the Bacon. But everyone else bought there own food from the town so Damo and I shared the half kilo of Bacon. Yummmmmm. Sarena counted 42 Mossie bites on me but I then found another 6. 48 Bites! Bloody Mossies.

After lunch we headed back home and returned to find an old village friend of Damien, Declan's and mine at the house. Debbie Ablett is spending a few weeks travelling around Oz with her friend Gail and have popped into Brisbane for a week.

Tomorrow is our last day at Damo's so I decided to try and organise an Indian meal for tomorrow and get everyone to meet Beau, Clare, Kathy and Adam

I got up early to find Chris sitting in the sun reading his book, so I got dressed and joined him. I was reading a fantastic thriller that I was coming to the end of and just couldn't put down, Silence of the Lambs kind of thing. I then sat there for a couple of hours whilst everyone worked around me making b'fast etc - I had to finish the book but felt bad for not helping.... oh well, finished the book though and I was bloody right all along about who the killer was!!

After b'fast of half a pig we packed the tents away and headed down a wonderful beach in Noosa where the rest of them stripped off and went for a swim, I went for a walk around the town and listened to some live music. The sea looked a bit rough for me and I hate walking around in a bikini with lots of people around. I came back from my walk to find them cooking yet more bacon on the Public BBQ's they always have everywhere - Toby and Damo ate 1/2 a kilo of bacon between them - I'm sure Toby has worms as his appetite has got huge since I left him last.......

We were all tired after that so headed back home to find Debbie and Gail at the house. They were friends of Damo's and had arranged to stay with him for a while whilst they travel around. We had McDonalds for dinner and once again Toby surprised me with the amount of dinner he had after saying he wasn't hungry .......... mmmmm I think a poo test is coming on again.

Monday 22nd April 2002 Brisbane

Lazy day. Just washing and organising ourselves for our return to travelling OZ in Betty. We will be back on the road tomorrow with Beau and Clare and heading up to the Great Barrier Reef and Cairns.

Damo dropped me at he Chiropractors on the way to work in the morning. I then caught up on a few weeks work of missing diary entries and sorted out all my travelling stuff.

I invited a few people to go out for an Indian Meal in the evening and was quite surprised that 15 turned up. Beau and Clare came along with Kath and Adam whom they were staying with. It was a great evening and a good way of saying goodbye to everyone. Jodie and Damien even bought us some going away presents. The little tikes it should of been us that bought the presents.

After the meal we headed over to Kath's and Adams house for the night so that we could get an early start for our journey up towards Cairns.

Thanks Damien and Declan for letting us stay at your house. It been great to see you both again and to meet all your friends in OZ.

Woke up early and read my book for a couple of hours whilst Toby went and had his back done again. Waited all morning to ring my mum but couldn't wait any longer and called her at 5.45am UK time to wish her a happy birthday- little tike had already opened my card and pressie that I had left in the draw for her - after a rendition of happy birthday from the both of us I had a quick chat with her to find out how things were.

I then spent the day sorting out my stuff and packing ready to be on the road again the next day! The four amigo's are hitting the road travelling up North for some more fun and laughs and I was really looking forward to spending some time with Clare Bear as we hadn't even caught up since being back in Oz.

Damo and Declan came back from work early so that they could get themselves ready for the dinner we had planned for the evening, a meal at an Indian restaurant for all both sets of parties. Beau and Clare were coming over to the house so we could load the van up with our stuff and say hello to the two boys. We were late down the restaurant as but we all made it in the end!! It was nice to get Clare and Beau's mates (Kath and Adam) to meet our lot, they all got on really. Damo presented us both with a bottle of champagne and then Jodie gave us a pressie and card which was really very kind of them, it should have been the other way around!

It was a lovely meal and before long it was time to say our goodbye's, so it was hugs and kisses all round and off we went with Kathy back to her house for the night. Toby was really upset about leaving his mate bless him.

Tuesday 23rd April 2002 Caloundra

Got up pretty early but had to spend some time sorting Betty out and re packing her. But we managed to get on the road by 8 am. Waved off by Kath who had made us all a packed lunch. 10 minutes into our journey Sarena had eaten her lunch and we were heading for Australia Zoo, home of the Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin.

We got to Australia Zoo by 10:30 and managed to spend most of the day there watching the snake show and Crocodile feeding. The zoo seems fairly new and they are expanding it thanks to the immense income Steve Irwin has generated by selling his show to the UK and US (The Aussies aren't too keen on him). Fair Dinkum! so there was a lot of new developments being made. Sarena's favourite part of the Zoo was the Kids Zoo and it was very hard to pull her away from the little piglets.

We managed to separate Sarena and the piglets eventually and after we had walked around the rest of the Zoo we headed to the nearest town, Caloundra and camped up for the night at a really nice campsite on the sea front. Beau and Clare have worked out and exercise regime whilst they have been staying in Brisbane and it wasn't long before they got some weights out of the van and started pumping iron in the campsite. You won't catch me doing that. We had a BBQ that evening. I have seemed to of developed an appetite since staying with Damien and Declan and ate everything in sight.

Woke up early ready to pack up the van and get on the road we said out goodbyes to Kath and Adam. She had packed us some lunch for the day which was really very sweet, then we were on the road. First stop - Australian Zoo which is home to Steve Irwin and his wife and daughter. Had a great day wondering around watching crocodile demo's and touching huge snakes. They had quite a few different variety of animals and birds as well but one of the best bits was the kangaroo's which hopped around that you could touch and pet as they were rescue one's and the' kids zoo' which had little baby pigies and baby cow's and baby goats and sheep. All of which you could feed and touch - this was obviously for the kids so that they could get to touch and pet the animals but I pushed them all of the way so that I could scratch the ickle piggies tummies which they seemed to love - I want one!!!!

After winging for a few mins about the necessity of having a pig we carried on with the rest of the Zoo. We saw the biggest snake we have every seen in our lives in one of the cages that had to be 10feet long had a girth of a medium sized tree.

We were on the road again in the afternoon and found a lovely little campsite on the sea front. Us girls left the men to set the tent up whilst we went to the supermarket to bye some BBQ food and general bits. Beau and Clare then did some exercises with the weights they had bought with them from Kath's house before settling down to some good tucker.

Wednesday 24th April 2002 Rockhampton

Left very early. We were up and packed away by 6 as we had a long drive and wanted to do most of it in the cooler weather, plus it gets dark here by 5:30pm so we need to get camped up while we can still see what we are doing.

We took it in turn to drive 2 hours each. Sarena drove first after which we stopped for a break and I had a huge fired breakfast. Fatty! then I drove, after which I retired to the bed at the back of the van as my back was starting to play up from sitting in Bettys crappy seats.

We got to Rockhampton by 3:30pm and set up camp. Then we all went to the local 50m pool for some intensive swimming. By the time we returned to the campsite night was setting in and the sand flies were out in full force. Everyone could feel themselves getting bitten but it was very hard to see the culprits. I looked a right nob dressed head to toe in green with white socks pulled over my trouser bottoms to stop the attack. But who cares I had enough bites from our bush camping with Damien and Declan.

Packed the van up and were on the road for 6am which was pretty damn good and headed off for Rockhampton which we estimated taking 10hrs. I did the first 2hr shift then stopped for some coffee and Toby ate a massive b'fast before swapping drivers and heading off again. It only took about 8hrs not including the stop's for food which was really good going, we found a campsite for that evening which seemed quite nice.......... We all got completely bitten to death by sand fly's - evil little bastards that are the size of a pin head but the jaws of a lion! We went and found a local swimming pool which was really very nice and Beau and Clare taught me how to swim properly. I have never been a good or confident swimmer and have always wanted to do the breast stroke and front crawl properly. So I spent a good hour just learning how to breath out under the water and timing my breathing. We went back to the campsite only to be bitten even more by the fly's, Clare and Beau did some weights before going to bed.

Thursday 25th April 2002 Airlie Beach

Another early start, but we didn't have quite so far to drive today to get to Airlie Beach at the Whitsunday islands. After the first 2 hour drive I got myself another huge fried breakfast. Fatty! I also spent the whole trip lying in the back of the van. We arrived at Airlie beach by 1:30 and parked in town to do some exploring.

The coast line here is amazing as we are staring to get into a tropical climate. The sea is a pure blue and the landscape nothing but trees. On the seas horizon we can see the paradise islands of the Whitsunday's and can't wait to go and explore them. Just beyond the islands lies the Great Barrier Reef so as you can imagine Airlie Beach has become one massive travel agency offering sailing and diving tours. It is a lively place full of backpackers.

We booked a 3 day sailing trip around the Island for Monday and then found a secluded campsite right in the centre of town. The campsite is also inhabited by huge Goana lizards that stroll around the place visiting everyone. Some of them must be up to 5 feet long, quite scary as I'm sure they will join us in the tent before long.

Sarena phoned home as it is Del's funeral today and we both wanted to check that Sylvia was Ok.

The downside of being in Airlie beach at this time of year is that you can't swim in the perfect sea off the mainland as the deadly Box Jellyfish will have you. To overcome this the bods of Airlie have built a huge fresh water lagoon at the waters edge so that everyone can chill out all day long. Its free and just like staying at a 5 star hotel. I went for a swim there and then we all headed out for a beer as a remembrance to Del whose funeral it was today back in the UK.

Oh dear we all notice some nasty red patches all over us and we informed they will soon come out into nasty bites!!

We once again got up early and were on the road for Airlie Beach at the Whitsunday's. Wasn't such a long drive today but Toby had another one of his giant b'fasts - porker. Arrived just after lunch to the most wonderful and pretty town I had seen in Oz, we parked up and walked around the town for a good old look around. It is extremely tropical - palm trees, crystal water, white yachts, blue sky, lush greenery. We booked up a 3 day/2nights trip on a yacht for a trip around the islands, snorkelling included.

We then found a wonderful campsite situated in the town and set up the tent, whilst doing this though I noticed a huge lizard thing walking around amongst the vans etc - couldn't believe the size of the thing!! I phoned my mum to see how she was, it was the funeral today.

We went off exploring and found a lagoon situated by the sea which is bloody wonderful, you can't swim in the sea because of the box jelly fish that are around this time of year. It is all open to the public and has all the facilities you need out in the open - showers and changing rooms etc. I couldn't believe how darn lovely everything is and how it's just open to everyone........

We went out in the evening to have a drink as a little remembrance for Del - maybe not a good choice of remembrance as he was an alcoholic which in turn caused the cancer - where's the irony in that then..........but it did make me smile a little.

Friday 26th April 2002 Airlie Beach

Had a bit of a lay in and then Sarena and I went for a swim in our luxury lagoon before purchasing some croissants and heading back to the campsite for breakfast. What a life. On returning to the campsite Clare showed us her bites that she had got from Rockhampton a few nights before from the sand flies. They had now swollen up and she was absolutely covered in them from her feet all the way up and over her face. Nasty!. The others then went of into town and I popped town the road in Betty to get some camping supplies and gave a hitchhiker a lift back into town.

I met up with the others relaxing around the Lagoon and then spent most of the day there. We booked up a boat trip to Hook Island for tomorrow evening as there is a full moon party on the beach there which should be fun. Sarena and I got a bite to eat in town. Then we all took in some of the evening entertainment in the bars down the main street.

Toby and I went for a early morning swim in the lagoon and I practiced my new swimming technique for an hour before getting some yummy stuff from the bakers for b'fast. Poor old Clare now looked like a freak as she was covered in massive bites - 160 on the last count mostly on her legs but quite a few were on her face, she looked like she had chicken pox.

Toby went off to get some bits for Betty whilst the 3 of us went and sat down by the lagoon and I had another swim, I then went shopping for some pretty things to wear instead of the travel gear I always have on and found a really pretty skirt.

We booked up for a full moon party for the next evening, Beau didn't want to come. I went shopping again as I wanted a new top now to go with my pretty skirt....... Me and Tobes had something to eat before went out on the town and watched people run around doing games to win prizes, I really think I'm getting old - looking around me watching people getting drunk and making fools of themselves just doesn't appeal to me! we were all ready for our beds by 9.30pm!

 

Saturday 27th April 2002 Airlie Beach

Spent most of the morning updating our website and dodging the huge green ants that are insistent on climbing up my legs. After a quick swim in the afternoon Sarena, Clare and I got dressed up (ish) and caught a boat to Hook Island for a full moon party.

The party wasn't much but it was good to go out at night and sail around the islands under a full moon. After watching a few party games, dancing to a band and chatting to a character who I called Greg, Sarena called Craig and Clare called Ray we caught the boat back to the mainland and returned to our tent at about 4:30 am.

I once again went shopping as I hadn't found a pretty top but after a morning of looking I found a rather expensive one which I just happen to purchase, oops.

I then went swimming with my man and came back to get ready for our big night out. I wore my new pretty things and we headed down to the pick up point and taken to the boat which was to transport us to the party island. The boat trip under the full moon and warm air was lovely but the rest of the night was a bit crap for me, either I'm getting too old or people are becoming more immature - mostly men! my god blokes are such cocks. They strutt around like peacocks then get pissed and grope anything that moves then just do stupid dares and act like kids. The Ozy men in particular I find the most unappealing as they are so cocky and brash, anyway it wasn't all bad and we did have a dance and a laugh, Clare even did some limboing which was funny. We make friends with a bloke whom I thought was called Craig but Clare had been calling him Ray and Toby had been calling Gregg all night! must have thought we were right arses but he was quite drunk so hopefully didn't notice.

We were all pleased when it was time to head back to the boat- we didn't get back to our tent until 4.30am and were all knackered.

Sunday 28th April 2002 Airlie Beach

Didn't do a lot today, just uploaded the new website and then organised stuff for our little sailing trip around the Whitsunday's that we will be doing for a few days from tomorrow.

Went for a swim with Clare in the lagoon for a couple of hours practising my new swimming technique then sorted out our things for the sailing trip.We also put our valuables in a safe for a few days.

Monday 29th April 2002 Whitsundays

Up nice and early, and headed off to park Betty up for a few days whilst we sail around the Whitsunday's. Oh dear. She's not starting. a flat battery from using her lights for a few days and not starting her. She started pretty easily from a push down the road though. So we headed to the Marina for a Coffee and waited for the skipper of the Atlanta a 54ft classic timber schooner to meet us.

It was Mat the Deck hand who met us at the Cafe at the Marina with 5 other people who are sailing on Atlanta with us The boat was cool. Unlike most of the others that offer trips around the Whitsunday's this is a classic boat made just as she would of been 200 years ago (except for the engine). Whilst waiting for the Skipper, Laurie, Mat told us that Laurie had built the boat completely by himself and has sailed around the world twice. So as you can expect Laurie is a real character and when he arrived looked just as you would expect for a hardened sailor. Totally passionate about the sea.

Unfortunately after a week of completely calm weather it is now blowing a strong southerly wind which is causing quite a swell on the sea. Laurie decided to use the engine and take us south to the famous Whitehaven beach for the night and then spend the next couple of days sailing north around the islands and back to Airlie Beach. The ride was rough and I think everyone was feeling very sick. The dish washer girl was very bad and spent the whole time at the back of the boat throwing up into plastic bags. We did get a bit of relief as we stooped in calm waters off Hook Island for lunch. But this made it twice as bad as we hit rough seas again with full bellies.

The waters along Whitehaven beach where a lot calmer so we managed to feel a bit more at ease. We all headed to this world famous beach for a stroll most got a lift in the Dingy but I decided to swim to shore with two Canadians, Paul and Kathy. So I donned a Stinger suit to prevent any Jelly fish getting me a jumped into the warm blue ocean. The sand on beach was amazing it is pure white and apparently 99% Silicon, although I can't quite remember the actual percentage that was quoted to me. It was just like a very soft fine powder and the best thing about it was that it didn't stick to you and get in all the places that normal irritating sand tends to get.

Whilst we where on shore Mat cooked us up some marinated Steaks on the ships BBQ. Hmmmmm my stomach was more settled now and it tasted great. There were a few showers in the evening so we spent most of the time below deck and making friends with everyone on board, Paul and Kathy (Canada), Lauren (Canada), Katrina (Sweden), Majiana (Switzerland), Dishwasher Girl (Israel), Beau and Clare (UK) and Sarena (Another Planet). Katrina taught us a new card game which is very simple and very funny after a few beers.

Packed up our gear double quick and then couldn't get Betty started so after a big push from us we jump started her out of the caravan park - thank god it was only a flat battery....

We waited at the Marina Cafe and had a bacon butty with large coffee thinking this would calm my nerves as I'm not a great lover of being on the sea thanks to the marine life waiting with glee to eat me as soon as I place my toe in the water - or so I fear...

Anyway we were finally taken to our 54ft schooner thing which looked like something from an old classic pirate film that didn't look like it should be on the water. Beau thought it was absolutely wonderful and kept telling us girls how lucky we were to be on a classic boat rather than one of the white sleek beautiful boats we were parked next to. Clare and I just looked at eachother and were not convinced especially when we were shown our bunks and the rather small lavatory. After waiting for an hour with Matt, a lovely young man who had an uncanny resemblance to a mutual friend of ours - Keith Godfrey.

There were 12 people altogether including the skipper, Laurie and his helper, Matt.

Laurie was a man of the sea, he had been on it all his life and had sailed around the world, twice! once in the very boat he had built himself and were now on ourselves.

. It was then we realised we were on a very special boat and soon settled down for our first sail of the day. The weather wasn't very good so the sea was a bit rough and windy which meant we all started feeling icky in the first hour... the poor Israeli girl who was the washing up person in exchange for 3 days free sailing was actually the only one who actually sick for the whole day which we all thought quite funny. We stopped off for a wonderful lunch that was rustled up Matt in some calmer waters before heading off to the first island - Whithaven Beach. Nearly everyone put on the stinger suits provided, as the jellyfish were out and about, we were then transported over to the beach by dingy. Toby decided to swim all the way trying to look like something out of a James Bond movie but ended up looking like a half drowned rat crawling onto the beach to join me......

The beach was wonderful but the sand was the finest sand I have ever seen - it was 99% silicone and was like sitting on flour. We stayed on the beach for a while taking in the scenery and watching the sun go down before Laurie came and picked us back up and took us back to the boat for a wonderful dinner of steak and salad with jacket potatoes, yummy. Everyone seemed to get on quite well even though I made no effort to talk to anyone and left them all playing cards whilst I went up on deck to look at the stars and drink some beer.

Tuesday 30th April 2002 Whitsundays

What a rough night. A storm blew in so the boat was rocking pretty bad all night it was also pouring down so we had to keep the port holes closed which meant that it got very stuffy below deck. Needless to say no one got much sleep.

Mat served up a great breakfast of cereals, porridge and fruit salad. Then we raised the sails and blew ourselves over to a secluded Bay at Border Island. The water was much calmer here but the wind was still really hard, which was a shame as Laurie keeps a hang-glider on the island and when the winds not this strong he takes out and flies around with the resident Sea Eagles. When the waters not churned up like today this bay is also the best place for reef snorkelling in the Whitsunday's. It was still really good though, loads of fish and colourful coral, it must be amazing in still waters with good visibility. The highlight of the snorkel was, George, a resident Great Wrasse that always comes out for a swim with the snorklers. He seemed massive through my mask and it was quite scary to have this massive fish swim straight at you.

Mat picked us all up in the dingy and took us back to the boat, but 40 meters away from the boat the dinghies motor cut out. Mat shouted to Laurie on deck that he was out of petrol. Laurie seemed to go frantic and shouted for us all to jump in and swim back to the boat. I wasn't sure if he was joking or not but after a couple of people jumped in I followed then looked back to see that everyone else was still in the Dingy so decided to carry on swimming to the boat. As I got to the boat I could hear the motor of the dingy start up so I looked back to see a few people left in the boat but no Sarena. Sarena who is terrified of the sea had also jumped in and was now clinging to the Beau's back for dear life. I instantly felt extremely stupid for not staying with Sarena and very grateful to Beau for keeping an eye on her and helping her to swim against the tide and back to the boat. How guilty am I going to feel now for the next 24 hours. VERY!!!

I am in big trouble and rightly so but I never would of thought that Sarena would be one of the few that jumped in. I got the angry face for the rest of the day. My only option was to stay at the other end of the boat from Sarena and apologise everytime we bumped into each other. After another great dinner from Mat and Laurie I retired sheepishly to my bunk.

Cripes what a night! a big old storm came in the night and was rocking the boat up right onto it's side and pounding up with rain which leaked through the port holes. Matt cooked up a fab b'fast which everyone devoured with gusty whilst I just had some fruit and played safe........... We then headed off to our next island called Border Island, the weather was really poo so the waves were bloody horrendous we were all hanging on to something for fear of falling in. I was sat at the back and watched as the dingy we were towing would be higher than the boat at one moment then you couldn't see it the next as it was so far below us because the waves were so big. Clare was sat to the left of me clutching a bag as she felt so bad and I had the dishwashing girl sat to the right of me chucking up for all of in another bag. We soon made it to Border Island where we dropped our anchor and decided to do some snorkelling in the bay where the water was a little quieter I thought I would give it a go again even though I was shitting a brick again! and was soon fitted in my stinger suit and some snorkel gear headed off for the reef. Matt had told us about the resident fish called, George who lived in that vicinity which completely put the poo in me as he was supposed to be HUGE!

He dropped me off in some calmer water away from George and in I jumped feeling very apprehensive but determined. Well I did my bit swimming around looking at lots of small and pretty fish and some stunning coral, I kept swallowing a huge amount of sea water and started to feel a little sick so asked to be put back on the dingy. Matt hauled me on very un-lady like and we waited for all the others to finish doing there snorkelling. After about 10mins we picked up everyone else and headed back towards the boat, but trouble came upon us when the dingy ran out of petrol about 40metres away and we were told to jump and swim for it before the dingy was swept out to sea on the tide. Well of course I bloody jumped as did most of the others around me and before I knew it I was swimming in the sea and not very well! It was quite rough and the waves were coming over my head, I unfortunately swallowed some water and started coughing which completely panicked me. Luckily I looked up and Beau had turned around and come back for me, put me on his shoulders and swam me back to the boat. I don't think I have ever been more pleased to see someone in my life and as far as I'm concerned he saved my life as I would not have made it back to the boat on my own. Toby was waiting on deck ready to hall me up on board, I was shaking all over and felt very emotional. I was angry at Toby for leaving me and swimming off knowing I wasn't a very good swimmer and couldn't believe he just jumped off the dingy without seeing what I was going to do first! I gave Beau a huge hug and thanked him from the bottom of my heart as this was the second time he had helped me out in the water and I was immensely grateful. As for
Toby he skulked off to the other end of the boat and stayed there for a few hours feeling very bad.........I wasn't very angry with him just surprised as it was so unlike him to leave me in that kind of situation, I wouldn't have dreamt of leaving him on his own if the roles had been reversed.

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