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Mission Beach: Let’s Jump Out of a Plane

Mission Beach: Let’s Jump Out of a Plane

Welcome to the Jungle

Next on our East Coast trip was Mission Beach. A stretch of beach where the Rainforest meets the Great Barrier Reef. Most popular among backpackers for sky diving – the only place along the East Coast where you are guaranteed to land on the beach.

With that in mind, we had booked our sky dives for the morning after we arrived in Mission Beach. On our first night, we headed straight to the hostel. Having not looked into any of the hostels we’d booked we had no idea what we would be walking into. As it happens ‘Jackaroo’ can be found in the middle of the rainforest, a fairly long drive from the nearest town. Hosting spiders, frogs, mosquitos and other exotic animals alongside a steady flow of backpackers. We met up with our friends (who weren’t too happy about our hostel recommendation) and made a big pot of pasta. We spent more time swatting flies away from our food than we did eating it.

After dinner, we decided to explore the hostel grounds. With our phone flashlights on, we headed into the rainforest in search of spiders, bats, and frogs. We were not disappointed and met loads of native Australian creepy crawlies. When the boys started poking the web of a huge spider I decided it was time to head back to the relative safety of the hostel lobby. Seeing as we had our alarm set for 5 am we decided to try and have an early night, despite the constant background noise of buzzing insects.

Sky Dive Day

Morning came around and I woke up a strange combination of excited and terrified. My first problem; what do you wear to jump out of a plane?! After finding something that seemed appropriate we went and waited to be picked up by the mini van to take us to the Skydive Australia office. Once we had signed our lives away, been paired with an instructor and got the equipment sorted we were sent on another bus to meet the plane. On this journey, we got to see a wild Cassowary holding up traffic in the middle of the road. These endangered species are a rare sighting in the wild despite being more common in the North of Australia.

We eventually reached the small airfield where our plane was waiting to take us 14,000ft into the sky. The plane seemed far too small and lacking in seats to fit all of us along with our instructors inside.

Lets jump out of a planelets jump out of a plane
It turns out we had to sit on the floor of the plane. I ended up being the last to get in; putting me just centimetres away from the plastic sheet which functioned as the plane door. As we made our ascent my instructor would occasionally open the door and stick his head out to see the view. Luckily I was more excited than scared and in awe of the view below.

lets jump out of a plane

lets jump out of a plane

Time to Jump

As we reached a point which I thought must be close to 14,000 ft our pilot declared the half way point to our jumping spot. But somehow I was still less nervous and more excited about throwing myself out of a plane. Eventually, it was time to jump. From the moment we had booked the skydive I was sure I wanted to be the first to jump, not wanting to see everyone before me fall from the plane. Luckily, as I was the last person on the plane it also meant I would be the first person off.

With my harness secured and my instructor saying his final words of encouragement, I sat with my legs hanging out of the plane. Before I could even think about it, we were freefalling. After what felt like seconds the parachute opened and we were momentarily pulled back up. The rest of the sky dive was spent gently drifting back down to Earth. Admiring the view of the Great Barrier Reef below and taking in the unbelievable silence that surrounded us.

lets jump out of a planelets jump out of a planelets jump out of a planelets jump out of a planelets jump out of a plane
Not long after I successfully landed on the beach Sam’s sky dive also came to an end. Although I felt absolutely fine free falling from a plane I felt a huge adrenaline rush when I reached solid ground. I was thankful to be able to sit down soon after.

Later that day it was our friends turn to do their jump. By this time we had gone back to the hostel to chill on the hammocks and have some lunch. That afternoon, we all reunited in the hostel before our friends caught their greyhound up to Cairns. We had one more night in the jungle before our final Greyhound journey to Cairns. Our last evening in Mission Beach was very chilled, we sat outside watching the sunset as the creepy crawlies came out to play. We called it a night when a gecko climbed up Sam’s leg; retreating to the safety of our dorm room.

Brisbane: Queensland’s Capital City

Brisbane: Queensland’s Capital City

From Surfer’s Paradise, our Greyhound took us an hour North into Brisbane. Despite this city being the capital of Queensland, it has only recently developed into a city.

We had 4 days to explore this city, including one day dedicated to the World famous Australia Zoo. Unfortunately, most of our time in Brisbane was met with rain and cold evenings.

Getting Brizzy With It

We checked into our hostel in the afternoon and headed to the bar next door called the Guilty Rogue for a cheap meal and drink. While sat here we discovered that the whole of Brisbane’s CBD provides free WiFi! We decided to go on an evening walk around the city to see what it was like at night. We ended up strolling around playing Pokemon Go because everywhere seemed dead.

On our first full day, we explored the city. Our hostel was nothing special but did mean we were in a prime location to walk around the city. We looked round some of the shops, saw the City Hall and went through the botanical gardens. If you follow the botanical gardens along the riverfront you’ll eventually get to a bridge which takes you over the Brisbane river to South Bank. Brisbane’s cultural centre is where you can find a man-made beach, art galleries, museums, theatres and restaurants. We went to the Gallery of Modern Art and walked alongside the river, with an impressive view of the cityscape.

Brisbane Botanical Gardens

Brisbane South Bank

Brisbane GOMA

After a few hours of walking, we felt a lot more orientated and headed back to the hostel. Stopping for street food on the way. That evening we had a couple of drinks at the Guilty Rogue where our hostel got us a discount on all food and drinks. There was music bingo going on so we decided to stay and play that for the night.

Mount Coot-Tha

We had heard that Mount Coot-Tha was worth a visit when in Brisbane so the following morning caught a bus straight there. The 20-minute journey from the city centre gave us a chance to see the city from a different angle. The bus takes you straight to the lookout at the top, with incredible views of the city and surrounding areas. Despite it being a cloudy day we could still see fairly far out of Brisbane. There is also a cafe and restaurant up there if you fancy getting a drink or something to eat.

We opted to go on a hike around Mount C00t-Tha, heading first for JC Slaughter Falls. This 500m walk takes you down from the lookout, supposedly to a waterfall. Unfortunately, we discovered that the waterfall had dried up after spending an hour walking up and down the track trying to find it.

We walked another 500m back to the lookout with the intention of getting the bus back to the city. However, I got optimistic and decided it was a good idea to walk to the Mount Coot-Tha botanical gardens at the base. This walk was a bit further than I anticipated and our legs were aching by the time we reached the bottom.

Brisbane Mount Coot-Tha

Mount Coot-Tha Botanical Gardens

Once we had reached the bottom we decided to have a look around the botanical gardens. It was completely free to walk around and featured a variety of different sections. We had a look around the rose garden, took in the smells of the herb garden and walked around the succulents garden. There is also a pond which attracts loads of wildlife and is covered with lily pads and bright flowers. Near the succulents, there is a big tropical dome which is free to go inside and explore the humid, tropical rainforest within. As well as all of this there is also a Japanese garden, sub-tropical rainforests and plenty of wildlife to spot.

Brisbane Tropical Dome

The Australia Zoo

As much as I don’t like the idea of zoos and animals in captivity, I decided that Australia Zoo was a must. With the Greyhound Coach stopping at the zoo and then continuing up to Noosa later that day it was so easy to get to. We left early in the morning and arrived at the zoo for the opening time. Having already got our tickets we walked straight in and had an entire day to explore Steve Irwin’s legacy.

The Zoo was pretty big, meaning the animals had good sized cages. Our first stop was the Otter enclosure. We arrived at the perfect time to watch them get fed. Unlike anything I had ever seen before, these otters had to work for their fish. The zoo keepers had managed to train the otters to stand on their back legs, on a body board in the water and catch their fish! After surfing otters, it was going to take a lot to impress me.

There were all the usual native Australian animals, including Steve Irwin’s speciality… Crocodiles. There definitely wasn’t a shortage of crocodiles in this zoo. The good thing is that most of them had been rescued, either by Steve himself or his team. Not only were these huge creatures on display in the zoo, but they also played a part in the midday show. This takes place in the ‘crocoseum’, an outdoor arena. Here the zoo keepers and animals come together to put on a show every day to hundreds of guests. Sometimes it’s Steve Irwin’s wife or daughter who runs the show!

Brisbane Australia Zoo

 

Brisbane Australia Zoo

Brisbane Australia Zoo

After a full day at the zoo, we were definitely ready to leave, having walked around its entirety at least twice. We got on the Greyhound as the zoo began to close and got comfortable for the short journey to Noosa.

Port Macquarie: Moving On Up

Port Macquarie: Moving On Up

Heading Up The Coast

When we started our East Coast trip back in July 2016 our first stop was Port Macquarie. This stop, around 6 hours on the Greyhound from Sydney, is often missed by backpackers eager to get to Byron Bay. However, in our 3 days here we squeezed in a lot of what this small beach town has to offer and were sad to leave so soon.

Our 6 pm departure from Sydney saw us arriving in Port Macquarie at around midnight. Just a short walk from the bus station brought us to Ozzie Pozzie, the beach themed hostel we would be calling home for the next few nights. The reception was closed but a small envelope with our room key was in a prearranged hiding place for our arrival. Being the first and only people in the hostel room we quickly claimed the bottom bunks and went straight to sleep before a day of exploring this unknown town.

Ozzie Pozzie Hostel
Ozzie Pozzie Hostel

The Port Macquarie Koala Hospital

That morning we woke up early and headed to reception to introduce ourselves and see what there was to do in Port Macquarie. Luckily, there was plenty to keep us busy for the next three days so we quickly got ready and walked to the beach front. Although July is considered one of Australia’s coldest months and by no means peak season the 5 kilometres of beaches between the town centre and the popular lighthouse were still picturesque and inviting. After strolling along a few of the bays we decided to head inland to discover the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital.

Port Macquarie Beach

This free sanctuary for rescued koalas is home to a range of furry tree huggers too injured to be released back into the wild as well as some in recovery who will be reunited with their koala friends. There are many cute koalas who are partially or completely blinded by Chlamydia which is a common disease that affects their eyes. As well as this, Koalas are commonly injured by bushfires and cars. Although this hospital helps save the lives of hundreds of koalas it also teaches of the damage humans are doing to koala populations which have massively depleted in the past few decades.

Port Macquarie Koala Hospital
Koala Hospital

After meeting these real life teddy bears we headed back to the hostel to have a classic backpacker dinner of pasta and diced tomatoes. As the sun was setting we were told to head to the nearby forest where a huge colony of flying foxes would be starting their nightly migration. We walked amongst the trees when it was still light to see the branches filled with these impressive mammals before taking a seat in the graveyard on the edge of the forest making for an eery setting to watch this natural phenomenon.

As the light faded thousands of bats filled the skies, making it appear almost pitch black in places. After watching the last few bats make their evening journey we headed back to the hostel to see what the nightlife was like in this small, lesser known town. Unfortunately, the only people awake were a couple of guys playing chess so we retreated to our room for a chilled night.

Bats Port Macquarie

The Bike Ride Gone Bad

The following morning we decided to make the most of the cheap bike hire in the hostel and go for a leisurely ride along the beach front. As we collected the bikes we realised this was going to be a bit harder than we initially thought. The bikes had no gears and the only way to slow down was to peddle backwards – I’m not the strongest rider at the best of times so was definitely not feeling too confident.

As we set off we also discovered that Port Macquarie is fairly hilly and I spent a lot of the time pushing my bike up hills and squealing as I sped down the other side. We arrived at the beach front with the expectation of an easy ride along the promenade. Instead, we had the option of riding on sand or along a thin, root covered path through the rainforest. We decided on the second path having been given strict instructions against riding on sand.

As we started we quickly realised that this bike ride was going to be more of a bike push. With the paths being single file and a steady stream of people walking in the opposite direction there wasn’t much opportunity to ride without having to stop to let pedestrians pass. After a solid 3 hours of riding uphills, pushing our bikes over sand, rocks, tree roots and up the stairs we eventually made it to the Port Macquarie Lighthouse, and the first stop since we set off where we could buy a drink. After putting on a brave face for some achievement photos we locked up the bikes and walked are shaky legs to the beach cafe for a burger and a drink.

Lighthouse Beach Port Macquarie

Despite the treacherous journey to the lighthouse, it was definitely worth our efforts for the miles of beaches we got to see and the impressive lighthouse and panoramic views that came with it. I would recommend the bike hire if you’re staying at Ozzie Pozzie as it is so cheap and provides a unique way of getting around Port Macquarie, just stick to the roads!

Luckily, on the return journey, we learnt from our mistake and stayed on the roads, getting back in no more than half an hour!

Port Macquarie Lighthouse Bike Ride

Port Macquarie Lighthouse

A Sub-Tropical Adventure

For our final day in Port Macquarie, the rain made an appearance. This didn’t ruin our plans of seeing the sub-tropical rainforest but instead enhanced the experience. After another early start, we walked in the same direction we had cycled the day before until we reached the start of the Sea Acres Rainforest walk.

We paid a small entrance fee which allowed us to walk along a raised boardwalk and see the beautifully green canopy from a new perspective. With vines and palm trees at eye level and tree trunks reaching below us we really were in amongst the rainforest. Here the rain barely even touched us as the broad leaves acted as a natural shelter. After completing the walk and keeping an eye out for some interesting Aussie wildlife we headed in the direction of the hostel via the same paths we had previously walked our bikes through. This time we were able to truly appreciate the beauty of the nature that surrounded us. The contrast between the blue sea, the white sand and the green rainforest definitely reminded me just how far away from home we really were.

Sea Acres Rainforest

On returning back to the hostel we found out that it was cheap pizza and goon night so we quickly signed up. Thanks to the promise of cheap food the social area of the hostel was a lot busier than the previous two nights and we got talking to some of the staff who work for accommodation.

By the end of the night, we were full up on pizza and had finished off a few litres of goon and half a bottle of rum while playing drinking games and getting progressively louder. We also learnt that our new drunk best friend would be the minibus driver taking us to the Greyhound pick-up point the next morning.