After two weeks in the south, I continued travelling north in Australia all the way up to Cairns. The nature becomes more wild and it is more likely to meet deadly creatures. You can not swim in the ocean because of jellyfish, you can not surf because of sharks and you can not hike in peace because of snakes and spiders. Australia at its best! However, if you ignore all these, you can find some amazing places to visit.
From a backpacking perspective, Australia was definitely a unique experience, but not one of the best. I was disappointed by the quality of hostels and by the services. I’ve never thought I’d have to pay deposit for cutlery or that I’d have to pay for WiFi in a hostel. Most of the times you even have to make your own bed after you check in. All these for around 30$ a night! How awesome this country must be to really be worth this price? You can live like a king in SE Asia for half of that money. You can find good surfing in Sri Lanka, beautiful beaches in the Philippines, great parties in Bali and much more! It probably makes sense for those with work and holiday visa, but not for someone like me.
Leaving Australia after one month was a big relief. In one way or another it helped me find some energy and motivation after six months of traveling.
Hervey Bay to Airlie Beach
After I left Fraser island, I’ve spend four days in four different places just to avoid a 20h bus ride. I slept every other night in Hervey Bay, Agnes Water, Rockhampton and Airlie Beach before I started my Whitsundays tour. These places were so boring that I actually took ZERO photos. Sorry, readers.
Did I tell you that I love sailing? Well this was my chance to experience how it is to sleep and live on a boat for two days and two nights. The boat I was on, the British Defender, was built in England for a sailing race around the world in 1990. With a length of 25m, it was adapted to accommodate 28 people.
We left Airlie Beach around mid day and sailed to an anchorage on the Whitsundays archipelago where we’ve spent the first night. We had dinner and everyone was chilling on the deck. The sharks were also enjoying our company and surrounded the boat. Don’t imagine the big white sharks, but the reef sharks that are nice and cute.
Next day we woke up in the morning and went to Whitehaven beach, the biggest sand beach in the world with the purest white sand. Its composition is 99% silica and it comes from a nearby eruption a few thousands years ago. This sand was used to build the mirror for the Hubble telescope. It is illegal now to get sand out of the island and you can get in big trouble at the airport if you get caught.
The second night we stopped on a beautiful place good for snorkelling. Instead of sharks, big fish surrounded us. We jumped from the boat, swam with the fish, enjoyed the sunset and the stars at night. Good way to end this amazing trip before we sailed back next morning to Airlie beach.
Magnetic Island, Mission beach and Cairns
Magnetic island is one of the places where I wished I stayed a few more days. Used as a military base in the second world war and full of deadly snakes and koalas, this island has a lot of nice beaches, bays and view points.
Another of my layovers on the way to Cairns was Mission beach. I decided to stop here mainly for the hostel I stayed at. I arrived at around 9pm after sunset and left at 9am, but views in the morning were spectacular.
Cairns, a big party city and the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef. How is the Great Barrier Reef? Well, I didn’t see it because all the boats were fully booked for the days I was there. Damn peak season and weather forecasts. A cyclone was expected to hit the area, but it never came. The pub crawl was good instead.
Sydney is the biggest and the most famous city in Australia and it didn’t disappoint. With well known landmarks like Opera House and the Harbour Bridge, Sydney is nice city to visit for a few days. My favourite thing was to take the ferry to different places outside the business center and walk along the coast. Beautiful views, less crowded and totally disconnected from the city life.
How is it to sleep in hostels every day
Most of the times, backpacking on a budget means sleeping in hostels. Many people enjoy it, others can not imagine sharing a room or the toilet with a bunch of strangers, but for me this is the only way to afford traveling for a long time. And I like it! It makes you realize that most of the times you can live with little comfort and you have to adapt to any situation.
Until now I’ve spend more than 10 months sleeping in hostels. That’s more than 100 hostels from all over the world and I paid between 3$ to 30$ per night. I slept in a jail hostel in Canada, in a tipi in Sri Lanka, in a dorm on the beach in Cambodia and many other weird places. I’ve never had any major problems like theft or bed bugs, even though I’ve heard a lot of stories. Maybe I was lucky or maybe I’ve learned how to select good hostels. I always tried to stay in the best hostels and websites like Hostelworld are a great to make an idea about a place before getting there.
Other than the price, there are other big advantages about sleeping in a hostel. For example, the social atmosphere is an important factor for me as a solo traveller. Meeting amazing people and hearing their stories is one of the reasons I travel. Unlike hotels, hostels usually have common areas where people socialize, chill, eat, drink and basically spend their time at the hostel. In some countries it is very common for hostels to have swimming pools, a bar, restaurant and games like pool/ping/beer-pong. I even stayed in hostels where they had cinema, gym, Jacuzzi, sauna, yoga rooms, massage.
In general, the biggest problems with the hostels are not the facilities or the comfort, but the people you share your space with. Most of the people are respectful of others, but sometimes there is one person that ruins everything. I had many times people having sex in my dorm, even on the bed below/above me, people coming back drunk from clubs and being noisy, people packing at 5am, people putting their stuff all over the room like it’s theirs and so on. It happens more often in the party hostels, but if someone is very disrespectful, he is usually kicked out from the hostel. However, most of the times you can have a good sleep and even when this happens, it’s not like you are going to work the next day. I think it’s a cheap price to pay for all the other advantages.
South America! I will fly to Santiago and then cross the Andes mountains to Argentina.