Homeless With a Place to Lay Your Head: Cooking in Hostels

I’m changing things up a little bit with this blog because I had a little bit of a reminder the other night about my situation. And this is a situation that so many people have here in Australia and I’m sure around the world, it’s just not common at all in the United States. It’s the weird place of being technically homeless and living out of hostels. It’s cooking and eating your meals in a communal kitchen with typically few amenities. It’s not having a toilet even on the same floor as your room. It’s showering with flip flops on. It’s sharing a room with up to 15 or even more people. It’s getting used to stuffing ear plugs in your ears and hoping it’s not your snoring that’s keeping everyone up at night. It’s a completely different life which has become totally normalized to me and I hadn’t yet realized that until I cooked dinner the other night. Let’s talk about it shall we?

So, this came to me after meeting lovely Amera from Reno, Nevada; a fabulous fellow American who was traveling for just about two weeks. I met her with my travel buddy who has, like me, been traveling for a handful of months now, Becca.

We all decided to do dinner together and wandered off to the store together. There was free rice provided by the hostel so we decided on salmon and veggies and rice, simple aye? We got back to the hostel and Becca and I immediately got to it.

Our hostel had a steamer for our broccoli and we started in on seasoning the salmon and cooking up the rice, all while casually sipping from a mug full of wine, seeing as how the hostel was dangerously short on actual cups.

Amera was amazed by our antics. This was the most complicated hostel dinner she had witnessed or been a part of, and yet, to Becca and I, this was just another day in the life.

Living out of hostels is not something you become a pro at immediately (in fact I’m far from being a pro), and there’s two main forms. First off, there are a lot of people who are long term, paying rent for the dorm rooms while working in town. Some hostels will provide “free” accommodation for work, typically cleaning, and then those utilizing that will have a second “real” job which actually makes them money. Anyway, that’s a little different than actively traveling through the hostels, packing up every few days, getting comfortable and then heading back out, meeting people just to have to say “goodbye”, figuring out where the heck the freaking food labels are in the kitchen. It’s all gravy baby and it becomes normal pretty quickly actually.

If I think back, when I first landed in Sydney, I was doing very simple meals – pre made salad mixes,

granola and yogurt (pro tip, use the yogurt container as a bowl: less dishes),

spaghetti and sauce, toast and peanut butter, fruit, or eating out. Let me tell you, eating out gets expensive very quickly, obviously.

And eating spaghetti for dinner every day gets very…carb-y, and doesn’t make maintaining a healthy weight the easiest thing to do.

So, you adapt. I began slowly easing into making satays, veggie pastas, stuffed mushrooms, pan seared fish, participating in BBQ’s with friends from the hostels.

Soon enough, I had my go-to meals which I have basically perfected and can fix up for myself within half an hour. I didn’t have a second thought about it until Amera seemed so amazed by the ‘gourmet’ meal we were casually whipping up in the hostel kitchen. You adapt to the constancy of people cooking around you, maybe you start to learn to eat at weird times so as to avoid the rushes. Maybe you bake things in the toaster oven since you don’t have a real oven.

Maybe you take advantage of the simple joy of having a freezer for once and buy yourself a tub of ice cream to ward off the heat. Maybe you make portobello mushroom mini pizzas in a sauté pan instead of the baked, stuffed portobellos you were originally planning because you, yet again, forgot to check the hostel for the ever elusive oven.

One thing is for sure though when you’re in a hostel, if there’s something free, typically free food, you participate. And if you can go back for seconds, you absolutely 100% do. A lot of hostels will provide a free brekky, typically just toast and cereal, but sometimes you get lucky and get pancakes, and I’ve even stayed somewhere that provided eggs and bacon and beans. Pretty insane. But you don’t spend money on brekky if your hostel has free food, that’s a quick adaptation. Some hostels will have a free dinner night or a $5 dinner night ,or something else along those lines, you participate. Your hostel has free rice or pasta? Your hostel has free coffee and tea? Provided salt and pepper? Provided cooking oil? There’s one thing you actively start doing while living out of hostels, and that is accepting and participating in free things. Free food, free drink, free alcohol, you don’t even stop to think twice, it’s an automatic response at that point. Even if you just bought cooking oil, you save that shit for the next hostel you stay at that doesn’t provide free cooking oil. Simple as that.

It has simply become the way I feed myself now. You get to a point where you have to start feeding yourself properly. You get to this point where you’re tired of spending so much on food. You get to the point where it’s perfectly normal to be carrying around your bag of food along with your other two backpacks. The point where you’re doing the math on how long your “need to be refrigerated” perishable foods have been out of the cold and sitting instead at your feet on the Greyhound bus. The point where you learn how well you can start whipping up the most random ingredients into an actual meal so you don’t have to go to the store again, or because you’re leaving in two days and you need to get rid of some stuff or else you’re gonna have to carry it. I’ve become a pro at looking casually around the kitchen for the food labels for my bags. I’ve perfected the art of finding room in the fridge for my bag. And I’ve learned to casually carry my pocket knife with me when cooking dinner because hostel knives suck. Nothing beats making a meal with a few friends from the hostel, but either way, hostel cooking is definitely an experience that becomes surprisingly normal, surprisingly quickly.

Though it never hurts to have a handful of instant noodles in your food bag, just for those broke as, lazy days.

Magnetic Island on a Scale of Barbie Car to 4×4

Hey team! Guess what! Remember how easy it was to find friends to rent a car with in Cairns? Whelp, it’s just as simple on Magnetic Island as well. This is due to a few things…1. It’s a tiny island and relatively easy to get around in a rental. 2. It’s decently cheap if you fill the car you’re renting. 3. Barbie Cars. 4. 4×4’s for sunset.

So, number 1. The island is tiny! There is actually a bus you can take around the island which gets you just about anywhere you’d need to be, but it’s kind of expensive and isn’t the most convenient public transport I’ve taken. Don’t get me wrong, super great when you’re trying to get from the ferry terminal to your accommodation (*cough*Base*cough*), but otherwise it takes a little bit to get from one side of the island to the other if you’re on the bus. On the other hand, if you’re in your own rental, it’s pretty tough to get lost, and it’s decently fast to get from point A to point B when you’re not making all of the stops that the bus does. Not to mention, the bus seems to barely make it up some of those hills which is less than comforting. Also you can’t get out to West Point unless you have a 4×4, which is the “top spot” to watch the sunset

More on that later though.

Okay! Already on to number 2 look at us fly! It’s not super expensive if you’ve got a little crew of people! In the 4×4’s you can typically get five people and the Barbie cars can do four. Both usually run around $80-$90 per day plus petrol. I know that sounds like a lot, but for the island, and split up between you all, it’s not actually terrible. Now, I know we’ve gone over this, but all you need to do is wander around your hostel and politely ask your fellow backpackers if they’d like to rent a car with you. You honestly don’t need more than one day with the rentals, like I said….tiny island. You can actually get to everywhere you need to go on the busses, but it’s not as fun as rollin around the island with a few pals from the hostel.

Okayyyyy, number 3, Barbie Cars.

These are ridiculous little pink topless cars that can’t go very fast and can’t go on any somewhat bumpy roads, but man are they entertaining. I actually didn’t rent one, my group wanted to, but we had five people and therefore couldn’t fit into a Barbie car, and the day before, when we had seven people to make it more worth it, they didn’t have any Barbie cars available. (Also I can do math, I’m talking about us getting two cars, okay if you didn’t get that you’re the stupid one not me). Bummer. That didn’t stop us from hopping into an unattended car and taking photos of course though. That’s just about all these cars are good for anyway. Seriously, they can’t go on the 4×4 roads, or rather….shouldn’t go on the 4×4 roads, and they don’t go super fast, and they can’t go down to the good, secluded beaches. So just save your time and spend your money elsewhere and just hop into a parked car and take your photos.

Unless you want the classic topless photo, that could be a little more awkward in someone else’s rental in a random car park. But hey, to each their own.

Anyway, onto the important information, 4×4’s! So there’s a few companies you can get your “off-road vehicles” from, and I hate to do this to the one we got ours from because they were truly lovely, but I have to recommend a different company. Actually, I lied, I will still recommend the company we went with because it’s bloody hot on Magnetic Island and the company we rented through had enclosed cars with working A/C. Glorious, especially after hiking up the forts or standing outside for more than three minutes. Also, you can fit six people into the car instead of just five! We had made an extra friend who wanted to watch the sunset with us so….we found him a place to sit.

Fun anecdotal inside jokes such as “someone should let Bruno out of the trunk” have followed ever since. PSA: this was super illegal….so, yeah drive carefully and try to not hit too many bumps on that 4×4 road if you end up shoving someone into the boot of the car. Also don’t tell on me okay thanks. Anyway, the company was Tropical Palms Resort and 4WD Hire, and like I said, they were absolutely lovely. They picked us up and dropped us off at our hostel, they helped us with getting the right insurance for the 24 hours we were going to have the car, and yeah, they were just really lovely people to be dealing with. Seemed like a small, family owned place, so, if you want air con, or just don’t care too much about the specific type of 4×4 you get, go support this business! They’re great.

Otherwise, if you want the more rugged, topless 4×4, go with Arcadia Beach Guest House and Car Hire. The only real problem we had with our rental is that we wanted to get down to a few bays on the north-western end of the island, and we weren’t allowed to go down the only road that accessed those bays in our specific rental. Don’t ask me why, I have no idea, all I know is that in our rental we weren’t allowed to use that one road, and these other rentals were allowed to. Also we had really been hoping for the topless 4×4 because we are young and carefree and wanted a topless car that really showed that. And we’d do anything for the Gram.

Look how happy we were! (Side note: this was with a different group of people from the hostel on my last night. They were going to the sunset again and I decided to join to see if I could get a better sunset than the night before.)

Anyway back to the road we weren’t allowed on. We parked up at the forts parking area and walked all the way to the first of four bays – Arthur Bay.

It was about a 15 minute walk, which was fine there, because it was all downhill and we were fresh and exuberant on the day. However, going back was literal torture, we were tired from laying in the sun and swimming, and it was hot as hell, and, obviously, if you can deduce information well enough, it was all uphill back. Torture.

*Road From Hell

There’s three more bays further along that get better and better apparently, which we were unwilling to walk to in the heat. Honestly, the road itself is actually not bad at all and we would have had no trouble just driving the car down, but we like to follow rules so we didn’t.

That being said though, there’s really only two places you can’t get to unless you have a rental, so if you’re not old enough or just don’t feel like paying for a rental, it’s not actually that big of a deal. One, is those bays. Honestly, you can just walk, I’m just being whiny cause I was hungover so it felt like the end of the world. It was absolutely gorgeous though.

There was hardly anyone at the first one and I’m sure as you go further in to the other bays it gets even more and more secluded.

The water felt great, and there were cool boulders to climb around on.

The shade was hit and miss, it looked like the trees were decent, but the sun made it through the leaves pretty well. Just lather up in the sunscreen though, especially if you intend on taking a nice long hangover nap, and you’ll be good.

Otherwise, if you want to make it to West Point Beach for sunset, it is deffo impossible to get to unless you have a car or manage to hop into someone else’s. The first night we tried for the sunset we all ended up having more fun searching for shells and taking group photos rather than watching the sunset.

It was a little mediocre so we enjoyed our friendship more anyway.

The second night I went it was even more mediocre, but we had a great time enjoying friendship again.

Moral of the story: sunset is beautiful anywhere in the Southern Hemisphere for the most part, and nothing beats just hangin with some awesome people instead. It’s the company you keep that makes life beautiful, aye?

And on that incredibly cheesy note, my brain doesn’t feel like writing anymore. I’m slowly easing myself back in after taking a much needed break during the holidays. Also trying for less horrendously long blog posts so hopefully the next one will be up in an actual week. Also depending on my wifi as usual though, but sometimes I’m just being bloody lazy.

End.

Base Backpackers and the Island Bar

If you find yourself trapped in Townsville, have no fear, lovely Magnetic Island is just a short ferry ride away. Seriously, save yourself and just go to Maggie, you’ll enjoy yourself much much better. In an attempt to stop making my life so hard and make my blog posts much shorter and more inviting, I’m going to talk about Magnetic Island itself later, and at this moment we’re going to focus on a wicked place to stay…Base Backpackers Magnetic Island. Now, Base itself has 14 locations across Australia and New Zealand, this is just one of them. Some are better than others, some are bigger, have better wifi, are cleaner, etc. Whatever, maybe someday I will have stayed at them all (highly unlikely), and I can give you the real lowdown (never gonna happen), but until then, let’s just stay on topic…Base on Magnetic Island. Rant over (for now).

This hostel is amazing. Period. That’s all.

“But Zoe, WHY is it amazing? Tell us more.”

Well I’m glad you asked, lets start with the location. Perfect. Literal perfection. It is water front, there’s a large beach right along the front of the hostel.

It’s basically the most popular hostel on the island so there’s a bus which drops and picks up directly in front, and if you’re renting a car most companies will just come pick you up from the hostel and drop you back off as well once you bring the car back. The hostel itself is also right in front of one of the good reef areas for snorkeling. It’s not directly next to the ferry terminal, but like I said, the bus goes directly to it for something like $2.50. Decent aye?

The kitchen is decent, but I’m going to be honest, I deffo did not stick to my budget for food here as well as I have managed other places. One thing, minor issue, but really it’s not that big of a deal, the closest supermarket is back at the ferry terminal. So, kind of annoying unless you’ve rented a car or feel like taking the bus. OR feel free to make friends with a staff member and they’ll probably bring you? Doesn’t hurt to ask right? Anyways, the reason why this isn’t that big of a deal is because the food from the restaurant/bar is amazing. Seriously, mouthwatering. They have awesome specials every night for dinner and the brekky is to die for.

Every day I told myself I wouldn’t spend money on food at the Island Bar and then, jokes on me, I didn’t cook for myself even once. Every single thing that I got from the restaurant was amazing, but the pizzas were especially delicious. The entire group of people that I spent time with on the island had trouble staying away from the restaurant, we always gave in, totally worth it though.

Next, the dorms/rooms: quaint, adorable, lovely,

(excuse the mess)

I felt like I was in summer camp. Almost every room was a cabin.

(I was in lovely 118, just far enough away to avoid too much bar noise, but close enough that I didn’t have to walk ages to the toilets, score)

The private rooms had the views, obviously,

This is the furthest I was willing to go though because I didn’t want someone to see me, a complete stranger, taking photos in front of their private cabin. Yep, don’t mind me folks.

Yeah, even the dorms though were, at most, three steps away from an ocean view.

This is a photo from our front porch. Just awful right?

As for complaints about rooms? Whelp, two girls I was with had a room with no A/C and smelled like boy (they were the only two girls in a room with 6 boys, bless their hearts). Actually everyone was complaining of no air con in their rooms except for Claudia (girl in my room) and I. Side note: you will meet all of these people in the next blog about shenanigans around the island, this is purely hostel information…for the most part. I love them all too much to simply glaze over who they are, okay? Deal. Anyway, Claudia and I thought we had gotten a sweet as deal, our A/C was great, the room was mostly girls with only 2 boys, no weird smells, we both had top bunks, but that’s okay. So our first night there, the entire crew was pretty tired. We all ate dinner and, no-shit, we were in bed by like 8:30. Had my pj’s on and Netflix pulled up, ready to cozy up with my stuffed animal and call it a night. The two guys in my room made a minor attempt to get me to go out, but I can’t be swayed out of bed once I’m settled so they left eventually, and I fell asleep, blissfully unaware of the terror I would wake up to.

1am, voices, obnoxiously loud. That’s fine, I’m an adult, I know people drink, I heard about this as a party place specifically, I can deal. The girl who was in the bed below mine had brought a friend home, I’m sure you can all guess where this is going, but I was blissfully ignorant still. Just some minor annoyance at being woken up. Things quieted down, and then, horror, moaning. Well eff. I had a couple doing dirty things to each other in the bunk below me. Okay, I can pretend like I’m asleep. Nope, things got rather vigorous, I was on a ship in a massive storm, a cyclone was hitting, I literally held on to my bed to keep from falling off, they KNOCKED THE LADDER OFF MY BED. I feel violated, terrible things happened to me, they finally finished and the guy stood up, ‘oh shit,’ he says when he notices me, curled up in the fetal position, horrified. ‘Yeah…I’m a little motion sick here guys.’ They don’t say much, a mumbled ‘sorry,’ and a quick retreat. As soon as they go out the door I immediately sit up and desperately look toward Claudia in the top bunk diagonally from mine. We shared quick horrified glances, both of us permanently damaged by what had just happened and we turn over, trying to forget as girl and guy come back and get back in bed to snuggle.

2am, voices. One of the boys is back, with a girl in tow…but she’s one of the girls also staying in our room. Cool, that means nothing should be going on right? Wrong. She climbs into his bed. I’m trying to shut my ears, I can’t even deal anymore, I hear noises, I’m crying inside, why is this happening to me.

3am, voices. The other boy is back without pants on and with another girl in tow. I can’t tell if this is the other girl in our room or what, but I heard dirty things happening over there as well that I won’t soon forget. Dead inside, nothing matters anymore, I’ve been violated, this is the worst.

When the third couple came in Claudia made the smart move and decided to leave, she slept outside on the beach, exposed to the elements, but the elements are better than what we went through. Horrifying. Let’s talk about how it’s a good thing I didn’t attempt to leave though because, remember, couple number 1 knocked my ladder off my bed, and they just really didn’t care to fix it.

(again…excuse the mess, even though none of it is really mine; I just needed proof)

Thanks guys. So, on top of dealing with their sex shenanigans, I had to launch myself to the ground in the morning when I finally felt the overwhelming need to get tf out of there. AND, even though I had literally woken up to them talking again (I know, how did I even fall asleep after all of that? Well, I’m officially dead inside), they decided to pretend to be asleep while I was up and about. Anyway, That was a hell of a side story, but yeah, the dorms are great as long as your roomies don’t suck. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying to not have sex, you do you (or them…I guess?) I’m just saying to have sex in the shower like every other normal person in the hotel does.

Aaaaand I’m using that as a segue into the bathrooms. Some of the private rooms have an en-suite, but otherwise I’m pretty sure there’s only the main bathrooms for everyone. One huge girls bathroom and one huge boys bathroom. The girls had somewhere around seven or eight showers and ten-twelve toilets and five or six sinks.

It looks sketchy as, but it wasn’t that bad. And the showers were actually pretty nice with big waterfall shower heads. I never had a problem getting a stall, though that’s because I shower at different times than everyone else apparently. The first night though, there was no toilet paper. I want to say only like two of the stalls had any in them. It’s fine, it didn’t happen again that I noticed. Also, there are toilets in the bar, but they’re much further away from all of the rooms (obviously) so they’re really only convenient if you’re eating or drinking.

Aaaaaand speaking of, let’s move on to DRINKING! Okay everyone, Base is widely known as the party hostel, especially the Magnetic Island Base, and that is for a reason. I am not that big of a partier, but man did I have some nights at Base at the Island Bar.

So, I know I threw you all off by saying I had an early one the first night, (besides the free welcome drinks)

Whelp, the next day I decided to treat myself all day in order to feel better about my life from dealing with what I had to deal with. Honestly, nothing TOO exciting, a few of the girls and I simply took advantage of the happy hour prices and got a few bottles of wine from the bar. The event that night was beer pong so we watched some friends come in second, played some pool, took some photos, loved on each other, ate some pizza.

Great times, ended up in bed not TOO late, but had a lovely night. The next night was boozy bingo. I’m going to tell you something very important….participate. I don’t care if you like bingo or not, though lets be honest, who doesn’t like bingo.

PARTICIPATE IN BINGO OKAY!? You can win seriously amazing prizes. Like, for example, my friend Robyn won over 400 FREAKIN DOLLARS! Anyway, boozy bingo has a lot of shenanigans and it goes on for a bit and honestly, you gotta be a little tipsy. So we got more than tipsy and strongly participated in happy hour drinks while playing bingo.

Great times, we ate pizza, danced on tables,

took photos, friends won things,

hit on bartenders, lovely.

Next night was bar wars. These were the craziest shenanigans of them all as far as I saw. Not gonna lie, deffo saw some naked people (of their own volition, not the hostels okay). This one is hard to describe, but there’s a bunch of different games, like musical chairs and such with an interesting twist and you have a team and you try to win them….obviously. Stripping is involved if you lose a round and want to stay in the game, but it’s optional and you can just take the L like a champion.

Great times,

No one really knows who won, I was given many free drinks, ran into a table, played on the beach,

hit on more bartenders (actually just the one, two nights in a row). Lovely.

(my team <3)

Anyway, moral of the shenanigans, Base has activities every night. And even if you don’t think you’ll enjoy them, you probably will. You don’t HAVE to party, but look where that got me, eh? Just kidding, don’t party if you don’t want to. The bar closes at midnight so the noise isn’t actually that big of an issue if you are trying to sleep instead of party. And just make sure to be aware of your surroundings and if it seems like something dirty is going to happen in your room, speak up and tell them to get it on in the shower with everyone else.

So, for the hangover that you will definitely have at some point while staying on Magnetic, there are plenty of lovely hangover areas. There’s a lovely pool, nice and cool, which is very important since it’s insanely hot in Northern Queensland, and that cool swim will make you feel heaps better. (I didn’t take a photo of it though so there’s that) Or, if you prefer a swim in the warm waters of the pacific, just walk the thirty seconds down to the beach and get rid of your hangover in the gentle, loving waves of Mother Nature. Also there’s hammocks and bean bag chairs everywhere.

Plop down there for like three hours with some ice cold water, good as new. (Shoutout to Paul,

my fave, you are a legend, thanks for filling my water bottle up a million and a half times; sorry kids, he’s gone back home to Germany and you won’t ever know how awesome he is).

Anyway, on that note, one of the best parts of staying at this hostel is the staff. They’re all just like us y’all, just a bunch of backpackers staying there for accommodation. They like to have as much fun as the rest of us and they will show you a seriously good time. They’re welcoming, you’ll have good chats, probably end up getting drunk and hitting on one of them (don’t lie, if you stayed here you deffo did it too), and they’ll show you cool places to go around the island! Yay perks! Yay friends! Seriously, any decent hostel can be made ten times better by having an awesome staff around and this place has that. Of the three or four hostels on Maggie, Base is seriously the best. If you’re looking for a super super chill stay, I recommend the Koala Village YHA, but honestly, I’m just super partial to Base. I mean…beanbag chair fights anyone?

Also we saw an animal during dinner

Billabong Sanctuary: The Oasis

Okay so lets talk about Townsville. It sucks and it’s boring and there’s one semi nice thing to do which is hike Castle Hill and it’s not fun (we all know how I feel about exerting myself on holiday).

Okay, we’re done talking about Townsville and now we can move on to the Billabong Sanctuary. I would say this is the only good thing about Townsville, but it’s not even in Townsville, it’s just outside of Townsville. Thank god, because this amazing place doesn’t deserve to have its good name marred by being a part of such a shitty place. Yes, I hate Townsville, it’s boring, small, the manager at my hostel was rude as, and the only good thing I did was go to the sanctuary, so go there. Thank you for coming to my TedTalk. (I feel like that was a little aggressive, butttttt yeah sorry I guess)

I do have more to say. Not about Townsville, that’s all I’ve got, but the sanctuary? Oh lawd, that was flipping awesome. So I kind of did this the expensive way because I didn’t want to be limited to a specific time, hindsight, it would have been literally so okay if I had just been budget friendly. So there’s a bus transfer that is available from any accommodation in Townsville. The bus picks up starting at 8:45 and returns at 3:15; it costs $60 for adults, $43 for kids, and $55 for backpackers (if you show proof of your hostel) and students. So, there were two main reasons I didn’t take this rockin deal, seeing as how the cost included entry to the sanctuary which was $37 for adults ($33.50 for backpackers), meaning the transfer was around $22. So a taxi is around $60 one way for a 4-passenger car, and an Uber cost $40 one way. Okay, so reason number one was that I needed to book the transfer the day before by 4 pm. I was holding out hope that I’d meet a few other backpackers that might want to go with me and by the time I finally decided that I should go either way, it was too late. The other reason was that there was a particular ‘interactive experience’ I was not planning on missing, which occurred just before the bus was scheduled to head back to town. So, being the OCD person that I am, even though I emailed the sanctuary asking if I’d be able to still participate and they said yes, I decided that was cutting it too close and I didn’t want to do so. Luckily for me, I met a nice Canadian girl who wanted to go to the sanctuary as well, so we split the cost of an Uber. We both forgot to get a card from the hostel though in order to capitalize on the cheaper price, so we had to pay full price. Bummer. When we were paying the lady at the front asked if we wanted to buy some kangaroo food for $2 as well. Uhm, DUH. I wanna feed some kangaroos. Heck yeah. Armed with our kangaroo food and maps, we strolled into the sanctuary. The excitement was palpable.

Throughout the day at Billabong there are a bunch of different shows and interactive experiences. They’re actually all scheduled in such a way that you don’t even really need to do the park yourself, you just can bounce from show to show because they’re all kind of back to back. There’s koala feeding, turtle feeding, wombat, koala, and reptile experiences, croc feeding, bird show, kangaroo feeding, dingo experience, all sorts of magical stuff.

We arrived just in time to watch the wombat experience, and holy cow, color me ignorant because I had no idea wombats were so flipping huge.

Massive. Seriously. They did an informative talk about the wombats, and then we were able to take selfies

(as you do) and pat the wombat bum. Fun fact, wombats have bums of steel and they can literally kill with them. The example we were given at the sanctuary is, if a dingo has started chasing, and the wombat runs into it’s burrow, it’ll keep its bum sticking out a little ways. The dingo can be scratching at their bum, but there’s very few nerve endings and they’ll barely feel it. Then, they’ll open up a little space, the dingo will probably think it can squeeze in, stick it’s head in, and the wombat will slam it’s bum back and could potentially kill the dingo, at the very least giving it a nice little headache. So yeah, watch out for the wombat bum, it can kill.

We went straight from the wombat experience to go to the koala experience. The experience was very informative, but we obviously were kind of distracted by the idea of getting to hold a koala and take a photo.

So I definitely remember some information about them, due to my diligence at being a good student, but I was admittedly a little too stoked about cuddling a koala. Now even though I was so enamored by the koalas that I basically just sat there staring at them and their cute fluffy-ness, there are a few things I remember – 1. Koalas are related to wombats. 2. They prefer to eat the younger leaves on a plant because they are the softer, easier to chew leaves and koalas only have one set of teeth so they need to treat them well. 3. There are around 900 forms of eucalyptus in Australia, koalas only feed on around 40-50 of those. Picky eaters, aye? I can relate. 4. Most koalas do, in fact, have chlamydia. 5. That’s actually all I can remember right now, sue me. They were way too cute, I was extremely busy paying attention to the koalas and not the ranger because I’m a child. I’m sure more will come to me out of whatever black hole information goes into in my mind, but by then it’ll be too late for this purpose. Wikipedia it if you’d like. We all know wiki won’t hold up in school, but I’m not getting tested on this so if I’m being entirely candid, I don’t really care. Anyway, we did hold them and oh my god it was the best minute of my life.

Minor exaggeration but that’s fine. It cost extra, of course, but he was so fluffy and soft and cuddly and I just can’t even handle it. Number one tourist thing to do in Oz, checked off the list. Me and the little man had a moment too, he didn’t want to leave me, he loved me, obviously I could tell. Anyway, he was taken away from me just as quickly as he was given, leaving me lost, and confused, I didn’t know what to do with myself. I sadly turned and began walking from the koala enclosure, looked up, and…dreams came true.

Dingoes.

There is a God. No, you have no idea. DINGOES. THiS IS ALL I CARE ABOUT. Have I mentioned my dog yet? No? Oh lord well let me tell you all about her! She’s a three legged angel, and also is part dingo. SO, the dingoes were the main attraction here for me. Yes, even over the koalas and kangaroos, all I cared about was seeing dingoes. And here the angels were, on their daily walk-about around the sanctuary. This was the best day ever. I had a total moment and squealed. I was still a ways away from them and the rangers heard my squeal, they looked around for a second before laying eyes on me. A certified crazy person, hands to my mouth, pure joy in my eyes, entire body tensed, ready for action. Needless to say they looked a little cautious when I threw my hands down to my sides and started aggressively power walking in their direction. It took a lot to not run at full speed. Once I got to the dingoes and their rangers, word vomit spilled out of me “ohmygawdhiohmygoooooddddddddhi*breath*ilovedingoesi’mobsessedwiththempleasemayi*breaaaaaaaath*pleAsemAyIPETHIMPLEASEEEEEEE”. Now I tell you what, first off, if that was hard to read, good, then you understand the broke ass sentence I threw at the rangers in a botched attempt to act normal and ask if I could pet the dingoes. And second, the rangers were, understandably, a little wary of me. One of them dipped out and left her coworker with me in a true abandonment moment that I have 1000% pulled on my friends, family, and coworkers before. I dropped as soon as King, the dingo, started wagging his tail at me and come over for pets;

partially out of pure excitement, and partially because I couldn’t physically hold my own weight anymore seeing as how I was in literal heaven and I felt like passing out. King was loving it, he came in for snuggles and pets and gave me a little kiss on the nose, I melted. Anyway, the ranger did remind us to attend the dingo experience later that day and I very enthusiastically informed her that I would be there, and then I grudgingly allowed her to move along.

We turned to leave and saw kangaroos. WHAT EVEN, BEST DAY EVER. We hurried over to the roos and pulled out our food and proceeded to love on these two guys hangin here.

So cute, literally I was starting to short circuit. I was so happy. But, alas, the roos did eventually decide to move along and we decided to do some wandering around the sanctuary until the next experience which was the crocodile feeding. We saw cassowaries, emus, snakes, wallabies, crocs, some cool birds, tons of turtles, and of course the dingoes again —

How hard was it to tell how obsessed with dingoes?

Anyway, once it was time we wandered over to the croc experience and good lord, it was cool. Crocs are sooooo creepy! First of all, they always know what’s happening around them, okay? They have a type of jelly sensory thing happening which makes it so they can sense vibrations around them, meaning they can pinpoint where you’re coming from and where you are. Also, they can creep up on you without a sound and with barely any ripple on the water, so creepy.

Also, crocs can go a year before eating again, this means that they will happily wait for the right circumstances. CREEPY. But so cool. So, that being said, crocs don’t need to learn your habits, they know what’s going on, they know where you are. We got to watch the crocs do some jaw snaps which were crazy,

The ranger said that one wasn’t even that loud comparatively; and we got to see different kinds of crocs – e.g. salt water

and fresh water.

After the crocodile feeding we headed to a kangaroo enclosure that you were able to go in of your own free will. It was basically a little petting zoo with kangaroos, and it was amazing. We spent like, 45 minutes in this little area, going from roo to roo, taking all of our photos and videos and obsessing and letting them eat out of our hands and oh dear it was just so terribly amazing. I gotta tell ya, kangaroos do appreciate a nice little scratch,

and there was one kangaroo that kept grabbing our arms to keep us from walking away from him. So cute. They did eventually realize the bag yielded more than our hands did so….

I never wanted to leave, but I did eventually end up running out of food for them, so we finally decided to wander out and find some hand sanitizer since we were covered in kangaroo spit, and I don’t know if that’s bad or not but, we figured we didn’t want to mess with that. From there we caught the end of the bird show, didn’t learn a thing, but got there just in time for the photo ops.

After the bird show was the turtle feeding/racing. Now, a turtle race, at any other point in time in my life, would be the most amazing thing in the world. What? Turtle racing? That sounds so stupid amazing, are you serious? Of course I want that in my life. However, we were dangerously close to the dingo experience and I would only miss that if it was a matter of life and death, meaning I would have to be dead. Not just dying, because if I was simply in the process of dying, I would still spend those 30 minutes at the dingo experience before moving on to either the hospital or the morgue. Anyway, being the diligent teachers pet that I am, I of course planned on being early. So we watched the ranger feed them

then skipped the rest and went straight back to the dingo enclosure, where I fawned over the beautiful pups for ten minutes before the rangers showed up with a group of people trailing behind, also excited for the dingo experience.

Let’s talk about these people for a second, they were all children. Children and their guardians. I had flashbacks to going to Incredibles 2 and wanting to elbow all of these children out of my way because age before beauty am I right? So yeah, I’m immature and I wanted to ‘pet the doggy’ just as badly as the four year old next to me who was about to throw an absolute fit.

I tried really hard to pay attention to the ranger talking about the dingoes, but they had made a little hide and seek game with food for them all over the closure and I was hideously distracted watching them be such good little hunters while she was talking.

Heckin good pups. I do specifically remember her talking about one of the main differences between dingoes and dogs, which is that dingoes are double jointed, which makes it possible for them to ‘climb’ decently high. Also if you have the sound on that short clip has a few of the differences listed by the ranger. (If it even uploaded, honestly the hostel WiFi is so bad I can’t even)

But, the most important thing was next and that was where we got to pet and get photos with them. So the rangers brought out two of the three, King and Killari and we got to pet and play with King while taking photos of the little miss. King did an insane job of looking too much like my pup back home,

while Killari apparently also could tell I needed the love because she gave me a little nuzzle and kiss too and I absolutely melted.

The time spent with these angels was much too short and I was daydreaming about it for the rest of the day. We had seen everything by that point for the most part, and decided to call for an Uber and look around the gift shop while we waited. I almost bought literally 10 postcards with King on them and talked myself out of doing that at the last minute. “No Zoe…ZOE…..Do you NEED 10 post cards with the exact same picture of King on them? No. I know you WANT them but do you NEED them? Zoe, I did not raise you this way. ZOE……….NO.” I compromised in the end and only got five. And two 3-D cards as well, because I am very convincing. Anyway we picked up our pro photos of us with koalas and then my phone informed me that my Uber driver was there, so we trotted out, smiles on our faces, koala photos in our backpacks, and joy in our hearts. What a great day. If you’re ever in Townsville, I am truly sorry for you. Truly, but fret not, the Billabong Sanctuary and all of its wonders and happiness are a short drive away, and heading there for the day will make up for anything that Townsville could possibly do to you.

Off-Season Mission Beach and its Many Expensive As Wonders

It rained in Cairns the day I left, so I feel like I obviously was moving in the right direction with the weather. I refused to walk all the way to town with my insanely heavy pack so I got up early enough to catch the first shuttle from my hostel to the marina. It got me to the bus stop an hour early, but I had a decent book that I had traded for at the hostel library so it was fine. When the bus got there I was one of the first people on. Now, my ticket had a seat number on it…it was the front row aisle, which was kind of shit, but I followed the rules and sat down. Then I heard some guy outside ask the bus driver if we were supposed to just sit wherever and the bus driver said ‘yes.’ What!? Okay, so now I had to get over my social anxiety which meant standing up in front of every single person who had gotten on the bus by now, and moving back further in the bus. I watched a few more people get on the bus and finally decided I had built up enough courage. I stood up, turned and looked back, and exactly zero people were looking at me. Why would anyone be? Why would I possibly have thought that everyone would be watching my every move? Calm down Z. I grabbed my stuff and wandered back to a new seat, window, about two thirds of the way back. Gold, I felt great about this seat.

The bus was definitely filling up, and a few girls got on and were confused because someone was sitting in ‘their seat.’ Yeah ladies, I understand your confusion. One person just kind of told them everyone was sitting wherever, so they just grabbed some other seats, no problem. I was stoked, because I still didn’t have anyone next to me, I was comfy in my well-picked out seat. And then…less than five minutes before we were supposed to finally leave, tragedy struck. I had a couple come up to me and tell me I was in their seat. I looked around for help, waiting for someone to save me, the way the guy earlier was saved, no such luck. Abandoned by strangers, I spoke up for myself. I informed them that everyone was just sitting wherever. They didn’t care. They didn’t care that I had been there an hour early and they showed up fifteen minutes late, they didn’t care that all my stuff was already spread out and I had my electronics all plugged in. Nope, they wanted to cuddle for their 2 hour drive to Mission Beach, so they kicked me out of my seat. I sat with a girl behind me, completely dejected. Another guy felt for me and offered to let me put my bags with him because he didn’t have anyone next to him, but I declined, seeing as how I also was only going the two hours to Mission Beach.

Anyway, the drive itself was nothing exciting, I got over my experience with the couple pretty quickly. Until I saw them at the chemist the next day and, like the full grown adult that I am, avoided eye contact and hid behind a shelf from them. Once there I got my bag and stared around looking for my pick up from my hostel.

I was actually beginning to get a little worried when I finally saw a girl with a sign for my hostel and I hobbled my way over to her with my multiple bags. The hostel itself was pretty nice, just very uninhabited.

It was apparently very dead season, because there were really not a lot of people here, other than the people working there for accommodation. It had a nice little kitchen and common area though and a cute little tv room.

My room was practically empty so I managed to get a bottom bunk, score.

There was an en-suite in the room as well, which was super nice and convenient. And a little pool out the front as well.

After unpacking I went out to the common area and did some hard chillin. A few of the employees told me they were going to the beach and invited me, so I decided to head over with two girls who had just checked in as well. We got to the beach and didn’t know where they were though so we ended up just setting up camp.

I threw on sunscreen and proceeded to read and nap. Amazingly, sitting on the beach doing nothing is actually exhausting, so I ended up back at the hostel insanely tired and hungry. The only Woolies supermarket was a ways away so I ate pasta that I had left from Cairns and kind of just hung around the hostel. The WiFi reached my room, which was super nice, because the common area was super open and the mozzies were eating me alive. So I ended up being a total hermit, trolling social media in bed for a while before going to sleep embarrassingly early.

My second day in Mission consisted of grabbing a taxi with some other girls into town to the supermarket, and then back. And that was about it. And my third day was spent on the beach again with a few people who were staying just for one night. Mission Beach is insanely beautiful, but honestly, that’s about all there is when you dont have a car in Mission, the beach. I ended up opting for working out and sitting on the beach. Those were my go to activities for the few days I was there. And I mean, if I’m working out for entertainment, then you gotta figure something must be wrong. Along with the insane fact that I got up early my last day and watched the sunrise, which was actually super beautiful,

but Queensland doesn’t observe daylight savings so the sunrise is getting earlier and earlier so you’ve gotta seriously commit. And, on top off watching sunrise, I did a little jog on the beach and some squats. What is wrong with me, aye?

Honestly, in Mission I had a bit of a downturn as far as meeting people goes. Seeing as how there really weren’t a lot of people around I was basically on my own for the most part. I got a lot of work done while I was there, and I managed to read my whole book, and get started on my base tan so I didn’t burn in the Whitsundays, but otherwise, most of what’s there is stuff that’s a lot more entertaining with a partner in crime by your side.

Mission Beach is actually a group of four ‘villages.’ From north to south they are Bingil Bay, Mission Beach, Wongaling Beach, and South Mission Beach. You can rent a bike for $15 per day, which is actually a really fantastic idea, seeing as how Mission is so spread out, and without a car, there’s not too many options. I never ended up renting a bike, and I regret it a bit, but I didn’t have anyone to ride bikes with, so I’m not too upset about it. That would have made it much easier to travel between the four villages though, especially since my hostel had just a super random shuttle into town which basically only coincided with the greyhound times.

Another thing to do is go to Dunk Island. There is a water taxi in order to get to to the island, which lies just about 4 km off the coast, and there is supposed to be a good amount of wildlife on the island, along with some beautiful scenery. I was confused from seeing “I Got Dunked” bumper stickers everywhere when I first arrived, but now I get it. I know, nothing gets past me. Would have gotten one myself, but I didn’t want to seem like a poser, acting like I had been when I really hadn’t. But look at me hating my life on the beach again!

Next thing to do in Mission would be skydiving. There are a few places up the east coast which are super popular to skydive at, and Mission is one of the most popular due to it’s ‘guaranteed beach landing.’ My first day at the beach, mid nap, I heard people yelling very excitedly, I slowly opened my eyes and saw parachutes right above me, coming in for a landing just about 100 meters down the beach from me. So that comes close to my other experience with parachutes above me, when I was peeing just off a walkway back home and someone floated just above me while my pants were around my ankles. He made sure I knew that he saw me though, so thank god for that. That was fun. Anyway, skydive here costs somewhere around $200 and $300. The more you pay, the higher up you jump from. I don’t know if those prices include the photos and videos, but of course you’ve got to get the proof that you did it, so expect to pay at least $30 for your photos if it’s not included, which it probably isn’t. Most people actually only stay in Mission for a night or two, specifically in order to do the skydive. Which is probably one of the reasons why I had such a hard time finding people to hang with here, since I was staying for three nights. Slap me next time I come up with an idea as stupid as that.

Another expensive, but awesome thing to do while in Mission is rafting! The Tully River is nearby and has some extreme rafting for those whitewater lovers out there. Man did I want to do this, you have no idea, I seriously argued with myself about this one, as many know, I love rafting. It was, however, pretty expensive and I am attempting to not spend all of my money right off the bat. There are three main options for the Tully, the first is the newest option which is a half-day trip priced at $170. There is a pick-up from Mission at 8:30 and a return drop-off at 2:30. It looks like around three hours are spent on the river, and there is a ‘light lunch’ provided before returning to Mission. The second option is the full-day rafting trip, starting around $200. You depart Mission at 7:30 and return at 4:30. I have no idea how much of this time is spent driving and such, but you do have a BBQ lunch placed somewhere in there. No one under the age of 13 is allowed to raft, and if you’re pregnant it sounds like the best idea is to sit it out. The other option is the Xtreme Tully Rafting trip, which has the same times as the full-day, but starts at $230. It sounds as if you’re probably in a smaller boat and taking a more intense line down the river. Trying to surf rapids, stopping to do some cliff jumping, and doing some swimming through the rapids seem to be a few of the ways this trip is supposed to be more ‘extreme’ than the regular full-day trip. This one also provides lunch; there’s a minimum age of 15 though for this one, and it has a restriction on how well you can swim and how well you can speak English. Meaning you’ve got to be able to do both quite well. There seems to be a $30 levy which needs to be paid per person, and I don’t think this is included in prices though, so maybe add that to the price to have a better idea of what you’ll be spending. If you’re into rafting though, this is definitely high up on the list of great extreme rafting in the world. Check it out while you’re there. Here is a stolen photo (two photos) from my Scottish soul twin while she was rafting the Tully doin extreme stuff and being an extreme bad ass.

Little teaser, she may or may not be writing a celeb blog post about her experience doing the rafting as well as skydiving in mission beach. I’m excited about this for many reasons. Number 1) she is hilarious and deserves her own tv show. Number 2) I’m stoked for y’all to be able to hear some actual info about that stuff since I opted out and that’s boring. Number 3) she’s famous (in my heart) but also in real life for her blogging skillz. Number 4) that is all, but only three bullet points felt like too little so here we are. Anyway stay tuned for that.

Other things to do in Mission? Walking tracks and sitting on the beach. The most popular walking track is the Ulysses track, which is about 1.5 K long and is supposed to only take about 30 minutes. I believe it’s a loop, and you’re supposed to see a lot of Ulysses butterflies (hence the name off the track), along with good views of the beach/ocean. I didn’t do any walking tracks while here because they were spread out a little bit and much easier to get to with a car (or a bike, that I never hired). The Ulysses was the closest to my location, I think, but guess who was feeling lazy…this girl.

So yeah, Mission isn’t the most exciting place that I’ve been, but if you’ve got a car and an extra $500 burning a hole in your pocket, you could definitely spend a solid 4 or 5 days here. Or you could donate it to me so I can continue writing these amazingly entertaining blog posts. Oh the hostel had a dog.

That’s all.

Escaping Cairns

You know how there’s nothing to do in Cairns? That was a big big lie! Kind of. There’s tons to do AROUND Cairns, so there’s that at least. Now, you’re a broke backpacker, you’ve managed to wander your way to your hostel via transfer services and also walking. You’re in Cairns, which is beautiful, and laid back, and a little boring because you’ve already spent three days straight at the lagoon and would like to see what else is beyond the 20 minute walking sphere of your hostel that doesn’t cost an insane amount of money to participate in (heyo check out that run-on sentence aye?). Here’s a handy dandy idea! Hire a car! “But Zoe, I thought we were supposed to be broke backpackers!” Well, thank you for paying attention and participating in my game, you get an imaginary lolly. Moving on, hire a freakin car okay? Don’t argue with me, just do it. And then wander around your hostel and walk up to a friendly looking, also probably broke like you, fellow backpacker, and say, “Have you seen Daintree or Cape Trib yet?” I’ll tell you what, they’ll either say “Yes,” and you move on to the next one, or they’ll say “No,” and then you can invite them along on your car hire. And you know what they’re gonna say, “Hell yeah! I’ve been wanting to go up there, but it’s too expensive! What a great idea you had to hire a car and share the cost among other friendly, broke backpackers!” And boom, there ya go, you have a friend and a road trip buddy to share costs.

Most cars carry five people too (I know, groundbreaking information here) so you can honestly save so much money if you can fill that car up all the way. I personally ended up with two friendly faces for each day I had the car and it ended up at around $25 per person per day with the gas included. That being said, it would have been even cheaper if I had booked it when I first thought of it instead of waiting until the night before. It originally had been around $30 per day to rent and when I finally decided to book, it had ended up at $46 per day. Also, another reason not to stall, and to just rent it and then find the friends later, is that the cars that are in town book up pretty quickly. I originally figured it would be as simple as walking or taking our hostel shuttle to town to grab the car, but I ended up having to go back to the airport. Uber was the cheapest and easiest way to do so and I simply split it among the cost for everyone, BUT that was unnecessary and if I had just booked the car when I was originally looking at it, I would have avoided that extra cost. So seriously, just look up some car prices on Kayak.com and book it and find some friends to share the cost with. I seriously guarantee that there will be a ton of people in the hostel who would love to join.

So, upon getting my car, I of course decided to be a basic bitch and take an instagram story of myself walking up to it. In doing so I tripped over myself, almost dropped my purse, the keys, and the paperwork, and after recomposing myself I opened the left side of the car and got in. Wrong, I got back out of the car and looked around, as you do when you just did something terribly embarrassing, and of course there was a lady sitting in the car directly behind mine, watching every moment. Lovely.

Anyway, I got in the right side, turned on the radio, put the window down and then immediately back up when I felt the AC compared to the humid air of northern Queensland, and popped the car into drive. I pulled out of the parking spot and then went to turn onto the main road and immediately turned on the windshield wipers instead of my blinkers. Ah yes, for those of you who have never driven in a country which drives on the opposite side of the road, not only is the drivers side on the opposite side, but the blinkers and windshield wipers are switched, that’s fun. By the end of the two days, the girls were congratulating me every time I actually managed to used the blinkers accurately. Struggle might as well be my middle name.

Anywayyyy, as mentioned, I got the car for two days, that really is enough as long as you actually get up early and head out at a decent time. Three days might be too much, but hey, it’s completely up to you. The first day I had the pleasure of having the company of a lovely Canadian named Christiane, and previously mentioned sweet German Luzie.

Our first day we decided to head north of Cairns to Port Douglas, Mossman Gorge, and Cape Tribulation (Cape Trib)/Daintree National Park. We honestly didn’t even get going until after 10 and we still did pretty much exactly what we wanted. Our first stop was Port Douglas, along the most beautiful stretch of Bruce Highway there is.

Seriously, it was along the coast the entire way and was breathtaking, we stopped once to take photos,

as you do,

otherwise Luzie took some while I was driving to make sure we all stayed safe.

Port Douglas was an adorable little town with some gorgeous views off the beach as well.

We parked and walked down to the beach and then found a little ‘hike’ up some stairs for a nice little lookout.

When facing the ocean, just walk to your left and you’ll see the stairs, if it’s hot, it’s not the most fun thing in the world I’ve ever done, but it’s deffo worth it.

Oddly enough, we didn’t feel like swimming…

Couldn’t tell ya why though. Actually you’ll see signs like this all over northern Queensland. That’s why most places up there have a lagoon, or some sort of man made beach to swim at. I’m a pansy though so the thought didn’t even cross my mind to throw my suit on and get in the water.

We had zero clue as to what our plan was so we went into a travel agency to ask what they would suggest for us to do. The one we originally went into said they usually had a map that had a good route, but they were out, so they sent us in search of their sister office up the street a little ways. We drove around the block twice before finally deciding to just park and wander into the next travel agency we could find. We kind of finally figured that they probably all had the same map. And we were right! The lady at the place we went to had a ton of info and was super helpful and gave us pamphlets and we really just loved her. So after fawning over her and how great she was, we made it back to the car and set out on our next stop: Mossman Gorge.

Oh my lord. Go here. I don’t care who you are, I don’t want to hear any excuses, I just want to hear that you went. Okay? This place was awesome! So we got there and I very meticulously picked a parking spot that was kind of in the shade, like a pro, right? Anyway we walked in and were immediately confused, because there was a visitors center, and we didn’t know what to do.

So after wandering around quite a bit we finally found the desk in the visitors center/gift shop area and asked how we were supposed to get to the gorge.

You can’t drive to the gorge because there is an indigenous community located in the area.

There was a shuttle bus which was something like $10 to take, but we’re broke backpackers and we decided we’d rather spend $10 on something better so we asked if we could walk. They said yes, but that we had to stay on the road, and that it was a 30 minute walk. Bring it. We peed, filled up our water bottles, and headed out. The first like….7 minutes of the walk were a little rough,

it was direct sunlight and just a boring road,

but then we turned down into some beautiful scenery. It was all lush rainforest, beautiful little streams, so gorgeous.

I’m actually so happy that we walked, simply because we wouldn’t have seen any of that if we had taken the bus. And we got our steps in. If you look at the website for the area it says there is no footpath or pedestrian access and that the road is ‘narrow and dangerous’. This is bull shit okay, I mean yes, there is no footpath, you are walking on the road, but basically the only traffic on the road is the buses and they see you and you see them and you just step off the road and wait for them to pass. Easy. Just don’t be an idiot.

Anyway, the gorge is amazing. There’s a nice swimming area and we climbed up a little ways. People were doing some ‘cliff jumping’ but we opted to just swim, despite this fun sign.

We did take an interesting route down and ended up butt sliding down a bunch of little waterfalls. I would love to show photos or video, but I stupidly forgot to bring my GoPro with me so…sorry. You’ll just have to go yourself at some point and experience it as well. This place is really so amazing and so beautiful though. If I was living in Cairns this is a place that I would come to all the time with a picnic and some beverages and spend the day. So relaxing and such a cool vibe.

We would have stayed longer, but we did have plans to keep heading north so we got out and dried off and wandered our way back to the car, which was sitting in direct sunlight, because, believe it or not, the sun moves across the sky during the day. I’m 0 for 3 at this point in case you’re keeping track. We sat there for a minute letting the hot air pour out of the car and finally got in and headed north to the ferry which would bring us across to Cape Trib and the Daintree.

This ferry was kind of ridiculously expensive at $26 for a return trip, but it was the only way for us to get across the crocodile infested river to Cape Trib, so they are obviously cornering that market spectacularly. Even though all they need to do is build a bridge. Like there has to be a reason there isn’t a bridge, right? Because I’ve seen way bigger bridges in this world than I can imagine would need to be built over this river. This was a total goober tourist moment for me though seeing as how I have never been on a vehicle ferry before, in an actual vehicle.

So hey, it was a fun experience at the very least. And between the three of us it ended up only being $9 each, which is what we saved from not taking the shuttle to Mossman Gorge so we won that round I guess.

Once on the other side we had the pleasure of driving a terribly windy, skinny road. It was beautiful, but here’s the thing about driving in Oz for me. Yes, I realize I turn on my windshield wipers more often than not when I’m trying to use my blinkers, but honestly that is not the hardest thing for me about driving here. Actually, the hardest part is my spatial awareness of the actual car. I am obviously used to having the drivers side be on the left side of the car and having the body of the car all on the right side of me. For ten years I’ve trained myself that way! A decade! Now, driving from the right side of the car, I have to figure out my spatial awareness with the whole car on the left side of me instead. This means I hug the left side of the road, hard. I basically am constantly on if not over the line the entire time. This is good for the fact that I won’t be hitting anyone head on anytime soon. On the other hand, it’s bad on super skinny roads that have a giant rock wall on the side that I keep almost grazing in my rental car which I was too damn cheap to get insurance on. Sue me, I’m broke. We did perfectly fine on the road, I just had lots of ‘oh shit’ moments where I practically stopped on the road because someone was flying around a curve coming toward me and I panicked and didn’t want to chip the left side of the car. At least no one was behind us at all though.

We made a few random stops on our way driving up toward Cape Trib, the first was because we saw a sign for one of the points mentioned on our handy dandy map, couldn’t tell you the name of it but there was a decent view.

Then we stopped at a beach because we drove by it and totally fangirled over how beautiful it was. We had been staring at the mud flats in Cairns for a few too many days and we were just stoked to see actual sand. We had to drive quite a ways though before we found somewhere to pull over and turn around, but it was worth it.

There was only one other person there. So amazing. I would make this my place to go swim, but…well……crocs.

We did stop at one of the “rainforest walks.”

and we’re pretty sure, though not positive, we saw a croc, but it was so quiet and quick all we really managed to see was the barely disturbed water afterwards.

And we were somewhat sketched out by the rickety boardwalk that was supposed to keep us safe from the crocs.

It was beautiful, and very cool, but once we made it back to the car, we had to make a decision about heading back. While we were talking to the lovely girl in Port Douglas, she told us there was a beautiful spot to watch the sunset, which we kind of wanted to try to make it to. So we decided to turn around before we made it to actual Cape Trib and make our way back to the ferry.

I forgot to mention that the entire road from the ferry up to Cape Trib had signs everywhere about cassowary crossing, along with some seriously obnoxious speed bumps to keep you from hitting them. These dinosaur birds are especially important because they have a huge helping hand in germinating and spreading the seeds of trees in the rainforest. For one thing, they transport seeds around the rainforest via their poo. If it weren’t for cassowaries eating fruits and seeds and then pooping them out elsewhere, those specific plants and trees would only be able to grow down hill from where the parent plant was. Along with that, there is also one tree in particular which has a less than 10% germination rate if a cassowary doesn’t first eat and poop out the seeds. Apparently they have a gentle digestive tract, and their poo is a fertilizer, so there’s that. Anyway, we didn’t think we’d see a dinosaur bird in the wild at all and were getting sufficiently annoyed by all of the speed bumps when a wild cassowary popped out in the road just ahead of us. So screw me I guess. I was driving and didn’t take any photos though due to my diligence at being a safe driver, so you’ll just have to take my word for it.

Anyway, we sped along, trying our best to make it back to Port Douglas for the sunset, and missed it entirely. We had a long moment wondering what the heck the girl was actually talking about, seeing as how we were on the east coast, so the sun was setting behind the mountains to the west (thanks primary school), and it was gone by 5:45.

We had some words to say about it, until we got a momentary glimpse of the sunset at a high point on the highway, and then we felt bad for somewhat bad-mouthing the lovely travel agent we had talked to. She was lovely, and if you’re in Port Douglas around sunset, it will apparently be quite beautiful. After slowly making our way back to the hostel with the worlds worst headlights, and after having spent an entire day out and about though, I slept like a baby in preparation for day two.

The next day Christiane had to start her work for accommodation at our hostel, so Luzie and I had the company of another German girl in our room named Lily for our waterfall adventure day. We didn’t make it out until around 10 again and this time headed south to start of at the well known Josephine Falls. We followed signs until we finally found a small road leading to a parking area for the falls. There was a small hike out to them, and we opted to check out the overlook up top before heading down to swim.

It was beautiful, but we were hot and wanted to get in so we wandered down and did some rock hopping, changed into our suits, and rock hopped over to the swimming area.

I actually managed to remember my go pro this time (unlike the day before at Mossman Gorge), but I forgot the case so I had to death grip it for fear of dropping it. Anyway, the water here was a little colder than it had been at the gorge, but it felt so good to swim. The best part? There was an actual proper waterfall slide.

On the left there, yeah? I was stoked, this was the greatest. We got there at the same time as a tour group so we had to stand in a little line, but we got to watch some serious, painful looking trick slides. For example, a guy laid down on his stomach, and then had a girl sit on him and they went down like that. Which looked….painful. We opted out of that obviously. And we didn’t need any trick slides anyway; we went down on our bums and it was the greatest!

Man I wanted to go over and over again! BUT, again we sadly had places to be so we made our way back to our stuff, got dressed and headed back out. We stopped to grab gas, where I ended up on the wrong side of the road twice, so that was fun. Also I couldn’t figure out how to pump gas because it was too much for me to understand that you pumped the gas before paying. Like what? Absolutely not, you prepay in the United States. So Luzie got out and pumped gas for me because I am stupid.

After I sufficiently embarrassed myself at the gas station we headed in the general direction that we thought the waterfalls were. We only had enough service to be able to pull up a map on our phones, but not enough to search for the waterfalls and get directions. So finally we were stopped at a road construction site and Luzie decided to ask one of the construction workers where we should go. He told us that up ahead there was a “waterfall circuit” with something like 20 or 25 waterfalls along it. We were very excited about this, thanked him, and set off. We eventually found a sign that said “Waterfall Circuit”, so we obviously turned and followed the road. I’m not sure if we actually ended up in the wrong spot or what, but there were only 3 waterfalls along this ‘circuit.’

The first was Ellinjaa Falls, which had a nice little swimming area.

The issue was, though, that the waterfall was in the shade by that point and we felt that we would get cold.

So we took a few photos and decided to move on to the next one. Zillie falls!

This one was super tall, the main parking area actually brought us to the top of the waterfall.

We wanted to go down to the bottom though, so we found a little primitive trail and decided to follow it.

It came out at a spot where we couldn’t even see the waterfall, so we busted out our rock hopping skills again and tried to get a better view.

It didn’t end up being the view we expected, but it was quite beautiful.

We took our pictures and then made the trip back up to the car to move on to the most popular one in the area — Millaa Millaa Falls.

This waterfall had a man made swimming area under it, changing rooms, toilets, and a landing pad for people to stand on and take photos. We adequately used the photo taking pad, then judged a few people for taking super #basic photos, but really I’m pretty basic a lot of the time too, so I can’t really judge that much.

After about three minutes we were bored and decided to start making our way back to Cairns. We saw a sign for another waterfall that I had seen on a list when I was last minute looking up places to go that morning, so I quickly threw on my windshield wipers and swerved off to the parking area and grabbed a parking spot. This waterfall was called Malanda Falls and it was less than impressive.

It simply looked like a giant swimming pool. I’m sure it’s a nice place to bring the family if you live in the area, but honestly I’d way rather go to Millaa Millaa or Josephine falls before I’d decide to spend time at Malanda.

So, underwhelmed, we quickly headed back to the car and made it back to Cairns before the sun went down (so we didn’t have to deal with the terrible headlights).

Luckily, the rental company told me I could drop the car off in town instead of at the airport without an extra cost, in order to keep me from having to pay for an airport transfer back to town again. So I got up and filled the tank up, all by myself this time, but also I parked like a mile away from the pump…

Then I drove into town and while speaking to the very nice Aussie lady she noticed my tattoo of my dog and asked “is that a dingo tattoo?” Ha! A real life Aussie recognized my dog as a dingo and that means I will continue to call her as such. Nala is a little three-legged dingo bad ass. Okay rant over. Rent a car in Cairns! Go north! And then go south!

Spend some time exploring while you can, get out and see what’s beyond the town. It’s a beautiful area, and the town itself is nice and relaxing and has a great vibe that draws some seriously awesome people there.

Also the hostel had a cat.

Being Broke in Cairns

Northern Queensland! The land of crocs and spiders and dinosaurs known as Casowarys, I guess crocs are dinosaurs too, but seriously, these birds are crazy looking.

Look at its dinosaur face and feet….and apparently the giant pile of poo that I didn’t notice while taking the photo.

I’m actually going to be very honest, Cairns is a little boring if you don’t have a car. God’s honest truth. I said it. Sorry not sorry. That being said, I did end up actually falling for Cairns a little bit and it did turn out that I was sad to leave after the week that I spent there. I do kind of attribute that more to the company that I had there, but Cairns did grow on me.

First off, let’s talk about the hostel I stayed at—Calypso Mad Monkeys. Now, Mad Monkeys itself has three or four hostels in Cairns and I think they’re building or remodeling another one. So you may stay at a Mad Monkeys in Cairns that’s not this one, it’s confusing, I know. Getting here was super easy, there is a bus that does airport transfers to, I’m assuming, anywhere in Cairns. I already knew I was going to be taking a Greyhound out of town, and not flying, so I only paid the one way ticket instead of getting a return ticket. So honestly, I don’t know how the return works, I’m assuming you either set it up when they bring you to your accommodation, or you just have to call and set it up at said accommodation the day before or day of. Anyway the transfer that I used was Sun Palm Transport and it cost me $16 AUD, though if you look online it only says $15 so I don’t really know. I guess it depends on if they like you or not. The transfer drops you off right at the door of your accommodation though so that was pretty nice. When checking in, the reception informed me of the awesome wifi, and I gotta say, it was just that. It was fast, strong, and worked well in the room, which is always a massive plus.

This was a bit of a party hostel, which is pretty common in Australia. Most people are looking for a party for the most part, personally I’m just looking for sociable people. There was a pool and a decent common area with a bar.

Since they were licensed to sell liquor that meant no BYOB, but the drinks were actually decently priced. A pitcher of beer was $12, and that’s all I drank the entire time I was there, so I can’t actually give any real number for mixed drinks or wine. The bar had some rowdy nights while I was there, and my room was right next to the bar, so it was pretty loud. I did quite enjoy the playlists on drag night, lots of Backstreet Boys, Cindy Lauper, Shania Twain, etc. Really good shit, minus the fact that I was trying to sleep. They do, however, turn off the music at midnight which is super nice. That is, until some drunk guy wanders into your room yelling “hey guuuuuurlzzzzz”. This guy was stumbling around, petting the girls in the bottom bunks (for once I was glad to have a top bunk). He stumbled back out of the room and I hoped that was because he realized he was in the wrong room, and then he stumbled back in and tried to climb the ladder to the only empty bed. He fell down it and stumbled back out and I got up and locked him out. Good riddance, leave us alone guy. And then, tragedy, he had a key and came back in. He did finally make it up to the bed, but I had a lingering fear for Luzie, who was in the bunk below him, that he was going to vomit on her. Spoiler alert: he didn’t, but he was a righteous ass in the morning about a few of the girls turning the lights on. They gave him some sufficient death glares though and that was that.

There were two kitchens, both were kind of tiny, but they are currently doing a ton of renovations on the hostel. In fact, when I booked I went for the cheapest option (as you do) and booked an 8 bed dorm, but they were renovating all of the 8 bed dorms so they put me in a 6 bed dorm instead. They were also adding a bunch of storage for food, and what looked like another, much larger kitchen in the main area. Otherwise, seriously, such a tiny kitchen for a decent sized hostel, even if there was only two or three others in there at the same time trying to cook it was practically impossible. I am interested to see what the hostel is like in a few months when renovations are done. Unfortunately, yet again, I apparently didn’t take any flippin photos. I hate myself. I will try to do better.

Here’s a hammock. Nice right?

Every other Sunday there’s a huge pool party, however I arrived the day after the pool party and therefore didn’t get to participate or give any first-hand accounts of it. I heard it was insane though. People getting thrown into the pool, a massive sea of people, music, etc. Picture an insane pool party, I’m sure what you’re picturing is probably what it was like. I heard a rumor that all of the mad monkey hostels in Cairns advertise for it, so that would mean there was somewhere around quadruple the amount of people there as were actually staying at Calypso. Hindsight, maybe I’m glad I missed out on that one.

One of my favorite perks about this hostel though had to be the free brekky. There was toast, beans, pancakes, cereal, granola, muesli, yogurt, milk, all sorts of stuff. Usually free breakfast is toast and maybe one kind of cereal, but this was real. Two of my most important things were covered by this hostel—good WiFi and good free brekky. Points to you Calypso.

The location was a little tough, being about a 20 minute walk to town (and the closest affordable supermarket), but it wasn’t a complete deal breaker. There was a hostel shuttle that went every hour into town, or the walk along the esplanade was pretty.

I thought it was rather silly though that people would actively wait for the shuttle to be going out, when they could have just walked to town in the amount of time that they waited. Yes, the bus did have air con, but seriously, walking is good for you, don’t waste time waiting for the shuttle to head out.

As for the city/town/whatever of Cairns itself, well the only real thing to do there besides spend a ton of money on tours, is go to the lagoon (and walk along the esplanade, but we’ve already done that now haven’t we).

The lagoon exists because a) there are salt water crocodiles that will eat you, and b) Cairns doesn’t have a beach, it has mud flats.

I don’t actually know if this is the name of them, but they’re muddy, and they’re flat, so that’s what we’re calling them. I honestly didn’t even ever see the water at high tide in Cairns so it was a constant view of mud, lots of mud, kind of ugly honestly, but who am I to judge.

Maybe there’s some sort of beauty there? Anyway, the lagoon is quite nice, there’s sand along one edge, and it has some water features, and it doesn’t get TOO deep.

There are a few super nice barbecues

and a few small restaurants along the water, along with a ton of shade and grassy areas as well. The lagoon is actually just on the water front so you can look out at the nice mud flats while enjoying your fake ocean swimming experience.

I mean, the lagoon does keep you from getting eaten by a crocodile, so I’m all game for sticking around there. It’s also just really relaxed and pretty nice to lay back and read a book or lay out in the sun.

The day I went we grabbed some fruit and found ourselves a spot. I, of course, got myself a quarter of a watermelon, and two others, upon seeing how much of a genius I was, got some too. This means we ended up with almost an entire watermelon between three of us. I know this sounds perfect, how could there possibly ever be TOO MUCH watermelon? Well, it was too much. Way too much. Also we had no utensils so the three of us were just sitting there holding these giant cuts of watermelon, seriously debating if we were just going to go for it like barbarians. Instead we decided to ask one of the restaurants for a few spoons. I was fully expecting Luzie (lovely little miss staying at the hostel with me) to come back with just a few plastic spoons. Nope, she came back with three real life spoons, like actual cutlery. The girl working was apparently a little scared to give them up, which is completely understandable, but Luzie talked her into it by pointing out that we were just over yonder. Anyway, I tried not to be a quitter and I kept going for my watermelon for a little while after I was sufficiently stuffed, and still only ended up eating about three quarters of it (maybe even only two thirds). I’m a complete failure.

A few of us laid out in the sun and I did some reading for a while. Personally, I can only hang out like that for so long before getting sooooo bored, so Cairns was not exactly the place for me, seeing as how all it seemed to have for a broke backpacker was the lagoon. Otherwise, you can do helicopter sightseeing tours, tours into Daintree National Park and up to Port Douglas and Cape Tribulation, or down to the waterfalls south of Cairns. I, personally, was unwilling to spend a few hundred dollars on tours of these places and instead managed to find a few girls at the hostel willing to share the cost of a rental so we could explore the area ourselves. That’s a whole other blog/story in and of itself though so you’ll have to stay tuned for that one. Toodles kids.

Oh by the way, if anyone has tips, ideas, questions, stuff they want to see, stuff they don’t care about, let me know aye? It’s hard to just write about my life while also trying to be informative I guess. So yeah, help a girl out. Let me know what I’m missing. Comment here or email at z.m.yost@gmail.com

Downtown Nassau on a Shoestring Budget

Going downtown and doing other things around the downtown area are some fun, short, quick and easy things that, if you’re trying to get the full experience of Nassau and learn about some of the history of the Bahamas, you should definitely do. The Bahamas are, after all, more than just amazingly clear blue water and beautiful beaches, there is an interesting history to the area as well. In an attempt to make this easier to both read and write…I shall use bullet points…

1. Local Buses: Obviously this isn’t an attraction or something that you need to see, BUT, this is the way you get to said attractions so bear with me. The local bus system is amazing, and cheap, and super super easy to use. To be entirely honest, I only ever used two ‘numbers’ of busses, the number 10 and the number 12, but I’m pretty sure they can get you just about everywhere. The number 12 bus gets you all the way to the airport; now that being said, just maybe remember to tell the bus driver thats where you’re going. I almost made a terrible mistake of assuming he would guess that’s where I was going since I had my giant backpack with me along with my smaller backpack and my purse. I mean…maybe it looked functional, but seeing as how I barely managed to get on the bus without nailing the lady sitting in front of me with one of my bags, I don’t see why he would have thought I was simply going for a light day out. Anyway, moral of the story…he didn’t assume I was going to the airport, someone just happened to be getting ON the bus at the airport and as he was about to pull away I decided to maybe ask if that’s where I should get off if I was going to the airport…spoiler alert, he said yes. I paid and jumped off and then realized I had to walk down a road to the airport, as per Bahamian standard…no sidewalk. Anyway, the number 10 bus brought us into town from where our hostel was located. All you had to do was stand on the side of the road, and when you see a bus coming down the street, with the number you’re looking for, wave them down. Boom, done. The drivers own their own busses, so some are air conditioned, some aren’t, some have a door that closes, some don’t, it’s awesome, personally I liked the crappy old busses a little more, it adds to the experience.

The price to ride the bus to town was $1.25, so amazingly cheap. Here’s a few pointers though, try to have exact change, and if you don’t, tell the driver what you’ll need change for when you get on the bus. However, you don’t pay until you’re getting off the bus, I’m assuming the further you go the more it costs, seeing as how the airport cost me $2.50 instead of $1.25. Also….you kinda just yell out to the bus driver that you want him to stop when you get to your stop. There are actual bus stops, but I found that the only time they really stick to only stopping at the bus stops is when they’re in actual downtown, and I’m using my smart brain to assume that’s in order to keep from backing up the already pretty bad traffic. ALSO, the busses stop around 6 pm, so unfortunately, if you want to have dinner downtown you’ll have to take a taxi back (remember to barter the price before getting in though). Also, everything closes at 4 or 5 anyway, so usually the bus service will work perfectly fine, unless, as I said, you want to do dinner downtown.

2. The Caves: Now that we talked about the busses and ‘downtown’, let’s talk about something I didn’t take the bus to and which is in the actual opposite direction of downtown, just to keep y’all on your toes.

Ricki, Jenn, and Sherri had all mentioned “The Caves” to me, but lets be honest, I hadn’t done any research about this trip, I simply bought a ticket and got a hostel bed and expected to sunbathe for ten days?

So yeah, I had no idea what they were talking about, but I did a solid job of pretending to. Anyway, one afternoon we decided to walk to the caves; we used our google devices and they told us it would be about a 45 minute walk, but we were on vacation, we had nowhere to be at any specific time, so we decided yes.

After about 10 minutes, the sidewalk disappeared, classic. Walking along the road was nothing short of entirely entertaining though, we were constantly running back and forth across the street when it looked better to be walking on the other side, along with having our moments of peeking around foliage that came out all the way to the road, waiting for all of the cars to pass so we could walk around.

Now, the caves themselves were small, but awesome.

I didn’t realize at first that you could go all the way down into them until Ricki wandered down and out of sight; don’t worry everyone, she was safe, just the bravest of us so she was the first to go in. The three of us slowly tested the waters, wandering down after her, it was awesome!

There were tons of bats and it was a decent sized room, we explored as much as we could and took as many pictures as we could, but obviously there’s only a point to which you can get photos in a dark cave with a three year old iPhone.

Those little black dots are bats by the way. Very exciting… I know. Then of course I proceeded to make everyone take some seriously cheesy tourist pics with me,

Classic. We definitely stayed for as long as I think we could have stayed, and it didn’t end up being more than 45 minutes at the actual caves, short and sweet.

3. The Queen’s Staircase: This was one of the more humbling and awe inspiring things to see downtown, and people really don’t realize that. Ricki and I had actually attempted to find the Queen’s Staircase once before, turns out though that we went in the exact opposite directions and ended up on West Hill Street next to Graycliff and the magical wine place as spoken about before.

Anyway, there’s worse things than getting lost when you don’t actually have anywhere you need to be, so we kind of gave up that day and ended up making it there a few days later with Jenn and Sherri. Now, we got there at 4 o’clock on the dot, and again, everything closes at 4 or 5; that being said, the Queen’s Staircase itself doesn’t close, but there are (unpaid/tipped) ‘workers’ at the entrances on either side who leave at 4. This means nothing if you don’t care to hear any history behind the staircase, but if you’re interested in the amazing stories and history behind the building of it, you should try to be there before 4. We were lucky enough to show up just in time; the gentleman working told us his ride had just shown up, but that he’d tell us about it. He was awesome, and actually spent almost an hour talking to us, I low-key felt bad for his ride. Whoops.

Anyway, some minor details from his (maybe inaccurate?) 45 minute history lesson…slaves were brought to the island to be tortured, and the form of torture used was making them dig through the solid limestone rock without any tools to ‘make a pathway from the fort to the docks.’ They were barely fed and barely let to sleep in order to keep them from being strong enough to retaliate. Eventually, the slaves were freed, not knowing what to do with their newfound freedom, they finished digging and built the Queen’s Staircase.

Named for Queen Victoria, they made it 66 steps, one for each year of the Queen’s reign. Fun fact, when the area was repaved, they paved over a step so it’s now only 65 steps. When you’re walking along the walkway below the steps, you’re walking over the graves of over 4,000 slaves.

It’s a very humbling experience, and more than just a pretty place to take an instagram photo (not that I don’t personally love Insta, obviously). Time for some cheese…

4. Fish Fry: I heard I had to go to the Fish Fry, uhm to be entirely honest, it wasn’t anything SUPER special. We made a last minute decision on the bus and decided to get off and it kind of seemed like we were there pretty early, because a) we were basically the only tourists there, and b) everything was just barely opening as we were walking through so, you know…that made it pretty obvious. Anyway we dove right in and immediately crossed the street to the actual restaurants, and we were immediately pounced upon by restaurant hookers. They all had the same deal basically, ‘come to our restaurant and we’ll give you a free drink, oh and wifi, and we have the best views’ (of the street?). We ended up walking along all of the restaurants and decided to just go back to the first restaurant we had come upon, couldn’t even tell you the name because it was kind of confusing. One lady sat us and asked what we wanted to drink, only one of us got a drink, and we weren’t super hungry so we just got a few things to share – conch fritters, conch salad, and fries (per Sherri).

#selfie

Personally, I never knew you could eat conch? I feel quite ignorant because it’s insanely popular in the Bahamas, but yeah, no idea. The fritters were pretty good, but that’s probably just because they were basically just deep fried dough, there was the tiniest most minuscule piece of conch in them that you basically missed it even being in there.

The conch salad was not my favorite thing, it kind of just tasted like pico de gallo, only with super rubbery chunks (the conch), it woulda been tasty if they had served it with some tortilla chips. That’s just my personal opinion though, other human beings on this planet like conch salad…try it and decide for yourself.

Anyway, we went to pay and the lady who had sat us and gotten the drink came over and said we had to pay for the drink separate and it was 8 freakin dollars. What!? She’s sneaky, she said it said that on the menu but it definitely didn’t and also she was obviously a different entity than the ‘restaurant’ that we ordered the food from. This was especially clear due to the fact that we had to pay for the food separate from the drink, DON’T LIE TO ME LADY. Anyway, while we were eating the restaurant hooker who had pulled us in kept talking to us; he asked Sherri if she was single, she said no, so he asked if any of us were single, we decided to leave shortly after, but don’t worry, he chased us! We had to lie and say we were going to come back and he finally left us alone. Unfortunately, that guy was not my ticket to Bahamian residency…and I’m really not super sad about that. Check out this cart full of conch shells though…insaneeee

I was trying to get a photo before he was gone sooo, excuse the incognito mode photo and sorry to the guy who got caught in the photo. Moving on…

5. Fort Charlotte: This Fort is across the street from the Fish Fry, so we decided to wander our way across the street and up after eating and running away from Orlando (fish fry guy, had an especially creepy love for Sherri, poor girl).

It was supposed to be something like $3-5 to enter, but we ended up paying $5 and some change due to the recent(?) addition of some sort of tax in the Bahamas, so that was fun, we all sat there digging through our bags looking for change, mostly because we didn’t want to use all of our bus change, ugh the horror of having to ask for change on the bus! Anyway, we were shootin the shit with one of the tour guide ladies there and she told us she was going to give us a one question quiz when we got back, so we got scared. But, with said fire lit under our asses, we headed into the fort. Here are some fun facts for you…Fort Charlotte is the largest fort on Nassau, and is actually three different forts, Fort Stanley and Fort D’Arcy were added a few years after Charlotte was finished. Not a single cannon

(of 42) was ever fired in an act of aggression,

and while there were great views of the surrounding area,

we didn’t really see how this fort in particular was very useful in defense, seeing as how it was so far away from the port…and it also didn’t seem to have any outer walls? There was a moat,

that I’m pretty sure was never filled from what I diligently read while attempting to study for my test, and honestly, you could climb up on to the roof from one side of the fort with absolutely no problem. There were some cool areas down below,

which is where they kept munitions, even though the damp conditions ruined most of them…it really seemed like this place wasn’t very logistically useful. And we learned later on, when we were talking to our friend at the Queen’s Staircase, that the fort was actually built as a front for the general (can’t remember his name…sorry) to steal money. Smart dude. Anyway, there were a LOT of plaques and such with wicked long paragraphs full of information on them and we eventually got distracted with taking photos and wandering around the mazes down below, that we gave up on reading the information. We were all scared to fail our quiz though so when we were finally leaving we snuck past the tour guide lady like the real life adults that we are. From there (and the fish fry since it is obviously right across the street), it’s a decently short walk to downtown, which is awfully convenient.

6. Straw Market: located right downtown, this is the best place to test your abilities to stay strong in the face of needless spending.

If there’s one thing I learned while I was in Cambodia, its that when a full grown woman trying to sell me cheap trinkets starts crying, I crack and give her money. So that’s good. That being said, I have learned, do not make eye contact and keep saying no. And you need to learn to scan everything QUICKLY, because if you stop to look, they will pounce.

Do not stop unless you plan on buying! Well…I mean you can, it’s just harder to get away. OR, take a page out of my book and just throw your friends to the wolves; a shopkeeper starts talking to you and you don’t actually want to buy anything? Point and your friend who’s obviously stronger than you and go, “She’s looking for something” and then run before they get the chance to turn back towards you. Works every time.

Anyway, if I’m being honest, the straw market is really just the same stuff multiplied, you can spend your time walking down every single aisle if you want, but it’s basically all the same cheap stuff. The coolest section, in my opinion, is the woodworking; you can actually see them making stuff right in front of you, it’s actually super cool, and that’s definitely worth a slow walk through. Unfortunately I never got a photo of the woodworking, like I said, if you stopped for too long they’d try to get you to buy something. That’s why all of my photos are A LITTLE blurry, I was taking them on the go. Otherwise, spend some time in there, get your cheap souvenirs, and then feel perfectly happy leaving, knowing you at least saw it.

7. Lukka Kairi Restaurant: I visited this restaurant twice while in Nassau, and I would have gone back more if it was closer to my hostel and I didn’t have to worry about the bus system quitting on me at 6. This place was awesome. They have ‘traditional’ Bahamian food with a ‘modern twist’.

(Parmesan and aioli crusted broccoli). So tasty. Also they have grits though? I figured that was a play at making themselves more friendly to all of the southern visitors they get from the cruise ships. Anyway, along with the very tasty food, their walls are painted with beautiful historical murals,

and it’s open with ‘bar-like’ seating which faces out to the harbor. We didn’t drink the two times we went because one of the times was the middle of the day and we didn’t feel like day-drinking, and the other time was after wine and lite vibes and we all knew that it would not be good to continue drinking. If you’re not drinking alcohol, do make sure to ask if what you’re drinking has free refills, because it probably doesn’t and then you’ll spend $8 on iced tea….not that I’m speaking from experience or anything, or that I’m bitter about it. But, if you get the chance, go eat here! It’s super tasty, good vibes, huge bar if that’s what you’re lookin for, good views, fun employees, good times.

8. Day trips to other islands: This is actually not something I did because it was insanely expensive for my liking for the most part. However, that being said, there were a handful of people staying at the hostel who did do day trips out to the Exumas or Harbor island, and they all said it was COMPLETELY worth it. Harbor island is a little cheaper, it’s only about $120 at the cheapest for a day trip, however, it is a 3 hour ferry trip one way, so 6 hours of your day will be spent on the ferry, which is the only reason I did end up opting out of that one. You can pay more for more amenities, but yeah, that’s the cheapest option, and Harbor Island is home to the pink sand beach which is awesome, I hear. The Exumas are extremely expensive to get to for a day trip and for activities such as swimming with the pigs and playing with the iguanas. But, again, everyone who did it at the hostel LOVED it. The beaches there are apparently even more beautiful and amazing than in Nassau, and swimming with the pigs sounded like a hard thing to pass up. However, it is about $250-$300 at the cheapest to get out there. Partially because you’ll be flying for a day trip; as much as I wanted to go, I wasn’t willing to part with $300, no matter how amazing all of the stories sounded.

Otherwise, y’all know how I feel about places like the Hillside House for Lite Vibes and West Hill Street for tasty cheap wine and the Graycliff manor (check out the National Art Gallery while you’re on West Hill Street! It’s another cheap and quick, but interesting thing to do). And if you don’t, that means you didn’t read my last blog! Shame! Go check it out, it’s full of mildly embarrassing stories and photos.

Like these!

Wine and Lite Vibes

Now when I left for the Bahamas, my mother told me not to get drunk. Whelp, sorry mom, don’t read this one, it’ll upset you. To my credit though, I did not do this by myself, I was in a group of lovely individuals who were also staying at the hostel with me. Perfectly safe. Also it was a complete and total accident…that makes it better right? That being said, these are two must do things in my opinion if you’re a younger traveler in Nassau and you’re looking for fun things to do. We’ll go in order of what we did first…and that is the 90 minutes of bottomless wine provided by the Graycliff Heritage Village Artists Studios(?maybe?). I’m honestly a little confused as to what this place actually is if I’m being honest. It has a small menu of assorted snacks, and if you google it, it comes up with way too many different things to sift through. Greycliff itself is a very well known name in Nassau. Graycliff mansion was originally built in 1740 by a famous pirate of the Caribbean by the name of Captain John Howard Graysmith. This mansion has gone through 300 years of bouncing from hand to hand; from pirates, to small armies, to royalty, and it is now a hotel, restaurant, chocolatier, cigar maker, wine cellar, and probably more, those are just the things I personally know about it. It’s located on West Hill Street and, either way, whether you’re staying there or not, you should definitely check this place out, it basically takes up the entire street, and there’s definitely something for everyone.

We, being the people we are, were attracted immediately to the bright colors of a little snack/wine place,

and then we of course loved the idea of the 90 minute bottomless wine for $13.00. Okay, this place was flipping adorable, everything was so brightly colored, they had cute little tables out front along the street, and they had swings! Who doesn’t love swings!? So we wandered into the wine tasting ‘room,’ and there were these two beautiful ladies in there. The girl working told us though, that they closed at 5, and it was already 4, so we only had 60 minutes instead of 90. Chinwe and I, being the Americans I guess, looked at each other and immediately accepted the challenge. Jay, the girl working asked us what we wanted to drink, and offered tastes; Chinwe and I just said to pour us something red, there was no time for tasting, we had 90 minutes of wine to do in 60 minutes, gotta get a move on. Once all of us got our wine we went straight to the swings to take pictures…because why not right?

After taking our photos and boomerangs (because you can’t be on a brightly colored swing with wine without taking a boomerang of it),

we moved on, into a very brightly colored room full of closed doors. So usually, turns out, these doors are typically open and full of local artists with beautiful paintings, souvenirs, glass makings (is that a word?), and such. Unfortunately for us though, everything is closed on Sunday pretty much, so we were out of luck, but we did have a great time hanging out and chatting, getting to know each other, talking about our signs and such, you know…as you do.

Great stuff.

We even were able to see a tiny portion of the art that’s created there…bottle trees!

They have history dating back to the 1600’s in Africa, where people would hang bottles on the branches of trees in order to ward off evil spirits. This was typically done in burial sights; the belief is that evil spirits would enter the bottles during the nights and burn off with the morning sun. They had a bunch of art inspired by these stories in the building, it was very cool to see and learn about something that’s not actually just a Pinterest inspired fad (not that I’m hating on Pinterest, by any means).

Chinwe and I kept everyone on track chugging wine, and actually, we ended up staying way later than we realized. We eventually ended up back in the tasting room talking to the girls in there,

taking tasty shots provided by Jay, and cheers-ing to Chinwe and Shauna (Jay’s friend) because they were both celebrating birthdays.

This was an amazing time, and I can’t recommend doing this enough! Bring a friend, or don’t and meet a friend while you’re there; spend some time looking around at the artists stuff, drink some tasty wine, take photos, swing on the colorful swings, it’s impossible not to enjoy you’re time here. We did, eventually have to move along though, and what better place to go, than to the block party just down the street!

Side note, we did actually stop by the block party earlier, keep this name in mind, and remember it, and if you’re in Nassau on a Sunday…GO TO IT: Lite Vibes.

Anyway, our first stop here was mainly for food and bottomless mimosas…you can get me anywhere if you tell me there’s bottomless mimosas. We walked in and were immediately confused…through only our own fault and anxiousness maybe. There was a DJ playing awesome music, stuff that you can dance to, but also just chill and bob your head to. Stuff that’s uptempo, but doesn’t make you want to smash your head against a wall. Stuff that’s happy and fun, but doesn’t get boring or old.

You get the gist? (Side note: all photos with the “Lite Vibes” watermark are from the Lite Vibes gallery and I do not own them; just borrowing). Anyway, we walked in and looked around; we saw the bar…we saw the DJ…we saw a crazy big sign that looked like fake grass

…and we saw people with food. But where to get the food!? It’s like my entire trip to the Bahamas was just me watching other people do the thing I wanted to do, but I couldn’t figure out how to do the thing…let me do the thing! We did some light recon and noticed that everyone with food was walking in from the front entrance…so we turned slightly to our right, and saw food trucks on the other side of the fence behind the DJ. Score.

We proceeded to stand awkwardly at the food trucks/booths trying to decide what to get; Joelle loves corn, so she got some delicious sounding grilled corn with truffle butter. YUM…

look how happy she is.

Chinwe and I both ended up with some shrimp tacos,

very tasty, and the boys shared something which I’ve already forgotten the name of if I’m to be entirely honest. They seemed happy about it though, so that’s a win. And we got to look at some cool street art while waiting,

along with witnessing what I can only assume was a cruiser gang roll up and then immediately back out.

After we all inhaled our food we wandered back to the other part of the party to get some mimosas…the time had come finally. We patiently stood in line at the bar, and upon asking for the bottomless mimosas…heartbreak: they were out. Noooooo! Okay well I’ll just get a rum and sprite instead, when in pirate territory…drink rum. We all got insanely strong drinks and moved along to take some of our first pictures of the day/night with the grass wall,

and that’s when we decided to move along to the wine place.

Fast forward, and we’re back, ready to have a bloody amazing time; and that’s exactly what we got. We showed up and took a hundred selfies right outside, there’s proof of that not only in my phone,

but also from the photographer for the party…really great stuff,

look at that pure joy. We got a few adult slushees and proceeded to DANCE.

I bounced around like a crazy person, (literally, even the Lite Vibes insta agrees see…)

Joelle had some swag,

Chinwe was our calm dancer,

Sith got DOWN with me,

and even though we didn’t realize he wasn’t quite as intoxicated (sorry again mom) as the rest of us, even Mohamed put up with us and threw some moves in.

We took videos,

we took pictures,

we danced,

we drank,

this is easily one of the most fun nights I could have possibly had while staying in Nassau.

They even had giant Jenga,

which we dedicated ourselves to quite passionately.

What else is there that I could possibly say about this block party? It was an amazing time, there were good tunes, good food, good drinks, fun games, lovely weather. Above all of that though, this is where some of my hostel acquaintances turned into lifelong friends, Lite Vibes may be a simple block party on the surface, but it’s much more, this was a place to enjoy; to let down your defenses and have fun and be happy, which is exactly what we did. Don’t pass up this opportunity should it arise for you, this is an amazing thing they’ve got going on with awesome (Lite) vibes. Go. Seriously.

BahaSea: An Ode to the Hidden Bahamian Hostel

Nassau is, on the surface, not a very happening place for backpackers. For one thing, no one knows what I’m talking about when they ask where I’m staying or if I’m on a cruise and I tell them that no, I’m actually staying at a backpackers. The other travelers and I have gotten quite a few confused looks after saying so. I’m assuming this is due to the fact that mostly everyone who comes to Nassau stays either in a resort, or is a cruiser (this is a copyrighted term I have come up with which clearly means “cruise ship passenger”). So, that being said, when I was informed of this backpackers in Nassau called “BahaSea Backpackers” I was intrigued. I didn’t even think backpackers/hostels existed on Nassau because I just assumed it was all resorts and hotels, so my first response was, predictably….”there’s no such thing as hostels in Nassau.” I was shown proof in the form of a booking.com listing and decided that was good enough for me. Here’s where it started getting weird though…yes, right at the beginning. I couldn’t book for the number of days I wanted, blah blah, long story, I emailed them before taking matters into my own hands and just booking two separate reservations. I never got a reply. Ever. So I ended up booking again but I had a lingering fear about this place.

I had terrible anxiety leading up to my trip, fearing I wouldn’t have a place to stay when I got to Nassau, that my booking would have either been lost, or that the hostel itself didn’t even exist. I definitely could have acted like a real life adult and contacted the hostel via phone, instead of immediately giving up after my email was never answered, but where’s the fun in that, eh? Also I’m a child. So my anxiety was made even worse when I got to Nassau and I was going through customs, the customs officer had absolutely no idea what BahaSea Backpackers was. He didn’t even know what a backpackers was in general actually, just as with everyone else on this island. Anyway I was even more nervous after our fun customs chat and I began moving extremely slowly after this encounter, as if putting off the inevitable heartbreak of having to find a place to stay that was much more expensive and much less fun. I was, however, still getting ahead of myself so once I got my bag I sat down and used the airport wifi to try to figure out where I was going. Here’s the next fun thing…there is no address for the backpackers. The only address provided is “West Bay Street.” West Bay Street is freakin long, okay? It goes along the entire length of the island, the island is 21 miles (34 km) long. For those of you who aren’t good at deducing information (me) that means my directions were to a street 20 freakin miles long! Those are ridiculous directions, how am I supposed to find it? My solution was to screenshot the picture of the map they had on booking.com to show my taxi driver, I assumed they’d be able to figure it out from there. Whelp…the lady who was directing the taxis on where to go couldn’t figure it out, she got another guy to look at it…he couldn’t figure it out, so they gave up and handed me off to a taxi driver, thanks guys.

I showed the picture to the taxi driver and he asked me what number, “I don’t know.” The only information we had was that it was near Sandy Port, so that’s what we went off of. I told him I’d just look for a sign when I got there, he informed me that he had dropped people off there before and that there was no sign, great. Things are getting better and better. Once we got “there” he asked if I had a phone number for them, magically the screenshot I had taken had their phone number, so he called. They said we were in the right place and that someone would come down to get me, things were starting to look up, this place existed, yay.

Here is where I would like to go back in time a little…okay here we go. Denver, Colorado; 10 pm, April 24: gusty, rain turning into snow, cold as fck. I, being an intellectual, was dressed for the weather in long leggings, wool socks, thick boots, a long sleeve shirt, and a sweatshirt. Next…Charlotte, North Carolina; 6 am, April 25: rainy, air conditioning on in airport…cold as fck, I even bought a blanket. Side story…I actually forgot my neck pillow as I always do #firstworldproblems and it was “buy 2 for $20” so I got a blanket along with my 3rd neck pillow, BUT, that blanket was an amazing decision. Anyway….Nassau, Bahamas; noon, April 25: beautiful, birds are singing, sun is shining, my body was literally melting as I stared at these bloody stairs waiting for god knows what…

SO, I am literally dying of heat, sitting on these steps, staring straight at the sun, waiting for someone to “come get me.” Suddenly, a wild tourist appeared! In the form of a guy driving a car….exciting, I know. He gets out, I’m trying to decide whether or not he’s the one there to “get me” but he just said hi and started going up the stairs. I had a quick internal debate: “should I be normal and stay sitting here in the sun where it seems no one is actually coming to get me, or do I politely ask this stranger if I am in the right place?” Whelp, I did what any normal person dying from heat stroke would do, I formed a completely normal, well thought out sentence in my head, “hello, I’m looking for BahaSea Backpackers, am I in the right place?” I stood up, turned to him and awkwardly and excitedly yelled “Hi! Sorry! What is this place!?” Because that’s a good question for the situation, great work Zoe. He responded how you would expect any normal person to respond to a strange girl loitering outside their accommodation, face shiny and red with crazy eyes and probably even a little spit coming out of her mouth….with a very confused look on his face, a little stutter, and a “ummmm…….BahaSea?”

Okay well I burned bridges with that guy and he probably wouldn’t be hanging out with me, but I had found where I needed to go. I started following him up the stairs and he, understandably, instead, told me the office was down where I was, he obviously didn’t want me following him, I couldn’t blame him. So I followed his directions and went to the door he said was the office, it was locked…and also didn’t look like an office, so I ignored a “private property, no trespassing” sign and ventured up the stairs next to the door. There was a pool, and a little outdoor bar, and two women having lunch.

Obviously they noticed I was lost and one of them came up to me asking if I had just arrived. Personally, due to my general appearance, such as my clothing and the strong confused expression on my face, I thought that was obvious, but I simply said “yes” and she brought me to the actual office. It was in the opposite direction that the guy said, fuckin guy. I didn’t want to hang out with him now anyways.

In the office my next terrible fears were recognized and toyed with. They didn’t have my reservation written on their list of people showing up for that day. Oh my god, my stomach dropped, the world was ending, why me? I internally began going into full on meltdown when Maria, the owner, found my reservation in the computer. Cheers erupted in my head, the sun came back out, my savior, Maria, I wanted to kiss her, but that would have been weird and I was trying to dial back on the weirdness. Anyway, she brought me up to my room and I can easily say that BahaSea is one of the nicest backpackers I have ever stayed in. Despite how impossible it is to find and contact, this place is insane, I would 100% recommend this place and I would absolutely stay here again. You know how the pictures always lie? This place was exactly what it claimed to be. There are two pools

along with having a private beach (somewhat only accessible during low tide)

and another public beach on the other side of it.

This was taken from the balcony of the hostel…perfect walking distance.

It’s beautifully clean, has two quite large kitchens, (this one was the kitchen next to my dorm)

and did I mention it’s right on the water? Or is that more information that could have been deduced? Either way…it is.

Perfect views of the ocean. It is the most expensive hostel I’ve ever stayed in, but for only $35-45 USD per night, this place is a gem. There’s a supermarket right down the road, only a five minute walk, and a Wendy’s and an awesome pizza place. There have been a few drawbacks, such as no water for a whole day, and a constantly low supply of toilet paper, but Akeem and Maria do their absolute best to keep everything running smooth. It’s also quite obvious that this is somewhat a new place, there are a few things unfinished on the outside, but these are superficial things which don’t actually have any effect on the stay.

There are awesome outdoor areas,

and comfortable indoor areas for if the weather isn’t cooperating (along with a million outlets! HUGE plus for a hostel, us backpackers always need to charge our shit).

I was staying in a 10-bed female dorm, and my first few nights there weren’t any boys staying in the 10-bed boys dorm next to it, but we finally got some guys in there. However, this must be some sort of sanctuary for ladies, because the female dorm was overbooked so they turned the male dorm into a mixed dorm. I thought about taking pictures of the boys/mixed dorm, but I’m trying to dial back on the weird, so instead I stuck with just my room

Anyway, I know I’m not that important but, I can’t endorse this place enough, the bus picks up right out front for a 15 minute ride to downtown which only costs $1.25, and it’s a comfortable, safe, welcoming atmosphere which draws some very cool people, myself included ha #lovethyself.

The hardest thing for me about staying in this hostel? Forget the lack of toilet paper or water, forget how hard it was to find or contact, forget the price, the hardest thing for me here is going to be saying goodbye to all of the amazing people who were drawn to this hostel as well. This place has great views, yes, but most of all it has a great vibe and a great community of travelers.