East Coast Encompassed – 18 Days That Changed My Life
21 July 2019
On Wednesday I finally finished and uploaded to YouTube my East Coast Encompassed Vlog. Documenting my travels from Syndey to Cairns as a part of a G Adventures tour group. I started the trip somewhat apprehensively, worried about being able to make friends and whether I would have the balls to get stuck in with all the awesome opportunities on offer.
I finished the trip having had the most amazing 18 days. Pushing myself out of my comfort zone to complete a surf lesson, kayak with whales, snorkel on the barrier reef and much more. I met some great people and we had a good laugh along the way.
I started to write a post while I was travelling, about what was happening each day but with so much going on I wasn’t able to keep it up. Here is some of what I jotted down, probably on a long bus journey one day.
A few days into my Australia trip I thought I would share how things are going so far.
Sunday 16th June
On Sunday I landed in Sydney. Immigration was smoother than expected with a ticket system and a sniffer dog I was out the other side quite quickly. I headed straight for the phone shop where I had preordered a SIM and get my phone set up. I then headed to WH Smith’s to pick up an opal card. I was told in the phone shop this was needed to use public transport in Sydney. I topped it up with $20 which was going to be enough to get me to the centre. Unfortunately, this is where I lost my book. A book I was only halfway through. I’m so sorry Chloe I’m gutted, I’m going to see if I can get it on my Kindle.
With my extremely heavy backpack and hand luggage rucksack, I made my way to the train. The food in the aeroplane had been gross so I was feeling light-headed and sweaty, couple that with the extra weight and lack of sleep and I felt rough standing in the train. Luckily it was only a few stops to the central station I disembarked and followed google maps to find the hostel. It was drizzling with rain but at this point, I didn’t care I just wanted my bag off my back.
The hostel wasn’t far and the staff where lovely, I was staying in Wake Up Sydney which was modern, clean and comfortable. After checking in I went straight to the room to offload. I was the first to arrive which was handy and I felt like shit and needed a nap. A few trips to the loo and a nap later I was starting to feel a little more human. When I came to the room after a loo trip I found my first roommate had arrived. After getting to know each other for a little while we both felt tired so just chilled until more people started arriving and we chatted a lot more.
With everyone chatting and introducing ourselves to the rest of the group in the room next door, we decided to go for drinks before our welcome meeting in reception at 7. At the meeting, we got to meet a few others and our CEO (chief experience officer), Andrew. He’s great, super enthusiastic and a laugh. After the meeting, we used the bar downstairs for dinner which had discounted options as part of the package. I had a steak which made me feel so much better. However, having felt like crap all day I chose to avoid alcohol. By the end of the night, most people were having a dance and laugh. I headed up to bed a little early as I wasn’t feeling like dancing with no booze in the system.
Monday 17th June
We had a walking tour of the city planned for today at 9 am. We woke up at a reasonable time after a good sleep. Not perfect but much better than I have been having. Breakfast was provided by Andrew, paper bags with a cute personalised note with some fruit, a muffin and a muesli bar.
Our walking tour got off to a good start walking through the war memorial in Hyde Park and towards the Botanical Gardens. Unfortunately, the weather was getting progressively worse and we took shelter in a cafe in the gardens. When the rain had eased off slightly we continued through the gardens towards the harbour. It was there I got my first real-life sighting of the bridge and opera house. Although cloudy and drizzly it was still an awesome sight to behold. It made me feel so grateful and lucky to be in Australia. I have wanted to visit Oz for at least 10 years so it feels surreal that I am actually here.
Walking around the harbour to Mrs Macquaries chair. We got a few pictures and group pictures and then continued onto the opera house. This is where we parted ways, most of the group were going to Bondi Beach and I was heading back towards the hostel. I would have loved to go but I needed to collect my debit card from the bank. Luckily the bank was not far from the station but as I made my way around the corner the heavens opened. I got completely soaked. My trainers are designed for running and to let the air in so they felt disgusting. I also realised my nice accessorise bag zip had broken and was open and flapping about, hopefully, I hadn’t lost anything.
Setting up my card and banking app took a little while but unfortunately, the weather didn’t let up so I had to make a run for it back to the hostel. I had planned to meet Emily another girl on the trip for lunch so dumped my broken rucksack and went out with just my money belt and raincoat. We made our way back to the station in search of food. I ended up with a chicken wrap, which was nice but not quite the hot sausage roll I was hoping for.
After some food, I was on a mission to find a bag. I thought I needed something more rugged and maybe with a bigger capacity so I could shift some of my stuff out of my main backpack. We found some shops not far in the other direction from the hostel. There wasn’t much choice in the first mall we tried so we continued to get more soaked walking to the next. With more on offer in the next place, we bought a few bits. Emily left me to it so she could head off to meet a friend for coffee and I found a bag shop with a clearance sale. I spent probably over half an hour looking at all the rucksacks and finding the best value for money for what I wanted. I also picked up a water-repellant cover and another travel plug adaptor. The bag I bought had a laptop compartment and expanded to 40 litres so it was perfect for what I needed. The zips seemed pretty sturdy too.
Dinner tonight was in spice ally an Asian food court that was byo alcohol. I didn’t have time and couldn’t be bothered to drink tonight. We had an early start planned to get on the road and head north so I wanted to be as fresh as possible. The food was nice and we got back in time for a game of giant Jenga in the bar downstairs.
Tuesday 18th June
A 6 am alarm and a 7 am gathering in the reception for check out was tough. We grabbed some breakfast on the bus and headed out of Sydney. We were on the road for about an hour and a half before our first toilet stop. There wasn’t a lot going on at this stop so we were soon on our way again. Stop 2 was at a chocolate making shop on hunter valley. We were able to try some chocolate and fudge made in house. I was feeling really bad, either my IBS was flaring up or something I had eaten the night before had disagreed with me.
We were only here for 20 minutes including group selfie time, before jumping in the bus to go to the vineyard. This is where we would be doing a wine tasting. I thought my pains had passed whilst sitting on the bus but whilst standing to wait for others to pop to the loo it hit me again. I asked the group to go on without me while I tried to recover in the loo. I felt soo awful, hating my body for not being able to keep up with this change of routine.
I felt a lot better once I rejoined the group to watch a video on how the wine was made. We then got to try quite a selection of wine, starting with the whites, Pinot Grigio through to the reds. I enjoyed the whites and wasn’t so keen on the reds but it was a fun experience. It was at the winery that I spotted my first kangaroo, a few people had seen one on the way but it was on the other side of the bus so I missed it.
After another bus trip and a good snooze, we arrived in Singleton for lunch. Singleton was a small town with a big sundial. The biggest sundial apparently. I finally got my warm sausage roll and some snacks then back on the road to Tamworth.
Our hostel in Tamworth was not quite as nice as Wake Up Sydney but it was alright. Not long after arriving we headed out to lawn bowls. A cute old Australian guy taught has how to play lawn bowls. We had quite a laugh and after some knockout rounds it came down to just two people who happen to be the only couple on the trip.
After bowls, we went for dinner at a local pub. I had steak again and it was delicious. The team I was on came third out of a whole pub full of players which we were quite chuffed about.
Wednesday 19th June
This morning we had another early start. Some of the girls cooked us up some pancakes for breakfast and we jumped in the bus and set off out of Tamworth. Our first stop was an impromptu diversion to a lookout point. The views were stunning looking back over the cold foggy valley from which we had just come. We then stopped off an hour later for a quick loo break.
My Thoughts Looking Back
So this is as far as I got, rather than writing in detail what I did each day I documented it in the form of video and created my vlog which I will link below.
Although I was made to feel welcome as a part of the group and enjoyed some really great times, I noticed my age. This was more apparent than it was at university. At uni I had been 21 while everyone else was 18, many people hadn’t realised I was older. I think my inability to drink and let go a little more made me feel that much older this time.
I was very aware I was a solo traveller a long way from home and I should be more cautious with drinking. I was also concerned about my health. I had not been feeling well for a lot of the trip due to the change in diet. I didn’t feel awful and I did get used to it but I knew alcohol would make it worse. I also love my sleep and knowing that I was going to have to be getting up early some mornings and doing overnight trains etc I was always planning ahead. This usually meant alcohol would not be on the agenda for me.
I would say I was aware of this and where that left me with the group, somewhat on the outside looking in and documenting it. Rather than being a part of all of it. I was aware, but I was quite content with this. I was enjoying the trip in my own way, getting out of it what I wanted and not causing myself to feel awful through drinking too much etc.
I did participate in the majority of activities taking the chance to do things such as sea kayaking. I even signed up to do a skydive which unfortunately got cancelled. Every time I did this I was so pleased I did. Most of the activities pushed me out of my comfort zone. Every time I pushed myself I felt so much more confident, to the point where I was ready to do a skydive.
I think I was brave to travel to Australia on my own as it is. People told me so when I was leaving home but I didn’t think that much of it. Some of the things I have done are way beyond what Steph a few years ago could have ever imagined doing. Having started the trip feeling quite nervous, pushing myself and doing those things has given me the confidence to continue on my own.
I will forever have fond memories of my East Coast Tour, the people I met along the way and the amazing life change experiences I got to have!