Happy xmas, etc.

It doesn't feel like xmas here, it's not cold (though right now it is raining) but I know that it is, and I hope you're all enjoying it.

Since I've been rubbish and not done cards or anything I thought I'd say my season's greetings with a bit of an update. No pictures sadly as I can't find a web cafe that'll let me upload mine but there is this one courtesy of a friend from the tour down from Cairns:

...which gives you an idea the kind of reprobates I spent those two weeks hanging out with, as well as showcasing my spectacular new hat :D

So after Fraser Island, which I've told you about a bit by referencing Wikipedia (which I'm afraid I'm going to cop out and do again in a sec,) I went on down the coast to visit (among other places) Byron Bay where I learned to surf! ...or at least to stand up and keep my balance a couple of times on the board while it rumbled along a wave. I can see how easily one could get hooked on surfing if one lived in the right place, but it's also the first sport in a long time I've tried where my low body mass didn't compensate for my puny upper body, so I missed more waves than I caught simply through not being able to paddle fast enough to catch 'em.

From Byron we came to Sydney, which initially struck me as a bit unfriendly and... well, Big City-ish (d'uh! - I know, but the rest of Oz has been so laid back and friendly, I wasn't prepared...) It's OK though: I got a handle on the place after a few days, helped enormously by having made some good friends on the way down from Cairns (two of whom have invited me for xmas dinner tomorrow, which is great) and in spite of the overwhelming numbers of narcisistic self-involved pricks in this place, I've begun making some more friends here too because while there are a lot of jerks in Sydney there are also a lot of people and some of them are lovely (if you're reading this you know who you are.)

The city itself is great, the weather's not exactly as advertised (rain is forecast for xmas day! boo hiss) but it's very changable so in amongst the grey and drizzle there have been plenty of pretty spectacularly sunny days too (just not tomorrow it seems. *huff*) I've been exploring a fair bit, seen most of the big sights (got some great shots of the Opera House which I will post when I can) visited some stunning coastline, spent a very happy day wandering around Power House (thanks for the recommendation Eric!) discovered the Botanic gardens which I love (in spite of the sinister and gigantic spiders who live among the succulents and cacti) and I've also been taken to some great non-touristy places by some of the new friends I'm making (Lucy, you were absolutely right there)

So while it doesn't feel like xmas, I am having a very happy one. I hope everyone else is too.
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Right, lots to catch you all up on and (sorry) it's not going to happen today, the tour finished two days ago ending two weeks' worth of densely packed adventuring. Several of my co-travelers have stayed on in Sydney and a significant chunk of the last two days has been spent hanging out with them.

Today's the first day I've been here by myself really: no plans with anyone else so I've just been wandering about the city in the sunshine taking a few touristy photos and generally enjoying the thought that I don't have to get up at 4:45am and get on a coach any time soon (it didn't happen often but it did happen. *shudder*)

Anyway this is really just a checking in post to let you all know I'm safe and happy, expect a but better detail sometime in the next couple of days.
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Cairns to Brisbane in 15 minutes

No, that's not how long it took to cover the distance (that's been 10 days) it's how long I have to try and cram everything in to a blog post about it all... so I'm going to skim and fill in the details later as well as probably writing the very pretty postcards I bought at Fraser Island this morning, though those probably wont make landfall back home until after xmas.

So I've traveled a fair chunk of the coast of Queensland now, I'm currently in sunny Brisbane where a nice man at the Apple Centre up the road told me that the mysterious fault my iPod suffered two weeks ago (resulting in it failing to recognise any of the 20gigs of music it's still carrying) appears to be a hardware failure and is probably terminal. Shit. On the bright side though Aussie iPods are dirt cheap given the exchange rate so I may yet treat myself to a replacement as a christmas pressie (though there'll still be no way of getting my music on it until I get home)

You guys don't care about all that though do you? You want to hear about the stunning tropical islands I've been sunning myself on for the past week, that'll brighten up the northern hemisphere winter for you all* The big 'uns were Long Island in the Whitsundays and Fraser Island which I just left and is the world's largest sand island, meaning that apart from three large rock formations on which it rests the entire island is made of sand. Follow the links for more detail and some piccies as I'm in a net cafe and can't upload my own. Both the islands were stunning in their own ways though I spent more time on the water in the Whitsundays than I did on Long Island itself: myself and six of my friends on the tour spent three days aboard a gorgeous black 60ft yacht called "Silent Night" alternately exploring some of the other islands in the Whitsundays and racing about under full sail with mad grins on our faces.

Hard to do this tour justice with so little time, so I'll leave it at that - the wikipedia entries on both places should give you all some idea of the places I'm seeing and the people are just awesome: it's such a good group and I'm going to miss them when we get to Sydney in a few short days.

* honestly folks I'm not gloating at all: I have to come back in January and am painfully aware of how cold that's going to feel after three months down here!

Cairns update

really brief, having a fantasic time here, the tour group I've joined is full of fun, smart engaging people and I'm having a blast just being with them. On top of that yesterday we took a cable car ride over the rainforest, and today we spent all day on a catamaran out in the Great Barrier Reef snorkeling and scuba diving.

Off to carry on being here, don't worry if you don't hear anythng else until I hit Sydney (Dec 15th) it'll just be because I'm having too much fun.

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