July to October and Hannah’s departure!

So this is the fourth of my “mega updates” :) Here goes nothing….

Mid July was Ben’s birthday. He arranged a day of games in the park near our apartments. Sadly the weather was a bit rotten, however we had our picnic food and lots of drinkies in his apartment and a bit later in the afternoon we headed down to the park for some cricket and games. Was a really good afternoon :)

The second half of July, along with most of August, marked a rather rubbish time for me. I was due to go back down to ANSTO for some neutron experiments with Paul Shaw. The friday before we left I started to feel pretty rotten. Headache, feverish, etc. I decided to ignore it as a cold but over the weekend i developed a pretty nasty sore throat too. Knowing I was headed to ANSTO I took myself to the doctor who prescribed me some antibiotics for the throat infection and told me i’d be feeling better within 2-3 days. Sadly she was very wrong. Those 10 days at ANSTO were AWFUL! I have never had a sore throat so bad in my life and I had an awful headache the whole time too. It got so bad I took myself to the doctor again down in Sydney and he essentially decided it was viral and advised I got myself some topical anesthetic to use until it passed, which I did. Finally the ANSTO trip finished and I managed to (just about – after a delayed flight) make it to our arranged weekend in Springbrook, staying in Ellen’s mum’s holiday homes like we had done before. I am not sure if it was the relaxation, the alcohol, or just being back with Hannah and my friends but for those two days I started to really feel a lot better and I thought that was it – it was over. How wrong I was…. once we got back to Brisbane after that weekend my throat suddenly became so swollen as to make swallowing quite hard. I left it a couple of days but it only got worse, and all the pain came back, so I went back to the doctor for the THIRD time. This time the doctor said it was definitely bacterial and the antibiotics should have worked, but she was worried about me swelling up and not breathing so she referred me to hospital and off I went to A&E! Lucky for me, Hannah was still looking for a job at this point so she was able to come and join me. I had a huge variety of nurses and doctors coming to look down my throat, all going “oh wow” every time. They pumped me full of IV steroids and antibiotics while they decided what to do with me. I also had an ultrasound as they were worried I might have a quinsy. The radiographer was amazed at the size of my lymph nodes (“shame there’s not a node growing contest mate, ’cause you’d win it for SURE!!”) but was happy they weren’t pus-filled! Finally, after a blood test, they revealed I did in fact have glandular fever (viral) and a particularly bad bacterial throat infection on top. They decided my throat was swollen enough to warrant a night in hospital so there I stayed, being woken every 2-4 hours to be pumped with more IV steroids and antibiotics! Thankfully they let me home the next morning and Hannah was absolutely amazing all the way through. It still took me a number of weeks before I was up and about again and after leaving hospital it got worse before it got better. From some of the stories I’ve heard about glandular fever (especially as an adult) it sounds like I got away with it quite easily, but I have to say those 3-4 weeks were absolutely awful!

Springbrook itself was a really nice weekend (as always), particularly the drawing game and the hike through the rainforest we did. Great fun! Sadly, due to the glandular fever, I missed out on the XXXX brewery tour I had arranged for Stewart & Karyn’s birthdays at the start of August as well as Jacko’s farewell beers before he left for Germany. Thankfully I was well enough to have Bridges come & visit me the following weekend and we took him to the RE & a Night in India for a good curry before he came back to my apartment for some more drinks. Was really nice to see him and catch up – gave me a little reminder of my life back in the UK and how much of it I actually missed.

Hannah got a short-term job working at the Ekka, an annual Queensland “country fair” that runs for a week every August and is quite a large event. As such I went along on Ekka day itself and we enjoyed some of the offerings including a scary-as-hell carny ride called “The Skywalker” that I honestly thought was going to kill us, a giant dagwood dog, tasting the hottest chilli sauce EVER, seeing lambs being born, the worlds largest tire, and lots more :) Hannah then went to work and I came back in the evening to meet her and Vicky (from our Uluru tour, who was also working there) and see the monster truck show, ride on a crappy little rollercoaster, get a showbag (super sour warheads!) and enjoy it a bit more. It was crazy busy but I’m glad I went! Funnily enough, that following Saturday (the last day of Ekka) Hannah was able to get a free ticket for me to come in so I joined her after work and we sat with her workmate, having asian pancakes, drinking good wine, and just generally having a nice time. We saw the big firework show and then were about to head home when we realised that Wolfmother were playing a free concert there. We imagined it would be rammed but we thought we’d see if it was possible to get in. Turns out it was almost empty! We stayed there for most of the set, having a few more drinks and enjoying the music. It was a really good night!

On to the start of September and Ben & Tilly went on holiday to the UK. That first weekend Hannah and I went with CP to go whale watching off the Gold Coast. We got one of those internet deals and the whole day, including lunch, was only $69 each. Sounded too good to be true but it was absolutely brilliant! The first half of the day was spent on Stradbroke island in a small resort, laying in hammocks, drinking cocktails, having a speedboat ride (in which Hannah fell out of her seat and got a big bruise!), and generally enjoying ourselves. In the afternoon the boat then took us out into the ocean and for about 2 hours we saw nothing but blowholes in the distance. To make matters worse, as we went out into the swell the boat was HEAVING every which way and most people ended up out the back of the boat being sick (although, not us hardy folk :) )! Just as we were about to give up hope suddenly… whales… everywhere! It got to the point where we didn’t know where to look and take photos – they were all around us, we even got to see one breech right next to the boat and dolphins swam past twice. It was absolutely AMAZING! I can highly recommend whale watching :) They really are cool animals. I have some videos of the whales here, here and here. However, the day didn’t end there! When we got back to Brisbane we went up to Sarah & Stewart’s place to watch the riverfire fireworks from their balcony. We took the couches outside and enjoyed the show! Sadly it wasn’t a huge night as we were absolutely exhausted from the whale watching, but it was still a great end to a great day :)

The following weekend was another busy one. Andy had joined an amateur dramatics group and they were showing Agatha Christie’s “The Mousetrap”. A large group of us got tickets and, following a nice dinner at a Salt & battery beforehand, took the trip out west to go and see it. I’m not a huge fan of live entertainment or plays, but seeing Andy in his role was particularly good. It was quite enjoyable and he did really well! The next day I went with Hannah, CP and Ellen to Noosa. I had got out of bed on the wrong side that morning, but once I’d sorted myself out and stopped being a mopey bastard we had a really nice afternoon. The beach was amazing, though the sea was a bit cold with the wind.

At this time the Brisbane festival was going on. We didn’t do much in terms of making the most of it, but one Monday evening Hannah and I met up with Vicky again and went down to Southbank to watch a giant musical laser show that was being put on. With a couple of drinks either side it was quite a nice way to spend a Monday night :) The laser show was pretty impressive!

With Hannah’s departure to go travelling up the coast approaching very swiftly, we decided it was time we treated ourselves to another night away in a nice hotel in Brisbane. We got a deal with Hotel Urban on Roma St that included full breakfast in bed for us both. We also got another internet deal for a 3-course tibetan dinner in West End and booked it for the same night. The hotel wasn’t quite as nice as the Sebel, but the pool was really good the next morning and dinner at the Tibetan Kitchen was really good. Was a very nice evening and it was nice to dress smart and go out for dinner somewhere new. Breakfast in bed was brilliant as always :) The next day Hannah and I also took ourselves to the Brisbane Planetarium. We’d been meaning to go for some time and decided it was time to give it a try. We opted for the “Saturday Night Live” show and I think I enjoyed it a bit more than Hannah did, but it wasn’t expensive and it was quite a nice relaxing evening – something different! We actually had quite a lot of fun before the show even started, just going around the displays and talking about space stuff :) The next day, Hannah, Ellen, Karyn and I took another trip to the beach – this time going to Byron as neither Hannah nor I had been before. We had the largest fish & chips on the beach and some really nice ice creams. Was a bit less windy than Noosa and amazing weather again. Great day!

The following weekend, and Hannah’s last weekend in Brisbane, we all gathered at CP’s apartment to have lots of snacks (including a VERY expensive and swish cake that CP had made) and drinks (lots of drinks…). Seamus showed up with some of his mates too, which is always entertaining! We then headed out to the valley to a bar called La Rouche (which I have literally no memory of) before going to Cloudland again. Yet again we had a great night, albeit a bit more drunken! I was exhausted by the time we left around 4. The next day Ben & Tilly hosted a BBQ in the afternoon and I think Hannah had a good send off :)

On 1st October, I went with Hannah to the bus station very early in the morning and set her off on her trip up the coast. Was very sad to see her go, but I knew I was going to meet her in Cairns in a fortnight! The next day a group of us went to Currimundi beach with the dogs that Ellen was looking after. That was a really fun day, having the dogs around provided almost endless entertainment. However, not all the other dogs and owners were as thoughtful as us – one even came and peed all over Ben’s bag and the owner didn’t say a word!

The fortnight away from Hannah dragged on a bit, but finally it was time to join her up in Cairns! I flew up on the Friday afternoon, Magnus met me from the airport and took me to his new bachelor pad (very nice too! Table-tennis table and everything) before we went and met Hannah from her bus. That night we had chinese takeaway and watched movies and drank cider. The next day Magnus took Hannah and I white water rafting in the morning. I’d done it once before but it was Hannah’s first time. We were in a funny group with a guy who was drunk as a skunk and kept falling out of the boat. The rafting was great fun and the guide from the other boat even grabbed a girl out of our boat as we went past – the look on her face was classic. Hannah also fell in a couple of times and was used as an example being dragged/thrown into the boat. After the rafting and lunch (maccas!) Hannah and I just took a walk around Cairns itself, booked our trip for the Sunday, and had cocktails and oysters in a nice bar on the esplanade. That night we met up with Fenny, Matz and Sofia and had a really nice curry for dinner. When we got back to Magnus’ we finally watched Wayne’s World for Hannah before bed. The next day Hannah and I were up early for our “Table Lands and Waterfalls” tour. The tour guide was… quirky… but there were some nice people on our tour and it was really good fun. We got the whole day for only $50 and it included a number of impressive stops, eggs-in-baskets and bacon sandwiches made on a public BBQ for “brunch”, swimming and using a natural rock water slide at Josephine Falls, seeing lots of little turtles in the wild, catching a glimpse of a wild platypus, visiting the waterfall made famous by Peter Andre & Herbal Essences (Milla-Milla falls!), accidental double-portion of fish & chips for lunch, seeing a GIANT fig tree (the Curtain fig) and finally swimming in a giant rain-water filled volcanic crater. The tour was absolutely amazing value for money so anyone who has a spare day in Cairns – do it! On our final night in Cairns, Hannah and I went with Magnus to his favourite grill restaurant and I had the best tasting steak of my life. It was absolutely amazing, perfectly rare, with gorgeous gravy and mash. YUM! The whole weekend was a really really nice way to spend time before both Hannah and I left Aus.

The night before Hannah left for the UK we had dinner with Ben and Tilly. We were meant to go to the Jaz bar in Toowong for steaks, but sadly they were closed “until further notice”. Undeterred we went to Woollies, bought steaks and chips, and went home and Ben cooked it all up for us. The next evening, after finishing packing, I drove Hannah to the airport. It was really sad to say goodbye, but I was so grateful to know I would be seeing her again in the UK in “just” 6 weeks – when she originally had the flight booked I had no idea when I would be finished and even less idea when I would be moving back to the UK. We said our goodbyes and she disappeared down the security stairs!

I’ll leave this update here, and carry on in the next one with “The end of my time in Australia”!

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