Greetings from the future (unless you happen to be in Australia, as well, in which case greetings from the present!). Ironically enough, I just finished The Time Traveler’s Wife this afternoon and know better than to reveal events that have yet to unfold to the rest of you, so all I’ll say is that the mullet is making a comeback and Spencer Pratt will reign supreme as the Grand Sire of Douchebaggery for another year or two. How I hate to be the bearer of bad news.
Heart Reef in the Great Barrier Reef
So, where shall we start? I guess, before you guys all get too jealous of me, I’ll say that I’m on a work trip to Queensland, in which 100 or so journalists from all over the globe were brought here for the reveal of this super-awesome-too-good-to-be-true campaign, “the Best Job in the World.” Wanna know what it is so you can apply, huh, HUH? Well, the tourism board is going to bring one lucky gal or dude to Hamilton Island (the central hub for the Great Barrier Reef) to serve as the “island caretaker” for a certain period of time. What does an island caretaker do, you want to know? Welllll, you get to live in a sweet, three-bedroom pad perched atop the Great Barrier Reef (for realz, I saw it firsthand!) with a swimming-pool-sized hot tub and all modern appliances (like the Real World but for sophisticated peeps), and you’ll be responsible for island-hopping and trying various activities, like snorkeling, diving, bushwalking and the like. Rough life, huh?
View from hotel at Hamilton Island
What do you have to do in return? WRITE ONE FREAKIN’ BLOG POST A WEEK! (Hey, I already do that! Pick me, pick me!) And it gets even better…on top of having the world’s sweetest job and all your travel expenses covered, you can bring along your partner or family AND receive a “salary” (for food and the like) of $150,000 AUS (about $112,500)…um, that’s more than two times what I make annually! I almost didn’t want to tell you guys all this, because you’re my competition (and if you don’t think I’m going to apply, you’ve been hitting the crazy pills a little too long and hard), but I love y’all so much (we’re talking true love here) and wouldn’t want to deprive you of a chance to live in the lap of paradise for six months. (Plus, I’m hoping you’ll invite me out to visit once you win…pay it forward and such.) I looked high and low for a catch and alas, couldn’t find one. It’s totally a marketing scheme to boost Queensland exposure on a global scale and a mighty fine one if I do say so myself. So get thy creative juices a flowin’ and make your application video before it’s too late (Feb. 22 is the deadline, but my mole informs me they’re capping entries at 30,000ish).
View of Whitehaven Beach in the Whitsundays from above
Moving on, Regan said she’d much rather hear about my travel perils than the good parts, so as to not be too jealous. What do the rest of you think? I will tell you that a trip all the way Down Under from the States for a mere five-and-a-half days on the ground IN ECONOMY (back in the good ole days, like um pre-2007, they used to fly journos biz class, considering we’re meant to take these long flights and be ready to go, fresh off the plane) isn’t so much a vacation. A vacation implies downtown, relaxing, getting to do whatever you please. There’s hardly ANY of that on any assignment I ever go on. A little timeline of the first few days so you get more of a sense (and if you couldn’t care less, scroll down to the bottom for more pics from Oz).
Friday, Jan. 9
5pm Bid SVV adieu at SFO (San Francisco’s airport), we’ve become old pros at this.
6:45pm Painless flight to LAX.
7:45pm Arrive at LAX, recheck luggage at Qantas counter; do not manage to talk hard-headed ticket counter agent into an upgrade (despite there being 66 biz class seats and more than 100 empty seats on the whole plane; in the end, one of our group passed out mid-flight and HE got upgraded…oh the things one must do to get a better seat). Resign myself to talking her into an exit row seat instead. Turns out to mean an extra SIX feet of leg room or so. Am awesome.
8:15pm Behind Jordin Sparks in security line. No one pays any attention to her. She’s with her mom, who turns to her and says, “stars, they’re just like us!” I assume she’s referring to Jordin standing in the line with us normal people. I glanced at her ticket. She’s in first class, me in economy. Bitch. Assume she’s heading home after successful People’s Choice Awards appearance.
11:45pm After long layover in the worst terminal in the world (only an On the Border for sustenance, ew), board Qantas flight to Brisbane. Realize exit row wasn’t way to go, as nearly everyone on the plane has their own row and I have the only row whose armrests don’t budge. While everyone else sleeps comfortable sprawled across three seats, am crammed in one. But it’s OK, I have miracle drug: Ambien! Eat surprisingly decent meal, take pill and pass out.
Sunday, Jan 11
5am I totally slept through an entire day! What a weird feeling. In reality, it was about six hours. Laugh my way through Tropic Thunder (which made me not hate Tom Cruise so much anymore, wonder of wonders) then How to Lose Friends and Alienate People (which made me continue to hate Kirsten Dunst, shocker). Almost there!
8am Deboard plane, spend forever and a day in customs. Everyone else gets through the fast line, while I get stuck at the back of some long-ass “inspection” queue. Because I’m clearly suspicious. Pass with flying colors. They clearly didn’t catch my heroin stash (and by heroin, I mean 100-calorie snack packs, of course).
10am Finally through, time to grab coffee then take train to the Brisbane airport. Tired of airports.
11:30am Check in at Virgin Blue counter (nowhere near as luxe as Virgin America or Atlantic, it turns out), then proceed through security line. Butch Security Guard on Power Trip says my laptop bag is too heavy (wha???) and I must go check it, too. I shoot her daggers with my eyes, and she keels over and dies on the spot. I only wish. Back to Virgin counter to wait in line and check a second bag. Grrrr.
2pm Arrive on Hamilton Island. The sun shines briefly, tease that she is, then it opens up and pours on us the next two days. Apparently, January is the beginning of cyclone season. Many pass through each year, but only one usually touches down. Guess which one decided to touch down in 2009? Bingo. Awesome. Whose bright idea was it to schedule our trip to coincide with cyclone season???
2:35pm Arrive at hotel. Have 10 minutes to change clothes (no shower, no teeth brushing), then must meet in lobby for various site inspections and a brief tour of the island by “buggy” (fancy Aussie term for golf cart). Am tired, just want to shower and sleep. Rain, rain, go away; I need a freakin’ tan.
3:30pm Interviews with various tourism board officials. Yawn. Need. Bed.
4:45pm Arrive back at hotel. Have “free time” (read: 45 minutes before now and next “activity,” in which most sane people will spend partaking in daily hygiene rituals we’ve all neglected since departing the States).
5:30pm Meet to go to Qualia for “cocktail hour” with hundreds of journalists from all over the world. All of us are majorly jetlagged and not interested in mingling. The dinner takes foreeeever, too. I fall asleep in my pumpkin ravioli.
10pm Persuade someone to take me back to the hotel in a buggy so I can catch some zzzzzz’s.
Monday, Jan. 12
5am Wake up for sunrise hike, despite severe sleep deprivation.
6am Hike to the top of some mountain or another. Very steep climb. No one else from my group makes it (activity is optional). Again, am clearly awesome.
7:45am Meet group in Koala Gallery for brekkie.
8:30am More “interviews.”
And I could continue to bore you with every little mundane detail, but do you see sunbathe, explore snow-white silica beaches, SCUBA dive, etc. anywhere on that list? NO. We’ve spent more time at airports in these past four days (SFO, LAX, Brisbane international, Brisbane domestic, Cairns international, Cairns domestic, Hamilton Island airport, Lizard Island airport) than we have not, and it’s tiring. Now, I am fully aware of how fortunate to get to go to these amazing destinations, but it’s almost one big tease, as I kind of see them from afar but don’t really get to explore anything at depth or do what I want to do. It’s like, here’s a seven-layer chocolate cake with alternating flavors of Ben & Jerry’s between each layer; you can look and admire, but by no means, touch or TASTE it! Also, can we just talk about how every tropical locale I have visited in the past year has seen a major thunderstorm, hurricane or now, CYCLONE, while I’ve been visiting? Um yeah, each trip I’ve come back far paler than I left. Lucky for me, this will probably follow suit considering Cairns’ annual cyclone (they have many a year but usually only one touches down) decided to pay a visit while I’m in town. Pure coincidence, I’m sure. And let’s not even talk about the hundreds of speedster ants and the COCKROACH THE SIZE OF MY HAND that were awaiting me in my room tonight. Ugh. Good thing my room was well-stocked with DEET and RAID.
However, Casey’s all about turning the negative into the positive this week, and I truly am in one of the most beautiful places on the planet, rain or no rain, so with that in mind, here are a few of the cool things I have been able to do amid the rain and countless hours at the airport. Checked a sixth continent off my list. Boo-yeah. Ate kangaroo. Tastes like…beef. Only spicier. Totally yummy, though.
Made new friends (but kept the old…sorry, had to!).
Took an itty-bitty seaplane tour over Whitehaven Beach, the Whitsunday Islands and much of the heart of the Great Barrier Reef. Too bad it was so cloudy; not prime photo-taking weather, but still pretty to look at despite the ubiquitous grayness.
Landed a really cool hat in the process. Have I mentioned I have an abnormally large head that looks rather weird when you plop things on top of it? Observe:
And on a final note, being from the future means you miss out on super awesome happenings like Delurker Day (I must admit I’ve never been part of one and have been waiting for this chance!), and since I need another hundred-something ways to procrastinate when I return, kindly leave a comment below about whatever you want so I can drop in and see you, too. (Also, because I’m just insanely curious by nature and wanna know whose out there in cyberspace!) Even if you regularly comment or else don’t have a blog, I’d love if you still said HI!