Go Pro’s Don’t Float at Kondalilla Falls – a traveller’s tale of beauty, disaster and joy 

I arrived in Brisbane on Friday December 11 to spend the weekend with my friend Carrie for her birthday. Having lived permanently in London for the last ten years, I was looking forward to some Aussie sunshine, swimming, and exploring the natural landscapes that are so unique to Queenland’s Sunshine Coast.

On Monday December 14, we made a stop at Kondalilla Falls National Park in Montville. The park’s name originates from an Aboriginal word meaning “rushing waters”. The full Kondalilla Falls circuit walk itself was closed on this day, but the short 1.2km walk to the falls itself wasn’t. With swim wear, drinking water and Go Pro in hand, we walked along a well worn track suitable for flip flops, under the shade of the rainforest canopy.

Descending some rocky steps, the view of the falls and the large water hole was inviting on this hot Summer’s day. Stripping down to my bikini, I tested the water’s temperature with my feet. It was much cooler than I thought. In my opinion, there is only one way to enter cold water; in one swift movement!

I swam the 30 metres to the waterfall and hauled myself up to sit next to it. The rocks there were slippery so careful and slow placement of hands and feet was necessary. Sitting by the waterfall and looking back at the waterhole, I spotted a tree with a rope and a piece of wood attached to it. The boys were swinging from it, and then letting go to land in the water. Passing my Go Pro to Carrie’s boyfriend Brad to take some pictures, I was soon doing the same.

It wasn’t until I was sitting next to the waterfall again that disaster struck. Brad offered to take a photo of me next to the waterfall. He was a good 5 metres away in the water. I went to throw the Go Pro at him. “No, I’ll swim to you to get it”. Thinking that Go Pro’s float, I decided it was perfectly fine to throw it to him. I should have listened to his offer to swim to me. The Go Pro landed well short of where Brad was, and it disappeared below the surface of the water. As we both swum to where landed, I waited for it to re-surface. It didn’t! “Brad, where’s my Go Pro?!”.

I tried to contain the rising panic that was building as I attempted to dive under to search for it. Why on earth did I think a Go Pro floated?!But with no mask, poor visibility, and no oxygen tank, plus the fact I couldn’t even touch the bottom, I was facing a losing battle. “You’re just going to have to accept its gone” Carrie said.

But I couldn’t accept it. I wasn’t worried about losing the Go Pro itself, but all the photos and videos of my holidays that were stored on the memory card. Film footage of swimming with sea lions on the Galápagos Islands with my travel bestie, and on the sky deck of Chicago’s Sears Tower, these moments are priceless, and cost much more than a new Go Pro ever would.

There has to be a solution. It’s not as if I’d lost the Go Pro. I knew where it was, I just needed someone to retrieve it for me. After pouring my heart out to a woman at the falls, she advised I just needed to think laterally.

Two days later on Wednesday December 16, I found myself back at the Kondalilla Falls car park with Isaiah. He was a dive instructor I managed to track down via a dive shop on the Sunshine Coast. With his 28kg oxygen tank strapped on the shoulders of his 6 foot frame, we trekked back to the falls, a place of natural beauty and personal disaster.

At 9.30am, there were only four other people present. It looked so serene and peaceful. Such a contrast to how I was feeling inside, both anxious and hopeful. After showing Isaiah approximately where the Go Pro disappeared, I resumed my place by the waterfall.

Five minutes later, Isaiah surfaced with it in his hand. Joy!
Future note to self: Go Pro’s don’t float. Don’t forget to always attach my Go Pro to my selfie stick that has a secure wrist strap. And when faced with what looks like an an possible situation, persistence, never giving up, and lateral thinking to find a solution is key.

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Long Haul Flights – How to stay sane and entertained

I both love and loathe long haul flights. I loathe them because I just want to get to my destination. And I love them because it’s a chance to unwind, relax and prepare mentally and emotionally for my adventure ahead. Especially if the days leading up to departure have been busy. With technology these days, there are endless ways to keep both sane and entertained on long haul flights. Here are my personal favourites;

I rarely go anywhere without my iPod and it’s vast collection of music. I have a very eclectic taste in artists and what I listen to does depend on my mood. Music makes me feel excited and happy, but also nostalgic, hyper or melancholy. And although I listen to whatever my mood fancies, I’ve actually created a playlist titled “travel” with songs that make me feel adventurous and care-free, with the likes of Avicii and Jess Glynn. There are certain songs that remind me of a certain place and time, often bringing on good feelings and memories. It’s these good feelings that make me feel extra excited about my adventures ahead.

I just love a good book! And most books I choose I can’t put down. I do love turning the pages of a traditional book and getting to the end, but you can store so many more books online. So I’ve succumbed to kindle on my iPad. For hours at a time, I’m immersed in a fictional world full of interesting characters and plot lines. Weirdly, I love crime novels. I spend endless hours reading about abduction, murders, crime scenes and police investigations. This isn’t always the best genre to read when you’re about to arrive to an unknown destination, but it certainly keeps me the most entertained!

In flight entertainment is so varied these days, I find it can both inform and entertain. I remember watching DreamGirls on a flight from London to Sydney, documentaries about Iceland on route to Reykjavik, and old favourite television programmes like Without a Trace (yes, another crime related theme). On an Emirates flight from Sydney to Athens, I was so engrossed in repeated episodes of Without a Trace, I was annoyed I had to get off the plane, especially as I was half way through an episode.

A writer at heart, I spend my time on-board penning (or typing) up my latest thoughts. Whether it’s in my travel journal, or creating a blog piece, I’m definitely my most creative, reflective, and feel most inspired when I’m travelling and discovering new places. I’m looking forward to sharing my adventures in South America during this trip, so watch this space!

I used to prefer a seat next to the aisle, mainly to have the freedom to get up and go to the toilet without feeling guilty about waking all the people next to me. But now I prefer the window seat. I love photographing the world beyond the window, including the various cloud formations, amazing colours during sunrise or sunset, and of the earth below from 30,000 plus feet high. I love the picture below, taken using my iPhone when on route to Iceland in March of this year.

My pending long haul flight to Ecuador means I could spend time revising my Spanish phrases that I learned in my Spanish for Travelling class. Opening up the language phrase book of the country you’re on route to is a great way to pass time, polish up on language skills and to improve confidence for your vacation. Listening to my language podcasts also helps pass time in a productive way.

I’m a terrible sleeper on long haul flights. I envy those people who can just nod off to sleep and not wake up until the plane descends. If I could sleep, it would be a great way to get through a long haul flight. I also hate night time flights because I’m far too excited and busy with the in-flight entertainment to consider sleeping. So this pending 22.30pm departure to Ecuador is going to be challenging. But fingers crossed my new British designed new J-Pillow will be the solution.

My lonely planet guide book comes in good use during the flight (although I’m not carrying one with me on this trip). I read it to consolidate on prior research, and to remind me of those important practical tips on  safety and how to get to and from the airport. The in-flight magazine often has great information on destinations as well.

I personally feel technology and social media these days has actually reduced our ability to talk to the people around us. I can’t help but notice how many people have their eyes focused on their personal mobile device these days rather than looking around them. My personal pet hate is observing a group of people in a restaurant, all sat around the table on their mobile phones, not talking to each other. But striking up conversation with the people sitting around you would be a great way to pass the time on a long haul flight. On a trip from Sydney to New York City many years ago, I chatted with two boys who just finished touring Australia. I eventually met up with them again in New York and New Jersey, and they spent time showing me around their local neighbourhoods.

I’m sure everyone has their own ways to keep sane and entertained on long haul flights. I would love to hear what other people do, so feel free to share and comment on what works for each of you!