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Thursday, March 10, 2016

Sailing the Whitsundays in Australia

I've been to Australia four times in my life (and now live here) and the Whitsundays have always evaded me.  So when my two friends came to visit me and suggested a sailing trip I jumped at the chance.  It was one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited.  Here are the highlights and tips for your trip!

First off, you must SAIL the Whitsundays.  Think of Airlie Beach as a one day stopover on your way to the ocean.

Here are the most main things to know in planning:

BOOKING A BOAT
  • The majority of boats are 2D/2N.
  • The largest number of them are Thursday to Saturday so plan for that if you want the most options.  The party boats especially fall into this timeframe. 
  • The boats leave as early as noon so plan to come in the night before your boat departs just to be safe.  
  • The boats usually come back around noon as well so you could fly out that night but it's tradition for your crew so all go out and party together in Airlie Beach so you might want to consider staying the night.
  • Make sure to print out the confirmation email and bring with you to check-in for your boat.
  • I booked through Sailing Whitsundays.  They had impeccable service and a great web chat option for those trying to book from overseas.  They also arranged airport transport for me.
  • We went on Wings.  It was a VERY nice catamaran with plenty of room.  It was clean, the staff was awesome and the food was delicious.  They definitely keep you fed.  It is primarily a snorkeling boat though not a party boat.  If you are looking for a party boat you will sacrifice cleanliness and space. Totally up to you.  The Atlantic Clipper seemed to be the party boat everyone talked about.  
 
 
 
 
 

  •  You can only bring a tiny squishy bag so be prepared.  All the rest of your stuff I suggest checking at the place you booked the boat.
  • Can't bring glass on the boat and it is BYOB so make sure you have time to stop at the bottle shop to get liquor.  There is ice on the boat but it doesn't keep things very cold so be aware.
ACCOMMODATION
  • Nomads Airlie Beach - For a night or two this place was great value, clean, safe, etc.  It's on the main strip close enough to the action but far enough on the end to retreat from the party.  I was there during low season so wasn't really an issue.  If you have the option try and stay in a 6 or 8-man room near the pool.
  • They don't have lockers in the rooms so bring the least amount of valuables possible although it seemed really safe.  We had great people in our room so you just have to read the situation for yourself.  You can always keep valuables at the front desk worse case.

Photo Credit: australiahotels.net

Then once you arrive in Airlie Beach here are some suggestions/recommendations (you definitely don't need more than one full day in Airlie):

RESTAURANTS
  • Beaches Backpackers bar has an awesome $15 special for a solid plate of delicious food (burgers, chicken curry, etc) and a beer.  Good atmosphere as well and gets pretty packed.

Photo Credit:  booking.com

BARS / CLUBS
  • Beaches was good for a beer as well but starts to empty eventually.
  • Mama Africa - I wasn't terribly impressed with the nightlife although again it was a Thursday night and the off season so maybe that had something to do with it.  The only place that was going off was this place with some great house and hip hop.  And they had jello shots.  Take me back to uni... I'm sold.

Photo Credit: themusic.com.au
  • Phoenix bar was also really fun.  The music could be a little better but the crowd was having a ball which totally gets you in the mood to dance.  I'd hit this up and then go to Mama Africa late night.

Photo Credit: Phoenix Facebook page

SHOPPING
  • Beachworx - I highly recommend.  It had great quality clothes for reasonable prices and a steal of a sales rack.  Everywhere else in Airlie is super cheap quality stuff that looks tacky.

And lastly... be prepared for some of the best snorkeling, diving and scenery of your life.  

 Airlie Beach Lagoon

 Airlie Beach Lagoon

 Walk to Abell Point Marina from downtown Airlie Beach

 Sailing Whitsundays

 
 
 
 
 
  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
  
 
 

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Burning Man 2015 - Reflections from a Veteran

Ticket sales for Burning Man 2016 are imminent.  This will be my third burn and it reminded me to share my experience from this past year, my first year as a Burning Man veteran.

Better? Worse?

Different.

Inevitably, some of the magic is gone.

Nothing will ever match the curiosity and wonder as you explore the camps for the first time, the dust rising in spirals around you, coating your body in protective layers.

 
 

Nothing will ever match your first dark ride into the deep playa's arms, greedy to steal you away from your friends with promises of disruptive lights, throbbing sound and whimsical character.

 
 
 
 
 

And nothing will ever match your first sunrise, the pink rays spreading warmth across the sky to the sweet pop of breakfast champagne and the gentle pulse of Robot Heart.


But with veteranhood comes new magic.

The magic of returning Home.  The relief, the anticipation, the thrill.  For those of you who haven't experienced it....It's the bursting happiness of seeing a loved one for the first time in months. It's the chilling anticipation down your spine of the festival bass greeting you before you even enter the show grounds. It's the heady ache deep in your stomach from a first kiss.

This swirl of old emotions only intensifies as you reunite with your burner family.  It's been a year since you saw them last.  You are reminded that for all texts and emails and phone calls throughout the year, nothing replaces the physical force of a well-aimed hug.  These people have seen into your soul and made a home there.


And the original magic isn't completely lost because you share in it with the new Virgins you've brought along.  Like a proud parent, you revel in their innocence.  You send them off alone on their first art car ride. You show them the wonder of the Man and the Temple.  You share champagne for their first sunrise.  And you welcome them into your family of gypsies eager to share with these newcomers.  You want them to know everything you have known and discover new things you haven't.

 

And therein lies the final magic of Burning Man.  Each year, Burning Man reinvents itself.  In some ways I felt at home and in some ways I was a stranger.  It's like returning to a place where the streets are the same but the sights and the people are different.  You get to fall in love with this place all over again.

But it wasn't all magic.  The cracks have begun to show.  Not just in the hard-baked earth, but in the essence of the event.

There was more garbage.
There was more mainstream music. 
There were more people who had come just to drug up and party.

During Major Lazer this past year, I had a moment of intense anger.  I looked the show and realized I was surrounded by zombies with no respect for human space and decency.  And the generic music? I could've gone to Brochella.  I jumped on my bike and cruised to the opposite end of the playa where I found a handful of people kicking up dust to some weird ass DJ. Phew! Escape.

But that's just one girl's opinion.  I respect the tenants of Burning Man that it is a place for everyone even if "everyone" is not for me.

It wasn't my place to judge these people, but I could choose not to coexist with them so I removed myself.  Luckily for me, Burning Man is large enough that there are still places to escape. I worry that those places will eventually cease to exist.  It's a cautionary tale.  I know my burns are numbered because of it.

But in the meantime I will be returning to the Playa this year to soak in the magic that is still left.

If you are coming to Burning Man for the first time this year ignore what everyone else tells you.  Ignore everything I've just said.  Form your own opinion.  That's the whole fucking point.

And if you see a purple dragon clapping her hands at sunrise you'll know it's me... Because I still believe in magic and at Burning Man it still does exist.  And I can wait to share it with my most important people once again.