June 14th, 2009 @ 8:50 am by Mike · 1 Comment
Still feeling hung over from the night before the Goonies, with Kev still missing, went to catch our flight to Alice Springs. The best solution to any hangover is get something greasy so we had a meal at Burger King which was the only thing we could find in the airport. Burger King failed us and was left feeling even worse and bloated for our two hour flight to Alice Springs.
We landed in Alice Springs around mid afternoon and immediately was knocked out by the heat. He heard that it was hot but nothing could have prepared us for temperatures averaging around 40 degrees. We had also heard that you need head nets to keep of the flies off you and they were not wrong. Waiting outside the airport for our transfer to the hostel we were bombarded by fruit flies that was vicious and never gave up attacking our heads.
As our three day outback tour started very early in the morning the next day we wanted a chill out day and relax. We decided to cook ourselves a curry which is something we have not had in ages. Being big eaters we need a lot of meat and the only thing that was in our budget was this lump of Silver Corner Cut Beer where we got approximately 1.1 KG for less that 7 AU$. Needlessly to say this meat was horrible as it had an extremely soft gamy texture which randomly tasted like pork. With over 300 grams of rancid meat to eat each only John was able to eat all of this curry, leaving me and Chris looking like disgraced buffet eaters having just barely grazing the top half of our dinner.
The next day had arrived swiftly and we were congregated outside the hostel at 6AM where we were separated into our group who we would be spending the next three days with. There was 20 people in our group and 2 tour guides. Our first destination was Uluru which took approximately 3.5 hours to drive to on one dead straight road which apparently only had one right turn in the middle. We arrived in Uluru which is more famously referred to as ‘The Big Rock’ and commonly featured on generic Australian post cards. In Uluru we did a small rim walk around the ‘’rock’ and another cultural walk called the Mala Walk which took approximately 45 minutes each. In the evening we were left at a sunset viewing point to admire the sun fading away behind the ‘rock’ whilst dinner was being prepared for us.
On our first night we finally discovered what a swag bag was. For no apparent reason I had an image in my head that it was an all in one fancy sleeping bag / mat with a built in net to keep off flies and mosquitoes. Due to this assumption I had not pack anything to sleep in as we never questioned my assumption. My assumption was wrong as a swag was just simply a sleeping mat that was stored in a bag that we used outside. Needless to say I looked kind of strange as I slept outside on a swag with just my usual sleeping clothes, a pair of boxer shorts. It was certainly warm enough but not pleasant when you have dingo’s swarming around you at night in search of food.
The next day was an extremely early start at 4:30AM to have breakfast and see sunrise at a viewpoint overlooking Uluru. Afterwards we visited the Cultural Centre to learn about the Aborigines before driving to Kata Tjuta for another hike and taking information from our guides about the valley. In Kata Tjuta we did a hike called the ‘Valley of the Winds’ which was a pretty scenic hike as the valley was pretty deep so you was always surrounded by tall golden brown walls that was a huge contrast from the deep blue skies. After the hike we spent the rest of the afternoon driving to our third and final destination called Kings Canyon. The drive was long so the guide had a music / film competition for us where we had to guess the artist and name of the song plus the film it was featured in. I teamed myself with a Czech couple who was sitting behind me and surprisingly won the quiz and was rewarded with a small chocolate bar which went down a treat as the meals they provided lack the quantity the Goonies are normally used to.
Our final day we was in Kings Canyon for another early start at 4:30AM. After a quick breakfast we had a quick bus ride to the base of our 3 hour hike. We first hiked up to a small summit where we would see the sunrise over Kings Canyon. Then we continued with a 3 hours culture walk through Kings Canyon where our guide stopped a lot providing us with lots of interesting information about the area and the significance to the Aborigines. We even did a little role play as the guide described how the Aborigine people handle crime and punishment. Halfway in our walk there was a natural spring which was in a crater so the water was very dark and could not see what was at the bottom. Needless to say there were not many takers to swim in it with only myself and another Norwegian guy taking the plunge. After the hike we returned back to Kings Canyon resort for lunch before our long drive back to Alice Springs.
For our last night in Alice Springs our group met up at a restaurant for dinner and a few drinks. Here we all had Chicken Parmesan for dinner which was really nice but did not really fill me up. So I questioned the group as to who wanted another dinner and got everyone who wanted a second dinner to raise their hand. To my amazement all the men wanted another meal and we all ordered a second dinner of fish and chips. Our guide tour found this hilarious and decided to spill a few home truths. He branded our group as ‘animals’ and said he has never had a group who ate so much. We had 3 small Germans girls in our group which the guide was mortified by as he couldn’t believe the amounts they were eating. On our first day we had managed to eat 3 days worth of breakfast in just one sitting which pretty much sums up our greedy ‘animalistic’ group.
Next stop to the multicultural city of the world, Melbourne.
June 14th, 2009 @ 8:39 am by Mike · 4 Comments
The last few days have been extremely eventful for the Goonies but we finally made it into Cairns, but with a casualty. Sadly ‘Sandy The Van’ had fallen ill and suffered badly from the 9 hour straight ride from Ingham. As we arrived late in the evening, we just parked ‘Sandy’ outside our hostel as parking was free in the evening. But the following morning we had to move the van so that we didn’t receive a fine and this is where we discovered the problem. As soon as we started the van we did not realise that the starter motor was continuously ticking over until we had found another suitable parking spot and switched off the van. The sound was horrible and you could hear a small piece of ‘Sandy’ dieing away as the starter motor gradually grew quieter until it finally went silent. From this point onwards we thought ‘Sandy’ was dead as she would not start up even with a jump start from another car. It was Sunday, everything was closed, so there was only one thing we could do which was to mourn for ‘Sandy’ over a few beers.
The following day arrived quickly and the Goonies got straight to business to revive ‘Sandy’ as we was leaving in three days time and was intending on selling ‘Sandy’ during those days. After a quick internet session we discovered that RACQ (roadside service like The AA) was cheap even for non member so acquired their services immediately. The RACQ got ‘Sandy’ started by ‘by-passing’ the starter motor and immediately diagnosed that the starter motor was the problem which we had already concluded. The only reason we needed the RACQ was that ‘Sandy’ needed to be towed to a garage to be fixed which any roadside service companies are required to do if they cannot fix the problem on the spot. So now with our technically free tow service ‘Sandy’ was delivered to a garage where we would discover the extent of the damage and see how much we was going to be ripped off. As the garage was understaffed and backlogged with more work than they could cope with they could not look at the problem immediately, so the Goonies took a chill out session and went to the cinema to watch Slum Dog Millionaire.
After the film we received the call from the garage and as expected was being ripped off in broad day light, but we had no choice as it would be virtually impossible to sell a dead van especially if we only had two days left before we flew out the following day. Three hours later and the van was fixed, so we walked to the garage immediately whilst calling back all the potential buyers we had. One buyer wanted to see the van immediately and we had not even received the van back and clean it up, but we desperately accepted and agreed to meet in 30 minutes time outside our hostel. With only 15 minutes until we meet our first buyer we arrived at the garage. The team had to split up to get all the necessary work done in time. Chris settled the bill whilst me and John frantically clean up ‘Sandy’ so that she looked presentable to the potential buyer.
Our 15 minutes were up and we were met outside our hostel with our first potential buyers. Everything went smoothly, the test drives perfect and the buyers loving ‘Sandy’ and including the fact that she was yellow. However, they did not want to make a hasty decision so wanted to sleep on it. What made matters worst was that our last day to sell the van was tomorrow and they were away all day tomorrow on a boat trip. So we let it settle for awhile and went to a place called Rhino Bar where we had vouchers for a free meal and where we could have a few drinks and decided how we would react to the buyers decision.
After an awful free meal we chilled out in the bar having a few pints when we decided to text the buyer to make an offer which we had already decided would accept due to our situations which the buyer was not aware of. Anyways, to cut a long story short the buyer called us back instead, made his offer which we accepted on the condition that the deal must be completed tomorrow tonight. I must have sounded really pushy / dodgy but the buyer accepted and ‘Sandy’ was no longer ours. So me managed to fix up ‘Sandy’ and sell her all in one day meaning we had overestimated the time we needed in Cairns ;).
Back at the Rhino Bar we stayed there for the rest of the evening taking full advantage of their drinks promotion which was drink as much as you can between 10:30PM - 11:30PM for only 8 AU$. Needlessly to say we was drinking for pride and country but even after the drinks promotion we managed to win a free jug of beer by singing the chorus to ‘Sex On Fire’ by the Kings Of Leon when the DJ came around with his microphone.
Other than partying every night we did not do much else in Cairns because most of our time was taken up sorting out the van and most importantly the weather was awful meaning snorkeling and diving around The Great Barrier Reef was out of the question. This was disappointing as we was planning on a trip to Cape Tribulation and possibly Port Douglas for a spot off diving. Other than going to the cinema, John replace his dead point and shoot camera with a new flashy SLR so we should be expecting lots of great pictures from him.
Next stop culture learning with the Aborigines in Alice Springs.
May 16th, 2009 @ 2:38 am by John · 320 Comments
With our PADI diving licences still fresh in our pockets we arrive in Ayr after a night out in Airlie beach. We hope to dive the Yongala wreck which is reputed as one of the top 10 dives in the world. We camp outside the dive centre and get up about 7:30am to check in. The weather looked pretty awful and feared that the dive wasn’t going to happen. Our fears were confirmed when we went to in the centre to check. So we decided to wait one more day for the dive. We drove into the town centre of Ayr and found a nice rest area by tourist information where we pretty much slept for 5 hours as we only had about 3 hours sleep the previous night. When we eventually woke up, we drove around town and found a cinema where we bumped into Dave again. There wasn’t much choice in films to watch. It was either four holidays or bride wars. We initially bought tickets to see bride wars and saw the trailers and thought it was going to be rubbish so we sneaked into the four holidays showing instead. But that turned out to be a rubbish film anyway.
After the film, we chilled out in the only hostel in Ayr where Dave was staying. It was a backpackers place for workers that looked unwelcoming and like a prison. After this, we found a quiet street in Ayr to spend the night. When we woke up in the morning the weather was crap. It was raining, windy and dull. It was obvious already that the dive was going to be cancelled. We called the dive centre up which confirmed this. We gave up hope of diving the Yongala wreck and drove straight to Townsville to catch a ferry to Magnetic Island taking Dave as our first passenger.
We arrived at Magnetic Island around 2pm and check into a place called the Arcadia Hotel which is actually a hostel. We ended staying in a 6 bed dorm with Dave and meeting two new girls, Ester and Michelle. The weather never improved but got worse. We were on a beautiful island but it was pouring down with rain. We already had enough of this bad weather and decided that we were going to leave the next day to Cairns. We didn’t want to leave Magnetic Island and do nothing so we headed out to a small hike to called Forts walk when the rain eased off a little. Along the walk we was supposed to see some wild koalas and also some old world war relics. We never saw much of either. However, we managed to see a Kookaburra and some concrete platforms where some bunkers and old army stores used to be.
On the way back, Mike managed to slip over and he cut up his leg a bit but it as all superficial and he soldiered his way home.
In the evening, the hostel was pretty empty but there was a bar where we got to enjoy a few beers with our fish and chip meal we ordered.
In the morning, the weather seemed worse than previously. This time were didn’t plan to hang around and we caught the 10:10am ferry back to Townsville where we planned to drive straight to Cairns. We drove for about an hour before we hit a small town called Ingham where we couldn’t go any further because the road was blocked due to flooding.
This had hampered our plans a little as it gave a fewer days in Cairns to sell Sandy the Van. We ask the road traffic person when the road would be clear and it wasn’t good news. He said it probably wouldn’t clear until 1pm the next day. It was about 2pm when we asked which meant we had to stay in Ingham for the night. There was nothing to do in this small town so time was hard to kill. Fortunately we found a public library where we could use the internet for free. In the evening we found our way to a supermarket where we met other camper van drivers stuck in this quiet town. We forget the names, but they included 3 aussie girls, 2 Dutch and 2 English lads. We ended up chilling out under some shelter of the supermarket with our camp chairs, some music and some canola candles to keep the mosquitoes away.
We got up nice and early the next day in Ingham to see if the road had cleared. It hadn’t cleared and we ask the road traffic person the same question we asked him yesterday and he he said it will clear the next day around 1pm. This was bad news to us, so we found some free internet to find another route to get there. We found one that may be passable all roads have been affected by the floods in one way or the other. It was about 500km extra driving, but we didn’t want to hang around and so we drove the long way which included driving back an hour to Townsville, where we were previously and going quite a bit inland.
The road inland was quite interesting as it seemed like it was part of the outback. We got to see lots wild kangaroos, pigs, cattle and wallabies. We also must have counted about ten dead kangaroos that got hit by cars. We made it safely into Cairns at about 8 hours later, but the Sandy the van was feeling the strain from the long journey. Sandy was making funny noises but we was too tired to investigate and left it for the following day to sort out. We check into Gilligans Hostel at 11pm and go straight to bed after a tiring day.
May 16th, 2009 @ 2:37 am by Chris · 155 Comments
Aboard Matador for our 2 day 2 night sailing adventure, we were introduced to the members of 4 crew and the boat together with some of it’s racing history in which it won 2 championships which we figure was a fair while ago due to the outside looking fairly new but the inside looking rather tired.
We spent the rest of the day sailing out to our anchoring point for the evening. During the day we got to know our fellow shipmates who were from all over the world and to some features of the boat. One particularly memorable one was the toilet, in which after doing the deed you had to keep the flushing mechanism (a blender to make the contents fit down the narrow pipes and into a holding tank) held down for 15 seconds. We were also shown to our beds, as it was previously a racing yacht head room in the bunk beds was only about 20 inches then you would hit your head on the bunk above. On deck though the views were amazing and we sunned ourselves whilst the crew made us feel very comfortable with drinks and snacks.
Next day we headed to Whitsunday Island which we were sailing around we went to Observation Point giving a view of Whitehaven Beach, a stunning white beach spanning the length of the island (made up of 98% silica apparently) surrounded by green lagoon waters which had been somewhat churned up given the current weather conditions.
A the short walk to observation point we went for a swim in the water, but we were in stinger season so we all had to wear a stinger suit (similar to a wet suit but very thin) which ruined some of the fun and restricted our movement when we began playing frisbee. After frisbee we successfully attempted to build a pyramid with 10 people on the beach.
It was pretty windy today so we were guided through putting up the sails, there were no hydraulics to lift the sail or if there was, it was broken so it took 8 people clambering over one another towards the end in an effort to lift up the main sail weighing several tonnes.
In the afternoon we anchored up in Hazelwood Island where we could do our free dive (the only freebie we got out of the Freight Train debacle), the weather hadn’t been very good over the past few days with lots of rain which had stirred up the sea making the visibility a meagre 2 metres. Due to the visibility we didn’t see very much besides a pretty big stingray and a few jellyfish hanging around. After our dive, we had to wait for the other people snorkelling to come back to the boat so in the meantime we made use of the diving board on the boat to perfect our back and forward flip techniques, as you can see it was well worth it.
After an exhausting day of sightseeing and diving we spent the evening relaxing with the group and crew who got us involved in some rather ingenious drinking games…
We spent most of the journey back on the last day sailing, some other groups had the opportunity of more snorkelling or diving but given the poor visibility we weren’t disappointed we missed out. On the way back there was a fair bit of wind the sails were up again and we were going at a rate of knots back to Abel Point Harbour where we would return to dry land. It was sad to leave the boat with the huge portions of good quality food and enjoyable company of the other people onboard but we will not miss the really smelly toilet/blender which kept Mike awake most nights.
After getting off the boat we head to the lagoon for our daily shower, being back on dry land felt a bit strange at first as though we were still moving side to side on the boat, it was quite disorienting at times and took the rest of the day to overcome. In the evening we met up with all the other people and crew for a drink before heading off for Ayr to do our wreck dive the next day.
May 16th, 2009 @ 2:37 am by Chris · 22 Comments
Leave Bundaberg at 6PM, Mike to drive the first 350 odd KMs, followed by John and then me the rest; we would arrive in Airlie Beach between 4-5AM have some sleep and then at 12PM head out to sea on Freight Train, part of the the Oz Sail fleet of maxi’s. Enjoy Sun, Sea… Job Done.
The real thing
What we didn’t realise was just how tired we would be after completing our Open water PADI course, Mike had driven around 60 KMs and I decided to go to sleep in the back of the van whilst Mike was driving. We stopped for some dinner at a service station, I went back to bed and Mike carried on driving after our short break. Another hour later Mike was clearly in state unfit to drive, where he and John (his co-driver) seemed to be taking turns falling asleep or should that be keeping each other awake, according to them at least.
I was still sleeping on the bed in the back. John took over driving and I stepped up to co-pilot refreshed after about 2 or 3 hours sleep. Keeping Mike awake had clearly taken it’s toll on John who was also too tired to drive. With Mike sleeping in the bed in the back and john sleeping in the co-pilot seat, I started driving with solo control of the iPod. Conditions driving to Airlie deteriorated greatly with torrential rain in the last stretch of road, 906KMs later we arrived in Airlie beach at 5AM and parked up at the side of the road for some well needed recuperation.
At 6:30AM we had a knock on the window of the van, “Hey, open up I know you’re in there”. We all looked at each other, whispering, “Who could that be”, knowing it would be a warden to fine a us for sleeping in our van on the street. “Come on open up, I’d like to have a chat”, the voice said again. With that John opened the side door and poked his head out and started explaining our situation, just arrived at 5:30, nowhere was open. He started sounding slightly sympathetic, then Mike and I poked our heads around the door. To which the warden exclaimed, “Blimey, there’s 3 of you in there. It must be like a tin of Sardines”, to be fair he wasn’t too far off the mark. After seeing us all, he suggested we go grab a coffee and find somewhere else to stay, what nice man. We had heard from others the fines can be quite huge, in the order of hundreds of dollars. We considered ourselves lucky and would choose our next spot more wisely.
We drove to the Lagoon, an inland open air pool for a dip and a shower. An outdoor shower, so at 7:30 in the morning the life guards and other swimmers were greeted with the sight of 3 guys lathering themselves up, with our swimmers still on I’ll add. We’re not exhibitionists, and we don’t want to get arrested.
All clean, we went for breakfast in McDonalds and hung around that area whilst we waited for the heavy rain to ease off. Later we checked in for Freight train, at this point we were getting pretty excited and went shopping for some more goon to take on board with us. We arrived at the dock to board Freight train at 12:30, we waited a fair while before the director came to speak to us to let us know there was a problem with the boat, it was on it’s way from being pressure tested and to be fitted into the boat. We were told to go away and come back at 5:30. 5.30 came and still no word on the part still being pressure tested, and 7:30 we were told the boat was going nowhere and we would have to get a refund or transfer onto another boat. After todays antics we didn’t want to go with Oz Sail again so opted for a refund, or would have done if their machine would work. Instead we had to go back to the booking office to sort it out the next day.
The next day we got our money back to look for a similar trip with another company, unable to find one at a reasonable price, we had to book again with Oz Sail on Matador, a 85 ft maxi. We were told Matador was a far superior boat but didn’t sail for another day. We wasted the rest of that day and the next day by the lagoon.
On the day of our departure we headed back to the port to board Matador, straight away it seemed more organised. The crew were there to greet us, to let us know some maintenance had overrun (OH KNOW, NOT AGAIN!!!), but in the meantime they would check us in. By the time that was complete we were off and boarding Matador. So good so far.
May 16th, 2009 @ 2:36 am by John · 28 Comments
Hervey bay is the our port of departure to arrival at the natural beauty of Fraser Island. This 3 day trip is a self guided driving tour with other random people. We basically got a 4×4 van with all the necessary camping equipment and a group was allocated to it. We attended a briefing before we departed where we got to meet the other 6 people in our group; Aimee, Neil, Henry, Gai, Jale and Maria. As it was a a self guided adventure, we had to carry out a group shop for food supplies that would last us the 3 days.
Once all the admin and food shopping was done, we headed off to the ferry which would take us to Fraser Island. The first stop when we arrive on Fraser Island was the beautiful green Lake Wabby. It was a nice relaxing lake which enabled us to cool down in the sweltering heat.
It wasn’t long after until we left and drove along the loose sandy tracks on to the long 74 mile beach where we would float along the sand with the waves breaking just before they hit the side of our 4×4. We finally camp in a pretty rough spot for our first night. We had plenty of goon (bagged wine) to have some fun that night along with free salsa lessons from the experts Jale and Maria.
We had an early start to the next day as we had to reach the Champagne pools before high tide would block off the beach road that provides access to its. Champagne pools, aptly named because when the waves crash in to the walls of the rock pools, it looks very much like the champagne flowing out of a bottle when it breaches the walls. The champagne pools is only place you can safely swim and wade in the sea water as the rest of the coastline of Fraser Island is littered with jellyfish, sharks and stingrays.
Afterwards, we visited Indian Head, a small hill that provided great views of the coastline and cleat blue sea where we could see dolphins, large stingrays and sharks traversing the waters.
When high tide was over, we headed to Eli Creek which was a tiny stream where you can float along by the current from one end to the other.
Our last night of camping was a big night as all of the 5 groups of 4×4s that started this trip together picked the same spot to camp. This meant a fairly large gathering and a heavy night of partying commenced.
Despite the late night finish, we still had to get up early again to beat high tide. We were the second from last group to leave promptly at 7am and drove towards Central Station. Central station was and old logging station, but there wasn’t much interest for us to stay long and so we headed straight to stunning Lake McKenzie, where the sand is white and the water is clear blue.
Lake McKenzie was definitely the best part of the island and probably the busiest. We leave Lake McKenzie late afternoon to catch the ferry back to the mainland.
The only bad thing about Fraser Island are the gigantic march flies. Hundreds of flies, the size of a walnut, welcome you in the morning as you stumble out of the tent. Not only, do swarms of them just land on you, the nasty things bite! There’s no big enough bottle of insect repellent out there to keep them away. The only way is to fight back and swat them.
The overall self guided, self drive tour worked out much better than I thought. We had a lot of fun and met made a lot of new friends. This is not only one of the cheapest ways of seeing the only, but one of the best.
May 16th, 2009 @ 2:36 am by John · No Comments
I thought Bundaberg would be just another town we just happened to pass through where there are loads of small, quiet independent shops to serve the local community. But I was wrong.
Bundaberg is famous for many things and surprisingly kept us busy during our time there. The main reason for our stop in Bundaberg was to gain our PADI scuba diving licence. Not only is it one of the cheapest places you can do this in Australia, but it is also the start of the Great Barrier Reef. We spent 4 days to complete the course which involved one day in the classroom and another day at the local swimming pool to practice what we have learnt in controlled conditions. On the last two days, we went diving in the ocean and got our first glimpse of the Great Barrier Reef.
I loved the practical side of things of the course, but the classroom and reading we had to do was tedious and took a long time to complete. We had an exam at the end of the course which is the first exam I have had for about 2 years. Not staying in a hostel and in our van made things a bit harder as by the time we found a place to settle and had dinner it was already late. Then we had things to read and exercises to complete. Space and light was not good in Sandy the van. Despite the pain suffered it was worth it in the end as we all passed with flying colours.
Apart from scuba diving, we visited Mon Repos which is famous for its turtle watching. Fortunately, we were in Bundaberg at the correct season for when the turtles lay their clutches of eggs on the beach and for when the eggs hatch. We arrived about 7pm at Mon Repos turtle centre and it wasn’t long after until it a loggerhead turtle is spotted on the beach for us to go and see. By the time we got to it, she was already burying the eggs and running off back to the sea. But a second one turned up while the other one was leaving and we got to see her dig a deep chamber and lay her eggs into it. It was an amazing sight and I was surprised to see how close we could get. The rangers were even took two of the freshly laid eggs for people to touch and hold. We watch the second turtle bury the eggs and then watch her crawl back to the sea. A final count of the egg was taken and that was at 129.
The eggs of the last turtle were in a bad position which means that they were in danger of being damaged or destroyed. The rangers decided to move them to a better location. So the rangers along with some of the audience helped to move the 129 eggs to a safer location. It ended up to be a good night of turtle watching, depsite ending at around midnight.
On other days in Bundaberg we visited the well known Bundaberg rum distillery which was interesting, but the best part was the 2 free mixer drinks we got at their bar.
We also managed to visit the Bundaberg Barrel which is famous for its ginger beer. Obviously, we got our free taster of it at the end of the tour.
We had a great time in Bundaberg but it’s not a place I would stay in for much longer when seen all the major attractions as the town itself is rather quiet during the day and night. We wave goodbye to Bundaberg and head to Airlie Beach for our sailing adventure around the Whitsundays.
May 12th, 2009 @ 11:29 am by Chris · 4 Comments
We left Byron Bay the night before and parked in a street near to a hostel we thought we could get a free shower the following day, but we were out of luck. Instead we drove closer to the city centre near a YHA, a guaranteed free shower we thought, but security was good and we couldn’t get in. However, we could in the one next door so we showered there, and Mike bumped into Kev and Anna, we went back to try and find them after our shower but they had checked out heading off to Australia Zoo.
We spent our day wondering around the city, including lunch in McDonalds where we noticed the time had gone backwards an hour, apparently the time zone changed when we got to Brisbane or somewhere before. On our tour of the city we saw Streets Beach, an inland beach in the city sponsored by Streets, the Australian version of Walls Ice Cream.
More botanic gardens and a stroll along the harbour which had been redeveloped to look very posh, which in turn means we couldn’t afford much on our backpacker budget.
Before we left we planned on eating at a free barbecue in a bar we had seen, unfortunately we were suckered in by the thought of free food. We bought 1 beer to find out that only got a 1 hot dog (1 slice of value bread, a value sausage and some really burned onions if we wanted). Still hungry we left on the hunt for more food before heading to the cinema to watch Yes Man. We were very disappointed with the fish and chips we found outside the cinema, the fish was dry and the chips were quite old and covered in chicken salt (chicken salt was our own fault).
After watching the hilarious Yes Man we drove to Beerwah, a town very close to Steve Irwin’s Australia Zoo where we parked up in a rest stop with a number of other campers. The next morning we drove the remaining few KMs to the zoo to be stung by a surprising $53. Crikey we thought.
But, as we wondered around the zoo all the displays and shows made it well worth it. We went to the Crocoseum to see Terri, Steve’s Wife and Wes, his best mate handle some crocs, sometimes they looked like they weren’t following the rehearsed show and got a bit close for comfort, but that made it all the more enjoyable for the crowd.
During the performance there was also a bird show, they had been trained incredibly well as they displayed when they flew into the stands, got very close to our heads and landed on some designated people in the audience.
We only anticipated the Zoo taking half a day, but there was so much to cover we ended up spending most of the day there. We went and saw some Koala’s which as always were sleeping.
As we got deeper into the zoo we reached the elephants, who liked to burst the balls they were supposed to be kicking and some tigers who were being teased with a furry toy. As we headed back to the entrance we went into the kangaroo enclosure, an area where you could get up and close with the roos to feed or stroke them.
We headed off from Australia Zoo bound for Noosa, a short drive away where we would be staying the night. We found our parking spot to sleep and the next day we didn’t hang around for long, only enough to fix the speakers in the back of the van near Bunnings Warehouse, the Aussie B&Q then headed to Hervey Bay, the starting point for our self drive Fraser Island trip.
May 10th, 2009 @ 12:07 pm by John · No Comments
Bryon bay is known very well for its surfing. So this was the ideal place for us to take a surf lesson and brush up our skills. We had a great time, however the conditions were not the best to learn in. Apart from surfing, we went to the most Easterly point and visited the lighthouse that was also up there. Funnily enough we bump into our good old friend Dave from Sydney and also Nina from way back on the Inca Trail.
Most of our time spent here in Byron bay was on the beaches. The waters here are nice and clear with a constant flow of waves, ideal for body surfing. When we had enough of the beaches we cleaned ourselves up and headed off to the bars of which there are plenty of here. We stop off at Cheeky Monkey’s for a few cheap drinks. This place is a great laugh, with a club 18-30s feel to it. We also went to the Beach hotel which had a fantastic live band to entertain us while chilling out with a few beers.
We found a great spot for sleeping just a walk away from the bars but quiet enough where many people do not go which meant we could have a good nights sleep. It was also in Bryon Bay where we gave Sandy the van an upgrade and made some speaker boxes to hang just behind the front seats so we could hear the music better.
We only spent two days in Byron bay which wasn’t enough. It’s so easy to just chill out here and do nothing or just grab a surf board and head off to the beach. The nightlife is great and meeting people is easy. In the end we leave late at night towards Brisbane our next destination.
May 10th, 2009 @ 12:06 pm by John · No Comments
We get to Port Macquarie late at night and find a nice spot in Town Beach car park to sleep in. We get up at about 8 am and go for a morning swim in the sea to revitalise and then had some breakfast on the beach. We haven’t started up Sandy since the battery problem yesterday so we start her up and see what happens…she starts like a beauty! We assume that problem is fixed for now and tackle our next problem which is the car speakers. We can barely hear them and we need music for long journeys. There are a pair of 6″9 inch speakers with the van don’t work. So we drive to a place called “Super Cheap Autos” to get them to test it out. To our surprise, they work so we spend about an hour re-wiring them to our van. We hear music loud and clear for the first time and we start to enjoy the road trip again!
We had to remind ourselves that we were in Port Macquarie to sight see and not fixing the van which was on our minds for the past 24 hours. We make a lunch of tuna and sweetcorn sandwiches and then drive to see Roto House which is one of Australia’s oldest European settlements to get a bit of history on the area. Next to Roto house is a Macquarie Nature Reserve which is home to Australia’s oldest Koala hospital.
This place is worth a visit, not only because it is free, but they put in a lot of work to save the lives of koalas that have been run over, been in bush fires or house the homeless. We spend the rest of the afternoon walking around Kooloonbung nature park situated next to the CBD. We find a night spot on Lighthouse beach to cook a meal on our camping stove before we drove to Coffs Harbour to sleep for the night.
We wake up in Park Beach, Coffs Harbour in a massive car park by the surf club. There were clearly a lot of other camper vans who slept here the same night as everyone as out on the camping chairs have a bowl of cereal. No morning swim today, instead we find a YHA where we have a shower and do some of our laundry as it’s getting a bit smelly in the van. It is here that we bump into Dave who we met in Sydney and is staying in this exact hostel.
In the afternoon, we got our first taste of the “Big Things” in Australia. We went to see the Big Banana which was actually smaller than we thought it would be.
We then went to the Botanic Gardens and Muttonbird Island Nature Reserve which is part of the Solitary Island Marine Reserve and had fantastic views of Coffs Habour. But the weather was great with lots of cloud and a little rain. We met up with Dave back at the YHA hostel and cook a meal together and have a few beers for the first time since having the van.