Warning! This post contains loads of fun stuff that will almost certainly give you a huge sense of wanderlust!
Firstly, an apology. For those of you reading my posts chronologically, I am sorry this is being posted so close to my last blog. One of the main issues of being in a camper in Oz is you don’t always have access to the internet (a blessing in disguise I say!) For this reason I couldn’t upload any photos to the last blog, so had to wait. I actually posted that from Cairns the day before we flew to Indonesia! Whoops. Publishing blogs from my iPhone isn’t the quickest or easiest thing to do…
Looking back on our Sydney to Brisbane trip, it’s become more apparent to me that we got the most enjoyment out of the landscape and people rather than actually doing things. This is probably for the best; doing stuff in Australia aint cheap! Every day just driving, camping, and refuelling (both us and the van) we seemed to be absolutely burning through money! It’s a really hard thing to get my head around, especially when we’ve been able to live on so little in Asia!
Neither Kelly or I had been further North than Sydney on previous trips to Oz, so were determined to make the most of this trip across Queensland. We discussed the things we really HAD to do in Oz, and agreed to take the plunge and just do it. More on those activities later.Whilst I say having all the fun in Australia is a costly exercise, if you look around you can definitely find some cheap things to do that are quite simply, amazing. For example, the following day we drove to Bundaberg, home of the famous (in Oz anyway) Rum. It makes perfect sense that Rum is made here, almost every road you drive along in Queensland is bloody cane fields! Seriously, it’s quite amazing how much cane is grown here. During this trip we’ve visited vineyards and wineries, and brewers, but never a rum distillery, so gave that a go. The first thing to say about the distillery is WOW, the smell of molasses around the whole site is as intoxicating as the pure alcohol permeating through the air! Bundy Rum is one of the only distillers that actually undertakes the whole process, from raw materials to bottling left in the world (apparently). Regardless, that was just a fun fact; the awesomeness came from the tour around the site, finishing off with a tasting of their top Rums (over $200 a bottle good). I must say, I do love a good Rum, and some of other more exquisite rum’s were top class, even winning worlds best Rum last year. The site itself was a great mix of historic and modern, with a really interesting museum on the history. Sadly no photos from this tour (they’ve had a couple of pretty catastrophic fires on site over their 170 year life, so no electronics allowed on the tour), but if you’re in the area, it’s definitely worth a look. for $30 this wasn’t bank breaking, and well worth the money.
Beating that however, was our next couple of days in and around 1770 (yep, that’s the name of a place). After a bit of research looking for a place to stay, we discovered a kangaroo orphanage called Horizons Kangaroo Sanctuary, only a short drive from Agnes Waters. If I’d known about this sooner, I would have spent a whole day here. The sanctuary allowed camping on site, and obviously had hundreds of Kangaroos. Because the majority of these were orphans, they’d been hand reared since childhood (Joeyhood?) so were more than comfortable around humans. Seriously, this was probably one of the highlights of my time in Australia. We arrived at about 3pm, spent the whole afternoon feeding, petting, and generally chilling out with the Roo’s, and woke up the next morning to amazing views over the coastline, whilst having more Roo’s chilling out right next to the camper. Believe me when I say, it was really quite difficult leaving this place. I do need to say though, it’s really rather sad hearing about the Australian Governments approach to Kangaroos; allowing slaughter of thousands of kangaroos a year in each state! I get that from an agricultural perspective they can be seen as a pest, but seriously, it’s not like Aus is running out of space, and these amazing createures only live here! The more time I spend on the road, the more and more I hate humanity…..
The whole reason we were traveling to this area was for surfing. I’ve never surfed, and never really had any huge desire to do so, but whilst being in oz I’ve become somewhat perplexed by it. We were told about the surf school in 1770 being very good, very cheap, and effectively the last place in Oz you can surf whilst heading north, as you start to enter croc territory! We booked onto the $17 lesson, taught by TBone from Reef2Beach surf school. After a quick tutorial on the sand, we hit the water. Another reason this area is great for beginners is the surf isn’t too monstrous. We were expecting 2 foot waves, but closer to the end of the day we were hitting 4ft waves (trust me, they seem much bigger when you’re trying to surf them!) I’m not sure Kelly really got into it, or ‘succeeded’ at surfing, but I bloody loved it, and didn’t totally suck! Within about an hour, and after changing for a bigger board, I’d finally managed to stand and ride a wave, and spent the next 2 hours attempting again, and again, and again. I was genuinely surprised how much I loved it, and can’t wait to get back out in the water over the rest of this trip! This’ll obviously be me in a few weeks 😉
Now, the real fun starts!
The next day, we had an epic drive to Airlie Beach, the gateway to the Whitsunday islands. Half way through our 700km/ nearly 9 hour driving epic, we got a flat battery! What the hell are the chances of that (the chances are raised significantly if you leave the radio on when you stop for lunch, that’s for sure). After a 2 hour ‘change of plans’, and a new battery later, we made it to Airlie just before sunset. It’s a shame as we didn’t really get to explore the town properly, but by that point we were both exhausted so set in for the night. The following day, we set off on our trip with ZigZag Tours, which we later found out meant we were on the fastest boat out of Airlie! We opted for a day trip to Whitehaven beach rather than one of the epic sail boat adventures for two reasons; time and money. A sail trip will cost in excess of $300 per person, this cost $100! We started the trip cruising around the Whitsunday islands, before stopping at a couple of snorkel spots. Sadly the snorkel conditions really weren’t great, and you could really see the huge amount of damage the recent cyclone had done (another #fuckyoudebbie right there). The snorkelling was just an added bonus for us though. Whitehaven beach was next.
It may seem ridiculous doing a boat cruise just to get to a beach, but until you’ve been you can’t comment. Whitehaven is a bit of a geological anomaly: the sand is 98.9% pure silica! It’s so white it doesn’t get hot, you need to wear sunglasses because of the reflection from the sun, and you WILL burn whilst there. The sand was actually used to made the lens for the Hubble telescope, and can be used as an exfoliator on your skin. This beach, is quite simply, spectacular. I’ve definitely lost count of how many beaches we’ve seen over the past 8 months, and so many of those have surpassed any expectations I had, but Whitehaven massively raised the bar yet again. I decided to go for a run along the 8km stretch of sand, which was an incredible experience. Once you head further up the beach you swap the other tourists, boats and helicopters for complete solitude. I was the only person on that stretch of beach for a good 40 minutes, and it was utter bliss! Needless to say, the water there is absolutely to die for as well; crystal clear blue and a wonderful temperature. Spending a couple of hours on this (and another) beach across the water simply wasn’t enough, I wish we had all day (although I DEFINITELY wouldn’t have escaped without becoming a lobster).
This would be a tough thing to beat. The following day, we undertook another epic drive all the way to Mission Beach, just south of Cairns.
And then I did this…
Yep, I fell out of a plane at 15000ft, landing on another outstanding beach…. This is something I’ve wanted to do for a while, and after a failed attempt in New Zealand over the Fox Glacier (thanks to the weather; I didn’t wimp out) I decided to go big, and did the highest jump in Oz. This-Was-AMAZING! I’m so glad I got to do it finally, and would 100% do it again tomorrow! For anyone considering a skydive, just do it! I would highly recommend getting the video as well. Yes it’s expensive, but you WILL NOT remember it all once you’ve come down from the adrenaline rush. When can I do my next one???
That was going to be a tough one to beat that’s for sure!
So we went to the Great Barrier Reef for a day of Snorkelling.. That’ll do…
We booked with a tour operator who had exclusive rights to a couple of areas of the Outer Barrier Reef, far more secluded than many of the reef excursions you can do to closer reefs, apparently these slightly more untouched reefs are seriously impressive and well worth a look, so we took a punt. The tour group we went with from Cairns were great, but crazy for health and safety! We had to wear life jackets (never great for snorkelling) and we were only allowed 50m from the boat, before a man with a whistle started making noises at us. In typical Kelly fashion, she got excited and somewhat carried away, didn’t hear any whistes, and got chased around the reef by the captain of our vessel to bring her back closer.
Going to the reef was great, and I’m so glad we did it, but the group we were with were just a bit controlling. I can definitely see why, some of the other members of the tour clearly didn’t know what they were doing, or how to respect the coral, but for Kelly and I this was particularly frustrating. I can’t believe I’m saying this too, but the reefs we got to see in Fiji were actually way more impressive too! I know, we sound so spoiled. Regardless, I’ve been to the Great Barrier Reef!
To finish off the last leg of our trip, we kept heading north. After a stop off for 1 night in Cairns, we drove to the Daintree Rainforest, after a number of recommendations from fellow travellers and friends living in Oz. En route, we stopped for a couple of Crocodile tours, exploring both mangroves and the Daintree river. For $25 for both tours this was a total bargain! We did our tour with Crocodile Express, setting off from Daintree village initially. This was a great tour that’s for sure, but more importantly we got to learn so much about these fascinating creatures as well as spotting a bunch (and other pretty unique wildlife along the way). To add a little to the excitement, we even beached on the river bed for 5 minutes due to an unexpectedly low tide, that was a bit of a squeaky bum moment to say the least!
We decided to spend 2 days in the rainforest, camping just south of Cape Tribulation, pretty much the most northern part of the East Coast you can access without a 4×4 vehicle. We camped right by the beach, yet still in the rainforest. The whole area was totally stunning, and somewhat Jurassic. We were fortunate to be camping right next to Noah beach; one of the nicest we’ve seen so far in Oz. To top this off, it was totally secluded, only really accessible to those camping at our site: no one was on the beach the whole time we were there, which was just bliss. So obviously I had to take advantage of the seclusion. Sadly, this far North going in the water at beaches like this is dicing with death, so we obviously decided against this. Regardless, the beaches, the rainforest, the views and the treks were so worth the drive, and being off grid a few days was a blessing as well! Just to add to this part of the journey, we spotted a family of Cassowaries too! These elusive and rare birds are not found anywhere else in Australia apart from Far North Queensland, and to see a family is a very rare site!
Keep going, not that much further to go….
So now, for the first time on this drive in Oz, we started heading South…
By chance, our buddies Tim and Steph (from previous blogs about India, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, and Melbourne) were visiting Cairns for the weekend. We just can’t seem to stay away from these guys! We all stayed at Ellis Beach, just north of Cairns for one last night together. It really can’t be stressed enough how nice it is to see familiar faces on a trip like this, where you don’t have to do the standard commentary again, and again, and again (where have you been, how long you been on the road, etc etc etc), and with these guys it’s just all so easy. After another cracking evening, we agreed the best way to say our (potential) final goodbyes was watching the sun rise over the ocean, and it definitely delivered! Yet again, what a pleasure it was to spend time with them.
So, that’s basically it! We spent our final day in Cairns (which I must say is a seriously cool city!) before getting a very late night flight to Bali. Looking back, this leg of the trip has been pretty epic! We’ve stayed at 2 vineyards, been to the theatre and the super rugby, explored 4 coastal cities and countless towns, enjoyed 100’s of beaches, been to a wedding show, bought a wedding dress (!!!), caught up with so many awesome people, kayaked with dolphins, hiked alongside Echidna’s, spent an morning and feeding Kangaroos, spotted wild Koalas and Cassowairies, snorkelled at the Great Barrier Reef, jumped out of a plane at 15000ft, run across Whitehaven Beach, gone for a naked stroll along a crocodile laden beach, been to a Rum distillery, spent 2 nights in a tropical rainforest, driven the whole of the East coast of Australia (over 5200km in total), and finished off watching the sun rise over the ocean with some great friends. This 2 months has gone so fast, and I’ve bloody loved it, but It’s time to get back to Asia, so we can stop haemorrhaging money!