Published: April 3rd 2011April 3rd 2011
Hoping for a prince
We spent a few more days up in the picturesque town of Port Douglas, taking part in the town’s favourite sport of Cane Toad Racing at the famous Iron Bar. Here we auctioned for racing toads with names like “Skippys Love Child” to “Camel Toad,” Cerri drew the cane toad named “Gay Freddo” for the first race. The aim of the game was to usher your toad off the table using a party blow whistle, once the toad was on the floor you had to be the first to pick it up and place it in the bucket on the other side of the room, Cerri only went and won the first race winning us a couple of free beers! Next up was my turn and unlucky for me I drew a toad called “Fat B@$tard”, who lived up to his name as I finished the race in last place but still managed to get a few free beers as well! Nice!
The next day we played about in the pools in the daytime and soaking up the sun and in the evening we had booked ourselves onto a boat trip along the Dickinson Inlet, in the hope of spotting
some crocodiles in the wild. We decided to go on the sunset cruise with the Lady Douglas vessel, which was an old steamboat, we boarded the boat and were greeted with a complimentary glass of champagne and nibbles, soon after we set off on our cruise through the mangrove wetlands. As we slowly made our way up through the idyllic, calm waters we spotted bats, sea eagles and some large cat fish but no crocodiles. The lovely old couple that ran the Lady Douglas gave an informative commentary, explaining about the slides the crocs make to allow them to slip into the water from the mud. Just as we gave up on seeing a croc in the wild, somebody spotted something that looked like a log floating on the surface, its colour blending in with the murky water. It turned out to be a well known female croc, soaking up those last evening rays; the guides informed us that this crocodile was the main breeder of the group within the mangroves and she had recently given birth a couple of weeks previously. With the sun setting we got back on dry land and went for some dinner back at the
Iron Bar, where they had crocodile on the menu. Being fully aware that the croc would have eaten us given half the chance we thought it was only right that we did the same so with a tad bit of guilt we ordered! The croc came on an Aussie Antipasti Platter which included our new favourite Kangaroo and some Emu, which had an interesting taste to say the least.
Rain, rain and more rain occurred the following day which was spent out in the pool, reading our books and watching films indoors. The next day was exactly 28 years since I was put on this earth, my birthday; Cerri brought me breakfast in bed followed by my presents and birthday cards. The birthday celebrations that morning were short lived as we had to quickly pack our bags and catch a bus back down to Cairns. Arriving back in Cairns we dropped our bags back off at the Bellview, where we had previous stayed and headed to the post office to send some postcards home, followed by a Facebook and email session at our favourite free internet place, good old McDonalds where I was treated to a birthday ice cream!
Singing in the rain at Paronella Park
That evening we got back into the swing of celebrating my birthday with a few pints and a pizza at the Rum & Rattle on the esplanade.
We picked up the second camper van of our east coast trip the next morning. The rain was still pouring down so we decided to take our time on the roads as we started upon our way back down to Brisbane. We stopped off at a very unusual place for Australia in the form of Paronella Park, which was built in the 1930s by José Paronella, a Spanish immigrant. Having lived in Europe he had a vision of creating an English castle in Australia, so nestled in amongst the tropical palm trees and exotic plants is now the remnants of a moss covered medieval looking structure. Situated next to a fast flowing waterfall Paronella Park became the first (privately owned) hydro-electric plant in Queensland utilising the waterfalls energy. We took a guided tour around the park in the pouring rain, unfortunately we weren’t able to access every part of the park and its gardens due to flash flooding causing the streams accumulating on the pathways and steps, even the picnic tables were
Esther Honey Reunion with Jordana Banana
under water. We did get to feed some feisty eels that called the water around the park home and since it was raining had the park to ourselves so we were able to appreciate how beautiful the place was as well as how much work went into building it as we discovered that José had made every brick and stone by hand himself. After drying off for a bit we hit the road again, spending the night some 30km’s from Townsville.
A short drive into Townsville the next morning, where we had a shower and freshened up before meeting up with Jordana Banana a vet who we’d worked with during our time at the Esther Honey Foundation in the Cook Islands. We had a great catch up over a healthy breakfast of cheese cake and milkshakes where we tried to organise a reunion for the rest of the gang back in the UK, that’s you Framey and Mimms! Sadly it was only a brief reunion as we had to continue on our journey down south towards Airlie Beach where we had booked ourselves on a boat trip for the following day.
The Whitsundays were on the agenda today,
Sexy Stinger suits
so we boarded the “Ocean Rafting” speed boat early in the morning and set off from Airlie Beach out to sea and to the Great Barrier Reef. We donned our sexy stinger suits to prevent us from being attacked by the jellyfish and dived into the water at two very different snorkeling sites. The first was amazing as the water was calm, we observed the tropical fish making their way through the coral going about their day to day business. The second snorkelling site at Mantaray Bay was even better; as we dived into the water you literally couldn’t see a couple feet in front of yourself as you were surrounded by hundreds of fish. Here we spotted two particular fish named Fat Albert and Elvis, who were hump headed Maori Wrasse and weighed around 90kg! After the snorkelling we headed to the world famous Whitehaven beach on the Whitsunday Island. Here we witnessed the solider crabs make their way across the beach like an army, before heading up to Hill Inlet Lookout for fantastic views of the island and the surrounding waters. Upon our return the crew had prepared a fantastic buffet lunch which we both took full advantage
Whitehaven Beach Couples Combo
of by going up for seconds! We then had a couple of hours relaxing on the beach where Cerri had her full body exfoliated by the white sand, as well as cleaning her jewellery and watching the manta rays swim in the shallows before heading back to Airlie Beach.
After our Whitsundays trip and spending time on Whitehaven beach, we had an itching to get back to the sand and headed to a tiny place further down the coast called 1770. 1770 is a village built on the site of the second landing by James Cook and the crew of HM Bark Endeavour in May 1770, Cook's first landing in what is now the state of Queensland. It was originally known as Round Hill after the creek it sits on but the name was changed in 1970 to commemorate the bicentennial of Cook's visit. We pulled over beside a park on the waterfront to have a spot of lunch and to enjoy the views before heading up to the monument that marks Captain Cook’s landing all those years ago. Just next door to 1770 was another quaint place called Agnes Water, this is where we got our beach fix
Lifeguard training at Noosa
for the day although we were unable to go in the water due to the invasion of Blue Bottle Jellyfish known elsewhere in the world as the "Portuguese Man O War".
The next day we continued on our beach theme by spending the morning down in the town of Noosa. This place had a ridiculous amount of roundabouts leading into the town centre and after a few wrong turns we eventually found ourselves at Main Beach, where we applied copious amounts of sunscreen and relaxed on the white sand for a couple of hours watching the many surfing lessons going on around us. We had a stroll around the stylish town centre with all its designer shops (which included Cerri getting a dress for her up and coming birthday!) and cafe’s before deciding it was time to hit the beach again. We headed over to the other side of town to see the Sunshine Beach, where we enjoyed a bit more of the good old Australian sunshine. Back on the road again, we made our way along the coastal scenic highway all the way back to Brisbane where we dropped off the campervan and checked in to the Tinbilly
Brisbane City Hall
Hostel in the city centre. We relaxed that evening with a couple of jugs of beer in the bar and planned what we were going to do during our time in “Brissy” as the locals call it.
During the next few days in Brisbane we did a bit of sightseeing, viewing St. Stephens Cathedral, City Hall and ANZAC Square. We enjoyed a coffee in the Botanical Gardens before being followed by a rather hungry lizard and had a stroll along the Goodwill Bridge. We also visited the damaged Southbank which is still under major repair from the flooding that happened a month previously; resulting in many of the major attractions along here needing to be rebuilt or reconstructed including the man made beach. Here we devoured a souvlaki in a Greek restaurant whilst sheltering from the rain, which brought back memories of our trip to Santorini in 2008. We visited the Gallery of Modern Art which included a swimming pool where you could have your photo taken in a room underneath the pool, so it looked like you were in the water. It also had slides in the entrance hall as a way to get down from the first
floor! It also featured a piece of art (if you can call it that!) by Rivane Neuenschwander where you could get your own coloured ribbon wristband with somebody else’s wish written on it and you then had to replace it with your wish of your own written on a piece of paper, it’s bizarre what they call art these days!
History was in the making this day as we picked up our final camper, this time it was a Hippy Camper from Apollo which was smaller than the ones we’d had previously had but for a dollar a day you can’t go wrong! After navigating our way out of Brisbane we drove down to Australia’s answer to Benidorm, Surfers Paradise. With its high rise buildings scattered along the coast line, the town centre is a bit of an eye sore but we thought it would be worth a visit. We had a stroll along the beach and lined our stomachs with a good old fashioned English breakfast! After perusing the shops, watching the surfers fall off their boards and seeing the many many night clubs we had had our fill of Surfers and decided to move on, we headed
Typical Nimbin Street
inland to a place that is the complete opposite to where we’d just been, a tiny Village called Nimbin. This place is Australia’s answer to Totnes meets Amsterdam! It was a former dairy village in serious economic decline until 1973, when the Aquarius Festival, a large gathering of university students, practitioners of alternative lifestyles and party people was held in the village. Now the village is a hub for day trippers looking to get hold of some of the wacky baccy and lots of people trying to sell it, the place itself is weird and wonderful and most of the people in it are off their heads due to not being able to escape the numerous puffs of smoke in the air. Myself and Cerri not being smokers and not wanting to be spoil sports just purchased a couple of homegrown cookies before looking around the local museum and taking in the peace and love man! Back on the road we made our way back towards the coast and onto the town of Ballina, home of the Big Prawn where we spent a giggly and high night!
Leaving Ballina we maintained our route south, making our way to Coffs
Coffs Harbour Big Banana
Harbour. Here we stopped off at the Famous Big Banana for a couple of comedy snaps and drove on down at a little place just off the Pacific Highway at Nambucca Heads for lunch with a view. We then continued on the road for a couple of hours, arriving in Port Macquarie, in this small suburb more than 200 koalas are injured either by traffic or domestic animals, with these statistics the town set up a koala hospital. We visited the place to show our support for the work they are doing. Walking around the open air wards of the hospital we spoke to an old dear who even looked after some of the fluffy patients back at her own home. Some of the koala’s we saw had been burnt during bush fires or attacked by dogs and had now come to rely on the care of the hospital too much to be able to be released back into the wild. After leaving a donation and wanting to adopt all the fluffy little guys we got back in the hippy camper and made our way down to Taree, another small town where we spent the night in at a campsite
The Three Sisters
surrounded by billions of mosquito’s to Cerri’s dismay and with a strange gay couple in the camper next to us consisting of a 50 year old Mexican, a 65 year old Aussie and their cat which they took for a walk on a dog lead!
Leaving our new found campervan friends behind, we left Taree and made the long trip back down to Sydney taking a slight detour to pay a visit to the Blue Mountains. The road twisted and turned up through the rocks arriving at our first stop, Wentworth Falls. This is where we got the first real taste of Blue Mountains scenery, with views to the south opening out to the Jamison Valley. Wentworth Falls themselves launch a plume of flowing droplets over a 300m drop. From here we drove a little further to the town of Katoomba, which was like stepping back in time with its old buildings, almost cowboy-esque. Katoomba is home to Echo Point, where a series of viewing platforms allowed us to get a glimpse of the sensational blue colour that surrounds the valley. Whilst here we also viewed the impressive Three Sisters rock formation as they towered out of the Cliffside.
Blue Mountains View
We took a walk down the incredibly steep staircase to get a view back up to Echo Point from the Three Sisters, then struggled to make our way back up steps! With the Blue Mountains mist in our rear view mirror, we drove into Sydney itself making our way to Bondi. We found a safe place to leave the Hippy camper for the night and checked into Noah’s Hostel. We managed a short walk along the famous Bondi beach before it got dark, admiring the surfers battling it out with the waves and strong currents before retiring for the night.
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