Published: December 6th 2006December 6th 2006
Notice the different between the 2 sides of the road...
Bush Fires and Free Camping!
We left Hervey Bay and headed North on the Bruce Highway. It was remarkable the difference between the clutch of Betsy and the Land Cruiser, and it took a little while to again get the feel of it. It was saddening to see how much of the vegetation along the sides of the road have been burned away by bushfires. There were stretches of miles where the ground was charred black, and still glowing embers could be seen. We came across one that was quite fresh as well and handn't yet had a chance to do much damage. It is so dry here though that fighting them is somewhat futile; containment being the only action available.
We drove to a rest stop that was marked in our camping guide and we excited to find that it was off the main highway, meaning we wouldn't have to listen to the drone of trucks through the night. We drove around and found to our surprise that it was a really big place, and much nicer than many of the caravan parks that we had previously stayed with. The rate was also more agreeable! There was a winding
river around the one side of the field, dotted with many shade-offering trees (a necessity in the heat!). There were a number of other caravan here that looked as though they had been here for a while. There were a number of people fishing in the river and we saw several large silvery fish jumping out of the water in the middle. Holy Mackeral! (This is what we later learned them to be). We were anxious to try out the rod that came with Betsy, and try our luck! We didn't have any bait, and more as a joke than anything, put some 'sour worm' candy on the end. It wasn't heavy enough to get the line very far into the water, and another camper came to our rescue by providing us with some split shot weights for the line. Needless to say, the only thing we caught was the bottom of the river as our candy worm slowly dissolved. The guy who gave us the weights sure laughed when he saw our bait, thinking initially that sour worm was our description of some old earthworms! Ha ha ha. It was a nice place to stay, so we took our
time the next morning and mended several of the holes in the mozzie netting in the canvas.
Cooling System Overhaul
Betsy had been over-heating a bit as we drove further and further into the heat. As we keep hearing that we haven't yet seen or felt heat, I am becoming a little worried about it. I decided to take a little pre-emptive action. Looking under the front of Betsy, I could see that what little grill there used to be, it is almost completely blocked by the addition of the bullbars. To make matters worse, the condensor of the air con was mounted in a way that air flowing under the van was forced under the face of the radiator. As the air con is far from working, this condensor is as useful as ballast on a race car. So to make it a little better, I removed the condensor and mounted the electric fan that was on it to the front face of the radiator, to assist the mechanical fan behind it. I had no way of drilling holes in the steel strips securing the fan to the radiator, so had to make do with slots cut out
with our $2 hacksaw (R. Schad would not be impressed!). I wired a switch into the driver console, so can now turn on this fan with the flick of a switch. Not sure if it will solve our problems, but it is definitely running cooler.
The highway leading up to Airlie Beach, our next destination, leads through countless fields of sugar cane. There are even rail systems entirely devoted to the transport of the raw cane to processing plants. We had the pleasure of waiting for one to cross the highway, and didn't miss the opportunity to snap a picture (52 cars). The fields provided a remarkably sweet view, and even the air was sweet to breathe!
We pulled into Arlie in midafternoon on Dec 3rd. It is a very small town with tourism and fishing as it's life sources. It is probably the most popular gateway to the island cluster known as the WhitSundays, boasting 74 in all. There is a strong fish smell in the air, mixed with the salt sea breeze making it quite unpleasant to breathe at times. You soon become accustomed however, and can appreciate the bustle of backpackers
On the road again
We drove past a lot of sugar cane fields - reminded me a lot of Belize!
arriving on a endless stream of buses.
We wanted to explore the islands and do a bit of snorkling so had to choose how we wanted to do this. This proved to be a little hectic as there are countless catamarans, tall ships, and maxi prosail yachts; all of them leaving at different times and offering slightly different deals. What also added to the complexity was that each seemed to be filling up before our very eyes, and just as we would about decide, we would learn that there were no more openings available. Our Swedish friends (Perri and Maggie), had finished working on the farm and were to arrive in Arlie the next day, so were were also trying to find something that they would be interested in. We finally decided on a maxi prosail yacht, as we had done the tall ship in Fiji, and it looked very fun! These sailboats are all racing yachts and many have completed international sailing races! We decided on the Apollo, an 80' speedster!
We met Perri and Maggie the next morning (Sunday Dec 4th) at the bus station after sleeping in the van on a very slanted street. Never
They didn't have these in Belize though!
again. My back ached so much from trying to keep my body from sliding off the bed, that I vowed to never again put myself in this position! Luckily enough, there was room for them on the same boat, and they even got it at a discount!
We spent the rest of the afternoon lazing in and around the large lagoon (pool) that is along the front of the town. It is over 2 metres at its deepest, and made for some decent swimming. We are no longer able to swim in the ocean without stinger suits because of the abundance of jellies and stingers that now populate the waters. Reading about the symptoms of the bites is enough to scare anyone from going in the water, with heart and breath stopping being a common one! We got a couple books from a book exchange in town and spent the evening and next morning reading, Carolyn finishing the 5th HP and me, The Last of the Mohicans.
We boarded the Apollo at 1pm the next day and began our sailing adventure. There were 25 passengers on board and 3 crew, including the skipper. There were several other Canadians,
some Brits, a number of Swedes, and a Dutch couple. We were told later that we ended up being the rowdiest group they have had in a while, mostly due to one British guy who was borderline crude. Everyone had an amazing time, and man can that sail boat fly! We didn't have much wind on our trip in Fiji, but we were lucky to catch great winds, and some gusts sent the skipper and crew scampering to adjust the mainsail and front jib, so we didn't all go plunging into the water!
We first sailed to Hook Island where we all went for a snorkle in our stinger suits! Wow did we all get a good laugh seeing everyone zipped up in their full body spandex! A favourite question, "Are we supposed to wear anything underneath?"! Ha ha ha. The water ended up being a little cloudy here, so visibility was a little poor. We did end up seeing a number of interesting fish, a purple one over a meter long and probably about the same magnitude in height (depth?)! We then sailed to a small straight just south of Hook Island, between it and Whitsunday Island, where
we anchoured for the night. It was the day before a full moon, so the reflection of it on the water was splendid! We all sat on the deck and socialized, often breaking out in song to both the radio and any song people could thing of! Bad moon arising by CCR was a favourite. We got to sleep in bunks in the belly of the boat, and quarters were quite tight, especially for the non-couples! Even with the hatches open, it proved to be quite warm and made sleeping difficult. The sound of the waves slapping the hull, blending with the snoring of a large fireman from BC and a 6'7' corporate banker from England, made for alot of white noise! Carolyn had a valve at the foot on her side of the bed, and was kind of fearful the first night that she would kick it and send the boat to the bottom of the straight! She said she often started, mistakingly thinking that she could hear water rushing in!
The next morning we sailed around the Tongue Bay where we saw a huge loggerhead turtle! Unfortunately for all of you though, our camera was at the
bottom of the boat and by the time we had retrieved it, the turtle was well on its way. It must have been over a metre across its shell, and had a massive head with rows of sharp looking teeth! It surfaced right beside the boat so we all got a very good close up of it! I wouldn't want that thing in the water after me! We made a bit of a hike across the tip of Whitsunday Island and beheld Whitehaven beach, first from a lookout, then from the sand of the beach itself. It is the most famous of the 1000 beaches in the Whitsundays, but didn't live up to our expectations, mostly because it had been so pumped up! The sand was incredibly fine, evoking one of the other canadians to say, "This isn't sand, it's flour!". There were quite a few twigs and things like this on the beach itself, and not being able to swim comfortably (without a stinger suit), took away from it. Carolyn sunbathed with a number of others, while I built a huge sand castle, which turned into a lazyboy, and finally a huge turtle, of which unfortunately the picture did
not turn out. We headed back onto the boat and several of us took turns diving off the boat while we waited for the others to be picked up in the little dingy used to get people to and from the shore.
We then sailed by Border Is and stopped on the North side of Hook Island where we had another snorkel. The water was much clearer here, and there were often times when you found yourself swimming in the middle of a large school of colourful fish. I didn't find the reef here as vivid as some of those seen in Fiji and Belize, but the there were more varieties of fish and the water was quite clear. I swam back to the boat (500m), and was wishing that I hadn't as I soon found myself swimming in the middle of countless jellies. We all had the stinger suits on again, but your hands, feet and some parts of your face are exposed. Luckily I arrived without injury, albeit a little out of breath!
We then circled around Hayman Island, where one of the worlds top 5 exlusive resort is situated. We were told that it is
They have amazing pictures on postcards of this place...none of us seemed to be able to quite capture it in the same way...I'll have to buy one to put in my future scrapbook!
$3500/night to visit and have a pool the size of 8 olympic pools! Seems a little excessive, but I suppose some people can't find enough ways to spend their money. We then stopped and had our dinner, which consisted of steak, potatoes, honey glazed carrots, and salad. Quite satisfying, especially after Carolyn gave me a good portion of her steak! The evening proved to be even more boisterous then the the previous one, with many drinks consumed and many songs sung at the top of our lungs. This earned us the title bestowed on us by the captain as being the most rambunctious group the have had in a while, although it still seems hard to believe considering the group just before us had 16 Irish who had to make multiple trips to carry all of their beer on board!
The next morning we sailed the three hours back to Arlie beach, arriving just before 11am. The entire trip we were allowed to help out with a lot of the sailing, hoising the sails and adjusting the rigging. Many evey got to man the captain's wheel, which was over 2 metres in diameter! Wow, can that boat ever fly!
We were told that we reached speeds of over 20 knots. We were sailing so aggressively that the side of the boat sometime sunk so low in the water that part of the railing was submerged on the low side (this was also called the sou side or suicide!).
We are meeting up with many of the group tonight at a bar here in Arlie, and will again be heading North tomorrow. On to Magnetic Island and then up to Cairns. Thanks to all that have been following our trip, and giving all the little updates from home! They are much appreciated.
There are more photos below