Published: March 31st 2009March 31st 2009
Summer in Australia
This is Ross in Noosa. The weather was unbelievable.
...you always take the weather with you. According to Crowded House at least. And they should know, being Australian.
Before I start moaning about the weather (and I should point out that we did actually enjoy ourselves despite the rain) I should say that I have had a bit of an incident involving my photos. Basically all my pictures from Cairns up to and including Fraser Island have been wiped from my memory card and - unhelpfully - seem to have disappeared from a DVD. For anyone who is thick about this sort of technology like me, this means I don´t have any photos of the first half of our east coast trip. Which is annoying.
Anyway, the last week or so in Melbourne was unbelievable. Not simply due to the temperature (over 40 degrees every day, opening the door was like opening the oven door) but due to the fact the city seemed to literally short-circuit. Power cuts, train tracks buckling, people and animals dying and then the bush fires. It was with some relief we boarded our flight to Cairns to meet Louise.
Arriving in Cairns airport, we were immediately struck by the greyness. If
Rain Rain and More Rain
Louise and I in Noosa. With umbrellas. In the rain.
you´re Scottish, think dreich. We met Louise who appeared horrified that her holiday in the sun was not off to a great start. Her horror soon spread when we caught sight of the weather warnings. Tropical Cyclone Ellie was on her way and the locals were battening down the hatches.
Undeterred, we spent a few nice days in Cairns. In the rain. We travelled to Kurunda rainforest by cable car (clever when a cyclone is on its way) and learned things about trees. Sadly I can´t really remember any of it so I´ll move on.
We also travelled by boat (again, maybe not the brightest) to the Great Barrier Reef in order to snorkel. The crossing was extremely choppy. At least two thirds of the passengers ended up feeling seasick. Fortunately I take after my dad more than my mum when it comes to sea-sickness and so felt fine. Ross, on the other hand, felt ill. So much so that by the time he got into the water he was sick. On the Great Barrier Reef itself.
The snorkelling was amazing. I had never tried it before and fortunately was nowhere near Ross. The water was murky
Cairns in the Rain
Ok so this isn´t my photo. We didn´t see any crocodiles. Apparently they do come into residential areas during bad floods though.
(nothing to do with Ross, more to do with the impending cyclone) but the visibility was fine underwater. It felt like entering another world. The coral is alive and moving and schools of brightly coloured fish swim round, not caring that a human with a ridiculous mask is infringing on their territory. Ross saw a shark (allegedly) and another guy saw a turtle. I only saw fish, but was quite happy. The fish themselves are so diverse in colour and size that they were fascinating enough. I didn´t find Nemo, although Louise claims she saw him.
Snorkelling feels like flying. That sounds strange, but as soon as the coral sloped into what looked like sheer cliffs to the deep seabed below, I felt as though I was going to fall. It was a bizarre experience.
My only problem was my wetsuit. It was a bit big and I was paranoid fish would swim up the legs (they didn´t). Also, it didn´t cover from the knees down and, despite sun-block, the backs of my legs got extremely sunburnt. Unfortunately I take after my dad more than my mum when it comes to pathetic skin.
Snorkelling in the Great
We Found Nemo
Louise did, at least. She didn´t take this picture though.
Barrier Reef has to be a highlight of my whole trip. We bought an underwater camera between us and took turns taking photos. It´s not digital so I can´t upload the photos here. There was some suggestion (uncalled for in my view) that my photos were of a poorer quality that the others´, based simply on a few photos of Ross´ arm instead of his face.
So that was really it for Cairns. We probably missed out on the city itself due to the constant torrential rain. We were quite happy hiding in cafes and bars along with everyone else. We had bought bus tickets to Sydney, with the ability to hop on and off down the coast and decided to leave earlier than planned in search of some sunshine. We attempted to book a bus and were informed by the tourist information guide (with what appeared to be supressed hilarity) that we were essentially stuck in Cairns because all the roads out had either been washed away or badly flooded. Following a quick visit to the office which sold us the bus ticket to demand a refund, we booked the next flight to Brisbane.
The beach is actually fake. As is the fact this is my photo.
heard some negative comments about Brisbane, along the lines of "don´t even bother". I was prepared for a boring city but was pleasantly surprised. The weather was beautiful and the people are really laid-back. There are free barbeques along the beach and the locals just take turns to cook their dinner and sit outside reading books. All very idyllic.
We also had people to meet up with: Jodie and Melissa from our African tour and our friend Anna from Melbourne´s mum and dad. It was strange seeing the girls from the tour as their lives went back to normal after Africa whereas ours didn´t. Obviously. Anna´s parents were very hospitable and took the three of us on a brief sightseeing tour then bought us lunch in a beautiful restaurant based in a converted factory.
We spent a couple of days in Brisbane, doing touristy things . One afternoon we made jewellery in an Aboriginal gallery. I think I was probably the most enthusiastic of the three of us. One of the Aboriginal guys announced that he´d once been arrested for burning the Union Jack in front of the Queen. We all nodded politely. The other guy had been
The Irwin Family
Pre-Stingray. Obviously. Clearly not my photo.
one of the stolen generation, so he was interesting. He also hadn´t been arrested as far as I could tell so there were fewer awkward moments.
We went to the Castlemaine XXXX brewery which was good although the tour seemed to go on for an eternity and I couldn´t finish the ridiculous amount of beer we were given (the others managed much better). Our final tourist excursion was to Australia Zoo or - as I like to call it - Steve Irwin´s Zoo.
The zoo itself is probably the best zoo I´ve ever been to. Very informative and the animals have huge amounts of space. I just couldn´t quite cope with the various shrines to Steve, the gigantic pictures of him and his family and, even worse, the constant videos of his (frankly exploited) child Bindi singing and dancing at every corner.
Louise had her photo taken with a koala. To my amusement she was a bit nervous. It was only when I saw the sinister photo of a winking koala digging its talons into her arm that I had a bit of sympathy.
We had wanted to go to the Whitsundays: islands off the
Me in the Padded Cell
Or not really me. Some random girl on the internet. Yes, I am breaching copyright.
coast with beautiful beaches. Typically though, the weather was so bad we couldn´t get far enough north. The furthest we could reach was Bundaberg, home of Bundaberg Rum. We went to the distillery and tried some rum (surprisingly nice). That was really it for the tourist attractions.
By far the most notable part of our trip to Bundaberg was our accommodation. We chose a hostel called Cellblock, a converted prison. You´d think the clue would be in the title but to our shock - it was like living in prison.
We had to split into separate rooms as it was so busy. Louise and I ended up in a padded cell. The jokes are so easy you don´t have to bother. I genuinely don´t believe the cell had been touched since it was used properly. It was the most depressing room I´ve ever seen, let alone slept in. Ross was in an ordinary cell with some other people. Apparently it was pretty horrible too.
The worst part was that most people staying there were young backpackers working in the nearby fields. At 6am a guy started shouting through a megaphone, telling them to get up and get
This could have been my photo as this is exactly what the lake looked like in the sun. It´s not, though.
ready for work. It was like an episode of Prisoner Cell Block H.
To get to Fraser Island we took a boat from Hervey Bay, a pretty little seaside town (inevitably we saw it in the rain). We decided just to do a day tour to Fraser Island. Apparently this is a mortal sin - we should have gone for three days, driven a 4x4 and slept in a tent according to everyone we met. The thought of sleeping in a tent on an island of sand in the pouring rain didn´t really appeal.
Fraser Island is the biggest sand island in the world, don´t you know. Typically we didn´t see the rainforest or beach at their best as it was a bit grey. Our last stop was the famous Lake Mackenzie. Half an hour before we were due to leave, the sun came out. The water suddenly looked turquoise and the sand pure white. Everyone frantically took photos. It was probably the most stunning beach I have ever seen.
Rainbow Beach, Noosa and Surfer´s Paradise
These three seaside towns are extremely different but have one thing in common: we stopped off at each for
Rainbow Beach Sand Blow
Me prancing in the background.
a short period of time.
Rainbow Beach was beautiful. We stayed in a lovely guesthouse and wandered round the sleepy little town. Incidentally, this is where my photos were wiped. I didn´t know that at the time though, fortunately. We visited the natural Sand Blow which felt like being in a huge sandcastle.
Noosa is very exclusive. The price of everything seems to be inflated. The weather was so appalling that we couldn´t do much (starting to sound like a broken record). Ross and I went for a walk along some cliffs while Louise went shopping. I think the pictures show who had the better idea.
Surfer´s Paradise is dubbed the Blackpool of Australia. By me, at least. We only stopped off for an afternoon. Surprise surprise the weather was terrible. We ended up in Starbucks at one point. I actually quite liked Surfer´s Paradise, although - like Blackpool - I couldn´t stay for too long.
From Surfer´s Paradise, we travelled to Byron Bay and then onto Sydney. I´m going to do that as a separate entry though, to save this from being stupidly long.
Food of the fortnight: I think it´s back to being
The beautiful blue sky really does it justice.
a drink - cheap, warm sparkling wine out of plastic champagne flutes in a dormitory to celebrate Louise´s promotion (how glamorous);
Quote of the fortnight: Louise on her arrival in Cairns - ¨it´s like arriving in bloody Millport¨.
There are more photos below