Published: September 22nd 2006September 22nd 2006
Hello again... time for the next update on our travels so far...
We've just returned from a cracking whale watching trip in Hervey Bay Queensland, so I write this with a slight grin and stupid red nose (apparently there's no ozone layer or something) - anyway more of that later.
First piece of news to fill you in with is that Sarah's insides have now recovered after a couple of days couped up on 3 planes (Hanoi-Bangkok-Singapore-Bali) and bedridden in a nice hotel we found in Kuta (Bali). A few antibiotics and some less evil bacteria-ridden food later and the bugs were gone.
Our first stop after Vietnam and our last blog was Bali. Now we could have sat here and told you all about the culture of Bali, the traditional villages and tales of treks up volcanos; but we spent most of the week on the beach!! Yep, we stayed in the same hotel in Kuta overlooking the pool and didn't budge - it was so nice. We did a surf lesson (dude), which I definately enjoyed more than Sarah (radical). So by the end of the week and 4 times "riding the tubes" later I was
It's a hard life
considering myself almost pro (well I can now stand up.... sometimes). The only other adventures of note were 2 really good dives we did up in the north of the island on a wreck - the SS Liberty (I think) (sunk in WW2) - and various trips to various bars and restaurants to recharge our weary legs (yeah right). So Bali came and went: lovely beaches, sunsets and surf (dude) and good fun (the haggling here is particuarly intense - one guy tried to charge us 20 quid for a pair of plastic fake sunglasses and ended up selling them for about 80p!). The island is only at 40% capacity at the moment due to the second lot of bombs last year, sad for the hundreds employed in tourism but selfishly so nice and chilled as a result.
After 8 days it was on to Australia, Sydney to be precise. This was actually my third trip to the city, but for Sarah it was a new continent let alone city. What we weren't expecting was the weather; the cold and rain (some of the heaviest rain for years apparently) for the first 3/4 days was a shock, but in
This wave was at least 20m when I caught it!
a way pleasant after the sweat fest that was Asia. My bestest friend Jamie and wife Carol kindly put us up for our stay - a good base down in Elizabeth Bay just around the corner from the knocking shop known as Kings Cross. We wandered around for a couple of days in the rain and sunny spells visiting the sights - Darling Harbour, Harbour Bridge, Opera House etc. We also took a boat around the harbour - which turned out to be a lovely way to see rain up close - really interesting if you're Michael Fish. Nice dinners and a night on the town in Oxford Street was accompanied by a hangover day and then a trip to the Blue Mountains (2 hours by train from Sydney). We went up to Katoomba where we had a trip around the town and were fortunate with some better weather to see some great views over the Blue Mountains.
It iss nice to be somewhere a little more "sophisticated" again - things have prices on, they drive on the correct side of the road (rather than in the middle), they obey traffic signals and you can drink the tap water
The rain cleared just in time for this
(yippee). However with this comes the cost - after Asia quite a shock and with Sarah "The Budget" Beddoes on the case we soon realised we'd have to be a little more frugal. Well once we'd left Sydney that was because on the last day there we decided to splash out and climb the Harbour Bridge (with BridgeClimb as it is inventively named). A good trip with great views took 3 hours to walk up and back. All this whilst looking like a henchman from a Bond film (you guessed it boiler suits) and having to strap everything to your person (including tisues) and managing your little lead (constantly attached to the bridge) to stop you falling or I guess jumping in. Certainly a good experience although a bit pricey me thinks (when you know they've almost trebled the price due to popularity you can see the dollar signs - kerching).
After 6 days in Sydney it was time to hit the road again. We'd reviewed the bus option but decided we really wanted the flexibility to do what we wanted (that and our fear of having to keep up with over-excitable 18year olds for 4 weeks - i'm
turning into a Grandad what can I say). So we got Duncan (a hired Toyota) and Fred (a 5 man, bog-standard tent) and headed off on the road north. We have 4 weeks until we fly out of Brisbane and we're planning as we go.
We started off taking a trip to the Hunter Valley (should have known the first stop would be booze related) via Newcastle and an animal sanctury - Sarah's first Koala sighting - collective ahh. After stopping at a couple of vineyards and feeling it only polite to buy a couple of bottles of the '03 Shiraz (rude not to) we decided we'd best get Fred up before it got too dark. He was a simple fellow actually and it wasn't long till we were in the camp kitchen (which has become our only source of food since - no more going out for us), cooking some pasta to go with our new purchase - we had to borrow a couple of wine glasses as we weren't going to drink it out of our plastic thermos glasses.
We were up with the birds - i feel like we've aged about 40 years since we've
been camping. We're invariably up at 7 with the light and damn noisy birds and we have been known to be in bed at 9:00. When there's no light and there's only some very peculiar campsite residents to contend with what else do you do... ? Anyway we continued northwards via a few lovely beaches and coves - Anna Bay, Nelson Bay, Seal Rocks. Being not that far north of Sydney and still Spring the water was not braved and we continued up to Forester where we camped after a stunning sunset over Lake Wallis.
The next night was spent in Coffs Harbour via stops at Port Macquarie and Bellingen, 2 interesting enough towns but not a huge amount to see. Coffs Harbour's a popular place for the New South Wales holiday maker but apart from the beach not much there. Our next major stop was Byron Bay, where we found a campsite over looking the ocean - very nice. We booked onto a Dolphin Kayaking trip for the next day, which involved as you may have guessed, kayaking to look for dolphins. We spent roughly 3 hours on the water and saw a few little pods of dolphins
around the bay. Unexpectedly for us, we also saw about 5 hump-back whales, which often skirt the bay on their way south - fantastic. Later we wandered up to the lighthouse where we had some stunning views and caught sight of another 10 or so whales heading south for the Antartic (we decided we'd continue north however - it's cold down there). To toast the whales on their way south we decided to have a couple of drinks and ended up in some backpacker joint dancing on the tables - a fun night.
It was with delight we were woken by 4 year old Noah in the tent next door to us at 6.45 - lovely child. We decided once again to go off the main road north and headed into the Hinterland. There are a couple of national parks up here and we went via Springbook National Park - lovely views and interesting waterfalls etc. We then headed for the Gold Coast and the interesting (we still can't make up our mind on what to call this place) Surfer's Paradise. A nice beach but huge amount of high rise hotels, fast food restaurants and entertainment centres litter the
place - we didn't stop for long. However that didn't stop one lovely traffic warden slapping a ticket on our car for quote "not parking parallel to the traffic". Does anyone know what this means as we certainly didn't and said traffic warden had disappeared!! That night we stayed in a real out of the way caravan park - i thought it was something out of a Hitchcock movie. We were the only non-permanent people there (i.e. everybody's caravan was actually their house) and it was so so quiet. I thought we might be put in a stew or something when the sun went down but we survived!
We then did Dreamworld (theme park on the gold coast) which was good fun - when in rome, or the gold coast... whatever. And here we did some more whale watching - this time of a human nature. Australia apparently has one of the highest obesity rates in the world and it was all out for everyone to see. Surely the fact that you can't fit in the beloved theme park rides (we saw one woman try and try and then have to give up getting into one seat) might spur you into action to lose a bit, but then i guess it means more time in McDonalds if you can't go on the rides. It isn't so surprising they are a big nation, there are fast food joints everywhere and all up the highway are signs for the next Mcdonalds, KFC etc. - it's as though they're saying "don't panic you only have 10km to go until you can stuff your face again". So strange for such a sporty country. Seems like your ozzie falls into 2 camps - those who like sport - or those whose only sport is eating.
Anyway, we then passed Brisbane (for a later return before we leave the country) and stayed about 80kms north - just south of Australia Zoo where Steve Irwin had just been put to rest that day - luckily it wasn't too busy. This before our trip up here yesterday, to Hervey Bay. So we arrived in Hervey Bay yesterday, chilled out, did some washing and then as murmurings of hockey season commencement filter through we decided to see how fit we were with a run on the beach - the answer is not very! We might try that again, we might not.
And today we did a whale watching tour for about 6 hours. Our preparation for this was slightly hampered by us being woken at 4am this morning by some Germans going at it like rabbits - did they not realise tents were so thin? The ups and downs of camping hey? Anyway the whales are only in the region August - October as they rear the young calves in the warm waters. We saw probably 15 odd whales - most of which were mother and calf - and some great sights. Fin/tail slapping, breaching (jumping out the water) - great.
That's about it for now - hope i haven't bored you all too much. Fraser Island's next door but we're going to come back here when we know how much time we have - we're more keen to do the Whitsundays (we're off first thing tomorrow) and a farm stay (ride em cowboy).
Before we go, we'd like to say a quick congrats to Jim and Hannah on the news (believe me guys, a mention on this blog is bigger than any Hello or OK centre spread)!
We hope all is well wherever you may be.
G'day, Jonny and Sarah