First of all we'd like to sincerely apologise to all of our blog-fans for the lack of entries recently. I'm sure you have been on tenterhooks awaiting the next instalment. Our only excuse is that the East Coast of Australia is haven for backpackers to get drunk and socialise! In fact almost everywhere we visited seemed as if it had been built especially for getting young nomads merry. This meant that for the six weeks we were on the East Side for, we spend half of it drinking and a fair bit of the rest recovering. Therefore we have fallen very far behind. Hence a condensed version of our exploits here is required for us to catch up a little, as we actually left Oz on 30th March! So here are the highs and lows since Cairns....
Townsville / Magnetic Island
Townsville is basically the gateway to magnetic island. Here we met up with Carlos and Ivy our friends from Cairns. We stayed in a stunning hostel called the Foreign Exchange – which was like a palace, and the next day caught the ferry with our Brazilian buddies to Magnetic, so called because of its magnetic affects on Cpt
Cook's compass. We spent our time discovering hidden beaches (including a clothing optional one, which was home to one middle aged exhibitionist, wondering around with his tackle out, which gave us all great amusement, we also had a couple of failed attempts at fishing, some exploring of the island, some swimming in our hostel pool and a visit to see the adorable rock wallabies, which came to eat out of our hands. Each evening our hostel laid on some entertainment – the highlight of which was 'Toad Racing' where we had to bid for our preferred giant cane toad to be the first out of the circle. Ours came third out of 8 – not bad but no prize, we needed a winner to claim the kitty!
Airlie Beach / Whitsundays
Airlie Beach is the gateway to the world famous Whitsundays – a group of 74 islands around the Great Barrier Reef. We were a bit miffed when we arrived at Magnams hostel to find we could have got our 3 day sailing trip a fair bit cheaper, but soon got over it and checked into the biggest party hostel ever. You could not go very far before
being invited into someones's dorm hut for drinking games and free goon (boxed cask wine, the only alcohol that's cheap in this country!)
After a night in Airlie, we headed day to the dock to catch our boat and after initially being a bit disappointed with the crampedness of the boat, we soon got in the swing of things. Everyone in our group were really friendly and got on well (apart from one obnoxious American guy called Mike who managed to offend just about everyone on the boat) and the crew of Changer, Captain Nipples and Harley Davidson aka the bus boy yank entertained and fed us to the max.
Whitehaven Beach is the jewel in the crown of the Whitsundays, a spectacular view of the whitest sand in the world, mixed with crystal clear bright blue water – yes it sounds like all the others we've been to, but it was actually quite different, the way small sections of water crept over the sand and rested in pockets of the beach at low tide made the view from the lookout absolutely exquisite.
During the trip we also got to do some more superb scuba diving and
snorkelling, try our hand at sailing, enjoy a beer under the stars on top deck at night, staring at all the constellations which were completely unobstructed without any light pollution from our ocean view.
When our trip was over we were lured to the after party by the promise of free pizza and the night was made even better when our playboy-esque captain – who spend the entire boat trip shirtless, displaying his enormous permanently erect nipples, tried to show off by swinging round a lamppost like a stripper, ending up slipping and dropping to the floor banging his elbow pretty hard on the concrete. This was even more amusing since he had spent the evening trying it on with each single female member on our boat trip. Soon after his fall, he went home with his tail between his legs... alone!
In Airlie Beach, we also had time to chill by the lagoon a couple of times, eat lots of free / cheap pizza and Jo won her first air guitar competition, claiming $25. Jay came second in a digaredoo competition but was robbed due to the biased crowd making the decision!
a quick stop over in a small town called Bundaberg after a tip off from a few people we'd met on our travels. We were told that there is a place you can go to watch sea turtles lay their eggs on the beach and where you can also see baby turtles hatch and make their way into the sea for the first time. Although we'd seen some laying on the west coast – because there was no light we thought this organised trip would give us a better look. Plus we had the potential of seeing lots of cute baby turtles and we certainly weren't disappointed. We'd recommend that anyone travelling this part of the world at the right time should visit Mon Repo Turtle Beach. It was simply incredible seeing these tiny little creatures struggle from their shells and through the sand and battle their way to the shore using the minimal light on the horizon to guide them to the rough seas that will soon become their new home. We got to touch and watch around 40 of these beautiful youngsters start there life's journey and it was simply enchanting.
Along with the
Whittsundays, Fraser Island is one of the 'must-dos' of the East Coast. The largest sand island in the world boast stunning views, beaches and aboriginal history in equal doses. This trip gave us the chance to drive a big 4 x 4 jeep on the beach and through the forest which was really cool. We were lucky to get a small group and a top guide – Troy – who runs the company with his partner. The highlight of Fraser was the stunning Lake Mackenzie, which looked like a pristine beach, all the necessary factors – white sand, crystal clear water etc. except it was a lake, surrounded by trees all the way around. So no boats, no jellyfish, no seaweed, and no sharks. It was created entirely from rainwater, making it one of the purest lakes around. We could actually drink the water as we swam in it.
During our 3 days trip we were taken to all the hotspots – the champagne pools, Indian Head lookout and Ely Creek and were fed like kings by chef Troy, who created the most incredible BBQ steak with mushroom sauce and fried potatoes, mouthwatering! And made good friends with Tasha,
Leila and 'Dutchy' who helped make the evenings go with a bang.
On the last day our 4x4 got a puncture but rather than change the tyre Troy decided to just pump it up until we got back to the mainland. His quick fix turned out to be an error of judgement as the tyre blew whist Tasha was driving on the sand. This gave us a bit of sunbathing time while Troy and Dutchy changed the tire. On the way back through the forest and once back on tarmac road after the Ferry our truck was pulling pretty heavily to the left and became quite difficult to drive in a straight line! Jay managed to get us back to the hostel safe and sound but when we got back it turned out the tyre had not been put on properly and could have flown off at anytime! Nonetheless it was a superb trip and we lived to tell the tale.
We had a brief encounter with Noosa the affluent but pretty surfing town, being sure to enjoy the local night life during our short stay. Goon fuelled drinking games followed by Jo having her drink
grabbed and thrown into the bushes by a bouncer and witnessing a few fights in one of the clubs were the highlights. We also managed to catch some of the Festival of Surf. We were on the beach as the golden oldies of the over 65s and 55s groups competed. They still had some skills to show off and although we didn't really understand the scoring, it was a good watch. We also had a go at riding the strong waves ourselves, but we managed it without the aid of a surf or body board – if you bend in your arms hold them straight and catch the current just right you can hitch a lift all the way to the shore. However, Jo lost pair of sunglasses no. 54 during the excitement!
We loved the much-maligned city of Brisbane and made the most of our 3 days there. Many backpackers give you a negative impression of 'Brizzie' but we found it to be full of things to do. We stayed in a cool high rise hostel called Tin Billys, which gave us some good views of the city and spend the rest of our time, walking,
shopping and taking in some culture – visiting the free art galleries and museums, which were excellent. We particularly enjoyed the 21st century exhibits in the Brisbane Art Gallery – which included a wall of TV screens playing videos of members of the public singing along to Michael Jackson classics, a room full of purple balloons you could run around in, a swimming pool that looked full of water, but you could go in without getting wet, and a big room full of live finches (yes the little birds!) All sounds very random, and it was, but great fun too. We even went back the next day because we wanted to see it all.
Brisbane is also really picturesque at sunset, as you can see the reflection of the sun dropping in the skyscapers, with the river and architecturally attractive bridges also in view. We also managed to blag a load of free fruit from the market just before they closed. And once again Jo came out on top in another Air Guitar contest! Winning a free jug of beer as we played Bogan Bingo (the working class Australian version of bingo) in a lively pub.
We ended up staying here for a week whilst we waited for the weather to improve. It rained constantly for the first four days, so we played a hell of a lot of scrabble and monopoly! We ended up staying in a private room for a change because all the dorms were full in our hostel. It was a lovely set up, just a two bedroom flat with our own kitchen, living room, bathroom and telly. The only downside is that we had two English numpties sharing it with us. A young couple who were about as social as a paper bag. Had we of had a nice couple in there, we would have surely made friends for life, but these two were real hard work! During the rainy patch we managed to get out on St. Paddy's Day for a pint of Guinness and a bottle of Magners at an Irish pub a few minutes walk away. Unfortunately we were a bit out the way of the centre so didn't make it out any further. We also decided to go into the Ripley's Believe it or Not Museum which kept us entertained for hours, as we discovered thousands
of bizarre things from around the world, including shrunken heads, paintings on pinheads and ancient torture devices.
After four days the weather miraculously changed and got sunnier and sunnier. We opted to go for the $99 3 theme park pass which got us in to Sea World, Wet n Wild and Movie World, which are all a bus ride away from Surfers. So the next 3 days were action packed with water slides, lazy river rapids, rollercoasters, simulators, live shows and wildlife exhibits, all of which were fantastic and the weather made them even better. Our last trip was Movie World, in the mould of Universal Studios with rides and shows themed around blockbuster films, this was our favourite park and if you're ever in Surfers make sure you do it and leave time for at least two goes on the Superman ride!
Whilst at Seaworld we were also lured to a promo desk, promising a free prize draw for $10,000. We were handed a scratch card and when we discovered it was a winner we knew it was a bit of a scam – we were told we'd won, one of three prizes – a 50 inch
Our Team Kermit
Named after a green tree frog who we met on our first day
flatscreen TV, $2,000 or a 5 night holiday in Fiji (which you had to pay a $99 booking fee for). It turned out we had to go to a sales presentation to claim our prize and find out what it was. Although we knew we'd end up with the holiday – we thought as we were going to Fiji anyway 5 nights for $99 total in a nice hotel was still worth having and curiousity got the better of us so we went along and were actually quite interested in the presentation and pleased there was no hard sell for the 'how to get rich on the stock market course and software'. In amongst all this we managed to have a short stroll along the lovely beach before our time was up.
The little hippie town of Byron, is one of the most popular retreats for backpackers. The laidback pace, beautiful beaches, and happening nightlife make it a must visit. We spent a couple of days sunbathing on the soft sand and hiring free boogie boards from our hostel, had a lively night out, with a bit of a pub crawl and then hired a car
to drive to the infamous Nimbim on our rainy last day. Nimbim is like no other place in the world -a backward little village, which is basically a refuge for those who love to smoke cannabis and see the rasta style as a way of life. Lots of tie dyed clothing, tributes to Bob Marley and scary looking old people who've taken a few too many drugs are in abundance, but it's definitely an entertaining day out and amongst the old grannies and trampy men trying to sell you weed, hash cookies or something stronger, there are some lovely cafes, a tripped out museum, some intriguing gift shops with lots of spiritual knick knaks, and some historic aboriginal areas with stories to tell.
A tough 13 hour overnight journey on the greyhound coach got as back to Sydney and completed our Aussie travelling circuit. We were left with a few days to shop and do a couple more typical touristy things before heading to New Zealand. Including a day trip to Bondi Beach and taking in a show at the Sydney Opera House. We went to see – 'In the Next Room', a play about the invention
of the vibrator! Not quite the three tenors, but it was a good laugh, and we can officially say we've watched a show at the Sydney Opera House now, plus we got the tickets for a bargain $35 each instead of $85. Apparently being under 30 is a concession at the opera for some reason, can't complain though!
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