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Published: March 24th 2012
So Jeppy has filled you in on our progress up to Surfers paridise. This is where I take over again, notice the sudden improvement in writing style and wit.
Firstly I should note on my version of our small split before Byron. We visited Newcastle, which had the largest ocean baths in the southern hemisphere (10 points to who knows the one in the northern hemisphere). We stayed for Sunday and had a relaxing night of recovery from Sydney. In Port Macquarie we decided to go for a stroll to see the sights. As the rest of Australia though map distances are decieving as Aussies have no reason to build things close together. So it was probably a deserved kip on the beach when we finally arrived 6km later! Coffs was a strange mix. The terrible motel style hostel was saved by the fact it was 20m away from a georgeous beach, but learning our lesson from Port we never got to the town centre (we worked ourt distances and it would have been about a 12km round route)
So back to our travels. First stop after Surfers was Hervey bay, a place of little note but the gateway to Fraser island, the largest sand island in the world. This is an island made completely of sand transported up the east coast from Sydney beaches and deposited here, the island is now 123km long and has more sand than the sahara desert (seriously).
The method of transport on the island is 4x4 (Toyota Landcruiser, met with tuts of disapproval from Jeppy). There's one lead truck with the guide and then 2 others that tag along, so it was a chance to drive on sand tracks for 3 days, which was a lot of fun. We shared our truck with 2 northern girls who were a little crazy (as most of them are I suppose...) and 2 girls from Israel. They were a great bunch, we had no stereo or music device so the hours driving were filled with renditions of backstreet boys and enrique englasias, strangely mostly started by our friend Alex. Jeppy's experience at test driving meant he breezed round but others were less lucky, most notably one of the girls thought some humps ahead were soft sand so smashed into them. It turned out they were most definitely solid, shown by Jeppy and Alex at the back, who had the eskie hit them in the shoulder as their heads hit the roof. This was followed by a period of calm before the smell of cheap wine smothered the truck. "Oh no" Alex said. Turns out the knife in the eskie pierced the bag of wine in the eskie, and by the time it was realised it was too late and all our cheese and meat was drowned in 2 inches of "soft fruity white".
The sights of Fraser island were stunning however, and these 3 days for me were the highlight of the east coast. A shipwrecked luxury cruiser that crashed in 1935 and left ever since, lakes that have been formed from massive sanddunes blowing across the island and blocking the creeks (barrier lakes), other lakes that have been formed from sediments lying on the sand to seal it, then fresh water filling the indent (perched lakes). The highlight lake was lake McKenzie, postcard perfect and unbelievably clear, and warm! The main creek from the island called Eli creek apparently transports 4 million litres of water a day, though the lack of rocks makes it travel so smooth it moves silently, which is very odd and makes it look so much smaller. The smoothness makes it fun to lie in the water and float down though, its like one of those rapids you get in swimming centres.
After Fraser we took a 14 hour overnight bus to Airlie beach. Again not much to note here apart from the constant rain and a pretty sweet man-made lagoon. A note on the rain: turns out Australia lies to the world and it isn't constant sunshine. I think the greenness of all of the east coast proves that the weather is basically English, maybe a little warmer and the rain is either there or isn't there (i.e. light drizzle is rare) but it rains, much to our disappointment. Anyway, airlie beach is the gateway to the Whitsundays, a group of islands ont he edge of the great barrier reef. The tradition here is to jump on a boat and cruise around for a couple of days, so we did. Ours was called Boomarang, and was an ex sailing yacht that won some competition or something in New Zealand or somewhere in 1991 or sometime. The weather let us down a little but it was sunny for the few hours we spent off the boat at the again postcard perfect look-out beach on whitsunday island. The lack of wind also meant we didn't get to sail, but never mind. The location was stunning and the snorkelling on the reef was insane. Here's an interesting fact: If finding nemo was correct, when nemos mum died nemos dad would become the mother and nemo would become the dad. Not the same film for a 5 year old though I suppose.
The rain on the boat made us worried that the road to Cairns would be closed, we got lucky and were fine. People leaving a day after were stuck in Airlie beach for the last week and Townsville was delclared a flooding disaster zone which would have meant we missed two flights so perfect timing on our parts. Cairns was an interesting place but again, not much to do in the rain, and a cool man-made lagoon. We stayed in Gilligans, party hostel of Australia, unfortunately we were there on Monday which is the one night off a week for the discotheque. We maybe spent too mcuh time in Byron and Surfers (don't regret that for a minute) so could only stay in Cairns one night before we flew to Perth. We then had 2 nights in Perth. almost spent in a park. Turns out all of Perth was booked up, including crappy motels and hotels. All that was left when we checked online in the morning was 400 dollar 2 bed apartments, no thank-you! So we chose a nice looking park and headed towards it. On the way we passed a terrible looking hostel that online was full, but we decided to try anyway, they could at least store our large bags. We asked the guy and he said they were full, we asked him where would be a good spot to sleep in a park. He then somehow found two beds, very nice of him but if they existed its strange how they weren't filled already! Catagorically the worst hostel ever (think 1960's eastern europe) but we didn't care because it was a bed. The following day was spent wondering around Perth, which is much smaller than I imagined. A busy working CBD, a stylish cafe/pub/club district, and a huge botanical gardens were the sights of note, and also pretty much all of the sights. In the afternoon we took the train to the beautiful white sand beach of Cottesloe to watch the sunset over the Indian ocean. This was well worth the trip as it was stunning, and I'm looking forwards to many more sunsets off the islands we visit in Asia.
And thus concludes our Australia leg. You'll most likely get your next update of our travels in about 2/3 months time when we'll fill you in on all our Asia travels in a 7 to 10 part saga...
Over and out.
Andy, Tom and Alex xx
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