Driving, Driving and More Driving

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May 24th 2007
Published: August 6th 2007
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Driving, Driving and More Driving

In no other situation do you run into the vastness of Australia like you do when you have to get from point A to point B in a mostly unpopulated section of the country. While Australia is the 6th largest country in the world for land mass, behind such countries as Canada. Russia, the US and China, few of these countries are as sparsely populated as Australia. This fact makes the country seem much larger as you travel. While in the US, you may have to drive 11 hours to get from Richmond, VA to Boston, MA you never hit a stretch of road that is far from civilization. However, in Australia, there are vast distances between major destinations everywhere except the south east part of the country around Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. This sets the stage for one of our longest drives yet.

Our last morning on Fraser Island found us needing to get off the island and return our rental car. As you already know from previous blogs this drive doesn’t entail much distance, but it does entail much driving. We set out at about a quarter to 9 in the morning knowing that we needed to be on a ferry before the high tide mark at 11:30am. With one hour to the eastern beaches and a half hour or so to the southern tip of the island, we found ourselves waiting for the ferry with plenty of time to spare.

Unlike our previous ferry debacle, I hand no problem negotiating the soft sand to get on, or off the ferry. Due to three days of serious off road adventuring my 4WD skills had greatly increased. While I am definitely not a master, I am no longer a novice either.

We returned the rental truck at about 11:30 after filling it up with gas and throwing away some of our accumulated refuse from the back seat and truck bed. The people at Adventure 4WD were great. I was really worried that I might have done some damage to the car during our adventures and was really nervous when inspection time came. Twice we had bottomed out the suspension on bigger bumps and once we had hit a bit a salt water which had doused the car. I knew from the lecture I had received upon arrival that any
Footsteps on the MoonFootsteps on the MoonFootsteps on the Moon

My footsteps on the beach, but doesn't it kinda look like the moon?
damage to the car would be paid for by us and that salt water damage was the worst resulting in a $1500 fine. Thankfully it seems the lecture is meant to scare you as they were not upset at all about the car. Nothing was dented, a few small scratches that were found were deemed buffable and the salt water must have seemed worse to us because they didn’t even mention it. We walked away with no extra charges and me feeling on top of the world after all of the unnecessary worrying I had done.

At this point we had been on the road for 2 and a half hours and had a long way yet to go. Our final destination for the day was the backpacker haven of Agnes Waters. After a quick 40km leg we reached the main highway, Route 1 and set north for what seemed like the rest of the day. We stopped at a Subway around 2pm for a sandwich and then immediately jumped back on the road for more driving. We arrived in Agnes Waters and checked into our small apartment at 4:30ish. Whew, driving this much is certainly not something I enjoy but having a car equals freedom - the cost for that freedom is having to put in some long drives occasionally.

Agnes Waters

Agnes Waters is a small, small town which consists of a beach, a few hotels, a couple of backpacker hostels and one of everything a town needs: one grocery store, one gas station, one bookstore, etc. There are a few restaurants but we decided to forgo these on our first night. We found that our apartment had a decent gas grill on the back porch so we opted for grilled steak on the barbie!!

Steaks around this part of Australia are really cheap, or as the Aussies say, “Cheap as chips.” The cheap meat is thanks to the fact that this is Australia’s major cattle farming area with nearly 200,000 cows in a 500km radius. Our two, high quality steaks cost us a total of $9 (about US $7.50)… “Cheap As Chips!!!”

Our only full day in Agnes Waters was a bit dull because we had to spend time using the book store computer to make our next reservations. The big thing to do here is go out on the Great Barrier Reef since this marks the far southern border of this huge aquatic sanctuary. All the trips out on the reef are full day tours that start at 8am and end at 5pm. Since this gave no time for internet (book store closed at 5:30pm) we had to pretty much just waste a day in order to make our plans. Once we were all planned up again, we cruised down the coast to check out the port in the nearby town which is aptly named Town of 1770, marking the arrival here of Captain Cook in…you guessed it….1770!

There was really nothing to see at the marina, if it could really be called that, so we found ourselves a deserted and shady (always shady for my lovely red-head) stretch of beach between the two towns and sat reading books and playing in the sand for the remainder of the day. Certainly not a bad way to spend a “wasted” day, huh?

More Driving…Uggh!

The next leg of our trip was the most grueling that we’ve done in a while. The previous day’s driving was broken up by ferries, car check-ins and lunches but this one was just straight, long distance road miles (or kilometers I guess). We had about 600 kilometers to cover before the day was over which, on a US Superhighway would take about 6 hours, but here took a full day.

In order to kill time while driving Kel came up with a great plan about a week ago which really melts the time away. In Brisbane Kel bought a book she had heard about which is a satire of American business culture/life called Company by Max Barry. (Highly recommend for any current/past cubicle workers - hilarious and eerily accurate!) While we drove Kel read us the second half of the book aloud so that we could both enjoy. On previous drives she had read a bit here and there but this drive allowed us to complete the book and enjoy its ending. For those of you who like reading but may be bored by books on tape, this is a great way to go for a couple on the road. It was a ton of fun to have Kel read aloud so we could both enjoy something together.

Around sunset we pulled up to Airlie Beach which is just off the coast of the famed Whitsunday Islands. This group of 74 gorgeous tropical islands are surrounded by bits and pieces of the Great Barrier Reef and are renowned for their beautiful landscapes, great snorkeling and beachy atmosphere.

We checked into a hotel just outside of town which was close to Shute Harbor where we would be jumping on a boat the next day to head to our resort on one of the Whitsunday islands. The hotel wasn’t fabulous but hotels here in Airlie Beach are really expensive due to the quantity of people who travel here. It is a huge destination for the backpacker set who tend to cruise the islands for a few days on board snorkeling/diving boats. Thus, our hotel was not incredibly fabulous because, within our price range, fabulous was not to be had. It was only one night, you can stay anywhere for one night!

The town of Airlie Beach is basically just a main street with hotels, bars and restaurants. We drove into town, since our hotel was pretty far away, and walked around to find a suitable place to eat. As we perused and dodged the ubiquitous backpackers out to get drunk on a Friday night we passed a bar with a guy outside handing out fliers trying to get people to come in a get a drink. He came up to us and stated, “come on in, a get a drink, there’s a wet t-shirt contest tonight.” I couldn’t help it I involuntarily started laughing right in the guy’s face. The idea of Kel and I going to a bar for a wet t-shirt contest was ludicrous or even more ludicrous if you imagine Kel getting involved in said contest. (Kel - I could do it and represent well, I just wouldn’t . . . ) I immediately apologized to the guy for laughing and told him we weren’t interested. Kel and I both got a good laugh out of it though.

We ate a okay dinner at an okay restaurant and then headed back for an early night’s sleep. Our boat was coming to pick us up at 8am the next day so it was early to bed, early to rise, for us.

Hope you are all safe, sound and happy back home, it’s probably belated at this point but Happy Memorial Day. Hope you all had a fun holiday!


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