Aussie Campervan, Chapter 1: Da Rainforest

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August 15th 2011
Published: August 19th 2011
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Aussie Campervan, Chapter 1: Da Rainforest

August 7th-8th, 2011

First things first, sorry i dont have time to label the photos, i will go back and do that and probably add some more so check back in a few weeks

Not an easy thing to leave Indonesia to go to Australia, not so much because the beaches but because of my luck at airports. First Nicci and I get to the airport and only her flight is showing up on the departure screens, so I thought I was at the wrong airport (Bali has two). After asking I was at the right one but for some reason mine wasn’t showing up despite leaving 15 minutes before nicci’s. Second, when you check into your flight they contact the Australian authorities to make sure you have a visa, which I had applied online for 3 weeks in advance. For some reason they said mine wasn’t showing up and despite having a confirmation number for the visa, they said I couldnt check in till i got a visa, which i had to pay $25 for them to use the internet and hope I can get one on the spot (Australia’s visa are free). Luckily, i did get it on the spot and they checked me in, but now i am running close on time. As it came close to leaving Bali we had used most of our Indonesian money which was a mistake since the next thing we had to do was pass through some booths which charge you to leave, only in Indonesia’s currency. So we had to go back and find an ATM which was through security again or we can use the one and only exchange place right next to the booth which, surprise surprise offered horrible exchange rates but we had no choice. After that was passport control which surprisingly I got through with no problem but Nicci got held up cause she was on the 30th day of her 30 day visa and got charged a fine (back to the exchange place for her). With the 8 minutes we had till i had to board, we bought some water to take on the plane and I went to my gate. Wouldn’t you know it, another security checkpoint which made me throw the water out less than 30 seconds after i bought it. When i got to the gate the airline stewardess said, “Alan Klausner? We have been calling you” at which I replied, “Sorry I’ve kinda been held up at each step” but they just wanted to know if it was ok to switch my seat to the emergency exit row, which i had no problem. Finally out of Bali but I forgot how hard it was to get into Oz.

Once arriving in my connection city of Darwin, Australia I was told I had to pick up my bag and recheck in, they don’t just send the bag to the final destinations. This is when you get to go through Australia’s Quarantine. Since Oz is an island, they are very strict on what you can and more importantly can’t bring in. On the plane you fill out this long checklist which you turn in when you get to Quarantine. The only thing that really applied to me was regarding cigarettes. I had six packs packed in my bag left over from my last duty free purchase (120 cigarettes), one open pack on me (6 cigarettes), and I bought a carton at duty free in Bali (200 cigarettes) for a total of 326 cigarettes. The problem was the limit to get into Oz is 250, why they would make it so it wasn’t a multiple of 20 since cigarettes are sold in boxes of 20, who knows? I was wishing I could just get threw but I guess on my plane they decided to search EVERYONE’s bags and they found the packs. The lady made me throw out three packs right away, now I am down to 266. Next she told me to open one of the packs and throw out 10 of the cigarettes, I couldn’t believe they were this strict. Did this really just happen? Yup. After going through the rest my bags looking for more, she let me slide being 6 cigarettes over. I think i will write a thank you note (by the way, a pack in australia costs roughly $23, so it looks like i wont be giving any out). After Quarantine and finally landing in Cairns, my flight landed about 3 hours before nicci’s so I decided to make a funny sign to hold up with all the limo drivers with her name on it so when she comes out she will see me. But for some reason mine flighty landed in the international terminal and her’s in the domestic but I didn’t discover this till moments before her flight landed so i had to run all the way over there and by that time, she was already outside looking for me. Looks like no bonus points for the sign.

Finally we are off to go pick up the campervan we will be spending the next 4-6 weeks in driving the entire east coast from Cairns to Melbourne. After 2-3 hours in the campervan place, we decided to upgrade vans which turned out to be a wise choice. The funniest part was I was so nervous i would have to drive a manual car (which i don’t know how) in addition to driving a big van and on the opposite side of the road. Nicci was nervous about driving a big van since she drives manual and on the left in England. However, with the upgrade the van they gave us was automatic even though it was supposed to still be manual. Yes! Now nicci was nervous about driving an automatic since she never has and due to busier traffic, nicci drove first and i got whiplash several times again just pulling out since she wasn’t used to not having a clutch. She did get the hang of it pretty quick and we went directly to a supermarket to stock up. The problem there was the parking lot had those huge bars to stop tall cars from coming in and we forgot we were a tall car now and we hit the bar, but no real damage. After driving a few hours north along curvy hills right next to the ocean we found a camper site and parked for the night. For some reason i must have been sleep talking that night and told Nicci “I hate you.” Good times.

August 9th, 2011

We slept in and after showering it was my turn to drive. It took me a little while and a few reminders to drive on the left. I did get the hang of it except when pulling in and out of parking lots which naturally i went to the right. Our first city was Port Douglas which we mainly did the beach thing. When we walked up there were signs warning of Jellyfish and they had a bottle of vinegar with instructions if someone does get stung. After walking around the city for a bit, we walked up a large hill to a lookout point, walked around the marina, played some Uno and watched the sunset near a playground / skate park. To save some money cause everything is so expensive here, our plan is to spend two nights finding free camping spots or creating our own without being caught before paying for one to charge our vehicle on every third night. While driving we found a free campsite/rest area on the side of the road where we met several older motorhome couples which gave us many tips and sites to see since we were obviously over our heads. At the campsite, it turns out we parked right next to the signs warning that crocodiles live in the area, not good for when we had to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night when it was completely dark.

August 10th, 2011

Today we went up the Daintree coast to Cape Tribulation making several stops along the way. This area is known because of two giant rainforest areas that go right up to nice beaches that are not busy before hitting the giant wide open warm ocean and the Great Barrier Reef. We had to cross the Daintree river by ferry and more mountainous curvy roads. The first stop was Alexandra Range lookout point. Next a long road to a different beach where we saw a Cassowary, a huge ostrich looking bird which we kept seeing signs for but we had no idea what they were. Next we had a great picnic on the beach. This leads me to another point which I wont be able to stress enough on this blog, i lucked out with the person i’m doing all this adventure with. Besides being fun and great company, Nicci is an awesome cook and considering she is doing all these meals in a campervan kitchen, she is just amazing. Even something like a ham and cheese sandwich she adds her own twists and flavor too that I am just amazed by. Please don’t let the headquarters of McDonalds know, but I think i prefer her cooking, but don’t sell your stock in McDonalds, she still lets me go there but i think its because thats the only place here that has free wi-fi. Anyways, the next stop was the Marrdja Boardwalk which was a nice, peaceful trek through the rainforest. Lastly, we kept heading north looking for any free campsites but couldn’t find anything. We decided to turn around a drove a few hours south back to the site we spent the last night.

August 11th, 2011: Drove 190 km (118 miles)

As you can see, we decided to start tracking how much we have been driving each day, just to get an idea. I thought it would take longer, but we got caught illegally camping just a few days in. We woke up at 7am to banging on the door by a ranger. He called me out and explained we can’t park here overnight and just took my name is plate number and said its just a warning for unauthorized camping and told to leave. As I was pulling out I didn’t see a cross post in front of me and might have bumped it a little. After the mishap, we headed to Mossman Creek in the Daintree National Rainforest. This was a two hour hike through the rainforest with just a slight path to follow. We saw many interesting trees and a big river with giant boulders, pictures will not come close to showing the actual size of these things. Afterward we headed back to Port Douglas and Nicci made another great picnic. We hit up Rex Lookout as a quick stop along the road before heading to Barron Falls, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. One of many pretty waterfalls we saw. Now we continued south to Mareeba and after last night, paid to stay at Riverside Caravan Park, where the owner loved me cause he said he was on a rodeo tour in the States for 10 years and got lost in Cleveland.

August 12th, 2011: Drove 213 km (132 miles)

Nicci made some delicious bacon sandwiches, a common and often talked about breakfast in Britain. Since I love bacon, i loved a sandwich made up of bread, butter and bacon first thing in the morning. Because of a tip one of the older camping couples gave us and my goal to golf on this trip, we drove ten minutes to Mareeba Golf Club which runs a special on Fridays that you can play 18 holes for $10. After renting clubs & cart and buying some balls and tees, it ended up both Nicci and I played for $50. This golf course is special though cause several groups of wild kangaroos live on the course and are scattered all over, including the fairways. Nicci hasn’t really golfed before but enjoyed pitching and putting and watching me almost kill kangaroos with my wild shots, wasn’t my best day but considering i haven’t played in over a year now and was using crappy rented clubs, i was happy. Afterward we used some more tips from the couple and went to the Australian Coffee Centre Skybury Coffee Plantation for some coffee and one of nicci’s fav foods, bananas (she even wore her banana shirt). We also stopped at a local butchers and bought a huge steak for me for $5. The first site of the day was a special Curtain Fig Tree that started as a small seed and keeps growing on other trees and killing them by forming huge branches and vines that take over everything. The rest of the day was taking a road through many farmlands turning off every few kilometers to see a gorgeous waterfall. The first was Malanda Falls and as we got out of the car a french couple pointed out to us a tree kangaroo way up in a huge tree and said the park ranger was the most shocked and said she worked here over 20 years and this was the first time she had ever seen one. All we really saw though was the butt and tail. After Malanda we rushed to get in Millaa Millaa Falls, Zillie Falls, and Ellinjaa Falls before dark. They all were very different from each other and were all cool to see.

August 13th, 2011: Drove 118 km (73 miles)

Another great morning with my breakfast coming from a fine establishment called McDonalds, we needed to use the internet and thats our only way. As we are heading south now, we stopped at the Babinda Boulder and did the Devil’s Pool Walk, once again the pictures don’t show the massive size of these boulders. Afterward we headed back to Cairns, a city known for the beach and water type of life. We walked near the water where a huge festival or concert was going on. Right outside the entrance we got caught up in the crowd near a street performer doing balancing acts but he was one of the funniest performers i have ever seen. After losing a quick $20 playing roulette at the Reef Casino (i was hoping they would have my favorite casino game craps, but they didn’t) we went back to the campsite and made my steak and nicci had fish for dinner. Very good steak. Now we got ready for a night out of drinking till 4am at P.J. O’Brians and The Woolshed. Since drinks here run close to $15 a drink, we have to limit our nights out. It was fun trying to find our campervan site, Cairns Holiday Park, when drunk and our cab had no idea where it was.

August 14th, 2011: Drove 175 km (108 miles)

After waking up late due to the late night, we continued to head south a few more hours towards a place called Mission Beach. This beach was as long as the eyes can see and the sand started a few hundred yards from the water, and the best part was there were only a few people on it. We went to lay down and work on our tan cause it has started to fade away but after about an hour we left cause the wind was making us too cold. After the previous late night and all the driving, we found a free camp site nearby, watched The Lion King on a cheap portable dvd player i bought, I made soup for dinner and we called it a night.

August 15th, 2011: Drove 374 km (232 miles)

Since we went to bed early, we got an early start to head to a place called Dunk Island known for a departure point to scuba dive the Great Barrier Reef. After driving around a bit looking for where we would catch a ferry there we stopped at an information center and found Dunk Island is completely closed due to the major cyclone that hit last Jan or Feb. The island is so badly damaged they cannot afford to fix it and it is now up for sale for around 1.4 million. Guess we aren’t diving today. So we asked the nice ladies there what there is to see around here and they recommended more waterfalls and forest areas and we were off. First stop, Murray Falls. This was a decent size waterfall with very big boulders surrounding it. We had another nice picnic just below the falls. We continued south when i pointed out that when we say heading south in the States, you generally think of nicer weather, but here the farther south you go the colder it gets. Anyways, next was Wallaman Falls, the tallest and biggest waterfall in Australia. It was massive, 268 meters, and we decided not to do the several hour hike to the bottom through the rainforest with no real path. Just to get there was scary enough on what was basically a one-lane road, up a mountain, with blind turns every 20-30 feet for about an hour and half in a campervan. Any mistake by me would lead the van off a cliff falling several thousand feet to our deaths. Luckily, i am skilled at everything I do. To reward me for not getting us killed, Nicci treated me to McDonalds, and not just for the wi-fi. After that we found a free campsite from a large camping book we decided to buy that lists thousands of campsites throughout Oz. It even tells you the free ones you are allowed to park at and all the extras each site has. It already has paid for itself. This night we watched Get Him To The Greek and I made Nicci a dinner for once, it was pork stir fry but she basically still had to tell me what to do. But on the plus side, i really enjoyed it and would like to learn how to cook more.

I am stopping here for the first post cause this was more the rainforest/waterfall section of the trip. Next we are going to a place called Magnetic Island to start the beach/water/diving/snorkeling section of the trip! I hope you enjoyed!

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