It took us almost three days of nearly non-stop driving to get from Alice Springs to the Australian East Coast. Apart from the occasional stops to use the internet at one of the small town libraries, or to visit a Woolworth’s supermarket, we just drove and drove through landscapes, which didn’t change much along the way. The reddish bush landscape of the middle changed to fields at some point, but otherwise the views were more or less monotonic. The only actual sight on the way was Devil’s Marbles, giant rock boulders, which are a sacred site for the Aboriginals. Flies continued to be a major annoyance, since as soon as we got out of the car to cook our customary lunch of kimchi noodles with egg or pasta&pesto, or to walk a bit, we were surrounded by dozens of flies. They don’t care much about mosquito repellents either.
Overall, we can admit to being slightly disappointed at the desert landscapes of Central Australia – we thought we would see rough red desert with very few trees or bushes, something at least distantly resembling the views at Dead Valley or Atacama, but actually it was mostly green bush land with some
reddish ground peeking through. Of course we couldn’t visit for instance Simpsons Desert, because we only had a 2WD car, so probably we missed the most impressive desert views anyway.
Again we had the issue of getting ourselves next to a reliable internet connection at a certain time, because we both had to make some work related Skype calls. Thus, we rented a room in the city of Townsville on the East Coast. Our hosts were Jill and Guy, and they truly spoiled us during our two night stay. Not only did they provide us with great food and a cozy place to sleep, but they also took us on a beach picnic and to see a view of the city from a scenic mountain top. Btw, it’s funny that Townsville is actually a bigger city than Cairns (some hours’ drive up North), but we had never heard of the existence of such a place- while most people probably recognize the name Cairns anytime. We looked into taking a snorkeling trip to the Great Barrier Reef from Townsville, but the tours were fully booked, probably because it was Anzac Day and thus a national holiday.
Instead we headed
south to Airlie Beach, where we managed to organize all kinds of activities for ourselves for the following days. We spent two nights on Whitsunday Island camping, which was so nice and relaxing, a bit like being back on the paradise islands of the South Pacific! I had never really associated Australia with paradise beaches, my images were more of city beaches with surfers, beach volley and that kind of thing. But the Whitehaven Beach, where we camped, resembled more the beaches in French Polynesia with it’s turquois water and very likely the whitest beach sand we have ever seen. Not only was the sand white, it also felt like snow, making a similar squeaky sound when walking on it. The best thing, though, was that there were only seven other people staying overnight, so it was all tranquil and quiet. We mostly sat in our camping chairs sipping some wine, and dipping into the cool ocean a few times. Getting into the water wasn’t as tempting as it could have been, though. It was the end of stinger season, which meant that there could be some nasty jellyfish in the water, so to be on the safe side, we
had to wear full body swimsuits if we went further from the shore snorkeling. I found the suit rather uncomfortable, and snorkeling didn’t even begin to compare to what we had seen in French Polynesia, so we ended up not having much use for the suits for which we had paid 20 dollars each, but instead just took brief cooling dips near the beach. We took a 3,6 kilometer forest walk to reach another beach on the island, and there we finally started to see the big and poisonous looking spiders Australia has a reputation for. Ugh, we saw something like five nasty looking creatures sitting in their nets attached to vegetation by the walking trail, I guess the largest one had a diameter of about 10 cm, and a body size of a thumb. At the end of the trail, though, an empty and beautiful beach awaited us, and we spent few hours enjoying the surroundings by building a sand castle and walking around.
We arrived from the Whitsunday back to the campsite quite early the next day, but spent the day just chilling out, and eating chili with rice, cooked by Leo. This was a bit exceptional,
because normally our duties nowadays divide so that I’m responsible for the cooking, while Leo takes care of the tent. Next morning we headed to a luxurious (at least judging by the price) day trip to the Great Barrier Reef. It was a long boat journey there and back, but the snorkeling was worth the trip. Even though, again we ran into the “problem” that having seen so many wonderful things, we have become hard to impress. Even on the reef, while we thought the corals were beautiful and the fish was plenty, we couldn’t help thinking that after all, it still did not match some of the best snorkeling in French Polynesia. But, visibility was good, the fish were bigger, and overall the Great Barrier Reef offered very good snorkeling.
After visiting the reef, we had still one thing left to do in the Whitsunday region – to see a platypus (vesinokkaeläin in Finnish) in the wild. The platypus is a very shy animal, and difficult to spot, so we were well prepared for the task. We arrived at a platypus viewing platform next to a creek equipped with a box of red wine, chocolate and our kindles
to read, expecting a several hours wait. It wasn’t long before a park ranger came to the platform asking if we had any luck seeing a platypus, and as we said no, he pointed to the other side of the creek, where one was swimming and diving around. I don’t know if we would have ever seen the animal had the guy not pointed it to us, even though it later swam closer to us, and we could observe it quite a while. We spent the night at a very secluded camp ground right in the middle of the forest (well, 600 meters walk from the car park), where we were the only campers, having just a few red headed bush turkeys hanging around our tent with us.
From the platypus place we drove to the town of Yeppoon, to visit the Great Keppler Island the next day. We considered taking a three day trip, thinking it could be something similar to our Whitsunday excursion. Luckily we settled just to a day trip, because, yes, the island was beautiful, but it really seemed like the fall has come – it was definitely too windy and chilly to swim, and
at some places just to hang around, but we found a good spot to sit and enjoy the sun for a day with Jenny, a German girl we met (greetings, if u are reading thisJ).
After disembarking the boat from the Keppler Island, we hit the road again, and after camping for a night next to some big family gathering spiced with games and rather loud music on the neighboring campsites, we arrived in Noosa. Noosa was a town looking like some fancy tourist resort with all its expensive boutiques, but it had a beautiful coastal walking track, which we walked back and forth. The area has other beautiful beaches too, at Agnes Water and Town of 1770 (funny name!), both of which we visited as well. Now we have reached Brisbane, and will spend three days here. It’s almost the end of our camping period, because from Brisbane we will head more or less straight to Sydney, Canberra, and back to Melbourne, so might be we only have very few camping nights left. It has been much nicer than we would have expected, but then again, the fall has come, and the nights start to be rather cold,
especially when we get more south, so probably it’s more comfortable to move indoors anyway J
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