The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

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December 1st 2006
Published: December 3rd 2006
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It's a tough life...It's a tough life...It's a tough life...

Surf Rescue - hard at work on Sunshine Beach, Noosa.
Australia couldn't be more different to India. India has roads with no footpaths teeming with people, grime under your fingernails that keeps growing, noises that make you wince and smells ranging from the unsanitary to the delicious while crossing one street. Then you arrive in Australia. Suddenly everything is back to being quiet, restrained, and organised. This is what makes our trip so interesting. A tornado spun us out of Mumbai and dropped us in the Wonderful Land of Oz and a new adventure begins.

Our first weekend in Sydney was almost like coming home as we were surrounded by familiar accents and had a real home to stay in. It was my friend from Dublin, Ammo's 30th birthday and we arrived just in time to celebrate it with her, her husband James and all their gang in Sydney. A great night was had by all although we accidentally sent the photos of the event home - oops.

The weather in Sydney was not on our side and we had some chilly winds and rain in our first few days. James made up for this by driving us to the best sights in Sydney including Watson's Bay, the Rocks,
Koalas, Taronga ZooKoalas, Taronga ZooKoalas, Taronga Zoo

Mammy with baby.
Sydney Harbour Bridge and the infamous Bondi. Bondi, incidentally is not nearly as big a beach as I had imagined. I had ideas of it being the kind of beach that went on for miles, but it's, er, not.

Anyway, rain aside, we had a great weekend in Sydney, squeezed in a quick Barbie among all the sightseeing and headed north-west to the Hunter Valley region to sample some wine and meet my relations for a couple of nights. Pat and Brian, my aunt and her husband, emigrated to Australia in the 60's. They haven't forgotten their roots though and we filled them in on what's happening at home and they told us all about their family and the area. We also got the chance to meet up with some of my cousins and their kids which was great. We toured around the Hunter Valley area, stopping off at wineries to sample the wines produced on the premises. After the 20th wine, we couldn't remember the first one or what an oakey nose or a buttery texture was, but they were all great and we have purchased many from the region since! Pat and Brian also took us along
Kangaroo, Taronga ZooKangaroo, Taronga ZooKangaroo, Taronga Zoo

Skippy blowing his nose.
the Central Coast before delivering us back to the train station (via lunch at my cousin Andreas house) where we headed back to Sydney and caught a flight to Brisbane in Queensland.

After possibly the rockiest descent through high winds and an electrical storm we arrived in wet, cold Brisbane. We spent an uneventful 24 hours pottering around the city and stayed in a hostel with Denmark's loudest snorer. No more dorms thanks! Thankfully Ammo and James had sent us off with a tent and two bed rolls, so we picked up some sleeping bags in Noosa, a small seaside town north of Brisbane. As camping novices, we weren't sure how our first steps into pegs and poles was going to be, but we have been rewarded with amazing campsites and great facilities all along the east coast. And of course, a pitch costs at least half the price of a double room and you are assured some sleep (until the dawn chorus of bats, birds and brush turkeys kicks in that is!).

Anyhow, Noosa was stunning. The weather was fantastic, the beaches went on for miles and miles and the water was emerald blue. Koalas lurked in
Cheese Addict!Cheese Addict!Cheese Addict!

Cat reveals another vice in the closet. This time it's Cheese!
the treetops in the national park but even though we walked with our necks craned staring up into the eucalyptus trees, we didn't see one of the cute little fellas. After a beautiful few days by the sea we caught a train north to Hervey Bay, the beach town which serves as the lauching pad for trips to Fraser Island.

Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world and is a whopping 100km long. It has lakes, rainforest, beaches and loads of wildlife. It's only accessible by 4WD vehicle so we hooked up with 6 other people and headed off on a three day safari. The tour was a self drive affair which means that you nominate drivers to drive on the island. Martin, from the Netherlands, a very courageous man, did a fantastic job of driving in some pretty tough conditions. He ploughed through piles of soft sand, creeks and forest and got us all around the island without one single incident. Hats off to Martin and co-pilot Eva for great driving team work while the rest of us shouted useless advice and bounced around in the back.

While on the island we managed to
Anyone for grape juice?Anyone for grape juice?Anyone for grape juice?

As far as the eye can see.
spot some fantastic wildlife including dingoes, birds of prey, small sharks, turtles, stingrays and dolphins. I also managed to get hold of a birthday cake and surprise Patrick on the eve of his birthday, which we celebrated on the island along with our lovely group. After a great few days on Fraser island we relaxed in Hervey Bay for the weekend and we finally managed to be in the same place as my cousin Paul who's also travelling in Oz at the moment. We only had an hour to chat with him and his girlfriend Ulrika before they headed North to Cairns but we got to hear all about their trip in Australia and got some good tips on New Zealand.

Our next stop was the beautiful Whitsunday Islands where we forsake the idea of a leisurely three day cruise around the islands for a one-day speed rafting affair which was fantastic fun. Ocean Rafting is a flat dinghy with a massive engine that speeds around the Whitsundays promising the rushing tourist "3 days sightseeing in 1 day". I don't know how true that was as you'd have to be Captain Cook in a rowing boat to take three days to travel around a few islands but we saw enough for one day. We popped into Hook Island and took a look at some Aboriginal caves, stopped off for tea and cake in a quiet bay and then headed to the jewel in the Whitsunday's crown, Whitehaven beach. Whitehaven is the most stunning beach I have ever seen and has to be experienced to be believed.

After lunch the group stopped off for some snorkelling before heading back to the mainland with our wind burnt faces. We bumped into our Dutch friends Eva and Martin back at Airlie Beach so we headed out with them for the evening. The town was packed with "Schoolies" (or "Toolies" as the press were calling them for their stupid antics), teenagers from Queensland who have just finished the Aussie equivalant of the Leaving Cert or A-Levels. Most of them were fairly tipsy and in high states of excitement so we had good fun watching them be escorted out of bars and falling around the streets. Oh and we got our first taste of Kangaroo .. on Sushi. Tasty!

Next stop, Bowen, one hour north of Airlie. We had been tipped off that
Aunt Pat, Cat and Uncle BrianAunt Pat, Cat and Uncle BrianAunt Pat, Cat and Uncle Brian

Soldiers Beach, Central Coast, NSW
it was a lovely quiet town with nice beaches so we decided to give it a try.

Bowen, a type of mango in fact, is most well known among backpackers as a place to pick fruit during the picking season. Since it was mostly over, we reckoned it would be easy to score a cheap pitch at a campsite in the area. We found a quiet place, too quiet in fact. Aside from the few "pickies" who left the campsite at 6am and didn't return until the evening the only other life on the site was a few brush turkeys and some rather noisy peacocks. We did manage to increase our wildlife tally however, as we got charged by a mad possum and managed a rare sighting of the highly endangered rock-wallaby outside our tent.

After a few nondescript days in Bowen we caught a train north to Cairns, the capital of Tropical Queensland. Here we explored the rainforest and took a much anticipated trip out to the Great Barrier Reef. We were not dissapointed as the amount of fish and coral to see was truly magnificent and it was definitely one of the highlights of our trip
Cousin Andrea and CatCousin Andrea and CatCousin Andrea and Cat

Shame we missed Riley - but hope you got my message on your blackboard :)
to Australia. The Great Barrier Reef is the main attraction in Cairns and is a billion dollar industry here. We learnt all about the reef from Paddy Colwell at Reef Teach, a mad Dubliner who has been diving on the reef for 30 years and is also a marine biologist. He hosts evening lectures about the reef and along with telling you all you could ever want to know about fish families and coral he talks about the environmental impact of tourism on the reef. His conclusion, tourism here is a necessary evil. Even though we are damaging the coral, the money generated from tourists being here raises awareness about the reef and helps protect it in the long run.

Cairns (or County Cairns as it should be called due to the high numbers of Irish hanging around here) was our last stop on our East Coast adventure and we headed back to Sydney to Ammo and James to fill them in on our trip and avoid the topic of a large amount of bent tent pegs. While in Sydney we managed to fit in a cruise of Sydney harbour (courtesy of Jackson and Amy back in Brighton) and a
Pat gets a birthday present in BrisbanePat gets a birthday present in BrisbanePat gets a birthday present in Brisbane

Brand new rucksack following the final demise of my original one. Happy Birthday to me!
fantastic trip to Sydney's Toronga Zoo (courtesy of Ammo!) where we finally got up close with the cuddliest and cutest of Australias marsupials, the koalas. We also met up with another friend from Dublin, Faye, who's living in Sydney now too.

Overall we had a great time in Australia and met some great people. Compared to some destinations, Oz definitely has some specifc types of travellers. On the high end of the scale you've got the Flashpackers, rich Japanese and short holiday, high budget Brits. The campsites hold a combination of retirees and budget backpackers with their tents, VW combi's and supermarket special offers. The hostels gather up the Fatpackers (or Fauxpackers!) in white minivans at every convenient picking up and dropping off point, carrying the lazy traveller from A to B, removing the need for any decision making and ensuring they get themselves, their hangovers, their oversized luggage and their speedily shrinking wallets to the next point in the tourist trail.

All in all, there's a lot more to Australia than being "a great place for drying clothes", a description given to it by my Aunty Ann during her visit here many years ago! The friendliness and
View from our tentView from our tentView from our tent

Idyllic campsite setting, Noosa, Queensland
genuine warmth of the Aussies would make anyone's stay down under enjoyable and the abundance of unusual wilflife here is truly amazing.

Thanks so much to Ammo, James, Pat and Brian for looking after us so well, Jacko & Amy for the Harbour cruise and stay tuned for the next, hopefully not so long-winded installment from the South Island of New Zealand.

Additional photos below
Photos: 26, Displayed: 26


Noosa National ParkNoosa National Park
Noosa National Park

Noosa, Queensland
Sunshine Beach, Noosa, QueenslandSunshine Beach, Noosa, Queensland
Sunshine Beach, Noosa, Queensland

This country has too many nice beaches.
Indian Head, Fraser IslandIndian Head, Fraser Island
Indian Head, Fraser Island

View from Indian Head, Fraser Island. From here we saw Dolphins, Manta Ray, Loggerhead Turtles and Reef Sharks.
Maheno Shipwreck, Fraser IslandMaheno Shipwreck, Fraser Island
Maheno Shipwreck, Fraser Island

Eerie ship that grounded here in 1935 after she hit a storm at sea whilst being towed to a Japanese wrecking yard.
McGuigan WinesMcGuigan Wines
McGuigan Wines

Fine wines at the Hunter Valley, New South Wales.
Rainforest, Kurunda, CairnsRainforest, Kurunda, Cairns
Rainforest, Kurunda, Cairns

So, what does a rainforest look like you ask?

10th December 2006

Bent Tent Pegs
We have it in writing!!!! And where's the picture of me???!!! Enjoy NZ ya lucky b's!!

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