East Coast of Australia- Cairns to Melbourne

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March 31st 2010
Published: April 9th 2010
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Arriving into Cairns was actually kind of a shock to the system, after spending six weeks in South East Asia; it was so much cooler, PLUS everyone spoke our language and we could suddenly communicate with such ease! Our first impressions of Cairns were really good, especially because the weather was beautiful…it’s a really small, cute little city, with not much going on…but it’s got a REALLY nice feel about it; it’s like it’s the ‘gateway to the Great Barrier Reef’! Our hostel were really helpful in helping us to book tours and plan our trip, so after spending our first afternoon recovering from the night flight and the time difference, we booked ourselves onto a Great Barrier Reef tour for the next day. We spent the day on the boat, and after MUCH deliberation I decided to go for scuba diving- it was what they call an introductive dive, where the instructors go down with you and hold your hand…just so you can get a feel of it! The experience was totally amazing…I ended up doing two dives in the end because I loved it so much…the colours of the coral and the fish were incredible, PLUS we swum with reef sharks. (And I never thought I’d hear myself say that!) We visited Green Island too, which is a small island in the middle of the reef, and although the weather begun to go down hill from lunchtime, it was completely stunning…and that’s WITHOUT the sun!! The weather continued to deteriorate as the day went on, and by the time i'd done my second dive, it was really pouring with rain; the journey back was REALLY rough! If ever there was a time I thought I was going to drown, this would have been it…we hit a massive storm two hours from ANY land…the crew were really good though and kept us at ease by providing us with lots and wine and cheese- I was glad to make it back! That evening, we went to a typical Aussie BBQ at the hostel…where we enjoyed a feast of Kangaroo and crocodile PLUS a live fire show- a great introduction to Australia!

The next day we booked ourselves onto an Atherton Tablelands rainforest tour, hoping that the weather would hold out for us this time! We jumped on a minibus, filled with other backpackers like us, and a REALLY funny tour guide, and made our way up to the mountains...the views were really lush from all the way up there. It had already started raining by lunch time, but that didn’t dampen our spirits- we enjoyed two guided bush walks, a visit to two volcano craters where you could swim, and two waterfalls! One very famous waterfall, 'Milla Milla' Falls was actually where Peter Andre filmed his ‘Mysterious girl’ video and where the herbal essences advert was shot… so as you can imagine, we enjoyed re-inacting that…! The scenery for the whole day was really amazing…especially the volcanic craters- I think they were the highlight for me…imagine being able to swim in a volcano!? The following day we visited Kurranda and the koala sanctuary with some friends from our hostel…we had decided we couldn't visit Australia without seeing both the koalas and kangaroos---they were so cute and so friendly…they would jump right up to you so you could stroke them, not to mention the Koalas- they were so fluffy! We also saw wallabies, snakes, spiders, lizards and all sorts of other Australian wildlife- it was a really funny day out; even if we did decide seeing them in the wild would be a better experience! Our evenings in Cairns were spent chilling out at the hostel or in our favourite lively bar- 'the Woolshed'- you could even get a free meal there if you wanted!

The next day was almost completely consumed with travelling…we were going to be using the Greyhound bus to travel all the way down the East Coast and this was our first one...but there was going to be LOTS more long journey’s like this!! We arrived late evening after a 12 hour journey down the coast, and checked into our hostel before exploring the area; Airlie beach is known as the ‘gateway to the Whitsunday islands’, and that is pretty much all it is…a long street of restaurants, bars, hostels, travel agencies and of course the Marina...but we really liked it there all the same! We spent the next three days sailing around the Whitsunday islands on a boat called ‘Alexander Stewart’ with a group of twenty other people…the boat was one of the more upmarket ones, and even though it wasn't the boat we had orginally intended to book, since they messed up our booking, it was really swish! Me and Jade had our own private cabin, while most of the other boats only had huge dorms for everyone...it was luxury. (Or as luxiourious as it can be on a sailing boat!) The weather for the whole trip was completely unpredictable...there would be periods of rain, wind and on VERY rare occasions we would experience some sun! Most of the boat trips to the islands had been cancelled due to gale force winds and the incoming Cyclone, but we were lucky enough to be one of the last boats out…at least we got to experience true sailing. ..the storm sail on our boat ripped right down the middle! (We later found out that a few days after we left, the cyclone hit Airlie beach and EVERYTHING shut down!) The highlights for me would have to be snorkeling at Blue Pearl bay…I’ve never seen anything like it…and visiting Whitehaven Beach- the sand was so white that you could clean your jewellery in it-- it did a much better job that an jewellers at home! We spent the days sailing, snorkelling, and relaxing on deck (When it wasn't raining!) and the evenings with a few drinks on deck…and what could beat waking up on a boat to find yourself in one of the most beautiful destinations in the world!

After three whole days on a boat, it took quite some time to get used to the sensation of standing still, without feeling like you were being rocked from side to side continuously! After we said our goodbyes, we endured another 12 hour overnight bus to get to Hervey bay, where we had booked a three day self drive trip to Fraser Island! You’re thrown together with a group of nine other people, given a four-by-four, a map and some camping equipment, before they send you on your way into the middle of nowhere…it was quite an experience! The roads on Fraser were something else...they were nothing like I’d ever seen before… incredibly narrow dirt tracks with whole trees and branches across the path, PLUS the beaches are actually main roads on the island! Over the course of the three days we visited three really beautiful lakes, one particularly well known one, Lake Mackenzie was really amazing- another destination where you can clean jewelerry in the sand! It was a bit annoying, since we weren't actually allowed to drive to the top of the island, as the cyclone close by made it too dangerous...but we got to spend more time in other destinations, which most of the tours don't visit, which I suppose was a bonus! The island is home to LOTS od Dingoes; dog-like animals known that scavenge and hunt for food on the island…they can actually be REALLY dangerous if encouraged and they were EVERYWHERE; we were particularly nervous since we’d heard of recent human attacks before we left! Our evenings were spent on the beach, camping, cooking and socializing and avoiding the dingoes…it’s one of those experiences that was incredibly challenging , but one i'm not going to forget anytime soon!

After another long journey, we arrived in Noosa...this was most probably both mine and Jade's favourite destination so far---partly because it was just SO nice to relax after being on the go for so long, PLUS we had such perfect weather for the whole time we were there…finally!! First thing we did was book ourselves onto a two hour surf lesson, and although Jade was really reluctant, we both had a really fun time..I tried to break all my bad habits! Noosa's a very funky, surfy town, but also one that has some incredibly expensive resorts and posh houses situated along the coast- I will never forget our free kayaking trip on the river alongside these houses..I want to own a house here some day- that's my next aim 😊 We spent most of our time surfing, sunbathing, walking, kayaking and enjoying the beach---it was completely perfect! Noosa National Park was REALLY beautiful too…we walked over 10km around the park with some absoloutely stunning views...it has a lush coastline and lots of inland tracks too, with lots of wildlife, including Koalas- so we did manage to see one in the wild!

We were really sad to leave Noosa, since we had a really awesome time there and the weather was still holding out for us, but had been told that Byron Bay was just as good...so we pressed on with another Greyhound journey down to Byron Bay! It's crazy- even along the East Coast of Australia, you can travel for miles and miles without seeing any cars or houses..I can't imagaine what it's like on the West! When we arrived into Byron, we booked ourselves into a really funky hostel called 'backpackers on the bay' and it was seriously cool...it literally backed onto a totally amazing beach, PLUS there were hammocks everywhere--completely perfect. Our time in Byron was pretty similar to that of Noosa, in that we spent most of our time surfing, shopping and sunbathing..it's a hard life. We also embarked upon a three hour round walking trip to the light house, and it was totally worth it...the views were stunning, PLUS we saw loads of dolphins just swimming into the bay- how amazing!? We met some really great people in Byron too, and since the nightlife there is pretty good, we enjoyed a few really great nights out in a bar called 'Cheeky Monkeys'- the dance floors here are the tables- VERY funny.

The next day we endured a VERY LONG overnight bus journey to Sydney---although greyhound is really good, the overnight buses are not too much fun, especially since they stop the bus for meal breaks in the middle of the night- who wants a meal break at 3am?? During our stay in Sydney we stayed in our favourite hostel of the WHOLE trip so far..it was a really big, funky, sociable hostel, with a bar/club in the basement...plus the rooms were REALLY big and so clean- it kind of felt a bit luxiourious actually! On our first day we enjoyed a free walking tour of the city, coutesy of the hostel, showing us to all the main sights, as well as giving us a really good introduction to the city- we visited the Botanic Gardens, the Opera House, the Harbour bridge, Darling Harbour and The Rocks. We also took a 2 hour walk from Coogae to Bondi Beach, along the coastline- I can imagine this would have been really beautiful had it not been raining all day, but we got a good, funky feel about Bondi all the same...but it's nothing special compared with some of the other beaches along the coast. One thing that was really great about Sydney was how many friends we bumped into that we had met previously on our trip...we even met a guy from our Gap Adventures trip in Cambodia...what are the chances??

One of my favourite days in Sydney was spent on Manly Island, just off the coast of Sydney, with five other girls that we've met whilst travelling...the hours ferry ride over gave us a completely perfect view of the Opera house and Harbour Bridge, and we even managed to catch it at sunset on the way back!! The island is pretty small, but so cute, with a beach and some really lush scenic walks along the coast...as well as a few inland tracks within the National Park- it was a really lovely girly day out. For our last day in Sydney, we booked ourselves onto a guided trip to the Blue Mountains, and it was really amazing...although to me, the mountains didn't look blue at all! It was an action packed day filled with LOTS of trekking, a trip to the Three Sisters (a very famous rock formation) and some amazing scenery...plus we saw some kangaroos in the wild! We also rode the steepest railway train in the world, having walked down the mountain, it took us back up....it was seriously steep... I didn't really feel all that safe, but it was a great experience all the same (Once it was over!). We enjoyed some REALLY fun evenings in Sydney too- the nightlife was great...but it's all about the people; it really makes a difference when you're enjoying the experience with some great people!

Our last greyhound bus in Australia took us all the way down to Melbourne, on a 13 hour, very tiring overnight bus...on the up side- every overnight bus we've taken, we've saved a nights accomodation- so it's totally worth it! One thing that we found was really different about Melbourne was that we knew lots of people there, meaning that we felt much less like backpackers for our time here...it was actually really nice; it's mad how much you appreciate the little things, i.e- duvets and sofas, when you haven't had the luxury of them for so long!! We spent most of our time in Melbourne with our own personal tour guide; our friend Anna who we had met on our intrepid trip in Malaysia, as well as Jade's friend from University- it was great! We spent our first few days in the city, just exploring and enjoying the sights and the cafe culture atmosphere it's so well known for. Melbourne has got such a nice feel about it...it doesn't feel as big as Sydney, giving it a much better atmosphere, in my opinion, than that of a big city. We even went to watch an AFL game...it was sooo tense, once we got our head around the rules...although Anna' team lost by a point- very painful! On the same day, we climbed (I say climbed...we got a lift!) to the top of the Eureka skydeck...the tallest residential building in the world, and as you can imagine the views were incredible- you could see the WHOLE of Melbourne from up there! The highlights for me would have been our road trip in Anna's car both to Phillip Island to see the Penguin Parade and to the Great Ocean Road. Phillip Island was really pretty...we watched the penguins surfing in on the waves and heading onto land for the night. It's a real tourist attraction- hundreds of people gather to watch them parade in every night- they are seriously cute! Then we spent the next couple of days on the Great Ocean Road...it's such a beautiful place, and we couldn't resist stopping EVERY thirty seconds to take pictures! We drove all the way up to the Twelve Apostles, which is really the main attraction on the road (So amazing!) -a collection of limestone stacks off the shore of the Port Campbell National Park! The trip itself took over twelve hours, but it was totally worth it, plus we got to spend a night on the Great Ocean Road...it's a hard life!

Our time in Australia has rushed by so fast...feels more like a week than a month- we want to travel back and do it all again; I never thought i'd be one of those people who caught the travel bug, but I know for sure that i'm going to want to come back to all these places one day! But, one trip at a time...next stop...New Zealand!

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