Aussie Campervan, Chapter 2: Da Water & More


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September 21st 2011
Published: September 21st 2011
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Oz Adventure


I know its been awhile since my last post so this one might be a little longer. I will try and keep each day short. Just as a general opener Nicci did tell me i am driving the camper van like my BMW and just as I got used to parking the beast, it was time to give it back. I also discovered my addiction to salt and vinegar chips (i ate almost a bag a day, but i did try every brand i saw) and a certain coffee drink called Dare Cappuccino.


August 16th, 2011: Drove 66 km (41 miles)

The day started with a drive to Townsville, one of the bigger cities in Queensland. But we are putting Townsville on hold and heading right to Magnetic Island. I was disappointed to find out that it really isn’t magnetic, just Captain Cook thought it was, but the place was beautiful. After the ferry ride across we went to the only campsite on the island. We stayed at a place called Bungalow Bay, which turned out to be the best campsite we stayed in. By the time we got settled and took a short rest, we walked to Horseshoe Bay Beach and watched the sunset. The campsite did a different activity each night for everyone and that night was trivia night. “Team Wrecking Ball” (cause I make fun of Nicci for saying “reckon” all the time) did alright. We started off tied for second, not bad considering there were several groups of 5-10 people, but we dropped off due to some groups cheating by using a laptop. Oh well. After a few drinks we called it a night. HOWEVER, during the night Nicci heard some noises outside and wanted me to walk her to the bathroom, so i grabbed my headtorch. About 20 feet in i saw something run in front of us and i shined the light over to find 20-30 kangaroos and several possums surrounding us standing at attention. It actually freaked me out a little since we could only see where the light was pointing, but we made it out alive.


August 17th, 2011: Drove 15 km (9 miles)

After finally getting up and eating breakfast we walked back to Horseshoe Bay Beach again to look for a company that might offer scuba diving. We didn’t find any at this beach but we took a walk along the whole beach while Nicci and I had a contest who could find the best seashell, i lost badly. We did see a dead stingray and crab that washed ashore. We continued our search for scuba by driving to many of the beaches on the island; Alma Bay, Geoffrey Bay, & Nelly Bay. Since the weather is much colder in Australia than everywhere else on our trip, i was proud to finally take the cold plunge and be the first to go fully into the water. Later that afternoon, the campsite offered a chance to feed wild Lorikeets, a cool colorful exotic bird. They handed us some soggy bread and told us to just stick our hands out. Within seconds we were surrounded by them with 5-10 birds on us at anytime. My head, arms, hands, shoulder, everywhere were birds, thank g-d none crapped on us but they did kind of hurt cause they latched on.


August 18th, 2011: Drove 67 km (42 miles)

We had to wake up and check out early so we can book a ferry back to the mainland. We had a few hours to kill so we drove to the last section of the island we didn’t see called Picnic Bay before catching an earlier ferry back to Townsville. Once in Townsville we went to an information center and booked a cruise/diving tour around the Whitsunday Islands in a few days. In the information center we saw this amazing brochure for the Townsville Cultural Festival and the old lady behind the counter raved about it. We had a night to kill so we drove on over to see what the hype was about and we started to get hyped about it. Let me tell you, the cultural festival was basically 15 stands, all selling crap promoting a different country of origin. To say the least, we were disappointed in the cultural festival, the only good thing there was a baked potatoes stand. After the day was now spoiled, we drove to a campsite which was the first time we could clearly see the Milky Way at night.


August 19th, 2011: Drove 264 km (164 miles)

Most of this day was spent driving to Airlie Beach. Most of the Whitsunday Island tours leave from here. This is what I expected Cairns to be like. Nice beach, fun backpacker resort town, bars, etc. After we checked into our tour for the next day, we found a campsite at Magnum’s and spent the rest of the day on the internet and planning the next few weeks of our Australian adventure.


August 20th, 2011: Drove 0 km (0 miles)

After getting up and moving our campervan a block over to XBase, a lot we can keep it for the next few days. Nicci and I walked around the town and bought some stuff to take with us on our 3 day and 2 night sailing trip on Wings 2 with Whitsunday Sailing Adventure. The trip left around noon and after some introductions over chips and chicken wraps we set sail for the north part of the islands. After about 30 minutes, I started telling the captain (there were 3 crew members, the oldest was the captain who was 26 and about 20 passengers), so i was telling the captain that i wished i knew how to sail and he said over the next few days he would teach me some of the basics. I learned how to put the sail up and down amount other odd tasks. Two hours of sailing later we reached our first stop, Blue Pearl Bay. This was the first of several opportunities to dive or snorkel on the trip. I decided to just stick with snorkeling on the trip, much cheaper, but Nicci did some dives. Again everything here in Oz is SOOOO expensive. The snorkeling was in water that was as shallow as 3 feet to depths of 20-30 feet. After putting on our wetsuits, we took a smaller boat out and jumped in. On the snorkel we saw most of the cast of Finding Nemo, some saw a sting ray and a giant local fish named Perasilla made an appearance along with the thousands of types of coral. A great first start until we got out of the water. WE WERE FREEZING! As we were warming up to the coffee and tea the crew had waiting, the captain pointed out the whales playing roughly 150 meters out. Meanwhile the crew was making some snacks of cheese and crackers with different meats to have while we watched a great sunset over the water. The sunsets and sunrises never get old. Soon after the sunset and as soon as we got warm, Nicci had to get ready to do her first night dive. This time, she put on three wetsuits. Although she was a little scared, she thought it was amazing. Once the few divers came back the dinner was ready, BBQ chicken, garlic bread, potatoes and salad. Excellent! At the end of the night we watched a slideshow of the photos the crew took that day and we had a little to drink before we just passed out.


August 21st, 2011: Drove 0 km (0 miles)

Everyone on the boat decided to wake up at 6am for the sunrise and soon after we had breakfast. By 7:15 am we had our wetsuits on again and took a shorter sail to Butterfly Bay, Luncheon Bay and finally to Manta Ray Bay for more snorkeling and diving. These spots are known for the thirty different types of clown fish (“Nemo Fish”) and many other cool fish, one of which Nicci and I looked up after and it was a Five Banded Angelfish. Once again though, after getting out of the water, it was freezing cold. On the dive, the divers saw a rare giant manta ray, the dive instructor said he actually wet his wetsuit. And once again, while we were anchored we saw several whales breaching the water roughly 300 meters out this time.
Now we had a rough two hour sail through real choppy water to get to the famous Whitesunday Beach, voted the second best beach in the world. We had lunch consisting of lunch meats and tuna before taking the small boat ashore. We climbed over a hill to a lookout before heading down the other side to the beach. Once there we took some funny perspective photos before relaxing on this absolutely amazing beach. It really was the best beach I could imagine. The sand was literally white and soft next to some beautiful water (although cold at this time of the year). I broke out Wheres Waldo for some pics and the best photo of the day went to me and nicci where it looks like she is climbing out of my ass. Once again, sorry for those on the beach behind me and were forced to see that angle of my ass. As I took a walk, i saw some smaller sharks swimming near the shore and after noticing many long black stick like figures in the water did i discover they were all stingrays burying themselves in the sand. After a few hours of relaxing we headed back to the boat and set sail again for another two hours to the next bay. It was still kinda rough sailing though although nobody actually got sick. Once there we had dinner of pasta, steak, sausages and much more. The night divers went out again while the rest of us watched the slideshow of the days photos and the funny photos, had a few drinks, saw some dolphins, and off to bed.


August 22nd, 2011: Drove 337 km (210 miles)

The whole boat woke up again at 6am to watch the sunrise, but this one wasn’t quite as good due to many clouds in the sky. Had some breakfast again and threw on the wetsuits, this time i put on two. This time we snorkeled in the deeper waters off Anchor Point. Here was the best chance to see turtles and the nice thing was there was enough of a current that we really didn’t have to do any swimming, the small boat dropped us off and waited for everyone to float about 40 minutes back to the boat. Although we didnt see any turtles, the coral here was amazing but once again, the water was freezing. Afterward we had a two hour sail back to Airlie Beach and it was once again choppy. I said my goodbyes and thank you’s, ripped a copy of a dvd they were selling and someone else bought. Soon after we started our long drive towards a town called 1770. About four hours of driving and we hit some bad thunderstorms and decided to call it a night about halfway towards 1770.


August 23rd, 2011: Drove 426 km (265 miles)

We started the day driving another three hours towards Agnes Waters and 1770. We found a free campsite and went to a hostel called Cool Bananas to meet up with Steve, a person we met on the Gap tour in Thailand. The three of us walked around a bit and caught up on everything, went to the beach, ate some “happy” cookies Steve got from a city called Nimbin (more on that later) and got some drinks. We went back to the campervan and Nicci showed off her excellent cooking skills and made some turkey chili with brown rice. We stayed around and drank some more and played a game nicci knew called “One Fat Hen.”


August 24th, 2011: Drove 15 km (9 miles)

After waking up late we had a BBQ lunch with Steve and headed towards Scooteroo. The towns of Agnes Waters and 1770 are famous for this one company called Scooteroo. They are a tour company that dresses you like a bad-ass biker with leather jackets and fake tattoos and rents you smaller motorbikes. Once everyone feels comfortable on the bikes (Nicci was one of the last, lol) as a bad ass motorcycle gang you go driving the streets for a few hours as they take pictures and everything. It was good fun! Once the three of us made it back alive, we went for some more drinks and pool then back to the campervan where we met some other campers that decided to break park rules and created a bonfire. Once the fire was going, campers from all over came over and we had a good time, funny how a small fire finally gets everyone out of their vans and brings everyone together.


August 25th, 2011: Drove 287 km (178 miles)

Today was spent driving to Hervey Bay where we will catch another tour, this time to Fraser Island. After finally deciding on a two day tour, the first day on the island itself and the second day on a whale watching tour, we found a campsite and watched some movies that Steve put on my hard drive (thanks again mate, they are awesome) and went to bed early


August 26th, 2011: Drove 0 km (0 miles)

At 7am the tour company Fraser Explorer Tours picked us up from the campsite. Unfortunately the weather all day was raining and kinda cold cause Fraser Island is one of the few places I remember from my first trip to Australia 12 years ago. We had a 35 minute ferry across the waters before jumping on our bus which drove over this wicked sand tracks to central station. Fraser Island is famous for several reason, the two biggest being the purist wild dingoes in the world and its the biggest sand island in the world. Despite the fact the whole thing is sand, a rainforest managed to grow there which makes the landscapes go from rainforest, regular forest, white sand, blue ocean, truly amazing to see even on a rainy day. We walked along the Wanggoolba Creek, drove the famous 75 Mile Beach to the coloured sands of The Pinnacles (something like 76 different colors of sand within a small area) and saw the shipwreck of the Maheno. One of the coolest things about the drive were the twenty or so eagles and other birds of prey we saw flying and catching food. After lunch we walked along Eli Creek before nicci and I decided to suck it up and walk back in the creek. Soon afterward, we saw one of the wild dingoes running along the beach, well he was kinda limping as the dingoes often fight each other for food. We also went to Lake McKenzie, which is supposed to be one of the most beautiful lakes in the world but was ruined due to the rain and cold water. Later we returned to the marina and got the ferry back to the mainland before we watched more movies and called it a night. Something about these tours just takes it out of you.


August 27th, 2011: Drove 236 km (147 miles)

Once again, we had an early start, getting picked up by 7:30 for our whale watching tour on board the Tasman Venture. The weather looks crappy once again but it should start to get nicer as the morning rolls on. We picked to do the whale watching at Hervey Bay and Fraser Island cause the success rate of each boat here this time a year is over 99%. The humpback whales are traveling south to Antarctica and stop in the calm warmer water this bay produces. The captain said that each whale will stay about three to five days before continuing on down the coast, but since each whale travels alone and at different times, there are always a good number in the bay. We sailed to Platypus Bay where we ended up seeing five humpbacks that played right along the side of the boat and about another 5-7 that played in the distance. It is a great feeling when you see the whales from a far, but i breathtaking opportunity when they are playing within five feet of you. The crew said they sometimes let you touch them, but we didn’t get a chance. This was by far one of the best moments of my trip, if not my life. They are massive, and the ones that played near us were only a few years old, the oldest being around six. After moving to some different spots the five hour tour went to quick but we had to go back. I think i will make a donation to the Sea Shepherd organization on one of my favorite shows, whale wars. After getting something to eat and Nicci getting her hair done, we started another somewhat long drive towards Noosa Heads.


August 28th, 2011: Drove 117 km (73 miles)
After getting another late start, Nicci and i continued our journey towards Noosa Heads. Noosa Heads is known as a major resort town on the eastern coast. The downside is the price on everything here. We should have known when we saw Ferraris and sort driving on the streets that this is a luxury resort town. We did stay for a little and checked out the beach and did a walk down the main shopping street before catching something to eat. We decided that we didn’t really want to stay the night as it felt like we saw the city in the few hours we spent there and wanted to get the drive towards Brisbane started. On the way though we stopped at a beautiful lookout point at Tewantin Forest Reserve.


August 29th, 2011: Drove 291 km (181 miles)

We got to Brisbane but since we have been pretty busy and tired we didn’t bother to research it at all. It took us over an hour to find parking cause most of the parking garages have those bars limiting the height of vehicles so we drove around till we found a pay lot at a tram station which had a 3 hour limit. After we took a quick wander around and found a place to eat, we headed for the Information center to find something to do. Brisbane isn’t really a city to see the sights, it seems like a place you need to spend at least a few days in, which didn’t fit into our schedules or 3 hour parking. Instead we went just outside the city to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary.
Lone Pine is the worlds largest and oldest koala sanctuary and there are many more up close and personal things to do than at a zoo. I started off by seeing some of the koala’s that are in these enclosures all around the park (no fences). From there we saw some snakes and reptiles, crocs, cassowaries (they still freak me out), emus, wombats, dingoes, turtles, many exotic birds, a platypus, tasmanian devils and bats. After we got to hold a koala and get a “professional” pic taken, i was a bit nervous since a koala took a dump on me 12 years ago when I was in australia, but i lucked out and Vinnie (the koala i held) was very nice. I also bought some snacks for the kangaroos and got to wander in a field of about 50 of them letting them eat out of my hand. I should point out that many of the kangaroos ran when nicci approached them but seemed to love me! Very glad we went here! Now to start the drive to our next destination, Byron Bay.


August 30th, 2011: Drove 28 km (17 miles)

Byron Bay is another coastal town in eastern Australia. While it is famous for a great surfing spot, both Nicci and I fell in love with the laid back lifestyle and the many shops and cafes. After walking around for a bit, we went to the big beach and just chilled. It turned out that Nicci had made friends with someone from here on her travels and she took us out for a night on the town. We started drinking at the friends apartment before hitting up some bars till late night.


August 31th, 2011: Drove 0 km (0 miles)

This was one of those lazy days, maybe too much to drink the night before. We did finally leave the campervan and walked around for a bit and found a good place to eat. Thats about it.


September 1st, 2011: Drove 0 km (0 miles)

Still in Byron Bay. Nice sunny weather today so we went to the beach and hung out there, our tans have started to fade. Not much else, I can get used to this laid back lifestyle, traveling can be so tough.


September 2nd, 2011: Drove 279 km (173 miles)

Woke up and we were still in Byron Bay. We took one last walk around, I bought a hoodie cause the nights have been getting colder and colder the further south we go. Now we are off to Numbin.
If you are under 18 or still think of me as an angel or saint, please stop reading here.
Nimbin is famous for pretty much one thing, cannabis. EVERYONE is a hippie, every shop revolves around weed and tie die. Everyone was getting stoned or looked stone, and this included little kids and dogs. This is where the Aquarius Festival took place in the 70’s. I was basically the only person with dreadlocks (i would if i could). So I joined in the local customs and helped the local economy and bought some mary jane, some happy cookies, and a one hitter. After hitting up some food and the Nimbin Museum (very trippy), we got out of dodge before the 5-0 showed. Next would be the longest drive of the trip, some 900 km to Sydney, so we decided to take a few of those hours off the drive tomorrow.


September 3rd, 2011: Drove 687 km (427 miles)

This day was spent almost entirely driving. We did manage to finally eat at this place called Hungry Jacks, which uses the same logo and everything as Burger King, which for some reason is missing here in Oz. It turns out that Hungry Jacks is Burger King, just due to some licensing issues, changed the name. That was the excitement for the day.


September 4th, 2011: Drove 273 km (170 miles)

Today we went to UNESCO World Heritage Site right outside of Sydney called The Blue Mountains. While they were nothing special if you only look at the size of the mountains, they were breathtaking in so many other manners. To begin, they are called the blue mountains because the eucalyptus trees are so packed and dense here, their oil leaves a blue haze over the entire mountain. Very unique. The area has long been the home of the aboriginals and has only had special significance to them. The main attraction here is known as the Three Sisters. This is a rock formation that “looks” like three women but was created by erosion that has a aboriginal story behind it that is too long to type out. Was cool to see. We also stopped by several lookout points, including the most popular, Echo Point and took a nature walk to see Wentworth Falls. We also stopped by some laid back little towns like Katoomba, Leura, and Blackheath, all along the mountains.


September 5th, 2011: Drove 82 km (51 miles)

Today was the day we never wanted to see, our final day with the campervan. We gave her a little cleaning while we realized we are back to packing our bags everyday again. That was one of the best things about the campervan, i know i am lucky to have this travel opportunity, but it does get tiresome living out of a bag you have to pack every single day for this long. To be able to unpack it and store it should be one of the top selling points for future campers. We were not charged anything for the little dings that happened early and we made some backpackers real happy when we passed along many of the extra stuff we had and couldn’t carry.

Our final tally was 4,540 kilometers or 2,821 miles driven. That is slightly more than if you drove from New York to San Francisco.

I did hit 140 km/h a few times (about 90 mph) and i love to overtake



Sydney

Now that I no longer have the campervan, I am back to hosteling. The first place, Westend Nomads Backpacker, right in the center of Sydney. Thats about the only good thing with this hostel. The beds were some of the worst i have ever stayed on, it was FULL of piss drunk teenagers that didn’t have the slightest idea how to behave in public. One was so drunk they fell down a flight of stairs and smashed into a huge window breaking it. Not the best hostel to try to get back into the hosteling grove. Anyways, we spent 5 nights here in Sydney before we had enough and continued on.
Rather than go day by day, i will just tell some highlights. I went to the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House several times. The first day was very nice weather, but after that it was raining and cold almost everyday. We wanted to walk across the bridge but it was to hard to find where you would start. They also have a company that can take you on a walking tour up and over the arch of the bridge but like everything here in Oz, it was way to expensive for a backpacker only halfway through their trip. I did get out the Wheres Waldo costume for some pics at the opera house, which was fun cause so many other tourist knew who what i was doing and came up for pictures. Even a construction crew all stopped what they were doing and got out their cell phones to take pictures, makes me feel like I might be one of the only people doing it.
Nicci and I tried to walk around all the different neighborhoods of the city, one or two each day. We even went to Kings Cross and supported the local economy (wink wink). We hit just about every market, including one that is only a lunch market on Fridays.
We went to Bondi Beach on what we thought was a nice day, turned out to be freezing cause of the wind, but the sun was out.
What was probably the highlight of our week was surprisingly the IMAX theatre. This IMAX is the worlds largest and has the worlds largest screen. It’s been awhile since i was at an IMAX but they use a special 3D technology that was so much more amazing than you would experience in regular movie theaters. We saw Born To Be Wild and I thought those cute orangutans and baby elephants were actually touching me.
We also tried to have two nights out on the town. I saw tried cause on one of those nights we ate those happy cookies and it didn’t go as expected. The lady that sold me them warned me that they were real strong and start slow so we ate half a cookie each to start. After about 60-90 minutes we didn’t feel anything so we ate the other half. We went out to dinner when all of the sudden they kicked in, and boy did they kick in. Within a matter of minutes, we were real messed up. Despite being pretty messed up, Nicci was still able to basically carry me back to the hostel cause i was close to panicking. It felt like the walk took an eternity but really it was about 200 feet. We did sober up after watching several episodes of Celebrity Juice, and british tv show that turns out to be pretty funny despite not being able to understand all the jokes and some strong accents.
I was surprised with how many Asians there were in Sydney and all of Australia for that matter. I realize that they are close to each but it really seems like 60-70% of the people in Sydney are asian.
I also booked the next section of my trip, which is now New Zealand. Nicci and I are doing a hop on hop off bus through Stray.


Melbourne

Made it to Melbourne and luckily are staying at a much better hotel/hostel called Space Hotel. This hostel also had many great deals every night at their bar which we took advantage of. Nicci and I are still pretty warn out from traveling so we took it kinda easy the first few days. We walked around the city and took a free tram that runs a circle around the whole city while giving commentary. Melbourne was my favorite major city in Australia despite not having many tourist attractions. The Victorian style architecture in the mix of many quirky buildings and gardens really gives this city it’s own character. While Melbourne is supposed to be much colder than the rest of Oz, I lucked out as a front of nice weather followed us.
One day we took a walking tour directed by yours truly around many of the gardens in the south. It took around 2 hours and was over 3 1/2 miles long. I did use a pamphlet i picked up from the information center. Very nice and fun.
I also did the cheapest attraction so far in Oz which was Black Light Mini Golf. One of the websites i regularly look at suggested it and for $11 Nicci and I spent 2 hours on a 18 hole putt-putt course designed around an Australian theme all under black lights. You had the outback, Sydney opera house, cricket, Melbourne, and the great barrier reef all under fluorescent colors among others scenes. Nicci did beat me by 2 as there are these random wheels you must spin and follow the directions. Nicci got things that allowed her to move my ball anywhere on the hole she wanted to and I kept getting the ones that allowed her to stand anywhere on the hole she wants while i hit. Everything kept coming up against me! To be fair though, she had the only hole in one.
We also had many of our friends somehow meet up with us there. Matt and Emma from my China trip arrived and meet us a few times for coffee and drinks. Nicci also had some friends from back home that had moved to Australia. Also after many sober nights, we tended to go out for a few good drunken nights. The first was when one of her friends meet up with us for drinks at our hostel then to his apartment then to a hip-hop night club till early morning. Ended pretty crazy. Also some of Nicci friends invited us to stay with them in their house in Seaford for our last 5 nights as they were so excited to see someone from back home for the first time since they moved here. They were so funny and fun and welcomed us MUCH more than I expected and we had home cooked meals and a proper bed and house for almost a week. This really helped us relax before the next legs of our journeys were we will be changing cities almost every night in New Zealand. Oh and they are some serious British drinkers, I did not represent America too well as I couldn’t come close to keeping up with them.
Now I am off to New Zealand in the morning, once i figure out my flight situation. I do have to fly back to Germany to continue my round the world flight to Brazil. So along the way I am stopping in Fiji for a few weeks to build up my tan again and debating to stop in South Korea for a few days cause it looks like i have to have a layover there that is 20 hours, so I should probably just see Seoul. I will let you know!



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