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Published: March 18th 2010
Our first taste of Australia
After the flight debacle from Bali, our first Australian state turns out to be Western Australia, where we spent the sum total of 5 hours in Perth airport waiting for a connecting flight. Then it's off to Northern Territory and after 12 hours in Darwin, Nic wants to be back in WA!!
Darwin was once a burgeoning town with a gold rush, now it's highlight is that David Gulpilil lives there (you know, the Aboriginal from Walkabout, Crocodile Dundee and Baz Lurmann's epic Australia) and a bookshop owner is keen to point him out as he walks past the window.
More interesting is Kakadu National Park. An area of outstanding wetlands, rainforests and escarpments. It is filled with wildlife, most notably crocodiles and mosquitos. Our first wildlife sightings, however, are wallabies, 3 of them - all roadkill. Nic is getting quire distraught about our safari being primarily dead critters until we see 2 agile wallabies by the side of the road, still breathing. Things improve from there and a sulphur-crested cockatoo is spotted soon after and a group of wild horses show some interest in our first attempt at pitching a tent on this trip. Though we have sleeping
Home sweet home
Our bed for the next 4 weeks!
bags, there is no need for them in Cooinda, it's 30C+ even at night.
Cooinda lodge is the best value camping in the park. For $20 they have free use of the barbecues, great facilities and a swimming pool, complete with frogs. Apparently they have a protective secretion on their skin which human touch wears off and leaves them destined to an early grave. If only Paul had known that before handling the 2 we found in the jacuzzi!
Wallabies became commonplace sightings, as did an array of colourful bird species, but despite stopping at every "Extreme Danger - Crocodiles live in this river" signpost the crocs remained elusive for 3 days. Unlike the mosquitos who were queueing up to meet us.
Tropical cyclones tearing up the Queensland coast convince us to move on to Brisbane next and take a road trip south. Once more, ridiculous flight times mean we have landed and collected the rental car (another Hyundai Getz, but automatic this time) at stupid o'clock. Nothing is yet open, so we take a drive out to the Coast north of Brissie and find places such as Brighton, Shornecliffe and Sandgate making us feel quite at
Paul's Whale Shark
home. The latter has a yacht club and gets us thinking perhaps Saga Boat Insurance might want to set up an Australian scheme?
Next up is our greatest luxury to date. While Jon & Kath Laird entertained us in style in Hong Kong, Peter Hyams trumped this with perfect beach apartment bliss for 3 days in Coolangatta. The smiles that broke over our faces as we opened the door were akin to that on Nic's face in the Red Panda photo shoot! All mod cons, queen-size bed (exquisite mattress), glorious en-suite and a balcony on which to enjoy breakfast in the morning sun. Then there are the pools (indoor and out), jacuzzi & steam room. The beach was long, wide and pure golden sand just 2 minutes from the apartment...should you want to leave the apartment complex. The sand is great for sculpture, so we have a competition. Starfish or Whale Shark? You decide.
Back into rucksacks and a tent we take the mountain roads to Lismore, via a small town called Nimbin. A previous blog mentioned how little we thought of the noisy, smelly city of Nimb Binh in Vietnam and we hoped our visit to the
soundalike town would be better. It's not. The place is full of aging hippies, an 'alternative' power station and a herbal aroma in the tourist office that made sure we headed out of town faster than the speed limits allowed.
Lismore is also a backwater but it did deliver our first Koalas. Not that we noticed them. A local had to point out that we had parked our car under a mother and baby combo. At the Koala hospital we see a picture of a poor little Koala with conjunctivitis, and two days later Nicola had conjunctivitis!
There was also a possible platypus sighting at Tucki Tucki Creek. Our final wildlife encounter was a green tree frog - unfortunately it was as Paul squashed it in the door jamb of the shower room. It made the most blood curdling squeal and hopped (literally) off with a suspected broken leg. Paul was mortified with his attack.
Dorrigo National Park is worthy of a mention for 3 reasons. Firstly, Gwen the octagenarian tourist info volunteer who takes 30 seconds to get from her seat but proves endlessly helpful when in her stride. Second, it was where we spent Paul's
6 months, 24/7
Bound to send you a little mad ...
birthday. Finally, leeches, but only Nic gets bitten (well it's not her birthday so it seems fair). To cap off the birthday we see our first wild Kangaroo, and half a dozen Aussies sing 'Happy Birthday' pausing mid-verse as they realise they don't know Paul's name, but we didn't care as we were well into our 4 litre box of wine by then.
The east coast from here to Sydney is full of beaches where we get sand-blasted, wind-burned, rained on and occasionally sun-tanned.
Sydney delivers all the picture postcard views the city is renowned for, but in the end it is just another city (although driving over the bridge was pretty awesome). We prefer the Blue Mountains 100km inland where we got the opportunity to have a picnic 100m up on an overhanging precipice, the only down side was that we lost Nic's pink spork (it is a knife, fork and spoon in one in case you wondered). The views are wonderful, walks are beautiful although Nic gets bored of the 910 steps down on the Giant Stairway - not to mention the similar amount back up the Furber Steps. Impressively the signs describing the views are
Tourists in Sydney
You would be gutted if we didn't put at least one cliche photo in.
also in braille, and carefully talks about the sounds and feels as much as the sights you might encounter.
We progressed down the east coast between Sydney and Melbourne, replacing the lost spork with a rather dowdy looking grey one, but at least it does the job. At St George's Basin we find cabins at a bargain price so we give up the tent for a night - here we find the only small town general store in Australia with reasonable prices and free WIFI! Look up Greville Corner Store if you are in the area.
At Malacoota Nic is taught how to take the poo-bag out of a prawn. At Buchan we find the Lyrebird has an awsome array of calls, including toy guns, police siren and an R2 D2 impression.
In the Snowy Mountains we spot an Echidna, whose idea of hiding from us is to stick its head between two rocks, very Life of Brian. It's here that we take the scariest road in the world. 25k of unsealed road, down the side of a mountain, wide enough for one car only, steep enough to be 1:3 in places and no sign of a
The last sighting of the missing pink spork!
crash barrier in sight. Hope the rental company don't read Travelblog, we weren't supposed to be on unsealed roads.
In Wilsons Promontory we go Wombat hunting - they don't need to hide. No-one messes with Wombats, they are the bull terrier of the vegetarian world. Crimson Rosellas don't hide either, in fact they sat on our cool bag waiting for scraps from our picnic. Wilsons Prom offers great scenery, great walks, great wildlife and is well worth every plaudit that the guide books give it.
Final destination, Melbourne. More relaxed than Sydney, with a bit more history, and we love it immediately. After a couple of days doing the tourist thing we met up with Shane and Amie (you have seen them in the drunken New Year photos), and are treated to an authentic Aussie barbie and another night in a proper bed. Shane also lends us his PC which seems to show our camera memory card has corrupted and we have no photos for the second half of our Oz trip.
Reasons why we would come back to Oz:
Freindly locals & campsite facilities
Shane & Amie
Weather (if you dodge the cyclones)
They'll never see me here ...
"You haven't given us time to hide"
that cease to be charged for once project paid for (Dartford take note)
Cool road signs
Reasons for us to be whinging Pommies:
Random petrol prices (up to 15 cents difference 100 yds down the road)
Cost of living (especially food)
The exchange rate
Poor & expensive internet/WIFI access (though to be fair we've no idea what a London internet cafe charges)
Campervan companies who advertise '$39 per day' then quote you $90 per day!
Camping not backpacking - meaning we didn't make as many friends.
Tot: 2.482s; Tpl: 0.021s; cc: 12; qc: 58; dbt: 0.0269s; 2; m:saturn w:www (188.8.131.52); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.4mb