Our journey down the East Coast, the most travelled of all backpacker routes, started way up t'north in Cairns. We flew in at 1am so decided it wasn't worth wasting precious money for accommodation so kipped at the airport. After a few hours of back-breaking sleep, Lau had turned blue and was shivering due to the artic air-con conditions, so we went outside to warm up - and my it was hot?. damn hot.
We checked in, had a few more hours of sleep, good sleep and wandered down to find the beach. We got the to find, one, there was no beach, and two, signs saying 'danger crocs' and 'deadly jellyfish' - great no beach for us. Luckily there was a man made lagoon, lots of shops and bars to keep us entertained.
Cairns was all about the great barrier reef, we had a day out on the outer reef, diving and snorkelling. We had a brief briefing before our dive which consisted of going over some underwater hand signals? the 'okay' sign and the 's***/help me' signal. Keeping our fingers crossed that the Irwin-killer stingray wasn't about we dove. The great barrier reef is in fact great. Some amazing fish, including the whole cast of finding Nemo, and a sea cucumber (a strange thing, looks like a handbag, one ends its mouth the other its bum, both look exactly the same?. remind you of anyone?)
Travelling further north we had a few days in Cape Tribulation, only place in the world where two world heritage sites meet: the great barrier reef and rainforest. Highlights included the sheer amount of rain we had, getting drunk (as there was nothing else to do), and a baby python jumping on a girls shoulder while we were chatting to her?.. scary yet funny!
Next stop was Mission Beach, yes there was a beach but there were still the signs warning us of immanent death if we dared enter the water. We kind of wished someone had mentioned that on the east coast of Oz most of the sea was out of bounds. It rained a lot again which equalled boredom and watching DVD's. Lau and Kate got outside for a walk and managedÂ to see a very rare bird, a 6ft tall dinosaur bird which apparently had a mean 2 footed Jackie Chan style kick and knowing this made the girls run, very fast.
We bused it to Airlie Beach, few beaches here but no entry again. Men had come thru again and made a lagoon for us lazy people. This town only existed because of the sheer number of backpackers, so there were lots of bars. It was also the gateway to the WhitSundays, where we were booked on a sailing trip, on a 85ft Maxi racing boat called Boomerang, so we knew we were coming back (ah thank you). It was ace being on a boat for 3 days, with 26 other people including a pretty cool crew. There was a fair amount of drinking, Phil managed to compete with some irish guys to try and break the (hugely unofficial) 'goon' necking world record. Unfortunately Phil wont be in the Guiness book of World records and only had a hangover he called 'sea-sickness'. We were allowed off the boat a few times. Once to see one of the top beaches in the world - White Haven Beach. 10 out of 10 for sand quality, pure silk/icing sugar and baby reef sharks were all around in the waters. The 2nd night a lot less drinking took place, we instead appreciated the glowing sunset and night starry sky. How bloody old and sad.
After a funny sail back where the skipper was trying to scare us by tipping the boat over to 45deg's, we arrived back on dry land where it took a good few days for us to stop swaying.
A back-numbing, butt crunching 16 hour bus journey got us to Rainbow beach, where we met our group of 11 for our 4x4 adventure on Fraser Island. The night before we had a talk by a bloke called Merv who was in charged. Now Merv, plain and simply, was a strange guy; thick aussie accent, pony tail, one tooth that stuck straight out and a very weird sense of humour, but he was mighty funny, especially when showing us the ins and outs of 4x4 sand driving, camping and dingos (native skinny dog like animals on the island who liked stealing food and attacking backpackers)
Early the next morning we packed our trucks with camp stuff, food, beer and goon and got a ferry to the island - the biggest sand island in the world. First day included seeing lake Mackenzie a top fresh water lake where we managed to scare Kate so much the whole island heard her scream, Phil dragged her under after we had told her of the many fresh water sharks in the lake), being unorganised and setting up camp in the dark, got drunk and gazed at the stars. No dingo attacked they just nicked our rubbish bag - thieves.
The next day we tried to be organised, planned our day so life would be easy. After a very long walk to another great lake we drove up the island, set up camp while having lunch, then headed to the tip of the island, Indian Head, to climb a cliff to see sharks and dolphins in the waters below. While heading back we realised something?. That the hole island looked pretty much the same and with no one remembering which grain of was our campsite we started a search. The other thing about the island is that you are only meant to drive on hard sand when the tide is out?. While searching for the lost campsite the tide was coming in fast. After a few hours, when the skies went dark and the tides higher we found it! Happy times were short lived when Phil was having trouble moving the van. This had happened before so everyone got out to push. This time the might of 10 people wasn't enough and the panic had started and the big ugly ocean was closing in on our helpless little van. Looking back no the ideas we had to try to shift the van were comical. Mid one great attempt of trying to lift it, Kate and Arron (a manc lad) were sent off to find help, a massive rescue mission. On their trecious journey they woke up many campers, waded thru metre deep flooded creeks, walked for miles in the dark getting eyed up for dinner by dingos but finally made it to an Aussie family who rang for help. The help wasn't that great - they were old that someone would come to help at 6am. Luckily, a Ranger was passing as Kate and mate were on their way back and gave them a lift. As soon as the ranger had dropped them off he was off again - gee thanks rang for all the help. While this was going on the rest of the group gave up trying to dig the biggest hole ever and took to posing with the sunk, water surrounded truck. Nothing was helping the van tonight, so we laughed to hold back the tears of thinking we were all buying a new 4x4 in the morning.
Help arrived, the most relaxed Oz bloke who laughed at our situation and used his big truck to pull our little truck free. He also informed us that our front spindle had worn away leaving us with only 2 wheel drive and more importantly that it wasn't our fault and wouldn't have to pay a thing. So we finished seeing the sights, drove back to the mainland with only 2 wheels (a feat later praised by the tours company as 'some great driving skills'). A great few days, great stories, no bills and we had sand in every place possible.
The all action/adventure gallops girls decided to do a skydive the next day. Phil took a well earned day off from being a man and sunbathed on the beach instead. Lau was looking forward to jumping 14,00ft from a plane while Kate, after some top notch winding up of her impending doom, looked well nervous. Luck was in?.the most perfect day for skydiving with clear visibility of the miles of coast line. Kate, unfortunately, missed out on this when her goggles slightly moved on exiting the plane so saw nothing untill she could rearrange after the freefall. Kates DVD is also priceless? a must see when she gets back. She take's 'skin flapping' to a new high.
Byron Bay was our penultimate stop, nice little town with loads of character, stylish places?. except for our accommodation. This was a canvas shack in a place where animals ruled and we were visitors, we didn't stay long! Made it to the most easterly part of Oz, saw some dolphins and headed up to Grandad Gallops, where we had the greatest feeling of stepping into Don's house. So clean and fresh?we 3 dirty travellers were so happy. A great few days were had where we were utterly spoiled. Thanks to HaeBok for stuffing us with food and to Don for helping us swill it down with some great wines. One day they 'dragged' us wine tasting. Of course we ended up drunk but in a classy way - drinking wine and eating cheese in a vineyards garden!
We met up with Arysey, a Loughborough Uni girls who was going out with an Aussie and living next to a beach. England sometimes can never compete.
Brisbane hosted our final few days on OZ soil. We had a great tour round Bris-vegas with Penisi, lau's fellow camper. He also finally explained all the Aussie Rules rules too us, a bit late though. Brisbane is a cool place and we spent our last hours having dinner with Stu, a Nottingham Uni-er studying in Oz. it was nearly not our last few hours as when we turned up at the airport we had some 'strife'. When changing our dates of flights Virgin forgot to give us new tickets. So turning up at the airport for a Singapore Airlines flight ticket less on Sunday at 10pm was not good. Using ourÂ intelligence, something we hadn't used for a long time we made the guy call the open Virgin office in the UK. They gave us authorisation to board and we were on. Our eyes did well up slightly when leaving a great country after 6 months.