I have been really rubbish and neglected the blog for the past couple of months but will try and remember everything we did whilst in Australia.
We had such a lovely welcoming in Brisbane from Trevor's friend Dean who picked us up and took us to his place on the Gold coast. Dean and his beautiful wife Candice have a stunning house just outside Surfers paradice. It was awesome to settle in at theirs for a few days and enjoy the beauty of the gold coast.
Despite the busyness of the Gold coast it is a fabulous area. There are long stretches of white sandy beaches that squeek when you walk on it which takes a bit of getting used too, and the ocean is clear, blue and warm. There is a constant chilled out buzz that we have come to notice in many of the surf hangouts. The strange thing about the place is that Surfers Paradice is built up to be almost a small city with high sky rising buildings right on the coast. I wasn't sure how I felt about it to start with but it becomes kind of endearing and means people get to live on the coast and still make a living. Fortunately it's pretty contained to Surfers and the rest of the coast line has been protected.
We headed into Brisbane to check out the city and were lucky enough to see the Queen. We actually had no idea that she would be there but it was lovely to see her cruising along on the boat with Prince Phillip. We even got a wave :) I couldn't believe the hype, it was like some huge celebrity was in town. Kids were squeeling and people were charging all over the place to get a better glimpse of her. It was good to see as there had been a few reports of anti Monarch's planning to cause trouble but fortunately nothing materialised.
Brisbane's a beautiful city built around a river and a series of waterways. You would have no idea that the majority of the city had been washed away by the floods just a year ago. Ever thing was back up and running and the city had a real sense of pride about the place. It had a great little make shift beach in the centre of the city which is even maned with lifeguards. The beach was surrounded by quirky little restaurants so we grabbed a bite to eat and did a spot of people watching. Everyone in the Queensland area including Brisbane are wonderfully friendly and can't help but speak to you and acknowledge you when they pass. When you walk into a shop, they can't do enough to help you and the whole aura becomes quite infectious. Trev found it quite amusing that everytime he went into the toilets someone would stand next to him and strike up a conversation. I'm not sure how that would be percieved if he starts doing it at home :)
We stocked up on camping gear, hired a car and drove up to Noosa for a couple of days. On the way we stopped at Steve Irwin's Zoo which was incredible. There were lots of wierd and wonderful animals to see and it was great that so much conservation work is being done with the profits from the zoo. It is still very much a family run place and there are lots of references to Steve and his family. There's even a statue. One of the walls is filled with tributes written on shirts to Steve when he died which was quite moving.
On arrival in Noosa, we found a great little campsite by the estuary and settled in for a couple of days. I think Trevor felt he had landed in paradice here. Noosa is kind of on a peninsular and surrouned by water, whether it be the estuary, lakes or the long stretch of the sunshine coast. The beaches were perfect for surfing on (Trev said it was tiny but it was just fine for me) and there were lots of water sports taking place on the various lakes. We took a walk around the coast which was breath taking. It was also great to see locals enjoying their surroundings. The nippers were training on the beach and quite a few of the adults were partaking in the weekly triathlon. There seemed to be a strong emphasis on health and fitness which is probably why everybody looked so great.
We had our first encounter with the grey nomads in Noosa. This is a term used for people that have retired and travel round the country in their tents and camper vans. The ones we met were so inspiring. Many of them were in their 70s and going for 7 day bike rides, running marathons, coastal walking and generally making the most out of their retirement. Everytime we got chatting with one, we would still be sitting there an hour later, totally engrosed by their stories.
After Noosa we spent a few days with Dean and Candice exploring the gold coast. Dean shared his birthday with a mate on Halloween so we went along to the party. The house we went to was out of this world. They must have spent months decorating the place as it was like walking into some kind of haunted house that you would pay to experience. Everytime you turned around there would be something new jumping out at you. The guy who was hosting the party was English and a bit homesick so I spent most of the evening with him talking about very 'English' things which was great for me as well. Being away from home for so long makes you really appreciate what you have on your door step.
After a wonderful few days with Dean and Candice we carried on our road trip down to Byron Bay. There was alot of excitement about Byron Bay and everyone you speak to always says you MUST go there so we were quite keen to see what all the fuss was about. We found a camping spot right on the beach and spent the next few days surfing and exploring the town. It has a very hippie feel about it and the locals have gone to a great deal of trouble to stop it turning into another Surfers Paradice. They have a continuous petition running to stop a MacDonalds being built in the area. As with all small towns where the locals are born and bred it comes with it's problems. I got the impression that alot of people had kind of opted out the system which has lead to some incredible artistic tallet coming through in the form of music and art but it has also created alot of drink and drug problems which are ever present in the area. It was a mixture of being the most tranquil thought provoking place with a dark undertone. That being said we had an amazing time and some great surf.
We carried on down the coast to a little fishing village called Yamba. This was my favourite town in the whole of Australia. We found a fab little campsite with the most friendly owners and pitched up by the creek. We went for a surf close to the main beach which was great fun. I was just bobing around minding my own business when I saw a shark about 50 metres away from us. It also seemed to be minding it's own business so we just carried on. I guess the've got used to people being in the water with them. Trevor had to put is lifesaving skills to use at one point as two boys were caught in a rip. They kept being smashed by the waves and were starting to get distressed. Trev had his Hoff moment and jumped in and pulled them to the side. It was a bit of a crowed pleaser and he got a few pats on the back from the locals :)
Next stop on the road trip was Newcastle where the less said about the place the better. As indeed was the case with the following campsite in Red head. Everyone was wierd here and we had to listen to Johnny Cash on Loop for what felt like an eternity. I think we may have actually been staying in a retirement home so the feeling like we were intruding was probably warrented. It had a very pretty beach though.
The next night was spent in a place called Patonga. This place was ace. We came accross it whilst lost. We were expecting to be going down one of the peninsulars near Sydney but ended up down another . The weather was a bit rubbish after we had put the tent up so we went for a wander into town. I say town loosly as it consisted of a pub, fish and chip shop and a convenience store that opened when it felt like it. The weather was looking pretty grim so we went into the pub for a cheeky beer. We were greeted by a friendly barman who insisted that we try every beer before we bought. We were then greeted by the locals one by one who kept producing things for us to try. One went into the kitchen and came back 5 minutes later with some cooked shrimps. I'm not sure they get too many out of towners so I guess we were a good source of entertainment for them.
It hadn't rained in Patonga form months but it had been building up for the past few days. The fishermen were starting to get quite anxious as the wind was picking up and the rain was starting to get heavier. There were also reports that a big storm had hit Sydney. One of the guys we met who had a holiday house in the area took pity and gave us the keys to his appartment for two days. Oh my goodness we landed on the jackpot here. We found ourselves in a four bedroom house overlooking the creek, Sky TV and full use of the Kayaks and other toys that came with the place. It felt like absolute luxuary after travelling for the past 6 months. It transpired that the storm was a bit of a false alarm and pretty much missed us but we weren't complaining.
After a blissful couple of days in Patonga we headed to the Northern beaches of Sydney to stay with Trevor's friend Gordie and his partner Fran. They were both the perfect hosts and put us up for two weeks. Their appartment was right on the beach so we spent much of our time playing in the sea. Gordie took us on some great bush walks around the area, a favourite being around Manly spit. We went up to see the beach that Home and Away is filmed which was a bit of a highlight for me. I had a sneaky look for the River boys but unfortunately they wern't filming that day. We did a beautiful walk up to a light house but a thick sea mist had come in so we couldn't see much of our surroundings. I also had a splinter in my foot so complained alot!!
We went into Sydey a couple of times and enjoyed the big attractions such as the harbour bridge and the Opera house. We had a beautiful steak dinner on the waterfront which was a real highlight. We were a bit shocked at the prices in Sydney which limited us somewhat in what we could do but luckily the Northern beaches had lots of exploring to do so we spent much of our time there.
Quite a few of Trev's friends that grew up with him in South Africa had moved to the same area so we had a great time catching up with them and meeting the wifes and girlfriends. One of the guys was celebrating his 30th Birhtday so we all went camping down the coast to a town called Bendalong. This place was a real gem and definately worth visiting again. The sea was so clean here and we had some great surf. We had the most amazing BBQ in the evening and generally had one of those magical nights with great company, surroundings and food. I saw my first wild Kangaroo and it's baby which made my day :)
After camping we carried on down the coast to Cann's River. The drive was beautiful but incredibly long and remote. We could go for hours with out seeing another car which could become very tedious after a while. Cann's River was a tiny little drive through town which we used as a resting point before continuing down the coast. We made a few stops along the way and finally ended our East Coast road trip in Melbourne. The roads here were nuts with trams sharing the road with the cars. We had no idea what the rules of the road were so we just stuck to the car in front and hoped for the best. Luckily us and the car got there in one piece.
We stayed with a couple of my friends just out of St Kilda who kindly put us up for a week. They had a fab little appartment close to the city centre that had a pool and gym which we made good use of. The city was in walking distance so we managed to do some exploring and see all the boutique cake shops and coffee houses that Melbourne is famous for. Tim and Kate showed us some of the local treasures which we would have had no idea about without them. The city is built around a bay which is fairly protected from waves so it is constantly full of people making use of the space by sailing and kite surfing. We took a trip down the coast to Bell's beach which is apparently a notorious surfing spot (I had never heard of it) which was quite a contrast to the calmness of the bay. There was no way I was going in here. I don't think I would have come out alive. We safely stuck to fish and chips whilst watching others brave the waters.
Our time in Australia had finally come to an end. It's been so good to catch up with friends and meet Trevor's friends. They have all been incredibly kind to us and the best hosts. We felt like we did so much in the past 6 weeks but we have only touched on the surface. The country is so vast and diverse that I don't think you could ever see everything. We loved the way that every state had something new to offer. It was almost like entering a seperate country each time you go over the border with it's own rules and eticat. We will definately be back to explore some more in the future.
I probably won't write on here again before Christmas so I'll wish you all a very Merry Christmas. It doesn't feel very Christmasy out this way so please have a mince pie and mulled wine for me.
Lots of love to everyone x x x x x