A while since the last update as we've been very busy and without too much internet time to do the blog. So two weekends ago we headed to Noosa with Craig and Gosia. Having successfully dropped Benjy to the pet motel and picked Craig up after work we were onto the motorway and straight into heavy traffic which added a considerable time to the journey! But Krispy Kreme's all round helped the mood and eventually we were checked into the Costa Nova apartments on Sunshine Beach. Awesome apartment right on the beach with loads of space, nice kitchen, living room etc. It was late (and everywhere in Oz tries to shut as early as it possibly can!) but we managed to squeeze in to Mooshka a retro café that was still open….just. We all had pizzas (including Hel = gluten free base and feta cheese) before heading to bed. The next day we headed into Noosa and wandered around the shops, having lunch at the Noosa Surf Club overlooking the beach. Rain threatened on and off so the rest of the day was fairly quiet. A quick pre-dinner drink was enjoyed at our own Sunshine Beach Surf Club before a great dinner of garlic prawns and scallops fresh from the local seafood market.
We were up very early on the Saturday so we could drive up Coloolaba beach to Rainbow Beach. The 4x4 car proved essential as we hit a few bumps along the way, sending anything loose flying across the car! The drive was very cool right alongside the sea and we got to Rainbow Beach sooner than expected and, having taken some photos, tucked into some pancakes for brunch. We took the scenic drive back and then had the afternoon to relax by the pool and walk along the beach. Dinner was very good again, enjoying red wine and garlic steaks bought in Noosa. Another early start greeted us on the Sunday to head to the famous Fraser Island. Driving along 75 Mile Beach was awesome and considerably less bumpy than the previous day! A quick coffee/juice at Eurong provided some energy for the off-road driving to come. Fraser is a sand island so once off the beach the tracks can get pretty interesting as we negotiated over large bumps, through soft sand, past fallen trees and through narrow passages. Luckily Craig had invested in some traction boards just in case….they were to end up very handy, bailing us out of soft sand on 4 occasions! We stopped at the inner lakes, the most impressive of which was Lake McKenzie where we had a quick swim and then a picnic lunch despite heavy interest from horse flies and the occasional passing dingo. Again Craig ably tackled the tricky roads and we got to Kingfisher Bay the main "port" on Fraser a bit earlier than expected so managed to board an earlier ferry over to Hervey Bay ahead of the 3 hour journey home. Just as we came off the ferry we spotted the familiar fins of some sharks circling in the water which was cool.
After two early starts over the weekend we enjoyed sleeping in on the Monday. Having been really good over the weekend again the weather wasn't great unfortunately. We headed back into Noosa for lunch at the surf club again and a walk around the shops. That evening we headed out for a final dinner in Sunshine Beach, all enjoying the steak special. Another early start was necessary on the Tuesday so that Craig could get into work. From there we picked up Benjy and did a quick shop then spent most of the day doing very little before having a roast dinner! Our time in Brisbane definitely filled us up with good food that differed to the normal noodles, rice cakes etc!
Having organised ourselves and been dropped to the bus station we headed to Byron Bay on the Wednesday. Our hostel was slightly out of the main town and right on the beach which was really good….could have been better if the sun took a more permanent place instead of appearing every now and then between cloud and bouts of rain. The hostel had a good TV room with DVDs so after dinner we watched some Family Guy and Friends for a bit. The next day we got the free shuttle to town to explore a bit. Byron is really cool with a strong hippy vibe - lots of bare feet and healing crystals interspersed with the usual Billabong, Quicksilver and Hurley shops. Similar to our experience with the Sky Tree in Japan, size and perspective tricked us into thinking the light house wasn't too far. So we decided to walk there which was good through a rainforest walk climbing up the hill. Definitely further than we'd anticipated however. After a quick rest on a bench and a guy trying to tempt us to Hang Glide off the top of the cliff face we were sat at we then ascended the final steep bit of road to get to the light house. Whilst it wasn't raining, storm clouds created a dramatic effect over the water just off shore with rain visible. Hopefully it would hold off. We explored the light keepers house and had a quick drink and took some photos, readying ourselves mentally for the walk down….when the heavens opened. We sat under cover for a while hoping it would pass. It eased eventually and we decided to make a break for it back down the hill to town. We took the road for a more direct route and the rain continued before getting very heavy again. Already soaked we had little option but to carry on and then hide for a bit under a bus stop. Soon enough we were back in town and enjoying lunch at a hostel with cheap food but really good portions. We walked back through town and to the hostel for a fairly quiet night in front of the TV again. We checked out on the Friday but left our bags and headed to town to spend a while walking around and after lunch at the same hostel as the previous day we then chilled on the beach for a while in some welcome sun. Managed to use the facilities etc back at the hostel again before grabbing our bags and jumping on the mini bus again to town to waste some time before the Greyhound. Managing to resist the smells of various restaurants surrounding us we tucked into our race cakes with Honey and even treated ourselves to an apple each!
The journey was fairly uneventful overnight. Having left Byron at 9pm we got into Sydney at 1030am on the Saturday and headed to WakeUp hostel where we had booked for one night before moving to Base to utilise our Base Cards we'd paid for in the UK. The hostel was good and really clean despite being huge. In traditional Japan style we headed straight out to walk and see as much as we could. First through China Town and then to Darling Harbour which is a pretty amazing bay with exhibition centre, IMAX, shopping mall and numerous restaurants. We then walked up to Circular Quay and Sydney Harbour to see the Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House…both as impressive, if not more so, than expected. With the sun out we had a drink each at a bar by the Opera House before the walk back to the hostel via the Botanical Gardens and through Hyde Park. Again we saw numerous newlyweds having their photos taken with impressive landscapes in the background or stood in acacia trees etc. We passed the Cathedral and Government House before heading back to the main streets and via Woolworths to pick up some food for dinner back at the hostel. Having walked all day we set about dinner immediately and met our roommates (4 bed room). We'd noticed that Darling Harbour had free fireworks every Saturday leading up to Christmas and they were keen to come along too so after a quick drink in the bar downstairs we walked over to Darling Harbour for the 9pm fireworks which were really good. Plenty of other people were around and it was a really good buzz. Once the sun goes down you can kind of start to feel a bit Christmassy…just without big jackets and scarves etc! We then watched a street performer for 30mins do his show to a big crowd. He was a bit like Mr G from Summer Heights High which was amusing.
We checked out on the Sunday and headed over to Base Hostel where we luckily again managed to get ourselves into a 4 bed dorm (avoiding a 10 bed one). The sun was again shining so we headed up towards the Sydney Observatory to have a look round and get good views of the bridge. From here we took the short walk to an area called The Rocks which is old Sydney with cobbled streets etc. There was a Sunday market on so we had a stroll around the stalls and had some lunch, both trying Turkish Pide's which are a bit like calzone/Stromboli. The clouds started to move in slowly again as we headed back to the hostel to quickly grab an umbrella, again getting soaked in the process. We just about had time to get down to Darling Harbour to board a boat for our tour around the bay/harbour. A quick freshen up after the boat before we headed back out again and into Darling Harbour for dinner where we settled on a restaurant right on the water that had a good meal deal on. The food was awesome (calamari start; barramundi for Edd and duck for Hel; pancakes for desert) and we tried to walk it off by looking through the shops before they closed at 9.
More walking on Monday but first we looked to get Hel a rain jacket as she'd always planned to buy one whilst we were away. After visiting loads of outdoorsy shops (fortunately all next to each other on same road as our hostel!) Hel settled on a heavily discounted North Face jacket - a good investment to take home! Due to the rain we headed to the Powerhouse museum in Darling Harbour before having lunch in the food court of Haymarket mall in China Town - finally a really good price for food as they mounted our plates with chinese food, enough for Hel to get a box to take away. We then walked up to the Queen Victoria Building an old impressive block that is now an upmarket mall and from there we moved across to the close by Westfield to investigate going up the Sydney Tower Eye that evening for which we had already bought tickets. Having popped back to the hostel for some food we were back to the Tower that evening. First up was a really cool 4D film about Sydney and then we headed to the top, the second tallest building in the southern hemisphere. A great view over the city and while it was too cloudy for a sunset as such we at least got to see it in daylight and in the dark! We headed down and decided to put the effort in to walk even more, heading up towards the Rocks for the pedestrian entrance to walk along the Harbour Bridge for a great view back toward the sparkling city lights. An hour long walk back to the hostel and straight to bed!
On Tuesday we got the ferry from Circular Quay to Manly, a small Sydney suburb across the water and highly recommended day trip to enjoy fish and chips by the beach. This was exactly what we did and enjoyed superb Blue Eyed Cod with chips (with vinegar and our new favourite Chicken Salt!). Having chilled at the beach for a while we headed back to the hostel briefly and then went to the cinema to see In Time - making the most of the cheap Tuesday tickets. Once the film finished we headed to an award winning Irish pub called Scruffy Murphy's where Hel enjoyed some $2.50 glasses of "champagne" while I watched NFL and English football highlights! After a chilled start to Wednesday and checking out we got the Greyhound to Canberra and were picked up by Katie Jayne who we'd met on our tour in Ayer's Rock. Incredibly kindly she'd offered to put us up for the night and had even got us in dinner that we could cook ourselves (she had a dinner with uni friends planned!). So we chilled watching TV and she wasn't too late back and soon enough two of her housemates were back from work and we chatted for a bit. Katie Jayne and Emma took us out into Canberra today and drove us round all the sights - starting with the Australian Institute of Sport where we did a tour which was very cool, all the high performance facilities etc. Then to the ANZAC memorial before a lunch in town then Parliament House and up the Telstra Tower for a view over the whole of Canberra and ACT. It's so small for a capital just very spread out. Great short stay here and leave late tonight to Melbourne.