Arriving in Cairns, Australia, was definitely a shock to the system. First of all it was a lot colder than Asia, and secondly the taxi ride into town cost a tenner! I had planned to meet Dan who I met in Singapore and so headed straight to his hostel. I got straight into backpacker life by budgeting and getting some bread and peanut butter for breakfast. Once I was settled, we wandered the town which felt very American, everything was so big and there was so much space around everything. It felt strange to be among lots of Westerners again and it would take a while to get used to a change in lifestyle and the new chapter in my travels. We had decided to hire a car and drive up north to see Cape Tribulation but after walking in to get a 5 day quote on a campervan, we walked out with a receipt for 5 weeks of campervan hire all the way down the east coast to Sydney! We were well excited at the prospect of being able to drive where we wanted at our own leisure and everyone had said it was the best way to see the east coast. We spent that evening getting our free meal through our hostel and worrying about money as we had both just shelled out 750quid, a months worh of luxury living in Asia!
The next day after oversleeping and keeping the whole boat waiting, we were out on the great barrier reef! Unfortunately the weather wasn't exactly like you see on the post cards...wet, windy and very cold! It was a lot nicer in the water than out. We had paid to do a dive on the reef but it really didn't live up to my expectations. Maybe because I had just dived one of the best dive sites in Asia but there was hardly any life and it seemed that all the fish were above us. Some of the coral was amazing though and the giant clams were awesome. We had some time to snorkel as well which was much better than the dive because everything is only a few metres deep. There were some amazing colourful fish but most of it was pretty dull compared to Asia and it didn't help that there were no sunrays. The trip back to the harbour was pretty terrible as well with half the boat chucking up over the deck! I was pleased to be back on terre firma!
We got an early night in prepartion for our van the next morning! We were raring to go and picked up our van called Soke the next morning. It was great with graffiti all down the side (we narrowly avoided being given a pink one!) and we were off bumping and rattling down the road. It was a lot more difficult to drive than expected, mainly due to the lack of power steering but after stocking up on vital supplies (mainly 10p noodles and pasta sauce) it made it to our first stop, the seaside town of Port Douglas. The town was really nice with lots of great shops and eateries, all way above our budget so we resigned to the nearby barbecues and had a successful first dinner down by the windy beach. We parked up in the middle of nowhere at the side of a road and slept surprisingly well in the van, hoping that police wouldn't move us on!
The following morning we pushed on north up to Cape Tribulation, where the rainforest meets the ocean and the awesome untouched beaches. The drive up there was spectacular with huge mountains and rainforest at every turn, and Soke managed surprisingly well! The Australian beaches definitely lived up to their reputation and there were many long untouched stretches of beatiful sandy beaches with waves smashing against the boulders at either end. After a small 3 hour trek, we headed down to a swimming hole to have a wash in the icy water but stayed only a few minutes as images of crocs swimming in the waters came to mind. We were now heading down back south, stopping off at a few places to take tons of photos and walk through the jungles. That evening we heading inland into the mountains of the Atherton tablelands and parked up in a rest area with cold showers and toilets which was luxury to us! We met a group of Swedish people and sat round a camp fire drinking beer with them which was great fun and had another great nights sleep, maybe due to the alcohol content in our blood though.
We followed them down to Atherton the next day and the scenery was drastically changing into rolling hills and farmland, which we didn't expect to see in Australia! Our first stop was a sleepy town of Yungaburra where we tried to spot Platypus but to no avail. We had some lunch with the Swedes at Lake Eacham which was pretty spectacular, but we turned down a swim as the weather was pretty cold! Maybe we just need to get used to it after having 3 months of hot and humid weather in Asia. We spent the afternoon driving through awesome scenery and stopping at numerous waterfalls before heading back out to the coast and to the small town of Tully to stay the night. The town itself was quite strange, it was very old fashioned and people had a strange look about them. Maybe it was due to the raisin smell in the air as there was a sugar mill right outside the town pumping white smoke into the air. Unfortunately after wandering the town we got back to Soke who had trouble starting and failed on us. We had to call out the RAC who said we would have to go to a garage but it was friday evening and they wouldn't be open until monday! So we slept in our static van and were cursing our bad luck over dinner. 3 nights in and we were already broken down! Luckily they sorted it out the next morning by bringing us a new van, this one with Wile Coyote down the side and it was a newer and cleaner model. This one didn't have rust on the inside which was a nice addition. It was a tad smaller though but we were happy with the deal and headed on our journey south towards Townsville in the morning.
Has been a great start to Oz and looking forward to travelling the east coast in the Van with Dan! I wasn't looking forward to Australia after leaving Asia but I'm getting used to the change in culture and there's so much awesome stuff to see here that I'm very happy!
Love G x