Australia Just Trippin' Part 2 - 01.01.11 - 26.01.11
Lucky for us we weren't starting the New Year with a hangover for a change. However, poor Gav had such a terrible headache and the heat was intense with no shade, at one point we found him sleeping in between the 2 tents to try and find somewhere cool. I did suggest the TV room which appeared to be a much better idea. We lounged around all day as you do on New Year's Day and had a BBQ in the evening. There was no room at the table so we had to move and share with a group of people who were discussing their New Year. We got talking and that turned to drinking. They were thinking of leaving early as they live in Mission Beach which is only 2 hours south of Cairns and they had to drive all over the place in order to avoid the floods. As a result they were drinking themselves dry so it was Bundaberg, port, wine that really tasted like Ribena, and beers for us. Well we had to help out, it was the least we could do! They had 2 beautiful children who we met the next day and we played on their Powerwings with them. These are like the new scooter and I nearly fell off more than once while being egged on by 4 year old Maddy. They invited us to stay with them if we were up by them and I think we just might!
I was pleased to be moving out of the campsite and heading to a hostel in town which is where we would be staying with Becca and Andy, Adam's cousin and her fella from back home. They had changed their initial plans of going to the States to come and travel the east coast of Australia with us instead. The hostel was one of the nicest we've stayed in and they hiked up the prices due to the 'Holidays' but I thought it best to break them in gently. Adam went to meet them at the airport and no sooner had they walked in the door but we headed straight back out. We went to the Opera Bar so they could see the sights lit up at night and then to another bar which was the official barmy army bar. Here the guys found out that if they showed up at the SCG the next day, they would probably get tickets for as cheap as $50. So they did while Becca and I got acquainted with the shops. I'm not sure the cricket itself was that riveting (is it ever) but they came back looking happy with silly hats and big smiles.
We did all the tourist things again but we also took a day trip to Manly beach which Adam and I hadn't already done. The boat ride was lovely giving us some great views and although Manly was very touristy, the weather was lovely and we sunbathed while the boys surfed. One evening we went to Luna Park which is just like an expensive but permanent playground, we didn't go on any of the rides but I won a multi-coloured whale and ate candy floss and cupcakes till I felt sick so I enjoyed myself.
Our first stop was at Byron Bay, and it was seriously raining when we arrived after our long overnight train and bus combo. We had already been told that the train which was due to get us to Cairns was cancelled from Gladstone onwards and that was about ¼ of the distance we needed to travel. We arrived very early in Byron to a guy telling us they were expecting a lot of rain over the next couple of days and that they were on flood alert. That cheered us up. However, our hostel was nice and clean and we had direct access to the beach, not that we needed it! The rain cleared up and we wandered around the town. It was bigger than I thought as I was expecting a sleepy town with beach front shops - nothing like. The beach was beautiful and the boys enjoyed a swim. We also had a surfing lesson which was awesome. I thought it was going to be really difficult and that it would hurt loads when falling off like it did when learning to snowboard but, whilst getting sand and salt water everywhere wasn't amazing, it wasn't nearly as bad as I'd anticipated. The actual getting up onto the board to ride the wave also wasn't that difficult. It was all the preparation that went into getting into the right position to go for it that really took it out of you. Adam was of course a natural and the rest of us bumbled along. I managed to catch a few really good waves so I was happy.
We also spent a day in Nimbin, the ultimate hippy town where being offered green, mushrooms and magic cookies while walking down the street is very common and bizarrely completely ignored by the NSW police. The effect of this has been unfortunate, the town appeared as you would expect for a place where all the residents have done nothing but sit around getting stoned for the past 25 years! We visited a hippy who had John Lennon style glasses, walked around barefoot and sat smoking pot from a pipe while talking to us about turtles. It was interesting to say the least.
This is where the dramas started to unfold. Not on our list of places to be worried about was Brisbane but Brisbane was hit badly with the effect of the major flooding in Tawoomba and the peak of the river was set for the morning of the day we were due to be arriving. Our bus was still running but they could not guarantee how far into the city they could get us. The CBD was flooded, a lot of the city was without power and really did not seem like an enticing place to be so the plans had to change.
In our panic to alter the plans I foolishly delegated the responsibility of accommodation choice to the boys while Becca and I went and changed the travel tickets. Their choice hadn't seemed so bad at the time but the hostel hadn't had any room in the dorms so we were being "treated" to our own rooms. For $80 for a double we were expecting serious luxury. The hostel was quite a way out of the centre but from all the bad things we had heard about Surfer's this was not a bad thing. However, the hostel was minging! There were hairs on the sheets, the fan was caked in mould, the windows neither opened nor shut properly, the shared kitchen was filthy and we had been told it was en suite with TV and DVD but we had to share this with about 10 other people. I went to complain and they moved us but the second room was just as bad and the fan didn't work. It was gone 11pm by this point so I just gave in. The next morning I tried to speak to the manager but was told he would be back later so we went out for the day. Surfer's was pretty cool after you got over the very brash American style feel to the place. It was all bright lights, loud music, meter maids in gold lame bikinis and skyscraper sized hotels all along the beach front. The beach itself was pretty awesome and went on for as far as you could see so we spent our time chilling on the sand. The thought of heading back to our hostel was not exactly enticing and when we arrived we decided we really couldn't stay there any longer but the manager was not around and refused to come and see us. Becca got him on the phone and complained and talked until he agreed to give us some of our money back and we went back into town and stayed in a really cool apartment right in the centre. We pretty much just sunbathed and body boarded the whole time we stayed in Surfer's and it seemed the coach to Brisbane was back on!
Because the river broke its banks and they had even evacuated parts of the city, we decided it would be wise to arrive, sleep and leave. Pretty much all the tourist attractions were closed due to flood damage but the boys found a pub that was still open!
We took a train and bus combo to Noosa Heads. Noosa sits on the edge of a national park with beautiful beaches and lovely restaurants and shopping. We were staying just out of town in a mini holiday village, this really was luxury. We had a pool, tennis courts, and our own mini house. We made some lovely food and Becca and I even baked chocolate cakes. Adam and Andy hired a surf board and did an afternoon surfing, I don't know why I hadn't thought of this before because it completely wore them out. When they arrived back they could hardly speak, it was amazing!
From Noosa we took a day trip to the Australia Zoo, previously the Steve Irwin zoo but he's still very much alive there. His huge picture still stands on a bill board at the entrance to the park and the state has even renamed a stretch of the highway after him, Steve Irwin Way. The day we went to the zoo it was insanely hot. We hand fed elephants but were dripping with sweat and then sat in the Crocosseum to see the famous show. We sat in the shade but by the time the show had started the sun was on us and burning. It appeared as well that we had been very lucky as we were there when Bindi Irwin was off school on her summer holidays so we got to sit through SEVEN songs with Bindi dancing and singing about jungle animals, it was so, so bad. One of the highlights was when Robert, the 8 year old son came out and was explaining to his mum, Terri Irwin, that he had fed the alligators which he was clearly not supposed to do and was trying to get out of trouble. In doing so he explained that it was ok as they were American alligators and not crocodiles as Americans in general are much easier to feed as they are so fat. It was classic! The croc show was pretty good but we'd almost had enough of all the antics by then so it did ruin it a bit. We spent the rest of the day boiling as we wandered around the zoo and saw the wombats and dingoes on leads, the koalas and even got to hold one which was so amazing but we were well ready for the AC on the bus when it was time to leave.
Airlie Beach and the Whitsundays
The whole time we had been in Noosa the floods in Queensland were only just starting to recede. There had been awful flood damage in Bundaberg and Rockhampton and parts of the train line had been damaged. Up until now no trains had been getting past a few stops north of Noosa. This had been the case for nearly a month. However, as luck would have it we were able to take the first train through these areas and get to our next destination, Airlie Beach.
I have discovered since being in Australia that you cannot swim in the sea north of Noosa in the summer months because the box jellyfish migrate up the east coast and can kill you with their sting. This was pretty sad news but at Airlie Beach they have an amazing lagoon with a fake beach and loads of grassy areas with palms for you to rest your hot head under. When we arrived we headed here almost straight away as it was so muggy and hot even though it started raining shortly after. We jumped straight in expecting to get nice and cool but the water was so warm it was like a bath, not quite the effect I was looking for. Airlie was a real backpackers place, loads of hostels, cheap bars and restaurant and yes, lots of travellers. There wasn't really much to do in Airlie but the reason for most people to go there is the fact it is the gateway to the Whitsundays and the Great Barrier Reef. We were short on time as the floods had meant we were behind schedule, not that Adam and I have a schedule but Becca and Andy had a flight to catch, so we decided to take a day trip.
The day trip we went on was on a super cool boat that was able to take us to the places which it would have taken us 3 days on a boat cruise to get to see so I was pretty excited. I don't think the reality of that information sunk in until we were ripping across the massive waves at an unbelievable speed getting thrown around and absolutely soaked. Everyone laughed at me when I took my dress off and sat in my bikini but they weren't laughing so much once the boat set off. Wooohahahaha!!!!! The Whitsundays islands were beautiful and they looked very similar to the islands in Fiji. We took a stop to do a short bush walk up to the top of a lookout over the Hill Inlet. We didn't get the most amazing view because they were experiencing king tides but it still looked pretty beautiful to me. We then headed for lunch prepared but the guys and ate on Whitehaven beach, voted as one of the top 10 beaches in the world. It was stunning and we fed a goanna our leftovers, he ate a chicken drumstick whole, pretty cool. It's a lizard before you ask. We then headed off to 2 different snorkel spots, the snorkelling was nice but not quite up to Fiji's standards. The ride back was very bumpy in the boat and I sat at the front which made it worse but we had such an amazing trip and the guides were awesome.
After another lengthy train journey we arrived in Cairns in our cheapest hostel yet at $13 for the first night and then $17 after that which included a meal voucher, I was very impressed. Cairns also had a lagoon, it was lovelier than the Airlie lagoon as it had an infinity pool and it was so cool because it was much bigger. Becca and Andy needed to get their pressies and souvenirs as they had been very good at not collecting lots of stuff to carry up until then. Becca and I went to buy UGG boots and bags, in fact pretty much everything UGG. We also went into an aboriginal shop where the owner had all 4 of us trying to play didgeridoo, it was one of those impromptu things and it was so cool I won't be forgetting it for a while. On their last night Becca and Andy took Adam and I out for a wonderful meal in a very posh restaurant that was authentic Australian tucker. There was crocodile, kangaroo, wallaby, emu on the menu and the dessert was called Chocolate slut, you won't be surprised to know what I had. It was such a lovely end to their stay.
The weather had cooled down since we had been in Noosa but the day Becca and Andy left it was so hot it was almost unbearable. They left mid morning on Australia Day and it was a sad farewell. We had such an amazing time travelling with them but it was time for us to carry on with our journey and for them to continue with theirs.