Australian East Coast
....take a deep breath!
It was now time to hit the road and start the next leg of our adventure, travelling north along the east coast of Australia from Sydney to Cairns. We rented three campervans which were to be our homes for the next four weeks. These weren't your standard every day campervans though, they were more like converted old panel vans with funky spray paint designs on the exterior body work, which I assume is to make them a little more attractive, and they go by the name of 'Wicked Campers'!
So we picked up our campervans, myself and Ginge's van was named Bart Too, Carl and Moulder had Garfield and H and Julie had The Mystery Machine. We made a quick stop back at our beloved apartment to pick up our luggage and grab a few refreshments, before Mal and Kev wished us luck on our journey and waved us off!
I was driving the lead van with Ginge navigating and the others following in convoy, he managed to correctly direct our way across the Sydney Harbour Bridge but then his navigational skills seem to come to an abrupt end which nevertheless resulted with us being in the wrong lane and travelling in the wrong direction! Not the best start, we had only been out the city a couple of minutes, but he managed to redeem himself and we where now on our way.
Three 'wicked' vans travelling in convoy along the Bruce Highway, yes, that is really what the motorway is called, can turn a few heads (you'll probably know what I mean now having lost interest in the journal and gone straight to the photo's) so after a few waves and many blasts on the horn we made a pit stop at Palm Beach. All but Ginge had seen this place before so it was mostly for his benefit but we all enjoyed soaking up the sun for an hour or so before setting off again. We drove until night fall and stayed in a small town called Stockton, not a lot happening here but we still managed to stick to our customary tradition and find a pub where we could grab a few drinks to make our first nights stay in the campervans a little more bearable! The next morning we were up bright and early as we decided to do a days driving in order for us to get to our first stop, Byron Bay.
We managed to find a campsite and set up camp less than a minutes walk from the beach, so for the sun worshippers, H and Julie, it was ideal! Towards the end of our stay in Sydney the weather had deteriorated somewhat so waking up to sunshine everyday was welcoming. Byron Bay is a small surf town which is very popular with backpackers so the atmosphere day and night was good. Our days here where mostly spent on the beach and our nights....yes you guessed it, drinking or should I say DRUNK! We're honestly not that bad, we found a popular bar called Cheeky Monkeys where we bumped into a few friendly faces from our time in Sydney but we also spent a couple of quiet nights on the campsite.
On our last night in Byron we decided on taking a trip up to the lighthouse to see the sunset. It was only 5 minutes drive away so we all climbed into the one van and set off. We took Garfield (Carl and Moulders van) and it became apparent that the sliding door on the van didn't shut properly!? With the door having slid open a few times on the way, we checked to see if anything had fallen out whilst on the journey. Moulder realised that he had lost his small rucksack which contained his passport and flight tickets, amongst a few other valuable items. So seeing the sunset over Cape Byron was now scrapped and the search for moulders bag was our priority. After an hour of looking, most of the time in the dark, we still hadn't found it. I must say, looking back, Moulder got himself into a right 'flap', we all reassured him everything would be alright and went back to the campsite.
The next morning, Moulder reported the incident to the police and realised it wasn't the end of the world! We then got back on the road to make our way to our next stop, Surfers Paradise.
On our way to Surfers Paradise, we decided to take a slight detour and visit a place called Nimbin. Nimbin is small hippy village where practically all the locals are stoned! For all you old timers out there 'stoned' means under the influence of Marijuana!? None of us practice this exercise but we did purchase a cookie each, which, once consumed are meant to result in the same effect! We arrived at our campsite in Surfers Paradise, got checked in and set up, and prepared ourselves for our cookies. However, it was an anti-climax as they didn't do anything to any of us. Apart from Ginge, now as we all know if it its going to happen, it going to happen to Ginge....or so he says! No, honestly, they didn't effect any of us so we either had a bad batch or they where just a waste of money!
Surfers Paradise is situated on the Australian Gold Coast and consists of a lengthy beach with high rise apartment blocks on the beachfront and all the bright lights that wouldn't look out of place in a Club18-30 holiday resort. A little too 'Chavvy' for our liking but we still had a good time and were able to catch up with some other friends. Much to the delight of Carl and Ginge, as Sara, Katie and their gang were based here for a few weeks working.
The morning we continued our trip north we had a quick look at the 6 Star Versace Hotel, which is somewhat of a celebrity retreat. We didn't see any celeb's, just bus load of Japanese/Chinese tourists.
We arrived in Brisbane on 25th April, which wasn't the best thing we've ever done as it was Anzac Day (Bank Holiday) and nowhere was open. We were planning on booking various flights/tours we required but this had to wait till the next day so we just watched the Anzac Day Parade around the streets of Brisbane. Brisbane is just another city, and we had spent long enough in Sydney to even contemplate finding out about Brisbane and its delights so we booked our required flights etc. and we where on our way.
About an hour drive north of Brisbane is Australia Zoo, this is the zoo that the late Steve Irwin owns so we stayed in a nearby town called Caloundra and visited the zoo the next day. The day at the zoo was obviously spent seeing all types of native animals from Tasmanian devils to wombats. We were also able to watch a couple of shows with crocodiles and tigers (amongst other animals). Unfortunately we wasn't lucky enough to see Teri or Bindi Irwin as they where not at the park that day but there is a section of the park which is now a memorial for Steve and you could see and read all the messages of condolence in memory of him.
Our next port of call was Noosa, a quiet little town where we could chill out and relax for a couple of days. We had been in contact with David and Michelle since leaving Sydney and as they were missing us so much, it was planned that they would meet us here so they could join us on our tour. After having lunch and sauntering around Noosa one afternoon, we were greeted by the sight of David and Michelle set up next to us on our campsite in yet another 'wicked' campervan. So after a quiet couple of days here to recharge our batteries, we prepared for our action packed final couple of weeks in Australia and set off in our now larger 'wicked' convoy!
Hervey Bay & Fraser Island
We arrived in Hervey Bay just in time for our introductory meeting for our Fraser Island 4x4 adventure. It was more of a meet and greet session and we were split into groups for the trip. The 8 of us and Kat, Katie and Johan where allocated a 4x4 vehicle, tents, camping equipment and the bare necessities for the next 3 days on Fraser Island. Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world, little bit of trivia for you, with various sights and places to see and visit.
The next morning we were up bright and early, a little too early if you ask me, about 6:00am to collect our vehicle etc. and complete the necessary checklists. So the 11 of us clambered into the 4x4 and set off for the ferry port to take us to Fraser Island. We first visited Lake McKenzie, a beautiful freshwater lake which has a picture postcard setting before driving onto the beach to find a place to pitch our tents. There were various do's and don'ts, so as you can imagine, we did all the don'ts and none of the do's (hope that makes sense?).
The first night we set up camp next to the beach and got the BBQ going, we used the 4x4's headlights for visibility purposes and the stereo for entertainment. We tucked into the burgers and alcohol we brought for the trip and enjoyed the evening. The next morning we were up early, packed everything away and cleared the destruction from the previous night and we were ready to be on our way. One problem though....flat battery So we spent the morning trying to flag down people driving a long the beach to aid us with jump leads. Eventually we managed to get hold of a mechanic and he came out to us and sorted us out. Not the happiest man we've ever met, moody old mechanic, the only one on this sparsely populated island apparently so the sight of 11 backpackers thinking it was a 'craic' was his worst nightmare.
We eventually got underway, driving along the 75 mile beach, stopping at the Maheno Ship Wreck for a few photos and up to Indian Heads to see if we could spot any whales or sharks. We didn't managed to see anything but whale watching season had only just started to we wasn't expecting anything spectacular! We then decided to go a little further north to the Champagne Pools, now we are not meant to drive any further than Indian Heads but it looked too far to walk so of course we thought we would chance it. 10 minutes later we were digging the 4x4 out of the sand using our bare hands, to the amusement of onlookers who actually stuck by the rules! So we swallowed our pride and made the walk to Champagne Pools, it wasn't even that far! They are small rock pools that you can wallow around in and when the waves come crashing over you it results in 'bubbles in your pants'! hence Champagne Pools.? Don't get too excited, it's nothing like that, hardly worth the walk.
Again, the second night we set up camp on the beach but with no lights and no music as we didn't want to risk it. We cooked our dinner and then used the rest of the gas in the gas bottles for heat and light. Waste of gas you may think but desperate time's calls for desperate measures!
On our third and final day, we were still a little behind schedule and we had to catch the ferry back to the mainland about 2:30pm so we got away early as we wanted to drive to Lake Wabby. Another freshwater lake but it is being engulfed by a giant sand dune and in about 15 years time the lake will no longer exist so we had to say we'd seen it. We drove along the bumpy inroads of the Island for a bout 3 hours and then we had a 1Km walk to the lake, was worth it in the end though.
We made it back to the ferry on time, got back to the HQ in Hervey Bay and cleaned all our gear, before we could relax in the hostel for a night before setting off again the next morning.
Airlie Beach & Whitsunday Islands
After a one night stop in Mackay we arrived in Airlie Beach. This is the gateway to the Whitsunday Islands on the Great Barrier Reef. We had booked ourselves on a 2 day/2 night sailing trip around the islands where we could snorkel the reef and stay on South Mole Island of a night. There was about 60 of us on our boat and it was a good crowd, many laughs where had! We spent little time on Whitehaven Beach and snorkelling and most of our time on the boat drinking and soaking up the sun. Of a night on the island, there where various activities you could do, so we had a round of golf, 9 hole pitch and putt, and as you can expect we 'ripped' up the course! Before gathering in the bar to start the drinking games!
After the sailing trip we stayed in Airlie Beach for a couple more nights, somewhat of a backpacker party town so we couldn't miss out on the opportunity. David got himself thrown out of one of the bars for being sick and then the next day we completed a centurion (100 shots of lager in 100 minutes) quite an achievement but nothing you would shout from the rooftops. It did get rather messy, typical 'Brits on the Piss'!
We parked our vans in Townsville and boarded the ferry to take us to Magnetic Island. It was named Magnetic Island by Captain James Cook because when he sailed past, his compass went a bit haywire. See, this journal is not just highly invigorating it is also educational....everyday's a school day! Anyway, there's not much to shout about Magnetic Island, is not very big, you can drive across it in about 30 minutes. We hired a couple of jeeps and toured around and visited some nice beaches....I know how you lot love to hear how amazing the beaches are. Not the best place but good to see.
We arrived in Mission Beach with our thoughts focused on one thing....a skydive! So after many phone calls it was finalised that we would jump out a perfectly good plane at 14000ft above ground level, clipped to a skydive instructor with a parachute strapped to his back! Surely not the best idea we've ever had?.
As we had a day to occupy before the skydive, we needed something to take our mind off it, so we decided to gently ease ourselves into the extreme sports mindset and complete a days white water rafting on the Tully River. We spent about 5 hours tackling grades 3&4 rapids and managed not to capsize, we did come close a couple of times though. We also managed to get ourselves perched on top of a rock almost completely out of the water, we looked like right prized prats! Ginge didn't do the rafting but spent the day causing havoc on a jetski on Dunk Island with Johan who we'd met in Hervey Bay.
So the much anticipated skydive was upon us and we awoke to Ginge's determination to cancel his jump. I think all hell broke lose inside his head with thoughts from heart attacks to the loss of teeth entering his mind. So after reassurances from us all, that these were minor possibilities, we were ready. We arrived at the jump site, signed the infamous disclaimer forms and the first group where off to the airfield to board the plane. Ginge, David, Michelle and Carl jumped first and so we awaited their arrival from the sky, on the beach. When they finally arrived with massive grins on their faces and lost for words, myself, Moulder, H and Julie couldn't wait to get up there. It was an amazing experience, the photos don't do it justice, but for all you action junkies out there, it is highly recommended!
To everyone's relief we all lived to tell the tale!
Well our time in Australia was now coming to an end and we had to return our campervans to the rightful owners in Cairns. We had a brilliant laugh in the vans over the past month but all good things come to an end! So we dropped off the vans and checked into a hostel for a couple of nights. Cairns is a really nice city, nothing like Sydney or Brisbane (not saying these were bad city's) and we spent most of the time next to our hostel pool reminiscing about our east coast adventures. It was time again to say goodbye to David and Michelle, they had their van for a couple more weeks and they were going to make their way back to Brisbane. So as they set off we got a taxi to the airport, as we had to fly down to Brisbane to get our flight to Fiji. Goodbye Australia!?
That was a quick insight of our east coast travels and I hope you enjoyed my rendition of events. I'm sure you were all gripped with excitement to read what happened next and can't wait for our next journal entry....probably not?! Off to Fiji now, it's a hard life but someone's got to do it!
Hope all is well back in blighty?
All the best,
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