From the compliments on his humour from the last blog update, Luke now thinks he will be the next top feature columnist for The Times when we get home. Along with his gloating I also feel I have a lot to live up to but i will try my best.
After a twelve hour bus ride through the night from Melbourne we arrived in Sydney. Surprisingly we both felt pretty ok so after a quick shower we decided against a nap and headed straight out to see the sights of the city. We strolled down Liverpool Street through the very pleasant Hyde Park in the direction of the Opera House. The harbour itself was really cool. Buzzing with lots of people, restaurants and the sound of didgeridoos we were both really impressed. The Opera House was stunning, unfortunately we didn't get to see a show as time ran out. I was really disappointed, Luke not so much (he pretended he wanted to go but i knew he didn't really). The Harbour Bridge was equally amazing, the climb up it was considered but after finding out the price we decided views from ground level would suffice! The rest of the day was spent exploring a large part of the city.
The following day we took advantage of the free tourist shuttle bus and visited the Botanical Gardens which gave beautiful views of the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge together. We filled the remainder of the day strolling around the city in the sunshine. That evening we were pleased to be offered vouchers from our hostel for a buffet dinner at a good looking restaurant a few blocks down the road. Luke being Luke was determined to pile his plate up as high as possible (you could only visit the buffet once) as he wanted to make sure the restaurant would make a loss from his custom. After ploughing through his mountain of roast beef, vegetables, potato salad, regular salad, bread rolls, pasta, roast potatoes and chicken he struggled to finish due to a pain in his chest. The next day a pharmacist diagnosed his problem as heart burn which he explained being down to eating too much, too quickly and at the wrong time of day. Luke qualified for all of these, I'm surprised he didn't get it sooner.
Our third day in Sydney was spent at Bondi. Arriving at the beach Luke was keen to get off the bus to take photos with his new camera (he also seems to believe he is the next big photographer on return to the UK), however i found myself in a bit of trouble. As i was stepping off the bus my bikini bottoms came completely undone falling to my knees, this obviously sent me into a bit of a tizz especially as i was wearing a dress. Standing in the middle of the high street holding on to my knickers for dear life (they were visibly hanging out of my dress) Luke was as unsympathetic as any male could have got. Once this episode was resolved we headed for the beach to find Mark and Suz. The rest of the day was spent soaking up the sun, watching surfer dudes ride the waves and eating ice-cream.
That evening Luke and I visited an area of the city called Kings Cross. Surprisingly comparable to London's Kings Cross. Lots of drunks, punks and homeless people filled the streets. After kindly borrowing MacDonald's free wifi we jumped on the train back to the centre of town.
Next day was Saturday, Luke and I packed our things, checked out of our hostel and caught a ferry to Manly. We were lucky to stay in Suz's cousins apartment here. Manly is a very pleasant Sydney suburb. The boys borrowed some surf boards from the flat and were keen to hit the beach. Motivation was high, waves were a good size but neither of them managed to stand up. A few hours passed and upon Mark realising he had painful friction burn from the board we decided to head down to the harbour to watch sunset with a beer and some wine. This was followed by a trip to the supermarket to buy dinner. Since being in Australia our diet has mainly consisted of pasta as it's cheap and easy, tonight we decided to treat ourselves. As there were four of us costs wouldn't be so high. We feasted on steak, vegetables, home made chips, wine and chocolate cake! This was followed by a full English breakfast the next morning. After eating like kings Luke and I headed back to the city as we had a bus to catch that evening to Byron Bay.
Another long journey through the night, arriving in Byron Bay at 6am we didn't feel so fresh. The annoying regulations of our hostel meant we weren't allowed to check in until 2pm so we walked into town to have a look around. Bryon is a really chilled out place. Known for the vast amount of hippies that reside here with their 'we can save the world' attitude. Lots of 'herbal' substances seemed to be floating around, almost like a little Amsterdam. With neither of us interested in this we felt just a few days here was enough. We filled our time with some walks and relaxing on the beach. It was Anzac Day whilst in Byron which is the equivalent to our Remembrance Day. The only difference being they get a public holiday, maybe something our new government should consider.
Leaving Byron on a high we headed to Surfer's Paradise, just a couple of hours on the bus meant we had the remainder of the day to see the town. We were told by many of our fellow traveller buddies that a only a day was needed here. Upon arrival we agreed with this advice. A very commercial, built up town gave it a Miami-try hard feel. The beach was pleasant enough although i don't think we spotted one surfer! We walked to the next couple of towns along the coast which were nicer than Surfers itself. Less built up and less tourists. Overall there wasn't really much to do here and Luke was pleased that our next destination was a city. More than one day on a beach and he gets agitated. Next stop - Brisbane.
Again, just a few hours up the coast on the trusty Greyhound we arrived in a very sunny Brisbane. Our first day was spent exploring the city by foot using Lonely Planets walking tour guide. We stumbled across the university which was really cool, although it did make us both realise how much we miss Reading! From the campus we continued through the city to Parliament House, the Court Rooms, the Town Hall and the Anzac Memorial. As we were sat on the grass by the memorial tucking in to our lunch we were approached by two journalists. Within ten minutes they had interviewed us both and taken our photos. An article about young adults and their parents would be printed the following week in our equivalent to the Metro.
Day two was spent at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary just a few kilometres from the city centre. A really enjoyable day cuddling Koalas, they feel just like teddy bears! We also hand fed some very tame kangaroos and wallabies.
The next day we left the mainland for North Stradbrooke Island. Sadly when we arrived it was raining, a bit rubbish considering the limit this put on things to do as we had planned some walks along the coast. Luckily it passed after a few hours so we headed out to begin the gorge walk a guy in our hostel had recommended. He won us over when he mentioned dolphins and whales could be spotted along the way. After completing the walk no dolphins or whales had been seen. Determined to see at least one we went back the next day to do the walk again. After almost completing the walk for a second time no sightings had been made so we decided to turn back, upon making this decision we spotted two dolphins. It was pretty awesome seeing them in the wild. Although Stradbrooke was very pretty and the beaches were pleasant there was very little to do. We decided that one night here was enough before heading back to Brisbane.
From Brisbane we followed the coast up to Noosa. We spent our first day here in slight panic realising time was of the essence and we hadn't booked the tours we had planned to Fraser Island and the Whitsundays (unorganised?). After hours spent choosing which boat we were going to sail in the Whitsundays and the type of tour we wanted to do on Fraser Island, along with various quotes, we settled for what turned out to be an amazingly cheap deal. By the time we left the travel agent it was dark and we had missed the last bus from the centre of town which meant we had to walk 45 minutes back to our hostel!
Our second day in Noosa was far more enjoyable. We visited Australia Zoo owned by the Irwin family. Expectations were high as the cost to enter the zoo was steep. We watched the Croc Show which was presented by the late Steve Irwin's wife and their two young children. Seeing a ten year old girl hand feed a crocodile was quite nerve racking. We also saw Tasmanian devils, kangaroos, wallabies, dingoes and koalas amongst other famous Aussie animals. The best part of the day was the tiger show - three men who had hand risen the tigers since they were small cubs - played with them using giant cat toys in a swimming pool. Crazy.
We arrived at Rainbow Beach on the 6th May ready for our self-guided trip to Fraser Island. The idea of a self-guided tour being groups of eight people are given a four wheel drive, food to last for three days and camping equipment. The group are then put on to a ferry and waved bye bye for two nights, three days. The population of the island is minimal so if anything went wrong or food ran out we would be in trouble! We were both slightly sceptical about the group we may have been given, worrying that we could end up in a car with six lads on tour, whose priority would be getting drunk rather than exploring the island. Luckily we met two really nice people on the Greyhound to Rainbow Beach who shared the same worries as us. Once we had reached our hostel the afternoon was spent in a safety briefing. After watching a video which provided information about the island, some do's and dont's and some tips, it also informed us what to do in the event of encountering a dingo (a dangerous wolf like dog, common on Fraser Island). Once the briefing was over we were put into our groups. It turned out the worrying was for nothing as we couldn't have asked for a better bunch. That evening some group bonding went on as we walked to Inskip Point where we saw a very pretty sunset over a massive sand dune.
Next morning we had a 6am start to prep for Fraser Island. Out of the eight of us me and Luke were the only ones who could drive! After packing the camping gear, food, water and ourselves in to the car we headed for the ferry terminal. Luke drove first and considering he has never driven a four wheel drive before he impressed everybody. Beach conditions are totally different and way more difficult than driving on normal road. The first place we visited on Fraser Island was Lake Mackenzie. I was told if there is a heaven and heaven had a lake, Lake Mackenzie would be it. It.was.beautiful. After taking many photographs of the stunning surroundings we lazed about for a while before we hopped back into the car to head to camp. This time i drove. It was a little nerve racking to begin with as the weight and size of the car was nothing i had experienced before, but after a while i got used to it. We stopped off at a small village on the way to use the toilets and fill up our water supply. By the time we arrived at camp it was getting dark which resulted in us pitching our tents with very little light. Once the tents were up the chef, aka Luke, began to cook up a storm of steak, potato salad and veg. After dinner the wine began to flow and the party began.
Day two commenced with a few headaches and a very grey sky. We didn't allow the drizzley weather dampen our spirits, after packing up camp we jumped into the car for Indian Head. We were told that turtles, whales and dolphins could be spotted here but due to the rubbish weather we didn't see anything. The rain continued to fall which hindered our plans for the rest of the day. At lunchtime we decided to head to where we'd we camping that night. Once the tents were up the boys headed down to the beach for a game of football and the girls took a stroll along the beach. Luke cooked another scrumptious meal that night before more goon (the Australian name given to very cheap wine) was consumed.
Our final day was greeted with bright sunshine. We began by visiting Eli Creek. From here we made our way to Lake Wabby. After parking the car on the beach we took a thirty minute stroll to the peaceful lake surrounded by sand dunes. Around midday we realised the we needed to be back at the ferry terminal for 1pm in time for our crossing. Cutting it very fine Luke raced along the beach at eighty kilometres an hour (the limit was sixty) in fifth gear despite us being strongly advised against using such a high gear. A journey which should have taken an hour was completed in less than thirty minutes. We made it to the ferry just in time!
Next day we said goodbye to our group and headed toTown 1770. We only had a 24 hours here, determined to make the most of it Luke kicked the day off with a surf lesson. He left me in charge as photographer, this didn't go so well. I fell asleep on the beach for the first twenty minutes of the lesson. When i woke up i realised that the instructor had taken the class quite a way out in the sea. Too far to see what or who i was taking photos of, so I decided that snapping anyone standing up on a surf board would have to do. It turned out i didn't get one photo of Luke. He wasn't too pleased. Before our bus that evening we went on a sunset tour with a local guide. It ended up being just the three of us. He took us to some spots around Town 1770 where we watched the sunset over the harbour.
From Town 1770 we arrived in Airlie Beach a day ahead of our trip to the Whitsundays. Apart from a 30 minute walk to the local supermarket and lazing around the lagoon not much happened on this day. The next day we boarded our boat - The British Defender - at lunchtime. With four crew members and twenty passengers our boat was quite small. The trip was an enjoyable one. We sailed to Whitehaven beach which was very impressive. The main island of the Whitsundays, called Whitsunday Island, is the biggest of them all, a little bigger than Barbados and with a population of zero making it totally unspoilt with bright white sand and crystal clear water. We sailed to a spot good for snorkeling, i was only in the water for ten minutes as i cut my foot open on some coral. However Luke saw some colourful coral and lots of fish. No sighting of Nemo though.
Our time in Australia has flown, with less than a week left we have a lot planned. The past two days have been spent on Magnetic island. Today we have travelled up to Cairns. Luke will be doing some scuba diving here, I'm going to stick with my snorkel. We plan to hire a car for a day or two and drive up to Cape Tribulation to see the rainforest. We leave for Christchurch on the 24th May. Once we have arrived and settled in NZ we will update you on our recent adventures.
I hope everybody is well in the homeleand.
Lots of love xxx