Thought it was about time to update you all and confirm we are still alive! We are now tanning ourselves up on Australia's east coast. Even though it is Australia's winter time, the weather is much better than the English summer back home, or so I hear from friends and family! Sorry about that folks (not!)
We landed in Sydney a week or so ago and quickly threw off the jackets we had been wearing for most of New Zealand and soon changed into shorts and t-shirts. This was after a quick train ride from the airport to the city centre, which could have been a bit disastrous for Jim as he once again nearly lost a belonging - this time leaving one of his bags on the trains platform edge! I had to point this out to him just as he was boarding the train! I'm not going to bother next time and then maybe he'll learn to remember better. (Jim: I was testing you)
We spent only a few days in the busy yet welcoming city and took the time to visit the famous harbour bridge and opera house. Both these structures were highly impressive and perfectly located right next to Hyde Park. You heard me correctly - these Aussies are so unimaginative they just copy us!
The next day in Sydney was spent getting a short bus ride over to Bondi beach. Here we soaked up some sun and then went for a coastal walk along the peninsula, which was a sight to see as the crystal blue waves crashed against the rocks. We got the bus back in time for, now my least favourite meal of the day, dinner. This being due to the noodles and pasta meals consumed most nights in order to conserve funds! The last day in Sydney was spent wandering the city and looking in and around the shops - I decided it time for a haircut as my bonce was becoming mop-like. It was a load off my head and much cooler in the hot breeze.
The next day we were up early and on a bus headed north up the east coast. The bus was driven by Guido, who was quite a character. He squawked like a bird every time he announced something on the bus and was just a really helpful and entertaining guide. As there were only 6 of us on the bus it was different to New Zealand, but still there were laughs aplenty along the way courtesy of Guido. We soon made a stop at a hospital, where Guido said we could view the patients and observe any operations that may be occurring. We all found this a bit strange, especially when he commented that a lot of the patients at to the hospital had acquired Chlamydia. We soon discovered this was the only hospital in Australia that was strictly for koalas! Yes the most common problems for koalas are becoming road kill and getting an STI!
We later arrived at our first stop in Arrawarra - Spot X surf camp. Here we had a nice warm meal and a chance to get to know the rest of the bus. That night we eagerly awaited the next morning as we were to get a surf lesson. We didn't appreciate the 6am start, but once we got down to the beach to see the sunrise it was all worth it. After a few dry runs on the beach, we were soon in the water all suited and booted. It was rather tricky at first, but after a few tips from our instructor we had all successfully stood up on numerous occasions. The waves weren't massive, but they were perfect for surf beginners.
Our next stop was Byron bay. This has been one of my favourite stops so far on the east coast as it is so relaxed and your typical surfer town. Our hostel lay right by the beach, so after checking in we headed straight there to watch the sunset come in. The next day we got on a bus to a little town called Nimbin. This is a hippy town, which gained its fame after a festival back in the 70's. It sounded like quite a party - most of the older residents wandered round with long silver beards and odd clothing. I'm not even exaggerating! There was also a predominance of marijuana about. People were selling it in all forms, including in cookies and chocolates. You could also see lots of posters and signs about the legalisation of the stuff - some of their arguments were quite whitty. On the second day there I decided to go for a walk over to the nearby lighthouse in Byron bay, while Jim did his own thing. This point is also the most easterly point of the Australian mainland, and the views were brilliant, despite the 2 hour walk. I then wandered back along the golden sandy beach as the sun began to set.
It was in Byron bay that I had my first experience of Goon. This is really cheap wine for all those who are travelling on a budget. You can get a 4 litre box of Goon for the equivalent of around £6. We all chipped in and had ourselves a party. The Goon is drinkable, but it's no vintage worth shouting about. The next morning I awoke with a terrible hangover and an aftertaste I never wish to experience again! Instead of going surfing as planned, me and Jim lay on the beach feeling sorry for ourselves. I later learned that Goon does not contain your typical wine ingredients. I have heard of some Goons being comprised of fish eggs, amongst other things!
Our next stop was called Surfers Paradise and was not what I was expecting at all. I expected it to be similar to Byron bay in the way it was a small surfing town with only locals and tourists. I was surprised to see Surfers Paradise littered with skyscrapers and large infrastructures. The town was still a nice place, but different. Here we had another go at surfing. After hiring out some gear we headed to the beach. I asked the lifeguard where was best to surf. After telling me he shouted out 'good luck'. I soon understood what he meant, as the waves were much rougher and awkward than Arrawarra. I really struggled to stand, only managing once or twice for a split second. Jim was adamant that he stood up but it must have been every time I had my back turned! (Jim: I did!)
After spending a couple of relaxed days in Surfers, we headed to Brisbane, another major city along the east coast. We had received a lot of free drinks vouchers for here, so swiftly headed to the bar to make the most of it. After several pints, (which taste just that bit sweeter when they're free!) I headed to bed while Jim watched some cricket coverage. Our first day in Brisbane was spent visiting the museum (again free!). This was really interesting and kept us out of trouble for a few hours. I particularly liked seeing the stuffed animals that are local to Oz.
Later that night we had arranged to meet up with another friend we met along the way. You guessed it - another Inca trekker! Our friend Nick, who is another native of Queenstown, NZ, is actually travelling the globe himself, and is currently based is Brisbane. We were introduced to his girlfriend and friends and spent the night at a pleasant bar right by the river. We had learned that there were several stages dotted right around this bar, which were teaching a range of dance moves. There was a Michael Jackson stage, as well as old fashioned swing/jive dancing. After we finished our drinks, we headed to the stage teaching the likes of the shopping trolley, aeroplane exits and sprinkler dance moves. They teach each little part and slowly build it up each time to some music. As we joined halfway through we were nothing short of screwed! Ok, the girls and Jim seemed to master it, while me, Nick and Kurt got in the way and looked confused! We then got a free novelty drink - sparkling red wine! I've never even heard of it, but it was quite nice (as far as cheap and cheerful goes - it's probably the red wine Goon equivalent!) It was free because the waiter didn't take the credit card, so once we finished we casually sauntered off.
The next day we headed for the Wet 'n' Wild theme park with Nick and co. This was really good fun as we splashed through all of the rides and successfully stayed in all of the inflatable rafts. My particular favourite was the Black Hole - you fly down a pitch black tube at speed. After spending the entire day there and successfully not catching pneumonia after all the cold water, we headed back to Nick's flat, where we were fed normal food! This was a really nice gesture, which we really appreciated. We said our goodbyes and were dropped back off at our hostel. I got an early night at 11pm as we were due to get a 6am bus the next morning, while Jim watched the Ashes in a bar. I was not impressed when the fire alarm went off at 11:45pm and we had to evacuate the building! After passing several firemen and standing on a kerb for 20 minutes, we were allowed back in, and I went straight to sleep.
Our next port of call was Noosa. The bus made a quick stop along the way so that we could check out the mountain range that ran next to a busy highway. After a few photos we soon arrived in Noosa. I had a wander near our hostel, although as it was out of town, the walk got me as far as the beach, with not much else to offer. I wasn't complaining as it was quiet and unlittered with tourists. We later watched Faceoff and Scary Movie to pass the time.
The next day we headed to Australia Zoo. This is the zoo that was run by Steve Irwin before he tragically died a few years ago. It is still run by his family and was actually originally passed on to him by his parents. It was great. We started off by feeding an elephant and then got to see loads of koalas. As they spend around 20 hours a day sleeping, I was pleased to see some of the w***s awake! We also saw our first live kangaroo, and even got close enough to stroke one of them, which was pretty cool. We even saw one kangaroo with her Joey in her pouch - it was a little hard to spot as the joey was upside down with only its legs sticking out! We saw a load of crocs, including two whoppers that Steve-o himself caught all those years ago, bathing elephants and a tiger show, so we definitely got our monies worth.
Our next stop was to our current location of Rainbow beach. We joined our tour for Fraser Island, off the coast from Rainbow beach. Fraser Island is the world's largest sand island and home to some wondrous sights. We blitzed around in a huge 4x4 bus, constantly being thrown around as we passed over bumps. Our first point was India Head, where we spent 20 minutes whale watching. We saw several of these in the distance, as well as manta rays and turtles. We also saw various colours of sand. This is due to the various minerals that lie among the sand becoming rusted. Different minerals rust to different colours, so this was quite impressive. We then had a BBQ tea and got to know our fellow tour mates. The night was a little noisy as not only was Jim snoring loudly after drinking Goon, but another bloody fire alarm went off! The smoke alarm in our room was going off every now and then because the battery was dying! One girl ran out the room screaming for someone to fix the problem, while we all lay partially comatosed. The battery was soon removed and we all got back to sleep. Of course Jim slept through this in typical fashion with his eyes half open - the girls were at first alarmed but then crowded round to see as if he were some form of foreign life form! I should start charging for this freak show!
The next day we visited one of the many lakes on the island. These were very refreshing as the water is pure and clear. The silicate in one of these lakes is so fine that women could use it as a face pack apparently! It was really smooth and the water was refreshing and all the guys played volleyball in it. Another lake was very brown in colour (don't worry Jim didn't have an accident!) This was due to the great abundance of tea tree. The oil gets into the water and turns it brown. Tea tree is a good insect repellent, so we doused ourselves in this stuff and headed off. There are only 2 regions on Fraser island composed of rock, while the rest is sand. What looked like rock along the beach was actually coffee rock. This is compressed vegetation (think of black rock that is partially on its way to forming coal). At the end of day 2 we wandered through a rainforest and hugged a 1,000-year-old tree in true hippy style! That night we played cards and pool and went to bed with no major fire alarm issues!
On our last day we walked a few kilometres to another lake. Here we sandboarded into the lake and swam across to the other side just to keep ourselves fit! It was here that I bumped into my friend Ruth. I know what you're thinking - no she is not a trekker! She's actually a friend of mine from uni, who has been travelling Australia for the past 7 or so months. It's such a small world - who'd have thought I'd bump into her on the world's largest sand island on the other side of the world!
Later that day we headed back to Rainbow beach and went for a bite to eat with some fellow Trailblazers. One girl kept us entertained with her stories from back home. She's from Virginia, down south in the US. I must say she had us all in hysterics with some of her stories. I am now just having a quiet day, catching up on some washing and blogging. I would have uploaded some photos, but the PC's here aren't up to it!
Hope you are all well. Peace out