Well then, it's been a busy old time since we last checked in.We've traveled a mere 2,407 km from Sydney all the way up the east coast to Cairns.London to Newcastle is only 400 or so km just by way of comparison! This country is a truly silly size.Our first leg took us from Sydney up to Byron Bay, a little beach town which has basically been colonized by backpackers.We arrived pretty shell-shocked at around 8 am and checked in to our first dorm experience of the trip.It wasn't nearly as bad as we had decided it would be - only 2 other inhabitants, and reasonably clean - can't ask for too much more to be honest!We spent the day lying on the beautiful beach and wandering round the small town, slowly adjusting to the fact that we couldn't afford to eat in most of the cafes or shop in the stores.As a result we shared breakfast and went to a club for dinner as we had a voucher for free food, hurrah!The food at the club wasn't exactly great though, I estimate that my spag bol wouldn't fill a pot of petit - filous yoghurt.So I ate Rois' chicken.All's well that ends well.We didn't much fancy the parTAY that was going on at the club so we decamped to the homely comfort of the cinema across the road.
After a surprisingly undisturbed night's sleep we were up and at it bright and early for the bus to Surfers Paradise.Again, due to our whistle - stop timetable we only had a day there so obviously we headed straight to 'Dreamworld', an Alton Towers style theme park a few miles away.All was going brilliantly until we jokingly went on one of the so called kids' rides that just goes round and round and not a lot else.Error.I've never felt so nauseous after any sort of fairground ride.Won't be so cocky next time.We headed back to our hostel (again, a pleasant surprise in terms of cleanliness), paid $5 each to the hostel and got all the Dominos pizza we could eat in return.Amazing!
Next stop was Brisbane, where we'd booked ahead to reserve a private dorm (complete with tv and en-suite, we're really not entering in to the spirit of backpacking in that sense!).We'd heard some damning reports of 'Brissie' but we enjoyed it, it's nothing particularly special but nice enough, complete with inner city beach (no city's complete without it).Rois got her haircut and I wandered round in a fruitless and wholly unenthusiastic search for a Halloween costume for the party at the hostel later in the evening.Ingeniously Rois bought and made a complete costume from just a piece of black, charity - shop - bought material (photos to follow).I begrudgingly bought a devil's trident and scream style scary mask (photos hopefully not to follow).As it turned out, almost everyone else at the hostel appeared as half hearted as me as when we went down to the bar later we saw about four people in costume.Poor turnout.Fortunately we'd gone down in non - novelty attire so we just blended in and didn't stick out like the child at school who's forgotten that it's non uniform day.We spent the next day having a look round the museums in the city and sat by the faux beach in the incredibly hot weather.
The bus the next morning took us to Rainbow Beach about 5 hours up the coast.Fortunately we were there for our trip to Fraser Island the next day as Rainbow Beach has five shops and a beach that isn't remotely like a rainbow.We had a meeting that afternoon with our tour organizer Luke who was pure comedy.Our top five Luke phrases:
1)"Put a smile on your dial!"
2) "It's good in my hood, cool in my school, and no hassle in my castle"
""Do not exceed the 80km/h speed limit or you'll experience some serious McPain"
"Good Times!!!!!" (Said with both thumbs up in the air)
4)"Drive during high tide, you'll get stuck, car washed into the sea, you'll have to pay twelve grand… Bad time!!!!!" (Said with both thumbs pointing down)
Class.At the meeting you get put into a group of ten or eleven people who'll be in your 4x4 for the next few days while driving around the island.We had a good group on the whole, excepting the four German lads who had appalling taste in loud dance music and drove like they weren't on a bumpy road in a rickety 4x4 with eight or nine scared people sitting in the back.Still, we all got well and had a great time.We camped together with the four other 4x4 groups which was good fun, and the island itself is stunning.The highlights were Lake Mackenzie and Lake Wabby, two freshwater pools in the middle of the sand island.The water was warm, totally fresh and generally perfect. It was also free from jellyfish and sharks. The other highlight was educating other members in our group in the ways of crisp sandwiches. Bizarrely, out of ten group members, only Rois and I had ever eaten this king of snacks. So if they got nothing else out of the trip then at least they've been enlightened in the realm of salt and vinegar flavoured crisp sandwiches.
After a much needed shower and a non - sandy night's sleep we again hopped on an overnight bus, this time to Airlie Beach, ready for our cruise around the Whitsunday Islands. Everything about this trip was class. Our boat 'The Clipper' was one of the best around, there was masses of food, all freshly cooked, a widescreen TV/DVD, air conditioning, and Rois and I also managed to fluke our own cabin! True luxury. We'd have happily spent the entire two days lounging on the boat but things like snorkelling and spectacular island walks and views got in the way of that plan. The only let down was that the rain on the second morning was torrential, so Whitehaven Beach - apparently one of the ten most beautiful beaches in the world - wasn't quite at its best. Despite this, it was still a fair bit nicer than I remember Clacton beach being. On the first evening we were roped in to play a game designed to "bring the boat together socially" (God help us). But that too was great fun! The photos may explain it better than I can but basically you had to pick up a small box from the ground using only your teeth and with no part of your body other than your feet touching the ground. If you failed then you had to step up to the "panel of pain", point your arse at the rest of the boat who all counted down from five to one when the first mate would step up and gleefuly whip you with a flipper. To quote Luke, this resulted in "some serious McPain". Probably the highlight and lowlight of the evening came when the flipper was passed on to the rest of the group, and despite a valiant effort, Rois failed to pick up the box. (Un)fortunately, responsibility of the flipper was in my hands at that point......
Our relationship recovered and together we got on the next overnight bus all the way up to Cairns. We arrived at 6:00am and got on the 'Ocean Freedom' boat at 7:30! We were lucky enough to have probably the friendliest crew in all of boatland with us, and our trip out to the Great Barrier Reef was even better than the Whitsunday cruise. We did our first ever Scuba dive on this trip and it was absolutely amazing. We found Nemo and hundreds of other cool looking exotic fish wandered round with us as our instructor Matt held our hands and kept us going. Rois was well impressive and once in the water didn't get scared at any stage; I was full of confidence jumping into the sea but promptly lost any bravery that I had when we started going under! It was a great experience and hopefully we'll be doing a lot more in Fiji.
Fortunately we had the next day to do nothing as we were both exhausted from the previous week (week!). We spent the day wandering around Cairns in blistering heat and sorting out our plans for New Zealand (campervan, by the way!). The next day we were up bright and early again to head off on an overnight tour of Cape Tribulation, a few km north of Cairns. Again, it's probably getting a bit boring to read this but it too was completely beautiful, impressive and nothing like anything else we'd seen in Oz. It's a pretty unique place because it's where the Great Barrier Reef meets a tropical rainforest and so there's plenty going on in the way of interesting eco stuff. Truth be told, it was mainly scary evil looking spiders as big as your head. According to our guide: "They probably wouldn't kill ya but yud best not make em angry". Reassuring. As if that wasn't enough, a few minutes later she said, "Lick this ant's arse, it tastes like lemon". She did it too. We went for a lounge on the beach but weren't allowed in the sea as it's currently full of "stingers" - a pretty generous term for evil jellyfish bigger than your head that have a sting so painful that your heart just stops working. Needless to say, we stayed dry. Whilst staying dry we remained on the lookout for a snake called the Indian Taipan which is classified as the most deadly snake in the world (woopdedoo). I'll hand you to our guide again, "It packs three neuro-toxins, that means poisons, that can kill you. All the other snakes in the top ten have only one". Even the birds at Cape Tribulation are dangerous! The Cassowary, a pretty dopey looking bird a bit like an ostrich can "tear out your abdomen with it's claw if you upset it". What??!!! A Bird???!!! And if none of them get you then, "Watch out, 35 people have been killed here by falling coconuts". Fortunately, we managed to escape Cape Tribulation feeling relaxed and in no way poisoned.
So we're back in Cairns now, ten to ten on Friday evening and you're all pretty much up to date. We're off again tomorrow, this time on a plane to Darwin, even further north, before heading off on a long long long bus ride to Alice Springs and Uluru on Monday morning. Can't wait, loving it here, it's flying by at an impossible speed. I'm off for a much needed shower, love to you all, James and Rois xxx
Rois' P.S: There is currently a wide-scale gap in our travel blogging in the shape of Melbourne-to-Tasmania-to-Sydney. This was of course travelled with the infamous Mum and Dad McG, so come on Mum and Dad - step up - we're all waiting to hear about it! Love to you all. xxx