Apologies for the long delay in blogging, in an attempt not to bore everyone this is in two parts; Queensland and NSW/ACT/Victoria.
I've been in Australia for 5 weeks now and have only a week remaining. I can't say that I had a warm welcome into Australia as immigration didn't take too kindly to the fact I had been in Africa for the previous three and a half months. A man came and took my passport away from me and disappeared into another room leaving me waiting and hoping that it wouldn't take too long as I had a connecting flight to Brisbane. Fortunately he did return and let me carry on my merry way, where I then had to declare all the wooden souvenirs I'd picked up in Africa and try and find them from the various places in my bag. I did eventually make it through and was just in time to fly to Brisbane. Coming in to land at Brisbane airport we were surrounded by dark clouds and then lightening stikes were coming down pretty close to the plane, this helped my love of flying no end!! The plane did land safely but the airport was promptly shut, and the baggage collection workers stopped too meaning I had to wait an hour for my bag.
I was met at Brisbane airport by Jane and Cameron, Jane is an Aussie friend of mine who I met back in 2003 when we both did exchange programmes with our uni's to Illionois State University. Casmeron is her husband, and they very kindly agreed to let me stay at theirs over Christmas. I ended up staying with them for a week. Christmas was a little bizarre for me, and I still don't quite feel like it happened, it was far too warm. I was even a little jealous of the snowy weather at home, and missing a white Christmas!! I spent the day moving between Cameron and Jane's families around Brisbane which was really nice.
After Christmas we had a day at Australia Zoo, owned by Steve Irwin's family, which was actually very good, even if we had to endure a singing and dancing display from Bindi Irwin who is about 11 years old and can't sing or dance! I also did a trip into Brisbane itself which is a really nice modern city.
Just before new year's on the 29th I got a flight up to Cairns with my plan to make my way down the East coast. This was the first part of my trip where I was travelling by myself and it was actually quite tough, combined with the fact that I was experiencing a bit of reverse culture shock since Africa. I found I wasn't quite the typical Australian backpacker in that there were no hair straightners in my bag, and the only make up I have with me is a stick of mascara!
Cairns was good however, I did a snorkelling trip on the barrier reef which was again amazing, was a bit gutted to not spot any turtles that others on my boat had. I found myself with this girl from Taiwan, who was snorkelling despite the fact she couldn't swim, and on the first snorkel had to be rescued twice as she drifted along with the tide. The second attempt she came up with a master plan of instead of just wearing one of the floats used to go round your waist, she would wear 3!!
I saw in the new year in Cairns in the pouring rain, there were fireworks on the esplanade which were really good, but we were all saturated by this point!
From Cairns I caught the bus to Townsville a city that I would recommend to no one to visit, but from here you could go to Magnetic Island a small Island which, I think Mr Cook, thought was magnetic, it's not. This almost made up for Townsville, which was made worst by the horrible hostel I was staying in.
After two nights I continued south to Airlie Beach which is the gateway to the Whitsundays, from here there are a lot of 2/3 day boat trips, but unfortunately memories of the boat to Zanzibar were still fresh so I opted out of this one and decided to do a kayaking trip. This was nice, but didn't go into the islands as much as I had hoped. Airlie Beach was a nice small town, and had a lagoon for swimming which a lot of towns on the coast seem to have, largely because the sea is not great to swim in because of the jelly fish and sharks and sting ray and any number of other animals that can kill you in this country!!
I also bumped into two guys I went to school with whilst in Airlie Beach, which was most bizarre but continues to prove that it's a small world after all, there's a song there.
South again to Hervey Bay a bizarely spread out town, where I stayed at a very nice YHA hostel, after a couple of days relaxing here I went on a two day tour to Fraser Island. This was brilliant, I had a really good time on a guided tour for two days where we stayed over in dorm style accommodation. Fraser Island is basically a massive sand island but consists of rain forests, lakes, snad dunes and a 65mile long beach which is basically the motorway of the island. We all had a few drinks in the evening where I discovered that I still don't like beer but kept drinking it anyway. The rest of the group were all really nice and I've met up with a couple of them since.
Noosa was my next stop, the holiday destination of choice for the wealthy Australians, and home to a good YHA. Noosa is a really nice small surf town where I maintained my uselessness at surfing. Had a walk through the national park on the coast too and saw a number of Koala's hanging out in the trees.
After Noosa I went back to Brisbane where I stayed at Jane's again for a couple of nights, saw a bit more of the city and had a trip to see Avatar at the cinema, very good!!
That basically sums up Queensland, a really nice stretch of coast with loads going on at all the towns and cities.