And so began our journey down the East coast of Australia, from Cairns in Queensland, all the way down to Sydney. We did this in about two weeks so this leg was pretty rushed and we did a lot of things everyday – I’ll try and pick out the most interesting bits and try not to bore you all to death.
Actually our stay in Cairns was pretty memorable. Many people stay here to go diving in the Great Barrier Reef, and that is what we did. We got an early catamaran out into the Reef. It took about two hours on a pretty choppy sea to get there. Some of you may know that I get pretty travel sick (and boats really are not my favourite place to be). True to form I had to spend most of the journey back from the Reef with my head in my hands lying on a table and trying not to move, but that wasn’t until later. We sailed through clear blue waters to a white sandy island covered in birds (I can’t really remember what kind, though I’m sure Maz will know). We started off by doing snorkelling. I wasn’t sure how much I’d enjoy it, but actually I think it was one of the best things I did on my trip. Everything was just so colourful, and I didn’t mind being surrounded by fish at all. I’m sorry to report that we didn’t have any close encounters with any sharks, although some of the people on our trip did. We didn’t see any turtles either but Maz and I appear to be cursed with respect to turtle spotting anyway (although I did see some huge ones snorkelling off Bali but that’s a different story). After that, we had the option to do an introductory dive. Now, this I was really unsure about because I was worried about feeling claustrophobic under water. As it turns out I’m glad that I did it, it was such a strange feeling being 6 meters under water. I can’t imagine what it must feel like to dive even deeper. Maybe I’ll do that someday. We didn’t see very much more than we did when we were just snorkelling to be honest, but just floating around down there felt so eerie, a bit like I’d imagine being on the moon would feel like. Everything looked so rich and bright. Finding Nemo really is spot on. That night we went on a bit of a bar crawl around Cairns, which was interesting because I felt like I was still on a boat for most of that evening. Dancing on tables whilst in that state can only be strongly recommended!
Our next stop along the coast was the Whitsunday Islands. I’d read a lot about them and was really looking forward to this part of our trip. I think I have a thing for white sand and really clear blue seas, perhaps because we don’t really have beaches like this around Europe. So we were setting out for a couple of days on a racing boat called the British Defender. Obviously it rained for some of it, so standing up on deck when you can barely stay upright on dry land at the best of times proved to be quite the challenge, but no one fell overboard and it was pretty fun hanging on to the ropes and making like Kate and Leo. We witnessed yet another beautiful sunset and then drank an impressive amount of Goon that night, which is (very) cheap Ozzie wine. Pretty disgusting it has to be said. The next day we shot through the islands at high speed – when the crew got the sails up we went so fast that the boat tipped almost 90 degrees and we had to really grip the railings! Miraculously enough I was not sea sick. The next day we did yet more snorkelling but the sea was pretty choppy and one of the girls saw a bunch of jellyfish so we made quite a swift exit after that. Though we did have a bit of fun jumping off our boat several times first.
The next memorable stop was a cattle station called Kroombit. You’ve got to love the Ozzies and their choice of snappy names for just about everything. This place was literally in the middle of nowhere. I wouldn’t even be able to say where it was if I wanted to. Somewhere in the outback, but a different kind of outback to Uluru. It was very green, hilly and dusty. We spent the afternoon riding horses and hearding goats. Oh yes. Who knew goats could be hearded – or mustered as the locals call it? I certainly did not. And I did not think that I would ever be the one hearding them. Comptoir des Cotonniers doesn’t really make clothes appropriate for such a thing. But we actually were told how to lasso a goat and heard them into pens. I was pretty proud of myself – talk about getting out of your comfort zone. We spent the night around a camp fire, and tried whip cracking and mechanical bull riding. After an initial struggle to actually climb onto the bull, I think I actually stayed on there the longest. All in all a very successful day.
Fraser island was the next stop along the coast. I had read quite a bit about this place in National Geographic and had heard that it was a beautiful place. But when we got there, I was struck by how grey it was. It was completely covered in trees, and the resort where we stayed there did remind me of Centre Parks. Considering this place is the world’s largest sand island, there really didn’t seem to be much sand around. I think the fact that it was raining didn’t help. During our stay there, we got a few hours of sunshine when we headed to Lake Mackenzie, a very pretty spot with turquoise waters (again). Nothing like Laffrey at home, a grey lake full of horrible grey fish. The waters at Mackenzie are supposed to have a really high PH content (or something) and leave your skin feeling really soft, like you spent the day at the spa. So of course we spent ages in there, floating around aimlessly.