July 03, 2006

Fraser Island and Beyond

Well this has been a little neglected over the past week, partly due to the pace at which things have been happening.

So then, Fraser Island. At 6:30am on Sunday 25th we were both sitting in the hostel TV room with 6 other bleary eyed "4x4'ers" watching the various inane safety videos about dingos and how not to treat your 3 tonne high sided 4x4 like an F1 car...

We managed to stay awake through that only to be faced with the next impossibly hard task - understanding the young Aussie bloke who ran the vehicle hire company, he talked FAST! Faster than me on a particulary high sugar and E-numbers day!

We were all taken from the hostel to the 4x4 Shed where we checked over the vehicle and the camping gear. Then following another impromptue break neck speed talking lesson on driving 4x4s we packed up and headed out - Myself at the helm having been 'voted' to drive (everyone else got into the back of the 4x4 before me).

After a short shopping trip at the supermarket ($15 each for 3 days food) we got to the ferry terminal and after an uneventfull 45 minute crossing, we're let loose on the Island.

It took about an hour to bump, roll and rumble across the 15km wide island on the fairly gnarly 4x4 tracks and then another hour to cruise to the north along '75 Mile Beach' (it was probably only 60km but we'll let them have their fun...).

We spent about an hour at the 'Indian Point' lookout, from where we basically, erm, looked out and saw some dolphins and rays playing in the bay. After that we headed back down the beach in search of our first camp site.

Now until I get the photos up you'll just have to go with my descriptions: these tents were pretty dire. Think crap teepees, more pee then tee. You pegged the four corners out, stuck an pole in the middle and... prayed! Each slept 3-4 people in abject discomfort and squallar - the only plus point was it didn't rain ;o)

Day 2 dawned not soon enough and having sneezed too close to the tents (promptly collapsing each) we packed up and started our action packed day of driving south on a perfectly straight flat beach.

The first stop was the Coloured Sands, and area of particluary orange and yellow sand. After that was the Maheno Shipwreck, A wreck of a ship which became more wreck than ship during a rather nasty cyclone. The cyclone soon grew tired of playing with the ship and dumped it on the beach, for all to see and take beaufitfull pictures of (unless you have the ISO of you camera set to high in which case all your pictures come out grainy. Balls).
Next up was "Lake Wabby" a quite cool lake hemmed in by Rainforest on one side and ever advancing steeeeep sand dunes on the other (at this point you realise you previous camera ISO mistake, rectify it and take some nice pictures :o) ).

From there we droive further south to the next camping spot, we again recreated the 'Fraser Favela' and having sweet talked ourselves our of a 100-and-silly-dollar fine for camping in the wrong place sat down to a gormet meal of "pasta, tuna and tomato gloop". Mmmm.
That night it rained. Unfortunaly Camp-Ghetto with its collender styled tents couldn't withstand the light (mist-like) rain and our 'tents' flooded. Thank got for rental sleeping bags and mats! Fortunatly myself and SK had subconsiously chosen the high side of the 'tent' and missed the worst of it.

Day 3 dawned and having made the 'tents' collapse by giving each of them a dirty look we packed up and headed to our final stop - Lake Mackenzie, a rather beautiful crystal blue lake with white sand - all very nice. After swimming and generally chilling out we headed to the ferry terminal for the journey back.

That evening in the Hostel we ate a huuuge amount of pizza each and had an early night as we were catching the greyhound to Noosa the next morning at 6am. Ugh.

We arrived in Noosa with the plan to spent 2 days there, 1 to learn to surf, the other to visit the Austraila Zoo before heading down to Surfers Paradise where SK's Auntie lives.
Unfortunaly the free Shuttle bus to the Zoo was full, so we had to change our plans.

We spent 1 day in Noosa, where we took a 2 hour surf lesson from "Merrick Davis" a man with such broad shoulders and chest he looked like a walking triangle. He was a beast! We were both standing on the boards "surfing" within an hour and had a great time. We had a wondering around the rest of Noosa - where according the the Guide Book all the "well-to-do dahhhlings" live - but unfortunatly didn't find much so had dinner in the hostel before heading to bed.
The next day - to solve the bus problem - we hired a car and drove ourselves south to the Zoo.
Overall the day was awesome - I'll refer you to SK's blog for a proper account, I don't think I can enfuse my writing with quite as much excitement at holding a Koala.
However we did get to see "Steve - the crocman - Irwin" (it's his families zoo) in the flesh, so that made me happy!

Afterwards we drove south to Surfers Paradise which... was a shock. If you're imagining a sleepy surf town you're mistaken. It has the highest realestate prices in all of Aus, it has the highest residential building in the world and is like a little bit of Vegas dumped on the gold coast - it certainly was a culture shock!

SK's Auntie lives about a 10 minute drive away further down the coast. She picked us up from the bus terminal and we met her, her husband and one of their friends who was over from the states. That evening they treated us to the most mazing meal in the local Surf Club Cafe - Seafood lasagne really has never been sooo good.
The next day we drove to Byron bay where we had a really nice day looking around an old hippe town, eating Fish & Chips and looking around all the shops.
The next day we walked from Mermaid Beach up to Surfers itself and allowed ourselves to indulge in a little hedonistic consurmerism a.k.a Shopping! We had a look around and finished the day by going to the top of the Q1 tower - the tallest residential building in the world.
The next day we chilled out by playing some mini-golf :o) The center has 3 courses of 18 holes and we played each one. After 54 par 2 holes we were both tied at 23 over par, so it wasn't a complete disgrace!

Yesterday evening they dropped us at the Bus terminal where we caught the 14 hour overnight bus from Surfers to Sydney. We arrived this morning and have another hectic 2.5 days ahead of us. Today we're going to look around the city and take in some of the sights (the Greyhound Bus drove over the bridge on the way in :o) ). There are various little tours you can do such as climbing to the top of the harbour bridge and various harbour tours.
Tomorrow we're on a day trip to the Blue Mountains about an hours to the west of Sydney and the day after we have the morning to again look around Sydney before heading on.

Anyway, This has got to be far too long as it is, sorry for any typo/grammer errors - but at this stage I don't care :o)

Next Stop NZ !!

Posted by edwardnorthridge at 07:48 AM | Comments (0)

June 24, 2006

Yarghh!

Well Shiver my Timbers and Roger the Cabin Boy Me Beauty, I feel like a genuine Pirate.

The sailing trip aronud the Whitsundays was awesome! We were on a 110 year old Tall Ship called "Defender". With 20 other people all wanting to experience the high seas (that honestly is the last pirate reference).

We left port early Thursday morning and after negociating the tricker parts of the shipping channel on the diesel engine everyone mucked in and helped raise the 2 sails which sped us towards the Whitsundays at a heady speed of 8 knots.
We had pretty good weather for our 3 days - the seas weren't too rough (certainly not enought to upset a 115' 140 ton boat)!

On the first day we sailing around Hook island (the northern one) and snorkelled over some coral reefs with plenty of fish before lazying on the beech for an hour to soak up some rays.
Back on the boat that evening we had a fw beers while playing various games - such as picking up an ever shrinking box off the floor and trying to climb through a broom handle - I'll explain later.

On day 2 we walked to a lookout overlooking Whitsunday Beach (the 3rd best beach in the world - according to National Geographic - with sand so pure (99.7% pure silica) it was used to make the Hubble Telescope optics). We took some photos then sailed around the coast and having moored up spent a couple of hours on the beach itself.

On the 3rd day we again snorkelled, this time in a bay absolutly teeming with fish, including the king of the area, 'Elvis' a 50+ year old Giant Maroi Wrasse who will swim next to you and even left you stroke him.

After that excitement we got back onto the boat and sailed for home. We had a few beers in the evening with our fellow adventurers on the hgih seas before catching the overnight bus to Hervey Bay.

Tomorrow we begin another 3 day adventure - this time its a 4x4 Self Drive trip around Fraser Island. The worlds largest sand island and another World Heritage Site complete with freshwater lagoons and a 75km sandy beach!

More news upon my return!

Posted by edwardnorthridge at 09:44 AM | Comments (0)

June 19, 2006

Paddy gets PADI'd... again!

So we arrived in Cairns on Wednesday morning and went straight to our hostel - "Dreamtime". A rather sureal oasis of leafy plants and relaxing on the outskirts of the centre of Cairns - I'll try and get some photos. We spent the day planning our time down the coast and discussing all the various options with the (very patient) front desk clerk. After much deliberation (Lloyd Grossman style) we were booked in to various Diving, Sailing and 4x4 driving trips down the coast, combined with various free nights in hostels and bus trips we had the following 14 days planned and booked completely!

We decided to do our Scuba diving here on the Cairns section of the Great Barrier Reef and signed up for a 3 day "live-aboard". We were to do our PADI Advanced Water Course (the follow on to what we learnt in Thailand). The boat had 11 dives over 3 days which was quite a gruling schedule - on both Saturday and Sunday we were in the water diving before 7am... We did 4 dives each day (3 on the last) and included deep diving (to almost 30m) and 2 Night Dives - which were really cool.
We saw loads of fish and wildlife including: White Tip Reef Sharks, Hawksbill Turtles, Green Turtles, Giant Maroi Wrasse, Butterfuly Fish, Clownfish (a.k.a Nemos), Fusilers, Flute Fish, Giant Trigger Fish (I had a stare out with one..), Moray Eels and Parrot Fish to name a few! We got a load of pictures of us diving underwater - the guy who was training us was a National Geographic Photographer - and took his camera with him whenever he could. We alos hired a camera of our own and had a go, the results it must be said weren't as sucessfull ;o)

Despite our failings at pro-photography we all passed the course - so we can now call ourselves "Advanced Open Water" Divers. hehe

Overall the trip was fantastic, the company we went with wasn't the cheapest (by far) by they had the best repuation in town and it really showed on the boat. All the guys were great and when you had 4 full (very big) meals a day it just made it all the better!

We got back exhausted lsat night and after heading to a local bar to have a final meal and goodbye to everyone crashed into bed.

Today we're having a rest and chilling out before getting the overnight bus down to Airle Beach to start our sailing trip.

More news when it happens :o)

Posted by edwardnorthridge at 11:26 AM | Comments (1)

June 13, 2006

Greetings from 'Down Under'

So we flew from Bangko to Singapore and then from Singapore to Darwin. Although spending 4 hours in an airport terminal of a country you know nothing about is amusing enough - it took about an hour to work out what the currency (and its exchange) was - we were glad enough to get to Australia.

After a fairly harrowing immigration process (never have various parts of me been sniffed so throughly by as many dogs) we collapsed into the terminal and got the bus into town, a few hours sleep at our hostel ("the Cavenagh") saw us hitting the streets at midday to see what Darwin has to offer, but about 13:50 we had seen everything and so went to the cinema to relax and watch The DaVinci Code - which was pretty good :o) Dinner that night was had at the hostel (Chilli Con Carne Spag Bol) washed down with a "schooner" of local beer - pretty good

The next day we were picked up at 6am by the tour company and courtousy of an overgrown 4WD truck we drove to Kakadu National Park.
There were 10 people on the trip including us, we were in the care of our Tour Guide 'Tex', who drove us around, showed us the sights and even cooked for us in the evening! The guy was great!

On the first day we went on a 2 hour Crocodile cruise in a billabong and saw both freshwater and saltwater crocodiles. The 'freshies' are the ones with long very thin noses and are considered 'nice' - in that they won't attack unless you really annoy them - the salt water crocs see you as a walking buffet. We saw loads of other bird life including some sea eagles - which were cool.
Sopme culture followed - a trip to Ubirr to see the Aboriginal Rock art - which was cool! We camped in a semi permenant camp ground (the normal site was overrun with Mozzies). We had a monster BBQ for dinner (lamp-chops, sausages, pasta salad and potatoes) before crashing into bed.

The next day we swam in 2 waterfalls; the first at a palce called 'Gubara' followed by a visit to an Aboriginal Cultural Centre to learn a little about the native culture. we then drove to our second campsite at a waterfall called 'Gunlom'. We setup camp and spent a few hours of the afternoon swimming at the base in the plunge pool. About an hour before sunset we walked to the top of the waterfall and watched the sunset over the plains - which was really cool :o). Dinner was a monsterous bowl of chicken/pasta/tomato slop - which despite the name was really really good!

On the final day we again went to 2 waterfalls. The first was a 3km walk from the road called "Yurmikmik" (Motor car) falls - and was really cool. The water was absolutley freezing but we all swam/did some barefoot Deepwater Soloing around the plunge pool!
The second was at a place called something springs. The waterfall was smaller but still quite impressive. We ate tortials for lunch - with left over slop. Before starting the long drive home.

On the way back we stopped in at the Adelaide River Inn for a drink - the Inn is also the final resting place of the Buffalo (Charlie) from Crocodile Dundee (which was filmed in Kakadu) who died a few years ago. Charlies final resting place isn't as restfull as you might first imagine - he has been stuffed and now stands at one end of the bar... partially on the bar. :o) Have a Google Image search for "charlie crocodile dundee" and you'll see what I mean.

We got back to Darwin at about 6pm and having showered and changed went to the local backpacker bar which had free food for anyone coming back from a trek, we met up again with all of our group and Tex.

Today we are chilling out, we had a line-in, each of the previous 3 days we have been awake at 6am. Then wondered along to the "Indo-Pacific Marine" a sort of small scale aqaruium with a difference. We were shown round by the enthusiastic owner, who show us all the exhibits he himself had put together and looked after. The difference he explained was that all his tanks etc were self sustaining - he hadn't changed/cleaned/filtered the water in the tanks for almost 20 years - everything in each exhibit worked together and ept everything ticking along. All very interesting!

Tomorrow we are on the 6am flight from Darwin to Cairns where we begin our bacpacker trail in ernest. Not quiote sure what to expect but we only have to survive 3 weeks before our flight from Sydney. It will probably be 3000km of post A-Level 18 year olds but I'm srue I can fill their minds with enough University Horror stories to keep myself amused...

Hope all is well :o)

Posted by edwardnorthridge at 01:23 PM | Comments (0)