A Travellerspoint blog

South Island surprises

sunny 14 °C
View Backpacking 08/09 on VanessaT's travel map.

Flew to Queenstown on the South island of New Zealand, as I stepped off the plane I discovered it was a lot colder in NZ than in Oz!! Caught the bus into Queenstown, only there for one night. Nice town, surrounded by mountains which are really pretty, passed the Remarkables mountain range on the bus. They really are, well, remarkable!!
Next day it was back on a plane, this time to Christchurch, only 50 mins away, by the time we got up in the air it was time to come back down! They were practically throwing our breakfasts at us! Definitely no time for in flight entertainment!
Met Mum and Dad at the airport, was very strange that I was seeing them in New Zealand not England! Quick walk outside to our home for the next 5 weeks, the motor home, christened Harry the Horsebox as he looks a little bit like a horsebox! Set about exploring and finding all the little nooks and crannies. Was very strange to completely unpack after 8 ½ months, I keep losing everything now!!
We were staying in Christchurch for a couple of nights so motored off to the campsite which was connected to a big backpackers. Nice spot and very central, went and had a look round Christchurch which has a river running through it, the Avon, after the Avon at Stratford and the centre feels very English. Got the local bus up to the Gondola which rises 500m to give a gorgeous view over Christchurch and the local lakes. Settled down for a night in the motor home, am pleased to report its very comfy!
Next day it was back into the centre to have a tour round on the tram circuit, hopped off to visit the museum and then went punting along the Avon!!! We were ok going downstream but I think our punter had a bit of trouble coming the other way as the current was quite strong! Really nice and pretty, weeping willows overhanging the water, like being back in the UK.
In the afternoon we went to visit someone Dad used to work with. Had a lovely afternoon sitting out in the garden and were fed up with a NZ special- meatloaf, never had it before but it was lovely. For dessert we had Hokey Pokey Ice cream…whats hokey pokey I hear you cry? Ice cream with honeycomb in it, very yummy!

Time to leave Christchurch and to my first surprise stop. I don’t actually know where we are going in New Zealand, Mum and Dad have planned it all, I’m just along for the ride! We were off to Akaroa to swim with the dolphins!!! Wow! The rare Hector dolphin is the worlds smallest dolphin and only found in the waters around New Zealand. Were issued with wetsuits and boots when we got to the harbour….the water was going to be pretty cold!! Once we were all zipped up it was onto the boat to head out into the Akaroa waters. Before long we were seeing lots of pods of dolphins, they didn’t hang around though and were heading out to sea. Soon it was into the water….argh! Yep it was cold!!! After a while the wetsuits warmed us up though, it was just the initial shock! We were floating around for a bit, doing all the things we had been instructed to do to attract the dolphins, tapping our masks, singing into the water, making bubbles but to no avail, the dolphins didn’t want to play. Hopped back into the boat to try another spot…then the dolphins decided to surface, typical! Anyway we were off and soon back in the water making fools of ourselves again! The dolphins started approaching and they came really close but didn’t stay around to play. To protect the dolphins (and us!) we could only stay in the water 45 mins so soon we had to get out and head back to the harbour. Went for fish and chips which were nice and warmed us up, they even had old chip pans turned into hanging baskets!
A few hours down the coast we stopped for the night in Timaru. Dad showed me some video of Callum being a sleepy shepherd in his nursery nativity, very cute!
Next morning we drove to Oamaru, the only Victorian town in New Zealand. Was very quaint and quiet, went to a bakery and had some lovely custard tarts. Just down the coast were the Moeraki boulders, huge spherical rocks that are lying on the beach, made millions of years ago from lime crystals and mudstone, really strange to look at, looks like they have been broken up and then glued back together! Back on down the coast, some lovely scenery and rolling hills. At one point we overtook a small campervan then came to a massive hill, our motor home is a lot bigger so slower going up the hill, we nearly resorted to running like the Flinstones! Was embarrassing as the small campervan was catching us up!! We managed to make it up though without being overtaken, was very funny. Arrive in Dunedin and set up camp, getting into the swing of things by now.
In Dunedin we went to the Otago Settlers Museum, was a great museum, probably one of my favourites so far. Lots of information about the original settlers of the area who came over by boat from Scotland. They also had a photography exhibition by Chris Gable. Portraits of local independent shopkeepers in their shops, was great to imagine all their personalities and relationships if there was more than one person in the picture. Then discovered the photographer had done interviews with them all and you could listen to the via iTunes on a Mac in the gallery. Wanted to sit there and listen to them all but didn’t have time to just heard a snippet of each to see if the person was anything like I imagined them!
Onto the second surprise of the trip, we were going on a wildlife tour of the Otago Peninsula to see Albatross, Fur Seals and…….Penguins!!! The first part of the tour was on board a boat to go and see the Albatross nesting, their wingspans of 3 metres are really impressive, they look so long compared to their bodies, they do need the lift though because they weigh 3kgs! We were lucky and a fishing boat was just coming in from sea with about 30 albatross following it! They were everywhere! Lots of other birds too including the Petrel, also known as the rubbish bin of the sea as they will eat anything. Followed the boat back toward the pier and stopped to have a quick look at some fur seals, more of them later. On the way out we also saw a blue penguin which was fishing, it was tiny!
After a drive around a lake to spot some more birds if was off to the penguins. Parked on the headlands, we were lucky and it was a lovely mild evening with the wind coming from the north but they normally have the icy winds from the south which can gust at up to 180kph!!!! Tramped down a very steep hill and onto the beach. Our guide suddenly got very excited as their was a fully grown sea lion making its way along the beach! He was having a great time rolling in the sand and after a while shuffled off into the surf looking a lot more graceful once he got into the water! It was amazing to see one so close, he was massive! Climbed up the sand dunes into the hide to watch the penguins making their way up from the sea. They hunt all day and then have to make the long trek up the beach and into the fields to their nests. Yep yellow eyed penguins live in fields, among the sheep! Was so funny to see them walking along the grass, I thought they would sleep on the beach. Had a great view of them hopping up the hill, standing like statues with their wings out to cool themselves down. They are very territorial and were telling each other off when they got too close to anothers nest. Into the lower hide which was next to the beach to see them actually come out the sea, they are very funny, they look like they are a bit drunk until they get their land legs! Shaking off the water from their tails. There was a big fur seal on the beach and they were all a bit wary of it, except one who bravely ran past, we thought he was a goner when the seal suddenly got up and headed in his direction but the penguin had made it safely into the long grass. All too soon it was time to say goodbye to the penguins and go to see the fur seals. Back up the big hill, and down the other side to where the seals were hanging out on the rocks. There were lots of them including lots of babies who were only a couple of weeks old. One caught my eye as he hopped over the rocks to another seal who seemed to be stuck in a little crevice! He looked like he was panicking a bit and trying to get out and although our guide assured us he was fine I’m still convinced he was stuck! Spent the whole time with my eyes glued on him to see if he got out! The little baby started copying him, turning his head upside down which was really cute. After about 15 mins of tossing and turning the slightly older one managed to get out the crack between the rocks…phew! Think I would have had to stay there all night to check he was ok otherwise!
Went to the beach in Dunedin the next morning, not to swim or sunbathe unfortunately, too cold for that! Was deserted so very pretty with sand dunes at the back. Time to get on the road and head for the south coast along the Southern Scenic Route taking us through the Catlins, some beautiful countryside and coastal views. Didn’t see many people along the way, with only 4.1 million people living in the whole of NZ the roads are pretty quiet!

Drove into Invercargill in the pouring rain, glad it wasn’t doing that when we were tramping round looking at the penguins! Had a quick peek in the velodrome (Dad used to race bikes when he was younger) and happened upon the national squad having a training session so watched for a while. Burt Munro (played by Anthony Hopkins in the film the Worlds Fastest Indian) came from Invercargill and the bikes he used to break the record are in a local hardware shop in the town so we went and had a look round there before hitting the road and driving up through Fjordland to Milford Sound. The journey was absolutely spectacular, the landscape changed completely, from plains and rolling hills to sheer granite giants on every side. We stopped lots along the way for photos and at one point a pair of inquisitive birds hopped up, very tame and looking very interested in the motorhome. We later found out they were Kea birds which peck all the rubber trims off cars just for fun! Luckily we escaped that treatment. Going through the Homer Tunnel was an experience, hewn out of the solid rock of the mountain, no lights, water running down in channels, after 6pm the traffic lights are turned out so no idea if we would meet anyone along the way! Made it through into the spectacular surround of Milford Sound, talk about a room with a view for the night, we looked out onto mountains from every window!

Another day, another surprise, sailing around Milford Sound for the afternoon. Boarded the Lady of the Sounds and had a nice BBQ lunch as we set off into the fjord, passing waterfalls and forest covered mountains. It was a beautiful clear day, the scenery just breathtaking. We were on the bow of the boat and as we got to one waterfall we went right under- getting soaked in the process! Sailed all the way out to where the fjord joins the Tasman Sea, decided not to make the 4 ½ day voyage to Oz and headed back inland. Stopped on the way back at the underwater observatory, 8m down you can see lots of deep sea marine life. They are tricked into thinking they are a lot deeper by the layer of freshwater which lies on top of the denser saltwater of the fjord. This layer is filled with tannins which run down in the waterfalls from the mountain sides and prevent the sunlight from penetrating deeper which makes the saltwater underneath much darker than usual.
Drove back through Fjordland to Te Anau our stop for the night. Still very little traffic on the road, however we did get held up this afternoon….by a flock of sheep! The farmers were taking them from one field to another and they were all over the road, it was a sheep and campervan pile up as quite a few vehicles were trying to make their way through without squashing any sheep or the rather enthusiastic and bouncy sheep dogs.

Posted by VanessaT 01:26 Archived in New Zealand Tagged round_the_world Comments (1)

Brisbane to Sydney!

sunny 30 °C
View Backpacking 08/09 on VanessaT's travel map.

Brisbane was a nice city, quite small so you could walk around it. Went to the town hall and got the lift up the clock tower to see the view over the city. It was funny to see the big Christmas tree in the centre- with the sunlight glinting off the baubles!! Not something you would see in the UK! My favourite place was the South Bank complex, visited the Gallery of Modern Art and the Queensland museum. Also got my internet fix for free in the State library!

After Brisbane my next stop was Byron Bay, a small laid back beach town with lots of hippies! It was fairly busy in the run up to Christmas. Walked up to the lighthouse which is perched on the headland, passing the hang-gliding clubs launch point on the way. It was extremely windy though so only the brave ones were going for it! Had ice cream at the top and because it was so windy Sabines melted and she got covered as it blew everywhere! There was a nice night market on the evening before I left, lots of hand-made bits and bobs, and in true Byron Bay style a cluster of hippies dancing to the haunting sounds of the didgeridoo.

My final stop before Sydney was Port Macquarie, mainly to split up the 16 hour journey from Byron to Sydney. It was a lot less touristy than some of the other towns I’ve visited which was a breath of fresh air, nice harbour and lots of beaches. On the sea front is a break wall made of huge boulders which have been painted by people to commemorate different things, weddings, birthdays, trips or sometimes just painted for no reason other than to paint one! Very colourful! Its also home to the Koala Hospital and you can go and walk around the ‘wards’. The koalas are rescued after being caught in fires, mauled by dogs or saddest of all….because developers are cutting down the forests in which they live. Once they are well enough they are released back into the wild but some are in for the long run like Birthday Girl who at 22 is the oldest Koala in the hospital. We joined the tour and our guide Maree was wonderful, she knew so much and had such affection for the Koalas, we even thought she looked a little bit like one herself!

Then it was an early start for my final Greyhound journey, 7 hours south to Sydney! The bus was meant to arrive at 5.40am but didn’t arrive till 7.20, we were freezing at the bus stop and very pleased to see the bus finally come round the corner. Eventually we made it to Sydney, crossing the Harbour bridge and catching a glimpse of the Opera House…unfortunately in the rain!
Got the bus up to Collaroy where I was staying over the whole Christmas and new year period, 11 nights which is the longest I’ve stayed anywhere in 8 ½ months! The hostel was nice, Collaroy is a quiet residential suburb with a few shops, a cinema and most importantly a beach!

Christmas in Sydney was very strange, started the day off on the beach, it was lovely and sunny, lots of families were out celebrating their day with lunch on the beach. Christmas dinner was salmon, potato salad and cous cous, think it’s the first time in my life I havent eaten turkey and trifle on Christmas Day! Then it was back off to the beach watch the sun go down, it was quite cold by then so we retreated indoors! What with being on the beach and not having turkey it didn’t really feel like Christmas at all!!!

Boxing Day we braved the crowds and headed into the City. Visited Sydney Aquarium, it was quite good, bigger than I thought it was going to be. All the animals I’ve seen down the coast and more, a big tank of sharks and rays which were massive! My favourite was the long necked turtle, never seen one of those before, it was like a cross between and turtle and a snake!

Very strange morning the next morning, fog had descended on Collaroy, couldn’t even see the beach which is just over the road! The weather is very changeable here, can be warm one day and completely overcast the next…I don’t like it!!!! Anyway the fog lifted and I got the bus to Manly, on the northern headland of the harbour. Cute little shopping area and nice beach, it was very busy though. Hopped on the ferry over to the city, bit grey so the Opera House wasn’t looking its best!

Caught the ferry again the next day in the glorious sunshine and the harbour looked beautiful. The ferry journey takes you right past the Opera House and Bridge, you couldn’t ask for a better view! Headed for the Sydney Tower, been up so many tall buildings on my trip now I was wondering if it would be worth it but you get a great view of the harbour so it definitely was! Walked around the city and went to Kings Cross, photographed the big Coca Cola sign…old habits die hard!!

The fire alarm went off the in night, it was the loudest alarm I’ve ever heard!! Everyone trooped outside into the cold, the firemen arrived to check it out and then it was back to bed! Just like being back in halls of residence!

Went to the Museum of Sydney, was quite small but had lots of modern, interesting exhibits. My favourite was a touch screen table which had panoramic pictures of the harbour from throughout history, you could whizz them along and enlarge them by touching the screens, all very James Bond!!! They also had some great archive footage of the bridge being built and the harbour in days gone by, when there was a tram depot on Bennelong point instead of the Opera House. Met up with Sabine who I had met in Byron Bay and we did the coastal walk from Coogee beach to Bondi beach, was a perfect day weather wise and the views were gorgeous. We were ready for a sit down at the end though, luckily we could relax at Bondi!

Another night, another fire alarm! Still no idea why it went off two nights running. Thankfully it didn’t go off again!
On the 30th I had to change rooms so packed up all my things and headed for reception.. ‘oh yes you are moving to room 112’…that would be room 112 that I had been in for the past 8 nights argh!!! Woken up early, packed everything up and stripped my bed for nothing!!! So annoying!! Back to the same room it was! But sharing it with a lovely family from the UK so not so bad.

Back over to the city on the ferry to visit the opera house. They do a backstage tour but its AUS$150 and leaves at 7am, would have liked to have a nose but not that bothered!! Did the essential tour instead which takes you around the main auditoriums and shows you a few videos about the history of the opera house. It looks beautiful from the outside but inside is a slightly different story, Utzon who designed the exterior resigned shortly before they started on the interior leaving a different team of designers to complete the interior. Lots of concrete and wood…reminded me of the Barbican centre!

So the big day had arrived….New Years Eve!! Set off to meet Holly and Kate who I had met doing Fraser Island. We found ourselves a spot on the north side of the harbour right next to the bridge and opposite the opera house with a lovely view of the skyline of the city. We arrived about 2pm so we were in for the long haul. It was a really sunny day and we had umbrellas to shelter beneath. We had come prepared with a yummy picnic which was much admired by those sat around us!! Spent the day chatting, reading and listening to music. Was nice to watch the goings on in the harbour and generally enjoy the fantastic view! As the sun set everyone started getting excited. We had round two of our picnic and then got ready to watch the first fireworks at 9pm. There were barges positioned throughout the harbour and the countdown was projected onto the bridge. Simultaneously the fireworks exploded, lighting up the sky. Hate to admit it but have seen better fireworks before, fingers crossed the 12pm ones were better!!
Thankfully three hours later I wasn’t disappointed. As the whole of Sydney harbour shouted the countdown together the bridge erupted in an explosion of light! It was fantastic!! All along the harbour the fireworks off the barges were in perfect unison and then they started to appear from the buildings in the city too. The best part was definitely the finale on the bridge, I’ve never seen anything like it, fireworks were exploding from everywhere and in every direction!!!!! Everyone couldn’t stop grinning when they were over!

My final day trip in Sydney was to the Blue Mountains, it was a beautiful day, you could see the mist surrounding the mountains in the blue haze that gives them their name. Saw the three sisters rock formation and then walked to the Katoomba Falls which was more like a trickle!! Back into Sydney on the double decker train (very exciting) and it was time to pack and fly to New Zealand!!!

Really sad to leave Australia as I’ve had such a wonderful time and there are so many things I still want to see but really looking forward to seeing New Zealand with Mum and Dad!

Happy New Year everyone!!!!

Posted by VanessaT 22:47 Archived in Australia Tagged round_the_world Comments (1)

Fraser Island fun!

sunny 36 °C
View Backpacking 08/09 on VanessaT's travel map.

Our trip to Fraser Island began very early at the hostel for the briefing where we were split into two cars, made out shopping lists for the three days and two people were dispatched to the local supermarket. The remaining 9 of us jumped into the land cruiser and drove down the road to Bay 4WD the company we were hiring the cars off. Watched a couple of videos on camping and driving in the sand and were read the riot act about not driving in the sea and getting saltwater on the car or destroying the clutch. After loading the camping gear up the shoppers arrived back laden with food and we loaded it into the Eskys (cool boxes!). Then we were off! 30 mins drive to the barge which was to take us over to Fraser Island, the worlds largest sand island. There we would be camping and four wheel driving through the bumpy inland tracks and up and down the beach for three days.

We had quite a strict itinerary we had to keep too which was based on the tides….hard to drive down a beach at high tide! We drove over the island on the narrow tracks, getting used to the bumpy ride and finally emerged onto the eastern beach…where we promptly got stuck in the sand! Everyone out! Dug out the sand from the wheels and gave the car a push and we were out. Only got stuck a couple of times and neither of them were too serious. The other hazard we had to watch out for was planes landing on the beach! The park rangers are flown in every day and you can do short flights over the island and they use the eastern beach to land. Had to dodge a couple of landing planes as we were driving along!
Took a while to drive up the beach (not called seventy five mile beach for nothing!) and our first stop was Eli Creek, a crystal clear freshwater spring flowing down into the sea..it was freezing! After a bit of paddling we were back in the jeep and up to the Maheno a shipwrecked cruise liner. As it was being towed to a Japanese scrapyard in 1935 it was caught in a cyclone and beached on Fraser Island. Quick photo stop at the Pinnacles, multicolored sand cliffs…reminded me of Allen bay on the Isle of Wight!

Then it was time to head for our camping site. Because we were doing the tour with Beaches they have a permanent base camp set up with showers, toilets, an eating area with BBQ and gas rings. Other groups just camped along the beach with no amenities…I was looking forward to a nice shower!!

We headed on up the beach………right past the campsite!! 10kms too far we realized our mistake and turned around, racing back down the beach as the tide was coming in fast. Luckily we made it to the campsite without having to drive through the waves!
Time to set up camp!! We had three tents between us and we got them up with varying degrees of success! We were staving by this point so set about making our lunch and relaxed around the camp and on the beach for the rest of the day. Unfortunately no swimming in the sea…not because of stingers this time but tiger sharks! Along with tiger sharks we also had to contend with the 7 venomous snakes found on Fraser Island, the horse flies, the cane toads and last but not least the dingos! Why were we camping on this island again????!!

Headed north the next morning to Indian Head, a lookout point over the sea where you can see sharks and rays swimming in the waters below. Driving past Indian head the sand was really soft and deep and there was a group broken down in their 4wd right at the entrance to the pass. As the sand was so soft we had to get a bit of speed up before we hit the sand and then we started to slide a bit….towards the car!!! Argh! The broken down group looked petrified and all leapt into their vehicle, luckily we narrowly avoided them!! Think it was the scariest part of the whole trip!!
Then up to the Champagne Pools, so named because the waves come crashing over the rocks and look like champagne. it’s the only place you can swim safely in the sea so we spent the afternoon cooling off in the pools. The return journey past Indian Head was a lot less exciting on the way back!
Back at camp (luckily we could leave our tents up so no more messing around with tent poles and pegs! We did have to leave them open in the daytime though because of the dingos. Apparently if your tent was up and they smelt the slightest trace of food they would rip your tent apart to get in!) we walked up to the sand blow. Its advancing over the island toward the east gradually engulfing everything in its path. When we first got onto it we thought it was massive and then we turned the corner and it was ten times bigger than the first part!!! It was like being in the middle of the desert, sand dunes as far as the eye could see inland but then you turned to the east and saw the narrow ribbon on rainforest and the sparkling waters of the sea beyond. With the breeze it was beautiful up there and we sunbathed for the rest of the afternoon.

Our final day on Fraser Island, we packed up our camp and went south to Central station an old logging depot where you can walk through the rainforest. Last but not least it was Lake McKenzie a beautiful freshwater lake, crystal clear and perfect to swim in. We were so lucky with the weather while we were on the island as the nights before we went there had been massive storms. We were also lucky that we didn’t break our car! We came across a couple of other groups who were completely stranded as they had broken their clutches!! Oops! After all the warnings about dingos we only saw one in the end! Think if we were camping on the beach we would have seen a lot more though.
Got back to Hervey Bay and it was fingers crossed that we passed the saltwater and clutch inspection and didn’t lose our $750 bond! (we passed with flying colours)

The next day it was back on the Greyhound and down to Noosa, a small town north of Brisbane, a favourite location for holidaying Brisbanites with lots of very expensive holiday homes. Staying in the historical Halse Lodge YHA, the last wooden residential building in Noosa.

Visited the Eumundi markets on Saturday morning, reminded me a bit of the craft part of Camden market, you can tell the area is wealthy as everything was rather expensive! Then I went for a walk through the Noosa national park, the coastal track has great views over the headland and you end up on the deserted Alexandria beach. We went to the cinema in the evening and what else could we watch but Australia!

Yesterday I went to Australia Zoo, the late Steve Irwins zoo. Got the courtesy bus ‘the croc express’ from Noosa. They play Croc Hunter DVD’s in the coach on the way to get everyone in the mood! We watched one of the DVD extras ‘Steves Story’ It was quite sad because it was made before he died and in it he is so passionate about wildlife conservation, its sad to think he isn’t out there making a difference anymore. At one point he is talking about his dog Chili who was accidentally shot when hunting wild pigs (not by him!) and he is talking about how he was so upset but glad that his dog was out doing something he loved when he died. Rather prophetic really. The zoo itself has a strong conservation message, lots of crocs and other indigenous aussie creatures, koalas, cassowarys, wombats!! Saw my first kangaroos too, its so funny to watch them bounce around. They are like something from another planet.

Next stop…Brisbane!

Posted by VanessaT 18:33 Archived in Australia Tagged round_the_world Comments (1)

Whitsunday paradise

sunny 33 °C
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Still having an amazing time in Australia. The weather is a steady 33 degrees at the moment with a lovely breeze, (haha, I wrote this on my laptop earlier and you’ll all be pleased to know that its now chucking it down with rain!!!!) I’m currently in Agnes Water and the town of 1770 the second landing site of the Endeavour in May 1770. It’s very quiet here, I’m staying in Southern Cross tourist retreat which is a little out of town. Lots of hammocks and shady areas to sit and read, a pool to leap into when it gets a bit too hot and a shuttle bus to the local pub in the evenings! What more could you want? Went to the beach yesterday, it’s the first Australian beach I’ve been on that’s had any surf so it was fun to watch the surf classes practicing in the shallows. Also we are far enough south to go in the water without stinger suits or nets now.

Anyway back to Airlie beach. The morning of my trip to the Whitsundays arrived and I was up bright and early to drop my big rucksack off at the sailboat offices and walk down to the marina. Was a gorgeous morning and we were welcomed aboard the Derwent Hunter by the captain Richard, First mate Logan and hostie Zam. The Derwent Hunter is a beautiful tall ship, built in 1946, she has had a very varied past- refitted for lobster fishing to avoid being commandeered for the second world war (fishing boats were exempt). She was then refitted to become Australias first oceanographic research vessel and worked for ten years under sail in the Antarctic waters (the Derwent Hunter Sea Mount and Derwent Hunter trench were discovered and named after her). In the 60’s she was sold to Paramount Studios who used her in the TV series ‘The Rovers’ where she was named the Pacific Lady. Then followed a stint running passengers from Darwin to Timor and the Philippines -reportedly involving some smuggling and gun running! She has also taken part in the Sydney to Hobart Tall Ships race and has been working in the Whitsundays since 1993. Pretty impressive!!

We left Abel Marina and were soon hoisting the sails….unfortunately there was absolutely no wind, we were going backwards!! Not a good start so it was down with the sails and on with the engine as we motored off to Whitsunday Island. There were 19 of us onboard for the 3 day, 2 night trip around the Whitsundays and we sat on deck getting to know each other. Zam started showing people to their cabins. It was pretty close quarters, I was sharing with Siobhan and Teresa, across the way were Lucy, Laura and Lisa with the galley next door. It was pretty hot in the cabins and we were wondering whether we would get any sleep when Zam mentioned the magic words ‘sleeping up on deck’. Sounded like a plan!

Next up was Logan teaching us how to use the ‘head’ (toilet). Who knew using a toilet on board a boat was so complicated- involving a lever and button and a triple flush! I think Logan was desperate not to be unblocking toilets the whole trip so gave us a very thorough briefing! We also found out that while they had showers onboard we were only allowed to have one shower a day, lasting just 60 seconds!! (Under Queensland law if a boat runs out of fresh water it has to return to the marina) No long hot showers for us then!

Back up on deck we were approaching Tongue bay on Whitsunday island. We were dropped ashore in the little dinghy and set off for a walk through the bush up to the viewpoint over Hill Inlet. I’ve never seen so many different colours of blue in the sea, it was beautiful. Very hot though and we were all desperate to get in the water! Whitehaven beach has very fine silica sand which feels amazing between your toes and is apparently very good for cleaning rings in…it also unfortunately gets EVERYWHERE! We spent a couple of hours sunbathing and messing around in the sea… of course wearing our attractive head to toe lycra stinger suits! Many a Charlies Angel pose for the photographs!

Back on board Zam had prepared us a gorgeous lunch of meats, salad and rolls which we quickly devoured…all that sea air makes you hungry! It was mid afternoon now and we headed off to our mooring point for the night. Everyone was relaxing on board and chatting, was a really mixed group of people but everyone got on really well.
Before we knew it we were being fed again, baked fish and mashed potatoes. It was getting dark and Richard pointed out lots of constellations, with no light pollution it was amazing how many stars it was possible to see. We even had a very rare event which was the sight of Jupiter and Venus glowing brightly below the moon.
Soon it was time to turn in. Everyone bagged a space on the deck and laid out their bed rolls. With the rocking of the boat I was asleep in no time!

With the sun as an alarm clock we woke about 6am, had some breakfast and were off to our first snorkeling point of the day. Back into the dinghy…considering Whitehaven had been a nice experience between our toes this next beach was the complete opposite, a mixture of coral and rocks it was a very painful experience, even Siobhan, living in Brighton so used to a pebbly beach was in agony! All the more incentive to get in the water! Logan was around in the dinghy and that attracted lots of friendly bat fish and also the biggest fish I have ever seen, a crested something or other, named Elvis because he looked like he had a big quiff! Must have been at least a metre long and half a metre tall. He enjoyed gobbling up the food Logan threw to him while swimming around with his entourage.
Back to the boat, more gorgeous food and off to snorkeling spot number two, blue pearl bay. This time we were allowed to leap off the boat, brilliant, wasting no time, I was first in! This snorkeling spot was nice as there was lots of soft coral waving underwater as far as the eye could see, it looks just like a whole field of feathers. There are a few fish, like the parrotfish which actually eat the hard coral, you can see them taking chunks out of it and it sounds like someone is eating crisps under the water!

Determined to have a bit of a sail Captain Rich motored out into the sea and we hoisted the sails, this time we managed to pick up a bit of wind and sailed for about an hour before turning around and heading back into the shelter of the islands and our mooring point for the night. Its such a different sensation sailing as opposed to using the engine, the deck on an angle and you can really feel the rise and fall of the waves.

Zam had been slaving away in the galley again and turned out another delicious meal…I couldn’t have cooked it on dry land let alone on a boat!
Played the longest running game of charades I’ve played in ages which was great fun, all the suitably nautical films…Jaws…Jaws II….
Our second night on board ship and we were all getting into the swing of things. Using the head was second nature and we had perfected the 60 second shower! Once again it was out with the bed rolls and under the blankets to watch the stars and drift off to sleep. Perfect.

Our final day onboard and my favourite snorkeling spot of the trip, Black island. The coral here was gorgeous and very varied, also had a great drop off, beyond which you could spot turtles. I was floating around minding my own business watching some fish when I felt a set of teeth on my ankle! It nearly gave me a heart attack, my first thought was it was someone messing around and biting my ankle because it really felt like hard human teeth but there was no-one else nearby, then I spotted the culprit- a mean looking coral eating fish with four wonky teeth, three on the bottom and one sticking down from the top, the cheeky thing had tried to take a chunk out of my ankle!!! Tried to wave him away with my fin but he wouldn’t leave me alone and followed me for about 10 minutes!

Had our final lunch back onboard and then it was time to set sail for Airlie beach. We were really lucky and caught a good wind and had a great sail back to the marina.
We had a brilliant trip, I think everyone could have done with another couple of nights onboard! Reluctantly we came ashore, but its wasn’t goodbye just yet, we all arranged to meet up for dinner in the evening.

I was leaving on the 11.55pm bus to go to Agnes Water, so were Lucy and Laura so we all piled into Siobhans room with Rommel and Bjork to have a shower and repack our bags.
Spent the evening in the bar at Beaches, everyone gradually drifted off to catch buses and trains to their next destinations. Having got up at 6am we were practically asleep at the table and were relieved when the time came to catch the bus. It was an overnight bus, arriving in Agnes Water at 10am, even though I was really tired I didn’t get that much sleep so was a bit of a zombie in the morning! Luckily that is my only overnight bus here in Australia though.

So had an brilliant time sailing the Whitsundays, couldn’t have asked for a better group of people, crew, boat or weather, it was perfect!! Definitely another trip highlight!

Posted by VanessaT 01:04 Archived in Australia Tagged boating Comments (0)

Start of my Oz adventures

sunny 36 °C
View Backpacking 08/09 on VanessaT's travel map.

Arrived in Cairns and it was all a bit of a culture shock! Spent about 2 hours walking around the supermarket marveling at all the foods I had forgotten even existed! The hostel in Cairns was lovely, a converted house, definitely one of the nicest places I’ve stayed on my whole trip. Went for a walk along Cairns esplanade- they really do have BBQs everywhere here and I saw a genuine Aussie BBQ in full swing!

Took a trip up to Cape Tribulation, north of Cairns, the area is one of the oldest rainforests in the whole and one of the only places where the rainforest meets the sea. On the way up we went on a croc hunting cruise on the Daintree river, we saw Scar-face the dominant male of that section of the river…he was very big and had apparently killed a cow the week before…nice. In cape trib we were staying in cabins surrounded by rainforest, just a short walk to a deserted beach. Unfortunately you cant swim in the sea at the moment because its stinger season and the sea is full of jellyfish. Some towns put up stinger nets to create a safe place to swim, otherwise its on with the attractive head to toe stinger suits!

On our last day in Cairns we went on a day trip to the Great Barrier Reef. We went on an old pearl lugger called The Falla, a gorgeous wooden sailboat. There were only 8 of us onboard for our trip, and only two of us diving, so we were really lucky, it was practically like a private charter. Doug the captain and Nari our dive instructor were very attentive. We did two dives, the first at the coral gardens, that was nice but I was still getting used to the whole diving thing so didn’t take much in! We did see a giant clam though which was amazing, they close up when you wave water towards them. On the second dive in the ‘Jaws of Death’ (for boats not people, luckily!) we saw a lot more, the coral was more vibrant and varied and we saw lots of fish too….not that I can name any of them!
On the way back to Cairns Doug had us captivated with the history of the Falla and he and Nari hoisted the sails but unfortunately it was a completely calm day so no wind!!
No-body wanted to get off the boat when we were back in Cairns as we had had such a brilliant day, definitely one of the highlights of my trip.

My next stop down the coast was Townsville for a ferry connection to Magnetic Island (named by Captain Cook in 1770 as his compass went peculiar as he sailed by). It was a bit rainy in the mornings but the afternoons were ok and I walked up to the old forts on the island, gun emplacements built during the second world war. They gave a great view over the island and out into the sea. On the way up I spent my time staring intently into the trees in the hope of spotting some koalas…which I did, I got very excited while they were unawares, sleeping peacefully in their trees! There were a lot of bugs in our cabin at night and a couple of people were really scared of creepy crawlies and spent a lot of time killing bugs with their flip flops which was amusing to watch them jumping round the room!

Time to hop on my second greyhound bus to Airlie Beach. The greyhound buses are great here, very clean and punctual. Play dvds along the way which passes the time…a step up from loud asian music videos and honking horns!
Currently waiting in Airlie Beach till my boat leaves for the Whitsunday Islands. Airlie has a man made lagoon on the seafront so spent a lot of time cooling off in there. In Cairns the weather was very hot and humid, like in Indonesia but coming down the coast its gradually getting less humid and more breezy but still pretty warm. The 1st of December today, very strange to be wearing shorts and t-shirt in December!

Posted by VanessaT 03:17 Archived in Australia Tagged round_the_world Comments (1)

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