Where have all the Aussies gone?
10/06/2012 18 °C
We arrived in Sydney early evening on our flight from Auckland and we were hit with our first taste of Australian prices when we got a 10 minute train from the airport to the city for $30 (20 pounds). We found our apartment easy enough and were very impressed with the standard - really smart with a nice kitchenette and living area and free washer and dryer - certainly an upgrade from hostels (at not much more cost).
We walked down to the nearest supermarket and picked up some food for dinner and breakfast then enjoyed a nice meal in our apartment, cooked by our head chef.
Following morning with blue skies above we walked down to Darling Harbour, which doesn't have a great write up but we thought it was pretty nice.
We strolled around then headed down to Sydney Fish Market where we picked up some big mussels to have for dinner and watched people being attacked by seagulls while having their lunch.
In the afternoon we went to a nearby mall so I could get some shoes and a bargain $5 top to wear for my birthday the next day and in the evening we enjoyed a bargain bottle of Cloudy Bay (picked up in NZ) and some fresh bread and mussels. A chilled out first day in Sydney.
On my birthday we walked to Surry Hills to go to Bill's (Bill Granger's cafe) for brunch which was very nice. We then got the train down to Sydney Harbour so we could really feel like we were in Sydney and seeing the bridge and Opera House certainly did it.
We spent some time walking round; enjoying the sights and sunshine, then after some ice-cream we headed back to our apartment.
After getting changed into some smarter clothes we walked down to the Sky Tower so we could be at the top on the revolving platform for sunset. After spending 20 minutes trying to work out how to get to the top we were finally up there - and it was a really impressive view over the city. With champagne cocktails in hand we stood and watched while the sun slowly went down and the city lights came on.
Another glass of fizz and a bowl of olives later we said goodbye to the view and walked back to our apartment. After spending all our money on champagne we enjoyed a bottle of sparkling wine and some of Ramsey's cooking for dinner. It was a lovely day, and I'm glad I got to spend my 30th birthday in Sydney.
Next day we went back down to Sydney Harbour and got a ferry over to Manley, which took a very picturesque route.
Manley was a nice little place and we took a walk by the beach before heading back to the city.
Once there we took a visit to the Museum of Contemporary Art, which was a nice change as we hadn't visited an art gallery in our whole trip (and it was one of our free activities for Sydney!) then we grabbed a quick bite to eat in Subway before taking a walk round The Rocks and a walk on the bridge to see sunset.
We luckily had three sunny days in Sydney, which made the city stand out as a really enjoyable city to spend time in.
Following morning the weather had changed and we were greeted by a grey sky which slowly turned to rain. Fortunately we were leaving for the airport that morning with hopes that the rain wouldn't follow. Standing outside Sydney airport I said to Ramsey "haven't we been lucky with our flights, no major delays yet", now I don't usually believe in jinxing things but when the 1 hour flight to Brisbane took 6 hours I had to wonder. First our flight was delayed by an hour and a half then when we finally got on board and the flight team had done all their safety demonstrations the Captain said the ground staff had noticed a problem with the plane - 15 minutes later we were told we would have to get off the plane. We had to wait a few hours for another one, but we did get an $8 food voucher - which didn't go far in an airport in Sydney! When we eventually got onto our new plane they had a problem with the head count and then there was traffic when we needed to land, so all in all we could almost have driven the distance in the time it took us to fly! While waiting for our flight we did some ringing around to find some accommodation for when we arrived, and called the car hire place to check they would still be open. Fortunately they were still able to pick us up from the airport to give us our Ford Focus, which we used to head down to the Gold Coast and Southport. On arrival in Southport we realised we may have made a mistake as it was full of high rise hotels - not really our sort of place.
The next morning we got up at the crack of dawn to be confronted with grey skies and rain further compounding the sense that this was not the place for us. We thought it best not to give up hope for the Gold Coast yet so took a drive further south towards Surfers Paradise. We were faced with yet more high rise and the weather was just getting worse. With that we decided to sack off the Gold Coast and head north to the Sunshine Coast. Upon arrival in Caloundra it was still raining - Sunshine Coast?? That evening we spent time chilling at the hostel enjoying some good food, lots of wine and a few games of pool on the most challenging table of the trip so far.
The following day the sunshine coast started to live up to it's name. The rain had stopped and the sky had started to clear. It was not quite hot enough for the beach though so we took it as our cue to head inland to the Glasshouse Mountains. The drive took us down Steve Irwin Way - nice! The first post of call at the mountains was lookout point.
We immediately noticed that the mountains were very similar to the Marble Mountains in Vietnam - just not quite as impressive. We thought it best to take a close look so we headed down to the base of one of the larger Mountains (more like big hills) to go for a walk. We set off on a short 4km lap round the base of the hill - the walk was fairly chilled and took us through some nice woodland.
After our walk we headed back to town to use the internet to try and look at some options for the remainder of our time in Oz. That evening we went in for another relaxed one enjoying some food and wine and chilling round the fire at the hostel.
Up early the next day we spoke to the chap at our hostel and proceeded to book ourselves a trip out to the Barrier Reef (Lady Musgrove Island) and a two day sailing trip on The Whitsundays. Feeling buzzed that we had got some good things lined up we made our way back down Steve Irwin Way to the Australia Zoo (Steve's place). Going to the zoo is something that we had both been looking forward to for quite some time. The zoo lived up to our expectations in every way. First up we saw some Kookaburras, large Lizards (including a Komodo Dragon), Alligators, Tasmanian Devils, Dingos, Cassowaries and Koalas.
We then went to the wildlife warriors show - the show opened up with a VT of Steve giving out his message of conservation and environmental awareness - he was very passionate and it was quite emotional to watch. The show soon lifted the spirits though as we were treated to loads of well trained birds making appearances (including Macaws, Andean Condor and a very large Crane) and an impressive show put on by the crocodile handlers.
After the show we went to make friends with some Kangaroos and then went to watch a talk about Koalas when we both got the chance to stroke one. Following a brief picnic lunch at the car we went to see loads more animals - more kangaroos, wombats, snakes, wetland birds, emus and a host of birds in the rain forest aviary. We went to see our final show of the day - the birds of prey and then headed to see the elephants, tigers, red panda, cheetah, rhino, giraffe and zebra.
On the way back to the car we said goodbye to the Kangaroos and got the change to stroke a wombat as well. A top day. We were both really impressed with the standard of care for the animals, how happy they looked and how energetic and well informed all of the staff were. Good job Steve!
After a action packed day we took a short drive up to Noosa and went straight to our accommodation. On the way were were treated to an excellent sunset. That evening Elaine enjoyed watching the Eurovision Song Contest (a full length replay because the Aussies love it so much?) while I knocked us up some dinner.
The next day we got up early and had some free breakfast at the hostel - cereal and toast but I'll have owt for nowt! With another sunny day beckoning we headed off to the Noosaville National Park for a walk. We set of down the 4.2 km tanglewood track through dense forest on our way out to the coast. The walk was peaceful and relaxed, just a shame that there was not much wildlife to see. Once we arrived at the coast the view was out of Hells Gates (A small peninsular) were fantastic - hitting the coast after a two hour walk through the forest was nice.
Sheltering out of the wind, we enjoyed our picnic lunch (while Elaine was harassed by the local birds, EH - it was like a scene from The Birds!) and then made our way down the 2.6km coastal track back to the car.
On Route we stopped at Dolphin Point but we were out of luck. We made our way out of Noosa (getting lost a couple of time trying to find a supermarket, EH - until Ramsey allowed me to navigate!) then hit the Bruce Highway on our way to Hervey Bay. After a couple of hours on the road we arrived in Hervey Bay - just as we entered town the storm clouds loomed on the horizon. We checked into our accommodation - although we only booked a double room we ended up with a whole unit to ourselves with a private bathroom and our own kitchen and lounge area - nice. We enjoyed the first evening in a while eating some Italian meatballs with pasta sat down in front of the TV with a glass of wine.
When we woke up the rain started (not what we wanted to see as the following day we were due to take a trip out to the barrier reef around Lady Musgrove Island). When checking out of our accommodation we called the tour company and they told us there was a 90% chance of cancellation and they would leave a message at the hostel we were due to stay at that evening. We had planned to spend the day at the beach and have a chilled morning before venturing North - the rain put a stop to that. As an alternative we decided to make our way to Bundaberg quick sharp so that we could have a tour of the Bundaberg Rum Distillery. The tour was quite straight forward, neither of us had seen the distillation process before so we had a bit to learn. They kept all the interesting stuff about filtration and aging secret though. To make up for their secretive ways they gave us a couple of free drinks at the bar at the end of the tour. I went straight in for the 5 years reserve over ice - it tasted like petrol and I had to go back to the bar with my tail between my legs and ask for a top up of coke. Elaine went in for the 1961 blend and it was good and smooth - a ginger ale top up was still required though. For seconds I had a Bundy Red with lemonade over ice - so smooth it actually tasted like bourbon (however as I was driving I only has two sips and passed the rest to Elaine), Elaine went in for the chocolate, coffee and caramel liquor - it was immense! After the tour we hit the road again and made our way out to Agnes Water and our accommodation for the night. Upon arrival we had a message waiting for us - not what we wanted. With the lack of a trip for the following day we quickly adjusted our reservation down to one night. We spent the evening coming up with some revised plans and enjoying the left over meatballs from last night. I did spend a portion of the evening sat outside our hut secretly drinking red wine out of a mug (as it was a licenced site and no alcohol was allowed to be brought in) while Elaine finished posting the NZ blog.
Having made revised plans the next day we set out to the Town of 1770. While in the neighborhood we felt it appropriate to go and check out the place where Captain Cook stood when he first discovered Australia. We took a stroll on the beach and had a look at the commemorative memorial. We had enjoyed sitting on the rocks and looking at the countless numbers of Rafael Nadal style crabs scurrying about.
After a bit of a chill we hit the road and made our way north on the Bruce towards Rockhampton. Reading the travel guide we prepared ourselves for small streets with cowboys herding cattle everywhere - Rockhampton did not deliver. Seeing no cowboys we took the chance to fuel up the car and visit the supermarket before heading on to Emu Park. When we arrived on the coast the sky started to look gray again. We checked in at our accommodation then decided to go out for a drive around the scenic (at least that is what the guide said) coast.
Just as we arrived at one of the many lookouts in the area the heavens opened - wipers on full speed. We took a slow drive (mandatory) back to the hostel and decided to chill in the room and watch some dodgy Aussie rip offs of English game shows. Hearing happy hour calling we headed down to the bar for a couple of jugs of beer and a game of pool followed by some table tennis. Thai red curry for tea and then an EN in front of the TV watching yet more dodgy Aussie TV.
As it looked like the weather was not going to lift for the next couple of days at least we though it would be much better to spend our time inland rather than at the coast. We called up the Platypus Bushcamp (http://www.bushcamp.net) and made reservations for the next couple of days. We spent a bit of time messing about with MP3 players before we set off (as we had finally managed to locate a cable to use with the car) and then finally hit the road for about 12:00. Then ensued the longest drive of the trip so far. We headed north on the Bruce through sugar cane country on our way towards Mackay. We had a brief stop for Tim Tams on route but apart from that it was a long old drive north. We turned off toward Finch Hatton just as the sun was setting and then following the badly scaled map on the flyer found ourselves down a small lane driving over several fords. By this time darkness had descended and when we arrived at the bush camp we needed head torches to find the reception. We managed to find 'Wazza' in the darkness and after storing our food in the bins in the kitchen to prevent the 'critters' coming to visit, we were then taken to our humble abode; which was a riverside wooden no-sided structure with a bed in - which wasn't quite what we expected from the flyer we saw! To get to the kitchen we had a walk through a wood and a cross a creek with stepping stones, so we felt pretty remote. After the initial surprise at our accommodation we headed over to the kitchen and relaxed with a book and some red wine by the light of oil lanterns. Ramsey cooked up some chilli in the surprisingly well equipped kitchen then it was an early night, trying to sleep with the sound of the river next to our lodge and rain pounding down on the roof.
Next day it was still raining when we awoke and without proper waterproofs we were a little limited on what we could do for the day. Spent some time chilling with a book hoping for the weather to clear then realising it wasn't going to stop jumped in the car and took a drive out to the nearby town Eungella. Not too much to see and a steep climb up a hill just took us into some cloud (but would have probably been a good view on a sunny day) so we headed back.
Early evening we went to the Platypus viewing platform with the hope of seeing some Platypuses, but unfortunately none appeared. In the evening we finished the chilli and red wine and chatted to some other guests and the two pet Sulphur-Crested Cockatoos who live there.
Next day it was still wet, which was not what we were hoping for as it was the day our Whitsundays tour was starting. We set off early so we could stop at another Platypus viewing platform - but only saw some turtles swimming around. Got on the road and headed towards Airlie hoping that the weather would be better towards the coast. The sky did start to brighten and after picking up some drinks for the trip, checking in with the travel agent and parking the car there was some blue sky to be seen out to sea. When we started motoring out of the marina at 16:00 the sun was out and we breathed a sigh of relief. Our 46 ft catamaran called 'On Ice' was better than we expected and with only 6 guests instead of the maximum 10 we had lots of space. After making ourselves at home and assisting with putting the sails up we sat down to enjoy some good food (cooked by the skipper's mate who fortunately for us used to be a chef) and a couple of drinks while enjoying the sunset. A few games of cards and we went back to our cabin as an early start was planned.
Ramsey was awake for sunrise and I joined him on the deck shortly after to find a beautiful blue sky and calm waters. Some coffee and freshly prepared fruit salad set us up for the day before we made our first stop on Whitehaven at a viewing spot.
A short walk up a hill and we had a great view of the beaches and coast.
Back on the boat we got into our wetsuits and had a go at paddle boarding - which was easier than I thought it would be and didn't fall off once! Next stop was Whitehaven Beach, we stopped at a nice secluded spot so it felt like we had the beach to ourselves - beautiful sea and white sand, bliss.
Not being able to sit down for more than half an hour Ramsey took the opportunity to take out one of the higher spec paddle boards - he saw lots of stingray while paddling up the coast.
After a very nice lunch on the boat we headed to a secluded cove where there was lots of coral and some fish. I never quite managed to get the hang of snorkeling so instead went out on the dinghy where I still got a great view of the coral and marine life. When Ramsey got back from snorkeling we took out the see through kayak which allowed us to float above the coral and see it right underneath us. Ramsey went for another paddle board session before we sailed on and anchored for the night. After another good evening meal some more cards was played with a couple of drinks.
Another sunny morning awoke us and after brecky we headed off to another snorkelling spot, where turtles lived. Ramsey managed to swim right alongside one while snorkelling and we saw some more from the dinghy on the way back to the boat. Even with wetsuits on everyone was a bit cold so back on the boat we warmed up with tea and coffee before heading back to Airlie Beach.
Some sunbathing and lunch en-route and we were back by 14:00. We had a fantastic time on the catamaran, unfortunately the lack of wind meant we couldn't do much sailing, but the activities, sea-life, crew and food all made it a fantastic trip.
Back at our car and we hit the road to Ravenswood. As we got nearer and it gradually got darker we started seeing kangaroos and wallabies on the side of the road and we started feeling more and more remote.
We eventually found ourselves in the little mining town of Ravenswood - passing the nice looking Railway Hotel we continued onto our booked accommodation at the Imperial Hotel. After disappointingly being greeted by a Welsh girl (we thought here there may be Aussie staff) we went up to our very basic room to find 30 spiders on the ceiling (Mum - it was like being in Dad's old shed at the bottom of the garden!) Deciding a drink would make the amount of spiders more bearable we had a beer at the bar then headed down the road to the Railway Hotel for some dinner. A burger and beer later we had got chatting with the owners and locals and decided we would have a few more drinks there before heading back to our spider infested room! We spent the rest of the evening drinking Bundy and coke with the locals - an experience our Oz trip had been lacking so far. It was a fun evening and we came away with free beer coolers as a memento.
Up for sunrise the next day we went to the old mine lookout above the small town. We were treated to some good views of the surrounding area bathed in the warm morning light and a few wallabies taking in the view as well.
are only 150 people living in Ravenswood and not many were up at that time so we took the opportunity to have a drive round the town and check out some of the rustic Auzzie buildings.
We headed back to our hotel and enjoyed a very average breakfast before settling up and hitting the road to make our way further north.
We hit the Bruce again and fired North. Around lunch time we veered off toward the Paluma National Park and went to check out the water hole at crystal creek. It was a nice spot but the day was not quite warm enough to warrant a dip in the icy waters.
On the way back to the car we bumped into a couple of Kookaburras sat in a tree. Quite friendly and not afraid of the camera at all.
After hitting some Tim Tams we got back on the road and made our way towards Halifax stopping at Ingham for an award winning pie along the way (I am not sure what award it got though!). Halifax Queensland is what you wish Halifax UK was like. A sleepy little town with sugar cane farms around and not a pound shop in sight!
We made our way out to Lucinda on the coast and chilled at the marina in the sun for a bit. Feeling a bit hungry and with the time moving on to early afternoon we though it best to make our way up to Mission beach to check into our accommodation for the night. Turning off the Bruce down towards Mission Beach we entered a protected Cassowary conservation area - not what we expected. We took the road slow as there were loads of signs warning about running over Cassowaries.
Low and behold we were in luck - about 5km out of Mission we spotted a massive bird by the side of the road, we were travelling a bit too fast to get a photo but still managed to get a good look. Arriving at Mission we first when to checkout the beach and realised that we had picked well - we weren't actually statying in Mission Beach but in a place called Wolonga Beach sandwiched between Mission Beach and South Mission Beach. We checked into our accommodation and told them about our sighting - they said we were very lucky as there are not many in the area at the moment and they rarely get seen - boom, nice one. After checking in we picked up some food from the local supermarket and then headed out for another round of Cassowary spotting - it must have been our lucky day as we say another two scampering along by the side of the road - in yer pipe! Not wanting to push our luck we retired back to the hostel to drink some wine, play some cards and enjoy a nice healthy salad - the massive 'railway burger' of the night before was still greasing the arteries!
Having missed out earlier in the trip on beach time due to the wet weather we headed down to the beach after breakfast to get a little sunbathing in. The beach was very quiet so we had a patch of sand all to ourselves where we could watch the skydivers decending down and enjoy the Aussie sunshine.
After a couple of hours we walked back to the hostel to pick up the car and went on a drive up the coast to check out some of the other beaches.
We stopped at Mission Beach for lunch then went back up to one of the other beaches with the aim to spend another hour in the sunshine but decided it was too windy so instead went back to the hostel and chilled on the grass for a while. The evening was spent enjoying another salad and some wine.
We dedided to extend our stay at Mission Beach as it was a very relaxed place with good beaches, so in the morning we walked down to the beach again and spent a couple of hours enjoying the sunshine. We picked up some lunch and beers and spent the rest of the afternoon in the garden at the hostel trying out our beer coolers we were given in Ravenswood. Another relaxed evening and an early night as an early start the next day was planned.
We got up in time for sunrise and jumped in the car to watch the sun rise over the sea. There was a little cloud but it was still a good view.
Afterwards we had breakfast then hit the Bruce north. We stopped at Josephine Falls and went for a quick walk to the waterfalls - at 9am it was still a bit cold for swimming in a river!
(If Luke doesn't fancy a move to New Zeland he can always find a home away from home in Auz....)
Slowly heading north we stopped at Yorkeys Knob Beach where we had lunch then continued up the coast to Port Douglas where we found our first real costal road in Oz.
We stopped in Port Douglas to book a tour for the following day and enjoy some good ice cream. Heading back south on the beautiful costal road we made a stop at quiet Ellis Beach before reaching Cairns early evening.
We had a relaxed meal at our chilled hostel - the best one we stayed at in Oz.
We had a trip booked for our final day in Oz out to Green Island, a small coral cay in the Great Barrier Reef a 45 minute boat ride from Cairns. We arrived at the island just before 12 and straight away hit the beach for some snorkelling and sunbathing.
This time I managed to get the hang of snorkelling and saw lots of beautiful coloured fish in the sea. We left the beach in time for our semi-submersable trip where we saw lots and lots of fish and a small shark. It was a worthwhile trip as we saw loads of fish close up.
We grabbed a bite to eat then went down to a different beach. I got in some sunbathng while Ramsey went out and did some more snorkelling - where he saw and octupus, various differnt fish of all shapes, colours and sizes and to top it all off a stingray and another turtle! It was a fun day out and a nice way to spend our final day in Australia. We saw some impressive fish and although the coral wasn't as good as what we saw in The Whitsundays, between both places we were happy with what we saw of the Great Barrier Reef.
Today we got an early flight out of Cairns and are now spending the evening with Ramsey's family in Auckland before catching our flight to Santiago tomorrow to begin the final leg of our trip - only one month left now!
Australia grew on us as we travelled around. We saw some amazing wildlife and the trip to Australia Zoo and The Whitsundays were definitely the highlights. Driving was a bit boring compared to New Zealand but the scenery improved as we went North. We wouldn't mind going back to Auz and if we did, Melbourne, the West coast and the outback would definitely be on the list.