Location: Gold Coast, Australia
Quiet day today, we had planned to spend the day at the beach but surprise, surprise, it was cloudy !! Queensland is known as the sunshine state - I think trade descriptions should be notified!! Seriously though, the weather has just been very mixed, I thought it would be sun, sun, sun but it is just not like that, although it is apparently colder and less sunny than it was this time last year so I guess Oz is suffering from the same climate changes as the rest of us.
So, tomorrow we are going to the Currumbin wildlife park and then Friday to Brisbane, then Saturday I am hoping the weather will be good so I can get a bit of tan top up time in before going to a house warming party and then onwards to the airport for my long old journey homeward !!!!
I can't believe that a month is over and I am coming home at the weekend, I have had such a fabulous time (and spent a LOT of money - but hey ho there you go, such is life !!!) I hope you have all enjoyed keeping up with my travels on email, I am really glad I have written my diary along the way because already I am starting to forget some of the little things I have done, seen or thought during my travels !!
Location: Gold coast, Australia
First off we went up the Q1 tower in Surfers Paradise which is the 20th highest building in the world so we took in the views over the Gold Coast and were very civilised and had tea and cake while we were up there too. Karen then had a baby shower to go to so we dashed across town to go to the lunch party (BBQ of course - what else !!). Then in the evening Karen and I had booked to go and see a show called Tempo Rouge in the Casino at Surfers. The show was fabulous, the dancers and musicians come into the aisles and we had them 1 row in front of us, there were lots of different styles of dancing, hula-hooping (like you have never seen before), juggling (again - I cannot describe - it was amazing!) and the grossest display of a man in a bottle with just about every joing discloated and the wrong way, I was nearly sick and Karen couldn't watch!! The casino set up is incredible, 6 restaurants, god knows how many bars, I dread to think how many gaming machines and tables were there and it was all open 24 hours !! God, you could do some damage there, Karen and I lost about $5 between us, I'll re-phrase that, I lost $5, never been much good at the gambling thing and was just hitting buttons randomly as I didn't have a clue, for my own safety Karen then banned me from the area and took me back to the bar!!
Location: Goldcoast - Seaworld, Australia
Karen, Ellie, Joel and myself all get ready to spend the day at Seaworld. The weather was really crappy to start with although by lunchtime it had warmed up- it has been really unpredictable during all of my stay in Oz. We watched the dolphin display which was amazing, the seal show and then a really funny waterski show set in the 60's which was really cool. Saw the stinky penguins, sharks and stingrays and lots of other fish in the underwater aquarium (much better than Sydney aquarium by the way!!) , we also saw the polar bears which were amazing and much livelier than Karen had ever seen them before, one bear was literally swimming hundreds of laps of the pool, and when he turned at the end he was one side of the glass and we were the other - it was awesome as they say over here !!!
Location: Byron Bay, Australia
A day trip with the whole family to Byron Bay, I really quite liked this place, typical beach village with loads of nice shops, restaurants and bars but busier and more atmospheric than some of the places I have been to i.e Airlie Beach and Hervey Bay. Again, we just chilled out, had fish and chips on the beach, a paddle in the sea and of course an ice-cream to finish.
After that we went across to the lighthouse and followed the walk that takes you to the most easterley point of Australia. We saw a turtle and several dolphins playing by the surfers which was really exciting. Also saw my first snake which upon looking at Ellie's book we think was a harmless common legless lizard but I certainly didn't take any chances at the time !!
Location: Gold Coast, Australia
It is quite usual for Karen et al to go the the beach for a BBQ at the weekends so not suprisingly that's exactly what we do today!! A load of Karen's friends all met up and cooked on communal BBQ stands provided by the beach, it really is a very sociable way of life, very chilled out, we just sat around and eat and drank, the kids played cricket and went in the sea. I had a little paddle but it was a bit chilly and I am still worried about jellyfish and other nasties so didn't go any further!! In the evening, we went round to one of Karen's friends for her birthday and I managed to drink a whole bottle of wine to myself. Mind you, I did fall asleep on the sofa with the children so for those of you who know what a poor drinker I am don't get too impressed that I drank a bottle !!
Location: Hervey Bay to Brisbane, Australia
I am soooooo excited!!! Today I have my last bus trip to get to Brisbane, then a short train trip to finally see Karen (the whole reason for me coming here in the first place!) Whoopee, I can't wait !!
And the good news is the journey is only 5 hours - although I can't quite believe that I now think that is a short trip!
I didn't quite manage to hold back the tears when I finally met Karen, although it was not the torrent of tears I had expected. What was really nice though was that we both felt that it was only yesterday we last saw each other not over 12 months ago. That night after I got settled in at Karen's, we went to Surfers Paradise for some dinner and a night market. What an amazingly busy place that is, loads going on and all decorated beautifully for Christmas, although I just can't get used to thinking of Christmas in the sun, it just seems very wrong to me !!
Location: Fraser Island, Australia
Now I was really looking forward to this after Riley told me what a great time she had there and that I must go. Fraser Island is the worlds largest sand island and is about 75x15kms big. I sadly only had time for a whistle stop tour as I only had the time for a day trip but we saw a lot in the day and had a great tour guide. All of the roads are sand (and some of it pretty deep) and only 4WD vehicles can get around it. What fun bouncing around, I can safely say that after that and 30 hours of coach trips that I don't think I get travel sick on coaches anymore!! We saw the Maheno shipwreck on 75 mile beach, this was ship-wrecked being towed back to Japan in the 1800's because it was hit by a cyclone, and despite the Japs trying to move it after it grouned, it has lain there ever since.
We drove up 75 mile beach (which is actually 68 miles long - must've been a man that named it!!). What a wonderful view, the ocean crashing down, blue skies and golden beach. By the way - the beach is actually a registered highway and a landing strip for small airplanes (I think the tour guide said that Fraser Island is the only place in Oz that planes can legally land on the beach)
So guess what I had to go and do??!! Yes you got it, went up for a short plane flight in a 6 seater. It was amazing, although quite bumpy and this most definately made me feel more than a little sick. But a great experience, we flew over the coast, lakes, rainforest and even bush fires on Fraser Island.
And Nic, you were right, Fraser Island is FAB!! But I didn't see a dingo, although our guide did say that he only saw between 4-5 per week and as there are only 150 in total on the island they are pretty scarce. On the way back to the ferry, I sat in the front of the cab with the tour guide, that was just brilliant fun, the bus even totally left the road at one point - as I said to the driver, it's times like that I am glad I am not big chested, could've resulted in a couple of black eyes for sure !!!
Location: Whitsundays, Australia
Off I go on a sailing trip around the Whitsundays - on another catamaran (because they don't make me sea-sick!!). The weather to start with was a little mixed, well to be honest it peed it down half way out but cleared quite quickly and turned out to be a lovely day. We sailed around the Whitsunday islands (of which there are 74 with approx 10 inhabited), the views were just lovely and on this trip I met a girl from Bristol called Tanya, who I spent the day with so again that was nice to have some company, also met a nice family from Canada and 2/3rds of a nice family from the states (i.e parent and one child nice, other child a total spoilt brat!!)
We anchor just off Whitehaven beach, some people swim across (in rather fetching stinger suits) but I opted to go across in the dinghy which was interesting and proved to be a rather unladylike exit. The beach though was simply gorgeous, white sand with a texture a bit like walking in powder snow, it even crunched underfoot. An hour sun-bathing there and then back to the boat for lunch -via yet another unladylike mount and dismount of the dinghy!!
After a lovely BBQ lunch on the boat we travel homewards stopping to snorkel on the way and then arrived back for 6pm. A very quick shower and dash out to get to the bus station for my pen-ultimate bus journey. And we wait and we wait and we wait and finally 2 hours later the bus arrives, a most apologetic driver tells us they will try to make time up but then when we finally end up in Hervey Bay, we are in fact another hour late on top of the original 2 hours - nightmare!!! It was an overnight bus journey so I arrived at 1pm on Wednesday 6th December - obviously knackered so not much to report sorry!!
Location: Whitsundays, Australia
Yippee, the sun is out. Sun-bathed most of the day by the pool. Lovely, although very hot and oh dear, the sun is quite deceiving and most ferocious here, I have burnt!!! How on earth the pale skins cope with this I just don't know.
Location: Airlie Beach, Australia
Well that has scuppered me, a day of sun-bathing planned and where was the bloody sun this morning ??!! It is midday now and the sun is just starting to peek through so off to the pool I go !!
I am off to Fraser island on Tuesday night (travel overnight - another 12ish hour trip to get through on the Greyhound bus!), will update you all more when I am at Karen's, due there on the 8th December.
Location: Airlie Beach, Australia
Well here I am, in the Coral Sea resort on Airlie Beach, I am staying here for 4 nights (which incidentally, is the longest time I have stayed anywhere so far!!) This is a lovely place, the hotel is right on the edge of the cliffs looking out over the sea, so very picturesque. Airlie beach resort is very busy, lots of nice restaurants and loads of back-packers as you can imagine. The facilities here are great, there is a lagoon pool which most people seem to use instead of the sea (because of the stingers) and there are lots of picnic areas and BBQ areas around - all very sociable! My plan here is to relax a bit so don't expect much from me, I plan to sun-bathe, read, eat and sleep and other than 1 boat trip that's about it !!
Location: Cairns to Airlie Beach, Australia
Dull, dull day. 12 hour bus ride from Cairns to Airlie Beach. Did see a bush fire though - that was quite exciting !
Location: Cairns, Australia
Well, well, well, what can I say? OH MY GOD !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I was really looking forward to the ballooning and quite looking forward to the reef - on the basis that I don't really do the sea and fishes !!
After the shock of the early start, the ballooning was lovely, very smooth and suprisingly fast. It was a foggy morning but once we rose above the cloud it was fantastic and the views were just stunning (yes multiple photos of clouds and trees sorry!!)
The only downside was that I shared a quarter of the basket with 4 japanese tourists - and oh my god, do they take the tourist thing to the extreme?? I thought I was bad for photos, they must have taken hundreds and mostly of the same thing!! I have never seen anything like it and was close to jumping I can tell you (Joke) !! The landing was easy peasy, a bit bumpy but nothing to bother this intrepid traveller...
Then came the funniest, we went belting around in minibuses to follow the 2nd balloon flight and then when we caught it, we had to put it all away - like stuffing a bouncy castle into a tiny bag, very funny !! The after a champagne breakfast (well cheap fizzy stuff anyway), I was transferred off to my next trip on the reef.
As I said, I was looking forward to it for the experience but was nervous because I get a wee bit panicky when I snorkel out in the deep blue sea! It was a 2 hour catamaran trip to our destination, a pontoon on a lovely big reef. It was really well set up with facilities for scuba diving, snorkelling, an underwater observatory and a semi submersible boat. Oh and they had those underwater helmet things that made you look like an underwater astronaut - yes you got it, the japs loved those !!!
I met a nice girl called Shona who was from Scotland (Perth) and pretty much spent the rest of the day with her. It was nice to have some company and she was very easy going so I dropped lucky there! Shona was 9 months through a 12 month work visa and as you can imagine was not looking forward to going home!
Shona and I decided to go on the snorkelling for chickens course, which basically meant we went out with a lifeguard and had the option of hanging on to the rope on a life ring. Now I know that sounds pathetic but I am sooo glad I did it because I went much further out and saw loads more than I would have done by myself. Our guide pointed out all of the different types of fish and coral, he tried to find reef sharks (yes I was pleased about that - NOT!!), showed us giant clams and then (much to my extreme disgust and panic) he went to the bottom of the reef and bought up "Wally" a 6ft massive fish for us to stroke !! Can you believe it ???!!!!
Well Shona and I nearly died, screaming underwater and with a snorkel on is not good let me assure you. And then the blinking thing wouldn't go away and apparently we had upset Wally because we didn't stroke him, there were other pretty big fish doing the same and jumping up through the middle of the ring - not a good moment for me!!!
So another day mission accomplished, the Catamaran takes us back to the shore for my last night in Cairns. I hardly got to see Cairns because I was only there 2 nights and fully booked on trips but from what I saw it was nicer than I thought it would be and they were part way through a re-generation programme which I would think was much needed.
Location: Cairns, Australia
Up and out on a quick bus ride to Cairns, first stop the Toutist Information centre to sort out my bus trip down the coast and good job I did as I had managed to book myself a stop about half an hour further on than the one I needed - ooops !!
While there I got myself booked on a couple of days trips, first one to leave in half an hour on the Skyrail, Kuranda village and the scenic railway. Skyrail is basically a gondola trip over the rainforest which takes you to the village of Kranda, it takes about an hour and a half in total as there are a couple of stops for rainforest boardwalks. The highest point is 545 metres and it is 7.5km long. Lucky for me I don't mind heights too much, unlucky for you, I have about a hundred different photos of bloody trees !!
Then a nice wander around Kuranda village, little crafty shops, a man was making sweets which was pretty cool and of course there was the obligatory didgeridoo demonstration!! The way back is on the scenic railing which takes you through the rainforest down to Cairns, this takes the old railway route and takes around 2 hours. The view from here are pretty spectacular and I have a few shots of those for you too!!
Tomorrow is a big day, got a 4am start to go hot air ballooning followed by a day out on the reef.
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Checked out of the hotel and have got my transport and hotels sorted for the Whitsundays. Oh and how embarrassing, who fell off the chair in the internet cafe??!! Yes it could only be me! The guy next to me tried really hard to be concerned but you could just see he was wetting himself (Trace/Nic - think rebounding and you won't be far off the mark, I went a right cropper!!) So clearly, I left there as soon as possible and went off to do a bit more sight seeing down in Federation Square, the Yarra river, Flinders Street Railway station which is a really lovely old building. Then of course after such a hard day, ice-cream followed by a sun-bathe in the park was in order. The lovely thing about Australia is that everyone just chills out and relaxes in the parks, mind you the flies drive you nuts !! And the weather, well it is nice but not as hot as I expected, sunny but with a breeze that can be quite chilly in the shade. Bit like spring/early summer in the UK - you are never quite sure whether you are going to need a jumper/coat or not. I am hoping though that everyone is right when they say that Queensland is much warmer !!
Off to the airport soon to start my next leg of the trip, first stop Cairns and the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef. Then moving southbound down the coast to the Whitsundays and Fraser Island. Can't wait to get some tanning time in !!
Arrived at 11pm at the hotel in Cairns to be told they didn't have me booked in - aaaarrrgghhh!!! Luckily thugh they had a spare room and will sort it out with the booking agent!! Well, I have done it again with my hotel, it is bloody lovely a 1 bedroom apartment with kitchen/lounge/bathroom/seperate toilet/seperate sitting room and even my own laundry room!! It also has a massive balcony overlooking the botanical gardens but there are lots of bugs out there so I keep that door firmly shut!!
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Not much to report, spent the day wandering around Melbourne, doing a little bit of shopping and seeing the sights on the City Tram. It is a lovely city but I am blinkin freezing - got a jumper on most of the time (and sometimes two!)