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Matt & Collette’s Travel Diary

Sunday, 08 Jun 2008

Location: Cairns, Australia

MapHello all from a sunny Australia!
We are currently in Cairns as we are writing this; we have finished our journey up the east Coast of Australia, and are leaving Cairns this evening for a flight to Melbourne (we couldn’t leave Australia without driving down the Great Ocean Road and meeting the Neighbours cast!!), and after Melbourne we return to Sydney so we can fly to New Zealand.

The East coast has been amazing- the weather has been fantastic, with lots of sunbathing (which we didn’t expect considering its supposed to be winter here!) The further up the east coast you go, the better the weather, and so thousands of backpackers are doing the same thing we are doing right now- starting in Sydney and getting buses up to Cairns, making for a fantastic atmosphere and lots of fun!

Our first stop, Byron Bay was amazing. A gorgeous little town that doesn’t seem overburdened by all the backpackers, and still seems peaceful and quiet (in the day time at least! At night it’s a different story….) We did a walk to the famous lighthouse there, standing on the most easterly point of Australia, and watched a beautiful sunset. There are loads of secluded beaches around the bay, so we enjoyed the lovely weather and worked on our tans (well, Matt did. Collette’s tan has yet to materialize!)

After Byron bay, we got our bus to Brisbane. Again blessed with perfect weather, we spent the day in Brisbane’s botanic gardens, walking among the mangrove trees, and that night we met up with Sarah and Brendan, who we worked with at the Duck in the Pond. Sarah and Brendan have been living in Brisbane for a while now, and so were able to show us the nightlife, and explain things we didn’t yet understand about Australia (like the difference between a mini, a midi and a schooner! – all sizes of draft beer!) None of them, to Matt’s annoyance, a proper sized pint!

After Brisbane we went to Noosa, another lovely beach-side town, and explored the stunning Noosa National Park. Again, we spent a few days basking in the sun on the beach (yes, it’s a hard life!) and partying at night. Both Byron Bay and Noosa were stunning and we could have easily spent weeks and weeks at each of them.

After Noosa we went to Hervey Bay, the departure point for our 3day trip to Fraser Island. Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world, popular with groups of backpackers. We were put into groups of 10 (4 Brits, 2 Scots, 2 Swiss, and 2 French), and given a 4x4. Two people were sent off to buy the group’s supply of food, while the rest of us loaded up the car. We got the ferry to Fraser Island, and the 10 of us set off exploring this giant sand island with Matt at the wheel! Fraser Island has some gorgeous sights and we started by visiting Lake Mackenzie, a beautiful fresh water lake which is crystal clear while the sand is soft and white. After a night in tents (that Matt superbly put up!) we headed to the North of the Island to the ‘Champagne Pools’ , which are pools of bubbles caused by the sea crashing into the rock pools. The whole of our Fraser Island trip was so much fun- camping in tents, cooking our own food on the BBQ, and lots of drinking games at night! Both of us agree it has definitely been one of our favourite things we have done so far throughout our trip. A highlight though was on the second morning when we were driving up the beach at 7am and saw a pod of migrating whales as they made their way up to warmer waters.

After we returned from Fraser Island (and were able to have long, hot showers again- luxury!), we got on a night bus and took the 13hour journey to Airlie beach, where we would depart for our 3day sailing trip around the Whitsunday Islands. There were 29 of us on the boat- a 16million pound pro maxi racing yacht called Condor, which is the only boat ever to have won every single major ocean race in the world - twice! It was quite a tight squeeze, living in very small sailors quarters, and not a great start for Collette who refused to break with tradition and was sea sick almost immediately. Charming. The first day was spent sailing to the other side of the Whitsunday Islands, so we could get an early start visiting Whitehaven beach in the morning (one of the top 3beaches in the world). Matt enjoyed hoisting the sails and steering the boat, while Collette ‘fed the fishes’! The food on the boat was lovely, and after a delicious meal, we moored the boat and everyone sat on deck drinking and getting to know one another. We had a fantastic night, but it was a very odd feeling to have the constant swaying- it felt like we’d had far too much to drink, and this was before we even started drinking!
The next day we woke up to rain, but visited Whitehaven beach nonetheless (on one of the world’s best beaches in rain jackets, how ironic!), and the crew were right, it really was a stunning beach. We saw some giant creepy-crawlies on our walk back, and then went snorkeling twice in the afternoon. The second evening was spent the same as the first- sitting on deck playing games and drinking. Lots of fun was had by all! The view of the stars was amazing, being miles from land and any light meant the milky way and the southern cross were clearly visible – it also was strange to see some constellations upside down (being in the southern hemisphere!)

The next morning, as we headed back to Airlie Beach, the sun came out (Murphys law!), and so we sat with our legs over the side, and enjoyed sailing in the sun.
After Airlie beach, we went up to Magnetic Island, a small island with a population of just 2,500. We spent a few days here, and stayed in a Koala park, so we got to hold Koalas, crocodiles, lizards, birds, and we saw all sort of native Australian animals. An Irish couple who were on the sailing boat with us were also staying in the same place, as were their friends, so the six of us had drinks together, then went down to beach with a fishing rod to catch some fish at night! This was a huge success, and the boys managed to catch four GIANT fish, which we all had for breakfast the next morning! Very delicious!

After we left Magnetic Island, we came up to Cairns, where we are now, and have spent the last few days window shopping (because our backpacks are as full as they can get already!) and planning out how to spend our time in New Zealand.

Both of us will be sad to leave the East Coast, as we have had some fantastic times here, made some great memories and met some amazing people. It is definitely understandable how so many people can spend from 2weeks to an entire life time on the East Coast alone!