'Surf at last!' - Rob
16.02.2007 - 13.03.2007 28 °C
After a long trip from New Zealand to the Whitsundays via Brisbane airport (6hr wait at the airport passed by with numersous games of shithead) we finally arrived in the sweltering heat. At last the sun was out! We landed at apparently the most dangerous airport, Prosperine Airport, in Australia. Due to the lack of radar signals for the pilot to land and the short run way it was a rather interesting landing. The airport was so tiny - only 2 gates, the waiting lounge was outside in the sun, and the baggage came out on the back of a truck for you to get!
We were then off on the bus to Airlie beach with no accomodation booked in hope of finding somewhere cheap. No such luck, all backpackers was booked up so we had to pay about AUS$100 for a self contained apartment. Oh well we compensated a little by eating in and not joining the crowds of 18yr olds in the packed bars lining the streets. Airlie beach was pretty much what I expected, many backpackers, loads bars, loads hostels, and not really our idea of paradise. We spent the next couple of days looking for a boat to charter around the whitsundays as this was Robs dream and also our reason for coming here. The weather was not on our side. We had come to the whitsundays in the Monsoon season which meant that it was hot, humid (which is nice) but very wet. Appartently the wettest season they have had for 5 years. It poured and poured. We hoped this would not affect our chances of sailing a 36foot yacht (ready and waiting for us for when the weather got better) but with winds at 25-35 knots and little visibility we were unable to go. Rob became quite saddened with it but we soon decided to change our plans and stay on one of the islands. We couldn't leave the whitsundays without at least staying on one if we couldn't go sailing. While waiting for the weather to change we hired a car to see some of the area or make the road kill tally a little higher with a Kangaroo (don't worry we couldn't find one!). We visited a nearby waterfall.
Rob and I managed to swim under the fall but with my fear of what else was swimming with us I soon got out.
Attacked by mosquitos and huge ants we soon headed back to the car. Everything in Aus was massive, the toads are as big as cats (ok I'm exagerating but they are huge, African toads apparently) and the ants we huge too. Thankgod we haden't yet seen any of the big spiders or I think I would have scared Rob off with my screaming. Thats one thing I have realised during our travels, I hate bugs, any form of insect that flies, crawls etc.
During our stay at the Whitsundays Rob treated us to 3 nights on Hamilton Island, one of the larger of the Whitsunday Islands. We were now used to the rain and come to terms with the lack of sailing so we headed off to an Island for some relaxation and watersports.
We caught the 'Fantasea' catarmaran over to the Island and checked into our huge apartment overlooking some of the islands (on a clear day!). For the next 3 days we swam in the pool, took a 2 person small catarman out on the sea, walked around the island, ate, drank, and hmmmm drank a little more.
The island was a bit mad. Golf buggies were the biggest form of transport on the island. Most of the resorts owned hundreds of the things to get around in.
Ours didn't so we enjoyed the walk.
There was many activities and the island was basically set up for tourist holidays - a weekly entertainment programme. sports programme, a water golf driving range, tennis courts, boat hire, watersports equipment hire and even its own small airport. On our last day we booked onto a snorkelling tour to one of the smaller islands in the north of the whitsundays. Kitted up with full body stinger suits (mine included the hat and gloves) and snorkelling gear we looked rather fetching for the fish!
We had a good couple of hours in the water swimming with the bright coloured fish and driving down to the coral bed. It was a great morning out on the sea and rounded up our stay in the whitsundays perfectly.
We had changed our flight to Sydney to the following morning so that we could get to the sun quicker and leave the rain behind.
We arrived in Sydney at about 11pm without anywhere to stay (as normal), and after phoning nearly every hotel in the city we eventually found a hostel with a couple of dorm beds available. Two other guys also were staying at the hostel so we shared a cab with them into town. This was going to be our first experience of sleeping in a dorm as in south america double rooms where so cheap. The taxi driver had some trouble finding the hostel, but we eventually turned down a street lined with transvestite hookers. Was this where the hostel was? Oh yes it was, which we both thought was very amusing. We checked in, and were greeted in the room by a huge bloke passed out on his bed...snoring! We dumped our stuff, as it was so stuffy in there we thought the only way would sleep was to get drunk! So we met up with the lads we shared a cab with and headed out. We woke suitably the next morning with heavy hangovers (ok I did, Rob), and left to have breakie at a cafe.
What we had realised by now is that Sydney was totally booked up, and was very expensive to stay in, even in hostels. So we gave my unkles brother, David a call, who lived in Manly a half hour ferry trip from sydney harbour, to see if he could help us. He very kindly put us up for the 6 nights while we were in Sydney even with such short notice (big thanks), apart from one night where we gave him a break and stayed in a hostel in town. We caught the ferry over to meet him, which in itself was great as it went past the Sydney Opera House and Bridge. That day David and his partner Michelle showed us round Manly, what a great place, really cool vibe, great beach with surf, lovely bars and restaurants. In the evening we all had a thai takeaway sitting next to Manly harbour, which finished the day off nicley. The next day David lent me his long board and off I went to surf on the Manly beach, the surf was ok and thanks to the board being the size of an aircraft carrier I managed to stand up!
The great part of Manly is if you worked in Sydney your commute was a half hour ferry journey...I know which I would prefer over the London tube!!! And you get to go surfing either in the morning before work or go after, paradise! Both Emily and Myself would love to live here.
Over the six days we explored Sydney and its attractions. We walked over, not up the Sydney harbour bridge with its amazing steel structure and great views of the city.
The Rocks area near the harbour we particular liked with great old style architecture and offcourse lots of bars. In Darling harbour we went to the Imax cinema to watch a film on the ocean in 3D, I think we looked particularly fetching in the supplied glasses, and were dissappointed to give them back when we left!
'Should have gone to specsavers'!
One of the days we bathed at the famous Bondi beach, I rented a surf board and didn't do very well apart from perfecting the art of nearly drowning! While Emily soaked up the rays and looked on as a proud girlfriend! We had heard Bondi was lovely and the place to be but we both ended up preferring Manly, with its nicer vibe....I think we have been travelling to long! The Ice Bar in the harbour was an interesting experience, after putting on our thick jackets and sexy boots we entered into the room where everything was made of ice including the glasses.
It was strange being cold with temperatures outside reaching 28deg C, as David said not very environmentally friendly! However we downed our cocktails, as after 20mins we were freezing, and headed downstairs with a couple we had met for some more happy hour cocktails!
We both expected to love Sydney and we did. Its very much like London but with beaches! And nearly everything is within walking distance!
With 2 weeks left to make our way up to Brisbane we decided to rent a campervan again, so we could drive up the coast. After a few phone calls we got a really good cheap deal. David gave us a some tips on nice places to stop and gave us a lift to collect the van. After saying our goodbyes we were on the road again in a campervan, this time however the van had a built in fridge, sink, table and sofa (turned into a bed) and was a high-top! I still couldn't stand in it thought!
First stop was 'Seals Rock', we had arrived just after dark and the sea mist had arrived making the whole place feel quite eiry! So after dinner we got an early night. In the morning we woke to glorious sunshine so we hit 'Treachery Beach', and what a beach it was '.
Sand as far as the eye could see, and amazing surf! In fact the sand was so fine that when you walked across it squeeked! The surf was huge, but with no place to rent boards we body surfed instead as well as the local population of Dolphins who seemed to be much better than us!
Now I should mention on Ems behalf that body surfing in a bikini is not recomended as it is more than likely to be removed by the wave but not worried Em caught a wave..... After standing up and shouting at me that she lost her bikini bottoms and had to pull them up, I had to kindly tell her that she was now topless!!! Classic!
After a great day lapping up the sun and surf and Em flashing the locals we headed for forster for the evening.
Next day we drove to South west rocks, where we came across giant pelicans!
Then up to the lighthouse for fantastic views of the coast, and offcourse we spied a nice deserted beach to lie on! However after 30mins off being battered by the wind swept sand we gave in and left and drove to Nambuca Heads for another swim! We decided that night to head inland to a small town called Bellingen which David had recomended to visit. The town itself was really nice, with a few local bars and quite a hippy feel, but unfortuantely the only campsite had closed down. A rather strange women offered to let us stay in the deserted campsite but she did slightly scare us so we left and ended up driving back to the coast and staying on Emerald beach.
We were on the road early this morning, determined make up some mileage. By lunch we had arrived a the sea side town of Yamba, this was recomeneded by the lonely planet. It was a lovely place with surprise surprise great surf and a great beach! We also came across our first jellyfish, but after reassurance from a local that it was not the deadly blue bottle we went swimming.
We had a quick swim at Ballina where Emily made good friends with a pelican, he wasn't to amused however when Em tried to do an impression of him walking!
That night we arrived in Byron Bay.
The campsite on Byron bay was right on the beach and close to town!
The town itself was lovely with a real hippie vibe, but the main attraction has to be the surf.
With beaches facing in all directions at least one of them would have good waves.
Lookout over the surf at 'The Pass'
We ended up staying here for 5 nights as I got slightly addicted to the surf and Emily got back into swimming. We rented surf boards and even though the weather was changing between torrential rain and beautiful sunshine we hit the beach everyday! For the first time on our trip we were getting slightly tanned!!! On the final morning I was out surfing and to be truthful I was not getting anywhere, but a surfing instructer who was at the time giving a private lesson gave me some advice! He actually ended up helping me for 30mins much to the annoyance of the guy he was supposed to be teaching. Just a few tips on where to be on the board, how to get a wave easier, and how to get up smoother and quicker, made such a difference. The first wave I tried to get I got and went along the wave for the first time, it was great. I must admit I am now totally addicted and want to spend the rest of my life surfing!
Just like these chaps:
Anyway back to reality, in the afternoon we headed up the coast towards the Glass House mountians and the Australia Zoo, home to the late Steve 'Crikey' Irwin. Enroute we drove past 'Surfers Paradise' which far from being paradise was our idea of complete hell, huge skyscrapers and loads of people, so not really worth saying much more! We arrived late at night at a campsite in the Glass House mountains near to the zoo, it was hot and sweaty and to our joy full of Mozzies!!!! So in the boiling heat we retreated to the van and ate inside, it was hot!!!
The next day it was boiling, even at 6am in the morning! We didnt mean to get up that early but had forgotten that we had crossed into Queensland and that the time goes back an hour!
After quickly checking out the glass house mountains we arrived at the Australia Zoo early having driven down the newly named Steve Irwin Way. It was very weird seeing these large billboards with giant images of Steve, knowing that he was no longer with us!
The Zoo itself was huge and very commercial.
We checked out the some of the animals in the morning and then watched the Crocodile show in the huge arena, it must have been amazing to see Steve work with the Crocs!
The show itself was cool, but heavily aimed at kids.
There was also a memorial to steve, with people writing messages on copies of his favourite shirt. It was quite sad to see this.
In the afternoon we headed over to Caloundra for our last evening by the Australian coast. There was no swimming as there had been sightings of the deadly blue bottle jellyfish, so we drank instead!
In the morning we drove to a very hot Brisbane, dropped of our van and booked into a very cool little B&B called Annies. We explored Brisbane a little in the evening but were not that impressed. Next morning we headed to the airport very excited at the thought of going to Hong Kong!!!!