A Travellerspoint blog

Leaving Australia

sunny 30 °C

Box jellyfish, crocodiles, venomous snakes, deadly spiders and great white sharks. Just some of the things that might put people off coming to Australia. Australia seems to have a variety of the worlds most dangerous animals, although in just over a month I never saw any of them, apart from the ones at the zoo. What's even more odd is that i'm going from a place with numerous dangerous animals to New Zealand, a country with none. Also, although its summer over here I never saw a single wasp! One advantage of Australia.
My time in Australia has gone quickly, but its about time to leave. Looking back I could have stayed in some places longer, visited more places or done other stuff, but i'm happy with what i've done. I saw most of the native animals, even ate some of them, the ones that arn't protected that is.
I'm fully settled in and used to backpacking now so hopefully New Zealand will all go to plan. The Christchurch hostel is booked, so to is the bus from the airport, so tomorrow morning I fly out, arriving in the evening (NZ time). Hopefully it will be slightly cooler over there... i've got jeans taking up precious backpack space.

Posted by Stefan.m 01:27 Archived in Australia

Cairns

The last stop

sunny 28 °C

14th March

Hostel seems nice, staff are friendly and helpful advising on the best tours to go on. In a small 3 bed room, better than the cell in Townsville. Its seems to rain quite a bit in the evenings and early mornings, but during the day wasn't bad, cloudy but still hitting 30 degrees. Had a look around town, its a fairly big town but without seeming too big or too busy. Despite being a popular destination on the coast, Cairns doesn't have any beaches, there's some you can drive to but the town itself has none. Probably a good thing, i've seen plenty of beaches already. To compensate there's a public lagoon by the sea front. Airlie had something similar, possibly because the coastal sea up here is too dangerous to swim in as its jellyfish season, and other dangers...

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Got back in the afternoon and booked a trip to the great barrier reef for wednesday, a boat that's been highly recommended. In the evening there was a barbecue put on by the hostel, featuring some unusual food. On offer was kangaroo, emu sausages, crocodile and barramundi (a type of fish)... oh and apparently salad too. The kangaroo looked and tasted like steak and the barramundi was just like fish. The crocodile was the strangest, an odd mix between chicken and fish. Its a white meat that looks slightly like fish but is quite tough, not much flavour. The emu sausages were also nice.
The owner of the hostel then told a few stories and taught a couple of people to play the didgeridoo. Australia is possibly the only country to eat both the animals on its coat of arms, the kangaroo and the emu. Both of these animals can't walk backwards and are meant to signify australians always moving forward... apparently.
Ate far too much...

15th March

Not much happening today, still full from the barbecue. Rained a bit during the day, I just spent some time sorting out stuff for New Zealand. Got an early-ish night for the tour the next day.

16th March

Was up early for the tour, the hostel bus took me into town to the harbour at half seven. Paid and boarded the boat, called the SilverSwift, a large catamaran taking us out to the outer barrier reef.
Took just over one hour to get out there during which time our instructor went through what we'd be doing on the introductory dive. The boat goes to three different reef sites and I was in the group scheduled to dive at the second site. So at the first site I snorkelled. There was plenty to see, it wasnt too deep so you were just over the coral, which is hard and sharp but breaks easily if you were to knock it with your fines. Hundreds of fish around the coral, which is a living thing, you normally see the fish feeding off it or hiding in it. While the large fish hang around the boat. After this we got back on the boat and headed out to the second site.

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Made the mistake of taking the wet suit off, the journey wasn't that long so I had to struggle to get it on again, whilst not falling over while the boat was moving. The instructor tied some weights round me and strapped me into a tank thing, which was surprisingly heavy. Went through some techniques before getting in, like how to empty your mask of water, breath properly if you lose the respirator and various hand signals. After that you hold your mask and respirator and jump clear of the boat.

Holding onto a rope four of us and one instructor descended to the sea floor, remembering to equalize your ears every meter (holding your nose and blowing). The instructor also let some water in our masks to check we could clear it, also practised taking out the respirator. Took a few minutes to get used to the breathing, but once we had got to the bottom I was used to it. Whilst descending a reef shark swam under us, harmless but large enough.

You begin by linking arms with the person next to you or holding onto the instructor, but once they know your fine with it your swimming on your own, following them. They seemed to know where we were and pointed out things they spotted, which was good because I had no idea, seemed like we were going round in circles. Knelt next to a giant clam, which when you touched it flinched and closed. Also saw a couple of clown fish in a sea anemone... yes like the famous animated one. Didn't see any turtles though, though apparently some of the certified divers did.
It went well so I signed up to do it again at the last site. Also because you weren't allowed to take cameras on your first dive, but you were on the second, once they knew your could cope with everything. We had lunch before the third site, and it turns out diving causes you to have a large appetite. A short trip and we got kitted out again.

As it was the second dive the instructor was happy for us to swim alone, as long as we stayed close to them. Was also allowed to take the underwater camera I had rented and got some good photos. Saw a small ray, though no manta rays. The instructor was also happy to take photos of each of us. Each dive was around 30 minutes, though it felt a lot longer. After coming up from that dive there was still time to snorkel again. We only saw a small part of the reef, but you could still come to the same spot again and see something completely different. Unfortunately some of the coral had been destroyed by the recent cyclone, though I couldn't really tell, it still looked impressive.

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An hour back to land and we were finished, complete with certificate of the dive. No better place to learn to dive.

17th March

Days after long day trips seem to be followed by days of inactivity, like today. Just finished sorting out my plans for the arrival in Christchurch. Pizza and beer night tonight at the hostel.

18th - 19th March

Couldn't do the tour I wanted to as they weren't running on friday or saturday, so I just spent friday in town. Wandered round and got my diving photos sorted out. Turned out to be a nice day, after rain in the morning. Saturday is washing, charging and packing day before the flight to New Zealand on Sunday. The end of my time in Australia.

Posted by Stefan.m 00:05 Archived in Australia

Pre and Post Townsville

rain 27 °C

Pre-Townsville

7th - 8th March

I decided to wait in Airlie Beach for a couple more days, seems a nice place to wait out a storm that seems to be hitting north Queensland. There seems to be a lot of rain recently, I later found out there was a lot more then I realised. Had the dorm room to myself again for those two days, the hostel seems to be empty during the week, not that i'm complaining. The gecko's keep you company. Had the bus booked for the next day. Seemed sunny again just as I was leaving, I assumed the rains had passed.
Waiting for the bus someone asked me if the bus would be going to Cairns, I was slightly confused and just assumed it would be. When it finally arrived the driver announced that none of the buses would be going to Cairns due to the flooding of the main roads between there and Townsville. I had planned a couple of days in Townsville so assumed everything would be ok when I was ready to leave there for Cairns. The driver seemed to think it would take a couple of days to clear and that it had been the same in the past. In hindsight I probably should have waited longer in Airlie.

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9th March

Arrived in Townsville in the afternoon and got picked up. The town seems full of people who were meant to go to Cairns but are now stuck here. As a result a lot of hostels are very busy. Checked in after some confusion, booked a 4 bed dorm but they only had space in an 8 bed room. Unpacked and went to get food, which turned out to be a good idea as afterwards the rain began to start... and not stop for 3 days. People in the room seem friendly, though 8 is a lot to have in one room.

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Before the rains began I went into town to look at the coral reef aquarium, I figured if i'm not able to get to Cairns I can say i've seen some of the reef. Its the largest coral reef aquarium in the world, grown using parts of the actual reef. Plenty of tropical fish on view, as well as turtles, sharks and other stuff. Spent a while there as there really isn't much else to do in Townsville. Its aparantly the second biggest city in Queensland but it seems quite quiet. Theres still some clean up going on after the recent cyclone, mainly just blown over trees. One of the few interesting things in the town is the wild parrots that fly around... and don't stay still for photos.

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10th - 12th March

The rain began one evening and hasn't stopped, not light English rain, but heavy Australian monsoon rain. Turns out march is the wettest month in the year in north Queensland. The hostel is full, with everyone waiting for the roads to reopen and greyhound to resume their service. Saturday was a possibility but that got cancelled, then so did sunday and monday. They seemed unsure as to when the roads would open, saying they needed 48 hours after the rain has stopped... it hasn't stopped. There's a small pile of tour leaflets in my room, I noticed one ironic one entitled, “understanding tropical weather, what visitors need to know”.

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With the only way to Cairns by plane a lot of people have started booking flights out of Townsville, mainly because they have scheduled flights out of Cairns soon... mine is in a week. I decided to join them and ensure that I was in Cairns ready for my flight to New Zealand.

13th March

Finally got out of Townsville, the grey, wet city. The flight was extremely short, only 40-50 minutes and was also expensive given the short distance, but then the prices have gone up since its the only way to Cairns. The plane was surprisingly small, just enough room to get everyone on.

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Arrived in Cairns in no time, got picked up and checked in, the usual routine. The hostel seems nice, and the staff friendly, they showed me around and even know me by name already. They seem to think the weather could be nice for atleast half the week, though the tropical climate is unpredictable, hopefully its good enough to see the reef. Settled in and got some food... it started raining.

Posted by Stefan.m 05:00 Archived in Australia

Airlie Beach

And the Whitsunday's

all seasons in one day 27 °C

3rd - 4th March

Got the bus late afternoon. Not the best journey as the bus was pretty crowded, was just generally uncomfortable and didnt sleep much. Still, atleast it was an over night bus, so I saved a nights accommodation. Arrived at 7am in Airlie and was picked up and taken to the hostel. Surprisingly I was able to go straight to my room even though it was early. Hostel seems nice and quiet, but then Airlie isnt that big. Its a small town by the sea, with the main shops being on just one stretch of road. Had a look around and came back to find my room was still free. Had the luxury of a 4 bed dorm to myself that day, was a nice change. Well it was all to myself until I walked in on a large grasshopper sitting on the bunk above mine! Soon got rid of it. The place is also full of small gecko's. Not the best start, left my key in my room and locked myself out. Also managed to leave my camera in the kitchen, though it was handed in. The person at reception was friendly and amused by my lack of organisation. I blame tiredness

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5th March

Booked a tour for tomorrow and looked around again. There really isnt much here, its just used as a place to access the Whitsunday's islands. Unfortunately in the afternoon someone checked into my room, I was enjoying the quiet, i'd forgotten what it was like to have a room to yourself.

6th March

Today was a bit hectic and eventful. Got up early for a tour to the Whitsunday islands, woke up to the sound of torrential rain, the only wet day since i've been in the country, not a good start. I was ready and packed but realised the bus was coming earlier then I thought and in a different location. Rushed out the hostel and down the road. Waited in the pouring rain for a while, then found out I was told the wrong pick up location. Luckily a driver from the hostel was there picking up greyhound passengers so he gave me a lift to where the tour departs from. Got there in time and got given a 'stinger suit', basically just a wet suit, recommended as there’s plenty of jellyfish around. I was one of the last on the boat so had to sit up the front because no one else was wanted to sit there. I would soon find out its the worst place to sit.

The boat they use is a speed boat, an old rescue boat, the fasted used by a tour operator here (I think.. felt like it). We were all given large rain coats and face masks, seemed weird but they were needed. It was a windy day so some waves were over 4 meters high and despite the two guides saying the boat was unsinkable and flippable they certainly tried to test this by 'surfing' the waves. Up front my face was hammered by the rain which felt like hail stones, and my back by the bumpy ride. This was a one hour rollercoaster until we reached the snorkelling site. Saw a small part of the coral reef, there were plenty of fish around, the tour guides even threw in food so you were surrounded by loads of them. In the distance there was even the occasional sighting of a turtle sticking its head out the water. Was difficult to see everything as the water wasnt calm but still saw plenty, also convinced I got stung a couple times by small jellyfish, they were only harmless ones though. After a comment by one of the guides about how surprisingly white my feet were we headed off on another bumpy ride.

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Next we went on a bush walk through the forest to a look out point over a few of the islands. Good views, though would have been better on a sunny and clear day. The last destination was Whitehaven beach, a long beach full of some of the worlds purist silica sand (98% silica, purer than that of Fraser island), some of which was apparently used to make the mirror on the Hubble telescope. All the islands are large tropical forest that lead out to the beaches. Stayed here for a while for lunch and spotting turtles feeding on the coral. Sat at the back on the way back... still got soaked. Despite the weather the tour guides made it a good trip, even if they were slightly insane. Australia seems to have a lot of good tour guides. Hopefully will get a better view of the coral in Cairns.

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Not great photos but didnt want to get the camera too wet, some were also lost to a fogged lens.

Posted by Stefan.m 02:29 Archived in Australia

Hervey Bay

And the Pacific Ocean

sunny 33 °C

The previous two destinations were both very different, despite both being two of the biggest cities in Australia. Sydney is a very big and busy city, the people on the street are either on their iphones or smoking. Most people also seem to be in a hurry and inpatient. On the other hand, Brisbane seems more laid back, while still being fairly busy. In contrast its full of people going running.
I brought a hat in Brisbane, thought it might help stop my head from boiling.

24th February

Bus from Brisbane wasn't until 12 noon and a 5 hour journey, so I didn't arrive in Hervey bay until late afternoon, (pronounced Harvey bay for some reason). Just got settled in and had what ever food I had left for dinner. Staying in a sort of small house, theres four blocks together, each conatins a double room and a 4 bed dorm. Each of these units share a bathroom, living room and kitchen. It seems that the further north you get the hotter it is and the more tropical it gets. Also Australia seems to be full of Germans, theres been atleast one German person in my room in every hostel I've been in! not complaining, but seems odd.

25th February

Another hot day, rest of the week seems to be over 30 degrees. Went for a walk along the beach looking for the supermarket. Beaches look nice, with not many people on them, I was also informed the sea here is safe, nothing in it, no 'stingers' as they call them. First sight of the pacific ocean on the coast too. Found the supermarket and stocked up, dinner has developed into either pasta or beans on toast. I'm sure i'll cook more later but this is easier now, and cheaper, cheese and meats seem very expensive. Didnt do much else, was too hot.

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26th February

Went out late morning and made use of the hostels free bike hire. Cycling up hill in the heat wasnt great, but i'm getting used to the heat. Happened to find the botanic gardens, thought I'd stop to eat lunch but its more like a jungle and I briefly got lost (pictured below). Wasnt too much there from what I saw, maybe nice if you know stuff about plants. Went further along the coast and had lunch by the pier instead. After, just went along the beach path. Their paths are like roads, you have to keep to the left, still getting used to it.

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27th February

Got up early today for a tour to Fraser Island. Its a large island just off Hervey bay, the whole thing is a national park and protected. Was picked up by a bus and taken over by ferry. Its the worlds largest sand island, lots of white sand everywhere. There isn’t really any roads so the guides use special 4 wheeled drive buses. The water in the lakes here looks like it has a foam on top, but its the sand at the bottom, the water is just really clear as its filtered by the sand (small river below). We drove along the east side on the 75 mile beach, technically classed as a highway, with speed limits and police. From here saw a number of landmarks, including a large creek running into the sea, and an old ship wreck.
Afterwards had an all you can eat buffet, wasnt expecting it so made the most of the free food. The final stop was lake mckenzie, a large fresh water lake surronded by white silica sand. The water was warm and empty, except for one type of small fish that has been known to eat the skin on your feet. The tour took all day, arrived back at the hostel in the evening... slept well.

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28th February

Didnt really do much today, had a lazy day in away from the heat and got some washing done. Used what internet I could to book the next bus to Airlie beach, and the hostel. Hay fever seems to be starting again a little, will probably continue as I head further north. My legs are also covered in bug bites since coming up here, bit itchy but not that bothered about them.

1st - 2nd March

Late start on both days, mainly just took out a bike and had a look around the town. Had lunch and spent a few hours reading on the beach (in the shade obviously), filling the time before I move on again. This is by far the hottest place i've been to, but im used to the heat now and havent been sun burnt in this heat yet. The hot nights are difficult to get used to, often staying around 20 degrees. In the evenings you can hear the swarms of bats in the area. They hang around in the trees during the day making some kind of squeaking noise, their fairly big too, fruit bats probably.
Need to check out tomorrow morning and hang around for the bus that leaves at 5pm. Another 13 hours journey, arriving in Airlie at 7am.

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Posted by Stefan.m 02:11 Archived in Australia

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