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Dream Australia, think Kuoni

Part 7 - Australia

1 British Pound (GBP) = 2.66 Australian Dollars (AUD)

Brisbane | Noosa | Hervey Bay | Airlie Beach | The Whitsundays | Magnetic Island | Cairns

Brisbane (Saturday 5th December)

At last - a new country. The sun is shining and everything is great. We arrived in Brisbane last night after a three hour flight (they are 3 hours behind NZ) and took a taxi to the "Somewhere to Stay Hostel" in the West End of Brisbane. Gav booked us into a $45 a night room which has a fridge, TV and its own bathroom for the first two nights which is quite nice. After that we're going for cheaper rooms without TV and private bathroom.

We had a walk around the West End area when we arrived and it seems very nice with plenty of cafes, bars and restaurants. We had some dinner in a cafe then hit the sack early as we were pretty zapped due to the time difference (10.30 Oz time, 1.30 to us !)

Today the weather was great and we walked down to the South Bank Parklands area by the river to have a look about. We planned on going to a wildlife sanctuary, but it had closed down so we went to a Butterfly and Insect place instead. For $8 each it wasn't worth the money. Half the spiders and other insects looked very suspiciously dead. In fact, we knew for sure that a few of them were as they had pins stuck through them ! The shop was also selling lots of dead butterflies (a bit cruel surely ?). Do they kill them then press them or wait till they're dead ? I don't know. We didn't spend very long there anyway. I don't recommend it. The parklands also has an outdoor lagoon and artificial beach which looks pretty good, although I never ventured in.

A lot of people (including myself until now) think that Brisbane is a beach town, but it's actually an hours drive inland and the city is centered around the river. We spent the rest of the afternoon looking around the shops- a novelty after the New Zealand shops for the last two months. We've booked ourselves on the Oz Experience Bus tomorrow going to Noosa, a place I hadn't actually heard of until now. It's supposed to be a very upmarket type of place.

Noosa (Sunday 6th - Monday 7th December)

So far my opinion of Oz Experience isn't very high. Disorganised is probably a better word. I've been on two trips so far, both have left and arrived late. The trip from Noosa to Hervey Bay was especially bad - It turned up almost half an hour late and took almost an hour and a half to do the pickups from the hostels around Noosa (a small place !) with various people arguing with the driver because they had booked a seat but he didn't have their names on the list. We tried to book Airlie Beach to Townsville on Friday, but it doesn't run on Friday (even though the book says it does). As we've only got a limited time in Australia and we want to do a dive course in Townsville or Airlie Beach and the dive courses only run on certain days it's all getting a bit complicated. Our Oz Experience timetable claims that all the buses run every day in the Summer and I was sure that December was Summer ! Just to confuse matters further we have to arrange a dive medical before we do our dive course and it might turn out that I can't do it as I have mild asthma. One place I phoned said that they wouldn't give anyone a medical if they have any history of asthma. Who knows what'll happen - I'll just have to wait and see...

We spent the day in Noosa, which is a lovely little beach town with a relaxed atmosphere. Walked around, had lunch, lazed on the beach and unsuccessfully tried to make our travel plans ! We stayed at Noosa Backpacker's "Resort" in Noosaville for $34 including breakfast (toast and cereal made and washed up by you) . I'd booked a double and we got shoved in a poky little twin room with bunk beds and a kitchen sink ! I think we must have got the worst room in the whole place, because I looked in a couple of other rooms and they seemed OK. There's also a swimming pool (very small) and a bar which seems to be quite a common thing in Australia, from what I've seen and read so far. Another thing I've noticed is that it's difficult to book certain hostels in advance as they seem to wait until after 10am to see if the people in the rooms want to stay another night or not. We didn't get up to much in Noosa really - spent half the day trying to organise things and the other half walking about, sitting on the beach for a while then getting the bus to Hervey Bay, which finally arrived at 10pm (instead of 7.30pm !). Anyway that's enough of my moaning for today - it's all out of my system now and I'm sure things can only get better !

Hervey Bay (Tuesday 8th December)

We stayed at Koala's last night - a very nice backpacker's with a pool, bigger rooms than the Noosa Backpacker's, helpful staff and a bar which seemed to be full of teenagers (or are we just getting old ?). Cost - $30 a night for a double. Last night we got woken up around 3am by a bunch of very loud Germans phoning home on their mobiles right outside our door for about half an hour ! Gav went out and asked them to be quiet, but that only seemed to make them shout even louder until eventually their battery ran out and we finally got some sleep.

Today we went on a half day sea kayaking trip which was great fun. There were five of us altogether and an instructor who showed us how to work the double kayaks. I shared a kayak with Gav and sat at the front to do all the steering (all done using two pedals rather than the paddles). We kayaked out to a small island called Round Island, did a bit of snorkelling, had a picnic lunch then dug in the sand for some Pipis (small shellfish) which the instructor cooked for us. After that we paddled back to the harbour with some turtle spotting on the way. I managed to see a few heads popping up out of the water but missed a huge turtle which splashed right beside me while I was looking the other way. Typical ! I highly recommend this trip - lots of fun, brand new kayaks and you don't need to be super fit ! (Splash Safaris, 0500 555580,, cost $48 for half day, $60 for full day).

Tonight we are getting the 9pm Greyhound Bus to Airlie Beach - a twelve hour trip. If we wait on the Oz Experience bus we're going to be stuck here for at least another 3 days. It's costing us $87 each, but it seems to be the only way. The Oz bus heads up to Dingo, stays at a cattle ranch for the night, then off to Airlie beach taking a total of 16 hours (more like 24 if the last trip is anything to go by). We're going to use it to get from Airlie up to Cairns (hopefully). Gav and I have decided against doing any diving now - his ear has been bothering him after snorkelling today and the risks of things going wrong for people diving with asthma are higher than normal from what I've heard and read. We're going to try and organise a sailing trip instead.

Airlie Beach (Wednesday 9th December)

The sleeping tablets from our medical kit certainly did their job on the bus last night ! We took one each rather than two and could hardly keep our eyes open. I slept for most of the journey despite being in the sitting up position, which I usually can't sleep in. Even so, Gavin has spent the last 3 hours of this afternoon crashed out on the bed fast asleep. We booked a sailing trip for Friday in a boat called the "Ambition". There was a mind boggling array of different trips, but we wanted one which left in the next two days, so that cut it down a bit. It's a 3 day, 2 night trip with all food included, snorkelling, sailing tuition, double cabins and bunks and "A fair Dinkum Aussie Crew" (as stated on the brochure !). It's costing $240 each (we got $10 off as we're staying at Koalas and booking it through them). It sounds like fun and there's a max of 12 passengers on the boat so it shouldn't get too crowded.

Tonight we went out for some Mexicano food and a couple of drinks then went to bed around 9.30pm ! We've got air conditioning in our room, so it's nice and cool. We're staying at Koalas again, $38 a night for a shabby, but big double room with its own bathroom. There's also a pool outside.

Koalas and Kangaroos (Thursday 10th December)

Today we had to get up before 10am to go and pay for our room for another night. Big Croc I tried to do it yesterday, but we have to do it in the morning - very strange. However, we didn't actually get out the door until 11.30am despite having had 12 hours of sleep. We caught the local bus to the Barefoot Bushman's Wildlife Park ($15pp) just in time for the Crocodile feeding. The owner of the park was in there with the crocs, feeding them, sitting on them and sticking his fingers in their mouths ! He spent the next hour or so dispelling all the myths about crocs and Koalas and reeling out lots of facts and figures. He has been "playing" with crocs for 27 years and never been bitten. Crocodiles can't run fast - it's just a myth and out of the twenty something people who have been killed by crocs in Australia in the last year, they were all swimming and over half of them were drunk. There were lots of kangaroos hopping around in the park. They were very friendly and I fed a few of them with some kangaroo food from my hand. There were also emus and other assorted birds wandering about. My favourite had to be the Koalas which were so cute and cuddly. All they seem to do is eat and sleep - who could blame them !

Tonight we ate lots of Chinese food, ate far to much and prepared for our trip on the sailing boat by buying lots of vino and beer and transferring everything for three days into our daypacks (no big packs allowed)

Sailing the Whitsundays (Friday 11th - Sunday 13th December)

Had an enjoyable three days and two nights sailing the Whitsunday islands (although Gavin now Sailing Crew says he hates sailing and didn't enjoy it !) There were twelve passengers altogether, a very international crew consisting of us two Scots, an Irish lass, two Norwegian girls, a German guy, a South African guy, an Austrian guy, a Swiss girl, two American guys and an Italian guy. The skipper Nathan was Australian and the cook Jane was from England. It was a very good group and we all got on well and had some good laughs. The accommodation was in bunks apart from the two double cabins, one of which Gav and I were lucky enough to get (just a bed inside a cupboard !). On the first day and night it rained constantly so we spent most of the time inside the boat or out on deck with yellow raincoats on and not much of a view !

On the first night we docked in the marina on Hamilton Island, an expensive resort island, very popular with the Japanese and full of people driving around on little mokes. We were allowed full use of the facilities for free but since it was pissing down with rain Gav and I just ended up wandering around getting soaked and not bothering with the swimming pools. That night everyone got pretty pissed on beer and wine, then it was out to the pub for more. As usual I ended up with a stinking hangover from hell the next morning and retired to my bed after brekkie for a morning snooze.

The food on the boat was very nice - buffet style with steak one night, lasagne another, lunches of quiches, cold meat, salad, bread, chicken drumsticks and breakfasts of croissants and fresh fruit.

On the last day the weather was lovely and we did some snorkelling off an island which was great - lots of small and huge brightly coloured fish. On the way back to Airlie beach we all sat on the bow of the boat, feet hanging over the edge and catching the waves as they splashed over the sides and getting totally soaked ! Gav spent the last day with a pissed off look on his face - he was not a happy chappy. He said he didn't like being confined to such a small boat all the time. I must say, the space was pretty small for 14 people, but I enjoyed every minute of it (apart from the rain, my hangover and the hand pumped toilets !). This evening we all net up for a nice meal at Moroccos, a restaurant in Airlie Beach and I'm sorry to say it, but much drinking was done again !

Magnetic Island (Monday 14th - Tuesday 15th December)

Last night we stayed at Koalas again, but never managed to get our double room as they had all been flooded by the rain. Instead we stayed in a 6 person dorm with its own bathroom, kitchen and TV (cost $15 each + $1 for linen). It wasn't as bad as I thought staying in a dorm but I wouldn't like to do it too much. I like lots of space to spread everything about (the contents of my bag) and hate having to creep in after a night out when everyone's asleep !

On Monday morning we were up around 6.30am ready for the 7.15am bus to Townsville and feeling rather tender after last night's drinking session and less than 5 hours sleep ! Once in Townsville we caught the ferry over to Magnetic Island which took around 20-30 minutes and cost $13 return each. Magnetic Island is apparantly named because Captain Cook's compass went funny when he sailed past in 1770. It's actually a suburb of Townsville with a population of 2500 and people commuting to work by ferry. The Island was very peaceful and scenic, which was nice after constantly being with lots of other people for the last 3 days. We stayed at the Hideaway resort ($32) which has all twin and double rooms and a really nice wee swimming pool. It was very quiet apart from a couple of annoying kids shouting and doing bomb dives into the pool all afternoon.

On Tuesday we did a sea kayaking trip in the morning which was good for $33 (inc. transport), but not as good as the trip in Hervey Bay. The kayaks weren't the proper ones that you climb inside and put on a spray deck, they were much wider and we sat with our legs out in front. Soon it was like sitting in a warm bath as all the water splashed in. Not Impressed ! Before we entered the water we had to put on light blue lycra zip-up stinger suits (it's the box jellyfish season), then our shorts went over them, socks and sandals on our feet. We all looked like right idiots ! I managed to catch a photo of Gav wearing his - very sexy ! We kayaked out to a beach called Balding Bay, had a tropical breakfast , went for a walk and a swim, then kayaked back to where we started from. For lunch we went to a place called Magnetic Mango with another couple who were on the trip with us and had a very tasty Mango juice with lasagne and salad, finished off with cheesecake and mango sauce. The rest of the day was spent lazing by the pool and doing the laundry, not worth writing about really. Tomorrow we're up early for the third day in a row to catch the 7.30am ferry back to Townsville.

Off to Cairns (Wednesday 16th December)

The Oz bus was quite good fun today - the driver wasn't a sarcastic bastard for a change - his name was beuty (as in "You beauty") and wasn't mean to anyone. The whole trip took almost 12 hours, which sounds a bit strange since Townsville is only 360km or so south of Cairns, but we stopped off at a few places including Mission Beach for lunch - a very picturesque seaside town and then a Croc farm. The croc farm was very interesting - I held a baby crocodile and we saw lots of crocs being fed, including the 5 metre Gregory weighing in at over 1000kg. Crocodiles live till around 80 years old in the wild and till about 120 at the farm (unless they become handbags) as they lose their teeth as they get older and eventually can't feed themselves. There were a few other animals on the farm including a blind dingo, emus, kangaroos and a couple of Cassowarys which are an endangered species and part of a breeding program to release back into the wild. Later on we were all dragged up the AJ Hackett Bungy site (whether we liked it or not !) where we hung around for 2hrs while five people did a Bungy jump, then it was off to our accommodation at last. We're staying at the Castaways Backpackers for $30 a night in a double room ($2 off between u with our YHA card). The rooms are nice with shared bathroom and there's a swimming pool, travel agent and air-conditioning for $2 a night extra. You also get a voucher every night for a free meal at the Woolshed - a backpacker's bar in town (15 minute walk), but we never tried it out. Went along the road for a nice Italian and a glass of vino, a chocolate fix then off to bed.

Out and about in Cairns

We didn't get up to much today in Cairns - just buying a few things we needed for our trip to South East Asia - more insect repellent, a thermometer, new toothbrushes etc. We wandered around Cairns a bit and it seems a pleasant enough place. A lot of people have said how crap Cairns is, but it seems OK to me. Some people thinks there's a beach here, but there 'aint. There's lots of lush tropical scenery surrounding it and there's lots of day trips to book - Kuranda, The tablelands, the Reef etc. There's about 30-40 backpacker's hostels, lots of hotels and motels and heaps of restaurants. Tonight we went to the Woolshed for our free meal and upgraded to something better for $3. I had sweet chilli chicken, a baked potato and veggies, which was actually really good (I wasn't expecting it for the price !) We had a couple of drinkies, then it was back early since we have a trip tomorrow (8am-8.30pm !)

Uncle Brian (Friday 18th December)

What a great day we had today. We went on a tour called Uncle Brian's Fun, Falls and Forests and spent the day with big smiley faces. He picked us up around 8.00am in his bus called Angus (Gus the Bus) and impressed us by introducing us to everyone else on the bus by name, doing the same at every hostel pickup, remembering everyone's name as they got on ! First we visited a place called The Boulders, had a walk through the rainforests where Uncle Brian told us lots of interesting things about the trees and the animals, then we had a nice refreshing dip in a swimming hole, which was so much nicer than swimming in the sea - cooler, fresh water and no biting or stinging things. Lovely !

After that we headed off to Josephine Falls for lunch, being entertained by Uncle Brian (or Gus FM as he called himself) all the way, singing along to the songs and waving to people "in the spirit of Gus" and generally letting the child in us come out. After we'd stuffed ourselves with sandwiches and tropical fruit off we went through the forest for another swim, this time in the pool at the bottom of Josephine Falls and playing on the rock slide. I managed to slip twice on the rocks, my feet flying from underneath me and landing splat on my arse (better than landing on my head I suppose !). The fact that I did it twice, was a bit annoying, especially as I was saying to myself "must not slip, must not slip, must not slip". Later on we visited Millaa Millaa Falls, a big waterfall which we swam underneath, gasping for breath, then it was Milanda, to the Johnstone River to look for Platypus. I never saw any, but we did manage to spot a tree Kangaroo which is a very rare animal. Back in the bus there was more singing, a few challenges, face painting and games then we finished off at Lake Eacham, a volcanic crater lake for some cake and port. I had a great day today - Uncle Brian is such a character - full of fun and life and I'm absolutely exhausted. We didn't even manage to go out for our free meal tonight.

Here's the blurb from the leaflet :

"Come and share a day with your Uncle Brian and ... have a chat about our remarkable rainforests ... enjoy a relaxing swim ...have fun in the falls ... achance to say hello to one of the world's cutest creatures ... enjoy the calm serenity of avolcanic crater lake ... and a few surprises on the way home .. Let us put the colour in your rainbow !!"
I'd highly recommend this trip (Bookings tel:40500615, tours run Mon/Wed/Fri/Sat)

A Day on the Reef (Saturday 19th December)

Today's trip was "Passions of Paradise" - a boat trip to the outer Barrier Reef for some snorkelling (or diving). It was another hot, humid day today, so it was nice to be on a boat with the sea breezes. We left the hostel at 7.30am, but I could have done with an extra three hours in bed, especially since my back, bum and shoulders were all aching from yesterday's fall on the rocks !

It took around 3 hours or so to get out on to the reef, then Gav and I spent an hour or so snorkelling round about the reefs near the boat in the warm 32 degrees Centigrade water, looking at all the brightly coloured coral and fish. We didn't see any huge fish like we did when we snorkelled on our sailing trip and it wasn't as good as the snorkelling in Fiji, but it was very enjoyable and relaxing. Lunch was a "Tropical Smorgasbord" but I couldn't really see anything tropical about it - bread, ham, salad and rice which wasn't cooked properly. After lunch we did some more snorkelling then sat in the sun for a while. On the way back to Cairns we stopped at Upolo Cay, a small sand island. Gav and I spent the whole 45 minutes at Apolo Cay sitting in the water as it was so bloody hot !

We arrived back in Cairns at 6.30pm just longing to step into our lovely cool air conditioned room again ! It was a good day and the crew were friendly, but I would have preferred to stop at another part of the reef rather than a sand island ! Tonight we washed practically all our clothes then had a lovely meal at a restaurant called the Casablanca Inn. We stuffed ourselves with veggie nachos, sweet chilli prawns for me, pepper steak for Gav, garlic bread, vino and beer then waddled back to our room absolutely stuffed - what a great way to end our trip !

More Airports (Sunday 20th December)

One hour at Cairns Airport, two and a half hours to Sydney, six and a half hours at Sydney Airport (delayed !) followed by a five and a half hour flight to Bali. After the last time we didn't enjoy spending over six hours in Sydney Airport. The air-conditioning was very strong which wasn't good as we were clad in our shorts and T-shirts.

All in all we've had a good time in Australia - lots of fun and relaxation. I'm sorry we never got to spend more time there and see other parts of the country, but our tight budgets force us to go to Asia where it is cheaper to live. It's a very very easy place to travel round, especially for backpackers. The hostels are generally good and all seem to have free pick-up from the bus stations, swimming pools, bars and tour booking desks. There's a lot of competition. It's almost like being on a package holiday !

Cute Koala
Cute Koala

Round the World Journal Index | Pre-Trip | USA (East) | USA (West) | Fiji | New Zealand 1 | New Zealand 2 | Australia | Bali | Lombok | Bali 2 | Singapore | Malaysia | Thailand 1 | Thailand 2

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