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East Coast Australia

September 20th, 2009

With only a small amount of time we had to do some serious cutting down on the whole East Coast Australia experience. In order to get everything sorted in advance we decided to use a Peter Pans travel centre to book all of tours, accommodation and travelling for us. With that in mind we flew off to Brisbane on the 12th with, yet again, Emma taking a lovely Quantas flight (pre-booked) and me taking virgin blue (no free food on that then.) As soon as we got in to Brisbane we got ourselves straight on a bus down to Byron Bay.

Byron Bay is quite a quirky little town with a slightly alternative feel. It feels a bit like where eco-warriors would live if they had a load of money i.e. it’s got a care free attitude but with some really nice architecture and the usual upmarket deli’s and cafes. We spent two nights in Byron Bay in total, both of which were spent at the Arts Factory. As it was winter time it wasn’t really that amazing a place, especially given all the hype that surrounds it; it had been suggested by various people as well worth a visit. Anyway I can imagine that in the summer it would be buzzing, and the surf would be a whole lot more appealing.

After that we caught a bus straight up, back past Brisbane, to Rainbow Beach. Rainbow Beach is not, in itself, that much of an attraction. The only reason for going there is that it allows cheap access to Fraser Island. Anyway, out of necessity (we had to view a safety briefing) we spent two nights in Rainbow Beach and a fair bit of time on the actual beach itself. It’s a very quiet little town but quite a nice one at that. Basically consisting of about 100 yards of high street with barely a restaurant in that it did however have a little bakery that does an excellent pepper steak pie: definitely recommended.

For our visit to Fraser Island we had decided to do a self drive tour. Basically it’s a group of eleven 18-30(ish) people camping on the island for 2 nights while driving around in a toyota 4×4 people carrier type thing. Fraser Island is the worlds largest sand island. It’s about 90 miles long by 15 miles wide and contains awesome sand dunes, tall rainforest and some really beautiful lakes.

Em and I ended up in a group consisting basically of teenagers which was actually not that bad, despite my moaning at the time. The only reason this was a problem is that you had to be over 21 to be able to drive the 4×4, which meant that I did all the driving (pretty much.) Again, at the time, I may have pretended to moan slightly about this fact but in all honesty I much prefered doing the driving as it was really pretty good fun to drive on the beach and even more fun to drive on the inland tracks.

Our first day saw us visit Lake McKenzie almost straight away. Lake McKenzieThis is a freshwater lake with pretty stunning visibility and sits 100 metres above sea level inside one of the sand dunes. The drive to the lake is pretty amazing as well, taking around 30 minutes to drive inland from the beach through awesome rainforest. Having done this we then headed straight for our first nights camp site. The problem with driving along a beach is that the tide tends to ruin your road every now and then. To compensate for this we were handed a map with low tide (and high tide) times so that we were always on the beach at the right moment. Unfortunately nobody bothered to listen to the exact itinerary so we’re not sure we ever camped in the correct place. Anyway, the “proper” campsites on Fraser Island operate a silence rule after 9pm which didn’t sit too well so it’s also possible to simply camp off the back of the beach. You can be as loud as you want but there’s no facilities!

Our first night camping was pretty cool, Jodie, one of the fellow campers, took it upon herself to do the cooking, which was nice! We had steak for dinner and were then treated to the most amazing night sky. Getting over the sand dune away from the camp lights basically put you in complete darkness, except for the sky which was absolutely beautiful. You could make out (I think) the horizontal plane of the milky way. Amusingly, while we did have a few beers that night we didn’t actually make it past 9pm! The thing with camping is that you had to be all set up before sundown and then it’s quite a long time until 9pm.

We were supposed to get up very early the next day but what with our complete lack of sleep, due to the cold, we weren’t exactly hasty. We left the sand dune after everybody else but thankfully, due to my driving4x4 on Fraser Island, were able to beat everyone to India Head. In fairness, one of the trucks (there were three groups) had to return to the campsite in order to pick up someone that they seemed to forget! India Head is a pretty little headland at the northern end of the island and it’s possible, given time, to see Rays, Sharks and Whales from the top. We did see a few Whales but they were so far away it wasn’t really all that worth it. From there we walked 40 minutes up the beach to visit the Champagne Pools, a few rock pools containing fish. These were fairly nice, if not bloody freezing. We finished the night by camping near the wreck of the Maheno, a shipwrecked boat about halfway up the 70 mile long beach. Yet again Jodie cooked, which was great, and then one of the guys proceeded to get absolutely trolleyed which made for some good entertainment.

The final day involved a quick trek to Lake Wabby, where you can have fish eat away your dead skin (if you can take the cold), and then a drive back to the hostel to handover the cars. That night is then supposed to be spent partying in the hostel but me and Em had to get a night bus straight up to Airlie beach so that we could see the Whitsundays.

The Whitsundays are a group of islands off the east coast of Australia at the southern tip of the Great Barrier Reef. They’re a national park and protected area which means that what little development there is is done well and all of the wildlife is protected. When presented with a selection of boats to sail on it’s quite hard to pick one. There’s loads of the things to choose from but in the end we ended up on Boomerang. Boomerang was an ocean racing yacht, is built entirely out of carbon fibre and is 83ft in length. It’s quite a cool looking boat, but to say it’s functional is an understatement. Whilst the “party” boats get chairs Boomerang pretty much has nothing. It does though have an awesome crew, who do amazing food and keep you really well entertained. We had a full compliment of 3 crew and a group of 28 so space was at a premium but it was a good group and lots of fun.

The first afternoon was basically spent getting over to the first anchorage spot for the night. Luckily we had a fair bit of wind so the sails were hoisted and we headed, at 45 degree tilt, over. Unfortunately the rest of the trip was not so kind and, while we did do a little more sailing, we basically spent the rest of the trip on power. This was a great shame as Boomerang is really designed to be sailed at full pelt and it’s a wonderful sensation when it’s tilted on it’s side and you’ve got the wind in your, now a little too long, hair.

The next day was spent basically getting down to Whitehaven beachWhitehaven Beach, once the worlds best beach (and maybe still is, who decides this?) Whitehaven beach is not only very beautiful and remote its also ridiculously pure silica. Just under 100% pure silica gives it the most amazing feeling in between your toes. The rest of that day was spent snorkelling, which was very cool, literally and otherwise. We spent the evening getting yet more drunk and listening to ridiculous antics of a guy called Tree, interspersed with the spotting of a whale and some sharks just metres from our boat. The following morning we snorkelled some more before heading back to Airlie. That mornings snorkelling was pretty cool, in particular, as I ended up swimming with a giant turtle.

Due to the short nature of our trip we had to leave Airlie that afternoon (not before a spot of sunbathing near the lagoon) on a flight to Brisbane. We’d booked a night in Base Brisbane which was obscenely, in fact too easy, to find. It’s literally opposite Central station, something that me and Emma failed to spot as we walked off in the opposite direction. That night was pretty late and we essentially wanted to grab some food and crash. Unfortunately, my lack of foresight, in wearing flip flops, and the lack of restaurants, resulted in us getting a McDonalds (yikes) and then turning in.

Early the next morning we went to the airport to get flights back down to Sydney. True to form I got on a pretty crap plane ahead of Emma before meeting up in the airport. We jumped in the Airport Shuttle and headed off towards Libby and Jasons near the Surry Hills part of Sydney. A little word of advice: while the airport shuttle is indeed cheap it is certainly not quick. If you’re at one of the major hotels then you’ll get dropped off quickly. Otherwise you’ll be the last person to be dropped off and what should have taken 30 minutes took almost 4 times as long!

Once we’d dropped our stuff at their house and said our hello’s we all went to Paddington where we caught the tail end of a fashion week. Both Paddington and Surry Hills are some of the trendier suburbs within Sydney and both have a really great feel. We had a lovely walk through Paddington before heading down to the Opera House for drinks overlooking the harbour. This is a really beautiful location and one made all the more important for it’s the location of Libby and Jason’s wedding in January. I’m sure it’ll be amazing.

Our final day in Australia was spent around the Rocks and Circular Quay, taking in the Botanical gardens in the afternoon as well. It’s a very touristy part of town but to be honest you really can’t fault it.

Author: Mark Jerzykowski Categories: Uncategorized Tags:
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