Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Australia so far...

Well, it's been a while...

I've now been in Australia exactly 2 weeks! It's been a bit manic so far, with lots of early starts and action-packed days, but I've met some lovely people and am most definitely having a good time.

- Where I've been so far -

Cairns: 25/3 - 28/3
Mission Beach: 28/3 - 29/3
Townsville: 29/3 - 30/3
Magnetic Island: 30/3 - 1/4
Airlie Beach: 1/4 - 4/4
Kroombit Cattle Station: 4/4 - 5/4
Hervey Bay: 5/4 - 8/4
Noosa: 8/4 - 11/4

I started off in Cairns, in North Queensland and spent 3 nights there, before getting the Oz Experience bus (a hop on, hop off bus for backpackers) going south. I didn't get up to anything drastically exciting in Cairns. There's quite simply not a lot to do, and I was still feeling quite rough from my hellish plane journey. However, I did do a couple of day trips to semi-interesting places.

First off, I did a boat trip to an island that's actually part of the Great Barrier Reef called Green Island. The island itself wasn't very impressive and rather extortionate, but I got to go on a glass bottomed boat and see lots of the reef life which was cool. Then the next day I ventured to the mountain town of Kurunda via a scenic railway journey which was actually rather stunning in places - going right up close past a waterfall was a highlight! The town itself was quite sweet and I amused myself quite nicely with the little stalls and a tiny koala sanctuary that was a good 15 minutes of entertainment.

However, leaving Cairns was a relief! I got the Oz bus nice and early on a Friday morning, and set off on my journey down the coast. True to its brochure, loads of people seemed to be travelling alone and it was really nice to meet people with similar travelling ideas.

Oz Experience is famous for it's random stop offs along the way, which some people hate/love, and indeed, we stopped along the way at a crocodile farm which was quite cool. I got to hold a baby crocodile and saw loads of huge ones too! They really are so much quicker than you realise, after watching them get fed - I didn't know they could jump either which is useful info to have.

On this first Oz bus, most people had booked themselves on to Magnetic Island (a small but beautiful island just off the coast of Townsville) for the full moon party that was happening that night, whereas I had booked to get off at Mission Beach. It was fine though and I was quite happy to chill for a day by the hostel pool and try and plan the rest of my trip. Alas, Queensland being tropical, instead of spending the following morning by the pool in a similarly lazy fashion to the day before, it absolutely pissed it down with rain and there wasn't much else to do other than wait for my bus to arrive.

I then went on to Townsville, a medium sized town with little to do but with a good hill view of Magenetic Island and a reputedly good aquarium. I seemed to click more with people on today's bus and ended up spending the evening with a girl called Lisa and a guy called Joe. After hunting down the nearerst bottle shop for what felt like hours (you can't buy wine in supermarkets in Australia), we got some goon (cheap australian wine that comes in a box) in and chilled in our lovely hostel room that had a TV and en suite bathroom - absolute luxury :p I had a lovely time and luckily these guys had similar timetables to me for the next week. The next day, Lisa and I went across to Magnetic Island and met up with Sarah, another girl we'd met on the bus, and then Joe the next day. Sarah, Lisa and I hired bikes for the day and did a mammoth 14km route on the island, followed by the famous Forts Walk (3km) - a very energetic day! We saw wild koalas in the trees which made it totally worth it though.

We then all went on to Airlie Beach which is the place from where most people do a tour of the Whitsunday Islands on board a boat. I didn't have much time and so could only squeeze in a 2day/1night trip on board a racing yacht, but still had a good time. Aside from feeling a bit seasick in the evening (sleeping on a yacht that rocks back and forth is a challenge!), I really enjoyed the trip. Firstly, I didn't realise that yachts sail at a 45 degree angle(!) and so that was pretty cool when we went for a 3 hour sail on the first day. And then the snorkelling was stunning - really beautiful fish and coral. We also went to the famous Whitehaven Beach for a few hours, which has crystal clear water and the finest white sand you've ever seen. The lookout point near the beach was amazing too and I took easily enough photos to have my desktop background set for life! Anyways, after the trip I had one last night in Airlie Beach with my friends Beccy and Leah and a random bar before getting on the Oz bus the next morning.

Though I'd left most of my newfound friends behind at Airlie (they were mostly doing 3day/2night sailing trips) on the bus I bumped into Kiera, a girl I'd met on my first night in Cairns at the very beginning of my trip, and obviously, Beccy and Leah, who are on a similar timescale to me were there too which was good. We got the bus to Kroombit cattle station (a compulsory stop on the Oz Experience buses but totally worth it) and on the way stopped for a game of lawn bowls at the insistence of our driver, Haillie. We learnt the rules, had a few games and I discovered a hidden talent for the sport that will no doubt keep me amused in my old age. It sounds sad, but we all had a good time mucking around.

Then we arrived at the cattle station in the outback and got prepared for farm-style fun. Kiera, Beccy, Leah and I got a room to ourselves for once which was nice (you can get majorly sick of 8-bed dorms!) and we had a really nice 2 course bush dinner that they hand prepared for all of us. Then we learnt how to crack a whip (so much fun) and watched people fall off the mechanical bull (I was too chicken to have a go). Then the next morning, whilst most went horse riding, I opted for the clay pigenon shooting and after missing the first shot, hit all the rest - oh yes, 4 out of 5, 80% shooting accuracy. I felt quite proud considering only two other boys did as well - go me (big-headed moment over). Then we all took part in a goat rodeo which I won't describe too much as when I finally get round to putting up the photos it will be apparent enough...it did involve me dragging a goat around though. It was good fun anyway!

We then left mid-morning and went on to Hervey Bay, where Beccy, Leah and I had booked our trip to Fraser Island. Fraser Island is the biggest sand island in the world and has loads of amazing rainforest, lakes and generally amazing natural things to see. We spent 1 night on the island and had a 2 day tour, but were ridiculously unlucky with the weather, and spent most of our time in the pouring rain, forcing me to invest in a $4 poncho - a good look, I promise. Still, we saw some good things and it wasn't a total loss.

We then got up ridiculously early this morning (5am!) to catch a coach to Rainbow Beach (where the Oz bus leaves from), and got the bus on to Noosa. I've only been here a few hours but our hostel is lovely and the town is very pretty. Very expensive to live in though, judging by the expensive houses everywhere! Anyway, we pretty much want to chill for the next few days given our run of 6am starts the last few weeks but tomorrow we are heading to Australia Zoo, aka Steve Irwin's legacy. I wasn't going to go as I feel like I've seen enough Australian nature so far but it's supposed to be fantastic. So yes, that should be a good day.

But yes, apologies for the lateness and lack of structure of this blog. I know it's been a long time coming and I've tried to squeeze everything in but it probably reads quite blandly. It will get better and more frequent from here on though!

More next week!

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