30.06.2006 26 °C
Fed up of the increasingly cold days in Sydney and a desire to get back to the travelling, we decided to bring forward our flight to Cairns. We left Fitz and Soph at the airport as they headed south to freezing Tasmania and we headed north to tropical Queensland.
What joy it was to be back in the smothering warmth and the sunshine – to get back in shorts, t-shirts and thongs (flip flops). It was also nice to get back in to travelling after staying put in Sydney for 3 and a half months.
Cairns was our base for the next few nights and from there we enjoyed the tropical weather, a boat trip to Fitzoy Island out in the Great Barrier Reef for a nice spot of lunch and a chill on a beautiful beach, and a two day adventure through Daintree rainforest and Cape Tribulation. The was a great little experience as we headed back into relative wilderness and a chance to encounter some of Oz’s famous crocodiles. What we didn’t bargain for was how close our encounter would be. Enjoying the sunshine, we decided to lay our towels on the beach next to a creak and not far from the undergrowth. Just as we were falling in to sunshiney bliss about 10 minutes later we had some bloke quickly approach us.
“You do know there’s a big croc just over there didn’t ya?”
“He’s just there”
Yep, no further than 20 metres away sat some big mama croc eyeing up her dinner – us. It was time to move one.
After that perilous adventure, we took the Greyhound bus down the East Coast making various stops along the way. A washed night out in Mission Beach, followed by a couple of nights chilling on Magnetic Island. After that we stayed in the larger town of Townsville, part Hicksville, part cool little getaway, where we enjoyed a few beachy days, wine and a bit of nice food. It was also the place to watch England get knocked out of the World Cup by Portugal and for me to get aggro with everyone around me as a consequence.
Next stop was the cool, young town called Airlie Beach where we were meeting up with some of Alex’s pals from Sydney for a 3 day cruise round the Whitsundays Islands. Now this was one of the highlights of the entire adventure that we have been on. Truly amazing. We sailed for three days around beautiful islands in the Great Barrier Reef. The weather was amazing, we had top quality food fed to us and a nice relaxing spa on deck. During the first day of sailing we anchored up somewhere and went kayacking (formerly known as canoeing) which ended up just being one big water fight as tiger sharks nipped at our ankles. Then came the second day. First we went to Whitehaven beach, the most beautiful beach I have ever been too and with good reason because it is the best beach in the world. It is completely unspoilt as nature intended but my words can’t do it any justice so take a look at picture below. Then in the afternoon we all went snorkling at another bay in archipelago. This was a big struggle for many of us especially me as I couldn’t quite master the breathing through a tube under water thing and the slight panic everytime I touched some of the slimy coral. So I was a bit apprehensive when it came to the scuba diving that followed. I needn’t be. My fishphobia went straight out of the window as I glided through the abyss. Scuba diving the Great Barrier Reef is absolutely amazing, one of the greatest experiences of my life. It is just another world down there with walls, corridors and valleys full of colourful coral, fish and other sea creatures. It was so much easier than snorkelling as well and you can see everything around you just in case one of those wily old sharks happened to sniff you out. It was breathtaking (though not enough to induce panic when twenty metres under the ocean!)
Another day of that and we were back on dry land for the first time in three days. Me and Alex wobbled off the boat, got washed up and then headed for the long overnight trip to Hervey Bay for our next adventure. Hervey Bay was the base for our 4x4 “off-road” adventure around Fraser Island. In a group of eight we were given a 4x4 jeep and some tents and sent packing to hurtle around the largest sandy island in the world for 3 days – with me as designated driver (when not under the influence). As many people who have experienced my driving can testify – you imagine that this was one hell of an adrenaline rush as I sped around narrow bumpy sandy lanes and across miles and miles of beaches, dodging dingoes along the way. We could also see humpback whales frolicking in the sea and at night the bags of goon (cheap boxed wine) were a flowing (coupled with a few Jamaican Woodbines that made me realise why I stopped smoking that shit in the first place). There beautiful crystal clear lakes to dip into and sand banks to board down. Alex even got brave and took a moonlit dip in shark infested waters!
The east coast of Australia is an amazing trip and everyone who comes here does. We completed the journey via well-healed Noosa Heads to Byron Bay where we learned how to surf. Being a cumbersome galoot that wasn’t easy to me but to my chagrin Alex was a natural. We also took in a day “trip” to Nimbin, a small town in the middle of nowhere where ganja is legal. Me and Alex had a few homemade cookies from the local hippies but we were too cautious to get any real effect.
And so we went from there back to Cairns (which included flying over the Great Barrier Reef and getting a birds eye view of its majesic glory) for the last couple of days of our Australia experience. It had been one been a brilliant one and the place will have many fond memories. But now it was time to go as our incredible journey drew to a close with one final leg to go. A month in Japan, Hong Kong, Agra in India and the Oman.