Australia - Bundaberg
Trip Start Dec 05, 2005
124Trip End Ongoing
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To be out of the hostel by the 10:00am deadline we were up and packing at 8:30 and stored our rucksacks in the hostel TV room for a while as our bus was not due until 1:10pm. On our way out of the hostel to breakfast we passed Vic, Pete and Dave from our group and they looked decidedly worse for wear. As discussed they had met up with some other guys from our group and hadn't got to bed until 5:30am - we were too tired and are too old for that and were glad we had given up at 9:30pm!
We spent the rest of the morning on the internet and booking our buses and accommodation for the next few stops, Bundaberg and Airlie Beach.
The Greyhound journey was a quick one, about an hour and a half, and we were met at the coach station by the owner of the motel we had booked. We checked into the Oscar motel and relaxed for a while before taking a quick look around the immediate area and popping into a Sizzler's Restaurant for some tea. The original plan was to have their trademark steak but on entering we discovered an all-you-can-eat salad cart with pasta, nachos, deserts and drinks - all for 7 GBP each. That did us nicely!
We needed to be back at the motel for 6.15pm to cath a bus to Mon Repos. Mon Repos is a place we had both heard of but hadn't realised it was in this area until speaking to a couple of new found friends, Karen and Erica, on Fraser Island. It is a very famous turtle rookery on the closed off Mon Repos Beach, which is one of only a few places in the world that gets an annual return of Loggerhead, Green and Flatback Turtles to nest and hatch their young on the beach.
We took the bus to Mon Repos, meeting both Karen, Erica, and Birgit and Claudia from our Fraser group - all by complete coincidence! - and then sat through a presentation on the history of Mon Repos and the Turtles that nest there. The adult female turtles come to the beach in the summer to lay their young and then leave them behind. The young then hatch and work their way out of the nest under the sand. The hatchlings finally make their own way down to the sea and then enter the EAC (East Australian Current - just like in Finding Nemo!) until they are about 30 years old when the cycle repeats itself. These are the three stages and January is the only time you ever stand the chance of seeing all three in the same night.
After about an hour we were called down to the beach in a group of about 60 people as something was happening. In the dark we stumbled to an area where a guide pointed out a small cage with about 20 hatchlings bumbling around inside (PICS). As she talked a bit about them they kept following her torchlight - the light of the sea-sky horizon is the one thing that guides them down to the sea. She then picked a few up and let us feel the power within their little flippers and take a few pictures (PICS).
We then made two lines down the beach and a few of us guided the hatchlings down the beach to the water with our torches. A truly amazing and awe-inspiring process. Unfortunately you can't take photographs at this point as the flash will disorientate the hatchlings during this crucial stage of their lifecycle. This is the point at which the hatchlings gain their magnetic imprint, which mystically allows them to return to the same beach in 30 years time to breed their own young. We were able to take a bit of video though (PIC).
Soon after we were called to see another of the stages, a clutch of hatchlings were just emerging from their nest. We moved across to see about 80 hatchlings push their way up through the sand (PICS) before they were released down the beach and into the sea.
The only stage we had left to see was a nesting / laying adult but unfortunately it looked like this would not happen. Only one adult had approached the beach that night and she turned around and went back out to sea without laying any eggs.
We waited around in the visitor centre for a couple of hours in the vain hope that we would be called down to see a nesting mother. We were able to see another small clutch of 11 hatchlings emerge from their nest and luckily their were only about 10 people left at Mon Repos so we were able to get some better photographs and get a bit closer to the hatchlings this time.
At midnight we gave up and caught the bus back to our room before getting to bed at just before 1:00.
Our next destination after Bundaberg was to be Airlie Beach, the gateway to the Whitsunday Islands and the location for our sailing trip around said islands. Airlie Beach is quite a distance from Bundaberg - an 11 hour bus journey to be precise and the only bus that runs is an overnight one. This works out quite well as it means we don't have to pay for accommodation that night and don't waste a day travelling. There were a couple of places that we would have liked to have gone to between Bundaberg and Airlie, namely The Town of 1770 and Great Keppel Island, but our pre-booked trip around the Whitsunday's meant that we didn't have time to go to these places.
The overnight greyhound bus, leaving at 10:00pm, meant that we had the day to kill in Bundaberg. There is actually very little else to do in Bundaberg, apart from the turtle watching and maybe going to the famous Bundaberg Rum Distillery (not interested!), and the town is quite sprawling and spread out.
Having woken up and checked out by 10:00am we needed something to fill 12 hours. We wandered around the town for a bit, grabbing a delicious breakfast at a deli and popping into a few shops, before settling down in an internet café and devoting some time to the travel blog. We were quite behind and had hundreds of photos on the camera which needed sorting out and storing onto CD. As boring as it sounds the 5 hours we spent in the internet café were crucial and very productive - it was a good job we had kept a written note of what we had done over the previous 9 days, or you wouldn't have much to read now!
Stopping off for some fish and chips on the way back to the hotel, we then picked up our bags and were dropped off at the coach station. The rest of the night was to be spent listening to our ipods and sleeping on our way to Airlie Beach.