Last OZ stop: Great Barrier Reef!!!!

Trip Start May 04, 2007
Trip End Aug 21, 2008

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Monday, December 10, 2007

A big fat cheesy "G'day" from Australia (the land where it seems anything and everything can kill you).  

Australia is HUGE!!! To see it all would have taken a whole lot more time than we had. Since we only had about a month, we decided to stick to the very beaten, but extremely fun, path up the east coast from Sydney to Cairns .  

Because this route is so popular, travelling in this part of Australia is a breeze. There are heaps of budget travel agencies offering packages to all the hot spots. Good deals are not hard to come by. However, we found through talking with other travellers that it doesn't really matter too much which one you choose. They all offer pretty much the same thing and undoubtedly will have some issues (extra fees, crap accommodations). So we bought our package and Greyhound bus passes...yep, back to the buses...and headed up the east coast.  

Rather than give you a chronological breakdown of everything we did.....(in a singing voice) here are a few of our favorite things:
Sydney: We both really liked this city. In addition to near perfect weather, it felt clean and alive. We spent a few days there just walking through the city. The Botanical Gardens are fantastic. Go at sunset to watch the bats come alive....creepy! Sydney has a gorgeous waterfront that is lined with tons of cafes and restaurants, and of course, the famous Opera House. We made sure to stop in a few places to take in the vibe. For a great late night snack (or anytime) stop by Harry's Cafe de Wheels in Darling Harbour for the tastiest meat pies! The guilt from eating these actually got us off our butts for a run across the Harbour Bridge . The view from the bridge definitely made the run easier.

Byron Bay
: This is a small, happening beach town with a relaxed vibe that is known for sucking people in. We were not immune..came for 2 days, stayed 7. This was prime beach living. Our days consisted of going to the beach, surfing, and sleeping. The surf was very small and the water was warm. Nice enough to actually lure Diana out for a few surf lessons from John. We had a nice Thanksgiving in Byron. Our friend Jon (from the UK ) helped us celebrate. We introduced him to the turkey feast (turkey/cranberry sandwiches) and ASU football (the only game we've seen all season and it was a!). After Thanksgiving we took part in the lighting of the town's "Christmas Tree of Peace" (Felt a bit odd with everyone in beach attire). Before leaving we had to have an Australian barbie. Instead of shrimp, we had Roo...Kangaroo. To our surprise,..... it was delicious!

Australia Zoo
: This is Steve Irwin (Croc Hunter) family's zoo, which was started as an animal refuge long ago. It's now a full fledge and well put together zoo with a ton of Australian animals along with some exotic imports. The whole focus here is on animal conservation and protection. We were able to pet a koala and a wombat, as well as, feed kangaroos. Yes, we had some guilt about our previous barbie.

: Another great beach town. Noosa is much smaller and a bit more upscale than Byron, but still has that mellow feel. Our days here pretty much mimicked Byron Bay . Get Ready!!! The Highlight of Noosa: Diana caught a wave before it broke and rode down the face! If only we had a camera to capture the absolute stoke in her face afterwards. 

4X4ing Fraser Island: The largest sand island in the world and the only way to see it is by 4x4ing through the deep sand. Most people, us included, choose to do the self-guided tour. Our tour started in Hervey Bay , which doesn't have much of anything going on. Basically, 8-11 people are grouped together in one 4x4 and you drive yourselves, along with all your camping gear, around the island following an itinerary which is set according to the tides. Once on the island we hiked to a couple of clear, pristine freshwater lakes, visited a shipwreck, walked to the Champagne Pools, where John had a very close encounter with a blue bottle jellyfish, ran into some dingos (they are ALL over!), and ended our trip relaxing on the white sands of crystal clear Lake McKenzie. Despite having a somewhat boring group, we had a fantastic time!

Sailing trip to the Whitsundays: The takeoff point for our 3 day sailing trip was Airlie Beach, a small touristy town without much of a beach (maybe due to the deadly jellies) but plenty of beach atmosphere at its very chill manmade oceanfront lagoon. The sailing trip was maybe the highlight of our Australian trip. Our boat was a red catamaran (Tongarra) with a huge open front deck. One of our stops on the trip was the famous Whitehaven Beach, a jaw dropping stretch of white silicon sand bordering a brilliant blue sea. At night we slept on the deck underneath the stars and even got to play with the phosflorescent water (glows when disturbed due to micro-organisms in the water.....really trippy!). The trip was the perfect combo of relaxing sailing time, crazy snorkeling sites (ginormous fish, rays, huge jellyfish, colorful coral and tons of smaller fish).

Cairns & the Great Barrier Reef: Our last stop on our Australian tour was Cairns, which as a town turned out to be alot better than what we had anticipated. It's a somewhat larger city with a nice waterfront park and oceanside lagoon. However, we didn't come for the city, we came to dive the Great Barrier Reef, and Cairns is a great launching point for dive trips. We paid up a little and went through ProDive on the SilverSwift boat (really fast!). Turned out to be a great choice. We did 3 dives at 3 different points on the outer reef. All were amazing, however, the first one really stood out. In one 40-minute dive we saw 4 white tip sharks, a sea turtle, an enormous Moray eel, sting rays, heaps of tropical fish, and bright, sometimes glowing coral. Along with the diving, we had a fabulous buffet lunch and an awesome crew.....What a day!  We couldn't have asked for a better way to end our OZ experience!

Australia was tons of fun,  but we are looking forward to a complete change in culture and the challenge of navigating Southeast Asia with our first stop in Bangkok, Thailand.

We wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!


John & Diana
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