Found Nemo, lost Sydney ....... and much more..
Trip Start Oct 01, 2002
158Trip End Aug 08, 2005
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Hope everyone is well out there, we have been happily travelling down the East coast having reached Melbourne last week and we've already found a buyer for Oobie, (the first people who called, a nice Irish couple) but we get to keep her until we leave for New Zealand on Sunday 8th August.
Over a month ago, (time really does fly), back in Cairns, we checked out all the diving shops and eventually found one (actually the first one we went into, which is typical for us) that inspired some confidence and they proved to be fantastic. We booked a 3 day live aboard package to the outer reef with 11 dives included
From Cairns, after a couple of days rest, we headed north, to Daintree, apparently the oldest rainforest on earth, in North Queensland. We nearly turned back as the rain pounded down, but everything calmed down after the short ferry crossing and the twisting road cutting through the rainforest was a fascinating drive. We camped in a forest site and cooked dinner in the rain but walked some great mangrove forest trails the next day and visited loads of absolutely gorgeous, long, clean and completely unspoilt, deserted beaches that beat many of those we've seen in Africa or Asia. A trip to the local flying fox bat sanctuary was interesting and even Sian (not a bat fan) thought that they were actually quite cute.
Oobie, our trusty little van, was put to the test a few days later as we slowly climbed high into the Atherton Tablelands where we visited waterfall after waterfall, scenic lakes and some gorgeous swimming spots. They also have gigantic, old fig trees, deep in the forest that have formed into spectacular shapes, so large that you can walk in and around them. From the Atherton Tablelands we took the coast road all the way down to Brisbane. We've been bush camping almost every other day and staying in campsites the rest of the time so we were mightily impressed with a free campsite with fantastic hot showers, at a Caltex service station
One animal we were determined not to miss though, was the truly bizarre Duck Billed Platypus. We headed to a place called Platypus Bushcamp, an authentic bush camping place with open sided showers looking out over the rainforest and camp fires to keep us warm during the cool nights. It almost reminded us of Africa which we are missing more and more. We eagerly awaited the arrival of the Platypuses at dusk the next day but, no luck, they weren't about. To see them we would have to get up at 4.30 a.m to watch them at first light. We did get up the next morning, but again we didn't catch them. Disappointed (and knackered) we decided to move on a little deeper into the surrounding rainforest to a place called Broken Hill. As soon as we arrived we saw a small crowd of people on a bridge so we stopped and sure enough, there they were, albeit a little far away. We moved further along the bank, away from anyone else and there, right in front of us, a platypus played in the water. They really are freaky looking, almost like a child made them up with a bit from one animal and something else off another! They are undeniably cute though and later on we saw them spinning in the water, the male biting the female's tail in the mating ritual. There were also a few turtles about and by the time we pulled ourselves away it was getting dark so we bush camped close by
Our next stop along the way was Cape Hillsbrough, a small national park on the coast, famed for it's incredibly friendly kangaroos. Unfortunately though, it was the school holidays and we quickly realised that no kangaroos in their right mind would come anywhere near the hoardes of screaming kids, so we made a hasty exit the next day and carried on down the coast to Mackay. Mackay was a nice enough place, with a really nice deserted beach and we visited the Andy Warhol exhibition with some of his most famous work and reaffirmed our previous thoughts, that we're simply not the biggest Warhol fans! We didn't escape the hoardes of screaming kids either when bus loads on a school trip streamed into our campsite late that night! Moving further south we stopped briefly at the small towns of 1770 (the year Captain Cook arrived there) and Agnes Water which were picturesque enough but couldn't hold our interest for too long, besides we were still hoping to see the Humpback whales further down the coast. So, we spent a strange night in Bundaberg, camping in the street outside a caravan park in a residential area as it proved harder and harder to find any space in a campsite along the increasingly built up coastline. We also needed new tyres for Oobie so we ended up getting them in the morning before we headed south to Gympie and Hervey bay, where unfortunately there were no whales there either so we decided to see the koalas in the wild at Noosa Heads National park, where things actually went according to plan and we spotted a koala in a tree. They don't look real either and again it was quite cool, although we were surprised to learn that you don't get to see many of them in the wild that much anymore so we were lucky.
Escaping the crowds of kids became a bit of a priority but not before we visited Steve Irwin's Australia Zoo, we're not really huge fans of zoos not really agreeing with animals in cages but these are supposed to be rescued animals
We continued on down the coast to Surfers Paradise, but with its tightly packed skyscrapers and neon light nightlife it didn't seem to be anybody's kind of paradise. It does have a nice, clean beach and really cool waves rolling in though
When we finally dragged ourselves away from gem hunting we headed to the state observatory at Coonabarabran to learn something about the stars we've seen so often in the Southern hemisphere but could barely name one. Coonabarabran is supposedly the Astronomy capital of Oz but the tightly winding roads high onto the mountain made us too late to catch that night's sky show, which was cloudy anyway, so we booked for the next night. We spent the day working on and polishing Oobie (yes, we're really very attached to her!) and visited the observatory at night where a rather brief lecture on the planets, stars and constellations in clear skies was reasonably interesting if not a little cold
On the ferry back to Manly after the first day of not sorting out our flights successfully, we bumped into Louise, another fellow traveller from Vietnam who has also emigrated from England to Australia. Luckily for us as we'd checked out of our GH and had nowhere wo stay, she kindly invited us to stay with her and her husband Cliff in their lovely apartment with fantastic views overlooking Manly Beach
As a purpose built city (they couldn't decide between Melbourne and Sydney) Canberra has no character and few sights worth seeing. We went to the national mint, the national gallery and the fantastically unimpressive new parliament building before leaving the same day en route to Melbourne. The weather over the previous few days had caused snowstorms to block the road but it was fine by the time we got there, and although we were tempted to divert to the 'snowy mountains' to get some skiing and snowboarding in, we successfully resisted as our 20 flights have put us back on a strict budget!
We spent the night at a gorgeous free camp site in the quaint little town of Barima.
Now in the state of Victoria, the free camp sites with decent facilities have become more numerous, unfortunately though, it's been too cold to take full advantage of them so after arriving in Melbourne, in the rain, getting horrendously lost in the sprawling city that constantly repeats it's street names, we treated ourselves to a decent camp site with TV room, kitchen and heated floor tiles in the bathrooms, luxury!!!
We spent the next day creating Oobie's 'for sale' poster and then pinning them up around all the backpackers and internet cafes in Melbourne, so it's fair to say that we now know our way around
The morning weather was clear and sunny and the drive was very picturesque, with lots of rugged scenery and pretty beaches. Unfortunately it was clear that we wouldn't be back that evening to show Oobie, especially after getting her stuck in the mud at our lunch spot. Thankfully the Irish couple, who ended up buying her, were understanding and we carried on to see the famed 'Twelve Apostles' (rocky pinnacles standing in the sea that have long ago been eroded from the receding coastline) just as the sun set behind them. It was really quite impressive, although they probably wouldn't have been that special in the daylight. We then found a fish and chip shop and a camp site for the night with a Scottish connection (Kev got a discount for being from the 'homeland') and headed back the next morning
A few more people called for Oobie on the way home, so with appointments arranged, we battled through the traffic and perfected our sales pitch. Actually, everybody that saw her was very impressed and all the horror stories we had heard about trying to sell a vehicle in winter just didn't seem real. One Dutch guy wanted to buy her and leave for Darwin just based on our poster and a couple of Israeli guys wanted her so badly that they kept saying they'd pay more and more! In the end we didn't sell her to the highest bidder, like we said we're quite attached to her so we sold her to the nicest people who we thought would look after her! As an added bonus, they don't need her staright away so we'll keep her until and finish off our trip. We headed to Phillip Island yesterday which turned out to be relatively inimpressive with an overcommercialised 'Penguin Parade' which we didn't bother with, choosing instead to avoid the crowds, especially as we saw many of the same species in South Africa.
So now, here we are on the Mornington Penninsula, taking advantage of the free internet in the libary! We'll be very sad to say goodbye to Oobie at the weekend and our slowly getting our head around backpacking again, carrying our rucksacks all over the place again will be no fun after the luxury of our own transport. To console ourselves and build up our much needed fat reserves, we've been pigging out on chocolate gateau and strawberries with lashings of fresh cream, ah the luxuries we've missed from home!
Well it's time to sign off with a promise not to leave it so long next time. Take care everyone and keep in touch,
S & K.