Back from the Bahamas just in time for this week's Travelpod.
Byron Bay - where VW Campervans come to die. Nip into town and update Travelpod. Go to YHA hostel and purchase a Hostelling Card each for $35. Then phone the Ghan railway and book our 2nd Class day/night seats from Darwin to Alice Springs for $120 each instead of $240 each without the card. Despite me shouting 'watch your bum, watch your bum', Nicola inadvertently moons the park when changing into her swimsuit as the curtain between the driving cab and the cabin is wide open. Back to beach and have our first dip in the sea. Nice warm day - 28 degrees and swim in clear, clear water. Lots of surfers and girls in tiny bikinis. We dip in and out of the water all afternoon then back up to our van and drink the fridge dry. No dinner.
Day 202 - Wednesday 17 March
Nicola gets up at seven and goes for a swim in the sea
. I sit watching morning TV which goes live to Irish bars across Australia which is already full of drinkers at seven a.m. celebrating St Patricks Day. After breakfast of poached eggs on toast, pack up and, after emptying toilet cassette, drive an hour north to Surfers Paradise. En route we pass from New South Wales into Queensland and onto The Gold Coast. Book onto Main Beach Caravan Park which is 3kms north of Surfers Paradise proper. We are surprised at the size of SP which is a big city with skyscrapers etc reminding us a little of Pattaya in Thailand. Hire body boards, for $10 each, from the site and walk over the road to the beach. Clear blue skys and temperature touching 30. It is very windy however and the waves are too frequent. Nicola bashes her head with board several times, bangs her knee on the sand and nearly strangles herself with the curly cord attached to her wrist. As she surfaces I can only shake my head as she stands there with her swimsuit hanging off. I nearly get debagged by the waves and get whited out several times. The waves are all wrong so we give up and retire to the sand. Three hours later and I am beginning to realize that I am burnt. Go back to van and get showered. We haven't used the shower in the van yet as all the sites have great shower facilities. Put on my Hong Kong Sevens Irish rugby shirt and get bus into Surfers Paradise. O'Malleys, which overlooks the beach, is our first and last port of call. We get chatting to two Kiwi guys, Damon and Craig. Damon is the double of Michael Schumacher
. We end up buying each other cocktails and the night deteriorates. Even have to go get more money half way through. Two dolly birds in micro gold bikinis with a live leprechaun walk through the bar, or maybe that was the tequila slammers. A giant Aussie guy joins us and produces drinking dice which is all we need. At the end of the night, the big guy says that nobody gives him as much jip as we gave him, but he enjoyed it. We get a taxi home which was borderline whether he would actually take us. Every shape. St Pat would have been proud of us.
Day 203 - Thursday 18 March
Wake up with what looks like dried Egg Nog on my face. Decide it could be one of three things. Either it is puss running from my sunburnt face, or I seriously misjudged a shooter last night or it is dried Egg Nog. It turns out to be the first. My eyes are swollen and stuck together with dried puss. There is puss running down my cheeks. I forget to take a photo for TPod. Somehow manage to drive the hour to Brisbane through Japanese eyes. Leave The Gold Coast and now heading towards The Sunshine Coast, which is all I need. Nicola sleeps in the back. Stop in the centre of Brisbane where Nicola goes in to MacDonalds - or Maccas as they are called over here - for emergency breakfast. Drive 4kms out to Newmarket Caravan Park
. Nicola does the washing while I lie watching a particularly good picture on the TV. The rest of the day is a washout. We both just slob about then have pizza for dins. The word alcohol isn't mentioned today. Whilst waiting for 'My Restaurant Rules' a storm warning is flashed up on the screen, which proves to be accurate half an hour later. After calling the program announcers idiots all day for getting their timings all wrong we eventually twig that our watch is wrong. Queensland observes Daylight Saving Time unlike NSW. We have been living on the wrong time for two days. No wonder we got so blocked last night. We started drinking an hour earlier than we had intended. Nicola says that at least we went home an hour earlier than we thought. The fact that we didn't have a clue what time it was when we left seems to have passed her by. Reset clocks to correct time and have an early night. Or is it?
Day 204 - Friday 19 March
A lovely blue sky this morning. Face feels like a cheese grater but eyes open a little more. We have quite a lot to do today. We have to do some sort of tour of Brisbane before heading up to meet Jill in Beerwah, one hour north of the city. Drive into the city and take an age finding a car park without height restrictions. Walk through the pedestrian centre and board the 'City Sights' bus which takes us round 19 of the main attractions
. Our highlight is the entrant for Brisbanes' 'My Restaurant Rules'. We nearly get up and cheer although nobody else looks interested. We change our plan of doing a river cruise and get a 'Subway' for lunch instead. Back into the van and drive two hours north to Beerwah. We go to the famous Australia Zoo which is owned by Steve Irwin, 'The Crocodile Hunter'. He has been in the news here recently for dangling his new born baby in the gaping jaws of a crocodile, a la Mr Jackson. The $23 entrance fee is worth it. Loads of koalas and crocs. We spend two hours there. I have forgot to charge the cameras batteries so have to buy 6 double A's to get me round. My highlight is the Cassowarie, Nicola's the K's and the Asian small Clawed Otters. Next a short drive back into Beerwah to meet Briggs and Jill. As I park outside the Beerwah Hotel I scrape the van along a road sign. We ring Jill who is home early so we disentangle the van from the sign and drive about 5 miles out of town to their gorgeous house. It is locally known as The Boathouse and is set in an acre of land, comprising avocados, olives and chillis. Nearbouring fields are growing pineapples and tobacco. We have a great night chatting and drinking and myself and Briggs plan to golf the next morning with his brother who has recently emigrated to Oz. Jill rustles up tasty 'Cornflake Chicken' and chips. A late night ensues and the next morning
Day 205 - Saturday 20 March
Both Briggs and the weather are under the weather. My face is now looking like something straight out of 'The Singing Detective'. Jill's magical creams are applied liberally to stem the loss of face. Alas it is a little too late. Much of it comes off during the day. Golf is postponed to Sunday and us boys slob around watching TV, and peeling, while the girls drive to some local towns, do some shopping, ending up in Montville for lunch
. Back home we order Thai food from the local restaurant and have an early night.
Day 206 - Sunday 21 March - Happy Mother's Day Mums
Up at 7.30 for golf. After breakfast of bacon and eggs Briggs and myself drive out to 'Pelican Waters' in Coloundra, 45 minutes away, and meet brother Johnny for golf. It breezy and largely overcast but a lovely course. Our buggies are fitted out with satellite positioning systems which give yardages, warnings of road crossing and even applause for birdies scored. Our buggy's applaud system remains silent but we have a great time on the Greg Norman designed course. The girls meanwhile went to the Sunday markets in Coloundra then went to meet up with Jill's sister, Karen in Bridgin and then to Noosa Heads for lunch. Two bottles of wine and delicious lunch later they have a walk along the beautiful beach at Noosa then head back to Karens for a glass of champagne while Jill does some acupuncture on Karen's shoulder. Briggs and myself get home at 3 and we get chicken and chips from the local carry out. The girls get home at 7.30, just in time for 'MRR'. As Jill is getting up for work in Brisbane at 5.30 we have an early night and sadly say goodbye to her.
Day 207 - Monday 22 March
Wake up at 7 to another wet and windy day
. Tropical Cyclone Grace is kicking up a storm off the coast of Cairns. Many roads around the area are closed off. We get up and say another sad goodbye to Briggs then drive north towards the bad weather. We stop off in Gympie for a Macca breakfast and phone our intended destination of Fraser Island to find out about campsites and the weather conditions. We discover that there are only sand tracks on the island which require a four wheel drive to negotiate. The option of leaving our van on the mainland and getting the ferry over to a campsite doesn't appeal. We read through our guide books for alternatives. Keppel Island looks good but when we phone we find out that the ferry is for foot passengers only. Our next option is 1770. This town/beach was recommended by Jill and Briggs who stayed there years ago. We decide to head the 450kms to there. The rain continues unabated. We arrive at 5pm and book ourselves onto Captain Cook Camp Site. The town is named after the year in which Captain Cook arrived in the bay. Dinner of Tacos is followed by bed.