A week on the East coast of Australia.
19.09.2008 - 25.09.2008 23 °C
Hervey Bay was our next destination on our trip up the east coast of Australia. The Bus trip was a approx 5 hours long from Brisbane but it was a day time trip so we got great views of the countryside on our way. Hervey Bay is a pretty weird town because it doesnt really have a center to it - it reminded me more of an industrial estate. However, what the town lacked in character our hostel made up for. We stayed in the YHA Hostel which is was more like an oasis than a hostel. It had a beautiful lake with ducks roaming around the place, a swimming pool, bar, clean rooms & pretty much every possible thing you could need. We were even greeted with a glass of fresh juice & fruit cake. Because we were on a really tight timeframe we booked all our trips with the hostel that night spending roughly $400 ouchhhh!!! Starting with Whale watching on the first day followed by a 2 day trip on the infamous Fraser Island! Needless to say we were both really excited about the couple of days ahead.
The whale watching was amazing. We had just ventured out to sea 15 minutes or so just passing by Fraser island when we could see the whales blowing in the distance. Lorraine could be employed as a whale spotter as she was the first to see them in the distance every time! The captain then put the foot down and soon enough we could almost reach out and touch them they were so close to the boat. They are huge graceful animals and its really something else peering over the edge of the boat and seeing them disappear underneath then pop their heads up on the other side for a good look at us! They respond to you so we were all waving and shouting like right goons to try and keep their attention on us!
Humpback whales tail
Whale watching is a once in a life time thing & you could clearly tell by the reactions of everyone on the boat. I mean its not every day you get to watch grown men dance around squealing like little girls... It was hilarious! Its actually a pretty intense time because your eyes are constantly planted on the surrounding sea in hope of being the first person to spot a whale. It was such a surreal feeling as we watched these 'larger than life' creatures swimming around, under & along side the boat. These are absolutely massive & for once both myself & Rob were speechless (that says alot). We came across a mother whale who was teaching her little (massive) baby calf how to jump. It was truly one of the most amazing things i have ever seen.
Whale jumping and diving
Actually one thing that myself and Lorraine have really noticed about Oz so far is the abundance of wildlife around and how environmentally conscious the people are (well the hostel folk anyway). Just going along on the bus you see kangaroos and wallabies hopping along (its really surreal the first few times), we've already seen a massive snake and there are some big lizards around as well. All you see at home in terms of wild animals is the odd badger or fox flattened on the road!
So on day 2 we got picked up bright and early for our overnight safari trip to Fraser Island. Now for those not in the know (like we were until a day before we went!) Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world covered in thick rainforest, massive beaches and crystal clear fresh water lakes. Oh and its got loads of dingos on it too!We got a ferry across and jumped on our 4 wheel drive safari bus and took off through the jungle. It really was like a safari as we were thrown around in the seats speeding along the sand tracks - it was quality! Cant believe we weren't car sick!
Fraser Island is a spectacular place & as Rob said the beaches & lakes are quite stunning so we couldnt wait to get our trip underway. We were in a group of approx 22 people who were all lovely which was an extra bonus. We travelled around the island on a 4x4 bus which was excellent fun because we were thrown up from our seats on more than a few occasions. On our first day we visited a lake Birrabong which is a beautiful emerald colour freshwater lake. Everyone was really eager to jump in that was until they felt how cold the water was.. my god it was freezing. Most people did well to make it in up to their knees apart from Rob that is who belly flopped right in making quite the spectacle of himself ha ha! Legend!
Lorraine knee deep in the first lake of the day on Fraser island.
Our next stop was the Pine Valley Jungle Walk which was really cool because it is a really dense jungle which grows on sand.. go figure... Anyway it was nice to stretch our legs & it was a good way to get to know the other people in our group, plus we got to hug a big tree!
Our favourite part of the day was without a doubt our visit to the Hammerstone Sandblow which is basically like walking across a desert of the most golden sand you have ever seen. We walked about 1km in the searing heat with sand on every horizon it was really cool. Eventually we spoted trees on the horizon & then an emerald coloured lake appeared in the distance (lake Gabby). We were delighted to see this because we were pumping sweat at this stage. We all had great craic cooling off in the freezing waters of the lake. It was a great end to the day.
At lake Gabby
Everyone in our group agreed to meet for a social drink that night in the bar, which quickly turned into quite a session. We had a great laugh with everyone on the bus including our driver who was absolutely hammered! How he intended driving the next morning - i really dont know!
And we saw our first dingo that night too! They're alot smaller then I thought they'd be.
It was a really early start the next morning & i would be lying if i didnt say we were all feeling a little tender after the night before. However with a hearty breakfast in our tummies we were all set for another day of exploring. We drove for a good 40 minutes along the 75 mile beach before arriving at the famous Red Canyon Coloured Sands & yes you have guessed it.....the sand is all different colours. You may have noticed from my tone that it wasnt the most exciting part of our day ha ha!
Fishermen on 75 mile beach, Fraser Island.
Anyway after a short stop there we continued our drive along the beach to the Maheno Shipwreck which was basically washed up on the shores of Fraser island years ago & still lies there today. Its actually pretty cool because it is totally rusty & weather beaten after all the years on the beach & we got some great pictures as the waves crashed up over it.
It wasnt too long before we were on the road again to Indian Head which is basically a large hill with spectacular views across Fraser Island. Myself & Rob sat for about 30 minutes just soaking it all in. It really was beautiful! The colour of sea is so dazzling & its hard to think that you cant actually swim in the water because of sharks, box jellyfish, sting rays & extremely dangerous rip tides.. the place is pretty lethal when you think about it but it doesnt stop some idiots jumping in!
On top of Indian head, Fraser Island
On the way back from Indian head we stopped at a fresh water creek called Eli creek that you can wade through, which was fun! Not much more to say about that! Then we arrived at the most famous of the lakes on Fraser Island called Lake McKenzie. Now we'd been looking forward to this because of all the beautiful photos we'd seen of it but the place was packed, like Brittas Bay on a sunny day in Dublin! So we didnt even bother getting in the water but it was quite beautiful none the less. A nice lazy way to end our stay in Fraser.
Here's a photo of our Australian mascot 'Kui the Koala' at lake McKenzie
When we got back from Fraser Island to the hostel we had to hang around for a couple of hours before jumping on another overnight bus north to Airlie Beach. The bus was a few hours late as well so I slept under the bus shelter like a hobo while Lorraine wrote until it arrived. We've come to love and hate the overnight buses - on one hand its like a free nights accomodation! But you do be shattered when you arrive. Anyway Airlie beach is the main resort town on the mainland and services all the tourists heading to the Whitsunday Islands. We were only staying one night in our hostel before going camping on the islands, most folk tend to do some sort of cramped overnight sailing trip here but we figured we'd be that bit different and camp instead! We booked our trip with some local company and hired the gear from them as well, then they shipped us across the sea to the island we choose (there's something like 75 different islands in the Whitsundays) on what I was (and still am) convinced was a homemade boat! It was the sea equivalant of a lada, i would've preferred a dingy to that heap. But sure we got there and were dropped off on a little sheltered beach to set up camp.
Go camping - its what to do!
Ahhhh the Whitsundays.. I really enjoyed our little camping experience.. It reminded me of staying on Achill Island with the folks When we arrived on the island a lovely canadian lady approached us & showed us to a secluded spot on the beach where we could camp. Myself & Rob both wanted the leadership role when it came to putting up the tent so we both had our own ideas of.. where was the best spot to camp.. what pole went where.. where the pegs should go... etc.. this went on for quite a while before we realised the sun was setting & that we should prob just stick the little thing up! We made quite the cosy little nest for ourselves i have to say. It was such fun making our dinner on a little gas cooker. We drank our beers by candle light while playing chess into the late hours of the night.. 9pm. We moved into the tent fairly sharply after hearing numerous rustles in the trees around our campsite. The two of us were totally freaked out until we got the torch out & realised it was just little wallabies jumping around our tent.. They are just like minature kangaroos but way cuter!
It was while camping on the whitsundays that I realised I have quite the passion for fishing. The owner of our hostel let us borrow a crappy little fishing rod so we took it along just for a laugh! I spent quite a number of hours down at the shore with my little rod & some ham (as bait). Rob had absolutely no faith that i would catch anything but i always had hope. For two whole days I fished to my little hearts content but to no avail. It was pretty funny because i would be down at the sea fishing while Rob cooked us dinner & did all the womanly stuff ha ha! He was my catch of the day! ha ha sorry i couldnt resist! While we were waiting on our (Lada) boat to come & pick us up to take us back to Airlie beach i gave my little fishing rod one last shot ....and just as i was about to give up i felt a little nibble & sure enough i had caught my very first little fish (approx 20cm's long). It was class! Although i had a tough time trying to remove the hook! I was delighted!!
Lorraine and her little fishy.
The weather took a bit of a turn for the worse the day we were to come back and the wind was pretty strong. Our lift came along and picked us up and we were crammed right in with a lot more people than before. There was a kayaking club or something on board so they took up loads of room with their kayaks and gear. We made a few more pick ups around the islands and then made our way out to sea heading back to the mainland. Once we hit the open ocean huge waves immediately came over the sides and front of the boat drenching the two of us and everyone else, as well as soaking all the bags etc on the ground. The boat was being tossed around and waves kept crashing and tumbling in on top of us. I couldnt tell what was happening or see anything with the water hitting me, at one stage I thought we were about to capsize. I stood up over Lorraine so I could see her properly and shouted to get down the back where it was slightly more sheltered. Thankfully the sea calmed a bit in the next minute or so and we made it back to shore an hour later. It was a hell of ride and we were both only delighted when we stepped ashore again soaked and shaken - no more boats for a good while! Well no more home made boats anyway!