Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Australia: Costal (part 2 of 2)

Australia continued... The first post covered the Outback as we made our way to the coast. We drove all day and just as night was falling, we started our ascent of the Great Dividing Range. Not taking more than two hours, which ironically included a dinner stop at The Hilltop Cafe (of which we have a restaurant of the same name in Fairbanks, also at the top of a hill), we descended at what felt like 90 degrees on switchbacks for 40kms. We made it into Cairns to spend the night at the Holiday Inn, which surpisingly is much much nicer than the Holiday Inns in the States. Woke up the next morning to head to Port Douglas. Just north of Cairns on the Bruce Highway, we first see the Great Barrier Reef: We find a place to stay in Port Douglas and decided upon taking a short drive through the Daintree National Forest. Well, the short drive turns into a daylong adventure and we figured it was quicker to continue the scenic path north to Cookstown to spend the night. A fabulous dinner on the wharf, a pleasant nights rest, and back to a faster highway south to Port Douglas. Side note: Port Douglas isn't pronounded: Doug (dug), like the American name. It is pronounced do-g, like go "do" this for me +g. I couldn't hold back the giggles whenever anyone would ask me where we were staying. The first night in Port "do"glas we boarded a sailboat and had a pleasant sunset sail around the inside of the reef. We saved the adventure for the next day when we boarded the Poseindon for an afternoon of feeding the fishes... through the mouthpiece... thirty feet below water level. Oh, sorry, that was just me. I get seasick very easily and was hoping diving would treat me with more respect than snorkling does. Obvious to all the other divers: I was wrong. If you ever wanted to know: yes, you can get seasick while diving. It isn't fun. It also isn't life threatening. We did rent an underwater camera and were able to take pictures; which unfortunately all turned out very blue. Are you curious about those sexy light blue suits we are wearing? I was curious until I had to wear one. Stinger suits. So whatever nasties (jellyfish) that live in the coastal northern waters don't sting us to death. Most flattering suits imaginable. Here is Mark equalizing his ears. Since we survived the Introductory dive, twice. We decided to continue our journey south to Arlie Beach and occupy our time drinking with all the foreign workers, avoiding teenagers on their summer vacations (how dare they take summer vacation during our winter?), and touring the Whitsunday Islands on the rainiest day of the entire trip. While we cannot plan the weather, we should have skipped the three island tour. Hanging out on a desert beach sounds super-sexy until you realize you are being lightly misted on while expected to don yet another sexy stinger suit just to go swimming. No one's fault. Just a matter of circumstance. These ladies didn't seem to be bothered by the weather. So what where we living in this whole time? Funny you should ask. I did take a couple pictures of the inside of our humble abode. This is walking in the from the only doorway near the back. To the close left you see the refridgerator, behind that were the cupboards. Above center is the fold out bed all tucked away and to the right is the seating and the air conditioner.
and looking down from the bed, you can see everything in reverse:
From Arlie Beach we continued southward to Fraser Island, which was a stellar trip. I would highly recommend this trip to everyone. The whole island is a forested sand with a Seventy Mile Beach.
First stop on our island tour was McKinsey Lake. Nice lake, we didnt swim, too many other places to see. I couldn't bare stopping and staying at the first nice place we stopped off.
and then I couldn't bare halting at the second place we stopped at. Although, of any of the activities that I wished I would have taken the time to enjoy, this lake was it. It looked to gorgeous and refreshing, but we were beach camping with no running water anywhere and the thought of swimming in stagnant hot water without being able to rinse off scared me. We have swimmers itch in the gravel pits. I have no idea what I would have gotten "down under", if you know what I mean!
After three or four hours of driving, we finally protruded upon the east side of Fraser Island to Seventy Mile Beach. The island is run by their EPA, which is much more lax than ours would ever think to be. If an island in the States were run by the EPA, do you think they would allow up to drive 4X4 diesel campers up and down the beach?
It was hard to put the camera down for just one minute for thought I might miss the perfect shot. Every curve of that beach was gorgeous!
A stop at the shipwrecked cruise liner left to decay gave me time to stretch my legs and enjoy the sun, the surf, and the sand. We were able to walk around the SS Maheno for quite a while. I think I probably have 20 or more pictures on my flickr account.
Our little 4x4 campervan went everywhere on the island, except to the Champagne Pools at Indians Head. Here the little campervan that could: couldn't. We tried and tried, but eventually gratiously accepted a push-out by two safari truckloads of foreign student workers that in the bests broken English they knew explained to us that there was much deeper sand ahead. Turn around and stop trying. I will never know what we missed. I can only assume it was as great at the Garden of Eden. Or maybe it was just more sand.
We set up camp on the beach and watched the sunset, only to be reminded by the bored dingo that our nightlife had much to be desire.
I enjoyed the relative peace. It would have been nice to run into someone our own age. Most travelers were local Australians with small childern, foreign workers primarily from Germany with a few Frenchies thrown in, or summer-breaking teenagers. Which judging from the local waterholes, these summer-breakers are allowed to drink at 16 without, what Americans consider, an adult. Wow, way to make me feel really old.
Our final destination while still in the campervan was the Australia Zoo. We tried to time it so that we would NOT be visiting the zoo on their busiest day. We failed. As time came around, we realized that we would be visiting the zoo on November 15th, which coincidentally was Steve Irwin Day. The zoo was packed with people in cars, campervans, shuttle buses, motorcoaches, city buses. I was looking for an airstrip with planes landing every 15 minutes, but couldn't find that. Once we were in the zoo, it surpisingly did not feel crowded at all. There were dozens of special activites and superb shows being held. Volunteers were everywhere to assist guests looking for special exhibits. I was surprised at how many special activities there were going on at once.
as I looked over pictures of Australia on Flickr before heading over, I kept seeing photos of wombats. Whoa, those are cool! The zoo offer pictures with the wombats, but not until 2:15 and we needed to return the van by 2, so I missed getting my picture with one of these freaky little mammals. Too bad, cause I was going to comb it and mix the fibers in with some merino for an exotic pair of socks!
Man, and I thought my job was easy.
an obligatory photo with the koala bear
after the zoo, we returned the campervan in Brisbane, rented a car and drove another hour to Surfer's Paradise. The beach was gorgeous, but I came for a little bit of city life/ shopping/ relaxation.
Finally after living in a campervan for more than two weeks, HOTEL-land. We stayed at the Marriott Surfers Paradise. This was an awesome hotel. Outdoor swimming lagoon, bar, two restaurants. It was so nice to end the vacation with a little bit of luxury.
Well, that is all for Australia. I thought I should get these posted before I start posting about all of my Christmas knitting that I have been frantically working on. I will throw in a couple of obligatory pics and then wont be posting again until my return from Mexico. We are taking the kids on the Ryndam for the Holiday Mexican Riviera 14 day cruise. I hope to blog more about it soon.


weezalana said...

Wow, what an amazing trip!

Pat said...

Boy - do you ever live the good life - summering in AK and traveling the globe in the winter!!

Tama said...

Wow! I am so jealous! Very beautiful pictures.

asti said...

Loved reading all about Oz. We have so many relatives out there, yet I've never been.....one day !
What a beautiful trip.