Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Cairns and the Atherton Tablelands

I took a day trip from Cairns to the Atherton tablelands, just south of Cairns. These were created by European settlers because they discovered how fertile the soil was and cleared acres of rainforest in order to grow sugar cane. It's quite strange to be one minute driving through thick rainforest and then suddenly it disappears to be replaced by fields of sugar cane. We stopped at Josephine falls, waterfalls with rapids and rocks to slide down. Great fun. Next stop Johnstone River lookout, a spectacular view across the rive valley. We had lunch at Mungalli falls, which was really good, even had pudding! Afterwards we headed to Millaa Millaa Falls where Peter Andre filmed his video to 'Mysterious Girl'. I had a swim under the waterfall, the water was so cold. After our swim we headed to Lake Eacham which is a volcanic crater lake created thousands of years ago, it contains 100% rainwater so really pure. It was lovely swimming in the lake and we spotted turtles native to Lake Eacham, they can breathe out of their bottom. The last stop was the curtain fig tree, this is another strangler fig tree that killed the host tree and then fell sideways creating a curtain effect with its roots. In the rainforest we also saw large orb spiders and the 'burning leaf' tree which if the leaf touches you, causes a burning sensation which can last up to 5 months! Our guide Roger was very knowledgable, and it was interesting to learn about the Aboriginal people who were not considered part of the Australian population until 1968 when the government took a poll asking white australians if they thought Aborigines should be classed as Australians. 90% voted yes, until then they were classed in with the flora and fauna!
Cairns is a nice small city with a swimming pool lagoon as the sea is full of crocs!. The night life is pretty good too. Gabriela and I went out for her last night in Oz to the Woolshed, the most popular bar/nightclub in Cairns. We had a good night and with about 3 hours sleep, I waved her off on the bus to the airport. After two months travelling together I was so sad to say goodbye.
Cairns is my last stop on the East Coast of Australia, tomorrow I fly to Alice Springs to join a 10 day tour from Alice Springs to Melbourne.

Cape Tribulation

After a quick overnight stop in Cairns we travelling even further north to Cape Tribulation. First stop a riverboat cruise on the Daintree river looking for crocs! The first one we saw was tiny, sitting on a tree stump sticking out of the water, and I was a little disappointed. However then we saw a much larger croc half submerged in the water which was pretty impressive. Then we saw an even bigger one right by the edge of the bank, it was so good to see crocs in the wild, needless to say I kept my limbs in the boat at all times! After the cruise we headed farther into the Daintree National Park for the Marja botanical boardwalk, a half hour walk through the rainforest. We saw strangler fig trees that find a host tree to put down its roots and then slowly drains it of all its nutrients so it dies. We arrived at our hostel in Cape Tribulation in time for lunch and to spend the afternoon relaxing on the beach. The following day we took a walk to Emmagen Creek to a swimming hole, as there aren't many place to swim at Cape Tribulation because of all the crocs! After an hour and a half hike we reached Emmagen creek only to find the swimming hole wasn't as picturesque as we were led to believe. Anyway we were so hot and sweaty after our hike we jumped in to cool off. We got talking to an English guy and his son in the swimming hole who were staying at our backpackers and so caught a ride home with them. Cape Tribulation is advertised as where the reef meets the rainforest, it certainly is a spectacular spot. The following day we took the tour bus back to Cairns stopping at the Alexandra range lookout, crossing the Daintree river on the ferry, before stopping at Mossman Gorge, a really nice swimming hole with rapids. Finally, we stopped in Port Douglas late afternoon for a wander up and down the main street and a peek at the beach. It was the busiest beach I've seen so far on the east coast, there are usually just a few people dotted around but this one was packed! Port Douglas reminded me a little of Byron Bay, small but a bit more upmarket. It was good to get out of Cairns and see the Rainforest, it's so beautiful.

Rum Runner, Barrier Reef

Our sailing boat 'The Rum Runner' left Cairns at 7am and by 11am we were snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef. Amazing! The coral reef is so beautiful, so colourful. The array of fish is wonderful too. The second spot we went to we did a scuba dive to about 14m deep for about 30 minutes, which was really good. Another snorkelling session after a fantastic lunch on board in an even more impressive spot.
Sleeping on a rocking boat took some getting used to, but I eventually drifted off and then was up and rearing to go at 7am for my next scuba dive. It was even better than the first one as I was more relaxed and looked around more. We then had breakfast and went to our final spot on the reef. Snorkelling around the tall towers of coral is so spectacular, it's difficult to describe, you need to be there! The crew on the Rum Runner were really good too, so we had the best time. In the evening when finally back on land, our skipper treated us to beer and pizza in the local pub, 'The Woolshed'. Awesome!

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Skydive at Mission Beach

We ended up travelling up to Cairns a day early because the weather was so bad and then going back to Mission Beach a couple of days later for my skydive as I really wanted to land on Mission Beach. I felt a little nervous on the bus ride to Mission Beach but also really excited. There was a lot of hanging around as there were 18 of us doing our skydive. I started to feel even more nrevous, then all of sudden my name was called and having missed the safety briefing (isn't that important!?) I was strapped up ready to go. It was a 20 minute plane ride on the smallest plane I have ever been on to climb up to 14,000 feet. My instructor Mike gave me some last minute tips on the plane and then it was finally my turn to jump. There wasn't time to think about it, we were free falling through the clouds.... It was totally exhilarating and I loved every minute of it. After 60 seconds the parachute opened and then I had a go at steering us down to the beach. We went through quite a lot of cloud and then I could see the ocean, Dunk Island, sugar cane fields and the beach, an absolutely beautiful view. We landed on the beach on my feet! Awesome!
Gabriela and I watched my dvd back in the skydive centre, that Mike had recorded on a handicam, he did a fantastic job and I'm looking forward to showing you all when I get home. I would really love to do another jump....maybe New Zealand?!

Friday, 24 September 2010

Magnetic Island & Mission Beach

Magnetic Island, just a 20 minute ferry ride from Townsville was really beautiful. Our backpackers was right on the beach, more of a resort than a hostel. The weather was so hot so we headed straight for the beach on arrival. The following day we caught the bus to Florence Bay, on the north east coast which we were told was a good snorkelling spot. After wandering round the wrong track for an hour, we did the Fort walk by accident, (a walk round the headland to view all the gunning points from the war), we eventually found the beach, however the snorkelling was a little disappointing as the water wasn't very clear. We were glad we wore stinger suits as we saw a few jelly dish, the box jelly fish causes more deaths in Australia each year than anything else. We did see some wobbygongs and other small fish though.

It was really hot and humid walking to Florence Bay so we decided to hitch a lift back to our hostel and a couple picked us up who were going there for lunch with their grandson, what luck!

After 3 days on Magnetic Island we left for Mission Beach. We were planning to do our sky dive there, however the weather had turned cloudy and wet. We went for a Rainforest walk instead, however after trekking for half an hour into the rainforest, and then through a creek, the track got really boggy, Gabriela lost her flip flop in the mud and mud splattered all over her face and arms, I thought it was hilarious but for some reason Gabriela didn't see the funny side! I struggled through the mud too and then we realised the track got even muddier, the walk was supposed to take 3 hours and Gabriela was getting bitten quite badly so we turned back. A really disappoining walk!

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Whitsundays and Airlie Beach

The main reason people go to Airlie Beach is to visit the Whitsunday Islands. A group of 74 islands off the East coast. Airlie Beach doesn't really have much of a beach, instead they have built a lagoon with a small beach and lots of grass and palm trees surrounding it. Really lovely and no danger of stingers or sharks when swimming! We spent a few days chiling out around the lagoon and a few nights drinking in our hostel bar, with live music every night. Great!
We sailed from Able Point Marina to South Molle Island on our 18m catamaran ''Kora''. We had beautiful weather that afternoon and sunbathed on deck all afternoon, it's a hard life! We reached the island and went for a bush walk up to Mount Jeffrey where we had a 360 degree view of the island. The following day we boarded the boat at 8am and sailed to the Barrier Reef for snorkelling. The weather wasn't very good and water wasn't very clear, however we still saw plenty of fish and the colourful reef. We had lunch on the boat and then sailed to Whitsunday Island where we visited the white silicone sand beach, really beautiful. We spotted mantarays in the water. On our last day the weather was really hot with clear blue skys showing the islands to their best. We sailed to Blue Pearl Bay for snorkelling. This time the water was really clear and we saw so many fish, some really huge ones too. We then sailed back to Airlie Beach, after having spotted a whale making its way back to the Antarctic. It was a really good sailing and snorkelling trip.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Town of 1770

Town of 1770 is the only place in the world with a number for its name. Captain Cook named it when he landed there to stop for supplies in 1770. The best thing you can do there is Scooterooing. The Scooter Roo company are based in Agnes Water and have lots of scooter bikes done out like chopper motorbikes, but are just twist and go. We did a massive ride-out, about 60 bikes and spotted kangaroos, stopping for potato wedges in 1770. It was great fun and I really enjoyed being on a bike again, although with a top speed of 55 miles per hour it was a little tame.

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Fraser Island

The Fraser Island trip was brilliant. Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world. The highest sand dunes on the island reach up to 240m above sea level, and it is the only place in the world where tall rainforests are found growing on sand dunes at elevations of over 200 metres. The island has over 320 species of birds and the dingo population is the purest strain remaining in Eastern Australia.
We went for 3 days and 2 nights camping. There were three 4 wheel drive vehicles and we had a guide driving the lead car and then everyone took it turns to drive the 2 vehicles following. There were 23 of us in total so it was a tight squeeze in the cars. After sorting out our camping gear, we caught the ferry to Fraser Island. The island is very beautiful, the roads are sand tracks which can be very soft and difficult to drive on. On each side of the road there are tall rainforest trees. We took a walk in the forest and drank water from a creek which was so pure because the water is filtered by the sand. We then drove to Lake Wabby which is at the bottom of a massive sand blow (A very steep sandhill). We sunbathed and swam in the lake. We then drove along the beach for a good hour to reach the Maheno ship wreck, which is rusting away on the shore. After that we headed to camp for a BBQ and campfire, and of course, lots of goon!
On our second day I had the pleasure of driving the jeep for about an hour, along some of the sand track roads, it was great fun, a bit like driving in snow, it was a blast! We went to the west coast of the island where we could swim in the sea, as on the east coast, where we are caming, the sea is full of sharks and rip tides, so very dangerous. In the afternoon we drove back to the east coast and went to the Champagne pools, so called because the pools are cut off from the sea by rocks, and the waves come crashing over, wiping you out, good fun! We then walked up to Indian Head, a great lookout from which we could spot dolphins, turtles and mantarays, so cool!
We got up early the next morning to watch the sunrise, so beautiful. We packed up our camping gear and headed off to the beach to do a creek walk. The water is crystal clear, about knee height. We then headed to Lake Birrabeen for lunch, swimming and sunbathing. The sand is white silcone, really bright and the water is so clear. Early afternoon, we headed back to catch the ferry to the mainland. A really great trip and a fun group of people. We all met up back at the hostel in the evening for drinking games and then nightclubbing, a great time!