Sunday, 24 February 2013

Noosa, Brisbane, Surfers Paradise and Byron Bay

After Rainbow Beach we headed to Noosa, where we spent a romantic Valentines Day at Australia Zoo, set up by Steve Irwin. On the coach on the way there we got to watch re runs of The Crocodile Hunter and realise how crazy he actually was. First stop at the zoo was the elephants, where we got to feed them lunch, and then onto the koalas. Although cute and fluffy, holding one proved to be less pleasant than expected as they actually smell really bad. Later on we watched the main event at the zoo, the crocodile show. It started well, until the trainer dropped the meat he was using to entice the croc to a place where neither of them could reach it - rather an anti climax. The trainer then proceeded to accidentally trip into the crocodile pool, and from there it went downhill. Overall a little disappointed, but still worth a visit. The English weather also seemed to catch up with us here and we had to cancel our plans for the rest of our time in Noosa - not exactly what we were hoping for.

Next up after Noosa was Brisbane, and having been in so many beach towns it was nice to get back into the city. We spent days along the South Bank and visiting the markets, which reminded us of a summers day in London, bar the artificial beach. We were told by some other travellers to go to 'Max Brenner's Chocolate Bar' (the best advice we've got all trip), where we queued for 50 minutes to receive the best chocolate experience of our lives. Not wanting to stop there, in true flashpacker style we decided to hit a French steak restaurant for dinner. Needless to say, neither of us have any money anymore and are back to living on Nutella and toast.

Our chocolate heaven

After Brisbane, our next stop was Surfers Paradise where we were back into the bad weather. However, in true English fashion, we didn't let is stop us and we spent the days at sea world, movie world theme park and a water park and had some of the best (but by far the coldest) days of the trip. It seemed we were the only ones willing to brave the weather and we didn't have to queue for a single ride. We took, what we thought would be, full advantage of the empty park and sat on the front of the biggest rollercoaster. However our greed came back to quite literally slap us in the face, after we had to endure a minute of going through the rain at top rollercoaster speed, leaving our faces stinging and the rest of us soaking wet. Finishing off a top couple of days, we headed out to take advantage of the first good nightlife we've come across since arriving in Oz.

After the rollercoaster in the rain

Proof that we have actually been out at least once this holiday!
When we got to Byron Bay, because of the bad weather there wasn't a great deal to do, but we did spend a strange day at the hippie town of Nimbin. We enjoyed perusing the shops with names like "happy high herbs" and found the posters "politicians are slave driving bloodsucking parasites" and "legalise weed and stop the war" mind boggling, but somewhat amusing. We felt like we'd stepped into the 70's! We also discovered hemp ice cream - who knew that existed?!

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Agnes Water, Fraser Island and Rainbow Beach

We finally made it out of Airlie Beach after a week and our next stop was Agnes Water, where we went on the renowned Scooteroo Tour, where you ride around the town spotting kangaroos on motorbikes for 3 hours. Before we saw the bikes Eli was raring to go, and Chessie was - to be fair- bricking it. However the tables turned when we actually got onto the bikes, with Eli narrowly missing running over the instructor and then driving into a tree, whereas Chess found her inner biker almost straight away. We were immediately put onto the road - or in Eli's case into the path of another car. However after a while, she did manage to get the hang of it in time to enjoy the ride and take in the sunset.

Us getting into the biker spirit

From Agnes Water we drove to Hervey Bay, where our tour to Fraser Island would leave from the next day. Keeping true to form and adding to our string of unlucky journeys, the bus was 3 hours late and arrived with broken aircon. However, we found refuge with a group of true Australian hippies, mellowing out to Bob Marley in a camper van painted like a scene from Finding Nemo- only in Australia.

We spent 2 days driving through Fraser Island, on what they called 'roads', but to any other normal person - death traps, and despite the relentless mosquito attacks we had a fantastic time and met a group of really great people. On day one, we visited Lake Mackenzie, the most famous spot on the island. Unfortunately the weather didn't quite go our way, but we still got to appreciate the beauty of it.While still brushing the sand from the beach at the lake off of us, we were lead into the rainforest for the afternoon. It amazed us (as keen/lame geographers) that the two could be in such close proximity to each other. The next day we swam down the freezing cold Eli Creek, which was the highlight of Eli's day. We walked to a group of sand dunes where we had endless jumping off the top and rolling down, and then visited the Champagne Pools - natural rock pools which filled with bubbles when the waves crashed past. Last stop of the day was Indian Head, a large cliff face which we climbed up to hopefully catch a glimpse of some sharks or dolphins in the water below... we didn't.
Now that we've been here almost a month, we've developed a few daily routines, one of which consists of Eli eating her own meal, and then finishing the rest of Chessie's, which earned her the ever so ladylike title of "remorseless eating machine" on our tour. lol.

Excitement overload 

Eli doesn't mess around

We travelled from there to Rainbow Beach, the name being fairly misleading, unless a rainbow consists of only the colours brown and black. We spent the afternoon sand boarding on a giant sand dune, not realising how steep it was until we'd actually reached the bottom, or in Chessie's case fallen off the board half way down, flipped, and then rolled down the rest of the way, crash landing at the bottom - lets just say not as elegantly as Eli. There was sand in places sand should definitely never be...

Before the crash!

Monday, 4 February 2013

Mission Beach and Airlie Beach

We arrived in Mission Beach after Cairns and spent two really relaxing days here, being lazy and lounging by the pool and on the beach. While here we visited a rescue wildlife centre where we got to hold baby wallabies and kangaroos, as well as lizards and snakes, though only Eli was brave enough to have the 2 metre long python put round her neck! Later that day we took a walk into the rainforest and went swimming in one of the creeks, though all the while keeping one eye out for crocodiles!

Eli and the snake. Her face says it all.
After Mission Beach we took a 12 hour bus journey to Airlie Beach, which was eventful to say the least. On the way there, the temperature outside was so high (40C to be exact) that the bus overheated and broke down, meaning we had to change buses half way through the journey. As if this wasn't bad enough, the bus driver then told us that no more buses would be running because of the floods down south so we would be stuck in Airlie Beach for a week! Luckily it's a really great place with loads to do, so getting stuck here was actually not so bad at all.

In Airlie, we visited the infamous Whitsunday Islands - a collection of 72 islands off the coast of Queensland. We took a tiny speed boat there which was so much fun but absolutely crazy coming back as the weather had turned and the waves were huge. On the tour we got to go around some of the islands and go snorkelling, hoping to fulfill our ongoing quest to see a turtle but once again we had no such luck. We then travelled to Whitsunday Island itself, home to Whitehaven Beach which is absolutely breathtaking - the photos below really don't do it justice. If you had to envision paradise this is probably the closest you'd get. We got to relax and spend the afternoon there taking in the amazing views and feeding the fish.

The unbelievable view of Whitsunday Island from the Hill Inslet lookout

We spent some of the rest of the days at the lagoon, which was one of the strangest things we've ever encountered. Imagine Hyde Park with a giant swimming pool in the middle, with water the temperature of the bath and that's where we were!

As we still had a lot of time to kill we took a day trip to Daydream Island which was a really fun day out. The main event of the day was our very competitive game of mini golf. It was a close call but in the end Chessie won by 1 point, with a solid score of 25 over par. Later we visited the lagoon to see the sharks and on our walk back to the boat we were accompanied by a kangaroo - our first sighting of a wild one, which got us far too over excited! The island also had a huge kids play area, which we definitely did not play on...

Game faces on for crazy golf