Sun, Sand and Sydney

Sydney, Australia


Sadly my Australian journey has come to an end. It has taken me approximately 17555km of travelling to get back to Sydney. Most of it was on the road and I only cheated twice by flying from Perth to Cairns and then from the Gold Coast back down to Sydney – pretty good going hey? I have collected so many of my own stories and have had so many unique experiences yet I was still pretty excited to finally get to Sydney to see the city for myself. But first let me tell you about a few adventures along the way.

After Airlie beach I slotted right back on the typical tourist route with my next destination being Fraser Island – the largest sand island in the world. But to get there I first had to master the art of cracking a whip at the Kroombit cattle station before lassoing and catching goats. These sneaky little creatures obviously have had more practice in dodging the rope than I have had at throwing one so it took a little time before success. Filled with adrenaline I then climbed up sunset hill to get a good look at the outback. Stretching for miles and miles I could quite well understand how people could get lost here and think how amazing the story of the Rabbit Proof Fence was where three aboriginal children walked over 1500 miles through the outback to get back home.

Leaving the outback behind I headed back to the coast to explore the World Heritage Fraser Island. I explored Fraser Island the budget way by going the 4×4 route with a bunch of strangers – having a mixture of nationalities on board meant there were a few sticky moments generally caused by communication problems but all in all we had a good time. And we were a great team when it came to pushing our 4×4 out of the soft sand. Fraser island was a beautiful place where the beaches extended for miles and miles. The sea did look rather tempting from time to time but what with rips and sharks circling around it was best to stay away (actually warned to do so) and rather swim in one of the many freshwater lakes. The 75 mile beach was great to drive on, you just had to watch out for the dingoes and make sure there were no aeroplanes landing as we were effectively driving on their runway.

On my last day we had a long drive up to Indian Head which is a famous place to go and look down at the clear waters below to see sharks, turtles and if you lucky whales. Unfortunately the weather was not kind to us that day but it was still an exceptional view.

After spending three days on this island I was still not tired of beaches so when leaving Fraser Island I made my to Mooloolaba and Byron Bay to spend some more time relaxing on the beach and swimming in the sea. Both were beautiful places and it was nice to be out in the sunshine every day.

It was now onto my final city in Australia, the Harbour City, Sydney. What a great way to end my Australian part of my journey in such a vibrant and exciting place. The Sydney Opera House certainly stands out at the edge of the harbour and it is just one of those city sights that you just could not stop taking photos of – during the day, at night, at sunset… I think you get the picture. I did as much on my list as possible in the 5 days that I was there which included a ferry trip across to Manly and a bus trip out to Bondi Beach The water was much colder here than further up the coast. I found this out after making a dash for it between the waves – I think it took me about 2 hours to warm up again. Along with all the must see sights I was lucky to spend time with some friends who took me to the some cool eating places and bars.

I was sad to leave Australia but I am sure one day I will return – after all I left out the south west and Tasmania. Tactical? Maybe.

Backpackers Inn on the Beach at Byron Bay – 29 Shirley St, Byron Bay, Australia
Mooloolaba Beach Backpackers – 75 Brisbane Rd, Mooloolaba, Australia
Frasers On Rainbow Beach – 18 Spectrum Ave, Rainbow Beach, Australia

All things big and beautiful

Whitsunday Islands, Australia

Have you ever lain on the beach all alone looking at the clouds float above you, watching the monotony of the waves crashing on shore and yet feeling completely at ease because you are filled with an emotion which I would only call contentment?

Well my trip along the east coast was filled with many of these moments – no, I was not always on the beach by myself but I was happy and relaxed. Content to take in every moment as it presented itself too me whether it was to lie by the pool reading my book, riding sky high above the canopy of the rainforest watching for blue butterflies or holding little Erwin – my two year old Koala Bear friend.

Erwin was just as relaxed as me, quite happy to be handed along to be held and have his picture taken. If you ever wonder what it is like to hold a Koala then I can only tell you that their fur is soft, nails sharp, quite heavy to hold and thankfully they do not smell – well not Erwin anyway.

After this special and unique experience I jumped on the Oz Experience bus to move south along the coast to see the other wildlife of Australia along with the beautiful coastline of the East Coast. All this was intermingled with bizarre stops such as the Big Mango, the Big Snake, the Big directors chair, the Big Gumboot along with learning a bit of trivia about the Golden Gumboot award. Surely the coast has enough to offer without these weird Big things and awards but if you have time it is worth listening to some of these stories that I guess make Australians unique. Now whether you want to or not you have to hear about this Golden Gumboot award. It all started when two small towns (Tully and Binda) decided to compete every year for the town with the most rainfall. Not that they had much say over the matter but it has become a tradition and a very much cherished award, so much so that because Binda holds the record of the most rainfall, Tully decided to create their very own gumboot – you guessed it the Big Gumboot stands proudly in the middle of town. Now that is an icon on its own and certainly overshadows the small golden gumboot hidden in the Binda post office window!

Although this is all fascinating, my interests did not lie in the Big things or the tasting of a Green butt ant but in the days to follow – cruising the Whitsundays. The Whitsundays Islands are made out of 74 islands in the Coral Sea and the three days I spent sailing on the Classic Tall ship, Ron of Argyll, meant I only touched the surface. With 8 people on board we had some great days chilling on deck, occasionally working by helping pull up and take down sails, snorkeling along the Langford reef which fringes around the Great Barrier Reef and visiting the famous Whitehaven Beach. I am sure you have all seen the postcards of this famous beach and it is just like the photos – 7kms of pristine white silica sand and clear blue waters.

I will admit that Whitehaven beach for me was the highlight of the trip but as I saw so many wonderful things I do have trouble not mentioning some other experiences such as swimming with green back turtles, spotting dolphins right alongside the boat and being fortunate enough to see three humpback whales as they made their way north from Antarctica to breed in sheltered waters of the Whitsundays. What an amazing ‘wow’ filled days and I had not even left Queensland yet!

Magnums Backpackers – 366 Shute Harbour Rd, Airlie Beach, Australia


A maze of colour

Broome, Australia

The west coast of Australia is filled with colour both on land and in the sea. Our many hours of driving was made easier by the gorgeously colourful wild flowers that made fields look like carpets of purple, pink and yellow…

When I wasn’t driving the colour continued in the coral reefs of the Ningaloo, the blue and green ocean that contrasted against the white sand during the day was replaced by orange sunsets at dusk or the moon casting a yellow stairway mirage on the blackened water below. We were lucky to witness this last phenomenon – named the Staircase to the Moon. Advertised like crazy in Broome we did wonder if the true thing would be as great as the many posters displayed around town but we waited with hundreds of others on the beach for the moon to rise. It was worth the wait but it took many photos and wading into the water to get only 2 good shots. Oh, I forgot to mention this phenomenon only happens when it is full moon so our timing was just perfect.

This all sounds so idyllic I know and it was from Broome down south towards Perth we saw so many beautiful things including an abundance of wild life. My highlights:

  1. Watching Humpback whales breaching in Lighthouse Bay, Exmouth.
  2. Snorkelling on the Ningaloo Reef amoung the coral, tropical fish and the occasional Ray.
  3. Driving in Cape National Park at a slow speed allowed us to spot the uncountable number of grey kangaroos, red kangaroos, two Echidnas crossing the road and some Emus.
  4. Swimming with Manta Rays in Coral Bay. These graceful gentle giants of the sea are just beautiful to watch, I spent a good 30 mins following this 4 meter wide ray – which was total goosebump material.
  5. Watching green turtles and spotting a tiger shark on the out Ningaloo Reef just before we dived in for a snorkel – scary stuff!
  6. Feeding the Dolphins at Monkey Mia and the Pelicans at Kalbarri NP.

You could never be bored down the coast with all the things to see and do, but at the same time it is peaceful with its sparse population. The people are incredible friendly, views amazing and the seafood fantastic.

Liz and I celebrated our final part of our trip together at Freemantle, Perth over a glass of wine in the harbour – after all we had just driven all the way from Darwin together – approx. 5800km!!!!

Exploring the top end

Kakadu National Park, Australia


It is the middle of winter and the temperature reached almost 30 degrees. I was at the top end of the Northern Territory in Darwin looking longingly at the ocean wishing I could cool down, but the mere thought of accidentally bumping into a box jellyfish kept my toes well above the shoreline. It was not the only dangerous thing to look out for on this trip as every waterhole, billabong, river and small pool held the threat of ‘Salties’ (Saltwater crocodiles) or according to the locals if you were lucky the non-human attacking ‘Freshies’ (Freshwater crocodiles). Either way I was determined not to go anywhere near the water let alone swim! Having said that I still did venture into the plunge pool at Wangi Falls in Litchfield NP. Liz and I must have got the record for the quickest cool down swim ever.

From Darwin my friend, Liz, and I and our new found friend, Wicked Maureen, headed in the direction of Litchfield and Kakadu National Park. Wicked Maureen provided us with transport, camping equipment and a comfy bed (well after 3 weeks maybe not so comfy) and a bright bodywork design that everyone felt the need to take photos of. Her only faults were her gluttony for car oil and the occasional wobbly she threw when going over 90km/h. But we loved her anyway as it was a great way of getting around and stopping wherever we wanted.

Litchfield NP was very peaceful with lots of waterfalls and pools. It was also home to the fascinating termite mounds that towered above you. Two types stood just across the road from each other – the common cathedral mound and then the magnetic mound that resembled a cemetery across the plain. It was in Litchfield that we camped for the first time with Wicked Maureen. The campsite was run on a honesty system so we popped our money into the box and went and found a spot as close to the ablutions as possible so we did not have to venture too far in the dark. We had a lovely meal of Chilli ConCarne made from kangaroo mince. At 98% fat free it became our favourite at our camp dinners as we cooked hamburgers, more con-carne and had some fantastic Kangaroo steak on the BBQ.

Leaving Litchfield we stopped off at the Famous Jumping Crocs. It was closed when we got there in the afternoon so we had a nose around and met one of the employees who gave us permission to camp the night. We were offered the use of his kitchen and the best yet – a hot shower. The evening was very entertaining as we listened to our host tell us stories of other travellers and his job at Jumping Crocs. Having spent the night on the premises we were first in line and got the best seats on the boat so we could watch the show.

The guides were very knowledgeable as they told us about the nature of the ‘Salties’ and how they are one of the oldest surviving animals from prehistoric times. It was fascinating watching them jump their own body length out of the water to grab the piece of pork dangling in front of them. I am however unsure how I feel about partaking in the feeding of wild and dangerous animals. I have strong views of the practice of feeding sharks for the tourist cage dives in South Africa and would never condone it, yet here I was doing something very similar in Australia! A long drive to Kakadu NP let me battle with my conscience .

Kakadu NP was filled with beautiful landscape from billabongs and wetlands that were the home to colourful water lilly’s, birds and naturally crocodiles. We explored as much as possible on a 2WD and walked up to viewpoints, through forests and to see some great rock art that included the lightening man. Not sick of National Parks yet it was on to Nitmiluk NP that is home to Edith Falls and Katherine Gorge. We had a good relaxing time at Edith Falls before going on a 8km walk around Katherine Gorge. Leaving the National Parks behind we started on our long and desolate drive to the Kimberley’s.

It was from here that you notice how isolated you feel on the long roads and hundreds of kilometers that separate each town (which was normally a petrol station and roadhouse) and attractions. We were pleased to have ‘Wicked Maureen’ with a well stocked food cupboard and water supply. Kununurra was the biggest town we stopped at and the first town to have mobile network coverage in days. It was the start of the Kimberley’s with terrain that changed every so often from flat to rugged and then flat again. It did feel like there were vast amounts of nothingness as we drove but looking back we still managed to see and do quite a lot like visit :

  • the big croc and dreamlike statues in Wyndham,
  • the hidden valley which housed the mini bungle bungles and the head-lice dreaming statue (not sure why one would be dreaming of head lice though)
  • Boab Prison Tree near Derby and
  • Halls Creek.

Halls Creek was entertaining not just for the China Wall, the old ghost town and the fascinating story of an aboriginal, Jack Jugorie who operated on his friend while following instructions sent by Morse code by a Dr Tucker who was based in Perth, but for the road that got us there. Suitable for 2WD the tourist information insisted, we made our way along the unsealed road only to have our teeth rattling from the start – it was like driving on corrugated iron and driving fast or slow did not seem to help the effects. We forgave Wicked Maureen after that for her now and again wobblies that were mild in comparison to the rattling experienced on this road.

Our last night in outback of the Kimberley region we stayed at one of the free camps on the cliffs and watched the sun slowly set and cast a beautiful red tinge over the landscape. It would be our last night in such a setting as we headed further west to the ocean – gone was the dust!


The Red Blitz

The Red Blitz
Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Australia

Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Australia

You don’t realise how big Australia is until you get here – the world map does it no justice and it is only when you start comparing that you notice it is practically the size of the USA. It also made me realise that I had set one big challenge -getting from Adelaide to Darwin in just four days!

Excitingly for me my friend, Liz, was joining me for 4 weeks while I was in Australia and after spending a day and a half in Adelaide exploring the art scene and working out just how we were going to see the much talked about ‘Big Rock’ in just 24 hours we boarded our bus for a 20 hour journey to Alice Springs. As the sun starting coming up we soon realised we were in the back and beyond and the start of red dust country. There was not too much to see on the road other than small one building towns, a few shrubs, warning notices to not fall down old mining shafts, road trains and of course lots and lots of red dust.

Arriving in Alice Springs we dashed with our backpacks to the car rental place where we picked up the only car left to hire – a Ute. Bagging our backpacks in black bags we flung them in the back and hoped they would not take off when we whizzed at maximum speed down the road only stopping to see the camels on the side of the road and to fill up the car with some expensive petrol. We had quite a journey in front of us and it was made shorter by the fact that you could not drive too late at night or in the early morning because of the Roos that like to bounce across the roads.

I was unsure just how spectacular Uluru was going to be and did wonder if this rush of a journey was going to be worth it – In my mind it was just going to a big rock sticking out of the ground. But as it come into view I was genuinely surprised at how big and over powering it seemed to be and I was equally awed by the dream-time stories and the importance of the rock to the aboriginal people. Every hole and shape is depicted in their stories with my favourite being about the snakes – Kuniya and Liru – which I have shared with you below:

A long time ago a young woma python (Kuniya) boy was sliding along when he was surprised and ambushed by a group of Liru (poisonos snake). The Liru were not very friendly and started throwing spears at the Kuniya and murdered him. They threw the spears so hard that the spear heads made the big holes that you can still see in Uluru today. The Boy’s aunt a Kuniya woma python woman was so angry she chased the Lirus. She slid along the rock and caught up with them and killed the one Liru with a blow to the head. You can still see where the Kuniya woman Python slid along the rock as a dark wavy line in Uluru.

We only a few hours to get around the Rock and look for the signs of the Kuniya and Liru before we had to head back to Alice Springs – so straight forward I thought until one last picture resulted in us getting stuck in the sand! It took a lot of persuading for us to get a ranger to come and pull us out of our sticky situation as it was not their policy. With less time to get back to Alice Springs we made the mad dash hoping all the way that the Kangaroos would stay off the road and not add anymore dramas to our day. It turned out to be a mad but fun journey and I do think we were both pleased to get on that bus to Darwin even though it would be another 20 hours before we got there.


Paradise on Surf Coast

Adelaide, Australia

They were coming to Australia for a better life, but in the middle of the night fate struck and the ship they were travelling in hit the rocks – it was Australia’s Titanic tale with only 2 surviours to tell the story. This is just one of many tragedies you will hear along the Surf coast of Victoria. Though not all stories are sad as the famous waves have brought happier times for the surfing greats of the world and of course led to the birth and ongoing success of surf brands: Rip Curl, Quicksilver and Billabong.

If you are not into surfing the Great Ocean Road, which starts in Torquay and ends at Warrambool, brings you rugged coastlines, dramatic limestone formations and Australia’s unique wildlife: The Koala, Kangaroo and Emu. These are just a few things I have seen in my first 2 weeks of Australia and what a great start. I arrived in Sydney with a mad dash for the bus to take me to Canberra to visit a friend for a few days and of course to see what this Capital city was all about. It is beautifully structured and my walks around the lake brought me into my first contact with some of the colourful, tropical birds that are all over Australia – I have yet to learn their official names so you will have to be content with my photo labelling of a red bird and a green bird.

It was then a whistle stop tour where my friends, Justine and Dylan, took me out for a wintry picnic in the Dandenongs. While eating great steak sandwiches we had a fantastic view in front of us of the forest along with the abundance of birds who were not shy to pose for the odd photo.

Geelong saw me put up my feet in the Sheraton (thanks to Lynne’s mother in law to be) while taking in the many colourful bollards on the waterfront – my favourite surprisingly were the lifesavers. It was from Geelong that I hopped on a tour to Adelaide to take in the sights of the Great Ocean Road and the Grampians where the landscape and nature is just truely amazing. It was a pity however that the Grampians are still recovering from a major fire in 2006 with only one sighting of Koala spotted but the Kangaroos obviously less concerned as they are back in abundance.

One of my most exciting moments on this part of my trip was seeing a baby Koala girl a metre high in the tree. She posed so well for her photo and just gazed down adoringly – oh okay, it could just be the drug like effect from eating all those toxic eucalyptus leaves!