2 action-packed weeks to kick off our stay in Australia
20.07.2011 24 °C
After a fond farewell to Southeast Asia, via Singapore Airport, it took two flights to make it to Australia where we are due to stay for the next two months. The flights themselves totalled 12 hours, and even though we had a quick hour stop at Darwin in the middle we were very glad to make it to Cairns as we both didn't manage too get much sleep.
We had booked in with Caravella Hostel, and they gave us a free pick up from the Airport which was cool. After putting our bags in our room we headed straight out to find out what the place was like. Being in Australia was quite strange at first, as we had been used to chaotic Asian cities with strange smells and noises going on, but in Australia it is much more like home so that was weird to get used to. Cairns itself was lovely, it was obvious quite a bit of money had been thrown at it for tourism as there was a massive (and free) swimming lagoon, a long promenade, free BBQs to use and even exercise areas for energetic types.
It didn't take long before we took the opportunity of going in the lagoon as the weather was nice and hot (although a few degrees cooler than in Singapore!). The only problem with the lagoon is that nights are quite cold in Australia, so the water was literally freezing. Kayleigh dipped her toe in and decided against going in, while Phil went in for a swim after hesitating at first!
One of the main differences we've found with being in Australia now is how expensive everything is, particularly food and drink. This means we have been cooking our own food a lot more using various Hostel's kitchens as well as the free BBQs which were lined up along the beach. We absolutely loved getting some nice steak going on the barbie, sharing a bottle of wine together (as its cheaper than beer) and watching the sun go down, bliss!
On the following night we bought some sausages and burgers and headed to the BBQs to enjoy another night by the sea. However there was a large group of people joining in a free yoga session (about 200-300 people) so all of the BBQs were taken up, doh! We decided to sit on one of the benches and eat the only other food we had, a cheese board with 4 different cheeses as well as a bottle of red wine. So looking like posh so-and-so's we ate the cheese with some french bread and polished off the wine, needless to say by the end we were pretty damn drunk and loving every second!
Our main reason for coming to Cairns was to check the Great Barrier Reef, which stretches all down the North-Eastern coast and is easily accessible here. We booked a day snorkelling tour and went to two different Reef sites which were both very different. The first, Michaelma's Cay, was a small island with lots of colourful fish, really clear water and many different types of coral to see. We spent about an hour and a half here, swimming around the shore and back to the boat. The island itself had a fenced off area of about 20 metres, as the rest of the island is a bird sanctuary for thousands of birds.
After enjoying some buffet lunch on the cataraman, we headed to the next stop which was Paradise Reef. This was a site more out at sea, but when we got in we realised the sea was pretty choppy and it was much harder than at Michaelma's Cay. We got to see some other types of fish and coral, and had about an hour or so to enjoy it. By the end we were absolutely knackered but it was a brilliant day!
We stayed in Cairns for 5 nights and decided our next destination would be Townsville, a city 6 hours south. Before leaving the UK we bought Greyhound Bus passes which entitle us to travel south between Cairns and Sydney as much as we like, as long as we don't go north. These have turned out to be brilliant purchases, as the buses here are expensive when buying trips one at a time so we've saved money already after a few journeys. The buses are also really good here, reliable, clean, nice drivers who actually tell you where we're going (not a lottery like in Thailand!) and radio / DVDs playing on longer journeys.
In Townsville we were staying at the Civic Guest House Hostel in a 4-bed dorm room, and managed to get a free pick up from the bus station on arrival. The city was quite similar to Cairns, we spent a full day checking out the beach and the impressive gardens along the coast.
As we were only staying for one full day we didn't get to see too much else, but with the weather nice and warm we enjoyed chilling out and taking it easy for a change!
Next, we headed 4 hours by bus to Airlie Beach, the main stopping point for trips to the gorgeous Whitsunday islands. The hostel we stayed at, Airlie Waterfront Hostel, was practically 100 metres from the bus stop so instead of being lazy we walked to it with our bags! :-)
We spent the day exploring Airlie Beach, looking around the bay and the lagoon before booking our next snorkelling trip, we really fancied another go after such a good experience in Cairns. That evening we enjoyed homecooked spag bol with a lovely bottle of red wine, before heading to Magnums a local bar for a few scooners of Tooheys beer.
The next day we were up early excited about our trip. Arriving at the Marina we boarded Big Fury, a huge speedboat, and at an impressive speed headed out to our first stop, Border Island. It took an hour to get there and with the boat going so fast we were completely wind swept, Phil's hair especially was pretty funny.
Ater quick instructions from the tour manager we changed into our wetsuits, grabbed our snorkelling equipment and jumped into the freezing cold sea. The weather on the day was windy and overcast which unfortunately made the water a little murky, but with the water being so shallow the coral and fish were still just as beautiful as our last trip. This time the tour manager threw fish food into the water while we snorkelled, the result was us being surrounded by hundreds of various types of fish, all swimming through our legs and around us.
Our second and last stop was Whitehaven beach one of Australia's most beautiful beaches, where on the right day and time the sand swirls with the different currents of the sea and creates a marble effect. We got off the boat and enjoyed a tasty lunch, and shared some of it with the local lizards that have been accustomed to vistors throwing them bits of leftovers. For the rest of the afternoon we relaxed on the beautiful beach, the sand like flour beneath our feet and with the view of the surrounding rainforest it was simply a wonderful end to the trip....or so we thought.
Making our way back to the marina on Big Fury we were taking in the views of the other Whitsunday Islands when a gentleman on board shouted "Whale". With it being the beginning of the migration season for humpback whales we were all hoping that we might catch a glimpse of the whales, but with it being so early it was quite unlikely. BUT, we did. Check out the video below of the two whales we saw that were swimming along our boat. Amazing!!
The next day we checked out and caught the Greyhound bus to Rockhampton, the beef capital of Oz. The 7 hour journey passed quite quick and again we were picked up from the bus station from our hostel the Rockhampton YHA. We arrived at the perfect time, on a Friday night at 7pm. Friday nights in Rockhampton are reserved for bullriding and enjoying steak and beer at the Great Western Hotel, so that's exactly what we did. Neither of us knew quite what to expect, but when we arrived there was a large arena, a BBQ, a bar and all the locals enjoying the night dressed in all their best cowboy gear.
We grabbed a drink and sat in the stands ready to watch the rodeo competition begin. Those people are crazy. With the bulls doing everything they could to kick them off their backs the competitors held on for dear life. Some lasted just a few seconds, while others managed to hold on for longer to the elation of the crowd. The guy in the video below actually came second overall.
While we were there it would have been an insult not to indulge in a nice steak as they are supposed to be the best in Australia, so we joined the queue for the BBQ and ordered 2 steak sangas which were massive and sooo good. We were then really greedy and had some chips as well. Yum. We had a great night, it felt like we were in an old American western movie.
The rest of our time in Rockhampton was spent looking around the local town centre, we visited their art gallery which was exhibiting aboriginal pieces and had the Melbourne Cup on display. There wasn't really anything else we wanted to do in Rocky so we relaxed until it came time to leave. Our next stop Brisbane....an 11 hour overnight bus journey that would take us half way down the coast on our way to Sydney.
We've got just under 2 weeks before we are due to meet up with the Buckleys in Mount Annan which we are both really excited for, until then though we still have so much more to fit in.
Speak to you all again soon.
Lot's of love,
Phil and Kayleigh