Australia's East Coast

October 23, 2009 - Sydney, Australia

We have now arrived in New Zealand having spectacularly failed to write a blog entry since Airlie Beach (near the Witsunday islands), the location of our Cairns entry. After picking up Millie, we travelled inland to the Atherton Tablelands, a semi-outback area with lots of dry bushland but also some lakes and waterfalls. We managed to see our first rock wallabies during one of our stops in a large boulder strewn canyon. Mike fed them about half a bag of the wallabie food he bought at the local campsite hut before managing to slide fully clothed into the 'swimming hole' - a result of some ill-advised exploration of the slippery rocks around the edge (Nick observed with great amusment from a dry section of the rock higher up). Fortunately the sun was strong and camera, memory cards and passport all survived unscathed after about half an hour of cooking on a large rock. The rest of the wallabie food was not so lucky and got swiftly eaten by the fish (luckily this area was 'croc-free').

We hit the coast again at Townsville, where we took a quick side trip to Magnetic Island and managed to see a wild Koala (our only one) in the Eucalyptus trees on a walk through the bush and also visited a rather 'hands-on' wildlife sanctuary where we were given baby crocodiles, parrots, lizards, pythons and a koala to hold (rather against our will in the case of the python, but it was friendly enough not to asphyxiate us).

Continuing south, after an overnight stop at Bowen, we arrived at Airlie Beach, the departure point for sailing in the Witsundays. We booked ourselves on the most racy boat we could find, to maximise the sailing and minimise the sun-bathing. Our boat was called 'Hammer' and was an ex-Sydney-Hobart racing yacht with a pretty swish electric blue paint-job. The sailing was great fun and we were able to help with some of the simpler operations on board the boat in between dangling our feet in the water from the high-side of the boat. We visited the Witsundays' famous 'Whitehaven Beach', which was very white and watched the rays swimming in the water below, before moving on to overnight at Hayman Island, location for two snorkelling trips the next morning. The snorkelling was even better than at Cairns, with more colourful coral, possible due to the better weather prior to our visit and similar levels of marine life, despite only being a fringing reef. Nick even saw a lagoon ray during the second outing. On the trip back to Airlie beach, we were lucky enough to sail right past a sea turtle, which looked just like Crush from 'Finding Nemo' and Mike claims to have seen a shark as well, which turned tail and fled as our boat approached. We stopped dangling our feet in the water for a little while after that, but it was probably only a reef shark, which are quite common and also quite safe.

From Airlie Beach we drove for one and a half days to reach Fraser Island, via Rockhampton. We visted the island on a 4x4 bus. The driver informed us that to drive on the deep sandy roads, you have to 'drive-it like you stole it'; he took his own advice and we skidded and wheel-spun our way through the forest (both rainforest and temperate) at alarming speed, stopping only when we were forced to by a sunken jeep on the road ahead (a reasonably common occurance). We visit the 75-mile beach, an amazing ship-reck and also Lake McKensie perch lake which is clearer than most people's baths (better even than the Witsundays), but a little cooler.

Continuing south, we visited the Glass-House mountains and also Australia Zoo, the home of the late Steve Irwin. We saw an amazing crocodile show at the zoo and also, amongst many other animals, some wombats, including two of the Southern-Hairy-Nosed variety.

Abandoning Millie at Brisbane, a vibrant city but slightly lacking in sites, we spent a day in Byron Bay, where we saw some migrating humpback whales from the lighthouse lookout. A full day on a frustratingly slow train got us to Sydney, where we spent a couple of days sight-seeing and visited Manly Beach and the Harbour National Park, Bondi Beach (for Body-Boarding) and the spectacular Blue Mountains (where there's some good, but strenuous bush-walking).




Onboard 'Hammer'
Hayman Island, Whitsundays
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