A Travellerspoint blog

January 2014

Kicking back with the rellies

Oz road trip #2 - Southwest Western Australia loop: Perth

sunny 28 °C

We flew from Sydney to Perth, picking up our rental car at the airport.

My cousin Lynn and her family live in a rural location 30 minutes south of Perth, so before setting out on road trip number 2, we'd arranged to stay with them for two nights.

Lynn is the eldest daughter of my Mum's brother, Alan, and we hadn't seen each other for over 20 years! I therefore also got to meet their two children (Joel, 15 and Lauren, 12) for the first time. It felt somehow reassuring to have relatives in the area and we thoroughly enjoyed our visit.

Not long after arriving we were off to a neighbours BBQ that we'd all been invited to. Everyone was very friendly and welcoming, Ant got stuck into conversations about home brewed beer with the men, and Lynn and I started our 20 year catch up. And the food! Oh my... it was incredible. The best BBQ food we've ever had by a mile... platefuls of shrimp (of course), fresh caught-that-day crabs, steak, chicken... a feast!

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The men distracted by Lily Allen in her little purple number for the Glastonbury performance... ha ha

A brilliant start to this leg of Oz!

We were going to spend a day in Perth but decided against it and took the opportunity to have a complete chill out. We had a lie in, did a bit of forward planning, patted their loveably soppy dogs, Otto and Coco, and chilled out by the pool. I can think of worse days... ;)

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Ant and Daniel

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Lynn fed and watered us extremely well - home cooked food was much appreciated and it was really great to reacquaint with my long-lost cousin. We also got a bit of facetime in with my cousin Jill (Lynn's sister) and our friends Jon & Linzi (aka the lovely clarts). We always enjoy a catch up with folks back home.

We left the next morning super excited to start our south west loop and road trip number 2 - first stop the gold-mining town of Kalgoorlie!

Posted by Galavantie 04:17 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

NYE Sydney - where else??

sunny 29 °C

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Flying over Sydney Harbour

Bit of a long blog... sorry!

We arrived at our Sydney apartment a couple of days before NYE. Like Christmas, we had booked this months in advance - in fact it was the first thing we booked, even before our round the world tickets. Our Australia leg has been planned entirely around the need to be in Sydney for 31 December 2013.

It wasn't cheap, but we are talking about arguably the greatest city in the world to see in the new year and compared to hotel prices we still got fantastic value - a one bedroomed apartment with kitchen, a balcony terrace and the all important washer/dryer facilities. Oh, the little things you take for granted back home...

We settled in with a home-cooked chilli and Finding Nemo... P Sherman, 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney!

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Our first full day in the city was spent exploring on foot. We strolled from our place in Surry Hills (a bohemian, arty, hip part of town - get us), and headed straight for the harbour to get some iconic views.

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Another job to do was to check out our proposed harbour vantage spot, Mrs Macquaries Point, for the main event. It's a free site with one big advantage - it has some of the best views incorporating the Opera House and all important Harbour Bridge... and a tonne of disadvantages. It holds 17,000 people, only a handful of spots offer fantastic views - the rest are too obstructed by trees, it's apparently very stressful (think big UK festival) and you need to be there at 10am... but the earlier the better. Some crazy people camp out overnight for the prime spots. Ant went a whiter shade of pale.

After umming and ahhhing all day, we decided it wasn't for us. It felt like too much of an investment for an area where apparently you can be for hours only to have people come and stand right in front of you at (literally) the eleventh hour. As my Dad would say, bugger that for a game of soldiers.

We'd previously discounted 'dry' sites i.e. no alcohol, but as it opened up a whole load of new choices we revisited the options. One site took our eye, Observatory Park in The Rocks. It is located on the 'wrong' side of the bridge i.e. to the west, but its close proximity to the bridge and raised elevation meant it came highly recommended. It's capacity was still 7,000 but it had a later gate opening time and just sounded a heck of a lot more chilled out.

So, decision made.

Anyway back to our first day... after a picnic in the Botanical Gardens and a pub stop, we took a one hour tour of the Sydney Opera House. A fascinating visit and the main concert hall was spectacular - shame we weren't seeing a show! It's not long had its 40th anniversary, having opened on 20 October 1973.

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NYE!
A leisurely start and fueled with a big brekkie and extensive picnic supplies, we headed off to our chosen point - the journey pretty uneventful and quieter than we both expected. We weren't disappointed with our choice, a sweeping view of the harbour and bridge. Happy days!

Now just the matter of a few hours to kill. No real hardship... it was warm and sunny... we had a shady spot under a tree so we read, ate, admired the views and did a bit of blog catch up. Seemed like a good friendly crowd too... and the advantage of no-one getting hammered around us, although I have to admit a cold beer would have just topped it off!

It was a long wait - we were settled in our spot about 12.30pm - but there's not many places in the world where you can wait for midnight in shorts in balmy heat... the challenge was not getting sunburn! Any gaps in our vacinity continued to fill up, thankfully we maintained a reasonable space around us and by the time of the fireworks, still had a brilliant uninterrupted view.

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The anticipation builds!

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Wow! I've never seen anything to rival it - they were pretty special and the crowd's cheers added to the atmosphere. Photos never do fireworks any justice, especially without a tripod, so we took video footage instead. It was definitely worth the wait - happy 2014 everyone!

New Year's Day
As we'd had a dry New Year's Eve, after walking around town a bit more and across the Harbour Bridge and back, we decided to have a wee pub crawl starting in The Rocks. One stop was the oldest pub in Sydney, The Fortune of War, followed by a walk to Darling Harbour and another couple of swifters.

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On our last day in the city we took a ferry ride across the harbour and then spent the afternoon in the Art Gallery of New South Wales. It was a fantastic light and airy space to wander, one of the nicest galleries we've ever been to.

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Believe it or not, this one and the one below are actually paintings even though they're so finely done they look like fabric

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Sydney is an iconic city with a beautiful harbour and one you should visit at least once in your lifetime, but it's also incredibly touristy (especially at this time of year!) and after our 6 nights here we definitely felt like we'd done the main stuff. Time to move on!

Posted by Galavantie 02:57 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Getting a cultural fix in Brisbane

Oz road trip #1 - Cairns to Brisbane complete!

semi-overcast 30 °C

We arrived safe and sound in Brisbane after a long 2,580km down the east coast!

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First views of the city

We were only here for two nights and the stop was really about catching our flight to Sydney. But we had the chance to wander around the city and tick off the main sights (there's not a lot of them, but it's still a nice enough city for a stroll).

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It was also a good opportunity to do one of our favourite things... wander around an art gallery. We chose the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) as our airbnb hosts had tipped us off to a very good exhibition.

The artist was Cai Guo-Qiang from China. There were only 3 large installations, one of which was a bloody tree on it's side. Another was a rather strange surreal setting of animals drinking around a pool. They weren't stuffed animals I might add, all made by him - that was pretty impressive, even if some of the faces looked a bit odd!

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We were only really taken by one of his artworks - a pack of wolves 'running' in an arc, only to meet head on with a glass pane. A pretty tenuous link between them crashing against the thick pane and the Berlin Wall (ohhhh, of course)... but that aside, it was a striking sight and interesting to walk in and around the installation.

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Going to the cinema is one of the few activities that's cheaper here than the UK... about half the cost, so we thought we'd check out the new release, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. However, we were a pair of dumbasses and managed to muddle times up, so we arrived too late for the screening. D'oh.

Instead we caught the train back to our base, about 15 mins outside of the city centre, and did some planning and research. An enjoyable stay with a couple of hippie hosts in their quirky home.

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Posted by Galavantie 01:17 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Throw another shrimp on the barbie - it's Xmas down under!

Oz road trip #1 - Cairns to Brisbane: Marcoola

sunny 33 °C

We didn't actually have a barbie, nor any shrimps to throw. Bummer. But it was pretty darn fine nonetheless...

We had booked our Christmas accommodation 8 months ago (!), and had purposefully picked somewhere extra special for the festive period. It did not disappoint.

We stayed with an adorable couple, Lorraine & Brett and their two gorgeous soft-as-anything dogs, Dolly & Max. They have the most beautiful show house standard home, minutes from the beach on Australia's Sunshine ('Sunny') Coast. We'd been in contact on email quite a bit beforehand so it felt more like greeting friends when we arrived in the afternoon of Christmas Eve.

We enjoyed a cuppa on their breezy veranda whilst getting to know each other. They made us feel very welcome and we felt relaxed from the moment we stepped through the door.

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Our room was huge with a lounge area at one end complete with comfy sofa, flat screen TV and dvd player. We were greeted with a pretty welcome tray... easily as good as a 5 star hotel!

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Lorraine & Brett were the type of hosts who think of every small detail to ensure the comfort of their guests. We felt pampered and genuinely cared for, it was so lovely and exactly what we needed.

First job was to get supplies in for our Christmas Day picnic on the beach... not a turkey insight!! At dusk, we wandered down to the beach seeing as we would be spending Christmas Day here! It was the first beach that reminded us a little of the beaches back home (especially Shell Bay). It was less developed but the sand and sweep of the bay was very similar to back home. We ended Christmas Eve curled up on our sofa watching The King's Speech with a bottle of red... ahhhhhh.

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Christmas Day!
We even had a couple of things to open thanks to my Dad and cousin Jill sending us cards and a parcel. Ant and I did away with cards but our present to each other this year was an iPad Air which we bought in Hong Kong for about £70 less than UK prices :)

A leisurely start and picnic made, we headed off to the beach around midday. Our hosts had lent us an array of beach stuff which made our trip all the more enjoyable... beach chairs, parasol, picnic basket, magazines, all manner of tupperware... even delicious carved ham for our sandwiches. It was ace!

No mince pies, sprouts, stuffing... so what did we have? Well, I admit I would have loved some prawns on the barbie but we had ham sarnies, sausage rolls, olives, tabouleh, cheeses, crackers, grapes, cherries, raspberries, pineapple.... and of course, Aussie beer! It was great fun setting up for the day, chilling under the parasol, watching the odd surfer go by, writing messages in the sand, reading and catching up on blog writing.

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We virtually had the beach to ourselves until 4ish when several people turned up, bellies full of Christmas barbies.

We can't deny we've really missed the usual Christmas build up and catching up with close friends and it didn't feel like Christmas at all, but as a different experience it was fab being on the beach. No Christmas dinner timings, shopping stress, over-eating or washing up!

We spent the evening on the fairy-lit veranda planning our Western Australia loop and drinking bubbles. It was Christmas afterall...

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Boxing Day
We were only a 40 minute drive from Australia Zoo, of Steve & Terri Irwin fame, so we took the opportunity to visit from our Marcoola base. It was pretty good (if a bit sweltering), the highlight being a 40 minute show in the Crocoseum (I know) which was hosted by Terri and their two children, Bindi and Robert. There was an excellent flying display of various birds which swooped into and exited the auditorium with impeccable choreographed timing. A Jabiru (large stork) landed very gracefully from its enclosure and the most wowsome (new word?) was a South American Condor... lordy, this thing was HUGE. A whole 3 metre wingspan. Out of its usual context this was birdus giganticus and a real jaw dropper.

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The show wouldn't have been complete without some croc feeding and death roll demonstrations. Whatever you thought of him, it's pretty sad that Steve Irwin is no longer around to share in his family's success and legacy. His son has only just turned 10 and apparently today was the first time he got to feed a croc in front of an audience.

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We wandered around the rest of the zoo at leisure, getting our sweat on. Lots of Aussie stuff to see... 'roos, koalas, wombats, echidnas, kookaburras, big crocs... a really enjoyable day out and we weren't fighting the crowds either.

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Know how you feel in this heat mate...

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Last night in our gorgeous base so we settled down to another film. I embarrasingly got a little choked when we said our goodbyes the next day, as the stay had been so nice and they'd been really good to us in a 'mom and pop' sort of way. They'd even given us a Christmas present, three cute tea-light holders with nautilus shells on to remind us of our beach stay. Amazingly warm people and a very different but fantastic Christmas!

PS. my ugly bites were thankfully a flash reaction and by Boxing Day had significantly gone down... phew. Things are definitely on the up!

Posted by Galavantie 04:59 Archived in Australia Comments (2)

Itchin' 'n a scratchin'... and a grand day out

Oz road trip #1 - Cairns to Brisbane: Hervey Bay & Fraser Island

sunny 31 °C

This section was definitely a mixed bag!

Before getting to Hervey Bay we had a short stop-off in Childers, a time-stood-still place reminiscent of the wild west... oh, and home to a fun sounding dentist...

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Our first sight of really red earth

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Wonder how many have been slung out of those doors!

Hervey Bay itself wasn't anything special, although it's one of the best places in the world for whale watching in their winter months. So far we've been a bit underwhelmed by Australia, which I know sounds really harsh because it has so much to offer, but it's just a general feeling and I guess not helped by some below average experiences. But... we did have a brilliant day on Fraser Island.

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Resident bats in Hervey Bay

Our accomm was ok, the guy seemed a bit rigid with his house rule book and didn't seem the most laid back of hosts, but it was fine for a couple of nights. Well, until I took a turn for the worse and... our bedroom was downstairs... the bathroom upstairs. Being so close to Christmas, he also had a houseful of relatives with one bathroom between us so, timing wise, it really wasn't great for me. We ended up in the chemists to get something stronger as 2 days on imodium hadn't worked. We'd booked a full day's tour to Fraser Island the next day and were beginning to think we wouldn't make it.

Thankfully the strong stuff took effect and the next morning I felt a whole lot better, so off we went on the trip. And oh my... how grateful we were we did! We had by far the best day we've had in Oz to date. The tour was brilliant fun, not least because our guide was super funny (not intending to be... he was just very melodramatic which tickled us all day), but it was also a great place to visit.

Fraser Island is the world's largest sand island and was formed by a bit of sticky-out rock pushed up by lava (geologists are now weeping) and sand which blew up from the south which settled against it. This process took hundreds of thousands of years and the depth of the sand now is 100 metres. It's pretty impressive.

Another fact is that Fraser Island is home to the Australia's purest dingoes... sadly we didn't see any on the trip.

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The tour was conducted in a 4WD truck specifically designed for the sandy terrain and we were jolted over humps, bumps, lumps... you name it. Probably not the most sensible activity still feeling a little delicate, but it was so much fun!

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General terrain of the island

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Lake McKenzie

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Wreck of the SS Maheno - built in the early 1900's in Scotland and used as a hospital ship in WWI, it was one of the first turbine-driven steamers. After encountering a cyclone in 1935 she became shipwrecked on the beach and is now a major attraction on the island.

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The Pinnacles

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Swim anyone?

Best of all, we decided to do a 15 minute pleasure flight which was on offer at a reasonable cost. We took off and landed on the beach, apparently one of only two places in the world registered to do this (the other is Barra, Scotland) and were treated to some stunning aerial views of the island. It definitely felt like a treat after our ordeal in the Whitsundays. A fabulous day.

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We awoke the next day to Christmas Eve (still not feeling very Christmassy to us!). I awoke to a tonne of red, raised, intensely itchy bites. Whaaaat? We thought it was strange that after our bed bug trauma, neither of us had anything to show for it. A quick google... and it turns out they often don't appear for several days. It also turns out that if you have an allergic reaction to the protein they kindly inject through their saliva (too much detail?), it can also cause, erm, diarrhoea. Great. So a week on and that fateful night was still very much leaving its legacy.

Back to the chemists for some bite cream as I was ready to shred my limbs at this point, they were that itchy. Pretty horrid looking too, I had over 100 welty-looking bumps on my arms and legs. Ant had fortunately got off lightly with bites, unless he just had no reaction to them.

So definitely a mixed few days. I was so self-conscious, off we headed to our Christmas base with me in long sleeves and trousers to cover up the bites!

Posted by Galavantie 01:25 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

Seeking sanctuary in 1770

Oz road trip #1 - Cairns to Brisbane: Rockhampton & 1770

sunny 31 °C

Don't worry, we haven't found an Aussie wormhole and gone back 240 years, fascinating though it would be.

Our next stop was the tiny settlement of The Town of 1770, the site of Captain Cook's second landing in the year... yep, you guessed it.

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Controlled burning. You could say he was a fire starter... twisted...

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Road trip!

It was fair to say we were both feeling pretty traumatised from our Whitsunday horror and it was good to be heading somewhere very chilled and quiet. We couldn't quite make the distance there in one go, so had an overnight stop in Rockhampton - the beef capital of Oz. That would explain all the big plastic cows then.

Due to an inner ear problem, since sailing I was suffering from motion sickness and the sensation of still being on the boat. It was getting progressively worse and I was sick several times over the next 24 hours. Anyway, once back in the car to finish the trip to 1770 I actually felt better because we were moving again!

Another airbnb stay, this time with Beck, a lovely girl who lives in this gorgeous beach retreat...

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Beck was out most of the time so we had the run of the whole place which was great, so we settled down to beans on toast, a cuppa and a dvd on the first night. Rock and roll!

On arriving though, the first job was to rid our stuff of any possible bugs hitching a lift. We'd googled that a 60 degree wash was all that was needed and we'd been really careful to 'quarantine' anything that we had on the boat in separate sealed bin liners, rucksacks 'n all, which we took straight to the laundromat. Psychologically, we felt much better having put all the stuff in the wash, especially as it had a linger of the revolting smell of our cabin. Urgh.

Our plan was to visit the reef again from here as it's meant to be pristine, but with the motion sickness unfortunately it wasn't really an option. Instead we took the chance to chill out and just did a couple of short walks to the local beaches and watched the sunset over the rocks, with the odd turtle occasionally popping up out of water - very relaxing.

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Captain Cook monument marking the spot they came ashore

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1770 is a beautiful spot, very unspoilt from development, has a rugged beauty and in many ways reminded us of the Purbecks back home.

My motion sickness wasn't really improving and I had also developed dodgy digestion which... let's just say, meant a few trips to the bathroom. But it didn't affect things too much and we were able to go out for dinner to have a belated celebratory meal for Ant's bithday. On the way back we noticed how many stars were out, so drove to a spot we knew had no light interference. Bejayus. I've never seen a night sky like it - it was like someone had turned the brightness up. Wow - so many! It was a bit freaky standing in the pitch black but it was so breathtaking.

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After two chilled nights it was on to our next stop, Hervey Bay.

Posted by Galavantie 18:54 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

Sailing and traumas, mate

Oz road trip #1 - Cairns to Brisbane: Airlie Beach & the Whitsundays

sunny 32 °C

We liked Airlie Beach more than we thought we would. It's pretty much on every backpacker's itinerary being the gateway to the Whitsundays, and is a party haven. But it's also an immaculately kept town with lots of facilities, a beautiful lagoon, restaurants, bars and a lovely boardwalk which hugs the shoreline.

After dumping our stuff in our cute cabin for the night, we headed out for an evening's stroll along the boardwalk to the town, spotting cockatoos and enjoying the sunset along the way.

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You'd be forgiven for thinking this section of the trip would have been utter paradise. Sailing for two days around the azure Whitsundays in the Aussie summer sunshine. Sounds idyllic, eh? Hmmmm. Two little words guaranteed to send a shiver down anyone's spine somewhat put a dampener on our experience, but I'll come to the gory details later...

I haven't previously mentioned the booking experience for this trip in Mission Beach. To cut a long story short, we'd cut it pretty fine and availability was really limited. It's a difficult balance, as one of the greatest things about travelling is flexibility and we're therefore not planning too much too far ahead, but... the downside being the good stuff gets booked up in advance.

Our ideal sailing trip was on a low-key boat with a group of sub 15 like-minded people, mixed ages and we didn't mind paying more as a result. What we got (or what was left) was a boat at the cheaper end of the spectrum, "Boomerang", with 28 guests - 26 of whom were twenty-something backpackers. I don't mind admitting my heart initially sank. But it was this or nothing!

Forty-eight hours later, we would have chosen nothing...

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First evening on deck watching the full moon rise

To be fair to the others on the boat, it wasn't the company that was the trauma, we didn't have much in common but they were a nice enough bunch. It was company of another kind. Bed bugs.

We've been lucky to have never encountered these before in our lifetime, and I'm sure many who have were unaware of their presence as they slept soundly in their beds. We were only too aware. As Lionel Richie might say, all night long.

It started as soon as we turned the light out... we both felt a tickling on various bodily parts and on turning the light back on, we saw them. We got our sleeping bag liners out as our first line of defence. Pah - all this did was keep them on the inside once they had crawled in.

We had nowhere to go. It was the worst feeling of being trapped and just having to deal with it. We even considered sleeping on the deck but it was pretty windy and we weren't sure how safe it would be. I can tell you, it was a looong night. We were feeling them and picking them off right through, one even on my face at one point. It was horrific, and not a word I use lightly.

As if this wasn't bad enough, our cabin was tucked away at the back of the boat which meant it was very hot and stuffy. It was also pretty blowy outside and some of the yacht's tackle was clanking against the side of our cabin, and to top it off... our area had a really revolting smell. Any one of these factors would have made sleeping difficult, combine them and well, let's just say, it wasn't bonza.

We eventually dropped off when our bodies could no longer fight sleep and we got 1-2 hours at most. And when we awoke, it was Ant's birthday God bless him. Needless to say we were dog tired when we set sail at 5.30am. We got to our first stop for the day at 7.30am, the breathtakingly beautiful Whitehaven Beach, not feeling terribly chipper.

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The sand was something else, like we've never seen before - it's 98% silica

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But the day improved no end with a couple of naps and we enjoyed some sailing and snorkelling time. We got to see 'Elvis' - a large Maori Wrasse who frequents one reef and comes to check out new boats arriving.

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Our skipper, Hainsy, quite probably the saltiest sea dog of them all

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Bit of a crowded deck

Sleeping in our cabin for a second night was out of the question, so the crew gave us fresh bed linen and the offer for us to sleep in the dining area of the boat. Thankfully this also came with free air conditioning as it was close to the stairs entrance to the deck. Sadly, Ant's birthday evening was a pretty flat affair as we were both so knackered. I made it to 8.30pm before crashing out completely, even though it was someone else's birthday the next day and they decided to have a dance off (until midnight) on the deck right above my head!

The crew had been very sympathetic but we were pretty disappointed to discover one of them later admitted to seeing bed bugs in our cabin a few days earlier and thought he had cleaned the area sufficiently.

Back on land, we both admitted to feeling a huge sense of relief that it was over. Such a shame for what should have been a real highlight of our time in Australia.

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Ant ironically genuinely happy about our bed allocation as it was more private than most...

Posted by Galavantie 05:06 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

Getting out to the reef, mate

Oz road trip #1 - Cairns to Brisbane: Mission Beach & Townsville

sunny 31 °C

And so our road trip south begins! Just to put it into perspective, the distance betweem Cairns and Brisbane is 1,057 miles - Land's End to John O'Groats is 881 miles.

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From Kuranda we headed down to Mission Beach, as our trusty Rough Guide said it was a quieter gateway to the Great Barrier Reef than Cairns. It was good fun eating up the miles, which were often long stretches of road as far as the eye could see.

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Mission Beach

Airbnb didn't come up trumps so we had booked a hostel for two nights. Now they say hostels are a great way to meet other travellers, and in this instance that would have been fine... if we'd have wanted our new BFF to be 12. Ok maybe a slight exaggeration, but it was full of kids who were no more than 20. Kudos to them for travelling so young though.

Our room was basically a breeze brick cell painted white - a bit like staying in someone's garage. Just a tad depressing! What also didn't help was the conversation we'd just had with the overly chipper Aussie guy at reception.

"How you going guys?"
"Good, thank you."
"And what are you hoping to do in Mission Beach?"
"Well, primarily we're here to dive."
"Ah. Well you can't dive here mate. There's been no-one operating since the jetties were all blown away in the 2011 cyclone."
"Oh."

Bugger.

Turns out our 2012 Rough Guide ain't so trusty afterall...

We'd spotted a travel shop so went in to ask about our options, which they confirmed were.... 1) head back to Cairns or 2) head to Townsville. The latter certainly seemed the most logical seeing as we needed to continue heading south, so she booked us in with a dive operator there. She was so helpful, we ended up being there for about 2 hours and came away with our Whitsundays and Fraser Island trips booked in as well. The Townsville dive also meant we had to leave the next day, so we cancelled our second night at the hostel (every cloud...).

Our next airbnb base was wonderful. We met Margaret, an interesting and lovely lady, who has a gorgeous old breezy Queenslander house brimming with character. Her kids are all grown up so she has the place to herself, and enjoys meeting new people and having them stay. We instantly felt at home. What a difference a day makes!

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View from the Strand - Townsville's esplanade

Margaret was very generous to offer us dinner from food she already had in and we all ate together enjoying a good chat. An early night as we had to be up at 5.30am!

The trip out to the reef was a long 2.5 hours and some pretty big swells in the sea. Fortunately seasickness is something neither of us suffer from, but there were a few green gills on the boat and a few buckets put to use...

Once there, it was beautiful. Not too choppy and with strips of turquoise blues and greens. We were ready to descend, but before this I'd taken in a couple of mouthfuls of sea water and could tell I was beginning to take shallow breaths. As we started to descend I had a couple of false starts and panicked. The instructors were hurrying us down which was the worst thing they could have done. I couldn't do it. Arrrggh! So Ant continued down with the others and I climbed back on board feeling a whole range of emotions, but mostly frustration with myself.

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I headed off to snorkel instead, most of which was on my own which was a bit alarming at times! But separately we did see some good stuff; Ant saw a batfish, a shoal of huge fish and some rays, I saw my first shark - a black tip reef shark, and an almighty big fish about 4-5ft long which I've since looked up... a maori wrasse... one of the largest (and docile) fish on the GBR. Cool!

The reef and coral itself wasn't as spectacular as either of us were expecting, but the marine life here is definitely supersized which makes for a very different experience.

After lunch I tried diving again and feeling a lot calmer, it was successful. We didn't see so much on this dive, in fact it was a distinctly below average dive, but it was good for me to have overcome my initial panic.

Back on land in the late afternoon sunshine, we drove up to Castle Hill, a jutting red rock outcrop which stands proud behind the town's centre. The views were fab in the fading glow of the sun, and we spotted (well, heard first) a band practicing on an enviable spot!

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The band are in the centre of the shot...

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We rounded the day off with a bottle of Aussie red, Ant cooked dinner for the three of us and we had another lovely evening together. A great stay.

Posted by Galavantie 06:45 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

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