Darwin – the capital of sunsets

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The about two hour flight from Cairns to Darwin passed very quickly. We landed in 34ºC  Northern Territory heat and firstly had to set our watches half an hour back. The airport was tiny and within 15min I was out in the sun. Again without showing my passport or my bags.
Over the past few days I had been in contact with Andrew, I guy I met while I was diving in Koh Tao. I hadn’t actually expected him to have any time for me, since he works for the Navy and basically is always working. Therefore, I was even happier when he had offered to pick me up from the airport.
So already 5min later, he arrived in his cool jeep and in uniform. How could anyone wear long clothes in this weather?!
He drove us to a beautiful café in the botanical gardens and with a delicious chai latte it slowly really sank in that I was in a completely different place of Australia now.

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Then Andrew had to go back to work. He dropped me off in the center of town but kindly held on to my suitcase for the day, until I found a hostel. Online, there only were few places left and they were very expensive, so I wanted to try my luck up front and even ask whether I could work for my accommodation. I asked place after place on Mitchel St. They were all 34$(for a simple dorm bed!) and no work anywhere. Luckily, the woman in what I thought was the last hostel on this street then told me there was another one 10min further down, which was probably cheaper. And so I landed at the Gecko Lodge. The very friendly Thai owner gave me the last bed in a male dorm for 25$ and told me I could switch into a 4 bed dorm for the rest of the nights. The people at the hostel were all very friendly and told me that this here was more like a family. Everybody was either working or looking for work. Then I went to have some lunch and stopped off in air-conditioned shops once in a while, as I was having another look at the town. There also is an Esplanade with inviting shady trees and green grass. I finally felt that the alarm clock rung before 5am and so I lie down in the shade for a while amongst all the other people that were already hiding from the heat 🙂
When Andrew got off from work, he brought me my bags and said that we’d meet again later to watch the sunset.
I tried to have a cold shower but the water just wouldn’t get completely cold. Anyways, I’m not complaining. I LOVE the heat and how I could wear short clothes all night long. Plus, doing laundry was so much fun too because everything dried so quickly, that I easily could wash all my things.

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Later, Andrew brought us to the Ski Club. I thought they just tried to be funny with the name until I realized that they meant waterski.
It was an outdoor bar at the ocean on green grass under palm trees and there was live music too. So, the place on its own is pretty cool but then I also got to see my first incredibly beautiful and kitsch Darwin sunset. The colors in the sky were so pretty, it looked like a painting was being painted. And to make it really kitsch, there were black silhouettes of sailboats in front of it.
Then, we went to have dinner in a small Vietnamese place next to McDonalds and the beef rice noodles I had were really good! So already my first day in Darwin gad been a success. And even though I then already went to bed at 9.30pm, I had a great sleep because everybody in my room was really quiet when they came in. I like working hostels 🙂

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The next day, I wanted to go to the fish feeding but then decided against it since it cost 15$ and I already saw two fish feedings off the boats I was on. Therefore, I strolled to the marina and went for a swim in the lagoon. It’s a controlled area in the port. So, the water was salty but rather murky. But I guess you have to swim here when the ocean is too dangerous because of crocodiles.
I went back to the hostel to cook a late lunch. That was a bit a pain again, since the flies were back.
In the late afternoon, I wanted to walk down to a different beach, to watch the sunset again. I didn’t end up exactly where I wanted to but it was also a very nice spot at the ocean and there were some couples or families having picnics. What a nice way to end the day!
When the sun was down, I had to hurry back into town to make it to the Peterpans night here (I also spent some time with them today, since they had forgotten to book my last night in Alice Springs). We all walked to Monsoon’s where a few were selected to play games and win prizes. Then, they started to bring free pizza and here they brought so many that in the end I felt really full. Luckily, they then put on good music, so that I could go dancing. They also handed out vouchers for free drinks and the men kept buying jugs, so that I think none of the girls had to pay anything all night 🙂

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Then, there also was a table with body glow paint, where everybody tried to be creative. Just as I thought I should leave soon, a really good live band came on stage and so we kept dancing. And that in my backpack-sneaker outfit (in other towns, they wouldn’t let me enter like that. I like Darwin!
At midnight, there was a bikini contest. Since I had never seen one before, I stayed for that too. Hopefully, I won’t have to see a second one! One of the girls could win 200$ but in the end it was just who showed their boobs longer…
After that, I thought it would be good have some fresh air. However, the temperature felt pretty much the same outside. The 20min walk back to the hostel was quite nice in the now about 29ºC though.
Thursday, was a lazy day at the lagoon and in town. In the afternoon I was lucky to run into some French guys from my hostel who were just finished with work, so I could ride back with them.
I went for a walk in the botanical gardens. They are pretty small but with local plants and as I mentioned, the café is nice plus there is an air-conditioned info house with free wifi.
Afterwards, it was time to head to Mindil Beach for the famous sunset markets. There were a lot of booths with handmade things to buy. It was really crowded with people, there was live music and the smell of good food. And all this in the soft light of the setting sun. The atmosphere really reminded me of the Seenachtfest in Switzerland. When the sun really started to set, I bought a delicious smoothie and joined the hundreds of other people on the beach to watch the spectacle. Of course it was another stunning sunset but not as romantic in between this huge crowed.
Afterwards, there were people playing didgeridoo and others who had a show with fire.

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I wished I could go to the markets again on Sunday but then I d already be on a tour.
Friday was pretty relaxed again. I checked out of the hostel and brought my suitcase to the storage room of the Youth Shack, where we’d be staying when we come back from the national parks. We were only allowed to bring a small backpack for the first few days.
Tonight, I’d be able to stay with Andrew. As he lived on the army base, I wouldn’t have been able to walk anywhere without him and therefore that wouldn’t have been very practical during the week. But now it was Friday and so I met him at the Esplanade at 5pm, where an interview, that he organized, with someone who won an award, was taking place. I watched that and also happened to be at the right spot to see the cancer rally cars arrive. They drove from Perth to Darwin and wanted to raise money against cancer.
Andrew and I then drove to the base, where I had to be signed in properly and show my passport. I received a visitor card, which I had to carry with me all the time.
The apartment was one room with a nice bathroom and view of the ocean.
I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to watch the sunset on my last night here and therefore we this time drove to East Point. Again, an extremely pretty setting! Actually reminded me a bit of the rocky beach behind the Romantica Hotel in Mallorca we used to go to when I was a child.

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After the sunset, we picked up a woman that had just started working for the army in Darwin. Together, we went to a bar to meet some other friends of Andrew. I was expecting all military people but actually it was the crew from the interview in the afternoon and their other colleagues. So suddenly I was sitting at a table with people from ABC, having a great time, since part of me still wants to work for a radio or tv:)

Before I came to Darwin, I knew nothing about it. But then I was so openly welcomed and had such a great time and I think anybody who went to that city would experience the same.

 

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Oh, the East Coast has rollercoaster roads too! (Cairns to Cape Tribulation)

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On the day after the reef trip, I had to check out and still wasn’t entirely sure where I would go. I had wanted to extend my stay at the Global Backpackers Central but when I talked to the women at the counter the first evening (when I was feeling very tired and lonely), she was so rude to me (if she’s always like that she really should look for a different job), that I just wanted to start crying and leave Cairns. Luckily, the Peterpans night and the reef trip shed a better light on Cairns again. But I obviously didn’t stay at that hostel anymore and was really lucky with the couchsurfer I then found. He lived near the botanical gardens and so I took a bus (2.90$) there with all my luggage. Brenton was an amazing host! There already was a German couchsurfer at his apartment and so she had the couch and I made use of my mattress again. Finally, I had two quiet nights of great sleep :)! I was a bit afraid that a big huntsman spider that was hiding behind the microwave would come crawling over my face in the night but Brenton then kindly moved this tenant outdoors.

The three of us then went for a walk at the botanical gardens. I then realized that they were huge and I would have to come back again. It was basically a rainforest jungle, which was pretty cool. However, we hadn’t put any mosquito repellent on and since they were attacking us, we ran back to the house again soon. Just in time before a pouring rain started. It seems to start raining out of the blue often here.

Jenni and Jess with our rental car

Jenni and Jess with our rental car

Since it was a Saturday, we then drove to Rusty’s market. That’s something you don’t want to miss! We found some really cheap vegetables (perfect Guacamole avocados for 10 for 2$!!! à I was eating avocado for the rest of my days here :)). And there is good food and amazing drinks. Later in the afternoon, I came back with Jenni and Jess from my group on Fraser Island. We each had a fruity drink and I had the best smoothie I ever had!

The three of us were renting a car together with the German girl for the next day. After asking around a little we found one for 60$ with insurance. This made me feel so grown up! I can rent a car on my own! When did that happen?! The same feeling comes with booking a hotel room. That sometimes you rather pay a little more for a nice room and you can actually afford it, instead of a cheap, loud dorm bed.

Barron Falls

Barron Falls

Anyways, I was excited about the next day and so at 8.30am we were already packed in the small white car, ready to go. If only it would have been an automatic…I have been doing so well with avoiding manuals over here and now I had to drive a stick shift a whole day. With the stick on the left side!!! Considering that, I think I did pretty well :). There only was one embarrassing moment when I took about half a minute to turn the car back on at a one way street at a construction site (it was an uphill start…). Funny was, that the indicators and windshield wipers were on the same side as in Switzerland in this car. Apparently, Australians don’t know what they want.

After a 40min curvy mountain road drive, we reached Kuranda, which was supposed to be a similar hippie town as Nimbin, just bigger. There is a market on everyday but it wasn’t very busy and I don’t know if it would have been busier later in the day. It still was worth a stop but most of all, due to the Barron Falls. They are another short drive from town. 2min from the car park, there is a lookout with a great view over the falls. It surely would be a nice walk to the bottom of the big falls with a refreshing swim in the pool. However, we wanted to save our walking for Mossman Gorge, our next destination. We drove straight past Port Douglas and then parked the car on the big car park at Mossman Gorge. I didn’t expect this place to be that touristy! You can pay for a shuttle bus to bring you to the entrance of the gorge or you can walk for 20min on a normal road, where the shuttle busses will pass you every few minutes. We walked and passed an aboriginal community and already a few lovely creeks. There were beautiful blue butterflies but they were always too quick to catch them on camera!

Bridge in the Mossman Gorge

Bridge in the Mossman Gorge

We then decided to only do a short walk to the bridge and then swim at a small beach on our way back. The longest walk you could make is only 45min too, so we didn’t really see a point for the shuttle bus.

The rainforest was very lush and green and I loved the fern trees that looked like palm trees. The bridge was actually partially a suspension bridge. It moved when people walked on it!! The water of the stream was very clear and beautiful, so I just had to jump in. Very refreshing! Then we walked back to the entrance and had lunch at the picnic area. We felt very luxurious with our guacamole sandwiches and nachos :). On the way back to the car park it started raining. But you didn’t really need a rain jacket because the drops were so small that it was more like a rainforest spray shower at a spa (I guess the rainforest name makes sense now :)).

Then, we had about another hour of driving ahead of us to get to the river, where we had to take a car ferry to get to Cape Tribulation. They asked 23$/car for a return trip on the ferry. Seriously?!?! It only takes 2minutes to cross! Half joking, I asked the guy whether we could get it for 22$ to make it easier to split it through 4 people but to our surprise he just agreed 🙂

Mossman River

Mossman River

Then, the fun part of driving started. The roads were very windy and up and down and narrow curves through the rainforest. It was the first time since WA that it felt like being on an outback road again, where you actually had to concentrate on driving and where it rather felt like a roller coaster ride. All the (some of the quite big) holes in the ground were quite dangerous. I’m glad we were with a rental car, I wouldn’t want to expose my own car to this road. I had a great time driving there (and that with a manual :)), I hope my fellow passengers did too :).

Unfortunately, we did not see one animal (except the red headed turkeys, they are everywhere). That was a bit disappointing. We would have needed more time to find better walks but since it started raining again, we just went to one beach. It was still pretty with all the mangroves in the water and Alexandra Lookout would probably be amazing on a nice day.

Cape Tribulation

Cape Tribulation

We had no idea where the time went but it was already late afternoon and we had to start driving back. We didn’t want to end up in the rainforest in the dark. The ferries would cross until midnight though…

On our drive back, we made a short detour to Port Douglas and had a walk around town. It looked very cozy and pretty and I would have liked to spend one or two nights there too.

There would have been many more nice places to look at north of Cairns. A lot of waterfalls. But you just need a car to get there and unfortunately, my flight to Darwin is already around the corner. The road between Cairns and Port Douglas was beautiful to drive too, because a lot of it is directly along the ocean. Only, we didn’t see any of it anymore on our way back in the dark. Luckily, we didn’t see or hit any animals either.

It was a great day and I am so glad I could meet up with some friends I met previously on this trip. Travelling is worth so much more if you can share it with nice people. And I wouldn’t have rented a car on my own. Like that, the day only cost us 30$ instead of 150$ with a tour.

Hiking in the Botanical Gardens

Hiking in the Botanical Gardens

The next day, my last day at the East Coast, Lauren and Jamie had arrived too. Them, Jess and Jenni and I went on another exploring tour in the botanical gardens. We did the red arrow walk up a hill, from where we had a nice view overlooking the ocean and the airport. Catching our breath and trying to cool down a little (it gets very hot when the sun isn’t covered by clouds), we were philosophizing how this was possible that a heavy thing like a plane can just stay in the air.

Then, I moved back into a hostel for my last night. It is extremely inconvenient to get to Cairns airport and the only way really is to take a shuttle from a hostel in the center for 12$ (it gets cheaper the more people you are).

My hostel (Bohemian Resort) had a nice pool and whirlpool and after enjoying that, I had to organize a few things for the rest of my trip (still don’t have any accommodation in Darwin, it’s crazy expensive there!). Later, I met up with the others at McDonalds for a 30cent ice cream cone :). Then, we went to the night market, which was pretty much a small Asian tourist/souvenir market. Now, a few other known faces from the Whitsundays and Fraser had arrived in Cairns too. I didn’t think anybody would catch up with me and so it was great to see them again!

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For dinner, we ended up at the best pizza place in town (unfortunately, I forgot the name but it’s on Sheridan St and has a little pool in front of it). At home, I want to try to make a bruschetta exactly like that!! It was DELICIOUS!!! Good food and great company was the perfect end to my East Coast trip. I almost wished the volcano in Indonesia would still be spitting ashes, so that my flight would get delayed for a few days. But it was on time and so I had to get up at 5am the next day to take my shuttle bus and then board the JetStar plane. They aren’t very strict for domestic flights in Australia. I could take liquids in my hand luggage (great, why did I spend so much time thinking about how to pack my things?) and I didn’t have to show my passport once!

Anyways, now I am on the plane to the Northern Territory. I didn’t think I’d be sad to leave the East Coast since for the first three weeks, everything looked nice but very similar. But then, I got to these stunning islands and was able to snorkel and dive at these amazing spots and met all these cool people I really hope to see again soon! If not over here, I have even more reasons for some European city trips 🙂

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40min of bliss – diving at the Great Barrier Reef

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When I arrived in Cairns at 5.45am, I was quite tired and very happy when I realized that the Global Backpackers central hostel was right around the corner from the bus stop. Only, where was the entrance? It was a building with shops and I had to walk into the arcade. Normally, I wouldn’t have been able to go up yet but to my luck, somebody had to go to the airport then and therefore left the hostel. The night manager let me come upstairs and I chilled on the couch for a while. An hour later, they opened the pool and so I could go sleep there for another few hours. At 11am, they let me check in (instead of 1pm) and therefore I was very happy with this hostel so far. The rest of the day I spent walking around town. It looks quite touristy too. There is a good shopping mall and also a lagoon. The esplanade stretches for about 7km (I didn’t realize that and thought I would just go for a short stroll along the sea). There were nice parks, playgrounds and outdoor work out places. Even a small climbing boulder area. After I had been walking for about an hour I realized that I’d have to walk the whole way back, so I didn’t continue anymore although I was really close to the botanical gardens. Back at the hostel, I tried to take a nap but that wasn’t possible due to all the people talking and constantly coming in and out of the room. A lot of action for an 8 bed dorm. A group of young guys started playing a drinking game at 7 and so I was glad I signed up for the Peterpans night out at 8.15pm (sleep would have been impossible with them in the room).

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At Peterpans, they made us play a game where we could win a trip and afterwards, the employees suddenly started a really awesome flash mob dance. Then it was time to go to the Woolshed for a free cider and free pizza 🙂 Mhhh. Afterwards, I went back to the hostel, since I had to get up at 6am again the next day for my tour to the Great Barrier Reef.

When I got to our hallway in the hostel, it already smelled really bad of Goon (for the people who haven’t been to Australia yet, that’s cheap and gross wine that comes in a bag that fits into a cardboard container.) I strongly hoped it didn’t come from my room but when I opened the door, there was a huge mess on the floor and the goon smell was even worse. I’d smell like an alcoholic the next morning. Anyways, I tried my best to fall asleep and luckily was hardly awakened by other returning people.

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The next morning, I walked down to the reef fleet terminal and could board the Ocean Freedom right away. I had to fill out another diving form and then could help myself to coffee, a Danish and fruit from a huge and delicious fruit plate. I found a nice seat on the upper deck in the shade (throughout the day it changed several times from being a shade roof and protecting us from the rain. The weather around Cairns really is tropical.)

We drove for about 1,5 hours to a dive spot called Wonderwall. Already the first poor people were getting sick but luckily, I wasn’t affected by the waves and was ready to start the first dive when we got to the spot. There was only one other certified girl, so we had almost a private guide. We jumped off the boat into an incredible underwater world. I wished I could have stayed down there forever! The first thing I saw was a HUGE fish. At least 1m high and almost the same length as me. There were weird looking plants, some of them looked like feathers you could put on a hat. So many colorful fishes in colors and patterns I had never seen before. They looked like candy or ice cream. And fish in such an intense blue! Plus, I saw Nemo, his sisters and brothers and cousins and grandparents…There were so many fish! The best was, I finally got to see a turtle! And what a beauty. Moreover, we saw a second one later, that was still a baby.

Sorry, not completely in focus, the water was rather choppy.

Sorry, not completely in focus, the water was rather choppy.

So far, everywhere I went diving, everyone would warn us not to touch anything. First of all, because corals can be extremely sharp or poisonous and secondly, it probably damages the wildlife. So I had very mixed feelings when our diving instructor handed me a sea cucumber to touch (it feels very slimy) and pointed us to touch some other cucumbers or things. We even petted the turtle. I was so excited but I know I shouldn’t have done it. The guides should try to protect the reef and encourage the people to do the same. It’s such an amazing world down there! It’s so sad to know that in a few years it won’t look like that anymore. It was one of the best places I have ever dived at. Unfortunately, after 40min we were already back at the surface and made space for the introductory group dives. I jumped back into the water with my snorkel gear on. There were some schools of fish right behind the boat and a big (1,5m) barracuda with scary teeth, that would swim up really close to you because it thinks you will feed it. There were a lot of waves and so even snorkeling could make you feel a bit queasy. Back on the boat I knew I’d start feeling sick too if I wouldn’t get something to eat soon. Luckily, the skipper was of the same opinion and 5min later, a beeeeeautiful lunch buffet was set up. I want to work on that boat 🙂 Unfortunately, a lot of people felt too sick to really eat. I think I would have cried if it was me and I had to miss such a delicious meal.

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Then, we drove to a second spot. We all hopped on a glass bottom boat and had a short guided excursion. Then we hopped into the water again and snorkeled back to the boat with the slight current. It was amazing. We were somewhere miles away from the mainland but there was a sandbank in the ocean. You’d think that everywhere away from the land, the ocean would be really deep. Not here. So the deepest spots where the corals were was actually only about 4m deep. The water was really clear and so it was the perfect conditions and place to spot fish and corals. What a beautiful place! Here at the back of the boat, there was another barracuda and the big carnivorous fish we already saw on Samurai. When I first realized I was snorkeling right through them I screamed into my snorkel but then I realized that I wasn’t the first person getting out of the water and that they had probably already been there the whole time. The people who were done with snorkeling would also just jump in the water and swim at the back of the boat and the fish obviously could distinguish between toes, fingers and food.

Too soon, we started the way back. First, they were coming around with a fruit plate again. A little later, with a cheese board and crackers!! And just as I was thinking that something sweet would be nice, they carried around a tray with different cake slices. I was so happy I landed on this boat :)!!!

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It must have been a very expensive trip that I probably never would have booked if I knew its price but since it was all in my East Coast package (which was expensive too but it didn’t hurt as much to just pay it all at once) I attended some really awesome tours I really don’t want to have missed. Tours in Australia are really expensive but in the end, they are sooooo worth it because I met awesome people and I have amazing memories and impressions  that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

Sailing in the Whitsundays

View from the Whitehaven lookout

View from the Whitehaven lookout

Between Fraser and the Whitsundays I had one night in Agnes Waters, which is next to a place called 1770. It’s a very small place but the Cool Bananas Hostel we stayed at was awesome and the beach beautiful. Unfortunately, it was a rainy day and so the hike around the 1770 headland wasn’t as beautiful as it probably could have been but the guys had a great time climbing around the rocks. When the sun came out for a moment, we took the surfboards and grabbed some free body boards and headed to the beach (it then started raining again but that doesn’t really matter when you are already in the water). The waves were perfect for beginners and I had the best time paddling around with other learners and little boys that made it look so easy. Humans weren’t the only ones on the water though. There were about a million butterflies hovering over the waves. I wished I had another night there to go surfing again the next day! Even with the green water waves, I never nose-dived 🙂 If I continued surfing now, I hope I’d actually be able to surf curves soon :).

Sailing is work!

Sailing is work!

Then, I was a bit nervous about taking the night bus to Airlie Beach. I’m never able to sleep on these buses and so I wasn’t particularly looking forward to it. Unfortunately, it was a bus without wifi but at least I had nice neighbors and somehow we all made it there intact the next morning. We wandered to the Nomads hostel, where most of us first took a nap for a few hours 🙂

Airlie Beach is another touristy place with a lot of shops, restaurants and bars but I found it very agreeable to stay there. You can’t swim in the ocean because of dangerous stingers but there is a beautiful lagoon around which you can perfectly relax, have a bbq and swim in the saltwater pool when you get too hot. Finally, we had really nice weather again. I even might get my sun tan back. I think I had the nicest days here since I left Perth (I had serious bad weather luck along the East coast, just not what I expected from Australia).

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The day before my Whitsunday tour, I just spent hanging around the lagoon, since I thought everybody I knew from Fraser and Noosa already departed a day before me. While I was cooking dinner in the evening, I ran into someone I already met in Rainbow Beach and we realized that we’d be on the same boat the next day. Therefore, we sat opposite each other while we had dinner and while we were talking to some people next to us, someone suddenly asked whether we were a couple. The question on its own wouldn’t be so funny but her comment after we denied that was: yes, otherwise it would have been really weird, since you are eating different things.

However, during the next three days on the boat we were eating the same thing. Did that make us a couple then :)?

Anyways, the next morning I went to check in for my boat. We only were a small group and first had to fill in the safety forms and sign the papers that we wouldn’t sue them. Then, we walked down to the pier and after first waiting at the wrong spot, we then found the correct gate. At least I wasn’t alone :). We met Michael, our dive and trip guide who made us fill in another form and then we could finally board the Samurai, our home for the next two nights. Since we were only 12 passengers (and two crew members) on a boat that usually fits 25 people (I really don’t know how that would work though), we all had a nice amount of space.

Playing around with perspectives and dimentions

Playing around with perspectives and dimentions

Then, we set out in the open sea on a beautiful day. In fact, the weather was so nice that we could only really sail without the motor for 45min in these three days. But it was a lot of fun like that too, mostly thanks to the other awesome passengers. I already miss you guys!

Our first stop was Hayman Island. The certified divers jumped into the water first and we had a nice 42min dive. Visibility was not that good but there were many fish and beautiful corals and just the feeling of floating under water reminded me again that I really should dive more.

For the rest of the afternoon, I went snorkeling, while Michael took a few other groups for an introductory dive. I saw about the same things snorkeling than during diving since everything was up in shallow water.

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Then, we our skipper drove us into a beautiful sunset and found a quiet spot to spend the night. The Samurai wasn’t supposed to be a party boat but with this group, both evenings turned into a party anyways, especially after the ‘little piggy’ game. I can’t tell you what it is, otherwise it wouldn’t be funny anymore if you one day get to play it :).

Most of the nights however, we spent just lying on the deck, looking at the amazing sky. There were soooo many stars. We could clearly see the Milky Way and there were many shooting stars. I always wished for chocolate because that was the only thing that was really missing on the boat.

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The morning was a bit critical for the stomach of a few people but luckily I could enjoy a beautiful sunrise and my breakfast without any problems. Then, we headed to Whitehaven Beach. We got off on the other side of the island, where it firstly was time for some funny pictures. Then, we walked to the stunning white beach, where we played around with the cameras some more. This beach surely was amazing! Too bad that you have to wear suits to swim in the water because of the stingers. Luckily, I didn’t see one.

After the beach, we hiked up to the view point. The view from there was even better than being at the beach itself. That was probably the most beautiful nature panorama I have ever seen. Just such a stunning mix of blue, green and white colors.

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While we were waiting for the small boat to bring us back to Samurai, no other people than Lauren and Jamie from Fraser were jumping off their boat to come on the island. Back to the boat, a nice bbq lunch awaited us. After lunch, we went snorkeling at a different spot and for the sunset we went to a sand bank in the middle of the ocean. We walked to one end of the island and after the sunset, we walked back and realized that part of the sand bank was under water now. Good that I wasn’t wearing long pants 🙂 We even saw a turtle sticking its head out of the water and a small shark.

The second night was wonderful again and luckily I was below deck already during the two minutes it suddenly started pouring out of the blue.

The next morning we went snorkeling around the sandbank but there wasn’t much to see. Visibility was pretty bad. It still was good just to be in the water and at the beach anyways. Then it unfortunately already was time to sail back to Airlie Beach. Good music, great company and beautiful weather made this trip perfect! Back at shore I started to feel a little land sick, so I preventively took a motion sickness pill. On the way to the hostel, I ran into Jamie, Lauren and Victoria and Ronnie again, who were having a bbq at the lagoon for Jamie’s birthday. They invited me to come back for the cake and so my chocolate wish actually came true :).

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In the evening, my boat group met up again for an after party. Ali had brought the Twister game and so we had some international competitions going on 🙂 It was another great evening, so that we still weren’t tired of each other after spending all this time together and therefore met up again the next day for swimming and a nice bbq dinner. Then, I sadly had to leave with the night bus to Cairns. Unbelievable, that this is already the last bus from my Greyhound pass. It was such a long list of trips and now it suddenly comes to an end. Everybody else would be stopping of at Magnetic Island and perhaps do a skydive at Mission Beach, so it will be unlikely that I’ll see them again over here 😦 I guess it’s time to meet new people again…

This time, there was wifi on the bus and I even had two seats to myself, so the time until 5.45am passed pretty quickly (which didn’t mean that I could sleep any more than on the last bus).

So far, Fraser and the Whitsundays (and surfing) really were the highlights of the East Coast. The beaches and colors of Whitehaven Beach and watching the stars from the boat at night should be something you should put on the top of your Australia list if you ever get the chance to come here.

Best Samurai group ever :)

Best Samurai group ever 🙂

Fraser Island

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When I got to the Dingo hostel in Fraser it was funny to see so many known faces from previous places. After check-in, I went to the beach with two Swedish girls and a British guy and peer pressure made us all go jump into the crazy waves. It was very windy but once you were in the water it was actually better than being outside 🙂

Then, we had to head back to the hostel to go to the information briefing for our Fraser Island tour. If I had known that it would be three hours of torture I’d have at least brought snacks. We had to watch a HORRIBLE 50min safety video that almost made me want to walk out and not do the tour just that I could stop watching that video. Finally, it was over but then we had to listen to a guy talking about the same things again, and how big the spiders would be on the island and many other unpleasant things. It really didn’t sound very inviting. We got divided into our groups and I ended up with two Irish girls, two British girls and a British Couple. We didn’t know it then but that would turn out to be the best group from that tour 😀

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However, first, they wanted more money from us to rent sleeping bags and pay 10$ that we could drive the car or be in a car that wasn’t driven by a guide. What a joke!!! The tour already is expensive enough, what do they want more money for?! At least, I already had a sleeping bag.

The next morning, I got up to have two delicious free pancakes (they were real American pancakes, not crêpes :)) but we all had to hurry to eat and check out in time. Until we all had our 4WD and supplies it took over an hour, but finally, we were ready to leave. Each car had a walkie-talkie and so we could communicate with the other cars from Brendan’s group. We had to stop at the gas station to check whether one of the cars really was fueled up. It only took one minute and so when we wanted to move on, the last car said that they were missing a person. Therefore, we all had to wait for her until she came back with her coffee. She’d have had so much time before that to get a coffee but she had to hop out of the car now…That’s why car four then became the “Coffee Car” and over the walkie-talkies we were coming up with all kinds of jokes like “coffee that” instead of “copy that”, “cool beans” and my favorite was “see you latté”.

My lovely Fraser family

My lovely Fraser family

Luckily, we made the ferry and 20min later, we were driving on the sand of Fraser Island. Driving on all the awesome sand and forest tracks already was fun and adventurous on its own and on top of that, we got to see so many cool places too. Every group had supply boxes and a cooking box. We had heard from other groups before that there was not enough food for the trip, so we had brought all kinds of snacks. However, we received loads of food and since “Rebecca” never showed up, we only had to share it between 7 people and not 8. For lunch, we always had wraps or sandwiches with a slice of cheese, lettuce, tomato or cucumber and cold cuts. It was fun to be camping again, where we had to figure out every step because we weren’t in a convenient kitchen, where you can find everything.

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In the first afternoon, we did a 40min hike through a pretty forest and at the end, we were suddenly walking on a sand dune. Behind the sand dune, there was a beautiful, green lake. It could have been a quarry lake in Austria, except for the sand around it J. It was a nice refreshment after the walk. We dried off for a little and then headed back to the cars.

At the camp, we choose a tent for two or three people and then we started cooking right away, although it was only quarter to 5. Good idea, since there weren’t many cooking spaces and my group was able to eat at a normal time, while others were still cooking at 8pm in the dark. The first evening, we had stir fry chicken with rice and fruit cake for dessert. It was funny, how even after dinner, most people always stayed in their groups pretty much (except that we adopted two really cool girls from Manchester and Liverpool J). I couldn’t believe how different everybody’s English accent was. It was actually quite confusing. I could understand them all but it proofed that English isn’t = English.

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At some point, we went to “bed”. Supposedly there were foam mats under the tent and it was soft enough when I first lie down but to sleep the whole night on the naked tent floor surely wasn’t the most comfortable place I had ever slept on. At least it was pretty warm. I only used my silk sleeping bag.

For breakfast we had eggs, toast and coffee/tea. We really couldn’t complain! There was cereal, peanut butter, jam and toast for the next day. We had a manual for what food we were allowed to use when :).

After breakfast, we all drove to Eli Creek. The guides call it hangover creek because the clear fresh water has magical powers of healing headaches. We all marched along a wooden board walk to get to the beginning of the stream. I felt like in a water park, walking to the top of the slide. Then, like penguins, we jumped into the (at first) quite chilly water. It was wonderful floating down the stream and then ending up at the beach of the ocean.

Then, we wanted to stop at the ship wreck. Brendon told us its story and then the people who were quick managed to get a few pictures. However, it started pouring and so everybody was jumping back into the cars. Our car was always having a party, listening and singing along to music :).

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Since the weather wasn’t great in the afternoon, we didn’t walk up to Indian Head. Instead, Brendan took us to a huge sand dune past the champagne pools, where normal tour groups with better weather wouldn’t go. The dune was massive and extremely steep but it wasn’t that much different of walking up a steep hill with a lot of snow. The view on the top was beautiful but the most fun part was going back down! We all did kangaroo jumps, which means, you just jump out into the air and then land a few meters lower, where you would end up sticking in the sand. It was so much fun! I didn’t really think about it and just did it but once I was down at the bottom and looked back up I realized that it looked like a vertical wall.

On the way back to the camp, we did stop at the Champagne Pools. They looked really nice, like infinity pools carved into the rocks, which would shelter them from the ocean.

The second night, we had delicious steaks, potatoes and salad for dinner. Again, our team work was great and so while most other groups were still fighting for space on the bbq, we were already roasting marshmallows around the camp fire :). Finally, after three months of being in Australia, I get my marshmallows.

Lake McKenzie

Lake McKenzie

We went down to the beach for a while but since it was pitch black, we didn’t want to stay there for too long and end up as dingo food (after all these stories we heard…).

The next morning, we already had to pack up. I really was looking forward to a normal bed and shower but the time on the island has just been really great! We had a long, bumpy but awesome ride to Lake McKenzie ahead of us. Brendon saved this highlight for the last day and luckily, the weather finally played along. When we got to the crystal blue freshwater lake with extremely white sand, the sun was out and the sky was clear. Everybody jumped into the water. It was wonderful!

Then, the drive back to the boat followed, which was the most exciting one because the tide came up pretty high and so our jeeps were splashing through water, our drivers doing their best, not to get stuck or washed into the ocean. It was exciting and in the end, no problem. We drove back onto the boat, which brought us back to Rainbow Beach, where we just had to unload our cars and then finally could enjoy a real shower and clean clothes :).

Then, I went out for dinner with my group. There was a good deal for pizza or fish and chips with a soft drink for 10$ and the food was really good too. A good way to end our adventure!

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Some of them, I will surely see along the way, since everybody follows the tourist stream. So, when I got onto the greyhound bus to Agnes Water the next day, I knew 90% of the people on the bus. It’s a nice change after that lonely stretch from Coffs Harbor to Surfers Paradise. I had such an amazing time in Noosa and Fraser and I know it’s above all due to these awesome people I met along the way.

Noosa – The Margaret River of the East Coast

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When I arrived at the Noosa coach station, the first thing I wanted to do was not leave my bus. It was pouring down so hard that I knew all my things and I would be soaked within seconds. But we all got off, grabbed our bags and then ran to the stand to wait for the hostel bus. That’s where I ran into the British girl from Coffs Harbour again. She was just leaving however.

Check-in time at the Nomads wasn’t until 2pm, so we all had to sit around and wait for 40min. Then, I finally had my room and was glad that there were very nice (and quiet) people in there. I also met some other nice girls with whom I spent the next two days. We went to take a walk in the national park. That was very pretty. The on the Palm Grove walk, I felt like I was back in the rainforest in South East Asia. In the afternoon, we did another walk along the beach. All the beaches look very pretty and I can’t wait to go swimming but it starts raining every few hours. Like again on the way back from the national park to the hostel. It rained so hard that nothing stayed dry and it continued like that all evening. The kitchen was overflowing with water and part of the roof broke through in one of the rooms, that’s how much it rained. I was a bit afraid that it would continue like that the next day, when I had booked a canoe tour on the everglades. Luckily, when I got up in the morning and opened the door, sunrays were wishing me a good morning.

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I did the everglades tour with the discovery group tour company and it was amazing! One of the best days I had over here! We got picked up at 10am at the hostel and then they drove us to a jetty, where we boarded a boat with a group of elderly people. They would just stay on the boat the whole time and enjoy a lunch, where as we would paddle up and down the creeks. For about half an hour, we drove on a big stream and then a lake between trees and grass, house boats, camp grounds and the island from Richard Branson, where apparently a night costs 24 000 $. Then we reached a little jetty, where we had tea and very delicious bake goods and then our guide led us to the canoes. We were all teamed up and explained in which direction we should follow. For about an hour, we paddled along a fresh water creek. It was very serene and beautiful with the jungle on both sides of the water, so sometimes we forgot to paddle because we were just enjoying the scenery.

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We made it to our lunch destination without tipping over. The boat with our guide and the other people was already there. On the bbq, our guide cooked sausages, steak and fish for us and on the table we could find different kinds of salad. The food was very delicious and such a welcome change to my easy backpacker food 🙂 There were good drinks too and so I got to try ginger beer soda. I like ginger but in combination with beer it tastes quite strange.

Rain in the rainforest

Rain in the rainforest

After lunch, we didn’t really have time to digest, because the canoe people had to paddle ahead to make it back to the starting point in time. On the way back, we got into a Viking splash fight and a few races. In the end, we arrived soaked but since the sun was still out, that was ok. It was a lot of fun and I am really impressed that none of us landed in the water during all this action 🙂

On Wednesday, I went to Eumundi markets. The Nomads hostel offered a shuttle service there. I’m so glad, I went there. There was such a great selection of things and food and you could try many things. I found 10 passion fruit for 2$ J!!! Cheaper than in Thailand. They were small but filled with seeds all the way, not just along the edge. Really delicious. And finally, my cold is gone 🙂

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In the late afternoon, I started walking up to the lookout point. It’s a very, very steep walk but the houses I passed were AMAZING. Only for the rich. And finally, the view was stunning!!! And I got there right in time for sunset. Since I didn’t have a flash light, I then had to jog back to the hostel. At least it was downhill now.

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On my last day, I got up early to go surfing with Annika. We hired a board from the hostel (for free). It was a huge plastic board that looked like it had been (ab)used a lot and there was no wax left on it. It was extremely slippery and wobbly but we were so determined to surf that we just jumped into the very choppy ocean. There were a lot of waves and so we just stayed in the white water, while the better surfers jumped and splashed around behind us. At least, with all these waves, I got many chances to stand up J It was so cool, I really regret that I didn’t find more chances to surf over here. I would have liked to stay in Noosa longer. It is a bit comparable to Margaret River on the West Coast and therefore I really liked the vibe of it. But unfortunately, I couldn’t stay, since my tour to Fraser Island was booked and so off on the bus I was again.

My canoe crew

My canoe crew

Brisbane

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In Brisbane, I got off at a real coach terminal, with chairs a food court and practically, the train station right downstairs. I took a train to Bowen Hills to meet my couchsurfing host. Again, I had been really lucky with whom I ended up. He is a very intelligent scientist who works in asthma research and therefore talking to him was quite interesting. He cooked Indian food for dinner and surprisingly, I really liked it. Maybe my taste has changed a little since last summer.

Then, we went out to enjoy a Friday evening in the city. Brisbane also belongs to the cities that look really pretty when it’s dark. Especially along the river. You can take beautiful walks during the day and at night.

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In the center, I heard Latin music playing and so we went to have a closer look. Just to walk straight into an open air Salsa party. I don’t know whether they have that often or whether they were just promoting a club but people were dancing and it felt as if summer was back.

After that, every bar we went into, there was live music. I really enjoyed going out in Brisbane! One place looked really nice from the outside but they wouldn’t let us inside because we were dressed too casual. So, we dressed up a little more the next day and then they permitted us access to the Cloudland. It was worth it! I felt like in fairyland. And there was live music again!

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During the day, we strolled along the river (the River Bar also has really good coffees) and then took the free red City Hopper ferry to get to Southbank. When the weather is nice, you could easily spend the whole weekend just in Southbank. There was a small market, nice green patches and small rainforests to sit down and even a small, artificial beach. And of course lots of places to eat.

On Monday, I visited the art museums. The Art Gallery was big and I liked the selection of paintings they had there. Unfortunately, a big part of the Gallery of Modern Art was under renovation and so it was a very quick visit. The rest of the day, I spent in the gardens and trying to find a doctor who can flush out my ear. Ever since I was surfing, my ear had been blocked and since I want to go diving I really need my ears to clear up. I’ve been looking for a doctor since Byron Bay but everybody always told me to go to different places because they were cheaper or better but in the end, the best option really was to go to a GP. Luckily, in Brisbane I finally found one who was open and even had time. I had to pay 70$, so that the doctor would have a look at me and then he splashed some water through my head. I felt quite brainwashed. The doctor than said that everything should be clean and good now. It did feel better but my right ear still felt a little blocked. I hope that was just some water that was still inside. Should have gone to the doctor in Switzerland. I usually do that once a year, before I go on summer vacation. But who thinks of that in February?

Free ferry

Free ferry

Then, it unfortunately already was my last evening in Brisbane. We ended the stay with a delicious hot chocolate at Max Brenner’s and then Chinese/Thai/Vietnamese food in Chinatown’s Green Tea restaurant. That was really good and the portions were big too! I would definitely go back there and try some other dishes if I stayed in Brisbane longer.

The next morning, everything worked out well with taking the train to the bus station and returning my gobus card, that I thought that was almost too easy. And of course then, the lady at the Greyhound counter told me, before I could get on the bus, I had to properly check in, weigh my suitcase and if it was overweight, pay 10$ extra. That’s the first time they behaved so complicated. Because they are a “proper” bus station, she said.

Of course, my suitcase was more than 20kg and so I had to repack a little. At least now I know how heavy my suitcase is and I know I will still be able to fly if I throw my food and kitchen things away J

Finally, we were all on a modern bus with USB chargers and wifi. The sun was still shining nice and warm and little did I know that pouring rain would expect me three hours later in Noosa.

Southbank Markets

Southbank Markets