Sunday, 19 July 2009

The Long Road to Melbourne



It all started when we got to Townsville and thought maybe we should head back to Melbourne for a bit. We saw an advertisement all over town asking if anyone wanted to join a guy who was making the journey to Melbourne on Friday and would very much like it if someone other people would like to join him to save on money as well as share the driving. When we first saw the ad, I didn't think much of it but the next day we had pretty much decided there was nothing in Townsville, a flight would have been too expensive and even if it was just for the sake of doing it the opportunity to pretty much drive from one end of Australia to the other was pretty tempting. I got my phone and gave Till a ring to see if he was still about and if there was space for us on the trip. Unsurprisingly no one else had answered his advert and if we were ready were could set off in a few hours time. We had a brief think about it and thought this could be the best decision we ever make so arranged to meet till at the bus station at 3pm to begin the most epic road trip I am ever likely to do.

Tommy couldn't drive so it was down to me and Till to do shifts driving. It pretty much boiled down to 2, 6 hour shifts each day between us. Till would drive in the morning, then I would drive the rest of the way until darkness feel or we got to a descent place to stay. As Tommy couldn't drive he was assigned the task of keeping a record of the goings on of the journey such as where we went, what times we stopped and most importantly how many dead Kangaroos we saw by the side of the road. The fnially tally was nearly 400 dead and 350 odd alive.

As you can see from the route we took we drove straight through some of the outback of Australia. There were several hours at a time where we wouldn't see another human being let along a town, shop or petrol station. All we would see were dead Kangaroos, trees and the horizon. During my first stint driving I had to turn off the main highway onto a dirt track nearly 300km long. One minute in I could not believe how long we were going to be on this dirt track for, it was a horrible feeling. The road was so bumpy anyting over 40km shock the 4WD around so much and made so much noice you couldn't hear yourself think. It got a bit better once we let some air out of the tires but it was without a doubt the worst few hours of the journey.

We ended up sleeping the back of the car both nights and it was so cold. It was warm during the days but the lack of a sun and no real cloud cover meant it plumited to about 2-3 degrees each night. Till's 4WD had been adapted so that it could comforabtle sleep 2 in the back, however there was 3 of us and me and Tommy had no camping gear at all. This meant I was pretty much sleeping in all my clothes each night trying not to die.

Unfortunately there was one fatality during my road trip and that was "Philip" the Kangaroo. I was mid way through my second driving shift when a group of 3 Kangaroos decided to jump out in front of the car. I wasn't going that fast, only around 60kmph as I was expecting roo's to be jumping out at various stages of the jounrey. However 3 at once made the odds of hitting one of the poor guys pretty high. I tried to avoid them but swerving would have meant I would till have ploughed through one of them as there was just a wall of Kangaroo infront of me. So I tried to slow down as much as possibly but I was still going fast enough to cause some damage. I smacked into the side of "Philip" and his fate is still unknown. I can pretty much guarantee he is now dead though as a Kangaroo isn't really much competition for a 4WD weighing several tons. I still think one dead Kangaroo after 2600km of open road isn't bad at all.

Driving the 2600km from Townsvillie to Melbourne is the sort of thing that at the time is pretty awful and a lot of hard work. But in retrospect is brillient just to say you have done it. It was a great experience and saw some real Australian towns and beautiful sunsets and landscapes and scenery along the way, but I would really not want to do it again in a hurry. By the time I arrived in Melbourne on the Sunday night I was knackered, unfortunatly I carried on driving in my dreams that night.









Friday, 17 July 2009

Townsville

When I booked my ticket to Townsville the travel agent said "Why do you want to go there, its a shit hole?" From that response I should have worked out it was probably wasn't the best place to go. When I got there I did however disagree with her, it wasn't a shit hole at all, it was just very very dull.

I came here hoping to possibly find some work. Townsville is a bit of strange place to come and for that reason I thought it may mean they opportunity to get work would be a bit greater here.

I had come to Townsville to hopefully just find a few days casual work be it fruit picking, dog washing or promotion while I waited to see what my fate was with a possible job back in the UK. My first attempts at looking for work involved accidentally phoning an agency to buy into a pyramid scheme and then also accidentally going into a job agency for disabled people. I thought about maybe walking out and then maybe walking in with a limp but I decided that probably wasn't a good idea. I then rang a few agencies who said there was literally nothing and then contacted a few fruit picking firms seeing what they had going, they also had nothing! I had been in Townsville less than 24 hours and was already starting to think it was a bad idea.

I popped into a travel agent and looked into prices for flights back to Melbourne where I hoped there would be some definite work. However they were all really expensive unless I waited a month or so and that was not happening. I made the travel agent laugh when she ashed me how long I had been in Townsville for, literally a few hours I said. "Want to get away already!!" She said. hahaa

Townsville was OK, a strange place with not much going on. I guess there was an element of the "real" Australia here, a place which is very Australian rather than the more cosmopolitan Sydney and Melbourne. There were also more aboriginals here than anywhere else I have seen so far in Australia. I spent almost exactly 24 hour here before I embarked an an epic 2600km road trip back down to Melbourne in search of possible work.

So goodbye Townsville, I don't think I will ever be coming back.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Airlie Beach

I stayed at Airlie Beach 3 nights in total. Once the night before the Whitsundays, the second and third nights after Whitsunday's.

Didn't really get up to too much here other then sunbathing in the man made lagoon and then have a night out with the rest of the group on the first night out after the sailing trip. Was a cool little backpackers town full of people doing the Whitsunday's. That was about it for Airlie Beach... A Part from one idiot who I was sharing a room with who before I had even really met him wanted to show me his new tattoo. It said "Slap The Goon". Goon is a type of cheap wine out here in Australia. It's like getting Carling tattooed somewhere. Whata wolly.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Whitsundays



The Whitsundays are a group of islands just off the North East Coast of Australia towards the bottom of the Great Barrier Reef. Much like Fraser Island I did a 3 day/2 night sailing trip around the islands so I could see what this place was all about.

I choose to do the eco tour of the islands. I am not really sure why it was an eco tour and when I asked the captain why this tour was an eco tour he just said it was because they gave us a bit of information about the island. I didn’t really understand this and thought it was just as environmentally friendly as any of the other trips I had done and didn’t see how telling me about fish made it especially ‘eco’. I was a bit confused, but accepted it never the less.

The boat had 20 or so people on all from various parts of Europe. First thing we did was get checked into our cabin. At this point I was still travelling with Paul and Laura so Tommy and I shared a cabin at the very front of the boat with them. It was all very cosy with not really too much room to move but I thought was pretty cool sorted out my stuff and then headed out on deck to get to know some of the people I would be spending the next 3 days in very cramped conditions.

One of the reason I wanted to do the 3 day sailing trip was that there was the option to do some snorkelling round the various coral reefs scattered all over the area. I had been wanting to do some more snorkelling after my first snorkelling experience in Thailand. This time however there was the added danger of jelly fish and other stingers so I had to wear a very flattering stinger suit to protect me neck to ankles from any possible stings. Something else I didn’t really appreciate so much at the time when I was in Thailand was how warm the water was, as the water around the Whitsundays was absolutely freezing. As the cold is my mortal enemy this spoilt it for me a little bit but the snorkelling was still quality.

The first site we went to had so many fish at it was crazy. The second snorkelling site on day 2 would have been totally pants were it not for the massive turtle I stumbled across swimming about the reef. It was huge and I followed it for a good few minutes trying not to intimidate it too much just encase it ate me. The third site didn’t have as many fish but had so much different types of coral it was awesome. I also took my camera out with me here as I borrowed a girl’s underwater pouch. So the video at the top here was taken at the third site we went to. There was the option to go to a fourth snorkel site but by the time we got there I had warmed up nicely in the midday sun and was fairly snorkelled out for the day so thought I would sack it off and just lie in the sun. Paul went out and by the sounds of it, it was pretty awesome but he said it was possibly the coldest he had ever been. So I think I made the right decision.

The trip was almost split into 2 parts. The first day and a half was just sailing around, firstly sailing around to the snorkelling sites and then once we had done all the snorkelling we sailed to Whitsunday Island to spend a few hours around what can only be described as paradise.

Whitsunday Island was well worth travelling half away around the world to see. It had the softest whitest sand and perfect crystal clear waters. I spent 3 hours paddling in the water sitting in the sand and playing catch with a Mr. Potato head. I then went for a walk around the water to try and find some sharks and stingrays which I did but I could never get that close to them as they were quite scared of me and kept swimming away. It was so nice and I spent a good half hour sitting in the shade under a rock looking out over the place thinking how nice it was and also whether or not I would ever come back here. One downer to the 3 hours spent there was that I managed to slash the bottom of my foot open on the rocks. While it was only a little cut it stung like an absolute bastard and continued to sting for the next few days thanks to all the salt water all over the place.

After the few hours in the water one of the crew took us on a short walk around the island to a lookout point on the island as well as take us to a few point of interest along the way pointing out tree, animals and various aboriginal things. At one point the guide stopped us to point out an ants nest that had been made from a few leafs stuck together with something. He then went on to say how these ants were a good source of vitamins for the Aboriginals back in the day as Ants produced vitamin C or something like that so they would often crush them up with a bit of water for a little vitamin drink. He then said how they also taste like lemon sherbet. He then picked one of the ants up and told me to lick it. Slightly apprehensively I gave the ants arse a little lick and it tasted exactly like lemon sherbet. It was well nice and the group spent the next few minutes licking ants’ arses. So as well as eating snake in Vietnam I have also tried Ant in Australasia.

The nights were spent sitting on the deck sipping cheap wine and looking up at the stars. I had made the decision not go on a ‘party boat’ as I had paid the $400 to see the Whitsundays and not spend my time getting pissed and sleeping in till 12 everyday, I can do that at home. So the nights were fairly chilled, maybe a little too chilled as it was lights out at 10.30, you could stay up if you wanted but kept being told ‘shhh’ by the sleeping crew every so often.

The definite highlight of the trip for me was that I somehow managed to get the drive the boat for a whole hour around the Whitsundays. The boat was a sailing boat but when there was no wind the captain obviously had to switch to the motors. It was towards the end of the last day of the trip and while I was getting changed after Whitsunday Island everyone got the chance to go up one by one for a photo opportunity steering the boat. It must have been because I went up last but when I went up for my photo I just ended up steering the boat for the next hour while the captain give me a quick lesson and the odd tip as to what to do while occasionally disappearing leaving me to my own devices. It was amazing and I was literally sailing the boat off into the sunset. I couldn’t believe I was getting to drive this massive 17.5 meter yacht around the Whitsunday’s. It was pretty easy and I was surprised to find that the boat had it’s own special sat-nav telling it where to go as well as how deep the water beneath it was. After I had sailed the boat I asked where I had driven around and as you can see from the little map it was at the top end of the Islands around Cook Island. I took the boat to the place we were going to drop anchor for the night and the Captain did the last little bit and brought the boat to a stop. It was quality.

Unsurprisingly The Whitsunday’s was a brilliant. Not only was it absolutely baking giving me a much needed fix of sunshine it was also beautiful. At times I did feel very seasick so probably won’t be jumping at the opportunity to go on a sailing trip again however a few minutes stating at the horizon normally sorted this out. However I have some great memories of the Whitsundays and is a definite highlight of my time in Australia.


Friday, 10 July 2009

Agnes Waters


Today I checked out of my hostel around 10am. Went to the shop to buy some fruit. I then pottered down to the beach and watched the surf for an hour or so. After that I headed back to the hostel and read a bit of my book while swinging in a hammock in the midday sun. I eventually dozed off and when I woke up I ate an apple and read some more of my book. I gathered a few of my things and went back down to the beach and strolled along the dunes for a couple of hours walking into the sunset. When I headed back I stopped off at the shops again and brought the best yogurt I have ever had. That was pretty much all I did in Agnes Waters.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Surfing Lesson


Well today I finally got around to trying my hand at surfing. I have no idea why it has taken me 22 years to get around to doing it. Especially as I skateboarded for many years as well as tried my hand at snowboarding and mountain boarding. I feel all I got left to do now is sand boarding somewhere one day so I can then tick off all the main boarding sports.

For $22 I signed up to a 3 hour surfing lesson on Agnes beach and had a wicked time. I didn't find it particularly difficult but saying that all I was doing was practising standing up on the board and heading in a straight line, directly towards the beach. I got the hang of it fairly quickly although was so inconsistent it was extremely frustrating. Just when I thought I was properly grasping staying up on the board I would have a 15 minute session where I could not get up on the board once or even catch a wave at all. I also found i was taking too long to jump up onto the board. I wanted to be able to spring up from a lying down position to an upright position but this just wasn't happening and I would always seem to stay crouched down for a few seconds before I eventually sprung up, wasting precious surfing seconds.

The lesson itself was fairly basic just one fat Australian guy who had been surfing for 40 years telling us how to get up on the board and how to distribute our weight on around the board. He then just sent us out in 2 groups doing alternate 15 minute sessions while he shouted instructions from the shore. Fairly basic but it worked as I think everyone left feeling that one day they would be cable of surfing.

I got warn out so quickly, I haven't really been dong that much exercise while I have been travelling but I can see why surfers all have ridiculous bodies after having to battle against seriously strong waves hour after hour you must get fit.

All in all was a great 3 hours and was great kicking back on a beach in a wetsuit on an Australian beach feeling like a true surfer. That's my level 1 surfing down only another 6 stages to go : )

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Fraser Island



Fraser Island is one of the world’s biggest sand islands and can be found just off the east coast of Australia a few hours from Brisbane. I did a 3 day, 2 nights 4WD self drive around the island with 9 other people to see what the island had to offer. For a change I thought I would just upload a load of pictures from my time at Fraser Island and just add a little caption to each photo. However in retrospect I will not do it again as it was a right mission. Enjoy....





The day before we set off to the island we were put into our group and sorted out what we would be eating and the route we would be taking around the island. We all headed off to the local supermarket and spent what seemed like forever working out the best way to spend out $200 food budget so that we didn't stave to death over the next 3 days.


Here is the first of many (too many) group pictures we took. This was just before we set of from the hostel after we had packed the car and checked all the gear. We were all quite excited at this point.


Here we are on the boat making the short 10 minute journey over to Fraser.

Here I am driving the 4WD. The first 10 minutes were a breeze as this was all on the tarmac on the way to the ferry port, although it seemed very strange driving 9 other people around. Unsurprisingly due to my complete lack of experience, within the first 30 meters of me getting on to the sand I had got us all stuck. Everyone had to then jump out and help push us out of the sand as I reversed out of the little hole I had dug the car into.


On our way to our first stop we saw a Dingo. As this was the first one we saw everyone went crazy and took loads of photos. Little did we know we would see hundreds while we were here.


Here is the gang in the back of the car. I am driving at this point so not in the picture.

This was taken just as we got off the boat. I was finding it a little hard to drive at this point.





First stop was Lake Wabi

These are the dunes at Lake Wabi. They went on for quite a way and looked how I would imagine a desert to look like.

Sitting next to the edge of the lake.

All we got to do on the first day was Lake Wabi. This was taken on route to our first camp site of the trip. It was a 45 minute journey through the woods and some awesome off road driving. Occasionally I would hit some bumps at a bit of speed to get a few screams from the back, it was funny.

That night we had a BBQ at the campsite. We had over estimated on the meat front and had roughly a whole pig each sausage wise.

Here we are all tucked up in our tents on the first night. Getting some sleep in before our 6am start the next day.

Day 2. This was taken around 7am at the picnic area near Lake McKenzie. Everyone is making breakfast here.

Fraser Island played host to one of my top 5 (yes I have made a short list) moments on my entire travels so far. It was 6:00am and we had got up extra early so that we could get to Lake McKenzie before all the coach parties arrived and turned the beach into a sea of sunbathing bodies. We eventually got there at 7ish and while everyone was making the breakfast, as driving I was instantly free of this responsibility, I ran down to the lake to take a peak at what we had got up so early to go and see. I am so pleased I did as when I got down there, there was not a single person down there and I had the whole of the lake to myself, it was amazing. It was exactly the same "wow" feeling as when I had seen the golden pavilion. I just sat on the perfect white sand and just thought to myself that I was the only person in the world at Lake McKenzie right now and it felt very special.

This was another of the many group pictures taken of us all at Lake McKenzie.

At Lake McKenzie we made a human pyramid

After Lake McKenzie we drove past this shipwreck on the beach on the way to Indian head.

This is a picture of me sitting at Indian Head point at the most Northerly place we could get to in our 4wd on the island. It took about 2 hours of Jonas driving for us to get there and it was a waste of time really. The view wasn’t that great and I don't think we even saw some whales which was the only reason we went there.

Another group picture at Indian Head.

On our second night on the island we stayed at an Aboriginal camp.


Right near where we set up camp for the second night was this massive spider. The Abos who ran the sight said not to worry as it couldn’t kill you, it would just make you "a bit" sick.

4As part of our stay at the Aboriginal camp some Aboriginals put on a show for us. It was shite.

They gave us body paints and encouraged us to get involved.

We also got a breif didgeridoo lesson.


Day 3. This is the wreck of the Maheno we had driven past the day before. This time we all got out and took some photos.

Here is a photo of me taking a photo of the Maheno

Our last stop was Eli Creek.

I thought it was far too cold to get in but Paul didn't seem to care.

Here is a nice little shot of the 4WD that got us round Fraser. I don't know who took this.

On the way back to the 4WD from one of the lakes I thought I was possibly going to die as when I was walking along I felt a seriously sharp pain on the bottom of my foot. I looked down to see a huge ant taking a nice little chunk out of my foot. The sharp pain then spread all over the bottom of my foot. Have know clue what had just bitten by other than it was a very large ant with a red backside I then started to panic thinking at any point my heart might stop, head may explode or I would fall down dead and probably burst into flames. Luckily I didn't, but the pain kept getting worse and my foot started to feel very weird. Like all real men though I just kept going and just walked it off. I still have massive red lump on the bottom of my foot now, although I have been assured its nothing serious and will go in about 5 weeks. This was not the ant hat bite me. That ant is now dead. But I thought I would use this picture of an ant anyway.


All good things come to an end and we eventually had to make our way back to the boat for the 10 minute ride back to the mainland. As you can see I don't think Tommy really wanted to leave