Surfers Paradise to Hervey BayWell while I'm in the mood I might as well crack on with the rest of my journey up to Cairns..
OK, well we left Surfers on Saturday, Feb 10th (Jesus, it seems so much longer ago than that!!) with the intention of heading straight to Noosa. Now this route takes you right through Brisbane, which is exactly what we decided to do. Although Brisbane is the state Capital of Queensland we decided unanimously that stopping there was not going to be worth our time. The main reason being that of all the people we'd all met, both from Australia and travelling there, nobody, and I mean nobody had ever said: 'Make sure you check out Brisbane'. It was just one of those places that always remained unremarked upon, so miss it out we did and passed straight through.
We did however make the decision to make our one stop along the way to Noosa at the famous Australia Zoo
Crikey! I hear you shout. Yep you got it, this is the place that's owned by that mad goon, Steve Irwin and his wife Terri. Australia Zoo is about 50km north of Brisbane in the back arse of nowhere, so obviously the only reason to head out here is to see the Zoo with all it's amazing animals and hope that you might get the chance to meet the maniac Steve himself. Unfortunately we didn't get to see Steve or his wife, but we spent a good few hours seeing the amazing work that this guy has put into preserving, and educating people about Australian wildlife. If you ever around Brissie then this place really is a must! It was here that I saw my first albino kangaroo, quite an amazing sight, although the enjoyment was rather short lived by the fact that I was bitten by a rodding spider on my toe. It would be exaggeration of monumental proportions to say that this was a hugely unpleasant experience because it wasn't. The bite itself felt like I had stood on a drawing pin and said spider unfortunately was squashed under the weight of my 96kilo frame, and there were no after effects from the venom. But that said I would safely say that I wish I had escaped Australia without a spider bite.
From Australia Zoo it was quite simply pedal to the metal as we headed directly north through Caloundra, Mooloolaba and Maroochydore and onto Noosa on Australia's Sunshine Coast.
So, Noosa, actually one of my favourite places in Oz. Why? I hear you cry.... Well it's not that straightforward to explain that. I guess because it's so relaxed, there is no neon signs that seem to accompany to many spots in Oz, beautiful beaches, beautiful people without the arrogance that usually accompanies that too. We knew that our buddy Bruce was staying at the Noosa Backpackers so that's where we headed and met him almost immediately upon arrival. It really is nice arriving somewhere totally new and seeing such a friendly and familiar face. We had 4 fantastic nights in Noosa or was it 3, who cares? The backpackers we stayed at was great and basically Bruce, Marie, Scott, a very attractive aussie girl and I had our own flat to ourselves. The first night was very tame as Bruce and I caught up and we recounted the many nights and days on madness that accompanies staying at Boardriders backpackers in Manly. Day 2 was a good time to try and get our bearings, and believe me it's very tricky getting your bearings in Noosa! We all headed to the beach after watching Bruce surf for a while (very impressive). We then decided to check out the bar/club at Koala Backpackers in the evening, which was a very strange affair. It was there that we met a character called T-Bone, well Scott did anyway. Unfortunately T-Bone has some sort of brain damage but that never stops him showing up every night and dancing like a maniac and trying to pull every available female. I guess the main thing is that he's having the time of his life.
Finally on Day 3 Chesney returned from visiting his parents on the Gold Coast, so Scott and I located him and we headed to the beach for a while to play some rugby and have a long overdue swim. It was great to catch up with Chesney, a true character and I am very much looking forward to him visiting London in November..lock up your daughters is all I can say! We had a few drinks in the hostel bar that evening but as the one designated driver on my car it was an early night for me due to the full day of driving on Wednesday in order to reach Hervey Bay in good time to catch our group meeting for the Fraser Island trip. So after saying goodbye to Ches and Bruce it was lights out for Chopper.
It's great waking up in the morning being the only one that's not hungover and I obviously milked it for all it was worth. So yeah, off to Hervey Bay via the rather appropriately named Gympie, although I think that the locals had decided to refrain from wearing leather masks due to the intense heat.
So we arrived in Hervey Bay after lunch in time for our 3pm Fraser Island trip briefing at Beaches Backpackers Resort. Beaches was a great place and the whole Fraser Island trip was well organised and totally painless. So fully briefed and allocated to our groups we headed off in different directions to buy food and booze etc before getting a decent night's kip ready for the 7am start. More briefings over with we actually managed to get into our 4x4s and onto the ferry over to Fraser Island.
Fraser Island is 123km long and is the world's largest sand island, and that aside it is a truly magical experience. As you hurtle around in a massive 4x4 packed with 10 people the scenery ranges from silent forests and beaches sculpted by wind and surf, to crystal clear streams and lakes. The east coast of the Island is a 90km beach which you hammer along at 80km an hour and it's actually classes as a freeway so watch out for the police speed cameras! Driving along the sand dunes there was like driving in snow, then ice, then snow, then ice, then snow.. you get the picture!
Anyway, Day 1 we headed directly to Central Station (not a station) an old logging depot and then 9km north through the woodland to Lake Mackenzie, ringed by white sand with clear, tea-coloured water reflecting a blue sky (sounds amazing doesn't it.. well it was, truly magical). From there I took over the driving (oh dear) and nailed it down to Seventy-Five Mile Beach and then to Dundaburra. We arrived here (bsae camp) at around 6pm and with the sun rapidly disappearing we had very little time to erect our tents. Not a problem! With the two tents alocated between the 10 of us, Dan, Rachael, Naomi, Gemma and Dave in one.. Scott, Marie, Kerry, Vicky and I in the other we headed over to the cooking area to prepare our bbq. Scott was Iron Chef for the evening and we had a great feed and with dinner out of the way by around 8pm we all got stuck into the copious amounts of boxed wine that we had so foolishly brought along. It was not long after that Scotty and I decided to introduce ourselves to one of the other groups, and what a wise decision that was! It was then that we met Ali G and Piers, two total character and all round damn good eggs that were the source of much amusement and inspiration over the next two days. I would like to tell you what time we got to our tent that night but I simply have no clue, my last memory of the evening was when Lacey Laye (girl from Canada) got up to go to the toilet and Piers threw a whole dustbin of water over her, a classic moment. Anyway Scott and I did make it back to the tent somehow avoiding the dingoes and learned in the morning that we kept laying across the girls... oh well! So Friday.. what an unpleasant day! Scott and I were really feeling the ill effects of boxed wine both suffering from almost brain haemorrage like hangovers in the intense heat (36c) as we made our way to Indian Head at about 7am! Ouch! The views from Indian Head were however well worth the very sweaty trek. It was then about another 9km to the Champagne Pools, which are a cluster of shallow safe swimming pools right above the surf line. We chilled out(!) here for a couple of hours before heading back to the 4x4. It was here that Scott and I had a real treat. As we plodded along the walkway there was a girl below us that clearly thought the coast was clear (so to speak) and she got into her birthday suit for us! What a nice way to get rid of a hangover! Ok, so then off to lunch in Happy Valley and then some time to cool off in Eli Creek, a really beautiful swimming spot. The early start meant that we had to be back at base camp by 2.30pm... which we duly did. Now, getting back to camp so early really was a disaster waiting to happen as I am sure you can guess what follows. Errrr... well think about it, 60 or so young(ish) travellers and as much booze to kill a small army... well say no more. We did manage to fit in dinner thanks to the girls and it was excellent I might add. So, after I had washed the dishes it was Bundaberg time!
Our last night on Fraser was simply amazing as both our group and Piers's had a total ball. Scott and I didn't actually make it back to the tent that night as we only got as far as the truck.
Saturday was a rather sombre affair as everyone kinda had the blues knowing that we had to get the ferry at 5pm back to Hervey Bay. We had time to make it to Lake Mackenzie one last time before catching the ferry back to Hervey. We then had to go through the rather dull experience of returning the vehicles but I guess it was less painful than we had all envisaged. What's more we had one last night at Beaches to enjoy. There were however several goodbyes to some fantastic friends, namely Jenny, Rhonda, Hattie, Lolanda and Ali G, but such is life on the road.
Sunday we were all still in sombre mood as Scott, Marie and our new recruit Piers took off bright and early for Airlie Beach where we would embark upon our Whitsunday Island adventure.........which follows next folks