Hello there Everyone!
Due to the immense demand for more exciting travel stories from my Grand Australian tour… this is what you’ve all been waiting for! Many apologies for the delay to those who have been no doubt, addicted to Dan Tales (Abroad). For those interested I have made one small innovation, some titles!
As you all can imagine a fair bit has occurred since the last installment, seeing I am now in Western Australia, my fifth state (plus two
Territories)! If I remember rightly I think the last place I told you about was the understated Mackay, well after that I managed to get myself to Airlie
Beach for the wonderful Whitsundays Islands.
Now… this was a place you here about at home, like the infamous Fraser Island (and the most friendly looking deadly preditors, the Dingo - they just need a good feed!), and just how great they actually are.
And yes kids, the Whitsundays and the experience of sailing a racing maxi around them is just magical. Rather embarassingly my boat happened to be called “Spank Me” and before you hillarious lot reach for the reply button asking if it had something to S & M, it didn’t okay! Perfectly respectable I assure you. Well the boat was an 82 feet long with 26 passengers and crew (with normal recreational habits), and looked great. It was absolutely amazing to see the boat in full sail cruise around some of the most beautiful island in the world, and even better to be living, working (press ganged into winching up sails etc), eating and sleeping on the thing. All of us land lovers at the beginning were by the end of 4 days jumping around like crazy pirates! Points of note for everyone were: Being at the tiller when the boat was pounding along at 18 knots, living in bare feet completely for the duration, and seeing a turtle whilst snorkling. For those in the know, I’ll quickly mention the Magnums foam party when it was all over…
The next delightful place up the coast for me was Townsville and Magnetic Island (which for some reason I find “magnetic” very hard to pronounce). On the very “reliable” advice of Oz Experience I completely missed out Townsville itself and went straight to the island to the corporate
nightmare of Base Backpackers (much to my disgust… it was peer pressure honest). Despite “Base” being against my deep seated political persuasions and conscience, it did have a very good pool! And I did like the rabbit hutch room they gave us, that was funny. Anyway, Maggie as an island is okay, there’s not much to do, apart from going to the beach, but if you want to swim in the sea of doom you need stinger suits!
Spent one afternoon working on causing myself a heart attack by riding across (and up a gigantic mountain) the island to Horseshoe Bay and back. Because of the previous day’s excesses I only managed to get to the local pie shop the next day. I think I drank some beer as well and spent at least one night trying to persuade some south bounders how evil the Gold coast actually is as well!
Reaching Cairns a few days later marked pretty much the end of my east coast trip and had to say good bye to Oz Experience. Now Cairns is a very silly place. First of all hostel owners are willing to conduct open street warfare to gain your backpacking custom and literally fall over themselves to sell you tours to everywhere! Due to my recently gained fickle backpacking consumer lifestyle I stayed for a few days on the Esplanade with the Japanese, and then the rest at a very very dubious hostel called the Asylum! Just to prove the cut throat hostel market in the place, upon informing the first hostel of my intent to move across town resulted in a severe look of disgust that would have soured milk at 50 paces!
Anyway, Asylum was fun (even though the facilities could have been likened to Bombay street scene), they had a big party thing when we got there that gave me a free t-shirt - fancy that. However, the main events for my week in Cairns was a fantastic but relaxed trip up to Cape Tribulation and Port Douglas, plus my Parachute jump!!
Yes, in a moment of inspiration whilst watching people bungy jump, I had this thought that I was missing out on something! So with my friends from 1770, Lucy and Jo, we all signed up for a Sunday morning skydive! Well it was absolutely fantastic, and in all honesty I was relatively calm right up until a few minutes before the jump. It was only when Jo fell out of the aeroplane first, and Lucy decided to make this blood curdling scream when the full magnitude of the situation hit home!! Points of note: the 60 seconds of free fall seemed like 10 seconds (mainly concerned with trying to understand whats actually happening!), and watching the aeroplane in tumble away is indeed very weird! And on the day it was totally overcast, so we parachuted through the cloud! Now that was an experience. Also learnt how to throw an aborginal spear, in Cairns not the parachute school. As usual, for the people in the know: The Woolshed. I will say no more.
After a weekish in Cairns I was finding various internal organs hurting - I figured it must have been the sea air or some I ate :-), so I made my own way up to Cooktown, 300 km north of Cairns. I exchanged going to the reef with this trip and yes I must be mad but I had seen it down the coast loadza times!
It definitely seemed like a place where no backpacker ever ventured as travel agents appeared not to know of its existence! The trip involved about 7 hours on a unsealed road through the rainforest and open gum tree forests on a local bus. Cooktown itself has about 1000 people and one main street, with two pubs, and to gauge the nature of the place, the best food place in town was the RSL club and the bowls club for lunch! Its very stereotypical Aussie country town with aboriginals hanging around outside the pub, and where everyone drives a toyota landcruiser or beaten up old land rover! Bit of history for you, Cooktown was where Captain Cook fixed his ship after pranging it on the Barrier reef in 1770, and I even walked up a hill (called Grassy Hill but it had trees on it) where Jimmy planned his route out. The place was really interesting, and I would recomend it to anyone. Just one tip: the council office and post office look the same, so don’t try to buy stamps at the first…
CAIRNS TO ALICE
In keeping with my idea of the overland trip, I made my way across Queensland from Cairns to Alice Springs by road. And had to explain this apparently fool-hardy decision to loads of people! But just to dispel people’s opinion of the 3 day, 2000 km of outback Queensland, on mainly on unsealed roads as “boring” are missing out! Honest! Rightly so, there was a lot of driving, and the bus was shaking itself to bits for the 3 days, but the experience of endless savanna and cattle stations, with the occasional town (Hughenden and Boulia - heard of them??) is fantastic. There was some kind of a town ball going on at Hughenden, and bizzarrely us smelly backpackers were greeted with the whole town dressed in dinner suits and ball gowns!! I can recommend the Great Western Hotel, some fine ale served there! By the randomness of my trip planning I unfortunately had only one night in Alice before I buggered off to see the big red rocks of the centre. I can report that there are a few red rocks… some big, some with other big red rocks. Also I saw a fair bit of red dust, mostly in my bag.
Anyway, continuing at break neck speed through the centre, I moved on to my next state, South Australia, and the weirdess place on the Earth; Coober Pedy. This place does actually look like the end of the world, a post apocalypic waste land! The town is surrounded by thousands of small hills from the hundreds of prospectors digging away to find opals - which looks very strange, and the locals do actually lived underground to escape the heat! The residents aren’t allowed to mine in the town, so people happen to extend their houses by digging another room or two, and if they happen to find an opal… well well well! Apparently some bloke has 44 “bed rooms” and he lives on his own!!
Making our way quickly down the Stuart highway, we passed through Woomera and its rocket range and vast areas of radioactive land from nuclear weapons tests in the 50s. All very nice. After a random night in a town called Quorn, and brief visits to three of its four pubs (recommend the Criterion Hotel - someone should tell the Lonely Planet that they have karaoke there on fridays), I made it to freezing cold Adelaide. I liken Adelaide to a cold Brisbane, and with some of the chaps from the last tour we granted the
place the slogan “Adelaide: it’s fine. Really, its okay”! However, it was nice to be back in a city with all the convenience it brings! Like shops and things! As I have written far too much again, my Nullarbor trip will have to wait!
Anyway, I’m in Perth now, and checked out the beautiful colonial town of Freemantle. And thanks chaps (well those who managed to make the effort) for replying to the last one. Its really nice to here what you’ve all been up to, even if it is terribly dull, its refreshing after all the extreme living I’ve been doing lately!