NZ to Oz
04/03/2008 - Christchurch and 1st part of our East Coast journey
G'Day blog readers!! How are we all? Hope everyone is fine and dandy!
It's been another busy week or so for us, we are now in Australia (our 8th Country of the trip), and working our way North along the East coast of Queensland. Last night we decided to hold a competition amongst ourselves to raise some funds. So as we sat eating dinner in a little cafe by the marina, for every song we could identify played by someone from the Les Dawson school of Pianoists - we decided Marjorie would give us a pound and for everyone we couldn't guess she could keep one!! So final results are, Cameron 5, Nicky a poor 1 and Mum 15 ( well done Mum - please put our winnings in the post!)
Day 50, GPS Caroline bay lunchstop S44.3880 E171.2470 sealevel
Meadow Park Top 10 S43.4905 E172.6181 Alt 49m
Another day on the road, our last in New Zealand. Heading up the coast to Christchurch we stopped at the Moeraki boulders which are large spherical stones along a lovely stretch of beach. After a session of boulder hugging and tourist dodging (we're getting very good at the art form of taking pictures without getting any of these inconsiderates in them), we continued up the road stopping for lunch at Caroline bay, a lovely beach and picnic area near Timaru. Arriving in Christchurch is like driving in to Oxford, lovely winding river (The Avon) with people punting along it! Not very NZ... We had dinner overlooking the river, the English in town not very happy as the cricketers who were playing the final ODI in Christchurch that afternoon against NZ put up a very poor show - boo! Cameron finally managed to find the NZ delicacy of Burger surved with beetroot on the menu, so he was happy enough!
Spent the morning at the Antartic Centre out near Christchurch airport. A fantastic place where we both wished we had more time. This is the base from which most scientists head out to the Antarctic bases for research, so we saw C130 planes with skis on to land on the ice! We also survived our own Antarctic storm with windchill down to -18 degrees Brrrrrrrrr! Our guide for the centre was Sir Edmund Hillary (via recorded messages played on our guide phones - obviously - it's not a big Elvis style conspiracy!). We also took a ride in a Haaglund vehicle which took us over an obstacle course of crevasses, steep hills and huge muddy puddles, we ended up floating in a 3m deep pond to show us that even if the vehicle fell through the ice it could float rather than just sink - cool! The centre is also home so some Little Blue penguins, and we got to see them at much closer range than down in Dunedin. Most of them had been rescued and there was one little blind penguin who spent all her tine "singing" to make sure her friends were nearby - cute! In the afternoon we took a cruise out of Lyttleton Harbour in search of the small and rare Hectors Dolphins, sadly they decided not to play and we spent a couple of hours cruising around in some quite lumpy water looking for the little buggers! However the scenery was pretty spectacular, and we learnt a lot of history of the area so not a total waste of time. In the evening we were treated to our first night in a house since leaving the UK. We stayed with Bob and Judy, friends of Cameron's parents, and also met Dorothy who was staying with them for a few weeks. Had a fantastic BBQ and a lovely evening swapping stories and catching them up on all the news from back home. Huge THANKYOU to them for putting us up and running us to the airport the next morning, great to meet you.
Day 52, YHA Brisbane City S27.4669 E153.0128 Alt 47m
Said goodbye to our little camper this morning and returned it back to the depot to meet its next family! We loved Christchurch airport, lovely and compact and we were soon airbourne again on our way to Auckland. Flying Quantas B737 this time. 2 hours to kill before our connecting flight to Brisbane which took just 3 hours. Managed to bribe our way through customs with our wooden items (keyrings) and food (choccy bars!) - all of which are subject to intense scrutiny by the Aussie authorities! (We reckon they take their pick (but obviously this is just a joke if they are reading this) ) Took the Express train, which is a joke as it took forever, into town, and then a short walk to the Brisbane City YHA. We managed to try and check in at the wrong hostel first time round as there are 2 hostels called "Brisbane City" how confusing within 2 doors of each other and the furthest away one is the YHA - Doh!!
Day 53, Caboolture Railway station Mad dash S27.0824 E152.9538 Alt 111m
It's raining! So much for the "sunshine coast" nickname. So we hung around the hostel in the morning hoping for a break in the clouds, by lunchtime we gave up, and headed in to town to the Queen Street shopping Mall. Decided we were both in need of haircuts so found a willing salon and got sorted out (should last us till we get home!). Cameron does not rate the ability of the YTS corporatation hedge cutter assigned to him. This evening we met up with Phil and Gina, who retired out here at the end of last year when Phil left Air Traffic Control at Birmingham. We had a lovely meal with them out at their new home, and then got the last train back into the city. JUST! Fantastic to see you guys, life out here seems to be suiting you just fine!
Day 54, City Cat QLD University end S27.4934 E153.0166 sealevel
Downstream end of City cat S27.4431 E153.0638 sealevel
Finally the rain has given up so we can get out and see the city. Took a walk along the river to South Bank where they have an artifical beach and lagoon set up for people to swim in, very nice. Continued our trek over the river and past the University up to Chinatown with its impressive entrance gates and pagodas. Went to Wagamama Japanese restaurant for lunch, which was Nicky's first taste of Japanese food and very nice it was too! And not raw. And not Whale. Not many Aussies eating Japanses at the moment! Nicky even managed to eat it using chopsticks although Cameron later realised she hadn't actually separated them, and was cheating! In the afternoon we took a guided bus tour of the city, and headed out to Mount Coot-Cha where we got a lovely view of Brisbane and the surrounding area. Our ticket also allowed us to ride on the City Cat river boats too, so we took the boat as far as we could in both directions - nearly 3 hours later we made it back to our starting point after some lovely views of the city from the river. The bus driver had pointed us in the direction of some good eateries away from the main city bustle, and it was here we headed for dinner, top tip as it turned out! We had a lovely pizza (it was square!) and homemade italian ice cream to follow - Mmmmmm. We rolled back to the YHA for the night.
Day 55, Australia Zoo S26.8389 E152.9637 Alt 87m
Today we were off to Australia Zoo, home of the Crocodile Hunter, the late Steve Irwin. Although to be fair, he probably lived in a house and not a zoo. It's about an hour and a half on the train North of Brisbane at a place called Beerwah. We thought it might take us a few hours to look around but we ended up staying the whole day. Fantastic place that really lets you get up close to the animals. We hand-fed Elephants and 'roos. patted Koalas and Wombats. Ate Wallaby and Kiwis. Watched the Crocodile show in the Crocoseum which was impressive, and saw loads of other animals including Tigers with three 7 month old cubs, Dingos, Emu, Snakes and some fantastic birds. Crikey!
Day 56, Colonial Cabin YHA S25.2958 E152.9031 Alt 12m
Back on the train again, think we have spent more time at Roma Street station than anywhere else in Brisbane! It took about 3 hours to get to Maryborough West station where we were transferred to a coach the rest of the way to Hervey Bay. Staying at the Colonial Village YHA (a top tip from Andy and Kate - thanks guys - it's great and doesn't smell like the room in Brisbane did!), They did a Friday evening BBQ which was all you can eat for just $5 - Bargain. They also had jugs of beer and if you drank 4 of them you got a free T Shirt (so far we are on 3! (each) ) Spent the evening chatting to a couple from the Netherlands who are heading to NZ next, and renting an Escape Camper van just like ours! We helped them out with a few tips and copious disclaimers.
Day 57, Eli Creek S25.3376 E153.2002 alt 3m
Indian head S25.0060 E153.3597 Alt 50m
Cathedral beach camp S25.2172 E153.2563 Alt 30m
Maheno Shipwreck S25.2835 E153.2298 sealevel
Free Breakfast at this YHA - another plus point for it, and then we were picked up by Brett and his big green bus to take us to Fraser Island for the next 2 days. Fraser Island is the world's biggest sand island (Cameron wasn't aware there had actually been a competition). It's around 127km long and 48km at its widest point (like you care about he stats!), and took us an hour on the ferry from the mainland to reach the landing point. Once there it was driving on sand the whole way. Brett negotiated his way with our huge truck along narrow sandy tracks through the forest. We took a walk through the rainforest which was amazing with the sun peeping down through the canopy high above us and played with some snakes. Nicky chickened out. Wuss. Then we hit the 'main highway' on the Island - it's the beach! -(yes its officially a highway, and part of the Australian network - Bizarre!). Next stop was Eli Creek which is a natural spring producing fresh water for the island, and is also bottled for sale. We took a paddle down the lower reaches of the creek to really bugger that purity up for everyone, and ended up at the beach. No swimming allowed in the sea due to the infestation of jelly fish, loads of sharks and a nasty rip tide! Later we visited the Maheno shipwreck, which sits rusting on the beach and has been there for 70 years since it ran aground in a freak storm after a freak idea to tow it to Japan when it was unseaworthy. Last stop of the day was Indian Head where Captain Cook first saw the Aborigional people, whom he called 'Indians' due to their dark skins, watching from the top of the rocks as he sailed by. We then headed to our camp around 4pm, or as Brett put it - Beer-o-clock! Cathedral beach has a bar, shop and a lot of tents! It was posh camping with a double bed and a wooden floor to our nice tent. Only problem, (for one of the travellers... guess who?), everywhere you looked there were HUGE spiders sat in their webs, just waiting for us humans to walk in to them - Horrible!! We spent the evening drinking beer and chatting. There were 14 people on the trip and 2 Americans, having a good mix of ages and nationalities (British, Israeli, Canadian, Australian, Swiss and French.
Day 58 Central station S25.4736 E153.0555 Alt 60m
Lake Birrabeen S25.4998 E153.0522 Alt 55m
Lake Wabby S25.4591 E153.1303 Alt 86m
Up again at an un-godly hour with breakfast at 6.30 and then it was load-up time. We set off down the beach/highway for our first stop of the day at Pinnacle sand formations - gorgeous coloured sand layers rising up from the beach. Second stop was Lake Wabby, a 45 min walk through the forest on a narrow sandy track to get to it from the coast - and what a great surprise awaited us. It's a huge sand dune sloping down to a lovely blue lake surrounded on the far side by lush green forest - magic! Everyone piled in for a swim in the warm water (apart from Cameron who is a big wimp and gingerly stuck his big toe in and declared it freezing!), he was eventually persuaded in after a big bee landed on him and it was his only opportunity to escape it! After the long walk back out to the bus, we set off to Central Station for our picnic lunch. Central Station was the main HQ of the logging industry - which was still active on the Island until 1991. After lunch it was time for another swim, this time in Lake Birrabeen, a Perch lake in the south of the island. Perch lakes literally perch themselves on top of the sand dunes with compressed vegetation forming the seal (also called Coffee Rock). It's a very odd notion, but luckily for us forms something very beautiful, with some amazing shades of blue in the water. Unfortunately sweeping rain and cloud spoilt the idyll just a little for the latter part of our visit. Sadly our time on the island reached an end, and we took the ferry back to the mainland arriving by early evening. The weather cleared up - and we watched a stunning sunset from our balcony at the YHA, nice way to end the day!
Day 59, GPS Point Vernon S25.2609 E152.8257 Alt 10m
Lazy day as we are taking the overnight train later up to Airlie Beach, so have the rest of the day free to chill out. Chill out? thats not in our game plan! So we hired a couple of bikes and pedalled along the Esplanade of Hervey Bay; about 14km each way from Urangan to Point Vernon, much more like it! Stopped for lunch at a nice beach-side cafe en-route to watch the world go by. By the time we finally boarded our train at 10pm we were nice and sweaty, smelly and drenched in suncream! All aboard...