26/04/2013 - 12/05/2013
After the tranquility of Byron Bay, we ventured north into the brash glitz of Queensland, our first major stop being Brisbane. Brisbane is probably the least senstional of Australia's eastern cities; Melbourne has the architecture, Sydney has the Opera House and Cairns has the Reef, while Brisbane seems to fall short somewhat. Its sprinkling of attractive buildings is for the most part smothered by a forest of skyscrapers and, being slightly inland, lacks that which is the centre of most Australian towns; the beach. We were, however, slightly impressed by what Brisbane has built to compensate. Street Beach is a man-made swimming pool surrounded by sand that, judging by the crowds, the locals have embraced as an alternative to the real beach, and offers spectacular views of the city skyline across the river.
From Brisane we contined on to Noosa for a two-day canoeing trip along is rivers and lakes, with accomodation at a bush camp in the forest. On our first day we teamed up in groups of three, were given our route, and set off on a gruelling 14km return trip against the current. We made a slow and wobbly start, but were soon skimming down the river under the direction of our third team member, a Swedish guy who led our outing as if it was a military manoeuvre. We stoopped at a creek for a swim in water that made your skin seem red, had lunch at a beach further down the river, then headed back, our arms aching and our fingers blistering, but with a great sense of achievement.
Our second day saw us rewarded for the first with an esier route; 2km each way with the current in our favour. We spent the day at a beach before returning to camp and going for a swim in a nearby quarry flooded with water that looked bright blue.
The next morning, after saying goodbye to some new friends, we returned to central Noosa for a day of walking in the Naional Park and enjoyed some stunning views over the ocean before heading north once again for our trip to the famous Fraser Island. Desite having to get up at 6am to catch the ferry to the island, Fraser was my undisputed higlight of our time in Australia. Fraser Island is the biggest sand island in the world, suitable only for 4WD vehicles, and as the tour was 'self-drive' we were offered the chance to drive the vehicles ourselves, with only the leading car in the control of a guide.
Over the three days we spent on the island we visited Lake Mckenzie, Lake Wabby and the Champagne Pools; swimming opportunities that doubled as our only chances to wash, as our camp was not equipped with showers. We also enjoyed floating down the strong current of Eli Creek, and saw the Maheno, an old shipwreck that is slowly sinking below the sand.
Our nights were spent at camp getting drunk, scaring off dingos and peeing on the beach in the dark, and we had the time of our lives. We met some awesome people and made lasting friends who were to become our regular companions or the rest of our journey.
Our next stop was Airlie Beach to experience the beautiful Whitsunday Islands. Although our budget had not allowed us to do a three-day live aboard tour that most backpackers opt for, we were able to visit the highlights on a one-day tour. We were taken first to Whitsunday Island where we walked up to a lookout point over Whitehaven Beach, then went to the beach itself for lunch and swimming in the clear water. We then continued our day in the waters around Hook Island, where we went snorkelling and saw some huge fish and even a turtle!
The snorkelling was a great warm-up act for the main event; our scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef in Cairns. A post and heaps of photos coming soon...