East coast roadtrip
24.07.2008 - 27.08.2008 15 °C
You've got to hand it to the Aussies - they know how to market their country! Every little town, village, or suburb has some 'attraction.' A good example are the billboards being displayed outside the small town of Bowen,on the coast in central Queensland. The soon-to-be released film Australia was filmed here last year, and long before you head into the town, their are a few big billboards stating that since Nic (Kidman) and Hugh (Jackman) liked it there so much, you should too! I really enjoyed Australia. The country has a lot going for it. Evidence of its desirability to foreigners is obvious, because the cities are so cosmopolitan - the streets are full of multitudes of different people. It has a couple of downsides too - every traveller seems to complain about the cost of touring Australia. And the winter was incredibly cold. I was quite suprised at just how cold it got in Sydney - my second night there the city temperature dropped to -2C, and it 'snowed' a few kilometers away. Not quite what most people expect of Australia! The weather actually reminded me of London.
My 5 week tour began in Sydney. I stayed with my uncle Jim - hadn't seen him in 11 years, and it was great catching up after so long. It was great hearing all his London and Sydney stories. I also appreciated having my own bedroom for a change, which, after months away from normalcy, means a lot to a backpacker!
Like all good Sydney tourists I headed straight to that little opera house and the Sydney Harbour bridge. Fortunately, the trip to Jim's place meant that I would have to pass right by both of these incredible structures everyday while in Sydney. For me, the bridge is more spectacular. Its truely magnificent. It's also called the Iron Lung, as it kept so many people employed during the depression of the 1930's.
Uncle Jim - Freshwater, Sydney
Sydney has a peculiar mix between sprawling, busy city and quiet suburbia. Its a nice city.
Roadtrip up the NSW coast and Brisbane
I decided the best way to see Australia was to hire a car and head west of Sydney via the Blue Mountains and then north to my mate Craig Rheeder in Brisbane, Queensland. The trip took 8 days. What a great way to see New South Wales.
On the way to Katoomba in the Blue Mountains, I passed the Sydney Olympic Park. Its incredible. I'd hate to know how much nations spend on hosting this event. Basically, the equivalent of a medium-sized town is built to cater for it. The number of stadiums, grounds, stands, etc is ridiculous - they spread out for miles. Of course, there's plenty of extra's like big parks, fountains, a variety of sporting monuments, and all that, that must have been built to conform to the whole Olympic 'spirit' the IOC demands. It is beautiful though, and its still used today, as there were a number of conferences and sports events being held when I went there.
Sydney Olympic Park
Katoomba is a great little town - the famous Three Sisters are there, and a number of beautiful ridges that have spectacular viewpoints and drop-offs into a large gorge below. It was even colder here than in Sydney. In fact, I think I wore boardshorts only once or twice in my five weeks in Australia - total opposite of what you would expect from Australia. I headed north with Camilla (my Camry Altise - got a free upgrade from the little Yaris I was meant to get... ). Along the way, there were plenty of great viewpoints and I kept stopping to take pics. The Australian bush is really beautiful. I stayed at YHA's (youth hostels) the whole way up, spending only a night at Coffs Harbour, Port Macquarie, and Byron Bay. they were all pretty similar I thought, and a little boring actually. Byron Bay has a good party scene, but for a change I didn't get involved. My favourite spot was the Hunter's Valley YHA - the hostel organised a full day wine tour of the local wineries, and of course, I thought this needed investigation. The wineries had no problem plying the group with their wines, and I responded by getting a few bottles for later on the roadtrip. Some great red's I must say! There was also a micro-brewery next door, which was investigated as well, and received a fine quality check on all of its lovely brews.
Camilla - my Camry Altise
Koala at a sanctuary in Port Macquarie
Byron Bay lookout
I headed into Brisbane and my old pal Craig picked me up in town. Criag and I have been mates since we were 3 or something, having met via our folks when they joined the King William's Town Round Table organisation back in the early eighties. It was awesome catching up, and I spent the days exploring the city and the nights heading out for drinks or dinner with Craig and his mates. Its another cool city, the south bank area was my favourite. The city sits on a river and well-developed and its easy to get around. I'd say that Brisbane was my favourite city in Oz, although I can't comment on Melbourne and Adelaide. Craig and housemate Lawson took me to Nussa Heads on the Saturday that I was there - which is basically a hangout for retired billionaire's. I saw a real live Wallaby there (most are roadkill I think). We also saw a naked guy taking a little stroll down the beach, which was disturbing.
Lawson, Craig and I at Nussaheads
Prosepine and Richmond
I've been really keen to see my aunt, uncle and cousins in Prosepine, Queensland since I left for my travels back in February. I caught a flight from Brisbane and my aunt Joy and uncle David met me at the airport. Joy is my dad's sister. It was awesome staying with the family. It was like being home away from home - no noisy backpacker going through multiple plastic packets in his bag at 5am, no security lockers and no rusty doublebunk beds. My cousins Pam, Linda and Myles all came in from various parts of Queensland to see me over the course of my stay. I hadn't seen the girls for years so it was great catching up. The family is traditonally into cattle farming, but got into cane farming a few years back. I asked David why he went into something so different... "Another drought would have killed me!" he said. I thought he was exaggerating until Joy and David took me to their cattle ranch 500 km inland.... proper outback territory. Without a doubt, you have to be pretty tough to succeed out there. The land is flat, hard grassland, that stretches for miles and miles. The cattle are supported by boredrains - the boreholes having been drilled more than 300m into the earth to reach water levels. The water comes out hot and runs for miles down the boredrains to various yellow pastures. There are no other sources of water for most of the year and there are few trees to stand under to get under some shade. A short stint in the sun left me sunburnt, and it is the height of winter there right now! Farms are many kilometers apart - a visit for tea, or preferably a cold beer, takes about 15-20 minutes to your nearest neighbour! It's tough out there!
The wattle tree - this is why Aussies wear green and yellow national sports gear.
Joy and David - on the way to Richmond.
A highway 'train' - note the three trailers.
A black-headed-python on Gracedale.
The old sheep sheering shed.
David shoeing a racehorse for his dad Bob on the way to Richmond.
Kronosaurus tooth inspection. Richmond has the best kronosaurus fossil in the world. (That's a big sea monster from long, long ago, for those who are wondering.)
A Kookaburra - this is the funniest bird you'll ever hear. Its ridiculous.
Myles laying out some "pots" in the Whitsundays islands. Mud crabs are absolutely massive crabs - loads of good meat!
Me on the famous Whitehaven beach. The smile soon changed to sheer horror though, as the wind had picked up heavily, and our voyage back to the mainland sufferred a few minor setbacks. I realised this when David mentioned it was perhaps time to put our lifejackets on halfway through the straight and at the bottom of a giant swell...
David and son.
Motor-cross at Prosepine.
Mud crab. These things are seriously nasty crabs. They could easily chop off a finger or two. Not this one though, it ended up in the hot pot mmmm
Inside a cane harvester. Everyone should have one of these bad-boys - they are awesome!
Yes, thats me in a small plane. Yes, those are harness straps over my shoulders. Yes, that is a man with a parachute attached to his back. Yes, I'm attached to him. No, I actually did jump. Yes, I was scared.
The chicken of death
Me and the cuzzies. We tricked Pam into rapping. Myles and I are her pimps.
The Townsville Amateurs
David's dad, Bob, got us some tickets to the Townsville Amateurs. What a cool event!! There was actually a horse called Slugger there, so I placed a bet on it. It came last, or second last, I couldn't tell. Damn thing.
Bob, Myles and I - dressed to the 9's.
Linda at the races, dressed to the 9's as well.
Myles pointing the way from Castle hill viewpoint in Townsville.
Back in Sydney, I had some time to see old friends and Jim once more before heading out to New Zealand for the next leg of the world tour. I managed to stay with my old primary school mate Ryan and his wife Kilmeny and once again do some big catch-ups. Life passes by so fast sometimes...
Ryan tried to tuck me in for bed the one night I was there, so I thought I should leave pronto as things were getting dodgy... Kilmeny - watch that husband of yours.
I managed to see another Dutch traveller from the Philippines - this time Astrid, who I met in dodgy Manila. She's in Sydney working in dentistry.
Then, last but not least, I saw Jim one last time before flying out. I hate goodbyes.
Australia has been great. It is an amazing country, and I can see why people want to live there - it has a lot going for it. Perhaps one day I'll return for a look-see...
But now, New Zealand, and this place is crazy!! What a fun place to travel to. Sabs Birch - sorry for the 6 week delay in getting this blog note out, I'll get the next one out much sooner than that!!!
See ya later, mate!