After spending a sleepless night at Darwin airport, I landed in Cairns early in the morning – passing from heat and blue sky to grey and cool weather. Didn’t I hear that good weather is guaranteed throughout the Australian summer? Hmmmm.
There isn’t much to see in Cairns, either, so I spent my time there doing some organising.
06.07.2013 Cape Tribulation
I soon realised: In Australia, you won’t go far without a car. You mostly have to join a (pricey) tour. So I booked a day trip to see Cape Tribulation, Port Douglas, the Daintree Rainforest and the Mossman Gorge. Unfortunately, the whole day was rather grey and rainy. Under the rain, Cape Trib made a pretty grey impression…
As I had seen rainforests in other countries already, as well as Katherine Gorge, I wasn’t hugely impressed by Mossman Gorge and Daintree Rainforest…
07.07.-08.07.2013 Great Barrier Reef – Dive Liveaboard
Any scuba diver dreams of diving at the Great Barrier Reef. Why? After the tour I did, I am at a loss to say… During the two day tour, I did 7 dives and was perfectly UNDERwhelmed: Corals… dead… fish life… practically inexistent, every single appearance is an event… colourful underwater life… everything was grey instead… big fish… well, maybe a couple of reef sharks somewhere in the distance, here a turtle, there a ray. But even for those you had to be very lucky and in-between these rare sightings it was simply booooring. Plus, the water was freezing and the incompetence of Deep Sea Diver Den meant that we were forced to dive in shorties and weren’t even allowed to put on two wetsuits on top of each other. Also in other aspects it is an extremely bad dive center which I don’t recommend. Well – diving at the Great Barrier Reef: TICK! Off my list.
09.07.-10.07.2013 Mission Beach
I left Cairns for Mission Beach, but the bad weather did not leave me. I discovered the beautiful beach in a brief sunny moment…
The rest of the time I chilled in the hostel, which fortunately was very nice.
11.07., 13.07.2013 Townsville
Townsville was a welcome surprise – a nice little town, some old buildings, quite a nice town centre, and a lovely hill providing an overall view. Well, there isn’t much to do here (much like in any Australian city)…
12.07.2013 Magnetic Island
Due to bad weather, my scuba diving near Townsville (SS Yongala) had to be cancelled, and I spontaneously decided to go to Magnetic Island. This was a brilliant decision, because the island was a great discovery! 🙂 Together with a German traveller I did a few small hikes, going from beach to beach – it was really nice and sometimes the rocks reminded me a bit of Koh Tao.
There is also a walk where – if you are lucky – you can see koalas in the wild. And – hurray! – I was one of the lucky ones and caught sight of a cute koala! 🙂
That night, there was a Full Moon Party on Magnetic Island; there, I met some people again and spent a fun night. Early in the morning a ferry brought me back to Townsville…
14.07.-17.07.2013 Airlie Beach / Whitsundays
I arrived in Airlie Beach in the evening and quickly checked in for my sailing trip to the Whitsundays, which would start the next day. The tour was ok… On the up side: It was one of the only real sailing boats (Iceberg) and I did enjoy the sailing.
The view over Whitehaven Beach was truly beautiful.
And snorkelling here was way better than diving at the Great Barrier Reef. But… I was unlucky and was put into a group that only consisted of couples and a family, and I felt a bit lonely among them. The weather continued to be so-so, it rained often… and when it rains while you’re on a boat, you really get wet and it’s cold! I’m still glad I did the tour, though. Back in Airlie Beach, I had one day left to explore the harbour and the Beach Walk.
18.07.2013 Hervey Bay
In the evening I took a bus from Airlie Beach to Hervey Bay – it was an overnight journey that only ended at 5 a.m. But I wasn’t alone any more now, for I met Mathijs on the bus. We wanted to travel the rest of the east coast together 🙂 In Hervey Bay there isn’t much to do, although I was pleasantly surprised by the beach. We came here to do a tour on Fraser Island…
19.07.-21.07.2013 Fraser Island
Fraser Island is an island that consists only of sand, but is partly overgrown by dense jungle and has some freshwater lakes. We did a 3 day tour, but in hindsight I would say that one day would have been enough for me. I really must say it here now: For me, Fraser Island really didn’t live up to its reputation. Sure, there are seemingly infinite beaches along which you drive in a jeep…
But such beaches occur practically all over Australia. Some of the sand dunes had nice shades of colours, but they were not that outstanding.
And then there are various pools, streams and lakes, in which you can swim. However, if you are from a region rich in lakes like the Austrian Salzkammergut, those lakes are… hmmm… well, rather mediocre.
It didn’t help either that it continued to be relatively cool and sometimes rainy, so that I didn’t really feel like getting even wetter… 😉 My clear highlight of the tour was spotting two snakes at a lake – one highly poisonous death adder and one python!
If you ask me, however, Fraser is not an absolute highlight or a must see. If you go, one day is enough.
We only spent about one day in Noosa. There are endless beaches here, too, and a long coastal walk which we did. It was almost a 4 hour excursion for us, because our accommodation was a little outside town. There were some nice views, but there (still/again) was the problem with the weather! 😦
In Brisbane, we checked into the most disgusting hostel of my travels – the Prince Consort Backpackers. 90% of the toilets and showers were left to rot and be submerged by waste. The toilets were dirty up to the brim, the showers stank and waste lay around in heaps. I wouldn’t even have been surprised to see rats here. Luckily, I was spared that sight – I suppose they are more nocturnal animals. After this bad surprise came a pleasant one, though: Brisbane. We really liked the city; there is a nice town centre with skyscrapers and historic buildings between them, old churches, a lovely botanical garden – and: great weather!! 🙂
We also visited the XXXX Brewery. At the end of the tour we could taste four different beers. Mmmmmm.
25.07.-26.07.2013 Surfers Paradise
We also wanted to party somewhere again. For this purpose, we briefly stopped in Surfers Paradise. The combination of beach and skyscrapers is actually kind of good here.
And at night we had a party, and Corona was only 2.50 AUD – you’ll hardly get it cheaper anywhere in Australia. We certainly had fun!
27.07.-28.07.2013 Coffs Harbour
Next on our list was famous Byron Bay. But unfortunately, we realised too late that a festival was to take place there that weekend, so all hostels were either fully booked or extremely expensive (>50 AUD for a bed in a dorm!). We weren’t prepared to pay that much and ended up visiting Coffs Harbour instead. There wasn’t much to do here, and the weather didn’t play along again either… Well, it was still a nice place!
29.07.-30.08.2013 Port Macquarie
My last stop on the Australian east coast was Port Macquarie – I spent my last travel month here. Mathijs’s uncle owns a bungalow park here and Mathijs stepped in to manage it for a few weeks while his uncle was on holiday.
I mainly relaxed during this time and took care of my job applications. But we also did many things together: There is a golf course nearby where kangaroos graze in the late afternoon.
It’s really cool to see these animals in the wild! Once, we drove to the Ellenborough Falls, Australia’s second tallest single drop waterfall. Really beautiful!
The beaches around Port Macquarie have a lot to offer, too – infinitely long, completely deserted… There is a coastal walk going from beach to beach, offering nice views along the way. The Crowdy Heads National Park can easily be reached by car; we went on a nice hike here and saw tame kangaroos with babies!!! Cuuute 🙂
On my birthday, I visited a koala hospital and participated in a free guided tour. The koalas are sooo cute and when they are being fed, they are not shy at all, but will actually even pose sweetly for pictures 😉
The Roto House next door is a historic building with a little museum – also quite nice… In the evening we had an excellent Mexican meal – it was a wonderful birthday! 🙂
Then, my last days in Port Macquarie were ticking away. On our last weekend together, we went to the Kattang Nature Reserve, where you can have a nice walk and get views over the sea and the cliffs.
On 31 August (just about) it was time to say good-bye in the middle of the night – for the third and last time, I had to part from Mathijs. And good-byes don’t get easier if you keep repeating them…A night bus brought me from Port Macquarie to Sydney, and there sleepy me hurried to the airport in the morning to catch my flight to Kuala Lumpur… I had a two day stopover here, before embarking on my way back home on 2 September.