A Travellerspoint blog

Fraser Island

4x4 driving, swimming in lakes, dingoes, camp fires, bats and didgeridoos

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View October 2011- July 2012 on Laura Mitchell's travel map.

So we have spent the last few days on our Fraser Island tour and in a hostel in Rainbow beach called Pippies. There isn’t much in Rainbow beach other than a beach (obviously), one very short street of cafes/shops and a couple of backpacker hostels which do Fraser Island tours.

So the first day in the hostel consisted of the “briefing” where they show you a video which tells you a few tips of driving in sand, and tries to scare you by saying things like “If you turn sharply in sand you WILL roll and you WILL die” I think trying to scare us to be sensible drivers, (though the $200 deposit each of us paid already made us pretty keen to protect the cars). Our group, which consisted of 25 people in total, got split into three cars and we were told to organise food for three days within our smaller groups (which went surprisingly smoothly for us, but probably because we had the only 4 girls of the group all together, so we included things like fruit and salad, whereas the group of boys sat next to us were saying things like “so shall we bring 15 loaves of bread? and maybe some meat?”.

The next day we packed the cars and set off, getting the very short ferry across to Fraser and starting our off road adventure. Out of everyone in our car, 7 of us had driving licenses so we rotated the driving between us and followed the lead car which had the guide in it(though some of us did more driving than others, I decided to step aside after the stress got too much when I stalled about 4 times trying to reverse out of sand). Although we only got stuck once, and it wasn’t me driving.

Our three day tour included seeing sights such as Lake Mackenzie (which was the clearest water I think I have ever seen), Lake Wabby (which Nathan, James and I did a lap of whilst the others lay in the sun), some sand dunes (which were an EFFORT to climb as it was so hot, even though it was only about 8 in the morning), Eli Creek, a shipwreck on the beach and the Champagne pools (the only sea water you can swim in safely as its enclosed by rocks and therefore protected from sharks and strong currents). We drove off road to each site and spent most the time lying in the sun or swimming in the surprisingly cold water.

Swimming in Lake Mackenzie

Swimming in Lake Mackenzie

In the evenings we camped at an aboriginal camp (though I’m not really sure what was aboriginal about it other than we were told not to whistle or spit near our camp fire as its insulting to aboriginal people, and there was a couple of didgeridoos about) which was pretty luxury camping with hot showers, gas hobs and a bbq. All we had to contend with was the local wildlife including bats (a baby one fell onto our table and got stuck in the gap so we had to endure bats flying around our heads trying to get it back), dingoes wandering round the camp, LOADS of flies (which bite) and a giant spider in the shower block. Our evenings consisted of sitting round the campfire, attempting the didgeridoo, mocking each others accents, spotting dingoes, drinking goon (cheap wine in a box for those who havent been to Oz) and roasting marshmallows.

Also worth a mention is finally we have spent some time with a REAL Australian. The vast majority of people we have met/spent time with so far have been backpackers and therefore likely to be either German, Irish, Dutch, English or anything that isn’t Australian, but within our car group we had one, Kim Penna, from Perth who was an awesome addition to the group, even if it was just to laugh at how she said kangaroo.

Our Group in Fraser

Our Group in Fraser

After three days of Fraser we are now all back at Pippies our hostel (named after shell fish you can find on the beach at Fraser which we stopped to dig up and eat raw whilst we were on the island) and pretty knackered, particularly as we all got up at 5.30am to catch the right tide to drive down the beach. Luckily Nathan, James and I have another night here after this one so we have a day to recover and try and get all the sand out of our stuff, then we shall book out bus to our next stop, Agnes Waters.

Posted by Laura Mitchell 16:40 Archived in Australia Comments (2)

Byron Bay, Brisbane, Mooloolaba and Noosa

Beaches, Haloween, Climbing, Rollerblading, Australia Zoo and more beaches

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View October 2011- July 2012 on Laura Mitchell's travel map.

Arriving in Byron Bay in the evening we emerged from the bus in a very busy street full of backpackers out and about which made me hopeful there was lots of stuff to do there (though looking back, it actually meant there was a lot of places to drink there). Our first day I took out a free surfboard and carried it down to the beach (Nathan and James took the safer option and took a body board) where we enjoyed the sun, sea and sand (with a tiny bit more sunburn); I did attempt to surf, though didn’t get much further than accidently getting caught in strong white water, deciding I wasn’t going to stop so I might as well stand up, staying up long enough to shout “Im up!” and then falling over.

Our second day in Byron bay I decided to book a Dive trip, however after being told it was cancelled due to bad weather, I made a solo cycle up to the lighthouse; the most Easterly point of Australia, and saw some Whales whilst I was there (which was pretty awesome). In the evening the whole hostel got together for Halloween bbq and games (Canadians have great enthusiasm for dressing up) which I won a few of but couldn’t claim the prizes (free excursions, snorkelling and such) due to having booked my bus to leave the next day. Never mind, still a good night with Nathan reaching his squeaky voice drunk stage.

Preparing for Haloween in Byron Bay, I am drinking out of a washing powder measuring cup as you had to pay a dollar for a cup (I didnt realise you got the dollar back when you gave back the cup)

Preparing for Haloween in Byron Bay, I am drinking out of a washing powder measuring cup as you had to pay a dollar for a cup (I didnt realise you got the dollar back when you gave back the cup)

The next stop on our trip (after a rather un-enjoyable bus ride with mild hangovers) was Brisbane. Our Hostel was pretty nice, with its own bar and a pool on the roof. We spent our few days there wandering the town and buying a rope (which I named Gruple due to its grey/red/purple colour), getting a few climbs in at Kangaroo point, Rollerblading (not well, though Nathan and I managed to get up and down a bridge with no falls, though lots of holding onto rails) and chilling on the man made beach in between the street and the river. Brisbane was particularly nice to walk through at night, along the river with all the bridges lit up, and the free BBQ on offer right between the climbing area and the river was a particularly picturesque place for dinner. We also met some cool people, introducing a girl called Jetty to climbing (who was pretty good for her first time) and sharing our BBQ spot and our wine with a couple of Brisbane residents; all in all a good few days.

Climbing at Kangaroo Point

Climbing at Kangaroo Point

Rollerblading in Brisbane

Rollerblading in Brisbane

After a couple days in Brisbane we headed off to Mooloolaba; where there isn’t much on offer which you can’t get elsewhere (i.e. a beach), however it was our gateway to Australia zoo. The Zoo was pretty awesome where we saw snakes, crocodiles, wombats, birds, koalas, kangaroos, rhinos, giraffes, elephants, tigers, zebras and lots of over enthusiastic Australian people. The highlights were probably the “Crocoseum” which was a show with a crocodile (surprisingly) snapping and chasing things and such, and some well trained birds and elephants, and also “kangaroo heaven” which was just an enclosure full of kangaroos which you could wander through, sitting next to the kangaroos and stroking/feeding them.

Chilling out with the Kangaroos in Australia Zoo

Chilling out with the Kangaroos in Australia Zoo

We are now in Noosa where there is pretty much a beach and some shops, though its a pretty nice beach (sunshine beach is a 5 minute walk from our hostel). We got up at 4.45am to watch the sunrise from there and we just spent 4 hours walking along a coastal walk (where we saw dolphins and a koala), so a pretty tiring day. I am now uploading this sitting in a travel agent shop using the free internet whilst we wait to book a tour to Fraser Island....

Posted by Laura Mitchell 21:57 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

Port Macquarie

Cycling, beaches, sunburn and tan lines


View October 2011- July 2012 on Laura Mitchell's travel map.

So we arrived at Port Macquarie at 2am in the morning, but with our hostel only being a 10 minute walk from the station we had a lot less drama than Tea Gardens. Our stay here was quite chilled out, the weather wasn’t great the first day we were here and we ended up just walking round the area and along the coastal paths (we eventually tuned back due to lack of food shops along the way).

Our second day we rented some bikes from the hostel to go to the further beaches (which was an EFFORT because of all the hills), we made it to lighthouse beach which was really nice and not very busy. The sun eventually came out (leading to some sunburn and some ridiculous tan lines, James especially is working on a very impressive t-shirt tan). It was a pretty long beach so we made an effort and walked down some of it to some rocks, then decided to turn back; then just as we got back to our bikes I realised I left my flip flops back on the rocks so had to walk there and back AGAIN, but no worries, time wasting like that isn’t as bad when you have no place to be! The evenings were spent chilling in the hostel eating lots of pizza so all in all a pretty relaxed visit to Port Macquarie.

Making Sandmen at Lighthouse Beach

Making Sandmen at Lighthouse Beach

Our final day here our bus was due at noon, so to fill in the morning we went along a boardwalk through the nature reserve round a creek spying lots of flying foxes, birds and lizards, then went back to the hostel to play with the parrots. At 12 we got a lift down for our bus, but ended up waiting for 2 and a half hours until it arrived (it had apparently broken down in near Newcastle). We arrived in Byron Bay at about 8.30pm and had a bit of a wander round the very busy streets. Today (Sunday 30th) is a really nice day so we will probably go down to the beach and maybe use some of the free surfboards at our hostel...

Posted by Laura Mitchell 15:29 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

NewCastle and Tea Gardens

Koalas, wine, sleeping in petrol station service shops and kayaking

So after having spent 2 nights in Sydney we started our Oz travels in earnest by acquiring a Greyhound bus hop on hop off pass, which means we can get any grey hound bus between Sydney and Cairns for the next three months (though no back tracking allowed). We started by getting the bus to Newcastle, which went pretty smoothly (unlike when we went to Tea Gardens which I will come back to later) and we arrived in our hostel (‘Newcastle Backpackers’) around 10 at night.

The following day our very friendly hostel owner told us all the things there were to do around the area, and we started by getting the bus to Blackbutt reserve. This involved walking through some forest trails (one of which had millions of bats in the trees above, which started going a but mental when we walked below them, which was mildly off putting) to the animal reserve, where we saw emu’s, kangaroos, wombats, lots of birds and koalas (we paid $4 to have a ‘koala encounter’ where we got to stroke a very disinterested koala). After getting lost on the trail back to the bus stop (we somehow went on an hour walk and ended back at the animal reserve, only to find the bus stop was about 15mins away) we returned in time to get taken to a pub by the hostel for a free meal which was pretty awesome.

Having a Koality time at Blackbutt Reserve (that pun is for you tin)

Having a Koality time at Blackbutt Reserve (that pun is for you tin)

The next day we went to hunter valley for a wine tour, which didn’t involve looking at the vinery’s or anything, just sitting there being plied with about 10 different wines at each place (we went to four in total); it does feel slightly wrong drinking lots of wine at 10.30 in the morning, and then having a bit of an evening hang over, but it was a good day and the views at some of the vinery’s were pretty awesome.
Our final day in Newcastle we spent on the beach next to a festival which happened to be on (we didn’t go in as the tickets were about $140, but could hear some of the music, mingled with people screaming and swearing on the bungee ride) and generally wandering about. In the evening we got taken to the bus stop and arrived in Tea Gardens at about 11.30 at a petrol station seemingly in the middle of nowhere, expecting the hostel owner to meet us (we had rung him earlier).

At about midnight it seemed unlikely he was turning up and he wasn’t answering the hostel phone. So we were stuck at a petrol station with nowhere to go and no-one to call, facing the possibility of having to sleep outside. Luckily we found out the service shop next to the petrol station was open 24 hours, so they let us sleep on the floor there (which was uncomfortable, cold, loud and bright, but better then outside). In the morning the hostel owner rang the station (responding to my message on the answer phone) and came to pick us up (explaining he thought he was picking us up at 11.30am not pm).

Our first day in tea gardens involved having a recovery nap, then we went for a bit of trek up Yacabba headland and up a hill to the view point (which we put A LOT of effort in to get to the top to be rewarded with a red pole marking the summit with trees obscuring all the view, the viewpoint was only half way up by unfortunately we hadn’t bothered to read the sign).

The next day was spent kayaking; we went out for a couple of hours in the morning with the other girls staying in the hostel and the hostel owner guiding us round up the river and through mangroves and such. Then we came back ashore for a break and some lunch, then in the afternoon the hostel owner let us go out by ourselves (he was pretty laid back, the ‘hostel’ is practically two extra rooms in his house). So we kayaked down to the mouth of the river, chilled out on the beach there and then kayaked back (which is when we got soaking wet due to the wind picking up and causing the river to become really choppy). In the evening we lived up to the party reputation of the east coast and played Yahtzee.

Kayaking in Tea Gardens

Kayaking in Tea Gardens

Our third day in Tea Gardens we went with the two other girls staying in our Hostel (Claire and Linn) to Johnsons beach which was quite far away but luckily they had a car, the beach was pretty tiny (more a little patch of sand than a beach) which was on the edge of a lake, it was pretty picturesque, though it wasnt the nicest day... After that we took the car to Dark point where there were sandunes for us to make an effort at sandboarding on (using a bodyboard that larry the hostel owner lent us) which was pretty fun though some of us demonstrated a bit of a lack of balance when trying to stand up on the board.

Sitting in a tree next to Johnsons beach

Sitting in a tree next to Johnsons beach

After that we pretty much exhausted things we wanted to do in tea gardens, so the rest of our time was spent chilling out in the hostel to avoid the bad weather and eating “the best fish and chips in the world” (Cobo is defintily better). We waited around untill our bus to Port Maquarie which was at the convenient time of midnight.

Posted by Laura Mitchell 15:08 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

And so it begins....

Singapore and Sydney

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View October 2011- July 2012 on Laura Mitchell's travel map.

So our journey began at heathrow airport where we all met bright and early on Thursday 13th, we checked our bags (wth nathan losing the "who has the least stuff" bet with 19.9kg of luggage compaired to my 12kg) and went through the normal airport faff with our flight leaving at around 1pm. 13 hours later of being plied with snacks and millions of films to watch we arrived in Singapore at 9am local time. on a reccomendation we got a taxi to the YMCA in the town centre, however despite the lure of the air conditioning and the swimming pool we decided it was too expensive so had a very sweaty walk to a more backpacker friendly area in little India. we stayed in a placed called the "Inn Crowd" in a dorm room which was pretty OK. once we put our bags in our room we decided to have a "gentle wander" so as to not over do it whilst we still had jet lag. we ended up walking for AGES around the city (which involves tactically moving from air conditioned shopping centre to shopping centre to avoid the heat) and ended up seeing a fair few sights; the fountain of wealth, apparently the biggest fountain the world according to the sign (which we didnt believe for a second), the sky tower (the entrance to which was extremely elusive) which involved going up about 60 storeys to an observation platform and the many huge shopping centres. we got back to the hostel in the evening and due to jet lag didnt manage much more than a shower and some sitting round in the communal area.

Sky Tower View

Sky Tower View

the following day we got up reltively late (around 11 as thats when they turn the air conditioning off and the room starts to get unbearably hot) and went to reception to book tickets for the night safari in the evening. standing next to us was a guy I though was relatively familiar, who we eventually identified (with the help of some speedy googling on nathans ipod) was Cedar Wright, a famous climbing. we had a brief chat with him and a photo and then headed out. we then spent the day wandering around until we accidently stumbled upon raffles hotel (which would have taken us ages to find if we had attempted to locate it using the map). so we did the only thing you can do in raffles and had an extrememly overpriced singapore sling cocktail, which was pretty good (which you would hope for a 27 dollar cocktail). after more wandering round the city we went back to our hostel to get the bus to the night safari. after some bus faff (half heartedly chasing a bus which we thought was ours as it night safari on the side, but it turned out our bus was just late) we arrived at the safari and stood in the long queue for the guided tram ride. we saw quite a few animals (cant be bothered to list them) but the highlight was definitly the "creatures of the night show" which included otters recycling bottles and cans and various other trained animals.

Us with Cedar Wright

Us with Cedar Wright

Singapore Sling In Raffles

Singapore Sling In Raffles

our final day in singapore we decided to go to sentosa, a island type place you get a cable car to. it ended up being a tourist hub, with lots of overpriced things to do (zip wires, view points, marine world, wind tunnel thing where you can fly etc) so naturally as we are now travellers with no income we avoided them all and did everything on the island which was free (i.e. we went to the beach for a swim). after a day in the sun we went back to the hostel to pack, shower and book our airport bus for 6.30am.

the next day was relatively uneventful with just travel, we arrived in Sydney at around 9pm local time and headed straight for a hostel (which are alot more expensive over here, the one we are staying in at the moment is 35 dollars a night). this morning we headed straight for the classic tourist spots of sydney harbour bridge and the opera house and walked round the park next to it which was really nice and picturesque. it was also nice to walk round in the sun without desperatly seeking an air conditioned building to take shelter in. we have had to start doing some more mundane things now as well (including washing and food shopping) but all in all a good start to australia. tomorrow we plan to move on the Newcastle on the gray hound bus (we are getting a hop on-hop off pass for 90 days which is costing about 350 dollars). will write another entry some time in the future but dont worry, I doubt it will be as detailed/rambly as this one again!

Me With Sydney Opera House in the background

Me With Sydney Opera House in the background

James and Nathan with Sydney Harbour Bridge/Opera House in the Background

James and Nathan with Sydney Harbour Bridge/Opera House in the Background

Posted by Laura Mitchell 01:34 Comments (0)

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