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Sunshine Coast in the rain, Australia

AUSTRALIA | Wednesday, 2 January 2008 | Views [909] | Comments [1]

Christchurch, NZ

Christchurch is a very English city. It was obvioulsy built by the new settlers to be a little piece of home.  The River Avon runs between Cambridge and Oxford Terraces. The buildings, in particular the old school, are built in an olde English stylee with quads and stonework reminiscent of Oxbridge colleges. The weather was even like an English summer when we there: warm, sunny buit with a chill on the breeze. The first afternoon we walked to the arts centre (which is held in the quad of the old school). The market was aiming towards Camden or Paddington markets but on a much smaller scale. The whole scene was watched over by a large pub with a nicely situated garden and we couldn't resist an afternoon beer (alocholic ginger beer was interesting but not as good as I'd hoped). Short on cash we wondered round the free natural history museum specifically the Maori section. Walking around Christchurch the whole city was very quiet - it was hard to believe it was the last weekend for Christmas. It felt more like a Wednesday afternoon.All of the local population must have been on holiday too!

The Sunday was our last day in NZ. The backpackers we were staying in cooked fresh bread for breakfast - we had apricot and choc chip loaf still warm, with butter. Yum! We packed, then picniced in the Botanic garden, then went to the modern art gallery. It was like a proper Sunday. We watching the pennies and it came as a nasty shock to found out there was a departure tax. Faced with the prospect of MacDonalds for dinner as the only expenditure for the day we changed a little bit more money.  In the evening we dined at the Monteiths pub next to the river. Given the gorgeous weather and the fact it was the weekend before Christmas the pub wasn't that busy. We succeeded in drinking and eating our remaining NZ dollars.

Christmas in Australia

We got the early o'clock flight out to Brisbane. It was much more obvious from the traffic on the road and the choas in the supermarket that it was the start of the holidays in Oz. We stocked up on Christmas goodies and continued our drive to Byron Bay. The campsite in Byron Bay was full. Australians camp in style with each pitch over flowing with awnings; camp chairs; bikes; tables; people even take their own fridges!! The campsite was much noisier than those in NZ too: the buzz of the cicadas, strutting bush turkeys as well is the screaming kids on bicycles. It was quite a nice Christmassy atmosphere - caravans decked out in fairy lights and flashing Santas etc.

On the afternoon of Christmas Eve we went into Byron Bay bought some more trendy shorts; had an ice cold beer over looking the beach; had dinner at the campsite and an early night (we had  been up since 4am).

Christmas day we were woken up at 6am by the kids in the next site...to be honest their dad was making the most noise!! We had a lazy morning cooking bacon and egg on the BBQ (gas powered hot plate). We prepared our picnic and headed down to the beach. Byron Bay is the eastern most point on the Australian coast and the head land is a national park. It was a full moon the night before and the tide was in....higher than usual as the waves were lapping over the grass at the back of the beach. We walked around the head land in the morning and then relaxed on the beach in the afternoon. We took the Aussie brochures down with us to plan our itinerery but we just looked at the pictures! We then built a sand castle with a spade that had  been abondoned on the beach...it was a masterpiece a sand fortress more like (it would have been better if we'd had a bucket). The forecast for the day was showers but luckily the rain held off but we were both grateful for the cloud otherwise we'd have burnt to a crisp! In the evening we cooked a Turkey turner on our camping gas stoves!! We bought a lump of turkey breast which we re-heated on the BBQ; served with mashed potato; vegies and gravy; followed by mince pies.

Mount Warning

Mt Warning is the cork in a big caldera on the East Coast of Australia and the walk/climb has been recommended by a couple of people we've met. The cloud was pretty low but it was now or never. Minutes after leaving the car the heavens opened. We put waterproofs on but the temperature was still about 27degrees so we were still pretty soggy with sweat. This was a tropical style downpour in a sub-tropical rainforest. Phil said it added to the authenticity of the rainforest experience. Humph! This was perfect leech country - we'd seen one crossing the tarmac in the car park. With leeches and rain we barely stopped....just trudged up. The last section is a scramble up the rock face with a cable to pull yourself up on - or semi abseil down on the way back down. When we reached the top we could see bugger all!! Just a white abyss in all 4 directions. The national parks service had kindly provided signs showing us what we should have seen! I think we'd secretly harboured the hope that the top of the mountain would be above the cloud. The rain held off for us to have our sandwiches. Phil did see a leech on his leg before it latches on (it will wander around before it finds somewhere it likes). Back at the car park I took my boots off and discovered a leech just inside. When Phil took his socks off something plopped onto the floor; his sock was covered in blood and he had 3 little bloody circles on the back of his ankles - despite his horror he survived his first leech encounter!

Bald Rock and Girraween

From Mt Warning we headed inland to Granite country - on the New South Wale and Queensland border. We stayed at a National Park campsite which was deserted...but then it was the most expensive campsite we've stayed at so far. Bald Rock is a granite monolith like Ayers Rock but a little bit smaller and hidden in the trees. It was not even visible from the camp site but was only 200m away. We explored that in the morning and then went to the nearby Giraween National Parkin the afternoon to climb their pyramid. I was still exciting at the number of wallabys and kangaroos we saw. Granite country was fromed when a magma chamber built up..however it never quite became a volcano and the magma cooled to form a very large piece of granite. Over time the surrounding earth has eroded away leaving these large granite monoliths.

Glass House Mountains and Australia Zoo

Just north of Brisbane is an area called the Glass House Mountains. There are small corks from volcanoes protruding from fields of pineapples and macademia trees. Only a couple have walking tracks to the top the others are for mountaineers with ropes only. We'd been at the information sign for 2minutes and we'd both sustained several mozzy bites (I thought the little blighters were meant to be nocturnal). Soaked in insect repellant we did our first walk. We drove out to the view point from here you could clearly see the rain in the distance; and gauge how quickly it was coming our way. This was the first of a squally showers we've encountered over the last few days. Soaked to the skin in 3 minutes flat and by then the shower passes over.

Steve Irwin's Australia Zoo (aka the Crocodile zoo) is also in the Glass House Mountains so we spent the day there. It was originally opened as a reptile park by his parents in the 70s. The highlight of the day is the croc show. The idea is you put a hungry croc in an arena with the employee; tease him and feed him (hopefully the prepared food rather than a limb). You can't train a croc and there were a few very clear 'oh shits' during the show apparently they're meant to say crikey! The show for the day was done by Terri Irwin, with Bindi in the audience. It was good to see the family are still so hands on with the zoo. The zoo mainly had Australian animals with a few Asian animals. As its privately owned it can write its own rules and its very much hands on - there were lots of handling and feeding sessions. We got to feed Asian elephants :) The other highlight was the tigers: 3 playful cubs being actively played with 3 staff on display in the enclosure - it looked like a great job.

Noosa

We then headed back to the coast and to Noosa. There's an area of low pressure off the coast for the last few days which has been providing high winds and a regular series of squally showers. On the news there was brief talk of the low pressure area turning into a cyclone...but instead its just hanging around for a few days. The consequence of this are dangerous seas all along the coast. Noosa is famous for its surfing but is notoriously dangerous given how the waves run along the coast even on a normal day but with a dangerous seas warning there were surfers EVERYWHERE! We spent a day there watching the surfers and exploring the rather nice Noosa National Park. The town itself was the epitomy of tourist town in high season. There were people everywhere. Cars everywhere. It was quite good fun after the quieter towns we'd been to.

Lady Elliot Island

Yesterday we went out to the reef and it was AWESOME!! Lady Eliott Island is a coral cay and pretty much the southern most part of the reef. Its quite a long way off shore and we got a flight out there for the day. The plane was an 8seater cessna and the flight was a little hairy given the windy conditions (but nowhere near as bad as we were expected; and a hell of a lot better than being on a boat). The runway on the island runs across the island at its widest point. Its a field with white markers and with birds nesting at either end. As the plane comes into land a few hundred birds take off in front of you. There were bird nests everywhere including on the floor - there were just chicks walking around the resort. My initial thought was about the smell of the bird poo!!

We were quickly kitted up with snorkel and mask and out on a glass bottom boat. They took you about 50m offshore to where the reef drops away to a depth of about 10-15m. Despite the recent turbulent weather the visibility was still really good - you could see the bottom clearly. There was a bit of a swell but it was OK. There was also another downpour of rain but once we were in the water we didn't mind. The coral wasn't as brilliant as I expected - apparently you only see the brightly coloured stuff if you dive. However there was a good variety of shapes and sizes. What was absolutely amazing was the abundance and the variety of fish. The national park uses the phrases "abundant and prolific" and I would say its actually true. It was like swimming in a tropical fish tank!! A lot of the fish are quite small but make up for it with their unnecessarily bright colourings. Unfortunately I don't know what we saw. Phil saw an eel; someone pointed out a manta ray to us; and we saw a 1.5m (guess) groper (big ugly fish). Just as we were getting into our flow we realised that everyone else was back on the boat - they clearly didn't like the swell so much.

After a buffet lunch we went out onto the lagoon. This was a more sheltered shallower part of coral straight off the beach. Much to our amazement the variety of fish just off the beach was just as impressive. We even saw a turtle. The water was only waist deep but you can't stand up due to the coral (if you tread on it you kill it AND you'll get a nasty infected cut) so we took floatation devices with us. The water was surprisingly warm (26 degrees apparently).

At 4pm we had to fly back. The clouds had lifted so we had great views over the island and coast line as we flew back down. Yep - it was still just as windy...it looks like the cold front is going to hang there for a while. We're now in Hervey Bay - commonly called Gods waiting room due to the number of people who retire here. We had booked onto a 3 day Fraser Island tour but it was cancelled due to the high seas. Fraser Island is just a massive sand dune and the only roads are the beaches. The main beach is the main road and is currently covered in massive waves; coupled with high tides (due to the moon being closer to the earth than normal). Hopefully our 2 day tour will go ahead tomorrow if not we're cutting our losses and leaving early.

Tags: Sightseeing

Comments

1

You should do Fraser Island - its fantastic!

  Melanie Shaw Jan 6, 2008 4:38 AM

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