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AUSTRALIA | Monday, 30 June 2008 | Views [607]

After getting back from Tassie I wanted to see the East and West coast since I had already seen the Red Centre and Northern Territory I wanted to spend enough time on each coast to do it justice.

so, first stop Queensland and Surfers Paradise. I figured it was like Bondi, you can't go to Qld without going to Surfers. Although I'm not much of a beach bum, its not like we get the practice back home I thought it would be a literal walk around, seen it, done it, move on exercise, but it turned out to be one of the highlights.

The beach area is ok, full of tourists and backpackers as you would expect. So I got there 3ish after negotiating roadworks and spotting a Hooters which I didn't think branched out of the US. Anyway it was sunny and mid twenties which was nich and a change from the Tassie and Melbourne weather I had been getting (not forgetting this is mid winter).

So I wandered around and met up with some people in the mall area and hung out in the bar for the night. It has quite a night life since there are plenty of people to entertain.

The following day I went on another Whale watching tour as it weas my goal to go to see as many as possible. This was the best one of my trip (I had booked 5 on the entire trip and only went on 3 due to weather).

I was pleased with the couple that i had seen in Sydney. This time we must have seen well over 20 whales and a pod of around 9 which is aparently unusual. The main thing was they were very playfull slapping their fins against the water and lots of tail dives and breaches where they come out of the water. I missed a great photo where one breached right by the boat where half its body was out of the water, but got plenty of other shots and just seeing these massive mammels playing around is truley amazing.

After the tour I drove to Hervey Bay. This is genrally the best place to see whales as they stop here for a rest, but I was a little early hence doing it on the Gold Coast. Hervey Bay is a coastal town but beter known as the gateway to Fraser Island which is the longest sand island in the world, and the largest island off the Australian East Cost.

Since the terrane is sand you can only take 4 wheel drive vehicles on the island so i decided to go on a day tour. It was pretty good but you really need at least 2 days as it takes ages to get around. We went through rainforrest on the way to our lunch destination and that was supposed to be the highlight of the morning drive. The afternoon was much better. We drove to the other side of the island with the beach being both the highway and the runway for planes. We headed to a rock formation called tha Cathedral which seems to be very popular with rock formations, turmite mounds and caves. At this point some of us took a flight, since we had only seen a small fraction i thought it was well worth the $70 for a flight to see the bits i would otherwise miss. It was worth it and we saw a couple of lakes that looked and named angel wings lakes which you could only see the shape from the air.

After the flight we landed on the beach next to an old wreck that had been beached for many years and left to decintergrate (and for tourist reasons). There are many wrecks around the island but it was something I'd never seen in situe like that and it made a good photo op. No one died, it was and old luxury liner that had been purchased and towed to China, it got detached in a storm and ran aground on the island and left since it was not worth anything to recover it. Can't remember the name of it but I'll look up the detail when i get home.

From the beach we headed towards the ferry via a lake where aparently turtles live, no one saw any or Dingos which are supposably rife on the island.

After a couple of nights in ther bay I headed to Rockhampton which stands on the Tropic Of Capricorn. Rockhampton isn't too exciting and was merely a rest stop for me, but the following morning I went to the Capricorn Caves just north of the city. We had a guided tour through the caves and there was a group of students from America on some kind of peace mission. It was a project set up by Eisenhour to let students see the world and promote peace (or so we were told), it was essentailly a school trip and I wasn't the only other member of the group thinking maybe Bagdad would be a better place to start than Australia who like the British would invade the moon if the yanks asked us to.

It made for an entertaining morning since it was the 4th of July there was a presentation of a stars and stripes cake in celebration of independence day and they were all forced to sing the national anthem, which i guess is second nature to them after singing it every day before a sports game.

After the singing and cake cutting the final part of the tour was to negotiate 50 meters or so of tunnels to the exit with just a candle for light, they were quite narrow and it made the tour unique to others since i had not done that before or since.

After the cave tour i was on the road again heading into the sun getting drivers sunburn on one side on my way to the Whitsundays. I stayed on the mainlaind at Airlie Beach since it was cheaper and just as easy to get to the islands on the ferry. Like Surfers its a backpackers haven and there are plenty of young travelers around. I guess the more mature people with more money stay on Hamilton or long island, but they are more expensive and people told me they were nothing special.

My full day at the Whitsundays was a day trip to the Great Barrier  Reef. I went on a day trip where you get shipped to a platform on the reef with snorkelling, diving, underwater observator and underwater submarine all available.

I went on the sub which was a little dissapointing, but i signed up for a scuba dive which i was a bit dubious about doing but it was limited spaces and first come first serve, so i signed up. before leaving i was going to complete a PADI and therefore qualify to dive within limits on my own. But i thought this would be a good taster to see if i liked it.

After about 10 minutes of saftey briefing we were away. We had to follow a system of ropes which was handy as the current had picked up and i was hanging on for dear life at some points. It was a great experiance and we got to see the fish, coral close up and got to hold clams and other life from the ocean floor. We were only 8 meters deep so nothing special in terms of diving, but remembering just to breath through your mouth and trying to get the water out of my mask was ocupying my time as much as admiring the reef. I guess with more experience it would be more pleasurable, i was really glad i did it and its the only way to see the reef but it didn't make me want to take up scuba diving.

I left Airlie Beach the following day not before picking up a speeding ticket, grrrr. Townsville was the next stop. This is a town like Rockhampton not too much going on as some of the other places but enough to pass the time. Overlooking the town is a huge cliff which you can drive up and has lots of lookouts giving views of Townsville and it surrounding areas. After a quite trip around the top of the cliff I went to the Auarium which has recreated a slice of the barrier reef, obviously the reef is the main attraction all the way up the east coast and the inclination for each town is to do trips to their part of the reef.

After paying my fine, i headed to my final destination on the East side, Cairns.

I had a couple of full days to explore the part of the state where most people probably go to visist the reef from (that's my personal interpretation, not backed by facts or figures). My first day I had booked a crocodile farm tour and a boat ride along the river. The Croc farm is a no frills working farm. Other farms in the areas attract tourists by holding shows or cruise along a river and make a croc jump out of the water for a chicken on a stick. This was litterally an insight on how a croc farm operates with different sized animals from those recently born to those about to be made into a nice handbag. Its nice to be entertained sometimes but this place gave us an insight into what really happens at those other places beyond the chicken on a stick.

The boat cruise was a little lame, I was hoping to see crocs although I thought it would be unlikely but i did expect more birds and there were about 3 and they were just turns. There weather didn't help though as it was a bit grey and drizzley. I was a change from the mid 20 temperatures I had experienced all the way from Coolangatta.

I also wanted go on a scenic flight over the reef, then i would have seen it from above and below the water. Since the weather was crappy i decided to book it for the following day and spend the afternoon in Port Douglas since I had been told it was nicer than Cairns. I thought it was a bit like Noosa, just an up market resort area. So quickly skipping around town i went further north to the Daintree on the Captain Cook highway. I got there quite late and there wasn't too much I could do apart from drive around a litte and see some sights. There were croc tours, but they were sold out and was told the trip before only saw one croc, so i wasn't too dissapointed.

The next day was an hour long flight around the area to see the reef from above and also turtles and manta ray and any other living thing that might be in the vacinity. The different colours of the reef were great to see it really was the right choice rather than to dive again which was my original although i could not as i was flying the following day and your not supposed to dive and then fly within at least 24hours or something.

The nature aspect of the flight was underwhelming where the pilot would just shout ray, ray, turtle every so often we were that high up you could make out the shapes but nothing where i would gloat about that i had seen turtles on the GBR.

The next day was a 5am start for 15hours journey from Cairnes to Broome.

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