When we’d got the van in Cairns there had only been a three seater available. So we gave Karin a lift down to Brisbane, stopping at Rainbow Beach and Tin Can Bay on the way where we watched some dolphins having breakfast at the beach. We spent one night in Brisbane in a dark back alley and caught up with the Belgians from Fraser Island before driving on to Byron Bay the next day. A relaxed little town with a nice atmosphere. We also visitied Nimbin, a town full of hippies and drug dealers. Quite a trip! We almost got totally lost on windy roads through dark forest. But we eventually managed to arrive at this quite different place …
The next day we dropped the car off in Brisbane and caught a plain to Sydney – or we rather tried I should say. First the inbound flight was late and then the whole airport ceased operation due to heavy thunderstorms – I wonder how they’d survive snow!
But we made it to Sydney in the end and met my friend Tom who let us stay at his place in Bondi Beach for a night. After that we moved to a hostel nearby where we lucky enough to find two beds – really every place is fully booked around this time of the year!
One day I went climbing in the blue Mountains, where I met up with a local for the day. And while Claudia stayed in Sydney I took a train down to Melbourne to prepare my journey back to Germany …
A very short night in Airlie Beach was followed by a very long drive to Turkey Beach near the Town of 1770 (named after the year James Cook set foot on land – how inventive!). On the way we actually had to stop at the side of the road for a bit because of heavy hail and rain.
Town of 1770 and Agnes Water are two little towns with a beach and a backpackers – that’s pretty much it. The waves are rather moderate and attract many first-time surfers. Claudia gave it a go, too, while I went for a swim and took some action shots. Between there and Hervey Bay lies Bundaberg, famous for rum. We tried to visit a turtle tour where you can watch turtles crawl up the beach, laying their eggs and then crawl back into the sea. But it would have taken too long so we drove on to Hervey Bay, departure point for our Fraser Island trip.
At 7am we had to attend the briefing and 30 people were split into three groups. We were in a group with Karin who we knew already from the Whitsundays and then there were the Belgian squad Jorn, Stijn, Peter and Mattias; Catherine from England and Eimear and Stephen from Ireland.
After a quick shopping tour the barge brought us to the worlds largest sand island! I made the start to drive along sandy tracks and through deep potholes, trying not to make the passangers sea sick. It rained most of the day but that didn’t really bother us too much when we stopped at Central Station for a short walk through the rainforest and Lake Wabby one of the many perched lakes of the island. When we hit the east coast we set up camp and had a big BBQ dinner. An amazing sunset welcomed us and promised better weather for the next day. Later that night a dingo had a closer look at the tents and caused a rush of people equipped with cameras running down to the beach, hoping to get a good shot of the wild dog. Not sure if anyone was actually successful…
I spent the night on the roof of our car and woke up with the rising sun at 4.30am (bloody Queensland doesn’t have daylight saving time!) but luckily managed to get some more sleep before breakfast at 7am. We had to start driving up 72 Mile Beach around 8 to catch the few hours before and after low tide. Just when we were about to leave, we were lucky to see another dingo walk right up to the cars and pose for some shots!
Driving on the beach was pretty cool! Some parts allowed to go 80kph whereas in others I had to slow down to get across little wash-outs and creeks. We stopped at Indian Head to walk up to the lookout and enjoy the view before chilling at Champagne Pools for quite a while.
On the way back we stopped at the Pinnacles and the Maheno wreck and put up camp near Ellis Creek.
On our last day on Fraser we headed inland again to Lake Mckenzie Amazing! Crystal-clear water, white sand … simply stunning! Probably my personal highlight of the trip although the whole island is just unbelievably awesome. And with ‘the best group ever’ it was probably one of ‘the best trips ever’!
Driving down the east coast to Townsville is not really the most exciting thing to do. Miles of sugar cane fields, some little towns not really worth stopping and the road doesn’t actually run along the coast but rather a few kilometres inland. The only exception is the turn-off to Mission Beach where you find golden sand and blue water. When we arrived in Townsville it was just about time to torture our van ‘Think about’ up the steep road to the top of Castle Hill from where you have a beautiful view across Townsville. After sunset and a huge dinner we went for a little walk through the centre and guess who was yelling down from a balcony: Adam, one of the guys from Newcastle we had met in Darwin. We joined him and his mates from Newcastle James and Steve to play some cards and went out to a pub to watch soccer and play some pool.
Not really willing nor able to drive back up Castle Hill we stayed in the car park in the middle of Townsville for the night and went for a swim in the Rockpool in the morning.
Further south lies the little town Bowen where they recently shot the movie ‘Australia’ and someone had recommended Rose Bay as a nice beach. In fact we would have loved to spend more time there than just two hours! It was really beautiful, a little beach surrounded by rocks. They even had chalk marks on them and I was very close to get my climbing shoes out … But also for people who are not such mad climbers it’s definitely worth a stop! We on the other hand had to catch our boat the next morning and therefore had to be in Airlie Beach the same night.
Airlie Beach is a bit like a small version of Cairns: Heaps of backpackers and tourists. But it offers one thing that Cairns doesn’t have: the Whitsunday Islands. 74 Islands, mostly uninhabited (there used to be Aboriginals but they all got killed. There’s actually some rock art on the islands which can’t be translated ‘cos there’s noone left of the tribes that used to live there. Another sad fact about such an amazing place!) and of course there is Whitehaven Beach, voted the world’s second-most beautiful beach.
Our boat was a catamaran called ‘Wings’ with focus on diving and snorkeling rather than partying all day and night. The crew consisted of Skipper Harry from NZ (love the accent!), Kat our hostess and the diving instructors Nic and Flo. The group of 25 was a colourful mixture of young and old, single and couple, and lots of different nationalities.
Weather conditions were perfect and while we shipped towards Hayman Island the crew gave us a short briefing of what we had to expect – basically an awesome trip.
At Blue Pearl Bay we stopped for a first snorkel and dive. Surprisingly I really enjoyed diving although the corals were way less amazing than up at Cape Trib.
We stayed in the bay for dinner and the night and when I woke up the next morning Harry was already racing to our morning destination Mantaray Bay where we went for another dive and spotted the local hero George the big Hump Headed Maori Wrasse. There’s actually a funny story about those fish, wanna hear it? Thought so but I’ll tell it anyway. So usually in one hunting area there is a group of them with the oldest and biggest being the alpha-male and the rest female. As soon as the old one dies the oldest female takes his place – and turns male! Clever decision I reckon. Anyway, the second dive was already much nicer so I decided to go for another one in the next bay. We dove through the tunnel of love and visited Nemo city (yes I found him!). On the way back to the boat (once again I was first to run out of oxygen so the dinghi picked me up) we spotted a turtle so I jumped back in and followed it for a while, snorkeling close behind it. An amazing animal!
Later on the same day we went on land to visit the famous Whitehaven Beach and it is in fact a really stunning view. We spent a couple of hours at a more secluded part of the beach, away from the masses. Later, back on board we had another great dinner before hitting the sack anchored in Cave Bay (Some keen German girls went for a night dive with Flo but that was licensed divers only).
7am the next day I was back under water again, the last dive and actually the best of all. Equipped with a bigger bottle for some extra air we drifted with the current past towers of corals and saw another turtle (the other group even saw a reef shark). A great finish for a great trip!
On the last few miles Harry set sails but we made about ten metres in 10 minutes due to the lack of wind. Nevertheless it was an awesome trip with a great crew on a nice boat.
We finished the night off with a dinner at Rumbar in Airlie Beach and a few drinks with Karin and Flo in one of the bars (do I have to mention that I bumped into someone I had met way earlier?).
Back in bed it still felt like the floor was shook by the waves …
After a couple of days at the beach it was time for another quite unique region: the Tablelands west of Cairns. That’s where the outback meets rainforest and creates a green, but still sparse landscape. The region is quite a bit higher above sea level so the nights are comfortably cool.
Granite Gorge, located on private land as it seems, offers a nice camp site and you can feed the little rock wallabies that live between the granite blocks which gave the gorge its name. You can also do a short walk past some interestingly shapes rocks to swimming holes but there wasn’t much water so it was not really inviting.
From Granite Gorge we followed the road south past Dinner Falls and The Crater, a lake deep below the lookout. The area is known for its waterfalls and near Millae Millae along the waterfall circuit you can actually visit four of them in beautiful countryside which almost resembles the alps. Near Lake Eacham a friendly farmer let us stay on one of his
paddocks, in the morning we had breakfast at the lake and a quick swim to wake up. After a coffe at the nearby Lake Barrina we drove along Danbulla road which basically runs around Lake Tinaroo and leads to a couple of beautiful camp sites at the lake (btw. although Lonely Planet says you need a 4WD it’s actually a very easy dirt road). On the way we came past some impressive fig trees (Cathedral and Curtain) and saw a Cassowary with its little chick crossing the road in front of us.
Looking for a place to sleep we decided to drive back towards Cairns. A place called Mission bay sounded interesting but when we actually arrived in Yurabarah it turned out to be an Aboriginal community! No white men there, people living in houses in the forest and at the beach, some burnt ruins and fires glowing in the forests … quite an experience and a bit too scary for some members of the party so instead of putting our tent up we headed back to Cairns and checked into the Northern Greenhouse (where Lee and Leigh had their water fight) and ran into a couple from the snorkeling trip. The world is so small and at the same time so big …
The next day we swapped the Hyundai for another Wicked van and booked our Whitsunday/Fraser Island package. When we finally left Cairns it was already late afternoon and drove only a short while to a place called Babinda. A guy we had met at Granite Gorge had told us about it and here we actually bumped into him again! What did I just say about the size of the world?
It’s actually a place similar to Mossman Gorge which offers five free camp sites, toilet facilities and a nice swim in the river | See the pictures
After two days in Cairns we decided to rent another car to leave the city life behind and explore the area around Cairns. Unfortunately no camper van whatsoever was available so we had to give the tent a try and hired a little Hyundai Getz.
On Friday 7th November we headed north towards famous Cape Tribulation. Hadn’t really slept the night before cos I went out with Lee and Leigh and the two Dutch girls Soe-tjoe and Sharon to wander along the Esplanade at night, trying to spot crocodiles that had been sighted right at the beach. Eventually ended up killing Leigh’s mobile phone with a very accurate throw of some sort of nut (I’m rally sorry, I only wanted to hurt you like you hurt me, not brake your phone!) and having water fights at Lee’s room until the early morning. So I was back in my bed at about 7am, just before wake-up time basically.
Before leaving Cairns I also had to sort out my visa which took ages due to a computer brakedown in the office. Eventually I got the extension as a visitor until end of January and we finally hit the road north.
First stop was Mossman Gorge, a beautiful river with crystal clear, cold water which flows between round granite boulders through rainforest. We arrived quite late so the swim had to wait till the next morning. We pulled into a little road leading through sugar cane fields and put the tent up, fighting off millions of mozzies. It was so hot! Hardly any ventilation inside the tent but opening the door would mean exposing ourselves to hungry mozzies – we’d rather sweat until we fell asleep.
After the really refreshing swim the next morning we drove on to the Daintree river ferry to cross the saltwater croc infested Daintree river. Since we hadn’t seen any crocs in Kakadu NP we decided to take a tour with the rivertrain but we only spotted three small salties, all hidden under water. Wrong time of the year, apparently in winter they all come out of the water cos they need the sun to keep their body temperature near 28 degrees but now with the warm water they rather stay in the river.
For the night we decided to camp at Koala Resort at Cape Kimberley, a nice camp site close to the beach (again no swimming unfortunately due to the bloody stingers). We even saw a goanna the next day which decided to drink the water from the pool.
North of Cape Kimberley there are some really nice beaches such as Cow Bay and Thompsons Beach wherew e spent some time relaxing and drinking iced coffee.
The next two nights we stayed at PK’s djungle camp and did a day trip on the catamaran ‘Rumrunner’ to snorkel at Endine and Mackay reef. The latter was just awesome – shallow water and hundreds of different corals only an armlength below, many different colors (what size you want? same same! hehe). It almost looked like flying above a flower garden. And although the weather turned really bad it was a great day and worth every single dollar.
At PK’s we also ran into Lee and Leigh again – their coach had crashed into a motor cyclist (we actually had come across the accident on the way up!) and they had to wait for a replacement bus to bring them back to Cains.
Before returning south we drove along Bloomfield track (a 4WD track that leads all the way up north to Cape York) as far as Emmerson Creek which is only passable with a 4WD and went for a swim in the creek.
Cape Tribulation is definitely a very special experience, rainforest meets the sea, one world heritage (the Daintree forest) meets another (the Great Barrier Reef). The beaches are white and almost empty and apparently the reefs are in a much better condition than a few kilometres down near Cairns | See the pictures
New pics of the Whitsundays, Cairns and surroundings and Fraser Island | See the pictures
Hey there, in Cairns now. Arrived two days ago and booked into an 8 bed dorm with 4 girls from Niederoesterreich and Zuerich who speak English with each other ALL THE TIME! But well, they’re young … and then there’s this slightly smelly guy sawing trees at night, I think he must have cut half of the rainforest already! Still haven’t really found out who’s in the last bed, a girl is all I can tell. Have only seen her sleeping.
The hostel itself, Gilligan’s is rather a resort than a backpackers with huge pool, hundreds of nice rooms (with their own shower/toilet), a beauty salon downstairs, in-house club (with interesting body-paint competitions) but the kitchens are really poor. Stoves don’t work properly, no cutlery nor pans and pots, and people pinched half our food last night.
Having a good time anyway, went out pretty much each night, sitting downstairs listening to live guitar music and chatting to other people. Everybody here seems really young though …
Cairns itself is somehow not quite as nice as Darwin, not sure why, maybe cos there are too many backpackers, that’s basically all you see. Gonna explore the lagune (a nice pool directly by the sea) today and also check with the Dep. of Immigration to sort out my visa.
Really looking forward to get out of here – tomorrow we’ll pick up a car, quite a downgrade actually. Neither Jucy nor Wicked had any Campers available before the end of next week – too long for us to wait! So we decided to get a little Thrifty instead, got a tent anyway so we’ll get to use it finally!
Heading up north tomorrow, Cape Tribulation and then back down to the Athertons Tablelands which is basically the hinterland of Cairns and has lots of lakes and waterfalls. Then further down the east coast and by the end of the month we should arrive in Brisbane. I’ll keep you posted!
Some more pics from the third part of the trip, Darwin and the Top End. Looks like uploading just finished so go ahead and enjoy!
Or read on … sitting in the Youth Shack here in Darwin, trying to recover from a rather big night out at Discovery Club, definitely worth to go there, even on a Sunday night there was party till 4am and we met many people we had seen before such as the chaos crew from England with those I-want-them-too-accents. I love it how you can say fuck and it still sounds posh … would love to hear the Queen swear one day.
Had also a few drinks with some guys and girls from France, Grenoble actually, last night. Had met them earlier already a couple of times during the trip through Kakadu and Litchfield (basically wherever we stopped, they seemed to be, too) but never really talked to them. But they went on to Thailand today so it was their last night in Australia! We celebrated a lot, having Chartreuse shots and rum cokes … my
gorge throat is still sore thinking back … uaah! But it was great fun and only knowing them for this one night really was great! Who knows, might see them at some point in France …
Tonight we’ll probably head out for dinner somewhere with David, could join the Brits at the Casino. And then it’s another good-bye for us, off to Cairns tomorrow early morning! Has been a great time in the Northern Territory, met lots of good people and did cool stuff. Now the east coast is waiting | See the pictures
The last day
The last day began already at 4am. We had to be early to avoid the heat at Kings Canyon where we did another walk. The first bit is named Heart Attack Hill Climb and although it’s not really a climb but rather steep stairs I can see why you don’t want to be there in the hot sun during the day. Mind you, even when we started the walk it was already pretty damn hot!
The walk was nice and offered some spectacular views across the canyon. As always Kev explained at various stages historical and geographical facts about the area.
The Garden of Eden offered some shelter from the sun and a water hole as well as a balcony like outlook.
When we were back at the car it was only 10am but incredibly hot in the sun. So the pool at the Kings Canyon Resort was a welcome playground for a while. After a swim and lunch (once again toasted sandwiches) we started the long drive to Alice Springs where the tour would end with a dinner and some drinks at the pub. One last attraction on the way was Jim’s place where Dinky the worlds only singing dingo was loitering in the shade and it took quite some effort to get him to sing. Here a demonstration what he is capable of when not so tired. It was fun to watch him anyway.
Final stop of the tour was Alice Springs, an old telegraph station now developed to a city. Everybody went off to their accommodations and a bit later we all met again for the last supper at Bojangles where you’re dining right next to two pythons (of which I got to hold one at some point). Back at the hostel we sat together till late, laughing and chatting and trying not to think about saying good-bye …
It was an awesome tour, made possible by a group of nice, funny and keen people from all over the world (Ireland, England, France, Korea, China, Italy, Netherlands, New Caledonia and Germany) and a great guide who deserves a big thanks!! I can only recommend this tour to anyone wanting to experience the outback in a fun but also informative way. Thanks also to all of you who were there as well, it was great meeting you and spending time with you!
See ya in another part of the world maybe …
Thanks to a better time managment we actually managed to reach the lookout in time! The sun rose next to Uluru, shining onto the very close Kata Tjuta. Another amazing spectacle not to be missed!
Still early in the day we started a walk through the mounds of Kata Tjuta itself. Three hours and even at 10 in the morning the sun was burning down like you wouldn’t believe! That’s why the walk is actually closed after 11am. Back at the resort we had an early lunch (awesome taccos!) and had a water war with Kev. We also grabbed some fire wood for the night and started the long trip to Kings Creek cattle station where we would stay for the night.
On the way we stopped at a red sand dune from where we could see the salt Lake Amadeus and Ulurus ugly twin brother Mt Connor which looks quite similar but is 4m smaller and not nearly as famous.
The rest of the day we pretty much spent in the bus driving along the MacDonnell Ranges which stretch all the way up to Alice Springs and form an impassable barrier. We arrived at Kings Creek cattle station and David prepared some spaghetti (he is Italian) on his birthday (yum!) and I wandered around the bush trying to get some good shots of the sunset.