After the Whitsundays epic we journeyed further down the coast to Hervey Bay, 'The Gateway to Fraser Island". Cos we're posh, we decided to hire a 4x4 of our own to get around the island on. It is the norm to join a group of 9-12 well meaning backpackers in a large wagon and bounce around for three days. We are too old/stubborn. So... we got the keys to what would be named "The White Buffalo" and took the beast to Woolworths to stock up on supplies. This didn't mean we bought a job lot of budget trainers and some penny sweets..Woolies is an actual supermarket in this country. We took the ferry across nice and early in order to make the most of our two day adventure.
Jim with Buff
The island is the largest sand island in the world and is the only one of it's kind to support such varied habitats. This includes dense rainforest, swamps, fresh water lakes and expansive beaches. The largest beach - '75 mile beach' is seventy five miles long! Either side of low tide it is used as the main highway for the island and also as an airstrip so it's best to keep an eye in the rearview for a landing plane - seriously.
Much fun was had driving along the beach and the soft sandy forest tracks visiting the lakes and lookouts. We spent the night parked up at the back of the beach. With a strong wind coming in off the sea and dark closing in we had a surprisingly succesful barbecue of kangaroo steaks and stir fried veg. Instead of putting up the tent in the gale, we decided to sleep in the back of the buffalo. Besides, Hannah was convinced that we would be mauled by dingoes despite not seeing one the entire time we were there! The only injury she did sustain was when the wind blew the essky (icebox) lid into her poor nose. Anyway... we loved it.
Han at Lake McKenzie
Our beach spot
Further down the coast, we spent two nights in Noosa, an upmarket surfer town. Here we saw retired bank managers cutting gracefully through the waves. An inspiring sight. It rained constantly for the time we were there, this however was not going to stop us from going Koala bear spotting! We spent four hours walking around the Noosa Head National Park with not a single sighting. Bless 'em.
Koala spotting...or not
Something we had been looking forward to doing was meeting up with some friends that we had met in Thailand. Giving them very short notice we turned up in Brisbane for a couple of days to catch up. We were treated to a guided tour of their fine city and entertained both nights! Thanks Emma and Darren ;-) Needless to say we really enjoyed Brizzy and would liked to have been able to stay longer. Alas we pressed on...
Byron Bay is a hippy stronghold from way back when hippies were real. It is also a fine place for surfing. So we decided to treat ourselves to a half day surf lesson. Again the weather had been unkind most of the time but the sun was shining on our wetsuited backs that day. Han was convinced that she would not be able to get the hang of it but after two waves had already stood up! Gnarly. Fortunately we have photos to prove that we performed heroically on waves of up to 500mm. A day was spent on the beach before heading off again for the bright lights of Sydney.
Whoa! Dude! The guy came off worst.
Another enriching overnight coach ride took us the remaining distance to Australias largest city. We had booked ahead for once and had managed to find a gem of a backpackers in the formerly infamous Kings Cross area. We'd scheduled a week to play with here and immediatly set about buying some warmer clothes and footwear. We realised that we may well have seen the last of the hot weather up there nearer the equator. Flip flops were no longer de riguer. Hannahs new Ugg boots have possibly been the best money we have spent as a couple as her mood is directly related to her level of warmth.
Two of the things we'd decided to do while in Sydney were a Blue Mountains trip (Jims idea) and a Hunter Valley wine tour (guess). Unfortunately the weather wasn't great for the Blue Mountains although what we did see through the fog was very impressive. The wine tour on the other hand was a roaring success! Our driver was very amusing and we got to taste and learn about a wide array of different wines. Tiring work as I'm sure you can imagine.
One of the essentials while in Sydney is to take the Manly Ferry from circular quay over to Manly beach. You get a spectacular view of the harbour as you float passed the opera house with the bridge (coathanger - as the aussies call it) in the background. Manly beach is one of the most famous in oz. Jim took the opportunity to have a second surf lesson. Hannah was charged with the task of capturing her man in action although it turned out that half the pictures were of the wrong bloke! That evening we booked our campervan for New Zealand and celebrated with fish n' chips.
Strong currents give rise to a large exhale.
More site seeing took us to the end of our Australian leg. A beautiful and expensive place which we enjoyed immensely...