26th Jul 2012 - 31st Jul 2012
G'Day From The Great Barrier Reef!
It really did feel like Australia was on the other side of the world after 32 hours travelling and we were really glad to put our feet firmly on Aussie soil. We had left our hotel in Bali at 4.15am after being woken up at 2.30am by a loud group of drunken travelers. So we started the mammoth trip with less than 3 hours sleep under our belts! The first flight was a couple of hours to Singapore where we had 9 hours to kill until out night flight to Brisbane. We desperately needed a new camera as the old one had given up, so we put our bags in ‘left luggage’ and ventured out into the humidity in search of a good deal. After some deliberation we decided to buy the same again and got a pretty good deal and 7% tax back too. There was more time to kill after our shopping trip but we were both exhausted so decided to hang out in the airport. In our humble opinion, Singapore airport is the best airport in the world and we could spend a week there! There is so much to do, free cinema, free internet terminals, visit the butterfly garden, go on a free tour of Singapore etc etc, but all these great goodies are only available to you after you have checked into your flight or if you are in transit, which we weren’t! So we had to put up with chilling out in McDonalds until we could check in for our night flight and go through to the promised land beyond the security check!
Travelling has changed me in a small but interesting way … I normally like to be early for everything and panic if I am not, but after god knows how many flights I have turned a corner and now don’t get up to go through the gate until everybody else has. My change of heart about this is thanks to an American guy we were chatting to at the airport in Vietnam while we were waiting for our gate to open. He said ‘I never get up and queue with everyone else because what is the point? You queue here and then you queue all the way down the aisle of the plane while everyone puts their bags up in the lockers. If you wait til the end you can avoid most of the queues and get to your seat easier’ It just clicked with me and finally I have stopped stressing about the plane going without me! Now we wait til almost last (which Andy is thrilled about!) But the point of these ramblings is that we rushed through the gate nearly last to get on the plane and then came a bunch of ‘too cool for schools’ rock dudes behind us. Instantly I thought they were either a band, or due to the ridiculous amount of hair (facial and cranial) a couple of them had, and how skinny their jeans were, they were hostages who had just been released. But after they all assembled it was obvious these dudes were in a band. We followed them out to the plane trying to make guesses about who they were and watched a couple disappear into business class (the management we reckon!). Andy was very Inspector Morse like and took note of the names of a couple of them from their hand luggage tags. Ingenious! Turns out they are a pretty well known Swedish band called Miike Snow. This summer they will be at Reading Festival and they are currently on a world tour. Very rock and roll eh! The rest of the flight wasn’t as fun as band spotting unfortunately as the turbulence was bad from the beginning and we spent most of the flight belted up. Andy tried to distract himself with music and we both managed to get bits of uncomfortable sleep but not much!
The plane landed in Brisbane at 6.55am and we prepared to face the dreaded Australian customs officials! Dum dum dummmm … (FYI-that was a scary drum roll) Thanks to the internet forums we had read, and stupid TV programs like Border Patrol, we were a little nervous. We had prepared our bags well and chucked any major contraband away… my new shell collection had to go, boo! And we brought a nail brush to scrub Andy’s trainers with, but we still had a few things to worry about. My passport was water damaged from Cambodia and there was a mark on my photo, Andy had to declare his medication and I was trying to get into the country with a small Tupperware filled with stolen salt, pepper and sugar sachets from McDonalds in KL. I know these are not exactly essential items but I was damned if I was going to give them up without a fight! They might save us a couple of dollars in Oz. So with our filled out customs cards we joined the queue to get in. We got in no problem and got our Oz stamp ok but next came customs. The operation is so slick … we give our cards into a lady who circled them and marked bits we’d ticked and then points us to the side where we got asked a few questions. She said to Andy ‘So Andrew, question one are you bringing in any weapons, explosives, firearms, pornography or medication today’ His face was a picture as he made sure to answer correctly! We wondered if any young backpackers ever get caught with their favourite old Playboy tucked in their rucksack?
Then because of my salt and peppers we have to join another queue for the sniff test and stand on a yellow line while the sniffer dog comes along and checks you haven’t got anything else you shouldn’t have. As it came past us it stuck its head in the bag with our new camera and was very interested in the contents! The handler tried to hurry the dog up and we nervously laughed along, ‘ha ha he likes that bag’ but the laughing stopped when he only bloody went and sat down next to our bag!!! OMG …. I was thinking ‘get up you stupid dog, get up!’ Everyone was looking over and the dog handler had to inspect the bag. Both of us were feeling the heat then! The customs man asked if we had put any fruit or food in that bag, which we didn’t, a mystery! But it was finally solved before the strip search by Andy who remembered that we had put some Subway sandwiches in that bag earlier in the day and we breathed a sigh of relief when we were waved on! Phew, that was a call to the British consulate avoided!
Anyway after over 1000 words of this blog, we were finally in OZ! First impressions, it’s absolutely freezing here and everything is crazy expensive. It’s not like we weren’t expecting both of those things but it’s like anything, it doesn’t matter how prepared you are, when you see a small bottle of coke on sale for $4.00 (about £2.75), after paying about 50p or less for months, you are going to get a shock!
First stop Cairns and after some deliberation, and hostels in Port Douglas being booked up, we decided to settle into Australia gently and spend 5 days in this great northern town on the east coast. This is a long time for us to spend in one place but after SE Asia and our mammoth journey we were both pretty tired and needed a bit of a rest. Cairns was a great place to start our trip, it has a beautiful boardwalk along the front and a pretty lagoon and night market. We got to grips with self catering too, buying a cool bag and finding a huge cheap fruit and veg market in the centre of town. Sadly we had to do some clothes shopping too as the weather was chilly in the evenings and is definitely going to get colder the further south we go. Now we are armed with a couple of big jumpers and I have a pair of jeans too, bring on the cold!
Cairns is also the gateway to the northern rainforests and beaches although we didn’t get very far off the beaten track we did manage to catch public buses and spend days in Palm Beach and Karunda to see some of the sights and tick off some of our must do’s in Australia! In Karunda we went for a few walks in the rainforest and saw wild bush turkeys. We also went to visit a Koala Sanctuary and got to have some up close and personal experiences with the animals, hugging a koala and feeding the kangeroos and wallabys! The koala was quite heavy and its coat felt exactly like a teddy bear.
Our last day in Cairns was spent on the Great Barrier Reef. We had booked a package called the East Coast Lite with Greyhound which included all our bus travel (hop on hop off) and 4 trips. A day out on the Barrier Reef, 3 days 2 nights in the Whitsundays, 3 days 2 nights on Fraser Island and a day kayaking with dolphins in Byron Bay. This saved us time and hassle deciding which trips to do and at least we had the big trips booked in already. So, we went out for the day on the Barrier Reef and despite the weather, it was very chilly, and the choppy sea on the way back, we had a fantastic day! We had two snorkeling spots to explore and a fantastic BBQ lunch cooked on the boat while we were out at sea. But the main reason to be there was to see the reef, the mornings snorkeling session was ok but the afternoons was brilliant! One of the staff on the boat was taking people out on guided snorkels and he offered to take us on our own. With his guidance we explored the beautiful coral reef and got to see giant 150 year old clams and even touch sea cucumbers. He dived down twice and brought back some interesting slimy creatures for us to hold! Then he did a funny hand movement on his head and I thought ‘that looks like the signal for shark but it can’t be’ oh yes it was! It was only a small white tipped reef shark but we could see it swimming below us. Andy had good luck spotting stuff too and a few minutes later he saw another bigger reef shark which we watched swimming around the coral wall, amazing! There were so many beautiful fish including a family of clown fish and some gorgeous coloured coral. The day was great and I say this even though I spent the return journey throwing up into a sick bag at the back of the boat!
So after a few great days in Cairns we were preparing to move on to Mission Beach. Unfortunately due to the change in temperature or using communal cups I had caught a nasty cold. Great! So on the morning of our move I woke up feeling like hell and looking pretty rough too! As well as a swollen throat I had a crazy rash all over my face and forearms and felt very peaky! Thinking I had got some tropical illness we just wanted to get on the bus and to a new hostel where I could curl up in bed and get on the mend. In the rush to leave we forgot the collect our 20 dollar key deposit and later that day had to arrange to get the money credited onto an internet card we had instead. It turns out that I didn’t have the lurgy or a killer Australian disease after all, but a normal cold and an allergic reaction to sea cucumbers! The rash was on my forearms where I had held the cucumber and on my face where I had moved the snorkel mask and wiped my eyes. It went away after a day and I was just left drinking lemsips to sooth my throat. It’s not every day you discover you are allergic to sea cucumbers and I will be declaring that on every medical form I fill in from now on!
Next stop Mission Beach and a bit more sunshine.
|2204 Words | This page has been read 37 times||View Printable Version|