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Australia Day Stupor

January 31st, 2009 | Posted by Davey in 11-Australia - (3 Comments)

Somewhat worthy of a post.  What started as a quiet evening with a few glasses of wine turned out to be a drunken stupor, on my part only (no surprise there).

We pulled into Alva beach in Ayr early in the day and stayed for a few hours. Once the mozzies became unbearable we moved to the lookout point higher inland.  We were prepared for an early night when Freddy, an American speaking German, whom we met a few days previous in Cape Tribulation came to the lookout.  Of course we were as surprised to see him as he was us, so we poured a few glasses of wine while discussing our adventures thus far.  He was diving the following morning so it was a rather quiet one for him, but that didn’t stop us.

Just as we were ready to pack up for the night a few locals pulled up on some quad bikes and asked if we wanted to join them at a nearby Australia Day party – of course – why not!  On we hopped and off to the party already rather merry.  Well, it was nothing but pure lunacy, the drinking games were almost unbearable…but of course I lapped it up.  Not drinking games with beer, but wine, was a recipe for disaster.  I spent most of the night in the pool slaughtering goon bags of cheap plonk! 

A few hours later it was back on the bikes for another session on the beach!  Arm wrestling, sand surfing, body surfing and bombing in croc infested waters ensued. The burn marks on my body are a testament to my newly acquired skills. I was informed by Sam the next morning that it was the best party she had been to, ever!  All I can remember is waking up with the worst hangover in years. Yet another lesson learnt, don’t take on the Aussies in a  drinking session.

It was great to celebrate Australia Day in true aussie style!  Thankfully, we only have photos of the beach party, having picked up our camera en route.

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Up close & personal

January 30th, 2009 | Posted by Davey in 11-Australia - (5 Comments)

On route to Ayr, past Townsville and down the east coast, we happened upon Billabong Sanctuary, boasting 25 acres of rain forest, eucalypt forest and wetlands and an unforgettable hands-on adventure with the Australian native animals.

Having drove a couple a thousand of kilometres through the forest wetland and the outback and not seen that much wildlife, which we know exists, we thought this sanctuary would be a great opportunity to get up close and personal with the animals.

Up to this point we had only seen one kangaroo running in the wild, a few dingos, millions of wild cockatoos and other weird colourful parrots and a few wombats. I think we just expected The Great Tropical Drive to be one big long nature safari which was not the case.  But now we know that most animals don’t come out until dark as it too hot during the day and you don’t want to be driving in the outback at night.

Billabong was everything we expected and more and Sam got to touch a Koala which just made her day. Wombats, Koalas, Crocs, Pythons, Cassowarys and much much more. The croc feeding (fresh and saltwater) was the highlight for me. Those predators are so fast it’s beyond belief once they get a sniff of meat. They even chased the rangers out of the cage at one point. See how high they jump in the pictures, in less than half a second – damn scary!

A great all round experience and we seen and learnt so much about Australian wildlife and their habits. And what made it for us was how the animals were treated, they had acres of room and all looked well feed and comfortable within their environment – well done Billabong!

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The Great Tropical Drive

January 29th, 2009 | Posted by Davey in 11-Australia - (3 Comments)

Following on from our spin to Cape Tribulation, and still part of The Great Tropical Drive, we headed inland and south through Marabee, Atherton, Ravenshoe and down to Charters Towers before ending in Townsville.  We felt we would have enough of the coast from Townsville onwards so wanted to experience the outback on our own rather than on a tour like the one to Alice Springs.

Not as spectacular as we were expecting and it took us five days to complete, averaging around 300km per day. Mostly a desert road with nothing other than termite mounds, cattle, road trains and squashed kangaroos.  Our funniest and most memorable experience was Charters Towers, a small outback town.  Each year 200 cricket teams descend on Australia weekend for the Chartered Towers Ashes – one monolithic drinking session!  The locals and visitors can only be described as cowboy dressed hillbillies.  We pulled up at a bar a for a quick scooner before camping and had to dodge the flying bar stools, beer bottles and everything else not nailed to the floor – we didn’t stay long!  Once parked up for the night we tried another bar but it was a similar situation.  We got chatting to a few locals and all they wanted to talk about was fighting and riding women – again, we didn’t stay long.

On one particular night we pulled into a campsite by Lake Tinaroo and met a large extended family who took camping to a whole new level.  They spent their time water skiing, tubing and fishing.  All their food was cooked on an open fire.  We had great pleasure in chatting to them and learning new camping skills. 

Below are a few pics our journey in no particular order.  Sadly, we didn’t get any pics of Charters Towers, too afraid to get the camera out!

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Far North Queensland’s Wet Tropics has amazing pockets of biodiversity.  The Wet Tropics World Heritage Area stretches from Townsville to Cooktown and covers 894,420 hectares of coastal zones and hinterland, diverse swamp and mangrove-forest habitats, euclaypt woodlands and tropical rainforest.  It covers only 0.01% of Australia’s surface area, but has:

  • 36% of all mammal species
  • 50% of the bird species
  • around 60% of the butterfly species
  • 65% of the fern species

This amazing bush tucker trip, where the tropics meets the reef, took us from Cairns to Port Douglas, up to Cape Tribulation and down and around the tablelands. It was effortless touring in our modern and fuel efficient camper, which Sam has duly named Larry – Lili’s boyfriend!

We did plan on heading right up to Cooktown, but having already crossed several overflowing creeks, we came to a halt at Emmagen Creek and turned back. It was impassable without a 4×4 and we didn’t want to forfeit our $2,000 damage deposit.

We spent most of our time wild camping (no campsite) and without the need for a electric hookup.  We had been told by many that this wasn’t possible; either the locals or police would move us on.  Quite the opposite, we met and shared a few glasses of wine with some fantastic locals who were more than helpful in finding us a nice sheltered area where we could park up for free.

We seen some weird and wonderful animals, insects and plant life along the way – too many to mention.  If we said we were not nervous of the prospect of meeting a croc we’d be lying.  Almost everywhere warned of the dangers of this fierce predator and you could tell the environment, especially the swamps, was prime breeding ground.  We did swim in a river where two locals assured us the water was too cold for crocs – we have learned since that that was a load of balony – lucky escape I say.

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This creek we did cross.

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This creek we didn’t!

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Larger than the Great Wall of China and the only living thing visible from space, the Great Barrier Reef is one of the seven wonders of the natural world.  The spectacular kaleidoscope of colour stretched along the Queensland seaboard from south of the Capricorn to Torres Strait south of New Guinea.  A BBC TV programme rated it second only to the Grand Canyon on a list of 50 places to see before you die (Lonely Planet).

We (more like I) could hardly sleep with the excitement of diving this spectacular wonder.  A 60km ride off the coast of Cairns meant we had to be up and on the boat rather early. It took over 2hrs to get to get to our first drop off.  Sam signed up for the guided tour as she hadn’t dived since November and felt more comfortable with an instructor.  I took an unguided tour and buddied up with Berry, the guy for the Netherlands.

To be brutality honest it was great but not absolutely spectacular which we were expecting.  The time of year, weather conditions and visibility were not in our favour.  Once in, Berry and I headed straight for the 80m coral wall, passing some nice shallow corals along the way, but once there we were a little disappointed.  Although there was a great diversity of corals we were expecting them to be more colourful and surrounded by many more fish.  That said, we got to swim with turtles and a few white-tip reef sharks which was a first and damn amazing – we soon gulped our air as we chased them around. Sam unfortunately seen neither.

If we get the chance we will try another dive somewhere along the coast.  The photos are a little disappointing and come nowhere near those taken in Indonesia.

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