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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Road triping in Australia

Road Triping in Australia

Our plan was to drive along the Australian East Coast for around two weeks. We rented a campervan from Hippie Camper, which had these annoying flowers all around but inside it had everything we needed to survive on the road: sleeping bags, sheets, small cook, and most important, a fridge. For two weeks we slept whether in camping sites, by the beach, in natural parks or even in the city center of Brisbane. I prepared most of my meals in the van. Ate a lot of tunna and egg sandwiches, loads of fruit. It was quite handy to have the campervan, but spending 24h a day in the same place can become pretty exhausting!

The route

You can find it at the map on top of this page. Shortly it was as it follows:
Sydney - Blue Mountains - Hunter Valley - Pacific Palms - Port Macquarie Nambucca Heads - Coffs Harbour - Lennox Head - Byron Bay - Surfers Paradise - Brisbane - Glass House mountains - Noosa Heads - Hervey Bay - Fraser Island - Mon Repos National Park - Eungella National Park - Cape Hillsborough National Park - Airlie Beach - The Whitsunday Islands - Wallaman Falls - Mission Beach - Cairns

The highlights of the road trip

Jenolan Caves, in the Blue Mountains - this is a complex system of caves located several hundred meters above sea level. We only had time to go to one of the caves (only guided tours allowed and they're spread out during the day). Nonetheless, the Imperial Cave offered us some beautiful structures, that acquired beautiful colours with light. In the end we went down to the subterranean river. The water was so clear that it just felt like jumping in. It was well worth the $25.

Tyrrel's Winery - located in the more and more renowned Hunter Valley wine region this was a great stop. We arrived early in the day when there was hardly anyone around and just ended up staying longer than we expected. Our host was really nice, specially when he noticed that we were there really to taste the wines and not only to drink and go, like most people. We tasted about 5-6 red wines, 2-3 white wines, and a liquor wine (cheap imitation of Port Wine...). We had a great time with our host, he showed us around the production line (in the end we still took the guided tour) and discussed energetically the big issue in the wine industry right now: cork or screw cap. I can strongly recommend some of Tyrrel's red wines. I'm not a big fan of white wine and the ones I tried were not that good. And the best of all: wine tasting is free all around the Hunter Valley wineries.

Pacific Palms beach by sun rise - it was deserted. Just two people walking a dog far away and me. My first contact with the Pacific Ocean. A beautiful dunnar landscape that reminded me a lot of the great beaches back where I grew up in Portugal.

Nambucca Heads - beautiful place to spend the night with the ocean at our feet. It was great.

Byron Bay - I would have liked to have spent more time here but it was not possible. It's quite a poshy place, but there's a huge mixture of surfers, hippies and regular tourists. I don't know in which group we fit in... But i'm sure it's a great party place and great for surfing as well.

Noosa - beautiful, easy going place. I took a surf lesson here. It went ok... The natural park just outside the city has a few easy tracks that take you around different types of vegetation. We saw a kuala here, right in the parking lot. The only negative thing about Noosa was the lack of night activities.

Fraser Island - I decided to spend two days at the island. I walked between 80-90 kms in those two days. It was extenuating but it was worth the effort. I saw a dingo, almost stepped on a 1,5 m snake, saw beautiful birds, heard the sounds of the forest, dived in the amazing lake Mckenzie and... Got lost! In the first day, I took a wrong turn in the last lake of my circuit and ended up some kms north from where I should. This made me kind of freack out for a while because it was getting dark, I was low on water, I had just seen a dingo and my legs couldn't move much more! I finally reached the place where I stayed (Dillie Village) at 7.30 pm, and just collapsed in my bed.

Eungella National Park - get at the observation platform at 6 am and you'll get the perfect setting for seeing platipus (ornitorrinco). The guide also says the walks that start there are worth, but I was still half asleep and so just decided to move on.

Cape Hillsborough National Park - well I didn't find the NP that special but the close encounter with wallabies (small canguroos) that apparently happens every morning at sun rise, was well worth it. Plus the camping site has great conditions and it's not that expensive.

Whitsunday Islands - maybe the expectations were too high, or the one day cruise we took was not the best, but I didn't come back from there fully satisfied. It's a beautiful group of islands, Whiteheaven beach is one of the most beautiful I've been to, but maybe I need to go back in there with more time to go to different islands and avoid these one day cruises that take you everywhere and don't allow you to see anything!

Wallaman Falls - they're just waterfalls, but they are magical in the full moon light and in the morning when the fog starts to disappear. We have a funny story here, there were two swedes sleeping under the stars in the viewpoint. During the evening there was a tropical storm which lasted 3 days. When we woke up the next morning their clothes were covering the campervan and they were not in the viewpoint any more... Wrong day to sleep under the stars :)

The end of the road trip

The road trip ended in Cairns. We got here under heavy rain storms that prevented us from doing much on the way here from the Wallaman Falls.

The only thing that was still worth doing, given the weather conditions, was snorkel in The Great Barrier Reef. Cairns has a lot to offer, but the weather and the budget didn't allow it.
But, nonetheless it was the right option to spend the day out in The reef. I went with Reef Daytripper in a beautiful katamaran, with only 14 people onboard. $89 was the price and for an extra $50 one could have an intro diving lesson. The crew was really nice and the reef, well it's simply astonishing. The variety, of colors, shapes, animals is impressive. I spent around 3h on the water and would have stayed longer if I hadn't been exhausted. It's one of those places that I strongly recommend everyone to go and put on their "To do" list. And I saw a reef shark and have a picture proving it :)


2 comments:

patrick.broadbent said...

Where did you book your Campervan. I am looking to book one from Find a Camper

RC said...

Hi,

We booked it from Hippie camper

http://www.hippiecamper.com/

You should also check wicked camper
spaceship and jucy

They all have low budget campervans.

Take care