A Travellerspoint blog

May 2014

Solway Lass

Stinger suits, sails, and sunsets

Another 'must-do' as you travel the East Coast of Australia is go sailing in the Whitsundays. Made up of 74 islands, it's simply gorgeous, and the Southern start of the Great Barrier Reef. Featuring one of the purest, whitest beaches in the world, it's the kind of trip you cross your fingers for full sun!

There are many boats and tours to choose from, day trips to overnight or even two or three night trips, from party boats to hopefully non-party boats. Ansley (another American that I met in New Zealand and have kept in contact with) had recommended Ragamuffin (a 3 day, 2 night trip), as that was the one she'd done and had loved it. It's a 53' Admirals Cup yacht, and it looked awesome. Although I did actually choose this one and reserve it, it ended up being a slow week and there wasn't enough people booked for that boat to sail, and I got switched / upgraded to Solway Lass. Built in Holland in 1902, she's a classic tall ship with lots of history and the tour was for 3 days and 3 nights!

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We boarded after dinner the first night and motored out of the harbour and into the Whitsundays for a couple hours, before anchoring for the night. Obviously rooms and beds are small, since we're on a boat, but luckily we were only 13 people, on a boat with a capacity to sleep 32. This meant it was mostly 2 people to a room of 4, and gave us a little more room than if it'd been packed. The boat itself is 127' including the bow sprit, and 20' beam, two masts and 12 sails (though the most we had set were 3).

Hmm, I can't believe I didn't take any pictures below or of the berths!

Since it was dark when we left the harbour, we were anxious to wake up and see where we were. We woke up to this...

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Our first stop of the day was Whitehaven Beach. The pristine, super white, famous beach I mentioned before. We anchored on the other side of the island and hiked over to the beach. We got to wear these awesome, sexy, stinger suits for the water since it was still stinger season. There are some intense jellyfish (such as the box jellyfish and the irukandji) that you don't want to mess with.

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The clouds and sun alternated, providing us with everything from storm clouds (complete with rain!) to sunshine and blue sky. It was great to see the difference the sun made, all in just a half an hour!

After we'd spent some time at the beach, we headed up to a lookout point. Unfortunately, there were tons of people about and everyone was so focused on 'getting that perfect picture' that no one seemed aware that everyone else was trying to do the same thing. Which led to lots of frustrated people. We were also on a time schedule because of the tides, we had to get back to the beach or we wouldn't be able to get back to the boat!

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That afternoon we set the sails and the sun came out for a lovely afternoon sail. Off the bowsprit was a net you could hang out on, though it wasn't the most comfortable, it was certainly the most awesome place to hang out, and that's where I spent most of my time!

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Our second day was the snorkeling (and diving if you added that extra) day. I'd been very torn with the diving option, it was additional money, but I'd heard really good things about the area (again, from Ansley). I did decide not to dive, and save that for when I'm farther north, and from what everyone who went diving said, I totally made the right call. Apparently there was barely any visibility and they didn't even see many fish.

We did do a bunch of snorkeling and saw tons of fish. The fish were definitely used to people, some boats (including ours) were even feeding them (at least it was “Great Barrier Reef Approved Fish Food”). I was a little disappointed in the state of the coral, it didn't look so good. My guess was it was too popular of a place with all the boats going there and people not used to having fins continually got too close. Our boat didn't even give out fins to swim with, saying most people damage the coral with them.

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That afternoon we went to another snorkeling spot, but this one had less visibility and we didn't really see much. By that point we were also getting cold and a lot of us didn't stay in the water very long.

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Our third, and final day, involved a bush walk up to a lookout and then an afternoon sail back to the harbour. The weather didn't really cooperate that day and was pretty overcast and rainy. But still such an awesome trip! And of course I felt like I was on a boat still that night and even felt like I was swaying the next day :)

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Posted by smr1188 05:43 Archived in Australia Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises beaches boats ocean beach australia tours sand sailing whitsundays east_coast Comments (1)

Noosa Everglades Canoe & Kayak Camping Safari

Invisible bull sharks and mirror reflections

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Unfortunately, as a backpacker, when you hear something about camping or even kayaking associated the Noosa Everglades, you tend to think of the Gagaju bushcamp. Now I didn't do the bushcamp, so I can't say for sure...but I did hear enough bad reviews and horror stories to steer me far away from it.

Luckily, there is an awesome alternative that's still paddling in the everglades for 3 days! Kanu Kapers! Yes, the Florida Everglades aren't the only everglades, there's one other one here in Australia! It's located on the east coast, just a couple hours north of Brisbane and just outside the relaxed town of Noosa Heads.

Right from the start, Kanu Kapers had awesome customer service, responding to my emails and answering all my questions as I tried to plan a kayak camping trip while travelling. I eventually decided on the 3 Day Kayak trip and convinced a friend of mine that I met in Brisbane to join me. The 3-day package was definitely affordable and included all the camping / paddling gear necessary, from stove and fuel to tent and tarp, from maps to the boat and paddling accessories.

When I reserved the boat, they booked a campsite for me and arranged a free pickup from my Noosa hostel to their headquarters, about a half an hour drive. There we arranged our gear, packed the car, and headed off to the launching point.

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It was amazingly calm and peaceful when we got to Lake Cootharaba, loaded up our kayaks and headed out on the water.

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I couldn't believe how calm the waters were, for what seemed like a big lake. And the reflections were spectacular.

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We made our way across the lake and onto the Noosa River. The navigation was easy with a couple well positioned signs.

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Once we got into the heart of the everglades, the reflections just got better and better.

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We stopped for lunch at Harry's Hut and got destroyed with mosquitoes before we gave up and got back to paddling.

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Once we got to our campsite we set up our tent and explored the area a little. We had a dock, and there were tons of minnows and tadpoles in the water!

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We made ourselves some tea, covered ourselves in bug spray, and watched the sunset and marveled at the reflections. And when the stars came out, they were reflected in the water as well and it was just spectacular. Some things you can't capture on a simple digital camera. It was neat watching the colors change as evening progressed and then into the next morning as well. Where, if possible, the reflections were more intense.

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I couldn't help myself, I just kept taking pictures... There were tons of birds in the area as well, though mostly out of sight. My bird identification by sound is somewhat lacking so I can't really say which birds we heard, but the trees were full of life! Here's a quick video of the sounds (though I'm sure half the birds stopped when I hit 'record'!).

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Finally we got on the water and headed up the river for a mid-day hike up to the Cooloola Sandpatch.

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It was huge! And had gorgeous views of the area...

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We were just as impressed with the reflections when we got back to the water.

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No matter how hard you looked, or at what angle, there was no way to see beneath the surface. Who knows what was swimming below, or how deep the water was. Judging by sticking my paddle in occasionally, it was very deep in parts. There were signs saying to be careful and not to jump in the water, because you can't know how deep it is or if there's submerged logs and whatnot. There was also mention of bull sharks. Bull sharks?! We didn't see any though, and after researching them when I got back afterwards, I'm glad. But we were certainly hoping to see one and on the lookout for them...exclaiming after every splash or fish jump, 'bull shark!'

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Anyway, we headed back to the campsite and enjoyed another sunset.
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The next morning we woke to the sound of this...

...and then went back to sleep.

By the time we packed up camp it'd slowed down to just a little drizzle.
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Undeterred by weather, we continued with our plan and paddled up Kin Kin Creek some, before heading back to the lake and the end of our trip.

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It was SO great to be out on the water and camping. A break from the east coast travel, crazyness, tours, parties, hostels, and general overpopulation of German backpackers. Noosa is a small town that is easily missed by many, but the Noosa Everglades and a paddle with Kanu Kapers shouldn't be missed by anyone! Do this for something different. And for great pictures.

Posted by smr1188 16:31 Tagged lakes boats rivers walking australia kayaking sand east_coast Comments (4)

Dingoes and 4WD on the Largest Sand Island--Fraser Island

Lookout, it's a Dropbear!

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When travelling in Australia, particularly along the east coast, it's a must to see Fraser Island. While I didn't want to miss out on Fraser Island, I was skeptical after hearing some of the stories about the different companies that run tours. You can do anything from a day tour to a three day tour, ride in a bus or do a tag along 4wd tour (where your group is split into several vehicles, depending on the size and everyone can take a turn driving). I certainly didn't want to do a day tour and the bus was definitely out, but there were several tag along tours to choose from. I turned to TripAdvisor to see if anything stood out. Many of the companies recommended by travel agents (such as Wicked Travel had mixed reviews, however one company immediately stood out. Dropbear Adventures. Out of the 188 reviews on tripadvisor, 181 were excellent, 6 were 'very good' and only 1 negative review. I was astonished by the reviews and immediately decided to go with them. Best decision ever.

From being picked up at the hostel by the owner himself, to how smoothly the paperwork, safetly introduction video and vehicles were sorted, I was impressed.

As quick as possible we all packed our stuff up in the cars and left Noosa for a two hour drive from Noosa to Rainbow Beach, where we'd catch the ferry to Fraser Island. This 2 hour drive was a good opportunity to chat with the people you were in the car with and start getting to know some of the people you'd be spending the next 3 days with. Unfortunately, I ended up in a car made up entirely of Swiss who all knew each other and though they tried to speak English, they inevitably slipped back and I was left on my own. The following days some people switched around in cars and so I was able to be in different cars.

Once we got to Rainbow beach we hopped on the ferry and saw our first glimpse of Fraser Island.

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It was a short ferry ride and soon enough we were driving on the sand, where all normal road rules still apply, such as speed limits and driving on the left.

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I had no idea Fraser Island is as big as it is, it's almost 80 miles long! The eastern beach goes most of the length of the island and is the main driving area. It seems to go on forever!

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Our first stop was our campsite so we could change and have lunch. One of the reasons I'd chose Dropbear Adventures was that food was included, which is a nice change for backpackers.

We were right next to the ocean, just a sand dune separating us from the water and you could always hear the waves.

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Our tents were already set up with sleeping pads and sand already in them. You just had to claim one, but make sure you didn't keep any of your belongings in the tent when you weren't in it, dingoes are very present on the island and never hesitate to steal a tent if they think there's something good in it.

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Our afternoon adventure was to Lake Wabby, one of the many freshwater lakes on the island.

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The water was chilly, but in a refreshing kind of way.

We headed back to camp for dinner, drinks, and then I spent the night laying on the beach looking up at the sky. The stars were absolutely incredible!

And it was so great being so close to the ocean, but unfortunately due to stingers, sharks, and rips, you couldn't swim in it.

But you could watch the sunrise!

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We did a lot of driving that next day, since it was our only full day on the island.

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And spent some time at Eli Creek, another freshwater spring (where our camp drinking water came from).

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We went to the Champagne Pools, where water washes over the rocks and there's lots of little fish in the water.

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We hiked up Indian Head, which was a sacred area for the Aboriginals and had gorgeous views, we even saw a shark swim by down below!

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There's a famous shipwreck on the island, called the Maheno. You can read more about it here.

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Fraser Island wouldn't be complete without some dingoes!

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Our last day a storm came in, but we were headed inland for some bush driving and a rainforest walk anyway. Though we did stop at Lake Mckenzie which certainly would have been better had it been warm and sunny.

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It wouldn't be Australia without a ridiculous sign.

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We took a walk in a rainforest and there was another freshwater stream, this one almost difficult to see as it flowed over the sand.

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All too soon it was time to say goodbye to Fraser and head back on the ferry.

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Though since I was headed all the way back to Noosa, my trip wasn't done. After we dropped some people off we headed for another beach drive along Rainbow Beach.

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Right at the end Mark got stuck and we all got out to push and eventually had to tow him out. It would have been disappointing if no one had gotten stuck the whole trip, so this was good timing. And he was very stuck.

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But we pulled him out, no problem.

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We took another ferry and watched the sunset and then we were all ready to be home after a very long three days.

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I would highly recommend Dropbear Adventures to everyone. It's an unforgettable trip!

The following photos courtesy of Dropbear.

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Posted by smr1188 15:02 Archived in Australia Tagged lakes beaches rainforest fraser_island ocean wildlife beach australia driving tours sunrise east_coast Comments (4)

2 Koalas, 3 Kookaburras, and 12 (technically 7) Apostles

A day on the Great Ocean Road

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There are several options if you want to see 'The Great Ocean Road', a famous coastal drive in Victoria. Featuring beautiful coastlines and beaches, limestone cliffs, and even farmlands and rainforests. Ideally, renting a car would be the best to see the road and towns, but this isn't always financially feasible, especially travelling alone. The next option is going with a tour company, I chose Go West Tours.

What I didn't realize was the Great Ocean Road was built by returned soldiers in 1919-1932 and dedicated to those killed during World War I, technically the road is the world's largest war memorial. The road is 243 kilometers (151 miles) and travels from Torquay to Allansford which is near Warrnambool.

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The 14 hour day tour started at 7:30am when the Go West tour bus showed up at my hostel in Melbourne and picked me up. The tour guide Nicky, immediately hopped out of the bus and introduced herself and once we were settled in on the bus we drove around Melbourne picking up a couple more people before heading out of the city. There were a lot of aspects of the tour that I appreciated, but the first thing I noticed was how the guide kept us informed on what we were doing. As we headed out of Melbourne she told us where we were going next and how long it would take, and talked a bit about the surroundings we were driving by.

Our first stop was Bells Beach, and of course my first photograph is of a colorful bathroom!

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Bells Beach is a famous surfing beach, though there was only a couple people out there that morning. Bells Beach has actually been named a surfing recreation reserve and is protected.
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We all hopped back on the bus and were offered candy to hold us over while we headed towards the next stop major stop, a morning tea and cake break.

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We stopped to see if we could find some wild koalas at one point, though they are wild and hard to predict so unfortunately they were all curled up high in the trees and hard to see. There were some beautiful birds there though too.

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Nicky took the opportunity to stop at several lookout points along the road, when they weren't crowded with other buses, and even drive by pictures came out well. While we were driving, Nicky had an ipod playlist with music that coincided with what we were doing. There was surfing music (Beach Boys and others) while we were near Bells Beach, and then driving along songs that had lyrics about winding roads and a beautiful sunny day (luckily it was just that!) which I thought was quite clever and a nice touch.

Lunch was pre-ordered for us from a Thai restaurant which was surprisingly good, and then we had some time to walk around and enjoy the town of Apollo Bay. Nicky would tell us how much time we had before we had to be back to the bus, which was nice to be able to plan. Everyone usually returned right on time and it saved the awkward waving and yelling and herding everyone back to the bus.

After Apollo Bay we stopped at the Great Otway National Park’s cool temperate rainforest and had a half an hour walk through while Nicky told us about the huge towering trees.

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Finally we arrived at the 12 Apostles. These were created from limestone and sandstone erosion. They're forever changing and these will one day collapse and new ones will be carved from the shoreline.

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From the 12 Apostles we went to the Loch Ard Gorge and the now collapsed London Bridge.

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London Bridge used to look like this:P3253325.jpg

But has since fallen down to this:
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After that it was a long drive back to Melbourne. We took the inland road which was quicker but we still didn't get back to the city till after 9. We did stop briefly for dinner if people wanted, and a break for the driver. Though wifi is offered on the bus, it is dependent on cell service and I seemed to always time it wrong cause it never worked for me. At least the bus was nicely air-conditioned (or in our case, heated since it was windy and chilly) and I was glad I'd chosen the tour company with the smallest bus. With only 24 people on board, it gave the opportunity to meet and chat with most of the group throughout the tour, with everyone offering to take each others' pictures for them.

I'd certainly recommend Go West Tours, if you're looking for a small company with tours that have a personality and cover a lot of ground. Also, many thanks to Go West Tours for the discounted tour!

Posted by smr1188 14:48 Archived in Australia Tagged beaches victoria great_ocean_road ocean australia coastline Comments (2)

Numbers of Travel

No pictures, just numbers


View Adventures in the Southern Hemisphere, Part 1 on smr1188's travel map.

With my travelling partner headed back to the other side of the world we started looking back at our trip and reminiscing. I've always had a thing for numbers, so why not look at some numbers of the trip so far. As of March 23 we have...

Met 16 Americans

Drank 3 bottles of Whiskey

Been on 5 flights and 8 trains

Rented 4 vehicles...and spent 41 days with a vehicle

Spent 55 days in New Zealand

Spent 85 days in Australia

Visited 4 out of 8 states in Australia

Slept in 11 different beds (in 85 days) in Australia (That's an average of 7.7 nights per place!)

Slept in 32 different beds (in 55 days) in New Zealand (That's an average of 1.7 nights per place!)

Worked 5 different helpx programs

Hung out with 3 cats and 6 dogs

Visited 11 National Parks (6 in New Zealand, 5 in Australia)

And there's nothing like curling up with a favorite show or movie at the end of the day so we watched...
72 Episodes of Psych
35 Episodes of Friends
23 Movies

Oh, and I've taken 8,834 pictures.

Would anyone like to see any other numbers or counts of something?

Posted by smr1188 18:21 Archived in Australia Tagged travel australia new_zealand numbers summary Comments (1)

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