A Travellerspoint blog

Fraser Island

World's biggest sand island

sunny 32 °C

Our surfing days in 1770 were over and we had to replace our surfboards with a 4x4...we were going to Fraser Island, the biggest sand island in the world. We had already booked a 3 day/2 night self-drive tour and had the accommodation included at a backpackers hostel called Dingo's. The hostel is located in a small village called Rainbow Beach, and when we got there we found out that one of our mates from the Whitsunday Islands trip, Caroline, was also there to go to Fraser Island! So we were glad we already knew one person from the group.

We settled down at the hostel and immediately after had the tour briefing. First a girl from the hostel came up to talk to us, to put us together in our groups; we were 66 people, divided in 6 groups and each would have to drive a 4x4. They also told us we wouldn't be able to shower during the whole time in the island and they played a DVD about Fraser and the instructions we had to follow at all times. Then the Dingo moment came up, but first we should clarify what are dingoes: they're Australia's wild dog, which you should never feed as they can become aggressive, even if they look lovely. The video stated that whenever a dingo becomes aggressive a person should cross his arms and place his hands on his shoulders, slowly walk backwards and tell the dingo "Go away Dingo". That image was so stupid that we couldn't stop cracking up...if a dingo wants to attack you, stepping backwards won't solve the situation! Once the video was over the tour organiser showed up to talk; Merv. He was funny and explained us everything there was to know about the trip...after 2 hours we were off to pack our bags for the next day!


The next morning we were standing by our 4WD around 07:30 am. Our group had 11 members with us: Jen, John and Caroline (England), Jill and Rachel (Ireland), Donna, Dave and Scott (Scotland), and Tanika (Holland). We immediately got on very well and were so lucky that during the whole of our trip we never had a problem...we were all up to collaborate and work. After a few explanations on how to manage the 4 wheel drive, we drove to the beach and got on the ferry that would take us to Fraser Island. The ride was just a couple of minutes and soon we were on the road. Driving on the beach was quite simple, we just had to be careful with the tides and try to stand on hard sand all the time. The problem came when we drove inland, where the sand is very soft and lumpy and getting stuck is dead easy. Merv had recommended us to go to Lake McKenzie on the same day we went to the island, and so the 6 cars followed his instructions. What we didn't expect is that the track to the lake was an absolute nightmare...single lanes, super soft sand...and it was our first day driving this way so we didn't feel really confident. It didn't take long for us to get stuck, which was easily solved (we didn't even have to push the vehicle), but we had a little stress moment. We were on a path that had space for 1 car at a time and was supposed to be one way only, however to our surprise we found a truck that was driving against us. The driver was asking us to drive backwards as he wanted to get passed but there were some huge lumps and there was no way on Earth that he would be able to drive passed us. After some minutes of tentatives, he drove backwards...and we found out that just around 50 metres from where he was there was an intersection! We guess the people working on the island must be fed up of unexperienced drivers, but still he was such a moron! One hour took us to cover 12 km and get to Lake McKenzie...which meant we had little time before having to leave again to avoid the high tide. That didn't matter at all once we saw the lake. It was amazing! The lake actually doesn't hold any live organisms due to its PH levels, but is a stunning place. The freshwater, the sandy bottom...it was perfect to take a dip and relax with our mates. After Whitehaven beach, it's definitely one of the most beautiful sights in the country.


Unfortunately, on our way back to the beach we managed to get lost, somehow. Apparently there was a short and a long path, and accidentally we chose the long one. We were the last 4x4 to arrive at the campsite, so we had to hurry up, set up our tents and cook dinner. A while later we were chilled, playing drinking games and chatting away. It was the first time we had a try of goon, that processed wine sold in packets; it was absolutely disgusting and the tiniest sip guarantees a headache for the next morning. We got to know some of the people in the group and saw some dingoes, but were harmless, there was no need to walk backwards! We went to bed late but were eager to wake up at 5 am to watch the sunrise, which was meant to be spectacular. We didn't make it...we were too tired! By 06:30 we were already up, not because we didn't feel like sleeping any longer, but the light and the heat were already making it hard to stay inside the tent. Swimming is prohibited in Fraser Island due to the presence of sharks and strong rips, but the heat was killing us already by 7 am so we paddled a bit just by the shore. We had breakfast and left the camp site as soon as we could. Caroline wanted to give it a try at driving so we all helped her get out by pushing the vehicle. The night before some guys started a fire and got so drunk that they forgot to put it off properly, they just placed some sand on the top. This led to John getting his foot burned whilst pushing our car as we didn't see the fire. Few minutes later, he was moaning with agony as he was getting his entire sole full of blisters. He placed it inside some iced water but still he was in pain, and we were on our way to Indian Head, the main lookout in the island. When we got there, John and Jen stayed in the car whilst the rest of us went to the lookout. The views were stunning and we got to see some dolphins and a little shark. Once we were back, we decided we couldn't carry on, as John needed medical assistance, and so we decided to drive to the medical centre. When we got there, there was nobody...no one could take a look at his foot. Instead, Jen called up the paramedics and got some tips from them. We were feeling sorry for John and at the same time were furious at whoever didn't take the responsibility to putting off the fire! We decided to have some lunch right there and then drove to the camp site. We had a little trouble in getting settled down as we had found the camp site but according to some of the other cars, it was not legal to camp there. So we stood outside a good hour until we decided to just camp where we wanted in the first place, no matter what the rest said.


That night we had dinner again and the mood for partying was even stronger. The people were drinking without control, and the same guys who started the fire the previous night, started it again. At that point we got pretty mad and started commenting, and a Canadian girl from another group decided to fill a pan with water to put off the fire. As soon as they saw her, these Irish guys were screaming at her. She finally let the pan down, but then out of the blue came another girl and poured the water on the fire!!! A couple minutes after they started the fire again, got too drunk and by the end of the night just they just let the flame die. We asked them to put it off, and at the beginning we had a bit of a fight as they were basically being bastards, but at the end everything was good and the fire was off. In the meantime, everybody got even more wasted..

Our last morning in Fraser seemed like a wasted day. We woke up early but couldn't drive until 11 due to the tides. We were meant to visit Lake Wabby, which is supposed to smell of green tea and has a fantastic dune next to it. However, part of our group was not willing to move thanks to a massive hangover, and those who wanted to visit the lake couldn't find the right way. Out of 6 4x4, only 1 got to go to the lake. The rest of us hung around the beach sunbathing and waiting for the ferry to pick us up. On our way back we had to fill up the tank, go back to the workshop to leave the vehicle, clean everything and then we were free to go back to the hostel and have our desired shower. The feeling of showering after 3 days of sand and salty water on your skin was unbelievable!

Before saying goodbye to our mates from the tour, we celebrated with a dinner and some drinks near the beach, and were finally joined by more people from other groups. Fraser Island was a hard experience in some ways, but awesome in others...would definitely recommend the self-drive, despite the fact that a guided tour might be easier. But then again, where's the fun?


Posted by sonianick 02:05 Archived in Australia Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)


Surf for Beginners!

sunny 27 °C

During our stay in Arlie Beach, we head a lot of people talk great things about the small town of 1770. Its funny name immediately caught our curiosity and we decided to check it out. - This village has only existed for the past 8 years, so it's the newest place we've ever been to. The receptionist of the hostel in Airlie Beach suggested us a hostel called Cool Bananas and since we were too tired to look for accomodation, we went straight over there. The place actually tuned out to be very cool as its name suggested, and its atmosphere was so cosy that it made us feel just like being at home. The same night we found out about surfing lessons that apparently were cheaper than other places in Australia and even easier for beginners since the waves were breaking nicely and close to the shore; we made our reservation for attending the 4 hour lesson (for 30 bucks only!) within 2 days.

The very next day, after a filling breakfast we decided to grab some boogie boards and went to the main beach to catch some waves. The beach was beautiful and the waves were perfect. We used our boogie board for a while and then we just sunbathed and enjoyed the sunny and hot day. We also checked out the town, it's a secluded jewel with hardly any services but amazing beaches. Vegetating in front of the TV with some movies in the lounge area at night seemed to be the perfect plan, as there was nothing to do around.


On our second day we headed to a private beach with our Aussie surfer instructor and some more people. We started the basics on the beach and it was very interesting to learn the tricks to stand up and be able to surf. In the water the practice was much harder than the theory but with a little help from our aussie teacher we were able to stand up the board and surf like mad.... SWEET AS! We were aching so much afterwards, surf does involve a lot of effort, and maybe we're better at sunbathing, but hey we tried...

The same night our hostel was throwing a Halloween Party and all the teenagers were on loose, drinking heavily and flirting away. We had the chance to meet 2 normal couples from UK and chatted for a few hours about the adventures we were experiencing in Australia...the hostel's manager was definitely the craziest of all!!!

The little town of 1770 was surprisingly the perfect break from all the Aussie towns and its prices, people don't charge you for every single thing you want to use and it's so relaxed, you feel you're not in a Western country...it's where the "no worries" vibe still remains!!


Posted by sonianick 00:10 Archived in Australia Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Whitsunday Islands

Heaven on Earth

sunny 30 °C

During our stay in Cairns we booked our trip to the Whitsunday Islands. A stay in Queensland is incomplete without discovering the Whitsundays, one of the jewels of the world. After our Whitsundays tour it would be time to say goodbye to Ugo, as he was heading down to Fraser Island directly. So once we finished seeing Cape Tribulation, we drove back to Cairns, dropped our two-day rental car and picked up our new vehicle at hippie camper. We were lucky this time with the car; we got an upgrade to a better model...bigger, and easier to drive; a Toyota Camry. We immediately made our way down south but took a mandatory stop at Mission Beach. It's one of the preferred areas in Australia to skydive, and we saw some people land on the beach whilst we were taking a stroll along the sea. Our chosen spot for the night was Townsville, more convenient than interesting, but we still had a good evening, had Mexican for dinner and in the morning we saw the esplanade, again, splendid. We started to think, Australian cities may not have the history and culture significance our cities in Europe have, but damn they know how to create a good quality living.

When we finally made it to Airlie Beach, our port of embarkation for the Whitsundays, we could hardly hold our excitement...we were going on a 2 day / 2 night cruise on a sailing boat and we were going to have a blast! We couldn't wait...We stayed at the hostel Backpackers by the Bay in Airlie Beach, a little outside the centre but still really nice.

The next morning we got ready for our big trip; we checked in, we left our luggage at Peter Pans, went to the supermarket to buy our drinks, and off we went to the port, ready to embark! The pier was full of young people that were waiting to be called to their boats, holding excited their six packs...and we were part of the group. Around 2 pm we got called by our boat, had a short briefing and off we went. Our sailing boat was called New Horizon, 25 metres of wood and enough space for 32 people. We immediately got to know the crew who seemed to be pretty outgoing, especially the skipper who was quite nuts, constantly shouting out stuff such as "we're gonna bugger off there!" or "sweet ass!", but really cool guy, and he seemed to know his job well which is what's important. The same day we got on the boat we just sailed, we couldn't swim as by the time we found a spot to stay for the night, it was already dark. We had some dinner short after arriving, and then the crew told us a catamaran was going to join us for a couple of hours and that it was time to party a bit! And we thought "awesome!" When the second boat ("Tongarra") arrived we understood why the crew was so keen on having this party...not only for the beer and the good vibe, but for the skipper of the Tongarra; blonde, tanned and baby pink shorts that barely covered her ass. We all thought there was some sort of interest going on between two people, but hey, we weren't going to reject a party were we? So as soon as we all got our drinks we jumped on the catamaran and started to socialise. By that time we had already met some of our mates on the trip; Sarah and Connor, from London, Caroline, also from London, Claire, Mary and Karen, from Ireland, Olga, from Germany, and many more. We chatted along, drank a bit of the punch the crew had prepared, and had a great time with everyone.


We woke up the next day very early, had breakfast and off we sailed to reach the most famous spot of these islands; Whitehaven Beach. Our Lonely Planet Magazine about Australia had on the cover a photo from Whitehaven Beach, and we couldn't wait any longer. The boat didn't stop at the beach itself, but at the other side of the island. They dropped us off with the dingy at a beach, and from that point we had to do a short trek, first to the lookout and afterwards to Whitehaven. The moment we arrived at the view point will never be forgotten, as the first thing you feel when you see Whitehaven is that it's fake. It cannot be real. It's absolutely perfect, the dream beach, and it's very hard to describe. The sand is pure white, made of silica, and the currents form some incredible sand banks that create this perfect blend of blue colours. It's a postcard, and then all of a sudden you dream you could go there every day, even live there. We took some great photographs there, and then headed down to the beach, we so wanted to get in that water! We had to wear stinger suits as a prevention against jellyfish, and there were some, but luckily no one from the category I-KILL. We stayed there what feels not to be long enough, but still it was great to be there. We bet it's in the book "1000 places to see before you die" :-). What we also saw were stingrays, they love to hide in that sand, so you could see them swim their way from one sand bank to another.


After our Whitehaven experience, we went back to the boat and sailed to another area where we would be able to snorkel/dive. It was windy and the sea got a bit rough, so some of our mates got seasick and unfortunately didn't enjoy the ride as much as we did! We got offered the opportunity to do an introductory dive, so the three of us didn't hesitate and had a try at what it felt to breathe underwater. The instructor, Matt, gave us a couple of tips, but he didn't make a fuss about us not having done this before, and a short while after we were diving...and may we say, it's so much cooler than snorkelling! Even if we didn't go deep as it was our first time, we saw some incredible coral and were constantly surrounded by massive fish (our instructor had some food in a plastic bag), we enjoyed it so much we regretted not getting the PADI in Koh Tao when we could have. We also snorkelled afterwards, but it didn't feel the same. That evening we were so tired from our long exciting day, the party mood was not the same and many went to bed early, including us.

Our last morning on the boat we had to wake up early as we had signed up for another dive. So by 8 am we were underwater, and this time, since Matt saw that we were quite confident, plus Caroline who has the PADI joined us, we went down to 12 metres, which might not seem a lot, but the temperature was definitely lower and considering we had little knowledge about diving, we were thrilled about it. This time, Matt took us to see some spectacular coral formations, much more dramatic than the previous day, but with less fish. There's a well-known fish in the area called the Napoleon, which we had already seen when we snorkelled, but this time, we met the big one. It was surprisingly sweet; we all gathered around it in a circle and started to play with it, and supposedly, if you touch its lips, it falls asleep and you can hug it. Napoleon, or Elvis as people name it, was like an underwater dog, and once we moved on, it followed us for a while as it wanted more love. Really cute...In the end, we also snorkelled a bit but it started to get a bit annoying as the water was full of jellyfish, so we didn't stay long.


Once the snorkel finished, we were already having lunch and heading back to Airlie Beach. We were so sad, it had been such a great trip! The crew told us the company was organising a free pizza night for all at a bar, so at least we had a free dinner. We checked in again at the hostel Backpackers by the Bay, and dropped Ugo at the bus station. It was also sad to say goodbye, but the adventure was still continuing for the three of us. That evening we went to the bar in Airlie Beach and met up with some of our mates from the trip. We hardly had any pizza as people were desperate to eat, so we ended up having dessert at McDonalds with Dave, another crew member, and Olga, and then went back for more drinks and a little dance. It had been a great couple of days, lost in one of the most beautiful places we have ever seen, with great people and a good vibe...unforgettable Whitsundays.


Posted by sonianick 15:48 Archived in Australia Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Cairns, Port Douglas & Cape Tribulation

Captain Cook's landing area

rain 30 °C

The last time we sat at a beach sunbathing was in Thailand, and that's unfortunately a while ago. So flying to Cairns meant meeting the sun and sea, which we were really looking forward to...but what we didn't count on was the wet season. Yes, the rain had started and it wasn't thinking of stopping...at all. Fortunately, tropical rains can last a few minutes, and then if you're lucky enough, the sun might come out! Which was what we were hoping for. Well, Cairns was actually a bit miserable. It never stopped raining and, to be fair, it's not the best place in Australia. It's the ideal spot to go to the Great Barrier Reef and do some diving, but we were doing that at the Whitsundays. We had booked a hostel called Caravella for 15 AUD a night, which was a great deal, but the hostel was closed and were sent to the Corona Backpackers Resort, just on the Esplanade and near to the lagoon. What we would soon discover is that many cities in Queensland have these giant swimming pools built along the coast that resemble the sea and are good to avoid crocs or stingers (jellyfish). So we checked in the place and we immediately felt that this part of Australia was way different to the Outback and Victoria. The age of the population seemed to drop 30 years (in the Outback everyone was way older than us whilst here we were officially, the parents), and the atmosphere was very pro-party, pro-i-wanna-get-drunk-at-any-cost.

We spent three days in Cairns trying to find a car. Ugo was going to stay with us for another week but then he was moving down quicker as he was leaving earlier, so we thought the car was the best option for the East coast. We went again to Peter Pan's to enquire about renting a car and we managed to book the tours for Fraser Island and the Whitsundays, but no car. We went to a couple of agencies and no one could actually help us...and everything seemed to be very busy. Finally, we managed to book a car through Hippie Camper but we had to wait a couple of days as none were available immediately, so we rented another car from a different company to go up to Cape Tribulation and Port Douglas the first 2 nights. It really felt we didn't do a lot in Cairns other than wandering from one agency to another under the rain, so we don't have the best memory about our stay there.

On the other hand, amazing was Port Douglas and Cape Tribulation. First we drove up to Port Douglas, just 60 km north from Cairns, and it's a beautiful small town. There's sea all around it, an incredible beach called the Four Mile beach and the atmosphere is quite chic, full of high-class holiday makers. As soon as we arrived there, we found accommodation in what we will remember as one of the coolest hostels in Australia, Dougies. More than a hostel, it was like a small resort; swimming pool, bungalows, tents, a nice bar, good party atmosphere...we loved it there! We went straight to the beach and had a swim (there were no stingers at the time) and relaxed for a while under the palm trees...it was beautiful. We also went for a walk to see the town and had dinner at a pub that offered the "recession menu" with great deals. While waiting for our food, something unusual happened. It was already getting dark, it was nearly 7 pm, and all of a sudden millions of birds were gathering around a group of trees, making so much noise that you felt you were in Hitchcock's movie "Birds". At first we thought it was a sign for a huge weather change but then the waitress told us that the same meeting takes place every single night, so there was nothing to worry about. Still, it was real dodgy, the birds were flying like crazy.


On our second day in Port Douglas we drove up to Cape Tribulation. We had heard it's beautiful as the rainforest meets the sea, so we didn't want to miss it. We had to catch a 5 minute ferry and there we were, in the Daintree Forest Area. First we visited the Discovery Centre, where supposedly you can spot some of the rainforest wildlife i.e. bugs, snakes, butterflies, birds, cassowaries etc. Well, we didn't spot a thing, just the vegetation! Nick saw the famous Ulysses Butterfly (electric blue coloured), but apart from that, we felt we paid 30 AUD for nothing, what a rip off! Even the audio guide was crap! Anyway, the area itself is incredible, there's rainforest everywhere so there's no need to go to that centre. We wanted to see the famous cassowaries (ostriches with a hard crest on their heads and really bad temper), but these puppies hide during the day. We ended up visiting a couple of beaches until we reached the famous Cape Tribulation. The beaches are incredible, you only need to be careful with the marine crocodiles that are often found in rivers that meet the sea. We didn't see any but before crossing one of these rivers we gave it some thought, as we had to go inside the water with our legs. In the end, no crocs, no cassowaries, but the scenery was definitely tropical and worth visiting. From desert to rainforest...not bad at all!


Posted by sonianick 00:59 Archived in Australia Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Uluru National Park, Kings Canyon, Alice Springs

Pure Desert

sunny 30 °C

Spending a couple nights in Coober Pedy gave us some time to adapt to the desert and get ready for one of Australia's big sights: Ayers Rock, or Uluru, as aboriginal people know it. We drove for good 6 hours, stopping at random roadhouses on the way, to get to the Uluru National Park. It couldn't be more out of the way, even worse than Coober Pedy, but yet there we were, and thanks to tourism there was a resort with accommodation, restaurants, bars, shops and even a supermarket! However, we had to stay away from temptations, as beer was served at the price of gold! The first thing we did after we had checked into our camping site and bought some essentials was watching the sunset over Uluru. Everyone was at the top of some hill to watch the colours of the famous rock change...it's pretty impressive and bizarre how a huge rock can be standing on its own, surrounded by kilometres of flat land and generally absolutely nothing. Staring at it for a while calms you down, it even feels therapeutic, and the lack of noise in the desert just makes it even better...although there are some freaks who overreact a little bit and start dancing and praying, as if they were in some sort of trance, but that's just too much.

That evening we had a drink at the bar and then dinner in our camp site, as always, followed by some card games and good chit chats before hitting the sack. The following morning we drove straight to Uluru, which is just around 30km away from the resort. There comes to a point where the road you're driving meets Ayers, and trust us, it's big. We wanted to do the 10km trek around the rock, and were worried about the sun and heat (it was already midday), but that was naive, to believe that the sun would be our worst enemy; the flies were...OH MY GOD! Millions of flies that are just attracted to you and won't leave you. They literally drive you nuts by getting near your ears, nose, mouth, backs etc. Apparently during Spring and Summer months there is a huge invasion of flies that will not kill you, but will make your travel an inferno. A lot of visitors walked around with nets that covered their faces so they were fine...we ended up developing a technique to keep them away, which basically consisted of having something moving in front of your face e.g. camera case, a branch with some leaves...anything would do to keep these little beasts away. The 10km trek was, to be honest, a bit boring, as it's a loop around the rock and you can't go inside the majority of the caves or take any pictures, as it's a sacred for the aboriginal people. It's possible to climb to the top of Uluru, which looks scary and steep, but aboriginal people actually ask you not to, again due to its significance, and it can be dangerous if winds are strong. When we went it was closed, but still, we don't think we would have gone up there...that was waaayyy too steep!


Ayers Rock was impressive, but surprisingly good were The Olgas, Uluru's neighbour. The Olgas are a group of rocks, similar to Ayers, but they're together and form valleys which are perfect to trek through, plus you can see some animals, such as wallabies! Just before sunset we managed to finish our walk and drove to one of the lookouts to take some pictures, and on our drive back to the camp site we managed to see some wild camels! This is what we love about Australia, its wild side...where every single animal is wild, even the dogs.

King's Canyon was our next stop in the itinerary. It's around 400 km away from Uluru, going towards Alice Springs but still out of the way. We stayed just for one night but it was enough to do the longest trek, barely 7km. Still, Sonia managed to get her feet full of blisters as she was not used to closed shoes anymore, and the walk wasn't that pleasant. Again, when you drive towards King's Canyon it's all flat land, and all of a sudden you meet this huge canyon and you can't believe what you're seeing. Nothing like the Grand Canyon in the USA, but still beautiful, with some pretty good lookouts.


From King's we drove to our last stop in the desert; Alice Springs...50% aboriginal and 50% white people. Located in the exact centre of the country, there's not that much to see. Randomly, Alice was a city of reunions, as Nick met up with one of his high-school friends, Anja, which he hadn't seen for the past 11 years. We visited the desert park and had a great time in a restaurant called The Overlanders Steakhouse, where we ate camel and kangaroo for the second time, and played dancing games with the crew. Despite how amazing the desert can be, the central part of Australia is so remote, that kids might attend school from their homes via the radio, or if you're injured or need a doctor, a plane will pick you up instead of an ambulance! It takes 3 days to get to the east coast and it's over 1000km to drive down to Port Augusta or up to Darwin...yet, we're so glad we have seen this part of the country, we feel it's one of the real sides of Australia, and we'll never forget our first two weeks on the road.

We chose Alice Springs to be the point where we would return our campervan, and we were sad to give it back, as it had been an excellent home for 2 weeks. Before driving up to Alice, we had discussed different possibilities on how to reach the east coast; relocation, renting another campervan, bus journeys etc. Then we realised that the best option was to fly directly to Cairns to save a little bit of time, as everything costs so much money anyway. And there we were, again, at an airport waiting for our way to the fabulous Queensland ;-)


Posted by sonianick 01:35 Archived in Australia Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

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