Saturday, 17 March 2007

I'm a Backpacker... Get me out of here!

After a day or two we managed to shake off the weird feeling that we were still on a boat and continued up the coast. We only had about a week to cram in Townsville, Magnetic Island, Mission Beach, Cairns and Cape Tribulation!

Townsville

Despite sounding like a fictional location from a soap opera, Townsville does exist. There isn't much to do here (and they don't show Celtic games in their bars) as most people arrive and head to Magnetic Island straight away. We spent one night here and arranged to meet up for a drink with Lesley, a fellow Scot who we met on the Uluru tour.

Our Hostel in Townsville was very much like an old fashioned motel. There was a little swimming pool on the roof that was quite nice and while we were swimming a tiny boy ran up and jumped in. As he slowly sunk to the bottom his mother wandered across and nonchalantly asked if someone could grab her son as he couldn't swim. Some bloke grabbed him and lifted him to the edge of the pool where he proceeded to laugh and repeat his dive again and again... 4 yr old Tim's sinking act entertained us for a good half hour!

Other than meeting Leslie, sinking Tim and another tasty Oz burger there isn't much else to tell about Townsville. The lovely people from the hostel allowed us to store our backpacks while we headed over to Magnetic island for an overnight...

Magnetic Island

Magnetic Island isn't Magnetic, but it is an island. Just not a very interesting one! Maybe we are becoming beach snobs but after three weeks of some of the nicest beaches in the world, we weren't that impressed by what Magnetic had to offer. The beaches were okay but you couldn't swim in the ocean because of the jellyfish. It's strange because the further up the coast you get, the more humid it becomes, the more you want to swim and the more dangerous the beaches become!


Marine Stingers are deadly and a bottle of vinegar sits next to most beaches to ease the pain! We thought it was maybe for your chips while you wait on the ambulance.


We walked through a forest to see some forts left over from World War II. The bus driver assured us we would see at least five koalas on the way. We saw none. After walking for ages in the crazy heat we reached the large concrete block that used to have a small fort standing on it. The views were nice but worth the walk, it was not.





At our hostel we met Adam(snr!) from our Fraser Island gang. We also met a Canadian called Steve who we had met previously in Hervey Bay. This seems to happen a lot when you travel in Australia. We met a girl the other day who we last saw in Adelaide! Now, that's like meeting someone in the south of Portugal and bumping into them again in the North of Germany!

We had dinner with Adam and Steve and then the lads entered a pool competition. Steve was beaten in the first round after a controversial rule change and Ryan proceeded to the Semi's, where he was easily beaten by an aboriginal girl called Pebbles. Oh well...

One day and night on Magnetic Island was just enough and we were quite happy to continue on to Mission Beach...

Mission Beach

Mission Beach is a tiny one street town with a few hostels scattered around. The Beach is on one side and the rain forest is on the other. Many people go skydiving or rafting from here but New Zealand is supposed to be better for stupid life threatening activities! We'll see how we feel when we're in Queenstown!

Our hostel was called the Treehouse and you will have correctly guessed that it was set in the middle of the rain forest. It had a lovely pool and there were creepy crawlies, frogs and lizards everywhere.



This daft bird accompanied us to our hostel




This guy was sitting outside on our balcony





Ryan's view from beside the pool



We had a nice time relaxing in the amazing surroundings and then had a wild evening playing scrabble and drinking tea...

Cairns and Cape Tribulation

A lot of hostels provide free bus transfers from airports and bus stations. We arrived in Cairns around 7pm but it took our hostel an hour and a half to collect us. When they finally got us to the hostel we were informed that the free evening meal we had been promised actually cost $8. This isn't much but it was still a cheeky wee fib on their brochure... this would prove to be one of many complaints we would have with Cairns Beach House!


Cairns

The rooms had no air conditioning and they weren't very clean either, but we were only here for a few nights so we just tried to make the best of it, plus the pubs in Cairns do show Celtic games!

On our first day we booked another snorkeling trip out to the Great Barrier Reef. This time we took an under water camera. The visibility wasn't as good as The Whitsundays and the camera quality isn't great but you can still see the amazing reef and and just how silly we look!


If you look closely you might make out the jellyfish. Help!

Pammy!


Ryan Costeau!




Green Island
A reef shark circling the boat!
Ryan being arty!
The boat was called Ocean Free and one of the crew was from Paisley! Now correct me if I'm wrong but I don't think there are many opportunities to sail or snorkel in Ferguslie Park! He knew what he was doing nonetheless and the trip was perfectly rounded off with fresh fruit and cheese and wine on the journey home.

The next day we headed to Cape Tribulation and the Daintree Rain forest. Apparently 'I'm a Celebrity...' is filmed near to where we were staying.
On our way there we did a river cruise to find Crocodiles. This guy was about 5 metres long.
We arrived deep in the heart of the rain forest and were pointed in the direction of our little hut! As we approached we noticed a large cage just across from our door. The cage had bananas piled in one corner and a sign that read 'Warning- feral pig trap'!

We were surprised to learn that there are around 23 million feral pigs in Australia and only about 21 million people! Not sure why they were trying to catch them just next to where we were sleeping though! We didn't have to worry about pigs because it turned out that the huge spider above our door would easily have eaten any pigs that came near us!

This spider was the size of a man's hand. The size of a man who had rather large spider sized hands! In case the pic doesn't do it justice, we're talking a three inch body with three inch legs!
We went back to reception to ask if it was deadly and they advised us that 'she' was always there and 'she's' quite harmless!
We've found this casual approach to deadly animals quite common in Australia... Despite the spider, our room was lovely.

Cape Tribulation was beautiful and we went a walk along a lovely beach to a lookout before heading to Mossman Gorge for a swim in freezing freshwater.


I like your sleeves!


A small snake. Probably deadly, who knows!

The bloke sitting like Gollum on the rock is actually Ryan

Mossman Gorge

We stopped off at Port Douglas which was lovely but we didn't have much time to hang around. We headed back to Cairns and went to a nice Mexican restaurant for dinner with some folk from the tour.

Our last night in Australia wasn't quite the best way to finish this leg of our trip. We settled into our roasting 8 bed dorm room and around 1am Ryan went to the toilet. A scratching noise in the corner alerted him to the fact that he was not alone. A huge rat then scurried across the floor. Ryan decided he would be able to survey this situation much better while standing on the toilet seat. Leaping from the seat to the door in one Indiana Jones-like leap, Ryan arrived next to Pammy's bed wheezing and looking a little shaken! We thought it best not to disturb the other people who were enjoying their sleep and made our way to reception where we asked to be put into a rat free room. The only room available had a luxury queen sized room and air con. No idea why a hostel had a room like this but thanks to Roland we had a lovely room for the rest of the night. Needless to say- avoid Cairns Beachhouse if you are ever in Cairns! Or alternatively, claim to have found a rat and get moved to a nice room for free!

Moving on...

Our flight to Christchurch NZ stopped over in Sydney for a few hours so we decided to have a wander around the airport shops. We decided it was best to buy a new camera from duty free and hopefully get something back from our insurance for the broken camera. After doing more damage to our credit card we headed to spend the last of our Australian dollars on some food. Some of our flights are with Jetstar, who don't provide food on their shorter flights, so we bought a subway to take on the plane! Then we discovered a Krispy Kremes! Krispy Kremes make the nicest doughnuts in the entire world. Original glazed... mmm...

We were at the till at Krispy Kremes when we noticed a sign that said you get a free doughnut if you do an Irish jig because St Patrick's Day was approaching. After considering the the potential embarrassment v tasty free doughnut situation, we proceeded to put down our bags and dance for some doughnuts! We love Krispy Kremes! The staff barely managed to stop laughing long enough to give us our free doughnuts and then we headed off to go through customs...

On the way we noticed a sign that said it was last call for our flight... while dancing for doughnuts in the middle of the airport we had neglected to change the time on our watch- Cairns is one hour ahead of Sydney. We had roughly fifteen minutes to get through customs and make our flight! We were able to skip the massive queue after explaining the situation to some official and then as we jogged along the corridor they made a call for us over the tanoy system...

"This is a final boarding call for passengers Ferrie and..."

We got to the gate in time and then boarded the plane. Everyone on board gave us funny looks as we made it to our seats clutching our subway and doughnuts!
Ryan and his hard earned doughnut!

After this minor excitement it was on to New Zealand and goodbye to Australia. We can't believe we've been away for over two months now, time is starting to pass really quickly. We loved Australia and we did some amazing things there- Uluru and Fraser Island were probably our favourite tours and we loved Sydney and Melbourne. We have very few complaints- the humidity is tough and not being able to swim in the ocean is annoying, but most of the people we met were very nice and on the whole Australia has been brilliant, but we are ready to move on to somewhere New...


Sydney from the plane- Goodbye Australia!


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