Monthly Archives: March 2012

Byron Bay and Nambucca heads, August 2003

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Byron Bay campsite on cliff top

After 6 very pleasant and relaxing days in the luxury flat in Noosa, we carried on our journey south, with a mandatory stop at Byron Bay, in the far north east of New South Wales.

 

Brewing up a storm at Byron Bay

The weather wasn’t so kind to us here and it started feeling more like autumn, even if it still was the Australian winter, with storms brewing over our heads and, needing our water-proof jackets for the first time in this holiday, but still warm enough for shorts and t-shirts.

The Bay in the storm

 

The most memorable event of our stay here has to be Planet Mars shining very bright and red in the night sky, making it very hard to take your eyes off it, as we’d never seen a planet so close to Earth and so clear to see to the naked eye, almost like an illusion.

 

Surfers at Byron Bay

Another happy memory of Byron Bay was the surfing competition taking place during our stay, which made us even more determined to learn this energetic and graceful sport.  It was just wonderful to see people of all ages taking part in the rain, not put off at all by the inclemencies of the weather.  That’s certainly the spirit!

 

Byron Bay in a better light

 

Strange fungi growing on logs by Byron Bay Beach

We only stopped at Byron Bay for a couple of days on a campsite on the cliff top with amazing views of the Bay itself before we continued further south, stopping next at Nambucca Heads, a coastal holiday and retirement centre, very peaceful and quiet this time of year.  As we were just making quick stopovers heading back to Sydney to return our hired motorhome, we only spent a day here, enjoying the walk on the pier – with its painted rocks at its head with lots of messages written on them from people all over the world – and the tranquil lake by the campsite, with pelicans swimming in it.

 

End of the pier at Nambucca Heads

Our next stop would be Hillsborough National Park, on the Whitsunday Coast, before having to part with what had been our home for 4 weeks.  Once again, we enjoyed lovely peaceful walks in the wilderness and the sun came back to greet us on our final couples of days before returning to Sydney.  We remember meeting a British ex-pat walking her parakeet on the otherwise deserted beach – only in Australia – and how she complained she was feeling cold, even though it was 25 ºC.  She had obviously acclimatized to this sub-tropical weather and what to us was a warm summer’s day, to her it felt cold.  Strange things you remember nearly 9 years later.

 

The lake and pelican at Nambucca Heads

We still had 5 days left to visit friends in Canberra, but returning the RV felt very much like the end of the most wonderful holidays we ever had and our hearts felt heavy and loath to leave such a marvellous land.

 

Campsite at Nambucca Heads

 

 

 

Noosa and Australia Zoo, August 2003

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Noosa Heads

After spending a very relaxing few days in Mission Beach, we continued in our hired motorhome further down south towards Noosa, on the aptly names Sunshine Coast, where the parents of a good friend or ours had kindly offered us the use of their apartment in for 6 days.

Noosa from boardwalk in National Park

 

Noosa turned out to be a lot busier and more up market than the previous towns we had visited in Queensland, with a generous array of shops and restaurants, especially in Hastings Street, and a very lively nightlife.  We particularly enjoyed our evening at Bistro C, where we had perhaps the best meal of our holiday so far.

 

The Board walk through the National Park

 

We loved the sunny beach and the boardwalk to the National Park, where we admired the koala bears on the gum trees and some weird-looking spiders from a safe distance.

 

Look carefully and you'll see Koala in gum tree

 

It was from just across the rear of the apartment that we caught the Australia Zoo official bus to take us to the zoo itself in Beerwah.  During the 40-minute journey, we were treated to a video of the charismatic and one-and-only Steve Irwin, also known as The Crocodile Hunter, whom we were hoping to catch a glimpse of during our visit.

 

Young Peter trying to fill in some big shoes

 

Once at the zoo we were told that unfortunately Steve was out filming that day, but we didn’t have much time to be disappointed as, once again, the very well trained and professional staff at the zoo made this day another memorable experience.  We, of course, enjoyed the awe-inspiring crocodile feeding time show, as well as the pythons and the dingoes.  We also met Harriet, the 172-year-old Giant Galapagos Land Tortoise, and an albino kangaroo with blue eyes and its joey, to little Peter’s delight, as we were allowed to go right to them and feed them the food we were given by their carers.  It was here that we took one of the most endearing photos of the holiday, with mummy kangaroo sprucing up her baby: something that one doesn’t get to see everyday, even in Australia, I should imagine.

 

Feeding time at the Zoo: crocodile show

 

Harriet, the oldest tortoise in the world, 173 years old

 

Feeding the kangaroos

 

The albino kangaroo and her joey

 

Getting close to the kangaroos

I would like to use this blog entry to pay my respects to the late Steve Irwin for all the wonderful work he did for nature and conservation.  If passion for wild life had a name it would be Steve Irwin.  I had never heard of him or seen him until I took my son to the cinema to see the film Crocodile Hunter in 2002, as I never really watched TV that much.  It wasn’t long into the film that I realized that although the movie was fictional, the man, the job and the passion were very real and that got me interested.  After that, I watched the Crocodile Hunter TV series as often as I could, where viewers could learn about the care of all kinds of animals, not just in Australia.

Steve is the man who made us love the unlovable and taught children and adults alike to care for and respect all creatures great and small in a way that couldn’t be ignored.  I have nothing but admiration for the man and this is why I put Australia Zoo in our itinerary on our tour of Eastern Australia.

My only consolation on his passing is that he died doing what he loved, what he believed in and lived for.  His body might have passed on, but his spirit, legacy and passion are very much alive and will live forever, not just in Australia Zoo, but in all our hearts.  Gone, but definitely NOT FORGOTTEN.

The snake show

 

 

Dunk Island, Queensland, August 2003

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Dunk Island

During our stay at Mission Beach, we took a water taxi across to Dunk Island, only 4 km away from our resort.  It was a very hot day, too hot to even stand on the sand for more than a few seconds, and we just found it incredible to believe that this was in fact WINTER.  We did our best to stay in the shade and plaster ourselves with sunblock, even though I have olive skin and less likely to burn than my two companions.  It just wasn’t worth taking any risks in a kind of heat I had never experienced before.

Boarding the water taxi from Mission Beach to Dunk Island

All in all it was another very relaxing day, enjoying the wonderful weather, a walk round the island and kayaking in the beautiful still blue waters, where we were even greeted by a sea-turtle as we were gently paddling around.  Unfortunately, the sea-turtle was gone before I could get my camera ready to photograph it, but the memory’s still there of this wonderful sea creature popping its head out of the water to have a look at us!  You just can’t put a price on these things.

The water taxi to Dunk Island from Mission Beach

I must also mention that, being part of the Great Barrier Reef, there is an abundant supply of dead coral already washed up on the beach and which is still protected and must not be taken away.  This, beautiful as it is, also brings the danger of stepping on it, as my two companions did and I remember spending some time trying to extract bits of coral from the sole of their feet.  So watch out where you step, either in the sand or the water, or you’ll be feeling the pain for hours to come.

Dunk Island

There is nothing much more to say, apart from how sorry I am that this beautiful island had to suffer such a tragic fate during last year’s storms, as I know it was heavily damaged and all but destroyed.

Dunk Island

Dunk Island

Mission Beach, August 2003

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Mission Beach

After that hectic and very educational week in Ellis Beach, trekking in the rainforest, snorkelling in the Great Barrier Reef and discovering the Aborigine culture in Kuranda, it was time to move on down south and visit other interesting spots in Queensland.

Mission Beach

We spent a week in Trinity Beach, where we enjoyed 7 days of peace and quiet, just enjoying the sun, the sea, the palm trees and the noisy singing of the laughing kookaburras, the noisiest birds I’ve ever heard.  They invariably woke us up at about 6 o’clock every morning and the funny thing is that we didn’t mind, as we woke up laughing too to join the happy chorus of these intriguing birds. 

The laughing Kookaburra

 

 

 

The mighty Cassowary

After Trinity Beach, we kept on heading south to Mission Beach, where we spent another week and took another hike into the rainforest in search of the elusive Cassowary, a flightless bird similar to an ostrich, but a bit more aggressive.  We didn’t hold much hope to see one, but our lucky stars must have been on our side and, after fighting our way through and getting dis-untangled from the ‘Take-a-While’  (there is a reason for this name: you work it out) rumbling bush, Lo and behold the most beautiful Cassowary stood there in front of us for a few minutes, almost deliverately posing for us take a picture.  It is unwise to get too close, as they are dangerous birds and we were adviced to hide behind a tree if we were lucky enough to see one, so the picture had to be taken from a distance and from the shelter of a tree, which we obediently did.

A Cassowary in the bush

Mission Beach turned out to be another glorious place to unwind and enjoy the visitors’ facilities, like a pedal buggy around town (great for kids of all ages), the superb and cheap restaurants, the heat of the winter’s sun (28 °C – far warmer than any British summer I’ve ever known) and a day out to Dunk Island, but that is the subject of another blog.

Having fun on the pedal buggies

Another wonderful surprise was the beautiful egg-like termite heap we happened to stumble across and much easier to photograph.

 

Termite heap in the rainforest

 

Gigantic fern in the rainforest

 

Road sign warning of cassowary crossing

Kuranda, Queensland, July 2003

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Kuranda's Railway impressive journey

Another equally wonderful and educational experience from Cairns, was a visit to the Aborigine town of Kuranda on the scenic Kuranda Railway http://www.ksr.com.au, where we were able to learn about the Aboriginal way of life and enjoy their unique culture and Art.

The journey itself is a wonder to behold and should not be missed at any cost if staying in Cairns.  This is an unique opportunity to discover the pioneering history of the tropical northeast of Australia, dating back to 1800.  It stops in various points of interest and natural beauty, including the impressive Barron Falls.  Once again, the stewards on the train did their very best to make us all feel at home with their natural Ozzy friendliness and charm and explained the various places of interest we were travelling though and stopping at.

Barron Waterfall

Once in Kuranda, we had the opportunity to try our hand at traditional Aborigine skills like spear and boomerang throwing, which proved more difficult than it seems from a distance and an activity in which every adult and child on the trip took part, safely surrounded by nets.

Learning Boomerang throwing

Spear throwing

We also enjoyed a performance of the ‘Dreamworld’ Aborigines believe is the beginning of all life, as well as a film on the history of Australia after the first Europeans settlers began to take control of the continent.  This is a very powerful and moving story of all the atrocities committed by such settlers and one that would make any European ashamed of their history: a cruel reminder that everywhere we went, we thought nothing of destroying the local way of life, culture and traditions in order to impose our own.  This is something that we all have to learn to live with, and all we can hope for is to make a better present and future for those we wronged so cruelly.

A performance of Dreamworld

Still, today’s Aborigines seem to be very philosophical about all this regrettable past and are doing their best to preserve their culture, still using and teaching old skills and amazing art form, including the didgeridoo playing, at which we all had a go too.  I dare anyone to breath in and out at the same time, some form of circular breathing, that produces that haunting and non-stopping sound.  Didgeridoos are beautiful works of art in their own right and this is one item that we decided to buy from the local museum and shop, as well as some paintings to hang on our walls.

Didgeridoo playing

I mustn’t forget the equally impressive skyrail trip above the rainforest canopy and Barron Gorge which, like the railway, will leave you breathless.

Kuranda's Skyrail

Skyrail over the rainforest canopy

Skyrail over the rainforest canopy

The rainforest around Kuranda

Some more scenic views from the Kuranda's Railway

The Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, July 2003

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The Great Barrier Reef

Ellis Beach turned out to be the perfect base to set off and explore the wonders of northeast Australia.  After enjoying the soft sandy beach, warm ocean and rain forest, we decided it was time to discover and experience at first hand the mysteries of the Great Barrier Reef.  To this purpose, we booked a day out with Haba Dive at http://www.habadive.com.au/ and drove in our hired motorhome to Port Douglas, where the snorkelling/diving team would meet us and direct us to our allocated boats that would take us out to Agincourt Reef, in the Outer Great Barrier Reef.

 

The Great Barrier Reef

 

The actual day was a bit cooler than previous days and, as the ocean was a bit choppy, the team advised us all to take some sea-sickness tablets, for we would undoubtedly feel our stomachs churn with what was forecast in terms of waves….. (more on this later).  Still it was sunny and pleasant enough to sit on the deck and enjoy the long ride out (I seem to remember it had taken about 90 minutes).  During this time the very competent and knowledgeable members of the diving team explained to us all about the fragile environment of the reef and the importance of not touching anything, as well as a few safety precautions and what to do if we got into trouble once in the water, always swimming or diving in pairs rather than alone and the emergency signals.

 

The Great Barrier Reef

 

At last it was time to get changed into our wetsuits and be decked out with snorkelling or scuba diving gear, as the case might be.  I had never done either of those things before and I was a bit apprehensive about the whole event, but wild horses wouldn’t have dragged me away from discovering the marvels of the ocean, so I played it safe and chose snorkelling.  The best word I can find to define this place is ‘awe-inspiring’ as this has probably been the most transcending experience in my whole life.  The moment you put your face in the water, you start seeing all these estrange and wonderful creatures that could easily have come from other planets.  It’s not just the fish, which included a shark, but the coral, giant scallops and sea-plants swaying in the ocean.  I wanted to reach down and be part of them and at one point I felt the water coming through my breathing tube as I had in fact got carried away by the sheer beauty of this precious and unique eco-system.  I had the foresight of carrying a water-proof camera and, even though the quality of the pictures is not brilliant, at least I managed to capture some of the things we saw.

 

Coral in The Great Barrier Reef

 

The Great Barrier Reef

 

The Great Barrier Reef

Choppy waters

Time passed all too quickly and when we were finally called back into the boat, I couldn’t believe it was time to go.  Unfortunately the ocean was getting quite rough by then and it was deemed safer to start our journey back to Port Douglas.  The sea did in fact get a lot worse, more than my and my son’s stomachs could tolerate and the inevitable happened.  I have been in many boats, yachts, ferries and dinghies before and I was born by the sea-side and I have very good sea-legs, but nothing had prepared me for what was to come and, to my dismay, I spent most of the journey back lying on the deck, only getting up to be sick overboard, as was young Peter.  Once again, the wonderful Haba team, did their utmost best to keep up comfortable and warm and they had us wrapped in layers of dry wetsuits and kept giving us water, but I have to admit we were feeling quite sorry for ourselves and it managed to spoil what until then had been a perfect day.  Still, it didn’t kill us and we still laugh about it every time we mention our first and fantastic snorkelling experience and it certainly didn’t put us off from trying again, as well as scuba diving, on a different holiday a couple of years later.  But that is another story……

 

Suffering from sea-sickness

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A rough journey back