Friday, March 11, 2011

Our last couple of weeks in Australia

So after we left Fraser we had one more night in Roberta on the campsite in Rainbow Beach, we were shattered after Fraser so we fell asleep about half an hour after our showers! 

The next morning we headed to Hervey Bay for some lunch and a quick look around.

There wasn't much in Hervey Bay, quite a nice stretch of beach but it was pretty calm and it was boiling so we didn't sit out in the sun for long.

After Hervey Bay we wanted to head further up the coast but we'd been hearing reports of a cyclone heading towards Cairns. We had escaped the floods, so we thought we should try and do the same with the cyclone! So instead of heading up to the Barrier Reef like we planned (and dreamed about) we made a decision over lunch to spend the next week heading south towards Brisbane and explore more of the Sunshine and Gold Coast.

We left Hervey Bay and that night stayed in a really quiet (free!) rest area which had showers and free BBQ's.

The next morning was beautiful blue skies and not a cloud in sight and as we sat outside the van eating our cornflakes we realised it was the first day back to school for most of the children in Australia, we spotted all the kids trotting to school in their (compulsory) sunhats and 'Summer Bay/Home & Away' style uniforms!

We drove straight down from here back to our favourite place on the coast, Noosa.  We stayed at the same caravan park as before and funnily enough we met up with a couple who came from Milton Keynes.  They were lovely and they were both hairdressers and it turned out the guy had worked with my old school friend Scott Brown in a hairdressers in Northampton - what a small world!  

We spent 3 days in Noosa and the weather was gorgeous, so everyday we headed to the beach and lazed around reading our books and taking our body boards into the sea.

On our last day there it was Australia Day, we decided to make a big picnic and take it to the beach with us.  We also got some Australia flag tattoos for our face - very classy eh! 

The beach wasn't heaving as we'd thought it'd be, but it was still really nice to see everyone out with their families with Australia flag; swimming shorts, costumes, bikini's, umbrellas, hats, towels, glasses and inflatables - we even saw a group of people take a massive Australia flag paddling pool right out to sea with five people sat in it whilst drinking beers and riding the waves.

We really loved this little campsite so were really sad to leave after our 3 days, but we had to make our way back down south.  We drove along the coast to a place called Maroochydore.  We weren't really that impressed with Maroochy (as the locals call it), the beach wasn't that great and the campsite we were on had NO shade, so our campervan was like a little egg frying in the sun.  Actually the day we were in Maroochy it was so hot that we only spent 40 mins on the beach, then walked back to the van and drove ourselves to the nearest shopping mall so that we could get some air conditioning!! We ended up spending the afternoon wandering around, cooling down and reading books in books shops.  It was such a relief to get out of the heat.

The next morning we woke up early and drove to Mooloolaba (trying saying that when you've had a couple) about 10 mins down the coast.  We found a lovely little campsite which had a sandy path directly onto the beach.  We stayed here for 2 nights and we loved it.  The first day we spent lazing on the beach, we tried to take our body boards into the surf, but it was way too strong here, it was so tiring and the current was pulling us all over the place.  

That evening we met a couple next to us and they recommended that we try the fish and chips whilst we were here as the fish markets are just down the road and the fish and chip shops down there cook all the fresh fish from the days catch for a bargain price.  We did, and we loved it.

The next day we hit the beach again, although on the path on the way down to the beach Mart saw a snake disappear into the undergrowth, so I was a bit wary about walking down that bit from then on.  That's the thing in Australia, you have to always have your eyes peeled whilst you're out on walks or near to nature, you don't know what might be about to kill you!  We met another couple that day, an Australian couple, who had just started a 12 month tour of Australia in their caravan.  We ended up meeting quite a few Aussies doing the same thing, it's really popular.

All the campsites we stayed on were reasonably priced, about 20-25pounds a night.  But they were all a bit dated, a bit 70's.  The thing that made us laugh the most about them was that they all played the radio through the shower/toilet block.  But the radio stations were ALL the same in ALL the campsites, it was almost like they tuned into 'Campsite FM' or something - mostly it was songs from the 60's, like Elvis, The Four Tops, The Beatles or Neil Diamond, you'd often find me singing along in the shower to a bit of Beach Boys!

The next day we were up mega early (we're such kids!) as we were going to Australia Zoo!! We had such a great day for it and the drive was so pretty, the whole of Australia Zoo is surrounded by rainforest.  We loved seeing the crocs, they were so spectacular and I loved the kangaroos (I hated the snakes!).

aw... one of our favourite birds .. a Kookaburra.  We'll miss
these little fellas when we're back home

Eastern Brown Snake - 2nd most venomous in the world and yep... found in Australia

Cassowary. They can become really violent in
order to defend their territory 
Another part of the Zoo is about Steve and his legacy and how his family (although a tad too glamourous these days) are trying to keep his conservation efforts going.  There was a wall with tons of pictures of Steve during his life and also him with his wife Terri and his kids, Bindi and Bob.  It was quite moving.. I even had a little cry.

We left the zoo around 5ish and drove an hour south to Bribie Island.  Bribie is one of two islands in Queensland connected to the main land by bridge.  We drove over the bridge in between fisherman casting off and spotted the pelicans resting on the lamposts.  

We were heading to Bribie especially to stay with our friends, Merryl and Kev, who we met a week ago on Fraser Island and who kindly invited us to come and visit them at their house.

Merryl and Kev had lived in South Gippsland, an area near to Melbourne, Victoria, for most of their lives, but a year ago they made the massive jump to move from Victoria to Bribie Island in Queensland to be closer to their daughter, her husband and their grandchildren.  It was a huge decision for them to make, but just pulling into their beautiful close right next to the estuary, you could see that the house they'd chosen had definitely made their decision an easier one.  It is a beautiful area and a stunning house.

As we pulled up, we did mention that our old banger parked on their driveway would probably reduce their house value by 50%!!

Roberta was definitely feeling out of place!

We were welcomed with open arms and given a tour of their gorgeous house, with its terrace, pool and yacht moored up on their jetty at the bottom of the garden - heaven! 

We all lazed in the conservatory with a few beers and some cheese whilst looking over the estuary, the envy was starting to set in!

yes please!

We'd mentioned to Merryl the week before that we were starting to miss a few home comforts, so to give us a taste of home we were treated to a lovely home cooked roast lamb, with an amazing (traditional Aussie) pavlova to follow :-) The evening was then topped off with a lovely sleep in a real double bed! no campervan foam mattress in sight!

The next morning we woke up and all tucked into a fresh fruit salad and cereal breakfast on the terrace with a beautiful blue sky above us - I could get used to this - isn't this how life is meant to be??  Being in Australia Merryl and Kev also have the added bonus of being able to buy fruit very very cheap, unlike Britain where a mango would could about 2pounds for one that isn't even ripe! They are around 50p in Aus, along with fresh apricots, blueberries and pineapple! There's so many fruit farms along the side of the road, you can just stop off on your way home from work and stock up on all your fruit for smoothies, fruit salads and snacks for the week for about 3pounds! Plus, avacados, which I love, are also sold at these fruit farms, all for about 50p each, one massive tick for Australia as far as I'm concerned!

our lovely breakfast on the terrace


After our lovely breakfast, we headed out in Kev's (much loved) Land Cruiser and were given a little tour of Bribie Island.  Bribie isn't somewhere we would have put on our itinerary, as it's not necessarily on the tourist trail, but we were really glad to get 'residents' tour - they're always the best aren't they.

on our fab guided tour :-)

As it's an island you'd expect that they'd have to head to the mainland for a lot of their shopping or needs, but in fact there's pretty much everything there, garages, supermarkets, cinema, Dr's, vets, schools and a couple of golf courses (Martin's ears prick up!). It's a lovely place and with the gorgeous weather and a stunning surf beach it's no wonder that a lot of Brisbane residents head here for the weekends to relax, fish, sail or surf, I know we would!

So relaxed and peaceful
We had a lovely stay with Merryl and Kev, just relaxing, getting to know each other and chatting about everything from family, to sport, to travel destinations, we hope we stay in touch with them for many years. They're also looking to visit Britain within the next couple of years, so hopefully we can repay the favour and give them a guided tour of our area.  Although I have a feeling that our back garden with some cloudy sunshine wont' be able to compete with blue skies and 30 degrees! Oh also, we have to mention a quick congratulations to Kev, who, at 68 (sorry Kev!), has just completed his first triathlon and came 1st in his category!! Fantastic! 

After we left Bribie we headed down to the Gold Coast, about 1.5hrs drive, to spend a few days at the theme parks on the coast.  Not necessarily the cultural highlight of our 5 month trip, but SO much fun.  Plus, we bought a VIP pass for $99 which allowed us to visit 3 parks as many times as you wanted (Wet'n'Wild, Sea World & Movie World).

The temperature was now nearly upto 40 degrees and we were starting to boil in our un-air conditioned old banger, so we headed straight for Wet'n'Wild waterpark to cool down for the afternoon. We loved it here, we were like little teenagers running around all the rides, although one MASSIVE down side to this place, the floor was boiling from the sun and you couldn't walk around with your flip flops as you were on and off rides all the time, by the end of the day our feet were definitely singed!!

To save a bit of money we spent the last 3 nights of our trip in a rest area, so we didn't have to pay campsite fees. We knew we could have a shower at the beach and so we just got by, it was pretty basic, but at least we weren't spending any cash and it allowed us to have more cash for our NZ leg of the trip.  But I have to mention one incident that took place in said rest area.  One night we were laying in the back watching a film on the laptop and a car drove into the rest area with its lights off and parked up behind the little hut (hut was closed) that served tea and coffee.  I was desperate for a wee so had to nip out but wouldn't go on my own with this dodgy car sat there, so Mart came with me, just as we were about to get back in the van it started flashing its lights at me!!!!!.. I was panicking going "Mart, look, look, I think they want us to come over for some sexy time, quick get back in the van!" then a second later another car drove in with its lights off and parked up next to the other car - it definitely looked like two people meeting up for an affair - just grateful we weren't involved!!!

The next day we drove into Surfers Paradise and went to Sea World for the day - I really didn't expect to like this park as much as I did, I thought it was just one big aquarium but it has rides and shows on all day, so there was loads to see and do.  Our favourite bit of the day was seeing the Dolphin show, there were two showings per day and we went to both of them!

Shark fin poking out!

King Penguin

stroking the rays

After Sea World we headed to Southport beach for some beach time, then into Surfers Paradise for some dinner (sushi for me, another huge tick to Australia, I will miss their sushi) and then a quick shower by the beach after the sun had gone down.  It was really good actually, the day was still really hot, so it was nice to cool down with a shower before we went to sleep.

Surfers Paradise

nightime beachside shower - was about 10pm!

After another night in our little rest area, we woke up and drove to Warner Brothers Movie World - it was definitely more of a family park so there weren't tons of rides for us to go on, but the ones we went on were pretty good and they had a great stunt car show that we watched.  Again, the day was SO hot that we went on the log flume 5 times!!! Luckily it was a Tuesday and the schools were all back, so we had no queues, heaven! 

watching the stunt car show

We finished at the park around 2ish and spent the rest of the afternoon on the beach - our last day on an Australian beach!! :-( very sad. I already miss diving into the waves and riding the surf on our body boards :-( if you're Australian and you're reading this - you're very lucky to live near to the most amazing beaches in the world! Lucky lucky lucky!

Love this pic

On our final day on the East Coast we headed to Wet'n'Wild again and spent a final day running around like kids on all the rides - loved it! :-)

For our final week in Australia we headed back to 'T-Bar' (Toowoomba) to spend it with Dawn and Tam as we knew we wouldn't see them both for quite a while.  The weather was great whilst we were there, so we had a lot of time in the garden and had a few BBQ's and went for a few walks and a couple of jogs and just mainly relaxed chatting about the baby! Mart and Dawn spent some good quality time talking about sport, and watching a bit, as they always do :-)! like peas in a pod those two.

Thai night :-)

On Sat 12th February, we had a mammoth day ahead of us! We caught a 2 hour bus from Toowoomba to Brisbane Airport, then an hours flight from Brisbane to Sydney. Then we waited...and waited... from 7pm until 4am the next morning.  We amused ourselves though, trotted around the shops, spent the last of our Australian $'s on some dinner and watched Avatar and then tried to sleep (unsuccessfully, due to a very chatty Japanese girl next to me, with very smelly food) on the chairs in the downstairs area of the airport. 

The grey twins

Krispy Kreme - a good way to spend the rest of our Aussie $'s

We then (like walking zombies) got on a flight at 6am on the Sunday morning headed for Auckland!