Cairns to Rockhampton
14.11.2010 - 21.11.2010 25 °C
We left Sydney on November 14 and arrived at Cairns, a quaint town with many backpackers as it’s one of the jumping off points to go snorkel/dive the Great Barrier Reef. We flew into a bit of rain, but excitedly stared out the airplane window at the lush tropical scenery, including large hills and mountains in the distance.
When we arrived at the hostel, we found out that Andy as well as the driver from the hostel, German who was from Germany (yes, that’s not a typo, he was German the German! ) – they both came to look for us at the airport! They soon returned and all was well. We stayed at a place called dreamtime, a cute and very clean place with really nice people. Later that night, after we got settled into our room, we headed to a Mexican place down the road for a drink and all you can eat nachos for $10. That fit our budget nicely!
The next morning our Greyhound bus left at noon, so we walked around Cairns and found a cute breakfast place called “Calypso” – for $13 we got freshly squeezed orange juice, a flat white (similar to a latte but has a bit less milk and no foam – we are quite addicted to them, coffee is amazing here!) It also came with eggs, bacon, sausage and toast. It was delicious!
We took a walk around the town, on the boardwalk and by the Cairns lagoon (basically a swimming pool near the Ocean). It was a beautiful day, around 30 degrees and was quite humid. UV index was extreme!
After our walk, we boarded the bus for a 7 hour drive to Townsville, our take off point to Magnetic Island...
We spent two nights on Magnetic Island (an hour ferry ride from the mainland city of Townsville). There we stayed at a hostel called Bungalow Bay, where our accommodations were actually small huts situated within a tropical and eco friendly resort. On the Island, we explored the local eateries including a delicious Mexican restaurant called Noodies. We also spent some time soaking up the rays on the beach in Horseshoe Bay.
One of the major highlights of Magnetics island was doing the hike up The Forts – a former military stronghold during WWII. The Fort now serves as a spectacular look out point of the entire island and one of the few places where visitors have the opportunity to observe and spot Koalas in the wild! On our way to the Forts, we ran into some locals who gave us a few tips on Koala spotting. Since Koalas sleep close to 20 hours a day, they don’t move very much. Consequently, when someone spots a koala up in the trees, they will often make an arrow sign out of sticks to point others in the right direction. We were a bit sceptical at first, but after our first, second and third koala sightings courtesy of the arrows, we were convinced! Other animal sightings on the island included the wallabies (they look like miniature kangaroos).
On our final night on the Island, we went to the bar at our hostel to participate in trivia night (although we didn’t win, we learned a lot of new useless trivial such as the fact that apparently netball is a serious sport over here) and had a few jugs of beer (not quite as large as our pitchers back home – 1 jug = about 2 and ½ pints). When we got back to the mainland, we also learned that Townsville has absolutely no restaurants that open before noon. After an annoying 30 minute walk in several different directions, we gave up and returned to the bus station only to realize there was a cafe in the bus station!
AIRLIE BEACH AND THE WHITSUNDAYS
After a relatively hot and sunny first few days on the east coast, we ran into our first patch of rain at Airlie Beach. To kick things off we checked into our hostel – Beaches Backpackers. Located on the main strip, it was definitely the place to party but also the dodgiest hostel we stayed in so far. On our second day we got ready to embark on our 2 night sailing adventure through the Whitsundays (a chain of 74 islands that run along the eastern coast of Australia and offer some of the nicest beaches as well as scuba and snorkel locations along the great barrier reef).
As we checked in for our sailing trip it began raining and then in began pouring, and then rain just seemed to come from every direction and soaked us to the bone. Along with 22 other, equally drenched passengers, we waited on the dock for our catamaran, Tongarra, to pick us up. The deckhand, Pinky showed up in a full stinger suit and a snorkel attached to his head and basically said in his quintessential Australian accent – “Welcome aboard Tongarra everyone, the weather for the next few days is shit!”
Then he proceeded to recommend that we all load up on extra “beverages” and that this trip would still be awesome as long as we kept a good attitude and make the most of it. We certainly we did! Everyone on our boat was in their 20’s and we soon made a whole bunch of new friends. We learned many new drinking games, got our first taste of Ozzy rap music, and slept outside underneath the stars (who were up there somewhere underneath those clouds and all that rain).
In between, we also did some amazing snorkelling along the great barrier reef where we saw crazy colour fish, turtles, reef sharks and colour coral.
We went to gorgeous White Haven beach where the sand is pure white and 99% silica – we looked pretty sweet on the beach in our stinger suits.
On our second night we saw one of the most gorgeous sunsets.
The food was home cooked every day and night by Pinky and our skip Eddie and was delicious!
We had an amazing time – but after 2 nights on a boat, with lack of sleep and wet clothes, we were ready for a hot shower and a nap! Feeling recharged we later met up with many of the people who were on our boat that evening for drinks. Round two of staying at the Beaches Backpackers was much better! The next morning we boarded the Greyhound, heading to Rockhampton for the night. Beef capital of Oz, here we come!!