Australia by the Numbers: a Wrap Up

Time: 37 days, 3 in Cairns, 6 in Sydney, 4 in Melbourne, 3 on the Great Ocean Road and 21 days in the Campervan down the east coast.
Vans rented: 2, Excalibur from spaceships, a lovely van we slept in for 21 days and loved, and one from Wicked that was pretty horrible.
Friends visited: 2, one on the Sunshine coast, and one in Sydney.
Boat Rides: 3, a scuba trip in Cairns, a sailing adventure in the Whitsundays, and a ferry to Fraser Island.
Bus Rides: 1 Overnight bus from Sydney to Melbourne, not a great experience, but certainly better than the buses in Japan
National Parks: Noosa, Agnes Falls, 12 Apostles, and too many more to count.
World Heritage Sites: 5 – Great Barrier Reef, Wet Tropics of Queensland, Fraser Island, Opera House and Blue Mountains
Wineries visited: 5 and a brewery. Wonderful wines.Best Food:  a multi way tie between delicious cheddar and brie picked up in the Hunter Valley while touring wineries, wonderful pies picked up on the side of the road, Malaysian and Japanese food in Sydney, BBQ Kangaroo, and all the gourmet food we had in Melbourne. Australia has wonderful food. I would highly recommend Green in Northern Melbourne for brunch, especially the breakfast stack and Mamak in Sydney for the best Malaysian.
Worst Food: Again with the Marmite, we tried Marmite flavoured chips, and they were not good.
Best City: Personally I loved Kendall, but I’d have to give this one to Melbourne. A gorgeous city, with beautiful museums, a great market, a free tram, wonderful food, and the best library I’ve ever been in. Sydney was great, with a nice waterfront, but if we were to move to Australia, Melbourne is where we’d settle down.
Worst City: While Cairns had great weather and a nice location near the barrier reef, I wouldn’t spend so much time here next time, as there weren’t many great restaurants and it was really expensive compared to some of the other cities we visited. Best New Experience: It was in Australia that we tried Scuba diving for the first time, and held a Koala, feed a Kangaroo, but I think our best experience was our flight in a 6 seater plane over Fraser Island, something I never thought I would do. So fun!
Worst New Experience: Trying to rent a car from WICKED campervans and instead getting a hideously painted, falling apart van instead. Add that to trying to drive around Melbourne with only a very bad map, and it was the worst experience of our trip. However, that van took us to the Great Ocean Road and back safely, so it all worked out in the end.

Travel Tip: There are free places to stay everywhere! Pick up a copy of the giant book of camping and road maps, “Camps Australia Wide”, if it’s not included with your van rental and you will be able to find all the free sites in every state. Most free sites had nice washrooms and some even had driver reviver booths, with free coffee, hot chocolate and cookies. Perfect for camping in the cold weather.

Will we return: I certainly hope so, it’s a fascinating country and we never made it to Uluru, Tasmania or the West Coast, all places I would like to see.

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Fraser Island

One of the must stops down the east coast of Australia is Fraser Island, the largest sand island in the world. Not wanting to miss out, we took a one day 4 wheel drive trip.
The truck picked us up and took the ferry over to the island. Right away, we struck gold and saw a wild dingo!

The jeep took us over to the island on a ferry, and then down the beach until we got to Lake MacKenzie, a lake that is fed only by an underground aquifer and rain. It was absolutely wonderful to swim in, especially after swimming in salt water.  It has the same silica based sand as on whitehaven beach. We spent some time swimming and lying on the silica beach before heading to the rainforst. We were amazed that trees so tall could grow right out of the sand! Next we headed to the  wreck of the Maheno, a ship that sunk offshore in 1935.
After washing ashore, the still intact ship was used as a location for weddings and other parties before WWII, when the Australian air force used as a target for bombing drills. Now it is half destroyed and all rusted out, and a stop on all standard tours. It was fascinating.
On the way back we stopped for a swim in a small creek halfway down the island. This was my favourite part of the trip. The current in shady stream was so strong that you could let it push you, and we had a few races with the other people on our tour.  The water was amazingly pure and clean.
Before we headed back to Airlie, we stopped and did something that I had previously sworn I would never do, but more on that later.

What a great day!

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A day in Kendall

Unlike Scott, whose last name is pretty common, I don’t often find places with my name. So when I found this town on the map, I knew it was worth the detour. Not only was it a whole town named after me, never has there been a town with more items in it with the name of the town.
The town was named after Henry Kendall, an Australian poet who lived here in the late 1800’s, and throughout the town were plaques with verses from his poems.
This one near the school was pretty obviously not written by Kendall himself, but I thought it was pretty good anyway!
 Believe it or not, this is only a small portion of the collection of photos I have of myself with places around Kendall, but I think that’s probably enough for now. Kendall, Australia. A town worth visiting – for me anyway!

 

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Kangeroos!

We saw a lot of kangaroos in Australia, but the live ones were too fast to get a good picture of in the car, and the abundant dead ones were too sad. By far the most impressive one was this 20 foot animatronic kangaroo next to a gas station in Queensland. It moved its ears and eyes and Scott waited around for a long time to see if the pouch would open, but unfortunately we had no luck on that front.

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Strange Small Towns: Biggenden

While driving through the middle of nowhere we stumbled upon what might possibly the the best small town in all of Australia. Biggenden is definitely not on any tourist map or even on some regular maps, but we spent an amusing half an hour exploring the town.
 Among the highlights was this amazing blacksmith and funeral parlour, complete with the most incredible iron structure I have ever seen.

Here we have a devil of some kind holding a dragon. I can’t even begin to describe it further. I love road trips!

 

 

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Up to the Daintree

As we drove through New Zealand, Scott and I listened to Bill Bryson’s amazing book about travelling in Australia, “In a Sunburned Country”, and were inspired to make a trip north from Cairns to see the the rainforest and cape tribulation. After a few hours driving we reached the Daintree river, where we first realized how much money we were going to have to spend in Australia. The river is about 50m wide, an easily swimmable distance if it hadn’t been for the crocodiles, and is the only way into the national park. It costs $25 for a return ferry ticket.
 That said, it was the only thing we spent money on for the rest of the day, so it was worthwhile for the trip. The Daintree is an ancient rainforest, and going there really does feel like entering another world. We spend the day walking underneath giant trees, admiring waterfalls and keeping our eyes out for Cassowaries. We skipped the discovery centre in favour of the free walks near by, which I would definitely recommend.

We had planned to spend the night at the campground within the park, but it was full, and we were forced to cut our trip short. In a hurry to get back over the river before dark, we spent a little time for Cape Tribulation. It was named Tribulation by Captain Cook who ran aground near the cape in 1770.

We drove back out, managing not to hit any giant flightless birds, and to an amazing free campsite 30km south of the park.
We had a great day in the Daintree, and my only regret is not seeing any crocodiles. Well you have to save something for next time…

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