Wednesday, February 4, 2004

Australia Highlights

Overall, I enjoyed Australia a lot. Unlike in NZ, I decided not to worry about money and did a lot more. I ended up on 2 good tours, and 2 bad tours. But even the bad was not so bad. While I saw a lot of highlights, I ended up skipping all the little towns in between. I think it is better for me that way. Travelling so much causes you to be jaded a bit. By the time I was in Australia, I only wanted to see & do things that were unique. The other thing I realized was that I didn't particularly like travelling alone for so long. I got tired of not really getting the chance to know people I meet too well. That's another reason why I went with tours. You at least get a few days to get to know people instead of just a few hours in most cases.

Monday, February 2, 2004

Darwin to Alice Springs & Ayers Rock

I went on a six day tour from Darwin to Alice Springs where 3 of the days were spent around Uluru, Olgas, and Kings Canyon. I can't even be bothered to go into detail, but that tour was such a rip off. There was hardly anything involved for the first half of the trip, and on the second half, the guide was a complete ass. Anyhow, I've been on many tours, and I've never felt more ripped off than with this tour. So, if you ever consider taking a tour, don't use Adventure Tours unless you don't have other options.
The highlights of these 6 days was hiking in Katherine Gorge, the Devil's Marbles, Ayers Rock, Olgas, and Kings Canyon. They were all pretty spectacular in itself, but it marked the end of my journey in Australia. I've now seen all I wanted to see, for now, here in the Outback.

Monday, January 26, 2004


There didn't seem to be much to do in Darwin in the wet season. There's not a lot of people there this time of year, which was nice, but that meant there was a lack of atmoshphere too. One of the days that I was there was so hot, I didn't even want to go outside so I sat in the airconditioned TV room the whole day. Oh, I saw the movie The Last Samurai while I was there. I was wondering for a while why the movie isn't starting on time, only to find out that Northern Territory is half hour behind Queensland, which is an hour behind New South Wales, even tho they are on the same latitude. Seems Queensland wants to be different from NSW and decided not to adopt the daylight savings time.

Kakadu NP

I had another 3 day/2 night camping trip, this time through Kakadu NP with Kakadu Dreams. There was only 6 of us in a 4WD - James, Max, Hannes, Ako, Heike, and me. Our guide was Lyle and he was half Aboriginal (indeginous people of Australia) so he knew a lot about their culture and was a great guide. There was a lot of hiking and swimming involved in the tour, but I got more cultural experience than I expected. That was great, because otherwise, I may never have bothered to try to learn anything about the Aboriginal culture. It is a significant part of Australia, so it would have been a shame not to have seen any of their art or hear a didgeridoo played properly.

It is currently rainy season in Kakadu, so it's the low peak season and hence only the six of us on the tour. The 2 girls were close to my age so we got along really well so that was great. The 3 boys were much younger, but the 2 Austrian boys were so funny they had me clutching my stomach and laughing half of the time in the car. Actually, I just remembered Max was my age. I would've never known it though from the way he acted. James, from Italy, was pretty chill & nice too. He had been taking didgeridoo lessons and was really into the Aboriginal culture.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004


Cairns was just a stop over before catching a flight to Darwin. I had only one night here so I just spent a bit of time walking around. This is probably the most touristy place I have been to, and it seems to cater really well to Japanese tourists. And it just so happens that my ex-boyfriend who lives in Japan and a bunch of his friends were flying into Cairns tomorrow to go on a dive trip. We were going to try to meet up, but he says they are going straight to their hotel in Port Douglas, and I had no plans to go there. Notice, he says "HOTEL". It got me thinking, what the hell am I doing staying in these cheap ass hostels?? I used to make X dollars - I shouldn't have to stay in hostels. I'm right, I don't. But if I do, it could mean not having money left for school or travelling longer or on anything else. It's a choice I made. Actually, when you're travelling alone, it's better to stay in hostels so you meet people. I know I said I got tired of meeting new people, but I think I would go more nuts if I never met anyone while travelling.

Monday, January 19, 2004

Sailing Around Whitsunday Islands

Airlie Beach

I had 2 days to kill in Airlie Beach before my sailing trip, and it was raining both days. It was more like a storm on the first day. There's not a whole lot to do in Airlie. Even if it was sunny, you can't swim in the beaches in Queensland from like November because of stingers. (There is a man made lagoon, or pool, tho for public use.) I had already decided that Australia is not the kind of place I like to sit around and relax. I hate days when I'm just sitting around, but at least in NZ, I was sitting around in nice hostels with nice sceneries. Hostels in Australia are pretty crap. I might have mentioned somewhere before also, but I'm also tired of chatting up with people I may or may not see again so I don't even bother trying to talk to anyone in hostels anymore unless I'm really bored or have a need to.

Sailing on the Siska

I had booked a 3 day/2 night sailing trip on a maxi Apollo III, but I was moved onto another boat at the last minute. The trip was with Southern Cross on their Siska. It was a boat actually recommended in my guide book, so I wasn't too bothered about it. The boat was a proper sailing yacht so it wasn't big, but not so small that it was uncomfortable down below. There were 20 passengers on board and 5 crew. A skipper, crew, cook, and 2 volunteers. The passengers were all different mixes in age and nationality, but everyone was down to earth and pretty nice. I enjoyed everyone's company. One guy, Andy, is planning to go to Japan to teach English in June, so we may try to meet up with each other than.

Around The Whitsunday Islands

I had an absolutely fantastic time sailing around the islands. Fortunately, we had great weather all three days. I know some people who'd gone out before us didn't have as great of a time because it rained a lot. I couldn't see how the trip would've been enjoyable if it rained on us also. It was a bit rough getting out on the first day though and most of us kind of sat still up top trying not to get ill. Once things calmed down a bit I got to take the helm for a bit.

Each day we spent some time snorkelling. It was the best snorkelling I've done. The corals were pretty, and I saw lots of wildlife including clown fish (like Nemo), rays, and a giant turtle. It made me want to do some snorkelling or diving up in the Great Barrier Reef, but I didn't plan on doing it on this trip. Perhaps I'll make another trip to Australia for that. I do have other parts of Australia that I'll need to visit later anyways. Aside from snorkelling, we spent some time on Whitehaven beach and on some short walking tracks to a look out with some stunning views.
On the very last day, we had winds of up to 30 knots and had great sailing!! The boat was keeled over onto its side and a lot of people were nervous, especially when Adrian took the helm. It was lots of fun tho, well, until we ripped a sail about an hour away from the marina. In the evening, we all met up for dinner and drinks, followed by a bit of dancing.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Fraser Island

Playing Survivor

To get on and around Fraser Island, you need a 4WD. The cheapest and a popular way to do it with backpackers is to go on a self-guided tour with other backpackers. What happens is you sign up to do this, and the hostel or tour company will throw a group of 9-11 people together, randomly it seems. They give you a pretty run down 4WD, some camping equipment, food, and some vague instructions, and send you on your way for 3 days and 2 nights. Immediately after I arrived on Rainbow Beach, I attended a briefing with other backpackers going the next day to Fraser. We were broken up into groups. Mine had 10 people in it, and 7 of them were 20 yr olds! Luckily, the other 2 were girls in the late 20's and we got along really well. Still, it was a challenge to coordinate and plan things as a group - especially when it came to cooking and cleaning up. Most of the time, it was the usual half of the group doing all the work.

Fraser Island
The first day of the trip was pissing rain, but most of the day was spent driving up the island (start in Harvey Bay instead of Rainbow Beach if you do this trip). We drove on the beach some, and then inland over the rough roads. Our camp site for the night - Indian Heads - was at near the top of the island so we had lots of ground to cover. We stopped in Elli creek for a swim in the pouring rain. It was almost like a scene from a military movie where your sneaking through uncharted grounds. On the way up to Indian Head from there, we saw the Maheno Shipwreck, and some coloured sands. Once in Indian Head, we went up to the sand dunes to catch sunset, but we missed it. Still beautiful up there tho. At night, the sky cleared some and we can see many stars. There are no lights (or facilities for toilets & showers) at Indian Heads so the stars are bright. I think I saw my first shooting star. It was too bad we would be eaten alive by bugs if we slept outside.

The second day began with an early rise (0430) to catch the sunrise from Indian Head. Absolutely beautiful. Some people even saw sharks in the water below. After going back for a bit of a nap, the rest of the morning was spent at Champagne pools. We could not leave the area until the afternoon due to tide restrictions. The Champagne pool is an area on the beach protected by sharks from the rocks. But we had to be careful of the crashing waves coming over the rocks. There were also other rocks people were cutting their feet on. The waves were strong at high tide and hard to swim. But I stayed there all morning going in and out in some of the calmer bits, being careful to slather on sunscreen often as it was blazing hot. It was better than hanging out at the campsite in this heat. Once we were able to get going, we stopped at Elli Creek again, but today there were many tourists here because of the good weather. In the end, we've ran out of time and missed Lake Wabby. We went on to Dilli Village for the night where there were some facilities. I drove most of the day, and while it was fun driving along the beach or 4WD inland, it was quite tiring with lots of driving. I was pretty beat by end of day.
We headed over to Lake Mackenzie first thing in the morning on the third day, tho it was not soon enough for those of us wanting to spend a lot of time there. Lake Mackenzie was the most beautiful lake I've ever seen - such a clear blue water. The water temperature was just right for me. Also, the lake was large enough and out of the way that it was not so jam packed with tourists, even tho lots of people were there. It was so great for swimming. After couple hours tho, we had to get going. We had to make lunch and get down to Hook Point to catch our ferry.

The Group and Trip Organization

Although the island was magnificent, we missed out on spending lots of time in the best places, and seeing some other parts of the island. Part of the reason was due to inefficiency of the group. Half of the group didn't help out a whole lot, slowing the progress when we tried to pack up and get going after camp, meals, etc. The other problem was poor planning I think. The tour company gave us an itinerary to follow with lots of restrictions on time due to high tide on the beaches. We ended up spending hours and hours at Champagne pool, tho I would rather have been at Lake Mackenzie for it. They also didn't give us a lot of info on the island. Combined with the 3 hr drive to and from the ferry drop off to the main bits of the island, there just wasn't sufficient time to enjoy it thoroughly. Our group cohesiveness was poor, tho it could've been worse I think. Food was mediocre, and equipment - well not the very best. Our car broke down once and our torch light broke on the first night, leaving us w/o light on the second night. I suppose this is the price you pay for a budget trip. The group I think, is always a hit-or-miss situation. I've been with some really good groups, and some that were okay. This one was by far the worst, but I could think of much worse people to be with. 5 of the kids were actually a group of Swiss folks, and they kind of kep to themselves a lot. They weren't very proactive either and kind of slowed the trip a bit I think. The other 2 kids were actually great - they put in more than their fare share of team effort. As for me, I'm actually lucky that there were 2 girls I got on well with and could share the responsibility of leading the group.