24.08.2010 - 03.09.2010 0 °C
The suggestion that I would write up a blog entry at the end of this 2 - week East Coast Tour was met with a certain degree of alarm. I will let you guess who was most perturbed by this arrangement.... So thought I should probably break it up with a little update half way through. Having heard of a 7.5 Richter earthquake in Christchurch and a horrible sky-diving plane crash, it seems NZ is having a tough time of it. So far, Australia has proven its worth and we're having a fantastic time Down Under. Controversially, I have decided to go for a location - orientated approach rather than day by day. The upside for my readership (and my co-writers) is that it should be readable in one session rather than installments.
We flew out of Christchurch at some ungodly hour on Wednesday morning which necessitated us getting up at 1 a.m. Australia time. This only served to make the goodbyes all the worse as we waved off Pip at the airport. SAD TIMES. Arrived in Brisbane airport without any big dramas though. Managed to retain all vital documentation prior to boarding the plane. It seems these carers are more on the ball than the last batch. We were staying with Kirsty's family friends, Sharon and Wayne, who moved out to Mooloolaba 4 years ago, having only visited the place for an afternoon! Sharon picked us up and took us to the Eumundi markets. Dangerous plan.
Collectively, we all fall victim to the 'market panic' which results in unnecessary purchases and over-indulgence of multi racial food. Having bought some of the said unnecessaries and eaten far too many gyoza, crepes, tapas and paella, we hit the road back into Mooloolaba. This place is pretty amazing. It is completely built on man made canals so many of the (very posh) houses have river access and little jetties. It was lovely to be in a 'home' again and we were spoilt rotten. Did a bit of chilling and then went out to visit Wayne's rescue helicopter base where he works as a pilot. The girls listened intently to the rescue paramedics whilst I stood a safe distance away, taking great interest in anything non-medical. No one needed me keeling over in the middle of it all....
The next day was spent walking, mostly. You all know how I love to walk. We investigated Mooloolaba and I invested in a pair of flip flops. Flip flop training commences..... Having never worn flip flops in my life, the girls have had a hard time teaching me how to walk in these things. I'm gettin there but it's a slow and painful road. Flip flop injuries are difficult things which attract little sympathy it seems. We took a walk round the Noosa headland - which Sharon and Wayne liken to their 'Portballintrae Headland Walk' although unfortunately no pub in the middle.
When we got home, we set off on our Sunset Booze Cruise on their boat. This, it transpires, is a bloody dangerous thing when undertaken before 6 pm. We drank a couple of bottles of champers and nosied round a lot of very posh houses before returning for dinner. Think we had spag bol. Whatever it was, it absorbed some of the alcohol and brought the evening back from the brink of devastation.
Had a little night on the tiles that night - all good clean fun. Started with a up close and personal encounter between Andrea and a possum. These things are horrendous. They look like rats that have been taking hard steroids for years. She escaped unscathed but it was a close run thing. The club was a bit of an eye-opener. Not sure this is an appropriate forum to discuss some of what went on - although I can assure you, we were only spectators to the scandal.
Taxi driver, Daniel, is our new BFF. He took us to McDs at 3 am and in return, I offered him visa bride services should he ever wish to reside in bonny NI. Apparently.
The next morning we sunned ourselves on the deck and packed up. On our way, we stopped in McDonalds. Again. This trip is doing wonders for our figures. Back to Brisbane airport and on our flight to Cairns. Documentation intact. Score.
We arrived in Cairns and went out for dinner with a couple of QUB medics. But only after one hotel rejected us and we had to traipse round Cairns to find the hostel that we were actually booked into. Our poor tour guide had an early introduction to our incompetence! Cairns is a cool place - feels a bit like Playa de las Americas. Which is a bit bizarre. We met our tour group first thing the next morning and jumped onto our bus for the next 2 weeks - 'Matilda'. The appointed day song 'California Gurls' was immediately a more popular choice to Contiki's 'Bonkers' in the South Island. I never want to hear that song again. Let alone be made to dance down a bus to it at 6am in the morning.
Headed to Karanda village where we hit the Australian experience hard! We all got a chance to hold some Koalas and feed some Wallabies.
Koalas are amazing - they have now passed the seal in the race to be my fave animal. Had a dander around the markets - cue more of the market panic. But we are apparently growing stronger as we emerged purchase free. Did a gondola ride through the rainforest at Karanda and then headed back to change before we went to an Aboriginal show and buffet back to Cairns. Buffet panic ranks even higher than market panic and we proceeded to eat ourselves to a standstill. In full view of all our new tour bezzas. Niiice.
The next day the whole tour headed out on a boat to the Great Barrier Reef. I drugged myself to the eyeballs in order to avoid a repeat performance of the Dolphins in New Zealand and they worked a treat. Others were not so lucky and some of our fellow Topdeckers spent the day in their own personal chundering hell. Not nice. I did the intro diving whilst the other 2 experts headed off in their 'Certified' group. Show offs. Loved the diving and did the second dive when we got another chance in the afternoon.
The lady who took our money off us at the end of the day told me I had the most expensive day out of the whole boat. Standard. I'm gonna be bankrupt before I ever do a days work.... We all went our for dinner but we were wrecked and hit the sack pretty soon after. The girls tell me its due to the nitrogen in the dive tanks.... (Sounds like a likely story but whatevs).
Final day in Cairns was spent doing a full days white water rafting on the Tully River. It seems that the difference between Level 4 and Level 5 rapids is sufficient to make me safe on the river.... No repeat performance of The Incident With Lithuanian Man and we had a ball. Even though our guide had only done it 4 times before and told us several times of fatal incidents that had happened on the river.
The next two days spent on a ex-racing maxi yacht round the Whitsundays were probably the highlight of my holiday thus far. It was the closest thing to paradise I have ever experienced. We piled onto the British Defender after a long days driving and met our crew - who were all really lovely, young and very friendly. The trip had a fairly turbulent beginning as we ran aground on the reef in the pitch black and the skipper shouted various profanities whilst we sat in silence, cowering on the deck. Apparently it was the first time he had done it in 25 years of sailing and I was fairly convinced that I would be seeing the rest of the Whitsundays from a life raft. All was not lost, however, and he assured us that water was not getting in anywhere. So after some goon and some sunset watching, I wedged myself into my open-sided top bunk for the night.
We woke up to bright blue skies and some hump back whales blowing beside our boat. As you do. We sailed to one of the islands and all got off to take a walk round to Whitehaven Beach. I've never seen anything like this spot. As much as I love the North Coast beaches, they have nothing on this place. Words don't really do it justice - it was pretty awesome. We splashed about in the sea and then fried on the beach for a couple of hours before getting the tender back to our yacht.
We stopped in the afternoon to do some snorkelling off the side of the boat. Saw some more Nemos, turtles, parrot fish - all in a day. After a less eventful anchoring, we had some really good dinner and sat up on deck together playing ridiculous games and drinking more Aussie cask wine or 'goon'. Which, it transpires, gives me the heartburn. Thought the end had come but I seem to have recovered amazingly.... The medics were pretty useless it has to be said. The sunset was, again, pretty impressive. More for the 'sunset folder' on Apple TV - I'm sure you will all be delighted to hear.
Final morning on the boat - we were again met by clear blue skies. We did some more snorkelling. Main event was that a fish bit me on the thumb. Cheeky bugger. We had to (very sadly) get off the boat at lunchtime and check into our hotel for the night at Airlie Beach. We spent the afternoon by the pool although JW was put into quarantine after being sick for the last day on the boat. Night out in Airlie was a lot of fun and our boat crew came out to meet us and do a bit of partying with our Topdeck group.
A fairly groggy group boarded Matilda the next morning. On the way to Rockhampton, or 'Rocky', we drove through lots of sugar cane. Lots of very very rich old men in this part of the world! Sugar cane and bananas seem to be the way to go. Rocky is the beef capital of Australia. We have been in a lot of Australian capitals - Beef, Sugar Cane, Mango, Mud Crab, Rainforest. Everywhere has a claim to fame. We went to the rodeo that night where JW nearly got into a fight with a cowboy's large girlfriend. Rodeo is a brutal thing. They had kids as young as 2 and a half on bulls! Completely nuts. Cowboys were impressive though. And they fed us steak so all in all, the NI girls were happy.
So all in all, its pretty dam good. By the time I got round to getting wireless etc to upload this, we are actually finished the tour tomorrow in Sydney so part 2 will be here sooner rather than later! Missing everyone at home and all the Landan bant. Til next time......