What a load of croc!!

Trip Start Jul 27, 2003
Trip End Jul 26, 2004

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Wednesday, March 3, 2004

Hi all,
Slowly but surely catching up!! We have a load of photos on this entry too so have a look. We have just one day left in Perth and that means one day left in Australia as we leave for Bangkok very late tomorrow night. Thanks for all your emails as ever.
Liz and Simon xxxxx

Monday 23rd February
This morning we headed to the Billabong Sanctuary which is a sanctuary for Australian animals where you can go and have a truly interactive day with the animals. Seeing we have driven 3000km through the outback and haven't seen one kangaroo or koala we thought we should pay to see them before mum goes home!

It was a really good centre and Simon had a wombat called Angelica sitting on his knee at one stage (which he was quite taken with) while I got a cuddle from a koala and Mum got to hold a crocodile. Koalas are lactose intolerant so they can't drink milk so I was feeding this one soya milk through a syringe. We then went to watch the crocodiles being fed which was just unbelievable. The water is really still and I didn't believe anything was in the water. The ranger tapped a rump steak on the end of a broom handle next to the waters edge and a 5 metre estuarine (saltwater) crocodile dived 3 metres upwards out of the water and grabbed the broom handle half way up with massive force. It was crazy. Crocodiles can sense the vibrations at the edge of the water and they know exactly when you are close enough to lunge for without even seeing you. They can also hold their breath under water for 2 hours!! We watched him feed some other one of which was officially named Psycho! We hand fed the kangaroos, turtles, cassowaries and emus. It was great.

We stayed till lunchtime and then made our way South to Airlie Beach which is a horrible place and a real backpackers Central but we were here as it is the base to explore the Whitsunday Islands and all the main sailing companies are here. You can do anything from a morning to a 3 week trip around the Whitsundays but due to time we decided on a full day trip to Hamilton island and Whitehaven Beach which is famous for its white silicon sand.

We played a couple of tour operators off against each other and Simon managed to get us all a student discount as it is getting to the quiet season. We payed $50 (less than 25 quid) for a full day trip which included all meals. We booked it for the next morning and then headed to our campsite. We were going to go out for dinner and a few drinks but there wasn't really any nice places to go so we bought a pizza and a six pack of beers and sat at a picnic table on the beach.

Tuesday 24th February
We got up and made our way to the harbour. We got a good tip from the tour operator that told us that the top car park was free where the bottom one was $8 one off fee. This was unbelievable as they were literally next to each other. Loads of cars were parked in the bottom one not aware of the freebie just feet away. We boarded our Fantasea boat and I have to say anyone looking to do the one day trip I would highly recommend this one. We were well looked after and you could help yourself to anything all day. We made the short trip over to Hamilton Island where we had 2 hours to do what we wante. It is a beautiful resort island and we spent the first hour wandering round the exquisite shops and the second lounging round the pool next to the beach. Everyone buzzes around the island on golf carts after they have parked their sailboats in the harbour.

It was soon time to head back to the boat where the skipper was rustling up a gorgeous BBQ with heaps of salad and fruit to go with the huge steaks, sausages, grilled fish and chicken kebabs. We were soon on our way to Whitehaven Beach while the sea glistened passed us. It was the calmest day the crew could remember and it was just perfect.

We got to Whitehaven Beach where the sand was even whiter than even Fiji. We disembarked and borrowed stinger suits (the joy of box jellyfish!) and went snorkeling. We lay on the beach for a little while before boarding where we were presented with coffee and chocolate cake (now you see why I recommend them so highly) and slowly made our way back to the harbour.

Wednesday 25th February.
We did a bit of a drive last night and carried on this morning so we could get to Hervey Bay in time to book a trip to Fraser Island tomorrow which is Mums birthday. We made it to Hervey Bay shortly after lunch and found a number of companies running trips. We picked one and found a good campsite, checked in and booked our tour for tomorrow. We then spent the rest of the afternoon either in the pool, spa or sun lounger.

Thursday 26th February - Happy Birthday Mum!
We got up and walked to the main entrance of the campsite where we were picked up by our tour guide. Fraser Island is a World Heritage sight and the worlds biggest island made completely of sand. I mean completely of sand, no stones, no soil just sand. Saying that, it has an abundance of trees including a large rainforest and a number of freshwater lakes which scientifically shouldn't be possible ( a lake forming in sand!!) There are no roads only sand tracks and only 4WD vehicles can drive there.

We boarded our ferry and made our way across to the beach where the ferry literally lands on the beach and we walk off. No marina, no jetty just beach! There was a 17 seater 4WD minibus waiting for us and our guide Richard. The island is huge at 125km long and 25km wide. It looks mountainous but the mountains are actually large sand dunes, some covered completely in trees and shrubs and others that look like large sand dunes.

We headed down the bumpy tracks to a little village called Happy Valley which has a petrol pump and a restaurant to service guests and their 4WD vehicles. We stopped for morning coffee and home made cakes and muffins and spotted a dingo in the woods eyeing our food. They are pretty viscous animals and you are advised that if you are confronted to make out 'you' are going to attack 'them' as they sense and attack fear so you should never turn and run. We were soon back on the move and went to look at what looked like cliffs on the seafront but of course with this being a sand island it wasn't a rock face but... you guessed it, sand! It had formed thousands of layers and hardened over time but if you knocked a bit off it would crumble in your hands.

There was a shipwreck here called the Maheno that marooned here after being hit by a Typhoon over 70 years ago. It had corroded considerably and all that is visible today is the top 5th. It gets hit by the tide twice a day and has been engulfed by sand and sea water for all this time. We then made our tracks inland to a place where our driver Richard made us a BBQ lunch of T-bone steak or Ocean Perch grilled in garlic butter. It was lovely.

We were soon en route again for a stop at one of the fresh water lakes for a dip before making our way back to the ferry. We stopped at Lake Allom and there were lots of fresh water turtles with their heads above the water. Simon jumped in with a few others for a quick swim which the turtles didn't seem to mind. We had a bit of a walk round the lake, looking for carnivorous plants that eat insects similar to the venus flytrap before reboarding our bus and heading back along the bumpy tracks to the ferry. We got back to the campsite and ordered in a Chinese takeaway and had some drinks for Mums Birthday.

Friday 27th February
This morning after a quick swim and brekkie we made our way South to Noosa. We took a walk down the high street through the expensive shops and had some lunch in a café. We then headed to the beach where we spent the afternoon. There are no stingers this far south so the beach is clear to swim in. We watched the surfers and read for a while and then headed back to the van to drive the last hour down the sunshine coast to Brisbane. We made our way to Nudgee Beach which is just 4km away from the airport where we need to be in the morning to drop Mum off for her flight home. We got some dinner from the beach café and sat next to the beach and stayed here for the night.

Saturday 28th February
We took Mum to the airport and waved her off for her flight and then made our way South the 40 mins to The Gold Coast. We headed to Surfers Paradise which is basically Vegas on the Beach. Its not actually as bad as I imagined. Its just one long beach, 30 miles long in fact and it is lined with literally hundreds of sky rise hotels and apartment blocks. There is a shopping centre of about 2 or 3 streets and its actually quite good, not at all tacky! We strolled down the beach and had a look around the shops until late afternoon when we found a campsite and spent the rest of the day playing tennis, swimming, reading or writing my diary.

Sunday 29th February
What a busy day! We started with a quick dip in the pool and then made our way to Brisbane to check out the city. We parked up and made our way to Eagle Street Pier where their were Sunday markets running. We walked along the riverfront watching the boats going up and down backed by the skyscrapers of the CBD. It is a beautiful city with the Brisbane River snaking through it. We then took a walk into the main shopping area at Queen Street Mall.

We were given a flyer for lunch at the Exchange Hotel which had an offer of "3 C's for $5" The 3 C's being, Calamari, Chips and a Corona! We htough this to be a damn fine offer and very soon had ourselves in the window seat of the Exchange for lunch. It was delicious.

We then took a walk through the botanic gardens that are set on the river. We crossed the river and headed to The Queensland Art Gallery and Queensland Museum for a walk around. Both were quite interesting but contained nothing new that we hadn't seen in the New South Wales equivalents or the Smithsonians in Washington DC. We headed next door to the state library where they had free Internet access where we used the opportunity to catch up on Travelpod. We decided to stay near the library for the night and head back in the morning for a major catch up.

We headed back across the bridge into the city at 7.30pm where we met up with Tamlyn. We met up in a bar called Tinbillys where we had a few beers with him and his mate Dan. It was good to catch up. We are going to Darwin with Tamlyn and he managed to get on the same flight as us on Tuesday.

Monday 1st March
We had a sort out day and headed to the Post Office to send some stuff home and then met Tamlyn and Dan at Starbucks for a coffee. We had a look round Brisbane and then headed back to the van for a coffee and some Tim Tams (the best ever biscuits) We then went to the library to use the free internet and try and catch up on Travelpod. We stayed there till 8pm and then headed back to the van for dinner and an early night as we fly to Darwin tomorrow.
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