Aussie road trip!
Trip Start Aug 30, 2009
30Trip End Mar 01, 2010
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After having stayed with Budget and Nic in Sydney for almost a week, the intrepid travellers were still not very clear on the onward route. "I am easy as long as I get to see the Great Barrier Reef so that I can say hello to Nemo. Oh, and perhaps we also get a chance say 'hi' to some crocodiles, kangaroos and koalas along the way. Maybe a wildlife sanctuary could be nice, too. And we must go to Fraser Island, Ben and Rosie both said it’s amazing! Apart from that, I honestly don’t mind what we do. What do you want to do?" Nadine asked Duncan with an expectant smile. “Yeah, all of what you just said but we need to make sure we schedule in some time to sit on the beach and also allocate an adequate amount for drinking beer.” “Yes, I think we should be able to fit that into our tight schedule.” Nadine replied sweetly even though she was rather tempted to pretend that she was going to force Duncan to spend his entire time visiting the various tourist attractions without scheduling any essential beer’o’time.
After much discussion on the many things the couple could and should do Budget said: “Why don’t you do one of those relocation campervan rentals for $1 a day where all your petrol is paid for?” They very excitedly researched this option and it was unanimously decided that they would do exactly that and drive it from Brisbane to Cairns with a couple of minor detours along the way. They had to slightly change their onward flight to Melbourne to go from Cairns rather than Brisbane but that was also swiftly accomplished thanks to Nadine’s superb organisational skills.
“I see, so that is why they call you Budget! I have been wondering that for years!” Nadine exclaimed after the great bargain had been booked. Budget looked a little uncomfortable at that remark but didn’t dispute it so Nadine, to this day, is still not entirely clear to the origin of the nickname.
Chapter 2: Kangaroooos!
When the pair arrived in Brisbane they went straight to the Cheapa Campa van hire office which, rather handily, was virtually next to the airport. After completing reams after reams of paper work they were nearly ready to set off on their trip through tropical Queensland.
First destination on their road trip was Hervey Bay from where they would later set off for their one day Fraser Island Safari trip. On the way there they stopped off at Mooloolaba for lunch, which was very strategically chosen based on its humorous name. The pair were admiring the rainbow coloured cliffs on Rainbow Beach when Duncan turned around to Nadine and said, with just a hint of schadenfreude in his voice: “Look at those idiots getting stuck in the sand!”. “Hmm, I believe our trip tomorrow will involve some driving on sand.” Nadine said after a moment’s thought. “Ah, we’ll be fine.” Duncan said, ever the optimist.
Just before they reached Hervey Bay, their final destination for the day, Nadine suddenly screamed: “Stop the car! Stop, stop it now! I saw some kangaroos!!!! And one of them had a baby in its pouch!!” Duncan promptly brought the van to a screeching halt and they jumped out to take photos of their first kangaroo sighting ever.
Very pleased with themselves and life in general they arrived at their campsite in Hervey Bay, ready for their next adventure. In celebration of their exciting kangaroo sighting Duncan opened a bottle of beer: "I am very pleased I purchased these new flip flops with an in-built bottle opener in the sole. Otherwise I would have had to walk over to the van and get a bottle opener out which would have been quite a waste of time!" Nadine looked at him in confusion and said: "But I thought all beer bottles in Australia have screw tops?" Duncan didn't look any less please about his handy flip flops and simply replied: "True, but you can't deny that they are still an essential part of any good backpacker's outfit."
Chapter 3: Schadenfreude and the big green monster
The following day they were picked up at 7am for their one day Fraser Island Safari. They took a ferry across to Fraser Island, the largest sand island in the world. Here a four wheel drive bus was waiting for them to take them around some of the island’s top spots. Looking at the various other four wheel drive buses Nadine whispered to Duncan: “I am glad we booked with these guys after all, our big green bus is a monster and looks much more exciting than the other gleaming white buses.” “I agree.” Duncan whispered back.
“Hold on tight, guys! We haven’t had any rain for a while so the tracks are very dry and bumpy, it’s gonna get rough out there!” the driver / tour guide shouted over his microphone. Their bus was the first one to drive off down the little dirt track into the heart of the island. About fifteen minutes later there were some rather odd noises emanating from the belly of the green monster and they came to a grinding halt. The driver got out and started scrambling around underneath the boiling hot bus in the roughly 30 degree heat. After a while the bus driver shouted “Everybody off the bus, please!” and the intrepid pair were rather amused to discover that their bus had managed to create a huge queue of tour buses and four wheel drives behind them on the tiny dirt track. Luckily, the driver used to be a mechanic in a former life and managed to fix it, phew!
Off they went again, this time driving ever so slightly faster over those many bumps to make up for the lost time. They visited the Maheno shipwreck, had lunch and hared back down the beach towards a fresh water lake for a much needed dip in the water to cool down.
Suddenly, there was yet another strange sound emanating from the underbelly of the green monster. A few minutes on it became clear that the bus got stuck on a hill of soft sand. “This has NEVER happened to me in the many years I have been doing this, NEVER. “ the bus driver muttered in disbelief having tried to dislodge the bus for the best part of twenty minutes from its sand hill. In the end, the bus had to be pulled out by another bus and off they raced again towards the much deserved dip in the lake.
“Perhaps you shouldn’t have laughed at those guys getting stuck in the sand on Rainbow Beach. Your Schadenfreude might just have created some bad karma. But then again, it might just be that this giant green monster of a bus should have been taken out of service years ago...” Nadine observed once they were safely back on the bus. “We’ll never know” Duncan said, unconcerned. They were very relieved when they back on the ferry and finished their trip without any further break-downs.
Chapter 4: More bus shenanigans
As they continued their road trip up the coast the following day they bumped into another couple they had met on the Fraser Island trip. “Hey guys, how are you doing?” Nadine cheerfully greeted them at the rest stop. “Actually, we appear to have run out of petrol. We have already gone 65km on the emergency tank which we were told should only last us 40km!” the friendly Welshman responded while his wife looked like she was the end of her tether. When Duncan offered to siphon off some petrol from their own van he very gratefully accepted it. Unfortunately, their ingenious plan didn’t work and so Duncan and Nadine followed the Welsh couple down the highway to make sure that they didn’t get stranded until they safely reached the next petrol pump.
“Now that we have come further than we had originally planned, we might as well carry on towards Mission Beach and Dunk Island.” Nadine suggested after they had been driving for the best part of five hours already. Duncan wasn't put out at the thought of driving another few hours and exclaimed: "Great idea, I can't wait to get to Dunk Island!"
On one of their rest stops Duncan suddenly came storming back to the van and started rummaging around in the back while Nadine was fanning herself in the front trying to catch a breath of cool air in the boiling heat. "What on earth are you looking for?" Nadine tried to ask Duncan but he was already off again, back towards the toilet block. Intrigued, Nadine followed him only to discover that Duncan was correcting some graffiti he had found in the men's cubicle. "Seriously, they should at last correctly spell their bad bad graffiti!" Duncan said, outraged, as he was correcting the spelling of 'paedophile' underneath a 'petofile' graffiti...
Some of the more noteworthy events that followed en-route to Mackay included the sighting of some friendly wallabies, passing by Croydon (where they loudly shouted "Hello Rachel and Mark!") and seeing some rather mean looking bush fires.
They eventually decided to spend the night at a campsite in Armstrong Beach where they had an authentic Aussie Barbie at the campsite’s giant barbeque.
Chapter 5: Dunk Island
The next morning they got up early and set off in search of Duncan's very own island. They went via Airlie Beach and were forced to stop in Cardwell since it was getting dark and they didn't want to risk having an accident with a kanagaroo.The campsite they stayed at had lots of mango trees that seemed to be very popular with the flying foxes, commonly mistaken for giant bats, and which produce some very strange sounding noises. “They sound like gremlins, I am a bit scared!” Nadine said later that night before they finally manage to nod off amid the racket all the various birds and other animals were making around them.
The next morning they rose early and drove the remainder to Mission Beach where they arrived just in time to catch the water taxi across to the tiny tropical island known as Dunk Island. "We might have only picked this stop on our trip for its name but I am very glad we stopped off here, it's beautiful!!" Nadine exclaimed as they stepped ashore the pristine beach of Dunk Island where they happily spent the day walking through rainforest and snorkelling on Coconut Beach.
As Nadine was sitting in the only cafe on the island enjoying her lunch Duncan turned up laden with bags and bags of stuff: "Look!" he said, waving the bulging bags in Nadine's face. "They have a shop here with Dunk Island merchandise so I bought a few things we needed such as a few his 'n' hers t-shirts that say 'Dunk' on them in big letters, some 'Dunk' pencils, a 'Dunk' stubby holder for my beer, a postcard to send to my parents, a really useful 'Dunk' sunglasses strap and lots of other handy items."
They very nearly missed the last water taxi back to Mission Beach but managed to make it, just, and returned the van to Cheapa Campers in Cairns the following day.
More to follow soon on their next adventures in tropical Queensland....
Where I stayed
Cheapa Camper hire