DH's directions aside, our real worry was the dreaded encounter with an Aussie truck-train on any narrow stretch of pavement
. These behemoths slowed for no man and they didn't move over either. What is a truck-train you ask? Think of three of our tractor trailers all attached together driven by a Mad Max type who notched their belt with each kangaroo kill (ok, I don't know if that part is true but I have never seen that much road kill even in the midst of our worst raccoon season). We did see a number of live kangaroos, emus, and assorted wildlife wandering near the roads so we were in a constant state of high alert (how would I explain that to the insurance folks back home- "my spaceship hit a kangaroo!!"). As a result we did have to make one overnight pitstop to avoid driving at night- it was probably our only bad campsite of the journey- the kind of trailer park favoured by tornados.
The next day we glided into Hervey Bay just in time to snag a primo camp site at the local hostel, and dash off to do a little whale watching expedition in the bay. DH claimed to have had a magical whale watching experience near Cape Cod but someone later stole her camera so she didn't have the pics to prove it (sounds a little bit like Bonnie D's imaginary talking pigeon), and she did spot a whale breeching in Vanuatu, so she kept giving the crew advice as to where they might find the whales. The Bay is something of a rest stop for migrating whales so they're supposed to be quite easy to spot and sure enough, it wasn't long before we spotted our first Humpback
. Almost immediately this whale flipped over and seemed to be dozing upside-down with only his tail fins sticking out of the water- even the crew couldn't explain that one. And after an extended encounter with a mother and calf, the real magic started- a pod of 3 adult Humpbacks decided that we were as interesting to them as they were to us. They circled the boat and put on a real show for us- every now and then, one would poke their head up to see what we were doing- they'd spray us with water while surfacing near the boat all the while putting on a whale version of synchronized swimming. I didn't expect much from a whale watching trip but this was a really big wow!
We had also signed on for a day trip on Fraser Island. Fraser Island is said to be the largest sand island the world with the only rainforest in the world growing in sand- think of a really huge beach with a forest growing out of the middle of it. We piled into a vehicle that was likely the offspring of a dune buggy father, and school bus mother and our driver/guide obviously enjoyed speed. The beach went on for 120 kms and vehicles were racing up and down for the simple thrill of it. After an hour of this our driver pulls up next to a small plane sitting on the beach, and a guy jumps on board trying to sell the idea of taking off on a sand beach, circling the island from above, and then landing on the beach further down to rejoin the tour
. DH hates small planes so of course we had to do this, and it was a whole lot of fun- surprisingly no one else on the bus joined us on our beach flight. After jumping off the plane, what should come out of the bush to greet us but a dingo (apparently there are quite a few on the island). It really didn't seem fussed by people at all and busied itself with finding any food that may have washed up on the shore. Throw in a poisonous snake and/or deadly spider and we would have seen most of the trophy wildlife of Australia.
A great day but it was time to get ready to head back and finalize the sale of our house. We didn't think it would sell this fast, and we assumed we could wrap up the details while we were on the road- wrong on both camps so we're going to go dark for a short time while we make ourselves homeless. This isn't going to be fun- drive to Brisbane, fly to Bangkok, fly to Tokyo, fly to Chicago, and finally, fly to Toronto where we're hoping someone is waiting for us??
We wanted to spend our last couple of days in Australia in the Hervey Bay and Fraser Island area (which is just north of Brisbane) but that made for some pretty hard driving to make our way out of the interior and back to the coast. DH took on her role as navigator with a suitable amount of gusto- she had two or three maps opened up (although the city map of Bangkok created some confusion), and she was charting our progress by tracing her finger along the highlighted roads (and got only slightly flustered when she came to the edge of the page), and would, in her best navigator voice, announce the name of the town or crossroad we had just passed. Not to be picky, but I suspect that some of the better navigators out there would anticipate where we were going as opposed to tracking where we had just been but not to worry; during our breaks I would sneak a look at the maps and the Spaceship stayed on course.