• Lane Cove Park, August 9th

    Yesterday after dark the kids had a great time spotting possums. They tried to feed them leaves, which led to a little tragedy when one of them mistook Daniels finger for a carrot. But it is a small wound and after the initial shock it didn’t hurt much, so we only disinfected it and put a plaster on it. They then went spider hunting in the toilets, but fortunately they only found an innocent huntsman spider and only in the gents toilet section, so I am safe for now.

    The next morning we woke up with loud birdsong and beautiful sunshine, so we had our breakfast outside. Tim left his raisin toast alone for a minute and say a big black winged thief take of with it, and the kids got raided by lorikeets again, which is not a bad morning at all considering that you are in the middle of a big busy town.

    We packed everything and cleaned the campervan because we have to take it back this afternoon. We do hope to have time for a walk through this nice park though. If ever you need to be in Sydney, we would certainly recommend staying in a cabin here instead of a hotel; there website is www.lcrtp.com.au and their GPS cooridates are: Latitude 33° 47’19.56” S, Longitude 151° 8′ 34.14” E. They are slighty hard to find, we needed to buy a Sydney street directory to get here, but it is well worth the effort!

    I am not sure we’ll be able to internet before we leave (though I will certainly try to get to Circular Point where they had nice coffe and free WiFi), but we will fly tomorrow afternoon and hope to land in London at 7.45 and , Heathrow willing, will be in Amsterdam at 11h Saturday the 11th.

  • Lane Cove River, Sydney, August 8th

    We managed to get to Oberon without any problems, though rather late so we dined out in one of the local restaurants. Oberon is quite high, 1100-something-metres, and as a result rather cold in winter. We laughed at Australians complaining about the cold winter before, but this time I actually missed my gloves – that’s how cold it was.

    Which didn’t stop us from noticing that it is a nice small village; must be really nice in summertime and is close to some beautiful spots. We trundled down to the threadbare local hotel for supper, which was a very home-made T-bone with lots of veggos and curly fries. The toads were too stuffed with bits and bobs to do it justice. The bar next to us was inhabited by genuine lumberjack types with worn denims, ghastly woolly hats and battered brown teeth. The next day we went on to Jenolan Caves, we missed the view from the Kanangra Walls (which kind of goes with the caves) because it was an unsealed road and we weren’t sure whether we could make it after heavy rainfall in our camper van. It is famed as being very spectacular, so we might have tried it if we had plenty of time. But though we do not feel rushed we do want to stay on our schedule, so we decided to skip the visit.

    The caves were well worth the visit. It was a good thing that Tim was so much more at ease with driving our monstrosity; we couldn’t have made it down the small winding mountain road if he hadn’t – if only because my heart couldn’t stand the excitement of looking down into a ravine right next to me. The road was bordered by quite the frailest, most rotten wooden posts we have seen in a long time. They gave the impression that even the slightest error would send us and them tumbling into the abyss.

    But we managed to get down without incidents and were just in time for the tour through the Lucas Cave. It is one of their biggest cave, and in the largest room they even have concerts (because of the great acoustics) and weddings. It is a limestone cave and in millions of years the water first made a series of chambers when the mountain was under water. The water carved itself ever lower channels , but the constant dripping of lime-saturated water made huge columns, stalagmites and stalactites, fantastical, frilly lace-like decorations and little humps of stone resembling people or animals. They named some of them (the bride, the groom, the bishop) but there were plenty of others to name with something out of your own imagination. The boys were awed and spoke in whispers most of the time. The guide made a good show of it, plunging us into darkness occasionally and then dramatically lighting up the weird and beautiful shapes around us.

    We really loved the tour, but it is hard to photograph. If only because you don’t see the enormous scale of the caves. We were told that our tour had almost 900 steps on the stairs between sections, that should be an indication. We could have stayed there for days, but had to leave early in the afternoon for our trip to Bateau Bay. So we drove through the Blue Mountains, went past Sydney and arrived shortly after nightfall.

    The next day we woke in a very different climate again. It was a nice and sunny day, the heated pool was accompanied by a heated spa, the beach was still lovely so a good time was had by all. At lunchtime my aunt arrived to have lunch with us and hear all about our adventures in Oz. When she left my uncle came to visit and see all photographs, and was kind enough to offer us another night of hospitality in his house in Sydney. A good thing, since I had just discovered that our flight back wasn’t on the 9th, but on the 10th. We called to see if we could have the campervan for another day, but that would cost us 288 dollars plus camping fees. Oops.

    We rumbled on down towards Sydney, slightly downcast by the approaching end of our holiday and the prospect of plunging back into the urban tangle. Fortunately Marjolein found a nice stopoff at Australian Reptile Park, a very nice zoo that succeeded in both hitting the boys buttons with exciting presentations of big snakes and huge animatronic spiders and also providing a beautiful bush-walk with flowering trees and waterfalls. There was a very cool reptile-show with some tremendous lizards and baby alligators (apparently they are Australia’s largest alligator breeders) and the boys got their picture taken with a boa constrictor wrapped round them. Having attempted to feed them to the Dingos on Fraser island and now snakes I expect that we will find child protection services waiting on the doorstep at home.

    There was also a Lost World of Reptiles exhibit with talking mummies and lots of turtles and big snakes. Daniel was thrilled by a gigantic sermonizing Egyptian statue with a crocodile head and glowing red eyes. It was of course surrounded by real crocodiles and laid down a solid conservationist message while blowin smoke out of its nostrils…

    Another exhibition was about spiders, with a wall full of different tarantulas, a cheerful display about the two really deadly spiders that live here in Australia and what to do it they bite you: in the case of the funnel-web spider you have seventy two minutes to get help before the venom kills you… This was rounded off the previously mentioned fifteen metre wide animatronic red-back that periodically reared up, hissed and snapped its mandibles at us.

    We all had a fine time and set off rather later than expected. We were rather dispiritedly heading for a camp-site near Sydney when Marjolein had a brainwave and navigated us towards a camp-site inside Lane Cove River, a small National Park on the edge of the city. Her maps ran out of detail as we closed in on it and entered suburbia, but we got some directions from helpful Aussie cyclists (Aussies are strikingly kind to random tourists and have helped us on our way lots of times) and bought a city map from a service station. We finally got there just as night was falling. The boys were overjoyed (they like National Parks unreservedly since we stayed in Tooloom and Warrumbungle), rushed off into the gloaming and came face-to-face with a possum, that gave them a look in the eye and then took to the trees. They spent some time possum-following and Daniel even got a nip on the finger from one that he was trying to feed leaves to. We took advantage of the surrounding city by ordering in pizza and all was right with the world.

  • Dubbo, August 4th

    We don’t think much of this caravan park, but at least it really is close to the zoo. We walked there this morning (about 1 km) along the ‘Tracker Riley Cycle path’, where we were regularly confronted with little commemorations of great deeds done by this tracker. When we are home we have to look him up on the Internet, I’m curious now!

    At the Zoo we rented an electric cart, because we thought that walking would be too hard for the boys, especially Falco, since they already had walked quite a way to get there. But with hindsight walking would have been easier, since you had to get out of the car every 300 m and had to walk around the areas where they kept the animals. Than you had to get into the car again, put all the seatbelts on, and drive the next two or three hundred meters.

    The park was really nice. Not great, no must-see, but it was nice to see animals in a more natural habitat and they had enough animals to keep us happy the whole day. Being Australian they had about five times the area to play with that a European zoo would have and they used it to house extensive groups of obscure (and not-so obscure, i.e. Buffalo) herd animals. Of course, they also had Lions and Tigers, heards of Rhinos etc. and all their animals had an extremely healthy glow, unlike the slightly threadbare ones you sometimes see at home.

    Throughout the zoo were earnest posters assuring you that there were not merely a garden of rarities but also an essential partner for conservationists, repopulating the wild etc. The impact of these was somewhat tempered by other posters mentioning that you could also, for a considerable price, hand-feed the giraffe (good chance to get slobbered on apparently) and the Sumatran Tiger (small, beautiful and delicately stripy). Hmmm. We also had to laugh about the warning posters we encountered regularly; with all the dangerous animals in the zoo they mainly warned against the magpies who in their breeding season (August-October) can get quite aggressive when they think they have to defend their young.

    There was a fine show in which the something-or-other monkeys got their lunch (yes, bananas) and did some truly impressive howling and leaping about. Our monkeys enjoyed it very much and stopped howling and leaping about for a while in order to watch. I made a little video and will post it when we are back; it really is quite amusing.

    The weather had cleared too, which helped, though the wind still made it pretty cold. We have definitely left the warm North behind. Daniel gave us a little scare: when playing in the playground he landed very hard on his back and stayed down, complaining of bad pains in his lower back. After some comforting he proved able to walk and we concluded that he had just had the wind knocked out of him and bruised a hip-bone. We walked, very slowly, down the Tracker Riley path to the Dubbo Bowling Club and had beers and cokes until their Bistro opened.

    Clubs like that seem to be an Australian phenomenon: they have good, rather conventional British-type food, extensive bars and rooms full of one-armed bandits. They are clean, bright, safe places where we can fill the kids with calorific goodness and all you need to do is fill in a “temporary membership” form. The monsters ate well, particularly Matthijs who devoured an adult portion of Spaghetti Bolognese, followed by a plate of corn on the cob, apple-pie with ice-cream and three cokes. We cannot decide who’s childhood he is most like: I have vivid memories of shocking adults with me appetite at about that age and Marjolein was able to eat like a space-time discontinuity until we started having the children.

    With a couple of beers and a full meal, cooked by someone else, inside us and the monsters comfortably rounded all was well with the world. Daniel was now much, much better, but red-cheeked from a day in the cold wind and quite floopy. Everyone needed a good night’s sleep: we are off to the the Wellington caves tomorrow.

  • Dubbo, August 3th

    This morning was really great. We woke with the sun in Wurrumbungle Park and immediately went for a morning walk through the herds of kangaroos and wallabies. The boys worked some more in their gigantic tree while we whipped up breakfast. One of the many great things about the park is that in the middle of the wilderness they have powered sites so we actually had microwave porridge and toast as desirable breakfast options. I might import the tradition of toasted raisin & cinnamon toast into the Netherlands; I really like it, especially with salted butter.

    We then drove to another part of the park and walked the Canyon Picnic Area Nature track. If anybody who reads this ever visits the park, which I highly recommend, they should also do that walk. You have to be a bit agile, since it involves some climbing over rocks, but if you can do that you have a relatively short walk (a little over 1 km) with a lot of diversity and encounters with beautiful nature scenes. Like all the park walks we have seen so far it was very well signposted and had erudite little information posts at regular intervals. We all loved it!

    We dropped in at the visitor centre to pay our park dues and picked up some Wurrumbunleabilia (t-shirt for Tim and books for the boys) and after a tiny detour to walk to Whitegum lookout we drove back to Coonabarabran and onwards to Dubbo. On our way we saw that they actually build a planetarium on scale along the roads there – which means that you encounter small and big planets on various roads, where they are positioned (and sized) in accordance with our real solar system.

    We were fortunate that we stayed dry during our stay in the NP, because it now started to rain seriously. Our lunch stop at Gilgandra was also welcome as an opportunity to rest from the hard drive in miserable weather. We even hesitated about staying in Dubbo; what fun is an outdoor zoo if it is too rainy to see anything, even if some animals are crazy enough to stay out in the open?

    But two different locals told us that it should clear up tomorrow, so we decided to take the gamble and stay with our original plan. We drove to Dubbo and parked ourselves in one of the last available powered sites of the holiday camp – we had forgotten that the weekend starts today.

    Our little booklet had informed us that they had internet here, but unfortunately that turned out to be wrong. We will have to find an opportunity to post our new logs and photo’s when we drive on, which will be coming Sunday earliest since we will stay here for two nights to enjoy the zoo to the fullest. Sunday 5th we still plan to visit the Wellington caves and than move on to the Entrance and Bateau Bay to hopefully see my aunt(s). That’s a pretty long drive for one day, so in all likelihood we will arrive there on Tuesday the 7th.

    In other news: they called today to tell us that they wanted to deliver the last piece of missing luggage to us. Apparently it is the bag they tried to deliver when we stayed a day in Foster/Tuncurry, but it took them two weeks to conclude that it had missed us. With that in the back of my mind I preferred them to send it to my cousin in Sydney instead of trying (for the third time) to get it to the right holiday park. So we can take Falco’s and Daniel’s bag unopened back with us to the Netherlands on the 9th…

  • Wurrumbungle NP, August 2d

    Today we didn’t have a great start. The kids woke up grumpy but improved their mood by playing Frisbee with the freebies they were kindly given in Tenterfield. Uploading our previous reports and photo’s took me (Marjolein) more time than planned – sometimes it is hard to even glance at all the other weblogs of friends who are travelling far from the Netherlands for their holidays.

    So we departed later than planned – and got thoroughly lost in (tiny) Armidale. Their University is nice, but the third time we, fruitlessly, tried one of the roads leading around it (it turned into a dirt track) we liked it a lot less. We were on a schedule because we planned to end the day 350 km away in Warrumbungle National Park.

    Eventually we found the right highway and decided to sacrifice our espresso-stop at the Evil Empire in order to get back on track. However the cunning Evil Empire tempted us again in Tamworth (Australian Capital of Country Music; we are bombarded with Capitals these days) so we went for an efficient solution and got happy meals for the kids and nice espresso and focaccio sandwiches for us and ate them on the go, which meant we still had time for a stop-over in Koala-Capital Gunnedah.

    Finding the Visitor Centre took quite some time and when we got there it was closed for half an hour. But again it paid off to persist, we took a little walk and where still there when the nice lady returned to her office. She recommended the Waterway Wildlife Park, which happened to be on the right highway for our final destination today. It had a similar intend as the Oakdale farm we visited three weeks ago, but was slightly more amateurish. It provided us with some great photo-opportunities though, as you can see in the new album on the photo page.

    We than rushed to Coonabarabran, where we had to leave the highway for the Warrumbungle Park. The weather turned cloudy and dark, with a few spatters of rain, so by the time we where there (we entered the park a little after four) all dusk loving animals where up and about. Which meant we have to drive really carefully, to avoid hitting one of the crossing kangaroos. Till today we probably saw more wildlife splattered against the tarmac than walking around and we would really hate to kill one of the animals we came so far to see.

    Driving (very slowly) into the park we saw mobs bounding away or surveying us with that curiously haughty look ‘roos seem to have. We rolled into the camp-site and the boys rushed off, elated at being able to stretch their legs at last. They were even more delighted with the boulder-strewn creek at the bottom of the camp-site and utterly ecstatic with the huge tree half embedded in the opposite shore, whose roots were woven into a ready-made elven fortress, which they busily improved with stone walls and windows. Meanwhile we walked quietly across to the other side, relishing the stunning scenery of rainforest and massive volcanic bluffs and moving quietly past mobs of grazing Eastern Grey kangaroos. There we found a vast meadow covered with grazing emus and just stopped to take it all in.

    Nightfall came quickly, but with a strong afterglow, and the few Aussies also in on the site lit camp-fires and barbies. The boys stayed working on their hideout until it, and they, were almost pitch black. Then we dragged them away for Sphag Bol and bed. Final event of the evening was out group trek into the utter, moonless darkness in search of the toilet, navigated ably by Marjolein. There an Aussie trickster deity had hung a vast, leggy spider right in front of the ladies: another opportunity for me (Tim) to prove myself worthy of my “Manly” hoody… Tomorrow we plan to do all the walks we can manage with toads in tow and then trundle off to Dubbo, but I think we could easily spend a week here.

  • Glen Innes to Armidale,August 1th

    Glen Innes is a really nice town. The celticness of it makes Tim grumble a bit (as a half-Irishmen he feels that he has a right to frown at everything that is not originally Celtic), but it made me laugh. We had an interesting discussion comparing the Celts with the Aboriginals; both the indigenous population of areas that were conquered and oppressed, mainly surviving in the regions that were less important for the economic prosperity of the conquerors and both having to fight to keep the old traditions, culture and language alive.

    Of course the discussion continued talking about merging cultures; how should you do it if you are the foreigner/conqueror/immigrant and what can you expect from people coming to live in your own region. The Celtic Aussies apparently feel no need to be assimilated and feel that they can be very Australian and still be proud of their Celtic roots. They even make it into an economic asset! A healthy attitude as far as I am concerned.

    In Glen Innes as well as in Tenterfield you can see that these are older towns. The centres have a lot of houses that are build in a more ‘European’ style, often with proud displays of the year they were build. Tenterfield is actually the place where Sir Henry Parkes gave the ‘Tenterfield speech’ in 1889 that eventually led to the Australian Federation in 1901 (as Tim mentioned in his post).

    Between Tenterfield and Glen Innes (where we slept last night) we encountered the ‘Bluff Rock’. A huge granite boulder near the top of a mountain, where in 1844 a tribe of Aboriginals were thrown down by locals after killing a shepherd.

    One of the locals. Eduard Irby, wrote in his diary about the events:
    “The blacks saw us coming and hid themselves among the rocks. One in his haste dropped poor Robinson’s coat so we knew we were onto the right tribe. If they had taken their heels they might have got away, instead of doing so, they got their fighting men to attack us. So we punished them severely and proved our superiority to them.”

    In our holiday camp we actually saw a wallaby foraging between the rocks. I assume it was a brush-tailed rock wallaby, since it seemed to be quite fond of the big boulders on the camp site. If you really see them, you notice that they actually have a head that’s very different from a kangaroo head, and ears that are a lot smaller.

    When we got up this morning we first toured through Glen Innes again, since it really has nice buildings to look at. Difficult to photograph though, since they put the coloured lights right in the middle of the street so they would always be in your picture.

    Afterwards we drove to Guyra and headed off to the east there, to see some falls. The Ebor Falls were quite beautiful, and since they are fed by a spring there was enough water. The Wollomombie Falls however depend on the rain fall and it has been quite dry the last weeks. So that turned out to be a search for the remaining bit of fall. The granite walls it cascades from are still very imposing though, and the Wollomombie Gorge a few hundred meter further showed this valley with enormous granite walls that made you feel quite small – and caused some vertigo too.

    We are now landed in Armidale, where we will spend the night. Tomorrow we aim to have lunch in Gunnedah, koala capital of Australia, and we want to sleep in the Warrumbungle National Park. The next day, August 3d, we will hop over to Dubbo where we will stay two nights to explore the zoo. The current planning is to visit Wellington, where they have caves, on the 5th on our way to Bateau Bay where we hope to arrive the 7th and hopefully can meet again with my aunts. The 8th we go to Sydney and I will try to arrange to have dinner with the relatives there, and the 9th we will fly home again. Of course we might change the planning on the spot if circumstances warrant that, but it is nice to have a general idea about where and when we want to be this last week.

  • Tooloom to Glen Innes, July 31th

    We spent a peaceful night in the middle of the rainforest at Tooloom National part and woke up a little later in the morning – surprisingly there was no deafening morning chorus of birdsong. The sun was just touching the top of the canopy so it was still chilly when we set out for a walk before breakfast. The path lead us along a track that divided open forest from the closed canopy of the rainforest, with a spectacular view of the valley below. The rainforest clings to the weather-side of the ridge, milking the clouds as they go past. Looking at both sides of the road and at the dried-out valley below, we realized how efficient a rainforest is: any moisture that gets in, stays in and is endlessly reused between the forest floor and the canopy, only a small proportion evaporates from the canopy. The valley below was brown and gold, with the occasional irrigated field standing out in stark green.

    The monsters loaded themselves down with sticks and frightened any marsupial that was not stone deaf into the next county, but it was a nice walk anyway. After breakfast I discovered a different track from the other side of the picnic ground. This one was narrow, hung with vines and led into the rainforest proper. Marjolein cried off, having a crick in her back but boys tagged along. It was a wonderfully twisty walk, under creepers, over tangles of enormous snake-like roots, past tremendous trunks, with the canopy high overhead, filtering out most of the sunlight. The boys crept silently along with me, hunter style but one by one grew uncertain or bored and went back, until I was left alone. It was very impressive, weird bird noises, rustling of small creatures departing, the tremendous mass of interlaced plant-life. It would have been very adventurous, especially given that the path became quite overgrown and hard to discern, had there not been regular neat information boards from the diligent National Parks Service giving interesting and informative facts about the trees. The only problem with them being that they described leaves and berries that were about 40 metres above my head, so it was a sort of “name that trunk” or “barkspotting” contest. The path eventually brought me back to the camp-site, heralded by the raucous cries of the lesser-spotted Noyce child long before I saw the camper-van.

    We zoomed off soon after and trundled through some tiny towns and super-wiggly roads before getting on a highway to Tenterfield. We had lunch there, having raided the information centre, where Matthijs charmed the WI-ish ladies (wo)manning it. Apparently Tenterfield can call itself the cradle of the Australian nation, given that Henry Parks gave an address there that lead to the foundation of the federation of Oz. I imagine inflamed colonists storming from the hall, determined to be pretty-independent-really though the Queen can still be on the money and head of the Church: as revolutions go, quiet but successful. From there we sped on to Glen Innes for our overnight and to view an utterly bogus stone circle erected as a monument to the Celtic colonist’s contribution to the establishment of Australia. Apparently some bunch called the Celtic Council of Australia put it out to tender and Glen Innes won. It probably represents a noticeable tourist revenue-stream, hey it pulled us in even…. The camp-site was slightly tatty, but backed by a creek strewn with tremendous granite boulders – the children are looking forward to running and climbing all over it and and shattering their bones tomorrow. Matthijs made a good start during our evening walk by finding a large, dead, pretty gold-brown beetle. Marjolein was engaged in making an artistic macro-photograph of it when it slipped from Matthijs’ palm and rolled towards her. She leapt back with a delightful girlish shriek, wonderfully gratifying for all the male members of the family.

  • Tooloom National Park, July 30th

    We set off bright and early for Hervey Bay on the long journey back to Sydney. We did not have a fixed plan, but had agreed to make a couple of long drives so that we could get back without panicking in the last couple of days and we certainly did not want to experience the Gold Coast again. I also wanted to spend at least one night “unplugged” in a National Park: use the independence the camper gives us to be completely away from everyone.

    We trundled down the M1 uneventfully, stopping at Gympie for double-shot espressos at McCafe (I have become strangely fond of the Evil Empire since we discovered they do good espresso) and then headed in towards Brisbane. We hit a traffic jam 50 km out, which soured us a little and then, when past it went bustling across the Toll Bridge (awesomely high) being passed at great speed by ginormous articulated lorries that utterly dwarfed even the Monstrosity (my pet name for our Winnebago). If was extremely bracing and it was pleasant when Marjolein did some on-the-fly planning and navigating and took us off down the Mount Lindesay Highway.

    It was a brilliant compromise between retracing our steps down the coast or bearing westward into the hinterland. This lead us into a dry land of great ranches and utter loneliness. The towns petered out after Beaudesert and we found ourselves moving along smaller and ever more winding roads across a wide flat plain of brown and gold fields and tiny sub-villages into stupendous mountains. The range was obviously a watershed, all the “creeks” we encountered on the coast were called “gulleys” here and the rivers were not deep enough to wet your socks. The day was wearing on, so we decided to look for a camp-site after winding our way up and down hairpin bends to the wonderfully-named Woodenbong. There was a tiny camp-site in town, but the information board said that we could also camp in the Tooloom National Forest. We set off towards Urberville, but apparently not in the right direction and went miles along truly dreadful roads, through beautiful but utterly empty countryside as the sun sprinted towards the horizon. We were just getting really worried when we saw a road sign for something that (for a change) was on the map and set off towards it. That got us finally to an intersection with a sign for Urberville so we set off again, down tremendously winding roads, up into the foothills with the light slanting in deep flame-orange between the thick trees. It was an entrancing effect, which I had no opportunity to appreciate as I was making the best speed I possibly could across the crumbly tarmac and round the sharp, steep bends. We also managed to avoid running over our first road-Wallaby, just before we finally got signs for Tooloom. We steamed into the park, which transitioned immediately from temperate forest and rainforest and finally parked at a picnic site just as night fell. We are now settled down in utter darkness and silence, with stomachs full of tinned Minestrone. I am looking forward to getting up tomorrow morning in the middle of a rainforest!

  • Hervey Bay, July 29th

    Yesterday we had a very idyllic day. The weather was great; sunny and 25 degrees, and our trip on the glass bottom boat took us via an encounter with a troop of dolphins to an idyllic little island where we searched for nice shells. In my case for nice shells to look at, in the case of the males of the family for shells to eat. We both succeeded (I even found a complete fish, apparently washed ashore short after dying and drying out in the sun) and the skipper fired up the BBQ for their ‘pipis’ and the steaks and sausages he had brought for the buffet. Salad, melon, glass of wine and a steak sandwich made for a great lunch.

    In the early afternoon we sailed on to see a bit of the Coral Reef. That is so beautiful; all the weird coral plants with their different shapes and colours. Though you cannot see the colours as brightly as when you dive, some of the coral was almost fluorescent.

    The water was pretty cold, so only Tim was brave enough to actually go and snorkel around for a bit. The boys thought they would too, but the cold water scared them off to much.

    Back home we did a necessary bit of laundry and walked a bit along the Esplanade here to see the see. Since Tim nor I felt like cooking we went for fish and chips – the boys didn’t mind at all.

    Today we had to get up early, since we were picked up at 07.55 for our one-day-safari to Fraser Island (or K’Gari as the aboriginals call it). Fraser island is the biggest sand-island in the world and when you are there it is really incredible how lush and green the island is, and how high the trees (especially in the rainforest part) can get. There is an enormous variety in plants and trees; the guide told all but I must admit that I have forgotten a large portion of it already. It didn’t help that most of the tour was done by four-wheel-drive bus. On the island you can only drive four-wheel-drive vehicles and once you’ve been on it you understand why that is; it is all sand-tracks and I actually felt that it might have been a good idea to take our seasick-pills before this bus ride too. I made a small video and I might see if I can upload that, to give everybody an impression of what it feels like. Just imagine that you have that for almost two hours…

    The island is called after James and Eliza Fraser, captain and his wife, who survived a shipwreck and landed on the island where they were found by aboriginals. James died, Elisa was rescued after a few months, returned to England and wrote a best-seller about her adventures. There are many variations on what exactly happened, and quite a few seem to be invented by Eliza, but these are the facts everybody agrees upon.

    Though it is nice to see so much of the island in such a short time, it also reminded us why we don’t like doing organized bus-tours. You live by the schedule; after the designated number of minutes you have to go to the bus again and drive to the next destination. No time to really feel the place and a lot less walking than we anticipated. But it is still worthwhile to do, to get a good impression of what the island is like.

    They also offered flights in little aeroplanes, to get a good overview of the island. I couldn’t resist the temptation and took a flight. It is hard to make pictures, so there aren’t many. But you can see how green the island is, and that there are still some really nice lakes in it. All fresh water lakes by the way, even the ones quite close to the beach. And we managed to spot another whale!

    After a long and tiring day we were dropped of at our caravan park. Tomorrow we begin our descend to the south again; in 11 days we will fly home from Sydney (Thursday the 9th) and I would like to see my relatives before we depart. So we aim to be at Bateau Bay around the 7th and in Sydney around the 9th, but don’t know for sure if we can make that and still have a nice holiday drive. We’ll see. Tomorrow we will probably aim for mount Cougar, just above the NSW/Queensland border.

  • Goldcoast, July 26th

    Yesterday was a superb day. We checked out early in the morning, after a sturdy “brekky” of baked beans for all males in the household and the usual toast & marmalade for me.

    At nine we met our fellow whale spotters in front of the diving club that organized the trip. A no-nonsense captain told us what to expect and how to behave, we left all valuables behind and put our cameras into a waterproof case, put wet and sloppy wetsuit shoes on (except Falco, he had to go bare foot since they didn’t have anything in his size and complemented the outfits with bright yellow southwester coats. On the kids they were more like dresses than coats; Falco had to be carefull not to trip over the hem and we had to roll up all their sleeves till almost the shoulders. They already had the cameras locked away, so I can’t share the vision with you 😉

    They transported us to the beach, where we had to waddle through the waves and the incoming surfers to hoist ourselves into a big rubber boat. 12 Of us, back to back on small benches in the middle with no room between your knees and the board, the skipper and his mate – and the boat was full. They had told us this was more safari-style, but we hadn’t realized how much more FUN that would be. After an introduction speech about whales and how they were brought near to extinction but are recovering – if climate change doesn’t destroy the plankton they eat in the near future – we raced full speed to Julian’s Rock; a distinctive hump in the middle of the Bay.

    There are no guarantees, but we spotted two big whales and went closer. I had carefully changed my batteries for brand new ones the day before, to make sure I wouldn’t run out on the trip… and discovered that those didn’t seem to contain any juice. So there’s one photo of a waving flipper, and that’s all. But in my head I have the magnificent images of a humpback whale jumping completely out of the water!

    Later we say plenty of dolphins passing by and we even saw a sea-turtle swimming to the EAC (East Australian Current); the golf stream phenomena everybody who saw ‘Finding Nemo’ will recognize. A wonderful experience and a much nicer cruise than the one on the big luxurious boat we had done previously.

    We crowned our stay in Byron Bay with a truly excellent lunch in a place called ‘The Balcony’. Sitting outside on the balcony, looking out over the sunny main streets, eating well prepared fresh food, drinking great espresso and enjoying a marvellous lemon tart; who could ask for more.

    But we still want to see more of Australia, so we moved on to Queensland. Though it is very understandable why Byron Bay is such a favourite holiday destination; We would have gladly stayed a few weeks longer.

    On our way up we had to drive past Coolangatta Airport to pick up to more of our bags. And one of them was the bag with Tims camera, the chargers, my lenses and my toilet bag. Contrary to my expectations it was all still there and the only thing broken was the little box that held Tims tarot cards. So we now have four of the five bags, though one of those four is in Sydney with my cousin.

    We ended the day in Barragata Waters, a few kilometres north of Surfers Paradise. So far we’ve not been impressed by the goldcoast; lots and lots of high buildings and very touristy. But the camp we are now in is very nice; heated pools, jumping pillow, midget golf and a wifi network. Today we are lazing out again, whilst Tim finishes the last Harry Potter book. Tomorrow we will probably do one of the major theme parks in the neighbourhood and than we have to think about our way back. Maybe we still will go to Harvey Bay and Frasier Island, but at the moment the North of NSW seems much more appealing than the south of Queensland.