large_merrychristmastoyoutitle2

Merry Christmas – enjoy the holidays!

large_merrychristmastoyoutitle2

 

Hi all,

 

We’d like to wish you a very Merry Christmas and a safe and happy New Year… and what a year it’s been!

 

We started 2015 in Cairns, where we stayed until May, working and biding our time until we had to fly home for two weddings.

 

Australia Day 2015 Cairns

 

Once we were on the road again, our task was fairly simple – explore the east coast of Australia.  After a magical visit at Paronella Park, we passed through Townsville and Mackay before heading inland to the beautiful Lake Elphinstone.

 

Lake Elphinstone 2015-05-05 038w

 

We cruised through the Central Highlands before returning to the coast. We ate beef in Rockhampton, drank rum in Bundaberg, then caught a ferry to Fraser Island. We gave the Troopy a 4WD workout at Landcruiser Mountain Park and watched the rain clouds come in on the Sunshine Coast.

 

Landcruiser Mountain Park 2015-05-16 054w

 

We spent about three weeks in Brisbane because Dave needed some medical attention, but it was great to spend time with friends in that beautiful city.  As we approached the Gold Coast, the dark clouds returned and by the time we got to the Best Of All Lookouts, we couldn’t see a thing!

 

IMG_20150612_161845

 

We crossed the border into New South Wales and bee-lined straight to Byron Bay for a few days in the easternmost town of Australia. We were lucky to get a few days of sun but the drizzle returned as we made our way to Coffs Harbour.  Finally, with some sun, we got to enjoy the beautiful coastline from Port Macquarie to Newcastle.

 

 

We enjoyed a tipple in the Hunter Valley before spending a week on the Central Coast, helping out a family with their household duties while Juz scored some work with a school holiday program in Gosford.

 

Hunter Valley 2015-06-23 038w

 

Arriving in Sydney was a little surreal. It’s the biggest city in Australia and we spent a lot of time walking around the city getting exhausted. We also have a few friends in Sydney so it was great to catch up and spend time with them.

 

Sydney 2015-07-11 030

 

We headed inland to the Blue Mountains and Central West just in time for a freakish cold front to sweep through the area. We had the pleasure of experiencing subzero temperatures and snow, as well as seeing the Dish in Parkes and exotic animals at the Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo.

 

 

With a few more friendly visits in Kiama and Milton, and a stop at the Big Merino in Goulburn, we finally visited our country’s capital. We called in at the War Memorial and National Mint and even saw our old travel buddies Tom and Bella.

 

 

Once we returned to the coast, the wet weather reappeared and we reached the Victorian border within a day or two. From then on, there was no point stuffing around – we were 4 hours from home.  On Sunday the 2nd of August, we rolled in unannounced and enjoyed a hot shower and warm bed.

 

Since our return to Melbourne, we’ve been busy.  We got jobs, reconnected with friends, and started making plans for the future.

 

We’re going to take a few weeks off to enjoy the silly season and spend time with our family and friends. We’ll see you all in the new year with more posts about the last leg of our lap around Australia, as well as our run down of Tassie later in the year.

 

Thanks for all your support,

 

Dave & Juz

 

IMG_20150802_094839

Cape York

Top 5 Things About Queensland

Birdsville

 

We crossed the border into Queensland at the beginning of September 2014, and didn’t leave the sunshine state until June 2015.  In the ten months that we spent in Queensland, we drove through the outback, went to the northern tip of Australia, spent time in the rainforests, got jobs in Cairns, watched the sugar cane whirl by, and soaked up the sun along the sandy beaches.

 

Here are our favourite things about Queensland:

 

Prehistoric Past

Queensland’s prehistoric past includes dinosaurs, volcanoes and megafauna.  During our time in the outback, we hopped on the dinosaur trail and visited the Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum in Winton.  It was absolutely fascinating to learn about the dinosaurs that used to live on Australian soil – Banjo the carnivorous theropod and Matilda the sauropod.

 

Australian Age of Dinosaurs

 

Further north in Boodjamulla National Park (Lawn Hill) are the World Heritage fossils of Riversleigh, which date back 25 million years.  We got to see even more dinosaurs at the Queensland Museum in Brisbane.  They have a regular dinosaur exhibition that includes information about the dinosaur stampede at Lark Quarry.

 

Lawn Hill

 

As we headed towards the coast, we stopped at Undara Volcanic National Park and saw the incredible lava tubes that formed nearly 200,000 years ago.  We saw more evidence of volcanic activity as we travelled east.  Mount Hypipamee Crater and the Crater Lakes on the Atherton Tablelands were all created by volcanic activity, while the Glasshouse Mountains in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland are volcanic plugs of hard rock that have been exposed as the surrounding soft rock has eroded over time.

 

The Tablelands

 

 

Rainforests

The rainforests of northern Queensland are a well known paradise, the most famous being the Daintree Rainforest, which is the oldest and largest continuous rainforest in the world.  Exploring the area is easy when you base yourself at Port Douglas, and while you’re in the area, Cape Tribulation is worth a visit.

 

Cape Tribulation

 

Not far away are the rainforests of the Atherton Tablelands.  Right in the heart of the lush forest is Kuranda, which is a beautiful little village with plenty to offer, including a range of fantastic wildlife experiences.  Paronella Park is another magical gem hidden away in the green foliage.

 

Paronella Park 2015-04-25 231w

 

To the south are the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia, an amazing example of subtropical rainforest that has remained unchanged over many millennia.  Part of this world heritage area is Springbrook National Park, where the Antarctic beech trees reside and the Best of All Lookouts offer views of the valley below (but not for us).

 

IMG_20150612_161845

 

Beaches & Coastline

Known as the sunshine state, Queensland is notorious for its beaches.  Surfers Paradise on the Gold Coast is a huge beach with a big surf culture.

 

Gold Coast 2015-06-12 101w

 

Up north on the Cape, after visiting the northernmost point of Australia, we camped at Chilli Beach. The isolation of the area and the row of leaning coconut trees along the beach make it seem like you’re on a deserted island.

 

Cape York

 

Just off the coastline of Queensland is the beautiful Great Barrier Reef.  Juz had an opportunity to go out and snorkel on the reef, swim with turtles and get severely sunburnt, but if you’re not a fan of sunburn or getting wet, you can easily see the beautiful fish and corals at Reef HQ in Townsville.

 

Great Barrier Reef - Justine snorkling

 

4WDing

There are heaps of opportunities to challenge yourself and your 4WD in Queensland.  Our first major obstacle was the Old Telegraph Track on the Cape.  This was so much fun and there were heaps of water crossings, dips and surprises that required keen navigational prowess.

 

Cape York

 

Fraser Island was another 4WDing favourite with plenty of sandy tracks to sink your tyres into and a whole highway of beach to cruise on, while Blackdown Tablelands gave us an unexpected opportunity to cross some rough terrain.

 

Fraser Coast 2015-05-13 082w

 

If you want to do nothing else but get loco on the tracks, head to Landcruiser Mountain Park.  This place is dedicated to challenging tracks of varying difficulty, from relatively easy to “ah fuck – I just broke my car”.  Plus, because the map they give you at reception is so shit, you’re bound to get lost and end up on a track that will push your limits.

 

Landcruiser Mountain Park 2015-05-16 075w

 

Freshwater Fun

Queensland isn’t all about beaches.  There are some beautiful lakes, creeks and waterfalls as well.  In the tropics, waterholes are the perfect spot to cool off and wash the film of sweat from your skin.  Josephine Falls and The Boulders are popular with locals and tourists alike, while Crystal Creek and Jarouma Falls make quite the pretty picture.

 

Crystal Creek 2015-04-28 009

 

Up in the Atherton Tablelands, the Millaa Millaa Waterfall Circuit takes you around to three waterfalls set in the rainforest, while Lake Eacham is a beautiful turquoise lake that is great for swimming and kayaking.  Another beautiful plateau is the Blackdown Tableland further south near Mackay.  There are lots of creeks surrounding the camping area but the real beauty is Guddo Gumoo, which is also known as Rainbow Waters.

 

 

Blackdown Tableland 2015-05-07 035w

 

In country Queensland, there are three locations that are simply sublime.  Our favourite was Lake Elphinstone, and we were very fortunate to be there on the night of a full moon.  For those who are travelling along the Savannah Way, Lawn Hill Gorge is a beautiful place to get your togs wet, and while we don’t recommend getting into the water at Cobbold Gorge (CROCS!), we do recommend a peaceful boat cruise through the gorge.

 

Lake Elphinstone 2015-05-05 031w

 

Only 7km north of the border between Queensland and New South Wales is Natural Bridge, set amongst the Gondwana Rainforest.  Natural Bridge is a product of time, as water has washed over the rock, eroding it and creating a hole.

 

Springbrook NP 2015-06-12 052w

 

Fraser Coast 2015-05-13 016w

Explore : Fraser Coast

Fraser Coast 2015-05-15 059w

 

The Fraser Coast is an area within the Wide Bay-Burnett region of Queensland, and includes the twin cities of Hervey Bay and Maryborough, as well as Fraser Island, the world’s largest sand island.

 

Hervey Bay

We were expecting a little coastal town with a pub, bakery and laundromat, but Hervey Bay is much bigger than that.  The main road into town is lined with major retailers – JB Hi-Fi, Harvey Norman, Kmart – you name it, it’s there.

 

Our first stop was Dan Murphy’s and spent some time at the tasting station before settling on our purchases.  We then made our way to our accommodation for the night, the front yard of a fellow Troopy lover from the Troopicarriers of Australia facebook page.  We got to meet some friends of his who had just embarked on their own adventure around Australia, and we swapped stories as we feasted on swineapple, which is a hollowed out pineapple stuffed with pork, wrapped in bacon and baked. Delish!

 

Fraser Coast 2015-05-13 014w

 

In the morning, before heading over to Fraser Island, we had a quick drive around town, checked out the Esplanade and Urangan Jetty, and giggled at the papier-mache sharks outside Vic Hislop’s Shark Show.

 

Fraser Coast 2015-05-13 004w

 

Maryborough

Maryborough is the birthplace of PL Travers, the creator of Mary Poppins.  Pamela Travers’s real name is Helen Lyndon Goff and she was born in 1899.  In 1924, she moved to England where she took on the pen name PL Travers and began writing.  She released the first of her Mary Poppins series in 1934 and 30 years later, it was made into a movie.  PL Travers died in London in 1996 and her story has been retold in the recent film Saving Mr Banks.

 

Fraser Coast 2015-05-12 005w

 

There is a bronze statue of Mary Poppins that stands outside the building where she was born.  This was the old bank where her father used to work, and is one of many beautiful buildings around town.  Nearby is Queens Park, a great place to stroll through, climb a sausage tree or have a picnic.

 

Fraser Coast 2015-05-12 002w

 

Rainbow Beach

Our arrival at Rainbow Beach was shortly after riding the Mantaray Barge from Fraser Island.   Our first priority was to find a car wash to wash all the salt off the Troopy.  We spent around $7 at the car wash and did a quick lap of town before moving on.

 

Fraser Coast 2015-05-15 053w

 

While Rainbow Beach and Gympie are not officially part of the Fraser Coast, all of these towns are within the Wide Bay-Burnett region so we will include both Rainbow Beach and Gympie in this Fraser Coast post.

 

Gympie

For a Friday, Gympie was incredibly quiet.  It was only midday and all the shops were shut, but we soon found out it was because of the Gympie Show and the Friday is considered a public holiday.

 

We had a quick lunch at Nelson Reserve before exploring the town centre to find Memorial Lane – an Anzac memorial with sculptured mosaic artwork – and then stocked up on food before making our way to Landcruiser Mountain Park.

 

Fraser Coast 2015-05-15 069w

 

On our way there, the unsealed road got a bit difficult.  An uphill section was a little too steep to get up in 2WD and the Troopy stalled and began sliding backwards.  Dave started it and tried to get it into reverse, but it wouldn’t go into gear.  Faced with the options of a sheer drop down the cliff on one side or a ditch and wall on the other, sliding uncontrollably downhill in 3 tonnes of Troopy was pretty scary!  Dave managed to steer the Troopy towards the ditch and after a precarious moment of sliding sideways down the hill, we stopped with a thud as the back of the Troopy slammed into a wall of dirt.  The first thing on Juz’s mind was, “oh shit, it’s Pajinka all over again”, but after a quick inspection, the Troopy’s butt was relatively unscathed.  We took a few minutes for our heart rate to slow down, then chucked the Troopy in 4WD and continued.

 

Fraser Coast 2015-05-13 016w

 

Fraser Island 2015-05-14 083w

Camping & 4WDing : Fraser Island

Fraser Island 2015-05-14 013w

 

Heritage listed since 1992, Fraser Island is about 120km long and 24km wide.  It’s the largest sand island in the world, and the largest island on the east coast of Australia.  The island was made over the last 750,000 years by sand accumulating on a volcanic bedrock that acted as a catchment for the sediment.  The island is covered in various landscapes, from bare dunes and coastal grassland to eucalyptus woods and rainforests.  The reason why so many plants can grow in sand is because of a naturally occurring fungus in the sand that releases nutrients which are absorbed by the plants.

 

The island was named after Eliza Fraser, wife of Captain James Fraser who was sailing the Queensland Coast in 1836.  When their ship struck a reef, they made for the great sand island and Eliza was captured by aborigines.  She was rescued six weeks later.  The traditional name is K’Gari, which means paradise.

 

Fraser Island 2015-05-14 209w

 

You will most likely see dingoes lingering on the beach.  These dingoes have the reputation of being the last pure dingoes in Australia.  They used to be quite common but their numbers decreased considerably after a tragedy in 2001 when a boy wandered away from his family’s camp and was attacked and killed by a pack of dingoes.  Over 120 dingoes were killed in retaliation for this and since then, the dingo population on the island has been strictly managed.

 

Fraser Coast 2015-05-13 111w

 

Other than dingoes, you will see plenty of tour buses and tag along 4WD groups.  While the 4WD groups aren’t that bad, try to steer clear of the big tour buses because the drivers are jerks.

 

Fraser Island 2015-05-14 066w

 

Day 1

Our day started slowly as we had spent the night with a hospitable legend from the Troopcarriers of Australia facebook page.  Not only was it great to meet Rodney, but he introduced us to two of his friends, Rob and Leith, who had just embarked on a year long trip around Australia.  We swapped stories all night and during breakfast, and it was great to see another couple excited about what was ahead.

 

We finally got our shit together at around 10am and booked our barge ride from River Heads over to the island ($95 one way off peak), as well as our camping permits ($11.50 per night) and vehicle permit ($45).  By the time we were sorted, we had 50 minutes to have a quick whiz around Hervey Bay, stop in at the supermarket for some supplies and get down to River Heads for the barge.

 

Fraser Coast 2015-05-13 018

 

The 50 minute ride over the strait to the island was pleasant.  There was a bar on board and a viewing deck just in case some dolphins wanted to come out to play.  We disembarked the barge and rolled along a jetty to Kingfisher Bay, a resort village.

 

As soon as the sandy tracks began, we put the Troopy into 4WD and plodded along towards Lake Mackenzie.  The track weaves through forests of varying density, some with ferns, palms and vines, and oscillates between relatively smooth to so bumpy it was as if the Troopy was bouncing on gangster hydraulics.

 

Fraser Island 2015-05-14 152w

 

Lake Mackenzie is one of the most popular places on the island and is a lake full of clear and beautifully blue fresh water, with shores of white fine sand of near pure silica.  We had a quick dip before realising we had a long way to go before dark.

 

Fraser Island 2015-05-14 187w

 

We made it to 75 Mile Beach on the east coast of Fraser Island just before the beginning of sunset.  75 Mile Beach is a national highway and there are several sections that are reserved for planes.  The tide was up and the sand was soft so we dropped our tyre pressure down to 22psi.

 

Fraser Coast 2015-05-13 082w

 

Because we were racing the sun to get to camp, we cruised past the Maheno Wreck and managed to get to Dundabara just as it got dark.  The whole camp ground was fenced off and the entrance was an electrified grid to keep the dingoes out.

 

Fraser Coast 2015-05-13 107w

 

Day 2

We got up nice and early to cover as much of the island as we could.  The condition of 75 Mile Beach was a big improvement from the night before.  The low tide meant we had more wet sand to drive on and we even got up to 80kph.

 

Fraser Island 2015-05-14 006w

 

Our first stop was the Champagne Pools – if it wasn’t so cold and windy, we could have stayed here all day.  The rock pools were a striking turquoise colour, but the shallow parts were coloured peach by the sand.  Every time a big wave crashed over the rock, foam would cover the water.  It was beautiful.  Make sure you bring your snorkel so you can see the colourful little fish in the pools, and don’t miss the brilliant view of the beach and Indian Head from the lookout on the cliffs above.

 

Fraser Island 2015-05-14 024w

 

It was time to start heading south and the wind was blowing hard by the time we got to the Pinnacles – a haze on the sand was swirling around our feet.  We had a quick look at the colourful sand cliffs and kept moving.

 

Fraser Island 2015-05-14 073w

 

The most anticipated stop on our journey south was the Maheno Wreck.  This is one of the best landmarks on Fraser Island, and is the rusty skeleton of the SS Maheno, which got beached on Fraser Island in 1935 because of a strong cyclone.

 

Fraser Island 2015-05-14 076w

 

Before heading back to the lakes, we did a quick walk through the Kirra Sandblow and marvelled at the massive dunes and different coloured sands.

 

Fraser Island 2015-05-14 124w

 

Before going back to Lake Makenzie for another dip, we stopped by the Lake Wabby lookout.  Lake Wabby is the deepest lake on the island, and the least acidic, making it home to the largest range of fish species on the island.

 

We stopped in at Central Station and did a quick walk along Wanggoolba Creek.  It’s amazing how different the plants are in this section of the island.  Massive pine trees stand around the old settlement, adorned with huge epiphytes that look like giant heads of lettuce.  Down by the crystal clear creek, the rainforest is super green – everything that isn’t already green is covered in green moss and lichen.

 

Further south, we stopped by Lake Birrabeen but it was late in the day and the lake was cast in shadow, making it grey and drab, with foam lapping on the shore.  With the sun setting, we arrived at Lake Boomanjin and quickly decided to spend the night here instead of back on the beach.  We simply didn’t want to set up in the dark again.  We went down to the lake at both sunrise and sunset and were treated with gorgeous smears of colours on the water.

 

 

Fraser Coast 2015-05-15 013w

 

 

Day 3

Our departure from Fraser Island would be from the south via the Mantaray Barge.  We heard a rumour that the beach to the barge was impassable at high tide and by the time we got there, it was on its way down.  We waited by the mouth of a small creek for the tide to come down, and watched the stained water from the creek mix with the salt water on the beach.

 

Fraser Coast 2015-05-15 025w

 

Soon enough, we were able to get to the barge waiting area, boarded the barge and paid the $75 one way ticket back to the mainland. The barge runs on demand and there were plenty of cars on the other side who wanted to get across to the island and start their Fraser Island adventure.

 

Fraser Coast 2015-05-15 038w