Saturday, 16 October 2010

Surfing, Fraser Island, Scooteroo & the one and only Noosa

It's been a while! I have been busy as usual burning money and having a merry old time of it, so I shall pick up where I left off, which I believe was Airlie Beach... As I mentioned in the last blog on the Whitsundays, I met 4 Dutch girls on our trip around the islands, and since then I have been travelling with one of them - a lovely girl called Dominique. We have also been staying in touch with Shirby and Carolien, who we have met up with one and off down the coast, which has been really great. It is so lovely to have people with you doing the same sort of thing, believe me! And the other great thing about my wonderful Dutch friends (aside from the fact that I now speak a tiny bit of Dutch!!) is that I have been introduced properly to the wonderful world of couchsurfing!

For those of you who don't know, couchsurfing is a concept/website/social network based around the idea of sleeping on someone's couch for free while you are travelling. You are supposed to be both a surfer and a host to keep things fair, so when I return to the UK at some point (maybe when I have my own place) I will be hosting travellers! Dominique and I had never tried it, though I have been aware of it for some time, so we decided to do it together on our trip to Agnes Water after Airlie Beach. Agnes Water and the town of 1770 are next to each other and are both teeny towns that mark the first place James Cook stopped in Queensland. This is apparently a big deal. Anyway, back in Airlie we sent off a few couch requests and were delighted to be accepted by a guy in Agnes who was happy to host us! T is a surf instructor with a gorgeous sprawling property outside town, and was one of the most chilled out people I have ever met. Our first night happened to be the jam night he holds weekly and we were treated to several blokes (ranging from 20s to 60s) playing guitars and smoking a certain kind of hand rolled cigarette I am sure I have never seen before. It was completely surreal to be sitting in the midst of true blue hippies - my first REAL Aussies since Adelaide - and to be welcomed into the home of a stranger. We made a big dinner and a cake (naturally) and everyone shared and laughed and drank, and it was awesome.

So couchsurfing is now my new favourite way to go. A real kitchen, a real home, a real garden, a real kitchen, pots, pans... and did I mention that these people have actual kitchens you can't catch hepatitis from?! When you live in hostels for 2 months you learn that most hostels consider a microwave and 3 forks a kitchen. Unless you are living on noodles, you are fated to starvation and Subway. But I digress... Back to Agnes Water.

Dominique and I arrived in Agnes on the overnight bus from Airlie at 9:30am, and by 10am we had agreed to our first surf lesson. I was already dubious about this so called sport that all Aussies seem to be born doing, but I was determined to resemble one of the girls from Blue Crush by the end of the lesson. After half an hour of jumping up and down on the board in the sand I felt that it was definitely going to be a daunting task to say to the least. By the time I got into the water I was losing faith fairly quickly. And of as luck would have it, I managed to get hit quite hard in the face by my own board before 5 mins had even gone by. Only marginally discouraged by the sudden lack of skin on my chin, I paddled out on my board and aimed for the next wave. Disaster. I was thrown into the shallow sand at speed, and emerged gasping for air as the wind was knocked out of me. To cut a long story short, I suck at surfing. Even after three hours I could only manage a crouch on the board, which totally, definitely and without doubt counts as standing up.

After the surfing we headed to T's place and did the whole cooking/jam night (this blog is all out of order, my apologies) and the next day we headed out on Scooteroo - a scooter tour of 1770. I say scooter, but they were more like mini motorbikes. I was wobbles a gogo at first but as soon as I got onto the open road it was heaven. We were given neck tattoos and whatnot to get us into the biker feel, and the guys played Born to be Wild as we roared out onto the open road. Slightly cheesy perhaps, but after a few miles hitting 70kmh I started to feel like I belonged in Mad Max (only without the murder, rape and general pillaging). I enjoyed it so much that I am starting to wonder how easy it is to get a motorbike license back in Blighty, though I might want to start a little smaller than my dad's monster bike... We finished our trip with wedges at sunset (so romantic) in 1770, before scooting on home. We got back to T's to find our friends Shirby and Carolien cooking tacos for us all, which was pretty damn peachy. We had another evening of music (I played the triangle) and headed to bed before our 6am bus the next day.

At dawn we headed to Rainbow Beach, the closest point on the mainland to Fraser Island, the world's largest sand island. It is home to the purest dingoes in the world, which means you have to bury EVERYTHING from dishwater to pee 50cm deep in the sand. Not ideal. Fraser Island is one of those must-do things in Aus - you go to see the stunning fresh water lakes in the middle and to drive a big beasty 4WD on the beach. Alas we were fated to what can only be described as shit weather, and the trip was not as good as it should have been. I should also mention here that I sort of hate camping with a fiery passion, so it was not my favourite trip so far...

We headed over there in the morning in our group of 8 in Lady Marmalade Diva, our 4WD (we named her of course). The beaches were a bit grey in the rain and wind, and the high tide forced us to take the inland track to get to our campsite (which was essentially the beach). Our team was not exactly the dream team we had on the Whitsundays - it was more of a ramshackle group of people who really shouldn't be forced to spend more than 3 days together. Alas these things happen. Our first day was mostly compromised of our largely unsuccessful attempts to put our tents up in the pouring rain, with a trip to Lake Wabby in the late afternoon. Lake Wabby is along a 3km track inland. Despite being told we could go everywhere barefoot, I cut my foot on a stick walking through the rainforest, which was pretty painful (wait till day 3!!) but I soldiered on and went swimming in Lake Wabby, which was pretty cool.

After Lake Wabby we returned to the (now dark) campsite to make our dinner (steak and potatoes) on our gas cooker. The potatoes took 2 hours to cook (the water never quite boiled as it was so cold outside!) and the steak looked like it has been thrown away at a butchers. We were all pretty grumpy by the time we ate around 8pm (a good half hour after everyone else) but I maintain that it was one of the best steaks I have ever eaten. Though to be fair I was so hungry that half cooked road kill would have done the job. After dinner everyone started drinking (cue me sipping a single can of cider over 2 hours before going to bed). I was subjected to the shrill yells of the token Essex Girl (they're bloody everywhere!!) who shrieked CONSUME! every 4 minutes during Ring of Fire - a game which is no longer enjoyable when you have lost feeling in your feet and have been forced back into the hoody you wore for over two weeks straight back in wintery Adelaide - and being the grumpy old woman I am now, I went to bed on the hard sand floor in my hired (ick!) sleeping bag.

We were woken at dawn and forced to make scrambled eggs for the hungover miscreants of the night before, before we headed off in our 4WD for the day. I took the first shift as I was the only one sober enough to drive, and was warned by the guide that today's track would be really dangerous. Wonderful. The way the tour works is as follows - 2 lead cars drive with 3 tag along cars each. It's a big version of Following the Leader, but you are driving along beaches, creeks and rainforest tracks that could flip your vehicle without blinking. So off we went along the beach at high tide, creeping along the sand banks of soft sand and running over the beached Blue Bottle jellyfish with a satisfying POP every single time. Every car has 8 people in it and ALL your stuff minus the tents, as the dingoes prowl everywhere and steal all sorts of things. It makes for one very heavy 4WD, I can assure you. Driving on sand is a lot like driving on ice - it is best to go slow and take it carefully, but even with that you can be screwed over. It was the most exciting, stressful driving of my life! The weather was still crap - overcast and windy with occasional rain - but it was still fun. We headed to The Champagne Pools, which look rather like Cornwall when you have zero sunshine, then to Indian Head to look out at the view of the island. We also saw the wreck of the Maheno - an old cruiseliner that washed up on the beach several decades ago. It was really cool - one of my favourite sights on the island. It is sinking into the sand year by year and is much less visible than it was in my sister's photos 6 years ago! We also went to another lake (name since forgotten!) and then skipped off back for the final night of camping (hallelujah!).

Our final day was much better than the previous days as it was sunnyish. We packed up the truck and went to beautiful Lake McKenzie - the lake in all the postcards - and had lunch. I should mention at this point that the little cut I sustained on Day One had become infected and I could no longer walk properly or swim, which did not help my love of the island. It is hopefully on its way to healing now but I have been a hop along for several days now! :( We left Lake McKenzie to head to Central Station for a rainforest walk, but alas, a fateful cock up occurred. The only thing that can really go wrong on Fraser (aside from being mauled by dingoes) is losing your lead car. Unfortunately we were the middle car in the tag along, and after 30 mins or so of driving, the car in front of us slowed to a halt. The guy who hopped out had to inform us and the car behind that they hadn't seen the lead car in a good half hour, and we discovered we were lost on the island with only an hour before the last ferry back to the mainland. As someone who was all for the mainland - a land made of more than sand, a land of showers, of food, of people other than my camping fellows - I was obviously the first one to leap out and attempt to make a plan of action. We back tracked to Central Station, and were finally found by our leader. I took over the driving and we hurtled along the tracks back to civilisation. We made our ferry with only a minute to spare, and I nearly cried with joy when I pulled Lady Marmalade into the garage. I was sick of sand, sick of cider and sick of the pillocks in my group. It was good to be back.

Domi and I said goodbye to Rainbow Beach the next morning and headed to beautiful Noosa, to couch surf with a lovely guy in his late twenties. His house was right in the countryside outside of Noosa, and he took us for an awesome walk through Noosa National Park on our first day. On day 2 he took us out in his boat to the Noosa River to the everglades to the 'the reflections.' The reflections are a stunning natural phenonemon where the water in the river perfectly mirrors the trees and sky above - so much so that going through it is a surreal and magical experience. I have never seen anything like it. If you are ever in the Noosa neck of the woods, I would recommend it!! We had a BBQ at the river - and I tried Kangaroo Kebabs which were... chewy. Not amazing but not too shabby either.

Yesterday we rejoined Shirby with her couch surf host in the centre of Noosa, and had a girls night in (with real wine!!) today we headed to the Australia Zoo - home to Steve Irwin and his legacy. It was a little sad to see good old Steve in posters all over the place given his death four years ago, but the zoo was really fun! We fed and cuddled kangaroos (much more fun than eating them!) and saw koalas, snakes, wallabies, wombats, red pandas and all sorts of other zoo animals. I also fed an elephant, which was a much snottier experience than I would have hoped for. It was a good day indeed. I was very sad to leave Noosa, having fallen in love with it in our brief but awesome stay. If you are ever in Oz, treat yourself to a couple of nights in Noosa - it is just lovely.

We arrived in Brisbane this morning and I have the beautiful task of finding a job before the dwindling money finally runs out. Which means I have about 4 days to find a well paid job. Or in reality (so as not to worry my parents), I have a good few weeks of money left so hopefully I should survive... God only knows what I will end up doing...

Wish me luck my lovelies! Miss you all! xxx

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