Holiday in Australia!

Door Jeroen Breg op 16 feb 2012, laatst gewijzigd op 16 feb 2012 18:15

From the 20th of December until the 15th of January I was on holiday with Rianne, Serena and Maarten. Not just an ordinary holiday, but one all the way down under! We went to visit Chris and Judith on their "world trip" and of course enjoy summer time while The Netherlands suffered from stormy winterish weather. For all the images I took during this trip, please have a look at my photoalbum: Australia.

We had a 13 hour stop in Shanghai, so we took some time to visit this massive Chinese city. Rianne had been there before on a study trip, so she was our unofficial tour guide. Shanghai was covered in fog (not smog) that morning, but it was a pretty sight nonetheless. Especially the Yuangyuang Gardens were impressive, we spent several hours wandering through this mystical place!
After (another) about 11 hour flight we arrived in Melbourne where Chris and Judith were waiting for us. They rented a van for the road trip we planned; first off to Philip Island, than visit some of Riannes relatives in Melbourne and Daylesford, followed by the Great Ocean Road. On Philip Island we took some time to relax from our almost two days of traveling, but we also went to see the Penguin Parade. Pretty funny to see a bunch of these small animals emerge from the sea and wobble ashore. On our way to back to Melbourne we saw some pelicans having lunch, fighting over some dead fish!

Next up was Melbourne's city centre, where we met Rianne's aunt Carol. While Rianne and Serena could stay at her (very nice) place, the others (including me) checked in at the hostel we booked earlier. We met up at the Yarra river side, where we had a great "barbie" (BBQ) dinner that Carol had prepared for us. We had a glimpse of the Ozzie nightlife afterward as we went for a drink in the city center. Although alcohol is very expensive in Australia, we had a lot of fun!

The next day we headed of to a small town just (well, one and a half hours of driving) outside Melbourne; Daylesford. Rianne's uncle Koos lives here with his girlfriend Hanna. With the sound of thunderstorms coming in, starting in the afternoon, some friends of Koos' prepared a shelter for Christmas Eve dinner that night. It was a delicious meal (one of the few times I ate duck, but I loved it!) and great fun. That night we slept in a tent, which was not the most comfortable way to experience our first Australian thunderstorm. They are a bit more intense than the European ones, I believe!

Christmas morning had a special surprise for us: we went for a walk on Koos' land. He has a lavender farm on a part of it, but most of it is grass or bushes and partially occupied by his neighbors cows. When we reached the far end, where the forest begins, we spotted some wild kangaroos in the distance. Kangaroos spotting on Christmas morning, pretty weird!

We left for Port Fairy afterward, visiting the Grampians on the way. The Grampians are one of the many reserves and parks in Australia, all having their own highlights. We chose to visit MacKenzie waterfalls, well hidden in the forests with a long and sometimes quite steep winding road leading towards it. These falls were very impressive and attract a lot of tourists, despite the steep (pedestrian) pathway it takes before you actually see something. Since we had some more traveling to do before we reached Port Fairy (at the coast), we moved on along the, sometimes quite boring, Australian high- and freeways. We reached the youth hostel in Port Fairy by the end of the afternoon, leaving just enough time for a quick visit to the beach. That was a bit colder than we expected actually; the wind was quite strong and, coming from Antarctica, pretty darn cold!

The next day we visited the beach again, but this time the sun did it's job a bit better. The wind was still strong, but the temperature was decent. By the end of the afternoon we visited Griffiths Island, a small peninsula with lots of birds and some other animals. Although drizzle set in when we just passed the furthest point of our walk, I'm glad we didn't run all the way back: right next to the lighthouse, hidden in the bushes, there was a group of wallabies! They were clearly used to humans, as we could take photo's of them from just a few meters away. Managed to get some nice pictures out of it, luckily my lens cap doesn't just protect my lens from sun flares, it also keeps raindrops off!
Leaving Port Fairy the next day, we were on our way to the famous Great Ocean Road. Before we started we visited Tower Hill though, a wildlife reserve situated in a vulcano crater. We were welcomed by a kangaroo crossing the road just before our car (at 20km/h, don't worry!), but sadly it disappeared as quickly as it had appeared. The only other animals we saw there were some emu's, but the view from the highest top was pretty good! We had some panorama fun there as well, check out the pictures :-)

Tourists as we were, the first official stop on the Great Ocean Road is a must-stop, of course. The rocks look pretty amazing along the entire coastline, having all different shades of red and they come in the weirdest shapes. Our second stop was at the "London Bridge", a rock with a remarkable hole in it. I believe part of it collapsed a couple of years ago, but it still looks like a bridge with a little imagination. Next up were the Twelve Apostles; accompanied by a huge parking lot, our expectations rose to similar proportions. Although the infrastructure is pretty impressive, it must be when millions of tourists come here very year, the Apostles themselves are a bit of a disillusion. First of all, we only counted ten of them, while one is known to have collapsed. Second, they're just not really that impressive! They do make a nice panorama though, so we scratched that off our list too :-)

The most southern point along the Great Ocean Road is Cape Otway. When we drove down, we noticed some cars parked at the side of the road: koala spotters! Because Rianne's parents, who were there the year before, only spotted a single koala during their four week trip, we had to stop for a photo. When we continued our way to the cape, we were pleasantly surprized to spot about 30 more! These quite little animals are lazy as hell, but we actually managed to see one almost falling out of a tree; you should have seen it moving and struggling then! We had a nice walk at the cape, the view was amazing! But we had to move on, there was some more Great Ocean Road to go! Passing some beautiful beaches and boulevard, we did a final stop to enjoy the view before we would arrive in Geelong. The result are the two fantastic shots from the coastline, with the clouds moving in...

In Geelong we stayed at the Gatehouse on Ryrie, a great bed & breakfast with some very friendly people. From there we visited the beach in Torquay (twice actually), the next day we went surfing. It was really enjoyable and good for my tan too ;-)
Sydney was our next destination, we had a flight from Melbourne because the roughly 700km would take as a bit long to drive. After checking into the (Formule 1) hotel at Sydney Olympic Parc and spending the first night, we dove into the crowded city center. It was the 30th of December, so there were a lot of tourists. We split up (boys vs. girls) to do some sightseeing and shopping; of course I needed to get some nice (panoramic) pictures of the Opera House and the bridge! The next day was the big day: spending New Years Eve in Sydney! We arrived at about 11.30h in the Royal Botanic Gardens, were we found a few km of people queuing already. It took us about 3 hours to get in, but we got there eventually! All the best spots were taken, as we could have guessed, but still we managed to find a nice place on the lawn. Knowing we were going to be right on that spot for the next 9 hours was a bit awkward, but time flew! Before we knew it we were celebrating the new year, with massive fireworks.



After a great but exhausting night and a good sleep, we decided to go to Bondi beach on the first day of 2012. In Holland there's this thing called the "new years dive", which is a lot colder than what we were about to face, but we wanted to do the same thing of course :-) It was quite busy, but the more the merrier! It was quite weird to spend this day on the beach, while normally you're looking at the remains of fireworks, streets smelling like a BBQ and you'd probably be with family and relatives.

We left Sydney on January 2nd, which also ment we were saying goodbye to Chris and Judith. It was great to see them again, but there was a lot more for us to explore (parts that they have been already). After taking the last shots of Sydney from the plane and celebrating Serena's birthday, our next destination was Hervey Bay, with Fraser Island being the major tourist attraction. The taxi driver from the airport brought us to the Flashpackers hostel, which looked pretty good. Our opinion after staying there for a couple of nights: perfect! A nice swimming pool, great facilities and very kind and helpfull people. The main reason we were there actually was Fraser Island. We decided to do a two day - one night guided trip across the island. Our operator was Cool Dingo and I believe we were very lucky to have Peter Meyer as our tour guide; this guy is amazing! He is a photographer too and knows an awfull lot about the island, but more importantly he is so funny! He managed to talk our way through most of the trip, which made this an extraordinary experience. The island itself is amazing; it purely consists of sand and it has the only rainforest in the world that grows on sand soil. The rainforest is just one big playground, with lianas, huge trees, fresh water lakes and cool wildlife. We spotted a monitor (Dutch: varaan) and, safely from the bus, some dingo's as well! On one of the lookout points (Indian head) we actually saw some sharks in the sea and a huge turtle. We had some time to relax too, spending an afternoon at Lake MacKenzie, with fresh, clear and drinkable water, visiting the “champagne pools” and Eli creek. All in all it was a great excursion, meeting some very nice people and witnessing the amazing flora and fauna.

Luckily, there was more to come; we set off for Airlie Beach, by nightbus. My personal experience with nightbuses wasn't very positive and this trip actually confirmed my previous impressions. Well, we reached our destination and had a nice day of chilling by the lagoon, recovering from the ride in. We planned a sailing trip with the Tongarra along the Whitsunday Islands from January 7th till 9th and while it looked pretty good, most people we heard about it called it “the party boat”. Should be interesting. In fact, it was; 23 people, mostly English, but also some Swedish and even Canadian, on a boat for two days, led by two amazing crew members are key to success! Although there was not enough wind to go sailing, the weather was great and so were the Whitsunday Islands; what an amazing trip! Beautiful, paradise like beaches, fish swimming a few meters away, eagles coming in for a snack thrown at them from the boat and best of all: snorkeling! The first snorkeling I ever did, actually, and I loved it! The Great Barrier Reef is an amazing place, crowded with beautiful fish and yes, we even got to swim with a curious turtle during our “dive”. Rianne brought an underwater camera (since my 550D doesn't really like water, I recon) so we got some underwater footage as well, pretty cool!

The next challenge was to get from Airlie Beach to Cairns, where we had our flight back to Melbourne. Buses were an option, but they turned out to be more expensive than renting a car with the four of us, so we did a small road trip. After some credit card hassle we met our new friend for the coming 24 hours: a 285hp Holden Commodore 3.6L V6 sedan. Pretty much overkill on any level, but gave us a lot of space and it was fun to drive! It was a bit weird to drive on the left side of the road though. We split the approx. 700km trip in two parts, staying the night at Scotty's Beach House in Mission Beach. This place was like an oasis in the rainforest; nice accommodation and a swimming pool. It was located at the beach, but the further you go up north in Australia, the more dangerous animals you'll find in the sea, like jellyfish and sharks. That's actually the reason why many hotels and hostels have a swimming pool and even cities, like Airlie Beach and Cairns, have an artificial lagoon for people to cool down and take a swim.

The next day we left early, so we could see some more exciting stuff on our way to Cairns. We decided to visit the Josephine falls, a waterfall in the middle of the rainforest with some pools and even a (natural) slide. The water was cold and the current was pretty strong, but it was great to escape the heat for a moment. Temperatures were around 32 degrees Celsius with hardly any wind, high humidity (tropical rainforest!) and the sun was really burning. After some photo-fun and panorama's we continued our way to Cairns, where we had to return our four wheeled buddy. We found a hostel just around the corner and visited the tourist information office to be informed of rainforest trips right away. We booked a trip with “On the wallaby” and again this turned out to be pretty cool. Our tour guide, Bart, who actually turned to be called Paul in real life, was a funny and quite fascinating guy. We saw and learned some interesting stuff about the rainforest, such as the centuries old Cathedral Fig Tree, that is now home to many other plants (just view the photo's), saw some cute little turtles and went for a swim in Lake Eacham. We also visited the Millaa Millaa falls, probably the most photographed waterfall in Australia and known from Peter Andre's “Mysterious girl” video clip and the Herbal Essences commercial. You could actually swim underneath the fall and chill out on the rocks behind it, very nice (but a bit chilly)! Dinner falls were also pretty nice, very quietly tucked away in the dense rainforest. That night we stayed at a hostel in the small town of Yungaburraa, which was essentially home for On The Wallaby. We did some night canoeing to spot possums and other nocturnal animals (like tree kangaroos), but it was a bit too quiet. There were some massive thunderstorms on the horizon, so far away you wouldn't actually hear a thing, maybe that's what kept the animals away.

The next day Damian, another tour guide, took us on a mountain bike trip early in the morning. That was pretty exhausting, but fun too. Problem is that if you're not really used to the heat, the trip becomes a lot harder! After a huge but satisfying lasagna lunch we went canoeing at daytime. Jed, the dog from the hostel, joined us on our trip and even hopped in the canoe! It was again very cool and we actually spotted some kangaroos on the shore. That evening, just before we left for Cairns, we had the chance to go platypus spotting again, since we attempted to spot one the day before but it didn't work out. It took some time, but eventually a hungry platypus showed itself swimming around and diving for food. What a funny little creature that is! I got some nice pictures and even a movie of it, so cool to see one in the wild!



After returning to Cairns we went out for dinner and some drinks afterward, as it was to be our last night there. We had a great time in the Irish pub and the drinking part definitely worked out! The next day was all about chilling out and recovering from it, while we had a flight from Cairns to Melbourne that evening. Melbourne was surprisingly cold actually, although we only spent one short night there before we caught our plane back home. We had a couple of hours stop this time in Shanghai, so we just stayed on the airport. I managed to catch some sleep on the second flight, which automatically aligned my rhythm to the time back home. At most the time difference on our trip was 11 hours with the time in The Netherlands. I'm not sure which way I suffered most from the jet lag, but it didn't really bother me when I got home. One thing that did was the 30 degrees difference in temperature and the lack of sunshine; once you're used to it, you'll never want to spend winter time in Europe again!


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