Gold Coast!

Legend has it – students graduating all over Australia go through a rite of passage for a week at the Gold Coast, paying twice the normal price on everything and trashing everything in sight, including their bodies.  This phenomenon is so well known and so overwhelming that the actual school years for the different provinces in Australia have been conspicuously staggered to end at different times to compensate.  Good on ‘em!

We hit the GC at full steam after going through Brisbane for a couple of hours.  Interesting story (ok maybe not) – my terrible Radialpoint “watch” that I’ve been using as a timekeeper for most of the trip, and has also been a delightful source of mockery from my peers,  took a nosedive on a Brisbane major motorway and disintegrated right on the road.  I managed to get most of the pieces before the light changed back to green but I’m afraid that the battery cover is lost forever.  Consequently in addition to the random time resetting when I drop it, the battery now falls out too!  I mean its not like time is important or anything.  End of side story.

So back to the GC… this was actually the first and only day “of rest” that I’ve gotten on the trip so far… In fact, I managed to sleep in and get up at 9:30 am!  Victory trumpets were going off in my mind when I looked out the window and realized that the sun was already up.  Mind blowing.

Spent a lazy day on the beach and eating some Indian food for lunch saving my strength… for the night.  Which was probably the best party night of the trip so far.  We went to this stupidly overpriced club called Melbas ($9 beers hooray!).  Just to give you an idea – they stamp your wrist when you enter the bar.  I had to get restamped 3 times because my dance sweat kept dissolving it.  The students in that bar had never seen the likes of my “unique” Montreal stylings, and consequently, I owned the place.  I got throngs… throngs of dance floor people copying my moves.  They had these little elevated platforms – I felt like a dance aerobics instructor.

As amazing as that night was, the next morning we had to get up at 6 and we left at 3… suffice it to say the next day was zombie bus central.  We left the Gold Coast all feeling like shit… and loved it.

Fraser

Sand.  SAND!  SAAAAND!

Its everywhere!  In everywhere! Around everywhere!

Its an island made of SAND!  Rocks need not apply.  The only rocks you’ll find here are “Coffee Rocks” which are a mixture of reallllly old plant crap and SAND.

Fraser Island is a “unique” place and the largest SAND island in the world.  And it has a crapload of life on it too (Look! Trees!). 

We got to the island via a ferry and saw our eco-lodges – literally lodges.  Which was actually kind of cool because it felt a little like a frat house.  The drinking was like a frat house too, keeping with the theme.

The first night we partied down under at the Dingo Bar (“Don’t feed the fucking dingoes!”), and the next day I went on a whole day tour of the island.  For an island made of sand, there’s quite a lot to see… and quite a significant lack of anything resembling a proper road.

Thing about SAND is that roads made entirely out of it tend to suck. Hard.  The tour was called 4WD for a reason – although they should have warned us about the constant horizontal whiplash to come beforehand.  Picture someone grabbing your shoulders and then violently shaking you back and forth contantly for 45 minutes at a time.  Then picture yourself sleeping though that.  Well, that’s what I did…  The AC was broken so the bus became as hot as a womb (or the nearest that I can guess…) and the violent rocking actually ceased to be a problem after a while, due to some retarded human ability to sleep in situations like hurricanes and tornadoes.

We went to Lake Mackenzie first, which is a natural pool of freshwater that is lying on some of that Coffee Rock that just so happens to be impermeable.  The water is slightly acidic so there’s almost none of that pesky life in the lake, just pure, soft silica sand and the clearest blue water you’ve ever seen.  Taking a dip in there is reputed to take off 10 years from your life… which means I’m a fucking teenager again.  It was bad enough the first time, thank you very much.

Another highlight was the fact that there is actually a national highway on the island – but you can forget any street signs.  Because the highway is a beach.  Only accessible at low tide, and with a smattering of coffee rocks in the middle.  Oh, and planes regularly land and take off in between the cars.

There was a shipwreck on the highway too.  The Maheno if I recall… which I might not.  To be honest, like I said I was sleeping pretty soundly between the stops, somehow.

We also saw Eli Creek, the main island waterway.  Which is saying something because it starts inside the island where all the water is leaking through the sand and flows out to sea.  It moves a significant amount of water, and you can actually walk up it for a fair bit while eels bite your ankles.

We saw a few other things on the island like some SAND and some coloured SAND with rust in it… not bad, not bad… got some sick sunset shots… again…and turned in for an early night for a change.  Must catch up on sleep.  Its a tour not a vacation its a tour not a vacation its a tour not a vacation its a tour not a vacation its a tour not a vacation…

Moooooooo

Are you aware of the earth shattering event taking place right now in Rockhampton, Australia?

Rooms are booked 18 months in advance.  That means that next year’s event is already sold out.  Millions of people flock here once a year during the month of May for none other than… Beef Week!

While our exposure to this festival of cows is limited (there is however a gigantic cow that greets you when you enter the city), our stay here was absolutely real.  Its hard to explain how impressive the lodging can be on a Heifer farm, but just imagine that the family who runs it built a complex exclusively for Contiki tours and that its less than a year old, and it has karaoke.  In all seriousness it would really be easy to stay there for more than the one night that we did – the food is great, the view waking up is fantastic, everything is clean and well built… but it remains a cow farm.  When we arrived we went on a tour of the place (something close to a hay ride but with more dust) and looked over the cow packs as our hostess talked about their abattoir facilities.  Its just the way of life here though – passing judgement is useless.

Next: Fraser Island, the largest sand island in the world!  Woo! Sand!

Daydream Island

Ahhh… to live.  To Dream.  To live during the day.  To dream during the day!  If only there was a specific island on which to do this on….

But wait, lonely traveller!  There is!

Ingredients:  Step 1: Take one tropical island and insert 4 star hotel taking up whole island.  Step 2:… Step 3: profit!

The resort is everything you’d expect an island resort to be… and I didn’t really know what to expect in the first place.  There are local tropical fish swimming around the whole compound, including coral, and there are effing gigantic cockatils that screech loudly and eat from your hand.  I brought a bag of kettle chips up to my room and fed ONE bird on my balcony, and then there were like 10 of them a second later, all wanting chips.  The best is that our room was overseeing the farewell dock for the island, so everyone waiting for their boat was watching us feeding the birds on our porch.  When the bag was finished, I told the crowd that the show was over (“Next feeding at 5:30!”)

Me and a bud wanted to play mini golf and we decided to take the “Rainforest Path” that cuts through the middle of the island.  What we soon realized is that the word “Path” is not really what most people think it means, and their definition is really that “Path” equals ”Suggestion” and overgrowth that has overtaken the path back is part of the experience.

That night we partied (again…) at the “Fish Bowl” (I know, I know…).  No apparent hangover today, although I’m sure there are many incriminating facebook pictures ready to be posted….

I’m spending way to much cash on booze.

Whitsundays (Wetsundays)

Dusk.  The horizon loomed with dark, heavy clouds.  On shore, the rain started to spit very lightly.  We made our way to the Condor, our home for the next couple of days.  We climbed on the boat, and the real rain instantly started.

What followed was miserable.  We needed to stay on the top of the boat to help raise the sails…  all this would have been fine if not for the wind, which then started to howl.  In my mind, I was trying to steel myself for the next two days of this, and if I could actually make it to the end.

Well, I’ll ruin the suspense – the next day the weather got better and the blue skies were essentially sailing along with us as we moved, which was absolutely fantastic.  But that first night, I had no way of knowing.  I assumed the fetal position and shivered, wet, exposed and horribly cold on the deck.

The boat has lots of great use of space below deck for sleeping.  Unfortunately, being on a boat, its very very hard to keep everything dry, despite the best efforts of the crew.  You just learn to go with it, because there’s really no alternative anyways.  A few people were seasick right away that first night too.. no pukage though!

The next day was absolutely fantastic.  Sleep was surprisingly deep – the rocking boat was like a giant cradle.  We headed out to Whitehaven Beach, rated as one of the top 5 beaches in the world… and they’re right to do so.  The sand here is composed mainly of crushed quartz, and is as fine as talcum powder.  At low tide there is a giant expanse of pancake flats of sand peninsulas that you can do your best baywatch impression on.  Of course to actually enter the water you need to wear those body condoms, so baywatch pretty much goes out the window anyways.

We spent about an hour at the beach (too little…) and we didn’t want to go in very far because of … tiger sharks… (cough) so we just horsed around a bit in the shallows.  Its the best beach in the world that you can’t swim in… not really…

Once again we headed out to sail, which involved raising the sail and “Taching” the boat, which puts it literally at a 50+ degree angle to the water on one side while we hang on dearly on the “high side” with our legs overboard. Hold that position for about 1.5 hours and then switch sides, and you’re there!

We snorkeled in the afternoon around a close reef and spent a beautiful night watching the sun go down among the clouds, lighting everything on fire as it fell.  We all took some amazing sunset background pictures, drank some beer, and called it a night (much later…)

On my third day without a shower, we took off again in the rain for another last snorkel and then headed to our island resort!

I would say that being on that boat was one of the unique experiences of my life.  It was very different and nothing like anything I’ve ever done before either.  Despite heading directly towards clouds that looked eerily like the “Perfect Storm” not once but three times and then feeling the effects, it was significantly awesome to be able to harness the wind as much as we did and sail on a piece of history (the Condor is a storied sailing boat with many racing wins under its belt).  Would I do it again?  Well, I’m not sure that I really ever want to be as constantly wet as I was for as long as I was again… but I’d give it some thought.