Friday, September 30, 2005

Dear Mr. Cousteau, you are a really top bloke. Sincerely, Tim

This is not the Sailing post. That post is stuck in three different places; one organic, one spiral bound and one virtual. When it is in one place, I'll put it up. Sorry about the wait.

Now I am in Nelly Bay on Magnetic Island which lies off of Townsville Qld.
It is a beautiful place. The hostel's prices are a tad inflated (dorms AUD$ 28/night) but you are really paying for location. It is a cluster of A-frame cabins and hard walled tents (the latter of which I'm sleeping in; $10/night!) right on the beach. There is a decent Bar that is right on the beach, a "full body tanning" beach a 5 minute walk away, palm trees, a pool, lots of grass and a dive school. Of them all, the dive school is capturing most of my time (followed closely by what?). Yes, the dive school! After all my musing and planning and muttering of last february, I am finally learning to SCUBA dive!!! For the detail inclined I'm taking a 4 day SSI open water course. For the rest, I spent 2 days in a pool (learning how to sink, float swim, breathe, rescue and communicate) and spent today (and will spend tomorrow) in the ocean! There is a coral reef that is only about 40m from the beach and 6m from the surface making it a 'choice' place to learn to dive. We had two dives today for a total of 62 min underwater. Mostly we were practicing the stuff we learned in the pool in realistic conditions, but we did go for a bit of a swim over the reef. It was fantastic. Coral from all over the colour spectrum. And, becaue I could breathe underwater I could just loiter over it looking... Red fishes in the red coral, blue ones in the blue and a black one (looking rather lost) hanging out in some bright yellow pancake formations. I saw yellow tailed snapper. I saw a thing called a 'Nudie Branch' (noody brahck). And I saw stingrays. I used up the least air of the class (a good thing) and tomorrow morning it all happens again... I can't believe I didn't try this sooner...
Tomorrow I also have and exam, which I should probably go and study for...
wish me luck...


P.S. Family: has anyone heard from Dad??? Where is he?

Monday, September 26, 2005

N.W.S.

So much has happened since Fraser. I feel kind of like I’ve lost this blog. I wanted it to be more experiences than news. It was easy to do when I was in Melbourne because the experiences were distinct. Here on the road, every second is an experience and I get overwhelmed when I try to decide what to write about. Experience overload. The pictures are a ways ahead of the writing, but if I can get into a net café tomorrow, I’ll try to change that. I’m also breaking up this post into a few entries; bite sized as it were.
Where is he now? You may ask… Well, in fact, many of you have asked. I’m in Airlee Beach QLD. A small seaside town that serves as the gateway to the Whitesunday Islands and watering hole for anyone who is staying the night. I arrived here last Sunday evening having left 1770 on Saturday and spent a night at Kroombit Cattle Station. 1770 was the trap that it was promised to be (staying four days instead of the planned two). Apart from doing nothing, there was wandering around, sunset kayaking and surfing lessons that happened. As I walked to the bus on the morning of departure, the hostel owner ran after me and asked “where could you possibly be going that is better than this?” I didn’t have an answer. He gave me a sticker and told me to come back before I “kick off”.
The bus ride to Kroombit was a change in scenery. Paved roads and lush coastal vegetation gave way to scrub, gum trees, dead trees, dirt roads and dust. Even though we were less than 3 hours from the coast (for the geographically impaired, that is about two millimeters on the map of Aus) it felt like the middle of the outback. The plume of red dust that chased the bus for the last hour settled as we pulled into Kroombit, but not before sneaking into the trailer and liberally coating everyone’s bags. The next day was a long one. Ten hours in the bus (thank your chosen deity for air con). There was a quick stop in the morning as the bus passed over the Tropic of Capricorn, but other than that we hurtled on, stopping for nothing. By the time we stopped for lunch, cabin fever was rampant. A Scottish guy sitting a seat back from me declared that we should all have gotten pissed as it would make the trip less painful. By strange occurrence, my bag happened to contain a bottle of vodka. The rest of the trip was a blast. Even the lawn bowling, but that’s another tale. Now dear readers I must stop as internet time is becoming scarce. I am off to Magnetic Island tomorrow but I will update about my epic sailing from voyage from there!

and to my dear sister... If I haven't been able to kill those flowers, you needn't worry...

Kroombit (the ten dollar perfection)

Kroombit was a pretty cool place. The dorm rooms were converted stables, the main cooking equipment were cast iron hot plates hung over a massive fire pit and there was a horse wandering around with a sign ‘round its neck that read “Taxi”. As part of our bus ticket, one of the jackaroos (cowboys) fired up his dirt bike and took us for rides. The first few people returned breathless but enthusiastic so I grabbed a helmet and signed the waiver. As I was about to get on, the jackaroo eyed me up with a wry smile and asked “ah, how adventurous are you feeling mate?”. “Pretty adventurous” I replied, “why?” “Well that last run lost me me rear brakes, so, ah they’re fully gone. Still keen?” I paused a second. “Yeah, why not. Let’s go!” I hopped on and we tore off. For those that have seen Lawrence of Arabia, it was like the opening scene where he is flying down the road on his motorcycle. Except it was Aussie bushland flying past me and not English countryside. As quickly as I observed that, I remembered that Lawrence crashes his bike and dies shortly thereafter; I hung on a little tighter and tried not to think about the brakes. After everyone had had a chance to shit themselves on the bike, it was time for some good old country fun: Clay shooting.
Ten bucks bucks bought 5 shells and five targets; the ambiance was free. Half the group piled into the back of a ute, the other half in a landcruiser and we roared off to a hill overlooking a cattle pasture. All the target gear was waiting for us. People started looking it over while I watched with bemusement as the jackaroo reached into the ute, turned on the stereo and pulled out a shotgun and a longneck beer. Now I don’t know if words will do justice to the scene, it might be one of those times that you ‘had to be there’, but it was just so perfect.
The sun was settling lower and lower in the sky, the cattle were wandering around chewing their cud, Johnny Cash was crooning out of the ute’s stereo and a true blue jackaroo was showing me how to blast clay pidgeons out of the sky in between hauls on his longneck. Freeze that moment…

Thursday, September 15, 2005

SIXTY!

And one more thing,
If anyone has bothered to notice, the Silica post was my 60th official post!
I think that deserves a postcard, why should you get it?
Lets be creative people!

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

silica

A bit of Background on Fraser Island: the worlds largest sandbox. Fraser Island is the world’s largest sand island (this means that everywhere you go, there is sand). Laying over 120 km long and several km wide the total mass of sand above and below water is said to be more than the Sahara desert. There is a lot of bloody sand ok? Despite being so sandy, the island is actually quite lush and supports some of the oldest growth rainforest in Australia. The only paved roads on the island are around the couple resorts making the island only accessible by 4x4 (“fourbie”). The whole place is a national park and therefore everything is protected and there are Park rangers everywhere to help you if you are lost and tell you not to feed the dingoes. Right, enough background…Most backpackers use Hervey Bay at the base for their Fraser trips, but I had heard that trips could also be made from Rainbow Beach. I made a call from to the YHA in Rainbow from Noosa and with the offer of two free nights accommodation with a tour package, I booked in. The next day we hopped our bus to Rainbow Beach and checked in. We were told to meet at five o’clock in the Hostel’s common room where we would meet our traveling group and finalize our plans. We were told that there could be as many as 11 people in our group so it came as a bit of a surprise that there were only six of us sitting around the table at five o’clock. The girl from the hostel who looked after the tours breezed onto the scene and got the meeting underway. We were going to be renting a Toyota Troop Carrier Land Cruiser that came with everything that we would need to survive on the island for three days and two nights except food. Drivers were organized and paperwork was signed and then we were left to get to know each other and decide what food to buy. After much banter over the menu, we set off to the grocery store. Our group of six was: Team Canada (Amanda and me), The German (Jurgen), The Swiss Man (Aarmon) and The Swedes (Lucas and Hedda). Groceries bought and stored in the Hostel’s cooler, we sat around and had drinks before crashing early.
Day one of our trip dawned and by seven we were packing gear on to Priscilla’s (our landcruiser) roof. By 8:30 we were packed up and the drivers were getting a briefing on how to drive a 4x4 in sand. We had a quick breakfast and then drove to the beach at Inskip point to catch the barge to Fraser. The barge landed right on the beach, dropped its loading ramp and then we were on our way. As day one went on we drove up the Fraser Island Pacific Highway (otherwise known as 75 Mile Beach) stopping to float in and sample the oh so pure waters of Eli Creek, take pictures of the Mahino shipwreck, and climb Indian Head (the only bit of rock that I saw on the whole island. The view from Indian head was amazing to begin with, but as we arrived the sun began to bathe the island in late afternoon tones of amber and gold; it was stunning. With daylight fading fast we roared back down the beach in search of a place to camp. We found a place right near the inland road we needed to access the next morning and set up camp behind the first line of sand dunes. By the time the tents were up it was totally dark. It is worth noting that at this point three wild Dingoes came wandering through the camp. They didn’t stay long, no one had time to grab a camera, but it was pretty cool to see! I set up the kitchen with aid of a headlamp and soon steaks were sizzling and salad was being tossed. After dinner we sat around drinking vodka, talking and staring up at the most amazing stars I have seen in a long time. We all agreed that ten am was a good time to start inland and headed to bed.
Day two began a bit earlier than planned. We wolk to sounds of breakfast being prepared and began to get ready for the day. I checked the clock (as you do in the morning) to discover it was quarter past seven. I stumbled out of the tent to see the Jurgen making a cup of tea, Aarmon wolfing down a bowl of muesli and the Swedes just sitting there looking unimpressed. In fact, Hedda looked like she probably could kill anyone who spoke to her. “We need to go soon!” Aarmon told me. “I thought we weren’t leaving till ten.” I replied trying my best to be civil. “That was silly on your part” he replied. I made a silent wish for a dingo to come and rip his balls off, but it didn’t happen. We were packed by 8:30 and had arrived at Lake Allum our first stop for the day by 10; over an hour ahead of plans. We couldn’t drive on the beach until the tide went down at about 2pm, so we watched the turtles and searched for lizards before heading back towards the beach. We stopped at a lookout and had lunch and then made our way to Lake Birabeen. The lake sits between the inland edge of a massive sandblow (a sandblow is a large area of sand that has not been covered with vegetation and consequently the sand moves quite freely; like in a desert) and a rain-forested hill. We hiked through the forest and onto the sandblow; standing on all that sand with the sun searing down out of a cobalt sky I felt like Lawrence of Arabia. The kind dudes at the company who rented us Priscilla had also supplied us with a wooden boogie board which we waxed with care and used to slide down the dune into the lake. By the time we had to go, I had sand stuck in places I didn’t know you could get sand stuck, but I had a sunglasses tan and felt pretty good… Our second night we camped at Central Station where (to our distinct joy) $1 bought six glorious minutes of hot water in the shower. Even after 3 dollars, the sand still had not left me…
Day Three we were actually supposed to be packed and moving by seven thirty, but didn’t make it onto the road ‘till over an hour later. The first stop was Lake Mackenzie, the most famous lake on the island, for pictures of the white sand and blue water. We played around for a bit and then left as the busloads of tourists showed up. An hour’s drive later we arrived at another lake to find it nearly deserted. It was beautiful; gleaming white sands, crystal clear water and cloudless blue sky. We had been told that the mud that collected in patches near the shore reeds was great for skin so the Lucas, Amanda and I gave ourselves the spa treatment. The mud kinda smelled, but after washing it off, I had the softest, smoothest skin I think I have ever had. After laying on the beach for a while, it was time to go. An hour and a half later we were rolling onto the barge and heading for the mainland. Later that night after unpacking all the gear and shaking the sand out of everything I surmised that I wouldn’t be unhappy to never see a grain of sand again. Amanda and I had dinner with the Swedes and we made plans to meet again further up the coast. At the hour of nine I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer so I bid my farewells and fell asleep to dream of blue skies, ocean and sand sand sand.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Alive

G'day faithful blog readers,
I just want to let you all know that I'm alive and aside from a bit of sunstroke, doing fine! I am going to put up a couple of updates in the next few days as well as some more pics (whales, beaches etc.) so please check back; don't abandon me!
For the detail inclined, I'm now in the town of 1770, QLD. Yes, the name of the town is a number. One of the beaches here is where Capt. James Cook first came ashore in the year (come on now, guess!) 1770. People reportedly come here to do nothing, and I have a solid two days of doing nothing booked. By nothing I do mean something, and by something I mean lazing around with the Hostel's dog watching surfing movies, cooking some good simple food, drinking wine and funkily coloured drinks and spending some time on the beach (read: a lot of time on the beach). Oh, and putting up the afore mentioned updates...
oh man, it's about to start, the dog is on the carpet and the dude with the movies has arrived... Bring on the Avro!
dude, wish me luck...

Monday, September 05, 2005

New pictures

Hey! There are finally some new pics up on the other blog. The link is on the right, Enjoy!

Friday, September 02, 2005

...

hahaha, blog spam. no postcards for them!

Thursday, September 01, 2005

And so this is/was Brisbane....

Firstly, six comments is a record I think. Congratulations to you all and thankyou. Secretly I was hoping for some random person in internet land to comment and be like "send me a postcard because I'm in Upper Mongolia and I never get mail." It didn't happen and funnily enough there is already mail in the works for two people who commented. Mum, you loose points (but I still love you) for NOT going and taking a zillion helicopter pictures, I haven't matured THAT much. Therefore, Julie wins! A card will be in the mail soon!

And, If you are a random person from internet land, let me know and I might just be convinced to put pen to postcard for you.

All that said, I'm leaving Brisbane tomorrow morning at 6am.
It has been an interesting 5 or so days. The Highlights have been going up and down the river on little catamaran ferries, exploring on foot, and today's wildlife extravaganza.
The catamarans are really cool, for five bucks you can get a ticket at 2pm and ride them as much as you want 'till they stop running. We did nearly just that yesterday. Hopping off at various places to see what was there. We found a really nice park with a heritage rose garden (did anyone know there is a rose called "golden unicorn"?), some old buildings and some new ones too. After the river 'cruise' we hit trivia night at the hostel's bar where I astounded everyone and got tons of bonus points by knowing that it was Jay Gatsby who was in love with Daisy Buchannan. Thank you Mr Chalmers!
Today we visited a wildlife park just outside of the city that is known for its Koalas. There were a lot of Koalas there (over 130) and I have to say that they were about as exciting to watch as an apple shriveling up. They moved about as much too. I tired of them after about 2.9 seconds and moved on to the fresh water crocodiles, who also didn't move much. There were things that moved however... Water dragons (yes dragons!) ran all over the place, Dingos played tag, and little birds flew everywhere. I was, however, most impressed with the Wedge Tailed eagles that two of the staff were rehabilitating after injuries. The rangers had them on gloves like falcons, but the eagles stood three and a half feet tall. It was an amazing sight. After watching the eagles and a sheep dog demonstration, we went and fed/got-slobbered-on-by some kangaroos (check back for pictures eventually) and then caught the bus home. It was a pretty cool day. Now the laundry is careening around in the dryer and will soon be packed.

Man out of time again!
We'll be in Noosa for a few days. I'll update you then!