19 December 2008

From Cairns to Brisbane and back to Sydney

After a trip, like most people, I tend to take a look back. A summary of sorts, a review of the experiences I had and of what I had hopes of learning.

You always visit a place with an expectation, a mental view of what it might be like, we are drawing from the past, from what we have heard and from what we were taught. Sadly, I think this is most derived from stereotypes and of how our world interprets another place, country or culture. But NO the Germans don't wear lederhosen, NO the French don't wear berets, NO the Chinese are not always running around in silk gowns and NO the Australians don't wear a straw cowboy hat, khakis while going around looking for some dangerous animal to wrangle to the ground. Mostly, through my extensive and yet limited travels, I have found that people are relatively alike. Some are speaking different languages, some have different characters, some have different personalities and some have different cultural habits. And yet, besides our diverse outer appearances, we are frighteningly similar.

But enough about my philosopher like impressions about the human race and humanity in general. What did I actually do down under?? Well, I hope you have a bit of time, because I have been busy!

Marco and I traded the city for the rainforest and collected a buddy. Our journey down the eastern Australian coast began in an highly Aborginially linked town of Cairns (pronounced Cans to local Australians) Wasting no time, we were off driving down winding roads in the rainforest to Cape Tribulation. The cape is a stunningly untouched beach which is secluded from motored traffic. Only the peace and beauty of the open ocean and whatever dangerous stinging, biting, eating animals that live in it.

But the highlight of Carins didn't lie in the rainforest or was found on Cape Tribulation beach but was found hidden beneath the surface of the water. Cairns is a divers paradise and a few miles off its coast hidden by the waves is one of the most stunning natural worlds known to mankind. You got it, Baby, the Great Barrier Reef and I got to dive it! I can say that Scuba Diving is not for everyone and not for the weak. Highly anxious before my first dive, I just had to relax, breath or later my lungs will explode. But once down into the water, so near the Reef, its once of the most relaxing, peaceful and gorgeous things I have ever experienced since my 23 years on earth. So many bright colors, so many odd, diverse creatures and you seem so far away from any negative, dark, deary issue in life or in our turbulent world today. I didn't want to get out of the water. I have been a swimmer since I could about walk, but swimmers only skim the surface while divers enter an underwater world. They can feel it, touch it and sometimes taste it. Only intending for one dive, Marco and I left the Barrier with 2 dives under our belt, our travel buddy Adrien with 2 more for his certification book and all longing to dive again.

Shortly after returning from the ocean we left Cairns, heading 2 hours south to Mission Beach, a stopping point between Cairns and our destination, Airlie Beach. Mission Beach is a small tourist town lining the ocean with a beach front view for miles. Off the coast is Dunk Island, Magnetic Island and of the course the Great Barrier. Just a overnight stop for us, we didn't get to the island but spent the morning exploring the beaches before jumping in the car for another few hours heading south towards Airlie Beach.

Australia has surprised me on a dozen of occasions. But when you drive across the down the coast, the countryside is such a chameleon. Changing all the time. First you will be driving down the a curvy rainforest road, then it will change to a wooded forest where you expect to find bears and moose etc..(I am highly confident there isn't any), only next to encounter the forest thinning to hills in the distance before heading into the straight flat, dry, desert bush roads. All within a few hours.

Airlie Beach is a small backpacking town near the Whitsunday Islands. Our plan, find hostel, shower the saltwater off, hit up the pubs, clubs and bars for a night out then head back on the ocean again the next morning. We had booked a 3 day/2 night sailing trip through the Whitsunday Islands. Its possible that Australia could turn me into a diver and sailor all in one week! Our boat...Mandrake..we home to 14 passengers, 1 Irish hostess and 1 funny skipper. Basically, we sailed to a few of the 74 islands that make up the Whitsundays, snorkeled the Great Barrier, soaked up the sun and literally lived in Paradise! I could die happy! Life on the sea, among beautiful islands is simple. Don't shower for days, live in your bikini, sleep outside on deck beneath the stars, our own private party at night and meeting some awesome people. Marco, Adrien and I took a new love for some German girls (no I am not a lesbian). Bianca and Eva were two girls who we met while on deck. Both traveling alone, Bianca had spent two years working in San Fran and was taking the long way home through Australia and Asia while Eva had been working on an Australian farm for 3 months and was exploring the country before heading out.

But the definite image that will be burned in my mind for the rest of my life is a place called Whitehaven. Somehow, its the second most beautiful beach in the world, I can't believe there is a more beautiful place then that but imagine pure, white, fine, cottony soft sandy beach with unreal green blue water surrounded and secluded by tropical rainforest. Literally, paradise. The sand is so precious on Whitehaven, that if you even take a small bottle of it off the island it could result in a $500,000 dollar fine and your boat suspended from ever sailing again.

While leaving Whitehaven and the Whitsundays behind we headed south again, with our new German friends in our minds and a promise to meet at our next destination, we hit the road for our 10 hour drive through the bush to Hervey Bay and Fraser Island.

Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world and literally sand is everywhere. Now, I do have to admit, Fraser was a bit disappointing after the Whitsundays and Whitehaven but we made the most of it. We were put into groups of 10 and assigned to a 4wd vehicle...land rovers basically given a map, camping gear and a ferry ticket. Then the company guys said goodbye and away we were to the island of sand. Now driving on the beach in a few feet of sand is not my cup of tea. Actually I was totally freaked out, felt like we were gonna tip over every 5 minutes! The lakes, oceans and rainforest was again great! Marco and I were put into a group of 8 Swedish! Awesome people the Swedes and had a great time, heard a lot of the Swedish language but was thankful not to be in the other group with a bunch of controlling, know it all Canadians! Lets just say I wasn't said to leave Fraser and Hervey Bay to head south towards Brisbane.

We met up with Bianca in Hervey Bay and see traveled with us through Noosa, the Sunshine Coast, the Australia Zoo (Steve Irwin's Zoo) and then to Brisbane. The plan was to meet when she got to Sydney, while Marco and I flew, she had to take the bus. But unfortunately we never got to meet up again for her bus broken down and then by the time she made to Sydney had to caught her flight to New Zealand!

With a surprising breath of fresh air to be back in Sydney, Marco and I had a few days to see some sights before I had to send him back to Germany. For Xmas we climbed to the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge to get a great overlook of the city. Its really a beautiful cityscape, with the Opera House, the Central Business District, the Harbour and water leading out to the ocean. The best Xmas present I could of asked for. After say goodbye to Marco, I am again left with alone with Sydney.

I lastly end my Australian journey with a last look look out into the Sydney Harbour. Opera House on my right, Harbour Bridge to my left and the open ocean in the distance. Heading over her seems a bit sad. Hell, I don't know anyone who wants to trade sun, sand and surf for snow, ice and wind chill. But yet, I just don't Christmas on the beach in flip flops, shorts and a bikini seems right either.

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