Christian November 16th, 2008
After a not so bad ten hour bus ride from Cairns we arrived in Airle Beach. It was cloudy outside when we went to check into the YHA hostel, but they soon cleared up when we were waiting for our room. To kill some time while our room was being cleaned, we checked into Southern Cross Sailing for our three day cruise starting the next day. Upon check-in, we were told that wetsuits are mandatory to go swimming due to the risk of contact with one of the deadly jellyfish. If that doesn’t make you just want to jump right into the water, I don’t know what would. Heading back to the YHA, we were greeted with a decent room with AC and a bathroom shared with just one other room. A nice shower was in order to get the ten hour bus ride smell off. After showering and relaxing for a bit we ventured out to explore Airle Beach. The sun was out now and we walked down to the beach. The water was much nicer here than in Cairns, and they even had a “Danger Croc Spotted” sign posted on trees near the beach.
Airle beach has a nice beach town vibe to it, with small shops lining the streets and boats lining the harbor. We checked out a couple of shops and bought some food for dinner. It was a nice relaxing night. The next morning we had to get packed up for our three day, three night, old style tall ship sailing adventure aboard the Solway Lass. We were given two green cloth grocery bags, which were all we were allowed to bring. This ended up being a good thing, since our cabin ended up being very small. Unfortunately, our pickup for our boat was not until 7:30PM and we had to be out of our hostel by 10:00AM. Having the whole day, we decided to first check out the Saturday Markets by the beach. It was very interesting, and a cool place to check out. There were stands selling local crafts, food, entertainers, massages, camel rides and anything else you could want. We opted for a sno-cone in the heat and continued walking along the beach. After the markets, we bought a towel for all of the upcoming beaches and headed to the lagoon. The Airle Beach lagoon is a swimming pool that is next to the ocean that looks like a lagoon. It is a popular place to go on a nice sunny day, with heaps of people sunbathing and enjoying a free dip in the pool to cool off. We spent a few hours there, just relaxing and reading. After a late lunch and working on the website, we met our bus that would take us to the marina. Once at the marina we were greeted by two of the crew members, one who’s shorts were too small and could not button shut, and taken to the ship. We thought that boat was going to be a little bit bigger, but it still was pretty neat walking onto a boat with such a history. The 100 year old ship had 11 cabins that would hold 32 passengers which meant our cabin had about 2 feet by 2 feet square of walking room. We could not both stand in our cabin at the same time, which also had a strong smell too it. We later figured out that the smell was in the bedding and used to get rid of bed bugs. After a safety briefing we had about 2 hours of time to relax and have some drinks while we motored out to our spot for the night. Once we were away from Airle Beach, the sky began to come to life with thousands of twinkling stars. We were surprised how calm the water was after the rough seas while scuba diving. We were then given a snack of pumpkin soup and bread before heading off to bed.
We awoke early the next day to a breakfast of cereal and toast while we motored to Whitehaven beach. We were very excited as this beach is usually considered one of the top ten in the world. We all got on the dingy to go to the island, which takes 3 trips in all to get everyone off the boat. We then set off on a ten minute walk to a lookout which offers amazing views over Whitehaven Beach. Once you arrive at the viewing platforms you are greeted with endless views of torquoise seas and white beaches. We took quite a lot of pictures and spent a bunch of time taking in this truely amazing view before heading down to the actual beach. The water was perfectly clear and you could see little fishes swimming around. We decided not to swim because of the jellyfish and simply walked the beach and relaxed. We were starving by the time we arrived back and quickly downed some lunch.
The rest of the day was disappointing after such an exciting morning. The crew set the sails with the help of us passengers (forced to talk like pirates while setting sail) and we sailed for a few hours before heading into a quite harbor for the night. So we were pretty much stuck on the boat all day. There is nothing wrong with soaking up some sun but we were excited to see more of the 70+ islands that make up the Whitsundays. The next day we arrived early at an island to go snorkeling and were dropped off on a rough coral beach. We enjoyed the colorful reef and saw some fish. We then dried off on the beach before heading back to the ship. In the afternoon we did sail to a different location to snorkel which had large amounts of fish. Thanks to the crew throwing in some peas the fish flocked around us snorkeling and nibbled on our fingers. The island itself was quite beautiful with a coral beach and large green trees. We then enjoyed a quiet evening on the ship with dinner and drinks. We also looked at the million stars you can see along with the moon, which hangs upside down to us since we are now in the southern hemisphere. Even the stars are in different spots!
Our last day on the ship was spent at Turtle bay. It was a nice sandy beach with beautiful clear water. We opted not to snorkle and instead layed out on the beach for a few hours. I even explored a little of the other side of the island. The sun was in and out of the clouds so we didn’t get too much sun but it was a nice relaxing end to the trip. Before leaving the island to board the boat, the tide was coming in and the thin sliver of beach that connected two islands was now under water, which made for an amazing view. Upon leaving we wondered why we weren’t taken to more beaches like this one. The rest of the day was spend sailing/motoring into the harbor at Airlie Beach. We once again had to haul our bags out of storage and do some much needed laundry before flying out the next day.
We left Airle Beach’s airport’s outdoor waiting area and had a layover in Brisbane and then caught a second flight to Adelaide. The flight to Adelaide went quick as we talked to the nice man sitting next to Casey for the duration of the flight. We did not get into Adelaide until 11:30 PM. The airport was shut down, and we did not want to pay the price for a cab. Luckily, we were able to find the public bus and saved a ton of money getting into town. We had to wake up the night manager at the YHA hostel, but finally made it to our room around 12:30AM. After a night of sleep, it was time to pack up our bags once again to put in storage before it was time for our bus to leave in the afternoon. We spent our freetime exploring the small city, enjoying some time in the parks by the river. Before we knew it, it was time to head back into town, collect our bags and hop on a bus. The bus ride was two hours and then we caught a ferry to the island for another hour. Upon arrival, it was a short walk to the YHA hostel. After checking into our huge 6 person dorm that was given to us as a private room, we ventured out to the grocery store. After whipping up a dinner of pizza and smiley face fries, we decided to go penguin hunting. The residents of Kangaroo Island share their town with thousands of little peguins that come to shore at night and walk through the town of Pennshaw (where we were staying). We ventured out with only a headlamp and started our search. We ended up only seeing a couple wattling along, but they were really neat to watch, standing only a foot high. After our success, we went back to our room. When we got back to the room, we noticed all of these little black catepillars crawling all over the place. We felt they were harmless and went to bed.
In the morning, we realized we were very wrong. The little black catepillars were actually black centipedes that covered me in bites. It probably was not the best way to start off the day. Our bus picked us up a bit late from the hostel, and we waited for over a half hour for the ferry to come in with the rest of the people that would be on the day tour with us. It was running super late due to the rough seas. After the bus filled up, we were on our way. The bus was filled with people twice our age, with only one other couple being within 40. The driver first asked if there was any vegeterians on the bus and one couple next to us raised their hands. The bus driver told them that they would “round up some nuts and berries” for them. The first stop on the day trip was the sea lion beach. On the beach was a colony of sea lions. We had a guide from the area to answer questions, but the trip ended up being short lived. As we were walking down to the beach, one lady approached the guide very seriously and asked if they were all dead. Casey and I could not help but laugh, we thought “Yup, they took us down here to see dead sea lions”. It was a little chilly outside and the wind was merciless accompanied by stinging rain. It was not the most pleasant experience. However, it was cool to once again see some sea lions in the wild, the last time being the Galapagos. You were allowed to get much closer in the Galapagos than here, but it was still neat regardless. The wind was blowing the sand so bad that some of the sleeping sea lions were halfway covered in sand. We spent about 10 minutes down with them then it was back up onto the bus to go to lunch. It was a buffet style and turned out to be decent. We sat with an older couple from Ohio while we ate and swapped some stories. The next stop was only a 1 minute bus ride, it was to a “Birds of Prey” show. It was actually cooler than we thought it was going to be, you were able to interact with the birds. I held a kookaburra and a barn owl sat on my leg. We watched some of the training that they do to rehabilitate the birds. It was almost an hour to reach the Remarkable Rocks. They are a set of rocks that have been erroded over time into very neat formations. The best part of all is that they are right on a huge dome shaped rock that sits on the edge of the ocean. The wind was some of the strongest I have felt, making walking quite a task. We walked around them for a while before heading out to the New Zealand Fur Seal Colony and lighthouse. At the end of a set of stairs we were greeted with a view under a land bridge that was eroded by the ocean. The smell from the fur seals was unbearable and we had to evacuate sooner rather than later. After we climbed back on the bus, we made our way to the interpretive center which showed the history and formation of the island. Outside of the center, we were able to spot a koala, and also a couple of Kangaroos. The drive back to Pennshaw where we were staying seemed to take forever. Once back, we made dinner and ventured out to see some more penguins. This time we were more lucky. On a different beach, we spotted at least a dozen or so of the penguins. The night was really nice, so we spent some time by the ocean watching the little guys. The next morning we took the early morning ferry back to Adelaide. We wandered around the city for the day, stopping for a steak dinner at night. After a few drinks we headed back to the hostel to crash for the night.
The next day marked our Great Ocean Road Adventure. After picking up our rental car at Hertz, we were on our way. We rented a GPS just in case we got a bit lost along the way. For me, it was a very different experience driving on the other side of the road for the first time. It only took a little while to get used to it. The first part of the drive was pretty, but a bit boring. The first few hours were spent driving on a highway through grasslands. We managed to stop for lunch at a small town, which was tricky since there were streches with no towns for long periods of time. After lunch, we think that our GPS unit may have become posessed. Suddenly, instead of the highway it took us on all of these back roads leading past farms on dirtroads. It was some intense driving around all of the turns.
After a full day of driving, we made it to the main part of the Great Ocean Road with almost two hours of daylight to spare. We stopped along the way at some of the viewpoints. The views were simply amazing, with the sun casting a golden light on the cliffs and the waves crashing below. Probably the most famous viewpoint along the Great Ocean Road is the 12 Apostles. It is a set of crumbling stone stacks worn down by erosion that are out in the sea. Since they were named the 12 Apostles, four have fallen and now there is only 8. We made it there just before sunset, so we had some time to relax and enjoy the views before the crowds came. Watching the sunset over the ocean at the 12 Apostles was amazing. The sky changed many different colors.
After the sun had set it was time to find the place that we were staying. It was not so bad, we had a house that we shared with two other rooms. One of our housemates were a super nice brother and sister from Germany that we talked to for a while. Our only choice for dinner was the local bar, so we got take away which turned out to be a raw chicken sandwich that we had to microwave. After dinner we watched Ironman and went to bed.
The next morning we woke up early to drive to Apollo Bay a small beach town about 2 hours down the coast. We made a quick stop at the Apostles again for some last minute photos and then made some stops to admire some other popular viewpoints such as ‘London Bridge’, Lord Ard Gorge, and Moonlight Head Beach. This section of the coast is known as the shipwreck coast due to the numerous shipwrecks that have occured over the years. We decended about 400 stairs to the beach where you can admire the dramatic coastline and visit 2 anchors that have been left in the sand as memorials to the wrecks. We then climbed back up the 400 stairs and continued on to Cape Otway National Park. Here we took a quick 15 minute hike down into the rain forest to see some waterfalls and a 300 year old tree. Since it was such a quick hike we decided to drive to another part of the park to see a set of waterfalls. After a quick snack of peanut butter bread and pringles we took another short walk through the forest to a set of three waterfalls.
From there we set out for Apollo Bay on a crazy curvy dirt road that felt like we were rally racing. We arrived around 4 and had to wait till 5 to check in so we walked along the town’s main street and we were happy to find a grocery store. Once checking in to our super nice hostel and checking out the superiour kitchen facilities we hit up the grocery store for a nice pasta dinner. We were pretty hungry since we skipped lunch and soon made a good dinner. After dinner we worked on our website for awhile and watched some TV before passing out. Luckily, since we had a 2 hour drive to our next stop we could sleep in a little.
Our final stop on the Great Ocean Road was Torquay a huge surfing town. We spent some time watching the surfers at Bells Beach where every Easter Ripcurl holds an annual surfing tournament. The first part of the day was spent just looking around the town. After finding a place, I rented a surfboard for a couple of hours and had some fun on the waves. It was a good time, and I am definitly out of shape. By the end, my shoulders were burning. We headed back to the room for a shower before heading out for the Parm and Pot special for $7 at the local pub. Chicken Parm with fries and a beer for a great price, we could not pass. We then headed to bed for our early rise to drive into Melbourne. The morning traffic into the city reminded me a lot of home and how much I did not miss it. We bought a few last minute items and took a walk around the city. Before we knew it, it was time to say farewell to Australia. It has been a great time. The people are simply amazing, and there is still so much to see that we know that we will be back someday. It is now time to head to Thailand for a completly new experience.