Monday, January 19, 2009

Goodbye Australia - Cheers!

This is our final post. We are now boarding a bus to Sydney from Coffs Harbour. We will be camping our last two nights (and not able to use internet). Thanks to those of you who kept up with us on this journey and followed us throughout Australia. We have such great memories, and great pictures, too. 

Coffs Harbour has been superb. We had wonderful hosts (Eric and Debby) who brought us all over their beautiful city...up in the hills, through the rainy rainforest, to the ocean, on their boat, snorkeling... and just now we had an unbelievable seafood dinner. Truly amazing place is Coffs Harbour.

Well, see you all very shortly - we'll be home January 22nd. 

-Ryan and Elisha

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Byron Bay & Coffs Harbour

Hello everyone,

Ryan and I are in Coffs Harbour at the moment, staying with some really great people, Deb and Eric. They took us to the rainforest today, up a mountain 2500 feet above sea level. It was raining so the view was more foggy than anything, but the rainforest itself was phenomenal. We saw a few waterfalls, lots of palms and ferns, and quite a few leeches. We stopped every 2 minutes or so to check our socks and shoes for the relentless bugs trying to get to our feet. We'll be here till the 19th, then back to Sydney, and then home! It's crazy how quickly this break went by.

Before Coffs Harbour we were in this great little town named Byron Bay, staying at the Arts Factory campground. It was recommended to us by a lot of people as we went down the coast, and we were lucky to get a campsite. It was a hostel/campground, and there was so much going on. Every day there were juggling lessons, didgeridoo making, arts and crafts, hammock swinging, surfing, massages, all types of aromatherapy, and a whole lot of musicians. There was a really great atmosphere, and lizard dragons and bush turkeys everywhere. Here are a few pictures taken at the Arts Factory as well as an authentic Australian Aboriginal didgeridoo. 

The lighthouse in Byron Bay is the most Easterly point in Australia, and Ryan and I got us at 4 AM to see the sunrise there. I wish I could put a picture up, but we don't have the cords for our cameras, so you'll have to wait till we're home. They're really breathtaking. And Nana, we saw a hot air balloon over the ocean during sunrise, and I thought of you. Really can't wait to get home and see everyone. Love you all, see you soon!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Fraser Island

It is the largest sand island in the world that is also a rainforest...and it was heaps of fun! The whole experience was simply brilliant...from the ferry across the Bay, arriving on the island and having no idea what was in store (there were no taxi's to our campsite, only vehicle hires and I don't have an international drivers liscense, so the hiking began...)

Elisha and I hiked for over 3 hours on part of the "Great Walk" which brought us to a beautiful freshwater lake called Lake McKensie. At that point we were knackered! (that's Aussie for tired) We asked every person on the beach if they would mind giving us a lift to Central Station, our campground, so we didn't have to hike the additional 8 kilometers (we had already hiked about 14km) Fortunately, we got lucky. A couple from Brazil (Nick and Cynthia) were also staying at Central Station and they invited us to eat dinner with them and camp next to their campsite. We combined some of the foods we both had and celebrated the night (Nick's 30th birthday) with a bottle and a half of chilled red wine. The kindness of strangers has been apparent to us on this trip in many ways, as you will notice when you continue reading.

Lake McKenzie, Frasier Island.

The next day we got a ride with Nick and Cynthia to Lake Birabeen. We stayed on the white sandy beach all day and hiked the 7 km back to our campsite, as Nick and Cynthia left for the mainland after dropping us off. Great people they are, and if it wasn't for them, we wouldn't have been able to cook our food, get to our campsite before dark, and our spirits wouldn't have been nearly as high. The day ended with us camping at the other end of the park - far away from the other campers. We were the only hikers at our entire campground for all 3 days we stayed there!

On day 3, we took advantage of our privacy by sleeping in late and then venturing out to find the nearby creek. The 1 hour walk turned into a 3.5 hour adventure, with us getting a little bit lost on a rainforest trail. It ended up being things we did all trip. The creek right next to us the entire time and we were pretty much all by ourselves in the middle of the rainforest, on an island, off the coast of Australia... and the sounds we heard were unbelievable. The cicada's make a noise, all together, that is deafening! It really is unreal hearing an insect (thousands, probably) that masks all other sounds for miles to come. I couldn't hear myself think, let alone trying to talk over that.

These little guys, cicadas, are responsible for all that noise.

Finally it was day 4 and time to leave our temporary home. The tent and the rain tarp were totally necessary, and we are so thankful that we brought both. Thanks, dad. We tried asking everyone at our campsite for a ride to Kingfisher Bay which is where our ferry departs from. Unfortunately nobody was leaving on a Monday, or their cars were totally full. So we started walking the 17kilometers with about 50 pounds on our backs between the two of us (not each, thankfully!)

After about 1 kilometer, we got a ride! A father and son were going to another part of the island, and agreed to take us as far as they could without going out of their way. That was about 1.5 kilometers and. saved us about 20-25 minutes. We kept walking. And walking and walking and walking for 11 kilometers. Then we got another ride the final 3 kilometers, and got to our ferry an hour early. We snuck into the pool at the resort and cooled down in there for about 30 minutes. It was definitely the most rewarding swimming experience for both of us in our entire lives.

Total time walking during our 4 days on Fraser: About 12 hours on sand which made it much more difficult.
Total distance walked: About 50 kilometers

We walked from Kingfisher Bay to Central Station. That may not look far, but Fraser Island is massive. The east coast alone (just part of it, the part that looks straight) is a stretch of beach that is 75 miles long.

We got off the ferry and were offered another ride when someone overheard us asking for the next bus. Him and his wife had just gotten married on Fraser and left their cake behind by accident (so they met our ferry when it arrived and had their leftover cake delivered - a very meaningful cake it was). Finally, after walking around for a few hours, we called Jamie (our couchsurfing host from 3 days prior) and he picked us up and agreed to let us cook and rest at his house until our bus leaves at 1:25AM tonight. We hop aboard another Greyhound and arrive in Byron Bay at 11:05 tomorrow morning. Until then we are enjoying the luxuries of staying at a nice quiet residence in Hervey Bay.

This post is dedicated to the all of the kind people that helped us during our past 4 days. Without all of them, Elisha and I would have struggled a lot more to do all the things that we did. Today has been the best day of our trip so far. We feel accomplished and so so fortunate considereing where we are and all that we are able to do here in Australia. The kindness of strangers helped to lift our spirits even higher than they would have been otherwise.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Hervey Bay

Hello families!

Ryan and I are in Hervey Bay at the moment, arrived here yesterday morning after a 24 hour bus ride. Traveling long distances has gotten quite a bit easier over the past few weeks. Tonight we're staying with a really great guy named Jamie who was nice enough to drive us around to some of his favorite spots. We went to a swamp he calls the "Shrek swamp" and a nice little cafe for lunch, and we saw our first kangaroos! I wish I could put up the video for you guys, it was a really exciting moment for us ; ) When we get home we'll have tons of pictures to show you.

Cairns was really unbelievable. We went snorkeling for hours right over the great barrier reef and got to scuba dive with giant clams and tropical fish. The sights were absolutely phenomenal. Hard to describe, but we rented an underwater camera so we have over 300 pictures and videos.

The next night we went on a tour up to the rainforest, which consisted of a few stops along the way up (different lookout points, an aboriginal sacred gorge...) and a night in a hostel right smack in the middle of the rainforest. We saw quite a few spiders, lizards and tropical plants. It's so amazing to step out of the shower and into the rainforest. The nightwalk was by far my favorite part. We walked through the forest with a really knowledgable guide and saw a family of forest dragons, all in seperate locations. I asked the guide how the mother and daughter find themselves in the morning (we disturbed their slumber with our flashlights) and he explained that if all goes well, they won't find eachother. He said that the daughter was about 12 months old, and at that point the mother has done her job and her daughter becomes competition. He told us that if the mother lives a normal life span, her daughter will end up stealing her territory (by killing her, I'm guessing). The whole nightwalk was really informative and interesting.

We're packing up right now and leaving for Fraser Island in the morning to spend a few nights camping on the beautiful, white sand beaches. After that we'll head down to Gold Coast, then Byron Bay, then Coffs Harbour, then back to Sydney. We're couchsurfing a lot, which has been a great experience so far.

I love and miss you all. Mom, send everyone my love and give Alice a kiss for me!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Cairns > 24 hour bus ride > Hervey Bay

Cairns has been wonderful. It's a small town located in north Queensland with lots going on. Lish and I went snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef on our second day here. It was our best Australian experience yet. We paid an extra $20AUD to do an introductory scuba dive...brilliant! One of the best experiences of my life, though my ears felt very pressurized on the way down despite my efforts of equalizing (holding nose and blowing). Totally worth the few hours of discomfort.

Yesterday we took a tour into the rainforest. It was not like I pictured it would be. The plants were great, but the animals non existant. I was displeased with the rainforest experience having such high expectations going in. That always seems to happen when I expect something to be good going in. I was expecting South American tropical rainforest with bright and poisoness (sp?) centipedes and millipedes, some monkeys, and other crazy looking insects, animals, and plants. This was a much older rainforest that was much less exotic. The night walk we took with a tour guide was the highlight of the trip. We spent an overnight in a small dorm room in the rainforest, stood in the rain (very very cool), and just returned back to Cairns.

Tomorrow we hop aboard a Greyhound bus and spend almost 24 hours going halfway down the coast of Oz. We'll get through it knowing better times will come. Then we spend 2 nights in Hervey Bay, and 3 nights camping on Frasier Island.

That's all for now, might not update for awhile as we will not be having internet for the next week or so (we'll be on an island!) See you all at the end of January, and keep the comments coming!