Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Week 18 – Brisbane, Australia to Borneo, Malaysia

Fred's world tour
Week 18 – Brisbane, Australia to Borneo, Malaysia
26th of January until the 1st of February 2013
In brief:
  1. Fly back to Sydney from Brisbane.
  2. See the Darling Harbour fireworks.
  3. Finish the job paperwork and buy the last few bits for the Borneo expedition.
  4. Go see and intimate 'La Soiree' at the Sydney Opera house.
  5. Fly to Kota Kinabalu in Malaysia (Sabah Borneo)
  6. Meet up with the rest of the Raleigh international project managers.
  7. Begin an intense 2 weeks of Raleigh lessons, exercises and trekking.
  8. Happily hand over the duties of blog writing to the pros at
This week starts with a little lie-in and yep, you guessed it, a huge buffet breakfast! We made our way to the airport to fly back to Sydney. At this point we hadn't been having the best weather but that is nothing compared to the rain that the Whitsundays and Rockhampton are getting. Record rainfall apparently! We were so lucky to have had such great weather when we were up there. Once back we went straight to Bondi and caught up with Tony and Daithi. That afternoon because its Australia day we headed to Darling Harbour to see the Australia Day fireworks. As I've been here before I managed to sneak us through the cinema and up to a great spot to watch the spectacle. They were really good because they include fireworks, laser show, lights, and music. Great way to experience my first Australia day. The hoards of people was incredible.
The Sunday was a bit of a blur for me. It was long and hard trying to get all my paperwork and packing done because at 7pm I booked Chris, Tony, Daithi and I some tickets to go see The Soiree show in one of the studios in the Sydney Opera house. Mark also got himself a ticket and we luckily were able all to sit on the front row. It was really good, with plenty of weird and wonderful things not to mention getting wet because of a gymnast doing acrobatics around a bath full of water!
Monday I was off to Kota Kinabalu via Kuala Lumpur on Air Asia. I was sad to say goodbye to everyone in Australia, nervous about the next three months of Jungle medicine but also very excited.
After meeting the fieldbase team in Kota Kinabalu at 11am on the 29th of April they took us to the the Raleigh house. At Raleigh Fieldbase is where for the next 2wks we would be inducted and moulded into the perfect Project Managers on Raleigh International's 3month expedition '13C'.
The venturers won't be arriving until Valentine's Day (14th of February)
Let the fun begin!
This is where I sign out for 3months (official duties end 27/4/13) and the Raleigh blog takes over. So for all the updates head to
That's all for now, see you at the end of April.

Week 17 – Great Barrier Reef to Brisbane, Australia

Fred's world tour
Week 17 – Great Barrier Reef to Brisbane, Australia
19th until the 25th of January 2013
In brief:
  1. Take a large catamaran to the Great Barrier Reef.
  2. Go in a glass bottomed boat and have a marine biologist talk about the reef ecosystem.
  3. Take a helicopter flight over the reef and see the famous heart shaped reef.
  4. Snorkel Hardy reef (part of the Great Barrier Reef).
  5. Hire a car and head on a road trip down the coast to Rockhampton.
  6. See the Capricorn caves of Rockhampton.
  7. Cross the line of Capricorn.
  8. Go on a day trip to Fraser island the largest sand-only island in the world.
  9. Take a short plane flight over the island.
  10. Swim in the freshwater lake on Fraser island.
  11. Go to Steve Irwin's Australia zoo.
  12. Hug a koala, stroke a kangaroo, feed an elephant and see a Crocodile display.
  13. Sightsee Brisbane and go out to sample the nightlife.
One of the most amazing places on earth and apparently the only living thing visible from space is the Great Barrier Reef! It even has a heart shaped reef right in the middle of it. The best way to see it was to catch a huge Catamaran for 3hours out to the Reef with 'wave cutting' and 'stabilisation technology'. Despite the high tech claims people still got sea sick! :-) on the boat they explained to us all the different activities that you can do from the pontoon just at the reef. They all sounded amazing including the helicopter flight over the Hardy reef. Once on the Pontoon we got on a glass-bottomed boat to see the reef and have a biologist give us some interesting facts. After this short tour, it was time to hop on a helicopter! For some extra money you can get to fly over the great barrier reef and admire this huge ecosystem from the air. Not only that but you can see the heart shaped reef which I never realised was actually here. That was a very special surprise. The views were incredible and it was really worth getting that other perspective on the reef.
Once back on the pontoon we wasted no time in getting our wetsuits, fins and snorkel gear to explore the majestic structures and wildlife of the reef. The views were spectacular and I couldn't help dive down and get that different perspective of the overhanging parts of the reef. Really great. We saw huge clams, colourful hard and soft reefs as well as plenty of beautiful fish. One fish happened to be very territorial and started charging at me to my surprise! Although it had no teeth, when a fish starts charging at your face or bite a finger it does make you jump out of your flippers. I probably didn't help the situation by hanging around longer to capture that moment on video :-)
At around 2pm I was getting hungry and the catamaran put up a great buffet spread of food which is just what was needed before heading back out to the reef via the slide of course :-) Not long after that we had to board the boat to start to head back to Airlie beach. One night in Airlie and a car rental agreement later we were heading down the coast of Queensland on a road trip. This day I happened to have received an offer for work in Canberra so I had plenty of documents to print out and complete when we arrived at our destination for the first night, Rockhampton. This was great news but it did mean I would need to get my original documents posted from England because of the complexities of getting certified copies. My parents were amazing at finding and posting the required documents to Australia. Thank you so much guys.
The next morning we headed to some nice caves called the Capricorn caves and we took a tour. We walked around this network of caves that were at one point harvested for its huge quantity of bat poo also known as guano. It also had a chamber with high ceilings and apparently it makes a great place to have weddings. When they have a wedding they light up the entire cave in candles and the music played out is perfectly resonated in the aptly name 'Cathedral' cave chamber. The acoustics here from music are second to none and they gave us a taste with all the lights off which was a nice touch. Just outside I also managed to get a glimpse at a Rock wallaby which is basically a small kangaroo that's very agile.
Back at Rockhampton we crossed the line of Capricorn and took some pics next to the landmarks. En-route south we stopped at a seaside village to eat some fresh fish which was nice. Then once we arrived at Hervey bay and checked in to our hotel we went for a tapas dinner. The next day we were booked in on a long day-tour of Fraser island. Its apparently the biggest sand-only island in the world. It is also home to the Dingos, a dog like animal with killer instincts and a reported love for small children! Chris and I were both keen to see them. After a ferry ride across the 4x4 bus took us along sandy roads to a jungle walk to explore the jungle that had somehow formed over the years and made this sand-only island a home. The rain and a water supply from the freshwater table below made this a viable habitat for plants. We saw some enormous trees and impressive vegetation such as the staghorn that lives on the branches of trees. They have a purely symbiotic relationship and don't harm the tree in anyway unlike the strangulating vines.
Next the bus went to the beach and drove along the 70mile beach which was pretty cool. This stretch of beach is classified as a road in Queensland, it has speed limit signs and around the festive period police monitor it for drink drivers or speeders. Our next stop was a ship wreck of an old cruise liner built in Scotland. It navigated the seas during the world war and for years after until it was decommissioned. En route to Japan, when it was being towed for scrapping, a big storm washed it ashore. All that remains sticking out of the sand and water is the bow and the top-deck.
Next we stopped at some sand-cliffs with multiple colours and that's where I took a plane ride. This plane took off from the beach. Apparently there are only two places in the world where this is possible. The other is in Scotland. Again like the Great Barrier Reef getting this alternative perspective was amazing. The sea was multi-coloured because of the sediments, the beach long and the views over the island forest was great too. All it all a very special flight.
From there I joined Chris and waded our way along a cold freshwater creek supplied by a source pumping hundreds of litres per hour from the underground water table. Around 2pm we headed back south along the beach to where we would get treated to the biggest buffet lunch! Perfect! Always a bonus in my book! For the afternoon we went to the biggest lake on the island for a swim which I'm not sure was the best idea straight after a buffet lunch. Nevertheless it was a great place to swim with a white sandy shore and pristine clear water. Also it was appealing that there have been plenty of dingo sightings on the shore when they come to take your clothes away or your children! Unfortunately no Dingo sighting for us and no children were harmed. ;-)
this is the lake shore
That concluded our tour of the island, we got a ferry back and then jumped in the car and headed south to Caloundra for the night. This is where we managed to get a really good deal on a brilliant hotel near the beach. The breakfast was amazing and with a full belly we headed to Steve Irwin's Australia zoo. I avoid most zoos on my travels because they are usually badly maintained and the animals are clearly not happy. This zoo on the other hand was absolutely brilliant. Lots of walk-through enclosures to get up and close to animals, feed them, watch demonstrations, informational talks and then see a huge variety of creatures from around Australia. I fed an elephant, a kangaroo, stroked a koala and watched a demonstration of what crocodiles are capable of in the Crocoseum. Typical Steve Irwin style! Impressive stuff and a really great experience. You really need a full day to see and do it all.
We headed to Brisbane for our last two nights in Queensland. In that time we sampled the delights of China town, the night life and the sights that Brisbane has to offer. We even went up the equivalent of the London eye. A big Ferris wheel on Brisbane's South Bank. I did have to spend some time frantically finishing up some application paperwork because on Monday I fly to Kota Kinabalu in Borneo!
That finishes week 17 of my epic round the world trip. Its been amazing and next week I fly back to Sydney for Australia day, watch yet more fireworks, go to the opera house to see another show there and then I plan to fly to Malaysia on Monday for 2wks of group leader training!!
That's all for now, until next time.

Monday, 11 February 2013

Week 16 – Sydney to the Whitsunday islands in Queensland, Australia

Fred's world tour

Week 16 – Sydney to the Whitsunday islands in Queensland, Australia

12th until the 18th of January 2013

In brief:

  1. Show Chris around Sydney

  2. Go to a unique club night in Sydney

  3. Chill out in Bondi beach

  4. Go see London's West End Dance spectacular 'Blaze' at the Sydney Opera house

  5. Be amazed at the Latin dancing in a Hard Rock café at Darling Harbour.

  6. Show Chris the five storey rubber duck

  7. Visit Manly beach and walk around the park reserve

  8. Fly up to Hamilton Island in Queensland Whitsunday national park.

  9. Hire some camping gear and get transferred to Chance bay beach on Whitsunday island.

  10. Walk along the pristine white silica sand of Whitehaven beach.

  11. Snorkel and get a glimpse at the amazing coral and marine life just off Chance bay.

My friend Chris had started to get over his jet lag, with a little help from melatonin and he was keen to start exploring. What better way to show him the coastal path to Clovelly than by going for an early morning run! From there we headed over to Circular Quay and basked in the city's biggest tourist hub. We headed towards the harbour bridge to catch a good view of the Sydney opera house that Chris had never seen before. To get an even better view we went to the South east pylon of the harbour bridge where for a nominal fee you could go to the top of the pylon. Simply spectacular. The 360 degree view from there was definitely worth the effort and the money. Having deserved a good lunch we bumped into the gourmet market in the middle of the Rocks district. Previously an area built on the rocks of the harbour bridge has now turned into a florie of art shops, boutiques and cafés. A trendy little place but heading back down to circular quay to gaze at the street performers while having a great sorbet ice-cream was really great.


From there we walked to the Opera house and got up close and personal with the thousands of white tiles that comprises the iconic roof. After some pics we headed to Mrs MacQuarries point for yet more great views of the harbour on a great day. It was totally different feel to when I was there for New Years eve. From there another 'must do' was to go through the botanical gardens and feast on the unique display of plants in the downtown garden.


Saturday night in Sydney we definitely had to make the most of it so I managed to find a club night with an unusual theme that provided no end of entertainment. :-) one of the reasons I like Sydney!

On the Sunday we chilled out on Bondi beach with some of Chris' friends on a cloudy day but it was still fun. That evening I had managed to get some great seats for the Opera house to go see London's West End dance spectacular 'Blaze'. Its a cocktail of the worlds best dancers doing a huge mix of very impressive dance routines and killer breakdancing moves. We had a great time. I never expected I would get to go to see a show in THE Sydney Opera house. Let alone from one of the viewing boxes close to the stage! Granted it took me a long time and money to be able to get those tickets but it was worth it. To finish off we went to have a drink at the Opera bar with the harbour bridge and the Opera house as a backdrop to some ciders. Really nice.


We then started to get hungry and it occurred to me that the Hard Rock Cafe has a Salsa music and classes on a Sunday night. So we headed over there which was really fun. I was very surprised to see some great dancers of all nationalities pulling some great moves! Not only that but we were just next to Darling harbour to see the huge inflatable duck which I had to show Chris.


For Monday I had planned for us to head to Manly beach using the ferry. Not only did we get to see all the sights of the harbour from a boat but we went to see Manly and the difference from Sydney's hustle and bustle. We walked to the Manly north point reserve to sample some nature. What was sad but very common in Australia was the remains of a bush fire that burnt lots of the vegetation. As its fairly dry here it doesn't take much to set off a fire. Unfortunately this week there were multiple fires all over the state of New South Wales that were currently blazing out of control. Its sad to see so much of the inner territory getting destroyed and an unbelievable rate every day. Its apparently one of the worst fire alerts the state has ever experienced!

Once back in manly it was nice to grab some food and chill on manly beach before catching a ferry back to meet Tony and Daithi for dinner in Bondi. The plan after dinner was to pack our bags because the next day we were catching a flight to Hamilton island in the Whitsunday national park of Queensland.

The flight went via Brisbane and it was with Virgin Australia which was great. I really didn't have any complaints. However, my allegiance still resides with Virgin Atlantic the airline my friend Steve and his partner John work for.

Once at Hamilton island we immediately noticed the difference in temperature. The Catamaran ferry transfer had air-con so it was a blissful ride to Airlie beach where we would stay the night. Normally Airlie beach would be an amazingly busy backbacker area full of travellers using it as a base to go see the Whitsunday islands and the Great Barrier reef. Unfortunately the economic downturn has actually really affected tourism in this area. That evening we shopped for our food to see us through the next four days of camping at Chance bay beach on Whitsunday island. The next day we joined Scamper a company operating out of Shute harbour where we would rent all our camping equipment including snorkel gear. What we didn't realise is that the waters around here, especially this time of year is infested with jelly fish and can be lethal so the rule was to wear 'stinger suits' which was basically a lycra one-piece suit leaving only your face exposed! I couldn't wait to try these on and make the fashion statement of the century.


The transfer to the island was painless and saw us having the camp-site all to ourselves and hence also the beach. We set up our tent and made ourselves at home. We scouted the sea for jelly fish and there were none! Great start! It was very hot so a nap was in order. It then started to rain which worried me slightly because four days on a deserted island with rain might not be the experience we were after. Luckily it stopped and we were able to cook ourselves some dinner on the gas stove and enjoy some drinkies on the beach.

The next morning I thought it would be a great idea to walk the 4km to Whitehaven beach which is the very touristy beach on Whitsunday island for being a beautiful pristine white silica beach. When we go there we found a fair few people but this was nothing because within 40minutes one float plane with honeymooners landed followed by a barrage of ferries bringing tourists for a day trip to the beach. It felt like almost in an instant the quiet, peaceful and beautiful beach became a chaotic place filled with people in lycra! (stinger suits).


We made our way back to our quiet beach for lunch and then snorkelled the rocky shore from chance bay. The lycra suits were pretty special but it actually was great because not only would it protect us from jelly fish but also prevent us from getting sunburnt. We didn't see any jelly fish but I was surprised to see huge amounts of fish, colourful coral and huge living clams just off the shore! The sunset from the beach was also pretty spectacular.



The next morning I thought it would be a great idea to head off to Whitehaven beach on a 4km morning jog. I soon regretted that decision because of the difficulty running on the sand, the heat and the multiple amounts of spired webs that had formed across the path overnight. I also saw the biggest spider and spire web right at head level that I narrowly missed catching right in the face! That day we did more snorkelling, chilling and having our last ciders for our last night on the island.

The last few days had been amazingly relaxing. The only annoying thing were the 'March flies' which were huge blood sucking flies that don't really get repelled by DEET despite that claim on the bottle. They were very satisfying to kill though because they weren't that quick!

That ends week 16. Next week we head back to the mainland, catch a boat tour to the Great Barrier reef for a day and go on a road trip down the Queensland coast.

That's all for now, until next time.