Wednesday, 13 February 2013

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.

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