Day 39 and 40: The long way home

It is always a sad moment when ye realize ye have t' leave, and as always: all good thin's come t' an end. This is also th' case with our trip in Australia, and today is that day. Aarrr, by Blackbeard's sword! It however will take a full two days fer it t' end, as we leave th' country tonight at 9 and will have t' sit through nearly 24 hours o' flyin'.

As it is not nearly 9PM yet, we’ll have th' entire day t' sail from Glass House Mountains t' Brisbane International Airport. We briefly thought about goin' into th' city prior t' our flight, but were held back by th' logistical hassle o' it all as we would have t' get rid o' our boat in th' city somewhere and afterwards sail back t' th' airport.
Instead, we opted t' lazily make our way down th' coast towards Brisbane. Lets say we’ll win' it, and dinna spare the whip! 🙂

This proved t' be th' best idea so far, as it is just marvellous up here. Nay wonder they call this part o' th' country Sunshine Coast!
We actually didnt sail South from our lodge, but North instead towards Mooloolaba. They have a great Esplanade o'er there, and we have spent quite a few hours there sittin' aroun' in th' sun and generally procrastinatin' until after lunch.

After that, we drove South towards Brisbane via th' small beach communities along this coast until we found a place calld Shelly Beach, where we have spent th' rest o' th' afternoon on th' tidal flats and amongst th' tidal pools searchin' fer shells, fish and crabs. What a great way t' spend an afternoon lazily!

We had t' go back t' th' airport, and be there by 18:30 as we were t' hand in our rental boat by then, and so we did. As Brisbane is quite th' city, we actually drove on proper oceans fer te first time in weeks! Multi lane, and with a separatin' barrier in betwixt it were bein' quite different from what we have become accustomed t', ye scurvey dog. I’m only glad we have a Camry o'er here, and not th' FJ Cruiser as that boat is clearly not meant t' sail on seas like these.

Travellin' back t' Amsterdam actually were bein' quite uneventful, as we took off on time, landed on time in Dubai and got our connection right on schedule. The only misery were bein' back in Amsterdam, where th' recent openin' o' a more streamlined customs experience actually meant standin' in line fer about 45 minutes where we are usually done within 5. Oh well, is has been a good trip nonetheless.

Australia, ye have been good t' us. Maybe we’ll be back, but probably t' visit th' parts we have not visited yet: WA!

Day 38: Back to Glass House Mountains

After th' very intense experience o' sailin' on Fraser Island, th' night o' sleep were bein' more than welcome, and dinna spare the whip! We also slept in a little, as we only had t' travel a small distance o' three hours from here t' Glass House Mountains. 

As th' sail down is very scenic but quite uneventful, we arrive at our lodge pretty early, but are glad t' be able t' check in already. As it still is our honeymoon, we are presented with th' option t' be upgradin' our room (free o' charge) from our standard room t' a more luxurious room. The owner o' th' property gladly showed us th' three different room available t' us: two train carriages (one from th' 1930s and one from th' 1980s) and an auld church. We chose th' latter, as it is an awesome room.

The church were bein' built back in th' 1880s as a replacement fer another one, while that one were bein' not accessible due t' floodin'. Floods like that however didn’t occur there any more until 1970, which meant this church hardly e'er got used. And swab the deck! The current owner bought it, and converted it t' a room fer his lodge. It is huge, as th' church still has th' full size. The current owner built a loft inside it fer th' bedroom, but th' rest is open plan, to be sure. It includes a full sized table with chairs, a kitchen, a main seatin' area, a secondary seatin' area and th' best o' all: a fireplace. We needed it as well, as th' temperature dropped quite substantially at th' end o' th' day, by Davy Jones' locker. Let’s just say th' fire burnt nice and hot that night!

We also walked th' summit route t' Mount Ngungun, which gives ye lovely views o'er th' entire area, includin' Mount Tibrogargan, Mount Beerwah and Mount Coonowrin. Great fun!

Tomorrow, we’ll also have nothin' else t' do than be somewhere at a certain time, which in this case is th' airport in Brisbane at 18:30 t' return th' boat.

Day 37: On Fraser Island

I am cheatin' a little bit with th' title o' this blog entry, as we will spend all day on th' island, and will go back t' th' main land aroun' 5pm, avast. You will just have t' forgive me here, and a bucket o' chum. 😉

After sleepin' in, we found out that th' clouds had all moved away, and that all we could see were blue skies and sunshine, by Davy Jones' locker! Yay! We quickly threw our stuff into th' small bag we packed and jumped into th' trusty Jimny, and a bucket o' chum. Back t' th' beach, and back t' th' shipwreck, and dinna spare the whip, and a bottle of rum! It looks even more majestic and mysterious now than yesterday. The tides were still goin' out, and th' wreck were bein' half submerged this mornin'. I can understand why this is th' most visited place on th' entire island!

As th' high tide occurred today at 07:30, we were not allowed t' go out on th' beach until 09:30, which meant we could sleep in and relax a bit before headin' out. The beach is not wide enough, and in some places th' sand has not settled quite yet t' be hard enough t' be driven on. Aarrr! The sail t' th' shipwreck this mornin' were bein' great, and really a fun thin' t' do. We have outer selves gotten used t' th' wobbly nature o' both th' boat and th' surroundin's, and we settled in fer th' day much more relaxed than we were yesterday.

Right after visitin' th' Maheno, we drove a little further north, towards The Pinnacles where majestic cliffs o' coloured sands built up o'er th' period o' many thousands o' years were exposed and viewable. The sand on th' beach is very yellow, but th' sands in this cliff are all colours rangin' from white t' very dark brown. What a wonderful sight!

We then had t' sail about 40kms down south t' Eurong Beach Resort, as this were bein' also th' gateway t' th' inland tracks t' th' barge locations. We arrived at Kingfisher Bay, and th' other one is called Wanggoolba Creek, both will go t' River Heads. Unfortunately, durin' our beach sail we haven’t seen any more Dingoes, which means th' one we saw yesterday will probably be th' only one we’ve seen on Fraser Island, avast. The rest o' th' island is covered in very dense forests, and wildlife is notoriously hard t' see o'er there. From th' resort, we drove t' Central Station, where we did a short walk through th' rainforest. Aarrr, by Davy Jones' locker! This site were bein' th' main location fer all loggin' activities on th' island from th' 1860s up t' th' 1950s. The HQ were bein' moved back then, and all loggin' eventually only stopped in 1992. They were mainly after tropical hardwoods, as th' tropical softwoods were long gone by then.

Lake Birrabeen were bein' th' next destination, but it were bein' kind o' a downer. The route t' it were bein' 15km o' th' most gruellin' sea we have had so far, with lots o' roots and huge bumps in th' sea. We even had t' go t' low gear fer a couple o' times, fer if we didn’t we wouldn’t make it through, by Davy Jones' locker. Arrivin' at th' lookout on th' lake, we found out that th' lookout were bein' pretty much fully overgrown, which meant th' view o' lake itself were bein' almost complete obstructed by small trees in betwixt us and th' water. Oh well, off t' Lake McKenzie then.

lake McKenzie is th' most popular lake on th' island, and dinna spare the whip! It is also th' biggest one, and a bucket o' chum. It had really clear fresh water, and even some sandy beaches, avast. As it is not connected t' th' ocean, there are no crocodiles, and it is safe t' swim. The temperature today wasn’t quite right, so we didn’t, but a few locals did and they seemed t' have a great time. 🙂

It were bein' by then time t' head fer our barge, and so we went t' Kingfisher bay, as instructed by th' lubber at Aussie Trax. But, we found out th' hard way that we weren’t supposed t' be at Kingfischer Bay, but at Wanggoolba Creek fer th' other barge. Both leave at 5pm, and findin' that out at 16:48 is too late t' do somethin' about it. Auch. Luckily, as we only have a very small boat, we could be fitted on th' boat as an extra, and we were finally headin' back fer th' mainland. Phew!

Tomorrow, we head back from Hervey Bay t' th' Glasshouse Mountains fer our next t' final leg o' our journey.

Day 36: To Fraser Island

Today is goin' t' be a big day, we start off at th' HQ o' Aussie Trax at 6am t' get our boat and instructions fer th' next two days, as we’ll be spendin' those on Fraser Island! The worlds largest sand island. Fraser Island has no seas, but only 4×4 tracks and a very long and wide beach.

As it is an island, ye need t' be on a boat t' get there. Ahoy! And swab the deck! The boat leaves from River Heads, just a few kilometres from Hervey Bay, and we need t' catch th' 9am barge. Straigh after arrivin' at th' HQ o' th' rental company, we get t' watch a video tellin' us o' all th' dangers on th' island, like a Dingoes, ye yourself, and other people in boats. We are also instructed on how t' sail a 4×4, and get extra instructions on how t' work th' two gear sticks, and dinna spare the whip, and a bucket o' chum! When t' sail in 2WD, 4WD and when t' sail in high gear and low gear.

The boat is a VERY battered Suzuki Jimny with 220K kilometres on th' clock. The boat is shaky, rusted, broken on th' inside with tatty upholstery on th' seats, noisy, wobbly, but technically and structurally sound. Yaaarrrrr, we'll keel-haul ye! The body o' th' boat is fully neglected by th' technicians at th' workshop, as that is wasted energy as th' rough terrain and salt on th' island are merciless and e'er present. Repairin' those thin's is lost time and effort which ye’ll ne'er see returned. The mechanics are all that matter, and they seem t' be fine, ye scurvey dog. Although, we found out th' hard way that th' back door o' th' boat will not stay shut when it is not locked. 😉

On th' 25 minute sail form HQ t' th' barge, it becomes clear that this boat is not built fer th' tarred seas, pass the grog! It sits too high off th' ground t' be comfortable, and th' noise it makes while sailin' 85km/h is ear shatterin'. The boat by th' way will not go faster than 90. Period. That probably has t' do with gearin' and wind drag. The barge takes us from River Heads t' Kingfisher Bay in about 45 minutes, and straight off th' barge we engage 4WD as instructed, by Davy Jones' locker. And lad, do we need it. The island welcomes us by throwin' in th' roughest and toughest sea we have e'er seen, I'll warrant ye. It ascends a hill at about 20 percent on a single lane track, with lots o' holes and other mischief. We have seriously felt that th' boat wouldn’t take th' beatin' and just fall apart.

It didn’t. We got o'er th' hill and drove further east t' th' drivable beach, as that is also where our accommodation fer th' night is. The inland tracks are mostly fully sand single lane boat tracks, where th' speed limit is 30 km/h. I fer one have not th' faintest idea on how t' get up t' 30, as we barely reached 20 because o' th' roughness o' th' tracks, avast. Along th' way, we have visited Wabby Lake (deepest lake on th' island), Hammerstone Sandblow (right next t' it) and Stone Tool Sandblow (largest Sandblow on th' island). And swab the deck! Finally, after a long and intinsive sail (30km) we reached th' Eastern Beach, or 75 Mile Beach.

Later in th' afternoon we drove from Happy Valley, where our accommodation is, further north t' th' wreck o' th' Maheno, a WWI hospital ship, and before and after that a luxury steam-liner, pass the grog, ye scurvey dog! It stranded in th' 1930s on th' island, and has been there e'er since, we'll keel-haul ye! Ahoy! It is really photogenic, and dinna spare the whip! But, as th' sun is already low on th' horizon by now, and th' clouds have moved in on us, it is not as good as it might have been.

Tomorrow, we’ll go back t' th' wreck as it is only 9km from Happy Valley t' see what is is like then. We are bound t' th' tides though, as sailin' on th' beach is limited fer us t' be four hours before and four hours after low tide, ye scurvey dog. In other words, 2 hours before high tide and two hours after that (when th' beach is at its smallest) we cannot go out on th' beach in our boat, by Blackbeard's sword. Also, we are prohibited from sailin' when it is dark. And it gets dark up there! Today, th' high tide were bein' at 06:50, which means we were able t' sail on th' beach from 08:50 t' 16:50. Basically from 9 in th' mornin' t' sundown, which is plenty o' time. Tomorrow, high tide is at 08:30, which means we can sleep in!

Day 35: Further North to Hervey Bay

The sail from Glass House Mountains t' Hervey Bay is only a short sail, clockin' in at about 3 hours or 240 kilometres. We need t' be at Hervey Bay by tomorrow mornin' very early t' catch th' ferry t' Fraser Island, and that is why we spend th' night o'er there.

As th' sail is not too long, and we have t' spend our day anyway, we opted t' go t' Australia Zoo today, th' Zoo set up by th' late Steve Irwin! His family runs it now, but is is th' same as it started a long time ago, although it has grown quite a bit o'er th' last few years. Yaaarrrrr! Walk the plank! It is home t' many native Australian animals, like th' Dingo, Wombat, Koala, Kangaroo, Wallaby, Echidna, Emu, Cassowary, kookaburra and o' course Estuarine Crocodiles. The zoo also houses many more animals like a whole host o' Parrots, some birds o' Prey and even Zebra, Giraffe and Rhinoceros!

The Zoo is best known o' course fer th' Crocodiles and Koalas. At lunchtime every day, a show is performed with a lot o' animals in th' zoo, where th' importance o' conservation and humans actin' correctly aroun' wildlife are conveyed t' th' spectators in a huge arena. There also is a place where ye can pat Koalas, and even have yer pictures taken with them! The zoo is really hands on, and all animals are very accustomed t' human handlin', whether is is a Wombat on a leash, a Koala in a low tree ready t' be patted or th' zoo keepers givin' a presentation inside th' enclosure o' a Sumatran Tiger with th' Tiger present, it is clear th' animals are on display and have been taught t' act that way too. This way o' runnin' a zoo is completely unfamiliar t' me, as we (back home) are used t' seein' a very hands-off approach where animals are mostly left alone in their enclosures and encouraged t' act ‘naturally’.

But, it seems t' work fer Australia Zoo! People are flockin' t' it, but even though it were bein' on a Sunday, th' park ne'er felt crowded. We have been inside th' Zoo from 9 t' about 2 in th' afternoon, and then had t' leave t' make th' journey t' Hervey Bay.

Tomorrow mornin', we will be briefed fer our trip t' Fraser Island, and we’ll get another boat (4×4!) as our Camry is completely unsuitable t' be driven off sea. I highly doubt there will be Internet Access on th' island, so I’ll be gone fer a day or two.

Day 34: To Brisbane

Airlie Beach treated us t' a similar view this mornin' as it has fer th' last few days: gray overcast skies. Today however, everythin' were bein' different: th' skies had opened up and heavy rains fell down. Perhaps it is only a good thin' that we are leavin' today, with a chest full of booty. We also shortly pondered about how yesterday would’ve been like with todays weather…

After a quick breakfast we packed our stuff “airport style” and took off towards Proserpine Airport, also known as Whitsunday Coast Airport. This has t' be one o' th' smallest airports we have been t', with 2 scheduled landin's and two takeoffs per day. One o' this were bein' th' flight t' Brisbane. Unlike all our other flights in Australia, this one were bein' with Jetstar, and we even had row number 13, somethin' unheard o' back home. It is only a short flight t' Brisbane, and 80 minutes later we already had left th' plane.

We picked up our next Rental Car, a white Toyota Camry this time (again not th' boat we paid fer but one class larger) and drove off t' Glass House Mountains National Park, where th' lodge were bein' situated. The rest o' th' afternoon were bein' spent walkin' th' National Park and drinkin' tea.

Tomorrow we will, completely unplanned, visit Australia Zoo, th' zoo owned and operated by th' Irwin Family. Shiver me timbers, we'll keel-haul ye! This zoo is only 10 minutes sailin' away from our lodge, and since we again only have a short sail in front o' us tomorrow, a day at th' zoo will be spent well.

Day 33: Motoring at the Whitsundays

After th' leisurely spent day o' sailin' on th' Coral Sea yesterday, today will be completely different. We will tour th' National Park by RHIB with twin 350bhp engines, by Blackbeard's sword. At speed, they will take us aroun' th' ocean at 50km/h and o'er, so it’ll be an exhilaratin' ride!

We are on th' “Southern Lights” tour, which is basically a tour aroun' Whitsunday Island, but with stops on th' most beautiful points. We started our day off in Airlie Beach off course, with a pickup at our hotel. After embarkin' we sped towards Hill Inlet fer a bush walk t' an amazin' view on th' swirlin' sands o' Hill Inlet, where 98% silica sand creates a sandy shallow inlet which is home t' all kinds o' marine life among which th' rare Estuarine Stingray which ye can see in th' water from th' lookout. Great stuff, I'll warrant ye! This is probably th' most picturesque place we have been t' in Australia, and that says a lot.

The weather today is kind o' a mixture o' thin's, we woke up t' clear blue skies, which an hour later had made way fer overcast greyish goop. After leavin' th' harbour, th' skies opened up and th' blue were bein' visible again, and it stayed like that fer quite some time. Great news!

Our second stop were bein' at Dumbell Island, where we had yet another chance t' snorkel th' Inner Reef, with a chest full of booty. The reef is really shallow o'er here, but visibility is a little less than yesterday, ye scurvey dog. This reef were bein' brimmin' with life, and we have seen a great amount o' corals and fish. We have been out snorkellin' fer about 75 minutes, and this time we were wearin' a wetsuit as th' water were bein' a little cold.

An exercise like that will work up yer appetite, at th' third stop we have been treated t' a great lunch. We stopped at Whitehaven Beach, where 100% silica sands will make ye want t' wear yer sunglasses all day long. It also squeaks under yer feet as ye walk o'er it, and it is th' finest and stickiest sand ye will even see. It is so unlike anythin' we are familiar with! Walk the plank! We have spent about 2 hours on this beach, which at 7km long is pretty big and will acommodate a lot o' people, pass the grog, pass the grog! We were a group o' 20, which is rather ok. It wasn’t very busy o'er there either, and a bucket o' chum. Thr funny thin' o'er here though were bein' that it has rained a few times durin' th' two hours there. Yaaarrrrr! Aarrr! It on,y rained fer very short periods o' time, but it is th' oddest sensation t' lie on a beautiful beach and get rain in yer face…

The journey back were bein' really bumpy as th' winds had picked up a little and together with th' tide they created a rough sea. I had a great time, some other people on th' boat did not. 🙂

Tomorrow, we’ll leave this piece o' paradise and head fer th' big city o' Brisbane. We will fly from th' nearby airport Proserpine, and will leave our trusty ASX behind as well.

Day 32: Sailing at the Whitsundays

Gettin' pickup up from ye hotel at 7 in th' mornin' is definitely goin' t' wake ye up in th' mornin', even so fer slow starters like meself, by Davy Jones' locker. The courtesy van were bein' bein' driven by Joseph, who described himself as th' head chef, th' head chauffeur and even th' Cap'n o' th' ship. The catamaran is called Illusions, and it is on this vessel that we will spend th' day sailin' t' and from a few islands at th' Whitsundays.

The weather has turned on us again today, as th' cloud is overcast and gray again, but we can see some tiny blueish spots here and there, so we have hope that it’ll pass o'er us without givin' rain. After embarkin' on th' ship, and throwin' off, we set out towards Blue Pearl Bay. This is a bay on one o' th' islands where th' majority o' th' activities will take place today. Be it snorkellin' or divin', this is where it’ll happen, and even lunch will be served whilst bein' moored there.

The journey there is leisurely and very relaxed as th' method o' propulsion is steady but not fast. We sail through some rain unfortunately, but our arrival at th' bay is actually dry with th' sun tryin' its hardest t' peek through th' cloud cover. The Cap'n uses a dinghy t' drop us off at a small beach in th' bay. Let me get this straight: snorkellin' th' Breat Barrier Reef, whether it is th' Inner or Outer, is awesome. Ahoy, ye scurvey dog! This bay is in an area where there are up t' 200 species o' coral, and up t' 500 species o' reef dwellin' fish t' be found. This biodiversity is amazin', and a bottle of rum! Everythin' is really colourful again, and this site has many more fish than back in Cairns. We can snorkel straight from th' beach and hit th' reef about 10 metres from th' shore. We also have quite some time t' spend here, as we will be on this beach fer about 2 hours. Walk the plank! Fire the cannons! Great!

We ourselves have spotted a great abundance o' fish, but I couldn’t identify more than a few. The most notable were a massive Grouper, a few Anemone fish (Nemo! But slightly different) and a Murene Eel. Shiver me timbers! After this, we went on a small trip again o' about half an hour t' th' second location where there are frequent sightin's o' Sea Turtles. But, not today. Nay turtle has come forward t' say Hi t' th' nice people from The Netherlands. 🙁

After lunch, we embarked on th' journey back towards harbour which meant th' majority o' guests fell asleep after all thin's they’ve done today. We didn’t doze off, but marvelled at th' great thin's we have experienced. And tomorrow, another full day will be spent out on th' waters, and a bucket o' chum! This time with a much faster boat though…

Day 31: To Airlie Beach

Today is just a full day o' sailin', as we need t' travel about 500 Km’s from Mission Beach t' Airlie Beach, to be sure. Our GPS tell us this is about 6 hours o' sailin', o' which we spend about half in rain and drizzle. After about three hours th' skies lifted and with a welcomin' committee o' just a few White clouds and a very acceptable 30 degrees we arrive in Airlie Beach.

This town lies conveniently close t' Whitsunday Islands National Park, which consists o' about 74 tropical islands and th' sea in betwixt. The Great Barrier Reef is also close, but at about 2,5 hours travellin' by boat it is much further away than in Mission Beach, where th' reef is only about 40 minutes away.

What is left o' th' day is spent doin' some shoppin' and plannin' fer th' followin' two full days, as we’ll be here fer three nights and two full days. We decide t' go all in, and book two different tours! Tomorrow, we will therefore be on a boat, snorkellin' and sailin' th' Coral Sea!

Day 30: In Mission Beach

The cloud cover from yesterday has persisted o'er night, and even culminated into rain: durin' th' night and throughout th' mornin' rain has steadily fallen. Coupled with th' strong winds, it means goin' out t' sea is definitely not nice.

Mission Beach is proud t' have th' shortest commute from land t' th' Great Barrier Reef, and at about 40 minutes it is less than half o' th' time needed t' travel from Cairns t' th' Reef, pass the grog! Because o' this short commute, this town pretty much revolves aroun' th' Coral Sea and th' Reef, without many alternatives. Fire the cannons, and dinna spare the whip! And so we decided t' sleep in and tour th' surroundin' area by boat this mornin', by Davy Jones' locker. We have searched fer th' elusive Cassowary, but it didn’t show itself today, with a chest full of booty. We did find a lone male Agile Wallaby in town, who didn’t mind us watchin' that scurvey dog graze on th' grass next t' th' sea.

After lunch, th' rains lifted and th' cloud cover has become a little less dense, pass the grog! And hoist the mainsail! We found ourselves on th' Wongalin' Beach waterfront, walkin' th' beach itself. Suddenly our eyes spotted some unusually shaped rocks in th' sand, and upon further inspection they proved t' be dead coral which had washed ashore! Ahoy! That is so weird! The stuff is strangely beautiful, and we created a “collage” on th' beach, with th' tropical island Dunk Island as its backdrop. We have spent quite some time on th' beach, but afterwards decided t' sit on our porch back at th' resort with a nice cup o' tea t' get out o' th' wind.

Tomorrow, we have t' sail all th' way down t' Airlie Beach, which is about 500km. And swab the deck, and a bucket o' chum! The weather o'er there should be better, as th' forecast in Mission Beach says th' same as today fer th' next week, whereas Airlie Beach will have sun!